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May 2010

            It is here.  May has arrived, accompanied by its own sense of urgency and its particular brand of beauty.  May is lovely.  To me beauty has an element of grandeur, majesty, a touch of the overwhelming, larger than life.  I prefer loneliness.  I go to the portable chicken coop many times throughout the day. It isn’t eggs I am looking for.  It is the ever changing colors on the hills beyond my farm surrounding the pasture where the portable coop sits.  The rapidly emerging flowers on the currant bushes?  Did the gooseberries that I rooted take?  Are the champagne currants going to fruit this year?

            The blue Araucana eggs are not wanted in the store where I sell the brown Welsummer eggs.  A pity.  Three or four a day are the most lovely shade of green/blue.  They are mine to eat or to give as gifts.  Some have been known to find their way to New York via the post office to a friend who is a painter.  They appear in some of her art. I put them in a white bowl on my mahogany desk in the living room.

Twelve radicchio from last year have re-emerged.  Two appear to have come from seeds.  They are so small, but the remaining ten have emerged from the roots and partial stems remaining after being chomped down by goats.  The surviving Bourbon roses that have lasted despite occasional years of neglect have started to leaf out.  There is a garden within the perennial border that looks like England.  It has bee balm, yellow primroses, a few Siberian iris, some wild magenta phlox, and lemon day lilies.  The vegetable gardens all look like France. But this part of the long border looks like England.  A corner of one of the nine plots that make up this flower garden was dug up when the water line was installed to the carriage house.  A few self-sowing flowers have moved in; however, it is an opportunity to redesign that section of garden more to my liking.  That will be interesting.  It commands a direct view from my dining room windows and can be created from everything I know how to do from all past gardens, still existing or not.  Balance.  Proportion.  Style.  Much of the long border is in bloom sequentially.  This newest section shall employ that concept as well.  When I first created these gardens I had no real understanding about how many plants it took to make a visual impact.  Now I know that in a house and garden on the scale of mine, three plants of a type are lost completely. Even ten of a species can become lost, visually here. I planted ten of my favorite cerise phlox in a row width-wise in the border a year or two ago.  Eight have made it and I have two more to go in from thinnings from the original stem I rescued a couple of years ago from a garden that someone mowed down quite decisively with a lawn mower.  And with great regularity.  Although I felt like a thief in the night, which indeed I was, I saw regret not taking all of the rest, now chopped into oblivion.  The ones in the border face the glass French doors in my living room.  This year I have hopes for a real display.

            The nettles are now high enough in the pastures to harvest. Nettle soup!  A favorite dish here, springtime.  Along with the bacon, dandelion garlic, potatoes, and cider vinegar that has given so much energy and vitality to the workings of this farm. I have set aside one of the vegetable gardens in which to leave the self-sown dandelions.  I am slow sometimes to recognize the obvious.  After a number of years fruitlessly searching for dandelion leaves, summers in a mown lawn when friends and family are here for lunch, I realized that it is a wise thought to simply leave some among the vegetables.  And so, mow, among currants are enough to feed me every day and to have to serve the rare guests who visit.  It might even be an idea to blanch some and freeze them, as well as the now ubiquitous nettles.

            The pastures remain in miserable condition.  The cold, lack of rain and otherwise early rather than mid-spring weather has kept everything back.  It has forced me to go further into debt to buy balage rather than to put the sheep into pasture as I customarily do on April 20th. I am two weeks behind up here on the hill.  It is far warmer down in Oneonta than here. Today it is the first day that the house has been comfortably warm despite a slight rise in temperature.  The grass has not noticed it as yet although the lilacs are offering a fine promise this year.  The flowering quince also are outstanding in their display.  But best of all, the barn swallows have returned two days early!  They usually arrive on May 5th, however, they have come this year on May 3rd.  They have always enchanted me, that touch of orange against their black.  I’ve wanted to paint some on the walls and ceilings of my little library as if they are flying out of the window for many years but don’t quite know how to do it.

            My little Sable doeling and her Toggenburg/Sable sister are now drinking from a cup.  Or rather, from a quart sized yogurt container.  The Sable is more reluctant to use the cup as she was the largest separated from her dam before being introduced to artificial milk. The little black cross bred doeling on the other hand, took to a “cup” immediately.  She is an affectionate little creature, leaps onto a barrel and catapults herself in one swift motion to the table top where she then encourages me to dump some bottle milk into her cup from which to drink.  She then rubs her face next to mine. Oddly enough I’ve not named any of the doelings or the two bucks that I am keeping this year.  The cross-bred is a Merriman, of course, her grandmother’s last name, but the first name eludes me.  The other buck is a MacDouglas.  He shall be trained to a cart, I hope.  The intact Sable buck, a pitch-black very free creature and his bittersweet chocolate sister are unnamed. Oh! I’ve just remembered.  Niccolo is the unused name for my little cart goat, soon to be put to work.  He is a handsome fellow. Perfectly chunky in build, sturdy. Well-framed.

            I am trying out a new little discipline of late.  It is similar in form to all of the other ways I have used in the past to achieve either progress or a change.  The little-bit-at-a-time-school-of-change.  The latest one is to do something nice for myself every day.  I missed yesterday but did try for the past six days.  The time involved is minimal.  Sometimes only fifteen minutes.  Usually only fifteen minutes. None-the-less, while it hasn’t made an impact on how I live or think or feel, in theory these little kindnesses may wear down the toll that life has taken on me of late.  Food in one form or another has accompanied these moments.  A small glass of walnut liquor in front of the fire was one.  Homemade hot chocolate with real whipped cream was another.  Lunch with a book at Elena’s rather than writing stories or lists was another.  I’ve had my favorite bathtub put in working order and tonight after a walk up the hill to see the apple blossoms I shall sit and soak in it for as long as I want to.

            I’ve begun to think about food again, after a long hiatus, and that awakening is accompanying the arrival of more blue eggs than I can use or sell.  That leads me to looking for a recipe for pickled eggs. They are something I’ve wanted to make for seemingly forever, or at least until chickens made their first appearance here.  However, I am afraid of getting sick from them, if I don’t know how to make them correctly. Some special things are beginning to arrive from California these days.  Fresh bay leaves for one thing.  Green walnuts soon, to replenish the walnut liquor.  The bay leaves, one or two, might be good for the pickled eggs.  I’ve been given some big glass jars with gold topped lids they would look beautiful in, with a bit of dried red pepper here and there amongst the white eggs.  They would be perfect to take to the fields when I need to be working.  I make real mayonnaise from my own eggs and have never worried about it. We’ll see soon enough.

            All bottle lambs and four kid goats are in the mid level of the barn with three or four non-bottle lambs and three ewes.  I have to visit there three times a day.  We are a bit tired of each other at this point.  (My hands are covered with tiny cuts from their sharp teeth and my legs are black and blue from them jumping on me, however, it is there that the barn swallows made their nest) last year and there to which they have returned today. I’ve opened the upper part of the door to outside, a twenty-foot drop.  (I don’t understand why it is there), and the swallows fly in and out of it with serious intent.  I love to watch them.  Perhaps they shall become accustomed to my presence and not feel as threatened after awhile.  It would be so nice if they didn’t panic so at my entrance.  May has arrived.  Urgent and lovely.

Sylvia Jorrin

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