September 13, 2017

This morning I when I walked the dogs by starlight at 5:15 AM, coyotes were yipping deep in the woods to the south. They were joined by a soloist, extremely loud, who appeared to be howling from the trees right beyond my sheep fence, a hundred yards away. My heart jumped. My dogs cocked their heads but were silent.

A neighbor on the other side of the woods captured this morning’s chorus — sans soloist — on her iPhone forty-five minutes later (above).

Nick’s girlfriend Amy drove into the farm yesterday. The bold yellow coyote was standing in the driveway in the sunshine. He stared at her, unafraid.  Finally she honked her horn and he slipped back into the woods.

This situation is wearing on my nerves.



September 12, 2017

Yesterday morning I was back to feeling 90% and had to move the sheep early before leaving for Vermont. It was a beautiful blue day, a colder version of that morning sixteen years ago.

Though the lawn near the house was wet, there was heavy frost at the bottom of the field. As I gathered the frozen fence my gloveless hands quickly went numb. My old boots leak, so soon my feet, too, were aching lumps. Well, this is miserable, I thought as I trudged in increasingly wet jeans through the frosted grass.

Just then a crow and a broadwinged hawk flew overhead in a tangled barrel roll. It wasn’t clear who was harassing whom, as both were screeching as they winged past through the pale blue sky.

To me it was if God tapped me on the shoulder. Pay attention to all this beauty around you! The world is alive and full of wonder!

I can’t ever forget how lucky I am.


September 11, 2017

Yesterday cleared to our first bright morning in ten days of dreary clouds and rain. I had a two-column to-do list. Unfortunately I woke up sick.

I staggered out to walk the dogs a bit before six. Then I read an email from Lucy, broke out in a cold sweat, and was so lightheaded I had to lie down on the dining room floor for fifteen minutes to recover. My hair was wet and my nightgown soaked. Then I got up and read an email from Jon, and ditto. I had felt peculiar the previous night — like a dog sensing an approaching storm — and had slept in Jon and Amanda’s room just in case. It turned out to be an intestinal flu.

I tend to feel outraged when I am sick. What? I don’t have time for this! Especially for something so debilitating, with chills making my head swim and my hands shake. I often think I really wouldn’t mind a sick day — if I could lie in my comfy sheets in bed, be lazy, and read. In other words, not be too sick. But I am realizing that I never have these delicious, cozy sick days because if I’m only slightly sick, I get out of bed and work.

Even yesterday afternoon, though still weak and trembly and somewhat nauseous, I got up and worked in the basement unpacking boxes and then switched to carpentry, reinforcing my grandmother’s bookcase. My pace was slow and my brain was foggy, except for the one thought: I have to push on. The list, the list!

Today I’m at 90% and on the road to Vermont for a medical appointment. Tomorrow our boarding school students return.

Still Unpacking

September 9, 2017

I have been packing, carrying, unpacking, and breaking down moving boxes for three months now and I am still surrounded by stacks of cardboard cartons. Some of the boxes (see above) have been in storage for a long time.

I make a little progress every day but it’s hard not to be discouraged by the leaning towers of mess that remain and all the work that needs to happen before I can unpack them. I have to panel the mudroom! Reinforce the antique bookcase! Paint the metal shelves! Put up hooks in the closets and bathrooms!

The appraiser returns Monday. I’m in regular contact with the bank. We have to close on the mortgage in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile I need to sell my last seven lambs, muck deep bedding out of two large sheep stalls, spread manure, fix the water hydrants, and get the farm ready for winter. The gardens are overgrown with waist-high weeds. There is work to be done in the rental apartment.

I’ve been in school meetings for a fortnight. I have a medical appointment in Vermont on Monday.  My students return Tuesday. (My teaching files are not unpacked.)

Today is another raw, grey, dripping morning. I know how very lucky I am — not in Houston! not in Florida! not in Montana! not in Mexico! — but as flights of crying Canada geese go over the house in the cold rain, heading south for the winter, I struggle not to feel tired and anxious.

Goodbye, Crabapple

September 4, 2017

Back in 2010 I bought and planted in front of the apartment an eight-foot crabapple tree. It was a Brandywine crab, which pleased me because of the echo in my mind of the Revolutionary War battle. (Small things make me happy.)

Today the tree is thick-trunked and much larger.

It is also dying.

My teenage helper called me one day this summer while I was in the checkout line at Home Depot in Vermont. He told me he was at the farm and asked if I had any work for him. While busy signing papers for toilets, I told him he could mow the back yard. On his own initiative, he decided to add weedwhacking. He carefully weedwhacked around my Brandywine crab, removing not just the grass, but the bark 10″ high entirely around the circumference.

Girdling trunks was a colonial method for killing trees to clear land, and it is still effective.

It is a struggle sometimes to appear kind and patient.

Seeding the Yard

September 3, 2017

Yesterday was a busy day of moving animals. I took down, moved, and re-erected the hard-fenced goose enclosure, then set up a temporary enclosure and moved the sheep from the north pasture to the peninsula, then moved all the shelters and netting fences to the bottom of the south pasture, and finally moved the sheep to the south pasture.

In between these chores I finished setting up the apartment — including scrubbing out the oven — for our new tenant. (For the first time we will have a year-round renter. He is a nice boy and I’m pleased to have found him. The rent should help us with taxes on the farm.)

All of this is to say that I did not start work on safeguarding the new grading from the coming rain until almost time for evening chores.

In a perfect world I would have seeded the dirt with fresh grass seed, raked it in, then covered the whole with a thin layer of hay or straw.

My world is nearly perfect, but not quite.

On September 1st we’d had a killing frost. I was skeptical about grass seed germinating at all in this season. I didn’t want to invest in very expensive seed just to waste it. Instead, I used grass seed on hand from last summer, overlaid with winter rye seed about five years old. I certainly don’t expect great things, but as I filled the seeding bag I whispered to the seeds encouragingly, “Here’s your chance for life!”

I had no time to rake it in. It took me almost an hour just to spread the seed, and DH’s schedule required an early dinner. I raked twenty feet with a nervous eye on my watch and then told myself: the seed is probably too old. It will probably be washed away in the rain anyway. But I felt guilty as I went indoors to fry pork chops.

At 8 PM I was spreading hay in the dark. My hay is second-cut and very soft. It wanted to fall in clumps rather than shaking out in the desired thin cover. I shook it harder in frustration. Clump. Clump. Clump. By 9:15 I had spread eight bales. Due to the clumping there were still bare spots, despite my efforts to shake out every pile in the dark.

The rain started at 3:30 AM.

This morning the front, side, and back yards are dotted with clumps.

Perhaps if things dry out tomorrow I can work on it some more. However the seed is suspect and my list is long.

This may be yet another case of “she hath done what she could.”

Grading Done

September 2, 2017

The grading around the house is finished. Using the fill brought in this summer, Ben was able to bring up the future front lawn to a gentle slope. I had hoped to bring it up even more, to make backing out of the garage not a downhill proposition on ice, but the cost would have been astronomical. Regretfully, I put the idea aside.

I’m already scrambling to figure out how to budget for the equally astronomical cost of building a driveway.

We are due to have another pounding rainstorm tomorrow and today I need to get all the new grading covered with hay in hopes of preventing massive ruts and wash-out. Naturally, Rick my hay man has never returned since leaving in April promising to be back in a week, so I am nearly out of hay. I will do my best.

Ben left a half-dozen boulders that were too big for his excavator to move. They join a larger boulder Allen left back in 2009. I know Allen would have moved the small ones away for me, but he had a bigger machine and more time. I tell myself they will become a yard feature and my grandchildren can play on them.

Before he left yesterday, Ben also kindly moved my manure pile.

In recent years Damon has done this for me every spring, but after losing his leg he sold his dump truck. The pile had grown to giant proportions, about 10 feet high by 30 feet long, smack in the center of the view from the house. One morning DH had asked tentatively over tea, “I would never criticize, but is that the best place for the manure pile?”

I am going to think about the possibilities for relocating where I dump manure. But for now, I am very grateful to Ben for trucking it to the south pasture, where it is out of sight below the brow of the hill.  I hope to have time and the working machinery to spread it this fall. Touch wood!