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Thursday March 5, 2015

We moved the ewes a quarter mile uphill to an old dairy barn we call the shearing shed. They will be shorn on the first Monday of March. Our sheep spend their days and nights out of doors all year round. But if you value your wool, you can't shear wet sheep; we shelter them during the time they are being shorn.

And all the ewes are pregnant. For lambing, which begins three weeks after shearing, we bring the newborn lambs and their dams inside—rain or shine—at night we leave the door to the barn open so the ewe can enter and choose a comfortable place to lamb. When the ewe has lambed we move her and her lambs into a 4' x 4' bonding jug. After several days inside together—if they look healthy—we let them go outside until the next shearing.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/25/2015 4:06 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

One work Proust was eager to hear again in the late winter of 1916 was César Franck’s Quartet in D as performed by the Poulet QuartetOne evening at a concert by this ensemble, Proust approached the viola player Amable Massis during the intermission and asked him whether the group would be willing to come and play for him in a private concert. Massis agreed in principle and thought no more about it.

One night around eleven Gaston Poulet, the leader of the quartet, heard his doorbell ring. Poulet, already in his pajamas, opened the door to find himself face to face with a thin, pale man with a moustache, who said, “I am Marcel Proust.” The caller made an unusual request: he wanted to hear Franck’s Quartet that very night. There was a cab waiting that could round up the other members of the quartet. Poulet agreed. Once in the cab Poulet directed the driver to the homes of Louis Ruyssen, cellist, Victor Gentil, second violin, and Amable Massis, viola. When Massis entered the taxi, he saw Proust wrapped in a huge eiderdown; there was a bowl of mashed potatoes sitting on the folding seat. Massis, suddenly disconcerted by the oddity of the situation, received a reassuring smile and gesture from the driver, signaling that his employer was somewhat bizarre, but harmless. By the time Proust had collected all the musicians and their instruments and arrived back at boulevard Haussmann, it was nearly one in the morning.

Céleste opened the door and greeted the group. Massis, like everyone who saw her the first time, noted that she was tall for a woman, svelte, and very pretty. The men removed their overcoats, opened their cases, and took out their instruments. Massis remembered playing in a bedroom lighted solely by candles. Just beyond a circle of light a divan covered in green velvet had been placed in the semidarkness; near the bed stood a mountain of manuscripts. The opening of the chimney had been covered, as Poulet had recommended, to prevent any of the sound from escaping. While Céleste assisted the musicians in setting up makeshift music stands, Proust stretched out on the divan.

The String Quartet in D Major, FWV 9: II. Scherzo. Vivace by the Vilnius Quartet

During the playing Proust lay with his eyes closed, without making the slightest movement. So solemnly eerie was this concert deep in the night that the musicians dared not speak to each other between movements. When the last notes of the Franck piece were no longer audible, Proust opened his eyes and asked the musicians to begin again. The stricken instrumentalists looked at each other. The Franck quartet took forty- five minutes to perform. It was now around two in the morning, and the musicians felt dead with fatigue. Sensing their distress, Proust asked Massis to bring him a small Chinese box from a nearby shelf. The novelist opened it and removed a stack of fifty- franc bank bills redeemable for gold. He handed each musician three of the bills. According to Massis’s recollection, 150 of these gold francs were worth 45,000 ordinary francs. Their energy restored at the sight of so much money, the musicians immediately began again to play the entire quartet. The room filled once more with the strains of the Pater Angelus.

Afterward, Proust thanked the musicians warmly and told them that he would like to have them back again under similar conditions. Céleste came in with champagne and fried potatoes. Shortly before dawn the musicians stepped out onto the boulevard Haussmann to find four taxis waiting to take them home.

Marcel Proust: A Life, William C. Carter 2013

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/24/2015 6:16 pm
Labels: Franck, Poulet, Proust

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/19/2015 6:09 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

Marcel Proust writes in 1910 to Robert Dreyfus, a long time friend, whose brother Henri has just died,

Proust...used one of his favorite images, found in a number of variations in Time Regained (his last volume): 

“In continuing to live thus you will be living in a region of yourself where the barriers of flesh and time no longer exist, where there is no death, because there is no time and no body, and where one lives tranquilly in the immortal company of those one loves.”

Marcel Proust, A Life (2002-2013) William C. Carter.

Since high school I've loved The Mountains High (1961) by Dick and Dee Dee; their lyrics resemble Marcel Proust in the quote above,

I know someday that we will meet again,

But I don't know exactly where or wh-en-n-n-n-en. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/17/2015 12:43 pm

A poet writing prose (naturally, I don’t mean when he is making it into a form of poetry, like Baudelaire in his Petits Poèmes, Musset in his plays, but Musset writing his stories, his critical essays, his addresses to the Académie) is someone who has put by his genius, who no longer requires of it the things it invents in the privacy of its own magic world, but who still bears it in mind and puts us in mind of it too. Some turn of phrase will suddenly remind us of a famous line of poetry, not perceptible, not there, but whose unspecified indeterminate shape seems to extend like an atmosphere behind a statement that could quite well have been made by anybody, giving it a kind of grace and stateliness and emotional evocativeness. The poet has flown away, but one can catch sight of his lustre behind the clouds. Nothing of it remains in the man, the everyday man who goes out to dinner and has his ambitions; and it is from this one, who has kept none of it, that Sainte-Beuve claims to extract the essence of the other.

Contre Sainte-Beuve found in Marcel Proust on Art and Literature 1954, translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner, p. 128-129.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/15/2015 3:05 pm

A micron (a micrometer) is one millionth of a meter. Microns, expressed as Average Fiber Diameter (AFD), are how the wool of sheep is measured and valued. AFD's of fewer microns are always more dear. The Saxon Merino produces the most expensive wool per pound in the world.

New York's climate—its annual rainfall—suits Saxon Merino sheep in the United States. I imported 5 world-class Saxon Merino rams for breeding from Australia in the early 1990's.

Saxon Merino sheep are found exclusively in the higher rainfall country of southern Australia, especially in the highlands of Tasmania, the cooler and wetter regions of Victoria and the tablelands of New South Wales. 

Physically the smallest of the Merino types, cutting the lowest weight of wool (3-6 kg.), the Saxon Merino is without peer in the quality of wool produced, e.g. a sheep producing 14 microns would cut 3 kilos and a sheep producing 17.5 microns up to 6 kilos.

Specifically, this wool is extremely bright and white in colour, soft to handle and fine (i.e. narrow) in diameter. 

From the website of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders.

Strong—opposed to fine—wool prickles and makes the skin itch. Wool of an AFD over 30 microns has a Prickle Factor but wool of a finer AFD—below 16 microns—pills on wearing it; however these extremely fine wools are suitable for blending with other fibers. 

I wanted to be somewhere between the prick and the pill but I wanted the wool to be fine. In New York I breed Saxon Merino sheep with an AFD of 16 to 18 microns; this wool is superfine and soft to the touch but the fiber is broad enough to resist pilling on a garment.

The AFD is determined by shearing a sample, 3" x 3" x the staple length of the wool, from the side of the sheep (see the ewes pictured) and sending the sample to a wool testing laboratory for laser examination.

 

Graph of an Examined Wool Sample

The ascending scale on the right hand side of the graph shows the number of fibers counted and the bottom horizontal scale shows the microns measured.

The data on the graph reports that a Saxon Merino 10 month old lamb, eartag 14, has a 17.6 microns AFD. Sheep will have higher AFD's as they get older. The AFD is a selected average throughout the body of the sheep (the wool of the side is finer than the wool of the rump) and, as you can see, a true average throughout the sample tested.

We side sampled and tested 393 purebred Saxon Merinos; the averages were,

Lambs, 16.4 microns

Ewes, 18.6 microns

Rams, 18.7 microns

The samples were tested by the wool laboratory at Texas A&M in San Angelo, Texas.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/9/2015 2:35 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

A photograph of me and Saxon Merino rams that appears in Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley, a 2014 book by Francesco Mastalia who took the photo with a remanufactured version of an 1860 wooden-box 12" x 14" x 16" camera; it has a cloth drape on the rear that Francesco ducked under to frame the photograph. He developed the exposure by a wet plate collodion process, a 19th century technique.

Francesco uncapped the lens—I had to remain still for 5 seconds—he capped the lens and the photograph was taken. He developed the exposures on the tailgate of his Volvo station wagon—taking about 10 minutes—in a silver nitrate solution.

In the book there are a 100 wet plate collodion photographs of Hudson Valley farmers or chefs; each subject was interviewed about the controversial topic of organic; some of the interviews are pro and  some are con, but interesting all.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/7/2015 8:29 pm

The lambs are one color; the difference you see is wetness of the wool; when sheep sleep out-of-doors their body temperature of 103F melts the snow beneath them. 

It has been below freezing for about 2 weeks; the snow doesn't melt, it drifts with the wind. With the 45 hp tractor we can't get to 2 round bale feeders to feed hay because of the depth of the snow.

This cold weather is fine for the sheep—the lambs cavort and gambol in the snow—but things become expensive for the shepherd; we fed a bale without a feeder—the hay goes faster—but no matter the expense, you must care for your sheep; listen to Bob Dylan sing you Gotta Serve Somebody.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/4/2015 6:42 pm
Labels: Sheep Journal

As Marcel Proust wrote,

But then, even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is a creation of the thoughts of other people.

Swann's Way translated by Moncrieff, Kilmartin and Enright, 1992, p. 23.

I thought of Shakespeare, of Lady Macbeth, who says when she sees her disturbed husband in Act II,

Things without all remedy 

Should be without regard:

What's done, is done. 

Can anything at all be done to remedy, for other people or not, what they've done? And the same person bearing a heavier burden than before; is he not different—can anyone return to whence they've come—even if he be relieved of it.

Yes, wise woman, done is done. Magic is commonplace and the simplest thing.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
2/1/2015 9:23 pm
Labels: Fiction

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
1/27/2015 7:39 pm
Labels: Ewes, Snow Storm

The word taste has an odd meaning in the philosophy of beauty.

The ability to discern what is of good quality or of a high aesthetic standard. "she has awful taste in literature"

But fine cooking tastes good and moreover it is aesthetic—an art form—the only one that involves all five perceptions: sight, hearing, touch, flavor and aroma. 

Marcel Proust translated John Ruskin's The Bible of Amiens written in 1885; the translation was published in 1900, the year Ruskin died. Proust spoke little english and he was aided in the translation by his mother. Proust loved his mother and he loved Ruskin too because Ruskin loved Gothic architecture: Proust made pilgrimages to study the Gothic churches in France that Ruskin had written about. Proust's attraction to Ruskin was uncommon, his preface to the translation of Ruskin argued with him and finally accused him of what he had accused of others, "idolatry'.

In the 19th century one described those who had a common view of a work of art (for example by saying that "it's beautiful" is an ironic dismissive) as vulgar.

Proust's view of Ruskin was not as vulgar as a two-word dismissive of beauty would have been. One could simply say that after a period of time their tastes differed. Proust's preface to The Bible of Amiens was 86 pages in length so there was an intellectual love too, at least in the planning stages that was honored later.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
1/12/2015 3:08 pm
Labels: Taste

Democritus (460 BC–370 BC), known primarily for an atomic theory of the universe, said there were four basic gustatory tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness. However a new taste was added in the 20th century, umami. It is a Japanese word, first proposed by Professor Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University in 1908. He tasted it in kombu which is a seaweed popular with the Japanese; it has been described as having a "savory" taste. 

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the chef Auguste Escoffier, along with with famed hotelier César Ritz, opened restaurants in London and Paris. Chef Escoffier created menus that combined umami with salty, sour, sweet and bitter tastes; he didn't know that glutamate containing foods provided the "brothy" taste so savored by umami mavens. His genius was that he cooked food that tasted good.

According to Marcel Proust, A Life by William C. Carter 2002-2013, Proust sourced parts of his writing while dining at the Hôtel Ritz in the early 1900's. He liked the late hours of the Ritz, the waiters, their gossip, and one would guess, the food too as he ate there frequently. I assume it's where he tasted Escoffier's cooking. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
1/12/2015 3:03 pm
Labels: Umami

These reflections on Ruskin’s compositional methodology provide us with a foretaste of Proust’s understanding of his own forthcoming apotheosis. He would shortly abandon the need to recreate in himself what a master had felt. Instead, he became one.

Forward by Eric Karpeles 2011, p. x.

Marcel Proust and John Ruskin, On Reading, translated by Damion Searls,  

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
1/6/2015 9:45 pm
Labels: Proust, Ruskin

In the same way, the beauty of a piece of journalistic writing does not lie wholly in the article; cut off from the minds where it finishes its course, the article is but an armless Venus. And as it is to the crowd (even though it may be a highly select crowd) that it owes its completed effect, that effect is always slightly vulgar. It is the imagined approving silences of this or the other reader that the journalist has in mind when he weighs his words and tries out their equivalence to his thoughts; and thus his work, composed with the unwitting collaboration of other people, is less personal.

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature (containing Contre Sainte-Beuve, p. 19 to p. 276) translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957, p. 112 (and by myself).

Ainsi la beauté journalistique n’est pas tout entière dans l’article; détachée des esprits où elle s’achève, ce n’est qu’une Vénus brisée. Et comme c’est de la foule (cette foule fût-elle une élite) qu’elle reçoit son expression dernière, cette expression est toujours un peu vulgaire. C’est aux silences de l’approbation imaginée de tel ou tel lecteur que le journaliste pèse ses mots et trouve leur équilibre avec sa pensée. Aussi son œuvre, écrite avec l’inconsciente collaboration des autres, est-elle moins personnelle

Contre Sainte-Beuve Marcel Proust ~1908, p. 139.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
1/1/2015 12:03 pm

So he (Sainte-Beuve) differs from Emerson, who said one must hitch one’s waggon to a star. He tried to hitch his waggon to what is nearest at hand, to politics: and said, “I thought it interesting to collaborate in a great social movement.” He harped on what a pity it was that Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Hugo, should have taken up with politics, but in reality politics play less part in their writings than in his criticism. Why did he say of Lamartine: “The talent is left out”? Of Chateaubriand: “These Memoires in fact, are not very kind and that is their main defect. For as far as talent goes, mingled with a vein of bad taste, and with verbal abuses of all kinds—which for that matter are to be found in almost all M. de Chateaubriand’s writings—there are many pages bearing the stamp of the master, the claw-mark of the old lion; sudden flights side by side with childish whimsies, and passages of such grace, such magical suavity, that one owns the enchanter’s voice and wand.” “I really should not be able to discuss Hugo.”

Marcel Proust on Art and Literature (containing Contre Sainte-Beuve ~1908, p. 19 to p. 276) translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1957, p. 113.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
12/31/2014 8:04 am