There were to be no lambs in the kitchen once more this year. I was resolute in my decision. Two bottle lambs are in the barn proper, the third is now living the good life in New Hampshire, and three are in a pen in the carriage house. So what is this fairly unappealing, gangly creature doing chasing Peabody, the cat, around this room. That they are fond of each other is without question. Peabody rubbed her back under the lamb’s chin and then sat down. The lamb pawed the cat to get up or at least to move to a more likely position for her to curl up against. Their favorite place is next to the wood stove which is in front of the electric heater only to sit on my pink bathrobe which will, therefore, soon be in need of two runs in the washer at the Laundromat and, to be certain, hasn’t been worn by me for quite some time. Peabody moved a moment after the lamb made herself comfortable and snuggled next to her. She now has moved to the window sill. The lamb has followed and nuzzles the cat in a seemingly attempt to get her down. She then has stretched her head to be able to look out of the window. Peab does not move. Enough of the lamb for the moment, she appears to be saying. The lamb does not give up. She has not ever been quite alright. She takes a bottle more easily of late, but only four or five ounces at a time. She calls for it when she is hungry. By now she should be on three ten ounce feedings a day but rather is on five or six feedings of four or five ounces a day, sometimes one at two a.m. That still doesn’t justify her living in the house when I am bottling lambs in two other places. The barn and the carriage house. There was a moment when there had been no lambs in the kitchen. A brief moment. And I let the dogs in instead. However, Glencora MacCluskie hates lambs passionately and so she and Nelly were banished once more when this new one arrived. There was something pleasant still in that animal free moment. A sense of freedom that I rarely experience. And yet, I chose to keep Caliandra inside. The better for her sake although she is not becoming socialized with sheep, only with the cat. And me. And I her.
` I loved it when the six bottle lambs had begun their dance around the kitchen, leaping, running, jumping, but it was at that moment I knew they had to leave. It was also at that moment that a large lamb, with a broken leg and multiple fractures arrived. He sported, in the fullness of time, a formidable cast. No practical way could be found to return him to his mother. So, in addition to a $115 Vet bill, he will cost me the better part of a bag of milk replacer at $65 a bag. The cost of feeding his mother and one seventieth of costing feeding his father, and will not earn what he would have had he not suffered a broken leg. In other words, some of the lambs had to stay in to keep him company. When he was ready to go out, the others left, too. And now reenter Caliandra. Oh well, it continues to be my choice. I just can’t let her suffer her chances in the barn or the carriage house with the bigger bottle lambs. At least not yet. I was raised by an overprotective mother. It shows.
A few days later. The lamb continues to improve, whatever that means. She drinks quite nicely from a bottle. And yet, she is still indoors with me. And the cat. Why? One could say I love her, but I don’t think I do. She isn’t even a smidgeon like the lambs I have loved. I like the look of the curly fleeced ones. Boxy. A little square in shape, with, however, the classic elegant Friesian head and shiny hair on their faces and legs. She has the head. The legs. The shiny white hair of a Steiff toy. But her fleece is very close to the body, flat, grey, (not only from the wood ash in my kitchen, she came that way, and not particularly appealing. Her back has the hunched over look of a motherless, hungry lamb. Her legs have stretched out of proportion to her back. She only looks good when she is running. Her ears are predicting her size as an adult. She’d definitely prefer the proximity of the cat. And yet, my glance is always upon her.
I don’t understand the nature of love. What it means and what it does. When this lamb didn’t get up one morning for her breakfast, I gave her some aspirin and decided to put her to bed for the day. She became packed in towels and gallon jugs of hot water which were periodically refilled. She fell asleep. I didn’t wake her. After about seven hours she climbed out of the box. Asked for her bottle and chased the cat. Now I have a new save the lamb technique. Put it to bed. But is this love? I hear tell rather often that I love my animas. I don’t know what that means, exactly. Is it because I just got up to throw a cut up sweater over her because the kitchen temperature is dropping. I don’t know. What I do know is I really don’t want to let go of her. Not yet. Occasionally there is what I call a bell hat goes off in the back of my mind. Sometimes more loudly than others but always clear and distinct. It always signals instructions about what I must do. Now. And it is always in regards to preparation for a future event. It never discloses what the event shall be. But it always designates what preparation needs to be made. In the old days it signaled the necessity to sew some dresses. Of late it is about being ready for “the next phase” without giving any indication of what the next phase would be. Just a strong, loud, insistent “Get Ready”. It does have a minor note. Polish your shoes. All of them. I’ve been reading some of Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels over the past few nights and polished shoes are mentioned several times. Were the house not so insistently cold, I’d go up to the summer bedroom and dig out the special polishing kit for my Zimbabwe made hiking shoes. Now. (I’ve been accused of frequently jumping from one trail to another and would agree at the moment were I not freezing in this kitchen with the grossly inadequate electric heater on full blast, and still another log not wanting to catch in the wood stove knowing the summer bedroom temperature is below 30 degrees.
My mind now requests “finished units”. That room is now perfect. For seemingly forever I indulged in “Grand Miscellany”, going from one thing to another, not weaving the threads of a sweater in after finishing the knitting of it, but wearing it anyway. The theory was to not have anything “too bad” and making small progress on all fronts.
` When I was nine an had some SOHOs’ wool brought to the house where I spent most winters sick in bed, I remember being given sets of questions and answers to fill out. I’d do the first three and then jump ahead to eight and nine, thinking it would be a sort of surprise and allow me to finish the homework that much sooner. I’ve done that ever since. But finished units have begun to appeal to me. The front apartment has nearly recovered from its latest disaster and the method most successfully applied was going for said finished units. One room in its entirety at a time.
My house, my part of the house, that is, has suffered terribly from neglect and poverty for the past few years. The farm of course, has taken priority, always, the front apartment which has been vacant for so very long came next. Another rental was completed last year and is to my mind completely finished. But my living quarters have been allowed to disintegrate before my eyes. I had taught myself to look at that which was increasingly unacceptable and turn away. Bad choice for the soul. But, at the time, I could conceive of no alternative. However, a chance event, caused me to come to terms with the farmhouse – me dilemma. And I took some farm money to repair part of my house. The part, especially, that looked like my house had been in the London Blitz, which in a manner of thinking, it was. Shall I call the roofers the bombardiers? Ceilings. Walls to the floor. Several. Not all. But primarily, both my once finished, completed living room and bathroom. The living room has now been as repaired as I care to go. And is newly painted in two coats of my favorite shell pink. The new tenant’s bathroom is that color as well, but in the late afternoon light is quite a different color. Deeper. Richer. Prettier. I’ve wanted to replace the old wall paper in the bathroom but the front bathroom looks so nice and the bathroom has the same light that I’ve decided to paint it the same color. Somehow it no longer seems so impossible to finish that room. All at once. Perhaps the sudden sense of urgency that possesses me will make it happen. As Connie in Stephen’s Antiques said to me the other day, “What’s next?”
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postings in the Farm Stories Archive