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July 2010

            There was a rainbow here the other day.  Unexpected.  At six thirty or there abouts in the morning.  In the west.  I’d never seen a rainbow in the west, nor in the morning for that matter.  I had gone down to the chickens as is usual, first thing, coffee cup in hand.  They needed water.  Sometimes I bring it from the house.  This time I went to the stock tank in June Grass Pasture by the brook.  When starting back up to the portable coop I saw it.  It was astonishing.  Even more beautiful were t6he colors.  The usual purple tone on the inner curve was, rather than purple, a lovely shade of mauve.  It curved over my house.  It was a gift in itself.
            Yesterday the young man who worked here on and off this winter came with a friend to shovel out part of the year’s pack in the carriage house.  For “free!”  They wanted the manure for their respective gardens.  The young man had coveted that manure for some time.  He had offered once to shovel it for half price if he could take it.  He then retracted the offer as it was “a lot of money” and wanted to be paid and would take the manure away “for free”.  I declined the offer.  It really isn’t for a sturdy young man as it has been thoroughly done a year ago and the floor fully limed.  He then called yesterday offering his and his best friend’s services “for free” if they could fill his quite large truck bed with all it could carry.  I agreed and offered lunch, ten bucks to take down my kitchen storms, and three wheelbarrow loads full to my currant bush garden.  They agreed.  We three were all in agreement that each of us had benefitted.  I shall broom out what is left of the half that was shoveled, lime it, and organize the rest.  Fortunately for me they both love the French country food that is served here.  I made the dandelion, bacon and potato dish that provides fuel for anyone doing manual work here. I find I too can dig “for free” after eating that dish for lunch.  I also made from the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook a “Bird’s Nest Pudding”, also a favorite with men, from the last apples in the root cellar.
            The one inch at a time method of survival has begun to show a modest amount of success.  I am beginning to see progress.  Accumulative progress.  It has been a long long time. Last summer and early fall were the seasons of The Roof.  Late fall and the winter were seasons of near tragedy.  To survive, all of us, was the best that could be done.  And I, late spring and now in the first days of summer am concentrating on mending what can be mended.  Repairing both inner and outer damages.  Recovery from the most difficult times this shepherd has known in many years.  And I stand witness to order being regained.  Hope daring to be restored all by itself.  Simply from the essence and awareness of us all staying alive and becoming well. Of course there are both good and bad days.  The other morning I was up at 5:00 a.m. in the morning.  Tore through my chores and housekeeping in a mere six hours.  Eleven o’clock came.  And I suddenly was burned out.  That day till the next morning.  I slept sixteen hours. Where did the enthusiasm go?  The intense drive?  Nonetheless minor accomplishments have added up and create their own drive.  I do best addressing “Grand Miscellany”.  In other words, cutting the grass, with a knife, in-between the stones in the paths between the little rectangular vegetable plots and feeding it either to the doelings or, in handfuls to the donkey.  That kind of usefulness is, to me, always inspiring me to go the extra mile.  I have always tried to achieve at least two purposes to each act.  Make cheese from the goat’s milk and use the whey for bread and to water the chickens.  Hang the newly washed winter blankets out in the rain to have the wrinkles rinsed away before they dry in the sun.  Feed the apple parings to the goats.  “Going the extra mile” is a practice that I no longer can always achieve.  However, if I don’t, each day, then I, and the life here suffers.  A great effort is needed here, concentrated and systematic, to even survive, let alone progress.  For me, it is the little things that make a difference.  That encourages me to go on.  Some times those little things happen quite on their own.  Sometimes they require deliberate concentrated effort on my part.  Take the Sweet Cicely as an example.  The older the plant the deeper is the root, apparently.  And the bigger the plant grows each year.  My outdoor living room is one of the more enchanting places here.  It is underneath the dining room and screened in on one side by wooden lattices.  The lattices sit on wide stone sills.  It opens into the summer kitchen of this house.  I imagine that the cook and maids sat out here on these wide window seats, peeling potatoes and watching the traffic on the road, or the men working in the fields.  It is quite private on that side.  One can see out but not in.  A Sweet Cicely seed found its way into a crack in the stone steps, in front and to one side of this outdoor living room.   It has grown.  Amazingly so over three or four years.  It now reaches to above my shoulder.  It is about four feet wide and five feet tall.  Brushing by it the leaves give a sweet anise scent.  The day lilies I planted surrounding the outside of the outdoor living room have also proliferated.  They have advanced off the stone seat I had built into the entrance.  Now, the Cicely bush and day lily start from two lovely curves around the stone path leading into the room.  One can see out when sitting inside, but inside has become quite private.  It is more lovely than ever.  The breeze, even on hot days, is extraordinary.  I’m having wood split for the winter in a week or two.  One chunk shall form a base for a table to be put there.  I’ve a willow tray that shall be its top. There is a decent sized Japanese grill in there as well.  The better to make a supper. Some things happen all on their own here.  The day lilies are as lovely as ever this year.  I’ve decided to create another day lily border in the long border on the much neglected north side of the house.  The original right feet wide, nearly twenty feet long border I started fifteen or twenty years ago was decimated during the rebuilding of the foundation and the new roof.  It shall begin to be replaced from the overgrown and non flowering border under the apple trees by the kitchen garden.  There are enough day lilies there to repair the decimated border and to create a new one.  My dining room is created from dark wood wainscoting and has eight windows as well as two quarter rounds high above the room.  Orange day lilies look especially lovely there in a white pitcher on the stone mantle.  I had the good fortune to find in the Salvation Army an oval white table cloth the right length for my dining room table that seats ten comfortably, fourteen with a bit of a crush.  On it, appliquéd in a slightly different shade of white are day lilies.  A serendipitous occurrence. The dishes are white as are the seat cushion covers.  Food and flowers as well as the views from the windows provide the only color. I have a chaise before the wall of windows.  There has been a moment or two that I have actually sat there watching the sheep in the evening as they graze the north pasture.
            I have a sense of urgency over the past two weeks. “Get on with it.”  “Hurry.”  It is not winter driven as it usually has been, but rather a “get ready.”  As if I shall soon be grateful for problems conquered, routines established, methods achieved. “Hurry. Hurry.” The South Pasture is nearly ready in which to install some lambs to be fattened.  I’ve a nearly finished creep feeder and the wood is here for the fence line extension. A catch-gate shall be built in the creep feed so lambs can more easily be caught, when necessary.  Then the indoor pen shall be built for the goslings.  That wood is also there. A friend is experienced with raising geese out of doors in portable pens.  He’s going to build some for me.  I’ve wanted to pasture the goslings in the very pretty yard behind the carriage house for a number of years but didn’t know how.  There are huge pine trees on one side of it, buildings and stone walls on the others, perfect places for predators to have a goose for dinner.  These pens will prevent any attacks on the goslings.  All is moving forward, of late, with dispatch.
Sylvia Jorrin

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