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January 2012

The sheep are looking expansive, or rather are beginning to be expanding. Wider. Broader. Fuller. My wish would be to have lambs begin to be born this year in December rather than January, or, horror of horrors, February as in last year. Easter is earlier and I really need lambs to sell to my customers at about 32 to 40 pounds live weight. Hard to make happen in six to eight weeks. I have a customer from New Hampshire however asking for three newborn bottle lambs, two ewes and a ram. These are not so urgently required as to be born as early as the others. She wants to tame them herself. As I don’t usually sell ewe lambs unless they are for a starter flock most ewe lambs are welcomed later in the season if nature so decrees. This is the second starter flock I’ve been asked about this fall. The New Hampshire customer is the only one to firmly commit, however, as I need my ewe lambs as replacements anyway I may be the one to not be committed to customer number two.
            The list of names has been augmented of late by feminine names, although two or three very suitable and appropriate sounding male names have been added, as well. Grinling Gibbon is among them although that really suggests itself to be the name of a pig. The name Chuffy Farnsworth has been taken by the Horned Dorset ram lamb. Neither Portchester Compton nor Hickory Buckingham Pell stuck onto the Friesian Dorset cross I chose to accompany Chuffy Farnsworth into our future. I am much taken with Kelhern Digby and that may stick somewhere whether it is in the sheep barn or the goat barn remains to be seen. Peregrin Penhalagan has permanently affixed itself to the Sable buck in the carriage house. Since I observe them, seemingly all day long, he still doesn’t look big enough to have turned into a stud, however, he is old enough and slips through the watering hole in the gap with the speed and grace of a race horse or a gymnast, visiting, alternately, the mature does and his doeling half sisters. Every once in awhile one of the young stock seems to be in heat, but I haven’t witnessed him covering anyone yet. Peregrine is actually bigger than I have estimated or rather than he seems to my eye as he is nearly the size of a Toggenburg three year old with whom he frequents. His horns grew back in quadruplicate. They were burned off when he was a baby, grew back split and double and so he is now in possession of four horns. That is the least of which I need at the moment, a four horned goat. This year’s breeding shall be a mixture of surprises.
            It is late autumn. Pear jam is in the oven. A favorite, but when do I not think the latest jam is my favorite? I soak the sliced fruit in sugar, equal weights of each and let some of the juices come out. It then goes into either the oven or my French confiture pan, on top of the stove. Tomorrow shall be pumpkin. I nearly said my favorite. It is such a glorious color that it is hard to not refer to it as my favorite however. The pear, this year, turned a warm golden. A big jar of it sits in the larder. I have made labels from a sheet I had bought once in Paris to go on confiture jars. They go on gifts. Olives sit in brine on a window sill. The first batch has turned from green to black as it should. Once they taste like olives they will be drained, packed in oil with the peel of an orange and a bay leaf or two. My daughter sends them raw and green from California as she also does with green walnuts from which I make the annual batch of green walnut liquor. That should be nearly ready now.
            It is almost December. I’m not certain that I really want to know that. Christmas is an event celebrated here way in advance of its date. My son and I have been the earliest this year, both shopping and writing our “wish” lists. Mine is almost a replica of many past years. Crystalized ginger, cheap for cooking, good for nibbling. Books. Books. Books. Socks. Socks. Socks. And chocolate to eat while reading. My taste in books is a little eclectic to say the least. Or rather, a little old in combination. A replacement of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith is first on the list. He writes about raising livestock as their production is true wealth. What would he think of the “service” generation we are beginning to leave behind and the non-communication, illusionary communication era we are now living in? Where is there any true wealth in either system? Neither produces so much as a sow with a litter of ten piglets nor a ewe with twins. The miracle of something produced out of nothing. Or rather out of two things not visible to the naked eye. The Wealth of Nations is on the same Christmas wish list as the latest McCall Smith “Ladies Detective    Agency novel, or perhaps Maisy Dobbs mysteries written in our era about one fifty years or so ago. David Horne has been coming up in some current reading of late, and so Treatise on Human Nature makes another appearance on the wish list. I had read a review of Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer which made me cut it out and save it. Beverly Nichols seems to be receiving a reprint or revival over the past three or four years. I wonder were he still alive what he would have thought about it. Pity he can’t receive the money. And so his Down the Kitchen Sink finds itself immediately ahead of The Landmark Arrian about the campaigns of Alexander. Were I to try to understand the connection between these books and the compiled list of twenty or more other titles I would say they are all books that allow me to escape either to another time, or another place, or another dimension of thought.
            I am also uncommonly fond of what is often referred to as “stuff”. My children live in apartments and no longer have room for any more “stuff” which makes giving gifts to them quite problematical. Solving it calls for a great deal of creativity on my part. Searching for old lists is not a problem. They are in twenty years of day books I keep under the living room desk. The chances are good that some choices like brands of chocolate will still be enjoyed. A few discrete questions will take the mystery out of my shopping in these hills for presents for family quite far away. My son- in-law is now out of Yardleys English Lavender soap. The year before last’s ten bars are now gone, therefore they shall appear on this year’s shopping list. Sometimes we take delight in tricking one another to do some shopping supposedly for ourselves but in fact gifts for the shopper, his or herself. I asked my daughter yesterday to buy a book for me on line. It is an English translation of a French cookbook. While she is bi-lingual and could read it in French I had her order it in English “for me”. It is, of course, to be one of her Christmas gifts. She may suspect me but her voice didn’t admit it. My book list is quite long and it turned out my son wants to read most of them. He then chose some himself such as a biography of Descartes explaining his thinking, a book that compliments my hoped for book request.
`           I have had a tendency to “burn out” on this farm around February. The past four years have been somewhat different, however, it would be so nice were I to have in reserve some books and chocolate to escape with this winter that is about to fall upon us.
            The door to the wood stove in my kitchen has broken off. An absolute disaster. I cannot make it without it being repaired. The electric back-up has never kept me warm. It only serves to take the bitterness off of the morning’s cold never to provide any real warmth. While there may be a possible temporary repair the most reasonable thing is to buy a new one. A disaster. I said that already. So be it.
Until the next time. 

Sylvia Jorrin

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