Manageability: Full Speed
Verity wears a new collar as do her sisters and brothers. They have not been outside yet this year, nor seem to be tempted. She, with any luck is bread for August, she is a white goat. Her father was chocolate brown. They are Saanen-Sables. She shall begin to be trained to a lead tomorrow morning. It is time. I’ve been accustomed to taking the livestock out beginning April 20th. This year promised, at first, to be earlier. Instead, the re-emergence of winter stopped all things including the pastures regaining their growth. And so, tomorrow, May 1st, I shall begin to introduce both the flock and the herd to the out-of-doors. Verity is the brightest and most clever goat of the goats. She is always first to follow me, when they were not in their pen, up the carriage house stairs to try to raid the chicken feed. This occurred even before I started to keep oats and cracked corn up there. For some incomprehensible reason, goats love laying mash. She had begun to figure out how to open the button that closed the gate halfway up the stairs. How she shall adjust to being tied to a lead cord attached to a fence shall remain to be seen. I shall put her next to the blackberries that are unwanted in the flower bed. Goats browse like deer rather than graze like sheep and I’m told, but I’m not certain, prefer blackberry canes to grass. In my new attempts to achieve manageability a system shall have to be worked out together to return to the goat pen in the carriage house without incident. That means without letting the other goats out. A long time ago I used to take two and sometimes three goats at a time from the lambing room to the cow path where there was a great deal of browse of all sorts. They would graze down unwelcome berry bushes that never produced fruit in any real quantity, and some of the brush that accumulated along the stone wall. I loved doing it. They have been housed in the carriage house for several years now. Perhaps it is time to rethink it. It may be the wisest if not the least convenient way to go. The drama of goats getting out near the house is the least thing I enjoy. However, the complications of drawing two or three at a time from a building which would require me keeping the others inside until I return is also complicated. If there are two or three fresh goats in August, the buck will have to be kept from them in the fall so they don’t get bred back for spring. It would be best were there milk in the fall to winter this year if possible. There is only one milking doe this year. One didn’t have much milk. A second who is very young, and is too sweet a creature to sell also had not quite enough for her kid. Two got butted when they were carrying by a goat who had to be sold, and consequently, lost their kids. In a way I’m sorry I sold her, she did have milk. At least enough for her kid and one other. I’d like to buy two more does to milk, if I can find any. My little ones are doing very well, however, only one is a doe and she is a year from being breedable.
The chickens continue to perform prolifically. Some days there are twenty-five eggs a day. The handwriting on the wall has declared that I buy some replacements as soon as possible. I understand the city people are becoming enchanted with chickens. There was a recent article in the New York Times about a retirement home or two being created for chickens in which said people have lost interest. I have expected that. There is something so ultimately satisfying about peering into nests and retrieving eggs. Egg collecting has now become manageable. Egg washing is out. I’ve realized I had an old telephone table/chest in the carriage house left from a tenant. Now I store some of the egg cartons in it and fill those when I collect the eggs. There was a very pretty basket that I liked to use, however, it only safely carried a dozen or so, necessitating two trips up and down a two landing set of stairs and risking goats knocking them from my hands. Now I can do one day’s worth at a time. Several details have contributed to making the farm more manageable as well. Manageability, or rather, increased manageability has been an objective for me of late. The farm shows it. The front apartment is now manageable. I’m just beginning to think of refining the quality of manageability of the house. That shall be next. The living room was painted in March in order to be photographed. It is a remarkable improvement. I am going to address the dining room, with any luck, tomorrow after I worm lambs.
I live in a house that was built without closets. The colors of all of my old Pendleton and Woolrich jackets hanging in the kitchen please my eye. The blue Royal Ducal dishes in the kitchen cupboard, and the carefully arranged cookbooks on the shelves below do as well. Colors and their juxtapositions mean a lot to me. Unfortunately the old saying, man falls by what he rises and, of course, can rise by what he falls, is true in my case as well. I see details. And criticize details. And since it is I who create all details here, it is I who can become merciless to myself. The shape of the way a curtain is draped can either please me greatly or disrupt me greatly. And the lack of places in which to put things, particularly to put things the way I like to look at them, is a problem. It is becoming apparent that the next phase in this house, and the next rash of creating a reasonable sense of manageability, is to concentrate on creating reasonable places in which to put things. Building some shelves in the mudroom come to mind, for seldom used cookware. Taking stored baking pans and pots from the oven every time I cook creates chaos in the kitchen that sometimes isn’t rectified right away.
I think manageability can be achieved both in small increments and in ones that declare themselves clearly. Look at this! This now functions! Address the issue that has a loud clear voice of complaint. That will then have a loud clear voice of accomplishment. I’ll never be able to put things away in the same place. Distractions and new reasons will always lead my hand to putting some tags in a tea pot one time and a special basket for important things another time. Keys, pens, my check book all find themselves victim to a peripatetic life. Oh, what a satisfaction it is to decide my tenant’s keys will always go into the little French ink well, “this time”. And behind a book in the library the next time. Time being spaced by years. Tenants usually have a year’s lease. But now, where did I put those keys?
It will be fun finding and making places for things. I used to have a little book called Where is it? No, I’m not going to use the contemporary writer’s cliché and say “I’ve lost it”. It does turn up, usually in my studio. And usually when I want it. But living in a big house with a passion for pretty things does mean things change places often enough over the years.
My house shall be photographed soon again. I will have only short notice to prepare. Two rooms that will not be included in the book but shall be in a magazine need attention badly. The one’s that were already photographed need not much more than floors to be mopped and the latest cobwebs brushed away. I’ll probably clean some windows in this house of many windows. The woodroom and its adjunct look the way I want them to. It was to my great satisfaction that nothing in the house was rearranged by the photographers for the pictures that were shot. That should give me some satisfaction. It doesn’t quite. It is what was not completed for possible inclusion that I remember.
This is a day that God has made. Who I am is what I do with it. For me, life seems a constant challenge of housekeeping duties. Relentless, unforgiving, unmanageable. And yet, in each detail an element of what is beautiful. The light that balances off of the white enamel stock pot against the brown Wainscoting, and below the big copper confiture pan. My gift is the ability to see that light. To remember that is my biggest task
May 1st, 2012
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