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La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm) from Lena, WI
La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm)

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Farm Name: La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm)

Year Farm Established: 1946

Location: Stiles, WI

Years I’ve been farming: 68 years

Animals I raise: None, except wildlife.

Crops I grow: Vegetable gardens, flowers, rye, and pastorage.

Hobbies I enjoy: Feeding and providing habitat for wildlife.

The proudest moment on my farm: For the first time in over 60 years, bobwhite quail was sited on our land.

Pets: Just all sorts of wildlife who visit us daily.

Farm Motto: "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well." -- Blessed Julian of Norwich


Farm Blog
DescriptionDate & TimeEditDelete
  Odds 'n Ends, Late May, 2015
Once again, it's been a late Spring here in NE Wisconsin. We used to plant corn on Pa's birthday, May 10, but nowadays I wait until after the middle of May to plant our gardens. Just last Thursday I finally put in the vegetable garden down in the valley below me. Sure enough, the next couple of nights there were frost warnings.
The lilacs are in full bloom at La Ferme Sabloneuse. Every year I make sure to go around to check out and smell the blooms around the Home Property. This year the lilac blooms along my driveway are especially noticeable and the row of lilacs that we'd planted in the mid '80s with saplings taken from Ruthie's mother's property are just splendid! Malheureusement, this is the first year that I will not be able to cut blooms from Ma's giant lilac bush in the front yard of the Home Property and present them to her, whether at home or at her bedside at the nursing home. Her lilac bush produced well this year, as always, and she would've been pleased. It was Ma who'd taught me just a few years ago to trim off the previouis year's growth in order to facilitate better growth the following year. The amazing thing is that she'd told me this while she was well into the midst of her dementia. She had read it somewhere and it was important enough to her to retain it. So.... every year when I clip off the dried up old blooms sometime in late Summer, I thank her.
An update on our bunnies; on the day that I observed the mother rabbit tearing her fur out, I saw her and her split-eared mate at Tommy's (the Home Property). Just a couple of days ago, when mowing at Tommy's I scared up a single tiny bunny that was hunkering next to the house in the long grass. It ran off okay, but I was hoping that it would make it back to the big lilac bush in Tommy's front yard. A day or two later, Tommy looked out his kitchen window and saw a crow on the ground trying to get to the lilac bush, and big mother-bunny was standing in its way, matching its movements and preventing it from getting to her offspring. Tommy (to his everlasting credit) immediately lumbered out into the yard and yelled at the crow, causing it to fly off. This reminded me of the same scenario described in Richard Adams' "Watership Down", only Big Brother Tommy was Bigwig. The comparison surely would fit. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

05/23/2015 07:35.42 PM Report This Comment  
  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part VII
It was on a day in late February, 1986 that my cousin Ray came by with his massive chainsaw and first took down the hung up Norway pine, and then sawed down the ten or twelve needed in order to clear a path for my driveway. I told him that I could cut up trees myself; I just needed them felled. By the end of March that year, I had stacks and stacks of pine blocks for firewood. Now anyone who know anything about firewood knows that pine is not good for burning. Being a soft wood, it leaves creosote in chimneys which leaves them susceptible to chimney fires. Pine logs are also a great target of termites and other bugs. During the Summer when I would walk past the stacks of wood I could actually hear the bugs munching and crunching. Needless to say, I didn't bring any pine wood into the house to store next to the fireplace. I ended up giving all of it to Eldest Brother David to use. He either burned it in his shop or in The Old House at the Homestead.

When my Ruthie and I were first married, we lived in a top-of-line mobile home. It even had a fireplace! I bought a load poplar and birch wood from a friend to burn in it. Both types of wood burn fast and hot leaving little in the way of coals. This way I could set up a fire in the evening and it would be well out by the time we went to bed. How we enjoyed that fireplace! Ruthie, being the inveterate decorator, had a ball decorating the mantel. After Punky was born, she would sit in my lap and watch the fire. I don't know how many times after the others were in bed, I would stay up and watch the fire burn down.

It was almost 30 years later, this last Winter, when I had a good-sized poplar that was too close to our garage. It was definitely too close and too awkwardly shaped for me to try and tackle. (I think I'd mentioned this in an earlier blog.) I saw Raymond in church and I told him that if he would drop it some Sunday morning after Mass I would buy him breakfast at Jo-Jo's Diner. I told him that I would cut up the tree myself; I just needed him to fall it. Raymond gave me his typical Younger response: "You mean you'll buy me breakfast for just five minutes of work?" I told him that it was well worth it.
So after Mass on a Sunday soon after, Raymond stopped by and using the chainsaw that I'd borrowed from Big Brother Tommy, he proceeded to cut down that tree. Raymond admitted to me that this tree was a tricky one. He told me to push on it as he cut it, to make sure that it fell well away from the very garage that Raymond had built for us back in 2001. Neamoins (nevertheless), when the tree finally fell, it just missed the South wall of the garage. Raymond looked up at me, and with the very same expression that he'd given me since back in the day when we were boys up to no good, exclaimed, "Whooo Hooo!". As usual, the Younger luck held true and we had dodged another bout with disaster. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

05/20/2015 07:39.48 PM Report This Comment  
  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part VI
As I'd mention a few posts back, one of the things that could go wrong when falling a tree was to have it hang up against another. Due to my lack of expertise in the Winter of '86, this happened a couple of times. The usual thing to do then is to cut sections off the bottom of the hung up tree until it is shortened to the point where its weight shifts and it either rolls off the second tree or gets small enough for you to physically pull it off yourself. The trick was not to get the chainsaw pinched in the cut. It was definitely tricky for this neophyte to cut upwards against the trunk with Pa's undersized saw.

It was sometime late in February of that year when I hung up one large Norway pine and after a few cuts, I knew this was beyond my ken. In addition, as we had completed the space needed for our prospective home and were now at the point of clearing out a path for a driveway, I also knew that I needed an experienced hand at dropping that last bunch of trees. The man I turned to was Dave Younger's brother Raymond. Good ol' Ray knew how to do about everything, and we Truckeys always contacted him when we needed someone who could do what we could not. The beautiful thing was that back then, Raymond was such a free spirit that he was usually available to work for anyone for a day or two. Back in '81 he, I, and a young high schooler from Wausaukee spent a weekend hauling over a thousand Christmas trees from that area down to La Ferme Sabloneuse for storage for eventual sale in Green Bay.

In Spring of '84, Pa hired Raymond to help us plant Norway Pines on La Ferme Sabloneuse. Pa had secured the use of a tractor-pulled tree planter. The poor bastard on the planter had to sit with his legs spread apart and pull apart pine seedlings one at a time from a bundle and lay them down into the furrow at a regular interval. Raymond had this job because he had almost super-human strength. I, being of sub-human strength, drove the tractor. I do remember (from experience) that while most "day-laboring" jobs at that time paid three or four dollars an hour (under the table), Pa (from his own venerable experience from his youth) paid Raymond five dollars an hour for that day of work. He was well worth it. More on this next time. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

05/16/2015 08:12.52 PM Report This Comment  
  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part V
So I am caught up (for the moment) on Springtime tasks. We're expecting almost a week of cooler weather here in NE Wisconsin and once again I have the time to write about Cutting Wood. Back in 1985 and 1986, after Pa's demise, I had to clear out some 40 or so mature Norway pine in order to clear out space for my house and driveway at what is now the Home Property. The nice thing about Norway pines is that they are straight, no heavy limbs to skew your estimate of where they'll drop. I remember that during the hottest days of late Summer '85 my cousin Dave Younger and I took a bunch of pines out. Dave, like his brother Raymond Younger, is an old hand at dropping trees. At that time I worked nights tending bar at a French Restaurant and we could work during the day for a few hours. Dave dropped the trees with his big chainsaw and I cut them up with my Pa's smaller one. After awhile, I learned how to (more or less) correctly drop a tree. Later on, when I had a day job working at the boat factory, I would spend Saturday mornings by myself, dropping at least one tree and sometimes two; and then cutting them up. A few times Eldest Brother David helped me, but more often it was My Ruthie who was at my side.

It was still dangerous dropping those pines. The snow got deep that Winter and I wasn't all that great at gauging the wind and how the tree would fall. I learned to stop mid-cut and see how the tree was leaning. Any experienced tree cutter would be disgusted at reading these words but I have to be honest. I would often have to get Ruthie to push against a pine as I was cutting. Mostly, it would work. One time, however, I glanced up while cutting and saw that the tree was starting to lean towards Ruthie and she was shooting me a desperate look like poor Max the dog leaning against the sleigh in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". I couldn't hear her above the humming of the chain saw but Ruth said later that she was whimpering like a nervous puppy. Fortunately, we were both able to scoot around the other side of the pine and let it fall the opposite way I'd intended. More on this next time. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

05/10/2015 07:19.35 PM Report This Comment  
  Sitting on the Porch, Spring 2015, (Part II)
As for the fur pulling, I had read about it, especially in Richard Adams' "Watership Down"; but this was the first time I'd actually seen it, and from just three feet away. Again, it was hilarious. The rabbit would lean its head so far over to its side that it would fall over and then quickly get back up. Then it would stop and stare right at me with a big tuft of fur sticking out of its mouth. (Did I say that this was hilarious?) I noticed that the fur kept disappearing inside the rabbit. I couldn't tell you whether it was being stored in its cheeks or actually being ingested. I had known that does who are either pregnant or in a false pregnancy will pull out its fur in order to line a nest for its kittens. A quick check online told me that rabbits will also pull their fur out as a means of grooming and even to aid in shedding, whether in Spring or Autumn. My research says that rabbits do ingest fur when grooming and pet rabbits have been known to have hairballs.

Regardless of the why's and wherefores, I thoroughly enjoyed the encounter. Already I've seen baby bunnies around the brush piles at the apple orchard that I'd made last Winter. Tonight, my sister-in-law Mare-Mare saw another near the Home Garden. Yet again, (and forgive me for the repetition) I am gratified that I am able to fulfill the mission of La Ferme Sabloneuse; which is to provide "feeding and providing habitat for wildlife." -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

05/06/2015 09:34.04 PM Report This Comment  
  Sitting on the Porch, Spring 2015, (Part I)
So when I embarked on the multi-part thread about "Cutting Firewood" I had said: "... at least two weeks of cold weather ... precludes any discussion of any new developments regarding this year's growing season. In the meantime, I shall avail myself of the opportunity to talk at length about a topic near and dear to any Countryman and woman, cutting firewood." Heureusement (happily), the events of this Spring have unfolded at a speed which requires me to suspend further posts on that subject until I get caught up on this growing season's developments.
During this last first really warm weekend at La Ferme Sabloneuse I was able to spend a lot of time sitting at the Garage Porch. As I might have mentioned before, this porch looks out upon the Bear Garden and then down to the Valley Garden, Bill's Shack, over the entire backyard of the Home Property. Even better, from this vantage point I can watch the visitors of three birdbaths and a bird feeder. Last time I had written of the arrivals of our feathered guests. This time I write of an intimate and special encounter with the bunnies.
My PFR (precious few readers) know already how much I love the cottontail rabbits that live here. I love them so much that I could eat them up, (which I do from time to time, literally). Last Sunday afternoon, as I was porch-sitting, I was surprised by two bunnies which rounded the corner of the garage and made themselves to home just three feet from my chair. The larger of the two spent almost the entire time pulling fur from its sides and belly with its teeth, pausing only to play "the jumping game" with its smaller companion. (The "jumping game" can only be understood if you've seen the game yourself. One rabbit charges at the other and the second jumps high in order to let the first run under it. It's wildlife playfulness at its best.) The smaller bunny then went to stretch itself flat on the ground on one end of the flower bed while the larger one continued to pull at its fur. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.
(Please scroll up for Part II)

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

05/06/2015 09:30.56 PM Report This Comment  
  Welcome Back
You're right, Gary. I've often felt we can converse as we travel our separate paths. In fact, it is you that has me paying closer attention to the birds lately. I've always loved them, but now I seem to be searching them out. So far this year, we've seen killdeer (my first time to see them scurrying across the pasture), bluebirds, cardinals, sparrows (I don't know which one),and gray doves. The most fun sighting was an Indigo Bunting, and Randy saw a Blue Heron on the pond. We often have the white one, but the true Blues are rare around here. I just hope he comes back for a visit, but in all honesty, we aren't too wild about them living here, as they can out fish us in a matter of a couple of days, and we won't have any more fish in the pond. We've seen pelicans flying over (our state bird), but so far none have landed. That we know of. The one bird we truly wait for each year is the Purple Martin. Although we do see the scouts in January, when they all flock to the houses we have provided for them, it's our assurance that Spring really is on its way!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

05/03/2015 04:49.09 AM Report This Comment  
  Welcome Back, One and All (Part II)
Now I realize most of the birds I have and will name tonight are year-around residents of La Ferme Sabloneuse. It's just that during the long months of Winter, while I still provide seed and water, I do not have the time nor daylight available to sit out on the porch and watch them. It's always dark when I leave for work and then return. I only see the chickadees, finches and cardinals through the bay window on Sundays. What is so special now is that I can sit out on the porch and really get to observe them again. Yes, the goldfinches still grace the thistle seed feeder, newly resplendent in their Summer yellow, and while the cardinals are most wary of all our bird visitors, you can still see them swing by to see if I've left the porch yet; but now I'm able to see the birds that like to feed off the ground, like the juncos, and notice for the first time in months the nuthatches; which to me, are as pretty as bluebirds with their own subdued variation of blue and orange. There was also an unexpected guest, a hairy woodpecker. First I heard a short, piercing call, one that I knew that I'd heard before, and then it flew up onto the side of a nearby oak and called again. It is an impressive bird.

Of course, the real reason for deciding upon this subject is the arrival of our migratory friends. As I sat on my own perch, so to speak, I saw a brace of mallards fly past the garage and then re-appear going in the opposite direction. I can only hope that this pair will find a place close by to start a family. Even more thrilling for me was the osprey I spied gliding just to the East of La Ferme Sabloneuse, well away from the Oconto River. Later, I saw it again, and it appeared to me to have taken off from the top of a mature white pine on Big Brother Tommy's neighboring property. Again, I can only hope that La Ferme Sabloneuse will be the host of a family of Ospreys this year. I know that my Pa would've been thrilled to have such a variety of wildlife as rightful guests on his land. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

05/02/2015 09:09.07 PM Report This Comment  
  Welcome Back, One and All (Part I)
I'm interrupting my series on Cutting Firewood for "breaking news". Spring has finally arrived at La Ferme Sabloneuse! Yesterday it got up to 71 degrees and today it was up to around 74. Once I got home from work I started putzing outside. (Basically, this means that I kept finding things to do so I could enjoy the evening. With all the windows open in the house, I was still able to converse with My Ruthie as her path inside the house, and mine outside coincided, either through the kitchen window, as she was washing dishes and I was using the outside faucet to fill water buckets for the birdbaths, or through the living room bay window, when she was at the desktop computer and I was either filling the bird feeders or doing the annual Spring chore of raking the gravel off the front lawn that the snow plow had deposited last Winter. I have to laugh. It's typical of the relationship between a Country husband and Country wife, as certainly my fellow country blogger Julie Murphree would attest. We share a sense of togetherness and common purpose even as we each do our own work. I am reminded of the words of Khalil Gibran, "My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand in hand."

But I digress. Tonight I spent a good hour on the Garage Porch welcoming back old friends. I had the guidebook on North America birds at my side and of course, my trusty pellet gun for the red squirrels and chipmunks, and I welcomed all (or most) who came by. It was quite a gathering, although they came and went singly and in pairs. My favorites, the chickadees, came by first and most often. They know me well enough to sit on the nearest branches as soon as I come by with the water and birdseed. They put up quite a commentary. I don't know if they are thanking me or remonstrating me for my tardiness, but I appreciate their input. Next are the sparrows. After years of close observation, I still can't tell if they are chipping sparrows or tree sparrows. Either way, they are a close second behind the chickadees for my affections. As I've mentioned as far back as three years ago, I love how they go after the flying insects. Next came a newcomer to my eyes, a dark-eyed junco. Tonight was the first time that I was able to identify one by the book, though I've seen them many times before. I've also noticed what I think are song sparrows. They don't have the red cap that the chipping sparrows do but I like the streaks of black, brown, and white along their bodies. (Please scroll up for Part II)

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

05/02/2015 09:04.05 PM Report This Comment  
  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part IV
As I'd mentioned earlier, the saw rig operation was only part of the whole process of cutting firewood. After the sawing was finished, what remained was the splitting and stacking. But first, the tree had to be felled, limbed, and cut up; or if it was a windfall, it still had to be limbed and sectioned out. The first Winter after Eldest Brother David came home from the Air Force, and was on full disability while he and the Veterans Administration waited to see if he would survive Hodgkin's disease, he and Big Brother Tommy worked to cut up an enormous oak tree which had fallen West of us on our friend's Christmas tree plantation. David and Tommy used Pa's enormous crosscut saw to section off the massive oak trunk and as I remember, David drove out his tractor and trailer each day and used the maul and wedges to split up the gigantic rings of hardwood. At the end of each day he would drive back a load of split wood.

Sawing down a tree is tricky business. I never liked doing it. I personally know only a few fellers who were able to fell a tree with skill, (pardon the pun). To saw down a tree, you must be able to gauge by sight how the tree leans, its center of gravity, the wind speed and direction, and the lay of the terrain. If you make a mistake, the least of your problems is that the tree becomes hung up on another; worse, the tree falls on a building, and worst of all, it falls on you and kills you. In my own lifetime, I've read in the papers of at least a half-dozen men who've been crushed by a tree that they've cut.

Now my Pa was pretty good at felling a tree. Poplars were his favorite. While their center of gravity could be difficult to judge, they weren't huge like a mature oak and they were relatively easy to cut for a deciduous tree. I think Pa preferred them for that reason. Also, poplar wood burns hot and fast, perfect for a fire in the Sears stove in the Old House, Pa's workshop. A few blocks of poplar wood made the building warm long enough for Pa to finish his work and then burn itself out in the evening when Pa was done for the day. As for a mature oak, Pa preferred to just capitalize on a windfall rather than to try and tackle such a large and dangerous tree. More about fellin' trees next time. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

04/25/2015 09:50.03 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Spring II
That's one of my favorite quotes as well, Gary, and we only dream of being able to do that one day. If you love checking out the animal tracks so well, why don't you come down here and help Randy track those skunks that have been hiding out in the barn? He ran six off, but this morning I got another solid whiff of it when I went to feed. Um...we'll even let you go first!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

04/23/2015 06:07.28 AM Report This Comment  
  More on Early Spring, 2015 (Part II)
So on Friday of last week, as I was roto-tilling the plot I'm using this year in the Valley Garden, and later, as I walked the tiller back to Belle Soeur Susie's garage, I took note of the animal tracks I saw. In the Valley I saw the usual ubiquitous deer tracks, but I also saw coyote tracks as well. On the way to Susie's I noticed turkey tracks, and when I stopped to inspect a nearby sand dune in order to see if our local red fox had made a den there, I saw her tracks, but no den. Later, as I was talking with Big Brother Tommy about the wildlife we have this year on La Ferme Sabloneuse, he mentioned the gigantic rabbit he had coming out from the lilac bush in his front lawn each evening to search for new grass. At the Home Property, we've seen a similiar big bunny out to "silflay" in the evenings as well. Tommy also told me of the three or so deer he sees frequently in his headlights many evenings when he comes home late.

As we were talking, a raven alighted on the power line pole on the other side of the Old House. I pointed it out to my brother, describing how it can be identified by its larger size than the common crow, its phlanged wing tips and its deep croaking cry. Sure enough, the raven took flight, showing off its wings and croaking much like a sand hill crane. Tommy was moved to state just how great it was to have so much wildlife on his property. I heartily agree. I understand (perhaps mistakenly) that in Germany, if you own forested land, you must do a yearly census as to the types and amount of wildlife that live there. Most landowners hire a trained professional to do the count. Heureusement (happily) we haven't descended (yet) into that level of socialism. Still, every Countryman wants to know which species of wildlife find his land amenable to life and reproduction. I've noted numerous times how our Pa had striven to make this land a welcome place for wild game populations. I think that one of the crowning achievements for him in this regard was when he took a walk around his land on an Autumn evening with his single-shot 20 gauge and harvested three rabbits in some 25 minutes. I was envious, but proud and happy for him.
That last Friday I was moved to think how this country would be much better off if each family possessed a piece of this nation's good earth to till and preserve. To borrow a quote of Abraham Lincoln (which I copied from Julie Murphree's "The Farmwife" site): "The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land." If only this could be true in our times. – Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

04/22/2015 08:07.34 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Spring
To me, the beginning of Spring isn't here until you hear a tractor crank up for the first time. I envy you your Farmall tractors - but feel your pain with their crankiness on starting. We actually use Ether in the winter, as we seem to have 'addicted' tractors. They don't want to start until we give them a good dose!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

04/19/2015 05:10.28 AM Report This Comment  
  More on Early Spring, 2015 (Part I)
Yesterday was supposed to be the last really nice Spring day for awhile, so I made the most of it by prepping the gardens. I borrowed the roto tiller from Belle Soeur Susie and worked up the two garden plots that I will be using this year. I plan on hauling in a load of manure sometime next week and spread it on the Home Garden; most of which I plan on leaving fallow until I plant hairy vetch as a cover crop in late Summer.
After I returned the tiller, I decided that it was time to see if the two Farmalls would start after their Winter dormancy. I deemed yesterday to be a good day for that, since it was warm, (temps in the upper 60s.) When I rode into the driveway of the Homestead, Big Brother Tommy strode out from behind the Barn. I also deemed this to be a good sign, since he was present last year at this time to help me start the tractors. We checked the fluid levels in both Farmalls and added oil to each. It was Tommy who noticed that one back tire of the '38 Farmall was almost flat. Good catch, I might've not noticed it. So, as Big Brother got out the air compressor from the Old House, I went to start the tractor for the first time since last October. As I've related a year ago, the procedure for starting the "old" tractor is to flip the choke switch on, turn the crank one half-turn, turn the choke off, and give the crank another half-turn. If it doesn't start up, you repeat the procedure once more, and then if it still doesn't start, you know that you've probably flooded the two-cylinder engine and now must crank until exhausted or the tractor finally takes pity on you and decides to start. (Yes, I must confess, I often consider the 1938 Farmall to possess a spirit and intelligence, and I talk to it every time I use it, even going so far as to pat it fondly after putting it up and shutting it down.)

In this instance, just like last year, after six months of dormition, the old Farmall started up at the second crank and ran beautifully! (Of course, before cranking it, I sent up a prayerful thought to my Pa and Eldest Brother David for their intercession.) I ran it up the hill and pumped up the flacid tire. Next, I ran it up the road to Belle Soeur Susie's driveway and then back. Finally I plowed one furrow at the East end of the Valley Garden to prepare a place to put in a bed of asparagus later this Spring. Once I put it away, I asked Tommy if he wanted to take out the other "new" Farmall (circa 1950) for a warmup spin. He climbed up and pushed in the starter (this tractor having a battery). It started up after only two tries; much better than last year, when I'd had to play with the choke for quite awhile. Tommy took it up to Susie's and back and backed it in to its place. Just like last year, it was a thrill to be up on those tractors after the Winter layover and see them start up as if eager to get going into the growing season. More on this next time. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

04/18/2015 08:24.23 PM Report This Comment  
  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part III
Sometime around 1980, Pa got the idea that it would be easier to hall the saw rig to where the logs were rather than the other way around. It was a lot easier to transport blocks of wood to the shed and cellar with the tractor trailer than it was to wrap a chain around a pile of logs and drag them to the Wooden Shed. So Pa peeled the bark from two oak trunks and used the ax and adze to shape one end of each log to where it resembled the upturned prow of a boat. That's what he was making, in effect, a stone boat; two logs with heavy planks nailed across them in order to drag a heavy load, usually field stone. This was also called a dray, according to Wikipedia: "A low and side-less" wagon. Instead of stones, this dray had the saw rig bolted onto the 2 x 6 cross pieces. (I've posted a photo of the rig in the photo section.)

Wherever we hauled the rig, Pa and Eldest would anchor it with thick iron rods driven deep into the earth and back one of the tractors up to fit the belt. Even in the early 80s, as I mentioned last time, Pa did the cutting. I can still see him in my memory; when the sawing was finished, he would disengage the pto and as the power belt slowed, he would pull the belt off the tractor's fan wheel, running along with the belt as he provided the gentle pressure necessary to ease it off the wheel. It was the only time I would see him actually run, quite a feat for a man in his 70s. After Pa had passed, David did the cutting, with Belle Soeur Susie at his side taking away the cut blocks. I was still assigned as the loader, only now I was assisted by one of David's sons. I remember one time, either in the late 80s or early 90s, we had the rig set up on Eldest's property and we were cutting logs for his Winter supply of firewood. I remember the day as being hot. As we were taking a break late in the day, David brought up the possibility of knocking off and finishing the next day. I knew that as inviting as that suggestion sounded, I couldn't face another day of misery. I opined that as we were already miserable, we might as well finish it up today regardless of our fatigue and get the beastly business over and done with. David then told Susie, "That Gary is strong!" I wasn't, of course, but still it was nice to get a positive acknowledgement from the patriarch of the family. More on Cutting Firewood next time. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

04/11/2015 06:09.31 PM Report This Comment  
  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part II
To properly run a saw rig operation, you need at least three people. One to bring the log to the rig, one to operate the saw rig by pushing the hinged table forward and back again, bringing the log to the circular saw and then re-positioning the log for the next cut; and one to grab the cut blocks of wood and fling them onto the growing woodpile. The person at the saw rig doing the actual cutting had to work the hardest and had to be the most experienced. He needed to be able to automatically gauge the proper length of each and every cut while pulling the log perpendicular to the saw. The "loader" (for lack of a better term) often stayed to hold the log for the cutter until it was short enough for one person to handle, then went to get the next log. Often a fourth person was necessary if the logs were large enough that two people were needed to load it onto the cutting table. It took a lot of coordination between the loader and the cutter to keep the two from pushing and pulling against each other as they pulled the log along for the next cut.

When Pa was alive, he always did the cutting. Even into his seventies, that tough, stocky, old Frenchman could operate that table with a swift, efficient rhythm. Eldest Brother David usually was at Pa's right, throwing away the cut blocks of wood. Big Brother Tommy and I, being the youngest, were tasked in bringing up the next log. I can tell you that when I was a boy, that pile of logs never seemed to get smaller. It was a challenge to find and extract a log from the tangle of timber before Pa yelled at us for being too slow. Perhaps this is why I began to dislike cutting firewood, the yelling of a short-tempered father and the pressure to keep up to the older family members. During my growing years, the saw rig was permanently set up in front of the Wooden Shed, anchored into place by iron pipes and bars wedged in amongst the legs of the rig and driven deep into the ground. Branches, limbs, and logs from harvested poplars, birches, and oaks would be dragged to the left the the saw rig and left to wait for the appointed day when enough manpower was available to cut them all up (usually a Saturday in the late Autumn).

When all the logs had been cut up, there was still much to do. The larger blocks of wood had to be split and then were stacked in the Wooden Shed for use in the Old House and in the basement of the "new house" for the stove in its basement. More on the saw rig next time. --Gary

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04/08/2015 08:55.01 PM Report This Comment  
  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part I
This week at La Ferme Sabloneuse, we had a couple days of Spring. On Wednesday I was able to putz around the Home Property. I repaired the door of the Wooden Shed and also spaded over all the raised garden beds for this year's plantings. Malheureusement (unhappily), the forecaster predicts at least two weeks of cold weather starting tomorrow. This precludes any discussion of any new developments regarding this year's growing season. In the meantime, I shall avail myself of the opportunity to talk at length about a topic near and dear to any Countryman and woman, cutting firewood.

I love firewood, but I hate cutting firewood. Well, to be specific, I only hate certain aspects of cutting it. Mostly I disliked the motorized saws, whether the chainsaw or the tractor pto-powered saw rig, each of which could maim or kill you in an instant. Being the maladroit that I am, I was always afraid of falling into the circular saw of the rig or severing my femoral artery as I fell holding a chainsaw.
In the days before the advent of chainsaws, owning a saw rig meant that you were a man of substance. My Pa once told me that as a property-less and unemployed young man in the late 1930s, he envied Tom Burdick because he owned a house with a few acres, a tractor, and his own saw rig. Pa thought that Tom had it made. I don't know how Pa acquired his own saw rig. So many times I'd seen Pa back up his old 1938 Farmall the proscribed distance from the the saw rig, place blocks of wood behind the tractor's rear wheels, and then run the wide conveyor belt from the pto wheel of the tractor to the accompanying wheel of the rig.

Next time, I shall talk about the various working positions of saw rig operation. -- Gary

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04/04/2015 09:53.00 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring and the Annual Fish Run (Part V)
I don't think that I've ever went smelt fishing. Many years ago, the smelt run was what everyone waited for along the West shores of Green Bay. Time was, a couple of nights at the bridges of the cities of Oconto or Marinette would net you (pun intended) enough smelt to freeze for an entire year. Nowadays, not so much. For those of you not from around these here parts, the adult smelt run up the rivers and streams around the Great Lakes each spring in order to spawn. The adult run from about 6 to 9 inches but are a slender fish. All you have to do is cut off the head and strip the guts out and you can flour and fry the fish and eat it whole. The bones are not big enough to do anything but make it crunchy and add to the flavor.

According to the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute: "The rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) is not native to the Great Lakes. The smelt is a saltwater species, though a freshwater population exists in Green Lake, Maine. Fish from this population were stocked into Crystal Lake, Michigan in 1912. Some of the fish escaped from Crystal Lake and smelt were first caught in Lake Michigan in 1926. Once established, the smelt population expanded rapidly in Lake Michigan becoming very abundant in the 1930s. The smelt was nearly eliminated from the lake in 1941 to 1942 by an unknown pathogen. However, by the mid 1950s and into the 1960s the fish were once again highly abundant."

As I've alluded above, the smelt population of the Great Lakes have sharply fallen in the last decade. One of the reasons may be the infestation of zebra mussels, which drive adult smelt away from their usual spawning locations inshore. Another is that a healthy lake trout population has lowered the smelt population through predation. I can only hope that like all types of fish populations in the Great Lakes, this is only a temporary ebb and that the smelt will bounce back like they have in decades past. Well, that's it about the Spring fish runs. Time to head into the growing season. --Gary

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04/01/2015 07:18.52 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Spring, 2015
I've interrupted my series on the Spring Fish Run in order to write about what's been happening this week at La Ferme Sabloneuse. It is early Spring here. Except for a few temporary inches of wet snow the other morning, the ground has been bare and the frost has come out, at least up on the Home Property. I was finally able to catch up on the late Autumn chores that I'd been prevented from doing by last November's early arrival of Winter. First I raked up the oak leaves around the Bear Garden which threatened to interfere with this year's growth of grass. Then I dug up the roots of last year's corn stalks and hauled them off the Home Garden. After that, Andrew helped me haul up the blocks of wood from a poplar that my cousin Raymond cut down for me last December and we stacked them next to the wooden shed. Sometime this Summer I will split them and haul them over to the Homestead for Big Brother Tommy to use as firewood next Winter. To be preparing for next Winter while this Winter is just ending is something that only a Countryman or woman can understand.

My next task was to use up the remaining gas and chain bar oil of the chain saw I'd borrowed from Tommy to cut up a couple of giant, dead Sumac which were leaning against Bill's Shack down in the apple orchard. After I had added the dead branches and trunks to the row of brush piles bordering the mowed lawn of the orchard, the final task of the day was to clean up the chainsaw and return it to its place in the Barn at the Homestead. I learned the love of brush piles from my Pa. Most white men would just burn off the unsightly heaps of branches and trunks, but Pa taught me that brush piles were prime habitat for rabbits and Pa, as you all know by now, was the consummate rabbit hunter.

I am now caught up on last year's work. (Sounds funny, as I reread it, but any Countryperson knows what I mean.) Almost immediately, as the weather allows, I must now get a start on the things I need to do in order to prepare for Spring, 2015. The first decent day that comes along, I will trim up yet another Sumac which I know will cause me trouble as I mow the orchard grass come this May. I know that I should also see if our two Farmalls made it through the cold months okay and if they'll start up right away like they did last Spring.
Spring 2015; it has arrived, (more or less) and as I do every year here at La Ferme Sabloneuse, I will keep you informed as to its progress. --Gary

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03/28/2015 07:36.31 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring and the Annual Fish Run (Part IV)
Pa used to net suckers by using a square-shaped net suspended from four bent iron rods at the corners. This was connected to a light rope. Pa would drop the net assembly over the side of a bridge (usually the Hwy 141 bridge over the Pensaukee River at Abrams). When Pa would see the silhouettes of a few suckers over the netting, he would pull it up and then dump the fish onto the concrete. Big Brother Tommy and I would scramble to grab the suckers and put them in pails, all the while trying not to get hit by passing vehicles. Pa would yell at us boys to watch out for cars. I have to laugh. The ten year old me would instantly acknowledge the warning. The 56 year old me would've responded, "Dude! You're bringing your kids onto a heavily-traveled state highway in order to net uneatable fish!" Years later, when I was a young adult, I would just bring a simple landing net to the narrows of Devereaux' Crick and net them one at a time and throw them onto the bank. My childhood friend Mike LeFebre had a grandfather who would then pickle them, perhaps the last person to do so in my life experience.
Besides netting, we also used to use the bow and arrow on rough fish in the Spring. Mike and I would take our bows and target arrows and try our luck at skewering these fish. It took awhile to compensate for the refraction of light in the water but we were able to take a number of suckers. We didn't have any string attached to the arrows. One of us would takea shot and the other would grab the arrowed sucker, (or wade into the stream to retrieve the arrow). After an hour or so of bouncing the practice arrows off stones they got pretty dull. The last sucker we shot at, the arrow just bounced off its head, knocking it senseless. The poor thing just started rolling downstream with the current. As I went looking for the arrrow Mike went splashing down the crick to chase down the sucker.

Speaking of "hunting" fish with bow and arrows, one time in the late Spring the Oconto River had overflowed its banks at Couillardville, a hamlet four miles downriver from Stiles. Pa and Wild Bill Beaudin heard that there were tons of carp rooting among the alfalfa plants in two feet of water where the river had flooded a hay field. Now this was in 1975 or so. There weren't those specially made bows with a reel attached to it and arrows and filament and such. Pa and Bill merely lashed a Folger's coffee can to their bow and wrapped a length of yellow plumb-line around it and tied one end to a practice arrow. Lord the fun those two had! They said that they were almost knocked over by the giant carp colliding against their waders as they splashed through the field, shooting and missing throughout a warm April afternoon. My part in the affair? Well that was to go out into the garden and bury the dozen or so big carp they those two kindred spirits had brought home. More about this next time. --Gary

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03/25/2015 09:03.51 PM Report This Comment  
  Great Post!
As usual, Spring and the Annual Fish Run was great. Randy and I still put all his fish heads and guts in our garden - especially in the fall! Keep up the great work.

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03/23/2015 06:42.52 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring and the Annual Fish Run (Part III)
Now before you judge me for burying a perfectly viable game fish in our garden, let me explain that burying fish in the land was a First Nations' practice. You may remember from the history books that Squanto taught the Pilgrims to put a dead fish into each and every hill of corn. Actually, in accordance with the agricultural methods of the Algonquin-speaking peoples of the northern tier of the North American continent, fertilizing the Spring gardens with fish was imperative to ensure a fertile growing season. This racial memory must have passed itself along to my father's time as he netted suckers each April and then had us boys bury them into our gardens.

Back in the 1960s and 70s it was legal to net suckers off the bridges from roads and highways. I don't see it any more these days. Who has the time or desire to net "rough" fish of no practical use except as fertilizer? Looking back, I find it amazing that we Truckeys did. We were the only ones, as I reflect. I do remember that some 40 years ago, a few old-timers would pickle suckers, but that was ending as well, as the survivors of the Great Depression and its corresponding sense of frugality passed.

In the early settlement days of the state of Wisconsin, in the lead mining regions of the state's southwest corner, immigrant miners from Cornwall would work the mines during the warm months and then spend the Winters in dugouts excavated into the hillsides. Miners who came up from more densely settled Illinois would go back home during Winter and return in the Spring. (Illinois was admitted as a state in 1818, Wisconsin was admitted some 30 years later.) The settlers who burrowed in for the Winter came to known as "badgers". Those who came up from Illinois came to be known as "suckers", as their return coincided with the annual Spring run. So this is why Wisconsin is known as "The Badger State" and Illinois is known as "The Sucker State". This must be the reason why we Wisconsinites say of the Chicago Bears that: "The Bears still suck!" More on the fish run next time. --Gary

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03/21/2015 08:09.49 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring and the Annual Fish Run (Part II)
Now the Northern Pike gets its name in English from its long thin shape, resembling the medieval weapon. The younger fish resemble snakes and have the nickname of 'hammer handles". It is a ferocious predator and puts up one heck of a fight when hooked. Considered too bony for easy processing, it takes an experienced fisherman to fillet one. The Northern Pike is almost synonymous with the American Pickerel, the latter is a subspecies of the former and the two closely resemble one another. Up here, the two terms are intermixed. Never mind, they look alike, act alike and I'm only guessing that both species make their spawning runs up the streams, creeks, and any flooded ditches that allow them passage.

Because they are fewer in number than suckers and smelt, Northern Pike seem to invite predating by humans by means of spearing. It's illegal in Wisconsin to do this, of course. And yes, of course, in my youth it was the thing to do in very early Spring when the creeks had just been clear of ice. I've only went "pike spearing" once, when I was about 17. We had a trident spear that ol' Wild Bill had left with us and I just had to go and try it just once. Spearing pike is risky business. One of our neighbors along Devereaux' crick got pinched while she was doing it. Bad luck, as it turned out. The local warden happened to drive by and see her with a spear in her backyard. That's the problem about early Spring, no cover. You can see into the woods for a hundred yards. In my case, I was lucky. I went out on a Sunday afternoon and almost immediately got one. I made my way home through the back fields, well away from the road and showed the fish to my Pa. I half expected him to carp at me about the pike (pun intended) but he just said to try and fillet it.

Needless to say, in accordance with what I'd mentioned before, there was no way I was able to fillet that pike. Lord knows I tried, but I ended up burying the pike in our garden. More next time. -- Gary

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03/18/2015 08:19.50 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring and the Annual Fish Run (Part I)
The weather broke last week at La Ferme Sabloneuse. We've seen the snow pack melt away in a week's time and the creeks have opened up. Temps have been in the 50s and 60s most of the week. Tomorrow and Monday will top out at 60. I am made to think that by Monday night I may be able to hear the first Spring peepers. Hal Borland, that doyen of nature writers, wrote that three days of 55 degree temperatures were enough to bring out the peepers. We shall see. My Ruthie saw robins here yesterday and today I heard them in Green Bay. As I've mentioned before, robins may stay all year during a mild Winter, or come and go northwards and southwards with the snow pack during others. This Winter I have not seen them since that season came early the first part of last December. Again, "comme d'habitude", it is the Sandhill cranes which are the first harbengers of early Spring for me and it is the Red-winged blackbirds which are the guarantars that Spring is here to stay (more or less).

Now with the opening of the streams and creeks come the various runs of a variety of fish. Up here they are (in this order) the Northern pickerel, suckers, and smelt. If I should have the time to drive around tomorrow (which is highly unlikely, since I will have to take down the Christmas lights on the Home Property) I am sure that I would see folks already standing at the small bridges and culverts over the Devereaux' Crick and other unnamed rivulets and ditches in order to see if the pickerel are "running". Next time I will discuss each specie of the "Spring Fish Run". --Gary

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03/14/2015 09:42.09 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring and the Annual Fish Run (Part I)
The weather broke last week at La Ferme Sabloneuse. We've seen the snow pack melt away in a week's time and the creeks have opened up. Temps have been in the 50s and 60s most of the week. Tomorrow and Monday will top out at 60. I am made to think that by Monday night I may be able to hear the first Spring peepers. Hal Borland, that doyen of nature writers, wrote that three days of 55 degree temperatures were enough to bring out the peepers. We shall see. My Ruthie saw robins here yesterday and today I heard them in Green Bay. As I've mentioned before, robins may stay all year during a mild Winter, or come and go northwards and southwards with the snow pack during others. This Winter I have not seen them since that season came early the first part of last December. Again, "comme d'habitude", it is the Sandhill cranes which are the first harbengers of early Spring for me and it is the Red-winged blackbirds which are the guarantars that Spring is here to stay (more or less).

Now with the opening of the streams and creeks come the various runs of a variety of fish. Up here they are (in this order) the Northern pickerel, suckers, and smelt. If I should have the time to drive around tomorrow (which is highly unlikely, since I will have to take down the Christmas lights on the Home Property) I am sure that I would see folks already standing at the small bridges and culverts over the Devereaux' Crick and other unnamed rivulets and ditches in order to see if the pickerel are "running". Next time I will discuss each specie of the "Spring Fish Run". --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

03/14/2015 09:42.08 PM Report This Comment  
  What I Like About Living in the North, Part IV
In my last post, I talked about the seasons, starting off in Winter and then moving backwards into Autumn. So now I continue my retrograde to Summer. Now folks in the South enjoy Summer-like temperatures for some six months. While the heat of High Summer must be almost unendurable for them, I'm sure that they pride themselves on their hardiness in enduring it just as we Northerners do the same with our bitter cold temps. Neamoins, they have a growing season that is twice ours and they make full use of it. I am actually ashamed of myself when I read about all the gardening The Farmwife does during her extended growing season. I get sick of my garden after only three months. How she can continuously tend her garden from late March into October is beyond the ken of this French Canuck!

Regardless of when Summer actually begins, it's the first harvests of the garden that I love, as do gardeners of all latitudes. Here at La Ferme Sabloneuse it's first cucumbers, tomatoes and maybe some early lettuce. Or just as tasty, "new potatoes", small red Norlands baked, then sliced open and covered sinfully in butter, salt, pepper, sour cream and chives. It as if your body is craving the home-grown nutrients from your own land. Washed down with cold milk, it's Summer at it's best. Now up here many men like ice fishing, but for me, Summer is when I think about casting a line for my supper, whether it's fresh trout or panfish caught that very afternoon. My Pa always said that it wasn't worth fishing until after the mosquitos and mayflies have hatched out, because it was only after the fish began eating bugs that their flesh tasted good. Believe what you will, but Pa, especially during his retirement, spent countless hours on some piece of shoreline or other working his fly rod and then bringing his catch home for Ma to fry up. A speckled trout or two, rolled in flour and fried in butter is supper and dessert all at once.
So now I've covered Summer. Are you expecting Spring? Well, so am I. To tell you the truth, there's no such thing as Spring in NE Wisconsin. Some years we go from deep Winter into a few weeks of back-and-forth weather and then into full Summer. In other years, there's no transition whatsoever; there's snow in the deep woods into May and then it's 85 degrees and the Spring peepers are finally out, some four weeks late.
The magnificent expanse of the seasons is what I like about living in the North. We go from 15 below to 50 degrees above zero in two days up here. Once, in August, 1983, I was trimming Christmas trees in Wausaukee, WI. in 90 degrees heat and I thought: "How can one place be so hot and so cold in one year?" Every year up here I think the same thing. --Gary

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03/12/2015 08:17.03 PM Report This Comment  
  What I Like About Living in the North, Part III
Now what I like about living up North is the changing of the seasons. In fact, that's what most northern Countryfolk would tell you. Right now, it's hard at the tail end of long cold spell, it's hard for me to conjure up any beautiful images of Winter, but I'll try. There are even a few folks up here, like my dear friend Suzanne Snyder, who say that they prefer Winter over Summer! (We just smile and nod at her, and then roll our eyes when she isn't looking.) What I love about Winter is blue snow. (No, not when you spill windshield wash on it.) It is when you have a sunny January day after a fresh snow and the snow is so dazzling that it hurts you eyes. The shaded side of a new snowdrift looks blue in comparison to the rest of the landscape sparkling like so many minuscule diamonds. I love a Winter's sunset; the pale orange sun's weak gleamings on the sides of our barn and corn-crib and on the bare tops of the poplars. And the Winter constellations! These past few months I would brave the sub zero temps and step out onto the front steps to see Orion, Pegasus, and Gemini. It was just last January that an hour past sundown I could see all the visible planets in one night; Venus, Mercury, and Mars in the West, rising Jupiter in the East, and in the cold clear morning, Saturn preceding the sunrise.

Tired of Winter? Then how about Autumn? From late August to November is my very favorite time of the year. My friend Chip Codella, a Renaissance Man if there ever was one, clued me in to a wonderful quote by Albert Camus: "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." I love the harvest, the Harvest Moon, and the ripe smells of a year's growth which has come to its own fulfillment. I also love the paler blue of the Autumn skies and the dark, scudding clouds of an Autumn cold front descending from the North to finally end the growing season on a chilly October evening. I end this post with what I consider the penultimate description of Autumn by Kenneth Grahame in "The Wind in the Willows": "... the Mole turned his talk to the harvest that was being gathered in, the towering wagons and their straining teams, the growing ricks, and the large moon rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves. He talked of the reddening apples around, of the browning nuts, of jams and preserves and the distilling of cordials; till by easy stages such as these he reached midwinter, its hearty joys and its snug home life, and then he became simply lyrical." More next time. -- Gary

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03/11/2015 08:58.24 PM Report This Comment  
  What I Like About Living in the North, Part II
I was writing about how much I loved reading about living in the South. As for Ms. Kat, I love her ability to appeal to the reader's sense of smell: "I love the odd flowering trumpet vine that’s grown into the Holly in the front garden and the Bridal Wreath that flowers pink, the Azaleas, the Irises, the Honeysuckle and Jasmine. I walk through my yard and the smells almost knock me down." It has been said that the memories of smells possess the strongest power to bring us back to the past. I agree. I can only imagine what it must be like for a southern Countryman or Countrywoman to breathe in the scent of dogwood or jasmine and think back on a stolen moment with one's first love among the blooms in a southern Spring. I am made to think of Glen Campbell's songs "Bonaparte's Retreat" and "Southern Nights"; both of which were published during my teenage years and still to this day can evoke a painful and powerful longing in this ol' boy's heart for "Des jours anciens, et je pleure". (... Days past, and I weep)

Also, as with Julie Murphree's post, I also must pay homage to Ms. Kate's ability to turn me into Pavlov's dog as I read about the southern foods she makes: ". . . simple food--pinto beans and cornbread, lentils, lasagna, baked (anonymous) chicken, and my homemade bread! Biscuits with the jam and jelly I put up." The reader begins to realize that while this hayseed is an incurable Romantic, he is also of the age where his love of food has replaced his libido as the primary corporal urge of his carnal desires. (It's amazing what age does to a man!) More on this tomorrow. --Gary

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03/10/2015 07:05.45 PM Report This Comment  
  What I Like About Living in the North, Part I
So what do you like about living where you live? Up here in NE Wisconsin, only now has the temperature peaked above freezing. In spite of this, this past Winter has been much easier than the last, which I believe was the worst in my lifetime. Neamoins, I know that I'd prefer living hear to living down South. Still, in the interests of being fair, I've invited "The Farmwife", (Julie Murphree), and Ms. Kat of "Casa Smith-Coushatta" (Kathleen Tiberius Smith) to send their posts to "La Ferme Sabloneuse". They both live in the great state of Louisiana, one that is near and dear to this ol' French Canuck's heart because it's the most French of all the states in the Union (or the Confederacy). It's a win-win for me because I get to have work from two wonderful writers on my blogsite.

I've already posted the writings of Julie and Ms. Kate. Ah, what good reading it was too! Reading Julie's posts, I was craving the "fluffy buttermilk biscuits" and "fried chicken and corn fritters".

I must admit, there are aspects of Southern Living (there's actually a magazine by that name) that do not appeal to me. As Julie wrote, ". . . the very idea of sitting in a rocker on a porch, a paper fan in one hand and a glass of ice cold sweet tea in the other, all the while listening to the bass of the bull frogs and the chirping of the cicadas, (and occasionally shooing a snake or gator off that very same porch), is like a glimpse of Heaven." Well, this ol' northern hay-seed is glad that there are no gators or cotton mouths around his neck of the woods! More on this tomorrow. --Gary

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03/09/2015 08:16.36 PM Report This Comment  
  What I Like About Living in the South, Part III
I love the old man who used to live next door to me, who moved before we could become well acquainted. Mr. Ducot redrew the property line before he sold his house and enlarged my property, including two Mayhaw trees in the bargain, and saved me from having to remove or reduce my dining room, which was about a foot over the property line before adjustment (I have no idea how that happened). I remember, right before he moved, he saw me standing in my pie-shaped backyard, staring at the Mayhaws. He came over and said, “Those are your trees now. You need to learn to make Mayhaw jelly.” And I did!

I think that’s what I like best about the south. I can meet someone and, often enough, we become first-name friends—my favorite checker at the grocery store, Carol, and my favorite bagger, Cook. I don’t know many people in this town well, but I know quite a few well-enough. I have first-name or no-name relationships with many people here. The feed store owner, whose last name is Smith, will bring pallets to my house when he has an abundance of them. People in this small southern town will do those kinds of things.

As far as food goes, I like eating what I can harvest from the garden, when things grow! But I like simple food--pinto beans and cornbread, lentils, lasagna, baked (anonymous) chicken, and my homemade bread! Biscuits with the jam and jelly I put up. Really, just about anything I can cook from scratch. I'm trying to avoid fast food.
Life is cheaper here, in some respects. I couldn’t have this house and this .87 acre of land in Shreveport for what I paid for it, much less in any other state, north or south! The drawback there is that, if I wanted to sell, I might have trouble finding a buyer. Not many people are clamoring to move here—but that could be a blessing, too.

One thing I know about myself, though. I tend to adapt to wherever I happen to be. I can be happy in Durango, San Francisco, Austin, Boston, Chicago, anywhere in England! I’ve decided the place doesn’t matter as much as my sense of adventure. If I bring my amazement and curiosity with me, I can be comfortable nearly anywhere.

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03/08/2015 07:53.39 PM Report This Comment  
  What I Like About Living in the South, Part II
I like living in this town, even with unsupportive public officials and the annoying neighbor whose dogs harass and kill my chickens. I especially like that, when I give plumbers and electricians my address, then describe where my house is in the town’s layout, those guys always say, “Oh, you live at the old Cooper place!” I like that people refer to my house with a name. It reminds me of England, where all of the houses have names. One day, I’m going to have a “Casa Smith” sign made and hang it on my porch!

We have four seasons, but I like spring and fall the best. Right before spring shows up in all its green-ness, the Jonquils and Paperwhites bloom at the edge of the ditch. I didn’t plant them, but they show up every year. I’m eternally grateful to whoever put them there. I’m grateful for the birds that drop undigested seeds that sprout into mega-sunflowers at the end of the driveway. I love the odd flowering trumpet vine that’s grown into the Holly in the front garden and the Bridal Wreath that flowers pink, the Azaleas, the Irises, the Honeysuckle and Jasmine. I walk through my yard and the smells almost knock me down. I’m thinking someone’s grandmother has been sprucing up the place with color and fragrance.

Summer can be problematic (that means “hot!”), but I’m used to it. And we have air conditioning, so I only sweat when I want to. We have horrid winters once in a while, or maybe one week out of a blessedly short season! (Please scroll up to see Part III)

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03/08/2015 07:50.55 PM Report This Comment  
  What I Like about Living in the South, Part I
(Note: This posting is from Ms. Kate of Casa Smith-Coushatta)

I was born in New Orleans. According to a revered professor, Dr. Wilfred Guerin, New Orleans is NOT “the south.” I tend to agree with him on that. I’ve been to Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Boston, London…and New Orleans has the flavor of those cities—eclectic, expansive, surprising.

But I don’t live there anymore, though I miss it every day of my life. I live in a little town in North Louisiana—Coushatta, population approximately 2200, depending on how intensive the oil and gas drilling and logging are at any point. I came to Coushatta via Shreveport, which is considerable larger. While I’m comfortable where I am, I’ve never been completely comfortable in this part of the state. Even Louisiana has its north and south, and I like the southern part of the state most—Lafayette, Grand Isle, New Orleans.

Why do I like living in the south, even if I am a Louisiana Yankee (I live north of Alexandria)?

Some of my reasons may sound slightly silly. For example, I like being able to wear the same clothes almost all year long. With the simple addition of tights and a shawl, I can wear a summer dress in the fall and early winter, sometimes into deep winter when the temperatures go into the 70s in December, which they do occasionally. I like having a longer growing season. Sometimes my tomatoes last until November if I cover them at the first sign of frost. The south is good for my chickens. I only worry in the winter when we have weeks such as this one, where the temperatures, day and night, hover around freezing. But that doesn’t happen often. Some years, Christmas Day resembles the Fourth of July, temperature-wise. (Please scroll up for Part II

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03/08/2015 07:45.17 PM Report This Comment  
  Living in the South
Ah, Gary. I feel a bit sorry for you - you have been ganged up on, 2 to 1. I can't wait to hear your reasons for loving your Northern life!

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03/07/2015 05:13.58 PM Report This Comment  
  Another North vs The South, Part III
Southern manners and respect are so closely intertwined that they are considered one and the same. This may be part of the reason our speech is slow enough to be considered a ‘drawl’, because we are always thinking about what we want to say, long before the words come out of our mouths. Our children are taught to say ‘Yes Ma’am’ and ‘No Ma’am’, ‘Yes, Sir’ and ‘No, Sir’ immediately after they learn to say Mama and DaDa. We raise our boys to be gentlemen, and as soon as they are able to reach a door handle, they learn to open it for a lady. Our girls are brought up to be ladies, and all children are required to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Mamas and daddies alike will admonish their children to ‘mind
your manners’ the second before the kids walk out the door. To not mind your manners, or any display of lack of respect towards an elder constitutes 10 years imprisonment, or being grounded until they are 31 years of age, which ever will be the longer sentence. I even heard it said once, when an unsuspecting ‘Yankee’ made the mistake of telling a Southern judge in a courtroom that making children say ‘Yes
Ma’am’ and ‘No Ma’am’ was a backwoods, redneck, Southern tradition. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a person turn as red as that judge’s face was. Even his black robe was moldering. By the time he got finished with the witness, even she was saying ‘Yes, Sir’. We all thought she would be spending thirty days in the lock up for that foul offense. Needless to say, even the southern lawyers and everyone else in the courtroom sat up straighter and made good and sure they ‘minded their manners’ after that one.

Regardless of the hot, humid days of the summers for which the South is known, the lack of any true season, and the idea that the weather can change every fifteen minutes or so, to me, there is no other place to call home but the South. As any of us down here can attest, snow is fun for a day or two, as it’s such a novelty. But the very idea of sitting in a rocker on a porch, a paper fan in one hand and a glass of ice cold sweet tea in the other, all the while listening to the bass of the bull frogs and the chirping of the cicadas, (and occasionally shooing a snake or gator off that very same porch), is like a glimpse of Heaven. And as with most folks, that’s the very place they want to spend eternity.

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03/07/2015 04:50.15 PM Report This Comment  
  Another North vs The South, Part II
I love how people here celebrate the opportunity to restore a bit of history every chance they get. Jacquelyn and her children are diligently working to restore an old Dog Trot, and from what I can tell, give her the chance and she’ll restore every single one remaining in the state, if not the entire South. Her preservation of the old home isn’t just trying to keep history alive, it’s the very essence of who she is. She is putting her entire heart and soul into restoring a piece of history that most people would consider a landmark. In turn, she restores not only a building, but the very life and character of one of the ‘genteel ladies’.

The food is a large part of my love for the South. Any Southern girl worth her salt was learning to make fried chicken and corn fritters at a very early age. And you just aren’t southern if you can’t make a big ol’ batch of fluffy buttermilk biscuits. Got company coming? No problem. A chocolate cake just came out of the oven, and please, help yourself to the pitcher of lemonade in the ice box while I ice the cake. We proudly wear our history like armor, and don’t even think about keeping skeletons in our closet.
More than likely those skeletons are probably a crazy relative, and we have no qualms about discussing them – as a matter of fact, we display them like badges of honor. And if you can tout ‘Bobby’ Lee as one of your ancestors, so much the better. God, Family and Country are our priorities (and in that order), and we parade them all every chance we get. Even in death we abide by the cultural rules, even if most
of them are unspoken. (Please scroll up for Part III)

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03/07/2015 04:46.19 PM Report This Comment  
  Another North vs The South, Part I
Ah, the South. Just two little words can invoke a whirlwind of images in ones’ mind. The hoop skirts,plantation houses, the verandas and a rocking chair or two sitting at the ready for a lively conversation or just a comfortable silence; a debutante ball, with young girls all dressed in white, young gentlemen dressed in tuxedos and the matrons dressed in their finest, including the family jewels which have been taken out of the hidden safe and donned for the special occasion.

We've come a long way from the hoop skirts, but it was a slow moving process. It’s that slow pace that mostly attracts me to the South, where people don’t gripe about the long wait in a grocery store line, and instead strike up a conversation with the person in front or behind them. By the time you have checked out, you pretty much know their whole history, and even take the time to let them know you’ll be praying for their Aunt Betty’s upcoming bunion surgery, while they in turn thank you for sharing a recipe handed down from your great-grandmother. And you can bet they’ll be trying that very recipe within the week, and Aunt Betty will have been prayed for multiple times.

With that slower pace you will find that a bit of our history clings to each step. You don’t have to go far in any direction either, to see how that very history is preserved, not only in the plantation homes themselves, but in the 100 year-old trees that spread their limbs protectively over the grounds. The Live Oak, draped in the delicate lace of Spanish moss, and Pecan limbs may be tired, but they continue to proudly watch sentinel over the homes that housed ‘their’ families. The fullness of their leaves in summer offer a bit of cool shade for the porches, as the people rock gently while sipping a frosty glass of
sweet tea. In the winter, they dream of the generations of children who have climbed them, tucked safely in the crook of two sturdy limbs, or they stand solid as the children of today build forts among their branches. (Please scroll up for Part II)

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03/07/2015 04:42.24 PM Report This Comment  
  About Owls, Part IV.
There was a story that Pa used to tell about the time when he was a child, he heard a knock on the kitchen door and his Pa, Tuffel, opened it to see a friend of his stagger in, in a state of shock and bleeding profusely from his scalp. As ol' Tuffel put whiskey and bandages on his lacerated head, the man told him that he had been out in the woods hunting. He had been lying on the ground with his head against a fallen log. Unfortunately, he had been wearing a hat made of rabbit fur. It took my grandfather but a minute to surmise that as dusk approached, an owl out on an early hunt saw what it recognized to be prey and had tore the hat off the poor man's head in mid-flight. The next day, Pa would recount, Tuffel and his friend went out into those woods and quickly found the man's cap, none the worse for wear, except for a few perforations made by the owls talons.

Once, when my Punky was just a toddler, I would see a big rabbit feeding along the driveway in the early morning. If Amanda was awake, my Ruthie and I would show her Mister Bunny out in the yard. One morning, as I stepped out of the house to go to work, I was startled to see an Great Horned Owl fly off, with that large rabbit in its talons. Later, when Amanda inquired if I'd seen Mr. Bunny lately, I didn't have the heart to say anything, although I thought of telling her that Mr. Owl had brought him home for dinner. Another couple of times, setting out on my way to work in the early dawn, I've spied an Great Horned flying over our road and onto a nearby tree with a field mouse dangling from its beak.

Owls, their unnerving stare, their haunting calls, their ability to visit a sudden, silent death upon their prey, all this serves to make them an unforgettable and fascinating part of life out in the country -- Gary

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03/05/2015 06:09.08 PM Report This Comment  
  About Owls, Part III
I think that owls have always been a source of fascination for Countryfolks. Lord knows that the people of the First Nations have ascribed special powers to them and their calls. They were believed to be the harbingers of death. A famous rendering of this belief was in "I Heard the Owl Call My Name", the best-selling book by Margaret Craven in which the protagonist, an Anglican vicar who unknowingly has a terminal illness, spends the last year of his life among the Kwakwaka'wakw of British Columbia. Near the end of his sojourn, he does hear his name called by an owl and soon afterwards is killed in a landslide.

I think all Countryfolks know of the enmity between crows and owls. Whenever I hear a raucous gathering (murder) of crows, whether at La Ferme Sabloneuse or on my mail route in Green Bay, I immediately search for the recipient of their attention. Sometimes it's a red tailed hawk, but usually it's a Great Horned Owl. The owls prey upon crow fledglings and even crow eggs. "In fact, the great horned owl has the most diverse prey profile of any raptor in the Americas." (Wikipedia) There have been a number of times when out and about in the woods around home, I've seen the brown-gray flash of a Great Horned vaulting from its hiding place among the pines and the sudden eruption of caws and the crows following it. It's not for nothing that painted plastic decoys in the form of Great Horned Owls are used by hunters in order to attract crows for target practice and "crow crowd control". More on Owls next time. --Gary

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02/28/2015 07:44.20 PM Report This Comment  
  About Owls, Part II.
While I've seen the Barred Owl just once, I've never, ever seen a Snowy Owl, although it seems that every Winter here in N.E. Wisconsin, there's a photo in the newspaper of one that someone's seen in the area. The southern extent of their Winter range ends right about our latitude.

Now the Eastern Screech Owl is one that few people have actually seen, but many have heard it. Pa often told me of the one time he heard as he was a young man walking home in the pitch dark. He said that it scared him to death. To quote Wikipedia again: "The lugubrious nature of the eastern screech owl's call has warranted description such as "A most solemn graveyard ditty, the mutual consolation of suicide lovers remembering the pangs and delights of the supernal love in the infernal groves, Oh-o-o-o, had I never been bor-r-r-n. (James Hubbard Langille, 1884)." (Wikipedia)

Upon doing research on this topic, I've watched (and listened) to a number of recordings of Screech Owl calls. I must admit, I don't find them the least bit frightening. As a matter of fact, I find them soothing. After listening to several of these calls, I am certain that I've heard them many times throughout my life. I simply didn't know that these nighttime warbling belonged to the Screech Owl. Live and learn, they say, and as for me, I cannot wait till Spring to sit out at dusk and listen for the Screech Owl. More "On Owls" next time. -- Gary

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02/25/2015 08:07.02 PM Report This Comment  
  About Owls, Part I.
As you PFRs already know, one evening, over a week ago, My Ruthie spied a large owl perched atop the chain link fence of the Home Garden. A little later, the big bird glided down the hill and lit on a tall stake halfway down our hill to the Valley Garden. It stayed there until it got too dark to see. I had told Ruthie that it was a Great Horned Owl, but much to my disgust, once we'd posted pics of the bird, a Facebook friend posted that it was a Barred Owl. I should've recognized this immediately, but I didn't, and it riled me some. Anyways, it was the first time in my life that I'd seen any owl other than the Great Horned Owl.

Now the calls of the two types are similar. As for the Barred Owl, Wikipedia states: "The usual call is a series of eight accented hoots ending in oo-aw, with a downward pitch at the end. The most common mnemonic device for remembering the call is "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all." I am amused at the last, because my muse Al Borland had mentioned that mnemonic call some 60 years ago in his writing. The call of the Great Horned Owl is usually a series of five hoots. In my experience, it's ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo. My Ruthie, being a light sleeper, has been tormented by the dead-of-night calls of these owls ever since she joined me here at La Ferme Sabloneuse. Their mating season is in late December and January and so in the still, cold nights she will hear one hooting from one of the Norway pines of the Home Property and then the answering call from a prospective mate usually in one of the ancient White pines in the County land to the South. Wikipedia states that it is the males that do the majority of the courtship calls: "While males often hoot emphatically for about a month or six weeks towards the end of the year, the period where females also hoot is usually only a week to ten days." (Wikipedia) So perhaps when Ruthie wakes me up to listen to the two sets of calls, they are actually the competing calls of two males.

The range of the Great Horned Owl extends throughout nearly all of North America, right down into Mexico. The range of the Barred Owl runs throughout most of the southern half of Canada and the eastern half of the USA. The mating season of the Barred Owl varies with the latitude. It lays its eggs earlier in the South and later in the North. More on owls next time. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

02/21/2015 07:59.21 PM Report This Comment  
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