On the Cusp of Spring

When I looked at this blog I was a bit shocked to see that it has been 2 years since I’ve written here. I posted about knitting a quilt for my daughter for college and I did it out of guilt because I was woefully late on that too. Before that, it was months since I’d posted. Sometimes you just need to hole up. When you go through a transition – when you move from one self to another self- you gotta hunker down, focus – keep your eye on the ball and not disperse energy. Even if sometimes that energy gives you joy. Concentrate on getting your footing and get yourself out of the situation. One foot in front of the other – forward march.


We are people of extremes as my daughters like to say. We like extreme urban or extreme rural, not the grey pasty normal of suburbia. So I decided to buy a farm – for many reasons. It was the necessary path to take. It felt like the only viable path for the times. So I’m splitting my time between the Loisaida homestead and a 21 acre homestead in Schoharie County in upstate New York. There is a white farmhouse that was built in 1800. In the basement you can see 200 year old bark covered logs with their ancient axe marks that are the foundation beams of the house. There is a green barn that houses 4 goats, 5 hens and 6 ducks, all girls. Animals that inhabit the farmhouse include the 2 New York City Toy Fox Terriers Lolo, s spry 17 years young and the no-eyed Mille, Then there are the two big young black lab mix rescue dogs Rowan (who belongs to one of my daughters) and Maybelle who just turned one. There is the feral cat that I adopted to be a rat killer barn cat who could not hack it in the barn and who now occupies a bedroom to herself – story to come.


I will keep the blog title of Loisaida Nest but I will write about the farm too, which will now be my main focus as there is lots of work to do and things to learn. I will however continue to share stories and photos of my beloved Loisaida.

At the edge of spring we are still under snow after 3 Nor’easters dumped more than 4 feet on us in a month. The days are getting longer and my flock of birds have started laying in earnest. The 8 month old ducks have laid their first eggs. The first eggs of the Black Cayuga ducks were charcoal black and looked like stones. Now they are becoming a a lighter mottled grey.


My first dish made with duck eggs was an egg salad. Duck eggs have more yolk so the egg salad was very rich.


4 hard boiled duck eggs (or 6 hard boiled chicken eggs)

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot

1/2 teaspoon capers

1 teaspoon chopped Kalamata olives

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 squirt of Siracha (or other hot sauce if you like a little heat)

Chop up the eggs and mix all the ingredients together.

the college blanket

This is a fun to knit pattern by Laura Aylor. It is the Lizard Ridge Afghan pattern done in 100% wool Noro Kureyon. Laura based this pattern on the Short-Rows striped square in Barbara G. Walker’s Learn to Knit Afghan, a book every knitter should play around with.

lizard ridge afghan

Lizard Ridge Afghan


It’s been 10 years since this pattern appeared in the Knitty.com and when I saw it, I liked the fact that Laura knit it for her daughter to take to college. Something happy and warm to wrap your child in when they leave home. I knit one for my oldest daughter for freshman year. When the time came for the youngest to go, I started the blanket, but it took me a long time to finish. It’s done now, completed before the end of senior year and so it can still be called the college blanket.


The Cedar Wood in early spring

Sterling College draft horse management

Draft Horse Management class and maple sugaring time in Vermont. Photo: Leonard Evans

the equestrian chronicles part III

One year later. Time heals. Work heals. Trials make you strong. Love makes you fly. Loyalty cocoons a person. I am grateful.

A photo essay of Camelia Montalvo teaching dressage to her long-time students at La Luna Farm. La Luna Farm is a top-notch equestrian facility specializing in hunter/jumper training in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Camelia Montalvo teaching dressage lesson La Luna Farm, New Paltz NY

Abby’s lesson in the indoor ring at La Luna Farm

Camelia Montalvo teaching dressage lesson New Paltz, New York

Camelia Montalvo dressage instructor New Paltz, New York

Camelia Montalvo dressage instructor New Paltz, New York

Camelia Montalvo dressage instructor New Paltz, New York

Jordan’s lesson

Camelia Montalvo dressage instructor New Paltz, New York

Camelia Montalvo dressage instructor New Paltz New York

Camelia Montalvo at La Luna Farm

La Luna Farm in New Paltz, NY

The cedar barn at La Luna Farm


sunprint fabric with late summer flowers

I’ve always loved sun prints and used to buy those kits in the toy store when the girls were small. My mother had a wall full of framed 5×7 sun prints made by the children above the kitchen table. I liked the element of surprise to them, how sometimes a leaf that shifted during its exposure to the sunlight would register an unimagined but beautiful effect – a ghostly blur.

Cyanotype – is a photographic process that produces a blueprint. The process was discovered by a British scientist (actually he was a lot of things – chemist, astonomer, botanist, etc.), John Herschel in 1842. Anna Atkins, a botanist who was a family friend is considered to be the first woman photographer and the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographs. It is assumed that she learned this technique of photography through her connection with John Herschel. She published three volumes of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. 

Blueprints on Fabric sells fabric permeated with the photographic chemicals to produce a cyanotype print on the fabric. Linda has a great variety, different types of cottons and silks, even hemp and bamboo. I chose a silk velvet to make some pillow covers. The fabric itself is – well, silky and velvety.

I made these at the trailer in upstate New York on a brilliantly sunny day. I had pressed the wildflowers of late summer in a dictionary. These landed on the letter F. I observed that the F words are strong; you see Fickle, Fight, there is Fear, Friend, Fate and Fair and the obvious.



The fabric arrived in black bag because it is essentially a piece of film. You lay out the flowers indoors in a darkish space so you don’t expose the photo sensitive fabric. You can pin the objects or do what I did and placed an old window on top of it. Then you carry it outside and into the bright sun to expose the photograph.

you have to be careful not to wrinkle the fabric when you move this set up outside (which is what happened to me)

you have to be careful not to wrinkle the fabric when you move this set up outside (which is what happened to me)


When the allotted time has passed depending on how bright the day is, you soak the fabric in cold water and rinse it. A little splash of hydrogen peroxide will quicken the deepening of the blue color that the velvet turns into.

the blueprint

the blueprint

this piece was all queen anne's lace.

this piece was all queen anne’s lace.

Then you set them out to air dry out of any direct sunlight. I am happy with the finished result. Just like a photograph, parts of it are in focus with great detail and other flowers are in soft focus. Some of the white areas have a bit of bronze in them and the look of it reminds me of mother-of-pearl.



the wild mothers

I meant this post to be for Mother’s Day and I’m a little late. However, it is still spring and a time to celebrate all mothers – especially Mother Nature.

I remember when my children were very small I had a plastic window box for flowers outside my kitchen window. In early spring when it was still empty, a pigeon made a nest in it and laid her eggs. One day there was a spring snowstorm and the little bird continued sitting on her eggs. Every once in a while she would fluff up her feathers to shake off the snow. Then the snow turned into a cold rain and still she sat there like a little soldier without moving. I watched and worried. Her motherly instinct would not let her abandon her babies. I understood her. I could see that the window box was starting to fill with water. When the rain did not let up and the water had reached her chest, I could stand it no longer. I took a chance and opened the window. She did not move. She was accustomed to seeing us very close to her through the kitchen window. I took a kitchen knife and cut holes into the plastic window box to let the water drain out. She let me get that close and still did not move. Did not abandon her eggs. I looked into her orange pigeon eyes and thought her the bravest of mothers. One egg hatched and we saw up close how she raised her baby. I would hoist my girls up to sit on the kitchen counter so they could see the window nest as the mother pigeon fed her chick and then later the flying lessons from the kitchen window box  to the bedroom window box. Back and forth the fledging practiced and then one day was gone. It was a successful nest.

I became a live stream nest watcher when the City Room blog of the New York Times featured a camera pointed at the nest of the red-tailed hawks of Washington Square Park in New York City in the spring of 2011. There was high drama on that nest because the mother had a band on her leg that was put on too tight and her leg was swollen. An effort to capture her was planned. But then it was decided that it was too risky to attempt because the little fluffy white eyas (hawk chick) named Pip would freak out and maybe fall off the building ledge nest. Nature took its course and Violet was an excellent mother. We could see her on camera struggling with her lame leg while she fed scraps of rat meat to little Pip. Responsible and valiant, she hung on until her offspring left the nest and only then did she succumb to her injury.

Christo and Dora are our neighborhood hawks. Their hunting ground is Tompkins Square Park. Last spring they made a successful nest and raised three baby hawks on an air conditioner at the Christadora apartment building across from the park. This year they’ve moved their nest to another air conditioner,  this time on the Ageloff Towers on Avenue A. Their three eggs have hatched and we are now seeing the fluffy white baby hawks on a nest cam. Laura Goggin is a neighborhood photographer who has followed the hawks and shared her beautiful photographs on her blog Gog in NYC. I’m struck by the generosity of the neighbors who install a nest cam to share their view of the nest with us. Here is the link to the nest cam for Christo and Dora’s nest.

Dora at the Ageloff nest. Photo: Laura Goggin Photography

Dora at the Ageloff nest. Photo courtesy of: Laura Goggin Photography

Dora and babies last year at the Christadora nest. Photo courtesy of: Laura Goggin Photography

Dora and babies last year at the Christadora nest. Photo courtesy of: Laura Goggin Photography

Now I’m watching a different kind of animal, a critically endangered red wolf on the den cam at the Wolf Conservation Center in New York state. Salty gave birth to a litter of seven pups on May 2nd. It is a window into a wild world. On a warm night I can see that she is fast asleep. Her sides softly rise and fall with her breath. Her sleepy dark puppies are clustered close to her with their bellies full of milk. The cacophony of bug song has died down too from earlier in the evening when they were thunderous. Sometimes you can hear the other wolves howling. I feel very privileged to be able to witness these wild animals. Here is the link to the live den cam.


forest ramps

Its ramp time. A fleeting moment in the spring when ramps are in season. They are one of the first green things of the growing season along with nettles and asparagus. They are wild and you see them on the forest floor, bursting through the remnants of the brown lacy leaves left over from last autumn.

There is a concern that ramps are being over harvested due to foodie culture demand. They are delicate things in every way, from how they look, fragile brilliant green leaves and pearly pinkish white bulbs, to how they taste, to how they reproduce. The plants take 5 to 7 years to produce seeds and then the seeds take 6 to 18 months to germinate.

I’ve decided just to eat the ones that we harvest. For the fleeting wild thing that they are. Just once per year, you get a little taste and that is all.

Ramps in a Vermont forest

Ramps in a Vermont forest

A sustainable harvest for the home cook

A sustainable harvest for the home cook


Oona, who picked these ramps, made up a delicious recipe using ramps and plantains. See it here (and cook it).