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January 2013

The snow has arrived and with it all of the mystery that it in its silence conveys. Its beauty lies in the simplicity that it wraps around the world outside of these windows. And the prospect of moving inward to an equally quiet place. I first came here at the beginning of winter what is now a long time ago. I also saw the first light of day in the early days of winter, seemingly not a long time ago. My dreams for the life to be created here have not changed except that I have added an unexpected dimension in the forms of goats, chickens, sheep, dogs and a donkey. But, in a way, they are a continuation of the original dream. Each day presents the possibility of achieving the dream. Or rather the potential for coming close to it. I have accumulated much of what is necessary here to realize the goals that I once thought were too far removed to be realized. The missing ingredients are in the realm of possibility even if, at the moment, they are beyond reach. Each day brings its own whisper of promise. Who I am is what I do with it.
            I did a full days work both yesterday and today in the barn and the carriage house for the first time in eight weeks. One hay chute had been blocked by someone other than myself. I couldn’t get it unplugged. The other was blocked by none other than myself. I couldn’t get it unplugged. To my annoyance. I couldn’t get it unplugged either. That meant carrying bales of hay the most arduous way imaginable out of the mow, down the hay loft steps, across the loft, dropping them down the chute that houses the ladder, carrying them thirty or forty feet to then feed them out. I did it and managed to not injure my recuperating foot in the doing. Today I figured out how to dislodge the three stuck bales without them falling on my head. They weighed close to forty pounds apiece. The reward was that they didn’t have to be carried anywhere at all but could be immediately dished out into one of the mangers. No. That wasn’t the real reward. The reward was realizing I could do it. And that is one of the principle rewards here on the farm. To be able to do it.
A few days later.
            No lambs have been born here as yet. I am glad even if Easter is rather early this year. I am not ready for lambs and all of the attendant intensity that these little six pound new-borns can bring into my life. Each day the barn chores have become easier. I had thought I would need to divide feeding out hay into two or three intervals. That happened only the first day. Now scrambling around the now is as easy as it has ever been. The hay wasn’t stacked the way I wanted it to be. It is a bit harder for me to handle. However, I’ve figured out a method that works, and it does. I’ve realized that I have to put my knee to each bale as I precipitate it down the chute so it will fly its short end first, the bale itself perfectly straight. If it twists in any way it will get stuck. My hay drops were probably built for loose hay. While some of these bales are a bit bigger than the ones I’ve been use to, I must have always kneed them down because hay getting stuck is not the norm here.
            The sheep look good to me even if they are not bagging very much as yet. Some are showing an udder but not enough to tell me they are to freshen soon. I lost a yearling today that I liked very much. She got trapped in the watering trough somehow. Her fleece became laden with water and she couldn’t get out. She didn’t drown. I don’t know how she died unless it was shock. She was fine and out and about in the barn. Two hours later I found her dead. She was almost too heavy for me to pull out. Her fleece was terribly heavy. Add her loss to the coyote kill and my sheep losses this year are catastrophic. Last year there were many calls for ewe lambs for small new farms and to my present regret I sold nine. Winter cash. They would have made up my losses to the flock. I now am looking to buy some more sheep.
            The goats look good. There is a rumor that we are to have a week, perhaps two, of warmish weather. A prolonged January thaw?  That relieves the pressure of further winterizing the carriage house. I am intent on doing the sheep barn first. An unusual amount of time and thought has been expended on my health. The livestock have been taken care of, basics only. No refinements, however. There were no extra resources nor anyone with any expertise in doing things without my presence. That interlude is now over. It is time to improve all things on the farm. My interest is reawakening. And now ideas are emerging.
            The goats do not begin to kid until March. Usually. And so there is a window of opportunity to think about refining the sheep barn. The carriage house shall follow. Then I can address tightening the house in preparation for winter once again. There are three and a half months in front of me. To be cold. Or not. The carriage house houses the ducks and chickens and roosters in a separate pen, as well as the donk and the goats. It is nearly time to start to butcher some of the ducks to make confit. The roosters were to be for soup, however they are a handsome trio and were there a way to left them roam the front yard, I’d do it. However, if I decide to make a vegetable garden this year, they would prevent it at all costs. It remains to be decided.
            I am beginning to be interested in cooking again, as well, hence thoughts of cog au vin and duck confit. I had some friends over for Twelfth Night and managed to bake a number of things to serve. My mother used to make finger sandwiches and I sometimes do as well. There wasn’t the time to frost them the way she did with cream cheese made spreadable with heavy cream, but they were nice anyway. I usually make familiar things when I have guests, however, this time I did a Grandmother’s Prune Tart that was a new recipe for me. The one I make is usually in a coffee can, not that coffee comes in cans very often these days, and very different from this one. The new one was a success, however. It took mostly more steps than my original one, however, it shall appear on the table again. I hadn’t been able to reach everyone I’d hope to invite. However, perhaps the original dream I had when coming here, to have regular dinner parties with various groups of friends and acquaintances whom I’d like to know better may happen.
            There is now a table lamp on the kitchen table. I don’t like dark rooms and keep the overhead light on often even in the day. There was a time when it was broken. I think yesterday was the third time, it has been rebuilt. Not bad for a sixty year old fixture. Anyway the cloth on the table gleams in the glow of the lamp. There is a small crèche figure of a sheep that my daughter brought me from her recent trip on the Danube in front of it. The table is unadorned. Unusual for me. I’ve always been one to decorate nearly everything. I don’t know when it was, but it was before the dramatic changes of the past five years, however. There was a time when it was the only light, evenings in this room. I would come in from the barn, winter nights and sit at this table, reading or writing. Occasionally I’d make the special treat of hot chocolate with freshly whipped cream on top. The only sound was that of the wood burning in the stove. It was a peaceful time. I didn’t mind the solitude, or the comparative silence. I loved the special kind of bone weary exhaustion that comes from doing physical work. And the light of the lamp on the gleaming table cloth. The work is easier now because of the familiarity and experience. I knew that would happen. The peace that comes with working in the barn is also deeper. I knew that would happen. In a way however, this all is a new experience for me now, after having been away from  it, five weeks in a lovely white room, and the attendant couple of weeks learning to walk and live again. I am going to it as if the past twenty-four years have not happened. To climb down the ladder, or to get a book stuck in between hay bales in the mow seem like an adventure, devoid of the familiarity of repetition, winter after winter. “I am here”, I call out to the sheep. “It is I!” They turn and look at me. They know who I am. And I am rediscovering myself.

Sylvia Jorrin

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