Monday, July 23, 2012

Ryan's Day at Lally Broch Farm

Hi all,

We have a treat for you today. Sean's brother, Ryan has graciously agreed to write a guest post for us.

Thanks for visiting ♥

This morning I found out what “first light” means. It’s not a synonym for dawn; that comes after. Dawn is when the sun pokes its eyelash over the horizon. Before that happens, night peels back like the lid on a sardine can, exposing the cold gray miracle of first light. I have to say honestly, there’s not much to recommend it. There’s no warm center, no cheery foregleam of the day to come. No color. Looking out over the gloomy hillside from my position on the couch, I was reminded of nothing so much as cold porridge, lumps of congealing gravy, mounds of soppy ash the wet night after a barbecue. First light, woefully insufficient, could bring me nothing of the complex interplay of greens and browns and, yes, grays, that taken together comprise a symphony in landscape outside Sean and Sonja’s front window. Left with only the grays, the view presented no symphony, just a monotonous transition from lowland to hill to sky, like the mournful blast of a bassoon.

Fortunately, I had the piccolo section front and center, in the form of I-forgot-to-count-how-many little peeping chicks, who had been my companions over the somewhat overlong evening. Sonja had offered to move the little peepers, but I had refused, and I don’t regret the decision. I’d asked them to quiet down a few times in the night, but realized after repeating the pattern that they were really only
responding to the sound of my voice with more various, frenzied peeping. After which, I quieted down myself, and somehow, someway, drifted off to sleep, with an occasional peep popping into my dreams. Machias, the banded gray kitty cat named for a somewhat distant town, helped immensely, cuddling into the crook of my legs for warmth, yet sensing, in a very blood-will-out indication of pedigree, when I’d rather he toddle off elsewhere while I rolled to my good shoulder and re-settled my leg pillow. Between myself, Machias, and the peeps, we paddled through the night, finishing up on a colorless, cheerless, and very early rocky shore.

And yet, I wasn’t tired. No, honestly, Sonja/Mom/Kimmy. Somehow the ebullience of the peeps in that first tongue-schluck of morning, the piping of the roosters outside and Machias’s knowing neck stretch combined to elevate my opinion of first light. I saw it less as the death knell to my somnolent efforts and more as what it truly is to the birds and beasts of the fields, farms, and forest. Namely, an affirmation that they’d made it through the night. Sans foxes, sans owls, sans the clutching talons and the snickety chops. Life was in that first gray light. Life was in the drifted charcoal and the sorry bassoon. Life was what they peeped and cawed and snorted for, and first light was what showed they lived it.

I’ll get to the snorting in a moment. Sonja doesn’t give proportional space to the piggies in her narrative, compared to the real estate they occupy and the racket they make, but she’s already made an eloquent defense. But that’s later. After first light I listened to the peepers peep, I pet Machias. Maybe at some point I drifted off, because not long after dawn had come and gone. I had wondered if Sean was one of those farmers who get up before the sun. I used to stay over at a friend’s dairy farm and always insisted I would get up and do my modest share, and always slept right on through. Fortunately Sean is able to husband his little flock without resorting to such an early start, so I was up sufficiently before him to let in an endless stream of cats through the piano room window, loving on each in turn. Some were friendlier than others, but none exactly spurned my advances, and there were so many that I’d met, pet, and “so long”ed half a dozen before the back of the line hove into view. When those with little interest in human affairs had suffered my attentions, sniffed at the bunny in the cage by the doorway, and retreated back through the window, I closed up shop and took a brief tour through the house to see what the rest were up to. Evidently, it was bath time for every kitty in the world, because a synchronized preening session had kicked off on all surfaces of the piano room, the kitchen counter, and the dining table. I passed between rooms for some little time, amused and a bit disquieted by the like-mindedness of the weasel killers.

About that time Sean stomped upstairs, abusing the intelligence of the dogs in hushed tones. I’d not noticed their barking in amongst the peeping, crowing, distant snorting and silent-but-distracting preening. But it was there. Sean did his best to shut the beasts up, stomped back downstairs, then stomped up again, this time shirted and intent on bringing in some firewood. I should mention at this juncture that I was dressed in shorts and my customary Hawaiian shirt, but it was a lovely Maine morning by this time so had no compunction in following him outside. Those who haven’t lived here probably think it’s cold in the mornings, even in summer, what with the mercury dipping so low and all, but it doesn’t look cold on a green and pleasant morning in Maine. Though the ground doesn't hold the heat like southern baked clay, it holds such a suggestion of beautiful things that it makes you believe in heat, even when the thermometer says heat is not there. A parousia of heat, if you will. Suffice it to say, I followed Sean out, but lacking sleeves, I left him to carry the modest bundle of wood. Down on the basement he split the wood like a callused old lumberman, using first the maul then the axe, and several strokes with both on a knotty piece of ash that may be burning still. I know enough about starting fires to know it's not so easy as it looks, so admired his skills both as a chopper and a lighter. After blowing the fire into life we went outside to start the true work of the farmer - picking Japanese beetles off desiccated grape leaves - no, sorry, that still was later, but meshes so well with my experience as a gardener that I had to give it pride of place. First, we fed and watered the animals.

My job was the latter. Armed with an ordinary garden hose, I bravely stood in place while Sean upended the duck pool, utterly ignoring the implication that I was meant to fill it up again. When Sonja emerged sometime later, she reminded Sean of this detail, and I artesianally obliged. I did take my cues to fill up the goat's bucket, topping off Jasmine's barrel while Sean was busy scooping grain for the goats. We then moved on to the pigs, which I have mentioned make some terrible noises. This was the chore we were attending when Sonja joined us, and she attempted to show what the pigs are good for, granted that neither is earmarked for a destiny as bacon, pork, and/or ham. What the pigs are good for is amusement, as she attempted to show by scratching Patches, the clear boss hog of the duo, on the belly. But Patches refused to do her famous trick of flopping over in the mud for a long, indulgent belly scratch, instead squealing at Sonja very rudely and with a threatening toss of the head. This probably would have been amusing, if not for the real danger she appeared to be in. Sean mentioned afterward that the pigs are equipped with razor-like tusks, not pointed for goring but edged for gouging, and Sonja's bare legs were easily in range had Patches actually decided to get violent. But it was just a feint, from a grumpy pig with scratches along her sides and behind the ear, there evidently having been a fight between her and Ebony while I slept with the peepers.

And here we come to the other work of the farmer, stopping the beasties from mauling one another. Sean showed me the contrast among the rooster's spurs. Ruffio has mere blunted nubs, while the cock o' the walk sports the sort of scimitars that would surely have won Chicken George his freedom. When they removed him from the general population to a retirement tractor with a couple of shy hens, there ensued a turf war such as Bugsy Siegel would have thought autobiographical. Roosters bloodied and battered for days. Bits of feed strewn all over like bullet-riddled Valentines. Barnyard fowl gone, prematurely, to the mattresses. When the dust settled, a new Godfeather emerged to rule the roost with an iron beak. And I thought the squirrels snapping my corn stalks were pestilential! At least my corn doesn't maim other corn. It seems l'amour is at the kernel of the matter. The alpha rooster begets the chicks. The betas bide their time, sharpen their spurs, and wait out the night.

Let me finish by saying I had a blast at Lally Broch today. The skills Sean and Sonja have learned and their commitment to the farm are equally impressive. I haven't mentioned little Rudy up to now, but I will say that however that drama comes out, the girls kept that little one by their side all day long, nurturing and warming him/her with compassion that really goes contrary to what you expect from people their ages, but is right in line with what we look for from these particular young ladies. You can tell the whole family loves their animals from the love the animals give back, from Ellie nuzzling Sonja while on her milking stall to Machias and Taz drawing out every pet and cuddle I had in me. It was well worth the early morning and I look forward to playing farmer again!

1 comment:

  1. Don't ever ask me to do a guest post after this, He He, it would be so boring!
    I fed the chickens, I like the ones with feathers on their feets. (Kind of doesn't compare huh?)
    My love man did a good job, although I did have to get him to explain some things, what the what!