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.
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.