Straying Around

I had a little fantasy when I first moved to the farm. In my dream-head I imagined that a stray animal would come to my door, and I would take it in from the cold, lonely nights it previously had, and it would live a warm, happy life with three square meals, belly rubs and a warm bed on which to curl.

This is what I got:

Gray Ghost and YarnCrazy ol’ one fang, with thumbs and ear mites. We adoringly call her “Gray Ghost” or “ow” when she gets too rough with the paw play. I guess in my fantasy, I neglected to specify dog because that is what I really had in mind. Dog.

It doesn’t end there though. Once Gray Ghost took over the house, (but not the payments, what’s up with that?!) another cat landed on our property. That would be Hans, barn cat number one. A few months after Hans arrival, another kitty plopped in for a visit life. We dubbed him Rainy and figured okay, that’s it, we have ourselves one house cat and two barn cats:

Hans and Rainy

So I thought we were all good and done with the kitty drop-ins, and my fantasy had been abundantly satisfied until this happened:

five kittens

A few weeks ago we found a tribe of kittens in our barn! We have officially become the kitty flophouse of our town. Welcome to the Kit Kat Lounge and Dance Hall…

Cat house

where kitty dreams come true and they all find warm homes. So for the past couple of weeks we’ve been trying to palm off cute kitties to friends and relatives. So far three kittens have found new homes before the snow began to fall. I’m glad for that. But we still have two hold outs:



For now they are a boisterous, playful pair of kitties. I was a little worried about the winter cold settling in before they got bigger, but they seem to be doing just fine. They have a constant supply of water, food and companionship. The Kit Kat Lounge is carpeted in fresh straw, and the Dance Hall above the lounge is the hot spot to be if you’re a big cat. Kitties are not allowed on the dance hall without authorization, supervision and proper i.d. We have our standards after all.

Our bouncer makes sure of that:

Rainy and TuxMeanwhile, I better keep my fantasy-head in check…because I don’t have a place for alpacas just yet.

Corn Flakes

There’s been lots of movement on and off the farm today. While I was in town, corn harvesting had begun. In fact, not just on our farm but neighboring farms as well. I’m realizing that I need to pick my routes to town carefully now so I don’t get myself squeezed in between combines and semi’s. My little car is no match for them. I’d lose if it came to a throw down. Word of the day, respect the tractor. So while I was having myself a nice Bloody Mary this Sunday morning and discussing business (Seriously, I was discussing. Business.) this shiz was going on:

Corn HarvestGolden corn raining down. I just happened to pull into the farm to drop off some supplies when the corn came from above. Good timing. I like big tractors strutting their stuff. Today I got the chance to get up close and personal with it all.

Corn FlakesIn the two and a half years I’ve been here, I’ve not yet been on site when the corn is harvested for one reason or other. But today, I stood under a shower of corn flakes! It really is a beautiful sight to see all that golden corn filter down and shower us with its touch. I got to see those kernels of corn make a journey from the field to the bin and on into the elevator:

into the elevatorUp it goes while Pete kept a watchful eye on the corns’ elevator journey to the top;

Elevator FarmerUh, turn around farm boy. You’re supposed to be keeping a watchful eye on the corns’ elevator journey to the top.

Semi truck corn harvestWhile we were standing around under a haze of corn flakes, this semi rumbled in. I know for some this may be routine, but for me I feel like I’m on a big field trip in the literal sense. It’s an impressive operation finely tuned between farmer, field and operatives coordinating the timing for when to harvest the crop. That has always felt like a balancing act to me, or a game of chance. And what with snow coming tomorrow…dang you played it close Pete. But you’re a farmer and I’m not. Today, non-farmer me turned my face up to the sky and gleefully felt the corn flakes fall onto my face, stick on my eyelashes, settle in my hair and catch in my clothes. I watched Pete’s face split into a big grin as he played with Bowzer under the spell of corn flakes drifting down upon us.

Bowzer Corn Flake Dog…and I got to be there.


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!


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