Quilting, Farming, Variety

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dry Weather Continues

Three weeks ago I wrote about the dry weather we're having this year, on the heels of a hot, dry summer last year.  We had a very mild winter, and warm weather came earlier this spring than usual.  Since March, we have had only 1/2 inch of measurable rainfall and now we're in a serious drought condition.  These two pictures show the toll it has taken on my flowers.  I'm not sure how many will survive; a lot of them are daylilies and irises so maybe their underground corms and bulbs will come again.  Even the things I have in containers on the porch are having a difficult time with the heat; Monday the temperature on the porch reached 113* in the shade!

The vegetable garden never got a start really; I did have a few little potatoes and tomatoes until grasshoppers invaded.  They thrive in dry weather!

But flowers and vegetables are not our number one worry, for they can be replaced.  The cattle are our main concern now.  They're used to having green grass in the spring and summer, and this year the grass didn't have time to come back from winter.  We have been feeding hay, put up for next winter, for several weeks and every day the row of bales grows shorter; how do we feed all of them come cold weather?  Even if there was grass enough to cut for hay, there is such a great fire danger that we don't dare take the equipment out and take a chance of the tines on the baler or rake striking a rock and making a spark to catch the grass on fire.

So we have started feeding grain to the cattle along with the hay.  They come running

and wait at the gate

while Popa puts feed in the troughs.

It's much too dangerous to be inside the corral with the hungry cattle, so he opens the gate from one side, climbs up on the fence and they rush in, stirring up a terrible dust cloud.  I can only hold my breath until the wind carries the dust away; the wind?  oh yes, it blows every day, pushing the dust up into our noses and  driving it into every crack and crevice of the house.

The calves don't have much chance to get to the feed, so Popa is bringing in more troughs.

Hope for rain is dwindling; I find myself praying less for rain and my conscience nags at me about that.  It's so sad to think about having to sell some of the cows just to have enough to feed the others.  How does one pick the cows that go?  How do you put Sulky, or number 748, or others on a trailer and send them off to market?  These have become our life.

This is only one herd of three that we have.  These are on a hillside pasture and the grass is eaten down to the roots.  The others still have a little bit of dry grass to eat on. The pond is so low there is a ring of dry dirt in the middle, and the creeks only have pools of water in them.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Playtime on a Hot Day, 1940s

On a hot day like today, this is how a little boy and girl would have spent their playtime:

Daddy was plowing the rows of cane, throwing the brown dirt against the little plants, covering new grass that had emerged.  Mama, Daddy and Wanda had already hoed the long rows; Charlotte wasn't trusted yet to distinguish the good plants from the grass plants.

Mama was in the tiny kitchen, canning peaches that Wanda had helped peel.  The cookstove made the little house hot, even though the breeze blew through the open windows.

So when her cousin, Dane, came to play, Charlotte was glad to get out of the house.  She picked out a few paper dolls, cut from a catalog (since no one would be ordering a bathing suit, Mama had let her tear out those pages) and they took them down to the branch in front of the house.  The water was cool on their bare feet as they waded into it to let the paper dolls go swimming.  When the dolls were so soggy they were in danger of coming apart, Charlotte spread them out on a rock to dry so they could be used another time. 

Now they turned their attention to the crawdads which tried to hide beneath the rocks.  With each movement of the kids, the crawdads scurried backwards to the safety of the rocks.  It wasn't easy to catch one with their hands, but they had learned to slip up behind one and quickly grab it behind its sharp "pinchers".  Those pinchers were strong and could really hurt little fingers, so they decided to "fish" for the crawdads with a piece of bacon fat tied to a twine string.  They lowered the fishing lines carefully in front of the big crawdads, and in a jiffy the pinchers grabbed the fat, and the kids eased their catch up out of the water and into a glass jar filled with water.  They would take the largest ones to Wanda; she knew how to open them up and find the little "pearl" inside.

Charlotte gathered up the dry paper dolls and they left the cool water until another day.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Am I Too Old to Learn?

In our family, when we learn something new, we say we have a new wrinkle on our brain {whatever that means}.  I still like to learn new things although I am "old".  When we first connected to the Internet, I determined to learn a new word every day, using Wiktionary {just for fun, today's word(s) was salad dodger meaning an overweight person}.

We watch the TV show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, on Sunday nights, and I've found that the questions I can't answer are learning experiences for me; I'll remember them most of the time.

This is all leading to the question, am I too old to learn to knit?  When I was about ten years old, my grandmother gave me two short pieces of baling wire (I'm assuming they were her knitting needles) and someone taught me two stitches and how to cast the thread onto the "needles"; I made several little purple squares, about the size of a small potholder.  I've looked online and found a simple pattern for a baby blanket to be knit on circular needles.  My daughter brought some needles to me and when I get a chance to buy yarn I'm going to give it a try.  If my brain can't hold another wrinkle, I know that knit things are as easy to unravel as crochet work.  


Friday, June 15, 2012

More From the Barn

While the barn memories are fresh on my mind, I wanted to show you this picture frame.  Daddy made it for me from a board that came from the part of the barn where the cow with rabies was kept.  That was a terrible time for our family, so the frame has special meaning for me.  And don't you think it's perfect for the piggies?  The picture was a kit done in crewel embroidery.  It hangs in my kitchen.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Old Barn

A lot of bloggers are featuring pictures of barns in a weekly post called Barn Charm.  Most of them are really attractive barns; we don't have that many nice barns in our area.  Old barns are in disarray and new barns are built from steel trusses and metal roofs with no real "charm" about them, just suitable, working barns for storing hay.

From my childhood, I remember a barn, not pretty at all, but covered with graying wooden boards and sheet iron roofing.  It was obviously old even then, but the three sides surrounded stalls, or rooms, for various purposes.  There was a stall for the milk cow and one for her calf; Mama would milk the cow until she had enough for the family, then turn the calf in to empty the cow's udder.  On hot days the cows might come to the barn to loaf in the open empty stalls, and occasionally we would find eggs in a nest, hidden by a bantam hen.  One stall came to have extreme importance after it had held the cow with rabies.  (See posts for April 21, 22, 23, 2011)

But the heart of the old barn, surrounded by those stalls, was at its center: a room with a wooden floor and a loft.  In late summer, the loft was filled with square bales of hay.  With the metal roof overhead catching the sun's heat, the work was extremely hot.  Access to the loft was by a ladder built on the side of the room; hand over hand, step by step upward, then squeeze through the square opening into the space.  Springtime climbs were rewarded with the discovery of new kittens snuggled down into a straw bed.

The lower floor was divided into two rooms; one was where the new crop of potatoes were poured out to keep until fall and the cane seed heads were spread out to keep for feed for the laying hens.  The second room was called "the crib" and I suppose, in its early days, was filled with the dry corn harvested in the fall.

The usefulness of the stalls and the crib was all well and good for a little girl, but the best part about the old barn was our playhouse inside the floored room.  Mama didn't care for us to play there, so we took the dolls, the simple wooden cabinet, table, chairs, and doll beds Daddy had made for us, and set up a wonderful, imagined house.  Discarded glass canning lids made wonderful plates and some other little tin objects served as pans for mud pies and cakes, decorated with yellow bitter weed blossoms.

We moved away from the farm and the old barn when I was seventeen years old.  Age and no up-keep soon took its toll on the barn, and when I visited the farmland several years later, it had collapsed.  At that time, inside those walls, the heart was still standing; on another visit, the outside of the barn was gone, and the heart had collapsed too.  But as I looked closely, there was the little green cabinet Daddy had made.  I wanted that cabinet, but my better judgment told me I couldn't move anything to get it out. 

All the remains of the old barn have been burned, grass grows over the spot, and cows graze, but the memories remain.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Runaway Ralph

Most of the time, when we have a cow who is past the age of raising a good calf, she will be sold.  On the other hand, if she's been with us a long time and has carried a name, there's a good chance she will simply be allowed to die and be buried on the farm.  
This little cow was brought home to be fed last winter; her feet were making it difficult for her to walk and winter would have been hard on her without additional feeding.  Her ear tag number was 622, which meant she was born in 1996, making her sixteen years old, or 112 in human years.  And since she has a story to tell, she was never put on the trailer when others went to auction.  A few weeks ago, she surprised us with this pretty little heifer calf, which is just as spry as a calf from a young cow.

Now for her story: 
When she was just a tiny calf, Popa went to check the cows, and she got scared, jumped up and took off running away from the rest of the herd.  He followed her, thinking he'd probably never see her again, but finally found her in the neighboring pasture, over a quarter of a mile away, all tuckered out and resting.  He carried her back, setting her down now and then to rest.  She was given the name, Runaway Ralph, from the children's book by Beverly Cleary, and was called "Raffie".  Over the years she became one of our very best cows.  So, she's living out her old age in luxury, eating grain every day and loved, just because.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dry Weather

Our hillside pastures have very little grass left for the cows to eat; we are in a very dry pattern.  We've had no rain to speak of in several weeks, and there'll be no more hay to put up until the grass gets moisture to make it grow.  Each day we're feeding some of the hay we've put up this season, making the supply dwindle down.  The ponds are low, and the creeks have only pools of water here and there.  Two loads of calves have been sold, and we may be forced to start selling cows if it stays dry.  But, we'll make it; this is just a part of being a farmer.  God will see us through.


Friday, June 1, 2012

June ~~ Little Quilt

There's a cool breeze this morning, and that makes a fine time to sit underneath the shade tree and enjoy "The Tale of Benjamin Bunny", by Beatrix Potter.  Teddy finds it's more comfortable sitting on this bright little quilt than on the grass.

He's hoping you have a happy day,