Sylvia Jorrín    Farm Stories     Interview     Photo Album     Bookshop     Appearances

For Arthur

            It is the most glorious of mornings.  Full of hope and promise and the possibility of all things wonderful.  The drought that has hindered my pastures from growing this April ended last night.  Oh marginally, I must admit.  However, it rained.  For the first time in nearly two weeks.  I hung laundry out yesterday.  A lot of laundry.  Knowing the rain might come.  I did it anyway.  It will be rinsed even cleaner.  Sometimes, in spring, the  winter's blankets needing to be aired out, find themselves draped across all of the fences behind the house, to be washed clean in the rain and dried when the sun next comes out. 

            Oh, it isn't a classically beautiful spring morning.  The sky is the dismal white that sometimes haunts this side of Delaware County.  The distant hills are gone from view.  Shrouded in a thick, unrelieved mist.  The newly emerging green isn't gleaming in the morning sunshine.  The air is raw and damp.  Unacceptably cold.  But there is something else that makes this morning glorious.  And that is promise.  It holds promise. 

            The old vegetable gardens have had an incredible amount of work done to them in the past couple of weeks.  Eight of its beds were thoroughly redug and manured.  And best of all, not by me.  The sight of them gave me both inspiration and freedom.  The inspiration came from the two beds that had never been dug over before.  Oh, designated, yes.  Dug, no.  They always served as a reproach to me.  Something to be looked away from.  A visible proof of still another "you haven't done this yet?  Nor will you."  An echo from the most discouraged corner of my mind.  Yesterday I raked and sifted the soil in the larger of the two.  Later in the day I found the perfect corner stone.  The inspiration included the motivation to not just look at the stone but placing it in its most perfect spot as well.  The stone paths, somewhat overgrown have been emerging of late.  They are now well dusted with lime, to show they have been both weeded and trimmed, visible once more.  No longer a tribute (read, indictment) to my negligence.  I've been bringing up from the fields flat stones that are likely to be needed to expand the walkways.  It has been fun for me.  My idea of fun, that is.  The currants, just this morning, are showing their buds and the flowering quince wear a haze of iridescent orange that will soon manifest itself in a blaze of cheerfulness that just misses the essence of vulgarity.  Both pig weed, which needs to be cut for the goats and burdock are lifting their leaves from the ground.  I cut those, as well, for the goats.  It may be for this is best if these supposed weeds are murdered in their beds, however, for the moment the minerals they bring up from the soil are of great benefit to lactating livestock. 

            Dandelions have presented a problem to me for a very long time.  One of the favorite dishes in this household is bacon, potatoes, dandelions, and garlic dressed with cider vinegar.  But the dandelions on the lawn are vanquished as they are mowed, but the ones in the garden are ofttimes weeded out and tossed away.  And so the search for some leaves big enough to bother cooking becomes an arduous task, summers.  As I am something of a slow fix at times, solutions to problems don't always come quickly to my mind.  And so, it was only last year that it occurred to me to leave the dandelions to grow in the vegetable garden.  Amazing revelation, that, after nearly thirty years.  They are now big, lush, green and inviting.

            One thing, of many, that the digging (by someone else) of the garden beds did for my morale was to provide me with a little more time to devote to a kind of "making perfect" that I never have a chance to do.  I have a tendency to listen to the loudest voice demanding my time and patiently ignore the small quiet ones that actually are, in some ways, more important, to me.  There is a stone walkway that was installed connecting the back porch with the now highly disabled farm office.  Between it and the stone foundation of the house is a narrow plot of dirt giving home to some grass and weeds, a plot about nine or ten inches wide and four feet long.  For years I've thought to plant sweet cicely there.  This glorious, invasive multipurpose plant grows a deep tap root, well able to carry nourishment from deep within the earth to what becomes, over the years, a tall bushy plant with clove smelling white flowers and fern like edible leaves.  Ultimately, it has an anise flavored seed which I use to flavor eau de vie.  I have tons, literally, almost, of sweet cicely plants emerging all over the gardens and yards.  Two days ago I planted some in this most neglected little spot.  It is amazing how much happiness and optimism has been generated by that little piece of earth.  The day lily display in the vegetable garden has been magnificent for the past few years.  However, there are far too many.  Now that the long planned four newly dug from edge of the garden is in its most pristinely perfect order, it seemed appropriate to line its newly established edge with two or three rows of day lilies.  That, too, is now done.  As are a number of other similar kinds of things.  The kinds of things that make a big difference to me. 

            Last night I made the first goat cheese of the year.  Lucinda Mae Douglas is now feeding me as well as the bottle lambs.  Oh, cappuccino has been my pleasure, mornings, for quite some time.  However, yesterday's breads were made with whey, and a little garlic goat cheese was a welcome accompaniment, indeed.

            While not laying as well as they should, about a dozen of the long awaited cinnamon, brown, beigy pink, and robin's egg blue eggs have been appearing daily of late.  A friend in New York is a painter.  One of the reasons I bought Cuckoo Marans was to send her some of those beautiful cinnamon colored eggs to paint as part of her still lifes.  Yesterday I found a deeper blue egg still intact, very tiny on the ground.  Intact.  With any luck, I'll send her a package of eggs in tomorrow's mail, including the tiny blue one.  I had been, in the habit after gathering them from the carriage house coop and the outdoor portable coop, of putting them on the back porch before bringing them into the house.  Once in awhile I'd seem to have miscalculated about how many had been gathered.  Sometimes, there'd be a peck taken into a shell or two.  Once in awhile I'd seem to have miscounted about how many had been gathered.  Yesterday, two, beautiful cinnamon colored shells appeared in the south pasture.  Empty.  How?  And two were missing from the porch.  From a corner of my eye I saw the culprit.  No, it was not one of my remaining roosters, the prime suspects.  Unfairly accused.  It was a large black crow.  The egg stealer. 

            So now there are a bit of cheese, some very fresh eggs in beautiful colors and dandelion greens.  I used to make some French sugar cookies on rainy days like this in the spring.  Sables, they are called.  Orange flavored.  Perhaps I'll make them today. 

            There are joys in the rising ___ and a raw damp day at the end of April that are incomparable to that in any other time of the year.  The cold is still pervasive. But it doesn't have the same meaning.  It doesn't bring a whispered warning of months to come.  Only of days to be savored.  One of the curiosities of the human mind and soul.  How we interpret things remains a mystery to me.  Why can I accept the raw chill day with equanimity, and have no reservations about getting up in the morning, diving into it, even with interest, when, in February, only dread and reluctance greets me in a room this raw and cold defies my understanding. And if I can find within me a reason to be joyful on a day like this, why can't I find that joy in other equally grey days?  That is the mystery.

There are more postings  in the Farm Stories Archive

Sylvia Jorrín  Farm Stories Archive  Interview  Photo Album  Bookshop   Appearances