Falling isn’t easy

Here we go again, moving from summer into fall whether we like it or not. I do love the change of seasons but there is a mournful feeling about leaving the warm days of summer behind for the chilly season of fall. But somehow we slip into it and embrace that crispy air and crinkly crunch of leaves underfoot, along with the promise of pumpkins, squash and apples. And tales of ghosties around the campfire. Here I go again with the ghosts. Speaking of things mournful, I do mourn the seasonal loss of my studio. To refresh you, my milkhouse is only a warm weather studio. In the winter it becomes a skating rink if you’re into skating very tight rectangles. So come fall, I look upon it and want to cry, and try to relish the few remaining days before I move everything to warmer quarters and close the doors tight till the following spring.

Milkhouse Studio, Fall

With warm weather running short, I made fast and grabbed a little bit of time just to be there in the studio and sketch. I feel I haven’t done enough of that this summer. So I’m desperate. Just let me hold on to a few moments in the studio while the glowering sun sinks to the horizon. That’s the best time for me to be in there. That glow just warms me up to the point that I just want to sit and stare at the light playing on the walls. I have to shake myself to get back to sketching. Because that’s where I’m at right now…just sketching. Working up new ideas or returning to unfinished thoughts. Perhaps it’s just the impending season, but who should I return to but my old buddy Primitive Guy: Really? I still can’t get over him? Nope, not yet. He still haunts me after a couple of years. I’m not done with him yet:

studio sketch primitive guy

Or perhaps he’s not done with me. Yikes. Make to the Mystery Machine everybody! Oh man, how did I sequeway from sketching to a 1970’s cartoon?? Easy, it’s all a mystery. And that’s what Fall is about, the mystery of the season…transitioning from uplifting light to impending darkness. And so we make ready to light the lanterns and tread carefully for the shadows that grow in its stead. Relish the harvest but heed the dark. And for goodness sake, tell me a good ghost story!

My Pocket Farm

The other day I went out and bought my own farm. I decided I couldn’t do without another barn and a few more animals. Hence: ToyFarmI’m very proud of my little farm. It’s built of solid wood and though a little worn on the edges, fits into my pocket quite nicely. The barn itself features a gambrel-style roof and the iconic barn red siding. Classic. For the purchase price of 4 dollars and 50 cents, it even came with its own animals. We have here a pig, sheep, hen and what I’m guessing would be the barn dog. Or wolf, I’m not entirely sure. Land purchase comes separately. Fortunately I have desk space so I bowed out of the land option. ToyFarm and ChickenI’m expecting great things from my recent purchase. At the very least, some fine wooden eggs, woody wool and plank-board pork. And companion wolf. Or dog. Still not sure which. There is one, little thing missing which would surely have driven the price up to 5 dollars had it been included: Holstein Steer PenYeah, that’s right. One, mighty Holstein. This one is having a beef with me for not being represented when I broke the news. “What??! What kind of pocket farm are you running without a piece of this?” he said to me as he came running full tilt. I made a swift apology and a fine jump over the fence to safer pastures. So, I guess I’ll be on the lookout for a barn-board bovine to add to my pocket farm. If you happen to see a little piece of black and white spotted wood vaguely in the shape of a steer, I’ll take it. Anything to stop one of these guys from following me to work and giving me the evil steer eye. Steer Eyes

One Fine Fest

Yesterday we hosted the first annual Cajun in the Country Festival in our barn. And it was good. Or at least I hope so. I was a bit nervous about having an indeterminate amount of people converging on our property not quite knowing what to expect. But let me tell you something, the Cajun music followers are wonderful.

cajun seating barnI loved it! They brought their lawn chairs and made themselves quite at home. Or quite at barn. Good thing because the day started off a bit rainy, but that didn’t stop the fest. The barn kept everyone dry and the bands played on. Speaking of bands, we had three great bands that played their hearts out; Cajun Strangers, Cajun Vagabonds and JJ’s Zydeco Paydirt. I was amazed at how some people can so fluidly dance to this music. If you’re anything like my husband and myself, best get a dance lesson from Karen who helped walk us through the moves. I think I need a little more practice on that front.

Cajun Strangers

Cajun Vagabonds

JJs Zydeco Paydirt

Accordian Cajun Vagabonds

I’m not going to pretend that I know Cajun music all that well. I know that I like it, love it in fact. But I don’t know the intricacies as this gathering did. So I pretty much watched and listened in amazement. And I’ve never seen so many cowboy boots in this barn before. I think I got a little too entranced by cowboy boots.

hot red boots

Karen's Boots

Brown BootsStop the madness! Your boots are intoxicating! I’m trying to pay attention to the music but I see these great boots walking! And all of a sudden I’m crawling on my hands and knees begging to touch boots. Something’s wrong with me. But come on, can you blame me? Oh sigh, let’s move on before I hyperventilate. Let’s talk about the great people who showed up, every one of them. We’ve gone from bands to boots and now to the people. Everyone one was so amazing and courteous, as well as just plain fun. Thank you all for showing up.

farm friends

Bands, boots, people and oh yeah! Food! Good stuff…the pig was roasted right on the property, diligently tended to by Warren and his trusty dog Maddie. They both stayed by the pig overnight catching pig-naps in their tent. Or the truck. I’m not sure which because I was sleeping. In the house. This is the first time I ever saw the pig roast process from start to finish. And now that the pig camp is gone, I miss it. I miss Warren and Maddie and the whole set up. Come back. Next year. Tomorrow. Now.

pig prep

It wasn’t all about pig though…we had some good beer, wine and alligator jambalaya! What? Alligator in Wisconsin!? Who cares, I had to have some. And I did and it was good. Oh and there was an after-party at the Hydro where we then had a hefty plate of  Crawfish & friends (potatoes, corn and bread). I think Wisconsin just shifted south a few latitudes. I don’t mind that.

I could go on and on about the day but it’s time to wrap it up. The barn is cleaned up now, things are back in order but I already miss it all. If things work out…perhaps we’ll see you here next year. I sure hope so…just put your cowboy boots on, we’ll be waiting…

Nicki bar

Crawfish Crossing

Uh oh, I don’t know how the cattle will feel about this, but here we go:

Crawfish crossing sign

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!

The Farmers Line

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.

tip the bandAnd if you happen to come, I’m going to be there at my little Milkhouse Studio table. Look for the milk bottles.

milk  bottle tablueMeanwhile, happy dancing till the cows come home!

A Steam & Gas Afternoon

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.

Badger Steam & GasOne 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.

Badger Steam & Gas woodsIt’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!

Badger Steam & Gas whir

I like the whirlygigs. Oh man, that’s so not technical. Good thing I have my John Deere hat on.

Badger Steam & Gas whirlyHere’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.

Badger Steam & Gas toolsNo, 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.

Badger Steam & Gas parade

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!

Badger Steam & Gas, spiked

A farmer’s birthday

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:

Pete's Birthday table setting

It being a birthday, we decided to invite a few close friends:

Birthday Holsteins

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:

Pete's Sasquatch gift

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:

He believes

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:

Birthday Barn Meal

My visit to Shutter, whoops, I mean Sand Island

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.

Sand Island Trail MarkerI 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!

sand island light houseTrue 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;

light house stairsAfter 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;

Sand Island CarsThe 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;

Sand Island Beach House Front

Sand Island Beach House BackCaptain 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!


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