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The Perfect Day

There is a certain kind of farming to which I am most drawn. I call it ditzing around, but it is not really that simple. It is, however, that obvious. Today I took an empty coffee can, complete with a lid, filled it with chicken feed and, carrying it in one hand, brought in the other a pitcher of whey from last night's cheese making to the chickens in the portable chicken coop.

Glencora MacCluskie, Border collie pup, whose six month birthday is tomorrow, came, too. She knows "let's go", meaning we're going outside now. "Down" on the porch landing to wait for me. "Walk on" to proceed down the stairs. And, today, for the first time with absolute certainty, "Green gate" and "Down" at said green gate separating the lawn from the pasture. "That will do," allows her to get up and walk through the gate. "With me" results in a still imperfect approach to the chicken coop where I pour the whey, feed the chickens and fluff up the nesting box. Four tasks accomplished at once. Puppy training. Chicken feeding. Economical use of excess whey. And egg collecting.

This is the first moment in a long time that I've had a free interval to readdress the latest black currant and Jostaberry plantation. I've brought up, one bucket at a time, a load of composted manure that had been created when the lambing room was mucked out last spring, to the triangular garden where the bushes are. That garden has been heavily manured for the last two years. The weeds have become prominent. Despite that, however, the berry bushes look fairly good. I weeded. And mulched all twenty three bushes whith the black gold that has been patiently waiting to be used on the cement floor of the old calf barn.

Amongst the weeds were some non-weeds. Lambs' quarters, the first of the year, and the nicest, biggest, greenest, tenderest dandelion leaves I've seen all summer. Lunch. Bacon, potato, dandelion and garlic salad has been the source of stamina, energy, and enthusiasm for me for years. And I haven't made it all summer. So I tossed some "weeds" and carefully set aside others.

Burdock is beginning to assume gigantic proportions in that small triangle. I cut some for the goats. They love it. The tap root is too deep to pull out, but it serves to draw minerals up from the subsoil. Goats love the big leaves. So they became sorted into another pile.

Something drove me to the riparian buffer zone in front of which were piled some bags of belly wool from this and last year's shearing. I wanted to mulch the Rugosa roses in the buffer zone with the fleeces. They are an excellent slow release fertilizer. As they decompose they add Nitrogen to the soil. The method of spreading the hanging tags from the fleeces has been most successful for me. I have high hopes for enough roses to blossom to make rose hip jam next year. Optimistic I know, however, where there is life there is hope.

I relieved the triangular garden of its white mallow. A pretty thing for the summer bedroom. My lawn mower is still in the process of being repaired. And so the chamomile of chamomile tea is now thick and lush on the back lawn. I hadn't realized it grew where it did until its lovely smell was released as I walked through it. I'll cut some of the untrodden plants to hang and dry if I can think of a place where sheep, goats and puppy (who loves to chew on green things) will not be able to reach them. I love the look of small bunches of plants hanging to dry. An unexpected compensation. I hope I remember that when the mower is returned and I ultimately have to attack the now disastrous growth. Thankfully Adelaide Merrimen, her daughter and Honey Merrimen, and Candida Lycet Green (the new Nubian) have accommodated me by keeping the two backyards under control

I've kept the stone floor under the barn bridge way, where I milk, swept and limed. At last. It means the sweepings, the goat manure, droppings from the occasional marauding sheep, and old hay that filters down from the barn floor above it, can be mixed with lime and further fertilized. The lonely and once abandoned, very pretty, I might add, yard behind the carriage house (it contained the ruins from the barn wall disaster that occurred eons ago), is now immaculate, tidy, and orderly, due in part to the goats who have enjoyed grazing down the burdock and pigweed that grew there. I've bought some clover seed to fill in the bare spots left from the shade of the burdock. It then shall be mulched and what more perfect mulch shall be the straw left from last year's hay that asks to be emptied from the hay mow floor before I start to bring hay in again.

The big apple tree next to the barn bridge way has begun to thin itself of excess apples were there really to be any in excess. This year I'd be truly grateful. But, a spring frost seems to have robbed me of much of the fruit. The sheep have crowded around the bridge way wall, the better to pick up the drops. An afternoon tea.

I've tried, of late, to do something each day in preparation for the winter. The beavers had, over several years, built a formidable dam along the brook. It gave me a fine little pond in addition to flooding a section of field that I didn't want to be flooded. I'd pull out a section of dam with regularity and made a great pile of the long and thin branches they so nicely trimmed for me. I wanted the pond. Didn't want my field flooded. But neither did I want the mess of twig sized branches tangled amongst the grasses in that pasture. I tried to be neat and orderly about it, but at times the best I could do was pull and toss. With abandon. Usually the flying branches landed on the pile. But not always. And so, now, another pleasure is to go down to the pond, watch the clouds reflected on its surface, and make bundles of the wood to serve as kindling. The beavers, inconsiderately, I must say, made their dam from four foot long sticks. My fireplace only accommodates pieces that are two feet long. So I tied the bundles with two pieces of baling twine left from last year's hay. They can be cut down the middle into two nicely packaged two foot long bundles. Each a perfect length with which to start the fire. I saw such nicely cut kindling in a well managed forest in France one day. It was neatly stacked but not tied. I've done them one better. That pleases me.

The wood room has almost completely regained its former sense of order. There is only one small, deep corner that needs be addressed. There are stairs there leading to a door that is no longer used. It is a perfect place in which to stack these tidy bundles of kindling. Security lies, sometimes, in small things well done.

 A coyote calls from across the brook. Too close. The closest to the house I've heard this summer. I tried to put the sheep in the barn. There are, however, too many new ones who don't remember the rules. Some, about forty, born last winter, breeding stock, some other replacements in my flock. Some I've bought. Those did not listen to me, but stayed outside. Glencora MacCluskie, who shall be six months old tomorrow (I've already said that but I'm very impressed with it), has not, as yet been trained for sheep. But I was desperate. I brought her out. We went to the back of the remaining flock, positioning the sheep between us and the open door to the barn. She, God bless her, listened, with no additional prompting to my request that she "walk on", "steady". She moved slowly towards them, almost assuming the Border Collie attitude. Down near the ground, ears back, tail down. Almost. An attempt, on her part, I think to understand the maneuvering. Some moved into the barn. I dropped the pup to give the sheep time to move with dispatch and without fear. They split into two groups. One to the right, one to the left. "That will do." Move on." And Glencora proceeded to make a wide left hand turn to walk behind the second group of sheep. They, too, went into the barn. I dropped the pup. Struggled with the door latch. And called her to me. "That will do."

Were all days this good.

July 19, 2006

Sylvia Jorrin

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