Friday, June 22, 2012

Summertime and the livin' is not easy

(This is what happens when they see me turn on the water-they're ready and waiting!)
This week has been hot, hot, hot!  Everyone is seeking shade and in the case of the alpaca boys, it's time to get out the swimming pool.  The boys came running when they saw me carry the pool out to their field.  Of course, there is no actual swimming and the pool is so tiny, they couldn't even if they wanted.  As far as I can tell, the main goal seems to be seeing how much water can be splashed out of the pool.  The biggest boy, Prince, also has a little trick where he puts just his front half in the pool and lays down, crushing the side of the pool down and then all the water runs out.

(Think they need a bigger pool?)
Just in case anyone thinks that shepherding is all bucolic scenes of sitting out in the field with the sheep,  peacefully listening to their bells tinkling, picture having to catch, halter, drag from the pen, give medicine to and then shampoo the dirty bottoms of four or five lambs, twice a day!  That's been the routine for me most of this week.  A few of the greedier lambs managed to get more than their share of the grain and the consequences were unpleasant for all!  When the weather is this hot, the last thing they need is a dirty bottom because the risk of fly strike is so high.  (If  you don't know what fly strike is, consider yourself lucky.  Google it, if you dare.)  So, between trying to get pastures mowed and catching up on everything else, I've been washing the problem lambs morning and evening.  Because of said activities, I've had no less than 3 showers and as many changes of clothing, every day.  Finally, this morning, it seems that we have conquered that problem and everyone is back to normal.  Those of you watching the lamb-cam during evening feeding may have noticed that my lambs are definitely not halter-broken!  It's been a bit of a rodeo every time I've had to halter one of them.  Some of those little lambs can leap higher than my head and are much stronger than they look and I promise I'm not torturing them, regardless of what it looks like! 

(After his shower and before mine. If you think he looks bad, you should see me!)
It's hard for me to believe that this is the real beginning of summer.  It feels as though it's been summer for many months already.  As always, the weekend seems to be full of must-do chores -  drenching the ewes, moving them to fresh pasture, drenching the lambs, finishing planting the garden, (no, it's still not done) and always, always more mowing.  If we are really lucky, we might get to take the boat out on Sunday evening, for the first time this year.  Buying the boat came with our resolution to relax more, have a little leisure time once in a while.  How's that working for us?  Um, not too well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Squammie - Part 2

(beautiful woods all around)

I found it hard to have any idea how big Squam really was because it's spread out amongst tall trees, around the lake.  I'll admit to being lost and clueless about how to get where I was supposed to be a good bit of the time.  We were given a map with all the activity and class sites numbered, which did help some but I don't think I got the lay of the land until one of the last days there.  The good news for me was that there were always people around me who seemed to know where they were going, so I just followed along! 

Friday morning was free time and I spent much of it sitting on the screened porch of our cabin, knitting and soaking in the peacefulness.  Going down to sit on the dock was another enjoyable activity.  There's something so calming about looking out over the lake, but I couldn't bring myself to even think about swimming in that cold, clear water.  One of my cabin-mates, who is a New Englander and used to such shockingly cold water, did go in for a short swim. I was perfectly content to watch from close by!

Friday afternoon and Saturday morning was my Botanical Printing class, taught by Maya Donefeld.  I'd been reading Maya's blog for a while and my general impression was that she was a really nice person, but I just wasn't sure what to expect from the class.  Actually, I wasn't even sure what botanical printing was!  Once again, I was blessed with a wonderful, encouraging, nurturing teacher.  There were so many true artists in the class that I was intimidated before I began.  I don't have the ability to sketch objects, so I struggled to draw something meaningful, but simple (and recognizable!).  It was really helpful to have half the class on Friday afternoon and the other half on Saturday morning because it gave me time to think about what I could do.  When I showed my idea to Maya on Saturday morning and asked for help figuring out the positive/negative aspect of it, she showed enough enthusiasm to keep me going.  Though my design was very simplistic, I was happy with it in the end.  One of my cabin-mates encouraged me to put it out on the project table in the dining hall and it was so gratifying to see that others liked it, though they didn't know me or that I was standing where I could see their reactions.  So, another beautiful and affirming class experience for me.  Maya gave a wonderful book talk on Friday evening about her recently published book, "Reinvention".  It's a beautifully done book and has some great projects for using "rescued materials", as Maya calls them.  There were several of us in her class who were in the midst of or had already experienced reinventing themselves, so it seemed to all come together in that way that life's messages often do.  (Maya has a post about our class up on her blog today, with lots more pictures.)
(pathways to everywhere)
(the Playhouse-classroom for Botanical Prints)

(twinkle lights - everywhere)
(always a warm hearth to welcome us)

These wooden wheelbarrows are used to deliver ice to the real, old-fashioned ice boxes that are in each cabin.  The ice is harvested from the lake during the winter, packed in sawdust in the ice house and used by campers during the summer.  Just one more touch that made Squam special.  Besides making ice deliveries, every day the "wood boys" (young men summer staffers) came around to all the cabins, cleaned out the fireplaces, laid a fresh fire for us to have that evening and loaded up the wood boxes.  The young women came each day to clean up and leave fresh towels if we needed them. I'm not sure how they go about hiring their summer staff, many of whom are from foreign countries, but they've done a wonderful job.  There was not one single staffer that I encountered who wasn't friendly and polite, always smiling and speaking when they saw us.

By now, I'm sure you can see why I'm hoping to return to Squam next year.  It was such a positive experience and my advice to you is to start saving your money!  It's well worth it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm officially a Squammie-Part 1

(beautiful window in the dining hall)
Simply put, it was the best.  All I could ever hope for and then some.  I kept hearing about how "magic" it was at Squam, how it would renew my spirit to be in the company of such like-minded women and that the lake itself would be a balm to my soul.  It was all of that and more.  Where to begin?

As I expressed here before I left, I had some insecurities about going because I wouldn't know anyone and I was afraid I might win some kind of award for being the oldest camper there.  Within minutes of arriving there, both fears were put to rest.  Even for someone as introverted as me, making new friends was easy.  All I had to do was talk to the person sitting next to me at dinner or in one of my workshops.  There were women of all ages and it became clear that age was not a significant factor in my being able to connect with others.

(Our little cabin home - Sheltering Pines)
So, let me start at the beginning.  Mike dropped me off at Squam around 3 o'clock on Wednesday and when I walked into the registration area, I was greeted warmly, given my Squam tote (with goodies inside) and then one of the camp staffers put me in a golf cart, with my heavy, heavy bags, and took me to my cabin.  Two of my cabin-mates were already there and it felt so natural to start right in getting to know each other.  When the dinner bell rang a few hours later, we'd already shared a glass of wine and were settled into our home for the next few days.  After dinner there was a short welcoming program and introduction of all the teachers.  Instead of having the teachers tell about themselves, they were asked to relate something about a person who had been a significant influence in their lives. Not only did it introduce us to the teachers, but gave us some valuable insight into who they really were. At that point, I was already relaxing into the Squam atmosphere.

(our dock)

(the view from our dock)
(Figuring it out)
Thursday was my photography workshop, titled Spirit Session, with Thea Coughlin. It just might be one of my all time favorite life experiences.  Thea is so warm and encouraging, she was able to ease me into believing that, yes, I could learn to operate my camera in manual mode!  I have a long way to go, but finally I am not so intimidated by my camera.  I tend to function on a much more intuitive level than a logical, planned method and those aperture, f-stop, shutter speed, iso numbers were Greek to me.  Finally, the light blub in my head has begun to glimmer in the darkness.  It's going to take me a long time to understand and apply it all, but at long last I'm headed in the right direction.

(Thea,  explaining.  She's the best!)
Early in the class, Thea shared a personal story about how her mother had died young and how much she wished she had more pictures of her.  Her mom was like so many of us, always not wanting to be in the picture because our hair isn't right or we look too fat or whatever (fill in the blank) and that she never once had looked at a picture of her mom and made those judgements.  I sat there and thought about the fact that my children and grandchildren would have to look hard to find a family picture with me in it because of those same insecurities.  As women, I believe we are so hard on ourselves and it's a difficult habit to break.  I'm resolving to do better.  I gained so much from the class that didn't even involve photography.  It's so interesting to see how we end up being just where we need to be.  I read a post by Maya months ago (and am unable to find right now, but will try to link to later) and it was the main reason I chose to take this class. I'm so grateful I had the opportunity spend time with Thea.

I'm not at all sure how it was done, but somehow, Elizabeth, who organizes Squam, managed to place me with some of the best cabin-mates possible.  The time and experiences I had with them was so comfortable.  It felt as if I was spending time with old friends, not brand new ones.  You know how we always say "let's be sure to keep in touch" ?  Well, I truly believe that it will happen with these women and I hope to be reunited with them at Squam next year.

I have much, much more to share about Squam, but will save it for another post.  Next up, my Botanical Printing class with Maya Donenfeld.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I do know that was not the best blog post earlier today.  I was postponing the inevitable, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought there was no way to combine a post about my high-on-the-mountain-top experience at Squam with the painful experience on coming home. I'm going to just get it out now and then concentrate on giving you my experience at Squam in a day or two.

About two hours after we returned to the farm on Sunday night, my precious Olive died.  I have cried more than I thought possible for an animal.  It feels especially heavy because it is due to my negligence that she's gone.  She had done a stellar job raising a set of twin lambs, so I can only assume that she was a heavy milker. She had gotten quite thin and I debated on pulling the lambs off before our trip, but decided it would only make things more complicated around here while we were gone.  I opted to wait until we were back from New England.  As we left the Cincinnati airport parking lot and headed toward home, I received a text from our farm sitter saying #1016 was acting very lethargic and not eating.  At first, I didn't even realize that it was Olive because I never even look at her number. She had done what she could to make Olive comfortable, even calling another veterinarian for advice.  When we got to the farm, we went straight to the barn and found Olive very weak, lying in front of the fan.  I gave her a dose of a nutritional drench and tried to coax her to eat and drink, to no avail.  And then, just like that, she was gone.  I still can hardly believe it.  I don't know if the heat from that day stressed her or if something else was going on.  We decided not to take her to the diagnostic lab for necropsy, so we will never know.  In any case, the end result is the same.  She is gone.

As we always do, when we have a rare trip away from the farm together, Mike and I spend a lot of time talking about how complicated our lives are and if we should be trying harder to simplify things by not having so many animals, a smaller garden, a smaller farm, just less to take care of in general, etc., etc.  Frankly, there are times when we both feel overwhelmed and it's nearly always in the springtime when everything is more labor intensive.  We spend most weekends working away trying to keep everyone and everything healthy and feeling like we are just not doing enough. This sad event has caused us to begin that discussion again. Right now, I'm specifically feeling like a failure as a shepherd.  It's very hard for me to lose an animal, though I think after all these years of raising sheep I can be fairly pragmatic about the cycle of life and death on the farm, but losing one that I've bottle raised and grown so attached to feels too painful. So, lots of soul searching going on here.

I promise the next post will be all about how wonderful Squam was and it will make you all want to start saving your money so you can go next year.

Greetings from Squam

(Thanks to Windtream's terrible service, this is the best I can give you for a picture. Guess a trip to Starbucks - 12 miles away - is in my future, if I'm going to post any Squam pictures. Just thought I'd show you what I'm dealing with here.)
 **I began this post while I was at Squam, but internet service was spotty, at best, and I decided to wait until I was home again to tell about my Squammie experience.  Alas, since returning home, I've had a very sad event happen and it's going to take me a few days to be able to write about it.  I hope you'll forgive the delay.  I promise you, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about my time at Squam and I'm looking forward to going again next year.

Good morning from beautiful Squam Lake!  This is my free morning to do whatever I like and I've been sitting on the screened porch of my cabin knitting since early this morning.  The sun is finally shining today.  We've had clouds and showers the whole time I've been here, but it has done nothing to put a damper on the spirit of creativity that seems infused in this place.  I don't believe I have ever been in such a diverse group of women who are so open and sharing.  I'm not sure how many women are here this weekend, but from the noise in the dining hall I'd guess at least 100, most likely more! (turns out it was 200)

Squam Art Workshops are held at Rockywold-Deephaven camp, close to Holderness, New Hampshire.  It's a very old, historic family camp, in the New England tradition.  It was begun in the late 1800's and is one of the few still operating under the same philosophy as when it began.  There is nothing luxurious about this camp setting.  The cabins are wood, un-insulated and fairly rustic.  But, the beauty of the woods and lake, the comraderie of like-minded women and wonderful home cooked meals make up for any lack of posh facilities. I feel as though I'm suspended in time and can't help thinking about all the generations of families who've come here during New England summer

**I have so much, much more to tell you all.   (This is not meant to be a teaser post...I know how some people hate that.)  I'll be back in a day or so to give you the whole story.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Postcards from Maine

(Camden harbor)
Everywhere you look it's a 'Kodak moment'.  Just one beautiful vista after another.  We've had a great time exploring the coast of Maine.  Today is the day I begin my Squam experience.  I have no idea if there will be internet connection at Squam, so if you don't see any new posts here, I'll catch you up on Monday.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


(the view from our window - Penobscot Bay - Belfast, Maine)
It seems so long ago that I sent in my registration for Squam and then kept my fingers crossed that I would actually get in.  And now, the time is here and I'm excited and nervous and worried, all at the same time.  Getting ready to leave the farm for more than a few days is such a complicated procedure.  Usually, by the time I'm in the car, heading down the farm lane, I've decided that it's just not worth it and I'm never doing it again.  Once I'm away, I usually don't worry - until I start home and then it all comes back to me.  This time we have an actual farm sitter with animal experience, so I'm trying to just relax into this little space of rare vacation time.

I've been reading about Squam on lots of different blogs for several years now and it would seem to be a magical place.  I can't wait to experience it.  I won't know another soul when I get there on Wednesday, which makes me a little anxious and is forcing me out of my comfort zone.  Though I'm likely to be one of the oldest Squamies (as they refer to themselves), I'm ready for the adventure. 

In the meantime, Mike and I have taken a few days to explore the coast of Maine.  Today we made the obligatory pilgrimage to the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport.  I was here many years ago and it has sure expanded a lot in that amount of time.  Tomorrow we'll go to Camden to see the harbor there and I'm going to check out a new yarn store, "The Cashmere Goat".  Very unusual name!  Mainly, we're here to relax, see a bit of the coast and have as many lobster rolls as we can stand to eat.  While I'm at Squam, Mike and a friend will be hiking a small part of the Appalachia Trail.

I'm going to try posting some pictures in the next few days, but am unsure about internet status after I get to Squam.  If that plan fails, I'll move on to Plan B and post when I get back to the farm. At any rate, more to come!