Winter wheat. The name seems deceitful somehow. We’re just crawling out of one harsh winter, and yet I’m watching for Winter Wheat. Because that is what I have been tasked to do, check on the Winter Wheat status. Walk the field so to speak. For Winter. Wheat. And why the heck do they call this wheat winter?? Please tell me…oh, because it gets planted in October and lays in wait underground during the cold months of that very season. Come spring, it wakes up and says, “hey, I’m alive” and pokes its little, green sprouts up through the warm earth. Kind of like us shedding our heavy jackets, sprouting our heads out the doors yelling, “free, free at last!”
It’s still too early to totally ditch the cold weather mentality. Or maybe that’s just me and the wheat. Because field check revealed sparse growth and I’m still wearing my stupid puffy vest. But it is happening. There are green rows rising up in those fields, and I am daring to shed my puffy vest. And if you look closely enough, it is happening, spring is happening. And I am so grateful.
Ahhh, Prairie Fume, my favorite Wisconsin wine. It’s a lovely wine to sip while sitting outside on the porch under the warm spring sun as the prairie doth fume;
That would have been a very fitting scenario, but I didn’t have the wine on hand, and didn’t know the fields were on fire, and never really connected Prairie Fume with the Latin “Fumare” until just now. 7th Grade Latin class was a very long time ago after all. Pete just happened to come in the door and casually mention, “do you see the smoke?” AAAck! How can you casually mention smoke when you have several wood frame buildings on your property?! Spit it out man, what smoke where??! I maintained exquisite composure while I dove for my fire extinguisher.
Never mind…it is simply a controlled fume. Nothing to see here, everyone go home. But I was intrigued. I’ve seen controlled burns in California and it always left me uneasy. Fire and control are two words that never really seemed to go together. So of course I had to go and have a closer look. Which meant trespassing beyond our field and on to someone else’s field. And that someone else was doing a controlled burn along their fence line. I guess one does this for a variety of reasons ie; clearing the undergrowth, aesthetics, burning down the house. I’m just glad that the wind was in our favor or I would have been very nervous indeed. Don’t make me get out ye old water buckets.
But it’s all right, I hope the burning man accomplished what he needed to do, but next time I hope he chooses a less windy day. I’d hate to have our scorched earth on the next Prairie Fume wine bottle. (Although I’d be very intrigued how that might look!)
Spring is in the air, and I keep thinking of vintage campers. In my dream-head, I would find one and rescue it from lonely abandon. I would spruce it up, give it a snappy makeover, hook it up and head for the hills. In my reality-head, we have enough fixing up to do around here without taking on another thing of sorts. In fact, this morning we drove into town to have a look at a vintage stove we’ve had our eyeballs on for the past two years, quite determined to bring it home with us. As we drove our merry way to Town & Stove I happened to see my camper up there on a hill, sitting forlorn and abandoned amidst a group of pines. What!? Wait! “Uh, Pete, can we drive back this way on the way home?” “Why?” “Uh, so I can go and look at that scary camper on that haunted hill?” (My cult movie drama gene kicked in at that point). But Pete played along. So on our way back with a 1950s (we think) stove in the back, Pete parked the truck on the road and I clambered out wondering if I should worry about Cujo or shotguns. Really, I honestly didn’t know if someone actually was living in it, using it as a meth lab, or as storage for the undead, and it’s really none of my business. But I was going to go up haunted hill to find out. Cause that’s what Nancy Drew would do. Except her friends would come along with her, whilst my Pete stayed in the car and ate a sandwich. Remind me to revoke his detective license.
Up the hill I went, and believe me when I say that I scanned the ground for fresh tire tracks, footprints, Cujo scat and candy wrappers. Nothing. No low growls, so I crept closer. Got braver, got closer. Still nothing. No angry zombie-campers, still good. Closer. Okay, that’s enough. I’m not sure what to make of this. Who parked this thing here, why, and what kind of shape is it in on the inside? It looks like a Shasta. Acts like a Shasta. Wants to be a Shasta. I think I’ll keep my eyes on the Camper on Haunted Hill and see how long it stays there, or if a for sale sign pops up.
It’s common to find the random nickel or dime in the washer basin. It’s also common to find pieces of straw and kernels of corn. I like the cold cash finds better because they can go into our little, plastic bucket of change upon which some day we will retire. Right. But today I opened the yawning jaws of the washer to find something else:
Washers in the washer. Excellent. First one, then the other and then the other-other. So I’m thinking, “Makes sense; bib overalls, pockets, stuff in pockets, washers in pockets, washers in washer”. So when Washer Pete came in from the cold today, I presented him with my find. “Oh yeah” said he, “that’s $60 worth of repairs”. Huh? Apparently, something needed fixing, and it cost $60, and these were the parts that needed replacing. So now that they are replaced, they’ve been laundered and are squeaky clean. A clean $60. Which begs the question;
Did I just launder money?! Did I do something illicit? But more importantly, can I somehow fashion this into jewelry? Dark winter nights can drive one to points of no return such as this. And I may do just that. Oh may spring come soon…
Seems Old Silver isn’t going anywhere right now;
It threw a hissy fit and a tire. I can’t say I blame it. We can’t seem to get above freezing here. I would like to throw a hissy fit too. All I ask for is 32 degrees and a palm tree in my front yard. Meanwhile, I’m eyeballing that trailer and thinking, “Airstream”. Let’s repurpose it. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again…this could be one, hot home-on-wheels. So, word out to Pete, if you don’t get that tire fixed soon, I’m going to get my design crew out there, take measurements and make it a cute, retro, mobile home-away-from-home. And I will hook it up to my car, which also happens to be silver…and I will be a fast, flash of gleaming silver (after I’ve taken my car through the car wash) heading for warmer temps crying out…”Hi-Ho Silver, Away!!”
Oh, and I’m taking the cat too. After all, she does match both car and trailer;
There is the occasion upon which I am called to watch a gate.
Yep, there it is. That there is a gate, and it looks mighty fine. Good job, let’s go indoors now!
Not so fast says Pete. There’s more to it than that. Gate watching does not accurately define the experience. You see, gate watching sounds like a pleasantly passive interlude. Something to do while reading a book or twining flowers in one another’s hair on a warm, summer day.
For me though, it means pulling on my winter gear, skating across the iced-over farmyard, opening the gate to allow the tractor to drive in with an abundance of straw, all the while keeping the steer from running out in their quest for free pasture. For this, Pete arms me with…a stick. Thanks. 45 steer weighing approximately 1100 lbs. against one, little me. And he gives me a stick.
As it turns out, I don’t really need to use the stick. These guys are pretty cool. They might get overly curious and give me the hairy eyeball, or drool on my gloves a little too much. But mostly, they just carry on chewing, staring, and hanging with their brethren while we go on about our business. Or rather as Pete goes on about his business. I’m still watching the gate. And today’s gate watch went well. The steer got fresh straw, and I opened, watched, and finally locked the gate. All flawlessly performed in 14 degree weather. Which feels pretty balmy compared to the single digits and below zero temperatures we’ve been having.
In fact, Pete then took some time to sit in the sun with his entourage, Bowzer B. Dawg and Hans the Barn Kitten.
Someone wants a new workshop and I just can’t see why. It looks perfectly fine to me. Just look how gracefully the roof line curves downward. (If I may point out, that’s not camera distortion, that’s for real) And look at that fine mid-century garage door. This is a treasure trove of history! “Why in the world would you cover that up!!” (I’m sort of loosely quoting one of our favorite HGTV show hosts there. I wonder if anyone recognizes who that might be??!)
Seriously though, there is so much texture, vignettes and personality in that space, I would be sad to see it go. Time and again I get pulled in there and just stare at the odd placement of tools, the random still lifes, and the beautiful texture of weathered wood:
…along with some time worn metal:
and odd bits and tools:
Sure, it needs a little sprucing up, maybe a shiny, new tool here and there, but otherwise, perfectly fine. And if the wind chill factor gets too bad for you, tack up another duvet cover over the windows. It’s working for our front door, it can work here too! Ha ha…oh my gosh…this isn’t Chicago living anymore, and I love it! Some day Pete, you’ll get your updated workshop. But leave a little texture in there for me!
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!