This is the subtle and fragile moment in-between winter and spring. The fire in the living room was much needed on this cold second day of the new season. There is a pause in which to repair some of the damages caused by this most harshly and brutal winter just passed on the calendar, but not, as yet, in the house. Most of us survived. Some lambs didn't. But the ones that did are among the nicest I’ve ever seen here.
There are two who are one quarter Tunis and whose maternal grandmothers came from a commercial dairy here in New York. One is a ram. Dark brown but beginning to show a beige coat underneath. The other is a little ewe, spotted brown and white. Both are fluffy fat young things. I’ve not named them yet. However, they both shall stay. I sit in the barn at late, afternoons and see who shall come up to me. Today those two did. They stood in front of me for awhile and stared into my face. “No one shall ever eat you”, I told them both. They are not twins, probably are half brother and sister, and are very, very nice. Several ram lambs are quite big and sturdy. Two or three have small horns. One I sold for breeding stock had a huge rack at six weeks old. Many of my rams do. I don’t know from whom the gene comes. William Greenleaf Sire has horns, at least one horn. He lost the other to one of his sons, the son I had to sell because he had begun to consider becoming aggressive to me.
One very sweet ewe lamb is still in the house. It appeared she was born blind. Her eyes were clouded over with a white film. At first she kept bumping into things. She could smell the milk replacer, however, and came into the vicinity of the other lambs when I was feeding out bottles. I held her on my lap as I bottled her. After awhile I noticed she’d walk with her head held up almost as if she could see from the lower part of her eyes, seemingly she could see underneath the film. When I began to feed them holding the bottles up to them rather than holding them on my lap she crowded in with the others but didn't find it easy to find the nipple. Eventually she figured it out. She no longer holds her head up and I have to check her face to see which she is of the remaining bottle lambs. I plan to ask my vet if what happened to her eyes is an inherited trait. I’d like to keep the valiant little thing but not if she is carrying a gene for blindness. One other of the bottle lambs is also a ewe. She was an undersized little thing, couldn’t hold her own among the rough and tumble house bound flock that have been living in my bathroom. She got knocked about by the bigger ones. If she stayed with any of them it was the little blind one. She has grown nicely, however, and now is nearly indistinguishable from the few remaining lambs. Four have been sold, three are old enough to be transferred to the barn and three are still in the house. Those last three are eating grain. A lot of grain. And furthermore now drink their milk from a deep pan. They shall go down to the barn in a few days. I’m attached to the little Miss Big and shall keep her. I've only chosen two others to stay so far this year. I've already told you about them. Names. Names. Names. None yet. Oh, but there is one other bottle lamb in the barn. Raggedy Ann. She is named and chosen. I've braided collars for ones I’m keeping. Multi colored. Aqua, orange, wine, red and hunter green. Some ram lambs for meat or breeding stock shall wear green ones. Sales have been good so far this year. My hay bill is getting caught up. Milk replacer has been a back breaker. Ten bottle lambs and one boarded bottle lamb at sixty-five dollars apiece. SO be it. My hay prices have tripled in the past twenty-six years. My lamb prices have not. They've only been increased slightly more than doubled. The lamb feed from McDowell-Walker has put a nice finish on them and the price is very attractive.
I've been given a small gift for having survived the winter. It is cash, to spend on whatever I choose. It is a dilemma to pick between two things I like. One is a sort of necessity that I have lived without on and off over the years. The other is a delight which can be termed as a necessity to the spirits. The first is a pair of andirons for the fireplace. They are needed to keep the logs from rolling forward. When I've had them they have been very nice. The other is still another mirror. I love mirrors, and have many. They reflect both light into the house as well as pretty things on opposite walls, including other mirrors. My living room is under two porches. Although each end wall is almost completely enclosed in windows, the sun never directly shines in except in the late afternoon during some seasons. The room where I am considering to be the place for a new mirror already has several, as well as three walls of glass. One mirror will be, if it becomes the rewards gift, exchanged. It shall find its home in one of the bedrooms. The new one, will go over a stone mantel in the dining room. It is Florentine gold and a little ostentatious. Almost a little vulgar. A lot of gold. But, in the most rustic room of the house, it may provide a touch of whimsy. So. It will be fire logs or a mirror. I just hope it won’t be more milk replacer.
The days are lighter. It is supposed to be spring. Of course. But nearly as cold as winter. After several hours of fussing with the fire today the thermometer has not reached fifty in the room where I am trying to write. The ink does flow from the pen. That is a relief. But I am only wearing two sweaters, therefore I am still cold. Rumor has it, a nasty rumor that, that it shall be a cold wet spring. Feeding out hay costs forty to fifty dollars a day.
It is a tradition in England to put the sheep out on April 20th. I, some years have as well. One year (was it last?) they didn't go out until May 8th. A very expensive year, that was.
I write numbers all day long. On envelopes, they are the best. On blank pages in the back of books. On white spaces in magazines. How much will it cost to run the farm this month? How much do I need for firewood for next winter? How much firewood will be needed for next year. How much space will be needed to store a winter’s worth? And where shall that space be? Inside? Outside? Basement? Wood room? Numbers, numbers and more numbers. Some tools for calculation are embedded in my brain. How many cubic feet in a face cord or in a full cord. How a full cord cannot be divided equally by three. It is usually supposedly three face cords to a full cord. It isn't. Not quite.
Numbers have always interested me. I've only had three original ideas in my life. And one of them is about numbers. I think one of the others is also about numbers although it seems to be about space. Both involve the true size of things. And what really happens when two things are joined. Does joining two things add to them or subtract from them from the energy created in the joining.
I had lunch in Delhi’s latest new restaurant a day or two ago. It was a much needed excursion day from the farm. The food was familiar to me, it was referred to as “stew food” perhaps Mexican but was which I know it as Latino. Rice and beans. Arroz con habichuelas. Cry food. Or island cooking. I loved it. I shall go back. I picked up a pastel by Valerie Razavi that Rachel in Delhi framed for me. It was lovely. Got a haircut. Bought an adapter for the frost free hydrant in the barn. Bought a pretty little notebook in Good Cheap Food in which to write ideas for the house. Visited with a friend in his automotive shop. Spent time with another friend over lunch. All in all had a lovely day. The farmer went to town.
Until the next time.
There are more
postings in the Farm Stories Archive