farming, Uncategorized

A Sight to See

I had some very dear friends of mine come visit the farm the other day- she was in town to visit her father and brought her daughter along. We walked all over our 18 acres, up and down the hills, across the creek and through the chicken coop. We saddled up Sadie’s mare and I led them down the road. We watched the sunset from the field with the red barn, talking the whole time. It was wonderful to see them. And I hope they understand why I left a perfectly good life in Savannah Georgia to live on a farm full of mud, animals, mud, poop, mud and hay.

It made me want to see the farm from their eyes, to try and picture experiencing it for the first time. I grew up visiting the farm, we would come up over Christmas or on Summer Break. It’s always been beautiful to me, it has always felt a bit like coming home.But I can tell you what I thought when I first moved here, when I knew it would really be my home. It was something along the lines of “I have a loootta work to do” – in a good way. Inside the house, we had some major bathroom and kitchen renovations ahead. There was wallpaper in the bathroom, dining room, and the living room.We had way too much furniture in the house (which is not a bad problem to have), and it just wasn’t working.

Outside the house, I wanted to be in 12 places at once. I would start sorting one thing, and halfway through get caught up with another. I would look around and make mental notes like “Okay we need to re-string that barbed wire fence, I need to take that old tiller for scrap, which reminds me of the trailer frame behind the coop that needs to go too. I’ll have to get the trailer lights fixed. I can get a new shovel while I’m at Lowe’s, Sadie can go with me and we can pick out paint for the dining room. That toilet next to the chicken coop needs to go to the dump, so does that old Jacuzzi my Uncle salvaged from cleaning out a house years ago. I should mow. I should weed-whack the front bank. I should clean fence-rows. I should gather fire wood. It’s past lunch, I need to eat something.”

You get the idea. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to do anything and everything all at once. The first few months I lived here, I had enough money saved and didn’t have to find a job immediately. Those June days were long and full and wonderful. I learned a lot. I learned to wear the right boots for whatever job I needed to accomplish. I learned to drink a lot of water, a lot of Gatorade. It didn’t wake me long to discover that no matter how efficient I was, I had to stop and eat at some point.

There wasn’t really a routine at first, it was just all-out cleaning, sorting, and trips to the county dump. Sadie didn’t have to be at work until 11, so we would make breakfast for Nana, eat together, and feed the animals. Once she left, I went out the back door and stayed busy until 9pm. When she got home, we would eat together and I would tell her and Nana what I got into that day. It usually involved a trip to the dump, scrap yard, or thrift store, cleaning the barn, mowing, burning brush,going to the feed store, getting gasoline for the ATV, stopping by Lowe’s, you name it. After we ate I would stretch out in Nana’s bed, bone tired, and head spinning with what I could do the next day. Nana would pat my leg, smile and nod. She was married to a farmer – she knew.

I don’t want it to seem like Sadie and Jack did not take care of the farm. Don’t read this and think I came to the farm and saved it. It saved me. Sadie an Jack farmed together longer than I have been alive. They put out huge gardens, canned it all, cut hay off the pasture, raised battle calves, had goats, chickens, and a team of Belgian horses. They cut and hauled wood, my Aunt cooked for every church pot-luck, and my Uncle was a master carpenter. They were a force to be reckoned with, and I would not be here without them.

After my Grandfather died, my Nana moved to the farm. Then my Uncle retired and his health began to fail. He had COPD, which is a horrible thing. Sadie worked full time, cooked and cleaned and took care of both of them, and still managed to raise chickens and keep horses. I don’t know how she did it – I certainly couldn’t. Then my Uncle James moved in to help care for the farm, and really started bringing the farm back to life.

We lost both of my Uncle’s within 3 months of each other. That’s when I knew, I knew that I needed to move here and help. And I haven’t regretted one minute of the crazy, sweaty, muddy, blistered and splintered thing. Sadie has taught me so much in these past 20-odd months. She is a rock, and this place would not still be here without her.

My friends visiting didn’t know much of this, they didn’t see the old tractor we sold, the old go-carts I scrapped for metal, the dog-lot fence I ripped down one Friday afternoon with a crow-bar. They didn’t see the hole in the shower wall, the floral wallpaper, or the old blue leather couch that we replaced with a beautiful antique one. The hours my mother spent hanging paintings and curtains, cleaning window sills with toothbrushes, or all the gallons of paint my family went through helping me paint over old paneling, yellow walls and patched drywall.

They didn’t see the old trees or stumps we cut down, hauled, and burned. A pasture full of sleek Quarter Horses that my Uncle left behind, the 14 horses we sold to other families, or his big green truck in the driveway. I hate that they didn’t get to meet my Nana, her beautiful blue eyes or her soft, wrinkled hands holding theirs.

But they got to see the young green grass coming up from the ground.They saw the trees in bloom, and a house that has become our new home. They saw my 40-some chickens, our happy cats and dogs, our 3 shedding horses and our fat donkey. They saw a full and rushing creek, the knockout roses we planted around the house, the shed stocked with wood for winter, and a pantry stocked with canned veggies from our garden.

I hope they saw the beauty that I see. I hope they understand why I moved here, why I could never imagine leaving, and what I mean when I saw this place saved me. There is still more to do, there always is, and that’s part of the reason I love it. I am needed, I am grounded, and I am responsible for this land and these animals. I want to build stalls in the barn, I want to build a new chicken coop, to re-side our house and plant more roses. There are more callouses and splinters to come, and I am looking forward to every single one of them.

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farming, Uncategorized

Spring Planting

I bought some dormant rose bushes today – Sadie loves knockout roses, but a full-size rose bush is about $20.00 a pop. I went straight back to the clearance wrack, they had these little root balls wrapped in paper and plastic, with trimmed rose bush stalks peeking out of the top. The branches were covered in a think layer of wax, which helps keep the plant from blossoming too soon. I have been wanting a few roses to plant next to the shop since around Christmas, but Lowe’s didn’t start stocking them until a few weeks ago.

So I brought home 5 little baby dormant rose bushes, get this, they were only $5.00 a piece! Sadie likes to watch plants grow any way. I dug 5 little holes by the shop and spent way too long looking for small rocks to make a bed, and voila. A successfully executed project in less than half a day. I have not gotten mulch yet for them, that may have to wait until next month.

Unfortunately, Sadie and I do not spend a lot of time or resources on these type of ‘beautification’ projects. What I mean is, typically what we do from day-to-day is either playing catch up, making sure everyone is fed and watered, the firewood is dry, or the bills are paid, before we fall into bed and call it. It’s not a bad thing, I think we have come quite a long way since I have moved here. But it’s just where we are right now – so it’s nice to be able to spend a little time investing in something that will be really beautiful next year.

A few weeks ago, we prettied up the barn lot entrance, which Sadie had been wanting to do for a long time. We have a big, red gate leading to the barn and the pasture, so we framed it with lumber and it spruced it right up. Almost like something out of Kentucky. We were pleased as punch. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d have roses at the entrance of that too, although the horses might be tempted to reach through and have a taste-test.

Spring is coming to the farm, slowly but surely. The grass is poking through the clay, buds are appearing on all the ends of the trees, and just yesterday, I saw a few iris stalks coming up from outside my bedroom window. Tonight and tomorrow will be cold though, but at least the days are getting longer. I only have one big brush pile left to burn, the other two sites have been raked and combed over for nails. It’s amazing how many nails that old barn left behind. We still have several large logs up there from the post-Christmas work day, but I’ll borrow a tractor to push them all together so they can smolder down.

On Friday, Sadie and I went up to White’s Hardware and got 25 pounds of potatoes, our onion sets, bush beans and a few ounces of beets. Once we get the garden spot re-tilled, we will start those on the lower end. I walked over it today, all the dark, soft dirt is just waiting to be dug up.

Several months ago we raked bags and bags of leaves over it, which are mostly mulch by now. Pretty soon it will be time to turn the earth, and till, and plant, and pull weeds, then pull more. Before I know it there will be fresh veggies on every available table and counter space in the house, and mason jars taking up the rest. But not quite yet. For now, it’s nice to watch the world wake up from winter as it does best – nice and slow, with a new surprise to look forward to every morning.

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