We sit at the edge of the end of it. Winter. Winter. Winter. The coldest and most miserable I have ever known. The days, covered by the relentless white skies that I really don’t like at all up here, have become lighter, daylight is longer, six o’clock is now a reasonable hour in which to leave the barn. That would seem to help. It hasn’t, at least not enough. I have functioned with the livestock, bottling ten lambs, feeding out the sheep. But it is the special kind of things that I usually associated with winter that have not happened. Making the house nice as an example. Cooking delicious things. Polishing copper and silver. Ironing. Sewing. Drawing. Seeing my breath going from an almost warm room to another bitterly cold one through a hall to where the gallon water jugs filled to use bottling the lambs are if not frozen solid are full of rattling ice particles. Milk frozen in its container in the living room only barely thaws in the hall next to the door to the white bedroom where I’ve spent much of the winter. It, heated by electricity, horribly expensive and very over rated, stays in the 50s when I’m lucky. It is disheartening to lose so much precious time.
The lambs in the barn are looking extremely well this year. I lost lambs however. Catastrophic to have some freeze to death upon being born at night in the cold, or to be saved at the cost of $65 per bag of milk replacer. There is a Tunis throwback ram lamb that I am planning to keep. Very fine. I hope his beautiful chocolate fleece stays in color. They usually turn into a cream color. His grandmother is from a commercial dairy, a top milker. He is a pretty thing. Lively. A dancer who specializes in leaping into the air and doing half turns before landing on all four feet. Almost laughing if a sheep can be said to laugh. I had bought his grandmother and eleven others several years ago from a diary farm that both milked and made cheese. The trucker had picked the ewes up earlier than expected, kept them in his barn, and for some inexplicable reason allowed his Tunis ram to co-mingle with my sheep. Now, whenever a lamb is born with a trace of brown, I know who its grandparents are. Their mothers were all born here five months after the incident with the trucker. I had toyed with the idea of buying a Tunis ram a long time ago. Didn’t. And now seem to be keeping one from this years lambing. So be it.
I wormed fifty of the sheep the other day. It was fun. I liked getting in contact with them. About twenty-five or thirty haven’t been wormed yet, however some progress has been made. The rams were all treated for parasites. I don’t worm lambs until after the ones to be sold for next are gone. They look remarkably well this year. Second cutting hay.
I ordered firewood today. It has been the best I’ve ever had. While it is seasoned, it is unfortunately newly split and therefore not dry enough. It is beautiful stuff, however. Long enough. Split in pieces perfectly sized for me to be able to carry easily. I’ve been parsimonious with it, however, because it takes too long for a room particularly the living room to heat up enough to be able to sit in it. The kitchen does get warm faster, the big wood stove. But it is not a particularly easy room to live in of late. Angus is the most mischievous puppy I’ve ever had. He is probably the smartest. Yesterday he saw me put a tea bag in a cup and managed to snatch it out and destroy it in a corner before I could lift the kettle to pour water into the cup. I have blamed myself for his mischievous acts, pulling off the tablecloth as an example, or my jeans hanging on the drying rack next to the wood stove, however, guilt left when I met one of his brothers the other day. That puppy’s owner, with relish, described its behavior in glowing terms. “My puppy has destroyed my house” he said, with enthusiasm. “My other dog was perfectly behaved. This one, however,” and went on to tell me in great detail a story that would easily compare with Angus. All of the potatoes I had misguidedly put in a decorative basket became balls to be rolled, tossed and in all manner possibly strewn around the kitchen floor. He hates the bitter cold that we have been presented with, therefore I can’t in clear conscience let him “run it off” as I let Glencora. So be it. Inshalla as is said in the Amelia Peabody books I’ve been rereading of late. A desperate world if I have taken those up. I own the series. They are my least favorite. They take place in Egypt and the Sudan, deserts mostly. Archeological digs. I fell in love with the desert in over Four Corners, but that had a lot of blue green to break the terra cotta of the hills. I spent a brief time there on a job for Piper Air Craft and bought a bracelet from a woman who herded sheep. It was silver and turquoise. I wore it every day until it broke.
I sold some lambs the other day and bought myself three presents. The first was a haircut at Styles in Motion. It was the best haircut I’ve had in years. I’ve made another appointment. The second was a cluster of miniatures of sheep, a goat and a Border Collie. Two sets as a matter of fact, one to put by each of the displays of my new books at both Stewart’s and Steinway Books. The third was having Rachel mat and put legs on a pastel Valerie Razavi had given me. Should my partially restored second floor hall ever be taped and painted, it shall become my little picture gallery. This pastel shall greet me when I open the door each morning on a short wall facing the white bedroom. The mirror I bought as a reward some months ago, a reward for sticking it out, is on an adjacent wall so the pastel can be seen twice. I have about ten postcards I bought in Lima, Peru a number of years ago that were printed from photographs taken in the 1930s when Lima was called the Garden of South America. They are very beautiful and I’d love to have them framed in one long picture.
Daylight savings time ends on Saturday night, Sunday morning. I have awakened of late just before dawn and watched the light penetrate the grey darkness. Sometimes the sun brightens the morning and caresses the lace curtained windows in the white bedroom in which I’ve chosen to sleep this year. There is an illusion that it is warmer because it is sandwiched between the living rooms of my tenants. However that was hope born without promise. One tenant has been hard pressed for firewood money. Their wood stove sometimes heats the room above it. When it is lit. Sometimes it is usually between 45 and 50 degrees in the room where I sleep. Getting up in the morning takes courage. Sometimes it is all I can do to face the hall. Maybe Valane’s pastel will encourage me.
I’ve started to knit myself some mittens. The other day the pain in my hand when I was feeding out hay signaled emergency. Get inside. My feet have gotten frostbite and I recognized its onset in my fingers. I did race into the house to hold onto a bowl of hot coffee. I was given an electric coffee pot that I keep in the white bedroom. I’ve not had hot water in the house for some time. The cup helped, however. Two more weeks until spring arrives. About four until winter ends. Time should never be rushed. It moves too quickly as it is. I don’t get a newspaper unless I go to town, nor do I have a radio or T.V. and so the day of the week can come as a surprise to me. Oh is it Wednesday already! Where did the week go? Saturday will creep up too fast. And so while I question the wisdom of wishing this winter to pass, in my heart I only feel some resentment at the cruel prison it afforded me in my own house. My studio where I’ve loved to sew or draw or arrange my little artifacts is completely off limits. The much maligned and hated twisty light bulb takes minutes to go on, it is so cold. I’ve enjoyed going through my ten years worth of notebooks and clippings and recipes. There is a basket of linens calling to be mended and piles of fabrics needing to be sorted in the closet. So many things I find interesting to do. But I can’t even think of going into that room. So be it. Perhaps it shall teach me to become patient. Never one of my virtues. So be it.
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