Monday, February 28, 2005

Snowfall at sunset.

We have had a few false alarms this season. Today appears to be the real thing. A scene from a snowy afternoon, looking toward Buck Mountain.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Another snowfall predicted for tonight. The track of the storm is still uncertain, but it looks to be a big one. I had the boys carry the bags for tomorrow's feedings down tonight and have the barn open for the sheep to take shelter. It looks like Monday will be a good day to stay close to home. Unfortunately, I have trials in traffic court up in Winchester at 9:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m.. If you are travelling between Front Royal and Winchester tomorrow, I'll be the guy in the dark suit with the white knuckles gripping the wheel of a gray farm truck.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Another shot from yesterday, before the snow melted away. More winter weather predicted for Sunday night. The lambing pens are empty for the first time in weeks. Perhaps the next wave will come with the snow.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Sheep barn, pasture, Skyline Drive and the last of the snow.

But it didn't stay long.

Snow last night.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Our internet connection has been having problems, so here is last night's post, backdated appropriately.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that we use llamas to guard our sheep from roaming dogs and coyotes. Most llamas are pleasant sorts, but there are exceptions to every rule. We have one of those exceptions, aptly named "Spitfire." He and I had an encounter during feeding time tonight, which resulted in the following conversation:

Susan: He spit in your face?
Me: Look at my glasses. Do you see the green flecks and slime?
Susan: Really, he spit right in your face?
Me: Yes, right in the face and trust me, the smell is simply enchanting.
Susan: You should take a bath.
Me: I don't want a bath. If I take a bath I will be sitting there in floating llama spit. I'm taking a shower.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Most photo software these days comes with a red-eye reduction feature. I'm still looking for the special edition for sheep with the "blue-eye" correction button.

Settling down in the shed for the night.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blogger appears to have eaten yesterday evening's post, so I give to you again today, re-created and backdated. More lamb pictures this evening, if I can get anyone to stand still long enough!

Orthodox liturgy is both fixed and variable, rather like the stars. They are always in their appointed place, but that place moves according to time and season. Likewise, each season of the Church year has its special additions and variations to the fixed services of morning and evening prayer and Sunday liturgy. Beginning this past Sunday we turn to a volume called the Lenten Triodian for services until Holy Week at the end of the Fast. Archimandrite Ephrem has made available his translations of the services at his web page, Anastasis.

The nuns at Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery also offer translations from the Triodian at their site. I have always had a particular fondness for the sisters at Holy Myrrhbearers because they are fellow shepherds. If you go to their site, check out the page for Zoar farm and visit with Maude, their photogenic sheep. The sisters have an on-line store where they sell their own products plus a few other items. If you are so inclined, I'm sure they would be grateful if you stopped by and browsed. (By the way, they sell spun wool from their flock for you knitters out there.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Western Lent began on February 9 (Ash Wednesday) this year. We Orthodox are just beginning our preparations for Lent, which does not properly begin until March 13. Until then, we gradually begin readying ourselves for a 40 day fast when the observant will abstain from all meat and dairy products and, on most days, wine and oil as well. The purpose of this is not an annual orgy of masochism but rather, part of our preparation for the great feast of Pascha (Easter, as we Americans would say it.) Lent is a season of preparation and repentance. Not bad things generally for their own sake, but now we examine ourselves and struggle with our sins in preparation for the great shout of triumph and deliverance that is the Paschal service.

Years ago, while still a protestant, I heard a Greek Orthodox priest on the radio speaking about Pascha. I don't remember his name, or even what the show was. What I do remember is the joy in his voice when he spoke. It was the kind of joy that shakes the soul. Not the enthusiasm of crowds, or even the religious emotion of charismatic worship (what the Brits so cruelly, but accurately refer to as "happy-clappy") that I had known. It was the kind of joy you get when the doctor says the tumor is gone, or the child will live. That is the real goal of Lent; to learn more deeply the truth about ourselves, to know that it is in many ways a painful truth, so that when the great news of the resurrection comes to us again, we hear it as salvation and deliverance, life out of death, light out of darkness.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Despite all appearances, these lambs are twins, one a little ram, the other a ewe. For a picture of what the gentleman on the left with the white face and black nose looked like as a newborn, click here.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Sundown Saturday evening.

Friday, February 18, 2005

We are being swamped with new lambs. The boys found two new sets of twins yesterday at feeding time and now the pens are overflowing with five sets of twins and one single. Tomorrow we will have to kick out the older ones into the field with the rest of the new lambs. It may be time to rearrange the barn, as the number of expecting ewes is dropping below the number of ewes with lambs.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Another backdated post. Thursday afternoon I had an appointment down in Northern Virginia to do a home visit on a custody case where I have been appointed as guardian ad litem. As it happened, one of my favorite musicians, Bill Mallonee, was playing at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia, not too far from where I would be. Susan had already planned to spend the night in town to get a head start on some early morning appointments, so we decided to make an evening of it. Of course, an evening away from the farm usually results in a series of phone calls back home to make sure all the chores are covered. "Did you get water to the ewes in the pens? Any new lambs? Did your grandmother get the possum out of the cat feeder?" You know, just the usual exercise in rural crisis management. It was a nice to break out of the routine for a little bit, and the music was great.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I was happy to see a comment below from Daniel Ballard, who is pioneering a project in urban agriculture as part of his ministry teaching in an inner-city New Orleans private school. Great work, and worthy of more attention. Now if we could only get him blogging again. . .

Here at home we have added five more lambs in the last two days. Two sets of twins and a single. (The first set is pictured below.)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ansel Adams I'm not, but here is a digital black and white rendition of the view from home before evening chores. As always, you can click on the picture for a larger version.

Another set of twins this evening, Valentine's lambs just in time for Susan's birthday.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

I quoted some lines by Joseph Brodsky in Thursday's post. I was first introduced to his work by some Russian friends, Mark and Elena Khaisman, who lived in Front Royal for a few years. As fellow expatriates, they resonated to his exploration of a life lived in exile. At the time, I was busily settling down and making a home on the farm, so Brodsky didn't speak much to me. A decade and a half further down the road, I find myself returning to his work as I discover that time works as well as distance to make exiles of us all. Here is a link to resources on Brodsky at

Thanks to Erich for his comment on the Brodsky post below. It makes one think of the old canard about there being no more than "six degrees of separation" between any two otherwise unrelated people.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

We took advantage of an unseasonably warm afternoon to catch up on a few chores. A new truckload of alfalfa hay stacked in the barn, a sizeable stack of old feed bags off to the dump, several months accumulation of debris around the barnyard straightened up. As usual, I forgot to bring gloves to handle to the stalky alfalfa bales and grimaced in the shower when the hot water hit the dozen or so tiny puncture wounds left from tossing bales on and off the truck. Looking down, I would have to say that I have halfway hands. They are not farmer's hands; not rough or hard enough. Nonetheless very few other lawyers have the array of cuts, scrapes and calluses that you find at the end of my coat sleeves. I am afraid I would never make it as a metrosexual. Something about working with livestock permanently alters your sense of what constitutes high fashion. After a while, you get to thinking that Carhart coveralls and insulated rubber boots look pretty darn snappy on a fine Winter's day.

Friday, February 11, 2005

We didn't get to feeding tonight until sunset. Walking up the hill afterward, there was a sliver of a moon over Buck Mountain. For some reason, it brought to mind a few lines from a song written by Susanna Clark and Carlene Routh I first heard on an EmmyLou Harris album some twenty-seven years ago:

It's a quarter moon in a ten cent town
Time for me to lay my heartaches down
Saturday night gonna make myself a name
Take a month of Sundays to try and explain

If you want love, loss and small town craziness all packed into four rhyming lines, you just can't beat country music.

Update: Blogger was acting up yesterday, so my apologies to anyone on an RSS feed who got multiple copies of this post. What was three is now one. (No theological point intended.)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I never tire of the changing patterns of sky and cloud that our spot between the mountains gives us. Here is a picture from last month and a few lines from the poet Joseph Brodsky that explain as well as any why I am a cloud watcher:

It's you who let
me with your nimbus
trust not in numbers
but in the complete

spurning of weights
and measures in favor
--once and forever--
of phantoms and grace.

From "Clouds" Collected Poems in English

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sunset on February 9 (Ash Wednesday on the Western Calendar)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Our friends the Hansons recently traveled to Colonial Williamsburg and came back with a gift for us; a pamphlet by written by Mr. John Wiley of Caroline County and originally published at the time of the Stamp Act. It is a lovely little thing, printed on a replica of an eighteenth century letterpress and bound in authentic style. Here is the opening line:

Though Sheep are the moft beneficial Creatures we can raife, they affording us both Food and Raiment, yet there is no dumb Creature taken fo little Notice of in Virginia as they . . .

Can't say things have changed much in the last two centuries. Here's to John Wiley, entrepreneur, agrarian and fellow struggler in the pasture of life.

Monday, February 07, 2005

This following was posted as a comment to one of my llama pictures. Since there is so little literature out there celebrating that noble creature, I thought I would move it up here as a post for all to share. Thanks to Jeff Beranek, who by the way, is also responsible for the concluding pun.

The Lama, by Ogden Nash

The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama

*The author's attention has been called to a type of conflagration known as a three-alarmer.

Update: Jeff informs me that Nash himself is the responsible punster, but I think we can still hold him liable for "re-gifting" it to the rest of us.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Hogback Mountain on Sunday afternoon. It was a pleasantly warm day, with the last of the snow around the barn melting away. Just a few hundred feet higher, proof that winter is still with us.

Waiting . . .

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Older son with llamas. Seems like only yesterday they towered over him.


Friday, February 04, 2005

Another backdated post. I meant to put this up yesterday evening, but was too tired to write. There were two reasons. The first is that I have been generally feeling run down lately. The second is that, after 11 years of near misses, I finally hit my first deer on the six miles of winding unlit black asphalt I drive home on every night. I am fine, the deer is not and there was a split decision on the pick-up. It is still quite drivable, but will need a new headlight and left front fender as well as some dents hammered out of the hood. Over the years I have gotten pretty good at avoiding the elegant and suicidal creatures. Friday evening however, three ran out onto the road. I braked for the first, swerved for the second and nailed the third one squarely, having run out of both luck and tricks.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Twin lambs.

Unexpected snow today. Snowflakes lit up like fireflies by the flash as the rams eat dinner.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I have been needing to do some sorting and cleaning on the list of links over to the right. There are sites I have been meaning to add for a while. Some other sites are no longer active for a variety of reasons. One of the sadder losses came in November when Gerard, the proprietor of A Catholic Blog for Lovers died suddenly. Gerard visited us here on our Hillside several years ago, and we had always expected a return visit some day. On a happier note, Karl is taking a sabbatical from his St. Stephen's Musings blog to devote time to his new daughter. Be sure to page down and read his story of her rather dramatic entry into the world. I will be checking my referral logs and trying to link folks who have been kind enough to link me. If you have, and don't see a reciprocal link in the next week or so, don't be shy, leave a comment and I will add you in!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I am making an early night of it, so I simply leave you with a picture of one of rams, wondering if some of the grain in that sack will find its way to him.