Category Archives: Aging

Spinning workshop, and Preparing to move away… March, 2015

Giving things away

Giving things away

I’ve been going through corners in the garage again this morning, combining things, deciding who to give things to.

Fire’s burning this a.m. in a cool rain—cozy. The fire wood is a lot of branches that have fallen in the woods, which I’ve dragged up for Dirk to saw, if they’re too big for me to break up. They make just as much warmth as  real firewood, and it’s free!

Tye, Mira, Sindry, Judy, Mineko

Tye, Mira, Sindry, Judy, Mineko

I had a spinning workshop the first weekend in March, with four students. The two who live near-by are already interested in joining the spinning guild, and one has bought a wheel (my Majacraft Suzie, one of my first and favorite wheels), and the other is shopping for one. It’s so rewarding to teach people to spin, and watch them get into the guild for ongoing inspiration and support in their new craft.

Our move to RI will be in about 1 1/2 months. I realize, as I give things away, that I’m drawing a line between what I used to do, used to be able to do (wallpapering, for example), and deciding which of my friends might use some of these old things. We don’t need to downsize, since the house is a similar size in RI, but I won’t have a garage beside the house to reach out and get things from. All those things have to go somewhere, and much of it will be in the basement, after I give away a good deal more. Going through old pictures, cards and letters—what a lot of people have sent me those over the years. I feel humbled, and wonder if I returned the favor. Twenty-three years of memories from this home I’m packaging in boxes, memories of activities of my now-adult children, of vacations, of a flock of sheep, of shepherd friends, and many years of assisting with shearing, mine and others’. Things I’ve given away, I’d held in my own care, gathering dust, in many cases. I’m feeling lighter knowing others now can use those things, which I had held on to, “just in case.” We’ve been careful and done without all these years, and I’ve watched others older and wiser than me, who had done likewise, and “aged out” at home, which is what we choose to do, also. Irene, who died at 90, was at home until her last month of life, when cancer, which none of her friends knew she had, brought her near-death. Hospice couldn’t help because she lived alone, so she went, briefly, to a horrible nursing home, and for the last 2 weeks, UNC’s cancer hospital, then to a Hospice home. She was comfortable those last 2 weeks, and I don’t think she was aware where she was or who was with her. If God is good, Dirk and I will be able to live in our North Kingstown home for the rest of our lives, also.

Making the home more simple, thanks to giving lots of things away, is a good way to prepare for that life, as we are older, I can’t climb the ladder to put up my own wallpaper now, so I’ll give away the equipment to someone who can do so. Letting go is hard, because I’m confronting my new, gradually increasing, loss of ability to do anything I chose to do. Now, I have to choose what I can do, how much of that I can do, and how much I need to let others do for me. That feels embarrassing, needing to ask for help, when I’ve always been the helper. I feel vulnerable and frightened. Letting go of things, I’m pondering how to let go of that attitude, also.

With that comes the fear that I won’t be able to find anyone to be my helper, and that eventually I won’t be able to afford to pay someone.  Since my income is fixed, and the cost of living constantly rises, in 15 years, I’ll have lost 1/2-3/4 of my income, just by the way the world works.I can’t advance the clock, to know how all this will work out, but I do know I’m moving to a cold place, equipped with lots of wool to make things with, to trade for services rendered, as much as I can. Instead of dollar amounts, I’ll need to put HOUR amounts on what I’ve made, and trade for services.(Wish me luck…) In the meantime, I sit in front of the wood stove, and relax in the warmth, and am thankful I can make things of beauty from my wool and mohair, remembering each sheep with their individual personalities, as I spin their wool.

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First six months without sheep; preparing to move north

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

June, 2014 to Jan., 2015

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

This morning I captured a chipping sparrow away from Boots and Liam, and released it to the suet block. It shook itself and flew off, thank goodness. The two rescued stray cats run between my legs, or walk under Emily, the Pyr’s stomach, and move out the door with her. If I haven’t succeeded in re-homing them before we move, they may die on RI Rt. 1, which runs right in front of our home there.

Those who keep carnivores as pets need to be prepared to deal with carcasses of helpless small creatures pets consider their rightful prey. Last week it was a possum in the garage, probably after dog food—the 20-pound bags were tossed all around but not spilled…The dogs got the poor thing. Liam the cat had slipped out at midnight when I took the dogs out for their last walk, so I left the garage door ajar. Fortunately the possum didn’t come through the doggie door into the house! Life seems so complicated sometimes. Was the possum dead, or playing possum? I waited an hour to pick it up, then left it in the hole uncovered the rest of the day, dogs inside, to be sure it wasn’t going to just walk away, which I have seen them do. Not this time. A couple days before that I opened the back door to feed the birds and found remains of a squirrel on the rug, and a mouse a couple days later.

Woke this am. to find a raccoon “treed” in the firethorn on the back deck. Two dogs in the yard provides high risk for the night visitors… Maeve, our Aussie, has killed two raccoons this past summer, and is the best-rabies-immunized dog in the neighborhood. When I called for help, hoping NC Wildlife would come and trap the raccoons and take them somewhere, the employee advised me to take in the bird seed at night to discourage their coming here, and after two weeks, that did work. They don’t move raccoons, since they might be incubating rabies. I, of all people, should know that. I did a Masters’ paper on wildlife rabies, costs to NC when it got here, and oral rabies vaccine for wild things to control rabies exposures to pets and people. Nights are quieter in the house, too, since Emily barks with great volume and enthusiasm at possums or raccoons on the deck in the night. She’s shut in, but we have doors with windows to the floor, and she keeps watch. It’s her job, in her mind, to protect us from wild things who invade her territory. She’s done a great job of it over the years, also. We’ve never had coyotes in our pasture, killing our lambs or sheep, as many of my friends have suffered. Large farms require multiple Great Pyrenees or similar guardian dogs, to keep predators out.

Jan., 2015
A New Year, and still recovering from the surgical repair of damage done in the accident last April. I guess healing always takes longer than they lead you to expect.

We’ll move to RI in the summer, so we’re going through cupboards and closets, as well as boxes in the garage, to see what we’ve stashed, and wondering why we kept these things! I’m donating a great many things to friends who will use them, or organizations who will—for example wallpaper rolls from houses dating back 45 years—perfectly fine to use on a loom to keep the threads from tangling. I’m keeping a little of each to remember, and I’ll use it in weaving in the future, also. Common Thread in Sanford is a weaving workshop with many women volunteering to spend some mornings at donated looms, making rugs, tote bags, dish towels, table runners, place mats, etc., for sale both in the shop and at craft shows far and wide. Proceeds go to womens’ support organizations, such as Interact. They also compete in the Lee County Fair, have a wall full of prize ribbons, and the prize money also goes back into the organization. My box of old wallpaper will go there, since each loom requires a roll of wallpaper, and it wears out eventually, of course.

I’m spinning up great amounts of wool that is not from my best fleeces, just to condense the amount of bulk somewhat. Yarn takes much less space than wool. I’ve started an afghan for us to keep this time, which will have sheep and Australian Shepherd dogs (in their own fur) knitted in with the design. I’m still hoping to find a Great Pyrenees dog pattern to knit in, but so far, no luck. There is no hurry with this project. If we were not moving, I’d be aiming to have it ready to compete in the Carolina FiberFest in early April, but we’ll probably be very busy then, as moving time will be getting near, so I don’t plan to enter anything this year. I will be there to watch the sheep dog herding demonstration, and sit and spin with my friends in the Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild circle, however.

The pasture seems so empty and still, the fences covered with stilt grass, sheltering birds over winter. Emily, the Pyr, goes out to the back pasture every day on patrol, as she always has, keeping an eye on what predators may be threatening her acres. We miss the sheep, but our arthritic joints do not. Each year it got harder to clear gutters so water could run away from the barn, to trim hooves, move hay and grain down the hill to the barn, and keep things down there relatively tidy. It was great exercise, and that we do miss. Walking the dogs a mile up the road has to do now as a substitute, and the dogs enjoy it as much as we do. Emily used to live in the pasture only, unless the sheep were up grazing in the yard, when she came, also. Now she can explore the neighborhood, on a leash of course, but she loves reading the signs night critters have left along the road and on the woods trails we walk with them. We’re wondering where in RI we’ll find the same opportunity to walk with the dogs in the woods—we’ll have time later to look, but it will be much colder in winter there.

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A cherished aging sheep, Suzie

3/26/14

Our oldest sheep, Suzie, is 17, and quite suddenly has started to slide. You can see her picture in the header of this page, in the red coat. Deborah is on the left–she died with arthritis and old age last year. I think Suzie’ll be gone within the week, and we’ll find a home for Vanity, the “companion sheep” my friend Elaina loaned us. She won’t breed her again, which is why she was “dispensable.” A lady in our spinning guild is just starting in sheep, has several angora rabbits and some alpacas, but does not plan to breed them, and she’ll take Vanity Fair (my shepherd friend chooses a category for sheep names each year, and this year it had been magazines… she may have a Playboy around 🙂 I’m glad to have a future home for Vanity, the companion, because they don’t do well at all alone—they need a flock. I’m looking at all the sheep-related things in the garage and will put them together to share with my friends. This will be a big transition for us, since for the past 18 yr. we’ve had sheep to care for, and to groom and fertilize our lawn and pasture. The deer will have a holiday out there, eating the rye grass, vetch and clover I’d planted for the sheep to graze. The dogs will now have a full two acres to ramble, and will enjoy the extra space, exercise, and night-time critters to chase.

Letter to a friend–

Hi, Laura (another shepherd),

I went out at midnight for a last check, to be sure Suzie didn’t have her legs tangled in the elastic loops at the back of her sheep coat (I’ll take it off when the nights aren’t so cold). I had her ginger snap, which she no longer eats from my hand, so I broke it up and put it in the feed dish. Emily the Pyr decided to eat the cookie—I shooed her out of the barn, and Vanity, the Shetland, took off at the same time. Poor old Suzie decided she was not going to stay in that barn alone, and high-tailed it right out of the barn and up the hill after Vanity, baaing all the way! She hasn’t moved that fast since I can remember!!  As soon as I was a little way up the hill, and they knew I wasn’t going to do anything unpleasant to them, they walked back into the barn again.

I wanted to thank you for mentioning Aspirin (ASA), and what a little pain med can do. I saw it happen when I worked Labor and Delivery:  a mother who was teeth-gritting determined to do natural childbirth, and her painful muscles couldn’t relax, so labor had stopped advancing the baby. She was persuaded by her husband, after I persuaded him, that just a small dose of pain med was not going to hurt mother or baby—and within 1/2 hr. she had her baby. She just needed that little bit of relief to relax her muscles and let Mother Nature take over. Suzie just needed that baby ASA today to feel a little better—I’m amazed! She wasn’t even limping on her bad front leg, just trotted right up the hill. I almost fell over!

Thank you so much. I know it won’t make a big difference in her length of life, perhaps, but it certainly seems to have made her feel a lot better today. I put a baby non-enteric ASA in a 5-cc syringe, pulled up 1 cc of water, it melted instantly, and just put it in her mouth, as you said. I followed it with a little bit of ginger snap with some molasses on it, which she chewed right up, but I had to push it in, of course. I can’t remember—can I give it every day, or only every other day? She certainly did respond to it 🙂

Blessings with your elderly animals—I know they get TLC galore at your farm,

Judy

P.S. I’m copying Sheryl, who will become Vanity’s “Mom,” eventually, because all these little sheep care tips come in so handy sometimes. Even after all these years, and having given ASA to arthritic sheep a few years back, I had forgotten.

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Danger in dogs entering unfamiliar house; 17 staples fixed it :-(

IMG_2547June 6, 2013

Today I learned to check out a new home I’m visiting on vacation–especially to locate flights of stairs AND railings…

We arrived last evening at the Upper Peninusula in MI, and today my cousin, Bob, toured us all around Macinac Island–lovely day! The two dogs, his and ours, had been out in the yard all afternoon, and I went to let them in. They both had to come through the door at the same time, of course, Bob’s big German Short-haired hunting dog, and Maeve the Aussie. I stepped back as they both pushed the door in, and my toe encountered–nothing!! There’s a flight of steps down right in back of where the door opens, the light was out, we’d just gotten there last evening, and I had not been down those steps to find out there was a railing behind my back… Fortunately, the steps were carpeted, but the floor below was linolium over concrete 😦   Well, Dirk responded to my scream as I fell– the last thing I remember. About half-an-hour later I began to wake up in the ER. Bob had called 911 when Dirk’s hand was covered in blood, and I was unconscious. I can’t say enough for the ambulance crew and the Newberry, MI, hospital  and Dr. Vick, who promptly took care of me, including sending me off with a CD of the CT scans & other x-rays they’d taken, for my doctor at home. Also for my cousin, Bob’s patience with my unexpectedly sailing down his steps. He’s also sent his house insurance folks to talk with the hospital to deal with my co-pay, which is most generous, and unexpected. After all, I allowed the dogs to shove the door–wasn’t anyone’s fault, really, but makes me feel very klutzy and vulnerable.

I was very lucky to sustain only a cut requiring 17 staples in my scalp to close it, and a concussion that left my head swimming for the following week. If I had not been wearing a plastic clip to hold my hair up, it might not have been as bad. One of the teeth of the clip broke off on my skull. I went back to using my cane as a “third leg” for balance, and when my pain pills were nearly out, started supplementing with Irish Creame in my bedtime cocoa so I could sleep. Splitting headache that first week was no fun at all, nor the whiplash injury to my neck that prevented me lifting up my own head without using my hand to grip some hair to lift.  I still have a colorful bruise across my lower back 2 wk. later, and plenty of pain to go with it. But hey, I’m not paralyzed, did not get a subdural hematoma, broke no bones–I’m thankful it was no worse. We continued the vacation on schedule, but came home a day early to get the staples out at my own doctor’s office, and I’m declared well by the resident who removed them. I love vacation, but I guess I need to be a lot more careful about checking my environment!

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Filed under Aging, dogs, Family, Healing, Health, Thanksgiving, Vacation

Roses

 

 

 

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IMG_1269May 22, 2013

I stand in a cloud of roses, the fragrance delightful, cutting roses for new bushes for my daughter, for a bouquet for a neighbor recovering from shoulder surgery, for myself in the kitchen, and the spent blooms filled 1/2 bucket for the sheep. It’s been raining, and the rose has burst forth this week, and is now my joyful annual waterfall of blooms. After I cut all those flowers, it looks as full of blooms as it had before I started. Amazing, such abundance.

As I pick, I see buds with outer petals beginning to curl out, just about to burst forth, the ones just flowered with the yellow stamens inside and a cloud of fragrance, the wilting ones, the ragged ones chewed on by squirrels who didn’t like the taste, the wilted ones with petals raining down, and the rose hips, flowers gone, stamens brown and dry, as their blooming time is done.

The long stems with only one bloom, with 7 leaves on the stem, are the strongest. Those I cut to dip in root starter for a new bush for my daughter. I hope at least one will survive. I put 6-7 in a container to bring up the road with me in 2 weeks. The wide open blooms smell lovely, and I imbibe their fragrance as I move among the blooms on a bush taller than I am, and wider than the span of my arms. If you were an ancient royal family and wanted a “natural” border around your property, this would do it! In just a few years it would be an impenetrable barrier to anyone who tried to enter. Even a sheep or goat would get caught in the thorns.

Wilted blossoms get clipped, and dropped in my bucket for the sheep to feast on this evening. Dirk got stampeded by our two sheep this evening as he approached the barn. Their sense of smell for good greens is fantastic. They knew what he had in that bucket long before he got to the barn! They immediately dug in to the feast of rose blossoms and leaves, and the lovely hips with all the vitamin C we also desire for jam. Except I’m not into making jam.

Are we not like roses, as it says in the Bible, that they last only a short time but are lovely in their time, and when they go by, they nourish the ground, and linger in our memories, pictures of them appearing in cards I print for special occasions all year. My roses will first perfume my deck and kitchen, then nourish my sheep, and later, the vegetable garden, where all the barn compost goes eventually. A time for everything… to bloom, to wilt, and to nourish, and round and round…

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Family history–300 years of Loyalist research

Sept. 29, 2012

Last entry on the page relates to Samuel Boone–I can’t make it out

I flew to RI four days early so I could do more family research on my mother’s mother’s side of the family. Because they had been Loyalists in the Revolutionary War and were expelled from their land in RI and sent to Canada, the genealogy had some missing generations. Thanks to  G. Timothy Cranston, I found material in the No. Kingston library about my mother’s Boone ancestors, which I copied and brought to Fredericton, NB with me in the summer, to the University of NB Archives, and connected the puzzle all the way back to the original ancestor in England. On this second trip to Rhode Island, I again wandered in Wickford, and with Timothy’s guidance, found the original Boone cemetery from the early 1700’s where my mother’s family had lived, where one of the large farms had been 300 years ago, confiscated by the Colony of RI to pay for a war. There’s nothing new under the sun…

The records in the North Kingston Town Hall from the 1700’s are partly missing due to a fire 250 years ago or so. This is an example of what I was reading to correlate my records with what was in the town hall. My relative, Samuel Boone’s name is in that last entry on the bottom of the page, what there is left of the page.

I couldn’t see the cemetery from the road, so knocked on a door where the map, and Timothy’s directions from his next book on Wickford’s old homes, said it should be. A kind neighbor whose home is in front of the cemetery, lead me back to it, and introduced me to his neighbor whose home is also in front of that old cemetery. They’ve worked on cleaning it up for ten years, ridding it of brush and briars, so the stones are again visible, all still standing (except one, and they found the pieces of that and he showed it to me, put together as a puzzle, so I could photograph that, too). It mystified me to see more vertical stones without inscription than those with the person identified. If they had had slaves, that information did not come down the family story. Who were all those vertical stones marking, I wonder? There must be four times as many of those as of the inscribed stones. If children, they’d have marked the stone, wouldn’t they? It doesn’t make a tangible difference, but it feels so good to have completed the work my mother started many years ago, before the WWW existed, which allowed me to find a great deal of information from the Canadian archives, but only back as far as their census went–around the 1850’s. There was no central recording of family records before that.

Now that I understand better what the Loyalists endured in the unbroken wilderness of New Brunswick, it’s no wonder there was not that sophistication until much later. It took 40 years for them to build the first church, since there were no roads, no railroad, only a navigable river part of the year when it wasn’t frozen. They lived in tents provided by the kindness of the English, until they could cut down the forest and build a home of logs (one old journal said they heaped pine boughs on top of the tent, and when it started to snow in October, it covered them like an igloo, and they were relatively warm inside). They had subsistence rations for two years, after which time they were expected to have cleared their land, planted it, and have crops to sustain them and their livestock, have built a house and barn, and whatever other outbuildings they needed. My ancestors are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Fredericton Junction, and some in the Tracy Cemetery, about 25 miles south of Fredericton, the capitol of New Brunswick. I wish Mom could have come with me there–or maybe she was…

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Black has died; Vanity Fair has arrived

We just buried Black at the country cemetery where half our flock now resides.

Dirk mowed the lower right quarter yesterday, and it smells like a sweet fresh hay field. Suzie probably went out there early this a.m., and Black, enticed by the fragrance of fresh greens, followed her. Dirk went out around 11 to check on them, and found Black, down, in that field, Black who never left the barn unless we herded him out to shade under cooler trees in this grueling hot weather. We got him on his feet and he took a few steps back toward the barn (he was lying in the sun by then). We got to the brick walk, and he went down again. I called the Paredes family across the street and 3 of them came over to help us lift him and carry him back into the barn using a tarp we’d slipped under him as a hammock. Within an hour or so, he had died. I put a ginger snap in the side of his mouth, and he just ignored it. I dribbled a few drops of water in his mouth and he pulled back, just breathing hard, not aware of much else. I scratched his head, around his ears, scratched him down the sides of his neck which he used to like, and told him what a great sheep he was. He was the lamb who found an azalea bush and ate some, and we nearly lost him at the age of six weeks. A whole day of hourly fluids syringed into his mouth, alternated with Neutradrench, very sweet and loaded with the B-vitamins, stress vitamins sheep need when they’re challenged, and by 4 p.m. he was grazing, and I knew he’d made it.

This time he is at the end of his long life, 13 years–over a hundred in human time. Dirk and I stood by for a while, but there was nothing we could do for him. I even put the fresh leaf from a rose I’d just cut in his mouth, but he didn’t know it was there. We laid him to rest soon after in our little woodland cemetery, where half our flock of sheep now lie.

Suzie, the Romney, now age 15 and spry, the first lamb born here, is baaing, going from one pasture corner to another (Dirk has been mowing stilt grass to allow that) and baaing some more, looking for another sheep. A sheep without other sheep is nothing. They need others like themselves to feel content and secure–not so different than people. Emily the Pyr doesn’t spook her one bit, but she does not qualify for a sheep in Suzie’s world.

Dirk and I have been harvesting ferns, branches, vines, rose leaves, raspberry leaves… all the invasive plants the sheep used to keep under control that are now running wild around the edges of our yard, so they get a bundle of greens every day, and the bicarb sits out there with the mineral salts with garlic & kelp. They prefer the greens to their feed and alfalfa, and they get a couple ginger snaps every evening, a special treat. Black was getting an ASA occasionally, since arthritis was his major problem–that and his 13 years, which I could not do much about but spoil him, which we did.

I had talked with Elaina months ago about a sheep or two she wasn’t going to breed again that she could let us “board” to keep Suzie company when the time came. We drove the 30 miles to church still grieving our loss. After church we drove to Efland to pick up Elaina’s five year-old white Shetland named Vanity Fair. She’s white, with a beautiful soft coat of wool, and she’s wearing a red halter. She’s failed as a breeder three times, so she was going to leave the place one way or another. Elaina lifted her into the car, with newspapers already padding the floor. She dozed between my knees in the back of the Prias all the way home.

Suzie knew we had another sheep here as soon as we opened the car. Even before we walked the Shetland around the car to head for the field, Suzie was making the little bleating sounds a mother sheep makes to a lamb: a  totally unexpected response–she’s never even been bred! She made that little wickering sound I heard Perquita, a special sheep who died at 17,  make when she was in labor, as we walked all the way down the driveway to the barnyard gate, Vanity Fair dancing around as far from us as she could get on her halter and line. Dirk had tied Emily to prevent further drama. They can get together through the gate and become acquainted. We, all four, walked down the hill to the barn. Suddenly Suzie wasn’t so sure she wanted to share her space with a stranger. We put down two feed dishes, there were two hay baskets already down with alfalfa ready to eat. Dirk divided up the green branches he had trimmed and put in a bucket of water earlier in the day, and I put some of the feed for Vanity Fair in both dishes, and some of ours in both. Suzie had been butting Vanity with her head, telling the newcomer her feed was Suzie’s, and Suzie’s feed was also Suzie’s–so the second dish. Now they went back and forth, eating out of both dishes. Dirk took some pictures which I emailed Elaina to let her know Vanity was safely installed in our barn.  Suzie at last check was lying down in a corner of the barn, and Vanity was near the gate, wondering if she could go home now. She’s accustomed to a flock of 20 or so, and she feels the solitude, also. Kelly, another friend, also has an older sheep to let us “board” as long as Suzie lives, so she won’t be alone, and then we can bring them back to their old homes. In an emergency situation, good friends are the best medicine ever.

Black was very arthritic, but other than that had never seen a vet, and didn’t have any other health problems–except 13 years. He was so sweet and gentle that when future spinners came for a weekend, I could always walk up to him for students to scratch around his ears and look at his beautiful soft, crimpy fleece. We’ll both really miss him, but are also glad he won’t suffer any longer with those arthritic joints.

Now maybe we can graze our sheep in the yard again. They were only up once last year, and about once or twice the year before that. Deborah and Black both were arthritic, and couldn’t get around very well.

Now the pasture is lively. Suzie loves to graze, and is out in the pasture most of the day now with Vanity around somewhere in the same quarter. Each of them is content knowing the other is there.

I feel comfortable that all’s well with a new population in the barn. I feel guilty that just losing Black, I’m also relieved to have a young sheep here again, like Black was once, to run around the pasture. I feel heavy with grief, and then I’m chuckling with joy, all in the same day. I’ll go to bed early this night.

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