Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Smell of spring in a rural small town

The other day I was outside and noticed that there was a scent on the air that was distinctly springtime in my small town.  It was the smell of freshly mown grass and fresh dirt mixed with an air of chain saw shavings from tree trimming.  It got me thinking, this is what small town America smells like.  You can walk outside or downtown, sit on your porch or just drive around with the car windows down and smell springtime in my small town. 

It also got me thinking about the sounds of springtime which mirror the sounds; the mowers running, slow idle sounds of cars on a leisurely drive around the lake, children's laughter as the elementary classes take walks through town for an adventure away from the classroom.  Sometimes there is the occasional zing of a bike pedaling fast through the streets. 

Out here on the farm, the sounds and smells are much more dependent on what I have done recently outside.  Nature shares her sounds with me as the pheasants ruffle their feathers making a sound that is similar to a drum roll.  The cackling they do as they talk back and forth to each other.  Sometimes there is a turkey gobble as the hens have made their nests in the windbreak.  I occasionally get the whiff of the farmyard that is freshly mowed.  But my most favorite smell of all is the smell when I walk outside after an early morning rain shower - like Mother Nature took a shower and got all clean to start the day.

So I contemplate how best to share life on the farm with you now.  My life has taken such a different turn in the past 2 years since I started this blog.  I am building a house from the ground up with a farmer friend who might ask me to marry him in the very near future.  He is the one who has been giving me the cowgirl lessons.  I have not had much opportunity for lessons lately but I continue to hone my skills in what I have learned - feeding calves their bottles, pitching hay, driving a tractor and checking cows.  Not much sorting, that has been getting done without me this spring.  I will try to come up with some fun stories to share with you over the next few months as I build a house and see a dream come true.  So stay tuned, you never know what might happen here in My Patches of the Prairie!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cowgirl Lessons - winter semester

The other weekend Larry comes with a different truck for us to go feed the fall cows and heifers with.  He said it was time for another cowgirl lesson.  It was the truck with the bale picker uppers.  Needless to say, I was not really sure what all this lesson was going to contain.  I am confident in backing up to a bale.  That was the easy step.  Then the real lesson started.

  Just exactly how far to back up so that when the bale arms were extended they were able to grab the bale at the right spot and lift it up.  There is a controller inside the truck that opens and closes the arms, it also bends them in and out.  I have decided that up and down would be much easier to understand versus in and out.  So after a few tries I was backed up to the first bale and managed to get the distance just right.  Then came the extension and opening and closing of the bale arms.  That was an interesting part of the lesson, how to know just when to stop the up/down direction and then closing the arms to grab the bale.

I was amazed at how the truck itself pitched a little when the bale arms started to pick up the bale.  Those big round bales are heavy; I knew this, but never expected it to raise the front of the truck up a few inches under the weight of it.  Bale placed on the flat bed of the truck with arms still holding it and away we go to the first group of cows; the heifers.

Once again, I learned that having a pocket knife is a necessary tool for a cowgirl because inevitably there is twine that needs to be cut.  Lucky for me, being without all the necessary personal equipment did not lower my grade and Larry was happy to share his knife with me.  Although he did indicate that he should probably get me my own in the near future.  After a few times of cutting twine off the bales, I have decided that a pair of heavy scissors would be much easier for me to manage.  I have not shared this with Larry yet and further it could be easily kept in the glove box of the truck so when I feed hay by myself it is there and I don't have to remember to grab them from another location. 

As I sat in the pickup for the first part of the untwining lesson I was equally surprised at how much the cows can push on the bale.  Before we were ready to unroll it, there they were munching on the outer bits of the bale.  Pushing each other, bumping the bale with their heads or noses, and the truck would rock like an old rocking chair on the porch.  Another challenge here is getting the twine pulled off the bale.  You would think that it would easily slide but apparently if the bale has experienced any freezing that almost glues the twine to the bale and makes it nearly impossible to pull off.  Here is where another personal piece of equipment is necessary; a good pair of leather gloves.  Using the controller one must reverse and lift the bale off the flat bed and place it almost on the ground in order to pull the twine.  Once the twine is all removed, there is a hook type hand held tool that Larry uses to loosen the outer layer of hay to facilitate better unrolling of the bale.  I have yet to get to use this tool since Larry is always there helping me with the twine and he just does it.  Old habits of old farmers.

The last step is the unrolling of the big bale. That is fun to watch because the cows are really ready for their meal and seem to be willing to help by standing on the hay and holding it down as I drive forward.  Course some are so rambunctious in the unrolling portion that they jump, wiggle, and kick as the hay is laid out in front of them.  One cow especially was so excited that she was running, jumping and doing a little dance as she followed the truck.  On a side note, one must master the art of driving while running the hydraulic controller to lower the bale arms

So with 3 bales delivered on my lesson I have passed another level in my cowgirl training.  Now the challenge is to put what I learned into practice and someday be able to go through it solo without any help from Larry.  Since my lesson I have practiced portions of this but have not attempted it solo.  It will probably be next winter before I get that opportunity.  Until then, I am slowly honing my other cowgirl skills that I have already learned.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Long winter's nap

Today I thought I should put to words what has been going on and how come I have been so quiet on my blog that I was encouraged to start by so many people.

The pumpkin patch did wonderfully this past fall with over 800 pumpkins harvested, over $1000 raised for breast cancer research and nothing but pure joy for me in watching them grow and bring happiness to so many people in the area.

The garden was over run with grasshoppers but still managed to produce cucumbers, squash and a few tomatoes.  Made some delicious pickles and enjoyed fresh squash off the grill.

I have also been dealing with health issues that have made me turn into a food nazi in such that I have to watch all things I eat which means I have to keep a running track of what I eat, how many carbs are in each piece of food I eat and watching what that does to my blood sugars throughout the day, before I go to bed and after waking up with 8-12 hours of fasting.  Needless to say, I am sick of salads, sick of trying to find ways to make food delicious and filling without the use of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes or egg noodles.  At this point nothing really tastes good; not even a Hersheys chocolate bar or a Snickers.  I treated myself to a chocolate cake donut the other morning and that was like melt in my mouth heaven tasting.  My blood sugar did nothing but rise throughout the day!

So in an effort to get back into the blogger saddle, I am vowing to share my story this year more regularly.  I am getting ready to start building a house with a wonderful farmer I met in 2014 after my latest divorce.

So keep tuned in and see what happens here in 2016.  Cats, farm, house building, whatever comes to mind.  I am vowing to be a better blogger in 2016.

Thanks for checking in.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Varmits on the deck

Last week on an evening I was actually home there was a bit of excitement at my house.  I was sitting in my office trying to upload pictures to facebook when I heard a horrible growling sound come from the living room.  I got up and came out to see what the fuss was.  There was Chevy sitting on his cat bench staring out the french door glass at some unseen enemy.

As I looked out the other glass door I could see the problem.  There on the deck was a raccoon eating the cat food it had pulled down off the ledge, spilling the food all around.  The raccoon was not very old, or should I say not very experienced, because it looked up at me as if to say (read in your best cartoon animal voice), "hey there, what's up?  I am just grabbing a snack since all the cats were inside, so don't mind me any cause I am not concerned about that growly cat on the other side of the glass."  Yes that is exactly what that raccoon said to me.  His face and body language spoke loud and clear.

So I calmly turned away from the french doors and walked across the house to the other side where my trusty 0.22 rifle was leaning against the wall by the other door.  I picked it up and walked back to the french door.  Now normally, the wiser wild animals would see me coming back and take off.  Not this guy.  First I walked over and switched the yard light on to illuminate the deck and west side of the house.  Next I came back to the french door, took the safety off of my rifle and slowly opened the door.  Again the raccoon looked up at me coming out of the door as if to say, "Oh you are back?  Look, this was just knocked over and me and my buddy here were passing by and figured if your cats were going to be that careless we could at least help clean up the mess."  The next thing he knew I was yelling at him to get off my deck and to stop eating my cat food.  The raccoon turned slowly to leave as I raised my gun to shoot it.  One shot laid it on the deck where it kicking its feet like it wanted to run but couldn't because his legs were now parallel to the deck.  Then I yelled again and told it to get off my deck because I didn't want to have to clean up a bunch of blood.  About that time I heard the 2nd raccoon exit stage left rustling the leaves of my pampas grass and taking cover under the deck.  When I looked back the raccoon I had shot was gone.  I looked beyond the deck and did not see anything dragging itself towards the windbreak so I figured it had gone under the deck to die.  Oh great, that is just what I need (I thought).

I got the broom and cleaned up the rest of the spilled cat food.  Picked up the dish and took it inside.

Sunday evening when I came home my worst fear that the raccoon had crawled under my deck and died was verified.  When I pulled up on that side of the house to unload the car from the weekend I could smell the distinct smell of death.  Great, I thought.  I took a walk to the gardens to check on them and on my way back I was surprised to discover that the raccoon had not in fact died under my deck but rather beside it.  Right there in plain sight.  The death beetles were already hard at work on the dead body but I couldn't have that stench right there by the deck where I want to work on my project for the next week or so; and I especially did not want it out where the dogs would easily find it when they got home on Tuesday.  So I grabbed a bucket and my shovel and removed the dead body from its resting place.  Cremation followed in the morning when the wind had died down and I could burn my trash.

So you see - you never know what is going to happen on the farm.  A lot of the time things go on all the time and I am just not there to observe them, but on the rare occasion I get to, I might just have a story to tell.

Gearing up for Pumpkin Season

I have not had much of a creative writing streak these past few months and for that I apologize.  Sometimes my stories just take a while to hit me.  Maybe it is because my creative energies are working in a different way.  Let me tell you what has been going on.

Firstly, I am working hard to be a master gardener or maybe I am just trying to be a better gardener.  Either way, I have 3 gardens in 3 locations this year.  This takes a lot of work and thankfully I have help where the biggest garden is located.  That is also where all my creative ideas have been working on other projects because by this time next year there will be the beginnings of a new house that I will get to call home and with that comes lots of creativity needed to make it comfortable, functional and easy to live in but not look like it is brand new out of a box.  But back to the gardens; I planted 200 pumpkin seeds this year.  Yes 200!  I have 100 pink pumpkins in a patch all their own on the East farm.  In another garden plot there I have 7 other varieties of pumpkins, none of them being the normal orange jack-o-lantern style.  At the farm I call grandma's, because that is who used to live there, I have another smaller patch of 10 pink pumpkins with a volunteer baby boo left over from last year.  At my house I have 2 patches of approximately 18 each of the pink pumpkins.  With all of the pink pumpkins growing, I have decided to continue raising money for breast cancer research by selling my pink pumpkins and sending the funds to 2 different foundations - The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation.  Between these 2 wonderful foundations I will split 75% of my proceeds of my pumpkin sales.  All of my pumpkins get to help, not just the pink ones.  My plan is to set up every Saturday morning somewhere in NW Kansas the 5 weeks prior to Halloween with the last sale culminating in a special presentation to a Lion's Club in Shawnee Mission, KS for my sorority sister, Kimberly Morrow.  So if you are in NW Kansas and see a dark blue hatchback with a royal blue canopy in a parking lot, that is likely me selling pumpkins.  Come and see what I have and get yourself a fun and unique pumpkin.  Look for banner too as it pictured below.  My fundraising website is listed on it and if you can't get to me to get a pumpkin, you can always donate to my fundraising efforts.

Secondly, my creative energy has been channeling into designing a house.  But it does not stop there.  I am trying to envision everything from the skeleton parts to the electrical and plumbing and just where all that will be located, how it all fits inside the walls and then once all of that is set, what will it look like when a person walks in.  Of course, I see a finished product in my mind, but making what I envision come out and appear in real life, that is the true challenge.

Third, I am trying very hard to find a creative way to make my life work.  I feel like I am stretched thinner now than I ever was when I had a child under my care.  I work 2 part time jobs and try to help my family and my future family on top of that which is another part time job essentially leaving me no time for myself.  My house is a mess.  The cats are almost certain that I have abandoned them and whenever I am home they are all glued to me like they fear I will disappear again for days on end.  No one ever told me when I was a kid that being a grown up was such hard work.  None of my teachers in high school sat down and told us what real life was like or all about.  That would have been a great educational tool to have but as I look back I realize, we were confident teenagers who thought they had it all figured out and that there was nothing we couldn't do successfully.

Finally, forgive me for the lack of blogs and quirky stories about life on the farm.  If anything has been going on, I have not been around to observe it and weave it into a fun little story for you to read.

Stay posted, pumpkin selling starts in about 6 weeks and surely that will bring some stories around.