Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Whole Day Lost

I am glad my birthday is December 31st instead of December 30th but then I don't live in Somoa or Tokelau. All who live there don't get a birthday this year if it happens to be tomorrow, and everyone there looses a Friday this week. I wonder how they decided which day to skip. What does it do to all the computers? Mind boggling !

On the home front. The animals don't care about dates they just care about what happens in a day and they were not too happy about today. My timing was such that I couldn't let them out today and they were pretty mad and tried to escape. One thing that seems important to them is routine. Before Christmas we had a good routine going and everyone was so mellow and content. And then when we were gone they did not get to go out and one other day this week they could not go out for some reason. So today every time they saw me they were quite loud and persistent and I think I saw them give me dirty looks. They probably thought the whole day was lost. Tomorrow, I should be home all day and I think the weather is suppose to be decent so I will let them out for a long while.

They should just be glad they don't live in Somoa or Tokelau where there isn't going to be a tomorrow- just a day after.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011

waiting for Christmas

photographs by Karen -- thanks Karen

The third day of Christmas is pretty quiet; no cattle lowing. On this cold and rainy morning I went down to the barnyard to see who wanted to share a Christmas pear with me (an annual gift from a good friend-- thank you Del). Beau and Sarah were very happy to share.

Christmas Day we had a ham, potatoes, and green beans dinner mid day with John's dad at his nursing home and a gourmet lamb, beef tenderloin, mushroom lasagna, asparagus, ...... evening meal with 17 +- family members. Cathy was here caring for the animals and giving them a grain treat for Christmas. Thank you Cathy.

It was wonderful visiting with family members, beach glassing on Lake Erie, relaxing, playing games, and eating wonderful food. On the second day of Christmas we traveled home.

I hope everyone had as Wonderful a Christmas as we did.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Birthdays- Bringing Gifts not Getting Gifts

Yesterday was Beau's birthday. No cake, no ice cream, I did't even sing to him but I did tell him it was his birthday and bid him well. Of all the animals, I only remember 3 birthdays. For me, dates have to be associated with something.

Year before last, on Beau's birthday, we got a BIG snowstorm that, with the help of subsequent storms, left snow on the ground until March. December 18th, 2009, the most recent of the 20 year storms.

Jumpin Jack and Norma Jean were born last April fools day and it was a joke. We went out early morning to find two lambs-- one black and one white and not a real attentive mom so it took a few minutes to figure out who they belonged to.

Good thing animals don't care about birthdays. Or maybe they do and they remember and they celebrate in their own ways.

And then there is Jesus's birthday, which we celebrate December 25th, even though many say it was a different day. I guess without calendars, it would be hard to document special days.

I have many siblings and friends that remember my birthday but it is really easy to remember since it is the last day of the year. And though many of us don't even know what day it is much of the time, we usually know when the last day is upon us.

I was think the other day, I don't think it really matters when we came to this earth or when we leave, it just matters what gifts we bring to this earth while we are here.

Monday, December 12, 2011


LOOK UP or look what you miss if you don't. When you hear a big WHOOOOSH you naturally look up or when you wake up in the morning and you are lying in bed,

and then get up and look out a different window.

A very good friend of mine, an artist named Betty, had a wonderful book about a man who always wanted to be an artist, but each time he was going to begin, something in his life got in the way. (getting married, having kids, I forget the other reasons) I need Betty to remind me. Anyway, he never fully got around to it before he died, BUT, when he went to heaven, God gave him the job of painting sunrises and sunsets. I always think of that story when I see amazing skies-- and I think of Betty.

On full moon or nearly full moon nights, I don't need my head lamp to go to and from the barnyard. I wonder if the animals like full moons as much as I do.

Most of the time the animals here are looking down, but sometimes I see them look up. One time I was standing near Sarah, I think it was, when she kind of stopped what she was doing and looked up. I wondered why and then a second later geese flew over. The other day Beau looked up and I wondered what he was looking at but I never found out.

This world, and for me, this farm, are So beautiful! I think I, like the animals, spend more time looking down but when I am on top of this hill, so close to the sky, I frequently look up.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Latest Design

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This is my latest design after visiting a new store on Main Street yesterday. Think I could sell them? What would I call them? How should they be packaged? Anyone out there with any ideas? Hope you enjoy the silly slide show. Have to do it from time to time to remember how to set it up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Key to the Garden

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, was one of my first favorite books. The neglected garden is a walled garden with a door -- but it is locked. The turning point in the story is when Mary finds the key to unlock the door.

Today, I was down in the spring below the pastures again. Every time I go down there I try to imagine how it looked when it was used as a source for water for the cabin. There is a cement box area that has a pump and some pipes. I wonder when it was last used. I wonder if I can get the information. I wonder what it would take to use the spring again. Right now it has two trickles of water that come together in a sunken area of sorts.

When I was looking around today, I saw another cement box with a little water and a lot of muck in it. It was covered over with vines and other vegetation so that I had never seen it before, but today, for some reason, I noticed it. I felt as if I had found "the key to the garden". I feel, some how, that this may be the key to using the spring again, this time for the animals.

It looks to be only about a 15 to 20 foot rise in height to the bottom pasture -- longer in distance though and I know very little about pumps. I wonder if the Farmer's COOP could tell me anything about the pump; it has their name on it. Or should I go back to Frank's Pump and Repair Shop and follow up on having them come out to look at the possibilities.

I was a bit disappointed in the response from the Powering People organization (the alternative energy people). The guy, who my friend knows, forwarded my email to another guy, I don't know of, who said he would come out but also referred me to a website that to me looks like it is for commercial applications-- come on 11 sheep and a llama (and 5 chickens).

Oh well, I guess more investigation is called for but I really do feel like I found the "key to the garden".

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stories We Tell Ourselves

A small incident can set off a story in our minds. For instance, a few days ago, on the way to town, there were some wild ducks standing in the road holding up traffic. It is the main road to town with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour. Four cars were stopped and taking turns passing on the open lane that the ducks didn't occupy. This morning, passing the same area, there were just two ducks, this time on the side of the road. The black one was sitting and the white one standing next to her. I say her because I made up a story about them.

A flock of wild ducks were flying south for the winter when they spied a beautiful creek and decided to go down for a closer look. Their feet were cold so they decided to stand on a stretch of black pavement they thought might warm them. Along came some very neighborly cars; that stopped to wish them well and proceeded slowly away. Then all of a sudden one of the ducks (a black duck) got the urge to lay an egg since it was a very fine place indeed. Her mate, a white duck, said he would stay by her side and the others bid them farewell and went on their way. The black duck wanted to nest on the side of the road instead of down by the creek because she liked to see the neighbors drive to town and she thought they might be safer from predators there. They had noticed from the air, many times, dead skunks and foxes and the like on the roads. So there they remained until........ to be continued

I wonder what stories Beau comes up with, when I drive out the driveway, come back a few minutes later, and leave again a few minutes after that, as I did today. Maybe he thought-- there she goes again. I bet she is going to the fiber group meeting in town. Oh, here she comes back again -- now she has forgotten whatever it is she is working on. O.K. now she has it -- I hope she isn't late.

I think my stories are more exciting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is it Antisocial if ..........?

Here is the dilemma. It is a cool cloudy dark morning -- not very inviting for me. The chicken coop needs to be opened but the sheep are resting. I don't want to let the sheep out to graze yet but I don't want to give them hay because I am going to let them out in a couple of hours to graze. This saves on hay and they aren't acting hungry-- they are laying down for the most part.

I go down to let the chickens out but I purposefully don't talk to the sheep or even look at them because I don't want them to all run to the gate wanting to come out yet. Beau comes to the gate but I barely make eye contact with him. Then I go around the corner of the garage barn, on my way out, and look back at Beau and mouth to him "I will be back later to let them out".

It feels so strange to not talk to them but here it is an hour later and they are still resting. If I had talked to them and they got up, I would feel guilty for not letting them out or feeding them. Now I feel guilty for not greeting them. I know this is all human stuff but animals must have some kind of social etiquette.

Perhaps, on the other hand, they are asking themselves (right now) if it was rude not to get up to greet me when I came down to the barnyard this morning. 'humans must have some kind of social etiquette'. Who Knows.

I think I will keep observing from the house, and when they get up, I will go down and let them out. Then I will ask them if they thought I was being antisocial this morning.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Thanksgiving and the day after, I was enjoying the part of our family, that was visiting, SO much, that I barely touched a computer or cell phone. (Jen, talk about commas)

The company was superb and the weather delightful! And the food.............. Thanksgiving day, I began giving my thanks, for Jen's talent and tradition of making us croissants. The day started with a bite of an amazing chocolate almond croissant two minutes out of the oven. It's kind of like eating fresh corn; it is always good, but when you have it eight minutes after picking-- it is truly encompassing. For croissants, the precise time is two minutes. The croissant felt like it was hugging me, tucking me into bed, and wafting an exotic foreign fragrance under my nose at the same time. It was near perfect flakiness, near perfect color, and near perfect temperature (only God is Perfect).

The pot next to the croissants is Wades Mills grits to which we added ham Lyndy brought, from her weekend employer and friend, Bashir. A sharp cheddar cheese from Farm to You rounded out the yummy breakfast.

I next gave thanks for the superb brightness and delightfulness of the day served to us and when Lyndy woke up, I gave thanks for family present that day. Later, friends came to join us for dinner, and I was thankful for friends, especially ones so artistic and accomplished in the art of food growing and combining. Our friends added a kale and squash side dish and a cranberry almond tart. The kale dish also had that pick and cook component and a wonderful balance of earthy, sweet, and tart (there were a few cranberries tucked in). The cranberry almond tart was one of the most beautiful things I have ever eaten. It looked sculptured and the blend was just right; offering cranberries not too tart or sweet accompanied by the nutty sweet taste of almonds.

Before we ate our dinner, the animals who reside here were strolling and on cue went to greet our friends as they drove up to the house. When it was nearly time for our dinner, John and David led the animals back to the barnyard and gave them their treat (a handful of grain as usual). I am so thankful that the animals are so polite and well mannered.

Lyndy brought a local free range turkey for dinner. It came with a free home made pumpkin pie... can't beat that. Other traditional dishes completed the menu.

Parts of Thanksgiving Day are always tradition. Parts of Thanksgiving Day are always unknown and come together in harmony. I give thanks for all of it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Powering and Showering People

After many delightful nights with the temperature above freezing, the temperature has suddenly plummeted. John called me to ask me to disconnect the hoses on the outdoor shower. I am glad he called because I would not have thought of it and we just replaced the hoses from the last time they froze and blew out.

The animals have water buckets that plug in, to keep the water from freezing. I wish there was some way we could plug in the pipes and hoses to keep the water in them from freezing. Maybe there is a way but I imagine it would be very expensive. If there is a way, though, that is what I want for Christmas. I really love taking showers outside but I am lazy and don't like turning the water off and disconnecting and reconnecting hoses. Also, it is hard to remember to do it.

Thinking about all of this, reminds me that I want to get in touch with a local guy who is involved with the group Powering People. They are an alternative energy group I want to consult about solar hot water for washing fleeces and felting wool. Think I will shoot an email off tonight.

Maybe there is a way this all fits together.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nibbling While We Weed

I was doing a pretty good job of weeding the dyeing garden but it was going slowly so

Amelia decided to come help. She had been watching me so she knew where to go and what to do.
She did a pretty good job. Some of the others helped too. They wanted to thank me for letting them come up to graze by the house. They do keep moving and the yard seems pretty even-- maybe John will let them do some of the lawn maintenance in the spring if they promise not to eat the fruit trees.

It was 74 degrees today. I wonder if the grass grows when you have a few days around 70 degrees or if it takes a long stretch. So far the sheep have eaten very little of the new hay. I hope the weather holds up a little longer. The great thing about the sheep grazing the dyeing garden is that there is a good supply of a highly nutritious lemon flavored weed I forget the name of. I keep saying I am going to put some in my salads but then I forget. I do nibble when I am weeding though.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apples & Memories

It is that time of year. Apple time. A very exciting time for me. Lots of memories; of camping and Littleton, of seeing lots of different varieties of apples in farm stands, (or even the grocery store), of recess and yellow jackets, of the sound of that first bite, of that wonderful sweet/tart sticky smell.

As I mentioned the other day, Karen gave me a bag of apples. Did I mention the bag was too heavy for one person to lift? So now I have 2 big bags in the freezer for pies, muffins, or pancakes, and a half gallon of apple sauce and more apples left with no room in the freezer.

I started thinking about recipes that take lots of apples and of course the first one that came to mind was apple butter. That brought back another memory of when John and I were first living together and I was trying to show him what a good cook I was. I decided to make apple butter and went to my go to cookbook of that time, Fanny Farmer. HOw simple-- you just throw the apples in a pot and stir constantly until thick, adding a little sugar and cinnamon along the way if you want. What they didn't say was how long it takes for the apple butter to get thick. Well, it was a long time.

Today, I opened my church cookbook for a recipe and had a good chuckle I wanted to pass along. Here is the recipe. It is from Marie J. Tardy and was dated 1979.

12 bushels apples, peeled, cored &cut into eights, vinegar, salt, 3 gal. water, 80 lbs. sugar, 1/2 lb cinnamon

After peeling, coring and cutting the apples, you will have 8-9 bushel of "snits". At about 6 o'clock the second morning, start to cook the apples. You need a copper kettle which will hold about 30 gallons of apple butter. After fire is started, wash kettle out with vinegar and salt, rinse with clear water. Then add about 3 gallons of water and about 2 bushel of snits. Let them cook about 1 hour, stirring continuously, then begin adding more until all snits cook into a smooth apple sauce. At 2 p.m. Add about 80 pounds of sugar and cook 2 hours more. Then add cinnamon and cook 20 minutes longer. Then dip off into any size jars you wish and seal tight. Apple butter has been known to keep as long as 8 to 10 years. Note: Stir continuously from the beginning of the cooking of the apples until taking the apple butter off so that it doesn't stick and burn.

I have a few ?s. If you start cooking the apples at 6 a.m. what time do you start the fire? What is magical about adding 80lbs. of sugar at 2p.m? And most importantly how many people does it take to make apple butter?

That's all for now-- I have to go give the critters some snits.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Autumn Activities

The sheep and Beau have enjoyed coming up by the house to graze the last few days. The grass is premo and there are many new things to explore. The steps to the shop with the new pumpkin, the circle dyeing garden; where Jumpin Jack learned how to play the wind chimes, and the fringes. Sheep love fringes.

Now that the orchard has no fruit and few leaves, the sheep can enjoy strolling through. All the animals have been on good behavior and I only have to reroute them occasionally.

The browsers are very enthusiastic- I hope I don't regret them being so engaged. Right now their fleeces look beautiful but you never know where they may find burrs. The other day Mira was wearing a tree and John said it was a Halloween costume.

Official training began this morning. Beau is working on following, Amelia is working on letting me stand on her left side, Mira is working on letting me stand on her right side. I hadn't realized, until training began, that they are side sensitive. I wonder what I will find out tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cold Mornings Amazing Afternoons

John said it felt warmer this morning when we got up and it was-- it was 32 degrees outside and 62 degrees inside.

Yesterday, it was 31 degrees outside and 59 degrees inside. We have woken up to a frost everyday for the last week, yes, starting in October. I hope this isn't the beginning of a long winter season.

Once the sun rises over the Blue Ridge Mountains, the day starts warming up and by 9:30 or so I start taking off layers. The problem is, I have to remember where I leave the layers, so I can put them on the next day. This morning I was looking for my down vest and winter hat and remembered I had left them on the railing down at the cabin. The vest was just a little cool and the hat slightly damp but not bad. A short while later I had to take the vest off again-- this time leaving it in the barn with an egg in the pocket.

The chickens don't like the cold mornings. John said they didn't come out until he had left the barnyard, this morning. Usually, they dash out as soon as the door is opened. We only find one or two eggs a day now that the weather and light have changed.

Beau and the sheep don't seem to have noticed or they just don't care. Actually, I think they like it better. Last night, as it cooled off again, they were doing their "four feet off the ground" hop and just generally playing around like lambs do.

It is a good thing I am home most of the day these days. With such short grass in the main pasture I have been letting the animals out for a good part of the day. I have let them come up by the house a couple of times this week and they really like that. Who says sheep are not smart or social. If they hear my voice or see me look at them, they coming running. If I don't want them to come down from up on the pasture, I have to be quiet and not look at them. Sarah will look over at me and if I make eye contact for more than two seconds she brings them all to me. It's great when I want them to come but if I don't--they look at me as if to say why did you call.

With all the Amazing afternoons this week, I have accomplished much. Harvested the last of veggies in the garden, weeded some of the dyeing garden, raked leaves and nuts, fenced part of the top pasture to rejuvenate, and hauled stuff to the compost. Tomorrow, it may rain but I need to make a new hay rack to accommodate more mouths.

I am loving getting so much done but I need some not so great weather to catch up with friends.

Looking for a Bit in a Straw Pile

Yesterday, I experienced intimately, the old adage looking for a needle in a hay stack only I was looking for a screw bit in some straw. It all started out with me making some minor changes to the chicken coop. I put in an additional roost because the new hen that brown 1, 2, and 3 harass all the time was sleeping on top of or in the nesting box area. Last night, the 2 lowest in the pecking order, slept in the middle nesting box together instead of on the new roost. None of them were on it. I hope they try it out soon.

I also replaced a screw in the door latch and I didn't know what sized screw bit I needed so John gave me a few in a small plastic box. Unfortunately, the box was open, when I knocked it over and everything spilled. The floor of the coop is slatted, so I didn't know if they stayed in the coop or fell through. I found one bit and a screw fairly easily but was still missing one or two, many minutes later.

I decided to try to find them with John's big magnet using it both in the coop and under it where some of the straw falls through. The chickens like to scratch around under the coop and when I came with the magnet one hen was doing just that. After a considerable time, I was unsuccessful in finding the bit, but the picture above shows all the stuff I did find (mostly bits of old tools and fencing).

At least I am glad I found all this stuff so the animals won't step on it.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Don't know if it was a trick or treat that no kids showed up for fiber puppet class today. They all went home after school to go trick or treating. The downtown shops all give out candy in the afternoon and then it is on to the houses. Since I got to come home and leisurely carve the jack-o-lantern and give the sheep the inside glop, we decided to call it a treat.

They ate it all-- especially Sarah, Annie, and the chickens. Mira tried a little and others couldn't decide. Pumpkin seeds are great natural dewormers.

Coming back from the barnyard, I saw this beautiful treat. Fall color at sunset. A jack-o-lantern on the hill?

The treat on the right showed up in our refrigerator. John doesn't drink fruity beer so I lucked out.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is it Winter Already?

I am back home after a week of visiting family. First John's family gathered for his dad's 90th birthday. All of his brothers and sisters made it plus a cousin, a nephew, and a few inlaws. Then I went on to a gathering of my family. All of my brothers and sisters made it plus 2 inlaws and a niece. Within a few days, I saw 22 family members. It was wonderful!

I came home to cool weather that turned cold. We had our first snow last night and this morning but just a dusting. More snow in other parts of the county (a family that came to the mask workshop this morning left an inch and a half of snow at their house).

Yes, today I had a felt mask workshop. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures until the end so no pictures of the process ( I think I need to hire Karen next time). It worked out well and we had a lot of fun. Not many participants but I know that will change with time.

The animals faired well without me but of course they are glad I am back- maybe ? I forgot to tell John where the chickens are laying these days so there were almost a dozen eggs in the nest in the closet. Oh well.

The snow reminded me that John reminded me to call my hay farmer for some hay. He is going to bring me 2 round bales and some square bales next weekend. Round bales are less expensive in the long run and I think I can peel the hay off in strips to put in the hay rack. The hay farmer has some better quality hay in the square bales so maybe I can mix some in from time to time.
There are more sheep to feed this winter but no pregnant ewes so that will keep the amount down. Still plenty of grass if we don't get too much snow early. If there is grass, sheep prefer it to hay and if there is good hay they don't want the mediocre stuff so winter feeding can be a bit tricky.

I am hoping the weather warms up again since I still have some fall projects to finish. May be time to prioritize.

I am looking forward to a winter of spinning, knitting, and trying new techniques but it is too EARLY.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Busy but Rewarding

Another busy day at Cabin Spring Farm and MRMS.

I started off the day making sure I had all the fleece my fiber students needed for today. Washed some black alpaca and checked on some fleece I dyed last night after spending 5 hours climbing and descending Jump Mountain. Had a meeting in town, then came back and let the animals out, dumped manure buckets, cleaned the barn, put out fresh minerals, also fresh water. When the animals went back I moved up to the house and weed wacked inside the arbor by the dyeing garden, practiced left handed knitting and double knitting right handed, talked to my neighbor who will be taking care of the animals while we are away for a couple of days, and packed up the van with all the stuff we needed for today's puppet making.

Then, I picked up a friend to check out the class. She has agreed to fill in for me the one day I will miss while away. Puppet making went well again today. I am so proud of my fiber students. They are so enthusiastic and creative.

Home again, I flopped on the front porch and rested, before planning how I could best meet the future material needs of the puppet makers. They give me requests at the end of each session, but don't know their yarn needs yet. Tomorrow, I need to spin several skeins of yarn to later be dyed.

Yes, I am a very busy person, but I love what I do and I am very thankful for the energy to do it all. I look forward to my respite and time spent with family and then I should be ready to come home and be rewarded again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Could Today be any Better?

Tromping in my boots through wet leaves, watching soggy sheep browse for favorite fall foods, feeling the warm October sun between showers, and listening to the wind and leaves- how could today be any better?

Beau, Gretta, and Charlotte like the oak leaves when they can find a limb low enough. Beau eats some leaves off the ground. Amelia likes purple aster flowers. Gretta likes anything in out-of-the-way places. The forsythia bush is well pruned by all.

Washing more fleece today even though it is not really a drying day. Just trying to keep up with some of it. Need to do more Finn for masks. Soon I want to do a wood fire- big kettle batch.

Starting to get responses for the Halloween felt mask making workshop the 29th. Should be loads of fun. Think I will do a mask this evening to try a new method.

Lunch is over, time to get back to "work?" I was tell John this morning, too bad we have to eat and wear clothes. He agreed that then we would have more time to do the important things we want to do. The sheep and Beau don't have to wash their clothes (the rain does it) and if they didn't have to eat, what would they do all day. Meditate I suppose.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So Much to Write About

Rosemary came to visit last Friday and we have been going every minute trying to fit everything into the short 4 days we will be together. By fit everything in I mean all the things we want to share with each other. Rosemary is a BIG TIME fiber enthusiast and fiber artist. This visit she brought several of her felt dolls she has been creating. They are amazing! They look like people I know.

Rosemary left yesterday and today I had my second after school puppet class. I have 5 great middle school students and a mentor helper that is a senior in high school. In the class the students will learn to felt, knit, and weave and use all three to create a puppet. So far they have made a piece of sheet felting, learned to wet felt something round or oval for a head, and some have started the knitting because they have chosen to knit their puppet's body. It is all very exciting- they have remembered to bring things back to class and have written plans. Much different than the elementary kids I have been working with earlier this fall. I just have to keep them busy and I have to stay organized.

Mary has had bottle jaw as a result of having parasites but is much better. Rosemary and I were talking to a friend of mine yesterday, about how we have medical issues to bring us back to our path of healing studies. Sometimes, it is our children or our animals that put us back on the path. I have been giving Mary numerous different treatments and remedies and nutritional support. It has all been good research for the book but I better take time to make sure everything is recorded in the book I keep for the animals so that nothing is forgotten. Today, I gave them all some nutritional yeast. I keep it in the refrigerator for me but I really don't like it and forget to put it in things where I won't notice it. It blends beautifully in the grain I give them for treats.

I look forward to a quiet tomorrow to do some catching up but I enjoyed every moment with Rosemary.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Six Years Ago Today

Seems like much longer. I feel like it was a life time ago.

A quiet day here on the farm. Dug out yet another wheelbarrow full of thistle plants in the small pasture. I can't wait until all the weeds die off again for this year. Next year may be the year of the goats. I wonder if I took a sampling of the weeds I have here down to Karen's goats and offered them if that would be a good indication of what goats would eat or would they not like them if they were not fresh? It would be easier than bringing goats here for a trial, I think.

Sheep do browse trees and shrubs, especially this time of year but who eats the hefty woody weeds? Do goats eat thistle? Sheep eat rose bushes and berry canes but not thistles.

Coming to the top of the priority list, is biodynamic treatment of the pasture and then fencing the animals off of part of it to let it recover. Plenty of great grass for short term grazing while I am here but the secure pasture is very short and sparse in many areas. It is time to act! Tomorrow I will go to the farmers co op and see what the options are for posts for fence wire. Pictures soon.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm Back

Back to farming and fiber Yay! I was a guidance counselor in two elementary schools for 6 weeks filling in for a guidance counselor who was on family leave. I enjoyed working with the kids and playing professional (all dressed up) for a little while but I am glad to be back to my REAL life where I can stay home with animals and wear blue jeans (the same pair for two days).

I can wake up by the light of the day- not in the dark. I can let the animals out earlier and spend more time with them. I can play with fiber again. I was too tired after a full day at school and then taking care of the animals and making dinner. And then with all the Saturdays in September scheduled to be away, places doing things, it really made it impossible to get anything done.

There is a long list of things that have been neglected and new things that have been put on hold but the weather is beautiful and I will just keep whittling away until all the important things get done. It will be interesting to see how much the school system pays me for all those weeks away - not a lot I am sure, but maybe a bit to do a project or two.

I am on to my next fiber adventure. It is actually called NEXT. It is an after school project to get kids to interact instead of going home and vegetating. They are going to pay me $20/hr but it is only 2 1/2 or 3 hrs. per week. Tonight, was the kickoff; where the kids got to check out all the activity groups they could sign up for. I will be doing a fiber puppet class. The students who choose my group will learn to knit, weave, and felt and design a puppet incorporating all three. I am excited and I hope a few will sign up and get excited too. I was talking to a woman who is doing photography and she told me when you get to 6th grade it isn't cool to look like you are excited so not to get discouraged. I have been working with K-5th for so long that I forgot about that. Oh well, I still want to do it.

Now I will be able to give the animals and the farm the best part of the day and then hang out with the kids at the end of a couple of days. That is what I call a balanced life.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sammy Finds A New Home

Sammy went to live at another farm - in Luray, VA. He went to a farm of a friend of a friend. I feel really good about it though it was SAD to see him go. We are at the beginning of breeding season and Sammy was getting of age so it was time for him to go out on his own.

I am sure the others miss Sammy but they don't show it. Beau seems to be O.K. with the situation. I wonder if he counts sheep or just looks out for who ever is around. It is alot off my mind not to worry about unwanted pregnancies. Now, if I can just find good homes for the other three.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Felting at the Festival

We did it! Yesterday, we made some large pieces of felt to cover a small yurt type structure at Boxerwood. The pieces were not as big as I had hoped because the weather changed from summer to fall and festival participants were not in shorts and bare feet for the most part.

I decided that it would work better to make the fleece on a 6' by 4' picnic table than on the ground tarp. We covered the whole table so our finished felt was almost 6X4. It was great fun watching people of all ages work together and really get into it. Some people came back several times.

This little guy touched the fleece and made a "yucky" face but his mom kept at it.

Many of the kids got into the carding too.

This picture does not really show the finished product that well. I will take more pictures.

Suds flying

We made 2 large pieces and 2 smaller so we have a few more to go but there was too much to be enjoyed at the festival and the timing was a factor. We will finish at another time.

Festival goers were impressed with the knowledge of how to make felt and proud to be a part of it. In addition I made some new great contacts.

The felting process:

Card raw fleece into batts (using a type of fleece that felts well). We used Navajo Churo , Alpaca, and Finn.
Lay the first layer of batts with fiber going in one direction.
Lay a second layer of batts with fibers running 90 degrees from the first (if the first layer runs north and south, the second layer will run east and west)
The third layer will run as the first.
Squeeze a little liquid soap over all ( you can use bar soap but liquid is easier)
Pour just enough really hot water on top to be able to press the fibers down without them sticking to your hands.
Press gently until all shrinks down and starts to mesh. Then press progressively harder until you can tell it is holding together.
When it holds together as cloth, flip it, pound it, roll it up in something it won't stick to and jump on it, what ever you like. The real felters drag it behind horses.
Continue pouring hot water (or alternating hot and cold) over all from time to time.
Rinse and wring in cold water and lay out to dry.

All were amazed how easy it is. On to the next project.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Sounds of an Autumn Day

All Summer I have been trying to figure out where the honey bees live that collect pollen on the farm. Yesterday, I decided they must live in the buzzing tree.

One of the huge Walnut trees on the farm was buzzing. It has what I thought were large fungus but when I heard the buzzing I decided to explore further. Check this out.

I will have to ask James how to make it so one can zoom in on a picture. How cool is this. I saw a film where some natives climbed a cliff and had a long handled saw and cut away most of the hive and the bees rebuilt onto the remains of the old. I want to get some better binoculars so I can see close up. The sound was amazing. And then I heard a Canadian Goose fly over and then a WOOSH of a flock of migrant birds. I love the sounds of autumn but the sheep and Beau continued browsing and grazing without looking up.

I am so blessed to come home from a long day of work and be able to wander and listen to the sounds of the season and let go of all the day's stress.

John's favorite sounds on the farm also come from above. He loves the fighter jets that go over sometimes. Occasionally, they go right overhead and I have to put my hands over my ears. That catches the animals attention.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Too Much Time Away

Lots to do in so little time. Make a note-- Can't work full time, early, five days. Not time to do anything else much. Only get the most critical done and I am not sure about that.

One good thing I did this week was make some felt out of some mediocre fleece I have had for a long time. This Saturday is the Fall Family Festival (or something like that) and I am going to make some large sheets of felt with kids and their families to put over a small yurt that is being constructed for the play trail at Boxerwood. It will be the largest sheets I have attempted. We are going to do it on a big tarp. It should be fun. The small samples are working out great.

I will take pictures! Something I have not seemed to accomplish lately. Oh well, I am not going to beat myself up over what hasn't gotten done. Sunday, my one day home, I toured the farm appreciating what has been accomplished. Quite a bit overall I would say.

Today, at work as a guidance counselor, I did an activity in three classes (2nd, 3rd, and 4th). The theme was "building our character". It was to recognize our character traits; checking in on what positive traits we have and see what we want to improve on. I would say I should try to improve on my organization. I think I do pretty good on what I call the biggies (compassion, respect etc.). I really am enjoying the job but it takes toooo much of my time, especially since I am not so organized. The animals think so too.

The thing I hate the most, is driving out in the morning as they all look my way and sometimes they start to come down when I open the chicken coop. I just want to stay with them and play with them. I keep telling them it is only a couple of more week. I can't wait.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Another Way Sheep and Goats Are Different

Karen and I are going to another worm workshop tomorrow so we are collecting fecal samples. While I am out staring at sheep butts for an hour she is probably watching soaps and eating bon bons. If you want a goat sample, she tells me, she walks out and they deposit all she wants at her feet. Well at least I guess this means it takes me less time to clean the barnyard.

There is a popular event called cow pie bingo. You basically just draw out a bingo card in a pasture type area and participants guess where the first cow pie will land. I think they always use cattle but maybe it would be more suspenseful if they used sheep. If you used goats the whole thing would be over in a minute and no one would know who the winner was.

I am back from a great vacation and all the animals are glad to see me. Sometimes they ignore me for a day but not this time. It was hard getting up early this morning and leaving them to go to work. I am glad for the work and a little money but I need more time with the animals and not when I am tired. I think I need an afternoon job. And now tomorrow, a Saturday, I have to get up early again and leave them for several hours. I am doing it all for them but I don't think they know that. (Well,, partly for them.) Tomorrow is definitely for them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Getting Ready for Vacation

What's easier than young kids but harder that dogs? Leaving behind sheep, chickens, and a llama while we go on vacation.

With a dog, it's "here's the leach, this is how much food for dinner, and not too many treats." You know when they need to go out. With young kids it can get very complicated. With sheep, chickens, and a llama it's, " here is the different foods, this is how much, here are the water buckets- and you fill them from these rain barrels, here are the minerals in the closet which is also where the hens are laying for the most part lately, Mira's foot seems better, Jumpin Jack seems fine, here is the vet's number, neighbor's numbers, and my cell number, collect the eggs, open the coop in the morning when you get up and close it at dusk after the chickens go in for the night, open half the gate in the morning and clip the other half and close the full gate at night. And, if the wind blows, make sure no leaves from the wild cherries fall in the pasture and wilt.

And then after the loud squawk, "oh yeah, the chickens are completely free range". That part actually came first when I was showing my animal sitting friend the rounds. Her dog is familiar with farm animals but decided to chase Brown One or was it Brown Two. Anyway, she wasn't harmed but she lost a lot of feathers and looks funny. She doesn't even seem traumatized. She was out and about with the sheep and Beau this evening before dark.

Sounds like a lot but much of the instructions is precautionary and she doesn't have to milk anyone. The good news for me is--- I only had to give instructions once. I am SO thankful my friend has volunteered to stay over!!

After all the instructions were given and my friend went home, I ate my dinner and then went down and hung out with the sheep. The evenings are cooler now and they were frolicking in the pasture and making me laugh. I love having sheep, a llama, and chickens.

And I love vacations.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hildegard's Death Revisited

Thank you all who comforted me at the loss of Hildegard, the first sheep (with lamb) to come to live here. Hildegard is missed certainly but her moving on was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Probably because of my feelings about death (another blog sometime).

One of my brothers asked if it was unexpected. People told me, when I brought sheep here, to expect them to die. People say sheep don't need much of an excuse to die. My first goal as a shepherdess, was to see if I could keep all the sheep alive for a year before I thought about anything else. Was it unexpected? I don't know.

The important question should be, "why do people expect sheep to die"? I think the answer is-- because people have seen it over and over. This tells me there is something wrong with the way we humans support sheep health.

Hildegard died from an overload of parasites . I know that this is the biggest issue with sheep and other animals and I know that the preferred treatment from the vast majority of vets is chemical dewormers. I also know, that they and all sheep farmers know that they aren't working anymore because parasites have built up a resistance to the chemical products. So now they are trying to find another chemical product.

Here at Cabin Spring Farm, we use the safest health support we can find. We use Apple Cider vinegar, molasses, garlic (James just gave me about 4 lbs. from his garden), herbal dewormers and minerals with diatomaceous earth and kelp and flower essences and homeopathic treatments among other things. The problem is that one needs to be on top of things and be giving the regime in a planned manner and not become complacent as I had. The best medicine is to stay healthy by eating and living well.

I did give Hildegard 2 doses of a chemical dewormer along with other treatments when I realized she was sick but alas I didn't realize soon enough and she moved on. Hildegard was always the resident sheep with the weakest constitution and she was under extra stress this summer so I guess it was not really unexpected.

The preferred method of dealing with animal bodies, when they are no longer needed, is composting. This was something I learned at one of the shepherd symposiums. So I knew what I needed to do and I had, awhile back, thought of a good spot on the property. The one thing I did not do was have materials on hand. The morning Hildegard died, my wonderful supportive husband went to Boxerwood (the nature center where I volunteer) and forked wood chips into the back of his truck and brought them down to a good spot on the farm. Hildegard's resting spot is under a large tree behind a fence not far from where the other sheep graze sometimes.

I am now building up my animal support program and soon should make a regular plan to follow. I would like to start formalizing information I have collected into a small book and dedicate it to Hildegard. If anyone would like to join me in this project I would love it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Some people would say this spider was scary, I would say industrious. Now we know where the sewing machine manufacturers got the idea for the zig zag stitch.

Check out the alien on the spider's back. Some people would say the idea of aliens is scary. Some people think the idea of plant intelligence or animal intelligence is scary. Why?

For some people the idea of death is scary. It was for me when I was younger. We were talking about death in my journey group the beginning of this week. A message that came to me at some point that day was, "She had the opportunity- why shouldn't she go" ( in regard to Hildegard I think).

For sheep and llamas many things are scary. I forgot that I had my blue hat on when I went up to offer Beau and the sheep an ear of immature corn. Except for Charlotte, none would come close. Hats and sunglasses are apparently scary to some animals. I was reading in my new book that if llamas are afraid to be touched by human hand you can start with a feather. I have a really nice turkey feather and I tried it with Beau yesterday but that scared him.

Glad I found this book-- I think it will help reduce some of the scary feelings around here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Venturing Out

The new girls are stepping out. Out the gate anyway, for the first time. They still haven't gone over the fence but they are hanging out with the other chickens when they are in the pasture or barnyard. It is interesting to watch them establish a pecking order.

Mira is showing them around.

I haven't figured out how to tell these two apart yet except by movement. One is very brave and the other is afraid of everyone.

This lovely just came out as well.

I am thinking about venturing out into the work force again. Someone called me to try to talk me into taking the job for 6 weeks. Nothing official yet but I am already thinking about what I could do with the extra money. It is suppose to be flexible. Still trying to find out who I am suppose to be talking to.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August Hail Storm

There is a large hole where Hildegard used to be. We all miss her and everyone is edgy because she disappeared and now we have been sneaking up on Jumpin Jack to give him medicine. And on top of it all we had a very bizarre hail storm today.

It was beautiful but the animals took shelter. I brought 3 new chickens home today and left them in a cage in the shade waiting for nightfall to introduce them. When it looked like a storm was coming I had to put the cage in the garage/barn. Poor chickens-- a new home, a cage, and then hail on a metal roof.

After the chickens went to bed I put the new ones in the coop. The previously residing hens didn't seem to notice and the new hens settled in rather quickly. Here are pictures of today's storm.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Hildegard died Saturday morning from complications from parasites. I gave her medicine and she seemed to be getting better but then I woke up to her lamb Mary crying and found her barely breathing. I told her I loved her. She and her lamb Amelia, pictured here (at the Frontier Culture Museum), were my first sheep. Here are some of my favorite pictures of her.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Yesterday, when I was walking through the veggie garden I eyed a grasshopper munching on some corn silk. I was trying to come up with a way to discourage the grasshoppers. This morning as I walked through the veggie garden I had a much bigger problem to come up with a solution for. The deer have found the corn--- and the cucumber leaves and even tomatoes. I didn't think deer ate the nightshade family.

Now, instead of worrying about the corn silk I found I had fewer ears to worry about as whole stocks were leaning and side shoots were broken. Several tomatoes had disappeared. The deer had never bothered this garden before but the corn was outside the fenced garden last year and they did eat it. I guess they cannot resist corn. The gate was open but I doubt that was how they got in; they probably just jumped the fence. SO today, I put a fence around the fence. I read somewhere one time that you could do that and that made it harder if placed right.

I also put a stepladder in an open area, a teepee in another and poles coming down from the fence for good measure. We will see tomorrow if anything I did today helps. I may need another Beau to guard the garden.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Transformers and Transforming

Transformers have always intrigued me; from the Happy Meal TM toys of long ago to my VW weekender. Today, I transformed my fiber studio back in to a guest cabin.

Last Saturday was the second Ruckus Day at the farm and we played with wool in many forms. We carded some fleece and spun a little, we made some felt coasters, we wacked some fleece into some felt balls and talked about many other aspects of the wool scene. We generally spread fiber all over the cabin porch and deck. We had tremendous fun ..... and yesterday I began transforming the studio/classroom back in to living space for our upcoming visitors from across the water.

I love the space and how easily it transforms. It gets easier as I find new places for things.
This morning, when I let Beau and the sheep go down to the lower pasture, I cleaned the cabin/studio up a little more and decided to take a shower in the cabin shower as a way of getting the spiders (tiny ones) out for our guests. As I was stepping into the shower, I remembered the hot water was not yet turned on. I use so little hot water down there, generally, that when I do need it I heat it on the stove. Oh well, couldn't let that stop me. The cold water shower actually wasn't too bad and the spiders are gone.

Today I transformed some DIRTY mohair that I was given, into some clean white ( I wondered what color it was). I still have several fleeces to wash-- it seems a never ending process.

Now, as this week moves along, and the fiber studio is transformed, I am getting very excited about the arrival of our friends.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Foggy August Morning

To All My Followers,
Sorry about the lapse but at least I left you a great picture of John and Gretta to look at every time you checked in (better than Christmas and New Years).

I am back with a glimpse of this morning on the farm.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Getting Easier All The Time

Rain again, yea! It rained about a week ago but the sun is so intense that it was getting pretty dry again. Now I can trim Charlotte's hooves.

Last week after the rain John helped me trim 48 hooves in two days. Just 4 to go. We put all the sheep in the barn and let them out after they got their trim. It was so hot that I was "sweating like a pig" (do pigs really sweat, Karen?) after 6 sheep. Six sheep went pretty fast (so much easier when hooves are wet and soft), and in the old days, I would have been finished after 6 but with seven remaining I decided to leave the rest for the next day.

So the next morning we go out to finish the job and I am thinking about getting the ones I want in the barn and putting the rest out when I look up at the barn and realize that, all the sheep that we needed were in the barn except Charlotte. I went around to the back door and John waited till I had the sheep's attention and then closed the front door. The only two extra were Sammy and Mira and Mira was easy to coax out. AMAZING!!

We finished the sheep in no time but I was sweating big time again. I was too hot to go through a big ordeal getting Charlotte to come in. The problem is I have to do the trimming in the sunlight to see what I am doing easily. At least John was able to sit in the shade to do the holding but he didn't get that figured out until we were nearly done. Maybe, next time I will go back to doing it in the shady part of the barn with my headlamp on.

Each time I do some procedure with the sheep I figure out a little better way of doing it. (Note John is sitting on a bucket with a seat cushion) Eventually, these chores will be a pleasure.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Snake in the Barn

This fellow was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I had my camera with me- how unusual is that? I love black snakes; they are so beautiful and I grew up climbing trees with them. It was interesting watching this one work its way up to the hay loft in the barn.

I was thinking this snake was looking for where the chickens were laying their eggs since he invaded their coop last week.

I waited for him to be well up there before I climbed the ladder.

When I did go up I saw him/her disappear down into this well and thought perhaps the chickens had laid an egg here. I am not brave enough to be up in the loft with him/her (the startle effect) so I went back to the house and when I came back later I saw no snake or eggs. The chickens are laying in the coop again and I am trying to be more consistent about checking for eggs so the snake gets no reward for going in the coop.

Even though the snake was not in the wrong place at the wrong time I am not sure it was in the right place but I figure if the sheep and Beau don't mind sharing their home with a snake who am I to cast an opinion?