Sunday, March 9, 2014

Saving Daylight

I stood outside at the new 6PM grateful for the stolen light. I had a Haymason in a jar and was watching a pregnant ewe. She was on the hillside, about thirty feet from the rest of the flock and pawing in the clean snow. This is what ewes do before birthing their lambs - a little distance. In her own zone of circling, meditation, and sheepy ways she was showing signs of possible contractions. I sipped the wondrous drink and felt it slide all the way down my throat and into my belly. I was so tired and happy. (tangent confession: every time I say tired and happy it is because the soundtrack to the post should be no surprises by Radiohead. Tangent off tangent: OK Computer might be the most perfect thing created in the last 50 years barring the Kingkiller Chronicles). This was a drink I deserved. I'll explain why later but let me tell you about the deer.

I was watching the distant ewe and deciding wether to set my alarm for 2AM or 3AM when I noticed the doe in the forest. About 60 yards away a beautiful, thick, shiny doe walked through the snow. I noticed her because deer and hawks are something I make note to watch these days and she was swerving between trees and coming in my direction. I kept leaning on the gate and watching. My only movement was the sipping on my drink.

I watched the doe come closer. She knew that good green hay was where the sheep were. From her comfort level and the flocks' nonchalance I assumed she was a regular. She came closer and closer until she had leapt two fences and was a few feet from the sheep. She was about 10 yards from myself. I just watched. I let out a silent prayer I didn't have a cell phone with me or something else to film the interaction of doe, ewes, and confused newborn lamb. I had hard cider and whiskey and a tired body. These are objects of observation not documentation.

Had I a bow I would be eating venison loin right now. That close.

The doe stuck around just long enough for Brick, my newest mother, to send her packing. The mother stomped and hollered, making it clear that the freeloader wasn't welcome. The doe leapt the fence and was on her way. Sal and Joseph (two older wethers) ambled over to me and started nuzzling my drink. I poured some into my palm to let them taste and both enjoyed a sup. Holy Crow, do I ever love sheep. They are calm, productive, grow sweaters, make lamb chops, and enjoy a libation from time to time. Bless them.

It was a warm day here. Really warm. Almost 35 degrees and the sun was shining. I was here watching deer and sheep drama because I had finished evening chores, had just walked 1.6 miles with the dogs. Gibson and Annie were inside eating their kibble and Italics was in his mews eating a pheasant that had been killed by a barn cat at Common Sense Farm. They offered it to me as hawk food and I took it. I could hear the bells on his ankles ring as he tore into the carcass. He went out hunting with me four times this week and deserved a day to just sit in the sun and gorge.

As for me? I was finished with a day of outdoor work. It all started with a shovel and pick axe. I knew if it was going to be so warm and bright I would want to ride or drive Merlin. (by the way, if any of you are new to homesteading or horses, here is a tip: Do NOT casually say at a dinner party that "After such a long winter - I can't wait to feel a horse between my legs" because people take that the wrong way) But to do that, to free Merlin from the paddock, I knew I needed to get the gate dug out from a pile of ice and snow. So I started with axe and shovel, a good 20 minutes of brute force. I realized quickly that this was stupid and got some baling twine and wire cutters instead. I opened a new door in the fence and lead Merlin to the hitching post.

At the post I carried Harness, driving bridle, and lines. I check and picked feet, groomed, and evaluated Merlin. My prediction: a fast and bumpy ride. He had not been worked in months and was used to snow wrestling with Jasper. It took 15 minutes to get him in halter and lead and another 15 to get him on the cart. We headed down the mountain roads at a slow walk.

All went well. Until we turned around. Once he realized he was heading back to snow and hay after just 3/4 a mile he wanted to run. I don't know if you have ever tried to hold back a horse who wanted to bolt in cart, but it isn't fun. I made him walk, whoa, turn in circles, and wait until he was calm. We ended up not just getting home but trotting right past it to get more sweaty up the mountain. It was a good (if unsettling) first session in the cart but I was just happy to be back in the drivers seat. Few things feel as natural and real as driving a horse cart down a mountain road. It was a little affirmation to be back. It felt wonderful.

So here is how I will end this Sunday's Post. I had a grand day. I traveled 2.6 miles on foot and by horse cart. I had tea with friends. I got hay and hit on by the glowing Nelson Greene. I felt the weight of horse collar and harness on my shoulders. I fed a red tailed hawk a feline-murdered pheasant, and felt sunshine and true warmth on my body. I prayed. I sang. I played the tin whistle. I brushed mane and picked hooves. I docked a lamb's tail and hugged a kind dog. I held Gibson close to me and whispered (The following is phonetic, not correct Scots' Gaelic) "Moe Kree, Moe Tie, Moe Koo:" which means "My heart, my home, my dog" and kissed his black forehead. I harnessed a horse. I watched my sheep badmouth a rogue hind. I drank beautiful warm things and wrote this to share it with you. I hope you leave a comment. I thrive off you folks.

I am grateful for these longer days. I am grateful for the new workshops to come and the people I will meet. I am thrilled to milk a goat, tune my fiddle, string my bow and welcome this Equinox. Things are good here. I hope they are good for you as well. If they aren't then I suggest downloading the Name of the Wind on audiobook and Ok Computer as soon as possible. Those things and a little hard cider, bourbon - they add perspective. They are good. Good as any old leather draft harness and blackface lambs. Hold them close, unless you are a fool.

Oh, and remember to look up. You never look up.

26 Comments:

Blogger Cat H said...

Absolutely f'ing beautiful! sorry for the profanity but I just had do. Jenna, I was right there with you, leaning on the gate, watching. However, I had a scotch and water, neat.
Cheers to you my friend.

March 9, 2014 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

crud: the delete is next to the publish button! So please repost about ginger beer!

March 9, 2014 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger mama, ph.d. said...

Love these postings. I spent the day looking at my computer. I need to look up more!

March 9, 2014 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger Robin Follette said...

Beautiful! Thanks for sharing your day with us.

March 9, 2014 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Ethan Thompson said...

beautiful Jenna, I'm glad you had a good day! We spent the day scraping the dead paint off the trim on our house to prepare for painting. I did however, take a few moments to look up and take in the beautiful day...it's good to be alive...

March 9, 2014 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

I spent part of my day staring longingly at the day-old chicks at the feed store. I'm so happy you share your story with us, Jenna. I hope to be a little closer to where you are in life soon.

March 9, 2014 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Patrice Nelson said...

Hi, Jenna. I have been reading your blog for a couple of years and always find your posts beautiful, kind and inspirational. Keep up the good work. You and your farm are a gem. Also, just pre-ordered your new book. Yay!

March 9, 2014 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Patrice Nelson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 9, 2014 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

35 is "really warm?!?" Yikes! At least it's now light enough for me to take my dog out for a walk and enjoy the mid-60s weather here! We've both been craving the pavement under our paws, but it's just not as much fun after dark in a city...

Got my peas today! Looking forward to planting!

March 9, 2014 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

Beautiful post. It made me wish I had a smidgen of your bravery; you've claimed your own perfect day that most of us dream about.
I downloaded Name of the Wind from the library.

March 9, 2014 at 9:02 PM  
OpenID Vicki said...

I read both Barnheart and Made from Scratch this weekend in my sub-urban home with its tiny backyard. They were transporting. So glad I found your writing.

March 9, 2014 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Dan Moore said...

Beautiful writing, as always.

Cows fed on tomatoes, garlic, and collard greens (about 1000 pounds worth), a larders worth of bacon in the smoke house with a cool smoke this morning, and a pleasant Southern 68 degrees around the fire ring with friends to chase the last of the suns rays from the sky, with a red libation in hand. Oh, and a couple hundred dollars worth of pork sales to round out the night. It was a good farm day, I'm glad that yours was wonderful as well.

March 9, 2014 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger English sheep gal said...

One of the things I really enjoy about the blog is that you share the ups and downs, happy and sad. It has been great recently to read of so much good stuff going on with you.

Just the 19 second clip of Italics flying to your glove the other day represents literally over a year of work - but you did it. Just like when you dreamed of a Fell Pony, made an offer on Merlin you never thought would be accepted, and today you harnessed him to your cart.

Sometimes I wonder why I don't stop talking about it, (making excuses why I'll never have my own sheep etc) and just get on and do it like you do! However I get to live vicariously and share all your experiences here. Even join in - today I moistened my compost, got some castings out from the wormery, and got my pots ready for the snap pea challenge later in the week.
Been looking up - and out, watching my feeders, noted 21 different bird species on them today. Took a walk in the melting snow, and got some cool pictures of animal tracks, and woodpecker holes in one of our pine trees.

Itching to know if you have a second lamb yet, every time I read the ewes name Brick, I think her ram lamb should be called Tile!

March 9, 2014 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I look up quite a lot. That's where the hawks are.

March 9, 2014 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dixon said...

Makes me wish I still drank so I could stand with you and drink a mug! Today was spent indoors at our small farm, doing some spring cleaning. Not my favorite thing to do, but if I can get it done, I'll feel less guilty about the hours spent outside. Your day sounds wonderful, even the cart time. I remember driving our Welsh pony in a racing surrey and holding him back. You could feel the "urge to run" clear through the reins. It was wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

March 9, 2014 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Remember to look up...
Is that a quote from somewhere?

March 9, 2014 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger aart said...

Great post of your wonderful day!

This,

"....got some baling twine and wire cutters instead. I opened a new door in the fence... ",

describes you beautifully!


Door won't open for you? Create a new opening to get where you want to go! You GO girl!

March 10, 2014 at 5:22 AM  
OpenID sheepyhollow said...

What a super recap of a wonderful day! Every Sunday 'The Hubs' and I deep clean stalls, chicken coop, bunny hutch, etc. Today I also 'cleaned' the deep freeze and took inventory; helps plan the garden (I tend to put-up stuff in the freezer as well as canning). I also enjoyed last day of 'Spring break' with my daughter, drank a glass of wine and watched the original 'True Grit'.

March 10, 2014 at 6:05 AM  
Blogger CallieK said...

I'm with you on the book, one of my faves, but I'm never going to like Radiohead sadly. His voice is like nails on chalkboard for me. Glad you had such full and satisfying day!

March 10, 2014 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

Spring arrived in force this weekend, and I spent most of the day digging in the garden. Haven't gotten any spring crops in the ground yet, but I had my first good dirt bath of the season (showering myself with it as a recalcitrant grass root finally came out), and an offer of free goat poop from a farmer. Not bad for a first day out.

March 10, 2014 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Jamie Woodside said...

Thanks for this post, Jenna! I'm right there with you this morning!

March 10, 2014 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger lemontreelane said...

Great post. I enjoyed spending your day "with" you...

March 10, 2014 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Karen from CT said...

Sounds like a perfect day-thanks for sharing!

March 11, 2014 at 5:52 AM  
Blogger the Batts said...

Loved every word of this post....your writing always touches me and reminds me to love my little homesteading life... no matter how hard it is, or at times heart-breaking it is...when you pause to enjoy, with a drink in hand and a dog at your side...you know there is no better life on earth. Thank you for always reminding us of this.

March 13, 2014 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Kristen Brockmeyer said...

Commenting. Loving your writing, as always. Thanks for making it real for us. :)

March 13, 2014 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Nancy Boyd said...

Loved reading your post. I always enjoy hearing how your day went on your homestead.

March 15, 2014 at 2:18 PM  

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