The house is shaping up for winter. I may have the kitchen floor painted by the time this story is printed. I hope so. It has been a long wait. The process of getting it ready has been begun, and seen itself disintegrate. Several times. It is now, this morning, at least, needing only a thorough mopping. It has been scrubbed. That is no longer necessary. I’ve lived without a working kitchen for far too long. And have cooked, somewhat, in it anyway. When it hasn’t been used, the wood stove too became my counter, seeing me roll out dough more than once. When it has had a fire in it, I’ve put a cutting board on the edge of the skink and rolled out dough there. Somehow bread has managed to be baked and “come out” well with a minimum of kneading. Made with milk and an ounce of butter, a smooth enough dough can be created to make a satisfactory loaf. And of course, griddle scones not only need no kneading, but can be baked on the wood stove. I love sweet potatoes. They also do very well on the top of the wood stove, baked under a big copper pot, announcing by their rich sweet smell when they are ready.
Life here is an odd combination of great abundance in the midst of want. I’ve not been able of late to balance the two. There certainly are enough dogs, as an example. My thoughts of getting dog number three have been tempered with the fact that I haven’t, as yet, trained Nelly Zolotoroffski for sheep. She is the most natural of my two Border Collies to train. Glencora works the sheep after a fashion. Her own fashion, that is. And the sheep know it. They do obey her, most of the time, although, in part it is I whom they obey, and their own decision as well. We all do work together in a fashion, that suits them, and usually gets what I need done accomplished. It can be refined, however. And I do think it will be.
There seems to have arrived at the farm gate, a new breed of lamb customer. Something that has been needed for quite some time now. My original customers were themselves raised on farms. Knew lambs and were accustomed to butchering them themselves. They bought lamb for their family, which included their aunts and cousins and brothers-in-law, which meant two to twelve lambs at the Roman Easter, and one here or there when a relative came to visit from Italy or Sicily. They brought their sons and grandsons with them who shared their taste in lamb but not their taste in killing. These men who were raised on farms themselves were accustomed to butchering and had no squeamishness in their make up. It is all a part of life, although I’m certain there had to be something of a feeling when the moment arrived. I myself am unable to watch the death, but find the skinning and cleaning of great interest. But we are a country of in-comers. It is our greatest strength. I believe. And it is with great interest that I ask my present customers what languages they are speaking to each other. And I am pleased to be able to give them food that reminds them of their homeland. That is one of the most gratifying things about raising lamb, for me.
Three different nationalities are represented in the new mix buying lamb of late. And that fascinates me. They all like an older lamb, however, one group of friends ordered Easter lamb for the spring as well. I refused to take deposits on unborn animals. Perhaps that was a mistake on my part, however, that’s how I feel right about it. I must find out exactly how to send the skins out to be processed. There shall be some nice ones and the house has four bedrooms, each of which would appreciate a lamb skin rug, winter mornings.
I saw a full page picture of a lamb in a national magazine yesterday. It reminded me, once again how far away from farm life we all are in this country. The story was about some urbanites that raised sheep. Hooray. More or less “sustainably”. The lamb was a textbook example of a parasite laden nearly dying animal that for some reason lethargy, I presume, stood still for the camera. It had a bottle jaw indicating a heavy parasite load and sunken flanks indicating a combination of starvation, scours and general ill health. While I can’t expect the editors of “County Living” to know anything about sheep or what a sick animal looks like, I certainly would hope the owners of the farm would know and as the farm was relatively small and run by a couple, presumably would have the money, time and enough hands to take care of their flock. Increasingly I see hobby farms run by people who are intelligent and earnest and who follow what I call intellectual ideas about raising livestock, without practical basis. “Politically correct” thinking has begun to permeate the new farming ventures that have begun to dot the landscapes in this nation. Fashionable though, while it can sometimes be of mind, has a rather dubious place in the practical world of farming. Some of these operations are short lived, however, as shall be the lamb in the magazine photograph, without immediate intervention.
It is almost time to bring in the chickens from the outdoor chicken coop into their spacious winter dwelling in the carriage house loft. The newest Welsummers have nearly outgrown the portable goose pen in which they have lived for the past few weeks. They have become as big as a four month old chicken with which they share their home. With any luck they shall be moved this week as well into the former rooster pen in the carriage house so I can continue to feed then the wonderful Purina starter grower that they have thrived so nicely on. I was also given four absolutely beautiful Buff Orphington young chickens who were free range and who managed to be free range here as well. One escaped the first minute she arrived but has found solace hanging around my big portable coop in the pasture. The other three managed to settle in to the carriage house, evenings, with the two roosters, but merrily pursue their activities outside, day time. I love the way they look. The Welsummers, while having men, have never delighted my eye the way the Buff Orphingtons do. For some reason, these clear orange colored birds enchant me. There are some black free range chickens down the road that also are very pleasant to the eye. I’ve yet to learn their breed, but they may interest me as well. The Aracanas, all but one, are the same subtle brown, pleasant color of the Welsummers. That one distinctive Aracanas was white. And suffered a fatal accident a day or two ago. The chickens tipped one of the waterers over. It landed on her neck and the cold water spilled all over her. I came across her minutes after it happened, while bringing water to the coop, and pulled her out, took off my woolen shirt, wrapped her in it, and raced her to the house. I wrapped her in a towel, and packed bottles of hot water next to her. She died in the night. Chickens are not my line of expertise. They always live, dying only of old age or murder. Hawks, raccoons.
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