Authors: Sylvia Jorrin
wanting to celebrate my appointed Saturday half day off with the intensity of a nineteenth-century country housemaid who is allowed a once-a-month visit to her mother and brothers and sisters on the moor. I could see, in my mind's eye, all week, how I wanted to spend it with such clarity of possibility that I knew the movie would never play. In reality, that is. I had arranged and rearranged the day in all imaginable combinations. How to ask for a ride from the person who regularly takes me, midweek, to town, that would make sense to him? We never go of a Saturday. How to create work for the young man who was to come for the day to help on the farm that would allow me to leave him unsupervised for a few hours? How to get my chores done early enough in the day to be able to leave? And where was that shirt I had ironed a month ago in anticipation of just such a day off?
But I had made an appointment, in the dead center of the day, two o'clock my time, eleven hers, with my daughter to talk about the menus for my son's wedding reception. We were to “come up with something” and converge in New York to “put it together.” I didn't want to put off this telephone meeting any longer.
I had decided, some time ago, that I wanted to take Saturday afternoons for myself. And Sunday. After four o'clock. To write letters. It would seem here on the farm that all of my time is to myself, but nonetheless I've wanted a special designated time. Something to look forward to. There is here a tendency to blend
all days together. On this Saturday's afternoon off I wanted, with a passion, to do something I seem to do once a week. But don't experience with the same interest. Go shopping. Oh, I go to the feed store, and Rose and Laurel bookstore, and the Salvation Army, and, of late, Tractor Supply, Hannaford, and always Sweet Indulgence. But what I've really been wanting to do has been to go to the antique store in Colliersville and do a little shopping.
We sheared sheep last weekend. Nancy Meiers, Joachim, and Mikhael. Graciously. It took two days. It went even more smoothly than ever. Each year it becomes better. Some of the lambs have had very long fleeces but are too young to be shorn. We give Ivomec to the sheep, which controls most internal and external parasites. Unfortunately, for the lambs, the keds that are hatched out on their mothers after the Ivomec has run its course all jump onto the unshorn lambs. I decided, since the kill span of the wormer is only about thirty-six hours, to wait a week to worm the lambs. By doing so, anything that had, in the interval, attached itself to their fleeces could be killed at once.
The sheep have been, more or less, kept in the barnyard this spring, waiting for the pasture to warm up and begin to grow. I let them out once or twice a day for water. While they are out, I fill their feeders with grain. Some, who are clever and wise, or have lived with me for a long time, stay behind, knowing what I intend to be doing. Of those, a number are lambs. Unenticed by the water in the brook (they are still nursing) or the quarter inch of grass that is on the pasture, they sit and wait, knowing, or at least I think they are knowing, that the molasses-redolent sweet feed is certain to come.
I've marked, with little red braids, the ewe lambs in the barn who are to stay. Several of them watched me as I threw the sacks of feed off of the platform where my hayloft floor once was. Everyone crowded around the feeders. I opened the gate and the rest of the
sheep raced into the barnyard. One of the smaller ewe lambs was knocked over in the process. Again and again. I fought my way through and picked her up. She was limp. I draped her over my arm, climbed the ladder out of the barnyard, and took her inside. It would appear that every one of the keds that had jumped from the shorn sheep had found homes on this lamb's long and silky fleece. She was as infested as I have ever seen in the worst ked infestation on the farm. I sat her down on a white sheet on my lap and proceeded to pull them off of her, dropping them into a can as I did. And counted. To my dismay. After I finished ridding her of every ked I could find, with hope devoid of certainty, the lamb put her chin in the crook of my arm and fell asleep.
After a while, I left her in the house and went out to do one of my favorite chores. Mend fences. The hammer I like best to use outside was missing. So I used a beautifully shaped rock, which fit perfectly in my hand, as it had for some of my more remote ancestors. Since most of the nails chosen by my former foreman to hold the boards to the posts had been rather too short at the onset, my next trip to Tractor Supply shall include buying some longer nails. Much longer nails.
A gate dividing a pasture from the cow path was down as well. I had asked a young man who was fixing fence for me last fall to repair it. He didn't. And came to me to get paid for the afternoon saying all of the work I had requested him to do had been completed. There, next to the broken gate, lying in its entrance, was the hammer. I had been looking for it, needlessly, throughout the barn, when the shearer asked for one to build the form onto which to hang the motor of her equipment. I then remembered having brought it out to the young man, who shall remain unidentified, when he said he couldn't fix the gate because he hadn't brought his hammer with him. To fix fence. He probably had repaired the fence with the same perfectly shaped rock I had been using.
One of the four carrying handles had broken off the portable chicken coop. That had been perfectly and beautifully built long enough ago for it to be reasonably entitled to complain of the need for a modest repair here and there. I used the newly found hammer and put it right again. A little proud of myself at that as I had thought I couldn't repair it myself. But it soon became as sturdy as it had once been. I then proceeded to install some of the indoor chickens in it as well. They showed no reluctance to leave the carriage house. One under each arm. I have hopes that they shall begin to lay eggs in the well-protected nesting box in the portable coop.
I went to the house to check on the lamb. She was hiding behind the wood stove. I shut the door to the living room that Peabody the cat, with her usual competence, had popped open. She prefers to sit on the living room furniture rather than the well-pillowed kitchen rocker unless the fire is blazing in the new wood stove. I went to the studio to receive my daughter's call. She is prompt. Were she not, I had some paperwork to address for the farm. The clock moved past the hour and soon it was two-thirty. I fell asleep in the chair. When I awoke, it was three o'clock. I picked up the telephone receiver. The line was silent. I ran through the house. The door from the kitchen to the living room was wide open. The phone was lying on the floor. Off the hook. The lamb had escaped, momentarily, from the kitchen and knocked it down. I called my daughter. It was almost three-thirty.
All things well on their way to beginning to be arranged for the wedding reception, I went outside, visions of pretty or interesting things to have been discovered in the Colliersville shops floating through my mind. I walked the fences on this side of the brook once more to see what was left to be repaired. One small gate had been a problem, leading to a garden plot. I never had understood the proper way to fix it. Suddenly the remedy for its sagging frame became
apparent to me. I lay down on the ground, propped my feet on the gate, and watched the moon standing in a cloudless sky. I then watered the cow, donkey, chickens, goats, and remaining lambs in the carriage house using the recently reinstalled garden hose, long frozen, now relieved of its burden of ice, fed the lambs now ensconced in the barn, bottled the formerly ked-covered lamb in the kitchen. Relieved her of what I hoped were the last two, three, or four of the newly hatched miniature monsters and went upstairs to the summer bedroom. I've been airing out my goose-feather comforters and woolen blankets one or two at a time from one of its windows, quite gratified to discover, in that worthwhile volume
, substantiation for the habit. Sunlight and wind do have a combined effect on said objects that make the practice practical as well as satisfying. The room was cold and clean smelling from its frequent airings. I decided to move into it tonight and made the bed in white sheets and blanket covers and pillows. I then stuck a pen, some chocolate, and a copy of
The Common Reader
(my favorite catalog) in my pocket and took my dog to the neighbor's to see if his currant bushes survived the winter. They did. I sat down at the road's edge, pulled
The Common Reader
from my pocket, and proceeded to mark off some books to dream about. One was
Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China
, fifth through thirteenth centuries. Just my kind of thing. “Come on a whim and gone down the mountain, the whim vanished. Can anyone know who I was?”
I spent the night in the pristine and cold summer bedroom. The nighttime sky from the three windows is lovely.
has been a farmer in Delaware County, New York for 25 years. Hers is one of the few large livestock farms in the New York City Watershed solely owned and operated by a woman. For 24 years she has published stories about her life on the farm in the
Delaware County Times
, and on her website,
. In addition, her writings on agriculture have been published in many of the region's magazines and newspapers.