Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fun at the Funny Farm

Marie moved to a rural area of the Poconos in Pennsylvania 4 years ago. I met Marie 7 years ago while she was living on a large farm near Buckeystown in our area. We have a common love of fiber (fiber sluts) and I was in awe of her accomplishments in the weaving, spinning, knitting, and domesticity arts. She's helped me through many knitting dilemmas
Above is the view from her family room. The house is situated on a hillside overlooking two marvelous ponds, home to (unfortunately) snapping turtles, but also to a bevy of ducks, lucky enough to escape the grasp of a turtle.

We walked up the hill and took in the view of Many Springs, Lotsa Springs, Way Many Springs, or some sort of Springs name Farm. It's nearly always wet here, obviously due to the springs. But the farm is lovingly referred to as 'The Funny Farm'. Marie even has a blog . We arrived with color still on the trees, an anomaly in mid-November.

Ann, Bev, myself and Marie in front of the pond, now covered in a thin blanket of the first snow. We were thrilled!

The Leaning Tower of Corncrib.

Bev and Ann being dorks next to Marie's standing stone.

Three warm chicks.

Bev, Ann and I brought enough projects to last us a full 2 weeks. We were there only 2 days, but still got a lot accomplished. They're making felt flowers out of a fine merino and silk blend.

The finished flowers, ready to embellish a hat, scarf or whatever whimsy they choose.

Marie told a funny story about when they moved in to this farmhouse. The previous thrifty couple had lived here 50 years. When removing boxes from the attic, Marie and Bob saw one dusty musty box. Written on top was "String, pieces too small to save." It had obviously been up there for decades. The balls of yarn pictured above are Marie's version of 'pieces too small to save.' She tied hundreds of pieces of yarn together and will make something wonderful, I'm sure.

Marie and her husband, Bob, are true homesteaders. It's like Firefox meets Mother Earth News. Marie cuts strips of cotton fabric and denim to make rugs and placemats.

Marie's loom room.

And row upon row of wool, cotton and linen awaiting Marie's magic hands and the rhythm of the shuttles.

All warped and ready to weave.

Some of the many wool blankets that Marie has woven.

They have a huge summer garden and put up jars and jars of yummy fruit and veggies.

No cows on their farm but they get milk from the cows down the road. This is their homemade contraption for making rounds of cheese.

When we arrived, Bob was just stirring the whey and milk every 5 minutes with instructions for Marie to continue stirring. We distracted her somewhat and I think she missed some of the stirs but the cheese turned out anyway.

This is the cheese cage which is actually an animal trap, much cheaper than a cheese cage. It does keep the varmints out while the cheese ages.

Cranberry juice and apple juice becoming hard cider. Too bad it wasn't ready for us to sit by the fire and sample the 'good stuff' and make us sillier.

They also have their own little brewery going.

And in case they don't have enough 'spirits' to keep them going on the long winter nights ahead, they make their own moonshine.

Every other year they raise two pigs and smoke their own bacon.

Goats and sheep abound at the Funny Farm. The goats are milked and the milk made into feta cheese, the sheep's wool is made into blankets for the beds and for rugs underfoot.

Two turkeys that survived Thanksgiving. Gobble gobble.

Broiler chickens are grown for their meat because they reach their full weight in 28 days. Tucked away in between the white broilers is Silver Wyandotte (I think). Can't remember her name, but I don't think I'd be hiding in with the broilers. She's a laying hen. The next series of photos are of the resident Aussie, MacGregor, and his companion, Barn-e-cat. They were laying by the fire and thoroughly enjoying each other's company.

We were all surprised that Marie had a chihuahua. Not your typical farm dog. But Pecan likes the farm and is fitting in. Marie and Bob took her in when a neighbor ran away to Paris and could not take Pecan. I kept calling her Peanut and some other names when I'd find poo on a rug.

This goat is not part of Funny Farm but belongs to the Quakers across the road. As do the alpacas below.

The Quaker neighbors run a maple syrup business. The sap starts running in late February or early March and continues for about 6 weeks. (this from Wikipedia) A maple syrup production farm is called a 'sugar bush' or'"the sugarwoods'. Sap is boiled in a sugar house or sugar shack.

Freezing nights and warm days are needed in order to induce sap flows. To collect the sap, holes are bored into the maple trees and tubes are inserted. Sap flows through the spouts into buckets or into plastic tubing. A hole must be drilled in a new location each year, as the old hole will produce sap for only one season due to the natural healing process of the tree, called walling-off. Maple sap is collected from the buckets and taken to the sugar house, if plastic tubing and pipelines are used, then the pipelines are arranged so that the sap will flow by gravity.

During processing, called sugaring off, the sap is fed automatically from a storage tank through a valve into a flat pan called an evaporator where the sap boils down until so much water is lost that it forms a sweet syrup. Approximately 10 gallons of sap must be boiled down to make one gallon of maple syrup . A mature sugar maple produces about 10 gallons of sap during the 4-6 week sugaring season and the tree is at least 40 years old.

We walked over a bridge to get to the sugar shack, but they calls it the 'sap house'.

Old door to the sap house.

Belgian draft horses are hooked up to this wagon to collect the buckets of sap.

The equipment used in the sap house. I know this piece but don't have a clue to the big, ancient hulks below.

Bev, Ann and I left in a snowstorm. I took a pic of this guardian angel so she could keep us safe on our journey home.