Dogs Before and After

February 16, 2017

The dogs got haircuts yesterday. Here they are on a walk Tuesday.


And here they are yesterday afternoon, after I crept through a snowstorm at 30 mph to bring them home after work.


DH is always distressed at these times. “I don’t really like the pointy look,” he says, wincing. Lucy, however, thinks that when they are shaved down, they look like endurance athletes.

I am purely practical. I am congratulating myself for remembering to pack Toby’s winter coat and Stash’s calf jacket.

* * *

I am enjoying being free of one of the extra jobs I took on this year. So sad: no link to the school server here at the farm! Oh dear, I can’t do the work for six days! Having this extra hour every morning feels almost like vacation. It certainly makes my days less frantic.

Our Own Movie Star

February 15, 2017

I think I must be exhausted both physically and emotionally. Otherwise I can hardly explain my reaction to this little video profile made by a film student and fellow skier at Lucy’s college.

I watched it and began to cry. Though I often get teary with pride over our children, this time I could not stop. I pressed my eyes and wept and wept. DH was alarmed. I was standing in the living room and he folded me in a hug, patting my shoulder in bewilderment and concern.

I’m really quite happy! And of course, proud of our girl.

Down at the Farm

February 14, 2017

unknownWe are safely down at the farm. I packed all weekend. DH got home late Saturday night and we had a snowstorm Sunday. Due to upgrades being done on behalf of the group renting the house, we had no hot water for four days. On Monday morning before work I boiled water on the stove to wash my hair at the kitchen sink. DH looked up when I walked upstairs with my head wrapped in a towel. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have been Denys Finch-Hatton!”

Instead, I washed his.

After classes I put in about four more hours of packing, arranging sheets and towels for all the guest beds, figuring out what I would need for the next ten days of teaching, loading our car and the truck. We drove down with the anxious dogs, boxes, and bags. DH and I were both exhausted. I told him I would quickly do barn chores and then come back to unpack and get us settled. I had brought sandwich fixings for an easy cold supper.

However, when I got to the barn I found that Pixie had lambed four days early! A pair of healthy, strong twins: the ram 10 lbs, 9 oz; the ewe 9 lbs, 13 oz. Pixie is a small ewe (thus her name). She also has lingering hind-end weakness from the mysterious illness that almost killed her in 2015; her back legs stagger. Any other breeder would have culled her in 2015. However, she has since given me two beautiful sets of twins. I love a happy ending.

Due to packing the house all weekend, I had not yet had time to set up the barn for lambing. Luckily, I had gathered the materials and cleaned the lambing pen. I scooped the cold wet lambs out of the big stall where they were in danger of being trampled. Pixie followed anxiously. I toweled the lambs dry, dipped their navels, and slipped them into flannel jackets. I set up the heat lamp. I milked Moxie into a lamb bottle and gave them each a swig (they probably didn’t need it, but getting an ounce of warm milk into the belly of a lamb born in winter is a reliable jump-start).

At last the little family was safe for the night…


… and I could walk up the hill in the darkness to the apartment. Walking home from chores in falling snow! How great is that?

This morning I was in a wonderful mood. I had survived the big push. The head of maintenance had not apologized for the four-day lack of hot water (“There must have been a miscommunication,” he wrote coolly), and none of the organizers of the rental had thanked me for enduring the inconvenience of packing our possessions, but it was done. Done, done, done! Yay! Onward!

Then I opened my email to find complaints that I had closed the doors to two rooms, not packing up our bedroom or dismantling my office.

This was a last straw. As soon as our house is finished, I will never live in school housing again. DH’s job requires him to have housing on campus. I have told him I will visit him there.


Stealing Bases

February 11, 2017


When I was a child, I played baseball behind the neighbors’ house, softball during school recesses, and then briefly on a team. My mother taught me to catch, throw, and hit when I was in third or fourth grade. (In our family, our mother was the athlete.) I still have my mitt with my name printed with Mom’s distinctive capital letters in red permanent marker along the thumb. I’m pretty sure I could still direct a solid hit to right field.

One of the most nerve-racking things for me was the question of stealing bases. So much glory, but also the opportunity to ruin everything. I would stand with one sneaker safely touching the base, wiping my sweaty hands on my shorts, my heart pounding. Should I go? Go now? Go NOW?

The past few weeks have reminded me of those days. I have had a lot of school work, many deadlines. Would I pull it off? Could I get in — “safe!” — before the throw? My heart has been pounding. I have been waking up at 4 AM.

A school group has contracted to rent this house from the school. For the past week, we have had workmen here every day to install new water heaters for these and future visitors. On Tuesday morning, alarms were accidentally triggered and went off all over the house until they were finally disabled at 7 PM. On Wednesday a technician came and set them off again, to try to discern the cause of the problem, with no luck. Thursday there was jack-hammering through the basement wall. Each day the driveway has been filled with trucks and the house with men’s voices. Yesterday the water was shut off all day. Today I went to take a belated shower and there is no hot water.

Between these things I have had the farm, my regular job, plus a couple of public performances. I am always nervous giving speeches, flooded with adrenalin. Mentally I wipe my hands on my shorts. OK — go for it! Run!

DH has been away on a business trip. This weekend I have to pack up this house (not our bedroom or my office, which I will lock) to vacate it for the week. I am emptying the refrigerator, the freezer, the pantry. Taking our jackets, coats, and boots from the mudroom. Putting away a few special items. Clearing out a couple of closets. Removing all trace of us from bathrooms. Doing loads of laundry. Counting sheets and towels, arranging for cleaning, paper supplies, and soap for the guests. Figuring out what DH and I and the dogs need for eight days away. Packing my files and books for teaching.

We will be staying down at the farm in the garage apartment. It will be a little cramped, but fine. I’m trying to look at it as an opportunity for DH to recognize that the garage would not have been (as he believes) the perfect option for our forever home. And not focus on what this move also is: a lot of extra work for me.

My first lambs are due starting February 15 — four days from now. I have a lot of chores to get ready.

My heart is pounding. All right! Go, go, go!


Hamilton in the Big City!

February 5, 2017


Ten days ago, I had an unbelievable opportunity. I went to New York City with DH (first shocker — I never travel) and we attended the blockbuster musical, Hamilton!  Never in a million years did I think I would ever be able to see this show.

DH had been presented with two tickets by two extremely kind and generous friends who wanted to give him a splashy evening in the big city. I think they knew very little would pry his bride off the farm except the opportunity to see this wonderful smash hit.

Once we arrived in Manhattan, DH thought we should go out to dinner.

I was too excited to eat. “Let’s just walk to the theatre,” I begged. “I can eat pretzels!”

DH and wisdom prevailed and we went to a simple chain restaurant.

“We have tickets for a show!” I informed the waitress eagerly.

DH shook his head with a smile. “What a hayseed.”

Though at my insistence we arrived at the theatre forty-five minutes early, there were already twin lines snaking down the block in each direction. We had terrific seats. By the time the curtain went up, every seat was filled.


During the fifteen-minute intermission, every woman in the audience, apparently, including me, was in a line for the ladies’ room. The line wound through the theatre in a circular pattern that doubled back, so none of us would see quite how long the wait actually was. It was exactly like a cattle chute. We inched along the corridors.

As is my wont, to keep up the group’s restive spirits, I began chatting and joking with people in the line nearby. Someone asked a question about the history behind the show — and I was soon giving a cheerful mini-lecture on Alexander Hamilton, Lafayette, Aaron Burr, and George Washington. An hour later as DH and I were leaving the theatre, a woman in the crowd touched my arm and turned me to meet her husband. “Look, honey! It’s the woman from the ladies’ room that I was telling you about!” She said kindly that she would never forget the terrific high school teacher who had taught her medieval history, and she was sure my students would similarly remember me. (Teachers: we get the job done!)

The show was exactly as fabulous as all reports said it would be. DH and I had a wonderful time.


The next day, as DH went off to an early meeting, I met my lovely niece for breakfast. I don’t get to see Susanna nearly often enough. She is smart, funny, and has so much on the ball it would be intimidating if she were not also so kind and thoughtful. (And if I did not have photographs of her clowning in a shower wearing a steamer pot lid on her head at age 12.)


All in all, it was a terrific 18 hours in the city. I’ll have to go back again — in another decade or so.

A Great Finish

January 23, 2017



On Sunday Lucy had one more race. This was the Harry K. Eldridge Memorial, a race commemorating a former head of our school and tireless promoter of nordic skiing who died in the 1980s at only 50 years old. Lucy was born long after Harry’s death but has grown up hearing about the race and regularly skiing “Harry’s hill.” She also has known Harry’s widow, Betty (on whose fields I pastured my sheep for years), all her life.

Lucy went out fast and kept it up for all 10k. In the end she was beaten by a racer in her mid-20s and came in second. Here she is being interviewed at the finish…


… and smiling at me. It was her third straight day of racing.



As the top junior (under 20) racer of the weekend, Lucy won the honor of having her name inscribed on the Harry K. Eldridge memorial cup.


Betty has had serious health problems but was able to be at the ceremony and give Lucy a hug.


What a weekend!  I was very happy for my girl.


Home for a Race Weekend

January 22, 2017

On Thursday Lucy came home for a ski race weekend, bringing her college ski team for dinner. It had been a very hectic teaching week for me so arranging to feed sixteen required some fancy footwork and cooking at 5 AM.

I made a big pan of vegetarian chili and a big pan of black beans and rice for burritos, baked two platters of cornbread, prepared a big bowl of salad, and baked two pans of brownies (one with nuts, one without) to go alongside a gallon of ice cream. Lucy was anxious that I’d made too much. I told her calmly that I’d been feeding crowds for thirty years and the worst thing at a party was to have bad food or not enough.

The kids poured into the house.


In under an hour, every scrap was vacuumed up except a few leaves of lettuce and a lone slice of cornbread.


I was, of course, teaching on Friday, the first day of the college carnival races. Lucy had a great day in the sprint. She was the top-scoring racer for her team, the St. Lawrence Saints.


Yesterday I went out to the course to watch her 5k race. In general, I am the behind-the-scenes sherpa for Lucy’s sporting events. I drive carpools, I fix the food. DH drives the hours to attend. However, this race was almost literally in our backyard and I wanted to cheer for my girl.

Here she is, warming up with stretches before her number is called for the start.


Ready, set…


“Go, Lulu!” I screamed as she skied off into the woods. I found I had tears in my eyes.

Fifteen minutes later, she flew back into the stadium, skiing hard for the finish. Here she is after surrendering her bib.


She stopped to speak to her coach, who was pleased.


Lucy’s secret goal was to finish in the top 20 (out of 130) college racers in the northeast. This is a big reach for a freshman in her first college carnival races.

She did it both days.


Sports mean little to me. (I did not grow up in a sports-oriented family. I played baseball in neighborhood backyards and tennis at the beach.) However, hard work means a lot — and Lucy has worked and worked.

I am so happy for her.