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June 2007

This is a morning that dreams are made of. Gleaming sun on the dew. The air sweet and warm. Faint breeze. The apple blossoms are filling the air with a lemony sweetness. Pigeons coo. My dog races through the morning. For the moment, at least, all is well. There was a new lamb born here last evening. To an old ewe, who had been given to me. One who had been consigned to the dog food factory by an owner given to pontificating about the great love he professes to have for his sheep. After all, he is a practical man. He had been told she was not able to be bred again. By a veterinarian, that is. Last winter, she lambed with a fine set of twins, in a field, in minutes, in snow, both ewes. This spring, yesterday, she dropped a big, sturdy little ewe lamb. She's cost me $150 to feed over two winters, and given me $500 in lambs. She'll stay out her life here. I am a practical woman. Sometimes.

They made it. The chicks. They made it! Their first night outdoors in the big coop. I was reluctant to get up this morning. Not that I'm ever eager to get up on these 40 degree mornings that haunt these hills, summer and winter. But all I could think of was the possibility of finding some of those chicks smothered in a pile in a corner of their new coop. Last night I covered them with the blankets and rugs that I customarily used on the gerbil cage that they have been living in outside for the past two weeks. Then, beset with worry, (had I transferred them too soon), I took a flashlight, searched the barn for a lamp I knew was somewhere, and covered them even more securely, ladening the cages with logs. The best to keep it from blowing off. The gerbil cage has been moved periodically all day long to best be in the warmest rays of the sun and put under cover by day but still outside in my outdoor living room, for the night. Yesterday I transferred them to the second larger of all of my coops. They had outgrown the gerbil cage. They perched nicely on the lath I had strung across it, duplex living, but still, were too many in too small a space. The coop had been occupied by two fierce and wild black chickens who were born here last summer. Their three sisters escaped. I've been too busy to track them down, but, as only two are parading around with their father, it is to be suspected that one is nesting. More little wild pretty black hens to feed. Were this moment to take place fifty years ago, I'd say "alas!".

Their brothers are handsome identical creatures. I've kept them. A bit impractical as they must be cooped these days. This year I'm determined to have a vegetable garden. They would destroy it were they to be allowed to be free range at the moment. They are glorious, however, absolutely beautiful things. And so shall have pet status along with a few other animals I manage to rationalize keeping here.

I pulled on a sweater, staggered reluctantly downstairs. Let Glencora MacClusky out. Turned the light on under the kettle. And steeled myself to approach the coop. I lifted one end of the tarp. No chicks to be seen. A skunk. A raccoon. Something must have gotten to them. I went to the other end and lifted the tarp. Inside were chicks. Chicks! Alive and racing around their new expanded grassy luxurious home. None smothered to death in the cold. Alive. All alive. 

Two Days: Day One

Got it! The escape route. At last!! Two lambs have established a regular escape route every morning. It has become a habit with them. Both are lambs that I am keeping. One is a fluffy ewe. Both smart and pretty. One is a runaway ram. I chose him last winter to be a replacement ram. He looked good to me. Another one who did look good, to my regret, no longer does. The best growing, chunkiest, has also been marked. But he may be too tame to me. That is another story. The runaway lamb is square and blocky with a nipped off tail. Almost as smart as his little friend. I've caught and recaptured him repeatedly in an effort to keep him in the paddock where I am feeding out a special lamb grower mix that Pipestone recommends. Every morning I count the lambs in the pasture and come up wanting. For awhile it was the new ones, the most recently captured that I tried to wean and put on good grass and grain who escaped. But, always accompanied by those two. To my dismay.

This morning there were in my outdoor living room, eating the remnants of the baby chicks' grain, left when I kept them there, sheltered at night. The ewe lamb came with me. The ram behind her. Glencora MacCluskie, sheep dog in the rough, startled them and it was over. I caught the ewe but not the buck. After a few minutes he started for the gate but was spooked again by the dog. He walked off. Rapidly. Around the quince bushes. Up the driveway. Along the verge by the road. A truck was heard in the distance. I hoped he saw the lamb. Suddenly the lamb ran forward towards the truck as it approached. And ducked through a gap in the gate far, far from where I'd ever found them grazing or, for that matter, even considering an escape route. I put a temporary restraint at the gap. Hope to be able to get someone to reset the gate posts. But, for today at least, they're in!!

Day Two

Morning mist. Thick and beautiful. The Chokecherry tree I've grown outside of the dining room windows is in bud. The blossoms are beginning to wake. It now fills the lower half of the window. White and pale green. I wanted to see it in bloom. And haven't been in that favorite of rooms for months. It shows some great efforts made and some small dreams broken. There are some apple cheeses on the table that I made last September to sit and mature till Christmas. And some candied tomatoes. And some Rouge vif d'temp pumpkins I lined up on white platters. Now small, flat, round temporary sculptures. I look at the room. I wanted it immaculate before I sat in it again. But it isn't. Oh, the old familiar refrain is sung once again. It will take only two hours for the floor. One hour to iron the table cloth. An hour to wash all of the beautiful dishes I keep out on the long table. An hour to put the room back together again. A half an hour to fill all of the pitchers with green leaves. That's all. Two and one and one and one and a half. Hours all. The windows of course, need to be washed. And the new chairs my grandson's mother bought me have to be brought in. Oh, I almost forgot. The white covers for the chair cushions need to be ironed, sorted and put on.

A Day or Two Later

The Chokecherries are in bloom. The sweet Cicely in the perennial border is a drift of white. Its fragrance fills the dining room. I've opened the windows and let the cold air blow in. The dining room is in order. Not quite finished. Not clean enough. But quite in order. Honeysuckle in bloom fills the white pitcher on the stone mantle. Honeysuckle in leaf is on top of the glass front's china cabinet. The white ironstone and white and gold Limoges dishes gleam. A white unironed table cloth read: line sheets, are on the table. I've put Susan Reisen's l'ouvriere Twig candles, the butterscotch colored ones in some brass candlestick along with the ivory ones. The dark green chaise has been dusted and fluffed. A bowl of brown eggs sits on the table, nesting in a white bowl. I love the look of dishes on a table and this one is covered with them. Today I'll finish the windows and make them gleam. There is a narrow border holding the sashes in place that I've always wanted to paint with gold. It is about 3/8 of an inch wide and would act as a frame around these most lovely views.

Sylvia Jorrín

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