Sylvia's Farm: The Journal of an Improbable Sheperd

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In the tradition of James Herriot, Sylvia Jorrín tells her story of unexpectedly becoming a shepherd in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.

When Sylvia Jorrín first moved to upstate New York, she had no intention of becoming a farmer. Raised to fear animals of all shapes and sizes, she only wanted to create a life for herself and her friends and family in her twenty-five-room shingle-style house. After a neighboring dairy farmer suggested...

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Overview

In the tradition of James Herriot, Sylvia Jorrín tells her story of unexpectedly becoming a shepherd in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.

When Sylvia Jorrín first moved to upstate New York, she had no intention of becoming a farmer. Raised to fear animals of all shapes and sizes, she only wanted to create a life for herself and her friends and family in her twenty-five-room shingle-style house. After a neighboring dairy farmer suggested they use her eighty-five acres of hay fields and woodland to start a farm together, she contacted the South Central New York Resource and Development Center, and they applied for and received a grant of nine free sheep. They soon bought ten more.

Then her partner quit.

It was the coldest December on record in the Catskill Mountains. Faced with eighteen pregnant ewes and a ram determined to grind her into a stone wall, and equipped with neither practical nor theoretical knowledge of farming, Sylvia gradually learned to be a farmer, both taming the sheep and conquering the elements.

Fifteen years later, this dairy farmer's granddaughter has a flock of 120 sheep, twenty-one goats, two Jersey cows, fifty Buff Orphington chickens, four Toulouse geese, one house cat and three barn cats, one dog, and a donkey, Guiseppe Patrick Nunzio MacGuire.

Sylvia's Farm is the tale of a life on the farm, and all the hard and important lessons it teaches. Told in short vignettes that span a decade, it is a journal of growth, persistence, and the unexcpected joys that a new day can bring.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The delight-filled education of an out-of-the-blue shepherdess. Not that there weren't travails for Jorr'n, who chronicled her ups and downs as a newly minted farmer in a weekly column for the Delaware (N.Y.) County Times, from which these short, quiet, yet quick-footed vignettes were drawn. Her decision to raise sheep on her upstate New York spread, which included a rambling house and assorted outbuildings in the foothills of the Catskills, was instigated by a neighbor, who agreed to be her partner but soon bolted-much like the sheep whenever Jorr'n tried to approach them. She stuck it out, slowly learning the ropes, living a hand-to-mouth existence, coming to appreciate both the glory of the place ("June grass, quite uniform and consistent, pale green at first, changing as the summer wore on to an airy delicate shade of rose, exquisite in the evening light") and the all-or-nothingness of the farming life: "Today is a day off for me, of sorts, one of the three I've had this year." In a voice that at times possesses a biblical quality ("They shall teach you what you need to know to take care of them, I was told"), Jorr'n might recite some apropos Chinese poetry ("Come on a whim and gone down the mountain, the whim vanished can anyone know who I was?") or calmly recount the day "the haymow of my barn collapsed. . . . A beam broke and 1,650 bales of hay crashed down on my sheep." She can make warm sentimentality feel good instead of gooey, much in the same surprising fashion she can keep a straight face when she admits to receiving a state grant to learn how to train a donkey. The author never lays anything on for effect; not for a second does the reader doubt that "the most beautiful placein the world to be at night is in the barn."Fine-grained, honest rural sketches, on a par with Noel Perrin and Don Mitchell.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582345758
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Sylvia Jorrín is one of two women livestock farmers in the three hundred farms of the New York City Watershed. She publishes an ongoing weekly column about her farm in the Delaware County Times.

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Table of Contents

Preface 1
June Grass Rose 12
Pastel Country 15
Racing for the Gold 19
Dandelion Green 22
Bearing Past, Shearing Present/Of Course, You Sell the Wool 25
The First Day of Summer 29
Cows 34
My Grandfather, My Grandson, and I 38
The Maple Leaf 42
A Story of Three Barns 45
Two Stories in One: My Mother's Kitchen, Christmas 1993 49
January 14, 1994 54
Tomato Soup 58
Epiphanies and Other Moments 61
Samantha 65
On Rabbits and Death 69
To Milk the Cow 73
Watch and You Will Know 77
Rose 81
Rugosa Roses 85
Down There 89
Days of Grace 94
The Story of the Barn 98
Fiona MacDonald 102
Gratitude 106
Barred Rocks 109
Helping Hands 113
Shades of Peach and Coral 117
The Gooseberry Bushes 121
Compromise 125
A Pack of Coyotes 129
Mangel-Wurzels, Rouge Vif d'Etampes Pumpkins, and Leeks 133
Pigs and Cows 137
This Is a Day 140
Busman's Holiday 144
An American Soup 147
The New Stove 151
One Farmer's Day 154
The Carriage House Farm 158
Two Women in the Kitchen 162
The Ugly Chicken 167
Miracles Great and Small 171
Summer on the Farm 175
To Patricia, from East Lyme 179
The Color White 183
My Hired Man 187
The Awful Day 192
The Pearl Necklace 196
Animal Stories 200
The Gift 205
February Days, February Nights 209
The Silent Rhythm of the Days 213
A Remarkable Woman 217
The Hawk 222
Punctuation Marks 226
Lady Agatha Van der Horn 231
The Simple Life 237
The Sweet Time 239
Abundance 244
The Lord's Great Profets 249
The Half Day Off 254
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