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.

Goodbye, Goslings

January 16, 2017


Yesterday I woke up to an email from a woman inquiring about my Pilgrim goslings. They have been on Craigslist for months. I answered, not thinking much of it — too many of these inquiries are from folks who say accusingly, after a lengthy correspondence, “You’re four hours from me!” as if I did not have my location posted front and center in my ad.

However, to my surprise, at 3:00 the woman and her husband arrived at the farm and bought the girls. They had driven three hours round-trip. (Since they were a half hour early, I never got a nice final family portrait: the dark photo above, of the geese resting and warming their feet in a cow stall between forays in the snow, was snapped with my cell phone as I mucked the barn.)

The woman was an experienced goose keeper and told me about her flock of Toulouse and African geese, which live on a spring-fed, never-freezing small pond in a fenced pasture. She is going to look for an unrelated Pilgrim gander. I can’t imagine a nicer home for my goslings.

It’s never easy for me to sell animals. It’s not that I think I’m perfect in the husbandry department; it’s that I know I will always try my best. When I was a child, the 1877 novel Black Beauty, the “autobiography” of a horse moving through successive owners, each worse than the last, made a huge impact on me. (As it did on the world, inspiring the animal welfare movement.)  I always worry for the future of my babies.

For example, my hay man has asked me to sell him various lambs and cattle many times. I never will. Rick is a hustler and a broker. He is a good person but to him animals are a commodity to be bought low and sold high. I understand this business-like mindset but it is not mine.

Meanwhile, it must be said that people who love geese may occupy an alternate universe entirely. When I sold the 2015 grown goslings, again a married pair came to the farm. This couple was older. Again it was the woman who was the goose expert, speaking to me knowledgeably about goose care, telling me of the goose house in the backyard. Again the husband was entirely silent. But in this case the gentleman had rather a hunted, desperate look.

When his wife went to the car to get her cash, I asked him kindly, “You’re not a goose fan?”

“I like geese all right, but not in the living room!”

“In the living room?” I was confused.

“She likes to sit on the sofa with them to watch TV!”

I could only blink, trying to imagine the scene. The woman had told me she had three ganders. With my two females, she would have a flock of five big birds. On the sofa. In the living room. Watching television.


Alarm bells went off in my mind, but the geese were already loaded in their car. I told myself that though the conditions might be eccentric, the girls would certainly be cherished.

Still, I was very happy yesterday to hear about the fenced pasture and the spring-fed pond.

More Second Floor

January 13, 2017

This has been a hectic week. Students have been falling like nine-pins to flu with 103° fevers, the weather has see-sawed with high winds, and as the problems have multiplied I’ve been constantly late and rushing. The barn water hydrants froze. The DVD drive on my old computer — which I need for teaching — failed. My car battery unexpectedly went dead. That day I drove my truck to work, trying to outsmart the faulty brakes’ desire to lock up on any slippery surface. Think fast!

On Wednesday at morning chores, the 50-mph wind was shrieking around the barn, scattering the hay put out for the animals into the air and tearing a flapping strip from the housewrap on the house. I thought glumly that there would be no progress that day. However by early afternoon the wind had died, and when I arrived after work I saw the men had been busy on the second floor.

I braved the ice and my serious fear of heights to climb the ladder to see.


They had used the brief lull in the winds to lift up all the interior wall panels…


… as well as the last pieces of the exterior walls.


A few of the wall panels had been nailed in. I tiptoed around, greeting even the most mundane spaces with delight. Hello, linen closet!


As I looked out the window of our future bedroom I felt tears pricking in my eyes. It’s really coming true.


Second Floor North

January 10, 2017


When I got down to the farm after teaching yesterday, I found the builders hard at work. I was a bit surprised, given the cold.

“I didn’t know if you’d be working today!” I called up to them.

“Why not?”

“Well, 18 or 20 below zero —”

“Ah, that’s nothing,” Mike said.

“It’s when there’s wind that it’s a problem,” explained Nick. “We can deal with cold.”

They were fitting in place the north wall of the second floor. In the photo below Mike and Nick are standing in the frame of Jon and Amanda’s bedroom window.


There was the usual attention to precision, setting up a pry bar to push for the last 1/8″ for a perfect fit.


The house currently looks quite peculiar . . .


. . . and when anxiety flares, I remind myself to trust the design. However, over the years my spatial sense has been proved dead wrong so often that I check the drawings anyway.


Oh, okay.

The weather report called for snow and 40 mph winds this afternoon. While I mucked the barn, the men used the boom truck to start lifting more wall sections to the second floor. Nothing can be lifted when the wind is blowing.


Just as they finished, the clouds parted for a brief moment of sunshine.


I took it for a good omen.

Yahoo for Moxie!

January 9, 2017



Good news. The email arrived. Moxie is in calf! Way to go, Pee-Wee!


I could have sent a blood test in for Elsa but that would have required wrestling a halter onto her and calling my friend Alison (a nurse) to draw blood. I’ll just watch Elsa’s figure.

Moxie is older and more fragile and now that I am sure she is pregnant, I know when to wean the calf, Mel Gibson.

Since I didn’t see any breeding, all I can guess is that calving will fall between mid-June and mid-July. I will be glad of the warm weather, especially as it is likely that Moxie will come down with milk fever again. (Always easier to fight a deadly metabolic imbalance when you’re not also fighting sub-zero temperatures!)

-18° This Morning

January 9, 2017

Yesterday morning it was -14° F. Tomorrow we are due to have 40 mph winds with snow.

This is perfectly normal for the High Peaks in January — in fact, when the weather strays too far from its appointed rounds, I worry. However, that does not mean I enjoy the cold, the wind, the dark, the frozen pipes, the ice, the bad roads. This year I have the added anxiety of trying to have a house built in this weather.

To cheer myself up yesterday, I counted how long it would be until the Great Melt in mid-April. Gee, only a little more than three months! That will pass quickly!

Then I remembered that my long, luxurious summer vacation from school is also three months. Maybe it won’t be as quick as I hope.