Life is much different in the countryside. City and suburbanites usually know what to expect, good or bad. If the lights don’t work, one calls an electrician, plumbers are available to fix a leaky faucet, and if the neighbor’s fence falls into your geraniums, get a carpenter. The craftsmen who operate in the country may be out fishing or hunting, or merely lollygagging around, and will come when it suits them. In the meantime, phone calls are made at a pay phone, laundry is done at the launderette, and you gain an education in patience.
We were made aware of this phenomenon in the first week we took over ownership of the old farmhouse in Kirkland, Washington years ago. It sat amongst ancient trees within walking distance of Lake Washington, with no neighbors within shouting distance. There was a small orchard with pears, apples and cherries and a patch of large juicy raspberries ready to pick. Nearly were enough blackberries to keep the freezer filled with pies for those willing to pick them.
To say it needed some loving care and a good push into the twentieth century would be an understatement, but we were game and filled with the enthusiasm of stupidity. It sat alongside a shady lane at whose culmination were the two homes of an old Swedish man who adored us, and his daughter who seemed to wish we would move back to California. Mr. R. watched with interest while we labored day after day, lending us tools, giving advice and sharing rhubarb wine. He was a retired homebuilder who miraculously had built our small house for himself and his late wife, and was filled with stories of the families who had subsequently lived in it. We felt very fortunate.
We had managed to find a roofer, who was not only available immediately, but expected us to help him. It was apparent that “us” meant “me” as Dr. Advice set off for Alaska, Montana and points North, leaving me on the roof with an old gentleman in his 70’s to teach me where to place the shingles. At our first dinner party I had not planned ahead and neglected to take into account the small size of the dining area, so our next project was a new family room.
Looking back it seems as if we tackled all the projects at the same time, until I began to feel like the heroine of Betty MacDonald’s “The Egg and I”. I wrote page after page to family back home describing in detail each unfamiliar endeavor. I stopped holding the various craftsmen in awe as we learned each trade by virtue of do-it-yourself books.
The acre and a half we sat on began taking shape, with sprinkler systems, ornamentals such as rhododendron, azalea and camellias tucked in amongst the trees, and the whole enclosed by a circular driveway and white fencing.
It also became evident that we needed a large building to be used as entertainment, extra sleeping quarters for the many curious friends who thought we were out of our minds, and not least, studio space for my sculpture and teaching.
So with no prior experience and the grace God gives to idiots, we built a barn with sleeping loft ready to hold eight intrepid visitors willing to climb a ladder for access, which passed all inspections the City sent us, all within about 200 feet from the house.
Life was good until the neighbors horses got loose one night and discovered our new lawn. We woke that morning to find them munching happily on the ripe pears in the orchard, with broken sprinkler pipes poking up, and with no name tags on any of them.
During the five years we lived there, Dr. Advice spent two weeks of every month in Alaska and points north and east, giving me additional experience in ditch digging and containing the small creek which often overflowed, and the various projects of home repair. A whole new market opened up in the Seattle area for my work, and my North Coast education began in earnest.
“Haida Shaman” sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen
My work day in the barn usually began about four in the afternoon and lasted until midnight. I have always preferred working at night when things are quiet with no interruptions, the creative juices seems to flow more easily when alone with no thoughts but your own. The young today would say it’s “zoning out”.
One late night when sleep overtook me, I put away my tools, turned out the lights and locked the barn door, ready to walk back to the house in darkness like the 9th plague of Egypt. I remember the silence and the darkness with no moon. Suddenly I heard a very loud belch as from a nearby man. I ran the rest of the way to the safety of the house and of the two dogs whom I had neglected to take to the barn with me. Needless to say there was no sleep for me that night.
Early in the morning I took the dogs and went outside, where looking at the meadow behind the house I saw a small flock of sheep which had moved in during the night. Speaking with Mr. R. later in the day, I learned that these cute fuzzy creatures DO burp—rudely and loudly.
The lambing once over, the sheep moved out and several horses moved into the corral behind the barn, and in due time, we moved back home to California to a new grandson.
16 thoughts on “WHERE SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE”
I know you’ve lived in a lot of places and done a lot of things, but I never would have guessed you’d helped roof a house!
We have roofed the present house twice in 40 years I did all the tile work here in this house, and together we laid handmade tile on all the floors.
we are gluttons for punishment I guess.
A great read, I especially loved the word “lollygagging” which I have never heard before. You are obviously a woman of many talents and you wear them well.
People never stop to think of how funny some of these old words are or of what may have started them many years ago. It didn’t occur to me that I use lollygagging quite a lot! Maybe it shows what a nag I can be, I’ll have to watch it!
Lollygagging’s a part of my vocabulary, too. Also: fussbudget. I know there are more “old” words, but I can’t call them to mind just now. I should start making a list when they pop up.
Wonderful stories, Kayti ! – do you, as I do, wonder where all that energy came from ? You must have been proud as anything of your achievements – and deserve to have been. Ruminants create an awful lot of CO2 this way: I understand it’s much more through belching than farting (thank heavens !). 🙂
The sheep were less trouble than the horses. They broke through ground in our small corral and destroyed an old clay drain pipe I had to dig out through frozen ground. I was happy to sit with a glass of my neighbor’s rhubarb wine after that episode.
Long time no exchange.
Most of all though I feel a little bit guilty about the fact that I have quoted your words – they were comments over at your friend Cheri’s – in the front page of my blog and you didn’t know anything about it.
I hope you will pardon me. Here is the link to that post:
Num 2 of the series on Europe regards a letter Professor Piero Boitani allowed me to publish. It is addressed to the British PM David Cameron and he just sent it to the London’s daily “The Independent”.
It is generating a little bit of a strife, since P. Boitani’s voice is loud and clear, he’s a many-generations Roman like me only immensely more successful (Fellow of the British Academy, Honorary Member of the Dante Society of America together with Umberto Eco, to name just 2 out of a list of successes that is staggering).
Andreas Kluth, a friend of our slice of blogosphere you might very well know – now Berlin Bureau chief of the Economist – , Richard, Sledpress, Cheri, Andy, Christopher, Cyberquill, Paul le Canadien (Potsoc) etc. are ALL there, debating, strifing perhaps a little but basically liking one another even more lol.
Will you be with us Kayti? MoR would be pleased. Besides, I am announcing the rewrite of the Manius novel, same URL [You were one of the followers, if I well recall]
All the best
From Rome’s West
How very nice to hear from you MOR. I was friended by Paul on Facebook last week so it is like old home week! I look forward to your rewrite of the Manius novel. Thanks for getting back in touch. Cheers Kayti
The pleasure is mine (as we also say here). Grazie for considering me ‘old home’. Whatever it may mean I feel it means something good, positive. Ciao!
Sorry. I liked my comment 😦
Yes indeed it is a good thing and quite positive.
I enjoyed reading of your building endeavours and, as always, loved your sculpture.
Thanks Christine. It gives one a sense of accomplishment to do a job thought to belong to a man. The male sex is learning slowly that they aren’t as special as they have been led to believe! And we can look at a job and say “Oh, is THAT all there is to it?”
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I wouldn’t have thought about it without your post, but it seems to me now that there actually is quite a direct line between roofing and sculpture. Not that a roof is a grand piece of art, necessarily, but the ability to learn the use of tools, understand the nature of the material being used, envision the end product — well, it all seems connected to me.
As for those silly sheep, your tale puts me in mind of the first dark night in the woods when I learned that deer snort. Loudly. I didn’t sleep for a while after that, either.
You have learned the use of tools in your work too Linda. I consider myself a “mechanic” in that tools don’t intimidate me either. As a sculptor you learn to use many, such as sand blasting, grinding, pouring bronze, etc. And of course you also learn to make and repair many of the tools you will use. I had good teachers at San Jose State foundry.
Goats also make rude noises!