Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My crazy cousins!

Oh this is just too funny! We gave my cousin Lisa and her kids, Erin and Evan these masks for Christmas and tonight I got back the family portrait! Masks: $10.95, wrapping paper $1.95, photo on email: priceless!

How bizarre, how bizarre...

Here is the flock yesterday...enjoying the afternoon on the winter loafing lot....what's bizarre is the fact that they should NOT be on this pasture! It would usually have at least 6" of snow on it by now! It sure has made the daily chores easier for all of us, but really, come on Old Man Winter!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Peace and Blessings

Our Christmas has been most blessed and peaceful. We spent yesterday with friends, Lyle and Sandy; a wonderful lunch and then we all walked the large parcel of land they recently purchased, a dream in the works with fields being made and a stunning view of Mt Monadnock, we enjoyed lots of conversation and some good laughs along the way. It was a special day. We spent a quiet Christmas Eve on the farm making calls to family and friends and then watching a silly Christmas movie. Outside it was a night as written in the carol "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"; We pictured the night Joseph and Mary found the stable where they bore a son amongst the sheep, donkey and straw. All the stars were bright, the air crisp and calm, and no snow. The night was quiet, silent night. Today we walked the dogs and did the sheep chores; a clean barn, hay and an extra treat of grain for all. As is our custom, we then opened our stocking presents, gave the pets some toys and catnip and opened gifts from our our friends. Bottles of wine, candles, LCD headlamps that clip to our hats or snowmobile helmets for night time fun ((good one Lyle and Sandy!). Berndt and Nancy gave us a handmade journal; how delightful! This painting came to us wrapped in newspaper, from our dear friend Mary. Her past was extremely difficult and she has endured unspeakable horrors. But Mary has been working very hard these past years to overcome her obstacles and with a little help from her friends has come to realize a new and better life. Her talent for drawing and painting has been recognized in the community and she has received grants to study with a local artist, Peter Granucci. Mary painted this in oil, free hand, her first drawn deer and with hours of instruction and guidance she took it to the framery store for framing. She had saved her money for months to pay for the framing. She wants the painting to hang in Jack's deer camp and we will do that today. What a gift; of light, love and true thankfulness. Shine on Mary! Now we are packing up a lunch of venison stew and buttered bread to take into the woods. Yummy! We will be collecting seasoned firewood which we will cut, split and deliver to an elderly couple in MA who cannot afford to buy the wood but do need the warmth around them. I hope we can deliver the wood next weekend.

May the light of Christmas fill your life today and in the year to come!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter starts today?

The first day of winter begins tonight at 7:22 EST and we wouldn't know it! The bottom picture was taken last year this week, the middle picture is this morning. The sheep are baaing for green pastures and we actually have some. I gave them a little paddock that will entertain them for the day. It really is difficult for them to settle down to the winter schedule with temps in the 40's and 50's. Usually by now they are content with their limited loafing area, the rest of the fields under a blanket of snow. The top picture is of violets blooming at our front steps yesterday! From hibernating wildlife to song birds to flowers, everything is out of whack, not sure what month we are really in! No white Christmas for us ~ maybe for New Year's Eve?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

What if...

sheep eat too much cauliflower?

Friday, December 15, 2006

December weather report

This is the most wacky December I can remember of the past decade. It's been 60 degrees and 15 degrees all within 24 hours. Lightening, thunder, wind, and balmy days. Most discouraging is no snow. Yup, we are snow birds and there is really something lacking around the Christmas season when there is no snow on the ground or frost on the windowpanes. I took this picture the other night of our tree this year. We put one outside the kitchen and will feed the birds suet on it. It's their tree this year and ours to enjoy watching. At night the lights reflect into the first floor rooms with a colorful boost during the night. So we'll keep tapping our toes to the snow dance tune, perhaps a few flakes will grace us soon!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Great friends, great food!

I had a wonderful visit from my dear friend Debbie this past weekend. She came up to the farm to help me celebrate my birthday. Jack was off on a deer hunt so we had the place to ourselves. Saturday afternoon she kept me company at the barn for sheep chores. Then we retired to the house where we ate, drank and made merry! Debbie is a world class chef. She has studied and chefed all around the globe. Presently she owns and operates a restaurant in Rockport, MA called Beach Street Bistro which you can visit at http://www.beachstreetbistro.com. Her culinary delights are to die for! Saturday night we had lamb steaks, smashed potatoes and a brussel sprout and red pepper medley. The lamb and veggies were stove top sauted, the flame high and hot. It's great to watch a real chef in action...even better to enjoy the results! Sunday we traveled over to the VT Country Store for some food purchases; this is a great shopping destination in Rockingham, VT visit them at http://www.vermontcountrystore.com . Make sure you make Beach Street Bistro, Rockport, MA, just North of Boston on the coast, a destination in the summer months, May-October, you are going to think you've found heaven!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Three Hours of Peace and Fleece

This is the title of the hand spun and woven shawl pictured here. A group of women from CT (Anne, Myra, Fran, Peg & Sonya) were part of the Fleece to Shawl Competition at The NY State Sheep and Wool Festival also known as Rhinebeck. This shawl came in 3rd place! Anne, Fran, Peg and Sonya were the spinners, Myra was the weaver. Myra had contacted me initially as she was in charge of dyeing the raw fleece, a Border Leceister, with indigo, which would be the weft for the shawl. Myra hadn't dyed with indigo before and so I put together the dye and assists she would need for the project and through a couple of emails and telephone calls she had great success the first time through. Dyeing with indigo is truly magical as you see the fiber change color right before your eyes! It's one of the most freestyle dyeing excursions you'll ever have. The other picture shows the raw fleece dyed with indigo, prior to the competition. A stunning finished product; congratulations Indigo Gals!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dyeing with Black Walnuts

Here I am cracking black walnuts this weekend. A tedious job to be sure but great when conversing with a friend or watching the news! The top picture shows the color that can be obtained from dyeing with Black Walnut. My cousin gave me loads of them; enough to dye at least 30 pounds of fiber! So now I will let the nuts dry, crack off the hulls and store them for future use. Here is my recipe for dyeing protein fibers (wool & silk) with black walnut hulls. I mordant with alum sulfate first to better accept the dye to the fiber, although many say mordanting first when dyeing with Black Walnut is not necessary.

Use fresh or dry hulls from Black Walnut trees. They fall to the ground in early fall. The hull is bright green with a spongy, dark inner area when fresh, and dark brown when dried. With a knife, split the hull away from the inner nut. I let the hulls dry out first. Use 100% dried hulls to the weight of fiber, i.e. 1 pound of fiber, 1# of walnut hulls. Simmer the dried hulls with water (3:1 ratio; 3 gals water to 1# walnut hulls) until the dye liquor is dark, maybe an hour or so at 200%. Strain off the dye liquor, and throw out the hulls and residue. Add the fiber to the dyebath, rotating the goods continually for the first 30 minutes, bringing temperature up from 100 to 200 degrees. Maintain 200 degrees for another 45-60 minutes. Let fibers cool in the bath and remove to rinse. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Georgia's grace

Georgia wants to offer you a grace or two for your Thanksgiving Day dinner!

Lord, behold our family here assembled.
We thank You for this place in which we dwell,
For the love that unites us,
For the peace accorded us this day.
For the hope with which we expect tomorrow;
For the health, the work, the food
And the bright skies
that make our lives delightful.

Or a Scottish grace:

Scones and pancakes roun' the table,
Eat as much as ye are able,
Eat! Leave nothing!
Hallelujah! Amen

Enjoy the feast

and may your blessings

be plentiful!

Friday, November 17, 2006


This is a view from the barn this morning; layers of life from where I stand to the edge of the field...it's been a miserable wet spell again, in fact the weatherman said we are 60% above normal precipitation for the period from September 1st to date with 16+ inches of rain, the normal being around 9". But the winter berry is stunning in the gray drab of November. This time of year could appear bleak except what is colorful really stands out; the bluejays, the waxy leaves of the rhododendron, even the sky's reflection in the brook.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


A school board member up north was retiring after having served his district for nearly forty years. A young reporter interviewed him for an article. "In forty years," she said, " you must have seen a lot of changes in the way the schools are run."
"Yup" he said, "and I was against every one of them."
an excerpt from Could Have Been Worse by Rebecca Rule

Keep a sense of humor this election day!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Belly up to the bar, babes

Loved this view yesterday of the flock eating the morning feed. Lots of butts and happy hoofers!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Our Big Black Boogyman

One night back in April of 1998 we heard all sorts of automobile sounds outside on the road, we didn't think too much of it, someone just turning around perhaps. The following morning we found a black lab in our open shed, hiding in the back, not tied, but quite rattled, he sported no collar or tags. He absolutely would not leave the shed so we gave him a bed and a big bone to chew, called the humane society and they took him away. We felt his rightful owner may want him back. As it turned out we think his rightful owner was the one who left him the night before, not wanting to feed him anymore. We have an idea who but it doesn't matter anymore. When no one had claimed him after a week, we decided to adopt him. We were told he was untrainable and should be put to sleep. We named him Sidney. The next few years proved to be a real challange for even our steadfast dog care and skills.He stormed anyone who came by the house, friendships were jeopardized and even police reports filed! By then we were in too deep to turn back. I used to call him the big black boogyman. His alpha personality has subsided, and at 8 years old, he is a complete mush with those he knows and likes; he loves this farm and his life here. He loves the fall and winter most of all. Anyone who knows Sidney personally knows that a kiss on the lips is unavoidable; no matter how hard you try to avoid him, he's faster! We are thankful this great big crazy lab came into our life!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Happy Hookers!

I have just gotten back from Newtown Ct....this rug hooking show was the best! The weather today was simply miserable; rain, wind and more rain but the turnout was fabulous. Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth! Maryann was my cohort and thank you for all your help and good company! And Chloe, Maryann's Corgi, came along and gave us comic relief and canine company. The blue ribbon winner was awarded to an incredible hooked rug, long and narrow in shape, depicting the 4 seasons in a New England town, stunning! To see more photos check in at www.newtownhookedrugshow.com The Earthues web store at www.longridgefarm.com will be up and running soon....stay tuned!

Friday, October 27, 2006

On the road again....

I am off this afternoon for Newtown, CT to the 5th Annual Rug Hooking Show, to promote Earthues natural dyes. It's all day Saturday so if you are in the area or into rug hooking I hear it is a great place to see, buy and immerse yourself in the art of rug hooking! I am working on my first hooked rug and will take it with me. Although it is not a complicated art it requires a steady hand, good color sense and glasses! My rug (of course!) is a sheep bearing a floral stem in it's mouth and surrounded by various colors of background and shapes. It's fun to do, practice will improve my skills! Enjoy the weekend, whatever you may do! I know, I know...summer picture, but on the road nonetheless!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dyeing Uzbekistan Silk

I just returned from a two day workshop which encompassed natural dyeing, weaving and embroidery taught by artisans from Uzbekistan partnered with US artisans. For the dyeing portion of the workshop, Kathy Hattori from Earthues partnered with Modrim Matkorimov, Khiva Master Dyer, with language interpreting by Dilorom Nishanova. We dyed with raw materials as would be used in Uzbekistan. We used green leaves from apple, grape and camillia, onion skins, madder root, weld, cochineal bugs, black walnut hulls and indigo. We also had the good fortune to view a slideshow one evening of the exchange project as it unfolded in Uzbekistan where the US artisans first traveled to meet and work with the Khiva artisans. We were able to view and purchase exquisite textiles made by the Uzbek people from silk rugs, to fine silk fabrics, handwoven and dyed, to embroidered pieces. Uzbekistan is the third largest producer of silk in the world after China and Japan. It was a fantastic experience to both work and communicate directly with the Uzbek artisans, one none of us will soon forget!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hard frost

We got the first hard frost overnight with a crisp 26 degrees this morning. This heralds the beginning of winter. Buffalo, NY and parts of the upper mid-West received 24 inches of snow yesterday! I like the frost at this point; it kills the parasites the sheep leave behind in the fields, now we can give their fall de-wormer...nothing will survive these temps.
I am leaving shortly for a 2-day workshop with a number af artisans from Uzbekistan. I will, of course, be engaged in the natural dyeing portion of the weekend! I will share when I return.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Autumn peace

My walk with the dogs this morning was so peaceful in the woods and fields. The mist was still hovering over our ridge, the sun just beginning to poke through. We had some rain overnight so underfoot the leaves were soft, there was no interruption to the quiet; a few crows cawing in the pines and all the little birds we see across the winter months in the thickets, the nuthatch and chickadees, goldfinch and a few layovers. But other than those welcome sounds, there was no other. Welcome, Autumn peace.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dirty laundry

Sheep coats....I finally have a sytem down for washing and repairing. We change the coats throughout the year about 6 times. After shearing the sheep are in the smallest size and by the following shearing the largest. In between, they get torn and break the elastics so after a change, I wash and repair. Because I don't want to muddy up our washer with the grease and dirt, I first boil them for 5-10 minutes in my big dye pot. Then I hose them off right away, while still hot, to wash away the excess crud. Then they are "clean" enough to run through the washer. Once clean and dry, the sewing repairs are done and they are put back in the stack ready to go. All the sheep, including the lambs are coated now, and from here on until shearing, I watch each sheep to make sure their coat fits correctly as their fleece grows. Too tight mats the outer fiber as well as restricting the sheep's natural movement and too loose can cause the sheep to get hung up, legs caught etc.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Nature's palette

I bought a smashing violet colored Aster last week and when I set it at the back step, joining it with another new addition to our garden, the Black and Blue Anise Sage Salvia, with the backdrop of our favorite fall perennial the Turtleheads, the result was so rich I had to dye the hues on our yarns. The center skeins will be overdyed with Indigo to purple them up a shade, the results to follow!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sheep foot care

There are precious few sheep health care tips I can offer to shepherds whose outcome is more rewarding than this one. A few years ago one of our ewes went lame, and we madly read all the sheep books we had, called the vet, the whole nine yards. Then I re-read in one of our books about the gland located just above the hoof of a sheep's foot (you can see the light area just above the "toes"in the picture, Ashley has chosen to be our model today!) which functions to lubricate and eliminate friction between the toes, and occasionally the gland gets clogged with dirt and becomes infected. Lameness occurs rather quickly after the clogging begins. The first time I noticed this ailment, our ewe, Memphis was holding the affected leg up and when she did walk she was limping if not hobbling. So with a little hands on experience, we have found that 9 times out of 10, the reason for lameness is this clogged gland. Last week one of our wethers went lame, it wasn't an all day, every day lameness, but this week he became quite uncomfortable, holding the leg up, barely putting pressure on it when he walked, and carrying 225# on 3 legs takes alot of energy. We brought him back to the barn on Tuesday, and as a precaution, trimmed his hooves; they were fine. I did check the gland area and it seemed fine, so we turned him out to pasture again. But yesterday he was still really lame. Much of our greatest work is done in the dark of the night and last night was no exception! Both of us, independently, decided that the gland had to be the culprit, because he could kneel or lay down, but standing hurt. This morning when I checked on him he was lying in the pasture with his lame leg pointing out and he willingly let me prod around the area and inspect it. Tell me they don't know when help is needed! We brought him back to the barn, and while Jack held him, I really applied pressure to the gland, squeezing it down and out toward the opening, allowing the clog to undo. Then I poured a bit of peroxide over the gland area and we set him free. Within an hour Wetherby was walking with barely a limp, and tonight he is back to normal. It may take a couple of treatments to clear it up completely but it really is one of the simplest health issues to treat and offers almost instant improvement.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Holy fireplace!

Jack decided to replace the stones in the fireplace at the big barn...I stopped by to see what he was up to and yikes! These rocks ought to do the trick although they probably won't last more than a few years...tough granite but not firebrick!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Never forget....

Today our hearts go out to the thousands of families grieving the loss of loved ones in the attacks of September 11, 2001. We will never forget.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Oh man, oh man...

....it doesn't get better than this! As I went about my Sunday on the farm, that line kept popping into my head. "Oh man, oh man, it doesn't get better than this." My father was full of one liners and quotes and the like; it was his verbal arena. He was a dairy farmer all his adult life. Not a gentleman type farmer but full fledged, full time, milking 80-100 cows 24/7. We grew up on a farm in Amherst, NH on the Souhegan River that will always remain in my mind's eye, one of the prettiest farms in New England. We had lots of land, all along the river, bottom land; in fact I remember many years the river flooded all the fields right up to the knoll the house and barns set on. They named the place "Knockfierna"~knoll of truth. The radio was always on in the barn, set on a shelf down the center isle between the aisles of stanchions and gutter cleaners. In summer baseball was the big draw, Curt Gowdy the radio voice. Dad loved baseball, he said it paralled life (yup, one of those!). I remember walking through the barn mid-afternoon, it was empty as the cows were still out in the loafing lot before milking time and always the ball game was on in the barn. Perhaps Dad was haying, there were sheets on the line, crisp and fresh, cows laying in the glen under the maples, it was perfect, for that one blessed moment. And so today, here at Long Ridge it is sunny, a light breeze, no humidity, the livestock comfortable and healthy, crickets chirping as loud as the fans at Fenway...and I pause, look around and just have to say..."oh man, oh man it doesn't get better than this".

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dye dogs of summer

Sidney, the lab and Shelley, the sheltie were hard to keep away from the dye pots!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Color Madders!

Here are more splashes of color from our Earthues workshop!

Monday, September 04, 2006


I stood out at the edge of the lane that runs past the barns this weekend, watching the sheep graze. Then my gaze drew in like a telephoto lens, zooming in to the closer view. I saw my Sheltie laying under the bench by the barn, I saw the planters of flowers I had planted in Spring, now full with bloom, my little studio and the pots hanging on hooks, waiting for a new dye pot of color. Layers...layers of life, interests and lifestyle; all of it blending together in one view; my view. I find that when I stop and take in the immediate surroundings, no matter where I might be gazing, the depth, quality and richness is far greater than what I first saw. A walk in the fields and woods can offer far more vision than merely the grass and trees. My cousin took this picture on a hike this summer; simple, yet such depth of texture, color and feeling. How we view the space around us and how we choose to maintain it can have a profound effect on us individually and collectively. Look around!! Do you like what you see? Do you see what you like?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Color, culture and cloth

We had a fantastic workshop with Michele Wipplinger of Earthues here at the farm last week. She arrived in the dark of the night, I was so happy to see her safe and sound. Tuesday morning we hit the ground running, unpacking her wares and setting up and by 10 AM the group had gathered for what was 3 days of lecture and dyeing in the European tradition. Michele taught the process of hue gradation as she was taught by Jean Dufour in France who developed the technique many years ago. Jean Dufour taught Michele the process using only the eye, whereas we were given some actual recipes to follow. The outcome on Thursday was a rainbow of 9 hues with 5 shades within that hue. Natural dyeing has as intense a range of color as any chemical dye ever hoped to have! We feasted on lunches by Berndt and Nancy. I let them choose the menu for each lunch and it was a culinary delight! The weather was perfect all week so we were able to serve outside buffet style up in the garden. Thursday evening Michele treated those who could stay to a slide show of her travels to Mali, Thailand, China, Guatemala and beyond. I watched our winter sheep barn transform to a dye house then an evening movie house complete with an evening buffet...it was marvelous! When the winds of winter are whistling around and the sheep are nestled in this same barn I will remember these colorful days of dyeing; ethnic cloth from around the world, the stone walls awash with indigo from oxidizing skeins, tales of distant cultures and the color that surrounds us.

Monday, August 21, 2006

School uniforms

We have had a good laugh since Berndt remarked the other day about the sheep coats. Jack and I were putting larger coats on some of the sheep and 3 of the six lambs are now coated. We were talking to one of the lambs as we put her coat on and Berndt told the lamb " it's just part of your schooling here at Long Ridge Farm, you have to wear a school uniform". How true it is! The lambs took to the coats without batting an eye.


We have had the good fortune this summer of connecting with Nancy Eakins and Berndt Zabel. They have moved into the cabin here at the farm and accepted the position of assisting shepherds! They most recently came from Scotland where they worked and taught in a Rudolph Steiner community environment. Nancy is originally from Washington state and Berndt is from Germany. The sheep took to them instantly and we think vise versa! Berndt plays the penny whistle for the sheep and they quite enjoy that...it is an alto flute so the notes are quite soothing to them!