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May 2011

Twin ewe lambs arrived a couple of days ago. Fat, chunky, nice little creatures. Their mother is a sensible older ewe who freshened in the safest place in the barn and kept her girls there for several days. I brought her second cutting hay and she slipped outside for water from time to time. The lambs and their dam shall be bedecked with bright orange collars and shall stay forever. I had once thought that at a certain point I’d stop keeping replacement lambs and let the flock diminish naturally but I’ve passed that point and find it impossible to resist keeping certain lambs to augment the herd, read delight my heart. That means that they and I expect to be around and farming it for another eight or ten years. I want their names to be pretty. The unclaimed names on my list are amusing for the most part rather than pretty and so I’ve not made my choices yet.
            Clearly it is naming season again. Of the doelings, two are Merrimans and two are Penhaligons. Adelaide Merriman’s girls are bigger, older and stronger. Rebecca’s girls are Sables although one looks like a Toggenburg, albeit a black one. The other looks like a Saanen. They are supposedly Sables. I don’t know any more. The little white one is going to be a piece of work. She is the brightest looking little thing on the farm. She figured out almost immediately that the strange object in my hand, read bottle, was a source of delight. Milk that is. It took her sister no less than three days to come to me of her own volition rather than having to be caught by one leg, thrown up into my right arm and having the bottle’s nipple jammed into her mouth. The little black and white goat, her twin, looking like a black Toggenburg, is a little slower at everything. The white kid, who has just now become Verity Penhaligan, figured out how to escape from the pen in the carriage house in about twenty minutes after being moved into it from the pen in the cellar. When rescued from a knocked over garbage can she decided to never again attempt leaving the pen.
            Glynnis is a skittish three year old goat who thinks that I am, perhaps, her enemy and she may be right. She races away from me in her pen every time she sets eyes on me. She freshened with a charming chocolate brown single doeling about a week ago. To my dismay I realized Glynnis was missing one teat. The left side of her udder had become hard and swollen with milk with no way for it to be released. Her little one nursed quite nicely from the right side, however, it was apparent she was making too much milk even from one side to feed a single little goat. I caught her. Trapped her. Got her onto the milking stand and milked some from her swollen right side. When I put her back into the stall I realized there was a solution, Verity. I grabbed her and in a moment Verity knew what to do. She nursed on Glynnis and Glynnis stood for her. At least she seemed to. I had my shoulder digging into her flank and my free hand tightly grasping her lead cord. I fed her some corn. Backwards, a handful reaching behind me in the direction of her mouth. Thank goodness she has no horns. Then Verity’s sister realized there was something to be had and dove in as well, pushing Verity aside. I tried the same maneuver today. Glynnis’ bag wasn’t as full today as yesterday, so it is possible the twins nursed her quite on their own as well as her still as yet unnamed little girl, or she wasn’t making as much milk.
`           I still may not be able to keep her. And so her look of distrust may be well grounded. This is something I may be able to stand. The way she stares at me. And she is right to doubt me now. I know someone who wants a goat for a brush hog. However, he is certain to want to breed her at some point. That may not be a feasible idea.
            The Wilcoxes, my vet and his wife, are due to arrive in about an hour. They’ll help me to decide what to do. Glynnis is a wonderful mother to her little doeling who dances around the pen with all of the joy that kid goats bring to the world. Another reason to not want to part with her. My motherless kids do not dance. Not for me anyway. They look to me as the bad mother who only bottles them three times a day rather than intermittently as real goat mothers do all day long and so become excited upon seeing me rather than lay about, relaxed, or dance and play together. In other words, they try to jump all over me. They all live in the same pen with Glynnis. Today they all become disbudded. That, too, is an ordeal, however, they become totally anesthetized, and, in theory, won’t remember anything of it. The very fine chestnut colored little buck shall be dehorned as well. He is sold to a friend for a flock sire, in exchange for work rather than cash. I need the work done so badly.
            I’ve been rereading Angela Thirkell, of late, fourth time around the Barsetshire series of novels taking place in a country in England. The people in said country are far more varied and the subcultures, which on occasion, do overlap, are also more varied than anything we experience in this neck of the woods. Some families have lived in Barsetshire for many hundreds of years. Some, perhaps, for thousands. And then there are the new comers, who are either first or second generation, or perhaps even third. For the most part they marry among their own social class. On occasion, however, someone who doesn’t quite fit in, such as Lydia Merton, as an example, marries dramatically out of her class who successfully integrates part of himself into the world to which she belongs. A rare few leave the country, although usually because of marriages.
            Each reading gives me a fresh insight into the life here. Everyone in Thirkell’s Barsetshire seems to be interdependent upon one another. Those systems of living have evolved over centuries. In this country, ours haven’t been in existence long enough. Families there were large and extended. There always was to be found someone whose particular gifts were the ones needed to do the job. Jasper, part Gypsy, is an example. He understood horses and people in a very deep sense. His grandmother was a witch who turned herself into a black hare. He manifested seemingly out of nowhere whenever a horse or a pony was needed with just the right animal. He appears throughout a half a dozen of Thirkell’s books. As locked in as social class in England seems to us there was fluidity as well. A young woman, born in one of the lower middle classes rose above it with the aid of both an education and the mentioning of a well meaning upper class matron. Her husband to be was from a wealthy bewaring family (lower class, of course), went to Oxford and emerged looking and speaking like one of said matron’s sons’ friends, some of whom would be taken for a brewer’s son. He “passed”. And presumably their children shall as well, although not to be thought of as “country” for several generations, they shall float in and out of the country’s lives with ease.
            Dorothy Hartely my favorite historian of daily life in the British Isles wrote that in as early as the 12th or 13th centuries, a quick and clever young man with a gift for math and language could in his lifetime, dramatically alter his social class if he applied himself to making a living at the great fairs that dotted the country.
            What I think I envy most in Thirkill’s world is the ready availability of people to help one out. Someone to bring one tea in a moment of crisis or exhaustion. How I have grown to hate waiting for lot water to drip through my single coffee cup maker that I use seemingly all day long. I’ve started making a whole-wheat Irish Soda Bread. While whole wheat is nothing I’ve ever developed a liking for, James Beard’s recipe with buttermilk is passable. I just bought raisers to try in the next loaf. It may elevate the bread from passable to acceptable. However if I am to have it this afternoon at tea, I have to bake it myself. Furthermore, I have to wash the bowl from the one I made two days ago, clean the wood ashes off of my coffee table, and remember to buy more buttermilk if I ever get to Walmart again. Is the wish to have a cup or two of the Russian  Caravan Tea that just arrived in the mail, on some finely sliced soda bread with a thin coat of butter on each slice in front of the fire following afternoon chores that will prevail over my reticence to make a mess once more? I don’t know. We’ll see.
            Until the next time.

Sylvia Jorrin  

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