November is being very kind to us weatherwise. Yesterday was an excellent day for a perimeter field walk which took me around the fields and down to the creek and back up to the barn in a round about way. It’s a very nice walk in which to check out the nooks and crannies of the property for places to hide. One never knows when one would need to hide, I’m that side of neurotic.
On my way back, I saw Action Figure Pete climbing the ladder to open the feeder, allowing the corn to drop in from the mixer. All this for the big calves’ meals-on-tap. Go, Action Figure Pete, Go! Climb that ladder. And don’t fall down.
In my excitement to see Action Figure Pete, and because I had no way of avoiding him due to my trajectory, I approached with a hearty hello; “S’up Farm Boy?”
“Just normal stuff” said Action Figure Pete.
And that’s all it took, one turn away from the machinery, and the abnormal happens. Kernels of corn started popping, pushing and pulsating up and out of the mixer in classic Jiffy Pop style. I’m not a seasoned farmer’s wife, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t part of the procedure.
This needed to stop. So I couldn’t understand why A.F. Pete wasn’t cutting the engine. He let it pop. And I just wanted to grab buckets and race around gathering the little poppers before they hit the ground. I can’t stand waste. I’m that frugal.
Those golden nuggets of corn hitting the ground pained me. So I offered to shovel up the random poppers into the wheelbarrow. Every last kernel. With tweezers if necessary. Fortunately, the more rational side of my brain overpowered the crazy and said it’s okay to let some things spill. So I just scooped up the major portions under the watchful eyes of these guys:
Because it’s these guys who count. They don’t like to see their feed randomly pop out of their reach. I understand. So I shoveled and scooped what I could within the realm of reason. Which really didn’t amount to much I suppose.
And now for the gratuitous kitty photo portion of this post! This little barn kitty was exhibiting symptoms of a cold. One vet visit and 2 shots later, she is climbing me like I’m a set of monkey bars. And wolfing down food better than the boys. She is all of one pound and I’m sure she will continue to grow and prove a kindly match to all the other barn cats. Grow baby grow!
My husband always teases me and says that there were no cats on the property until I moved in. Now, cats. Everywhere. Indoor cats, outdoor cats. White cats, black cats. Silly cats, spooky cats. Which brings me to our latest addition to the cat family; Primitive Cat.
He’s a little tarnished and worn on the edges, but that’s what makes him so adorable. Plus, he is cousin to my love, Primitive Guy. Now together they can rap on walls, stomp on floors and make eerie noises in the dead of night. Just what this old farmhouse needs. Makes me proud.
Now that Hallowe’en is drawing nigh, our little Primitive Cat sends out his wishes to you;
Nicely said Primitive Cat. You’ll do just fine here. Let’s go have some fun! Happy Hallowe’en every one!
Yes, I’m falling for it. This season of color and crunch. The leaves have made a clear path whipping from the front yard, around the corner and into a pile-up onto the side porch where the herb garden resides nearby. I have to dig under crispy leaves to cut back my herbs before they give up to freezing temperatures. My little plot o’ herbs has been quite productive. I’ve been giving some away and freezing others. And what I don’t freeze or give away, hangs to dry. But uh oh. I’m running out of places to dry them. So I’ve had to get clever about it and come up with some alternative spaces. Our uncurtained windows seemed just the thing.
I was just waiting for Pete to come in the house and say something about it. But I don’t think he even noticed. I must not have put enough up. I’ll have to put more up. Or maybe hang some from his computer. I bet he still wouldn’t notice. He does have bigger things on his mind like tractors being fixed or crops to harvest. Indeed, the beans were harvested recently in the stealth of night. Where once lay a field of scrappy looking beans is now a neatly cut field. But yay there lies corn beyond.
So while he’s busy with all that harvesting, it’s grape time for me. I cut the grapes from our vine amidst great adversity. I don’t exactly like reaching into the depths of the grape vines with the bunker crop of wasps we’ve seemingly nurtured around here. I think I’d rather deal with mosquitoes. I’m sure I left more on the vines than I picked due to my wussy nature. But I grabbed enough to proceed with canning some jars of jam. Which if all goes well will happen today with the help of Pete’s mom who is well versed in this process. Following wuss protocol, I tend to avoid the combination of heat and glass so I have to call in for the extra help. Fingers crossed explosions will be minimal.
Sadly, with the onset of cold weather, my warm weather studio is now transferred to the confines of the house. Poor little milkhouse, I’ll see you next summer. Some day I will winterize you, and we will be together forever year round.
Falling is hard to do. I’m so reluctant to close the studio, cut back my herbs, and bring in the outdoor furniture. As long as I can, I put those things off. Hence, the little bistro set still lingers under the trees. I heard it’s going to be 70 degrees tomorrow so I’ll let them bask out there for a little while longer. Until it snows.
Oh, and then there’s the porch furniture. That’s troublesome too. I find that I bring in one item at a time to soften the blow of transition. Plants first. Pillows next. Furniture, eh, when it snows. I just can’t do it yet!! Did I mention it’s going to be 70 degrees tomorrow? I might need to sit out there still.
So falling isn’t easy but there are some perks. Like pumpkins, ghosties, and barn cats sitting next to pumpkins.
Oh barn cats, enjoy the the sun while you can, roll around on the ground, chase the falling leaves, and rip the screens out of our windows while the warmth yet lingers, for pretty soon you will be making tunnels in the snow from barn to porch. Let’s all fall down!
Saturday morning presented a muffled landscape of fog. It was the kind of fog that settles in for the long haul, just begging me to to settle in on the porch with my coffee and Rainy the Cat (Mr. Hans, first-cat-in-command, is currently sequestered indoors due to recent surgery) I puzzled out what I might do while these wads of cotton pressed down around us. Cat and I, what can we do? I had an idea. Let’s go Steer Staring. It’s a great game and the steer are always eager to participate. Head to head. Eyeball to eyeball.
The game goes like this; I stand really still and stare at them. They stand really still and stare at me. The first one who turns tail and runs loses. Cats are really good at this game, I lose all the time to Gray Ghost. Not only does she stare me down to the bare bone, she adds an iciness to her stare. I can’t compete.
Anyway, this game kills a lot of time. In fact, it’s a big time waste when I should be doing more productive things. Like laundry. Dishes. Vacuuming. Things that are all so very productive, but let’s go to the steer. Game on. Contestant number one emerges stealth-like from the mist. Good strategy using the cover of the fog as an intimidating factor. I almost didn’t see him coming:
With barely a nod, he pulls in more resources. Good move. More eyeballs to wear me down. I’m still standing strong at this point. But my knees are quivering. The stakes are high. (ha, get it? Stakes? Steer? Yeah, sorry.)
He’s playing rough now. He somehow pulled in more hoofs from the left flank. I didn’t see it coming. I’m almost done in. Steer from the right, steer from the left, more in the back if needed. My cat took off. Thanks cat. I’ve got it. Don’t worry about me and the millions of eyeballs staring me down.
Just when I thought all was lost, this happened:
They took off! I win! I swear I didn’t flinch. Back into the mist they go. And you know what? Me too. Back into the mist and into the house. My winnings are modest. I get a pickle. Yay pickle! But that’s it. Because I know those steer. They are cooking something up to recoup their loss. I still haven’t forgotten when I got my hand stuck in the steer shed and they just stood there and laughed at me. So my win is a quiet and somber one. Respect the steer.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hans is getting lots of love after his surgery. Hang in there little guy, we’ll get that cone off soon:
It seemed like an inauspicious start to a spicy, hot Cajun in the Country festival.
How will folks even find the barn in a soup mix like this? How do you eat Jambalaya when you feel the icy, foreboding fingers of a Stephen King novel crawling up your spine? These are questions I pondered on the very morning of Cajun in the Country 2015 as we commenced festival prep work. I wondered if I should change the signs to read Cajun in the Mist. How that would go over?
Not to worry though, the scary mist burned off, and the heat switch turned on. By 11:30 everything was coming together. Volunteers showed up, tents popped up, cook-off entries made their delectable appearances, and ye ol’ Allis came out to preen itself by the roadside, a sure sign the gig was on and the fog was lifting.
With help from The Festival Urban Ninjas, we were ready for the second annual Cajun in the Country. If I may, I’d like to just explain for a moment who the Festival Urban Ninjas are…they are a small, non-profit group of wonderfully diverse people committed to organizing local festivals to bring our small town together in an atmosphere of fun, with proceeds going to local charities. My husband and I hooked up with them in an effort to socialize off of the farm, and we have ended up with some really great friends…with pop up tents, and mad, mad organizing skills. Don’t mess with the ninjas. Or they’ll put a pop-up tent in your yard and have a festival. Whee. And so here we are, year two of Cajun in the Country.
Let us begin…disclaimer stuff first; most interior photos of the barn were taken not by me, but by members of the FUN committee, so thank you Niki, Mary and Bethany for the use of your photos, cause I don’t know where I was, mostly upstairs printing stuff, or running around checking toilet paper status or hiding behind the blackberry bush. Ha, didn’t know I was there did you? I’m shy. Actually it was the asparagus patch which is doing well thank you.
So the fog lifted and the barn was waiting for folks to come in boots and all. Hey barn!
This year we were able to post the band line up on an old door lying around dormant (get it, door-mant?! hee.) and made it into a billboard of sorts. We had 4 bands this year and it was pretty fantastic to hear the old barn fill up with their rousing music. The Prairie Bayou Cajun Band kicked things off, followed by Mal-O-Dua, the New Riverside Ramblers and finally, Tally Miller up from Louisiana.
There wasn’t just music here, oh no. We had copious amounts of food and drink. Let’s see, where should we start? Oh yes, how about with Vintage Brewing Company who joined us in offering up 4 different brews, and Mershon’s Cider joined in on the fun as well. Hi guys, and yum!
Jim’s Cheese also pitched in with some really great pulled pork sandwiches and even Cajun-spiced cheese curds. What? Yes, cheese curds with Cajun seasoning. And it was good.
Let’s not forget the touch of wine we had there. Botham jumped in with a few varietals. Oh, and look at that, they even threw Bethany into the mix. Hi Bethany! Yes, I’ll have a glass thank you.
All in all, it was a pretty fun, festive atmosphere. Good music, food, drink and people. Yes, once again I’m going to say that this is a wonderful group of people who showed up to the barn. And I’d be happy to host them again next year for the third annual Cajun in the Country.
If you do come next year, I’ll leave you with this; don’t forget to stop by to say hello to the steer. They like to participate too!
Two weeks. In just two weeks our barn doors open and the festivities begin again! This is our second year of hosting “Cajun in the Country”. We’re getting ready for those cowboy boots to hit the floor boards. I can hardly wait!
Not that I’m tapping my toe impatiently, for there is much to do to prepare. And there is a fine group of people working behind the scenes to pull it together. As for me, I have my assignments. It looks a little like this:I got the long end of the stick, the barn broom stick that is. I sweep. 5 bays. Bay by bay. I tried to rationalize my way out of it by saying, “well isn’t it okay to leave a little straw on the floor for props? This is a barn after all. Yes?” No. It all gets swept up, and fresh straw will find its way in anyway no matter how much I sweep.
Don’t worry about me though, I’ve always got company. Whenever I slide open the barn doors no matter how quietly, a barn cat will materialize from out of cat-nowhereville. Just when I thought I was alone…cat. Ghost cat. They come and they go. Like a whisper in the wind. Or a squeak in a wheel is more like it. They squeak, they don’t meow. Whole different language. But I’m getting away from myself. The point is, the barn is being swept to make way for boots and people.
The lights will come on and the bands will play. It’s getting there. Trust me, the rafters will fill with music. If you want to know more just go to the ColumbusWIFun website for more information. Meanwhile, we sweep, prepare and all of us here on the farm eagerly await your arrival!
Once again, we left the farm in capable hands and journeyed to the northwoods for our annual get-off-the-farm vacation. Our first evening began at the family cabin deep in the heart of Chequamegon National Forest. Going there one must be prepared for total quiet save for the glorious chorus of bullfrogs at dusk. Leave the cell phone at home, that won’t work here. And forget plush accommodations. While it is comfortable, it’s still a little rough on the edges. But that’s okay. The focus is on the natural surroundings. That includes long-standing cabins that have been around the block a time or two and exhibit the wear and tear to show for it. A visit up there always includes a walk to poke around haunting hints of these past occupancies.
A little bit of history whispers here. You can kind of hear it, but can’t quite make out the words. You almost see it, but you don’t quite see it. Like trying to look directly at a nebula. You just can’t, but out of the corner of your eye, you can see something, maybe, if you hold still long enough.
Which is what led us to our journey to Bear Island.
Bear Island may not really be an island. That is in question. Marshy land connects it to terra firma from what I gather. Tall galoshes might get you there, but a canoe would be better. That being said, this pretend island doesn’t really have a name. I just call it Bear Island out of convenience. So there floats the first mystery of Bear Island. It sure looks like an island from where I sit on the back patio of the cabin. I hear it’s siren call. Which is probably not a good thing…
Island: “Come to me you dumb fool”
Me: “oh, okay”
And so we went.
But first, let’s back up a bit. My husband told me the story of one man who in the 1950s sought to write an article for National Geographic about living on an island in the northwoods during winter. It was upon this very island he chose to build a cabin and live out the winter. This was before all those off-the-grid-living-in-Alaska-struggling-to-survive reality T.V. shows. Interesting that some 50 or 60 years ago someone else was playing with that very same concept.
The cabin still exists there on the island, and no one is to step foot on there. I’m not sure why. So it only seemed logical that Pete and I decided we would step on the island. (First premonition, watch where I step) We were going to paddle there. But first we had to do a recon. In the fading light of dusk, we slipped out on our canoe to search for an inconspicuous landfall with the intent of striking out first thing in the morning. Because we must not be seen. By what…cod? Yes, well, we mapped our landing and paddled back to the cabin to prep for the coming morn. Prep included a glass of wine and popcorn. Strenuous yes I know.
The next morning we set out across a quiet lake, and pulled ashore in our appointed place. I was very disappointed no one met us with a platter of cheese, crackers and a free ticket on the gondola ride to the top. What kind of island is this?
A secret island, that’s what. No one has stepped foot here in years so the lore goes. I’m not sure I believe that but it’s fun to imagine. So after a quick climb up we came upon this cabin built in the 50s. Despite its many years, I could tell that it wasn’t just slapped up in a day. It’s main structure held fast, while decay wrinkled its brows.
The fact that it’s still standing after some 50 or 60 years is a testament to the care taken into building it. Which is saying a lot considering someone had to transport materials across the lake to build this. Including a stove and bunk beds which are still in evidence there. I wonder how long it took them to build it, and did it have running water? And really, how isolated was he? Were there not other cabins on the main shore at the time?
It was a very interesting, secretive sojourn to this island. Just paddling out in the quiet light of morning across a very still lake was in itself beautiful. Walking amidst tall pine trees on soft, piney ground to catch a glimpse of history added to the mystique.
One other little island mystery that I still can’t figure out is how I stepped on an upturned nail that went straight through the heel of my boot, but not the heel of my foot. After that little incident, I thought it best to respect the island and leave forthwith. After a little more walking around away from debris and potential nails, we set off back home for another beautiful paddle across a still lake, leaving the island and its past residents and rusty nails to its own solitude.
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!