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January  2014

The Olympic Swimmer
            The Olympic Swimmer has survived! To my astonishment. Yesterday morning the little lamb warning bell that occasionally rings without warning in  the recessions of my mind rang loudly and clearly. Go to the barn now. I had woken a short time before. Usually I don’t go to the barn until at least one fire had been started and some coffee is made. It has been proven that I function much better if there is something warm in my stomach before I begin my chores. Oh, not breakfast, however my better judgment makes that suggestion from time to time but at the very least a cup of strong black coffee. It can be brutally unpleasant to come into a 42 degree room after working for an hour or two, or with a cold newborn and so it is usually my custom to at least wait until a fire somewhere has caught. When the bell rings, I have never ignored it. I slipped on my boots and ran out of the house, one sleeve on, one sleeve off of my jacket and dashed down the ladder to the barn proper. A quick glance around showed a young ewe with a very tiny  newborn at her side. And there in the water trough was a dash of white. A head held above the water and two front legs paddling around, frantically. A lamb. I ran over. Pulled him out. He was soaked with very cold water, and had stopped moving. I pulled off my jacket and sweater, wrapped him in the sweater, put back on the jacked and scrambled up the tall flat ladder to the hay loft. Into the house I went. The evening before I had come across a baby sized feather bed that had an attached blanket in it and put it on the floor at the foot of the bed. A perfect cushion for me to sit on while watching DVD’s. I wrapped the lamb in an old woolen shirt that was too holey to wear. Propped plastic bottles filled with hot water around him. Tube fed him some warm milk with corn syrup and a touch of instant coffee powder and left him on top of my feather bed and under the little blanket. An hour later he was still alive but had put his head over his shoulder. Very bad. That is I am about to die position. I tucked him in and went down to see how his little brother was doing. His dam was frantically looking for him near the trough and paid limited if that,  attention to his twin. When I went back to see if the little ram was still alive I found the bed empty. He had left. The white bedroom is exactly that, white. With long stiffly ironed sheets as drapes over the lace covered windows. In front of one of the windows is a white covered table set with a gold and white coffee service. Its tablecloth touches the floor. And there, next to the window, under the cloth was the lamb. Alive and quite well. He and his twin are staying in the now easiest heated room in the house, the bathroom, with the twin ewe lambs of a couple of days ago. Four. Four bags of milk replacer. Four little lively creatures clambering for me first thing in the morning. Four very expensive and very pretty little things. This is my life. A friend told me that the day he was born was a special one in her religion. A Lamb of God. And so I decided no-one shall ever eat him. He shall live out his life here. He will be the new flock sire. The Olympic Swimmer. I must find a special name for him. I am a fortunate woman.
Part II
            We stand at the edge of a new year. The last moments of this year past intently hover about us. It was not a particularly good year for this farmer although a cautionary tale I’ve just read advises to concentrate on what was good in it rather than what wasn’t. Good advice. Requires an enormous amount of discipline or courage to enforce. I’m trying. I do lack discipline lending to eat my latest acquired chocolate bar on arrival rather than waiting for just the right moment before the fire with a cup of coffee at just the right temperature. So be it. I find myself impossible to live with at times.
            We celebrate Twelve Days of Christmas in this family. It was always impossible for me to pull it off all at once in a single day. The three Kings arriving with gifts on the twelfth day has satisfied me and the family. Today, on the third day, I received a gift of a very pretty pair of flannel pajamas that I have been coveting from a catalog for quite some time. I also ordered that “one lost gift” for someone yesterday, on sale, from J. Peterman, that I wanted, also, to buy this entire autumn. A navy blue fleece lined hoody in extra extra large. Very nice. I expect it to be warm for someone to wear on the tractor.
            This year I received many more gifts than I gave or normally give. I don’t really know how that happened. In the instance of my son, he received the world’s most expensive strings for his guitar, two sets although they are so beautifully made, might last forever rather than a number of smaller things. He mixed the aesthetic with the most practical for me. Among other things was an exquisitely beautiful white ceramic “berry bowl”, the ideal shape for draining a fresh cheese. A lovely thing to look at. Accompanying it, among other things were six boxes of kitchen matches and four cans of spray starch. I feel like a rich woman.
            Life unfolds here on its appointed path. I try to not interfere with the process knowing if I do the possibility of what used to be called ego in the old days might derail what is meant to be. While I don’t come from a religious background that includes a concept of God having a “plan” for me I do have a profound belief in God and have my own interpretation of His meaning in my life. When I was seven or eight I wrote God presents us with a set of circumstances and who we are is what we do with them. I believed He decreed our hour of birth and our hour of death and, believe it or not, whom we married when it was good. My first marriage was a very nice one in form if not in content. I remember him fondly and went to his funeral this summer. We stayed on good terms over the years. My children’s father and I had as close to an arranged marriage as one came to in the twentieth century. All of our friends had chosen us for each other. As happens in our one or two of the segments of society with which I am familiar. Our two children are the best that came of it. I was fortunate in that and blessed. So be it.
            I received a new day book for Christians as I always do. This one with wider lines and fewer extra pages. I like it. Its cover is red. Clear. Bright. Joyful. Tonight I think I’ll begin to put my addresses and phone numbers in it. Most phone numbers and addresses will be the same. A couple of people are no longer alive. There are several new numbers to add. A few can be safely stored in the prior book to be looked up when needed. Life feels both more intense and yet a bit watered down. Slipping between the words I want to do, I shall do. I must do are the words I didn’t do it. And will it really happen.
            I used to have heavily starched and ironed tablecloths more or less in readiness much of the time. This Christmas I was given a new ironing board cover in addition to the spray starch. With any luck I’ll get someone to repair my wobbly rickety dangerously unstable ironing board to accommodate the new cover. If it fits, by the way.
            Firewood is running low. Again. I have about a week’s worth left. The irony is that for the first time in many years I’ve had the money all along to pay for wood and haven’t been able to get it. This last batch has been down for a year but has, to my great misfortune, been cut and split almost immediately before delivery. It has a splintery surface which catches easily. That is a great thing actually. There is some scrap pine to be cut by the fence to the pasture as well as a discouragingly massive pile by t he carriage house, kindling all. However it has been a discouraging task to find, and I have been unsuccessful at that, someone to cut it, someone to cut it for me. I had a sawhorse built for me to use but the man building it is eight inches taller than I and forgot that. It is too tall for me. Oh well.
            None of my ewes seem to be bagging but some are looking fatter. The barn isn’t quite ready, for lambing yet however a plan was made to get things in order shortly. May I come into fruition. Every lamb born is not always destined to live. But every lamb lost represents a large financial loss for me. The worst is the occasional death due to the wind entering the building. That feels so very unnecessary. It is so very an unnecessary loss. It represents not only the loss of the lamb but the feeding and care of its mother as well. And while I keep the female lambs, it is a loss to those to whom I sell either breeding stock or meat lambs.

Sylvia Jorrin

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