all contradicting reasons, rational or not, I still, to my surprise, am
able to see how beautiful the shapes of a couple of dozen white eggs
are in the brown wicker basket on the kitchen floor. And,
Connecticut raised that I am, still am, enchanted with the prospect of
buying a door mat with a print of an old seed packet on it.
Nasturtiums. And think that that is a reasonable thing to want
and to buy. At the price of a half a bag of milk replacer.
Or five fifty pound bags of corn for the sheep. Or a week’s worth
of firewood, at the price a friend will charge to split the stuff I’ve
already paid to have blocked. The onions in the burgundy painted
basket left behind by a tenant (they always leave one thing I like
among the debris) are equally pleasing to my eye as well. I do
glance over at them from time to time to remind myself of who I have
been, in between all the other things that call to mind speakers of
reproach or self criticism.
The last bottle lambs in the kitchen were booted into the wood room a couple of days ago after they knocked over a can of paint that had not been tightly shut (not my mishap for a change) and with eight little pointed hoofs, tracked white paint from the end of this room, twelve by twenty feet in size. Today I asked the young man who was shoveling the barn in order to accommodate the imminent arrival of some round bales to carry the two lambs down to the lower level of the barn. Shall we say banish them to the barn. I dreaded carrying the bigger one down a narrow flight of wooden stairs and then down an even more treacherous vertebral ladder, eleven feet long, to the barn proper. He did it.
The first year I lambed, we entertained, or were entertained by a huge, vehement Dorset lamb who earned himself the name Gigot, so we’d always remember why he was around. To be cooked. He was rambunctious (no pun intended), chunky, loud, aggressive. I sent him to the auction in a truck. My daughter and I could have sworn we heard him bellowing all of the way to East Meredith. The latest little bottle ram lamb is another Gigot. However, he may stay. He is an absolutely beautiful, chunky lamb with the face I love of an East Friesian but the build of a Dorset. But as aggressive a bottler as they come. Today I let him overfeed himself to see what indeed would happen were he allowed all he wanted. He drank almost a quart of milk replacer, all in a few minutes. And lived to tell the tale. Amazing! Another Gigot. The second last bottle lamb is the ugliest lamb ever born here. That is another story. You’ll hear it sometime. However, I must give it away, she has become a most exquisite little thing. She, it would seem, integrated very well with the rest of the flock and ran up to me this evening in hunger rather than driven by aggressive desperation. The aggression of her half-brother.
Bottle lambs are a pain. But interesting none the less. When I hold bottles in my hands and lean down to feed them they leap around me, push a bottle out of their cousin, half-brother or sister’s mouth, jab their sharp little hoofs into my now (at this juncture) black and blue legs, and bite my hands trying to get more than their share of milk. They do get it. However, should I pick one up to bottle it in my arms, the lambs surround me, motionless, looking up until their sister, brother, half-sibling, finishes drinking and is put back among the fold. They then attack once more with renewed vigor enhanced by patience. The new-to-the-bottle lambs who are still nursing from their dams usually wait until the end when the mayhem tones down and the lambs who have always been bottled and are most aggressive are finished. “Woosh! Woosh!”, I’ll say and up into my arms they go, my and on their tummies to see if their mothers have given them breakfast or lunch, whatever the case might be. I check to see if they are male or female. It is better if they are female. Tame. To stay. The males will be sold for meat and I’m not certain if they grow as well on milk replacer even if it is only a supplement.
Some of the lambs are sporting exceptional fleeces this year. Last year a number of them did as well but hardly as many as this group. Someone called me interested in buying ten lambs for a spinner’s flock, and I’ve been keeping an eye out to see how the finest ones develop. Also of note are some throw back Tunis looking ram lambs. They shared a grandfather or, in some cases a great grandfather that was introduced for a week a number of years ago into my flock. Inadvertently. They are for the most part, shades of cinnamon with white spots on their heads. Presumably to remind me that their father is a white sheep. Few of these crosses are female. A pity because I’d like to keep them. Their grandmothers were milk bred sheep from Bee Tolmant’s flock. Their grandfather belonged to the trucker who brought them to me.
I’m keeping the females as they represent the milking line, however, I didn’t want this to happen. There are several very charming looking ewe lambs that I plan to keep as well who will be most easily distinguishable from the others in the flock. Some have dark chocolate colored spots on their faces. One has a perfect circle of cocoa on her back.
I have one pure black ewe who is a Finn sheep. She throws pure white lambs each year. Two ewe lambs. I’m not certain if some of the spotty lambs are out of her daughters, having lost track a year or two ago. It has become apparent that this week is the time for me to choose whom I am keeping and whom I am selling. And who shall be named. And named what.
In an effort at economy I am going through stacks of old notebooks and tearing out for use blank pages. The books are very thick ones, and it makes no sense to keep piles that include blank paper. It has been interesting to see what lists have been made and what is there to cross off as done. Included are several lists of suggested names. Each year I start off with good intentions in regard to making colored necklaces to distinguish one from another. Every year it almost but not always is successful. But it is the list of names that engages my fancy at the moment. Throck Morten, McGuinness, Gainsborough all have appeared. Tomasine Vetch, Carmel O’Connell (Oh, I know who that shall be. The one with the long fleece and red yarn neck band who stares at me so intently). Kilty Arguson has not found her lamb as yet. Candida Lycett Green became attached to a goat whose passing I still mourn. Some of the entries in this book are dated 2003 and so this list is at least seven years old. I’m so glad I’ve found it!
This winter, despite its extreme intensity has flown by. In many ways it was a visitation in hell. On several levels, I am beginning, as it draws to a close, to try to see what I can learn from it. How to live better, even though some conditions deteriorate while others have, in some ways, improved. There were times when it took a steadfast silence to be able to work through it as unscathed as possible. Walking through a barrage of arrows all pointed. None of my customary ways to deal with things came to use. I’ve had to abandon those systems, one at a time over the years, although I still long for them, and think they could work. My oven has been broken for almost eight months and so sitting down late afternoon, winter, with a slice of bread and a pot of tea in front of the fire has not happened in a very long time. I don’t buy flowers anymore. The kitchen hasn’t had a table for months and so there is not the pleasure of a gleaming white clean cloth to greet me in the morning. These kinds of things often got me through. Often enough. A new book or two. Some paper on which to make drawings. However, I still love the way the eggs look in the little brown basket.
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