After being in dormancy for much of the summer because they were so dry, our lawns are lush and growing by leaps and bounds. The past few weeks’ rains have given the lawns a big boot and It seems as though I just mow andt they’re several inches high again. I plan on mowing again this weekend and I think I’ll have to use the lawn sweeper to pick up the clippings. The clippings were fairly thick after last week’s mowing and the grass grew just as much this week.
I don’t mind mowing, but It’s getting to the time of year when it’s lost its novelty and I’m starting to count down the number of times I’ll have to mow this year. By my best guess it’s about a half dozen. Of course, the reason I will be done mowing isn’t one that excites me. I am not looking forward to the cold days that will put the lawn into prolonged dormancy. Once winter arrives I deal with it, and even enjoy it, but I wish we’d have summer first.
Brian and I went on a bike ride last night and Maggie and Minnie, our yellow Labs, tagged along, sometimes behind, sometimes ahead of us. We left Rosebud, Ellen’s golden retriever, behind in the outdoor kennel because she hasn’t yet learned to stay by us when she’s off of the leash.
Traveling the gravel roads on bicycle is a great way to see the countryside and get a good look at the crops in our area. We rode by one of my mom’s wheat fields which had been sprayed to dry it down, by our neighbor who rents her land. We plan to bale straw off the field after it’s combined. It looks like the straw will be fairly heavy, but not too heavy. Last year the rows were so thick that Brian had to walk in front of the baler to spread out the straw so it would go through the machine. Each year we keep a couple of hundred bales to use for bedding for our horses and sell about that much.
The wheat wasn’t the only golden crop we saw. A sunflower field a few hundred yards beyond it has begun to bloom. The sunflowers are behind last year, so hopefully we’ll get some warm days this month so they will mature before it frosts. The corn fields we passed also need some hot days to ripen before maturity. The fields we passed finally were tasseling, but the ears are tiny. The edible beans, too, seem to be a few weeks behind and, while the foliage looks healthy, there wasn’t a blossom in sight. Most years farmers are cutting the beans by Labor Day
While we were looking at crops during our bike ride, Maggie and Minnie were exploring gopher and badger holes. They also found some stagnant water in a drainage ditch they were romping by and decided to take a swim. Both came out of the ditch dripping dirty, smelly water, so they stayed outside for quite awhile when they got home.
When we got back Rosebud also was wet. She stuck her head in the bucket of water that’s in her kennel and sprayed it all overself. At least it was (relatively) clean water.
I’m suffering from rhubarb withdrawl. Our plants, which began yielding fruit in May, have gone to seed. I did get some jam made ,which we can enjoy this winter, but didn’t get any rhubarb frozen.I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to enjoy eating sauces, barss, cakes and other baked delights made from rhubarb.
Our strawberries got overtaken by quack grass a few years ago, so we are in between fruit seasons until the raspberries are ready. The black raspberries are loaded and should be ripening in the next few weeks. After that, the red ones will be ready. We should also have a lot of juneberries if the birds don’t get to them first.
Once the berry season wraps up, we’ll wait for our grapes to ripen so we can make some batches of jelly. The home-grown grapes make the best jelly we’ve ever eaten; much more flavorful than even the best brands we’ve purchased at the store.
After the grapes are finished, it won’t be long before we’re picking apples and plums and I’ll be digging out recipes to make with them. I guess given the amount of fruit that will be ripe for the picking for most of the rest of the summer, I shouldn’t be too disappointed about the end of rhubarb season. By the time it gets to the end of the fall apple crop, I’ll be hoping for a good, hard freeze.
This past Saturday we got a lot of chores on my list accomplished, including cleaning my mom’s chicken house and our horse barn. Ellen dubbed Saturday "Stinkereroo Day," which Brian and I thought was very appropriate. After a long winter the contents of both the chicken house and barn, were, to put it delicately, quite intense.
Though, neither chore is at the top of my favorites list of things to do on the farm, both come with the territory when you have livestock. Cleaning the chicken house, which, in my book, is worse than cleaning the horse barn, took only about an hour with Brian and I working together on the project. Once, we finished cleaning it I put a few bales of fresh straw in for the chickens to scratch around. Apparently, they were appreciative of our efforts because my mom said when she went out later to collect eggs they were singing up a storm while they pecked for stray wheat kernels in the straw.
Cleaning the horses’ barn took about three times longer than cleaning the chicken house, but fortunately, most of it was done with a tractor and loader bucket. Our horses stay in a big barn with free access in and out, so we only clean the building twice a year, in the spring and fall. We put on layers of fresh straw weekly which provide good insulation over the cement floor in the winter. Using the loader bucket cuts down on the hand labor and we only had to shovel on the last few loads.
As with all physical labor, I view barn cleaning as a muscle builder and calorie burner. Stinkeroo Day on the farm was a good workout and the smells, while not pleasant, were tolerable. Now, the smell that was wafting in the downtown air when I went out for lunch is another story…
The other day when I was putting Rosebud in her kennel because I was going to feed the horses, I started thinking about how much I had written about our dogs lately and how little I’d written about horses. That struck me as ironic because, while I like dogs, I’ve always considered myself a horse lover.
I started riding when I was five and my mom bridled my pony Flicka and sent me on my way. I "graduated" from Flicka to my brother, Richard’s high-spirited mare, Beauty, when I was 12 and have ridden horses ever since. I didn’t have formal riding lessons and rarely rode with a saddle until I majored in the Light Horse Management program at the University of Minnesota Crookston. Instead, I learned to ride bareback, gripping with my knees. Not depending on a saddle was a great way to learn how to balance. I also learned to never be lulled into complacancy when I was riding because Beauty could move lightning-fast. Just when I started to "zone out" she would see something to shy at and step out from under me. That taught me another less; how to get on from the ground bareback.
I’ve continued riding as an adult and am teaching our children to ride. Ellen, age 6, especially loves it and over the weekend had a big smile on our face as she guided Isabell, our 6-year-old quarter horse, by herself. I was at their side in case anything went wrong, but the pair did very well. Isabell, an always quiet, gentle horse with a sweet personality, seemed to be even more careful with Ellen on her back. Ellen, meanwhile, has the confidence to be the boss.
It isn’t just riding horses my family and I enjoy, though, it’s simply being around them. Sometimes we go out to the barn just to "visit" and to brush them. I feel fortunate that I can live on a farm and have the room to house both horses and dogs — and a couple of cats.