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March 2008

I've been rereading old familiar favorite books of late. The best way I've come up with to regain of myself what has been misplaced these past few months. When first coming home from the hospital I reread all of the Maigret and Nero Wolfe mysteries I could easily find in the house. Books about France came next. Throwing out anchors to past selves. Selves that were once well integrated into the person who I am. That self is a vague entity now. But coming back into focus. The past few days, however, have been entertaining a major set back. A cold/flu that seems to have attacked everyone I know has laid me low, and almost overtaken my mind as well as my body. And so, with relief, I found Timothy Ferris' Coming of Age in the Milky Way, a sort of history of physics and astronomy, interspersed with some lovely quotes, poetry and philosophy. The book has never really been totally comprehensible to me. How I envy a good education at the onset of life. However, numerous reads, rereads, and scans, have begun to sink in, and yesterday, with a mind befuddled with a cold and a hacking cough, suddenly I understood the mechanics behind a quantum leap and what the expression meant. How much fun that seemed!

      Sir Isaac Newton made an appearance and it was fascinating to learn that many aspects of his personality would have been met with very different interpretations by our contemporary psychology. He wrote that when he was a young man he had threatened his mother and step-father with wanting to burn down their house with them in it. What would our society have to say and do about that! In later years his relationship with his mother was exemplary.

A lot of the possible explanations of the formation of the universe billions of

years ago only affirmed to me the existence of God, as it did to Newton and Einstein. It almost seemed as if God became bored with being  alone and infinite and decided to make Himself a toy, taking from Himself an idea of hydrogen, compressed it in 10-31 of a second, let it go and, bang! In the beginning was the word and the word was God. How much fun it all must have been to make all of those stars and planets and worlds! There was an article in one of last week's New York Times saying a red star had been discovered with planets orbiting around it the same distances from the star as our planets orbit the sun. A supposition of, perhaps, a place where there may be life similar to ours. .

      My last night book has been The Auberge of the flowering Hearth by Ray Andreas deGroot. I bought it long before Greenleaf and moving to the country was even an idea. It is a story of an inn in the French Alps and a very short distance (walking) from the Monastery which owns the secret formula for and supervises the making of the liquor, Chartreuse. The inn was owned and operated by two women, high in the mountains, snowed in from late November through mid March (and they entertained skiers all winter…how did they get there?). The menu was prepared mainly of local ingredients. How envious that made me. There, thousands of feet above sea level, seemed to be available an infinite variety of local foods, cheeses, meats, breads, mushrooms, vegetables. Oh, they drove down to Grenoble for olives and anchovies. But the farmer's market in the nearby village, none-the-less supplied a plethora of ingredients.

      The cooking at the Auberge was complex. I'm not certain if a present day inn could produce the meals that these two women did day in and day out, with no extra help, it would seem, in the kitchen. Even I, who used to seriously cook, made very few recipes from that book. But I remember one special dinner that I made a long time ago including their Roquefort cheese tart recipe.. There were seven guests. I also served after dinner Godiva chocolates and bought very nice cigars for the men.

      It had seemed that when I bought this house I would have dinner parties and cook at least once a month. Eventually the round table that came up from the city grew some leaves. My grandson and his mother bought me some more dining room chairs and now it seats ten, easily. Fourteen with a little watching of the elbows. Cooking, for me at least, creates a mess. Especially if a soup and three choices of dessert are included. So how to make a dinner party when my guests have to pass through the kitchen, or rather, how to be a more tidy cook, might be the problem.

      But what presents still another problem here is an ironic one. This is a working farm. And I live in what is known to be farm country. And we are sorely lacking in food here. At least the ingredients with which to create foods. Oh, the supermarkets in the village and nearby city have well stocked shelves. But, last week I couldn't find any lemons in the better of the two-in-the village. There were, however, numerous packages and varieties of freeze dried and instant potatoes. For an exorbitant price per pound for that matter.

      In the early years here, I commuted, in a manner of speaking, and brought food with me from New York City. There were some markets near where I met my ride, and I'd come home with bunches of sorrel and good olives and all kinds of nice things with which to cook for the few days I'd be here, before going off to work for the money to pay for the fantasy that Greenleaf is.

      And now to go off to the barn and start my chores. I find myself exhausted halfway through and go back to the house. Part of me feels good that I am, for once, taking care of myself, and part of me feels as if I am a slackard. I lie down for a half an hour. Sometimes with a book. Sometimes stretching out on the kitchen floor, it feels so good, a puppy and a dog on either side of me. And if there is a book, I pull out of it who I am and have been so I can return to the other half of my chores, restored. At least somewhat.

      Goat books have been occupying me, of late. They have four adult does due in around the spring equinox. They seem to be quite round at the moment, although they aren't bagging yet. The three little ones, almost yearlings, are round as well. Ona Ethyl Merriman, is startlingly barrel shaped. Her twin, Lydia Merriman, is less so. Neither are bagging. I am doing the goats as right as possible this year. I have read outdated goat books, the most current goat tools, cheese making books, American, English and French, and called my vet for additional advice. I also quizzed Sister Susan who is the goat herd at Zoar Farms about her nutrition program. Her goats are beautifully taken care of, milking heavily and for longer into the year than mine. The Auberge of The Flowering Hearth described three different cheeses that accompanied the end of both dinners and lunches. I was envious. It fired my determination to do better with my cheese making this year than last. Mother Katherine is the cheese maker at Zoar Farms and I hope to glean advice from her before I start to milk again. I do so want to tie the threads of my life into a whole that makes sense to me.

Sylvia Jorrín

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