Uh oh, I don’t know how the cattle will feel about this, but here we go:
This coming weekend, our old barn is opening its doors for a Cajun Fest! It’s been a flurry of preparation in the past month as we haven’t done something like this before. But it is a chance to do something that ties us into our community and hopefully introduce people to the agriculture lifestyle who otherwise may not commune with the cows. We just thought we’d add a little twist, hence…we’re going Cajun!
Yeah! It’s about time. It gets hot and humid here so why not bring a little more spice into the mix! Maybe the corn will finish off better. Maybe the cattle will start dancing. Maybe I’ll start dancing. Just don’t cross the line and fall into the steer pen!
I guess I’m getting a little excited about the event, but a little nervous too since we’re basically inviting the public on to our private property. And my personal space bubble is pretty tight. I mean Woodstock took on epic proportions. I don’t want Woodstock to happen here. I don’t want Yorkstock. I want a family-friendly, dance like crazy and eat some hot food kind of thing. In a rural setting. Appreciate the sky and trees. Let the grass tickle your toes. And oh my god I am Woodstock! Sigh. My parents wouldn’t let me go. I was only five. We only lived across the river. Mom, dad, why didn’t you let me go to Woodstock!!? (Dad did have a Volkswagen Beetle at the time. Very cool dad. It did have a hand strap onto which I gleefully hung. We have seat belts now. Not so gleefully fun.)
Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing the three wonderful bands we have lined up; J.J’s Zydeco Paydirt, The Cajun Vagabonds and The Cajun Strangers. All of this we’re coordinating with our friends at Hydro Street Brewery, and the Festival Urban Ninjas. Okay, two years ago I would not have imagined doing this. It took one move from Chicago to Wisconsin, and now I’m scraping barn floors and coordinating the barn cats to work in sync. It’s their job to get the vendor tables ready. This better be good.
The good news is, it’s time for the Steam & Gas Show! The bad news is, that means summer is winding down. But let’s get back to the good news, the annual Badger Steam & Gas show. Let’s hop on a tricked out ride and go! Good thing I had my John Deere hat on. I almost went with my Madeline Island hat. That wouldn’t have gone over as well. At least with my JD hat, I look like I’m knowledgeable about all things tractor. Which I’m not.
One of the reasons I like this show is that one of Pete’s relatives is an exhibitor there. So we get to hang out at their encampment. And party till the cows come home. (Not necessarily true, we did have to get home so Pete could feed the calves on time or else there would be a riot on the home front) The other reason that I like this show is that the exhibitors display all their engines within a lovely wooded area. It’s a delightful thing to take a walk in the woods amidst the whirring, popping and hooting sounds of proud, old engines.
It’s an odd thing to walk around in a bucolic, forest setting filled with sounds of industrious engines strutting their stuff. Behind every glade and tree you’ll find something twirling and whirling. Forest glade show offs!
I like the whirlygigs. Oh man, that’s so not technical. Good thing I have my John Deere hat on.
Here’s another big reason I like this show…between hanging out at the encampment and walking through the engine-filled woods, there is a giant flea market in an adjacent open field where by the way, lines of tractors are displayed for all to see. But the flea. Must flee to the flea. And walk up and down rows and rows of old tools, engine parts, enamelware, and so much more. It’s fun to walk around there and find something that you didn’t know you needed for just a few dollars.
No, I did not buy tools this time. But I did score a pair of Carhartt canvas carpenter pants for a few dollars which will only further the illusion that I really am a working asset on this farm. Funny thing though, when I was a teenager carpenter pants were trendy. Now they are a necessity. I can’t wait to get down and dirty with them.
Of course my afternoon here is not complete till I’ve seen the parade of tractors. I practically foam at the mouth when I see the big, old tractors heaving by.
This is when I leaned over to Pete and told him that one of these days I’m going to be driving his old Allis Chalmers tractor in a parade. While wearing my kick ass $8 flea market Carhartt carpenter pants. Whose side pockets I will fill with candy and kittens. And I will trick it out with some spiked wheels for better traction. See, I’m taking notes here. You just watch for me on the Allis. I’ll keep you posted. These guys can’t have all the fun!
What do you do when a farmer has a birthday? Well, one thought was to drive a ways to see a band play outside on a local brewery’s patio. That was a good idea. But by the time evening came, we were kind of pooped out from daytime activities. Birthday Boy Pete came up with a brilliant suggestion, “what if we have a picnic in the barn?”. Well of course! We don’t have to drive anywhere, I already had some snackies lined up for our original plan, and there’s a table out there in the barn just asking to be set.
And so we set:
It being a birthday, we decided to invite a few close friends:
If I had been on the ball, I would have outfitted them with some black and white party hats. I think they would have liked that. But alas, this was all last-minute. And in fact, Pete decided to make a run to town to pick up some food-to-go for himself. (Because what I had was too healthy for him. This is a common refrain.) As he made his fast food dash to town, I decided it would be a good time to pull out his present and get the table ready. Honestly, I had his present ready two months previous. It was a no-brainer. Can you get the theme here? Things are about to get a little squatchy:
Yes, my boy believes. And we have fun with it. But he never really had anything to publicly proclaim his squatch proclivity. Now his ag-related tee shirts are supplemented by a tee of a different kind. No Holsteins on this tee-shirt:
Next year maybe he’ll get a squatchy hat. Or squatchy socks. I can’t go wrong! Aside from squatch though, I really liked that we spent a nice evening in the barn. It was a pleasant, low-key way to celebrate another year going forward. Too bad Squatch didn’t make a showing. We would’ve made room at the table for him:
It was time for our annual off-the-farm vacation. This means heading up north to the Apostle Islands. This would make it my third annual trip up north. I do love my Apostle Islands. I have the tee shirts and sweatshirts to back up that claim. But this year felt different. Pete wanted to spend a day on Sand Island. A day. On a remote island. For a whole day. I felt misgivings clouding my thoughts leading up to the trip north. I couldn’t help but think of Shutter Island. Especially when the only way Pete could get us on the island early in the morning and picked up towards end of day was by chartering one Captain Bob. So now I’m thinking Shutter Island meets Gilligan’s Island with Captain Bob as our only means of salvation should anything go bad on Shutter, oh excuse me, Sand Island.
I was eager to explore Sand Island as much as Pete. It really does have an interesting history. Despite its remote outpost, families did manage to settle there year-round in the late 1880’s through early 1900’s. This I find amazing as the winters can be quite harsh, and ferry service to and from the mainland didn’t exist. In fact, even today there is no such ferry service, but there is Captain Bob who did graciously powerboat us from Madeline Island to Sand Island, which was about a 50 minute happy ride. It really was a lovely morning. The lake was calm, the sun was out and we had our maps, water, snackies and wine. Because there are beaches on that there island, and where there are beaches, there will be wine. And snacks. And horror. Oh wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
So Captain Bob dropped us off as we remarked “what a delightful beach”. Indeed. Okay Captain Bob, catch us at 3:30 pm! We’ll meet you on this here beach after we’re done exploring the old homesteads and lighthouse. Or so we hoped.
We shouldered up our backpacks and marched into the woods, and were promptly met with a volunteer park ranger who was adjusting her mosquito netting hat thing. My first thought was that she was tending to bees. A few seconds later, I realized mosquito netting is a necessity for basic survival on this island during this time. Despite long sleeves, pants, socks, boots and hats, a cloud of mosquitoes were our constant and annoying hiking mates descending on us in the seconds should we would pause to take a picture. So the key was to keep on the move, and move fast. We must reach the lighthouse which was a 2 mile hike. Not a far distance but far enough with an entourage of hungry mosquitoes hovering over us. My one hope was that once we got inside the lighthouse, mosquitoes wouldn’t be biting us. Surely, there must be some relief there!
True enough, as soon as we reached the clearing that opened to the lighthouse, the mosquitoes stayed back. But the flies took over. Aaack!! Flies covered our legs from ankle to knee. It was such an odd thing that these flies were particular to the lower limbs. Better that than up my nostrils I suppose. After exploring the rocky outcrops at the base of the lighthouse, we bid our flies goodbye and went into the lighthouse where we met up with our friendly mosquito-netted park rangers who were happy to talk to us about the family who had lived there and tended the lighthouse for many years. We were allowed to actually go up the lighthouse tower itself. Albeit, very carefully, in spirals; watch your head, don’t touch the lead paint, shaky railings, be afraid, etc…yeah, I’m loving this. Scary stuff just keeps getting better;
After our sojourn to the lighthouse, we muscled through the mosquitoes and hiked a bit down to another beach, and then back up to the trail leading back to the dock whence we arrived, accompanied by our mosquitoes. After 4 miles of the little biters, I ran to the beachhead and practically dove in the water to rid myself of the pesky beasts. Wow. I’m a wimp. There was more to explore on this island but I refused to go back into the woods once I rinsed myself of the nasty biters. But Pete was determined and ventured back in for one more shot of the last vestiges of those who once called this home;
The islanders had two cars that helped to shuttle supplies to and from the dock to their homes. They remain there still to this day. I’m sure there is more to see there on this island, but the mosquitoes drove us out from seeing more. We retreated to the beach for relief and to await Captain Bob. While we waited, I rinsed my buggy bites and got busy constructing a retreat should Captain Bob never show up. Neurotic me thinks about these things you know. So I built a nice, little beach house;
Captain Bob did pick us up at the scheduled time much to my relief. And we had a fun powerboat ride back to Madeline Island. Next time we visit such an island, I’m wearing mosquito netting from head to toe. And oh by the way, Captain Bob was cool, he diverted our boat so that we could see a bald eagle up close on one of the islands. Those are the little things that made this trip special. Thanks Captain Bob!
I’m just going to start with a little disclaimer here; if you don’t like clowns or if you have a clown phobia (Coulrophobia) it’s best that you just pass on reading this post. Because this post is pretty clowny. Now I don’t have a clown phobia, but I am not on the best of terms with clowns. I think they are at the very least annoying, and at worst just downright creepy. Thus, I try to avoid carnivals and circuses. I find something creepy and malevolent lurking beneath the surfaces there. That may be in part to reading Ray Bradbury and Stephen King novels. And just as I can’t help taking a peek into that world through their stories, I am tempted to draw in closer for a peek at those strange clown/carnival/circus images. But not for long. Just enough to look and run.
Yesterday, we stumbled upon a small town carnival. It’s that season I guess. We thought we’d just take a walk and poke into some shops of one of our favorite quaint towns nearby. Unbeknownst to us it was “Town and Country Days” which meant the carnies came to town. Which means weirdness has tripped in and set up shop with all of its bright colors, alarming faces, beckoning voices, and that carousel music playing over and over and over. Till you find yourself face down in the rabbit hole.
So then why, when we were perusing the shops amidst all that Calliope cacophony, did I stop and linger over this;
Nooooo! Creepy clown in a bin! He was sitting in a tin bin outside a very cool vintage shop on the main drag. And I had to stop and look at him. And then not only that…I played with him. He is no ordinary clown. He accepts donations. You put a coin on his scary palm, push down a lever in his back and his eyes roll up (yeah, just what I want to see a clown’s eyes do) and his mouth opens and the coin goes down the hatch. I couldn’t resist. I kept playing with it.
And Pete kept saying, “it’s only $5″ in his evil Come-Walk-The-Clown-Path-With-Me voice. Aaargh, something wicked this way comes and it’s here in our little town!! And my resistance is weakening. And so…
He is mine. Or is it the other way around??! What cracks me up about the receipt is that the store owner actually wrote “creepy clown” on it. I didn’t realize that until I got home and got a laugh out of that. I think she did that because I approached the counter holding it out in my hands saying “I’m taking the creepy clown”. I like a store owner with a sense of humor. I hope I have that same sense of humor when Creepy Clown wakes me up at night with its eyes rolled into the back of its head asking for coinage. I might then have to put it in the back of the closet like I did that time I begged my mom for an Alfred Hitchcock album. One listen and that’s where the album went. But it was great!
Anyway, Creepy Clown came home and I gave him a tour of the farm. Some of our present farm residents weren’t too sure of our newest occupant. Holsteins are pretty curious, but this time…eeh, not so much.
After the meet and greet, it was time to bring him to his new residence. That’s right, the Milkhouse. For some reason, it just seems right that he should be there. That is to say, far enough away so that he doesn’t come at me in the night, but close enough that I can gaze upon him and drop coins in his belly and shake them out of his arse once in a while. Welcome home buddy;
Funny thing is, after our farm tour I placed him in the milkhouse and put a quarter in him, pressed the lever, and corn kernels came out! Which goes to show, corn does travel. In one way, out the other! Ha ha, oh how degrading for the clown.
I really have to tell myself that sometimes. Stop scurrying around. Stop gathering nuts. Drop the stupid nuts and lift up your head once in a while and take a look around, you might be intrigued. Like Nancy Drew. And Scooby too.
I live in a township whose center is a mere 2 miles south of our home. Yet, my travels always take me north to where we declare our home city so to speak. And a nice, little city it is; with antique shops, a brewery, cafes, and yes a river runs through it. The mighty Crawfish in fact. I love that name by the way, Crawfish River. But that’s not what this is about. Let’s go 2 miles south for a moment. Because that’s what I did one day. The only time I go to our township center is to vote in the little town hall. Just a few minutes down the road and around the corner finds me in our little town of York where I dash into the town hall, vote, maybe exchange a few pleasantries, and then dash out again. Hop in the car and vroom home. Done.
But not this time.
This time, I had to stop, look and listen. I mean I did get in my car with every intention to vroom on out of there. But something made me stop and really take a look around. There isn’t much to look at, which is my point. I’m looking at what once was.
That “once was” thing is what I find delicious. It’s like brain candy, dipping into that bowl of imagination. What was it like back then? Who lived here? Did kids play on the road during soft, summer evenings? Gather with neighbors for potlucks? Was this once a bustling, little intersection? In my mind, it still is. It is still York, and it is still there. I’m proud of that little township. It’s enduring the years in a graceful state of decay where memories play in the mind for those who pause.
Mind you, this is only a snapshot of one intersection, while surrounding it are residences and farms that are doing all right, including our own. It’s just this one spot, the center of the township that stopped me in my tracks and got my imaginary motor running and the Mystery Machine revved up. That’s still keeping it alive I think. That and one other place if you care to stop, drop and roll:
It was truly a dark and stormy night. We were sitting on the front porch listening to the rain hit the leaves. Hans the barn kitten was nowhere to be seen. That’s no surprise as what right and proper cat would be out in the rain when he has a nice, dry barn in which to retire for the night. But then we heard a faint “waah, waah” float through the air. We grew still while trying to pierce the night with our ears for another sound. Pete thought it might be Hans in distress. So he took off looking for him leaving me on the porch still listening. And again, “waah, waah”. So I jumped up and ran in the house to see a happy Pete coming through the side door with a wet Hans in his arms. But Pete! I still hear the wah-wah sound. Go see! There’s something else out there! (and it better not be moth-man. Big Foot would be okay but moth-man, noooo.)
And he did. While I stood on the porch with one soggy Hans, Pete set foot out into the dark with a weak, battery-powered flashlight. I am going to have to make a specific battery run one of these days and buy multiples of every size. We will definitely not be making it through any apocalypse at the rate we’re going. Moments later, he emerged from the deep dark with one little kitten just as soggy as Hans. Behold!! Hans’s long lost brother! One litter removed that is.
It has not escaped our notice that Hans’s Mama has had another litter since the litter that gave us Hans. We only know this because she brought her new litter over for dinner one evening. And then promptly went back to wherever she calls home. We think it’s the farm down the road. Once in a while Mama comes back for a snack but we haven’t seen the kittens since their little kitty layover. Until that rainy night. Since then, this rain kitten has stayed with us, despite his big brother Hans tackling him, swatting him and generally giving him a bit of a hard time. But I did see them curled up together taking a nap on one of the patio chairs today. I’ve never really been around cats before, but damn if those cat clichés aren’t true. I see it more and more, and they do chase butterflies. And June bugs, bumblebees and any piece of fluff that drifts on by. Stop being so cute, I’m a dog person dammit!!
I don’t know how long this kitten will hang around with us. They seem to come and go, but I love having another one around, especially Clone Of Hans. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
If he does stick around, I will call him Rain. Because it certainly was raining cats and kittens that night, and this kitten plopped right into Pete’s arms.
Whitewashed, glass-tiled, cool in the summer, cold in the winter. That is the milkhouse that has become my studio where I hope to get back to my basic roots of drawing, painting, and at some point, printmaking.
And just in case you think this is all about my artwork, I'll be posting about daily life on a small, working farm as well. And since I didn't grow up on a farm, and have no idea what to do in many cases, you may find a few amusing anecdotes as I grow accustomed to life here.
This will be an evolving, and in all probability, ever-changing site as I figure things out. So stick around and let's see what happens!