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December 2010

A Wednesday in November
            Lambs are being sold today. I’ve added up the money a dozen times. On the back of envelopes. The front of subscription order blanks. In notebooks and journals. Two rows of numbers. Everything sold or to be sold in one column. Everything I need to do with the money in the other. The remaining two lambs were committed to the night before last.  And a failure to thrive was possibly sold as well. I’ve not included his price in the first column because I’ve not as yet determined what it should be. Some of the money is allocated to two old bills, both from very patient men who never asked for their money. One payment is for hay and the other is for an uncompleted job, however, I want it off my mind. One hundred dollars goes to me to replace the money I spent on grain for said lambs, my Christmas money stash. The celestine end of the barn is to be excavated this coming week. I’ve tried to do a “no-matter-what” envelope designated for Good Cheap Food, “dry goods”, as they say up here. Lentils, crystalized ginger, dates, steel cut oats, yeast, yeast, yeast, black beans, kasha, to fill jars and tins in the North Wall larder. Winter provisions as it were. That envelope may need to be opened shortly to pay for more of the excavating and attendant drama. We’ll see soon enough.
A Thursday in November
            One of the remaining two lambs was absconded with but paid for, a subtle maneuver, by the men buying the little flock.  His young relatives did not show up to buy them at the appointed time, and so I was left with one saleable lamb and one whom I was prepared to sell at a very, very reasonable price just to get rid of him. In the late afternoon, shortly before dark the two young relatives showed up. Cheerful. Enthusiastic and in a very generous frame of mind. They insisted on paying in full for both lambs. And so, I now can start all over again.
A Friday in November
            The barn has been excavated. A pile of manure now graces the barn yard. About forty feet in length, ten in height at its peak, and probably twenty feet wide. It occurred to me to try to sell some of it. It is perfect for people to put in vegetable gardens in the winter to sit and break down to be ready to lighten the soil in time for planting. Hard to think of planting with this morning’s snow on the ground, however.
            My poor barn has suffered so. While it is improved in some respects, in others it has not. When excavating the barn an inside wall was revealed that was built a long time ago when it first went down. To one side was an opening that had once been comprised of a gale between two ends of the barn. I was so proud of that gale when it was built. It was hung with window weights on a pulley which drew it shut after I went through. The sheep weren’t to know it wasn’t latched. It simply was closed in front of their noses. Now it is merely a hole from which they can escape into the barn yard, and have used it to race up the letter’s open gate. “To the Road”, they cried in unison. To Curtie’s front lawn. He had built a white picket fence across it to, in theory, keep my sheep out of their meadow. However, their loggers took down the fence from an adjacent pasture, leaving the gate standing shut, and the access to the field inviting and accessible. To sheep it was only a hop, skip and a jump over a very low stone wall and onward to the lawn. Why go to the pasture beyond the lawn?  The green neatly mowed grass was perfectly acceptable. They found the massive store wall that the Hillis’ restored, a formidable and exciting challenge to scale when I called them home and scale it they did. While the barn was being excavated the sheep had many opportunities to escape and escape they did. Seven times in one day. An all time record. I have a bum leg at the moment so while their antics were interesting to me they created a brand new kind of difficulty in my day. I did have to admire their cleverness and skill, however. They outsmarted me several times in one day.
            We are beginning to spend more time together of late. It is a good thing. The other morning, when I thought they had escaped, for the first time in this interlude, they were all standing in the barn waiting for me to serve out their hay. There was something so deeply familiar in the barn at that moment. Familiar and safe and good. In the carriage house Niccolo Merriman has been showing every indication that he is now ready to be trained to pull a farm cart. A modern cart to be certain, not yet built nor designed but a cart nonetheless. He is still small, however, at a little more than six months old. His shoulders are strong and he is inches taller than his twin sister Lady Petunia Merriman. Black with white markings on his face, like his Toggenburg mother. He is a handsome fellow, eager, intense, very interested in being fussed over. Mother Katherine recommended a small tether rather than a collar to be used to train him. Collars have proven to be dangerous on my farm. I was hoping to avoid it. One ghastly death occurred here. A horned animal (I had bought her with horns, she was too old to have them removed) had malevolently hooked herself in the collar of a favorite goat, twisted with vehemence and strangled her. When I set her free, the living one, she almost immediately tried for a repeat performance on a buck. Needless to say she was dispatched almost immediately to the market, on the truck as the expression goes. The horns have grown back on the three kids I had dehorned last spring. Unfortunately. And expensively. They must now be redone.
            The carriage house farm has become more beautiful than ever. It houses six ducks in the pen with the three kid goats. And ten geese. Loud. Noisy. Dirty. And in the big pen, Gwyneth and Glynnis MacDouglas with their aunt Adelaide Merriman, their new husband, a here-to-for named Sable buck. And Belinda, a mahogany colored Sable goat, whose last name escapes me for the moment. Cameron MacDouglas lives outside of the pen. She has horns as well, however has been known to be beaten up by Belinda. Cameron is bred, due near the end of March, is part Nubian, and a spectacular milker. She lost last year’s twins, unfortunately, born one bitterly cold February morning. I want her to carry well this year. Her kids have been very nice in the past. She has been very popular with the children at the camp in Andes, summers, and I am very anxious that she be in milk for them again this year. Rebecca Penholiga, a white seamen looking half Sable lives sometimes in the carriage house and sometimes in the barn loft. Also in the carriage house farm are four orange pullets, Buff Orphingtons, gifts from friends. One apparent Coco Moran or Barred Buck, and two large very classic Rhode Island Red roosters. One additional very young one shall join them all this morning. A new manger built by the Miracle Worker provides the goats with a very nice feeder and makes my life much easier. I can drop hay into it from the hay loft far above us. Very nicely, I must say. There is something satisfying about being able to sweep the loft floor and having the gleanings fall into the manger below.
            Belinda, chocolate brown Sable, is suddenly getting wide. If I didn’t think it was impossible I’d believe her to be bred and a month or six weeks away from freshening. Goats have never dropped kids in the winter here. A friend has had some doe kids over the past three weeks, but I’ve never known, here anyway, of December kids. If they survive it would be a very good thing for me to have winter milk and a jump start on the kids’ growth for spring. However, should the winter be cold, I’ll have a major problem keeping the kids alive.  I must get some felted sweaters in the Salvation Army to make little coats with.
            The carriage house becomes nearer and nearer to completion. A grain room is in the offing. But shall relieve a great deal of work for me and shall make it all seem like a professional goat barn to me.
            I’ve only learned today that the handsome Sable buck that has been living here is to be mine.  He has been here for awhile and was to be returned to the Holy Myrrhbearec’s Monastery today. Instead, mother Katherine told me Mother Raphaela doesn’t want him back! How nice! I must figure out how to pay for him. In increments. Now for a name! His last name could be Penhaligan like Rebecca, however what can the first name be? It must be forceful, outstanding, and classy. Do people say classy anymore? Not goaty. Oh! It just became Mungo. Mungo Penhaligan. Perfect. Suitable and fitting! Until the next time.
Sylvia Jorrin

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