Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The National Weather Service has placed us under a winter storm watch for Thursday night. Ice, sleet and freezing rain expected. From the photo archives, here is another picture of the aftermath of a mid-December ice storm.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Our flock has done some strange things, but I've never seen this before.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Light, Shadow, Classics and Packing Tape?

Mark Khaisman is an artist living and working in Philadelphia.  Born in Ukraine and educated in Moscow, Mark has worked as an architect, animator, iconographer, and stained glass designer.  In the last few years he has pulled together the skills from all his previous artistic incarnations and has applied them to creating art that at the same time combines the disciplines of classical drawing with the use of light from glass work to create something wonderful by layering common brown packing tape over Plexiglas.  This is what I mean:

IMG_1319

The subject matter is a suit of ceremonial armor, perfect for a classic figure study, accenting detail and exercising the artist's ability to sketch in light and shadow.  Mark suggests it all simply by layering tape over a backlit panel.  Without the light, the figure would be a barely differentiated mass of muddy brown.  With the light shining through it becomes detailed, elegant, even radiant.  (to be continued . . .)

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Susan I took a road trip this weekend; no kids, no computer, no sheep except the ones out the car window. We left Friday afternoon for Lancaster County PA and spent the night at a Bed and Breakfast in Bird in Hand. Saturday was farmer's markets, furniture stands, Amish food and a quick trip to Philadelphia, a new hotel and a reception for the opening of an exhibit of work by Mark Khaisman. More about that tomorrow. Tonight it's time for bed.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 24, 2008


This is Amy Sue. She was purchased at a livestock sale by a friend who went there to look at horses and felt so sorry for the single bedraggled sheep in the sale that she put in her bid and became a sheep owner. Amy Sue came over to live with us a few years back to take advantage of our larger summer pastures and stayed when she decided she would rather hang with the flock than be a pet. That doesn't mean that she still doesn't want a little more individual attention than the rest of the flock.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


From the photo archives, looking out towards the mountain after a mid-December ice storm.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One of the online journals I read regularly is Bishop Seraphim's livejournal. Bishop Seraphim seems to have an inexhaustible interest in almost anything and everyone. Today's entry (posted from Moscow) takes us back to New York to an exhibit honoring Jack Kerouac. At this point in my 50's I should have outgrown Kerouac, but I still find myself rereading On The Road and Dharma Bums every few years. There is a music there you either hear or you don't. As Richard Thompson put it in one of his songs:

Like a myth you rode in from the west
From the go you had my button pressed
Did the tea-time of your soul
Make you long for wilder days?
Did you never let Jack Kerouac
Wash over you in waves?

Monday, January 21, 2008


Here is a picture from back in December of the first lamb of the season.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Among my other Christmas presents was gift card for Borders. I used most of it on a CD sale at the local branch and picked up the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina). The first I was familiar with, the second I picked up after reading reviews. Both are great listening. I will not attempt to review Blanchard's work until I have spent more time with it. As for Pet Sounds, this is music I have heard for over 40 years, and still listen to. A few days ago, after my umpteenth listening to "God Only Knows" on the car stereo on the way home, I did a little web surfing before dinner and went to Maclin Horton's Light on Dark Water to catch up on a few weeks of his Sunday Night Journal entries and found this appreciation of what us old-timers still refer to as an "album."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

If you read here for any time you know that I live outside a small town in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. We have not heretofore been much affected by multiculturalism. Our idea of exotic cuisine is the local Mexican restaurant or carryout Chinese. Because of this I was surprised when the Royal Dairy, an old style diner attached to what was formerly an actual dairy, was sold and reincarnated as a Korean barbecue, Japanese steakhouse and Sushi restaurant called the Royal Garden. Susan and I stopped in tonight and much to my surprise, it was now under new management as the "Samurai Steakhouse;" being in this latest incarnation a Mexican (yes, Mexican) restaurant with a sideline as a Japanese Steakhouse and sushi bar. Being on a post-Christmas diet, we opted for the Japanese grill experience, which was ably executed by the cheery Hispanic chef. It was actually pretty good, and when I have shed a few pounds I might try the Mexican part of the menu.

Friday, January 18, 2008

From Alan Jacob's online commonplace book, comes a link to this story about an unusual link between Indian writer and poet Vikram Seth and the great English poet George Herbert.

I discovered Herbert in high school and re-read him regularly. Here is one of my favorites:

Prayer (I)

Prayer the Church's banquet, angels' age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;

Engine against th'Almighty, sinner's tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days' world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The Milky Way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

George Herbert

Thursday, January 17, 2008

We did not get the predicted four to eight inches of snow today. Enough came down to give everything a good coating, but most of what fell came as sleet and freezing rain. I have to say I would have preferred the snow. The sheep are fine. No new lambs today, which was a surprise. Perhaps because we had everybody in a paddock close to the barn and they did not have the opportunity to drop a lamb out on the ice it took the fun out of it. If the sun makes an appearance I will try for some pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's on the ipod: Richard Thompson. For proof that a great musician can elevate anything, go to this page and play the interview. It is all good, but what you want is eight minutes and fifty-five seconds in.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hot Library Smut

Hot Library Smut No, this has nothing to do with lady librarians taking off their glasses and shaking their hair out. If you click the link, you will find photographs of the most beautiful spaces for the display, reading and storage of books one can imagine. I have worked in a few libraries over the years, but these are libraries apotheosized.
Our latest addition to the flock.

 
Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 14, 2008

My law office is in Front Royal Virginia, but our farm is several miles south of town near the village of Browntown. Browntown has a general store, a couple churches, a few houses and an old country school which is now a Community Center. The January issue of Shenandoah Valley Monthly Magazine has an article about our community which is available on-line this month here. The cover shows a picture of our home town after a snowfall.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lambs everywhere this weekend. I don't think we've ever had so many born in so short a period of time. The lamb count jumped from nine to twenty between Friday morning and this afternoon, even after losing a few in difficult births. We are expecting at least a few more in the next day. We spent the day at the barn, checking ewes, looking in on the new lambs and getting the barn ready for the new influx. Oldest son and I picked up two truckloads of hay bought from some neighbors and stacked it in the barn for feeding to the new mothers. There are so many new lambs that every time a group of ewes move, there is a kind of chinese fire drill where the lambs run around and sort out who belongs to who. One lamb misplaced its mother for most of the morning, going from sheep to sheep looking for someone who would let him nurse. I was beginning to think that he had been abandoned when he caught up with his mother and his twin. The ewe took him back happily, but did not seem to realize he was missing. Sheep are not known for being smart, but most mothers of twins can usually count to two.

Friday, January 11, 2008

We have one sheep that has mastered the intricacies of the cattle guard. Instead of being intimidated by the concrete grid, she dances across like Baryshnikov and heads out to Browntown Road where, she believes, the grass is greener. Inevitably we get a call from a neighbor or the local sheriff's department that a sheep is distracting traffic and we send one of the boys down to get her back in. Now, we live in the country so the occasional cow or sheep in the road is to be expected. I won't even begin to speculate how this sheep made its way to the Bronx. I ran across the story while searching for poetry on sheep. I must admit, it has a more surreal quality than most police (or livestock) reports that I've read.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

After only thirty-five posts last year (and none from September to January) the readership here has naturally enough dropped off dramatically. Perhaps it's time to order one of these.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Here is something I have been meaning to link to for a while. I am not sure whether it is simply another ill-advised arts grant gone wild or truly inspired silliness that actually spills over into poetry. Click here to see what I mean.

After reading it again tonight, I thought briefly of adapting the method for devotional purposes; though in an Orthodox context that would mean painting Lord have mercy on the first forty sheep. Since that would occupy about two thirds of our flock, the remaining one third would be hard pressed carry the rest of the burden for enough combinations of words for a properly lengthy Orthodox prayer. Since we do not plan on increasing our flock size in the near future, I will table the idea for now.

If you would like to engage in a bit of virtual sheep poetry composition, go here to add a little Dada to your day.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

When we left the barn last night we expected that by tonight the lamb would make it through but his mother would not. Instead, the lamb took a turn for the worse and died in spite of the best efforts of our neighbor who has such a knack for taking care of weak or orphaned newborns that she has been our ICU for the last few years. When Susan taught Phys Ed part time she used to take lambs in a box to her office at the private school where she worked. Her current job doesn't allow for that. If our neighbor was not available I imagine that clients might hear a little soft bleating from the back of my office during the day. As for the ewe, she seems, surprisingly, to be recovering well. If she survives, I will be glad, but I don't expect she will be a permanent addition to the flock.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Two new lambs today, bringing the total to nine. One of the mothers prolapsed her uterus, making for a long session at the barn after sunset. Susan and I traded off the flashlight while working to return what was outside back inside where it belonged. We will see in the morning if our work was sufficient. Her lamb is spending the night with a neighbor who delights to take in our ill and orphaned. If all goes well, the lamb will come back home tomorrow. The other eight are doing well, two sets of twins and four single births. There are still many more to come. The unseasonable warm weather may be holding things off, since most of our ewes have an unfailing instinct for lambing in snow storms, ice storms, freezing rain, hail, sub-zero temperatures and other conditions designed to dismay the part-time shepherd.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Today was the feast of Theophany and the Blessing of the Waters. It is a wonderful service which follows the standard Orthodox rule of composition that too much is just about right. It can be hard on the feet and requires more patience than we moderns are used to devoting to a worship service but it does allow room for great shout-outs like this:

We glorify you, the Creator and Fashioner of the universe. We glorify you, only-begotten Son of God, without father from your Mother, without mother from your Father. For in the preceding feast we saw you as a babe, but in the present one we see you full and perfect man, our God, made manifest as perfect God from perfect God. For today the moment of the feast is here for us and the choir of saints assembles here with us, and Angels keep festival with mortals. Today the grace of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove dwelt upon the waters. Today the Sun that never sets has dawned and the world is made radiant with the light of the Lord. Today the Moon with its radiant beams sheds light on the world. Today the stars formed of light make the inhabited world lovely with the brightness of their splendour. Today the clouds rain down from heaven the shower of justice for mankind. Today the Uncreated by his own will accepts the laying on of hands by his own creature. Today the Prophet and Forerunner draws near, but stands by with fear seeing God’s condescension towards us. Today the streams of Jordan are changed into healing by the presence of the Lord. Today all creation is watered by mystical streams. Today the failings of mankind are being washed away by the waters of Jordan. Today Paradise is opened for mortals and the Sun of justice shines down on us. Today the bitter water as once for Moses’ people is changed to sweetness by the presence of the Lord. Today we have been delivered from the ancient grief, and saved as the new Israel. Today we have been redeemed from darkness and are filled with radiance by the light of the knowledge of God. Today the gloomy fog of the world is cleansed by the manifestation of our God. Today all creation shines with light from on high.

Translation by Archimandrite Ephrem.

Father Stephen Freeman has thoughts and links on the Feast here, here and here.