Barns of the mid-west at 55 mph…


“I have found out that there ain’t any surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain

I know good team work when I see it.

In the future, I may need to make it a point to embark, with friends on a trip to test our compatibility. Because if you can make it on the road dealing with logistic snafus, idiosyncratic nuances, digestive challenges, utilizing your Travel IQ, overcoming car breath (ya, know, the I have been in this car for 24 hours with no tooth-brush breath) and physical dissimulation, well, you can deal with the more mundane daily issues of life. And I firmly believe that. But, no, there was no test drive, so, let’s just do this!

We (8) were heading to Iowa from NH, Connecticut and the Capital Region of New York. The logistics of that alone may be staggering to some, hold on though, we had llamas in tow, they all had to get to Dakota Ridge Farm, then they had to fit in one trailer. One trailer, at one farm, so that we could leave at one time! They arrived in vans, well 2 vans, and a trailer; The Trailer. The one and only trailer. Do you see a problem yet?, Nope, me neither.

Load’em up

We’ve all arrived at DRF, everyone with their llamas, showing paraphernalia, clothing, water bowls, llamas, hay, coolers, blow-dryers, tents, health certifications (the llamas, not ours), muck boots, llamas, show boots…pillows, don’t forget the pillows. Yes, all of this has to go in one trailer. No worries, I know a good team when I see one. Paul and Todd have the spatial relations to configure a viable traveling equipment formation – did you get all that? Of course, we were to leave by 8:00, it is now 10:00, but what are a few hours spent in the company of friends.

And Head ‘em out

This travel adventure takes extraordinary determination, chutzpah, daring, grit, and even some intestinal fortitude… Are you up for it? Well come along as we hit the road.

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What a wonderful trip, last June, with wonderful friends. We hope to do it again this year!

Jenn with her favorite girl(Llama) at the Iowa fair-grounds. (a very, very pregnant girl)
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Be well,
Jess

Ah, you have “No Mazel”


Helen’s ( a friend from childhood) Bubby used to say this to me…”You have No Maazel” “Poor girl”…

I always tried to hide my sadness, even from myself when I was young; we all did,. We stayed outside and away from home as much as possible; we just stayed out-of-the-way. I his behind my smile. Not hidden well enough to fool Bubby, Helen and I were not friend’s long, as we moved alot..but I never forgot her or her Grandmother, and what she said to me.

As an adult, I have always believed you make your own luck. My own, Maazel; positive energy. Luck comes from work, work on your self, give of yourself to others, have a positive attitude; when you see things as they really are, you tend to have LUCK in your life.
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A Horseshoe has been said to symbolize good luck, good fortune and fertility.
Horseshoes have associations with the strength and dependability of the horse, and, in an upright position, it is also symbolic of the moon. Pointing downwards, it is symbolic of the womb. To the Greeks, it symbolized the crescent moon which was regarded as a symbol of fertility.

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The Horseshoe protects one’s house and land, to keep strangers away, when hung up on the wall of a home or above a doorway. The “U” shape will hold good luck inside forever. This tradition may stem from the 10th century Saint Dunstan. He trapped the devil using a Horseshoe and from that point on the devil would never enter a Christian home adorned with a Horseshoe over the door. (thank goodness)

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Some legends say, that a Horseshoe “‘Pointing Up” will gather your Luck, whereas “Pointing Down” it will shower you with Luck.
Do you have a good luck Charm?

Be well,
Jess

In Winter’s Cold Shadow…There is Gold.


I find that I am not as patient as I once was; sometimes, I feel as though I am attempting to strain the mud puddle rather than patiently waiting for the mud to settle and the water to clear….Do you ever feel as though you are treading water, when you should be swimming?
Feeling over whelmed, me? “Why”, I ask myself. I know there is no easy road, no magic bullet. I am well aware the frustration I feel is of my own making. . . yet as I concentrate so much energy on my objectives, my world, …stumbling through endless lists.
I have always had lists. That can’t be it; am I just getting older and grumpier? Is this what mid-life, what 50 feels like? If it is I don’t like it one bit. Is it just the solitude that winter brings? Could it be I just need to idle my motor, wait for things to happen as they should, when they should?
Or maybe, just maybe; I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these that let me savor a bad mood….until the afternoon sun turns it to gold.

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Mercedes’ shadow cast on the barn wall.

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Intent on supper…”oh, are you still there?”

Mercedes

Mercedes, always so graceful , never in the front, never pushy, or needing to be the first…always patient and full of grace. I want to be like her.

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Andy, is so frail; he did not have the benefit of his mother’s milk and nutrients pat the age of 2 months. I worry about him in the cold; he is wearing 2 polar fleece vest, a goose down vest, and a rain jacket with the arms cut off, ( all zipped up across his back) to protect him from the frigid temperatures. He sleeps, always, between KatDoll and Camille…they keep him warm.
I am going to have him gelded, so that he never has to leave them.

the crew
Even the chickens head to the llama barn for warmth and protection.

The winter blues. How do you deal with this issue? Or is it not an issue for you? Where do you find your patience?

Be Well,
Jess

Whilst the winds blow…


Planning a vegetable garden,a flower garden, perhaps an herb garden? If you have fiber animals, or are a fiber fanatic like me; your thoughts may also lead you to planning a garden for color…fiber color. There is no need to have an entire garden devoted to natural dyes…just add some plants that will grow in your area (zone); take rhubarb for instance, anyone can grow rhubarb- heck you may already have some in your yard. A much unappreciated plant, (unless you make rhubarb jelly, crumble or pie) It thrives in almost any garden. The tuberous, fibrous tissue at the base of the leaf-stalks feels sticky and soapy when skinned and sliced, but when boiled for an hour so, and strained, yields a lovely color – a serious pastel-yellow. Approximately 90% of all plants yield some shade of yellow…

Dye plants may interest the gardener who is also a spinner or fiber artist. Nature has its own palette of colors with dozens of dye possibilities, which even include some nuts, fruits, vegetables and other common foods and fungus (yup, fungus).Natural dyes are everywhere, colors can even come from tree leaves ; berries ; herbs, nuts and shells,and barks.

Growing the dye plants is easy, and can be fun project. But getting the most vivid colors from plant pigments and making more permanent dyes involves mordanting, or treating the fiber before you dye it with a metallic compound, such as alum.
Mordanting is a process..so more on that in another post. I will also post on needed equipment.

Different parts of the plants yield different colors…

Plants yield these colors most commonly, yellows and tans, blues, and reds; believe it or not, green is the most difficult color to achieve – seems odd doesn’t it.
Some plants you might consider:
Woad for true blues(a very, very invasive weed-take good care with this one)
Madder for intense orange, scarlet and plum
Saint John’s wort for gold, maroon and green
Sunflowers for deep olive greens
Hollyhocks for yellow, mahogany and reddish black
Purple loose strife for gold, brown and black (another invasive plant)
Weld for strong clear yellow
Coreopsis for deep yellows, oranges, browns and maroon
Lady’s bedstraw for orange, gold and pinky red

Well, I have to get back to ordering seeds and chicks…I will try not to be too over-zealous in my pursuit of both…

Speaking of pursuits, pictures from our December barn rescue(partial rescue):
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barn old

winter barn

winter closed

winter doors

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winter saving

Be Well,
Jess

September, slightly wordy Wednesday.


“Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.”
– William Wordsworth, September


“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-


Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.


The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.


Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze. ”
– John Updike, September


“By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.”
– Helen Hunt Jackson, September, 1830-1885


“Happily we bask in this warm September sun,
Which illuminates all creatures…”
– Henry David Thoreau

Be well,
Jess

You’ve got the cutest little baby face…well some of you.


It that time of year again, County Fairs, State Fairs and animals on parade. We always head straight to the animal barns, then to the produce displays, followed by Howie’s need to see every piece of machinery known to man…while we were looking about at antique water pumps, wood splitters and steam engines; I came across these honey extractors and thought of Miss C . Wonder if she could use this?

It looks pretty deep, and with her many gallons of honey it may make short work of the extraction process.

I could oogle over these baby faces all day.

This little Jersey calf was born 1 day before the fair…wonder what she thinks of the world?

Some kids, have their own idea of comfort.

While other are just too sleepy to care….shhh…look at those lashes.

I have heard of folks dressing up for the fair; but this is ridiculous! Wonder who his hair dresser is?

Well hello there big guy! He looks too proud to be in jail…(I think I am funny, just smile and nod)

This white peacock is stunning, I think. It was difficult to get a good vantage point, he might have been camera shy.

She’s got legs…I am certain her Mamma thinks she’s cute.

Do you think I could fit this little girl in the back of a Volvo wagon? Well, I could try…but, she probably wouldn’t like me very much after. I guess I have to wait for a Jersey calf, and some cashmere goats, and a few Wensleydale sheep, and, and, and….Might be time to go home.

I will be back at the fair today, spinning with my new friends ( just met Lisa yesterday – smiling really hard.)
Be well.
Jess

Why do they they do it….for love.


Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming.


They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants.


They love to live in the presence of animals.


They love to work outdoors.


They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable.


They love to live where they work and to work where they live.


If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.


“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago.

Until then, where was all the food?


Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.” Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World.


‎A farm is a manipulative creature. There is no such thing as finished.


Work comes in a stream and has no end. There are only the things that must be done now and things that can be done later. The threat the farm has got on you, the one that keeps you running from can until can’t, is this: do it now, or some living thing will wilt or suffer or die. Its blackmail, really.

A farmer friend of mine told me recently about a busload of middle school children who came to his farm for a tour. The first two boys off the bus asked, “Where is the salsa tree?” They thought they could go pick salsa, like apples and peaches. Oh my. What do they put on SAT tests to measure this? Does anybody care? How little can a person know about food and still make educated decisions about it? Is this knowledge going to change before they enter the voting booth? Now that’s a scary thought!


Commercial farming as I see it…but a temporary blip until the land is used up, the water polluted, the neighbors nauseated, and the air unbreathable. The farmhouse, the concrete, the machinery, and outbuildings become relics of a bygone vibrancy when another family farm moves to the city financial centers for relief…


Commercial agriculture can survive within pluralistic American society, as we know it – if the farm is rebuilt on some of the values with which it is popularly associated: conservation, independence, self-reliance, family, and community. To sustain itself, commercial agriculture will have to reorganize its social and economic structure as well as its technological base and production methods in a way that reinforces these values…


Alright, I will come down off the soapbox now…it seems a long time between posts lately; but with tomatoes and squash coming out of my ears and our youngest to get off to college, days have seemed too short. As I harvest the vegetables, I can’t help but think about something I read awhile ago. A writing by Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution. In this he wrote,” If each person were given one quarter-acre, that is 1 1/4 acres to a family of five, that would be more than enough land to support the family for the whole year. If natural farming were practiced, a farmer would also have plenty of time for leisure and social activities within the village community. I think this is the most direct path toward making this country a happy, pleasant land.” I can’t help but agree.

Be well,
Jess