Going To The Clark Museum


Merricat nibbled on my coat this morning letting me know it was time to eat and I should stop hanging around.  But I couldn’t help myself it’s warm, in the low twenties and I was enjoying just being with the sheep and donkeys. Lulu even let me rub her ears and Fanny presented me with her butt to scratch.

I won’t be going to my studio today. Emily and I are going to the Clark Museum in Williamstown MA.  I’m not sure what the temporary exhibits are, but they do have a very good permanent collection.  It’s a small enough museum that you can get close to the paintings and sculptures.  I haven’t been to a museum in a couple of years so I’m really hungry to see some art in person.

It will be fun to go with Emily too.  I’m interested to see which are her favorite pieces in the museum.

We’ll be wearing masks of course and will have to show proof of vaccination.  They also only let a certain amount of people in at a time.  But I doubt it will be crowded anyway this time of year on a Tuesday.

I’ll write about it all when I get home.

Hens In The Barn

When the hens come out of the coop these days, they spend most of their time under the birdfeeder catching the seeds that birds knock to the ground. When the sun’s out, under the feeder,  which is on the south side of my studio,  is one of the warmer places on the farm.

But sometimes, the hens hang out in the barn.  They’re don’t lay eggs on these short winter days, but I expect in the spring we’ll have between two and four eggs a day.

Second Cut Hay and Grain For A Cold Night


Socks and Kim

The temperature hovered around 10 degrees today.  But the sun came out and the animals got to warm themselves and graze on the tall weeds in the back pasture. They got the good hay today.  It’s called “Second Cut” because it’s the second cutting of hay in a season and is more nutritious than “first cut”.

That helps to keep the sheep and donkeys warm along with the grain I gave them this evening.  Of course, the sheep also have their wool coats and Fanny and Lulu started growing in their thick winter hair at the end of August.

The sheep get pushy when they hear the grain the bucket, so I throw a little to the side of the gate to distract them before coming in. It usually works.  Then I can dump the rest of the grain in the feeders without getting pushed around.  The good thing about the sheep is that even if they do crowd me, their big bodies of wool are soft enough to lean on.

It’s like being squeezed between giant balls of cotton.

On The Edge Of The Stream

Fate and Zinnia after our walk in the woods. Fate wants to get the sheep

I curled my fingers into a fist inside my gloves to keep them warm.  Instead of going over the Gulley Bridge,  I walked on the snowy hummocks in the marsh.  This time of year, when everything is frozen I get to walk in places I couldn’t otherwise.

The stream was mostly frozen except for a thin line of black water that rushed down the middle of it.  The edges of the ice transparent and scalloped like lace.

I stood on the edge of the stream looking through the tall bushy Alder’s at the sun just above the hilltop.  Even so low in the sky it warmed my face and made the tall dead grasses glow gold.

I closed my eyes and heard the bubbling of the stream, a truck in the distance, and the wind coming through the trees.  Then the wind was icy on my face as if the sun had disappeared.

But when I opened my eyes the sun was still there twisting the Alder branches into circles of light.

Building Trust With My Sheep

Robin at the feeder.  I took this picture a few days ago. 

It’s about trust I thought as I squatted next to the hay feeder after cleaning out the barn.  It’s been so cold, I haven’t spent more time than necessary with the animals than to give them hay, grain, and water.

But today it was in the low 20’s, which felt like a heatwave compared to the below zero temperatures we’ve been having.

I clasped my hands between my knees and lowered my head. I was as still as I could be.  I just wanted to be with the sheep, to be as much a part of them as I could.

I’ve found that if I don’t use or move my hands, the sheep who are the most skittish will come a little closer.

So I squatted and soon Suzy came nibbling the stray strands of hay that were scattered around my feet. That wasn’t much of a surprise, Suzy will gladly let me scratch her back.  She’s never been afraid of me.

But still, there was a closeness I hadn’t felt with her before. I wasn’t doing anything for her and still, she chose to be around me. With all the hay scattered on the ground around the feeder, she chose to eat the hay under my knees, around my feet. And I found it comforting that she was so comfortable being around me for so long.

As if I belonged.

Then, Robin who eating out of the feeder, our heads the same height, looked right at me.  I looked back, careful not to make any sudden movements.  He nibbled at the hay, then brought his nose to my face and started sniffing.  I could smell him too, that curdled, sweet, yellow sheep breath.  And I knew we were okay with each other, that he was okay with me, as long as I didn’t move my hands.

Merricat came up to me briefly, tried to nibble on my hat then walked away.  But the rest of the sheep just went about their business of eating.  Not ignoring me, but not indulging me either.

That’s when I felt that my being there was about trust.

I want them to know that I can be among them without any other purpose but to be with them. That’s it’s not always about “doing”, about food, or cleaning up the barnyard.  That trust comes from being able to be around each other comfortably.

Trust, I believe, is what made Pumpkin walk into the stall when he was sick.  At first, I tried to move him there physically, by pushing and pulling him, but that didn’t work.  What did work was trust.  Me trusting he’d go where I wanted him to and him trusting me enough to do what I wanted him to.

How he knew what I wanted, I can’t say.

So even though it wasn’t my intention when I squatted down among the sheep this afternoon as they ate, we were continuing to build trust between us. From Suzy, one of my first sheep who has been on the farm for nine years, to Robin who was born on the farm 8 months ago.

It’s as if Suzy was saying to me, I trust you and I was saying to Robin, you can trust me. 

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