Saturday, December 31, 2011

An End of the Year Surprise

My sweet husband mentioned last night that he wanted to take me to town to get my own bow so that I could shoot with him in the evenings.  We have a target out back and he and our middle son often just take a few shots in the evening to wind down for the day.  So today we went to a small archery shop in town where I was fitted for my own bow.  I did not want a camo print bow as I really just want to enjoy a little target shooting.  I picked the oddest bow they had - a color called Gator Blue.  I can hit the target but will need to build my endurance.  It is a 31 pound draw which isn't that tough but after a dozen shots I was beginning to feel it, especially noticing that my aim was shifting as I fatigued.  I've put my new toy away for today but will certainly tackle it again tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Geese

It was an unseasonably warm day yesterday & the same is predicted for today.  On the way back to start another dye pot I flipped some scraps to the Pilgrim geese.  They are not particularly friendly but have become very aware of our movements.  The minute they hear a door open at the house they begin to honk to let us know they are willing to clean up a few greens for us.  Unfortunately I noticed the gander has a length of baling twine around  his leg this morning.  I'll go back out shortly to catch him and unwrap it.  I am sure neither of us will enjoy that task.

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Corn

We worked again on taking down some of the corn maze.  Al uses his boot knife to harvest entire stalks while I go to another end of the field just to pull dried ears of dent corn.  The livestock love the cornstalks.  They are not nutritious enough to be a complete diet but the animals love them as treats, especially when they come across the ears of corn still hanging on the stalk.

I picked and shucked half a dozen big buckets of corn.  I shuck while I'm in the field.  There is a special way to twist the corn while it is still on the stalk so that it just slips right out of the shucks clean as can be. It was a sunny but very windy day.  The noise among the drying cornstalks was so loud that Al and I could not call back and forth to each other while we worked so instead we enjoyed the not-quite-peace-and-quiet.

We'd finally had a few days of rain in the past week followed by some warmer sunny days.  I found a few sprouting ears of corn on the ground that I felt were quite beautiful.  The fresh green of the sprouts was such a contrast to the drying brown of the parent plants. It made me smile.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sharing, sort of

This is Gwen, one of the Anatolian Shepherds, in the back of the old barn where we feed her so that she doesn't have to spend her whole meal snarling at the sheep and goats who want her food.  The chicken watching her has grown to be Gwen's friend.  This hen is a New Hampshire Red who contracted some sort of illness as a young pullet. Her head swelled for a few days so we isolated her and watched for other chickens to fall ill.  No one else did.  This hen recovered after a few days of careful nursing but her face is now oddly distorted.  She gets along just fine with the other chickens but has also taken to napping with Gwen.

She also learned long ago that Gwen does not finish all of her food every day.  It used to be that the hen would hold back to see what kind of leftovers she could find but in this last year she's become much bolder and often just eats out of the bowl along with Gwen while Gwen quietly snarls at her.  The hen has also learned to sneak in, snatch a bit and run.
I love to lean on the door frame and watch the two of them go through their mealtime routine.  Although I was not quick enough with the camera to get a good picture, I did see the funniest thing yesterday.  At one point Gwen just seemed to lose patience with her friend.  She reached over with her right paw, put it gently down on the hen's neck and pinned her there so that she could take two bites in peace.  When Gwen let the hen back up the hen went back to her circle and grab technique to help Gwen finish dinner.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Kermit's mother was the sweetest Nubian doe.  His daddy was one of our Angora bucks.  He has grown into a big stinky fellow who shows his heritage in the oddest seasonal fashion.  He grows in a gorgeous silky white winter coat and then sheds to coarse black hair in the spring.  He has been especially "bucky" lately, so much so that he was finally banished to the cattle pasture for being so aggressive with the smaller goats.

He keeps an eye on me whenever he can.  Just the other day he came running as I pulled Allez, one of the Anatolian Shepherds, in for her evening meal.  He was rankled that I shut the door in his face; he loves to grab mouthfuls of dog food.

Just as an indication of Kermit's size when he is standing on his hind legs I will tell you that the cross bar of the half door at the back of the old barn is a little over five feet.  He towers above it.  At one point it almost seemed he was trying to reach through to throw the latch.  I'm glad he has hooves and not fingers.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Someone (ahem) left the gate chain off....

Notice how diligently Gwen is still guarding her charges.  This is how I was greeted on a very rainy Wednesday.  It seems that when I pulled Gwen into the hay shed to feed her I didn't check to be sure the chain on the back gate fell all the way into the little slot where it should catch.  The goats and sheep have plenty of shelter on a rainy day but the temptation of all-you-can-eat hay and a nice roof were just too much.  Someone pushed the gate open.  Since the hay in this shed is almost gone I did not bother trying to move everyone out.  I just took a few pictures, shook my head and went on with collecting eggs. A good laugh helps me maintain my sanity.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Quandry

It has rained for a few days so mud is no surprise but I couldn't help stare at Alice today.  She had a simply filthy muddy face.  If the dirty face belonged to Micah, our Dexter bull, I would not be surprised as he likes to show off to the girls but tearing big holes in the pasture.  He is often covered with dust.  But Alice is usually a tidy old gal.  After exploring a bit, I did find a sort of a clue.
It was hard to get a good picture so I'd best explain.  This is an enormous hole that one of the Anatolian Shepherds dug for herself to keep cool in the summer.  The hole easily holds a hundred pound dog if that is any indication of the size.  Well, inside the entrance to the hole is a single cow footprint.  And shoved way down in the hole is the partially deflated old playground ball that just seems to get kicked around the pasture.  From the looks of the hole and the cow all I can imagine is that for some reason Alice was trying to get that ball out of that hole.  But who really knows?  They never fail to amaze me.

Monday, December 5, 2011


This is what I discovered when I walked out to collect eggs Sunday afternoon:
One of the screws that holds up the nesting box had apparently popped free.  The funny part is that one hen was comfortably setting on a pair of eggs, another was trying to settle into her roosting spot for the coming night and I found five unharmed eggs that had rolled into the corners of their nests.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Treat

We are in the habit of letting the dogs lick at an empty peanut butter jar for a few hours before we throw it away.  They work at it and really seem to enjoy it.  I'd tossed a jar out to Ravi, one of the Anatolians, this afternoon but he was so excited to follow Al as he did his chores that he quickly abandoned it for a trip to a back pasture.  As I was returning from gathering eggs I found one of the does hard at work.  Her little tongue was flying as she struggled to get every tasty bit that she could.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

We Don't Always Share

Yesterday's can of kitchen prep scraps from a local hotel had several nice hunks of fancy cheese rinds.  There were enough to go around for the front yard dogs.  I managed to get a few pictures of two of the dogs.  Tootsie Pie, our adorable old black "found" dog, took off to hide and since I was outside in sandals and short sleeve shirt in 30-something degree weather I didn't feel like tracking her down just for a picture.
Andre uses his front paws like little squirrel feet and is quite skilled at eating only the best bits of the rind.
Madison, the beagle, prefers to hunker down in the leaves at the far end of the yard and slowly lick at her cheese until she feels she's been spotted.  Then she picks it up and scurries away to a safer spot.
As Eve, the little donkey who doesn't care anything about cheese, approaches Madison prepares to take off again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is how I get so little done some days....

I simply wanted to check e-mail before getting back to wrapping soaps to felt.  Dot, our rescued yellow kitty, loves to say right at the edge of my computer where the fan vents warm air.  She also decided that my roving pile would simply add to the cozy experience.  The only up side I see right now is that she is sleeping.  When she is awake she loves to chew on roving and it is awfully challenging to draft out nicely when soaked in cat spit.

Friday, November 25, 2011


We began taking down the corn maze at our sweet daughter-in-law's family berry farm a few weeks ago.  Al was cutting corn stalks with a shovel and I was following behind stacking them and hauling them to the trailer.  To make a long story short, I vaguely remembered my father using a boot-mounted corn blade with some Amish buddies in Holmes County, Ohio.  I googled it & the one only option I found was at Lehman's in Kidron.  Lehman's used to be the really good hardware store we went to when I was a child.  Now it is still a good hardware but they have really expanded the whole Amish-tourism thing.  Fine with me, they still have items I need.  I ordered Al a corn blade which has really sped up the process.  Now Al is working hands free (!) so that he can hold the corn stalks as he kicks them down.  So while Al is gathering the stalks I have been walking through the corn field with a few large buckets so that I can gather ear corn.  It has been a pleasantly warm and sunny day so taking in corn for the livestock has been a great way to work off Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Almost Ready

I determined last week to do my Thanksgiving shopping before things got crazy.  I stopped at the store Thursday after I'd finished my artist-in-residence tasks for the day.  I'd been in a lovely local school for the week teaching weaving to 5th graders.  We had a ball!  During my lunch hour I composed my Thanksgiving shopping list and then hit the store on the way home.  I do keep plenty of groceries in the freezer and pantry so did not have to pick up great volumes of food. The store was already packed and I was tired when I got home. It was so nice to have help unloading:
Little Eve just cannot keep her nose out of anything.  I actually unload groceries in a special order to be sure anything that is potential donkey treats go out first.  I believe by the time she realized I was unloading the car all that was left was the 24 pound turkey and a few canned goods. Now that Eve is getting older she naps more in the afternoon which is probably why I was able to get all but the last few things out before she decided to get involved.

And this morning a friend dropped by with a pleasant treat:
Jeff grows amazing produce.  He knows I don't really keep a garden because my "free range" eggs are produced by chickens that are truly free ranging - no garden is safe from the 300 hens out foraging for goodies.  So Jeff left with several dozen eggs and we have more delicious additions to our big meal!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Almost Done

This curly yarn is spun primarily from Betsy's fleece.  She is one of the Sofa Sisters & a Border Leicester X Cotswold who came to us about a year ago.  The yarn also has bits of mohair from our Angora Goats.  I spun it for a friend who is trying to duplicate one of her mother's scarves that disappeared.  As soon as I took the pictures I popped it in the sink for a final wash.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall Abundance

This time of year is so much fun for the livestock.  They get extra goodies from others' fall harvest.  That includes left over pumpkins from our friends, Jeff and Kim.
I drop a pumpkin on the concrete drive so that it splits into a few tasty pieces and then distribute them to the oxen, donkeys, sheep and goats.  Bart, the crippled sheep who lives in the front yard, loves to nibble at the unbroken ones.
The autumn activities are over at the Hardy Berry farm so we are slowly taking apart the corn maze.  We cut stalks, load them on the trailer and bring them home to feed out to the livestock.  Just for fun I piled some against the fence surrounding the donkey pasture so that Zeke and Esther could help themselves.  Eve, our little Ossabaw Island donkey who lives in the front yard with Bart already has all she can eat but still felt obliged to compete with the big donkeys.
After the initial enthusiasm of having "all you can eat" wore off, we found that the donkeys were sorting through the corn leaves to tear off just the tasty ears of corn.  All in all everyone is happy and there is still plenty more corn to be had.  So much so that I broke down and ordered a corn knife for Al to attach to his shoe.  That should make the harvest a little easier than cutting each stalk with the blade of a shovel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Fall Day

I was making the noon egg gathering run when I came across Ravi and Sadie napping in the barnyard.  I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they can enjoy their naps because they are up so much in the night guarding their livestock.  Plus the hay was so soft, the sun so warm and the afternoon breeze smelled of all the lovely moldering fall leaves.  I snuck quietly by so as not to disturb them.

Friday, October 28, 2011

King of the Hill

Joey is such a goof.  Al stacked some round bales last week.  He immediately claimed them as his own.  He naps up there until someone walks by.  Then he gets up, stretches and stares down until we pass by.  The old fellow sure is easily contented.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Pleasant Surprise

I was making the rounds to gather eggs this morning. That consists of a huge meandering loop through the stable, through the old barn, through the tractor shed and in and around the buildings that actually have laying boxes in them.  Something caught my eye near the water faucet in the old barn.  I picked it up, walked outside and laid it on the ground with a freshly laid egg so that I had a nice measure of its size:
Isn't that a lovely little bit of shed snake skin?  I was pleased to know that there is still a black rat snake living in the old barn.  We rarely see them but are confident that they stay busy containing the rodent population.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gotta love those cull tomatoes!

Betsy, one of our two Sofa Sisters, got to the cull bucket before her sister, Bitsy, did.  We lovingly refer to these two gals as the Sofa Sisters because when we first got them from another farm they were grossly overweight.  It seems the poor woman who had them was having difficulty getting hay so was only feeding them grain.  They were so heavy that they panted when crossing the yard.  After almost a year with us on a more appropriate diet they have each lost a good 60 pounds and are much more spry.  They get lots of nice hay and their treats now are windfall pears and the best of the cull bucket of slightly bruised tomatoes.  It had to be some awesome heirloom tomatoes to end up with them above the eyebrows....  Betsy wears them well, don't you think?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rain, finally....

We have had three days in a row with hard rains.  I found this little toadstool popped out on the side of an older round bale of hay today.  Although the goats were not pleased with the torrential rains we desperately need as much as we can get to offset our drought.  Our next few days are supposed to be clear but we are praying for regular fall rains to make up our rain deficit.

Monday, September 19, 2011


After a busy weekend it is time to get back to some fleece.  This white fleece has been sitting outside on the stable porch since spring and was just calling to be dyed.
It needed a very good soaking just to remove the surface crud.
I'd already mixed some orange dye with water and gradually added the wool.  I want to felt it later but handled the wet wool carefully as I don't want to felt it quite yet.
After a gentle stir I put it on the burner.  We'll see what kind of orange I get on this pretty cream colored fleece.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back at It

After a little recovery time it seemed urgent to get back to the dyeing. I sold so very much at the Indie Craft Parade that I would be ashamed to show up to Saturday Market this week with such a low inventory.  I did manage to dye seven new skeins of yarn.  I'll pull the spinning wheel out any minute now and spend the rest of my evening between skeining out new yarns to dye tomorrow and working on a curly handspun from Betsy, one of the Border Leicester gals.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Indie Craft Parade kicks off this evening.  I had an 8 a.m. load-in which I chose so that I could set up, race back to the farm, gather eggs & do a few more routine farm chores before it is time for the doors to open at 6.  I had such a fabulous Saturday Market last week that I ended up selling lots & lots of the things I'd planned on taking to Indie so this week has been busy playing catch up.  Just thought I'd make a quick post before I get on with the day's work.  Can't wait to enjoy the crowds over the next few days & then it is back to the farm routine, whatever that is!

Friday, September 2, 2011


This morning Betsy, whose fleece I was trying to sort out, decided to check out her previous year's work.  And I had to laugh as I looked at the picture I managed to take.  The bucket I am gathering wool in is from the season's kid milk replacer (Little Ralphie sure went through a lot of the stuff) and the paper sack that I'd stored the fleece in is from chicken feed.  An awful lot of our "feed" comes from wonderful culls at the tomato farm and also from the prep kitchen at the Hyatt.  We sure try to make the most of everything around here.  No wonder we rarely manage to fill the trash can for the weekly garbage pick up.

But back to wool.  I'm washing up small batches and have been quite content with the lovely white silky curls.  I'll do a final good wash after I've spun the yarn but as for now I want to just tease the locks apart for a wild yarn.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thanks for helping

I wanted to start the morning by sorting out a little more of Betsy's fleece so that  I could wash it up for a demonstration I am doing at the Indie Craft Parade.  Betsy is one of the Sofa Sisters, the hugely overweight Border Leicester X Cotswold ewes we acquired last fall.  They have lost weight now and both had beautiful curly fleeces that I've been washing up by the handfuls.  I really need to get through a whole fleece soon but I get distracted playing with all those lovely curls.  Daphne, our little Manx cat, was apparently also intrigued by the beautiful fiber.  And, although she always has a peculiar scowl on her face, Daphne is one of the sweetest and most affectionate outside cats we have.