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June 2009

The barn swallows swoop over my head as I milk the two latest goats to arrive on the farm.  They come burdened with two rather impossible names.  At least impossible to incorporate into the previously established genre of names I am accustomed to give here.  The sweetest of the two comes to the call, "Here Bubbles".  The rambunctious one is Edna.  While to some, the kind of names I give my livestock is amusing, to me, they are simply a delight.  My beautiful, late lamented sheep, Fancy Bawling comes to mind.  I loved looking at her and saying, "Now, Fancy that!".  The goats have family surnames.  The Merrimans and the MacDouglases.  The sheep are another story.  However, I was told these two goats will come when called, provided I call out Bubbles and Edna.

            Edna was the most vociferous of the two when she first arrived.  Tethered to a fence, she looked longingly at my emerging posture and spoke her opinion loudly and in no uncertain terms.  But about which?

            Yesterday afternoon I tethered her once more to a fence post and left her for a short while.  When I returned she was gone.  The rope in tatters.  My Yankee soul is loath to not try to reuse last year's rope, the ones I painstakingly braid out of a new roll of baling twine.  I've begun to accept, however, reluctantly, that I must start a fresh each year.  While they seem to still be quite strong they have a tendency to disintegrate when any stress is applied to them.  So be it.

            Instinct prompted me to look to the pasture rather than search among the more luscious of possible edibles in the vicinity.  There, in the distance, mingling with the sheep, grazing quite nicely at that, was Edna.  Oh, no!  What now?  "Edna", I called.  "Edna.  Come."  My sheep looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  It was the appropriate time for me to call out "Cahm ahn!  Cahm ahn", and put them in the barn for the night.  But no.  Here I was singing quite a different tune.  Some stared at me.  Others just picked up their heads.  Three or four started to saunter to the barn and then stopped.  Edna came, at a leisurely, lady-like pace, directly to me, let me pet her head and lead her back to her carriage house home.  She has probably been called Edna for all of her life.  But shall not be for much longer, Louisa, maybe.  Even, perhaps, Millicent but Edna, no.  However making the transition shall take some ingenuity.

            My carriage house has been hoed out to the walls with the exception of two of the pens that hold livestock.  It hasn't been like this since I started farming.  Everything has been sorted out and reorganized, ready for me to determine how I want things to be.  Those words alone are part of the miracle.  For too often, expedience is the driving force here.  Or rather, perhaps, immediacy.  I've rarely had the luxury of being able to choose, where and how I want things.  Some quite forgotten or often ignored things surfaced.  One was a little table that shall soon be moved to the lovely, lovely place where I milk goats, under the barn bridge way.  A table on which to put the milk pail when I am bringing the goats back to their places, mornings on the lawn, evenings to the carriage house, has been a long time necessity.  I've been of the custom of propping the buckets on top of an old wine colored plastic garbage can that has disturbed my "dairy" for far too long.  Upon opening it the other day I discovered a treasure of composted manure I had dug from the barn some time ago.  The miracle workers have moved it, as well, to be spread under the apple trees my mother bought me the year I bought the house.

            My "dairy" has a stone floor. It is under the barn bridge way.  Hence the visitation of the barn swallows.  They have, over time, built their wattle nests on the floor joints of the barn bridge way high above my head.  They seem to be away from home, morning. It seems to be evening milking to which they object.

            I make cheese.  And bought some very nice gallon jars with wide mouth tops in which to store the milk. One per goat.  I've never fancied the kind of goat cheese that has a strong taste.  The one I make is very mild and delicate.  Sometimes I top it with pepper and chives.  Or rather bottom it with pepper and cheese as I sprinkle the cheesecloth on which it drains with the above and turn it upside down when serving it.  My goats make very delicately flavored milk.  Tomorrow I shall buy some yogurt to start making my own.  There is a nice cheese made from drained yogurt that can be stored in olive oil that has enticed me for years.  Soon it shall be made here.

            Sounds of the roof being torn off shatters the silence.  The baby chicks in the two cages in the living room become agitated with the sound.


            The new roof is the second miracle of late, cedar shakes.  Copper box gutters and flashing.  A revamped chimney or two.  A civilized house in the making.  I've had the good fortune to have found a remarkable crew who are fair, efficient, and entertainingly funny.  They, sometimes, shout unacceptable things at each other.  At least things that would be utterly unacceptable from me, but that they seem to accept with equanimity.  I've loved every minute of having them around!  And will never be able to express my gratitude to them.  They are a joy.

            White rambling roses dot the pastures and hillsides here.  They were once planted as hedgerows to keep the cows in.  They are now considered to be weeds.  I love them.  Some were dug up across the street one year and discarded.  I wished to have them.  A year or two ago I saw a tiny one, roadside, my roadside, at that, among the Sumac trees.  My Sumac never quite produced any fruit for me.  I do so love "lemonade" made from the pinnacles.  Therefore, I usually end up picking it elsewhere rather than from my trees.

            And so, it was with no compunction that I broke some branches and some small trees that were obscuring my view of the soon to be blossoming rose bush.  For, you see, that rose bush has grown beyond my imagination.  And it is trailing, gracefully, at that, over the fence, and the Sumac that is still standing.  It is lovely.  Lush and full.  Thick and yet rambling.  There are many buds on it.  It shall be lovely to see.  It makes me so happy to have noticed it.

            I found, this afternoon, almost in the same moment, an undergrowth of tiny currant bushes, all about a foot to eighteen inches high.  They are begging to be transplanted in sunny and fertile ground.  I have a decent amount of black currant bushes.  Some gooseberry bushes, and a few gigantic, now that I understand how to grow them, red currants.  However, this find shall dramatically expand the red currant plantation.  Frost hit much of the berries this year.  However, in the words of Beverly Nichols, fearsome gardener, gardeners are always talking about "next year", "next year".  As am I.  Next year, or in the case of the purloined currants, the year after.  They are a perfect size to transplant with the least amount of trauma.  I've just to decide to where.  There are two triangular gardens on the far side of the big vegetable garden here.  I had thought they would, or at least the biggest would be devoted to black currants.  But, perhaps a section of red ones will be in order.

            I seem to be buying a couple more Horned Dorset ewes. Described as two year olds, then changed to three year olds, they are something I've wanted for some time.  There are already six here and a ram, plus three ewe lambs and a ram lamb.  They are not easy to find, of late, those original Dorsets, old fashioned, chunky, ancient faces from the English Downs.  Will you give me the magic I need?

            Life has become intense here in ways anticipated but not wished for. I struggle with experience versus hope.  I buy baby chicks, sheep, goats, a roof, perfume, vegetable seeds and dahlia tubers.  My heart has been engaged as well. And that alone has lightened the load. 


Sylvia Jorrín

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