Spring through a window

Spring Window BootsI’m feeling that faint blush of Spring in the air. At last. Maybe I can peel off a layer if I dare. Not sure yet, it’s still early March and we can still get a blizzard. It’s not unheard of. In fact, I still have my snow tires on for just that reason. But I did put away the heavy duty, insulated, I-feel-no-cold-or-limbs overalls for the season. That should put a knife in winter. And if that doesn’t, then putting in the spring window display at the Hydro Street Brewery is a good start.

Hydro Street Window BloomersThose of us on the Hydro Street Window Committee put our frozen brains together and came up with a laundry line, rain boots and umbrellas theme. Because that is what Spring is to us; the crisp snap of bloomers on the line, puddle-splashing boots, and dancing umbrellas performing a duet with raindrops. Why do I feel like I should be breaking into a song here? I won’t. Can’t hold a note. But we took the bloomers and aprons to the line and dressed the window in a spring sonnet. So put that in your bonnet!

Hydro Street Spring WindowJust like Spring though, the window is a work in progress. We intend to fill the space with a flowery field of rain boots, if we could find enough boots. Seems it’s a hard thing to pull the boots off of people’s feet. They actually want to wear them rather than display them. There ought to be a city-wide ordinance; if you have rain boots, you must have a secondary pair for display. It’s all for the good of Spring people!

laundry line birdsLike any good laundry line, a few birds came to roost. I’m very encouraged to hear the Spring sing-along-song of birds announcing milder weather. If they say so, then it must be. Still, I’m not ready to pull down the draft drapes yet as March always has a few tricks up its sleeve. Until then, we look forward to Spring while¬†glancing back over our shoulders with a Winter-weary eye should we need to layer up again.

Meanwhile, watch your boots, these gals may try to grab them off your feet for the window display, and you don’t want to mess with them. Best to just hand them over, and have a beer!

Hydro Street Window Committee

Steers’ Night Out

Yesterday, a delightful, fluffy snow fell throughout the day, topping off the snow that we had already received the other day during our mini-blizzard. That’s Winter’s version of icing on the cake. It was beautiful. As I drove (carefully) home from work, all I could think about was how I’d love to run around and play in it. But that night I had to be the responsible adult and attend a very important meeting. Which included wine and pizza. Most serious. No snow play for me that night. Winter RoadSo off we went to our meeting, carefully wending our way through white-wrapped roads to our meeting and pizza. And wine. And beer. As a side note, this meeting did take place at a brewery so that explains that. Meeting and pizza done, we got home in the flurry night and started winding down for the evening. All is calm, all is white. I had just gotten into my pajamas, the dog was in his nesting spot, the cat was waiting for popcorn, and Pete was in his jammies…when the phone rang. “Your barn door is open” “No really, your animals are out” That wasn’t really how the conversation went, in fact all I heard was, “this isn’t going to be good”. This is where I went into my invisibility-mode, wherein I squeeze my eyes shut very tight in order to not be seen by humans. Cats okay. Dogs okay. Farmer rustling steer at 10:30 pm…not so much. No, I jest. I did not do that though I may have thought about it, but I must say, I was game to go out in the snow. Didn’t I say I wanted to play in the snow earlier in the evening? And if it means playing with a bunch of wandering steer, game on! So the hell, I just pulled my jeans on over my jammies, pulled my Carhartts over my jeans, accessorized with a pair of winter farm boots and puffy coat and I was good to go. {And oh by the way, I did not take pictures of the events. While I may have been having fun, my husband was stressed. It just did not seem appropriate to whip out a camera while I should be helping. So I only included a couple that I had taken in the past couple days} Onward, The animals in question were up at the home farm, a mile up the road. So we hopped in the truck and drove through the fresh, snow-covered road until lo, hoof marks. Lots of them on the road. Drat, so it wasn’t just a few little calves that got out for a little romp, but rather the big guys. Lots of big guys judging by the hoof marks. Sure enough, as we drove past Pete’s cousin’s farm, we saw a couple steer wandering near there. Okay, drive on to assess the situation. We pulled into the barn drive …steer. Just steer, hanging out in the garage, hanging out in the machine shed, all nonchalant like nothing happening here. Just us dudes hanging out, go back to bed. Ooooh nooo you don’t. Because that’s when the big guns came out swinging a lantern! That’s right, Lucille came out, and so there were three of us to coax the steer back in. And let me tell you, Pete’s mom knows how to let out a good whoop to get cattle moving. All “HOOOOO HEEEEY” and that. Me, I’m a pip squeak. I was all, “c’mon, let’s go, c’mon, good boy”. Sure, that’ll move ‘em. But they did go taking their attitudes with them. So that was done, now the second part was to go back down the road and retrieve the rest. Lucille stationed herself at the end of the driveway to hand out road maps back to the barn to any wayward cattle, while Pete and I hopped in the truck to go half a mile down the road. Truck parked in road (okay, I could never do that in Chicago!) we dashed onto his cousin’s farm, gosh no one awake, and ran through powdery, fluffy snow amidst dark, lurking machinery and implements, trying to discern steer from stationary object. I was having a blast! I loved it. Loved running around in the powdery snow, and breathing in crispy, clear air, enjoying the game of Find The Steer. It was seriously like a game of hide and seek. And as it turned out, there was more of a herd there than just the random 3 or 4 I was expecting. Which presented a few logistical decisions. Once we felt we gathered them all together, we then had to herd them to the road. Then the plan changed when the steer decided going field-wise was the way to go. That plan changed again when they decided the road was indeed a better route. That decided, Pete herded on foot, and I ran for the truck and slowly inched along behind. Once the steer reached the driveway with Lucille there handing out road maps, they took a sharp left and headed for the pen in a somewhat orderly manner, obeying all traffic rules and yielding when appropriate. Gate locked, Pete did a final check while Lucille and I stood in the snow and talked of how simply beautiful the night was for a cattle round-up, and how it sure beats working out in a gym any day. So I guess I did get my wish that night to run and play in the snow. I just didn’t think it would be in my pajamas/jeans/Carhartts. But I’d do it again. And there’s a good chance I will! Blustery Holsteins

Snow Pas

Up until now we hadn’t had any really big snow this season, which seems kind of unusual. So when a few inches of snow was predicted for Saturday night into Sunday I felt a little winter glee coming on. While I’m all, “yay, let’s go play, bring it on!”, Poor Pete predicted doom and gloom. Ha, I exaggerate. He expressed a healthy concern because it can create extra work and a headache or two. So while I may think it’s play time, it’s certainly not the case for those who have to work in the elements whether they like it or not. No snow day for farmers.

Snowy Fieldscape So Sunday morning dawns, and we didn’t get a huge dump but the wind was relentless, and continued its rally cry throughout the afternoon, tearing through the tree lines, whipping up drifts and being generally a major presence. In short, the snow was a bit player to the main character Wind.
Snowy Corn CribDespite the low snow total, it sure was a struggle to do even the simplest of things. Make one little faux pas out there, and its repercussions are amplified a few times more. I would know…I made a minor one today while locking a gate as the big wind blew at my back. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem but for the big, astronaut gloves I was wearing. In short, and skipping the details, there I was with one hand stuck in a hole in the steel shed, while the other hand, going in the opposite direction, held the steer gate “closed” as I contemplated my way out of this dilemma. During this time of speculation, the wind was doing its mighty best to rip the gate out of my clutch. And beyond that gate lurked the steer just waiting for that break to happen, or for my body to split in two.

Snowy Steer PenNeither happened and I did manage to shed myself of the shed and lock the gate with both sets of hands and arms intact. I must have looked pretty ridiculous. I wish I could have taken a shot of that situation, but my hands were of course preoccupied.

snowy treesThe whole time that I was doing my very best human wishbone impersonation, Pete was off somewhere else. Which gave me plenty of time to think about hmm, how long till he notices that I’m missing in action? No wonder Pete gets mad at me for not always keeping my cell phone on me. Not that I could’ve used it, not having a hand available and all. But still.

Snowy HolsteinDespite all that, I loved being out in the snow today, even though I was attached to the shed for a while.


Confessions of a farmer’s wife

A little over a week ago, I read a blog post that really made me pause and consider my position here, that being a farmer’s wife. IllinoisFarmGirl was once told by her father-in-law that she and her sister-in-law as farmer’s wives were the ones to determine how successful the farm would be. What?? Yikes. If that’s the case here on our farm, we’re doomed. I’m sort of kidding, but reading her post really hit home and I’d encourage others to read it to get an inside look into the behind-the-scenes machinations of farm family life. In fact, I need to read more on this subject because believe me, I don’t hold a candle to these farm wives! My god, I’m an imposter! A farmer’s wife by default!!

Manure bootsI kind of feel bad about that. I don’t farm side-by-side with my husband. I have a full-time job off the farm in a non-ag business (Strike 1). I don’t make my husband’s lunches. In fact someone once asked him if I made him lunch, and his reply was to start laughing (Strike 2). I still don’t know how to drive a tractor (Strike 3). I should be out at this point but I’m still here which had been kind of a running joke between us during my first 6 months on site; “oh, you haven’t left yet”, or “I guess you can stay a while longer”. Thanks dude.

muddy messAnd oh god, I just realized I don’t do his laundry either. That would be strike 4 so I better stop counting. At this point you’re probably wondering what the heck do I do around here to provide support and encouragement for my husband. I wonder too, so let me ponder the point for a bit…

Okay, here goes:

I’m his companion for life. Forever. I’m not getting back on the train to Chicago.

Gate watching. If he needs someone to watch a gate, I’m there. Even if it’s below 0.

Rodeo round-ups. I’m getting better at waving my arms and moving the cattle.

Barn cat care. It’s a shared duty and the barn cats are an integral part of our farm.

Bowzer B. Dawg. He gets older and he needs lots of attention. I’m there for him.

Clean up duty. I’m the kitchen clean-up crew. That’s my domain. I’m also available for sweeping up the dropped chips, wayward wrappers and loose laundry.

Fleet Farm Run. It just so happens that I work near Fleet Farm. Hence, I can expect to do a trip to Fleet Farm to pick up random calf stuff. Do I always pick up the right thing? No. But I’m getting to know the farm animal aisle better and better.

House cleaning. Mostly me. Which reminds me that I’ve been looking at the same set of boot prints on the stairs for a week now. I better get on that.

Second income. Handy for house renovations and random expenses.

Health Insurance. Thank goodness for my job or insurance would be costly.

Farm clothes repair. I mend his clothes. And now that I have a new kick-ass Pfaff, I can even repair his denim, which is very integral around here. First I have to learn how to use my new kick-as Pfaff. Today.

Fun stuff. Since I’ve been here, we’ve hosted parties in the barn a few times now. And we’re looking forward to another Cajun Fest at our barn this summer. Neither of us could have done this without the other.

Gardening. What was once a patch of weeds, has now become the herb garden. This has lent not only patio appeal, but a tasty addition to our meals. And each spring, I expand my reach and add more plants to the yard. The old asparagus patch is now 12 plants strong. Straw bale garden to come this spring.

Milk house repositioning. I turned the rundown, neglected milk house into an art space which adds a different dimension to the farm. We did tie-dyed tee shirts in there with Pete’s niece last summer. I would love to see more of that happen in there.

Pitch forksBut let’s face it. I need to up my game here. For example, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a pitch fork review. That was one of the first things that Pete went over with me when we started dating. I had to revisit that recently to keep up on things. It would be bad form to pick up the wrong pitch fork for a particular job. The barn cats would laugh at me.

Tractor DrivingIt’s also my goal in this year of 2015 to learn to drive a freakin’ tractor! How long have I been saying this? Time to get on it. I’ve got a tractor parade to get in! Maybe. Someday.

There’s lots more I could or should be doing around here, but at least that’s a start. I’m so encouraged to read about what other farmer’s wives do. Everyone is different but all are strong. Farm strong. It’s something to which I can aspire, but make it my own, and I’ve been lucky to have married the right guy to do just that.

Meanwhile, I better get outside. I heard there was a “procedure” I might need to do…

Tools of the Trade


It’s a red and white world

Here we are in the new year, and we finally got some substantial snow. Usually by now we would be dealing with snow on a regular basis but we had a rather mild December. No white Christmas for us. So I’m surprised to find myself saying this but, it’s about time. If we’re going to have winter, then bring on the snow. Even though I fear driving in it, and it makes my husband’s job that much harder to do, I like that little icing on the cake. The surrounding landscape renders down to a crisp red and white, wood smoke scents the air, and hot chocolate fills my cup. With perhaps a little splash of Kahlua. So there. Winter is delivered.

Snow Barn with elevator

When I awoke this morning to find a deep snow cover of 1.5 inches, I got all excited. 1.5 inches!! Hook up the sled dog! Pull on the skis! It’s snow time! Screeching halt. It’s only 1.5 inches. Bowzer the sled dog didn’t budge. The skis didn’t get pulled on. But still, it’s white, and it’s pretty. So I decided to get in my little roadster and drive up to the home place and see what Pete was up to in this wintry wonderland of 1.5 inches.

Feedmixer 1Ah, the red feed mixer is out and about attached to one of Pete’s collection of tractors, in this case a Russian-made tractor, fueled by Vodka I am told. See the open cockpit? Can you make out the bundled up black shape in the open cockpit? Can I possibly put one more reference to alcohol in this post? Poor Pete.

Hey, wait!

Where are you going Pete?

Feedmixer 2

Bye Bye Pete…

Cloud of Snow Feed Mixer…and he dissolves into a flurry of white. As for myself, I resolve to dissolve into the red barn, where therein waits one more red and white scene to behold:

Little red head calf…a little, handsome redhead safely tucked in from the cold.

Happy New Year!

Bad cow pun alert:

Happy Moo YearBad cow pun done.

Have a wonderful New Year everyone!

Found Object Unknown

One of the cool things about living in an old house with old buildings on the property is that every once in a while, some sort of artifact surfaces. In my dream-head I’ve always imagined somehow “accidentally” dislodging one of the stones in our home’s foundation only to find an old, locked box containing some sort of amazing historical find, never minding the fact that if I were to dislodge a stone in our foundation the whole house may come tumbling down. In that case, the contents of said box had better be worth one flattened house.

Mostly though, what we find are fairly mundane, yet cool objects that offer a hint of life lived many years ago. Hidden away in one of our buildings way up high and out of sight I did find an old barn lamp. It now hangs in our kitchen. Something like that can go for a couple hundred in a restoration catalog. Of course our lamp isn’t slick and shiny. But shipping was free, and rust goes with the color scheme of our house.

Barn Lamp

And then there are the numerous barn pulleys that we’ve found here and there. I’ve gathered up about 4 or 5 of them at this point. I still haven’t figured out what to do with them. I think I’m holding out for some sort of steam punk idea.

barn pulleys

Then we’ve got ourselves one barn door runner…I’m not sure that’s the correct term, but I think you get the idea. We didn’t exactly find it. It was on the barn door the whole time until the barn door decided to take a little trip in a fierce wind storm. Et voila, look what I found! (…on our poor, old broken barn door lying on the ground.)

barn door runner

But what we found the other day left us stumped. First of all, Pete found it in the fireplace while he was cleaning out the ashes. So somehow it must have been attached to an old and at one time functional piece of wood that he had thrown in there to burn. Man, where are you getting your wood from Pete? Ripping it out of the furniture and doors? We’re not that hard up yet! No piece of wood is safe here I guess. Anyway, it’s a curved piece of metal with nails driven through 5 holes. I have no idea what it is. What we do know is that it is quite old based on the fact that the nail heads are square. Apparently square nail heads were in use up to the late 1800s. Or so I’m told. All the nails are bent in an L shape whether on purpose or not I am clueless. So it remains an unknown found object.

unknown found objectHonestly, I’m surprised Pete didn’t see that hunk o’ junk when he put the wood in the fireplace. But then stuff shows up in our washer too that has no business being there. So, funny what does end up crawling to the surface around here.

Gray Ghost, Basket CatIncluding cats who come in from the cold. (Happy Two-Year-House-Cat Anniversary Gray Ghost!)



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