Sunday, August 27, 2017

Teaching myself to tan

     My third show of the summer is completed. My syllabi are done.  I know have about 6 hours that are not appointed to something else, so I am going to try to tan my first sheepskin.  The lamb was injured, so we sent him to the abattoir rather than have him become supper for the coyotes. We asked for his hide back, and salted it well, folded it and put it in a plastic bag to hold it until Spring.  And of course now that it is the end of August, I finally have the time to start the process.
     I unfolded the hide, and it was a bit stiff and pretty dry, so I ran the hose over it to rinse off the salt and soften things up before trying to remove some of the fat.  Although last year I purchased a fleshing knife - I put it somewhere safe - I cannot find it, so I grabbed one of the Cutco knives from the kitchen and used that to help remove the effluvium.
    Next I mixed two pounds of salt and a cup of oxalic acid in a large plastic storage bin, mixed it up and submerged the hide.  For the next three days, it will soak with the occasional stir, and then be washed and softened.  More about that as it happens




Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

    The best friend and worst enemy of the farmer is the weather.  We pray for rain,  long for dry weather, hope the rains hold off in time for hay to be cut and gathered.  It's a complicated farucca with tempo shifts and changing moves, this dance of the farmer and the weather.
     Thus is was with us last week.  We were late getting the hay cut this year, as we had been out of the country,  and the rain came daily upon our return.  We finally got a break, and got some of the pasture cut, then we got the hay rake hooked up to our old Ford tractor, only to have the tractor randomly stall and need half an hour to cool off before starting up again.
  The next day we were ready to bale. Ancient bailer hooked up - check.  Knotter working - check.  gas in the tractor - check, check.  My husband started bailing, and it clogged - our wind rows were too wide.  So we raked them out into thinner  rows and started again.
  Aa-aa-nd the  tractor stalled.  We needed to wait until the following day to try again.
    Things started to go well, then another issue.  This is when things started to change. Other farmers are your bullpen in tricky times, or so we have found.   A friend (the gentleman who helped to build the barn) just stopped by because he was in town, and he and  my husband  greased the bailer and suddenly it worked.   Another friend - the one who created our pond on the farm - also just popped by.  We were all watching the thunder clouds rolling in, so once the bailer started working, we were all throwing bales into the back of our truck, and Brian's truck, and Tom's truck and getting them down the hill to the barn.  Still, there was a lot of un-baled hay when the PTO on the baler broke. Without this part intact, no baling happens.  Our ancient tractor has parts that cannot always be picked up easily at the Tractor Supply Store, so we had to come up with some other way to get the remaining hay in.    Call to the bullpen.
        A neighboring farmer, whom we had never met, but wave to daily as he drives past with his huge newer tractor and round baler, happened past, and my husband flagged him down.  He pulled in and after some "getting to know you chat",  mostly about equipment,  he agreed to get his "baling guy" to swing by at the end of the day and  bale up the rest of the field.  No charge, no trade, just a neighbor helping out a neighbor.  So we had four round bales in the field that evening, and managed to get them in the barn before the rain came.
     If you want to make friends, buy a farm.  Seriously, when the chips are down, farmers have your back.
   



Saturday, June 3, 2017

All in good time

   Forever ago was the last time I had a minute to put up a blog post.  We are now in June of 2017, and the weather still feels like early Spring in most places.  Things have greened up, but it is prudent to keep a jacket handy.
    We have been knee deep in sheep, as we intentionally bred our ewes later last year so births would happen in late April and early May rather than march and early April.  DUMB!  We had lambs being born during our show opening, during rehearsals for another show, during finals at the college: not helpful.  next year we go back to our earlier schedule!  We had a rough go of things - twenty  lambs are currently frolicking in the fields, but of three pair of triplets, born, there are only two of each grouping that lived.  One set had the remaining two needing lots of extra care. The ram lamb from that group is now huge, but his sister is still tiny and a bottle lamb.  She comes running to the gate when we arrive, and will follow us around the barn when we let her out.  We were lucky enough to have our first quadruplets, and our first quintuplets born on the farm from our seasoned mothers. They are all adorable,  but as there are so many of them, we are supplementing them with bottles as well.




     Today we had perfect weather, and after finally getting the septic guys out to locate the drainage field, I was able to plant a tree near the farm house.  I grew up with weeping willows in our yard, and in our neighborhood, and I love them.  So now that I knew where to avoid planting,  I was able to buy a weeping willow and put it in the ground.  Now the farm seems like home.  I look forward to the  tree shading the house, and giving another generation of children a place to climb, play, read, and dream.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Welcome Winter

 





    Solstice.  Winter.  Yule.  
What do you call it?  The longest darkness, the beginning of the return of the light.  A pattern evolves for us at this time of year for family and farm.  We snuggle in at home - less outside time, lots of layers, fireplace, candles - all quiet since Spring gave us a long respite.  The cold and the dark make the house a cozy haven with more chess playing, more books, and baking.
     The farm means frosty breath clouds over the heads of the sheep, snow on the llama's back and rime around his mouth.  Rushed chores, wet gloves as buckets slosh. The whoosh of hay being thrown from the loft to the feeders below and the quiet sounds of contented animals safely enclosed in their winter pens give a sense of accomplishment and our own moment of peace.


     A poem for solstice, (copied and pasted from someone else's blog) for your reading pleasure:

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Susan Cooper

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Socks, worms, and clowns

     This is turning out to be a typical week.  As I type this there is a pair of socks on the computer table next to me.  My husband's?  My son's?  Hard to tell these days.  I am guessing they are my husband's and he put them down while making an early morning call to a second vet, trying to find Banamine,  an anti-inflammatory drug to give to our llama.  We are out of luck. Apparently it is on back order with the drug companies, so NO ONE has it. And we need it.       This is our second llama to be stricken with meningeal worms.  Our farm is wet, so we breed lots of snails which carry the larva and are ingested as the llama grazes.  We lost a llama about a year and a half ago to this same worm.  We need the drug to reduce the swelling in the spine so he can stop listing to starboard, leaning on walls to stay upright.  But no go.  So today I got several bottles of aspirin (remember aspirin?) so we can grind up ten to twelve at a time and feed it to the llama.  I have molasses to try to cover the taste, and if that doesn't work, we have a medicine syringe, and we can squirt it down his throat.  That should help the swelling, and hopefully the large doses of fenbendzadole will help kill any worms that have not already crossed the blood-brain barrier.  Fingers crossed.  
       With this in the background of our day, we also got news from one of our students that she was offered a contract to be a clown with Ringling Brothers.  She is over the moon with joy, as she has wanted this, and worked for this for years.  Her excitement is infectious, and the entire theatre department is thrilled for her.  It feels good to see our students achieve their dreams!
     Now, the evening meal will be eaten on tray tables in the living room as I have taken over the dining room table with my grading.  I have papers and projects covering the entire surface.  This weekend I will reward myself by starting to decorate for Christmas.  Hoping your week is as interesting and filled with wonderful news, and joyful surprises.  Oh, and no worms!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A thankful post

   We reflected with family members over Thanksgiving dinner about things we were thankful for. Family, and shelter, safety and nutrition were all up there.  I spoke of being thankful that two recent deaths  were able to bring so many friends and family together to celebrate lives well lived, and to reconnect with those of us remaining.  We are so lucky.
    Without being negative, so please do not comment so, I want to say how grateful I am to have been able to be an American citizen with these wonderful people in the White House.  I do not care if you like or dislike their policies, the current First Family has given us lessons in poise, kindness, humility, and love.







    

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Let's get through midterms

   I am referring to the tests at my college, not elections!  Getting through this week means I will finally have time to get some "at home" work done.  You know the type (or maybe you don't) - sorting through the Mount Everest of clean laundry and not only folding and putting it away, but getting rid of all the clothes that our youngest outgrew, the socks that no bleach will whiten, and the hole ridden tee shirts.  There are only so many "farm shirts" any one person needs.  After the 80 degrees of two days ago, we are headed to the 40s by Saturday, so perhaps the shorts can get transferred out and the turtlenecks can be switched into the dressers.
    Last weekend I took the super off the bee hive and checked the girls before closing it up for the winter.  I am debating wrapping it in tar paper this year - we are supposed to have a pretty rough winter in the Northeast and it does help keep out some of the wind, and absorb any of the winter sun's heat. When I peaked in, they had filled their frames pretty fully, so I believe they have enough food to make it through.
What you are seeing is the capped honey(that is the bright yellow and dark stuff in between the frames) and the rectangular shapes on the top are propolis that they used to glue the queen excluder to the frames.  Generally the more propolis they create, the more prepared they are for the winter.  It acts as a glue, but also a caulk to keep out the wind.  
     I did manage to get a bit of dyeing done this weekend. Here is some wool dyed with goldenrod.




 I have more dyeing to do, more baking, some Christmas presents to create, seven gardens to put to bed for the season - you see the pattern.  This fall I only have one show to design (scenery and costumes) - An Almost Holy Picture, a one man show which my husband is doing in Dec. so I may actually have a little time to get a few of these things done.  Then Spring brings the fun of costumes for Peter and the Starcatcher.
     Hoping you have time to do your baking, gardening, and crafting as well!