Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Chicks!

I heard the peep-peep-peep- and there they were.....a clutch of newborn chicks with their mother hen.  My long barn has many nooks and crannies where free ranging hens can hide their eggs from me.  It doesn't matter to them what time of year they hatch chicks.  Surprisingly, many do survive.  I put tubs on top of the rabbit cages and some of them lay eggs on a daily basis, even at the darkest time of the year when a dedicated room full of spoiled rotten chickens with regular meals aren't laying eggs at all.  I don't feed the free rangers.  They live off all the spilled grains from the rabbits, sheep and pigs.  There is always plenty of food around for them.    I love these mother hens.  If all mothers were as protective and devoted as these little chickens the world would be a better place.

New Life

What better way to come back to my journal than with a birth announcement?  Yes, it's a surprise but maybe not so much of a surprise when I recall how late I pulled the rams out of the flock.  There must have been one night when a hint of coolness triggered the hormones in the ewes and there it goes.  I pulled Luna from the flock when I became concerned about her weight.  My sheep get all the hay they can eat, along with green grass late into the fall, but other factors can come into play.  I pulled another aged ewe, Magnolia, out with her, along with Ole' Momma and her pal, both old ladies.  Last year Ole Mama surprised me with a set of ram twins, Castor and Pollux, named after the staI rs.   When Magnolia grew round with a swollen udder I knew birth was imminent.  I was forking hay yesterday in the mow and heard that distinctive "Mommy chatter."  Sheep talk their lambs out of the womb.  Lambs know their mother's voices before they are born and can distinguish mom's call in a crowded flock.  I ran downstairs and sure enough it was happening.

  Thank goodness I was hear as the lamb was stuck at the pelvic bones with the shoulder joints preventing them from sliding through.   I could see the little front feet on either side of the nose, peeking out from her behind.  When I was sure the labor was not progressing, I washed up.  I cupped my hand around the lambs head with my right hand and pulled one leg forward.  The one leg extension unhooked the shoulder and allowed the lamb to come through.  It took a bit of pulling on my part and pushing on her part, but soon the long yellow torpedo slid out.  She began licking the ram lamb and I knew we were going to be okay....or so I thought.
Magnolia has plenty of milk but is reluctant to let her lamb nurse.  I've experienced this situation in difficult births when mom realizes the baby had something to do with the trauma she suffered.
  She loves her boy and carries on when I pick him up but no amount of coaxing will make her feed him.  I held her as best I could - she is a big sheep - and squeezed out enough colostrum to give him a good start last night and again today.  I'm hoping she calms down and changed her mind.  I love this little Winter Solstice/Christmas lamb.  I can safely predict more lambs in the next couple of weeks.  Isn't it nice I'll be home to receive them.  The farm is all about new life, and new life in the new year is just lovely.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Friday

It's finally Friday.  I have the Hamilton Farmer's Market tomorrow and then, glory be, I intend to stay in my pajamas until at least nine in the morning.  I count 13 days going full tilt.  I'm still catching up after NY Sheep and Wool.  I went to bed early last night after grooming my nightly angora bunny.  It was ten pm and the TV remote wasn't working - low batteries - and I thought I may as well give in.  I love to stay up late at night as it is truly "my time" all to myself.  Trouble is, ten pm is too early for me and at 4 am my body told me "you've had enough rest."  I dawdled around making coffee and playing with the dogs and cats.  Got myself bathed and ready for milking.  Spouse met me down the hill where our "herd" lives and told me I was on my own as he was giving a test early in Syracuse and had to be on his way.  I got the job done without too much trouble (as in Rocky nosing around Coco's udder while I'm milking which Coco doesn't like) and was walking back to the barn when I saw Ole' Mama calling into the woods on the ridge.  Matt had put down hay to the sheep in the barn, or so he thought, when I became suspicious.  Why isn't she with the other sheep in the barn?  Well, there were no sheep in the barn.  Guess who - me - had forgotten to close the gate after grazing the night before.  I quickly suppressed the panic rising and checked the time - 7 am.  I still had to feed the pigs, rabbits, rams/bucks in the back and chickens along with bringing kibble inside for the dogs.  I called Reba and she immediately recognized the urgency in my voice, as if I was saying to her "we have a job to do right now!"  She saw me grab the keys and ran with me to the van.  We raced up the hill - no time for hiking up - and there they were.  Phew!  What a pretty sight they were, spread over the upper pasture. I parked and we ran up the embankment.  GET 'EM UP!  Reba ran across the field as the sheep hesitated.  What?  They are coming after us now?  After letting us graze out here all night?  They got the idea when the speedy hound, long ears circling with her rhythmic strides, came dashing toward them.  I saw the whole flock disappear down the hill and I ran back to the van.  Sure enough, Reba chased them all back in the barn.  Now, I don't approve of running sheep, but this shepherd has a job, with critters to feed and water before she leaves for work.  I got everybody taken care of with water jugs all topped off.  The hand full of comfrey leaves I picked for one bunny off her feed was dropped along the way but if that's all I forgot, well, I'm okay.  I think a little sofa time is in store for me after I get home and check everything out.  Some of the sheep are looking a little rotund.  Lambs on the way?  Did Louie get his last licks in before removal to the pen behind the barn?  We shall see....before the real cold weather hits I pray.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Coco in the Dark

This is the face I see waiting for me every day in the pre-dawn hours.  Coco is enjoying her lush little pasture by the tractor shed.  Rocky and Blackie, the two bull calves that came with her, keep her company.  We get about two gallons of delicious creamy calcium-rich raw milk every morning and night.  Raw milk is calcium rich and contains all the good enzymes that pasteurization removes.  The kitties get the morning milk and I strain and bottle the night time milk for us.  I make yogurt and mozzarella cheese with it but haven't quite mastered the butter yet.  I adore the yogurt and swear it is habit forming.  I'm not surprised as raw milk yogurt raises your seratonin levels.   Milking requires a lot of work as in washing and bleaching bottles, buckets and pots in addition to caring for the cows.   Matt has really taken to the dairy man role and supervises the care of the herd.  He gets us set for milking and is in charge of "teat dipping" which prevents bacteria from entering the teats.  Matt does not want his cows to be in icy rain or snow and has built stalls with a milking stanchion in the barn.  It will be a lot easier for me to get to them once the barn yard freezes over.  I won't have to slide down the slope to their field with buckets of water and grain.   Having my own cow to milk is a dream come true.  I always wanted it but put it out of my mind due to "hay issues."  Now I have a reliable farmer filling my barn with hay.  Coco comes with her own dramatic story, which I will relate another time.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Yarn Pockets

My "Yarn Pockets" seem to be taking off.  They are my alternative to the expensive ceramic yarn bowls that are so popular right now.  Ceramic bowls would not last long in my house.  One swish of Bertha's tail and there goes $80-$90 bucks.  I make fabric bowls to match my Bundaflicka Knitting Totes and the patrons are catching on.  They are great for keeping your knitting tidy inside a larger tote instead of the ubiquitous but vulgar plastic shopping bags.  Yuck!  I store sewing notions inside mine and have several on the shelf.  Mia keeps her make up inside a Yarn Pocket in her bathroom...but then Mia has always been very clever and neat about her things.

Bundaflicka Buttons

I'm still making Bundaflicka Buttons for my totes.  They can't compare with Kim's natural horn buttons but I'm having fun with them.  Sometimes I bring a sample of fabric in to the craft store to pick out several colors of clay to combine for a custom button.  Sometimes I just use what I have in the house and mash clay together to see what happens.  I always use them at some point in time.  People marvel over them and ask what are they made of?  If only they knew how simple these buttons are to make...

Kim's Caps

Kim knits the cutest hats.  I love this sheep pattern which is very popular in the sheep world now.  Kim uses hand spun wool and angora yarn for a very warm hat.  I have several of Kim's hats that she's knitted for me over the years.  I like wind through my hair but I don't like snow melting on my head.  Kim has made sure that doesn't happen and I'm very grateful.

Shepherd's Friend

My Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme was a big hit at NY State Sheep and Wool.  The weather turned cold and brisk, reminding people how important it is to take care of your hands now before they chafe and crack. 

Peter Rabbit Sheep

I was delighted to see some Herdwick sheep at Rhinebeck this year.  Herdwick sheep were the favorite of Beatrix Potter of Peter Rabbit fame.  She supported a huge flock of them in the Lake District of England where she purchased and donated thousands of acres to the National Trust to save the land from development.

Farmhouse Goat Milk Soap Blocks

It's hard for people to wrap their heads around my Farmhouse Blocks.  They look at them curiously and ask "What is this?"  I explain how I collect all the end pieces and trimmings of my big blocks of soap and put them in a pot.  When the pot is full I melt them down and pour the soap into cardboard boxes.  This process takes several days with much mashing and scraping of the sides of the pot, being careful not to suck up the scorching fumes.  I love the way they look, each one different and interesting, with bits of soap throughout.  Even though the soap has been boiled for several days there is a lovely lingering scent of all the various mingling essential oils.  This is the best soap I have to offer, as "milled" soap is harder, denser, and creamier than other soap.  People use them for felting and bathing.  

Knitters and Their Totes

Sewing is my first love.  I've been sewing all my life and now I've hit on something that I love to make and is functional and beautiful.  I managed to snap some shots of a few of my Bag Ladies as they left the booth with their new Bundaflicka Knitting Totes.  They were happy to oblige me and I got the feeling they know I put my heart and soul into every one.

Rhinebeck 2015

NY State Sheep and Wool has come and gone for 2015.  This magical show should be called "Farm Aid" as it clears my hay debt for this year and basically validates everything I do to support the farm.  Kim and Daryl met me at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds and helped me set up my shop.  It's no easy feat to pack and transport a farm store in a mini van.  My faithful friends did most of the lifting and toting.  We wrapped soap in the motel room Friday night after stopping at WM to buy another folding table.  I forgot how much room I had in my booth.  Not a problem for Daryl and Kim as they love to shop stateside and bring the loot home to Canada.  Saturday morning dawned cool and sunny.  The crowds came and I sat at the little table full of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme and watched as  my hard work of the past few weeks was picked up by my patrons and carried off.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015


  The colors are spectacular with breathtaking vistas every where I turn.  My 25 mile commute to work is just gorgeous....but nothing can rival the beauty of my little farm with my own sheep grazing in the field.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Mo' Mohair

I absolutely adore mohair.  It is strong, lustrous and beautiful.  Mohair soaks up dyes like nothing else.  The angora goats that produce mohair are exotic and gorgeous to look at.    I tell everyone that spins and knits socks to blend some mohair in with the wool to make a strong, sturdy yarn.  The heels will never wear out.  Mohair grows twice as fast as wool.  Sadly, many people shy away from mohair as they think it will itch and ruin a yarn for next-to-the-skin wear.  There is coarse mohair and soft mohair, just like coarse wool and soft wool.  I like to blend both together.

Glorious Color

The fields are still green with grass and I'm letting the sheep out to eat as much as they can before the snow comes and the pond is frozen.  We won't be able to reach this upper field come December.  All the sheep water will come from jugs I carry from the milk room to the hanging tubs in the barn.  With 75 plus sheep that's a lot of water.   No flabby arms here.  Why not use a hose?  Come January it is so cold in the barn that a hose left lying on the floor will freeze in minutes.  I'm spending as much time as I can walking the land.  The colors of the piney ridge are breathtaking.  


After a dry spell of several weeks we are enjoying some rain.  Nobody enjoys the rain as much as my ducks.  They love the puddles that form when the water pours off the barn roof.  I have water in several places on the farm, but most are far away from the barn which is the only place where the ducks are safe from foxes and other predators.  The White Boys are a major deterrent to threats and little Tanner dedicates herself to keeping the smaller varmints like porcupines away.   The smart ducks bed down in the middle of the barnyard, surrounded by Thor, Finn and Knut.   I have a total of 18 ducks.  Soon the barnyard will be frozen over with a sheet of ice covered in snow.  The ducks will come in the barn and the only water available to them will be what I give them.  They need to dip their entire heads into water in order to preen properly.  Winter is a tough time for duckies.  The worms they love are burrowed deep in the ground.   The ducks look dirty and rather bedraggled come spring.  I wish I had an indoor pond for them.


Mia came to celebrate my birthday.  She brought me a whipped cream strawberry filled cake from the Swiss Chalet Bakery in Morristown.  Aside from the from-scratch German Chocolate Cake my mother made for me this is my favorite birthday cake.  We took it to Michael's Fine Food on Route 20 in Sangerfield, a cozy setting where they expect you to spend the evening and relax.  Mia also brought sparklers to put on the cake, a first for me.  It was quite the spectacle when the waiters came out singing with the sparklers blazing.  The next day my cake was covered with bits of metal.  No problem - I just scraped it off.  Mia surprised me with lots of goodies, including a mother lode of good from her apartment.  She is moving and couldn't take a lot of stuff with her.  I am now the grateful recipient of most of the Shabby Chic furniture I gave to her three years ago when we furnished her Madison apartment out of my tractor shed.  She also gifted me with electronics and some real classy pots and pans.  Best of all she gave me her almost new sectional sofa which actually fits perfectly in my tiny living space.  The dogs are getting used to it, although I see them gazing longingly at their old Salvation Army sofas that are on the burn pile waiting for a match.  I am thrilled to get the beautiful lined curtains I made for Mia's apartment which had lovely large high windows.  The yards and yards of luxurious fabric will be cut down to cover my little windows and keep out the icy wind.  I love my daughter...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


  I counted four mother hens with newborn chicks following them around.    The moms find places to hide their nests where I can't find them and pull the eggs.  One hen hatched eight chicks on top of a rabbit cage.  Luckily I heard them peeping and got all of them down safely.  I've put them all in cages in the past but truth be told the moms do better on their own free ranging.  They teach the babies how to forage and periodically tuck them all under their wings to warm them.  Warmth has not been a problem lately as it's been hot and dry.  It rained all day today and will be wet all week.  I suspect  the mother hens have all their little ones inside.  It's a miracle my cats have not consumed the tiny chicken nuggets.   The bantam moms are fiercely protective and launch attacks into the cat's faces if they come too close.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

On the Wheel

I'm spinning lovely orange - yello - bronze 100% mohair and loving it.  This fiber reminds me of why I keep angora goats.  I love the slip and luster.  I usually blend wool with mohair but for some reason I didn't this time.  Now I'm glad I left it alone as it's heavenly.  I will probably knit socks with this yarn.  When you use mohair in sock yarn your heels will never wear out.  Commercial companies put nylon in their socks but no need here.  I have plenty of mohair and the goaties keep making more for me.

Out to Graze

The grass is getting a little thin on the hillside.  We've had days and days with no real rain.  It's not as bad as some years past when the hill was dusty and rocky.  There are thick patches here and there but sheep are creatures of habit.  When I open the gate they run up the hill as far as they can go to the tippy top where the pond is.  It's getting thin up there, too.  I've been putting out hay on the days when I can't let them out but sheep dearly love green grass.  Rain is expected over the next several days and it will be a blessing.  The less hay I feed them now the more I will have next April when I really need it.  I have 110 round bales stored away, a record for me.  Last year I had around 55 and that was not enough.  You don't want to be scrambling for hay in April when all the other losers who ran out are looking, too.  That was me last year.  I like fat and happy sheep.

Bag Lady

My newest Bag Lady went home with this lovely Bundaflicka tote on Saturday.  I love my bag ladies.  I wanted to keep this bag for myself but when she fell in love with it I couldn't say no.  The massive hay bill hanging over my head was a factor, I confess.  I found this luxurious tapestry chenille on line and this bag is the last of it.  


Doreen and Delphine came home to the farm yesterday.  Matt picked them up in Long Eddy, New York.  The girls are purebred Tamworths, also known as "Irish Grazers" for their ability to forage with their long snouts.  My Scarlett and Sue Ellen were Tamworths. Fabulous pigs.  I'm so happy to have new piggies in the barn.  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fingerlakes 2015

The Fingerlakes Fiber Festival this year was absolutely wonderful.  I drove the 200 miles west to the little town of Hemlock, an hour south of Rochester, in lovely weather.   Kim was waiting with sushi from Trader Joes and we ate dinner while setting up in my new space.  This year's roving runs are gorgeous and well received.  My Yarn Pockets are a success, which is a real treat for me as they are easy to sew and a great way to use smaller pieces of fabric.  I had requests to make them to match the Bundaflicka Knitting totes, a smart idea.  Warm weather continued through the day until a storm blew in.  We attended the pot luck supper with local shepherds and fiber artists while torrential rain and wind pounded the pole barn.  I was relieved to be in the big strong new building with a concrete floor instead of a flimsy pop-up tent.  We worshiped in the same pole barn on Sunday morning with Reverend Adams leading the small group.  Sunday weather was cooler and delightful.  I came home with zippers and goodies from another bag artist, and a sack full of Cushings Dyes which I'm anxious to use.  I had so much fun hanging with the Fiber People who are so talented and inspiring.  Lisa Merian and Candace Cain, local shepherd friends, were there, too.  We had a chance to catch up on a million things not possible when we are all working at home.   Carol Schwartzott was absent and sorely missed.  She's "retired" from fiber art, if that's possible.  I'm lucky to have some of her exquisitely lovely creations, which will live on forever.


My orchard is giving me an abundance of apples.  Trouble is, they don't want to come down.  I have to knock them down as best I can with my shepherd's crook.  I hook the branches with the curved part of the crook and shake them hard with some success.  I risk being knocked on the head but that's okay.  The sheep and goats often stand around, waiting for their delicious apple snacks.  I can't reach the top branches and the apples often rot on the tree before a fierce wind comes along and helps me out.  Large orchards have machines that shake the apples loose.  If the old Dodge Ram truck was running I could back it up to the trees and stand in the bed.  I love this orchard which dates back a hundred years or more.  If I had money to burn I would hire my Amish neighbors to trim the trees back and really get it going again.  The trees are so thick that light doesn't get to the inner trees and apples don't grow.  The darkness inside the orchard is mysterious and inviting.  The sheep love it. 

Tote Season

Winter is coming and knitters are thinking about cold weather projects.  Teachers are back in school and they are the ultimate Bag Ladies.   Weekend travelers need a carry-on bag for their jackets, computers and passports.  Retirees are considering taking the ocean cruise they always dreamed of. Bundaflicka Knitting Totes are perfect for everyone on the go.  For me, it is truly a blessing to create something so lovely and functional.  

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


Three weeks off after summer school went like a flash.  Lying in after the alarm was too good to be true.  I got up anyway to make coffee but took it to the sofa.  I did chores in my jammies and sewed to my hearts content.  Here we are back to school already with so much to do before winter hits.  The barn is full of round bales - over a hundred, which is more than I've ever had on this farm.  It was a tough hay year with so much rain this spring.  We have not had rain in many days but the hillside is still green.  Coco is giving me three gallons a day.  I think she could give me more but that's about all I can squeeze out before she finishes her half a bucket of grain and walks away.  Blackie and Rocky are thriving on lush green grass and Coco milk.  We'll be bringing them all in the big barn when the bad weather hits.  Once the snow starts in December it will be difficult to carry feed and water to them on the lower field by the tractor shed.  The slope turns to ice and I don't want to chance it.  It will be easier for me to milk her morning and night if she's closer.  I think her insemination took and we will be blessed with a calf in April.  The vet looked her over when he was out giving rabies shots.  He thinks she should deliver with no trouble.  Won't it be fun to find a little baby cow beside her one cool spring morning.  We sheared 34 lambs three weeks ago.  I was relieved to find all 34 lambs accounted for.  With my rough land and coyotes up on the piney ridge well, things happen.  The Wensleydale/Bluefaced Leicester wool is lovely.  The lambs are robust and growing nicely.  I have two young Nubian does who are so beautiful I can't stand to part with them.  I'll find homes for the bucklings.  Coco is so easy to milk I confess I wince at the thought of Fancy and Matilda freshening again.  They are she-bitches from hell to milk.  Coco just stands there and let's me take what I need (as long as the feed holds out).  Colorscape Chenango is happening this weekend with the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival following the next weekend.  I'm working very hard to get ready for them.  Spouse is away teaching energy efficiency at a community college in Buffalo all next week.  Don't know how I will rest from Colorscape, go to work every day, get ready for Fingerlakes, and do all the chores/milking.  If I ever really thought it through I would probably give up....but it's just so much fun.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Still Kicking

Yes, I'm still here.
Today I finished six weeks of Special Ed. Summer School.  I have three short weeks to do all the things I should have been doing for my farm and to get ready for fall sheep festivals.
Next weekend Jim Baldwin is coming and we'll shear the 34 lambs born in the coldest of coldest winters in my life anywhere.  They are beautiful and I'm anxious to play with their gifts.  There is a surprise lamb who appeared one day along side her mother last month.  I call her Summer, of course.  She is delightful.  What a difference to have a lamb born in beautiful, warm weather.  The Parkinsons are coming to help shear.  Worming and vaccinations have to be done.  The rams and goat bucks have to go into their pen behind the barn.  It's smaller but they have a silo room to bed down in and a lovely view of the piney ridge.   I don't want any February/March births this winter!   I have to get this done before school starts again and the weather turns.  There is so much to tell but it will have to come in short bursts.  I own a cow and her name is Coco. Long story I will tell sometime soon.  She came with two baby bulls who are the cutest things you've ever seen.  So now I am a dairy woman, milking by hand twice a day - 6 am and 6 pm.  I love the milk and make yogurt and mozzarella with it.   Hard cheese is next.  I'm tied to the farm more than ever, if that is possible.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I am living in the land of extremes.  Last week my little thermometer read 28 F. when I got up in the morning.  Yesterday we hit a record high of 90 F.  The bunnies have a fan on them.  The sheep are panting.   I am desperate to get the wool off them.  Big Jim Baldwin is coming on Sunday and I'm trying to round up some help.  Never have enough boots on the ground.  He's squeezing me in on a Sunday, which he ordinarily never works, because he knows how anxious I am to salvage some wool.   Some of the fleeces are too far gone to save.  Lambing took a toll on the wool.  They put everything into growing the babies.  I'm comforted by the fact that I have a box car full of lambs, 34 to be exact, to grow wool for fall shearing.  Everybody is thriving on the lush green grass the rain and warm temps have given us.  I'm thrilled with the way these Wensleydale/Bluefaced Leicester lambs are turning out.  They are tall and sturdy with thick coats.  It's hard to tell just how the wool will turn out.  I'm hoping for some lustrous curls.  The Nubian goat kids are absolutely gorgeous.  They leap around gracefully in their own ballet troupe.  I'm hoping for some goat milk but the Nubian moms are not anxious to share.  I'm letting the babies have their fill for now.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Maryland Sheep and Wool 2015

I'm back from a Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival that went so smoothly and nicely I can scarcely believe it.   Funny how the harder I work the better the outcome of the festival.  I've never worked so hard in my life, between the farm and supporting the farm, but it was all worthwhile.  What I didn't move in Maryland I can take to the farmer's market.  My corner space in the Main Exhibition Hall continues to be a blessing I didn't ask for.  I was moved there after the fleece sale moved into my old building.  I love the natural light from outside and the extra space an end booth enjoys.  I won't get too cozy as Md. Sheep and Wool tends to move people around.  The weather was perfect - cool and breezy - for sheep and humans.  I could walk around at night and touch noses with the sheep in their stalls.  Kim booked us a spot at the Shepherd's Feast Saturday night and the Shepherd's Breakfast Sunday morning so we didn't have to leave the grounds at all.    We slept on Kim's air mattress in the back of my Honda van, warm as toast in Canadian Army sleeping bags.  After months of sleep deprivation due to lambing and "making stuff" late into the night I got a record nine hours of shut eye Friday night.  Saturday night not so much as my eyes popped open at 4 am.  I should have taken two of Kim's allergy pills instead of one.  Some positive points...

1.  I sold my first Bundaflicka Knitting Tote to Kevin Potter, a shepherd from Lexington, Virginia, and a direct descendant of Beatrix Potter.  It was the Goofy Bird design I lined with Gunlocke office furniture fabric I picked up at the Hemlock festival last fall.  I had five totes made of that fabric and I sold them all, including one special order.

2.  Tote sales were steady and incredibly gratifying, considering the festival was vast and full of totes.  Most customers came back after looking them over then checking out the rest of the show.  One woman bought a tote then came back the next day to pick up another one.  I love my bag ladies.  They keep me sewing, and sewing and sewing.

3.  My new Shepherd's Friend Lip Balm proved to be a good idea.  People didn't balk at the $5.  I had a question I couldn't answer about SPF but told them the beeswax would help protect their lips.  I hope that's true.  Why wouldn't it be?

4.  My Goat Milk Soap was a big success.  I sold out of Peppermint and my Chocolate Espresso was a big hit.  Several people said my soap smells the best of any at the festival.  I was glad to hear that as I spend a fortune on essential oils and keep the soap in closed boxes.  I don't know anyone who wraps all their soaps in quilt fabric like I do, a nice touch that keeps the bars from getting nicked and holds the fragrance in.

5.  The Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme was very well received, with most anybody who tried some in the tester leaving the booth with a jar or two or three.  The macadamia nut oil was a brilliant addition to the creme.  The owner of Columbus Foods, Mike Lawson, suggested it when I balked at the price increase in jojoba oil due to a crop failure in Venezuela.  The macadamia nut oil soaks into the skin so nicely and the price is much easier on the pocket book.

6.  I hired two Boy Scouts to help us pack up at the end of the show, saving many little trips back and forth to the van.  I hope they are around next year.  They made short work of it and we were on the road much sooner.

Some not so positive points...

1.  My yarn was a bust.  No interest in the hand spun basket at all, and only a skein or two of the mill spun left the booth.  Sadly, I don't think most people care where their yarn comes from.  So many vendors buy white wool skeins, dye them and think it's a big deal.  Not so much support for the small hard working shepherd who sits up nights in a cold barn waiting for lambs to be born.  Most commercial yarn comes from "dead wool" that was shorn from sheep killed for meat.  I remember when Linda Cortright of Wild Fibers Magazine told me about that.  She visited a processing facility where the dead wool pile was huge and the live wool pile very small.  When you buy commercial yarn you might be supporting the worst kind of cruelty without knowing it.  There were other small flock shepherds at the show and the ones I spoke to were disappointed as well.  There is the yin and the yang of the fiber art business.  Kim sold a couple of skeins of hand spun wool and angora.  She had a good point - our hand spun baskets are a protest against a world full of commercialism.  I like that.

All in all I think it was a fabulous Maryland year.  I spent time with so many good friends I hardly ever see, like Lisa Merian, Candace Cain, Joanie Schneiber, Piroska Toth, Denise Wilkinson, Kathy Davidson, Lisa Hughes,and others.  I was visited by a group of Tasmanian shepherds and a Congressional Representative from Texas.  My critters were thrilled to see me home, even Coco the cow was bellowing her welcome, standing under the moon in the driveway.  I milked her the next morning and gave her an extra scoop of dairy feed in the mash.  The grass is growing finally and the lambs are thriving.  I'm happy I can provide for them with my skills and energy.   Life on the farm goes on.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lamb Count - 34 Goat Count - 3

So much has happened in the last month it's hard to know where to start.  The minus 28 nightmare nights and icy commutes are buried in a fog and I'm trying to let them stay there.  I have 34 beautiful lambs alive and leaping.  Two angora goats gave me "Nugora" kids, a product of  little runty Spikey getting loose from the pen with the big Nubian girls he couldn't mount.  They are adorable and will give me some fiber, not much, but they are making their mommy does happy.  I cuddle them and let them suck on my chin.  My lambs quickly become too big to cradle in my arms, but the goat kids stay little longer.

The sheep have been out on the hillside for a few days.  There is a green tinge to the hill from the tiny sprouts coming up through the thatch.  Ordinarily I would not let them out so soon but I am almost out of hay.  I found hay to get me through another two or three weeks in hopes warmer weather would bring the grass.  Cold temps and icy rain conspire to keep it underground but the grass is struggling to the surface.  The sheep don't care, they want out. The bellowing at the barnyard gate was finally too much to take and I let them out.  They LOVE it.  The lambs are nibbling at the juicy green shoots and running hither and yon, rejoicing in the fresh air and wide open space.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

33 Lambs

The last week has been a blur of morning chores, work, home to more chores.  Winter requires more work in terms of feeding and watering...add 33 lambs coming over the course of a month, in the most intense unrelenting cold, and you have a daunting and ongoing challenge.   This has been the winter that was, and the sooner it "was" as in past tense, the better it will be for everyone.  Yesterday morning it was 8 degrees F. outside, this morning 4 degrees.  All the water buckets and bowls freeze.  Hopefully the sheep, goats, bunnies and chickens have consumed the water we give them or we have blocks of ice that have to be removed before we give them more.  Animals do well in the cold as long as they are out of the wind and have food and water.  It's harder on the shepherd, who has to suit up and protect hands and face from the burning cold.  The lambs are doing fine, fat and happy.  It's a big job keeping the moms fit enough to feed all those babies.  Three moms are still in the old mama's twins, are being supplemented with bottles.  I've tried to give the triplets bottles but they don't want milk replacer, just mom's teats.  Poor girl, I try to baby her all I can.  Last night after chores I thought I better go to the way, way back and check around.  My shepherd's intuition paid off...there, tucked under the hay feeder, was a newborn black ram lamb!  This is Gippeto's baby, Wensleydale ram number 2, from Laurie O'Neill's lovely black ewe Erin.  I brought them forward to the maternity ward for the special newborn treatment.  Erin is a fantastic mom and loves her boy.  I got inside around midnight, relieved that I caught this birth not long after it happened.  I found the frozen placenta by the back door and gave it to the very grateful Knut.  Livestock Guardian Dogs, LGD's, are programmed to eat placentas so as not to attract predators. They think they are delicious.   Not sure I agree.  I think I am all done lambing except for one more of Laurie's ewes.  The fleeces should be incredible.  I'm proud that I have another young flock of sheep to love.  In six weeks they'll be on green grass, leaping and bounding over the hillside, drinking from the pond.  I will lie down on the grass and soak up the sun and rejoice that we made it through this winter.  33 is a nice round number.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Morning in the Barn

 The playful piggies think it's funny to tease the chickens who are trying to snack on their slop.  They tipped the pan on the poor little hen up against the fence.  She wiggled out alright but came back for more.  I've heard of pigs eating chickens who wander through the pen, but I haven't noticed any behavior like that.  My pigs are so well fed they don't need to scrounge for food.  I throw the trampled down moist hay I drop while I'm carrying it through the barn into their pen and they LOVE it.  What they don't eat they make a bed out of.  I'm so proud of the way the pigs are turning out.  I'm going to let Matt take the "pink" boys first, then keep Natasha and Niven so they can have a litter.  They are crossed with Berkshire, Tamworth and Olde English Spot so there is enough diversity to have a healthy litter for food.  Thankfully I will never have to sell lambs for food, due to my teaching job.  The thought of eating sheep who could grow up and produce wool is not within my realm of possibility.  I don't even like the taste of it.  Who could eat babies anyway???

The sheep are doing well and all 32 lambs are alive and kicking.  Still expecting one or two more sheep to deliver then the Nubians will start dropping babies.  Old Mama is hanging on and her boys are cute and spunky.  Don't think she will see another winter.  She put everything she had into these twins.  All the supportive treatment in the world can't extend her life too much longer.   More tails and balls today.  Much easier on the lambs when it is done very early.  Bad news - I have put out too much hay and will have to find more to buy.  Thought I could make it through but with all the moms feeding great big lambs, no way.  Wish me luck finding good round bales that can be delivered with a vehicle that could get them up this slippery north side slope.  Fingers crossed.