There are so many places for this story to begin. I don’t know from which to choose. Last evening it would have been about Nelly, sweet dog, a free spirit. Or yesterday, about water. And today about the frozen pump. And perhaps the lamb that shall be born in the next hour or two. Of course there is a story about a dish or two that I recently bought. And the lamb coats I am fashioning from a very warm sweater that has become too holey to wear. Perhaps there even is a story about envy, having started to read, last night, a book by a very famous writer who wrote about living in an old house in the country. She had many friends, family and someone to share the experiences with, as well as the money to feed stray cats real fish and meat. There are two more places from where to begin. Both came in yesterday’s mail. One was a box of books and a few other things, a birthday gift from a fellow farmer in Kansas. The other was a box of Honey Bell oranges a gift from my cousin Marilyn. Both boxes took the edge off of the water and pipe issues. As did paying for the dishes although I was too late to pick them up. Overall it was a balanced day that preceded this one. And the color of the oranges sitting still in their open box delights me and has taken the edge off of what’s maddening in the day. Oh, I forgot the one hundred and eleven bales of hay brought yesterday. Second cutting. I am deeply grateful. Left by the road, however. My driveway is impossible without a four wheel drive truck. And the kindness of the neighbor who lent his so the person who has been helping here can draw them into the barn with a little more dispatch rather than pulling them piled high on the toboggan. The bottle lambs, the bigger ones, shall go in a pen in the barn today, without fail and the kitchen, which has become pretty again, in some respects, shall have the floor scrubbed to within an inch of its life after chores this afternoon.
The floppy eared two day old ram lamb has a fondness for sitting himself in hard to reach places, or rather places that he can squeeze into but would strangle himself getting out of such as behind my cook stove. The plug in is at the correct height for him to hook his jaw over and won’t give when he tries to pull his head out. The drainpipe out of the sink is another favored spot, as is the bottom spokes in the rocking chair. I’m not certain if he is big enough to go back to the barn but he may have to. A little coat I’ve made for a ewe lamb this morning was a little bit too small however, fits him with room to grow in. He’s got to go. I’ll fill a lambing jug with some straw and put five of the six in there for a couple of days to acclimate them.
The latest one is too small to leave. He is one of the miracles that occur here from time to time. I’ve never known what causes the bell to go off in my mind that warns me to go into the barn. Now. But it does ring on occasion and I always drop whatever I am doing and obey it. Immediately. And so it came as no surprise that when I raced down there yesterday afternoon I found in an unexpected place a newborn. Wet. Ears either red from its dam’s blood or beginning to become frostbitten. I tucked him under my jacket and got us up the ladder without incident. The wind was fierce from the north and there was enough ice under my feet to scare me. However we made it to the house. I dried him. Tube fed him my magic mix, an egg, corn syrup, cod liver oil if I have it, and lamb milk replacer. He was then ensconced in the lamb warmer box, which has a “hot water bottle” fastened out of an Ivomec plastic container. It is flat sided and squat. Much better than the water bottles I have used in the past. Nelly Solataroffski, Border Collie dog, found this latest addition to the indoor flock, fascinating. She has been known to be accepting to lambs, unlike Glencora MacCluskie who hates them with a passion. I’ve let Nelly stay in the kitchen for awhile, I thought. She stared at me questioningly for a moment and carefully climbed into the box with the lamb. She arranged herself around the little creature, put one front leg over the back of the lamb and looked at me for reassurance. Is this all right? It was. She kept the lamb warm all night.
` I have rarely had the experience of envy. My mother, when I was sixteen, gave me a lesson about envy that I never forgot. We used to go on Wednesdays after school to Peterson’s Ice Cream Parlor to spend time together the last year I was in high school. One afternoon three girls sat in a booth behind us. They were students from Connecticut College. They wore cashmere twin sets and pearls and had the “regulation” blond hair, straight, with a barrette holding it away from their faces. They had the loud cheerful laughter of the privileged class of people who believed themselves to have inherited the earth and it would be of no consequence, if they were a bit of an annoyance to the people around them. Their conversation was what my mother would call foolish. And you think you’d like to be like those girls, my mother asked. She knew how I envied the education that Connecticut College offered, in all ways. “If you were like them you’d have to talk like them, too.” That did it. Years later when I was alone in the world with two young children, their father had abandoned ship, and watched the women who lived in the middle class housing across the street from the tenement whose six flights of stairs I climbed two or three times a day, a baby in a sling across my chest and a two and a half year old by the hand, groceries or laundry in the other, I never felt a pang of envy for their baby carriages or their husbands or the park bench next to them on Sundays. Would I really want to be them. No. The price would have been too high. However, last night, in my cold bedroom, under six blankets and comforters, with Glencora MacCluskie by my side. I read a book written by a woman who wrote the kind of stories I write for you. She has a house in New England that she called a farm and a house on the Cape. She bought both with a friend. They both had husbands to support them although they each earned their own money. She wrote abut pipes freezing at night, and winter’s beauty and attendant drama. However, she lived in a community where helping hands, workmen, friends and family were abundant, available and willing. And had the money to create a life quite comfortable. For herself. I think it was the cheese store in the village near where she lived that got to me. She couldn’t resist the selection often overbought, but had many visitors to share it with. I came home late yesterday from a plumbing supply expedition in Oneonta. On the way I stopped in at the Meridale Market for a lump of Gouda. It became supper. It was delicious but not a real consultation. Reading that night about a real cheese store, and the other shops that created the woman writers village, I found myself possessed by the rare moment of envy. The contrast was a bit much. The carnations I bought a few days ago to remind myself of who I am froze in the vase in the hall between my kitchen and living room. Until their stems bent they looked like exquisitely perfect wax flowers. White carnations. I chose this life. I didn’t inherit it, nor did I marry into it. I’ve never regretted the farm. It was the lack of income from the front apartment being vacant for so very long that came as a surprise. The lack of wherewithal. And the repercussions that accompany that. I’m not surprised at the repercussions. I am however, dismayed and grossly inconvenienced by the lack of money. Enough said. Somehow I’ve managed.
` The other day I received a phone call from my daughter. Someone had tried to contact me through e-mail. She sent the woman my phone number. Apparently the woman had met me last year at a fair. Since it is three years since I attended a fair I had reservations about giving my number but gave my permission. She called and said she had bought my book but hadn’t read it until a few days earlier. She seemed to have liked it, at least enough to drive up from Margaretville to see where it all happened. Can she pay a real visit? I agreed. For April. My kitchen is bespeckled with lambs, at least today, and I’ve decided to not heat the living room for awhile. If I can get a phone to work in the kitchen, I’ll live in a one room cabin for awhile. It can be nice in there. It’s almost nice now. But not nice enough for a stranger and her husband. She then placed an order with me for some books. A nice order. A very pleasant surprise. Hence dishes. My friend Valerie and I have agreed that we have accumulated much of the worldly goods we each need or want at this stage of our lives. I am the older by four years, but we both have been accumulating for a respectable number of years, now. I still buy all linen napkins in the Salvation Army and tablecloths and white cotton sheets. However, were either of us to become affluent the one thing she or I would buy would be dishes. There were some most unusual ones in Stephen’s Antiques the other day. Blue and white. Nice ones. And so, while I’m too cheap to buy some much needed slippers in Walmart, twelve dollars is too much to spend on something I don’t even like. I decided the book money was “mine”, not the farm’s, not the house’s, not towards hay, but mine to use to delight the soul and lift the heart. I bought the most beautiful tea pot I’ve ever seen. It was even more interesting to me after I got it home and examined it more closely. The design in it is a picture that is carried completely around it. It is of the sea, or probably the bay. All waves in blue with a tiny bit of shore line covered in trees. On the sea are several canoes with Indians, a large ship, some skiffs with Pilgrims sailing towards the coves. It is absolutely enchanting. And so this is a story about almost everything. But most of all about the rich fullness of the life here. Lambs, frozen water pumps, dogs, Honey Bell oranges, dishes, friends, and a story for you.
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