The Vortex Returns

Swirling sheep? No- just more of this season’s fickle weather. 66 to 16 to 60 to -6, howling winds and blinding, blowing white out conditions. Sounds normal for the DaSnow beginning...againkotas, but not so normal for Mother Nature in southern  Pennsylvania. She’s having a tantrum. She’s creating beautiful scenery, but under it are frozen waterlines, crummy driving conditions and school schedules that will run into summer. The herd and flock seem to be handling it all in stride as long as the hay and water keep coming. The handful of alpaca even lie out in the open field with backs to the wind and everything covered in white- except the big dark, long-lashed eyes.

Maybe we should be like them. Embrace and enjoy it. …oh yeah- Work! Snow Day! Wait for daylight. Warm up the diesel. Start to plow. Find some knitting and a cup of tea until then…

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Summer’s Dyeing

Oh when the pot boils and steams, these are the days of dyers’ dreams!

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Heading into the end of summer

It’s greener than I ever remember an August to be. Sheep are in the meadow. Goats have mowed the fencerow. Apples are doing the ripening thing and the corn is going toward dryness on the stalk. Butterflies are hitting the bush pretty hard. They must know…

Butterfly bush

Butterfly bush

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Summer of heat, drought and storms

Farming in the Mid- Atlantic teaches you patience and planning–and learning to realize that your plans get altered. Weather and climate determine how most farming progresses.

Summer color

Field Thistle

You learn to manage weeds on the weeds’ schedule. Mow them down. They make more! It’s the give and take of nature.

Leicester Longwool Ewe

Care for the flock when they need it.
Bake bread when the temperature allows it.

Whole Wheat and Honey

Spin in the Tour De Fleece.

alpaca handyed, tufted, beaded yarn

more beaded tufts into yarn

In fact, spin almost every day for a month. Lots of yards get finished.

Manx Loaghtan fiber

More Manx

Triple plied Finn Wool

And even more… Spin a fine yarn

Mohair in watermelon colors of summer

To be Navajo plied

DO a bit of wet felting with the Guild.

Wet felted wool onto alpaca

And tend the flock once more.

BFL x Cheviot mule ewe, Great Mom!

Find them some shade.

In the Shade of the not so old apple tree

And continue to care for the bottle babby until weaning in the heat of July. She’s doing fine.

Leicester Longwool Bottle lamb

Check your weeds again…They’re still growing, even when the hay has gone dormant.Summer color

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Friday at last…

What a beautiful end to this week! What a difference from last week!  Ten inches of snow pre-Halloween was a bit much. Luckily we had gotten a large load of hay the week before. After an early spring of coolness and continual rain came a summer drought. Late August brought us more rain, an earthquake, another 13 inches of rain from Lee and now this?

Animals are getting ready for fall. The autumn colors are in full blaze. Now it is the shepherd who needs to catch up, but hey- we get another hour this weekend.

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A Week of Temps ABOVE freezing!

hairpin lace

hairpin lace bulky weight Cheviot/alpaca earwarmer

The weather is changing! I can finally see grass in the pasture as the snow gradually leaves on the south facing slopes. What snow there is has gone through fluffy, granular, sugary, slush, back to ice and finally hard packed and slick on the paths. The goat and sheep tracks have broken through and gone to earth. Ground Hog’s Day has passed with Punxatauney Phil prognosticating an early spring and Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. The sun is shining, wind is picking up and spring is oh so close! Hay comes today and the barn cleaning is soon. The buds are starting on the apple trees. I can hardly wait!

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In the Dark of the Year

Howling wind, frigid temperatures and days since we’ve seen green pastures set the season. Evergreen boughs with twinkling lights and visits with family have encouraged us to continue. Rams and bucks are running with the ewes and does. Soon the seed catalogs will begin to arrive. Hot tea is the drink of choice. Wood smoke rides in the night air while I’m out filling stock tanks. It’s a quiet time spent in rest and preparation. Hope and continuity are the themes. A shawl is growing on my needles as I knit up the yarn from the flock. Grass to garment takes a year or more sometimes.  In being a shepherd one learns patience. Days grow longer ever so slowly.

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Rain is coming, by the inch

tropical storm image

Here comes the rain!

The spreading blue and red swath of tropical storm Nicole is bringing us what we’ve needed all summer- inches of rain to the Mid- Atlantic. The run in sheds and barn are all battened down for the night. Hay is piled under roof for through the next day or so until this clears. Hopefully our pasture will revive before the first freeze.
Last week ended with two thirds of our flock going to a new home in New York State.

Currently our flock consists of 7 rams awaiting dispersal, one registered Cheviot ewe and her BFL lamb and 11 other crossbreds of BFL and Leicester Longwool lineage that I’ve kept for wool.

The draught and the work of keeping 85 animals on the farm has gotten to be “whelming”. Cost for hay this winter will be high in our area. When the opportunity presented itself for moving on some of the flock to greener pastures in every sense, I had to sell.

cashmere goat


The goats are still “improving” the woods. Cashmere is coming on for the winter. I’m looking forward to seeing the new coats by mid winter. Hopefully the fiber will be fine enough to make a really nice cashmere scarf by next year this time.

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Water and Summer’s Dog Days

Today marked two hundred fifty gallons for the sheep, goat and alpaca. The temp reached 96 in the shade this afternoon. Even the cat just lay in the one spot with grass under the scrubby trees and didn’t move much. It was too much effort to chase anything. Shade uber alles.
Black walnut leaves are turning yellow. Corn has been stunted by the heat and lack of rain has forced many locally to start cutting haylage yesterday, quite early for this area. Feed supplies for this winter will be costly. Pasture is dormant and stick dry. Dust kicks up just from walking and your legs are dark with dirt from just doing a walk through the field to do chores.

Milking the doe got us a quart of white foamy delight. It will go into fudge later this week. It’s been too hot to get excited about milking her this summer. We let the kids take their fill and just separated the young bucks yesterday. Making cheese will be later this week too. Apples have started to fall so applesauce has priority.

 homestead apple harvest

FIrst apples of the season

If we get a repeat of last winter, it will take it’s toll on all of us. Right now though, cold weather would be welcome for a few days. The goats have started showing the undercoat of cashmere-also earlier than usual. Bucks are in rut. Their smell is “breath taking” in this heat, literally.

When the sun drops below the horizon, the temperature is bearable. Right after sunup is the best time to check stock, make a run through the garden to find tomatoes turning red and peaking though the green jungle of leaves. If the ground hog gets his fill on tender shoots elsewhere, he’ll let the larger ones alone. Two of the best Celebrity have been his choice this week. Well -he left half of each. Why can’t he finish the whole tomato? Another mystery…

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Hello world! Another tech option discovered…

Hand-dyed wools

In the realm of communication, blogging definitely has it’s place. Here I hope to share life on the farm, close to the land. If I give anyone an appreciation of what joy there is in living this way and perhaps insight into just how much work is involved in getting food to the table and fiber to the finished product, I’ll have success. Be it sweater or scarf or “warm woolen mitten,” lamb chop, elderberry jelly or goat milk cheese, all things we consume start with a producer. Welcome to that world.

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