Friday, July 30, 2010

Peach Rhubarb Pie and Sophie

Yesterday, I found out that a young woman I knew in Massachusetts was killed when she was hit walking home from a night out with her sisters. Her name-- Sophie age 35. I just haven't been able to get this tragedy out of my mind so I will do what helps me most---write.

Sophie was best friends with a very good friend of mine and niece of my mentor-- I knew Sophie because I knew them. Sophie was one of those people you could have a very important conversation with when you were just talking to her for a few minutes somewhere. Sophie had BIG dreams and she worked hard to make them a reality.

Sophie was a "woman of the earth". She studied permaculture and was a proficient organic gardener. She helped so many people with her talents. I was a little intimidated by Sophie sometimes because she made things happen and thought everyone should be able to, in my mind. I am not saying she was intimidating -- that was my issue.
Sophie would get SO excited about things and really believed in herself. Things didn't always work out, though. Once she saved up some money and moved out to the northwest with her two young children to start a new life with more opportunities. It didn't work out and she was back to MA and family and friend within a short time -- but she tried. She was young.

One conversation, that stands out in my mind, was about a dream she had of moving to ? (was it Tennessee) and taking more classes in permaculture and getting some land. I hadn't thought about it, but I am living Sophie's dream. If she was still living on this earth, I know it wouldn't take her as long as it took me.

When people die "prematurely" I think it is important that others in their lives carry their ideals forward. In honor of Sophie I will carry on, remembering her enthusiasm for growing things and sustaining the earth. And I will try to do so with a greater vigor.

I made two peach rhubarb pies today from peaches and rhubarb I planted since we came here two years ago. The peach tree and rhubarb was fertilized by the sheep and Beau, eggs from the chickens went into the pie, and the peach peels will go back to the animals. Not bad huh Sophie. I will think about you as we enjoy them with friends.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Queen Anne's Lace

When I was at Rosemary's house last week, she showed me some dye cards that had a picture of a plant on one side and instructions for dyeing with that plant on the reverse. One was Queen Anne's Lace, always a favorite of mine. The card said that this beautiful white flower would produce a neon yellow dye. Rosemary was intrigued, as was I, and she talked about collecting some along a bike trail, I think it was.

When I returned home this is what greeted me.

All those white flowers behind the new gardens and beyond in the field are Queen Anne's Lace.

I wonder if there are any two alike!

We picked some to send to Rosemary for dyeing.

I think I will commission my sister Gail to do a photographic collection.

Some plants of course found their way to the dye garden so I invited them to stay. I may dye some of Sarah's or Annie's fleece with Queen Anne's lace. Just for fun. As I process their fleece it seems to need something. A bit flat. I have some black alpaca I might blend in with some of their fleece too.

Most of the fleece is washed, much is carded and some is spun so it is time to move on to more fun adventures.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Taking Things For Granted

Over Sunday pancakes this morning, John and I were marveling about how bizarre it was to get our egg for the pancakes from the coop instead of an egg carton (even our neighbors' eggs come to us in a carton). John was so mesmerized that he forgot to put the blueberries in the pancakes. They really tasted different to me --- more custardy. I hope I never take our chickens' eggs for granted.

Last weekend when I was driving up to NY with Aaron and Matthew after Nate's and desi's wedding, we somehow got to talking about how some people forget to tell those they love-- they love them. It is easy to say when you get married and easy when you are saying goodbye to your 96 year old mom but what about the other times. Do we take it for granted that those we love know we love them? I don't have a hard time telling my family and friends that I love them but I probably don't say it often enough. And some times it comes out, "love ya" which to me isn't at all the same as I love you. It is one of those things that you have to be conscious of.

I am not sure if I have told the animals living with us that I love them but I do and I should tell them. I don't take them for granted. I love their individual personalities (that doe not make them pets though). I love the way they make me laugh. I love the beautiful fleece and eggs they provide us with. I never want to take any of that for granted!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Home Sweet Home

I am back from my trip. Nate and desi are married..... Rosemary's mom is still of this world but it was time to come home and let the family carry on. Even though it is HOT it is good to be back.

When a mom leave a 3 year old with family members in order to take a trip she never knows how her child is going to respond when she returns--- sheep and llamas are no different. So here is what happened. I returned late last night but the moon was almost full so I stopped in to say "hi, I'm back". Beau made his clicking noise, put his head up, and stomped his foot so I said, "good night, I will see you in the morning".

This morning, Charlotte came to greet me but the others held back. The chickens demanded some grain and when I returned with it everyone came to the gate to say HI. All it takes is a little food and it appears they will take me back.

Things looked good in the barn and the barnyard except I realized I forgot to remind John about giving the animals their minerals. I will make a mental note for the next time.

The biggest change------there were 5 eggs in the nesting boxes. 3 in one and 2 in another. The chickens have grown up!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Extended Time Away

7 days ago, I left Rockbridge to go to a nephew's wedding in Philadelphia. The plan was to be home 2 days later. On the way, one of my best friends, Rosemary, called to say her mom was dying. So, after the wedding, I headed back to NYC with other nephews that were at the wedding and took at train to Portland ME.

It was easy to make sure that the animals were taken care of in my absence for a few days but now additional plans need to be made. Rosemary's mom is still with us and everyone is surprised. It is not the time to leave yet but I hope I will be home soon.

When Rosemary was visiting several weeks ago I gave her some of the new shorn fleece as she is a superb spinner and knitter. It is funny to see all the fleece here and it makes me miss the sheep and Beau even more.

Yesterday, Rosemary needed to get out for a bit so she took me to a great fiber supply store. I bought a flick carder that I had been interested in trying on some locks so I can spin with even less preparation. Then we came back here and I tried it on Amelia's fleece and Charlotte's fleece. It works great and I can't wait to get back home and use it more.

I am wondering if Beau, the sheep, and the chickens miss me. It will be interesting to see how they react when I do come home.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


As I walked around last night taking pictures of all the things that have been accomplished here on the farm my heart filled with gratitude.

I am grateful for all of Adam's patience and hard work tackling water issues at the barn and all around and weed issues in the gardens. I am thankful he is strong and tall.

I am grateful for Evan's talent and willingness to construct nesting boxes for the chickens and for Dwight's artistic latch for the coop.

I am grateful for Charlie teaching me in the ways of farming.

I am grateful all the animals get along like one big happy family. (still trying to get a family shot)

I am especially grateful for all the support from family and friends throughout my transition and I am especially, especially grateful for John's time for consultations and building me everything I couldn't build myself at a time when he is involved in his own new endeavors. Check it all out in my slideshow dedicated to Karen who has been patiently waiting for me do a slideshow.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
This free slideshow customized with Smilebox

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

in BETTER rythm

3 inches + later you can almost hear the sighs and giggles as the earth's inhabitants in Rockbridge County recover . Four rains we have had now since the long long dry spell and all of them gentle to start and steady.

Today was digging day. The rains had come again into the barn on the west side but not as bad as before. Time to dig a trench and Adam set to it with new energy-- maybe gained from a 4 day music concert in WV. The perfect day for digging a trench and Adam made it look easy. I am afraid I wasn't much help as I was keeping track of my two little friends from across the cornfield. They had shovels as well, but not the attention span needed to be of much help with the digging. The part they liked best was emptying buckets of water in the trough to make sure Adam's trench would drain correctly. Beau kept an eye on the boys for awhile but seemed to conclude they would not be a threat to the sheep or chickens and maybe a help in the big picture. This was the first time the boys spent any real time on the inside of the fence.

The youngest found worms and offered them to the chickens who would take them and then drop them on the ground when they realized what they were or weren't --they were not bugs. The boys are a bit afraid of the sheep and Beau (a size thing) so they stay clear, which seems to work for all.

The sheep look clean again and their fleece has regained its shine. Beau really needs to be brushed and let me brush him a few strokes today but when we had our talk about going outside the gate if he would let me put his harness on he walked off not willing to agree to the restraint. That is the only way I can really brush him.

I know there are different thoughts on how to gain dominance in the barnyard and I am now standing up and putting my head up like Beau does to let him know he is not the BIG BOSS. I have a lot of respect for him and how he takes care of the sheep and chickens and I appreciate the things he has made me aware of and now we need to make some shifts.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I read the other day that thousands of people are seeking therapy due to the Oil disaster in the Gulf. For varying reasons I am sure, but many are probably connected to the animals and feel their distress. Many people rely on natural beauty to fill their energy reservoirs. Of course most people are not Super sensitive to stressors in nature and many who are have personal ways of dealing with their stress or sadness.

I am one of the Supersensitive ones who has found strategies that help somewhat. I try to maintain a quiet peace around me and limit the information that comes in.

Even the lack of rain here for the past few weeks has been difficult for me. I try to focus on the small patches of green instead of the vast dried out vegetation. I try to stay aware of any small thing I can do to help (an plant or animal). I pray for all living things and of course I find ways to help the critters who live here --though Beau and the girls didn't find spraying the hose necessary.

I had heard that fleece and hair were being used in the oil cleanup and thought I could send some locks from the flock --kind of like the "locks of love" but when I found where to send fleece there was a memo that said supplies had come from every city in America and many foreign countries and the warehouses were full. I will keep an eye out to see if demand increases again.

It rained again here on Friday and things feel much better though we need much MORE rain. Beau and the sheep have been over to the cabin lawn (where shade has maintained some green grass) twice in the last few days.

The forecast is for scattered showers most of this week so things look promising.

Friday, July 9, 2010

enough that........ but not enough

Last night I witnessed one of the most unusual storms I have ever experienced. It began as distant flashes of light with spaces of time between the flashes. Then vague drops of rain followed by wind, some fatter drops of rain, and a grand finaly of bright flashes that went on for over an hour with no spaces between them. The background rumbling built to a couple of cracks that found my hands over my ears. As one of the fronts went through some of the general flashes had lightning bolts thrown in-- kind of like when you see fireworks start to diminish and then a new burst unfolds out of the dissipating display. Truly spectacular!!!

But for the magnitude of visual and audio effects, there was a shortfall in the wetness department. Everyone was saying yesterday, that if we did get a thunder shower they were afraid that the water would just run off and not soak in. Well, that didn't happen-- the ground did get damp but we could sure use a rain today now that the ground is softer.

We had enough rain that the grass isn't brittle this morning. We had enough rain that some rain water off the barn roof mixed with the water in the rain barrels cooling the water enough that Plan C could be suspended (at least temporarily). We had enough rain that I could put a step post in, to a depth of an inch, in some places. Most of all we had enough rain to lessen mental anguish, I believe. (see upcoming blog)

Not enough rain, however, that the grass will start growing again I don't think.

Lets all thank God for the beautiful rain! If there is any more to spare I wouldn't mind have a little --or alot---More.

When I went down to talk to the animals this morning none had much to say about the rain or anything to show except that Amelia looked exhausted. I wonder if she is frightened by storms.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Plan C

Catching Rain water off a barn roof is a good option for watering livestock and I have impressed many a visitor with this system. However, this only works IF it rains. When it doesn't rain for a few weeks it is necessary to shift to plan B; filling the same barrels with well water via hoses. We are now operating plan C.

When it is, not only dry for a few weeks, but also quite hot, the water in the barrels can get quite warm. Water is a very efficient heat sink which means on cold winter days if the sun continues to shine and the barrels heat the mass of water it won't freeze like the water in the small buckets. In the summer you don't need a heat sink but it is handy to have water in the barrels for ease of frequent watering. Unfortunately, it has been SO warm that the handy water is too warm to drink. If we start getting cool nights again (in the 50's) the water will eventually cool down in the barrel. But for now it is necessary to engage plan C.

Why isn't the barrel in the shade? The sheep scratch themselves on everything, including the stand for the water barrel and have knocked the whole thing over. They also knock the downspout out of the barrel from time to time so a longer flecky pipe allowing the barrel to be inside the barn in the shade just wouldn't work. So yes plan C is necessary.

Plan C is hauling water in buckets from the house or cabin. Necessary in the winter to melt ice in the buckets and necessary in the summer to give the animals cool water to drink. I would love to go to plan D and make it the primary means of watering in the future.

Plan D entails pumping water from the spring uphill to the pasture. It certainly can be done but, because of the height the water would have to be pumped, the pump would have to be pretty powerful and not sure how it would be powered. It should be powered by the sun which we have PLENTY of but consultants I have spoken to thus far say it would "not be economical". When are we going to get there????

We had a pond party at the neighbor's on July 4th and I found out who the "go to" guy for small solar applications is so hopefully I will get some answers from him but for now I guess I will have to stick with Plan C.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I can't remember the last time I had a day like this--- Totally UNMOTIVATED. Sure it is hot but not bad in the house. I didn't get to sleep for a long while last night but that isn't new.

I did hand water the three veggie gardens and the potted garden. Went up to the barn to fill all the water buckets. Too hot to do anything else outside until 6:00 or so when I'll go down to talk to the critters.

I took a nap but that didn't help. Sometimes if I just start to do something I'll get into a flow but today it is hard to get a start. So what to do? Maybe I will just consciously decide not to do anything. Maybe I will go down to the barn and see what everybody is up to down there. Maybe I will go sit in the creek.

Monday, July 5, 2010


All the animals are changing. Hildegard is getting a bit wider and John is calling her bulldozer and Mac Truck. She is our Hoover picker-upper gal. Annie is catching up to Sarah in size. Mira is starting to look older again as her fleece grows back. The rooster is practicing his crowing.

On the same side of things, Amelia continues to be the one that gets in trouble. Today she knocked minerals out of my hand and they went all over her (looks like baby powder). And the chickens still follow me all over the barnyard. Still NO rain and grass in the pasture is sparser.

The changes I hope for in the NEAR future include: hens laying eggs, a clear good morning crow, and RAIN

Friday, July 2, 2010


Farmers, living so close to the land, are often more in rhythm with life, I believe, than the average guy on the street. I am trying to get there but I think it is about "letting go of " rather than acquiring and most times that is much harder for me. My mind is often on overload.

When it rains for weeks farmers gather or divert water and trim hooves. You dig holes for fence posts and mulch the garden. When it doesn't rain for weeks you cut and bale hay and fix equipment that you don't need when it is dry --- that kind of thing. Yesterday, I was trying to trim hooves with a new trimmer when I should have been sharpening old trimmers; yes it hasn't rained for weeks.

So I am out there wondering why it is so hard to trim Hildegard's hooves and thinking the new trimmers I got for cheap are terrible. They might be, but after the second sheep it suddenly occurred to me what the real problem was. There is a reason a manicurist soaks your nails before she/he does anything else.

On the bright side, when we were drumming yesterday, my mind let go and my hands took off. It was the best sustained drumming I have ever experienced. I was FEELING the rhythm. I could sustain my beat and hear how it fit with all the other parts for a long time. It was amazing.

Now, if I can just remember the lessons I learned yesterday------ wouldn't that be nice.