Yesterday first thing in the morning, I gathered myself together and pulled on my big girl boots. I had determined that I would chop down the 5 ft. weed trees and long grass that grew along the cornfield by my little, hidden corner of land. I figured it would really open up the space a bit, maybe even allow for a fire pit. So I armed myself with a tree limb cutter and hand shears for full frontal assault. Some of those weed stalks are two inches in diameter so I knew it would take some serious intent. After an hour or so I had made some major progress. Wagon-loads of it.
It really opened up the space quite a bit. Now I’m really seeing fire pit! Maybe even a small pond or water feature. All this used to be weeds, giant, tree-like weeds. Now it’s mine, all mine!
Except for one tiny snag or two….you may have noticed in the first photo, there yet remains a clump of uncut weeds to the right. There’s a reason for that. While I was deep in the weeds hacking away at the tall grass and weed stalks, I came eyeball to eyeballs with a garden spider firmly ensconced in her web. So I figured okay, I’ll leave her alone, I don’t want to evict a spider from her amazing web. So I started to wack weeds from the other side.
That didn’t last long.
There on the other side of the remaining clump of weeds was another garden spider. Well. Can’t cut those weeds down. Thus is born the Sanctuary for Wayward Arachnids. This is now a protected patch of weeds even though that so goes against my obsessive desire to make a clean-cut along the perimeter of the cornfield. Even Action Figure Pete had to drive the lawnmower around the Sanctuary though I’m sure he would have loved to plow through it if I hadn’t been standing there with my save-the-spiders sign.
It seems though that the Sanctuary has an annex for the garden spider that prefers a more light and airy abode. This plump lady prefers to stay on the east-facing side of our house. Not a bad spot, lots of sunshine and not too much wind. I won’t be going there for a while. She owns it.
Meanwhile, weeds. I did what I could working my way around the Sanctuary, and took my wagon o’ weeds to the steers for a nice snackie. They like snacks. It’s gotten to the point that when they see me coming, a yummy salad is usually on the menu.
Er, I think number 39 is getting a little drunk on the greens. Ease up big boy.
Hey! I’ve got some happy spidey news! I checked in on the “Sanctuary for Wayward Arachnids —Side of the House Annex” the next morning, and look at this, someone is having babies!
I guess that’s why she was so plump! Congratulations spider!
If vintage tractors, steam whistles, and all manner of metal parts clacking, whizzing, rotating and spinning are your thing, then the Badger Steam & Gas Show is where it’s at. And that’s where we were one fine Saturday. That is where I get my latent, vintage tractor geek on.
I can hardly stand it. We only have one day to spend there. It is not enough time to take in all the exhibitors, tractor displays, massive flea market, tractor parade, food, and family. Family is one of our big reasons for going. Action Figure Pete’s uncle Rhiny is a long time exhibitor there, so we haul our snacks and drinks and set up shop for the day in the Rhiny family encampment. Excellent! We can sit and chat amidst the clacking metal parts and whistle of pent up steam. It’s a dream.
It’s not all about tractors though, anything powered by steam or gas is on display. Such as this fine Maytag washer, probably the pride of someone’s home at one time. I wonder when my current washer will be considered a vintage piece that others pause to look at in awe. (I mean aside from my cat who seems fascinated by the window of clothes tumbling over and under.)
After rushing around the flea market, we beat back to camp to prepare ourselves for the tractor parade. This is where I drool a little because I know what’s coming. The big behemoth of tractors from the early 1900’s. They are like a woodshed on wheels, serious, bone-crushing wheels. They let out a powerful whistle that makes small children cry, and big girls (me) grin like a nutter! Bring it on…
And they did. Here’s another. Ginormous with all the bells and whistles. It was about time for us to be going home so I kept saying, “after this tractor”, but then another one would come along that I’d have to see. Seriously, please deliver tractor to me forthwith so I can be done with it and go home. I’ll take good care of it I promise.
To tell you the truth, I also love to see the faces of the men and women driving the tractors. Some are serious with intent concentration (very necessary of course), and others, well, you can see that pure glee and pride that comes with being behind the wheel of a tractor that helped drive the course of agriculture.
You know that part of day, when the sun starts relinquishing itself to the inevitability of dark? Dusk we call it. I like that word. Dusk. It sounds just like it is. Not bright, not dark, just dusty dusk. It’s in between. A teeter-totter creep from day to night. It was during that time that I happened to stroll out to a far and isolated corner of our property for what I no longer remember. I call that area the Secret Corner. A few years ago I carved it out by whacking away a multitude of tree-sized weeds and created a whole new outdoor room. And one more area to mow. But I like it. It’s perimeter is defined by the pine trees on one side, corn fields on two other sides, and grape vines on the final side. Within its confines exist asparagus and strawberry patches, manic rhubarb plants and a prolific row of Asiatic Lilies. Within this newly found space, I also planted two red Adirondack chairs with a matching table so that I may dash off to hide and/or read. Or contemplate the cornstalks growing. (Or soybeans in years of crop rotation.)
So there I was, in that dusky world walking beneath overgrown vines and under the sweep of darkening pine trees. Stillness. No breeze. Just the quiet approach of dark. I could see the billowy shapes of the asparagus plants that had now gone to seed. Within that cloud of asparagus, I could just make out a shape. Thinking it a random clump of leaves that the wind had previously placed there, I made to go forth and pluck it out. But wait…what I thought to be leaves took shape and revealed itself to be a Black Bird. But how? Could the wispy branches of asparagus hold a bird? It seemed improbable so I quietly stepped closer. Yes. Black Bird sitting in the middle of the asparagus cloud. It didn’t move nor flutter. It looked north and up. Still not quite believing this, I circled once and then twice. Black Bird. It did not flinch nor move though I was only a couple of feet away. Could it be dead? Then wouldn’t it drop to the ground? I circled a third time.
It was still as a stone. Always looking north and up. And dusk was pressing in. And it was feeling a little unnerving. On my third pass I decided that as much as I enjoy a little creepiness to my dusk, this was just too weird. So I decided to leave and head back home, light the lamp and stir the coals. I’ll return in the morning to see if there is a bird on the ground. But that image of the Black Bird sitting stone still in watchful wait as dusk descended remained burned in my mind.
I’ve been trying to sketch out that image because it won’t leave me alone. I’m not at all there yet with the initial sketch. And there are plenty of Black Bird drawings out there so why bother? But I want to bother, because it was such a strange thing to see in such a strange time of day, and somehow I want to draw it and define it for myself. It may fall short of what is burned in my head, but at least it’s a reason to get charcoal all over my hands once again.
The next morning, in the clear light of day I went back out there to the asparagus patch. There was no bird.
Between sustaining winds and buckets of rain, we do squeeze in a nice summer day once in a while. Yesterday was such a day. Still a little windy, but at least I didn’t have to chase tumble weed cats as they bounced across the cornfield. In fact, Mr. Hans slept in. Can’t even get all his eyes open he’s that sleepy.
So I guess I’ll leave him alone. Who else can I bother? Oh yeah! The chocolate milk cow!! Oh yum. We all know that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Right? Problem is, this here is a steer. So technically, no chocolate milk here. But he must get friendly with another brown cow to get pure chocolate milk. You heard it here first. Tell your kids. Next Easter we’ll talk about brown bunnies and chocolate eggs. It all relates. Somehow. Don’t worry, I’ll make it relate. But for now, look at #41. He’s one handsome dude.
I’ve bothered Chocolate Steer enough, so what next on this fine summer day? Before I could get much further I nearly stumbled across this large rectangle of straw plopped in the middle of the drive. What ho! Shredded Wheat! Why is it whenever I see one of these giant straw bales, I have the urge to grab a spoon, a bowl of milk, and start eating that bale? It’s the Shredded Wheat syndrome. I grew up on that for breakfast, well, between the not-so-healthy Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms I suppose. It’s such a visceral response whenever I see a straw bale. Man, I’ve been wanting to admit to that for so long! I feel better now.
Let’s put the fork down and walk away from the straw bale. Oh look!! Pears! The pears are back. Why am I always amazed? I’m so proud of this tree. We always get so much from it that I’m always happy to share the pear. Last year I pruned it back a bit so it will be easier to get at them. It really is cool to watch those nubby little things fill out and develop into a full-fledged, edible fruit. I’m seeing pear bread in the near future. Carry on little pears.
Speaking of fruit, let’s say hi to the grapes. I pruned those back too last year. Now they are acting all like “Whaaat! Can’t prune me back, we grow girl!” And they do. Fast and full. The leaves unfurl, and the vines seek the nearest object on which to grasp and curl. Little by little tiny green orbs hidden between the foliage will become big grown-up grapes. And jam. Which I can have on toast along with my Shredded Wheat. For now though, they are little grape babies. Grow big and fruity my little grape babies.
As much as I think that I’m helping things along by pruning, weeding and fertilizing, things grow despite what I do or don’t do. I’m not an expert, more like an accidental gardener still learning. I hope the plants have patience with me and don’t slap my silly face when I forget or neglect to do something. They will still grow with or without me. Case in point, a few weeks ago we finally tackled an eyesore of weeds and grass only to discover underneath it all were six Peony bushes blooming. How many years were those little bushes reaching out to be seen, never giving up despite years of neglect? Next year, they will bloom and be seen! I hope for that even long after I am gone. Grow on.
The weather here is definitely not spring-like today. It seems that nature is playing games with us. Spring. Not Spring. Spring. Oh wait, now Winter! The weather is not going according to game plan. But if there is one constant in this Spring Or Not season, it is my nemesis…the Wild Cucumber. The Wild Cucumber is all to happy to play along with the game plan much to my chagrin.
It may rain, it may drop down to the 40s, it may even slightly snow (which it did by the way) and the Wild Cucumber will still send up its sprouts in spades. And I have to pluck those puppies out one at a time before they grow into healthy, flowering, budding and seeding vines that smother the trees and render small creatures helpless. That last part is a slight exaggeration because I have yet to see the vines entangle any of our barn cats. But it could happen if the cats stood still long enough. Say 5 seconds. Wild Cucumber is that aggressive and fast growing. Which is why I’m out there plucking the darn things for an hour each day for about 2 or 3 weeks.
Yum. Don’t they look mighty tasty? Like something you’d add to your salad? Nope. Don’t do it. I’m so angry at them that I have other nefarious plans for them. Plus, I don’t know about them in the sprout stage, but when they become vines they do smell delicious but will give you a good old-fashioned tummy ache. My plans do not involve that. So what I’ve been doing these past two weeks is walking through the hot spots and plucking them out which often times means flattening myself down and doing a belly crawl through the treeline bordering our property to catch each and every one of those sneaky little buggers. The interesting thing about belly-crawling through the treeline is that I’m seeing how quite pretty it is in there. There’s a lovely carpet of green low-lying foliage that I’ve never noticed before, and little bunny trails quietly winding their way through the woods. The other day, when I was once again eye-level with the ground, I noticed a unique group of foliage poking up from the pine needles, all bent in the wind with precision. I wondered what they were and how they managed to bend in such perfect conformity.
I spent a few seconds belly-pondering this unusual foliage when I finally got a clue. The wind isn’t blowing. So why are they bending? They look a little too uniform. Now I’m suspicious. So I reached out and found that the foliage was actually…
…a perfectly disguised vintage hand garden cultivator! I guess it’s been there so long that it has taken on one of nature’s attributes, that of disguising itself within its environment to avoid detection. It worked pretty well. So I dug it out. And marveled at its organic design. Here is where form + function + art meet up to produce a fully working tool. It’s a thing of functional beauty.
I just love how the tines curve up and blossom into a lovely leaf shape.
I wonder how much the designer of this tool took that into consideration. I believe a true craftsman would. Back in the day, before tools were mass-produced in a hurry to fill shelves, I can imagine someone sitting at his or her draft table, and carefully sketching out a functional tool while incorporating an organically beautiful design. It is a subtle nod to the Art Deco movement pared down and successfully translated into a basic garden tool design.
Or perhaps the artist in me is reading too much into it. But it’s undeniably a thing of beauty. If you like rusty, old things. Which I do. And begs the question, what do I do with it now? A coat rack would be obvious. But I think I may want to simply let it hang on its own merit, and let its floral delicacy shine. Any ideas?
Meanwhile, perhaps you’re wondering what happened to that Wild Cucumber that I’ve been spending so much time plucking and picking. Like I said, I had nefarious plans. And it involves the young steers. In an hour and I can pluck a bucket. And rather than toss them, they make for a nice, healthy snack for the young’uns.
Eat up little guys, there’s more coming.
Yeah, they like it. And so do I. It’s called sweet Wild Cucumber revenge. Spring on.
It’s Spring. I think. We’ve been fooled all through March and the first week of April with Nature’s slow tease. But I’m pretty sure this is it. If only because I had the snow tires taken off of my car. So this has to be it. And with that in mind, time to wake up the sleepy, old barn and throw its doors open. Hey barn hey!
After a long winter’s rest, it’s with a little trepidation that I open the doors to see how things are faring in there. There’s been a lot of activity in the lower part of the barn where horse stalls are being built. So I know what’s what down there. But upstairs, that’s usually shut all winter for whatever mayhem and parties resident wildlife may have scheduled. And I get to do the clean up. Because there’s another party to get ready for, and it’s never too soon to prepare…Cajun in the Country!! Yay!
But first, Action Figure Pete needs to roll out the tractor. And now that I’ve said that, I suspect he’s going to make me drive the tractor out, and I don’t have my tractor driving license yet. Or a good understanding of that clutch and the other clutch and yes, it’s been a long winter. So I think I’ll be getting to know Allis again. Anyway, back to the facts…we’re already in the planning stages for the Cajun in the Country fest, and though I dread doing the initial Spring barn sweep, I know that this pretty lady needs to be spruced up to welcome a day filled with music, dancing, food and drink! Cajun Fest isn’t until September, but we’re getting ready now.
So today was the “walk-through” where I assess what all the unwelcomed critters have done upstairs in our slumbering barn in what is typically known as the hay loft. As it turns out, our newly-producing walnut tree is providing a bounty of hors d’oeuvres for our local squirrels. And our barn is their cracked nut cafe. Shells all over the place. The squirrels went nuts. In our barn. I’m okay with that. I’m glad that they had a warm, and welcoming place to safely chow down. I guess. Funny thing is, since our walnut tree starting producing nuts for the first time, I’m now finding walnuts literally squirreled away here and there and everywhere on the property. I leave them. Someone (squirrel) may want to come back for them. I don’t want to be responsible for a very disappointed and hungry squirrel.
And then there’s the pig. The Flying Pig. He lives in the barn during the winter. He doesn’t leave a mess like some other critters I know. But now that it’s spring I get to release The Flying Pig. Mostly he hangs out on the front porch. So after my walk-through, The Flying Pig came outside with me, and is now back on the porch. Now that walk-through is complete, it’s time to buck up buttercup and start the initial cleaning of the barn. We’ve got a party in a few months!
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!