When you look out across the road, to our pasture cut by the creek, you see a beautiful field of bright green and yellow WEEDS. As far as your eyes can see, weeds everywhere. I mowed them down and they came back. The horses won’t eat them. The donkey doesn’t eat them. They are taking over and the neighbors think they are beautiful.
They say the grass is greener on the other side, we have no grass. We have weeds.
There was grass, once upon a time. So I hear. Over grazing and under fertilizing took there of that pretty quick. The best time to sow grass seed is September, so I have a summer of weeds ahead of me. The pastures need to be disced, fertilized, sowed and watered. And rested.
Having 5 horses, a yearling colt and a possibly pregnant donkey is much better than 16 hungry mouths, but horses are grazing machines. They are eating, surviving machines. But not for weeds!
I mowed the high pasture yesterday, it really wasn’t that bad, I think I started early enough in the year. The pasture across the road is another story. It’s a jungle out there.
Sadie and I went to the dump today – finally. The old grill, a leaky toilet, three broken chairs, an old TV, a rusted feed trough, a roll of chain-link and a cabinet from at least the 70’s. Mom had at least 9 bags of trash ready for us, that went too.
We watched the toilet smash in the bottom of the dumpster, threw the chairs in after, and the glass on the cabinet broke into a million pieces like diamonds. The grill went last, it hung on for dear life but we conquered it.
We stopped to get gas, I began filling a 5 gallon jug for the 4-wheeler, and sprayed the stuff everywhere. Apparently Sadie had a hold of the hose, I missed the opening by a mile and wore the fumes all the way home.
As soon as I got the groceries in, we went off again to pay a visit to Rex Montgomery, who owns some of the most beautiful rolling green hills in the neighborhood. I backed the trailer up and we loaded 17 square bales of hay. It smelled like fresh grass, Spring air, dry hay and sunshine. I would have drank it from a cup if I could have.
Sadie and I got the hay unloaded in the barn and I hooked up the Quad Boss, our 4×4 bush-hog. I finished the front pasture in record time, Mom rode with me some of the way, then I went off to the next. We have 11 acres across the road, after the front pasture and the barn lot, the rest of the pasture is a large rectangle intersected by the creek.
I started on the section closest to the road, stirring up the horses to another grazing spot, before running over a big lump of hay string. It was almost 8:30 so I decided to call it quits.
After disengaging the blades, I drove over a step in the sidewalk to get a closer look.
Definitely hay string – and I was surprised at how badly the blades need sharpening. I think in the 10 months we’ve had it, we’ve sharpened them once. That thing gets a lot of wear, I probably should have done it before the weeds arrived.
Before I got the string off, Sadie shouted ‘fox!’
I jumped up and ran up to the chicken coop. Yesterday, in broad daylight, she saw a fox carry off one of my red hens. In broad daylight!
The ducks were standing at attention, the rooster was on guard and the hens were clucking to one another. I made a lap around the barn but didn’t see anything. I didn’t think I would – foxes are notoriously crafty. I set the live trap yesterday and caught Mama Cat. A fox wouldn’t be silly enough to end up in a live trap. All I can think to do is keep the flock up for a few days.
I got the string all cut off and threw it away. The mower, my boots and most of the 4-wheeler were covered in yellow dusty pollen I came inside to homemade tortilla soup, Sadie, my mom and happy Zoe.
You never know what can happen in a day on the farm, but I guarantee it will leave you with one big appetite.
Sadie was off work today, when I got home she had the shop door up and was messing around doing something I couldn’t wait to get into. I changed my britches, let the chickens out to pick and met her in the shop with a bucket of eggs.
“Show me how to work this tiller,” she said, dusting the hay off the bright orange machine we hadn’t used since last year.
With a full gas tank, the choke in the right position and the tines up, we couldn’t get it to start. We rolled the tiller down to the garden spot that Winston had dragged for us and Sadie called Joe Romine.
On her way home that day, Sadie bought a 50 pound grass sack full of potato sets. Her plan, before it got dark, was to till the spot, cut the eyes up and spread them over the soft earth, push them into the ground then cover it with straw.
Without the tiller, we were more than behind. Joe came right over and cleaned the fuel valve. Apparently, leaving gasoline in the tank then not using it for 9 months is bad for the engine. With a rusty can of starter fluid and a tiny gold safety pin, Joe had it purring like a kitten. Sadie took it for a few rows then I followed. We thanked Joe and as soon as he turned the corner, I popped the left tire. Casey and Zoe took off and I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner. Sometimes on the farm you make plans, and nothing goes accordingly.
Sadie said “Aw leave it!” and we started on the potatoes. We each sat over a 5 gallon bucket with a knife. The sets were already getting soft, roots had begun sprouting over several places. She showed me how to cut the potato so each piece had an eye on it, then we dropped them in the bucket.
The birds were still singing, and a good breeze was coming up over the front yard. It was perfect planting weather.
Typically, you want to sow your sets in early to mid-March, but we were only a few weeks off and it has been cool in the evenings. Sadie assured me that they would be fine. Once the buckets were full, and the grass sack empty, we carried the loot down to the garden spot and started slinging them out.
Let me tell you, just standing next to the spot, it smelled like the richest earth on the planet. Fresh tilled garden and cut potatoes – there is nothing quite like it.
Instead of walking over the potatoes to bury them in the soft earth, Sadie went and got the 4-wheeler and drove over them.
About that time, Uncle Rick came by and helped me haul hay up from the barn. We cut the strings and scattered the flakes over the sunk potatoes. As the sun reached the horizon, I drove over the hay a few times to settle it in and we leaned on his truck to admire our work.
After a while, I took the 4-wheeler down the road and found Casey trotting along. I chased her back to the house and went up the hill to find Zoe. Sure enough, she was on our neighbors front porch. He was skinning fish, surrounded by cats, and let me take home a bag. I told him I would bring him some potatoes whenever they were ready.
I put the cold bag of fish under my leg and Zoe hopped in my lap and we drove home. Rick offered us some shavings for the onion sets we plan to sow, we swapped stories over Sadie’s soup beans until after 9. I was tired, but it was that good tired, when your body tells you the day is done, your hands have fresh earth on them and your socks are full of hay.
We said goodnight to Rick, I put the chickens up and the 4-wheeler away, walking down the hill with the bucket of eggs. It was a full day, a wonderful day, and I’m thankful to be on the farm. I’m counting the days until that beautiful tilled field starts sprouting green.
We didn’t have a particularly hard winter, but I’m still can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that the sun doesn’t really set until around 8pm. I get off at five, let the dogs out, check the chickens, then mentally I’m ready to be done. But Spring is in full swing (hah) and Summer is on it’s way! There’s a lot to be done after winter finally disappears. If you have plenty of time and a few dozen extra able-d bodies, you can clear the fence rows and the creek beds before they explode in dense thickets of tangled, neon green growth.
Unfortunately, I have neither at the moment. Although since we have stopped feeding hay to the horses, I don’t have to break ice on water buckets or fumble with gates through gloved fingers, chores go much more smoothly. In general. There is always the exception where the horses won’t come up to eat, the chickens have knocked over their hanging water container or the dogs get out.
Now when I get home from work, I hardly know what to do with myself. Should I mow, catch my horse, take Zoe for a walk? Fix fence? Let the chickens out? I usually try and do all of the above, then find myself halfway through a project and the sun is gone, I’m hungry, and Sadie get’s home.
It’s like a game show: How much can I attempt to do before the sun sets? Who knows! Today I played fetch with Zoe, then headed up the road to help Uncle Rick clean stalls. He has three of the most beautiful Tennessee Walking Horses I have ever seen: Threat, PW and Reba. His barn is low with gravel in the hallway, two wash-racks, a closed tack room and three raised stalls.
He’s been helping Sadie and I cut and stack logs, he fixed the door that the wind got a hold of, and he and Joe Romine changed the oil on the mower and repaired the ATV. The least I can do is shovel some poop for him, plus his barn is always immaculate. He could charge admission to let people visit.
Threat is his stud, he is massive and a big baby. We cleaned his stall and spread some more shavings out. Rick measured his feed and I poured it in his bucket. PW is a jet black mare that Uncle raised from a filly. Cross my heart she hates everyone but him. As soon as I stepped in her stall she pinned her ears back. Rick told me she was bluffing, but I only halfway believe him. He walked over and rubbed her face, her neck and patted her side. She perked right up for him, looking as innocent as ever.
He walked out and told me to try. I took one step and she was back to wide eyed and angry. I’ve been around angry horses, but PW is big – she’s built like a locomotive and I was on her turf. Since Rick was standing behind me, I figured he could drive me to the hospital. “Step right up there,” he said. I swallowed and walked right up to her face. “Let ‘er smell you’re hand.” I raised my arm and she blew warm breath on the back of my hand. “Now pet ‘er neck.” I reached out and stroked her silky neck. She tilted her head at me, then went back to munching her hay. I started breathing again and I heard Rick chuckle. “Told’ya she was bluffin.”
We finished with her and I began cleaning Reba’s stall. Reba is the exact opposite of PW. She pushed her face right against my chest and sighed, letting my stroke her neck and scratch her ears. She is also my favorite because she has a designated corner in the stall for her toilet.
I dumped the shavings and we sat in the hall, listening to them munching away. Rick will tell you a good story if you don’t pressure him. You kind of have to act like you’re not expecting it. He sat on the step stool outside of PW’s stall and removed his ball-cap, scratching his hairline. I waited. He dug in his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He lit one and took a drag, squinting out the hallway to the 60 acres across the road, the old barn and the river bending away to disappear between the rolling hills.
After a while, he pointed a thumb over his shoulder to PW’s stall and said “That mare right there, she’s all heart.” I nodded, I was afraid to say anything. “I’ve worked her before until she was as white as she is black. When I’d stop fer a break, she’d wanna keep goin.” He told me about when she was a filly, when he first broke her to ride and how she would body block anyone else coming around him. The shows they have been to, and that during the training months, he would ride her 6 days a week until she was 900 pounds of muscle.
We watched the sun reach the far horizon, listening to the birds quiet down and let the frogs and crickets sing. The horses finished munching their hay and settled down for the night. With mud on my boots, shavings on my pants and dirt under my nails, I couldn’t be happier. Barns are the best places to end the day, to swap stories, and to enjoy the company of horses.
This is a letter Charles wrote in January of 1981 to his daughters, Melinda and Melissa Bingham. The return address reads “Glamour Manor” and it was written on the back of a Production Credit Association page, with ‘Eleven convenient locations, financing at reasonable costs and short term loans available for farm improvements, livestock, machinery and operating expenses.’
Dear Hearts and Gentle People,
Your Mother and myself got home Monday at 7:00pm. The Preacher’s muffler fell down Sunday afternoon just before we started up the mountain. Sadie was driving and it didn’t scare her or your mother too bad. Then the truck wouldn’t start. I had to use new jumper cables. Tied the muffler up with a coat hanger. After that everything went fine. Sadie’s house will pass a light inspection. I never was so cold as I was Monday morning. I slept on the couch, and when I got up the thermometer read 36 degrees that was in the kitchen window. Your mother and Sadie did fine with the electric blanket. We taped the windows with plastic, and covered other holes, that should help the house to stay warm.
We ate with Joe Monday night – ham sandwich, slaw, and potato salad. I have been washing Sunday dishes, and I think that you all are capable of doing some of the chores when you come for the weekend. Remember this is not the Hyatt Regency.
I’m anxious to hear about your school work, public speaking, sewing and your cooking. O! Melinda, the next meal at Glamor Manor you will fix, I will tell you one thing – you must make biscuits ! We (mother & myself) are doing fine on our diets.
Enclosed a small love offering for you all. In the spirit of true friendship, I remain someone who cares.
Just ate a cold chicken leg and it was probably the best thing that’s happened to me all night. Sadie knows what she’s doing, she could fry award-winning chicken in her sleep. Where did I leave off? Spring has sprung at the farm and it’s truly magical. Everything in sight is neon green, with a nice cool breeze and a clear blue sky.
The horses are certainly feeling their oats, they run across the field, over the creek and rush up the hill when it’s time for breakfast. Last night, I heard hooves going across the pasture. Even though I couldn’t seem them, I pictured all four of them bucking and kicking, running around each other like ballet dancers on a stage. And the donkey following along behind at her own pace, closing the curtain with a bray and a bow.
We decided to have a garden this year – with Nana in and out of the hospital, we debated taking the year off but Sadie and I both love it so much, we’re going for it. I need to get a load of sawdust to put the onion sets in, but the Explorer has a flat tire and our air compressor quit. Sadie picked up a new one Saturday, but I have yet to get it out of the box! It’s a work in progress.
Long story short, we fostered a goldie mix last fall, she was with us for almost two weeks and I fell in love. She belonged to a man who lived up the road and had been out of town that week, he took her back and I hated to see her go. She would get out from time to time and stop by the farm, she stayed with me one rainy afternoon when I was fixing fence, sometimes she would come by for a drink and a pat before heading on her way.
Last week, he drove by and told Sadie she had ran off again and he was going to get rid of her. I was in the barn, hard-brush in my hand and Tug dozing by the gate, when they came in to tell me the news. Scott took his ball cap off, scratched his head, and sighed. He said “I’m gettin’ rid uver, if yew wanner she’s yours.” I looked at Sadie and smiled, and that was it. “She’s dun run off, if yew finder yew can ‘ave er.”
Sadie walked him back to the road and I saddled up Tug and we went down to the red barn, I was grinning from ear to ear. We loped around in the fresh green grass, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. After we were both out of breath, we cooled off and headed home. At the end of that stunning, rippling green field, I saw a gold flash. She was bounding across the grass, head and tail up. I whooped and she ran right over, we chased each other back to the house and Sadie let her in the front door.
She’s been home ever since. I re-named her Zoe, because let’s face it, she needs to be the last animal we get for a while. Although between Sadie and I, that’s probably unlikely. She said “You can bring home anything you want, as long as it isn’t a snake.” Sadie has a thing for snakes, I have a things for wasps. We balance each other out.