Intimacy is a powerful and, I am sure, genetically impelled need. The farm is, I am constantly reminded, a hotbed of intimacy. One of the chief pieces of evidence is in who is sleeping with whom.
I’m not just talking about the human inhabitants. All our farm’s mammalian creatures make choices about who sleeps with whom in a way that seems, as with humans, to relate to bonds of affection. I am prompted to this recognition by observing the somewhat aberrant behavior of one of the youngest of this spring’s ewes, Pepshe. And no, this is not going to be a racy description of Pepshe’s kinky sexual tastes.
When we humans talk about sleeping together we tend to use the term as a polite way of referring to sexual activity. That seems to me an odd choice for a euphemism, because instead of substituting a term of trivial significance for the activity that shouldn’t be mentioned, this substitutes a term that itself implies considerable intimacy, in some ways as intimate as the sexual act itself. Sleeping together extends over a far longer period of time than most sex does (ok, except maybe for the unusually gifted among you). It entrusts someone with access to you, and the ability to observe what you do, when you are at your most vulnerable and least guarded. And it involves a complex process of negotiation (such as when one person turns one way, how does the other respond?) that takes place in a state of semi-consciousness. In a world where sexual hookups arranged on line are shrugged off by many as not particularly earth shattering events, actually spending the night with someone is taken as an activity worthy of note as a sign of developing intimacy between the two individuals involved.
I cannot help but recall, in this regard, the farm Peter and I once visited for the purpose of purchasing some peacocks. The animal-loving proprietors told us of their adoption of a young deer, a buck, whose bond of affection with them grew so much that he, even as he grew and developed antlers, showed up nightly to be admitted to the house and to sleep with the couple in their bed. As he grew, he eventually pushed the husband out and onto the floor. The couple told us how he was tragically (even, they suspected, deliberately) shot by a neighbor during hunting season. They demonstrated their love for the creature by showing us pictures of him in their bed.
Which brings me to Pepshe. Our sheep generally sleep solo, except for one familial pattern I’ve long noted — mothers and daughters generally sleep in pairs. (I imagine the young males would sleep with their mothers too, if we did not keep our males and females in separate zones.) It seems an almost universal pattern, except for Pepshe.
Pepshe is what my grandparents would have called in Yiddish a real “vantz.” To my mind, the term translates as a lovable Dennis the Menace type, always getting into some kind of innocent trouble. My family always affectionately dubbed my brother, Howard, a vantz. When I look the term up in the urban dictionary, I learn that its origin is in the Yiddish term for bedbug or louse, and that its standard translation is “obnoxious punk.” But I use the term in its more affectionate, loving form to describe Pepshe.
Pepshe is the one lamb of her year who charted an independent course. She was the one who figured out how to sneak into the corral all summer to get first bites of the grain before we opened the gates for the rest of the sheep to enter. She has been excellent at getting into places she is not supposed to be.
Pepshe is the daughter of Ayse, one of the oldest ewes currently in the flock. Ayse is the daughter of the late Sultana, one of our earliest and most beloved bottle fed lambs, who seems to have taught Ayse to relate to and bond with humans in a way most sheep do not. Pepshe has, in turn, inherited that person-friendly demeanor from Ayse.
What Pepshe has not inherited, however, is the habit of virtually all her predecessors of sleeping huddled in a big spoon little spoon pod with her mother. Lately, in fact, she has used her Houdini-like ability to wriggle through small openings in fences to cross into the part of the barn and adjacent pasture where Troy has isolated five older ewes with hoof problems needing attention. She spends the night with them. At grain treat time, she often wriggles back into the part of the barn where Ayshe and the others are fed their treats, to beat them to it, but by morning she is most often back with the other ewes, with whom she passes most days and nights.
I’ve asked Troy, who spends a lot of time observing the minute details of the sheep’s behavior, what he thinks may account for this perverse habit of Pepshe not sleeping with her mother. He speculates that it might have to do with our having weaned her exceptionally early, to give Ayse a better chance to recover from having given birth at such an advanced age.
If Troy is right, then Pepshe’s behavior may in fact be the proof of the rule that the intimate act of sleeping together is an expression of affection. The early weaning may have cut short the development of an affection dictated by the tight bonds of family, and opened the door to Pepshe to make her own choice of who to sleep with. A thoroughly modern ewe, expressing a deep and fundamental need.
WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK:
Hope your Christmas and /or Hanukkah were joyous, and that your New Year will be bright.
Egg production still at a low ebb, and back orders from last week will take all we’ve produced. Sorry, we should be able to offer more next week.
Keep our hams in mind these cold winter days. They’re quite good, easy to make, and in the two to three pound range are ideal for a small dinner gathering.
Time to order lamb: As noted last week, we are sending six to market in mid January. Ten more will go in February. You can order a whole or half lamb, $7/lb hanging weight, cut by the butcher to your specifications. Please inquire if you have questions about this process or would like to order one.
WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
Tiny hot matchbox peppers, $5.00 a string, dried and quite decorative.
Acorn squash, $2/each
Cheese Pumpkins, $2/lb, 5 to 8ish pounds
EGGS: $5/doz – new orders suspended this week
MEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezer. See below.
GEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.
ROASTING CHICKENS – Nice fat Freedom Rangers, frozen, largish (4 to 7 lbs, a few smaller), $6/lb.
LAMB: Riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb,
PORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs), Jowl (roughly 2 to 3 lbs each), $12/lb,
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb
baby back ribs $8/lb
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb
smoked bacon, $12/lb
Email us your order at email@example.com, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.