Category Archives: Friends

Winter returns

Handdyed, handspun cashgora yarn (by a spinner in Tajikistan)
Handdyed, handspun cashgora yarn (by a spinner in Tajikistan)

I can truthfully say we are still waiting for our goat babies.  The spring-like weather is disappearing tonight, and we face some crazy windchills in the next few days, and I am down with the chest flu (milder than it could be if I had not had my flu shot, but it’s punched me up a bit).

And so we hope that we do not have to have babies arrive with 20-40 mph wind gusts, but if we do, we will manage.  I do not use heat lamps, as straw, hay and inquisitive goats all make for a very volatile situation.  We rely on windbreaks, getting babies dry quickly, and getting them fed up with colostrum ASAP (and lots and lots of straw).  And so we continue our sleepless nights, but tonight I have a reprieve and Sam is doing the late night and early morning checks.  Maybe by the end of the day tomorrow I will feel better :*)

Kiwi Pop Studio yarn
Kiwi Pop Studio yarn

In the meantime, I am resting and ogling my NETA Spa purchases, and also my raffle win.  I am totally over the moon with my Tajik handspun/handdyed cashgora yarn from Casey at Port Fiber, my purchases from Cari Balbo/Ridge Pond Herbals, and also my very unexpected skein of yarn from the raffle at the Spa Fashion Show (Kiwi Pop Studio)!  I have to consult Ravelry for a nice project that will make the most of my cashgora yarn, and for my raffle prize, I am beginning to picture it as an accent to a larger shawl project.  Not sure where I will go with that one, it is not one of those skeins that would have called to me all alone, but now that I have it home, I really see the potential of the sparkle and the glitz and color!

Cari Balbo's Ridge Pond Herbals eye balm, hand cream, tallow face cream, and solid bar skin cream
Cari Balbo’s Ridge Pond Herbals eye balm, hand cream, tallow face cream, and solid bar skin cream

It’s all good, and the whole point of the Spa weekend at the end of February is still just as compelling as it was 15 years ago:  it’s a great break during the winter to meet up with fiber friends and just have a great time relaxing, spinning, knitting, crocheting, and generally having a good time, with a lot of laughs.  The spur to keep up the good spirits until the warmth returns late in the spring.  And so it goes.  Nice.  Very nice!

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Happy Thanksgiving 2016

My sage has not died back yet, and the turkey was happy to invite it along
My sage has not died back yet, and the turkey was happy to invite it along

A little late, I know, but I hope everyone out there had a wonderful day with family, friends, or just on their own.  (One of my most interesting Thanksgivings was when I was a junior in high school and my parents had gone to Portugal or Spain with my uncle Morty, supposedly for 4 days, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I think it was to look at what eventually became known as ‘time shares’ and they were offered another free three days, which they took advantage of, but which also meant that they couldn’t make it back for the holiday.  My dog Jason, the sweet Bedlington terrier and I, had a vegetarian Thanksgiving all by ourselves. Well, he ate meat, I did not.  I think I had broccoli and stuffing.  It was a very instructive and insightful holiday!).

Tesser the 14 and a half year old Chihuahua
Tesser the 14 and a half year old Chihuahua, in front of the wood stove, of course!

Anyhow, not being a vegetarian any more, we had a lovely, if very low-key day yesterday with a 22 pound turkey.  Just the three of us and Tesser the Chihuahua.  Of course I make the same amount of food no matter who is coming, because it’s all about the leftovers for me!  The only thing I did not do was hors d’oeuvres, because without real company, it didn’t seem all that important.  We had a toast to our lovely neighbor who passed away this past August, as she (and previously her husband Jim) had been a fixture here every Thanksgiving since we moved in 13 years ago.  And then we took our time eating our lovely dinner, all of us in something other than holiday garb, and closer to the PJ side of things.  A most relaxing day.  (The goaties got to celebrate with some celery and romaine leaves).

Pumpkin/cheesecake pie, mostly taken from the Smitten Kitchen recipe. Delicious!
Pumpkin/cheesecake pie, mostly taken from the Smitten Kitchen recipe. Delicious!

And so it goes.  It’s a very grey and rawly damp November day here today.  I had a morning visit with a good friend, and then came home to sit by the woodstove and perhaps do a little knitting or spinning.  I slept in until a shocking 7 am this morning and have absolutely no reason to be tired, but a quick nap on a day like this could be just the ticket.  I love Thanksgiving :*)

Another great 4-day weekend!

New Tappan Zee bridge work going up alongside the old structure
New Tappan Zee bridge work going up alongside the old structure

It’s a good thing I retired last June.  If not, it would have been very difficult for me to get to Rhinebeck last weekend, and turn around on this past Friday morning and drive back down to north Jersey for our nephew’s wedding!

Our nephew and our younger son are in the same age bracket and were very close when they were little, until he and his mom moved a little farther away.  But his mom, who is divorced from my husband’s brother, has stayed very tight with the Ruit family, as well as with us.  We love Stevie and adore his bride, and even though we knew it was going to be an expensive weekend, we had to go.  Our son and his fiancee could not afford the trip, so we grabbed our grandson and took him along.  These events are so important to a family, and at the age of 7, I knew it would make an impression on him.

My husband did all of the driving down there, and it was brutal with the rain and the traffic.  But we had a chance to spend some time with my 92 year old father in law a few times over the weekend, so that was definitely a bonus.  The wedding was amazing, at the Skylands Manor in the state park and botanical gardens in Ringwood, New Jersey.  We had an enormously wonderful time.

The beautiful bride and groom looking down into one of the large downstairs rooms (hors d'oeuvres time)
The beautiful bride and groom looking down into one of the large downstairs rooms (hors d’oeuvres time)

Our grandson, however, was not initially impressed!  It was boring, it was this, and it was that.  But once the dancing started, we got him out on the dance floor and he never looked back!  He danced with all the bridesmaids, and the bride and the groom.  We had to drag him off the dance floor at the end of the night, because he was still showing everyone his “moves.”   No, he is not shy!

And so another chapter in our extended family is in the books.  It was a lovely weekend, and we even had a chance to visit with another old friend as well.  The trip home today was a little smoother than the trip down, so it’s all good.

And now back to dentist appointments and catching up with what has been going on with the goatie breeding group.  And getting ready for the cold weather.

Post-Rhinebeck week

Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house
Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house

I am finally able to write about my adventures at the NY Sheep and Wool Show!  Retirement has its benefits, for sure.

Traveling to Rhinebeck, NY, with a lovely group of fiber friends is the highlight of the year.  The Hudson Valley is usually at its peak of fall color; we rent a house, bring lots of lovely food and libations, and just have a great time.  The sheep and wool show is absolutely fantastic as well!  (Not an afterthought and certainly our reason for being there).  We also get to visit with many vendor friends who are there at the show.  Sometimes this is the only visit we get.

View from the porch
View from the porch

This year our AirBnb rental got a little mixed up, and we ended up staying in a different place than usual.  Lovely, large farmhouse, with all the seating and sprawl areas that we could have wanted, and a great kitchen as well.  You never know how those things are going to work out, but it was a great choice.  With the drought in the northeast continuing, we ended up having perfect weather, too.  Sunday was almost too hot!

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Having had a lovely flock of Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep and crosses for many years, I really never need anything at a sheep and wool show (I have tons of roving and yarn left from our crew).  But in the last year or two I have been loving the adventure of trying out wools from different breeds of sheep.  This year I knew that I wanted to find a Shetland fleece, as that is something I have never spun or knit with.

Foster Family Farm yarn
Foster Family Farm yarn

There were a plethora of fleeces to choose from, and I had a difficult time deciding.  I knew I wanted a dark fleece if I could find one, but a reddish-brown one was second on my list as that is a color you don’t find in Coopworth or Border Leicester sheep.  And so I came away with a lovely small fleece, just enough for me to have some fun with, and maybe spin up for a small shawl.  This hogget (or yearling fleece) came from a farm on Cape Cod, Freddy’s Farm Shetlands.  Lovely, very clean fleece.  This one is not a dual-coated Shetland, as many are (Shetlands are considered a “primitive” breed, so they would typically have a hairy outer fleece layer with very soft undercoat.  And you really want to keep those two products separate when spinning!).  So I waited in the long line in the fleece area, got to look at what everyone else around me was buying, and had a great time!

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

I also found more little treasures at the show:  some beautiful Romney/silk roving, and two skeins of Wensleydale/Romney yarn.  I bought enough of the roving to possibly make myself a sweater or a vest.  The red yarn is for a cowl, Purl Soho’s pattern ‘Cowl with a Twist.’

And so it goes.  Yesterday was so beautiful and warm that I was able to wash the whole Shetland fleece, and it was almost totally dry by dark.  I also plied up some Coopworth grey singles yarn to use for the accent color on the red cowl.  It was a beautiful day all around, and our Rhinebeck weekend was pretty spectacular!

 

August endings

Rest time
Rest time

This month feels like it has just flown by.  Busy days, and for the most part, beautiful ones.  We have had our share of the hot-and-humids, however, and I think this may have been part of the catalyst for the Coccidiosis outbreak in two of the baby goats.

I am always on the watch for things like this, but we have not had any cocci episodes here since we had lambs, a few years ago now.  It also usually hits us when we are having a very wet spring and summer.  As we are in a pretty extreme drought, it kind of surprised me.

But the really humid and hot weather is very stressful on the goats, particularly the young ones.  Our Fergus was the first to turn into Mr. PoopyPants, and then within a day or two the white buckling started.  We got the sulpha powder mixed up and going pretty quickly, but it’s a rough ride, even when the diarrhea stops within a day.   Sulpha drugs are hard on anyone, and when you are only 20 or 25 lbs., it’s not so nice.  We are doing vitamins as well, and they seem to be responding.

The last load. Not even a big one!
The last load. Not even a big one!

And as it is August, it is haytime.  We have a very lovely hay dealer who keeps our hay and we can go and get it when we need it, but that is for the first cutting bales.  A good friend of ours recently decided to cut his really nice hay field for a second cutting.  His neighbor does a first cut, but for some reason isn’t interested in doing a second.  I was definitely interested, and today was the day we had to pick it up in the field.  It was great to see Matt, and he even played farm boy for the day and helped us transport the goods.  Nice to see our second greenhouse having such a nice collection of bales going into the winter.

The crickets seem to agree.  I love going to sleep by their singing.  Reminds me of childhood vacations on Cape Cod with my cousins!

 

End of the week

Tesser leering at me from in front of the wood stove
Tesser leering at me from in front of the wood stove

And so it goes!  Going, going and gone.  The last moments of my last vacation are upon me.  It has been a good week, quite productive, and if I must do my Puritanical inventory, I did get a lot accomplished.  Not as much as was on my list, but it was good.

It’s funny, but in the last year or so, looking down the barrel of retirement, I have tried to set myself up for all the things that I want to do.  Spinning, knitting, weaving, felting, sewing.  Guernsey goats and lots of cheese and milk.  I have found one of my dream looms (the Bergman), and gotten involved in my dream goat breed, the Golden Guernseys.

My new little companion
My new little companion, a 1953 Featherweight

As far as the sewing goes, I have been planning on doing quite a bit of sewing with Maine Fiberarts, as well as with other friends who are good with fabric and machines.  But I have a 1951 Singer in a cabinet that is heavy as all get-out.  And so I have been searching very off-handedly for a Singer Featherweight for the last 6 months or so.  Unbelievably, I found one on Craig’s List this past week (and it was not priced out of my reach).  My husband and I were able to meet with the very nice lady who was selling it.  We met at Barnes and Noble in Augusta yesterday morning.  What a great little machine!  I am looking forward to many happy hours with her.

 

April vacay week

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My last April vacation week ever!  The best part?  The Peepers are back!  (I love those little guys and wait for them each spring).

Otherwise, the weather has totally cooperated, and there was a lot of activity around here.  I really wanted to do some fun things with friends, but I also really needed to get some house and paddock work done.

Pemaquid Point lighthouse today
Pemaquid Point lighthouse today

Today my son and I did some alternative cattle panel fencing and gate moving for the boy goats and Jingle the donkey.  That took awhile, and afterward we ran an errand, and kept going down to Pemaquid Point lighthouse.  It was a fantastically beautiful day.  The sun was warm, the breezes were stiff, and the sky was as blue as ever.  We ended up in Damariscotta to make a Reny’s run, and then I went to the chiropractor.  After that, I had a lovely rest in the sun and I got some reading in.  Spent some time this afternoon with the goats, and then took a lovely bath.

Most of the week has been organizing and cleaning out spaces like the mudroom (ugh!).  We are selling one of our giant chest freezers, and it took the day on Tuesday to clean out, organize and re-assign items to other freezers.  But it’s done!

Yesterday I spent the day in Portland with some friends, and we had a fantastic lunch at Paciarino, then went to Standard Baking Company, Micucci’s Italian grocery, and then to Trader Joe’s.  Exhausting but fun!

Tomorrow will prove to be somewhat boring.  I still have to clean out and re-organize the lower pantry cupboard cabinets in the mudroom.  It will be a relief to get it done and over with, however!  There is much more organizing to do in the house, but this was a great start.  And the week isn’t over yet, so more fun to come, I hope!

The Deal

What I want to be taking time out for int he mornings!
What I want to be taking time out for in the mornings!

I have had plans in the works for a number of years.  The deal with my husband is that I would retire when I turn 62.  That happens to be this February 11th, and  I really can’t believe that it is real.  Where did the time go?  It has just snuck up on me.  (Of course, I would not retire until June, at the end of the school year).

When I read Jackie’s blog post on Butting Heads Farm – the Art of Aging, Part 1  about aging and what can be accomplished home on the farm while working a full-time job,  I realized that we have been maneuvering ourselves toward this goal for a good number of years (I have had to let go of our sheep, our yearly meat chickens, and our yearly feeder pigs in order to keep things sane).  I have only told a few coworkers and close friends so far, but it’s finally here for me.  I am retiring at the end of this school year (!), and I am hoping to be able to totally give myself over to the farm and to weaving, spinning, knitting and felting from then on.  The money issue will be difficult for awhile, but hopefully I won’t have to go out and get a whole other full-time job.  I feel bad for all my coworkers who retire and a year or two later have to go back to work full-time, but most of those folks are single.  I am blessed to have a partner who has a few sources of income, and with my NJ pension, my Maine pension, and a little bit of Social Security, I might be okay.  (Although Maine is one of the two states in the U.S. who believes that getting SS and a teacher’s pension is “double dipping,” so the SS that I paid into in NJ is going to be drastically cut back when I start collecting because of my Maine teacher pension.  It’s a real bummer).

And so it goes.  I am frantically trying to make sure that things at work are going to be perfect for whoever replaces me, but we all know that that is a losing proposition.  It will be what it will be.  But I am having a wonderful time reading the seed catalogs and thinking that I can actually do a little more in the garden because I won’t be starting back into work by the middle of August, and unable to process the tomatoes and the eggplant that are just really coming ready at the end of August.

I can’t believe that I only have 80 some workdays left in my job as a Library Media Specialist.  It’s been a wonderful career, and it won’t be easy to give up.  But I do think that I will be having breakfast or lunch with my retired teacher peeps on the first day of the new school year.  And there will be champagne or wine involved!!!

Re-entry

Always a difficult thing.  5 of us spent a very satisfying and lovely 4 days out on Vinalhaven.  We got back on Sunday afternoon, and I have been running ever since.  Some work-related meetings as well as just trying to get down to business at home with all the crazy projects I have been wanting to try and do.  It’s hot and muggy again as well, and I do not function well at all on these days. The Vinalhaven fiber retreat was balm to our exhausted souls!  We all got quite a bit of knitting and spinning done, and we even had an indigo dye day, thanks to Pam of Hatchtown Farm.  Once we saw what the results were like, we all scurried around looking for more items to pop into the bucket!  One of our merry group grabbed an old canvas hat out of her car and I tie-dyed one of my beloved sleeveless t-shirts.  What a hoot! Good times with good friends is what it’s all about.  Now I guess it’s time to get back to the daily grind.  And while I am doing that, I will be able to dwell fondly on the lovely, restful and fun outing that we were lucky enough to have. Until next summer!

We’ve got curds

The curd is here.  What a relief!
The curd is here. What a relief!

Yes, a new batch of chèvre is in the works and we got curd!  I was a little anxious, but I had about 2.25 gallons of fresh goat milk.  So yesterday I started a new batch and swaddled it with towels, to be opened this afternoon.  I remembered both the culture and the rennet, this time.  Phew!  It’s early in the milking season (calculating from when the kids were born), so the curds are still very delicate and we don’t get quite as much return for our milk amounts, but it’s amazing, nonetheless.

And the curd is in the forms.
And the curd is in the forms.

So when I scooped out the curds, I got 8 forms filled with curd, and the rest of the curds got sent into the colander, so maybe I can salvage all that I couldn’t scoop with my spoon.  I added wild Maine blueberries to one of my forms, so that should be a little bit of a treat as well.

I am not separating my does and babies this week because I am getting ready to go on a little bit of a fiber retreat with some friends this week, on the island of Vinalhaven.  I can’t wait!  But to keep things simple for my husband, who is doing chores, the babies will have to take up the slack on the milk end of things.  They won’t mind at all!

A week from tomorrow, hopefully the babies will be separated from the moms and I will be seriously milking twice a day.  It’s Weaning Time!   Gotta get some serious cheese in the freezer.