Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sewing backwards

     I have to admit that I have a sewing machine problem.  I own 5 and would never dream of getting rid of any of them, as they all have certain qualities that make them useful.  My first one, a Kenmore,  is a workhorse that has never given me any problems and can sew through nearly anything. My second one, an Elna,  does button holes better than any other.  I have a 1889 treadle machine that I actually used when we had a power outage during tech week and I still had costumes to build.  I dragged it out of the cave darkness of my costume shop and into the hallway with its floor to ceiling windows, and stitched on.
    A couple weeks ago I opened up the machine my husband's grandmother had.  It is a 1948 Singer with a table.  I  had the table/machine folded up and was using it to stack laundry on in the basement.  I decided that this year, any sewn gifts were coming off of that machine.  I am so glad I did. It is so smooth!  It only does straight stitching, but has all the accessories it came with, as well as the original instruction manual!
   So this season, the Bernina is staying in its case, and Gran's Singer is doing the work.  Who knows, maybe next year, I'll do it all on the treadle.  Or maybe not....

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hopeful Farmer # 6

Snowy and his girls
I am learning things as we enter into what looks to be a long, cold winter.

1.   Even if the chicken coop is in the barn for the winter, the water  will freeze.  So we got a heater for the water.
2. The chickens are not as ready to leave the coop to go into the run when it is below freezing as they are when it is warmer. Infrared heat lamps are good.
3. Chicken poop freezes into  oddly sculptural, yet seemingly permanent shape when nights are in the teens and single digits.  Tried to clean the run this morning - nothing moved! So we will have a dirty run until things warm up a bit.
4. Chickens will eat nearly everything - they have a great love for left over salad greens,  yoghurt, stale bread, and adore peanut butter and jelly sandwich left overs.

Snowy, our unexpected, loud, and over sexed rooster.

Monday, December 9, 2013

When is it time?

      She is sick.  We know this.  The vet found a tumor in her mouth/nasal passages which is why our oldest dog is breathing like an old man with a bad cold and sleep apnea.  We have decided (with the vet's agreement) that surgery on a 13 1/2 year old dog is not really a viable option.  We have her on prednisone to try to reduce the size of the tumor and make breathing easier.  Still, she has difficulty if she closes her mouth.  
      Eating is tricky too - she has always had dry food, but she has difficulty chewing it and breathing at the same time.  So, I have been softening her dog food and adding egg, ground beef, and veggies.  She seems to be able to manage this more easily than having to chew.
     So, having said all this, how do we know when enough is enough?  She has some periods of the day that are good and others when her breathing is really rough.  Those latter times are when she will be trying to sleep, then she leaps up, and half stands, half sits, and just stares at us.  She doesn't want to be cuddled and she seems to be tolerating having her back scratched.  She is still aware, and will shift from room to room to be near us.  But how do we decide when to say goodbye to a friend who has been part of the family for over 12 years?
    I am learning that I am not good at this...

Friday, December 6, 2013

crafting on the cheap

            Okay, Christmas is my favorite time of year, and the time when, as most of do, I feel like I need just two more weeks of time for making gifts.  I also always need more money.  This year is not an exception, so I started looking for supplies in various places.  First, in my search for copper wire, I went to Walmart.  Here is what they had:
This is what it cost for 7 feet of coloured copper wire, which is 16 gauge, and very pretty. It will work for some of what I am doing. 

     I really wanted copper coloured copper wire, so I planned to get the old telephone wires that maintenance pulled out of my office years ago (and were throwing away) which I pulled out of the garbage and stashed in my file cabinet.  Stripping the insulation is not fun, but free is good, right?  Then today I was in Lowes looking for washers, and a few other things, and I wandered into the electrical aisle - just to look.  Ha! Gold mine - or a copper mine in this case.  I saw all the various well insulated cables they carry, and then, at the end of the aisle, the spools. Spools of pure copper, non-insulated wire. Gorgeous!

  Even more gorgeous was the price.  
It was 93 cents per foot, and $1.32 per foot.  HOWEVER, we are talking 7 strands of wire, when untwisted. So for $1.86 and $2.64 respectively, I got 14 feet of copper wire - 6 and 4 gauge.

Very happy; now I have to get very busy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Apples and honey and ticks, oh my!

    The college had a three day break - do not ask why, I never understand these mid term breaks.  My husband and I spent some time tagging the apple trees on the farm.  We were also tagging the crab apples, but realized that all but possibly two were ornamental and not as important as we thought for a crop.
    We drove the truck all over the pasture, tying pink surveyor's tape to the  branches of the apples tree. Now, come mid/late winter, when we need to prune, we can hone in on the correct trees and get moving.  Pruning time will come just as we are very busy with the Spring musical production of Carousel - a gorgeous monster of a show - so we want to be as efficient as possible.  As we tagged, we tasted.  Some of the apples are good, some fabulous, and a couple were just blah.  There are twenty-six trees, if we do not count the rogues that have self planted.  All need pruning, and tending.  They have scab and are not beautiful to look at, but a couple years of attention and I
think we will have decent crops.
    Many of the apples have already come down in the wind, but some are still tightly on the trees.  Tree #25 turned out, to our delight, to be a Granny Smith.  These are the backbone of my "family famous" apple pie, so we had to grab some to bake up this weekend.  I shinnied up the tree and tossed the fruit to my husband, scraping my arms in the process, but altogether thrilled.  I had forgotten how much I love tree climbing.
    When we got home, I felt something tickling my chest, and looked down to see a deer tick climbing out of my bra.  Ick. Mashed him to a pulp (after taking him off my chest).  Later that evening I was sitting at the computer, and realized my eyelid was really sore.  I rubbed a finger over it, and felt something rough, so I thought I had unwittingly scratched it while in the tree.  I asked my husband to take a look, and he did.  Then he said,  "It's not a scratch.  Don't ask.  Close your eye."  Then he proceeded to try and pull a deer tick off my eyelid.  It did not come off.  We went to get tweezers, first putting some Vaseline on it, hoping it would back out. Ha! no luck!  So my husband grabbed that little sucker with the tweezers, and pulled.  Nothing.  Pulled again.  Nope.  It liked where it was and was going to stay put.  It took sever tugs, a great deal of pain, and the lost of a chunk of skin to remove that beast, but he finally succumbed.
     Earlier in the day we had decided to harvest the honey from the second hive.  The blue hive has always been interesting - heavier on the propolis, lighter on the harvest.  This year it was also very heavy on the propolis (this is the glue like substance the bees make from sap to fill any holes and keep out drafts - very sticky and nearly impossible to get out of clothing). We pulled the covers and checked the super and found nothing.  The bees had drawn out the comb (built out the cells meant to hold the honey) but there was no honey at all.  The hive sits about 3 feet away from the flower hive, and the only difference it there is a branch from a pine tree shading the top of the blue hive. Next Spring we are going to move this hive.  There are several places on the property where we could put it, or we can find a place on the farm.  The advantage of the farm is there are so many flowers and they will help pollinate as we get started planting.  The disadvantages include: bears and needing to protect the bees from them; distance from the house for processing; and finding a place that will not interfere accidentally with the livestock.
   So this weekend I have been harvesting the honey from the flower hive.  It is quite a lot, and oh, so delicious!  I am doing the "scrape and crush method" as this allows me to harvest the wax after the honey has dripped out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Field mice and pee

   Yesterday, I went into our shed to get my big gardening bag in which I hold all my beekeeping equipment. It was initially purchased for  raking a few leaves into and dumping them on the compost heap when we lived in Baltimore in a house with a tiny yard and leaves from the neighbors' trees. Then we moved here, and with our four maples in the front yard and ridiculously abundant number of backyard trees (I have never counted how many we actually are growing) this bag became laughably small. But it is perfect for holding a couple of hats and bee nets, a smoker, three hive tools and a bee brush.
   Apparently it is also perfect for building a winter nest, particularly if you are a field mouse.  They like to fill the hats up with grass clippings, leaves and other snippets of soft things, and bed down for the winter.  It is usually in the Spring that I discover them.  I do not begrudge them a home. Truly I do not, but my hats?
    Yesterday, I pulled out the aforementioned bag and a very frightened field mouse scrambled out, leapt the three feet from the edge of the bag to the shed floor and dashed away under some sports equipment in the corner.  Hmm...having played this game before, I took the bag outside and dumped the contents on the grass and saw a very distressed little mouse  caught in the netting of the hat, trapped and terrified.  I let her go, and discovered that in her terror, she released the contents of her bladder into the hat.  And I am left to ponder the age old question: WHY???

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Start of the harvest

    As a bee keeper I have been moderately successful.  Success can be measured in pounds of honey at harvest.  Or you could measure it by how many years you are able to keep a colony alive.  Or perhaps your measure is just the fact that you chose to do this crazy beekeeping thing at all.  I measure success in all of those ways.
    This year in the Northeast where I live, the weather was spectacular for apples, and wild flowers, and thus, honey.  I just harvested the first of my hives today.  Wed. I will get the second one (I have Wed. off due to a college break) and start the extraction process. It is going to be a huge harvest.
   Backing up a bit - last year, both of my hives absconded.  We found a mouse nest in one, which explains a lot.  If the colony was weak to start with, they would not have been able to drive out the mice.  The other looked fine, but alas, they all left, not died, just went away, which was really a certain death, since by the time of year they absconded did not leave them enough days to make winter stores.  Sad, but part of the cycle sometimes.  So this past Spring I bought two nucs from my local beekeeping guru and started again.  (A nuc is a small section of an already active hive, with a queen - usually four frames of drawn honey comb and some honey, if you are lucky. Nucs start off more quickly since they do not need to spend as much time making wax for their brood and for their honey stores.  They are, however, more expensive than starting with "package bees" which is a box of many thousand bees and a queen they have yet to know.)
     As I stated - this year, with our cool, wet Spring and our summer of moderate temps (except for two really nasty hot weeks in July) and occasional rain, it was perfect for flowers, so the bees had everything they could wish for.  Additionally, we have had a pretty mild Autumn thus far, so the goldenrod and fall flowers have stuck around for much longer than last year.  Today, when I opened the hive, it was crazy with bees.  This is a great sign - you want a strong colony going into the winter.  They will kick out all the drones, if they have not done so already, and cluster together through the cold winter.
     When I lifted the super off, I was gobsmacked by the weight of it.  There must be 30 pounds of honey in that thing! (A super is a box of frames with the honey for harvest, as opposed to the lower boxes, which are the bees' stores for the winter.) I know many beekeepers who will put a second super on top of the first, in order to give the girls room to make more honey - but I have never done this.  Not for any reason other than I have never had the need.  I have always had moderate honey harvests, not massive ones.  Quite frankly, this year with the  beginning of our farming career and all the time spent learning and making mistakes, I didn't pay much attention to the girls.  I just left them to their own devices. Adding a second super was the last thing on my mind. A shame, because this would have been the year to do it! Each one of the ten frames is completely filled with honey.  I am interested to see how the second hive has done.  It has never been as strong, and I think it may be a less ideal location.
   So lucky as we are, we will be incredibly busy extracting the honey and the wax.  If I look a little sticky at week's end, blame it on the bees. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Don't name your livestock

   Farming has started with the keeping of chickens, the mowing of fields, and the serious appraisal of the wood lot and what part might be selectively logged. Today, the children and I learned a few lessons in farming.
#1 Don't name your livestock.  If it has a name you get attached more easily. It actually hurts when it dies.
#2  Do not tend to sick chickens in your garage. It was certainly more convenient to treat Nugget's infection so close to home, but if a dog (or dogs) get into the  garage, the chicken will not last long.
#3  As my daughter succinctly said on her fb status. Bird dogs will kill animals, but not not mangle the bodies.
   Our sick chicken, Nugget, was  in the garage in her crate and it looks like the dogs managed to get the door open, or it was not closed firmly, but they gained access to the garage and that was the end of Nugget.  Our lab mix was sitting quietly on the path outside the garage with the still warm bird between her feet, looking quizzically at it. She was so quiet, my daughter ran past her on the way to the garage, not noticing the bird.  I was a little sad, as the bird had seemed to be getting better.  The children were sad.  My 8 year old was sobbing, "But she was the only chicken who liked me!  She would let me hold her." 

My eldest does not know how to process death. it is one of the trickier aspects of his autism. He knows people should be sad, so sometimes he cries, but not until he has melted down, screaming obscenities and trying to find someone to blame.  He was going to shoot the dog, shoot the chicken, send the dog to jail...anything to process the idea of the bird that was alive yesterday being dead today.   

     So we find ourselves down to 9 chickens and we have learned some important lessons.  (Be sure to remind me of the no names lesson when we get the sheep, okay?)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

ALWAYS have a back up outfit

  Today is Homecoming at my older children's HS.  Tonight is the dance.  This year the theme is The Great Gatsby.  Now to me, that is a novel first, a film second and third, but not a theme, per se.  However, the idea of a 20's era dress was very appealing to my daughter, so to the store we went for red satin and seed beads.  Oh, yes, this was not going to simply be a dropped waist with a hip sash - Heaven forbid!  We decided on beading the front of the dress.
     Sometimes, even though you know how overly scheduled your days are, and how many responsibilities you have, you just have to say, "Okay,  I know this will kill me, but let's try."  So I cut the fabric, and was ready to sew when I realized the beading would have to happen BEFORE sewing.  Armed with an audio book and a clear (ish) dining room table, I copied the rose patterns onto the front of the dress and began.
   We decided on a black outline, then steel beads for defining the rose petals, as well as short  iridescent bugle beads for accents with gold  seed beads for the roses themselves.  Yeah, right.
The lower pair - not mirror images, as I had to freehand part of the design  when, after the first  use, our transfer paper failed

After about 6 hours of work, I was not even half way done.  My daughter helped when she could, but two people on one dress front gets tight.  We had a good time, however, listening to music, talking, and video chatting with her boyfriend. (My first experience with Skype.) Last night at 3 a.m. I had to sleep for a bit because I was not longer seeing straight.
    5:30 dawned grey and dim, and I looked at my husband and told him he was going to have to get our son to his 6:30 team bus for the meet, as I did not have any brain cells awake. By 7 a.m. I was up and beading.  By ten we decided that the gold seed beads looked fabulous, but were taking longer to apply than we had, so we would make the second pair of  rose images the reverse - bugle beads with gold  leaf/highlight areas.

The section we did not get finished.  
        At about 2p.m., my daughter and I realized her dance was at 8 not 7, so she called her boyfriend to see if he could move their reservation back an hour.  The dinner reservation was for 5:30. He was not inclined to do this, and reticent about why, making me think he had other things planned that just dinner, so I did not push it. Finally at 4:15 p.m. I told my daughter, to stop beading I was going to stitch the darn dress up, she might be able to get away with wearing it if part of a rose was not beaded, but not if the garment was in pieces.   So I stitched like the wind, and realized that I would need an extra 20 minutes just for the pressing.  So, with great disappointment and yes, a frustrated tear, I sent her to grab two dresses from my closet that I thought would work.  She tried on a blue one with a black sheer overdress - not drop waist, but sheath style.  After pulling the shoulders up an inch, adding a rhinestone choker, chandelier  style earrings, and a beaded evening wrap, she was ready to go.  Was it what we planned?  No.  Did it work? Well enough. Did she look pretty?  I'd say, yes.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Look who I almost ran into!

As I was looking for milkweed pods I stopped just in time to avoid walking through this:

which was a good thing since it was made by this

and I do not think she would have been happy with me.

It's Apple Time!

     Do you remember last Spring, before we even bought our farm, we were posting photos of all the gorgeous trees in bloom.  Well, it is now apple time and we are finding the apples and the crab apples

and trying to educate ourselves as to the varieties.  Yesterday I spend an hour or two wandering the farm, picking apples up from the ground, or pulling them from the branches to feel, smell, and eventually taste them.  I determined a few things:  we have a lot of apple trees; no one has pruned them in years, the neglect is appalling;
Most of the apples look like this - suffering from fungus or insects or disease - I am still investigating

Some trees are healthier than others
 we have many different varieties of apples; the deer seem to have gotten to all the ripe ones at easy picking levels; if the deer have not gotten to the ones on the lower branches, it is not luck, it is because they are not ripe.
These are ripe and sweet, but I need a ladder for this tree as the deer stripped the lower branches already

 I tasted a lot of sour apples yesterday!
     Apple trees are amazing things.  This tree is completely hollow - there is actually a hole at the base on the other side, which you cannot see in these photos, yet it is still bearing fruit!
An amazingly resilient tree

The hollow goes all the way through

The opposite side
  So this weekend we will spend some time at the farm with a ladder, some baskets or bags, and this coming week the house will smell of apple butter, apple sauce, and possibly pie!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Life in this town

   I have lived in many places in my life.  I have visited MANY more.  There is always something special about each place.  My little town here in upstate NY is special in many ways. First of all, it  is fairly unique because it is a two college town.  We are awash in students  for most of the year, and then we are awash in baseball playing youth in the summer.  This area is known as "baseball country" according to the banners on Main Street!  There are several theatre and museum options, as well as more baseball at Damaschke Field.
   This town LOVES its parade.  We  parade on July 4th.  We have a Memorial Day parade, a Halloween Parade, a "holiday parade."
There is puppet walking for First Night, as well as fireworks on the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.
    Labor Day we have a gathering of balloonists in the park behind our house.  They do a Balloon Glow in the evening, and flights during the day.  Very pretty.

    Although we like to complain about the weather - very grey a great deal of the time, it is a good place to be, and as everyone told us when we were first house hunting, a great place to raise kids.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Coop and Crayons

   The chicks living in the brooder box are getting cramped, so it is a good thing we have ALMOST completed the chicken tractor.  My husband and I were roofing it today, and have to add the doors and windows before we can out  the chicks in.  The roofing material is a currogated material that feels like some form of rubber coated felt.  It is dark brown, and pencil did not show up on its surface.  We needed a grease pencil, which, of course, was not in the tool box we had at the farm.  However, a mother is never without a stash of things to keep kids occupied in the car, so I was able to dig out a yellow crayon and it did just fine.  We are hoping by tomorrow to have the birds in ther new domicile.
   My husband and I start back to school this week.  Summer was so busy and stressful, I am actually looking forward to classes.  My teaching load is a little lighter this term - I still have three classes, but we lowered the class size in my Theatre Appreciation classes from 65 in each to 50.  This means 30 less papers to grade, 60 less projects, 60 fewer exams,  and 210 less quizzes to grade.  I will only have 116 student this term as opposed to the 146 I has last fall term.  Whew! 
    Fall also includes designing two productions, one at the college of Clybourne Park, and The Outgoing Tide at Chenango River Theatre, with a dream cast which includes my husband. This will be so nice for him.  Right now he is in a brilliant and beautiful production of The Winter's Tale, by William Shakespeare.  He is King Leontes and the Shepherd, and has been so busy and stressed by this very heavy show, starting on Outgoing will be quite relaxing!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spiders, Spokes, and Blueberry Pies

    I am fascinated by spiders.  Not to say I want one crawling on me, but I think they are amazing creatures, and I adore photographing them. Every summer I find myself creeping very close to rock walls, peeking into corners near doors and windows, and scanning gardens for likely subjects.  Usually we have a wolf spider living near our back door, whom we name Pete (to make it seem less scary). To our disappointment, this year Pete was a no show. So, I have kept an eye out for other specimens.
     I am finding that  my new camera does not have as tight a zoom as I would like, so a new lens may be on the Christmas list this year.  A couple of weeks ago I saw this little critter sitting on the latch to our gate.
 I think it is a crab spider, but please leave a comment and correct me if you know for certain.  I was amazed by its gorgeously vibrant yellow, and by the complete lack of fear. It did not like the lens in its face, so it went into attack stance.

(Kind of cute when it is smaller than the nail of my pinky finger!)
     A rite of summer when you are small is learning to ride a two wheeler.  Our youngest has been avoiding this, because he is the type of kid who, if he can't do it right the first time, does not want to bother with it again. Lord help us when he gets to high school!  Last week, Drew  took some time to get him past this biking aversion, and a few yards at a time, he was riding.
Starting on the lawn makes falls less painful.

It won't due to have the chain fall off!

Look where you are going!


      The last few weeks have been very uneven for my children.  With Drew and me in rehearsals, they have been fending for themselves, and much of that time was spent on "screens": I-devices, computers, tv.   We were past due for some outside family time. So yesterday, after my daughter's training session for one of her volunteer positions, the kids and I went blueberry picking.  The Blueberry Farm is a wonderful place.  The woman who owns it is a dear, and tries to be out in the field to talk to her customers. She is a former student of mine.  She is 75 or so (I have lost count) and makes me look tall (I am 5'3" on a good day).  When she hands you a picking bucket she tells the children to be certain to eat some as they are picking.
     We picked nearly 20 lbs of berries, and when we went to weigh and pay she waved me off.
    "No, don't pay.  Just enjoy them."  I told her we had picked a lot, and I couldn't not pay.  Her response?
   "Yes, you can, I'm rolling in money."
   "Yes, and this is how you make it."
   "Nah, I play the stock market!"
So we are now making blueberry confections; pie last night, blueberry bread, jam, and cookies today,  and every bite is a little sweeter due to her kindness. It is all about paying it forward.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ring of Fire

   We opened Ring Of Fire, a musical tribute to the music of Johnny Cash tonight.  What an amazingly talented group of musicians are on that stage.  If you are near Greene, NY in the next few weeks, try to catch the show. It is a fun night out.
    Of course the tech week preceding the opening means my poor kids have been living on chicken nuggets and take-out.  I am happy I have a couple weeks before having to get back to classes,  and start on the next two shows (The Outgoing Tide at one theatre and Clyburne Park at another) so I can get caught up on house chores - yes, this place looks like Atilla's Huns encamped here for the last week.  So many projects I was hoping to complete this summer are still UFOs (un-finished objects), but I have a few days - so there is hope.
   Last week we went to the county fair.  I am not a fan of the midway - a near accident on a ride at Lake Quassapaug when I was young has cured me of the need to be in a small metal bucket while it flies in the air trying to fling its contents across the fair ground.  So my son and I spent our time in the animal barns.  I really loved seeing the sheep, and realizing which breeds are too big to start with. I definitely want to look for a dark fleeced lamb next year when we are shopping!  The goats won my heart, but I am not certain I could raise them for meat, and I do not want to run any sort of dairy right now.  I might be persuaded to have a few angora goats! Fibre animals would be okay for me!
    When the press of the crowds, the odor of the hogs,  and the noise of the sheep and goats and the hijinks of the cows got a bit much for my son, we retreated to the horses.  There, no matter what, he settles down.  Horses whinny occasionally, but they do not jump all over the place, or stink, or moo in your face.  There is a nobility, and a calm dignity  in horses that never fails to soothe him.  Especially the big  ones - Percherons, Belgians, and Clydesdales seem to be his perfect match.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Always learning

   This weekend was fun - I hope you can say the same.  My sister and Mom came out for a visit. Saturday morning we took them up to the farm - Mom had seen some of it, my sister had never been there.  She oohed and AAhed and ran around identifying all the wild flowers and trees - turns out we may have hazel nuts and hickory nuts as well come Fall.  We later sent them to the Glimmerglass Festival on Saturday for a double bill - Camelot, which they loved, and The Flying Dutchman which was not liked as well as the first one (to put it mildly).
    After my darling husband got back from rehearsal - he will be playing Leontes in A Winter's Tale at the Franklin Stage Company in a few weeks - we took kids and dogs and went to the  farm.  We had more mowing to do, and since we have such steep hills, he wanted another set of eyes,  so in case he rolled the tractor there would be someone there to notice and call the paramedics!  The boys contented themselves catching frogs, and  our daughter walked/was dragged by the three dogs.  There was a great deal of me standing or walking around trying to keep  the boys and the tractor in my line of vision.
    Eventually, it came time to try mowing the high pasture.  This is a misnomer.  It is not a high pasture, it is the highest hill on the property before  crossing the stream and heading up the mountain and into the woods. My husband went down the steepest part of the hill, and I could not hear him or see him, so Abi and I started trotting down, just as he was heading up on the other side.  He later mentioned that there were a few dicey moments where he even considered praying!  Great...
    I had not been on the tractor at all except the first day when we were trying to fix the PTO.  So, at the top of the high pasture, he got off and told me to do a few passes.  (Let's be clear here, I was going sideways across the flat-ish top of the hill, not down the "do or die" slope).  It was interesting.  There is no gas pedal, just a hand controlled throttle.  The higher the rpm, the better the bush hog works.   I found it tricky to see, so I tended to mow standing up - which also makes for a less sweaty backside! Oh, and did I mention that there are really no brakes?  Yes,  we are going to be working on that next!! It was fun, but scary, and will take some getting accustomed to. Still, we are starting to get the hang of things and the place is not completely going to seed - a good thing, I'd say.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Playing with Sheep

   Okay, we really were not playing, but it felt like it.   Yesterday I took Sheep and Goats 101 through the Cornell Cooperative Extension  service.   It was great!
   The day started out a bit stressfully.  A major road on the way there was closed due to an accident, so I had to get new instructions from my husband, who was home at the computer (thank you Mapquest), and it added about 20-25 minutes to the drive.  I had only left an extra 15 for getting lost, so I was driving like a demon on small country roads - yes, I was that person you hate!  Karma does play a part, because I was nearly there and got stuck behind a Mennonite horse and buggy.  They were very kind and pulled into the grass off the shoulder to let me pass, but there was a lot of traffic in the other direction and I did not want to clip them.
    I got to the farm where the class was held, and met some great folks.  There was a lecture section with lots of emphasis on pasture, hay, forage, etc.  Very helpful.  I learned a lot about goats and goat meat, enough to peak my interest in raising some Boer goats at some point. Then after a lunch and some chatting, we went to the barns.  The shepherd who was letting us use her facility runs about 1000 head. She also has a flock of 600 that she does not own, but shepherds for a monastary nearby.  She had culled about 25 head from the flock and started off with a sheepdog demonstration.  Her dogs are AMAZING animals.
    We spent the next couple of hours trimming hooves, worming, giving shots, shoving sheep into a chute, learning to hold them seated in front of us, using a sheep seat, and then discussing barn configurations for lambing season.  The most fun for me was standing in the tightly packed enclosure with about 18 sheep milling about me, petting them, coaxing them, then shoving them into the chute.
    The sheep were funny.  Many reminded me of people I know - they would run in the opposite direction of what was good for them.  They made lots of noise, which amounted to nothing in the end.  They fought and made an uncomfortable time last longer than it would have it they had cooperated!  The first sheep whose hooves I trimmed was very unhappy.  She was in a device sort of like a chute, but then we squeezed it around her and flipped her upside down to trim, worm, and give her a shot.  She was  fighting the whole time - kicking her back legs as I was working on them, and I got a nice slice on my finger from the trimming shears.  When we let her out, she was annoyed!   However, I gave her a small handful of food, and for the rest of my time there she would keep nosing me, sniffing and licking my hand, not unlike my dog!
     We were working on Katahdins, Dorper crosses and Black Face crosses.  I loved the fleece on the little girls, and I think I do not ever need to have hair sheep. I loved their different temperaments, and the way they ran as quick as you please when the dog came around.
    The drive home was fast and straightforward. After leaving my newly christened work boots on the stoop, I went in side and realized I was filthy and smelly, and very happy!  Over all, it was an amazing day. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

   The weather, with its hell-like heat, has finally turned and we are back in our normal, gorgeous Upstate NY temps in the high 70s low 80s.  BLISS!!  I do not live in Florida for a reason! Due to the excessive heat and humidity, I am now looking out at a garden resembling a jungle and I have to get out there and weed!  
    Farm news: the chicks arrive this coming Saturday with my sister and mom.  My sister added my order to hers when she was ordering her meat birds.  Due to restrictions in whichever state they came from (somewhere out West) we will have 10 chicks not the originally planned for 6.  Sooo, in a few months, I will be looking for folks to buy eggs, because there is no way we are going to use all the eggs the girls will produce! We are getting Australorps 

 and Barred Plymouth Rocks 

for no other reason than they are said to be docile and fairly good layers.  I had no desire to start with flighty birds. What is interesting is, although unintentionally, we have chosen two breeds which will colour coordinate with each other in the barnyard.
   Today I have the task of getting the brooder box components: large plastic bin, dimmer switch, red light bulb, etc. Also looking into feeder/waterers - store bought vs. homemade.  Also need to pick up feed, bedding, etc, but will wait until mid-week for that. 
     Need to pick up steel toed boots as well, as I am planning on attending a sheep workshop through Cornell Univ. Extension services, and I do not own more than hikers and muck boots.  I am really getting antsy about sheep.  I would like to get some ASAP, but  I have to know what I am doing before I get animals.  I do not think sheep who need something or are sick or lambing will wait around while I find the proper chapter in a "how to raise sheep" book. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Weddings and humidity and visiting and humidity - did I mention Humidity?

    We travelled to Southern Maryland for the wedding of some friends.  It was in their backyard (which was beautifully landscaped!) and, with the exception of a three minute shower, the weather held.  It was sunny, and hot, and humid as only Southern Maryland can be humid.  I'm talking about air you can feel. It wraps itself around you.  You have to push it aside to walk through it.  Thick humid air.  However, with a light breeze which joined the party an hour in, we were hot and sweaty, but not miserable!  The grooms were dashing in their matching seersucker suits and purple and lavender accessories. And since our daughter could not be with us due to her summer camp schedule, one of the grooms carried her photo in his suit pocket.                      
   We were able to visit with old friends and had a nice time catching up.
   After the wedding we headed up to the Baltimore area to visit with family and friends.  The hotel we stayed in was palatial - 2 bedrooms, a full kitchen (dishwasher, full stove, balcony and a flat screen tv in every room - much to my youngest son's delight). We adults did not care about much of that, we were just grateful for the air conditioning! 
    The next day we took the kids and met up with friends at a nearby park so the adults could talk while the children played.  Apparently I did not stay in the shade as I thought and I am now sporting my first sunburn in years.  That's what I get for forgetting to pack sunscreen and wearing a tank top. Ouch!  After a couple of hours we were off to visit my father-in-law in the next town over.  We had brought all the fixings for lunch, but he had already eaten, so we just took over the kitchen and fed our crew.  Then, with the boys in the basement playing pool, the grown ups sat and watched the Orioles play the Blue Jays (and win!) while, sitting in, you guessed it, the air conditioning. 
     Driving back home was about a 5 1/2 hour trip, but construction was pretty quiet on a Sunday evening, so it was smooth.  Now we are sitting in our non-air conditioned house with fans on, and wondering when our weather will return to normal.  In the mean time,  we are a bit quieter than usual as we try to stay cool.  Hope you are doing the same.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I know it's July, but what day is it? What state am I in?

   I knew July was going to be busy.  I knew it, but wow, it is very densely packed.  We started with a July 4th party with a bunch of our daughter's friends.  We had food, and then drove them up to the high pasture on the farm to watch the fireworks (and as it turned out, concurrent illumination shows from the  lightning bugs and the heat lightning over the next mountain).  It was fun, and by about 11:30 pm we had  kicked them out so we could get some sleep.
    The following day we went to CT, stayed overnight there before heading to Long Island to celebrate my aunt and uncle's 60th wedding anniversary.
The Anniversary Kids!
We took the ferry over the Long Island Sound, which was so much nicer than driving down the L.I.E. in the blazing heat.  We had a party/luncheon at a lovely inn and got to spend the time with cousins, sisters, nieces and nephews, Mommy, and various old friends from my family's past. It was great, but HOT!!!  Everyone was so great - between my sisters, cousins, and nephews, everyone helped keep our eldest son as relaxed as he is capable of being in noisy crowded places!
    After the luncheon, we went to Aunt G and Uncle T's house to have a house/home mass celebrated by Fr. Bill who was marking his 50th year as a priest.  We sweltered through it - even outside - even with fans on (outside).  The air was so hot, heavy and still that we had no relief.  Sooo, we laughed and sweat, and kept passing tissues and paper towels to stop the drips!  All the pictures are of our VERY shiny faces!
Not just a natural glow - more like an unnatural melting!
Still, so many of us are in so many places - East Coast, West Coast, now, Chicago as well, that we do not often get to see each others - it was great.
    We took the ferry back - another sunny day that lent itself to sailing topside.

Watching the ferry docking.
A gorgeous day on the Sound

My section of family drove home Sunday night, then Tuesday morning at about 6:30, my daughter and I rolled out the door to drive her to Western Michigan for 2 weeks of Fine Arts Camp.  I stopped (just to fill up the gas tank) in Jamestown, NY, just to say I had been there.  For those of you who do not understand this, Jamestown is Lucille Ball's hometown, and I have always admired her, so it was just my personal nod to her memory to say I had been there once.  (Although I may want to go  back to the museum!!)The drive wasn't too bad, but the construction was everywhere, slowing us down, as did the driving rain storm outside Williamston, MI that brought the traffic to a hazard blinking crawl.
Modern lighting
NON-smoking room accessory!
     We finally got to our motel - a little Mom and Pop place with a sign from the 60s, a room with 1970s panelling and a 1960's bathtub. The sign said it was a no smoking room, but the ashtray on the desk belied that,

 as did the stench of cigarette smoke that permeated the bedding, carpet and curtains. It was...memorable.  At least the bed was firm.  My husband and I had reservations for the return trip to pick our daughter up, and we cancelled them this morning, choosing to stay in a hotel an hour away in order to avoid the cigarette experience again.
    I dropped my daughter off at the camp and got her settled and off to the theatre for her audition, then back I drove.  The return trip was much smoother, the construction starting at hours other than the ones I was driving through.  By 2:30 a.m. I was home, and I have a whole day here before we head down to Maryland for a wedding!  Another week and it is back to MI to pick our daughter up!
    Our house sitter is loving us this month!