SYLVIA’S FARM by Sylvia Jorrín


The Journal of an Improbable Shepherd
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The delight-filled education of an out-of-the-blue shepherdess.

Not that there weren't travails for Jorrín, 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 Jorrín 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”), Jorrín 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 place in the world to be at night is in the barn.”

Fine-grained, honest rural sketches, on a par with Noel Perrin and Don Mitchell.

Pub Date: June 7th, 2007
ISBN: 1-58234-401-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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