It has arrived in all of its attendant glory. Or rather, its own
version of glory. A little gentler, a little sweeter than glory
usually manifests itself. But it is, indeed, here.
Spring. I watched a daffodil bud slowly, quietly slip into bloom
yesterday in the afternoon. And took my Saturday afternoon off, a
long promised but seldom realized practice, among my current and
gooseberry bushes. Simple weeding. Looking. Counting and
recounting. Are there really seventy? Do I count the single
stick albeit with several buds, planted two years ago as a bush?
Are these the Hinnomakis I planted last year? Five, with a bare
spot where number six should be. The gooseberries that Ernest
Westcott dug for me from the line fence several years ago have laid
down several branches that have taken root. I put scratch feed
around them and have let the chickens aerate the soil and dig up some
weed seeds for me. A black currant bush stands on the edge of the
rectangular gooseberry plot. What ever possessed me to put it
there? It may be too big to transplant.
A flight of fancy prompted me to buy some lovely looking currants called Champagne currants. Three bushes. They seem to be, at least in the picture, a pale gold in color with a pink blush. I hope that’s true. They are on the border of another rectangle in the vegetable garden. One that I have left in grass and piled a few stones on which to sit. I am there now.
The Welsummer chickens are eager to taste the remaining cappuccino in the cup beside me. I am waiting for a lamb customer who is bringing me some kid goats to board. A faint breeze stirs the air. The black currant bushes are curved around their stone bordered patch in the garden in front of me. They look good this year. The sounds of the renegade chickens, the ones who live in the barn rather than the carriage house disturb the silence. Their principal rooster has marched over to see if the earth around the gooseberries is worth bringing his harem to. One quick perusal and he’s off. Not good enough for this prince.
I had a scare last night from my own youngest pride of the farm, the exquisite and perfect Horned Dorset ram lamb whom I have been raising by hand, didn’t want his afternoon bottle. A dramatic departure from his customary habit. His belly looked swollen and his head was down. For the first time he didn’t race towards me the moment he heard my step. By evening I was frightened. He lay on the lamb basket (they all love that basket and voluntarily go in it all on their own), with his head hanging over. I dosed him with Pepto-Bismol. I went downstairs a couple of hours later, dosed him mightily again with the pink stuff. He actually took every drop. I then went to bed with grave misgivings in my heart. Should I have given him an enema? Should I have treated him as little as he is for frothy bloat? It took all my courage to go downstairs this morning to face what I thought would be my despair. This lamb is to be my new ram for the Horned Dorset flock. I need him. His birth has saved me or rather his survival will save me a projected three hundred and fifty dollars that a new replacement would cost. There are three bottle ewe lambs accompanying the ram in the house, ready at last to be moved to the barn. I opened the kitchen door. One, two, three, four lambs raced to me. The small melon that the ram lamb’s stomach resembled was gone. He took one bottle. Didn’t ask for a second. Thank God for that one.
Life, sitting on this stone bench, seems so simple. “Do it now.” “Pick it up, don’t walk by.” “Carry bailing twine in your pocket at all times.” “Do each thing till completion.” “Clean up as you go.” “Go for finished units.” It does seem so obvious and easy to keep manageable. And yet there is more to it than that. And it is the “more to it than that” that confounds me at times.
I’ve been reading, rereading, some of the garden books that I bought in 1978 when I first came here in the fall 2008. Dreams and aspirations. James Underwood Crockett was an inspiration. He died a few years later and I felt as if part of the life force left the farm. Of course, it wasn’t a farm then and it was beyond my imagination that it would become one. Some information is dated, and yet it is that which I find amazing. In both the Victory Garden and Backyard Fruit Trees are a great number of things that are no longer applicable. And in the opposite direction from what one would assume. In many of the reports of very old books that I own a number of things are impossible to do because the materials are no longer available. Usually things made of metal. In these books, a number of things that they say are not available once again. And some things, like black currants as an example, that were not fashionable to raise, are once more. There are many more “heirloom” apples to be obtained, as another example. Our tomatoes are now “mulched” in red plastic and we use less sprays for insecticides. Crockett’s book made me lonely a bit for the early days here. But the fruit tree book reminded me of how frustrating it was to want to raise black currants commercially. As I have wanted to do for some time, on a small scale, of course. The information was sparse. In fact it was in the form of a suggestion. “Don’t do it.” Clearly the author had never heard of Kir, the drink inspired by Father Kir, consisting of black currant liquor and champagne. Also, said author had never seen bottles of black currant syrup lined up on the shelves in stores and bars. Nonetheless the co-operative extension gave me an incredible amount of assistance, thanks to Janet Aldrich and eventually I was on my way.
In my desk drawer of special things I have a pamphlet about raising all of the Ribes family. It took awhile to get it. It was fifteen dollars. A fortune at the time. However, I reread it with clean hands and a hopeful heart.
Today the kitchen lambs shall go to the barn. They get four bottles a day which shall have to be reduced to three feedings. Only one is named. Lulu Lyttle. That is Lulu Lyttle. They sleep together, a small pile of lambs, usually, in the big wood basket in the kitchen. I’ve not renamed the other two, one who shall be given away. The other, not. The ram lamb has not received his name yet. It has somehow not come to me. It shall. His mother finally escaped from the carriage house and is seeming to want to join the flock. She runs around like the escapee she is, darting into the barn to eat some balage and then back outside. I am, with certainty, sure she’ll find her way back with the flock. Instinct accompanied by experience told me that she’d not nurse him properly and I was right. It was he who was at fault, not she. It took several days to teach him how to suck a bottle properly. I think his recent stomach drama came from sucking too fast and too hard. So be it. He is a fine little creature and I want him to make it. He is needed to augment his own father’s relatively miserable performance this past year or my dreams for a Horned Dorset flock with come to naught.
The currants and gooseberries, most recently released from their winter mantles of a smattering of broken pine branches and the fall grasses that surrounded them in their unweeded states last autumn, have given me a gift. A number of them had branches pushed down to the ground which took root and are beginning to show evidence of shoots developing. Another reason to get the roving chickens into their portable coop. They love to tear into the newly exposed earth that was comprised of half composted manure and scratch away looking for seeds and the occasional bug. No good. At least for these fragile, surface rooted new attempts at creating more bushes. They dig them up. I want those new bushes. They are already filling in in places ones that didn’t survive. I hadn’t understood how shallow the root system of Ribes really is and how much competition even a small covering of grass could give them. They really need a three foot radius of composted manure if I want them to flourish. Those that have it have rewarded me. Tomorrow shall find me, buckets loaded, covering some newly exposed roots and making piles next to the soon to be bushes. The chickens will have their field day in them of course. But I am enchanted with these new gifts and shall do all I can to make them feel appreciated.
It has arrived. Spring!
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