September has arrived, or so it would seem these crisp chilly last days
of August. The air has changed. Three or four days
early. Light has changed. The late afternoons have begun to
achieve that golden glow of autumn. The kitchen of this house
becomes at its best at that time of day. Warm and joyful all in
the same moment. I never remember that and encounter it only by
chance. Chores here are intense around four o’clock. But
that is the time when it is most encouraging to address both cleaning
and baking. The mornings seem to demand that I “do” the kitchen
immediately. And so I try. But a conscious effort must be made to
arrange the day when there is at least a modicum of encouragement to
flag me on.
I have been without glasses for the better part of a week. It shall be nearly a week more until the new ones, and for those I must thank my dear brother, arrive. I am fairly difficult to fit and loved my old glasses so. They were the same or similar to the ones my father wore. Round. Real gold. English. And had taken an incredible effort to find. And to buy, for that matter. The new ones are Italian. Imitation tortoise shell and expensive enough to be the real thing. They are not, however. Not being able to see has created a melt-down of sorts in my resolve and emotions. All previously managed traumas, disappointments, frustrations, have been magnified as I can make out so much, less of my surroundings. Some skills have remained unhampered, however. I now can see near without glasses. Well enough to read, knit, wash dishes, and watch Piorot on the DVD my son bought me. Not well enough to negotiate stairs without trepidation. Or to walk to the chickens. Or be sure footed in my life. Being off balance has no merit to be discerned in any way.
There has been a sudden increase in livestock on the farm. It occurred during one bewildering half hour on Friday, this past week. Seventeen two day old Welsummer chicks arrived. In a box from California, if I remember correctly. Two Barred Rocks, six weeks old, an apparently Rhode Island Red, also six weeks old, and an unidentifiable rooster arrived all at the very same moment that I came back from the post office. As well as twelve ducks, huge ducks looking like geese. And Rebecca who may be Rebecca Westmoreland and my two rented out lambs. Two non-farmers accompanied the poultry, lambs and goat. Fortunately for me, two real farmers including the miracle worker, were present when we all converged in my back yard. The intensity of the moment was compounded by both the fact that I couldn’t see anything on the floor of the carriage house, nor was I able to separate my goat herd from the general commotion. They saw the repeated opening of the door as an opportunity to escape. Grass. Green. Outside. Now, was the general impression. While I am generally loath to put mere words in my animals’ mouths, I do suspect someone announced, “She can’t see!” I couldn’t. I managed to try without falling a couple of times. We all got or kept in everyone who should be in, although the chauffeur of the sheep, goat, chicks and ducks had a hard time understanding that, no, they were not all to be allowed to be set free in the backyard. No, don’t cut the lead cord on the goat. However, they all found themselves in their new if temporary, quarters. Two of the chicks are now in a ferret cage outside complete with a cover, in order to not be caught by the feral cat that is on her sixth year in my barn, or any other creature for that matter, that wanders around here. They figured out how to squeeze out from the carriage house without opening a door in a matter of an hour or two. Never underestimate the mental ability of a chicken. That I could catch them when they squeezed back into the dark carriage house is a testimony to twenty-two years of farming experience. I did it blind by sensing to where something moved. I dove, hoping it wasn’t going to be a rat in my hand. Got each one in only two tries. They are not enchanted with their new domicile. Being free meant scratching in the compost heap where the leaves from the winter squash are bigger than dining table chargers. Now there is merely grass, grass, and more grass with an empty tuna can of “growth-starter”, and a dish of water. I’ve yet to attempt to capture the little red chick although seeing her is a far more easy task than the dark grey and cream colored ones. The rooster shall live as well as he can manage in with the goats and ducks. And so shall I live as well as I can manage.
A new system is being developed here, as I may have mentioned to you before. Do one thing each day for progress. One thing for the winter. And one thing to remind myself why I came here in the first place. Amazing that all three have only occasionally been accomplished in the same day. Yesterday I did two of them. I made cheese from Rebecca’s milk and primed a half gallon of white paint on the porch of the house that I could safely reach without climbing on the step ladder. Being without glasses has made my sense of balance off enough for me to face a ladder with trepidation. Passers by will think I’m quite mad when they see half painted side walls here, however, I wish them joy and offer each one the opportunity to climb on up and finish it for me. There may be someone visiting here this week who can be enlisted for the task. I certainly hope so. So aside from a couple of small bundles of willow for kindling, I did somehow mange to make some cheese while painting the back porch and tethering the two buck kids to a fence where I could keep an eye on them, also while painting. A miracle was enacted while a modest flame was under the cheese pot. It didn’t scorch!!! Came close. But I caught it in time. Multitasking in threes rarely works here. But it did, for once.
The two bucklings each have a twin sister. The one chosen to pull a cart is Nierolo Merriman. His sister is now Lady Petunia Merriman. She is the doeling who saved her own life. She is the brightest little thing here. The one chosen to be herd sire is a pure Sable. As is his sister. He is pitch black in color. She is a mahogany. No markings. I love the way they look and hope to breed Sables with no markings. All of a color. The very strange problem for me is that no last name has ever stayed with their mother. And no first name has stuck with either of them. The Merrimans and MacDouglases have had their sur names engraved immediately in my consciousness. Belinda, Sable, and Rebecca, Sable denVative, have not. I go through my lists, and come across a note here and there, a marker in a book, an echo from a corner in my mind, but nothing, even a name that rings true, lasts for more than a day. I found Lady Pansy Lamb. That became Lady Petunia Merriman. That seems to have taken. The doeling has become Lady Pansy. But Lady Pansy what??
Little Lady Pansy is a skittish little thing. I had grabbed her too quickly and too often when giving her her bottle in the barn for her to trust me easily. Except when I have grain in my hands. She then, will come to me. I’m allowed to stroke her neck once or twice. She is off at the third attempt. She dashed out from the carriage house one day and ensconced herself with the sheep. Lady Petunia is very social and, of late, remains outside much of the time, preferring the company of the geese. Their leavings after I move their portable coop, have some attraction for her. She still runs to me to be petted whenever she spies me. And is too smart for my own good. New, with their handsome brothers tethered to the fence near the house, both doelings have decided to spend time with them. A little herd all their own. The two sets of twins. They need me, all four. Hopes for the future of my milk herd. Niccolo Merriman is altered. He shall, in time, pull a cart for me. Lady Petunia is half Toggenburg. But her offspring shall be four quarters Sable. And, presumably, as bright as their mother.
The farm has seen, in literally one moment, the addition of one milk goat, twelve ducks, four chickens of a very young age, seventeen three day old chicks, and the return of two ewe lambs. It is the wonderful myriad of species that created an unprecedented demand on my mind. And the intense sense of awakening here on my farm.
There was a time when all farms were like mine. The best years financially for me were when I had some veal calves and some pigs, as well as chickens and sheep. The gross figures here were fifty percent higher than they were in my best years with only eggs and lamb. The past few years have shown no “profit” at all. Profit being what most farmers call what in the rest of the world is equaled as salary. Egg sales are even less profitable than lamb or kid goat sales. So be it, for the moment. The cost of gas to deliver them eats up the marginal amount of money earned over the cost of their grain. It takes nearly a year to re-coop their expenses including their initial purchase price and the cost of feeding until they lay. However, there is another richness to be had here, for the moment, that gives me more than is taken from me. And for that I am grateful.
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