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October 2010

The hay. The hay. The hay.  Two hundred and ninety-two bales are in at last.  Nearly thirty days worth for the sheep, although much of it is in the carriage house to be fed to the goats.  They shall be exceptionally well-fed this year.  My son Joachim, did a fine job of stacking after carrying much of it to the carriage house loft.  It has never looked this neat up there.
     I had bagged the nice finely chopped up straw mixed with goat berries created when I let most of the goats live throughout the building this summer.  Huge black garbage bags full and almost too heavy to carry downstairs.  They shall be useful for fertilizer for the new garlic beds my son is determined to create this fall.  A long time ago he built a rack with Ernest Westcott to hold wood in the loft.  Wood primarily for building some of which had been designated for specific projects that have not as yet materialized.  An article in the World of Interiors, some years ago, had a photograph of an ancient box bed standing in a sheep barn, in which the shepherd spent the night with the flock.  It had curtains inside the doors, a big fluffy mattress I presume had been filled with oat, straw and wooden walls and ceiling.  I’ve wanted that.  It has seemed as if it were too dangerous to make it back to the house some winter evenings, ice on the barn bridge way, there would at least be a safe and relatively warm place to stay the night in the barn.  Unless, of course, some mice made it their winter home. The barn is warmer now than it used to be. The big doors on the ground floor and the shutters in the windows have seen to that.  I’ve not, in recent memory, lost a lamb to cold, and have, indeed, fallen asleep more than once sitting on the bedding among the flock, my back against a post.  It was, last winter, as warm if not warmer than my house.
     Second cutting hay offers no bedding to speak of.  The sheep eat every mouthful. But there is a good deal of trashed, light, fluffy remains of hay to be swept from the barn loft floor, a dilemma of where to store while tempting to try to save, nonetheless.  A pair of roosters have lived in the barn for over a year.  One was given away for breeding and was almost immediately replaced by a soon to be fine young bird, given to me, by some friends in Andes.  The roosters love to fluff up the scraps of hay on the floor and turn it into excellent bedding material. I should take some up to the chicken coop for the winter comfort of my Wellsummer pullets about to become hens.  The roosters have been working with great enthusiasm for me.  The sable buck is ensconced with all but one of the does.  He is in rut, and can be smelled from fifteen feet away.  He rubs his head against the neck of the doe he is most interested in. An alternative suitor.  My hope is none are bred yet, or at least, too early.  It is best if they freshen in March rather than in February, however, I expect to be better prepared this year than in any other prior season.  I said that last year also.  Maybe that means progress is being made.  Order.  Order.  Order.  The constant relentless demand to achieve order.  There is, in the carriage house, a beautifully built wooden box with a lid.  It is linked to a chute in between the double wall leading down into a small, neat lidded container, on the floor below.  I, suspect it was for oats for the horses housed there in their stalls. Quite mistakenly, I put shavings in it once to use in the chicken coop a long time ago, never realizing I’d need to mount a step stool to empty out the last couple of feet of it.  However, it needs to be done because I’m determined to use it for grain this winter.  It is a beautifully made thing in itself.  A pleasure to look at.  But the greatest pleasure of all is the perfectly stacked, neatly organized second cutting hay John Hillis brought me this week end.  My son has the instincts of a country boy and was aware of the systems I needed to negotiate the hay drops and enter the chicken coop easily.  He placed the hay accordingly, saving me at least a half an hour a day in winter feeding of both the chickens and goats and whatever sheep might find its way up here.
     The unexpected rain brought the smell of the autumn with it.  Wet leaves don the driveway.  This autumn that doesn’t feel like autumn after a summer that didn’t feel like summer.  Perhaps the coming winter won’t feel like winter. We all thought there would be four hay days in a row this week.  From where did the rain come?  And why?  Enough to break the heart.  Hay down again.  Wet.  Will it be ruined?  Again.
     The winter squash that grew on the composted manure by the carriage house are hardening off, a row of deep rich orange, on the window seat of my front porch.  The color becomes more intensely dark orange each day.  The row of smaller ones on the back railing is beginning to turn as well.  Some are still lemon colored.  But even they cast an orange glow.  I love looking at them.  And may love eating them.
     I started a cheese in one of my new pots tonight.  The ones I bought last week at the Salvation Army.  They have the most exquisite botanical print in the finish painted onto white enamel.  I was enchanted when I found them.  Even more so when I heard the price.  Someone must have once loved these pots.  And paid a king’s ransom for them.  I didn’t.  Which made it even more enchanting.
     On occasion I have taken a rescue mission to save flowering plants from certain annihilation.  There was a garden not too far from the house some years ago that I knew would eventually be bulldozed.  I saved about a quarter of it, and now have much to give away.  Anyone wanting dark blue Siberian iris can call me. Bring a shovel and a knife.  That garden is long gone.  I was right about the bulldozer.  It broke my heart and I regretted all I had left behind.  Other people dug there as well.  I wasn’t the only one.  But my garden has been the beneficiary of a legacy that now has grown beyond the imagination.
     There was another series of plantations I’ve had my eye on.  Upon seeing my favorite color of phlox fall to the lawn mower it was more than I could stand, and slipping into the garden, with my fingers, dug up ten single stems to repair to my garden.  It was indeed a rescue mission because by the following year all had been cut back to the ground and were dead.  Today I went back to look at some roses which had been planted five or six years ago.  I never picked any but did admire them.  They had been moved as well completely obliterated.  Hard to be certain if it was by design or ignorance.  It would seem to be a case of overzealous ambition.  Impress with precision.  The peony bed had been partially obliterated as well.  One stalwart bush was covered with lawn clippings, its stems a mere two or three inches from being maimed as well.  It had been a lovely pink shell of a flower, once, as were its sisters.  Now to not be found. It isn’t really sad.  It is rather criminal.  A very old plantation destroyed for no logical reason.  I bought some peonies this fall hoping they’d be the same delicate color.  It is so chancy to buy from a catalogue.  One never can be certain of the colors.  It was a rare offer of peonies at half price and so I got six.  A wild extravagance on my part.  But I wanted to erase envy from my heart.  It’s not a good thing to covet some one’s peonies, especially knowing the peonies face being destroyed.
     The flower of the hour here is, however, the seven foot tall gardens of perennial sunflowers around my house and the carriage house.  They are the happiest of flowers.  Almost the last thing to bloom here.  Golden yellow.  Cheerful.  Bright. Dancing in the breeze.  The very last flower to bloom, this year at least is a problem to me.  I don’t like it.  Or at least I don’t like it as it grows.  It is a lovely cloud of white delicate and tiny Michaelmas Daisies. Blooming right on time this year.  It takes over.  Crowds everything out all summer in a lacy froth of tall plants with delicate tiny leaves. That’s what I don’t like.  But were I to pull it all out or even some of it, this lovely misty flower wouldn’t be there to grace this day.  What to do.
     This has been a wonderful day living here today.
Sylvia Jorrin

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