Archive for September 2009

Mike Reifsnyder Visits Baltimore Shock-Trauma as a Consumer

The financial challenges that Mike and Sue Reifsnyder have faced since his work lay-off last fall took a back seat last week when Mike miraculously survived a late-night automobile accident that left a telephone pole in three pieces and earned him a chopper ride to the famous Bal’mer emergency care facility.

Mike has been working nights to make ends meet, and as he drove home in the early morning, he rounded the bend of a two-lane Carroll County road to find high beams blinding his vision.  Unable to see the lines on the road, he steered so that he would be to the right of the oncoming car.  The problem was the car was in his lane, so he unknowingly drove off the pavement and hit seven mailboxes and then got personal with a telephone pole.

Thanks to the airbag deployment and the fact that he was wearing his seatbelt, Mike survived the crash.  In fact, he never lost consciousness, and he soon was on the phone with Sue.  She in turn contacted Carroll County 911 calltakers who relayed Mike’s medical history to incoming units.  The first-arriving county sheriff utilized his emergency medical technician training to quickly decide that Mike needed first-class care and fast.  Within minutes, Mike was in the air with some of his new paramedic best friends en route to Baltimore.

Sue called me the next day and suggested that I sit down before she told me the news.  Mike had several broken ribs, and the docs were working on his collapsed lung.  Sue has been working at a local grocery store, and the joint burden of long work hours and almost losing a husband had her worn out.  I immediately made plans to visit them.

Mike was released home last Tuesday, and he is recuperating on a rented hospital bed set up in the couple’s guest room.  Sue sleeps on a studio bed beside him, using her nurse’s training to check him every three hours or so during the night.  Mike gets up during the day to eat and to feed the two therapy sheep that they had gotten to soothe troubled kids.  Now, the sheep pull double duty soothing Mike, too.

What’s the future for them?  Mike and Sue are living one day at a time, hoping they can keep their house.  They get help caring for the animals, and have cut expenses as far as they can.  Oh, did I mention that Mike lost his health insurance when he was laid off, and he was deemed ‘uninsurable’ when they searched for replacement coverage?    They hope the new health care legislation will give them some relief.

In the meantime, please pray for them and add Mike Reifsnyder to your prayer list.  If you would like to help them in other ways, e-mail me at  Sue has written a book for children about raising sheep.  I’ll be selling it out of my pens at Maryland Sheep and Fool Festival.  We can also do mail order.  In addition,  Sue sells Tupperware, so a purchase from her is another way to help. Here’s a link to her Tupperware website:   Sue’s Tupperware website.

Success at the New York Ewe Sale

One never knows about the weather at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival, held in mid-October at the beautiful Dutchess County Fairgrounds near Rhinebeck, NY.  Some years, I’ve shown in shirtsleeves and others I dressed for snow.  This year’s event definitely called for layering, with cold rain on Saturday and nighttime temperatures almost in the 30s on Sunday.  As for the sheep, not to worry; the moderate temperatures made for excellent travel conditions, and they were more than toasty in their lovely fall fleeces.

Wits End #924

I consigned four Bluefaced Leicester ewe lambs to the New York Bred Ewe Sale, held in conjunction with the festival, and they fetched satisfactory prices in a tough economy.  I do not yet know the identity of some of the purchasers; as soon as I do, I will thank them for their winning bids.  Most importantly, I trust the girls are heading to good homes where they will earn their stripes as brood ewes for many years.

At right: Wits End 924 was sold at the New York Bred Ewe Sale in mid-October.

The Saturday sheep auction was followed by a very competitive and well-subscribed sheep show on Sunday.  This year’s judge was Judy Moore, who demonstrated her world-class abilities by  whittling down large classes into manageable lineups of champion sheep.  The Romney entries enjoyed consistent success—best wishes to all their hard-working sheep breeders, including Katherine Moore of Birch Branch Farm in Lee, NH, whose pens were next to mine.  Her ewe was champion long-wool ewe.  Two years ago, her ram was the supreme champion, and three-quarters of the sheep she brought this year were sired by him.  Who was Katherine?  She was the willowy blonde in the red boots.  A self-described ‘Hamp girl’ in her youth, she’s about the nicest person around.

Wits End #901At left: My husband Dave with the lovely Border Leicester ewe lamb, Wits End 901, purchased during the festival by Chris and Eileen Testo of Westerlo, NY.

I was thrilled when a gentleman in shorts and a parka approached my sheep pens.   It was Tom Brown, a prominent sheep judge who survived some  challenging health issues during recent years.  He said he was very happy to be there, this time enjoying the competition seated in a chair in the show ring. He was quite interested in Bluefaced Leicesters, saying he had seen them all over Great Britain.

“They have such a fascinating heritage, you know,” he said.

I took time to visit many of the yarn and fiber booths that filled the large fairgrounds, where I saw friends and met new ones.  My favorite purchase was a hand-knitted hat, made from fine-wool yarn spun, dyed and knitted by Gretchen Wittenburg.  Her friend and neighbor, Lisa Letendre of Boulder Meadow Farm & Fiber Mill of Fitzwilliam, NH, said Gretchen heads knitting and spinning groups and is an inspiration to all who know her.  Besides the wonderful colors, I chose the hat because it was actually large enough to cover my oversized cranium without reducing vital blood supply. I have a very silly picture of the hat below.

I made another new friend when Neysa Minahan approached my pens looking for a Bluefaced Leicester ram lamb.  She was in luck:  I had a lovely fellow who would meet the needs of her cross-bred, long-wool flock.  Handsome, easy to handle and sporting a beautiful natural-colored fleece, the beloved ram lamb that I called Cadfael trotted off with her to his new home in Lakeville, CT.

Travelling hatThe trip home began Sunday night, when I drove almost 100 miles to Milford, PA.  At the Hiway Diner over the $3.95 breakfast special, I learned there were extensive traffic delays on I-81 near Scranton, PA. I pulled out my map and soon decided to take scenic, two-lane Highway 209 along the Delaware River south to Stroudsburg.  There, I’d take I-80 west to I-81 and, with luck, miss all the construction.  It turned out to be a shorter route home and, most importantly, a really lovely one.  Most of the trip to Stroudsburg was through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, where forested cliffs were on my right and farmed floodplain and the Delaware River were on my left.

At right:  My new hand-knitted hat takes in the pristine beauty of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

All of this beauty almost was lost in the 1960s, when the Army Corps of Engineers conceived a plan to dam the Delaware River north of the gap for hydroelectric power generation.  Downriver, the water gap would have become a 37-mile reservoir.  The corps acquired by the area through eminent domain, uprooted some 15,000 residents and managed to demolish 3,000 to 5,000 dwellings, many of which were historic.  Because of unceasing local efforts and strong environmental opposition (bolstered by an unacceptable geological assessment of the dam’s safety), the property was transferred to the National Park Service in 1978 and the 70,000-acre recreational area was born.  Locals still remember the struggle.

CanoeistsAt left: The sounds of someone singing echoed over the water.  Soon, a canoe rounded the bend and the two ‘Keiths’ halloed.  They were on a three-day, 30-mile trip down the Delaware River, which is designated a national scenic river in this stretch.

I pulled over to photograph an old mill house.  Beside it, a stream meandered by the Wyoming-Minisink Path, which crosses the park westward.  The path was one of three important Indian trails that linked the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, and was the one most heavily used.  During the colonial period, settlers from Connecticut used the path to migrate west. The region has seen much conflict over the centuries; Europeans and Native Americans hacked away at each other during early colonial settlement, and the gap area was an important front during the French and Indian War.

I was soon heading west on I-80, leaving behind the crystalline water, multi-hued forest and 400 years of human conflict.

Old house

Iron bridge
Right:  The iron bridge for the historic Wyoming-Minisink Path  crosses a small stream on its way to join the Delaware River.
Left:  A bright morning sun on fall foliage makes the windows of an old mill house—somehow spared by the corps—appear to be on fire.