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September 2008

              In everyday, these last days of summer, lies an opportunity to rediscover hope and to find joy.  Where shall I look today?  The Grandpa Ott's morning glories afford a starting place.  My dog, Glencora MacCluskie, now deemed to be, at two and a half, exactly what one would want a Border Collie to look like, just joined me sitting on the stone window seat built into the outdoor living room.  It is the best vantage point from which to see the morning glories.  I used to sit, once,  my back against the stone pillar having the thick black coffee I drink in the morning, looking out over my pastures.  A day lily border surrounds the stone wall with its built in window seats.  Today's lilies are double ones.  Orange.  Glorious.  But the best to see the morning glories is sitting backwards on this stone seat surrounded by lilies.  But from a completely different perspective.

            I can't conquer, nor can I even manage, today all of the problems that the approaching winter promises for me.  But I can find the essence of the solution.  And even that, will only satisfy me for one day.  The next day the problems will have shifted  slightly and appear to be somewhat different.  The satisfaction for that day will lie in a different approach.  I write down, when I think of it, the question, what is it that I am looking for in this day?  Some days it is my misplaced enthusiasm.  Misplaced but not lost.  Sometimes it is the ability to believe I can affect my own life in a positive way.  Some days it is to rekindle the smoldering ember of creativity that gives me an ability to see things slightly differently. Putting a bunch of wild thyme on an espresso coffee jar on my living room table.  Little instructions appear in my day books.  Go the extra mile and write it down.  Find peace of heart, in the small things. 

            Late August brings gold finches.  They nest and bring down from the thistles to line it.  Their song fills the air.  Delicate sounds.  Highly pitched.  A joyful sweetness.  Usually there is a great hawk migration in this valley around the last days of August, beginning of September.  They haven't arrived as yet.  One day my son and I counted forty flying over us as we stood looking out of the barn window.  Even more were out of sight flying above the barn.  It was beautiful. 

            Wild cherries are in great abundance on one tree this year, however most are unreachable.  I've managed to gather a quart or two and watch the jays with envy as they pick berries from branches high above my head.

            The surveyors have reported that the blackberries are thick this year.  I hope they will be still there on Sunday, the first day I'll have free this week.  You see, quite unexpectedly, shearing is going to happen on Saturday.  While the work load to prepare for a crew and to organize the sheep is overwhelming, it is one of the two or three most exciting moments on the farm.  Scout Miller appears to be bagging.  A Friesian cross named Amanda is bagging as well.  Two other sheep who run from me when I sit close enough to identify them are bagging as well. Therefore, there shall be at least four more lambs born here late summer.  An all time first.  Because we are shearing, it will be possible to tell if any more of them are due as well and even judge, within reason, if anyone else is also imminent. 


            Two goats are returning on Sunday from summer camp, Candida Lycett Green and her daughter Cameron Lycett-Green came from a commercial dairy.  Her owner has asked me several times how much milk Candida gives.  I suspect it is because Candida is, while the sweetest goat in the carriage house, a poor milker.  They two, mother and daughter, don't together give as much in a day as either Lucinda MacDouglas or Adelaide Merriman do singly.  Lucinda's daughter gives more milk, on her second lactation than Candida were I to push her, I suspect she'd give as much milk as her mother.  The Nubian and her cross-bred daughter have been having an incredibly joyful time entertaining two families blessed with many children and the boys with whom they live at a children's camp in Andes, summers.  They gave so much pleasure to these children that they have been invited back next summer.  And I was asked if there might be some more goats and sheep to borrow next year.  Two little ewes visit as well, acquitting themselves with flair.  I'll be so happy to see them all again. 


            Shearing shall offer me an opportunity to best evaluate whom I am keeping of this year's lambs to be part of my permanent flock and whom I shall cull on the next rainy Wednesday. Sale barn day.  Of course, all of the little ones born this summer, the ewe lambs and two of the rams, shall stay as permanent members of the flock.  All of this past winter's ewe lambs that I've been able to check more carefully look good.  And I shall keep most of them.  The plan has been that starting next year I shall begin to keep fewer replacement lambs, as much as my heart rebels against even so much as thinking that let alone saying it.  It had been my decision to gradually reduce the size of the flock over the next ten years, by attrition rather than selling adult ewes.  Somehow writing those words made me rebel, instantly.  No, it is too soon to begin to reduce the herd.  Perhaps the year after this or the year after that. 


            The new ram, bearer of hope and promise is Doby Fitzgorman.  A young prince.  Horned Dorset.  Nine months old when he arrived last spring.  With any luck he shall produce chunkier lambs than I've been getting of late. 


            Shearing has been a big problem for me over the past two years.  My shearer, of eight years, retired (I hope only momentarily) from shearing to open an ice cream parlor.   Some sheep were shorn last year, but not everyone.  Some have lost their fleeces from the weight of it.  But many, at least seventy, need to be shorn.  I'd given up hope.  Decided to try a scissor on some of them, when I got a call from the miracle worker who manifests here from time to time telling me he had unexpectedly gotten a shearer for his flock that day.  Did I want to book him for Saturday?  "I've not the money until October, late October at that, so no thank you."  A second call came through.  "He'll do it on Saturday and wait for his money 'till October." 


            In a surprising way, this is  a remarkable thing.  Oh, having sheep shorn is of itself wonderful.  The guilt that accompanied the sight of some of the those ewes with big thick fleeces was too difficult to be borne.  But the event gives me far more than simply ridding the sheep of their fleeces and me of my guilt.  It gives me a unique and solidly good start for the year.  An opportunity to evaluate the flock, see who is thin, who needs worming.  The barn is a third of the way hoed out, and shall be, in October, finished.  A sample of second cutting hay is coming this morning to be seen and evaluated.  There are some intimations that firewood may be in the offing.  I've ordered two hundred bales for the carriage house.  Four dollars each, one dollar more than last year, one third more in price.  I'll have to weigh the bales to see if they are any heavier.  They seem to be. 


            There are three high points on the farm.  Maybe four.  Lambing.  Shearing, Getting hay.  Getting firewood.   Usually these events are spread out over the year.  This year they are happening all at the same time.  Now.  Perhaps these events, in concert, are giving me what is needed to proceed.  A dear friend told me recently, you have no choice but to proceed. I'd like to needlepoint that on a pillow.  Proceed.

Sylvia Jorrin

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