Tractor-Head

Among a number of tractors, Pete has one in particular of which he is most fond. Allis Chalmers wd45 It is an Allis-Chalmers WD 45, circa 1950s. He grew up riding on it with his dad. Every time we happen to see an Allis-Chalmers tractor somewhere, comparisons are made; the model, the make, the year and the color. Especially the color. Is the color correct? That is important. There is a trademark color for tractor brands and if you are restoring one, then you better get it right or go home.

For about the past two years now, on our way to visit our Portage friends, we kept passing by a house that had a restored Allis-Chalmers tractor sitting in its front yard. And with each pass, our conversation rarely varied. It usually went like this; “It’s still there”. “Looks just like mine”. “The color is correct”. “It’s still there”. Two years. Same tractor. Same conversation.

Well, not too long ago, one of our Portage friends gave Pete a call to tell him that the tractor that elicited so much scintillating conversation is still there, and is up for sale.

Guess who bought it.

Now “It’s right here”…next to the other Allis. Two Allises. One farmer. And one farmer’s wife who is now scheming how to take over one of them and make it her own. I mean really, does he need two? Two Allis ChalmersSure, I get that he wants to refurbish the old one and use the new one while old Allis is being upgraded. But I see room for possibilities here. I’m thinking big. I’m thinking I’m going to be driving that nice, shiny tractor in a vintage tractor parade some day. Barn kitten and AllisPardon the gratuitous cat photo. That was bound to happen. Allis dramaAnyway, back to my big plans for tractor and me. Allis and I are going to go places. We’ll start local. Maybe the town’s Fourth of July parade. Then we’re going to practice our steps and work our way up to the Steam and Gas show. Maybe get on the cover of a vintage tractor magazine. Maybe work a barn cat into the cover. Maybe that’s too much. Delete cat. Focus on tractor.

I’ll also need to focus on learning how to drive said tractor. I’ve only been on the old Allis once. I nearly pitched my husband off the back of it. Ha ha, that was fun. Fortunately he has a good grip on things. So, it’s back in the saddle for me. I’m determined and excited about this new venture. Baby steps though, I’ll start with a tractor whose pedals I can actually reach; Toy Allis-ChalmersYeah, the prospects are promising. That shiny tractor will soon be mine.

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

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