Yesterday was dead calm. I was at my landlady’s house, supposedly helping at her yard sale. I arranged things on tables for a little while – she, her husband and her sister had done most of the work – and her sister was the best salesman! I made myself useful by trimming and helping prepare rhubarb for the freezer. I hate rhubarb, and am thankful when it goes in someone else’s freezer. No one wanted to be outside for long, the black flies were so bad. It doesn’t take much of a wind to keep them off, but we have had rare days of calm here. In other places, a windstorm is portentous and frightening. Here, we live in the wind like sailors; it is the flat calm that feels eery.
Today we had mere ghosts of zephyrs, but it was warm and dry, and on this side of the river, at least, the flies weren’t too bad until late afternoon.
Goats went out on tethers today, once the grass was dry. I gave them some hay before they went out, to keep them from filling up on damp grass too fast. (This will sometimes ferment in their stomachs, and down they go with bloat, a dangerous situation.) They were in the shade of the house most of the day, but they managed to drag their tire rims under the lilacs and spent a glorious and messy afternoon eating the weeds, a bit of lilac (but not much) and dandelions yet untrimmed, requiring occasional rescue as they got tangled in dead branches. The deadwood got cleared out and the undergrowth of the immense lilac shrubs is thinned. They are tethered with covered tie-out cables of the sort sold for dogs, with nylon collars at the goat end. The latch end is passed through and under an old tire rim, just heavy enough to keep them from wanting to drag it around, but not so heavy that it snaps them back if they run to the end. They are quite strong. Tara decided to panic today when I unexpectedly came around the corner of the house, and sprinted to the front yard, towing her tire rim. They have shade from the house and shrubs, and a bucket of water. It would be cruel to tie them out with neither. Goats get sunstroke easily.
They have it figured out that when I take a bucket to the barn at the end of the day, they are going to get grain. So they watch carefully, and when I unsnap them from their tethers, they run to the barn and into their stall. No lingering on the way for a last mouthful of grass – they want their fair share of that grain! I don’t have to lead them or drive them. They go back all on their own.
Vanilla is still getting round in the belly, but hasn’t bagged up at all (that is, the udder hasn’t filled with milk) so I am wondering if she wasn’t as far along in pregnancy as the seller thought, or if she isn’t pregnant at all, and is just gaining some weight!
I am cleaning out a stall and working the composted manure into the new gardens. This is hot, tiring work. The gardens are in the process of being tilled, and then I rake over them to get out the grass roots. When that is done and the stones removed, I spread some wood ash in lieu of lime – we are burning hardwood, and it is alkaline enough to offset the mostly acidic soil here. Evergreen softwood makes ground quite acidic. I hope to have all the gardens dug, treated and planted by the end of the week.
I had finally had enough of spilling plant pots and carrying water around the house to keep all the seedlings going. The lot is now outside, on the old cellar bulkhead. I will cover them with sheets tonight. Last night was a possible last frost, so I am hopeful this is it and everything can go in the garden this week.
I am finally getting my sea legs back, so to speak, after a long winter of debilitating illness. I had to go back to the topical ointment to get rid of the inflammation and pain of an eczema flare-up, and I am allowing myself plenty of sleep. It is miraculous how sleep heals the skin. I suspect it is partly that I am not continually abrading the skin by scratching and by just moving around inside my clothes, but it is also the deep rest that the body needs to regenerate skin cells. I had another setback with a couple of days of a viral cold, but I am rapidly improving now.
We are finally eating the last winter pumpkin. Nicholas doesn’t care for it, but if I cut it up into cubes, mix it with apple and turnip chunks, and add some cloves, cinnamon and allspice along with maple syrup (which improves everything in life) he likes it well enough baked. Some of it will be made into muffins as well.