Thursday, April 30, 2015

ready or not, here Maryland comes

A very short post tonight because I still have quite a bit to do. Some of it will just have to wait until the last few hours tomorrow morning, and some won't get done at all, and that's okay too. 

This is how I know that I am absolutely at the end of my limit, when I can accept that I can't get it all done.

I didn't have a chance to blog about driving up to get the pelts about a month ago. I was able to combine it with lunch with dear Mrs. C. and two of her lovely children so it was a great day, but I was so pooped when I got home that I didn't have the energy to blog about it. And if memory serves, that was the same day that the roving came back from the processor, so it was a red-letter day of sheepy products.

Today I pulled them out again to take a closer look at them and price them. They are absolutely gorgeous this year, one more lovely than the next.

This one isn't really purple in the middle, more of a grey-brown, but one of the many lovely patterns that were revealed once the tanner was done with them.

This one took the prize for one of the most beautiful patterns we have ever seen here on the farm.

This one is spectacularly soft with a beautiful staple... How I wish we had kept this one as a ram, but we banded everyone when they were newborns, so that decision was made early. Such a shame, this would have been a gorgeous fleece. I am trying not to be too sentimental about it but yet another disappointment of letting our rams go and not breeding first this past fall. I am kicking myself, even as my practical side knows that there is NO WAY we would have been able to deal with lambs this spring. Someday in the future, maybe. Regret always washes in when I am tired and my resistance is low.

Tomorrow: Maryland! Ready or not.

Monday, April 27, 2015

blessings in Boston

A few weeks before he left for Japan, Secondo told me that he had done his research, and found the one Episcopal church in Toyko that held services in English. He wanted to attend Easter services while he was travelling. I was impressed by his initiative, but considered it a long shot.

Danged if he didn't. We only heard the story after he returned. While my brother and his family were still asleep, Secondo got himself up and dressed in the button-down Oxford shirt he insisted on taking for this purpose. He left a note, put the address into google maps on his phone, and struck off across Tokyo, on foot, for a three-mile walk early Sunday morning.

Even through this low tunnel, that Google maps insisted he had to travel through, so low that he had to stoop down in parts to avoid hitting his head.

Yet another sign that this kid is going to be OK, even if deadlines and time management and bedroom floors continue to be an issue.

A week ago found my husband and I in Boston, getting ready for his first time running the Boston Marathon. He has been trying to get into this race for ages; you have to qualify on your time, and it is quite difficult. He actually qualified for last year's race, but with everyone re-running it after the bombing, he wasn't able to get in. So this was the year.

Sunday was a beautiful day and we went for his last pre-race run (well, he went for a run, I panted and groaned behind him as I am quite out of shape at the moment; this desk job has done me no favors). Running in a city makes a nice change from running next to fields—the buildings just fly by, giving you the impression that you are really, really fast—plus Boston has the beautiful Charles River to run along.

The tail end of our run took us through the Boston Commons and past Trinity Church. I think we had the same thought: our kid managed to get himself to church when he was in Tokyo, and we hadn't given it a thought. Clearly, he didn't get it from us. I doubled-back to check the service times: 7 and 9 am. I pulled out my phone: 9:00 on the dot. We looked at each other, then turned together and ran into the church, sweaty running clothes and all. It was as if the hand of God scooped us in.

We almost turned around when we saw the usher in a full spring suit, but he assured us that we were fine as is and we would be in good company, because runners were especially welcome that day. 

How right he was! Near the end of the service, the priest called all the runners in attendance up to the front of the church, and he said a special prayer over them for safety. Then everyone in the congregation stood up and applauded. It was a wonderfully moving moment, well worth feeling just a lot bit underdressed.

After the service... Yes, I went up to the communion rail in those crazy striped running socks! At least I had a skirt on.

The next day was the complete opposite, weather-wise. Cold, rainy and 20 mph winds, blowing out of the east which meant that the runners ran into the wind for the entire 26.2 miles. Due to the way the course is laid out, I was advised to only try and see him in one spot. The weather made that even more advisable. This is him just after he turned onto Boyleston, heading toward the finish line, and spotted me on the sidelines.

And then inside, out of the weather, all proud with his medal and mylar blanket. Those gloves aren't normal running gloves, he wore them intending to throw them away after the race started, because he had to wait a few hours at the start. However, the weather was so bad that he ended up keeping them on. Seems they are now a permanent part of his gear kit for accompanying him the entire distance.

The sign was the way he found me on the sidelines; something bright that I hoped he would be able to pick out in his exhaustion. It worked! And now he can say that he ran the Boston Marathon, and I can proudly say I was there to watch it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

gunning it

"Gunning it" is Secondo's favorite phrase these days. To be technically correct, I should say "gunnin' it" since that is how he pronounces it. Had to rush to get on the bus? He was gunnin' it. Trying to finish a track practice quickly? Everyone was gunnin' it. So on and so forth. You get the idea.

Last weekend was spent on a lovely interlude with my husband in Boston, and I hope to have a post up about that at some point. My wonderful parents and the younger two boys stayed at home and fed sheep and otherwise held down the fort and made it all possible.

Since I got back, however, I have been gunnin' it. Maryland is next this coming weekend. Yikes, when it is typed out in black and white like that, it is even more scary.

I have a great new dyeing station, thanks to a hand-me-down from my parents. Built by my father, and so able to withstand gale force winds, thousand-pound weights, and other challenges, it was a TV stand in a former life. Now it can just hold two turkey cookers side by side, with all my supplies stored conveniently underneath and not scattered to the four winds as they used to be.

Just some of the dyeing output, that needs to be weighed and packaged. Did I mention that Maryland is this coming weekend? Packaging is one of those stupid things that takes far more time and effort than it seems it should. 

I am also making a dent on skirting fleeces! This is fleece three for today, from one of the rams and the only fleece that didn't stay covered. Of course it is so gorgeous that it makes me want to weep that it has some veg in it. When we did the initial skirting on shearing day, we threw out the worst of it along the spine of his back. The rest is definitely worth saving, for someone who has the patience to comb it and get out the remaining bits. It will be for sale at, you guessed it, Maryland this coming weekend. I just have to gun it to get it packaged up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

out to pasture

Whoa! Everything is just so.... green all of a sudden!

The ewes were soooooo eager to get out of the small enclosure and onto fresh green grass this morning.

I love the expression on the ewe in the front, who is doing her best carousel horse impression. That is our crazy yearling ewe Nanette, who can still act lamb-ish with the best of them.

We broke out the electronet for the first time this season, hence the girls' excitement. They started yelling the minute they saw the rolls come out of the barn. It took a little while to get back into the groove, remembering to connect each roll, locating the charger, etc. but at least they made it through the winter with few tangles to unwind this morning.

The grass came in just in the nick of time! Only four bales of hay left in the barn, but no one will eat it now that the fresh supplies are in. We have been tapering the ewes off the hay and onto fresh grass, a little a time, to get their rumens adjusted, but at some point they need to be turned out and let loose.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

final farmers market

Nice short season for the Princeton winter farmer's market. Today was the last day until December. Now they will move outside and go to a weekly schedule for the summer, but that's just too much for me to undertake, plus it is way more difficult to sell wool outside in the summer. So this was it, but thanks to the beautiful weather outside today, it was busy with lots of people moving through.

Birds-eye view of the merch

Including a blogging friend, Liz Adams, who though we live not too far from each other, I hadn't met in person before today. What a pleasant surprise to put a face to the name! We have communicated via blog comments for a while now and she was just as lovely in person as she is on her blog. She beat me to getting a blog post up about our meeting, so you can read all about it from her perspective here. It was wonderful meeting her, and I was especially happy to hear that her cat liked the catnip ball. I think the photo of Marigold laying all glazed over and catnipped out is my favorite.

Next up in visits was my college freshman, who has biked down from campus to see me each day of the farmer's market, making it well worth doing for that reason alone. Today he stayed and chatted for a nice long while, and even helped me pack up the table at the end of the day, resulting in a record time for getting everything together.

Next up: Maryland Sheep and Wool! Thanks to this preparation for this market, I am in decent shape at this point, even if my "to do" list is still a mile long. But now I can cross off "Meet Liz Adams in person"!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

sheep roles

Poor sheep. Forever getting roped into being extras in whatever crazy project the boys come up with. Prom-posals, photo essays, and tonight a video for Spanish class. (What is it with Spanish class?)

I was trying to take a picture from a unobtrusive distance, but if you look carefully you may be able to make out the kid to the right, covered in an entire bag of cotton balls from my husband's office, pretending to be a sheep. The dog was just as confused as the sheep.

A trail of cotton balls was left all over the farm. We will be mowing cotton balls for the next two months at least.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

spring has sprung

All the signs are present: daffodils are blooming, grass is greening, and I am dyeing yarn and making dryer balls to get ready for Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Best sign of all: there is warm sun to dry things out. That certainly makes the process quite a bit easier, not to mention more pleasant.

The weekend was spent trying to make some progress with getting the new roving ready, though unfortunately I haven't made it to my second round of skirting fleeces yet. I will get there before Maryland and have them with me to be sold in the booth or go to the processor, I am determined!

Finally returned to my office chair after an afternoon/evening in the basement (actually the whole day, come to think of it) dyeing and weighing and found this on my desk chair:

Guess she figured that she would use it if I wasn't. Too bad I can't put her to work updated my long-neglected farm website.

Friday, April 10, 2015

spring break

My writing mojo seems to have taken a break along with the local schools. Plus too much work at the office, unfortunately for the one kid left at home during his spring break. On the days that I wasn't working, I made sure we had adventures together, one of which was the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia yesterday to see the "Art of the Brick" exhibit by Nathan Sawaya. I went because of my Lego fan but ended up enjoying it far more than he did, I think. The artist had many thought-provoking things to say about the nature of art and creativity and media. The fact that he is a recovering lawyer also resonated!

Today was Terzo's last day of break, so I took him to the office with me for a few hours and then dropped him off for a few special hours with his brother at the university campus, very near my office, while I returned to work.

That joyful smile is an indication of just how excited he was to finally have the chance to bike around campus with Primo, something he has wanted to do since the day Primo moved in. When I returned to pick him up, he announced it was "one of the best days of his life." How lucky we are to have Primo so close, and even more so that he graciously puts up with our frequent visits; we were there just last night for dinner to celebrate Terzo's 11th birthday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Japan is searching out sheep for me on the other side of the world.

My brother is using an app called "Cluster" to share photos privately with the family back home. It has been a great way to view their vacation as they travel around. Secondo seems to be having a fantastic time. Prayers for a safe return on Monday; he is missed terribly!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

one less easter boy

Happy Easter! Just two  boys in suits this year...

And not the two you expected, I bet. We were lucky to have two instead of just one; Primo came home yesterday, just in time to hunt for his Easter basket this morning.

The third?

Secondo is halfway around the world, in Japan with my brother and his family, and by all appearances having a ball. The Easter photo was forwarded to me by his older brother, off Snapchat. We got the obligatory "hey, we got here safely" e-mail two days ago and then not much since. The stories will have to wait until he returns and then we will have to drag them out of him in typical teenage boy fashion.

We had a lovely Easter dinner without him but missed him terribly. Terzo was deputized to collect a few Easter eggs from the church hunt for his brother.

Plenty of drive and enthusiasm there, and even a little air time in pursuit of his prey...

But I'm not sure any eggs will be left when his brother returns in a week.