Monday, March 23, 2020

more on monday

More snow.

More soup.

More plans.

I hope you are all keeping well.

And staying home.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

walking on

An inspiration forever.

If you aren't familiar with the work of Dr. Catherine Hamlin - or even if you are - 
I recommend watching the documentary A Walk to Beautiful.

The following excerpts are from the obituary written by
Carolyn Hardy, Chief Executive of the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation

"The world is mourning the death of Australia’s most renowned obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Catherine Hamlin AC, who died, age 96 at her home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday March 18th, 2020.

Catherine, together with her late husband Dr Reginald Hamlin OBE, co-founded Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, a healthcare network treating women who suffer from the debilitating effects of an obstetric fistula – a horrific childbirth injury.

Before the Hamlins arrived in Ethiopia, patients with obstetric fistulas who sought medical help at the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital were turned away as they had no cure for their humiliating condition. The Hamlins had limited knowledge about obstetric fistulas as they had never had to deal with one before. Confronted by the tragic plight of women with obstetric fistula, and never having seen this condition in Australia, Catherine and Reg had to draw on medical literature from the 1850s to develop their own surgical technique. The technique they perfected is still used today.

Over the past 61 years, more than 60,000 Ethiopian women suffering with an obstetric fistula have received life-changing reconstructive surgery and care, thanks to the Hamlins’ vision.

Catherine was most proud of her Hamlin Model of Care – holistic healing that is part of every patient’s treatment. “We don’t just treat the hole in the bladder, we treat the whole patient with love and tender care, literacy and numeracy classes, a brand-new dress and money to travel home.”

Today, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a healthcare network of over 550 Ethiopian staff – many trained by Catherine – servicing six hospitals, Desta Mender rehabilitation centre, the Hamlin College of Midwives and 80 Hamlin supported Midwifery Clinics.

Hamlin is the reference organisation and leader in the fight to eradicate obstetric fistula around the world, blazing a trail for holistic treatment and care that empowers women to reassert their humanity, secure their health and well-being, and regain their roles in their families and communities."

I cannot imagine a life better-lived.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

comparative vocabulary

In my neck of the woods,
what I woke to yesterday morning would be called
"a dusting of snow."

In Appalachia, I believe it would be called "a skiff."

Personally, I think "an etching of snow" describes it quite well.

What do you call it where you are?


Monday, March 16, 2020


When I checked the thermometer at 2 AM today, it was 20F. By sun-up and morning chores, it was a rip-roaring 22F. Water buckets were not just iced over, but frozen solid. This is why, even though I unplugged the two bucket de-icers in the barn, I left them in place so it would take only a moment to plunk them back into the buckets. And why I never unplugged the one in the more exposed paddock water bucket at all. This is not my first March in Massachusetts.

Although it was cold it was also nice and sunny today, and all the goats were very happy to spend the day in furry pools, nibbling hay, chewing their cud, or snoozing, until evening. A pleasant day in Goat World.

One nice thing about the return to quite cold: it prompted me to make a crockpot full of soup! And one nice thing about the habit of putting containers of "extra" food in the freezer is that making soup is just a matter of pulling out containers until enough contents have been identified to sound like good soup: turkey meat, candy roaster squash puree, carrots, a very rich broth made - also in the crockpot - from the bones of the whole turkey roasted a while back. All organic but the carrots. Add a little seasoning, leave it to simmer in the crockpot for a few hours, and that's it - lovely soup, served over rotini pasta, also from the freezer. I love that freezer!

A tiny but exciting bit of news: when I walk Piper in a few minutes we will carry up the package left at the bottom of the driveway earlier this afternoon. It is my first ever order from a welding supply house! (I told you it was exciting.) And you can guess what it is if you want to (Liz will probably get it in one) but you'll have to wait for the answer. I'm not going to confirm or deny until I've got pictures and a story to tell, whether successful or just a "learning experience."

Off to have a little walk, then chores. Too cold for the pond today, but a walk along the road here isn't bad. Lots and lots of things to sniff, and that - apparently - is what matters most. Get that sniffer ready, Piper!


from the inside


I very rarely link to a single blog post and encourage readers to visit, but these are troubled times and I think many people will find something useful in the very down-to-earth "Inside - A Guide" written by "a frequently overwhelmed, happy soul," Josie George. This is not about the corinavirus/COVID-19 pandemic per se; it is about the experience of "staying inside" by choice or necessity.

Personally, I agree 100% with this:

"Over the next few weeks, many of us will need to stay inside our homes. Either we’ll be self-isolating due to risk or symptoms or, more positively I hope, simply staying in as much as possible while healthy to help protect ourselves and others, slowing transmission rates. Not everyone will be able to isolate themselves voluntarily, but I hope those who can, will, for the sake of everybody. Every time you can choose not to go to a group or crowded place right now, you ease the risk on those people who have no choice or who are working to keep the rest of us safe and fed."

And this:

"The best thing is that I believe these ideas to be life-enhancing irrespective of what is happening in the outside world. Who knows, maybe by incorporating some of them into your daily life now, they’ll enrich your life and the lives of others for much longer than the next, uncertain few weeks."

Dear Comptonia readers: if you find even one useful idea in this well-written piece, it will have been worth reading. And I think you may find more than just one.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

saturday saunter

After a long, gloomy day of rain yesterday,
when I fed the fire all day just to take the chill off the house,
today dawned clear and bright.
And cold. And windy.

I waited til almost noon to take Piper to our favorite trails by the pond.
By that time, the wind had dropped and the air was warmer.

Five days ago, the pond looked like this.
There was still a lot of ice, but there were open areas.

We've had some very warm days in the past week.

Today, the pond looked like this:

The sky was really this blue.

 It was a splendid time to be out in the woods.

So much to look at. So much to see.

And no one has to tell this girl to "stop and smell the roses"
- or anything else, for that matter.

We had a grand time, and I wore out before Piper did.
When we got home, I puttered around a bit but had to sort of drag myself out for evening chores. goats were combed today. 

But I believe it was the right call.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

fluff piece

The cashmere harvest is well underway now.

 This is Mallow, having his second combing session of 2020.
Mallow doesn't think much of the idea.
He likes the carrot penny and peanut part, but that's about all.
The careful combing for 20 minutes to get half a sandwich bag of raw fiber?
"Meh," he says.

Sheep say "Bah!" but goats invented "Meh."

I'm trying to comb two goats each dry day, but sometimes only manage one. And days like yesterday, when I had a medical appointment and was away for half the day and exhausted when I got home, it was all I could do to get everyone fed and watered.This morning my back is still aching from yesterday but I intend to get two goats combed if at all possible. The pressure is on: we've had a couple of very warm days, and everyone is at some stage of shedding now.

The time to get the cleanest fiber with the smallest percentage of top coat is as soon at the goat starts to shed the cashmere undercoat. In just a couple of days I've seen some goats go from extremely clean cashmere to cashmere containing so much shed topcoat I wonder if it's even worth keeping. Likewise, a couple of my goats also temporarily get flaky skin toward the end of their cashmere shed. They don't have chronic dry skin, and after several years of unsuccessfully using dietary supplements to try to prevent the flaking, I now think of it as a harmless seasonal celebration of air getting to their skin after a winter of wearing cashmere underwear under a topcoat. But it means I can get beautiful clean cashmere from that goat on Monday, and when I check it again on Thursday, I'll see flakes. Well, I can only try my best to keep up with everyone and harvest the fiber at the best possible time. Tick-tock.

Speaking of time, it's a great time to look for Venus in the evenings.

In other fiber news, the hap is off the needles (!) and awaits washing and blocking. This picture was taken when I was putting in a lifeline before the final rows, in case the experimental bind off wasn't acceptable and I needed to rip back and return all those stitches to a 40-inch circular needle. There were 560 stitches in a row at that point, so a lifeline seemed like a good idea.

I'm seriously considering building a hap stretcher to block this hap, instead of painstakingly pinning it out on mats. At the moment, it's hard to carve out time to do either, but we've got a rainy day coming up, and my goats aren't comb-able on wet days. A trip to the hardware store would be needed to get material for the stretcher frame, then there'd be the actual construction, but every time I think about the pinning option - which would probably take a couple of hours on my hands and knees, and then a couple of days of keeping the cats and Piper away from an intriguing area that would undoubtedly draw them like a magnet - the stretcher frame seems like an excellent idea. Stay tuned.

By the way, if any readers have ever used a hap stretcher, I'd love to hear about your experience and any tips you'd like to share. I've read a couple of excellent tutorials on making and using them - here's a link to a very detailed tutorial, in case of interest - but I've never seen one in use. In fact, I've never even seen one not in use, so I don't know if there are any pitfalls to avoid.
Please feel free to comment or email - thanks!

Now, it's time to slice some carrots.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

thankful thursday

this evening

I am so thankful that the forester I once had the great good fortune to work with, still, many years later, keeps me on his list for an annual stovewood delivery.

He's doing me a favor - my little Waterford stove only takes 
short wood, and when he loads up his big truck with shorts and offcuts, it means a lot of extra handling. So when I get a call saying "the truck is loaded, is this a good time?" yes, it is. And watching as that wood rolls like thunder off the back of the truck feels like my birthday, every time.

The hard part is paying for the wood. I can't judge the cordage at all, because of the size of the pieces. He can probably judge the cordage quite accurately, but never does. So every year, I say, "Now what do I owe you?" And he says, "Oh, I don't know," and then names a price. And then I say, "That's not enough," and give him some cash. And then he says, "That's too much," and gives some back.

And then I start stacking the wood under cover. And all winter long, the woodbox by the stove is filled and emptied, filled and emptied.

And I am warmed not just by the fire, but by gratitude.