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July 2009

      Cheerfulness Breaks Through is the title of one of the beloved Angela Thirkell Barsetshire series that I reread every few years. Well, the sun has just broken through. For a little while, a voice cautions me.  It has been raining on and off seemingly forever.  The sky is what summer skies sometimes are in this Catskill Valley where I live.  Yes, the occasional classic, blue sky, puffy white cloud kind has occurred today.  The sun even seems warm on my back as I sit at the long table that faces my garden. 

      I gave the men working on the roof, a piece of advice.  Two pieces, as a matter of fact in the keep the customer happy school of thought.  There is only one section of roof that I can see from inside of the house.  It is also visible from this table.  It is roughly a triangle.  About six or seven feet at its widest, and ten at its height.  Since all of the rest of the roof has to be viewed from outside of the house, it would be a very wise move to shingle that little triangle for the "boss lady" to see, much of the time, what she has paid for.  It is nearly finished. They are wise.   

      I bought some sheep the other day.  Three Horned Dorsets.  Getting them (they were living in Albany County - to my surprise, I might add) was a lovely adventure.  I had been invited to a book club in Cobleskill.  The farm where the sheep lived seemed to be not far from there.  It was much farther than I had anticipated.  However, initially, it appeared to be a good way to co-ordinate both excursions.  That day, too, had become lovely.  And I got to see the legendary Schoharie County, where everything seems to grow more beautifully than in my Delaware County.  Lo and behold, before the day was over, I saw something of Albany County as well.  Horned Dorsets tend to be larger sheep than any of the breeds that I have.  These three were large, even by Horned Dorset standards.  Apparently they had been housed with the shepherds nursing flock, and were fairly heavily grained, making them fairly heavy ewes. They, however reluctant they were to leave, settled quietly in the truck, and made nary a comment while waiting for me to read and talk to the book club members.  I had a marvelous time.  It was wonderful to remember the period on the farm that the book addressed.  Questions came quickly.  And I had the opportunity to be reminded of the reasons why I am here. Why I bought three more sheep.  It was dark in the pasture when we drove up to the house.  About ten o'clock.  I couldn't find my flashlight.  Life has become somewhat confusing with so many projects partially in work.  Nothing in completion.  But the sheep were off-loaded fairly easily. Or rather, fairly easily for me and them, but with considerable effort on the part of the miracle worker who drove for much of the day.  They are in.  They spend their time very closely together in my Horned Dorset pasture.  They are marked with blue on their backs.  Three years old, shall spend their lives here.  I had once made a plan of how long I would farm it.  It would have come around the time these sheep would end their lives.  But I've pushed that date back a couple of times now.  Should the farm begin to function as I wish, it will be interesting to see if it becomes easier in time.  It  already has, in many ways.  We shall see.  The water line in the carriage house is a major development.  The main barn being hoed out is still another one.  We shall see.  We shall see.   

      I've yet to name these three gigantic ewes.  They were all twins.  I'm uncertain if they are sisters.  Each one freshened last year.  One with a single.  Two with twins.  The quandary has been how to separate my Horned Dorset ram, Burgo Fitzgerald from the main flock and reinstall him in the Horned Dorset pasture.  The donkey is anxious to get out.  Were I to open the gate, even if I could get the room in its vicinity, Nunzio would dash out.  The rest of the ewes and lambs might as well.  And so, when I saw Burgo grazing all alone by the gate, I thought the heavens had smiled at me.  I asked one of the men on the roof to come down and restrain Nunzio, and got a can of corn.  Noisy, noisy corn.  Of course my big girls ran to the sound of it.  Burgo has always been hesitant around me.  He came here as a yearling and was much smaller.  His horns are enormous and I had to intimidate him rather than have him intimidate me!  But the lure of the corn was more powerful than the wish to avoid me and through the gate he came!  There is an outside chance that the three newest sheep will be inspired to start cycling upon the sight of my handsome young ram, and that the first week of December maybe will become the start of lambing season for me.  Wouldn't that be nice!  Names for these sheep have not presented themselves to me as yet.  However, upon writing those words, their last name manifested.  It shall be Henderson.  The Henderson girls.  The first names have to be very, very pretty.  Letticia comes to mind.  So be it.  The first is Letticia Henderson.  The second shall be Cassandra Henderson, maybe, and the third, well, let's see about that one. Their lambs shall be Fitzgerald of course, their father, Burgo Fitzgerald, giving their last name.   

      Sometimes the names come immediately.  Sometimes it takes longer.  I haven't used Cybella yet.  But it doesn't fit these girls.  Arabella, perhaps.  Yes.  There has been a cow Arabella, and a goat Arabella.  Once, a long time ago, there was a sheep Arabella, as well.  For a long time I didn't want to use names that had been used before.  However, human beings are named after other human beings.  I'm a slow fix.  It only has taken me twenty years to figure that one out.  One of my favorites, Fancy Bewling died. My heart was broken.  I did so saying, "now Fancy that!" whenever I saw her.   I think it may soon become possible to have another Fancy.  Not one of these gigantic horned girls.  Fancy would have to be a little lighter on her feet.  

      Having new stock arrive on a farm always gives a farmer a lift.  Sometimes I used to go with a trucker while he was delivering ewes to a farm.  I'll never forget that look on the faces of the farmer, his son, and the young woman I presumed was the son's wife when the big doors to the cattle truck rattled open and one at a time out lumbered a ewe.  Their faces were so deeply and intensely, a seriousness mingled with hope that they touched the bottom of my heart.  When the miracle worker climbed in the back of the pick-up and cajoled, pushed, shoved and encouraged those three ewes off of the truck, I knew what my face had to have looked like, grain bucket in hand, standing to the side, ten thirty at night, in that dark and starless pasture.  

      I've bought two goats, three sheep, and fifty chicks in the past month.  All acquired for one purpose, and one purpose alone.  To produce for me an element of hope on my farm.   

Sylvia Jorrin  

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