Do you know the warm, allover thrill of being totally caught up in every respect? I do not. I don’t think I have ever felt even an approximation of it. In fact I just imagine that it is a warm, allover thrill. It could be a chill up the spine for all I know, or a burning sensation in the ankles. But how generally behind I feel on a daily basis sunk to new lows when I found myself with pneumonia in the spring. I surrendered not only the days on end when I was too sick to attend to things, but the weeks following where I hardly had the energy to do half of what each day called for, let alone to dig out from under the snowdrifts that had accumulated while I lay around moaning. So I find I am still encountering the aftershocks from this adventure. Not having the time or energy wattage to give my blackberries their brutal spring cutback, for example, meant each pint of berries cost the picker a decent bit of blood-loss.
And then there is the wool.
Among the things I never expected to know a thing about back in my careless youth are the finer points of wool processing. But we’ve had sheep for ten years or so, and now I can get an email from the nice fellow who does our spinning and sort of understand what he is saying. You will think, on first glance, that this passage that follows, which arrived when he was working on our last batch of yarn, is written in the same language as the paragraphs above it, but you will soon see that we are dealing with the Woolian dialect of Yarnglish.
It is very difficult to keep a thick singles consistent, so as I predicted there are some thick and thin spots. Though I went through it pretty well, there are assuredly some tornado slubs I missed. I probably also missed the occasional break-and-start.
Right! Got that?
One of the tasks that slipped through my already slippery fingers back in the spring was taking the small mountain of wool that was sheared off our sheep and readying it for processing by the nice fellow. Of the pounds of fiber worn by your average sheep over winter, a large portion is pretty well worn out (at least in terms of future re-use by humans) by the amount of hay and, well, other refuse that it is full of, and all of that unpleasantness has to be cleaned off of the edges of the woolly suit that the shearer has removed from the animal.
|this is the “during” shot|
|whereas here you see the “befores” comparing notes with the “afters”|
Some people cover their sheep as the wool grows in order to keep it tidy, especially if the wool in question is very fine and prone to matting. There is a lot of crossover, I think, between these people and those who feel the warm (or perhaps icy) thrill of preparedness at all times. The little slipcovers require monitoring and adjusting and repair—a trifecta of tasks not on the daily agenda here.
We leased a ram one year who came in one of these snappy white covers, looking a little like Maurice Chevalier in a dinner jacket (but only a little). He also looked out of place, to say the least, among our ragtag bunch with the hay in their hair, and he took kind of an uppity attitude as a result. He was not observed completing a single item on his to-do list; he appeared to spend all his time standing debonairly off by himself, snerling his lips in the peculiar way that rams do when they are around ewes who are in the mood, but demonstrating no further interest. It turned out that he was simply discreet–plenty of lambs followed his visit–and also that he was pining for the billy goats back at his home farm, whom he mounted with frank enthusiasm in broad daylight as soon as he hopped off the truck.
This is totally not where I was going with this. Lemon mousse! That’s what I planned to tell you about. Let’s get our bearings: tackling tasks was the theme here, and I was really almost ready to lead you to the mousse, through the sheep.
Okay, so usually I am right there as the clippers buzz, roughly sorting the wool as it gets bagged up, and then when the rush of shearing is behind us, on a nice sunny day I set up this strange table that my husband built for me and do a more thorough job of getting the nasty bits out of the fiber. It’s called “skirting” and it is grubby work, with a distinct mythical quality. Both rolling a giant stone up a mountain and a tower room filled with straw come readily to mind as I stare down the heap of bags, each with its infinitely indefinite degrees of “done.” But I was not right there at the time, and though my multi-tasking husband managed to play my part as well as his on the day of the haircuts, I also failed to find time to do the second stage. For months. Like most tasks of this nature, once a backlog of time builds up between when you ought to have done it and the present moment, the impossibility of ever getting it over with looms larger every day.
Also true: once you dive in, you get some momentum up, and once you get it behind you, you feel pretty flippin’ pleased with yourself.
Until you look back at the to-do list.
In this case, first I had to clean up the collateral damage of completion: no matter what precautions are taken with tarps and wind direction, the theater of operations ends up looking like it was used for teddy bear target practice or some barbaric ritual that ended badly for a lot of rabbits. Then there is the mondo pile of yucky, discarded wool to be dealt with. To garnish the satisfaction of clearing the skirting off my agenda, I took the discarded wool around to the back of the house. I terrorized my overgrown herb garden (see above, “not at all with the program since spring,”) generating another huge pile, this time of weeds and clippings, and mulched the newly-weeded beds with wool.
When it matts down a bit from the rain, I’ll cover it with some bark mulch to help it look less silly. Right now, we are in the fluffy and silly stage. But we are also weeded. Thirteen square feet of well-maintained, out of a total acreage of….oh, forget it. I am losing that pleased feeling already.
So: piles of wool, clean and less so. Piles of weeds. A pile of dessert. See how it all connects? I wanted to make some of a recent windfall of lemons into a mousse and I was too lazy to be bothered taking the time to look up how to do it. I got a notion in my head a while ago that a person could make a batch of lemon curd, and whip some cream, and fold the two together, and chill it, and put raspberries on top, and I was not in a mood after all this picking and bagging and digging to be delayed by researching methods and quantities that had been tested and worked out by others.
This attitude is often my downfall, but in this case the end result vanished in a matter of moments, so it must have had some merits. I chilled it for an hour or two before we ate it, but I think a longer chilling would have been good for the firmness. I also think my daughter, who did the final construction here, would testify that it can be eaten immediately without any chilling at all, because without strict supervision that is just what she would have done.
Lemon Mousse in a Jiffy
You will need:
- a batch of lemon curd
- a pint of heavy cream
- a dash of vanilla
- 1/4 c powdered sugar, possibly
- a lime
- a pint of raspberries
- 2-3T granulated sugar
Step one: make the lemon curd. Cool it down completely. You can do this ages ahead. It keeps like a dream.
Step two: whip a pint (2 cups) of cream to soft peaks, adding 1/4 c of sifted powdered sugar if you like things on the sweeter side, and that dash of vanilla.
Step three: Reserve about a quarter of the whipped cream for garnish. Fold the cooled lemon curd into the remainder gently and thoroughly (a balloon whisk works nicely). Scrape into a serving dish (or a group of individual dishes) and top with the reserved cream.
Step four: Using a microplane, zest a lime onto the surface of the dish or dishes. Now juice the lime, and in a small bowl toss a pint of raspberries with the lime juice and 2-3T of sugar. Reserve, while the mousse chills, and then spoon a little of the berries and their accumulated juices over each serving.