It’s Independence Day for the Barn Swallow Chicks in the Pole Barn as they leave the next and learn to fly.
I turned my head towards my outstretched arm and there was Lulu peeking around the side of the pole barn. If any animals on the farm would get Bellydancing it would be the donkeys.
Julz, Kathleen, Emily, Kat, Trish, Callie, and I stood in a circle between the house and the barn. It’s called “The Gratitude“. It’s a series of motions each with its own meaning that we do at some point during every Bellydancing practice or performance.
We are giving thanks for the people we dance with, our dancing ancestors, the music and the space we are dancing in.
There is superstition around The Gratitude. Kathleen and Julz both have stories of serious mistakes made during dance performances where they forgot to do it.
Just before the women from my Bellydancing class started to show up at the farm to dance together for the first time since March, the sky got dark, the wind came from the north in howling gusts, thunder rumbled and soon the rain started.
It seemed fitting. I thought we were worthy of such a force of nature welcoming us back.
The storm passed quickly and cooled things off for a while. But soon the sun was out again and we moved around the yard trying to find the evenest ground with the most shade.
But no one complained about the slippery grass, uneven ground, or the scorching sun. These women are professionals. And it felt too good to be dancing together.
Next week and for the weeks after that, we’ll be back in Bennington on Wednesday nights instead of Thursday. Julz and Kathleen found a new space for us to dance in. It’s in an old warehouse, with mirrored walls, high ceiling and airconditioning.
It sounds luxurious compared to dancing outside on the grass.
But this evening, as I swept my arm around gesturing thanks to the space around me and I saw Lulu looking at me, I had the feeling she knew, not necessarily how grateful I was to be dancing on the farm, but that something meaningful was happening.
And she was so right.
I got carried away watching this leaf gently shifting in the stream as skates rippled the surface of the water. You can’t see the skates, only the ripples they leave behind. There’s also a tiny white petal that floats up to the tip of the leaf that caught my attention. It’s my first sixty-second meditation.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Minnie share her seat on my Rapunzel Chair with a chicken. But this morning she and Brown Hen sat comfortably together while White Hen pecked around on the back porch.
First I toss the wood from the pile outside the woodshed where Gregg Burch dumps it into the woodshed. Then I go into the woodshed and stack it.
This evening as I was inside the shed stacking wood, I heard a riot of chirping. I looked up and directly over my head, on one of the log roof rafters, was a swallows nest with four baby bird heads popping out of it. I watched them till they quieted down and their little heads disappeared into the nest.
As I picked up the last of the wood, I saw the pile of bird poop which was on the ground under the nest and found half of a small white shell with black speckles on it.
Before tossing more into the shed, I waited outside. It wasn’t long before I saw the mother Barn Swallow fly through the window above the door and, I imagine, to her nest.
I look in the barn every day where there are five Barn Swallow nests, but I haven’t seen any yet. I expect they’ll be hatching soon.
As soon as we began walking towards the fence where the sheep were they started talking. Two Romney lambs walked up to the fence, their wooly faces looked like little stuffed animals.
We were visiting Liz’s sheep farm.
In a valley surrounded by mountains, the sheep had lots of pastures to graze. An Osprey flew overhead landing in her nest on an electrical pole. Liz showed us the field where she wants to plant Lavander. Her plan is to have Lavander fields where people can walk. It’s her dream to someday be able to farm full time.
Right now, Liz has a desk job with the town, raises and shears sheep, and is always trying to figure out how to best use the 40 acres of her farm.
Liz is our shearer.
Last year she gave us Asher and Issachar, twin wethers that she bottle-fed when their mother wouldn’t nurse them. She didn’t have the heart to send them to market. This year she had so many lambs she was looking to find homes for a few of her older ewes and younger wethers.
Getting another sheep was in the back of my mind when we went to visit Liz today. Zelda, Izzy and Griselle, three of my older sheep, died in the past year.
For years I’ve had ten sheep and that feels like a good number for the farm. Their wool has become popular and sells quickly. With the twins, I have nine sheep so I liked the idea of having one more.
Also, I only have two Romneys now and I’ve found that mixing their wool with the Border Leicester and Cheviot, makes a stronger and softer yarn.
So when Liz told me about two of her older ewes that she wouldn’t be breeding anymore, I was intrigued.
Liz pointed them out to me, a white one and a gray one, both with beautiful fleeces even shorn. She told me their names (Liz knows the names and lineage of all forty of her sheep) and their breeds, both Romney mixes, but now I can’t remember them, she told me the names of so many of her sheep.
It was hard to choose between the two and I like the idea of them having each other for company until they get used to my sheep. So I decided to take them both. Sometimes between now and the Fall, I’ll have two new sheep on the farm. And a new mix of wool for next year.
Jon made quick friends with Liz’s two Border collies. While Liz and I talked sheep, he threw a frisbee for the dogs. I saw Jon’s face light up when he saw them. I could see the connection between them in the gleam in their eyes.
Liz gave us a bunch of Lavander when we left. I felt like it was a sign of things to come. It’s exciting to see someone like Liz try to realize her dreams. Liz is smart and determined and has as much energy as her Border Collies, I have no doubt she’ll get there.