Friday, October 31, 2014

the last trick or treater

I have found that I am not the saddest about the first change to happen. I am saddest about the impending last. Today, that meant the last kid in our house left to go trick or treating. (Geez, wasn't it just yesterday they all went out together? Nope, that was 2009. Terzo was five. Secondo's costume from that year is still my all-time favorite.)

At the moment, Terzo is the last kid in our house, period, because Primo didn't come home for fall break (football) and Secondo is still in Kentucky (FFA).

For the first time in his life, he had no one to go trick or treating with. Living in the middle of nowhere on a farm means that you can't just join up with the local gang and make the rounds. You are dependent on friends inviting you to their neighborhood, or agreeing to go into town with you. But when most of your friends are all invited to a party and you are not, that presents quite a problem.

I am not too proud to admit that I spent the morning scrambling to find a place for him. Halloween cannot be a heartbreak holiday.

Thank goodness for different friends and a kind mother, who took him in for the evening. He had a blast in their neighborhood, playing manhunt and bagging over seven pounds of candy (he weighed it as soon as we got back). And the Great Pumpkin had paid a visit while we were out! That is one tradition I am so grateful still continues, and so was he.

Just so a little bit still stays the same.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

catching up and growing up

I am so far behind in everything and this blog is just a symptom of the larger issue, which is that I have way too much crap on my plate with no end in sight. All my own fault.

So let me see, where did I leave off? Oh yes. Rhinebeck.

It was a great weekend with my parents, though unfortunately I don't have any photos of both of them in the same shot. They rented an RV, cozy RV dining room pictured above complete with flowers, so we could stay at the fairgrounds. That made it so wonderfully easy, especially with my father serving delicious healthy meals to keep us fueled for the marathon that the weekend represented.

The three of us managed to squeeze in a trip to the Vanderbilt Mansion, which is well worth the side trip if you are ever in that neighborhood. Spectacular fall color on the Hudson was an added bonus.

Vending at Rhinebeck was an experience. I thought I was ready thanks to years vending at Maryland but there is no training that can adequately prepare you for the combination of thousands of knitters and fall weather that puts everyone in the mind of cozy woolen knits. Being a wool farmer was a good place to be in such circumstances.

I came back and had to hit the ground running—figuratively, no time for exercise at the moment—for the church 5K the following (this past) Saturday. It went really well, and I wish I had some great pictures to show you, but I am completely inept at downloading photos from a card from my father's camera. I could hold this post up longer while I try to figure it out, or I could just get on with life and get this post up, so here we go.

Next up, on Tuesday: Secondo leaving for Kentucky for the FFA national convention to present his agriscience project. I will spare you all the gory details of getting his disorganized butt out the door but let's just say it wasn't pretty. After much begging and grovelling, I got this picture texted to me today. We'll know tomorrow how he did. The purple ribbon means that he qualified for the top three in his division so that's something!

And then almost last (there's Halloween tomorrow) but not least: Primo's 19th birthday today. I could go on and on about the passage of time and blinking eyes (from tears or split seconds, it's hard to say sometimes; it's probably a combination of both), but I'll refrain, because I don't have much to add. It goes too fast. Treasure every moment. I am still trying to learn these truths.

We have no idea who let the kid with the Rutgers sweatshirt onto the Princeton campus.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

breakouts and benefits

Primo has his first round of college midterms this week, so in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere a bit, my husband has been texting him a "joke of the day."

Yesterday's joke: Why did the ram fall off the cliff? He missed the ewe turn!

You get the idea, though they aren't all necessarily sheep jokes.

Today's joke, quoted directly from my husband's texts:

"Joke of the day (?). Farmer walks to the back pasture to feed Rams, finds pens empty,

"Calls Farmer's wife to report stolen Rams, wife looks out to find them all mixed with ewes and lambs one big happy family!"

Except as you may have guessed from the question mark, this was not a joke. Most definitely not a joke.

This was our horrific discovery this morning: all four rams mixing it up with whomever they pleased, after breaking down a gate and a cattle panel to get to the ewes. The true pairings have yet to be revealed and won't be known until 145 days from today, give or take three days. My fingers are crossed that they don't include sister-brother or mother-son pairs but that would be a lucky break, since chances are unfortunately all too good that this may have happened. Same thing for bred ewe lambs, which we don't do because we like to give them another year to grow out before subjecting them to the stress and strain of pregnancy.

The miscreants: locked back up but still making eyes at the ewes.
That is actually a ewe looking directly at the camera but
we booted her back out into the ewe group.

We managed to kick the boys out into a (hopefully) secure pasture but the damage is already done. What is also done are our hopes for a quick family vacation starting next March 17, when my husband has to fly to Las Vegas for a conference. We were deliberately holding the rams out so we could leave and not worry about lambing but the rams had different plans.

The one high note was my middle son, who reacted with excitement when I mentioned that we would need to DNA test any lambs born in the suspect period to identify the father. "I can do that at school! That's just gel electrophoresis! [insert his description of the process here] I will ask to use the machines and it will be my 4-H project for the year!" The benefits of your kid going to a science-centered school.

Speaking of my middle son, he turned sweet sixteen today, and he is indeed a sweetheart, at least when those teen hormones aren't raging. 

Gatorade squirt bottles and Quench gum: 
that's what he asked for,and Primo obliged.

We headed over to Princeton tonight so we could enjoy a family dinner celebration with Primo. The benefits of your kid going to a local college.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

homework assignment

I spent the day pulling together the last final bits for Rhinebeck. Except for the part when the water softener repair man came at 11:30 am and I was still in my pajamas, because getting ready for Rhinebeck. Not sure who was the most embarrassed, me or the repair guy.

After getting in the necessary shower (when he finally turned the water back on), I slowly loaded the truck... Packaged the last few items... Figured out computer inventory issues... Stocked the pantry and fridge for my impending departure, in case my family forgot the way to the supermarket...

I was finally ready to go, and then Secondo asked if I could take pictures for his school assignment.

Little did I expect him to reappear in winter work coveralls (and not much else), cowboy boots, sunglasses and his brother's straw cowboy hat. I have no idea what kind of school assignment this was, except it was for Spanish class, and had the theme "what not to wear." Given the outfit, the last part does make some sort of sense. No one should ever wear this outfit.

Though to be fair he does a pretty good job of pulling it off.

We started out with the sheep, who were just as confused as I. But he had grain in his hand, so they were willing to overlook a little sartorial oddness.

We moved on to the basketball net. Please, don't ask me. I still don't know why.

But we did manage a great shot of him imitating LeBron James, plus grass stem. I hope I get an A.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Brooklyn was a mixed blessing. Well, it was 95% blessing, with family and fiber friends and selling lots of stuff. The only downside was the flip of selling lots of stuff: that means a lot less stuff to sell at Rhinebeck this weekend.

This is my first time doing these two festivals back to back. Heck, it is my first time vending at Rhinebeck and I am crazy excited. It's so hard to get accepted in that venue as a vendor that I didn't think our breed cooperative booth (just like we do in Maryland) stood a chance for the first couple of years of applying. We were accepted the first year, in part because of our success with the cooperative structure at Maryland, and in part because it is a "fiber direct from the shepherd" enterprise. Also in part because of a healthy dose of luck.

So this week has been a giant scramble to get things ready. At the end of the day on Saturday, I reassured my mom that I had plenty of time, because Rhinebeck was a week away. She correctly pointed out—and I desperately need correction from time to time— that I only had four days to get ready.

One of those days I was spending in the local park supervising the 4-H kids and their petting zoo for our local fall festival. That was Sunday.

Monday and Tuesday were fairly productive days. Yarn was dyed! Items were made! Roving was weighed! Greeting cards were printed!

Today I had to go to work, which leaves tomorrow, when I have to pack up and leave. I was a bit despairing throughout most of the day as no end seemed to be in sight, but as of about an hour ago a light has been dawning at the end of the tunnel. 

My packing effort so far. My husband said my pile makes him think I am moving out in vagabond fashion, and reminds him of that scene from The Jerk: "All I need is this paddle ball game. And this little ball of twine. And these greeting cards."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

brooklyn in the rain

Today was the Kings County Fiber Festival, aka Brooklyn. I debated for weeks whether to go, because it is Princeton Freshman Parents weekend, and also I will be vending at Rhinebeck for the first time next week. I hemmed and hawed, but I really love this festival, not least because I get to see my Brooklyn family on their native turf. I finally paid my fee three weeks ago, and my ever-patient mother volunteered to come along as first mate.

As the event drew closer, the weather forecast grew increasingly dire. At 6:30 am when my mom had to leave her house, it was pouring, but it looked like it had a good chance of clearing up by early afternoon. My wise husband counselled us to go. Being ever crazy, we did.

We weren't in a rush to get up there, so we set up in the rain about the time the festival was supposed to start. No big deal; no one was there anyway. My father provided a giant piece of plastic sheeting and clamps to hold it in place. Once we got the tent set up, we were in business.


We had brought an extra tarp, so we loaned it to our next door neighbors, whose tent was leaking all over the place. We had learned our lesson the hard way a few years ago, better to be over plasticized for these sorts of weather events. Our tent, in all its toasty dry wrapped goodness, on the left, with our neighbors on the right.

Once the skies cleared, we were unbelievably busy and it didn't let up until closing time.

In addition to the Fiber Festival, a wedding had been booked for the Old Stone House (really, I am not being unimaginative, that's what it is called) that sits in the middle of the park. What a fabulous place for a wedding, and they lucked out on the weather.

The Brooklyn crew brought us hot soup for lunch, a perfect antidote to the damp chill. They magically reappeared at tear-down time to help and we were done in 20 minutes thanks to all those extra hands. The reasons why I love this fiber festival should be obvious! I had a great day vending with my mother, I sold a ton of wool, but the time with them was the best of the day.

As for Princeton Parents weekend? I may be a terrible mother, but that one shouldn't be on the long list of reasons why. My college freshman wasn't even there. He came home to watch his brother run cross country today. Missing yet another cross country meet may be on the list, however.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

let there be water

Huge farm news! Even bigger than electric in the barn!!!

It started out with this, yesterday, a giant trench to the back pastures. Where we had NO WATER and NO ELECTRICITY, but where our sheep spend the entire winter. This entailed us (mostly my husband, truth be told) hauling water all through the winter, 5 gallon bucket by 5 gallon bucket. One of the major difficulties of keeping livestock is the challenge of keeping them watered in the winter. It is a major PITA.

To keep the water unfrozen, we ran heavy duty electrical cords from the sole outlet on the back of the house aaallllllll the way back to the water heaters. The pastures are located about 400 feet from the house, which required several sets of electrical extensions, the connections wrapped with electrical tape to keep them dry and working. This presented obvious problems when one line would short out anyway, at the bottom of two feet of snow, and we had to figure out where the problem was.

Can you see the exciting major development at the bottom of the trench? A WATER LINE, being laid below the frost line.

The chickens appear to be unimpressed.

Today they came and backfilled it partway, put an electrical conduit in the same trench, then backfilled it the rest of the way.

This afternoon: HALLELUJAH and pass the fresh water.

It will be fresh UNFROZEN water once the electrician finishes his part, which will result in a few more outlets back by the standpipe. No more hoses run to the back in the summer. No more electrical cords run to the back in the winter. Most importantly of all, because we are getting older and creakier and our strong boys are moving out at an alarming rate, no more hauling water.

I had to beg and plead for this to be done while the construction crew was here trenching for the barn line, but all that grovelling was worth it. It's not even winter yet, but all the caps and exclamation points should give you an idea of just how excited and thankful I am that we finally did this, after talking about it for the last ten years.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

mail from mrs. crosby

I know I am old-fashioned, I know it is going the way of newspapers and glaciers and personal conversation, but I love receiving a note in the mail.

Today I had the most wonderful surprise awaiting me in the box at the end of our driveway:

A note in the mail from Mrs. Crosby herself! And she called me Dear Heart!

Now, if you don't know who Mrs. Crosby is, I suppose some explanation is in order. Mrs. Crosby is the latest yarn diva/sensation/persona. She is somewhat hard to explain, because no one (to my knowledge) has met her in person yet, but she loves to travel—hence the names of her lines of yarn: Hat Box, Steamer Trunk, Carpet Bag, etc.

To get a better idea, you should probably just check out her blog.

A few weeks ago, I participated in one of the contests on that blog. While I didn't win the grand prize, which was some of her gorgeous yarn, she was kind enough to offer consolation prizes to all of the runners up.

Hence the letter. And my prize, which I had kind of forgotten about, which is the best way to get a prize. It was lovely tags to attach to handmade gifts—and samples of her yarn to do the attaching.

From the samples, the yarn is every bit as scrumptious as it appears in photos. I will have to do some scouting at Rhinebeck to see if I can find the yarn in person. Only to check it out in greater quantity, mind you. I have no designs on this yarn. None. (Said in true denial fashion...)

In the meantime, I think I am going to frame the note.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

let there be light, and hay

Big doings around the barn this week.

First of all: working electricity, which we have been lacking since April. One day it was working; the next day, nothing, discovered when sheep were escaping the electric fence plugged in at the barn.

The electrician who came to solve the problem couldn't figure out how it had worked for the past twelve years that we had lived here. According to him, it was vastly under-wired, and not in the good bra meaning of the word. So, enter the trenching and the piping and the install-a-new-subpanel-in-the-shed-ing.

(In a side note, you can see that the third side of the barn is almost done... We estimate one solid day and we should be FINISHED.)

Now we have power and plugs to spare. We are lousy with lighting all over the place, including the previously-unlit shed. We won't know what to do with ourselves.

Well, we somewhat know what to do with ourselves. We need to get more hay in the barn.

Primo was quite disappointed about his timing this weekend. He came home to attend the 4-H meeting and was roped into stacking hay. The look on his face says it all.

No worries about Secondo, he was working too. He was pitchforking clean straw out of the way so quickly that he was a blur!

Now to find 100 or so more bales of hay. We still have a shed in the back to fill, and obviously a little more room in the barn. That bay needs to be completely filled if we hope to have a chance of making it through the winter.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

in stitches guest blog

Where have I been? I have been writing guest blogs! Plus other stuff, which I will get to in due course...

But for now...

Head on over to Pam's blog for my review of The Spinner's Book of Fleece: A Breed-by-Breed Guide to Choosing and Spinning the Perfect Fiber for Every Purpose. It is a great book, and I was excited to have the chance to review it.