August: The First Moon
The light has changed. The first week of August. Late afternoon. Early evening. It is beautiful. And I don’t know if I can stand it. Wood was cut this afternoon that has been waiting to be cut since last fall. About nearly a face cord of slab. It is most needed. It helps to start the fires, and fill in the cracks when there are larger pieces in the stoves and I want it to burn hot. There is something to be said for getting firewood. Especially now. Last night was chilly. Cold, actually. And I had washed the cozy comforter that has tucked me in most nights this summer. It was with great reluctance that I considered using it and didn’t
Peabody, cat extraordinary, often sleeps in the white bedroom days, and on occasion nights there with me. Cats are reputed to be clean. Indoor-outdoor cats can’t be. The other afternoon she left the undigested remains of a mouse on the comforter. So much for that for awhile. I even made a special trip to the Laundromat with it after scraping what was left off and into the wood stove. Yes, that is lit almost every day to accommodate such adventures and the occasional misadventure.
The sun has moved across sheep meadow and now lights only the tops of the trees on Wuthering Heights. Early. It makes me sad.
I have, in small increments, been gradually achieving a greater degree of manageability both in the house and on the farm. It has been in subtle ways as well as more obvious and evident ways. It is always an instruction in the back of my mind, and while seemingly in random ways there is an order in the procedure. Open a drawer and go through it. Burn, toss, sort, read and put back what I really want to keep. Some surprises turned up. Nunzio’s Cozzins as an example. His birth date was on it. He is twenty years old this year. I’ve never remembered. Thought he is about sixteen. He put his head under my arm yesterday when I was looking at the brook. I’ve resolved to spend more time with him. Donkey. A lovely, lovely donk. Protector of sheep and delight of visitors. He shall become more of a delight to me. I opened the lid to the window seat in the summer bedroom and found a dress I had forgotten I owned. I ironed it and wore it to town. A white and pink shirt dress. It was the latest thing once. And is again. I’ve found some lists from the first days here. To do. With a column for the amount of time and the amount of money each thing would cost. Some lists were twenty years old. One was thirty. Needless to say I’ll save them.
The living room door was repaired today. It functions for the first time in months. I celebrated by buying a chair. Next to the door was the only intact chair in the living room. Recently the seat began to rip. The new chair is needlepoint. All of the colors in the living room. I also cleared a part of an old mess in the room, inspired by the new door as well, and rearranged some art on the walls. The living room was repainted recently, two coats of “Lilac Pink.” I sat in it for the first time in months. While I found a picture or two a half an inch off of the correct angle and moved them I was able to ignore the final small mess on the floor. Or at least managed to ignore it and was able to see what is lovely in that room. The afternoon light through the French doors is enchanting. It makes the walls glow a soft subtle shell pink. People look good in rooms of that color. It imparts gentleness to faces. That is why it was chosen. The curious and interesting things about paint is how color changes with the variation of light. Mornings that room can almost be called a neutral no-color kind of color. Late afternoon it becomes transformed. Even at that different walls or different parts of the room each takes on its own differentiation. While not in complete order yet, I was able to appreciate all that it is. It is easy to forget in the pressing need to survive, how much some things mean to me. And how they help me to find the will to proceed. I don’t pressure myself to do anything that isn’t entirely important of late. It seems best to let the day unfold. And slowly, bit by bit improvements occur. Some permanent, some temporary. However, I am beginning to realize how far it has all come.
There has been a compound tragedy on this farm. Coyotes. Two day time kills. Two night time or early morning kills. Disasters. Catastrophic, actually. I need ten more sheep not four less. The summer lambs cannot make up for the losses. They are supposed to add to my numbers rather than fill in for highly productive ewes. The chunky Tunis cross ram that I had earmarked for a friend is going to stay here. There hadn’t been a “replacement“ ram chosen from last winter’s lambing. Usually one or two are chosen. The two from the winter before last are fine young things. Both sport handsome horns. One is three quarter Horned Dorset. The other is half East Friesian, half my farm mix. Therefore as “landrace” sheep out of my own breeding. He is the most handsome. Elegant with a fine head, perfectly shaped horns and a straight back. The Horned Dorset has more of his mother’s look. And no one would ever call her pretty. Bruinhilda is her name. Had I named her something more lyrical would she have become prettier? She is a tough creature, getting older and no longer jumping fences, thank goodness.
The sheep are afraid to graze across the brook where there is plenty of grass, although is interspersed with the dreaded June grass. It annoys them, gets in their eyes and tickles their faces. It is my favorite grass for hay, however. No waste. They did decide to venture forth late morning, today. They can be seen from my dining room window, clustered in one end of the field. Some of then like the spiny heads of the thistle that dot my pasture. I thank them for removing the seeds. Less down for the gold finches who use it to line their nests this time of year. But fewer new thistles for my fields.
I’ll never forget the first one I every saw up there. On the side hill. Magenta. There was a time when I’d hoe them and when they first appeared an inch or two above the ground. It took a while to realize that clover grew at their bases. The sheep ate that, September, when the main stem of the thistle went by. It was then that I stopped hoeing them out. I learn gradually. That has its unfortunate aspects. Sometimes it is too late. Sometimes it is just too slow. And sometimes I am glad.
Today is a rich and full one. Ivomec has arrived. I’ll worm the young stock when they come in this evening.
It is a joy to work with the young stock. The lambs from this winter who shall be wormed tonight are tame to me having lived in the south pasture and been grained in their little holding pen. They surround me at times and look hopefully at my face. Will there be grain today? No. They had to be moved in with the adult sheep when the drought burned up all of the grass in their paddock, and it became a brown colored field with nothing green in evidence. I cannot grain everyone, summers. It is bad enough that I am feeding out hay. The winter’s hay. The grain for the chicks has risen twenty percent already in two months. Corn has gone up twenty-five percent in less time than that. Because the young stock is so tame, in the day they will be easy to catch and drench.
Every moment counts in August. I used to make jams throughout the month. Enough for an army. And knit sweaters. And start buying Christmas gifts. This week I bought peaches and picked sumac. Sumac makes a lovely drink, akin to pink lemonade. I’ve always wanted to make jelly from it as well. Perhaps this week I shall. The peaches are started for peach preserve. I let an equal weight of sliced fruit set overnight in the same amount of sugar. By morning enough juice is extracted to provide enough liquid in which to cook the sugared fruit. I use an unlined copper pan in which to make the jam. It is from France, and sat on my lap once on an airplane across the ocean. It is impossible to decide which of the many preserves are my favorite. Sometimes I’ll say it is tomato. Sometimes it is pumpkin. And sometimes the delicate flavor of pears. In this house jam is often served with yogurt. The Boston Brown Bread I’ve been making of late (oh for a metal coffee can) calls for the more flavorful ones. Today’s loaf shall be the milder white bread. A Shaker Daily Loaf. I’ve some pear preserve left that will go nicely with it.
Remembrances of things past are affecting those days of sudden and renewed hope, intertwined with a touch of sadness and longing. The little voice in my mind that cautioned me to prepare for change was right. Change has begun. I hold to its simplicity.
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