fall, farming

Flying South

This morning, I heard the geese before I saw them. They flew in from the northwest, calling to one another, flying that classic V formation. Then they wheeled around back to the north and disappeared from view. At night, I hear the owls hoot and the coyotes yip and howl. The sound of crickets, frogs and cicadas, which is usually deafening, has grown quiet. And there are only a handful of fireflies above the fields in the evenings.

The leaves are rusting on the trees, dropping off the ends of limbs and floating to the ground. The grass only really needs to be mowed every 12 days, instead of every 5. Even the weeds are slowing down. I cut down the last of the okra on Saturday, so the garden is officially done this year. It feels strange. I miss strolling up and down between the rows of beans and corn, seeing the bright green and growing things, as if it was a different garden each day.

I’m already planning next years garden – of course. We need to move several trees that provided too much shade for the far end. I need to space out my tomatoes more. And I will definitely, definitely plant sweet potatoes on the upper end. That way, the vines can run all through the pasture, instead of through the beans and corn and okra and tomatoes, keeping me from tilling in between.

We had some good yields, but more mistakes than victories. I don’t mean that in a glass-half-empty kind of way, it’s just the truth. There is always more to improve with a garden. There is always something else to learn and tweak and change. We planted too many potatoes and tomatoes, but the zucchini barely came up at all. And all the beets we canned ended up spoiling, so those two rows were completely wasted. But we did plant bush beans this year, instead of white half-runners, and I can’t tell you how much time we saved avoiding all those bean strings when it came time to break. Overall, it was a great summer – we had lots more rain than we did last year, which kept it from getting to dry, and will continue to help our pasture recover from being overgrazed.

I love summers on the farm. I love staying outside past 9pm because it’s still daylight, and it just seems a shame to miss something by being inside. I am not a fall/winter farmer. I don’t like pumpkin flavored things. We don’t even have any pumpkins because I neglected to plant any. The leaves will turn beautiful shades of yellow and gold, but then they turn brown and disappear. I won’t hear the wind rush through them, or see the sun filter down to the ground in dapples of gold. And I dread the days getting shorter and shorter, until it seems there is barely enough time to be outside at all.

Fall comes whether I want it to or not. It is time for the land to rest. Soon, I will be stacking firewood and digging out all the sweaters I put away this spring. It will be time to clean fence rows and replace bent t-posts, instead of mowing and pulling weeds.

I will hold my coffee cup a little tighter in both hands, watching it and my breath evaporate in the cool air on my way to the coop. The horses get frisky and woolly, the chickens molt and enjoy a much-needed break from the heat. There will be more time to linger at the dinner table, or sit on the back porch, to visit with neighbors and talk garden plans for next year. Fall is a good thing – each season is not more important than the other. But doesn’t mean I can’t have favorites.


fall, farming, Uncategorized

Sick Day

Well I’m still here, it’s been so long I’m not even sure where I left off. But I’m sick today, home with some kind of sinus thing. It’s just after one and I am already done with it. I’m in bed with two cats, Zoe is sleeping on the couch, and from the windows I can see the birds at the feeder and the studs grazing in the field.

Sadie let the chickens out this morning, the ducks waddled right over and are enjoying the weeds right outside. It wouldn’t be so bad, but all I can think about is the mowing I want to do, the cleaning I probably¬†should¬†be doing, and all the much more fun activities that are outside.

Thinking back, I haven’t been sick in about a year. I think there’s something to say for fresh county air, sleeping like a baby, and a diet of mostly home-grown veggies. (I spent so much time planting them, of course I’m going to eat them). Maybe I can catch up on some reading. It is rather overcast today, I’m trying to trick myself into thinking there’s nothing else I could be doing.

Speaking of veggies, the garden is about completely done for the year. It goes so fast I can hardly believe it. We need to dig a few potatoes, pick a few more peppers, and it’s a wrap. Honestly I can’t believe it’s over. You don’t realize how much time you spend in the garden until you don’t need to, then all of a sudden Sadie and I have a nice dinner, watch some Olympics, and sit on the front porch until the moon comes up.

Fall is on it’s way, you can feel it in the air. I’m not ready for the leaves to fall yet, but if I have learned anything from living on a far, it’s that there is a season for everything. You can’t have one without the other, it’s a balance. I will miss time in the garden though, it is ready to be mowed again and left to rest. That’s what Fall is, a time for rest. Sadie and I will have more time to ride, which we really haven’t done in ages. And I miss that too.

But for now, all the critters are showing me the best way to get better, and I think that includes a nice long cat nap.


chickens, fall, farming, hay

Hay, Woah

This morning, after a weekend out of town, I woke up and fed the dogs and cats, then headed up to see the chickens. I filled the duck bath and brought 3 eggs back down with me. Farm life resumes whether you are there for it or not, but it was nice to come home and feel like I hadn’t missed anything. Sadie told me the neighbors were planning to cut square bales of hay that afternoon, if we wanted any for the winter, we needed to bring the trailer out. I left work a little early and got home to see our trailer parked near the barn, stacked to the top with fresh-cut hay. I changed out of my office clothes and grabbed an apple to munch on the way to the coop.

I let the chickens out to pasture, then let the hen and her 2 chicks out to explore the yard. I named the babies Zelda and Zoe, because hopefully they are the last ones of this year. The chicks learned how to take a dust-bath, which was kind of hilarious to watch.

Sadie and I then walked to the barn and looked over the hay; it’s about as fresh as it gets. It smelled so sweet, and dry, and most of it was still green. Inside the hall of a barn was a trailer twice the size of ours, stacked across almost the entire aisle. Well, we certainly had enough for the winter – 175 bales in all.

Since our neighbor is keeping a horse in our barn, he came to help us stack it. We unloaded our trailer first, and cross-stacked the bales in the corner of the barn. Up and up, I couldn’t even tell you how high. Once our trailer was empty, I climbed onto Joe’s trailer and started throwing the bales across the aisle to the other stack. Sometimes they landed, sometimes they rolled off. Soon, we got sweaty. Little innocent broken pieces of hay started sticking, and then its in my hair and down my shirt and poking my socks inside my boots. The bales are dusty and heavy, bound in dull orange string for your hands to slide under. Grab, lift, sling, stack. The barn became filled with the sent of sweet, cut grass. We made a sort of ladder so I can get to the bales on top, with Fall coming on the breeze, that won’t be far away.

We stacked until the sun went down, and it became too dim to see. The important thing is we have hay, and the second most important thing is that it is high and dry, out of the weather and away from hungry mouths. The dogs and I rode in the back of the hay-strewn trailer up to the house, and I realized it was the first hay ride of the season. I took my boots off in the kitchen and left a pile of hay by the table. My fingers, arms, shoulders, and back felt tight like baling twine. My arms were scratched and my neck itchy. I laid back on the cool tile and Casey came to lay with me – muddy from the creek. Sadie walked into the kitchen and thought I had passed out, it scared her so bad I had to swear I would let her know next time I wanted to lay on the floor.

We decided – well, I decided, – that we should have BBQ Chicken for dinner. It was almost 9 and I could just about taste it. Sadie yelled at me from the basement, and I put shoes on to head down there. Apparently the freezer wasn’t running. This isn’t any ordinary freezer, it’s the legendary basement freezer where they would put bodies if it was some kind of horror show. The light wasnt on, there was no humming, and it was about to be a very long night. We found and extension cord and ran the freezer plug to a new outlet, just in case all of the electrical work we’ve had on the house somehow affected the basement wiring. No luck. Sadie went to the shop, cats in tow, and brought down another extension cord.

With her in the basement and me upstairs, we tried running the two extension cords up to the living room where we knew the plugs definitely worked. After some weaving, we ran the cord back up the stairs, under the door, across the dining room and into the living room. I went back to the basement and held my breath: we heard the freezer humming. “Does the light come on?” Sadie shouted down the stairs – it took a second to lift the lid up because the handle is broken, but sure enough, the light came on. I sent the news upstairs to Sadie and she said “Haleluijah!”

We had grilled cheese for supper, the BBQ chicken can wait for another night.