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October 2011

A few days into autumn. Pumpkins. Pumpkins. Pumpkins. I have seventeen curing on the porches. About four to six still on the vine and dozens the size of chickpeas among those still flowering. Had a good day yesterday. Even though the goats knocked me down. A neighbor brought me some kale, both Lacinato and Red Russian and I cooked some right away to freeze. The rest shall be done today. If I am successful in putting up both kale and pumpkin I am safe about having enough of the right vegetables for winter. Of course, pumpkin very often means jam to me. Can I ever be consistent in choosing my favorite of preserves? Today, with pumpkins both dark and amber and pale orange lined up I think, of course, that pumpkin jam is my best loved. Except, of course, when I make tomato jam. Or buy black currant jam at Price Chopper. Their Belgian made is equal to anything home made. Whole wheat soda bread, home made, has been only an occasional success here. An old book recommended covering it over with another tin while it is in the oven to prevent the crust from getting hard. I’ll try that as soon as I can pick up some baking soda. It would seem that pumpkin jam would be exquisite on whole wheat soda bread.
            The sheep have escaped twice in the past three days. I was at a total loss about from where. The fence by the road has been maintained fairly well and while my Friesian-Tunis cross ewe and the Young Pretender have two to three times jumped it until I barbwired it, there was no sign of where more than eighty sheep had walked down the road. What to do? I decided to check the fence between me and my neighbors to the south of me. The drainage ditch on their side has been silting up for quite some time causing a small swamp to develop on my side of the stone wall. A gate had been standing in the wall for many years. Now the backed up ditch had formed a small pond or rather large puddle beneath said gate. My sheep, knowing with the certainty that all animals possess, that there were even more apples lying under the trees in the neighbors’ unused pasture than under my trees (they had eaten most of the drops on my farm), decided to push down the weakened gate, forge on through the puddle, which, by the way was over my boot tops, and on to the fallen apples. I was dismayed to say the least. The gate was smashed beyond repair. The area was now a small, tiny in fact, swamp but a swamp nevertheless, and I couldn’t even lift it out of the water, nor could I even dream of repairing it.
            A few days later. The wood to make a new gate arrived at six o’clock last night along with the wood with which to build one of the fences that I am contracted to put up in still another conservation project. Thank goodness. The new gate will be installed by tomorrow. While I try to repair rather than create new, this gate shall last a few more years than a reconstructed one. I may even paint it. That would add some years to it. Fortunately there is some primer and deck paint left from the painting I had done on the south pasture gates this summer. A controversial color at that, I like it of course. Willow green, I call it. However, the color does have unfortunate implications in some necks of the woods and I have been hearing a criticism or two. I still like it. So be it.
            This month, week, day is intense with its demands. Putting food up is, of course, an imperative. How I live in the winter depends on what food is put up now. And how well it is put up. The wood is the second priority. I have nearly enough. But it is not in the right place, for the most part. About eight fence cords are outside waiting to be stacked. Four more or so, in the form of slab are also waiting. But in their case it is the cutting that needs to be done. I hope to have it piled in such a way that it can be sliced right through in twenty-two inch pieces near the cellar window. I love stacking wood and have created the perfect place for it in the cellar. After all of these years I’m beginning to figure it out. How to do it, that is. In all fairness, some things have changed here requiring the reordering of old systems. The French windows in the living room have changed my heating requirements dramatically. The lambing pen in the cellar has also caused me to have to rethink how I am going to keep us all warm and safe this winter. This winter. I do dread those words. Everyone has been sounding more worried this year than ever before. My attention has been absorbed by the restoration work on the front apartment. It is almost to my satisfaction. Most of what is left is my responsibility. Some painting, both decorative and practical. I’ve saved painting the trimming on the many many windows, some with twenty panes of glass, for myself. As well as the stenciling and vinegar printing on the entry way and foyer floors. I’d love to do a little touch here and there inside closets. We’ll see.
            However my attention is now drawn to the carriage house as well. My young stock is in their own pen for the moment. The older does are ensconced in the big pen. The buck shall be introduced back with them tomorrow. Cameron is still being discouraged from the hay by some of the new goats. I don’t know why. She was once the aggressor. I can’t fathom now that hierarchy was altered. The little white supposed Sable has been living with them and has attracted the ire of one of the new Sables. I couldn’t find her any where this morning and was in a panic at the thought of how she could possibly have gotten out, when suddenly I noticed Cameron in a corner seemingly sporting eight rather than four legs. Verity was hiding behind her. I immediately moved Verity into the next pen and tried to get the three other kid goats, two doelings and one handsome Sable buck, cinnamon in color, in with her. They got in and Verity got out. So be it for the moment.
            Should the does to be bred when Mungo is introduced this week it shall mean that there will be kids born in March. At most the best time for me. I need a doe in milk in the winter but that is unlikely to happen, unless someone got bred the week I brought him home. I need some to freshen in April to be useful to the camp in Andes where two or three milking does live in the summer. However, kid goats do better when born in the spring than they do when born in the colder months. We’ll see.
            A grain room is going to be built in the carriage house shortly. The wood is here. The miracle worker has it all planned out and shall begin to build it on the next rainy day. I’ve had my hands full carrying grain from the house to the carriage house every day for goats and chickens. I am so grateful that I don’t have to figure out how to set it up.
            Some new chickens have arrived. Twelve for me and five for a friend. They are the same age and breed of the pullets I bought last spring. Mine have faded out in laying. These seventeen supposedly are still laying. Giving a few days to adjust and eat a different menu, I have hopes they will produce at least nearly as well as for their previous owner. They have laid a few eggs. Brown like their cousins. I need them to produce more for my customers than I’ve had in the past couple of weeks and hope not to have to buy eggs this winter. There is something about feeding chickens that aren’t laying that drives me crazy.
P.S. The whole wheat soda bread is delicious with tomato jam!
Until the next time.

Sylvia Jorrin

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