By the dawn’s early light. One more sheep killed by coyotes. I awoke at 4:45 this morning with the sound of an urgent voice in my mind. Go down and see if the coyotes ate the latest murdered sheep. It took another half hour to summon my courage. They hadn’t touched it. It is getting more difficult to proceed. I’m not certain if I know how. Too many defeats have occurred to wear away the dreams. All of them. I seek hope in the familiar.
My more beloved Willow still lives and pleases my eye from the dining room window. I’ll have its dead branches trimmed soon. It has been on the work list for two weeks. The pound sweet apple tree has been trimmed and its dead branches bundled in the very nice French country way that pleases my eye. Tidy bundles tied in bailing twine.
What is simple here? And what is not? Do something for winter and write it down. Do something for money and write it down. Those once were the instructions for the day. They don’t serve me any more.
The sun just broke through the dining room window. It shines on the page. The question is, were I still inclined to go the extra mile would doing that make a difference.
I love the fuchsia colored phlox in the perennial border and watched them wilt yesterday afternoon in the devastating drought that has fallen upon us. I’ll get someone to bring up the barn hose and water the flowers today. But. But. I read in a country magazine editorial the other day that drought destroys the soul. In part because one doesn’t perceive the moment when hope is loss.
I watched last night from the dining room windows, the most beautiful storm that I have ever seen. Lightening lit up the clouds. Not in flashes zig zagging across the sky, but, rather setting the clouds on fire, huge blazes of color in the north sky. I was certain that whatever the storm was it would bring rain here. It had to be raining in Meredith and Davenport. Sleep was impossible so I went back down to the dining room to watch the progress of the rain. It didn’t come. Some small sprinkling must have happened later because the phlox are no longer wilted although the color has faded. A wise man told me that in his holy book it said the farmer is closest to God because we are always looking up to the sky, in part, asking for the right weather. I replied it was to ask for the courage to handle that which we have been presented. I protest the unkindness on the part of our Maker. To try to live as our best self is an excruciating discipline of sorts. To insist that we take joy in the day. It has never been hard for me to find beauty somewhere. But what has become the hardest is to apply the gifts that I have been given to create a life that still satisfies me. I fill the vases and mustard jars in the dining room with green leaves from the quince bushes along the driveway. It makes the room cool, even though the windows on three sides are all filled with views of the green hills that surround the house and farm. There is one white and gold Gevalia canister that is empty on a shelf by the row of windows, overlooking the perennial border. It asks for green leaves too and shall get them when the coffee in the cup before me is too cold to drink. The willow is being kissed by the sun and begins to assume the glittering gold leaves that so please my eye. The quince branches on the table are becoming lit as well.
A few days later.
There was some rain. It feels, ungrateful to say but not enough. There is a lamb in the house. His dam didn’t let her milk down. He’s big. And nice. And ensconced in a corner out of the light of the kitchen. When he was first found this morning my brother asked me if he were to be a bottle lamb. Oh no, I said. Well, he is now. The Barred Rock hen is in the house as well. She was sitting on ten eggs. Due to hatch soon if fertilized. I found one tiny chick in with her this morning, some shells, and only six eggs left. The chick came in to the house in a basket. Immediately. But what to do with the hen? I found a plastic bin left by my non-rent paying tenants, (why do they leave so much stuff?) and put some hay and the eggs in it. Grabbed the chicken by her legs and climbed over the fallen down hay bales in the loft and made my way to the house. The hen was then bundled in with her chick and eggs into the plastic bin. I put a window screen over the top. It was too small. I then put a chair over it. And a log on top of the chair back. She has water and grain and seems to have settled down nicely. There may be some more chicks in a day or two. With any luck. And then, may they be hens and not roosters.
I had a ghastly scare this afternoon. No water came out of either the hydrant nor any of the taps. It terrified me. The well here has never been known to go dry. But, there always is a first time. It seemed to be kicking on too often of late and I thought there was a possibility that the four year old motor had for some incomprehensible reason died. There were three lambs, one only a few hours old in the lambing room as well as their mothers. And no water. Twenty-two six month old lambs and a donkey in the south pasture. And no water. Twenty-four chickens in the portable coop and twenty-one chicks and one hen in the coop on the lawn. You get the picture. Aside from dogs, cat, hen in the nesting box and it seemed apparent one lamb was about to become a bottle lamb. With no water with which to make milk replacer.
I opened the gate to the south pasture to let anyone who understood what that meant to be able to go out and drink from the trickle that the creek had become. The donkey realized immediately, what I was doing and flew on winged hoofs out and into the far pastures. Only some of the young stock realized their freedom had been won. They left as well only with a bit more caution. I went into the lambing room, grabbed the new born in one arm and let the ewes and their off spring out into the barn proper. There was a joint compound bucket to hand and I first went to the pear trees enclosure down by the brook to get the hose leading to a water trough in the pasture. My first thought was to drag it to the slope leading to the house, but it was too heavy. So I filled the bucket with water and, the lamb tucked under my arm made my way up the slope to the house. A last a bit of hope whispered into my ear. I turned the faucet and nothing happened. The only thing to do was to hit the phone. No hope there. I tried the faucet once again. Water. Water. Water.
The fear of having no water hit the part of me that is the weakest. I have been with increasing intent concentrating on letting go of the control of events and allowing life to simply unfold. God’s will. When I first started the farm I decided rather than bothering my Maker with every little detail, I’d simply ask to be told if I want to continue. In no ambiguous terms. One summer I didn’t have a room nor did I have water to the barn. Nor did I have a source of hay. This may be it, I thought. Within two weeks, Marge Rockefeller called offering to sell me hay. John Firment from whom I bought the farm came and told me where the shut off was to the water line. And a man who bought two ram lambs at the auction sold me one of them for seventeen fifty. The hay was good. The water was good. The ram was less than useless. However I stayed.
I now await another miracle. One of the spirit and the heart. I make not even a gesture to help it happen although I work hard on mending my own heart and creating manageability here as I go through the days. To be ready for a miracle. The lamb asks to climb into my lap to take his nap. I do hope he will make it. He is very very nice. The gold finches sing as they fly among the phlox picking seeds from the pig weed. The drought continues. This is a day the Lord has made and who I am is what I do with it.
Until the next time.
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