We’re going to the Farmer’s Market!

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We have been invited to bring our fleece to sell at the Denison Farmer’s Market!  We are tentatively planning to be there this Sunday, October 2, from 12 until 3pm, weather permitting.  No, we’re not rain whimps – it’s just that we cannot allow the wool to get damp, so we will only be there if it’s dry.

 

We will be demonstrating carding, drop spindle knitting and felting, and you’re welcome to stop by and give it a try!  Since we’re all beginners to this, too, we welcome you to stop by and teach us a thing or two if you’d like!

We’re very excited about our first farmer’s market, and are grateful for the invitation by the market master, Stuart Woronecki, of Stonewall Apiary in Baltic, CT, through the kind recommendation of Belinda Learned at Stonyledge Farm in North Stonington, CT.

 

See you there!  

Smells like chicken

So this morning we had just finished lunch and broken open the books for another homeschooling day at Morning Star Meadows, when the phone rang.  Our BFF’s (Best Farm Friends) at Tomcova Farm in Sterling were butchering their broilers today…would we like to come?  You bet!  

 

What an adventure!  It was our first time witnessing such an event.  Everything went incredibly smoothly due to the excellent preplanning of Farmer Steve following Joel Salatin’s guidelines.  The chickens are so fresh and wholesome.  They were kind enough to send us home with a bag full!  

 

Sunday dinner!  Thanks, guys!

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Not my best of days

So, here I sit on this lousy porch roof.  It’s not too bad, but it’s certainly not the kind of digs I’m used to.  What a rotten night.  It rained.  There were strange noises coming from the window nearby, like little girls whispering about me.  I don’t know where I am, but it’s NOT home!  They tried to feed me chicken food, can ya believe it?!  They have a dog that has it out for me.  And now, here I sit on the roof, thinking I’m safe, and THAT thing starts eyeing me up for breakfast!

Do I even have a TINY chance of surviving this?!

Now if I could only get my bearings and ditch this crazy joint!  Can someone shoot me a map or somethin’?  For cryin’ out loud!

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The fruits of our labor

Bindi…beautiful…

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Drover…dazzling!

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Fatima…phenomenal!

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Molly…majestic.

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Laverne…lovely

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Bruna…brown bliss!

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Shirley…showy!

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Daisy…divine!

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Matilda…magnificent!

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Millie…mahvelous, dahling!

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Boomer…black beauty…

 

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Roxanne…ravishing!

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Esther…elegant

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Monty…mucho macho!

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Fall Shearing

I’ll try to make this brief and photo laden, as I’m typing with only 8 fingers. 

 

Yes, I had a couple of shearing accidents today, and no, I didn’t actually lose any fingers, but we’ll get to that later!

 

Last night the sheep camped out in the barn so they’d be nice and dry this morning for shearing.  That worked out quite well, and so we got started at about 9am.  Here is everyone awaiting their fate!

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What are you planning to do to us this time anyway, huh?!

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Since Daisy is our first lamb, and because she’s so docile, we decided to shear her first.  She was a little shy, but over all she did quite well.

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Her mom, Matilda, followed.  Here are her before and after shots:

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Here they are, mother and daughter, returned to the pasture and getting a head start on everyone!

 

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We then sheared Esther and her mother, Roxanne.  I remember commenting early on how silky Esther was, and that hasn’t changed one bit!  Her fleece is lovely!

 

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Sometimes a bit of blindfolding helps to calm them.

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I think it was Roxanne’s squirminess, though, that earned me my first bandaid.  I knicked my fingertip – what I thought was pretty badly…but in retrospect, it was nothing compared to my next injury!

 

Next it was Monty’s turn.  We remembered back to his first shearing a year ago – boy, he’s come a long way!  We’ve decided he just likes to have minimal restraint, so that’s what he got.  Actually, they all have their little idiosyncracies that way – some hate to be on the stand – some try to sit down the whole time, etc.

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Now I was ready for another lamb, and I knew Boomer would be a good boy.  He was – but I think by then I was getting pretty tired, and in a flash I saw a little bit of my fingertip say “bye-bye”!  

 

Ya know those times when you hurt a body part – and you know there is blood involved – so you grab whatever you have on hand to cover it, then squeeze it to stop the pain – and blood — then are convinced you’re never gonna stop squeezing it because, number one, you know it’s going to hurt more, number two, you know it’s gonna bleed more, and number three – you just can’t bring yourself to knowing and seeing how bad it really is?  

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Yeah – YOU kno
w what I’m talking about, Boomer!!

 

Yep -that’s where I was about then!

ouch.

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Anyway – I bound it up and quickly finished him and it was definitely time for a lunch break (and some first aid!  Roy did a nice bandaging job, and commented on how bloggable this moment would be (way to show pity, Roy!)) and after lunch and a bit of a rest, we were back at it.

 

Bruna’s turn now.  I have been dying to see her wool, and we weren’t disappointed!  It is so beautifully colored, with a deep chocolate brown close to the skin, lightening to an almost auburn at the tips.  

 

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We decided to stick with lambs for a while, so we sheared Laverne and Shirley next.  Their wool is almost identical, as I had expected.  Their before and after pictures are probably the most striking:

 

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Then we sheared Millie’s twins, Drover and Fatima.  They are our shyest lambs, so we expected a bit of a rodeo with them, and they delivered.  

 

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Lastly, we ended with the ewes…

Millie was SO good…

 

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Bindi was as good as her lambs were – her wool is AWESOME!  Amazing color contrast and lots of crimp, tog as well as thel!

 

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Molly.  Well, all I can say is, thank goodness she was the last one, because I was out of energy, and she was very naughty!  Most of her shearing was done with her lying down!  She didn’t like being on the stand and she hated the head restraint.  We just did what we could, then got the rest when she finally stood up.  Really nice gray…

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8 hours later – we were exhausted.  The sheep were a couple pounds lighter.  My finger was a gram or so lighter (not counting all of the bandaging!).  

 

But what a rewarding day it was! 

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However, I think I’ll stay away from sharp instruments tomorrow!

 

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We will never forget

It was a gorgeous Sunday today!  

 

Our day began, though, by remembering the victims (and their families) of that terrible attack on our country 10 years ago.  We explained to our children who had not been born yet, and reminded those who had.  It was hard for them to even conceive of such a thing happening, and yet it indeed did.  

 

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.  May they rest in peace.

 

We also salute all of the emergency personnel who risked their lives in the line of duty that day.  Now that our son is a firefighter, I have an even greater appreciation for these men and women.  May God bless and protect them.

 

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Here at the farm now we’re gearing up for shearing soon, so I thought I’d get some pictures of their rapidly lengthening fleeces before their gone!

 

Monty greeted me first.  I realized I need some new pictures of him.  He’s really looking quite stately these days compared to his baby pictures!

 

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Boomer is SO hard to photograph!  Like a puppy dog, he makes a b-line to me as soon as he spots me.  Either that, or he has his head down, munching!  I did manage to get this neat action shot of him.

 

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Millie ALWAYS makes her way over as soon as she can.  She has to see if I have food.

 

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OH great…here’s Boomer again!

 

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This is our “Mini Millie” — Fatima…she is the spitting image of her Ma.  I thought she looked so dainty and feminine in this shot.

 

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Here’s Boomer’s sister, Bruna.  I LOVE her fleece!

 

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Hello, Roxanne!

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“Daisy Cam”  Can you get any closer, Daisy?

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With all of the rain, you’re looking nice and white these days!

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And so is your mom, Matilda!

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Laverne and Shirley are looking awesome!  Can’t wait to see their fleece when it comes off!  Their fleeces could easily be combined to make a LOT of gray lambswool yarn!

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Their mom, Molly, will have fleece as nice as ever!  Hers was snagged up quickly at the sheep and wool fleece sale last winter!  She also gave us the biggest fleece, and from the looks of her, she’s
working on keeping that honor this year!

 

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Bindi (Boomer and Bruna’s mom), too, is quite striking with the deep contrast of black to gray.

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I’ll leave you with Daisy’s magazine cover pose…She even stood there long enough for me to get a couple of snaps!  

 

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Don’t forget to contact us with your fleece orders for this fall!

Preparing the barn for winter

This winter, after the breeding season, the sheep will have some new classy digs to make use of in inclement weather.  Generally speaking, since these ARE Icelandic sheep, after all, they do fabulously in the winter.  But if we have a winter like last year, with deep snow that won’t go away — OR if we have another freak hurricane or tropical storm — we will be glad to have this barn ready for animals!

 

Up until now, the basement of the barn was just one big open area with a tractor sitting in the middle, in the back.  Now it’s starting to take shape!

 

Here’s a view from the back.

 

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And from the front.

 

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The cool thing about this setup is that it is modular, for the most part.  Roy built these panels (from leftover floorboards from the barn!)  freestanding, and they all fit together at the corners in whatever configuration you want, connected by lengths of rebar that slot into sheetmetal hangers that are put in place at the corners.  That will allow us to partition things in whatever way serves us best for that time of year and situation – not to mention, we can join them together to make a run to squeeze them into for procedures if need be.

 

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To the left it is a permanent assembly.  A gate will go in that open space.  He also made the sides a bit more lamb-proof, boarding it up better at the bottom in case we need to put a ewe and lamb off by themselves.

 

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He’s also finally got a ladder in place to make it much easier to go between floors (vs. the old way of walking outside all around the barn!)  

 

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Going up?!

 

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All of these things make our barn so much more usable now, especially if/when we want to add a cow to the mix!  We even have some stanchions ready to go that we bought from an old barn when the time comes!

So, Old Man Winter:  I’m not sayin’ ya have to come back and bite us quite as hard as you did LAST year, but just in case you do, I think we’ll be that much more ready!

 

Oh yeah – and while I’m dialoging with the weather…Hurricane Maria?  You just keep your distance, ok?!  At least wait until we get a new generator up and running!

 

p.s. – while I was typing, I heard Millie baa-ing outside.  Then her lambs.  I did a silly thing and ignored it.  Next thing I hear is my son’s voice, frantically calling for me.  I looked outside to see about 10 sheep grazing freely in the backyard!  I’d better learn to listen to Millie!  She usually has something important to baa about!

 

Tagging and tatooing

Well, with the power back up and running Monday morning, so were we!  There was a lot of rain in the forecast for this week, and with Roy off from work to get chores done this week, we knew we needed to start with the outdoor ones while it was still dry.

 

One annual chore here at Morning Star Meadows is tagging and tatooing the lambs.  Yes, they have already been preliminarily tagged as newborns.  Now it is time for their official tag for the voluntary scrapie program and tatoo their registration information on their little ears.

 

Here’s the lineup of supplies for the tagging and tatooing, all ready to go:

 

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Our farm is certified free from the Scrapie virus that infects sheep and goats and causes a high morbidity and eventual mortality of animals.  It is contagious through the placenta, as well as from other infected animals, many of which are not even showing signs of the disease.  Early signs of the disease involve the animal scraping itself against things, as if it is very itchy, hence the name “Scrapie.”  The government is trying to eradicate this disease by flock monitoring on a volunteer basis by shepherds/goatherds.  All of the animals we purchased last year were from a Scrapie-free flock, and so as long as we maintain a closed flock, or only add from scrapie free flocks, we will maintain that scrapie free status.

 

Scrapie is a virus somewhat similar to the Mad Cow disease virus.  This virus is VERY difficult to destroy, and we can’t be sure that it cannot be transmitted to humans.  Since we eventually plan to raise meat animals, we’re very happy to know that our flock does not harbor this virus!

 

Each year a federal veterinarian comes to inspect our flock – to account for new animals, and those that have left the flock.  She will be arriving tomorrow morning, so we needed to have everyone tagged and paperwork completed.

 

The other part of our task on Monday was identifying the lambs for their registration with the Canadian Livestock Records Corporation.  There is no American registry for Icelandics, so all registered Icelandic sheep are registered through Canada, the original North American country of importation from Iceland.  The people up at CLRC are so helpful, and we can actually register the animals online (another task for this week!)  They do, though, require all US Icelandics to be tatooed with their registration numbers and our flock code, which happens to be AUS (that’s what happens when the chief shepherd is an Aussie!)  We’ve corresponded their registry numbers with their scrapie tag numbers, which helps considerably.  And each animal will have a letter following their 3 digit number that corresponds to the year.  This year is “Y.”  All lambs born this year in every registered flock will have a Y at the end of their number, which is quite handy.  Their full registration information will also include their color, whether they are spotted or not, their pattern and whether they are horned or not.  

 

So our poor little lambs were put through the ringer a bit, and now all have green ears from the tatoo ink!  

 

Hi Daisy!

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Here’s the tatooing instrument in action on Laverne:

 

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Luckily they already had their ear pierced from their original tag.  We bought a special tool to remove the old tag, then it was just a matter of lining up the 2 parts of the official scrapie tags with the hole and joining them together with the tagging tool.  Somehow we missed snapping pictures of that…probably because the battery in the camera was dead…probably because we had no power for 5 days last week(!)

 

SPEAKING of having no power…just to bring back that nostalgic feeling from last week, we were again hit with an outage all day yesterday!  No phone, no internet, no nothin’!  Now, though, we are getting so good to dealing with it, that everyone swung into action:  colllecting water from the well and from the kitchen tap, setting up the generator, moving food around in the fridges and freezer and breaking out the paper plates and disposable cups and utensils!  

 

As we awaited the return of lights last night, we enjoyed a couple of games of Scrabble.  My children were giving me a run for my money!  

 

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An uninvited guest departs

Don’t you just hate uninvited guests who just breeze into town, create havoc, and then leave you standing there, wondering what in the world just happened??

Last Saturday was a whirlwind of a day, preparing for the arrival of Irene.  I mean USUALLY when we have a guest over at Morning Star Meadows it involves buying a few extra groceries, getting some laundry done, making up the guest room and then doing a bit of cleaning up inside.  

We’re usually all excited for the arrival of a guest to our farm!

 But Irene was SO demanding!  We had to clean the ENTIRE yard!  

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We had to buy groceries for 3 or 4 days!  

We had to gas up the vehicles to the brim and get out extra cash at the ATM machine!  

We had to fill up jars, pitchers and pans with clean drinking water and buckets, pails and bathtubs with water to flush the toilets because she promised to do anything she could to cut our electricity!  

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All this because Irene was coming!  And what did SHE bring?  Destruction, flooding, high winds!  She did NOTHING to help out here!  We even had to hide the sheep and hens from her because she promised to be so belligerent!

So, there we sat last Saturday night waiting for her arrival.  Of course she’s one of those important people who thought she didn’t have to give you an exact arrival time.  She just came when she was good and ready and took her good old time.  Of course it was JUST after I had started putting together a blog entry that night that she knocked out our power JUST long enough to throw our modem off and cut us off from the internet!

Our eldest son, a new North Stonington Volunteer Firefighter, sat waiting at the station for the first call.  Being a newbie to the company, he was the only one excited about Irene’s visit. That is, until the 65th call the following day for a downed tree or wire!  THEN even HE was no longer enjoying Irene’s company!

 

So, internet now dead and power wavering, we headed off to bed last Saturday night, cautiously optimistic that Irene might actually behave herself the next day.  These things are all a bunch of media hype, right?!

 

Of course when we awoke Sunday morning to no power, we knew that we were wrong!

 

No power meant…

 

No internet

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No telephone, except this lifesaver of mine

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And this device, with which I have a love/hate relationship (yes, we could sometimes access the internet and make calls when the cell tower was cooperating, but all of those tiny letters made my head spin and my thumbs tired!)

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No dishwasher

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No running water, microwave, refrigerator (though we were blessed to have a generator to keep our 2nd fridge and deep freezer going)

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For nearly 5 days we embraced a new way of life.

 

Our light sources…

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Our coffee…water boiled on the stove and then poured, slowly, through the coffee maker…

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Our dishwashing

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Our cooking device (plus we had the gas cooktop, lit now by matches instead of an electrically induced spark) … 

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We also were happy that we had perfected our “sun tea” through the summer, so nothing really changed there, except for the lack of practically unlimited ice cubes to chill it in our glass!

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Our entertainment…

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One of our better lit classroom situations…

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Our disinfection method…

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We pumped water for the toilets…we borrowed water for drinking from our dear neighbors with a mega-generator for their whole house…

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we hauled buckets of water down to the sheep and hens, and buckets back up from the well for the toilets.  The water supplies in our tubs and laundry sink were quickly exhausted.

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We blasted through everything we could in the fridge.  We were getting very creative in our meal-making!  We were, in particular, trying to use up the milk since the generator wasn’t running continuously, and we feared the milk would sour since the fridge wasn’t always kept as cold as it should be.  We made a lot of yogurt…and ate a lot of yogurt!

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It was certainly an experience we won’t soon forget!

 

So now we are pretty much back to normal.  Damage was, thankfully, minimal.  The shed for the sheep was blown and spun around, landing 50 feet across the paddock, damaging the fence.  We went out in the wind and rain on Sunday afternoon to repair it.  The sheep had thankfully been tucked safely in the barn late Saturday, and they happily emerged Sunday afternoon, loving the wind blowing through their wooly coats.  

 

Knowing what our dairy farmer friends had to endure – with loss of corn crop, fuel costs for generators, etc., we were truly blessed in how little we had to suffer.  

 

This tragedy brought out the best in so many people, including a practicer of random acts of kindness who decided to pay for our entire meal out at a restuarant on Wednesday night!

 

And our wonderful neighbors…I will never forgeth her visit one afternoon…”Would you like to come over with the girls tonight for showers?  And then maybe tomorrow the boys can come over?”  Music to my ears!  Driving over there for showers that night was like going to the spa!

 

And now I have to confess how much I LOVE…

warm showers…

cold chardonnay…

running water from the tap…

internet on my laptop…

and light when I flick a switch.  

 

And I daresay that I speak for most of the population of Southeastern CT! 

 

Irene, it was nice knowin’ ya, but I’m glad you’re GONE!