Cheese train is back on the tracks

Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.
Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.

Finally. It’s been about a month of one thing or another not working around here, and the refrigerator has been the biggest challenge, by far, much worse than no hot water for two days and the washing machine on the fritz. Two weeks. The freezer part of it worked, thank goodness, although we have 4 other freezers, but the fridge is such a huge part of everyday functioning, it’s easy to forget it.

Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom.  Essentials are all that are left!
Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom. Essentials are all that are left!

Today the repairman was able to come, and it wasn’t even a huge amount of money. The fan motor, or something like that. Which meant that tonight I was able to keep SnowPea’s milk for cheese making!  What a day. So her half gallon evening milking is all alone on its shelf. Not for long, however, so I am ready to go. Phew!

And so it goes with the stuff that we absolutely couldn’t divest ourselves of in the refrigerator. Most of it gone now, and a clean start with our old standbys: Tonic, pickled jalapenos, eggs, jam and milk! It’s all good!!!

And it’s here

The bucks in one of their favorite spots, the empty hay feeder
The bucks in one of their favorite spots, the empty hay feeder

At last the weekend! All I could think of this morning was how much my feet ached and hurt, even after an extremely good night’s rest. Pounding the concrete floors in school takes some getting used to after the summer.

Sleeping in until almost 6 was heavenly this morning. As soon as I got up I hurried out to do chores, and the morning didn’t let me down, it was a glorious one. Crisp and perfect. After I fed and watered my crew we had some packing up of racing birds to do, and this weekend we are racing 10 of our 15 remaining flyers. Because of the eastward moving wall of rain we are having right now, instead of going south to be released in Massachusetts, we believe they are being taken to Montpelier, Vermont for the morning’s rally. Should be another interesting race, navigating the White Mountains. It’s amazing that each weekend and really, each training session, I find it incredibly amazing when the birds come soaring over the trees to home.

Marigold and Iris, happy in their gluttony!
Marigold and Iris, happy in their gluttony!

Today I went up to one of our hay suppliers and got some Canadian compressed hay for the girls. I am anxiously awaiting the Canadian second cut, but it’s not arrived yet. In the past few months my husband’s friend has been helping build our pigeon loft and many of his tools had been stored in the greenhouse that we use for hay storage. The other day he took most of his tools home, and there was 3/4 of a bale of compressed Canadian second cut hay from last winter standing there, magically exposed! I put some in with the girls’ hay tonight and it created a total feeding frenzy. Marigold and Iris always tuck their heads in at one end of the feeder, and I wish I had thought to take a video. Their grins were enormous, and their sweet grunts of happiness were funny as anything. It started a little tussle at the other end of the feed bunker, but after a moment or two all the girls and Zorro the Llama had their places staked out and were happily munching away. The hay that most of us can grow and harvest on the coast of Maine is not usually as nutritious as the hay that can be grown in less foggy and moist summer climates. It’s funny that we have better access to Canadian hay than we have to hay that’s been grown in the Midwest of the United States.

I am glad they got their dinner in before the rains came. Now I am hunkered down with a glass of wine and the end of one of my favorite mysteries on my iPad at hand. (Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, The Long Road Home). I am loathe to finish it, because that means that I have to wait another year or so for the next one! Quelle horreur!

Almost there

SnowPea just after milking in our little circle of light in the morning
SnowPea just after milking in our little circle of light in the morning

Yes, teachers do long for the end of the first full week of school! It’s wonderful to catch up with the returning students, realize how much more mature most of them are, but it’s always chaos with the schedules that need to be tweaked, and all the other little things that are not in place yet. E-textbooks that need to be downloaded, etc. It’s exciting, but also exhausting. One more day to the weekend :*)

Add to that the fact that every day it seems as though a different goatie girl is in heat. There is a lot of stinky boy action up there, and a lot of girl-calling to the boys. Such little hussies, taunting the boys over the fence! Ah well, this is all part of the onset of autumn. I am seeing a lot of trees beginning to get patches of color on them, so the time is coming. I am not ready for the deep cold, but I am ready for the crisp temperatures of fall.

John got me set up with a light in both the milking greenhouse and the hay/grain greenhouse this week. It has made such a huge difference! It’s my cozy little oasis of light in the dark mornings. Very peaceful, although we are sharing our last minutes of summer with the frantic grasshoppers and crickets. They (along with the peepers and frogs) are the ones that I really miss during the long winter. There really is nothing like listening to the cricket’s song along with the hissing of the milk into the milk pail.

The wind is rising tonight and we are waiting for a bit of a cold snap. And it’s almost the weekend, thank goodness. Definitely looking forward to that!

Super moons

Super moon over one of our greenhouses
Super moon over one of our greenhouses

This is the week of the last ‘super moon’ for the next while. Super sized, early in the evening I can’t see it as it is below the ring of trees around our property. During the night if I open my eyes it looks like all of our outdoor lights are on, which can be a bit disorienting.

And then there is the early morning. When I go out to do chores, I know that I can usually catch a glimpse of the setting moon. It’s always a thrill, and being the optimist that I am, I always think that I can get a great photo of it with my little iPhone. Not so much, but it’s fun trying.

Grainy, but interesting, super moon
Grainy, but interesting, super moon

And this morning was no different, but I got a bunch of different photos that were all equally interesting. Now that I have a light in my milking greenhouse and a light in the hay greenhouse, I am settling into my winter-ish chore routine. A little sadly, perhaps, as that means the daylight is waning, but a satisfying part of the year nonetheless. And I can’t say it or think it enough: I love this cool weather! Bring on the blankets.

(Just a note on our weekend pigeon race: the birds were driven to Derby, Vermont, right up near the Canadian border. One of our birds came in 8th, which is pretty remarkable, considering they crossed the 4,000 foot White Mountains! 4 hours.)

 

 

Such a week

One of our flyers
One of our flyers

Getting back into the swing of the work year is always a bit of a rude awakening (especially when that awakening happens at 4:15 a.m.!). But it seems like we have also had a serious pile of crazy added to it.

Last week during a training run our best bird, #828, failed to come home. It wasn’t a particularly hot or windy day, but he just never showed up. He did, however, come limping home about 4 days later, and we had a tough time grabbing him because he was hiding under the loft building. Not a good sign. Awhile later we found him inside the loft, back with his buddies, but in pretty bad condition. Most likely savaged by a hawk. He was missing all kinds of feathers, and pretty cut up. We took him to one of our pigeon friends who thought that he might make it if we were to separate him and clean him up, give him electrolytes and special easy-to-digest food. So we did. He seemed to be getting better, was eating and pooping, and a friend recommended we treat him with Ledum, as it had seriously helped with a chicken that was attacked, and another friend had used it on a ram with a badly infected head. Unfortunately, I think he was away for too many critical days, and was too far gone. He died yesterday, so our thoughts of keeping him just as a breeder were done. Poor little guy. He was a tough one, and you do read about homing pigeons who endure a lot and get home okay and survive. But I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for him.

Waiting for a peanut treat
Waiting for a peanut treat

Added to that, the litany of aggravating craziness just keeps on coming. Last week the washing machine was out of order; end of the week we lost our hot water for 36 hours; this week our refrigerator crapped out (but the freezer part is still working); I got another denial on my NJ pension; and the real topper: a wonderful woman who ran our middle school cafeteria for many years and had beat cancer, just didn’t wake up the other morning. 54 years old and the sweetest, most positive and upbeat person I have never met. She will be sorely missed by so many. I can’t even really process it.

So in the scheme of things, the washer and the refrigerator, and the pension hoo-ha doesn’t really amount to much. Frustrating, but nothing compared to the loss of a dear, sweet soul. Maybe she and our pigeon boy are out there somewhere smiling on us. I hope so.

 

SnowPea and the boys

SnowPea making eyes at the boys through the fence
SnowPea making eyes at the boys through the fence

Things around here have been pretty quiet this past week, with the exception of the boys and their pre-breeding behaviors. They continue their beauty regimes by making sure their faces and beards are totally saturated with urine, and they stand near the fence making what they think are “come hither” noises. For the most part the girls ignore the bucks, but when one of them comes into heat we are aware of it from the house with all the calling and tussling amongst the boys.

SnowPea not coming in for milking
SnowPea not coming in for milking

Yesterday I went out to milk, and usually SnowPea is waiting at the gate to get right out onto the milk stand. She was nowhere to be found, but I heard her from around the greenhouse. She was plastered up near the fence, making eyes at Beige Boy, whose stinkiness was evident even 30 or 40 feet away. I had a terrible time getting her to leave the fence, and once on the milk stand all she did was bellow and look around, and she did quite a bit of foot stamping as well. It was not our best milking experience, to be sure. What a hussy!

Today things seem to have returned to normal. With the exception of the muggy weather, it should be a great last official day of summer.

 

Very blue sky day

Blue Friday sky
Blue Friday sky

It’s like autumn out there, and I wish it would stay that way! I love it. But as usual, the hot humid weather is arriving on Tuesday, just in time for the first day of school for the kids. Ah well, nice to enjoy it this weekend at any rate.

Waiting at the nearly finished loft
Waiting at the nearly finished loft

Our pigeons had an early race this week because Sunday looks a little thundershowery. They were released in Oakfield, Maine this morning, and some of them got back in about 3 hours. Not bad for 160 miles, but it was thought that there would be a better tailwind than there was. All but one of our flyers are back as of this evening.

The main structure of the loft is just about finished; the roof only needs the ridge cap and parts of the inside need to be tailored to the groups that will be hanging in there. All the birds are together right now and they are beginning to pair off a little. So we will need to have a section for the families and one for the single males. Soon, I am sure. And we have 8 more races to go !

 

 

Readjustments

This morning's chore view
This morning’s chore view

Summer vacation has been amazing. I certainly did not accomplish everything on my “to do” list, but I tried. I got quite a bit of reading done, got to the beach numerous times with my grandson, visited and hung out with some great friends.

The transition back to work is always a little difficult, but getting up earlier probably won’t be an issue as I wake up like clockwork at 4:15 anyhow. I just can’t roll over and ignore it! It was great to begin catching up with colleagues yesterday and today, and tomorrow should be a little more of the same. And then the kids join us starting next Tuesday. As long as the cooler weather comes back as promised tomorrow, and holds through next week, it will all be good. And so the new schoolyear begins :*)

Summer ends with a fiber-filled weekend

The Mawata (multiple silk cocoons stretched into a square shape
The Mawata (multiple silk cocoons stretched into a square shape) I stretched at the workshop, then dyed with woad

Saturday, a friend and I were lucky enough to get into a workshop down at PortFiber in Portland. Taught by Robin Russo, it was a day spent learning about the history of sericulture (farming silk worms) as well as a lot of hands-on work with silk cocoons, reeling silk, pulling cocoons into “hankies,” and then spinning wild and cultivated silks. It was an absolutely fabulous workshop, and I would highly recommend any workshop with Robin! She is a wonderful teacher. She even brought in silk moths who were mating and laying eggs.

Intact Bombyx silk cocoons
Intact Bombyx silk cocoons

Yesterday was spent at Hatchtown Farm having a spinning party/end of summer blast. As usual, we had lots of food, laughter and fun. Sitting on the porch listening to the crickets and watching the crazed grasshoppers and dragonflies was very therapeutic!

Spinning party!
Spinning party!

One of our spinning friends, Chris, set up a woad experiment for us to work on during the afternoon. She grew the woad plants over the summer, and got the initial dye pot set up yesterday morning. When we got together, she continued the process and we got to put a bit of fiber into the pot during the afternoon. It was magical! The woad was a lighter blue than most indigo will dye, and it’s beautiful. Chris threw my little misshapen mawata into the pot and it’s turned fabulous shades of blue.

Some of the woad-dyed fiber
Some of the woad-dyed fiber

It was an exceptional weekend to end the summer fun. The weather totally cooperated, and of course, the heat and humidity are coming back just in time for school to begin!

Post-race week

Has been a crazy one! One of our pigeons came in second place in Monday’s race, which certainly isn’t too bad for not knowing much about this whole thing. Next race is on Sunday, from Jackman again. Of course, this week we thought we had lost two pigeons during training runs. They eventually found their way back, but one came in with a damaged leg and a hurt wing. I still can’t believe that they all keep coming back, but we have been lucky in that way. So we shall see.

The other craziness is getting ready for the school year to begin. I worked in both of my buildings this week at least 3 days, and will go in again for a few days next week, and then we start full time on Wednesday. I really have to get into the school groove again, and start getting up earlier than 5:15 or 5:30. Dare I even say that I have lolled around until 6 a few times recently! I will have to get up early tomorrow because I am lucky to be taking a workshop on silk, it’s history, cultivation and the spinning end of it, in Portland. Have to get going early, but it will be a great day.

Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!

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