Everyone is enjoying our fabulous stretch of good weather — clear blue and gold days of 70° and brilliant starry nights in the low 30s. However as gorgeous day follows gorgeous day, I feel my stomach clenching.
Last summer was the worst in my life, and one of its prominent features was drought. The pastures baked brown in the sun and quit growing, and feed for the animals grew scarce. I bought expensive hay and found it nothing but dry stalks. The sheep and cows refused to eat it, and lost weight. My lambs did not grow. Day by day I was haunted by lines from the memoir of Mary O’Hara, the author of My Friend Flicka, about her real-life experience raising sheep on the “green grass” of Wyoming during the drought and Depression of the early 1930s:
Sheep growers lost fortunes. Prices went down. To save the cost of molasses cake and hay and the wages of a sheepherder, we sold a couple of thousand at a price per head less than the price of a single lamb chop. Prices still fell. Then we simply turned the remainder out to fend for themselves, and were harrowed by the sight of the little band ganging up outside the corral gates, begging to be taken back and cared for; or, terrified and abandoned, tearing about the prairie, their fleeces ragged and torn — hanging in strips from the attacks of coyotes. They constantly diminished in number; at last, melted away.
I would shoot my sheep before I turned them out to “fend for themselves” — sheep have no defenses — but even with my miniscule flock I could understand the desperation. Last summer I listened to the lambs crying and wanted to cry, too. Drought is a nightmare. The thought of global warming and that this may be the new reality scares me deeply.
Currently my pastures are turning green but barely growing. Now should be the spring flush of abundant grass. Instead the fields are dusty and dry. The water level in the pond is dropping steadily. New York State has issued a burn ban.
Please God, let it rain.
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Yesterday I stood on a ladder to measure and mark the headers of the addition with the layout of the rafters. Over the years I have watched a number of men do this work with tape, square, and pencil: Dean, O.B., and Gary. So yesterday afternoon in my imagination I was alternately tiny and Italian, short and burly, or tall and wiry with a black mustache.
I have a long list of domestic chores today but my goal is to try to put up four rafters a day. Inch by inch.