Naturally Dyed Yarn

Natural Colors

News and Blog

Posted 3/9/2014 11:31am by Eugene Wyatt.

I always have a hard time finishing one book and starting another—what should I read now—now that I've finished a tandem read of The Odessey by Homer and Ulysses by Joyce? I tend to gravitate to things I've read before and read them again...the comfort of ending one author's style and beginning another way of writing—at first seemingly foreign—is, if not traumatic, certainly somewhat immobilizing in the beginning of a new novel.

One passage that I remember from Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu is the party at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's in Swann In Love from Swann's Way and I wanted to visit it again.

Where the lovelorn Swann climbs the staircase of the Marquise to attend the party, is repulsed by the stupidity of the society people there, sees his witty friend the Princess de Laumes and hears Vinteuil's sonata again. Vinteuil's sonata contains la petite phrase which so enraptured him when he'd first heard it with Odette and hearing it again he is reminded of the futility of his love for her.

I thought of art, I thought of Diane R. Leonard's Ruskin and the Cathedral of Lost Souls in The Cambridge Companion to Proust, 2001 edited by Richard Bales where she talks of impressions as a way to appreciate art and of Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation1964. 

I saw Susan Sontag in the 1980's exiting the movie I had just seen, Floating Weeds, 1959 by Yasujiro Ozu. Yoko, a friend and painter, pointed her out to me heading toward First Avenue in the company of a young man: she had the shock of a gray forelock in her dark hair—God, she was beautiful—or that was my interpretation.

Or was that my impression? Things get murky with some definitions: they have a tendency to overlap their meanings depending on who you read.

A Susan Sontag disclaimer to focus what she says,

Of course, I don't mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, "There are no facts, only interpretations." By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain "rules" of interpretation.

And Diane R. Leonard says,

Ironically, Proust himself is in a similar situation here: despite the fact that he is reading (Stones Of Venice) inside St Mark's, he is reading the text of Ruskin (interpreting), rather than the figural language of the mosaics. Moreover, the inscriptions on the mosaics prevent him from having that innocence of the eye indispensable to the truth of impression.

Both Sontag and Leonard want that innocence of the eye indispensable to the truth of impression when approaching a work of art. A 3rd grader has that eye but one must school one's self into it if one is an adult or even a learned scholar and unlearn a little.

Art dealer Michael Findlay in The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty, 2012 cries out vociferously in his book against the audio guides in museums and the people who are consuming a curator's interpretation rather than looking at art with an innocent eye and forming their own impressions.

But what about Swann, Proust's character, when he hears the sonata again? Why do I like this passage? Part of the answer is I like Swann; he is who I'd like to be, if one can so wish of a fictional creation. He is wealthy, he gets all the girls, he is socially accepted by the most "fashionable" in Parisian society, he is knowledgeable about art and is writing a piece on Vermeer and he falls in love; he is a sensuous man.

Part of the answer too is that Proust writes about art, about Swann's views of Vinteuil's sonata, about la petite phrase, and that interests me. Another part of the answer is that Swann is flawed and flawed about his considerations of art. He compares people he meets to paintings, he doesn't take his acquaintances as they are. He interprets them. In this respect, as much as I wouldn't like to be Swann, to Proust's credit, he's real.

And another part of the answer is I don't know why I like this passage—perhaps it's the silence of it—that I will always think of it is to Proust's credit too.

And Diane R. Leonard again,

"(Proust) thus puts into practice an idea that (John) Ruskin himself had elaborated in Sesame and Lilies:

And be sure also, if the author is worth anything, that you will not get at his meaning all at once ... Not that he does not say what he means, and in strong words too; but he cannot say it all; and what is more strange, will not, but in a hidden way and in parables ... I cannot quite see the reason of this, nor analyse that cruel reticence in the breasts of wise men which makes them always hide their deeper thought. They do not give it you by way of help, but of reward; and will make themselves sure that you deserve it before they allow you to reach it ... 

Apparently Proust was struck by this passage, for he comments on it in a footnote, observing that a beautiful book is characterised by ' ... sa noble atmosphere de silence, ce merveilleux vernis qui brille du sacrifice de tout ce qu'on n'a pas dit ... '(Sesame, p. 85, n. i) ' ... its noble atmosphere of silence, that marvellous varnish which shines with the sacrifice of all that has not been said ...'"

Notwithstanding, I like what I see. Overall I like Proust's style; I like his long sinuous sentences. I like his freshness of figural language but I'm a little bored with his numerous people in sickness similes; one knows Proust was ill and because of that he makes use of illness to make a reader see; however, this fault becomes a method of seeing, by contrast, what one likes in À la recherche du temps perdu: Swann listening to Vinteuil's sonata at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's party,

As though the musicians were not nearly so much playing the little phrase as performing the rites on which it insisted before it would consent to appear, as proceeding to utter the incantations necessary to procure, and to prolong for a few moments, the miracle of its apparition, Swann, who was no more able now to see it than if it had belonged to a world of ultra-violet light, who experienced something like the refreshing sense of a metamorphosis in the momentary blindness with which he had been struck as he approached it, Swann felt that it was present, like a protective goddess, a confidant of his love, who, so as to be able to come to him through the crowd, and to draw him aside to speak to him, had disguised herself in this sweeping cloak of sound.

Marcel Proust translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff.

Posted 3/8/2014 7:51am by Eugene Wyatt.

Now Dominique has a week to ready the barn for our scheduled lambing and the slew of babies coming; almost all the ewes are expecting.

I'm in New York at the Union Square Greenmarket and will break the market day at the Met seeing 19th century French photographs of Paris in the early afternoon.

For her break, Dominique will coddle the dozen or so unexpected lambs that arrived last week sired by a Saxon Merino ram who jumped the fence and was with the ewes for less than a day.

Posted 3/7/2014 7:06am by Eugene Wyatt.

Quiet :)

Posted 3/6/2014 9:00pm by Eugene Wyatt. 9:25 PM.

Posted 3/6/2014 7:56am by Eugene Wyatt.

Text from Dominique at 7:35 AM : No new lambs...


Music by Frank O'Hara, 1964

If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf's
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35c, it's so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
I must tighten my belt.
It's like a locomotive on the march, the season
of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter's
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they're putting up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
But no more fountains and no more rain,
and the stores stay open terribly late.

At 61st Street and 5th Avenue looking south toward the Plaza Hotel.

Posted 3/5/2014 6:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Dominique found him this morning. Oh well, he's a pretty newborn; but maybe he's a girl. I didn't look, but I will when I do a lamb check at 9 PM this evening.


A lamb is a lamb and he is a boy.

Posted 3/4/2014 4:15pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Twins. Hopefully these are the last lambs bred by the ram who jumped the fence 5 months ago pre-breeding. There was supposed to be a break after shearing before lambing, "No rest for the wicked," as my grandfather, Augustus Lee Goff (1876-1955), would have said. 

When one came up with an excuse, another thing he'd say, "If the dog hadn't stopped...(grandfather didn't say what the dog might have stopped for)...he would have caught the rabbit." When my grandmother heard this said in front of the children she would look sternly at him and say, "Lee".

The planned break between shearing and lambing was to prepare ourselves: readying the barn with 30+ jugs (we will have a week of ~20 ewes lambing a day) and ordering supplies that we will need, etc.

One of the things we need is ear tags; each year's lambing has a different color ear tag that we apply to the newborn. This year's tags (to be delivered this week) will be red and will be consecutively numbered. Last year's color was pink, the year before was black and the years before that were blue, green and yellow. Before that we used a different shaped ear tag. We like to know how old a sheep is at a glance; his or her ear tag number will tell us the lambing performance as we record the sire and dam of every ear tagged newborn and comment on the birth: date, sex and whether it is a single, a twin, a triplet, etc. This is the sheep's pedigree.

I will go to the lambing barn tonight again and take care of those who need it. If the dog hadn't stopped...


Lamb check at 9:20 PM: No newborns. The gestating ewes we lying about the barn or standing near the walls and were either chewing their cud or some were eating hay from the round bale; they were relaxed and barely moved out of my way as I walked through them with my flash light. Occasionally, I had to say, "Sst-Sst" to the sheep who blocked me and they would clear a path then stop after several steps and go back to doing what they were doing with that dreamy but inscrutable sheep look in their eyes. They treated me as if I were another sheep.

I slowly stomach-tubed (inserted a 14" long by 1/4" diameter flexible plastic tube mounted on a large syringe in the mouth making sure the lamb's head is back and the neck is stretched to prevent the tube from going into the lungs) 3 smaller and weaker newborn lambs in jugs with 2 ounces of ewe's milk. We will continue supplementing them every 3-4 hours on cold days until they are perky.

Then I turned off the lights and said good night; they ignored me and I liked that.

Posted 3/3/2014 5:47pm by Eugene Wyatt.

A two hour old newborn in a jug with his mother: a big and healthy Saxon Merino ram lamb.

When I returned to their jug, after looking at the gestating ewes in the rear of the barn, he was at her udder looking for milk. His mother is attentive and, as you can see, warily protective. Good signs, all.

This ewe had been a shark when twins were born this morning. A shark is a ewe who is close to lambing but before she lambs she claims another ewe's newborn as her own. If let be, she can drive a weaker mother away and the lamb can die. We fend off sharks: you wait, your turn will come and this is where a jug comes in handy.

Dominique said there were two sharks this morning so maybe we'll have another early gift.

Posted 3/3/2014 3:01pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Today, Monday, I'm in the house doing paper work and paying bills; maybe Dominique is home from the barn too—as she said—working on her taxes.


Me: Where are you now...

Dominique: Here w/sheep. No new lambs. Still freezing cold!

I looked at the temperature: 20F.

Me: I want to do a Newsletter & need some yarn to shoot; can you find several colors there in Lace, Fingering & Sport? Maybe some Undyed too...

Dominique: After I take care of the sheep; I'll leave it in the Shepherd's Room.

A little later.

Dominique: I spoke too soon. It's not over, maybe two newborn lambs...

I wait like a gestating ewe.

Posted 3/3/2014 10:56am by Eugene Wyatt.

Last night I found no new lambs born in the lamb check and those born earlier looked good as did their mothers, but Dominique found 2 sets of twins who had been born just before she got to the lambing barn this morning.

She dipped the lambs' navels in a 7% iodine solution which desiccates an entry of infection on newborns and she spray marked the ewe and her babies to identify them in case they get separated. Then she put the ewes and lambs in 4 foot by 4 foot jugs with 32" plywood sides that give them a privacy to bond. Finally, by pulling on the teat and squirting colostrum in her palm she determines how much milk the mother has.

A ewe likes to drink right after birth so we provide a pail of water and hay. The ewes and lambs will stay in the jugs for a day or two until we're sure they're bonded, healthy and the lambs are getting sufficient mother's milk.

Since Thursday evening, seven ewes have give us twelve babies and all were unexpected. Next year during pre-breeding we'll better maintain the fence between the rams and the ewes—that should keep Lothario away from the girls until it's planned.