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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: 69 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
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  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part IX.
It is finally time to return to the subject of firewood. It's at this time of year that I think of splitting blocks, pruning apple trees with Big Brother Tommy's chainsaw, and trimming the spruce and Norway pines that are encroaching on the chain-link fence of the Home Garden. One of my customers told me that he paid $40 for some Norway pine boughs to decorate the front of his house. I told him that when I trimmed my pines I'd bring him some boughs for free. I hadn't known that I had a fortune of pine branches in my back yard!
In this thread about cutting firewood, I've covered just about every aspect of it except stacking wood. I'm horrible at stacking. I've found that I need to have some sort of upright at both ends of the pile and a wall to "back the stack". My brother David had the same problem. Once, when he'd just come home from the Air Force, he chopped up some small poplar logs and stacked them against the outhouse. My Pa, when he came home from work, took a look at the sorry wood stack and remarked, "This was done by a man who had very little ambition." This reminds me of the time Pa outfitted an old snow sled to contain his little chain saw and accouterments and used it to transport what he needed to cut up and split an old oak tree at the far end of the Valley Garden. After he was finished; all that Winter, in the late afternoon every sunny day, I would admire the deep, rich, reddish glow of beautifully stacked oak reflecting the Winter sunset.

In 1987, when I delivered mail in West De Pere, I became friends with an old German named Gustav Stemke. He was an amazing man! He was born in 1910 and was called up to serve his country during WWII. He was a devout Christian and abhorred the abominations he saw during his time as a German soldier during the war. He was taken prisoner in France in 1944 and was later able to bring his wife and three sons to the USA. That old German woodcutter could make a free standing stack of wood blocks that was a thing of majesty! I only wish that I'd had the foresight to ask ol' Gus to teach me how to do this. I'm guessing that it would have taken more time for him to teach me than what the both of us had. As for me, I admire a good stack of fire wood. To me it means "warmth against cold, light against darkness". As for me, I love a good wood fire as the sun sets in Winter, bringing hope and promise of a new season of growth to come. -- Gary

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

11/25/2015 08:20.53 PM Report This Comment  
  Late November, 2015
Each year at this time of year, I write about how much I love the very tail end of Autumn: those few weeks before permanent snow cover when both the trees and ground are bare, the wind is raw, and spits of snow fill the air. Late this week our first real taste of cold weather has arrived. Wednesday was the last mild day and also one of the windiest in a long time. That night, before tuning in, I just had to sit outside a bit and hear the high winds moan through our Norway pines. There was just enough light from a young moon to brighten the clouds to where I could see the tree tops in contrast; swaying against a dim-gray backdrop. By Friday the cold front had come in and it was only in the 30s. By nightfall the birdbaths were icing over again. Tomorrow I will have to set up the heated birdbath on the Garage Porch and keep it filled until next March.

Just the other day I had mentioned the silence of November, except for the wind or the occassional call of a predator at night. These last few days however, I found that I noticed with the cold air the absence of scents. I don't have to tell you of all the rich and fragrant smells of Spring and Summer. Even Autumn has those wonderful scents of ripeness, with the sweet smell of crisp leaves, crisp apples, and the faint smoky aroma of wood and garden fires. Autumn to me also means the smell of the types of firewood itself; cedar and apple wood needs no explanation, but oak has a smell as rich as the orange grain of its split blocks. But I digress. It is by this time of the year that the cold has killed all growth and the Arctic winds have brought down air that has no scent at all. I can tell you from long experience of working outdoors throughout many Winters that I can smell the difference in the air when a rare Winter warm front comes this far North carrying air from the still-vibrant South; but when the Arctic cold returns from the ice and tundra of northern Canada, the air is as clean and pure as one can find in this day and age.

Deer hunting season is on! So tomorrow afternoon I will sit in front of my poncho wind-break at the corner of the woods under the power lines. I will be sheltered in part by both the poncho and a young white pine. I expect that it will be pleasant enough, dozing in the weak sunshine of a cold late-November day with a thermos of chicken broth and a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. I can expect to hear the wind sighing through the boughs of the pine and rippling the poncho cover. I expect also to hear the cliche'd "raucous" calls of the blue jays and crows and hopefully the tittering of my favorites, the chickadees. If my dozing and musings are interrupted by any deer I will be sure to let you know. --Gary

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

11/20/2015 08:04.55 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms XIII, Grandma's Place
When Pa came home from the War, whether he knew it or not, he found what we here and now would call a veritable "happy place". At Grandma's place they had a lot of chickens and great soil for a vegetable garden. As for milk, every morning there came by, as my Eldest Brother David remembers, "a dilapidated wagon driven by an old man behind two old horses." As I'd written before, Pa would help out at John Duame's farm next door and between that and pumping water for the steam locomotives at Oconto Junction, made enough money to support his young wife while they both lived with Grandma Truckey. Again, as I'd written before, Pa loved to hunt and there were plenty of squirrels and rabbits for the Truckey table. In the evening, Charlie Housman's "Sleepy Hollow" was just a two-minute walk away. Pa would walk over and have a few glasses of beer (at 5 cents apiece) with Charlie. I am made to think that he probably only had to pay for half of them. I suppose Ma must've accompanied him a time or two but soon she had other things to think about. She was expecting her first-born son, my Eldest Brother David. Still, I'm guessing that she and Grandma Truckey had pleasant evenings sewing and talking about babies throughout the Summer of 1946.

A few years later, when Pa and Ma built their own homestead at what I now call "La Ferme Sabloneuse", the chicken coops were torn down at Grandma's place. She still had a scrap of ground turned over for a vegetable garden and even I, as the youngest of her grandchildren, remember seeing that patch of dark, fertile earth every Spring. Even later, as a teenager, we would bring our garden produce over to Grandma's and I also remember helping her to cut up radishes. In her 80s and 90s, Grandma Truckey had a surfeit of fresh vegetables and meat from her children and grandchildren. Every one of her children would see to it that the best of whatever they had would go to her house. (As for myself, I am proud to say that every Spring I would pick a bouquet of Mayflowers and bring them over for Grandma.) To this day, it makes me happy to think of how after such a long and arduous life of self-sacrifice, going without, and not to mention doing whatever she could to help others along the way, Grandma Truckey was able to enjoy many many years of having her children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren coming to visit her and seeing to her every need. -- Gary

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

11/18/2015 07:03.32 PM Report This Comment  
  More on Late Autumn, 2015
I'm all caught up on my raking! Last Sunday My Ruthie helped me rake and hall away an enormous amount of leaves from the yellow maple in our back yard. I was also able to haul away a couple of tarp-loads from the oaks down the South side of the Home Hill. On Tuesday I was able to finally complete the increasingly difficult task of clearing away the aforementioned oak leaves. I've hauled so many loads down to the Valley Garden that I'm afraid that the leaf mold may cause more harm than good. I'd noticed earlier this year that the hairy vetch and rye hadn't grown well we're I'd spread the maple leaves the year before. When I mentioned this to My Ruthie, she came up with a great idea. She told me that her Dad used to put all the leaves in one big pile, put chicken wire over it to prevent anything from blowing away, and then burn it all down for some ash (or maybe potash?). Come next Autumn, I'll have to leave the hose out a little later in the year and give it a try.

I don't have to hunt alone this year! My "Nephew Dave" Truckey, first-born son of my Eldest Brother David and first grandson of my Pa Dave Truckey, said that he'll hunt with me. Tomorrow he and I will set out some more corn and pumpkins at the two prime deer stands that his father had set up many years ago. We'll also site in our Winchester 30-30s and coordinate our hunting dates. I'd set up a new stand according to my tastes under the powerlines at the Homestead. I've been made to think that the deer are conditioned to notice if anyone is present in the tower that Eldest had set up some 25 years ago. That tower was designed by my brother to be a shooting platform for the scoped 30-06 Remington pump rifle that he'd inherited from Pa. As for me, my little "trapper's model Winchester '94" requires a closer set-up. I set up my old Navy poncho as a wind-break next to a white pine on the Southwest corner of the woods overlooking the open ground under those powerlines. I hacked off some branches to give me a clear field of fire without compromising my position (I hope) and placed a green plastic lawn chair where I can cover over 180 degrees of view.

Ah, the quiet of November! Now when I step out onto the front stoop at night I hear only the wind in the trees. Up to a week ago, I could still hear the katydids and a few crickets on a warm night. Now there is silence. From now until next Spring I can expect only to hear the hoot of an owl or the yap of a coyote. It is late Autumn here at La Ferme Sabloneuse and in spite of the impending approach of Winter, I find that I love this time of year. -- Gary

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

11/13/2015 07:34.12 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, The War Years, Part II
Three of Grandma Truckey's sons served in WWII. Pa was a truck driver who spent his time overseas transporting supplies to the front in New Guinea. Uncle Nap served in Europe as a military policeman. His daughter, my cousin Pam, says that he made sergeant and actually got to meet General Eisenhower. Immediately after the German surrender, he guarded the top Nazi officers until they were transported to Nuremberg. He actually spoke with Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz as they were waiting for the transport airplane. Uncle Nap told me that he saw the daily issue of morphine tablets for Hermann Goering. (This was when the Allied doctors had just started to slowly wean Goering off of his addiction.) The medic told Nap that this daily dose would kill an ordinary man.

It was Uncle Amos who'd seen the most action. He told me stories of how he spent the better part of an afternoon behind a M2 50. cal. heavy machine gun, trying to kill a sniper who was hidden in the canopy of the jungle. He'd shoot for awhile, then let the machine gun barrel cool off. He tried to warn a lieutenant and two other men who were going out on patrol about the sniper but the officer told him to mind his own business. Sad to say, all three men were shot by the sniper. Late in the afternoon Uncle Amos, after firing yet another burst, saw a tree bough bend suddenly. The next day another patrol found the dead sniper lashed to the branch.

Now on the home front, Ma spent those years lived quietly with Grandma. They had those two famous tomcats, Toodles and Tommy, and a bunch of chickens. The neighboring property was a tavern called "The Sleepy Hollow". It was aptly named, as Grandma's lived in an small valley that was bordered by three raised road beds. Charlie Houseman, one of Pa's best friend, ran the bar and lived in back. It was Charlie who convinced Ma to be a saloon girl. Actually it wasn't as bad as it sounded. Ma was a lovely young woman, as my most recent photo shows. Charlie told her that she could drink for free if she just sat at the bar. He knew that the men would stop by just to look at her and maybe talk a little with her. So Ma would bring one of the cats and sit on a stool and sip a sloe gin for an hour each night. It was a simpler time back then and Charlie looked upon Ma as a daughter so she was in no peril. Still, it was fun for us boys to tease Ma about this. I think that for an old lady in her 90s, it was nice to be reminded that she was once good-looking enough to be a tavern keepers draw for customers. -- Gary

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

11/10/2015 07:34.45 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part XI, The War Years.
Last time on this thread I started to talk about Grandma Truckey's farm. During WWII, my Ma, after having married Dave Truckey, went to live with his mother, my Grandma Emma Truckey. Pa was called up late in 1942 and until he came back at the tail end of '45, Ma and Grandma Truckey made the best of things throughout the war years.

Eugene Debbs had been imprisoned during WWI for saying, "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles." So it was in WWII. Some 16 millions Americans were called into military service from all walks of life. The elites were put into officer programs, the poor were enlisted. To the government's credit, knowing that these conscripted soldiers would be leaving behind families without bread winners, increased the G.I.'s pay to where he was the highest paid soldier of all the combatant nations.

My Uncle Amos was like most of the young men of his generation, c'est-a-dire (that is to say) he was poor as a traveling rabbit. He worked the CCC camps for $25 a month and sent most of that home to Grandma. He joined the Wisconsin National Guard because it paid him a dollar for each Tuesday night's drill at the Oconto armory. During the buildup before WWII his company, as part of the 32nd Infantry Division, was called up in October 1940. As a PFC, Amos made $36 a month. After Pearl Harbor, Congress voted a substantial pay increase for the nation's service members and Amos' pay jumped to $54 a month. Uncle Amos told me that this 50% pay increase was mind-boggling for a poor country boy.

As for Pa and Ma, when Pa was a PFC overseas in New Guinea in 1943 his base pay was $54. When you add $28 for a dependent (Ma) and 20% for overseas pay, Pa made $92.80 a month. When he made Tech 5 (the equivalent of corporal) his pay was $107.20 a month, nearly all of it he allotted to Ma. As you can imagine, for a formerly destitute orphan, Ma knew how to save. By the time Pa came back home, Ma had saved several thousand dollars for her and her husband. It was enough to buy some land and build a house. More on "The War Years" on Veterans Day. -- Gary

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

11/07/2015 07:50.01 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Autumn, 2015
I am learning to love "late autumn" almost as much as I love Autumn at its colorful height. Unfortunately, it only takes a week for the season to transition to the "late" stage. Right now, most of the deciduous trees are bare, except for the yellow birches, poplars, and yellow maples. (I am made to believe, by this pluponderous amount of evidence, that yellow leaves take longer to separate from their twigs than red leaves. Funny that it took me all this time to figure this out.) Of course, I hadn't mentioned the oaks. As I do every year at this time, I notice how the red oaks turn into such a lovely burgundy color.
While driving around last Sunday I noticed the tamaracks, (whose needles, by the way, are yellow as well). "The word "tamarack" comes from the Algonquian name for the species and means 'wood used for snowshoes.'" (Wikipedia) In Europe, they are called larches. They, like the birches and poplars, stand out like bright upright candles in the otherwise dimming landscape.
As for me, the number one task right now is raking leaves. I had hauled many, many tarp loads of maple leaves away from "The Truckey Tree" and this year, I spread them all on some bare sandy soil under the powerlines roughly in front of Eldest Brother David's favorite tree stand. I've said this before, there's no fertilizing virtue in these leaves, but at least they provide humus to the sand and that has to be some improvement. But now I've started to rake the large, thick, and moist red oak and yellow maple leaves on the Home Property. There's a nice stand of red oaks right in front of the garage porch and two beautiful yellow maples next to the Home Garden. They've all grown so nicely that in the last few years I realized that if I didn't rake up and carry away the leaves, they would mat down and kill the grass. I found it ironic that these trees, whose shade encouraged grass growth, in turn would inhibit it over the Winter. A few windy and rainy days have pretty much cleaned off the red oaks, but I'll have to wait another week or so for the maples. I won't complain though; it's nice to still see some tree color in the first week of November.
Now it depends on the wind whether I haul the red oak leaves down the Home Hill South to spread on the Valley Garden or haul the yellow maple leaves down the hill North to the sparesly-grassed areas of the hayfield I share with Belle Soeur Susie. Late in the day last Sunday, the air was still so I hauled a couple of tarp loads in each direction. I know that I've only begun my work here on the hill-top, but it's not really work at all. For this ol' Countryman, it's a chance to play in the leaves. --Gary

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

11/04/2015 07:34.05 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Grandma Truckey's Farm (Part I)
I don't know if Grandma's tiny plot of a some two acres or so could be called a small farm, but she had a vegetable garden and kept chickens and as good a definition of a "small holding" as any, "a mon avis". After her husband was struck and killed by a car in 1934, Grandma, as a widow with a child or two at home, was "on relief" as the saying went back then. She was given a few dollars a month by the government and managed to get by on that. She put all her worries and needs "at the foot of the cross" and trusted in God to provide. Sure enough, she not only lived until the ripe old age of 98, but she also was able to provide food, shelter, and emotional/spiritual support for both her extended family and her neighbors.

I've told stories about my Grandma in many previous blogs. Suffice to say here, if you were in dire straits, you went to Emma Truckey's house. During The Great Depression, she always had relatives staying with her. The sad fact of the matter is that being on relief, she was probably the only person around who had a tiny bit of cash and could buy enough provisions to bake and cook. In short, things were that tough.

So in 1942, my Ma met my Pa. Cousin Brenda (Vivian's daughter) told me that it was her father who'd introduced the two. In retrospect, from the world-weary view of this tired-out old man, my mother needed someone to take care of her, and my father, knowing that he would be called up to serve in the war, wanted someone to wait for him. Ma told me that she married Pa because he made her laugh, and to be honest, he was a dark, muscular, and handsome man. When Pa was conscripted into the Army, he was 33, Ma was 22. She went to live with Grandma Truckey for the duration of the war. A strong-willed woman like Grandma Emma couldn't have been easy to live with but she had a kind heart and Ma was determined to fit in. They must've gotten along alright because until the end of Grandma's life, Ma always treated her with respect and we children revered her as the saint she was. More about Grandma's Farm next time. --Gary

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

10/31/2015 07:18.33 PM Report This Comment  
  Final Chapter on the Brabant Farm (part II)
Ma was finally able to land a job keeping house for an old widow and her two bachelor sons. She made just a few dollars a week but she had no expenses and squirreled away all her money until she had $600 in the bank. Another brother of hers got wind of this and coerced her to accompany him to the bank and give him all her money. He said that he needed a new car and would pay her back. Back around 1940 $600 bought a pretty good automobile. Needless to say, her brother never paid Ma back. Throughout the years my Ma always maintained contact with all of her sisters and spoke highly of each and every one, but she never visited or talked to any of her three brothers. Growing up, I wondered why. It was only in the last dozen years or so that I learned the truth.

Sometime around the year 2000, I had the day off and went to see Ma at The Homestead. When she heard that I had to go to the hamlet of County Line to pick up a Farmall A tractor part for Eldest Brother David, she surprised me by saying that she wanted me to take her to see her childhood home. Surprised? I was stunned. For all these years, she never desired to see the Brabant homestead and her old haunts. So dutifully I helped her into my little Ford pickup and on a clear Autumn afternoon, I drove her to see her old home. First, we went to County Line, where I bought the needed tractor part, and then we drove all over northeast Oconto County. We finally came up to the old Brabant homestead. The only building still extant from a century before was the farmhouse and it had been remodeled to the point where it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the house that Me grew up in. As for the apple orchard; there was still one lone tree in the front yard. Ma took a good look at it all and then told me to take her home. I was happy and proud to take her on one last visit to the Brabant homestead; but looking back as I write this, I am moved to say that it was a visit steeped in sadness. -- Gary

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

10/28/2015 07:17.28 PM Report This Comment  
  Final Chapter on the Brabant Farm (part I)
At one time, based on how highly my mother spoke of her father, I thought that she'd had a happy childhood. Later on, however, Ma told her kids the truth. The sad truth was, Amos Brabant could be a violent man when he was drinking. On a few occasions, he hit his wife. It got to the point where Victorine left her husband to live with relatives. When she came back, I am made to think that my grandfather got the message and toned things down a bit. Nevertheless, my grandfather was also a grasping man, as were his sons. Ma said that her oldest sister Gert "worked out", cooking and cleaning for another farm family. When she came home to visit on Sundays, her Pa took her money. Ma also told me that she learned that if she had a few coins, it was best to keep them out of sight. At various times, both her brothers and her father saw her playing with her money and took it from her for their own use. Malheureusement, things got worse. My mother's mother, Victorine Brabant, died of complications of high blood pressure in 1934. My Ma was 14. She was the last kid home so she kept house for her Pa as best she could for the next three years. One night in 1937 her Pa came home after a night of drinking and in the pitch-dark fell down the cellar steps and fractured his skull on the cement floor at the bottom of the steps. Ma found his body there the next morning.

Ma's eldest brother was in charge of the estate and as Ma told the story so many times in her old age, he put a sheet of legal paper in front of her and told her, "Sign this or I'll put you in the nut house!" Ma, being but 17, with an eighth-grade education, signed the paper. A few days later she was turned out on her own. Her sisters, God bless them, did what they could for her. The afore-mentioned Aunt Gladys Shallow, in the process of producing 15 kids of her own, was the first to take Ma in despite her family's own precarious position. Ma said that as she was washing dishes in Gladys' kitchen, she saw her Pa's cows, which had been sold at auction, being driven down the road in front of the Shallow farmhouse. (Please scroll up for part II) -- Gary

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10/28/2015 07:14.00 PM Report This Comment  
What a wonderful way to spend the early morning hours - catching up on your posts! As a Southern girl, I can relate to the KKK stories, even if ours were more race related that religious. Either way, they are scary! Have you ever read Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing? It is a great (often hilarious) account of plants that are commonly shared, and written with that lovely Southern voice. If not, it's one I highly recommend!

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10/25/2015 03:05.58 AM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part IX The Brabant Farm
I would like to write that life on the Brabant Farm was an idyllic existence, and indeed it could have been, with the proper diligence and faithful discipline; but malheureusement, the usual hindrances of rural life at that time: lack of education (or just downright ignorance), superstition, fear, alcoholism, and just plain meanness and violence born out of desperation caused so much unnecessary suffering. My grandfather Amos had a predilection for drinking and fighting. He liked to go to dances and listen to the music. One time, a neighbor by the name of Ahlen, who was Lutheran, started making comments about Catholics. Amos, being a staunch son of the Church (I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek here) took exception when ol' Ahlen said, "The Lutheran Church is a flower bed while the Catholic Church is a bed of thistles."

My cousin Junior says that it took quite a few men to pull scrawny old Amos off the prostrate form of Mr. Ahlen. Amos was quoted as saying, "You can wipe your ass with flowers, but try doing it with thistles!" Now you have to realize that in Wisconsin after WWI, there was a lot of anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant sentiment. Not too many people know that Wisconsin in the 1920s had the largest membership of the KKK than any other state in the US. The Brabants actually awoke one night to see a cross burning in their front yard, (which makes this French Canuck Catholic proud, by the way). Amos Brabant, who spoke French as a first language, and wore his faith on his sleeve, was probably a fairly visible target.

Ma told us that the upper story of their house was never finished. The interior walls were never built. Blankets were hung between the "rooms". The only heat came up from below through the stairwell or from the stove pipes. Later, when Ma was the only child at home, she slept on a cot downstairs next to the living room stove. It always seemed sad to me that neither her Pa or her brothers had the ambition to try to improve their living conditions. Sadly, things got much worse. The final chapter on the Brabant Farm next time. --Gary

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10/24/2015 07:59.28 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part VIII More on the Brabant Farm
My Ma told us many stories about her childhood on the farm. My cousin Junior Shallow shared a few more. Some of these memories were pleasant, others not so much. I've mentioned that Ma remembered the apple orchard next to the house and what a Godsend that was each Summer. Ma also remembered the dogs, cats and chickens on the farm. When she was little and slept upstairs with her big sisters, her ma would let the dog in the house in the morning and tell him "Go wake up the kids!" The dog would then run upstairs and jump on each of the beds until the kids were all awake. Ma said that the cats and dogs were allowed in the house. When they were in the house together, they never fought; but when they were outside, the cats were free game and the dogs would always chase them.

One cat's name was "Shit-ass". This was because it suffered from chronic diarrhea. (Don't ask me why it was even allowed in the house. Remember, this was circa 1930. I'm thinking that their ma was soft-hearted and wouldn't let Amos kill it, much to his disgust.) Now Grandpa Amos was actually a pretty good fiddle player. He liked to play in the evening or even in the afternoon if he had a few minutes before going out to do chores. One afternoon, when their ma was gone visiting, my mother and her sister Mazel were upstairs, listening to their Pa playing fiddle, then they heard Shit-ass meowing loudly in the parlor. The fiddle music stopped suddenly, and they could hear their Pa walking out of the house. Ma whispered to Mazel, "I bet he killed Shit-ass!" A little while later they heard their Pa come back into the house and resume his fiddling.

The two girls had to satisfy their curiosity and came downstairs. When their Pa saw them he paused in his playing and said simply, "I killed Shit-ass." Ma and Mazel laughed about that for the rest of their lives. More about the Brabant Farm to come. -- Gary

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

10/21/2015 06:34.13 PM Report This Comment  
  Still More on October, 2015
I started cleaning up this year's Valley Garden yesterday. It was a good day to do this. A cold front had passed through the previous evening and yesterday's temps was in the high 40s with a heavy Northwest wind. Still, it was sunny and a man could work outside with just a flannel shirt and a cap and still keep warm. The first order of business was to use a corn knife (or sickle) to cut down the cornstalks and carry them off to augment the brush piles bordering our small, ancient orchard. I wasn't doing too well yesterday, tired and stressed out from work and from being part of our church's pro-life march the day before; so after cutting down half of the corn patch and hauling it away I found a wonderful resting spot. It was in the dry soft grass next to my favorite apple tree, a wizened Honeycrisp tree that was hollow at the base, yet still defied death and still produced a good crop of sweet Winter apples. The sun was shining warmly on that spot so I sat at the base of the old tree and pulled my cap down over my eyes. It was a slice of Heaven on earth! Still, I had work to do and as I was cutting some more stalks, Big Brother Tommy came down to help me. We hauled the rest of the cornstalks and then I showed him my resting spot and both of us hunkered down against the old apple tree trunk. It must have been quite a sight; two chunky old men in dungarees and flannels loafing in the late day Autumn sunshine.

So today my son Andrew was free to help me all day. What a windfall! He's great fun to work with. Andrew and I cut free the wire fencing from the fence posts and then stretched out and rolled up the 100 feet of it. Next we loaded up all the lumber and wire and hauled it to Bill's Shack for storage. Now yesterday, as Tommy and I were pushing the giant sunflower plants away from the fencing, I'd noticed that the sunflower heads were all nearly intact. I asked My Ruthie what we should do with them and her idea, brilliant as usual, was to hang them from the chain link fence of the Home Garden and let the birds have at them. So late this afternoon, after I had spent another tank-full of gas cutting brush, I tied up the big sunflower heads to the fence while Ruthie cleaned up the front yard. It was a cold sunny day but it was perfect weather for cleaning things up in preparation for the coming Winter. -- Gary

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

10/17/2015 08:03.50 PM Report This Comment  
  The Peak of Autumn, 2015
Last Sunday it was Autumn at its peak here at La Ferme Sabloneuse. It was a beautiful fall day. The temperatures was in the 70s and so I made a point to take advantage of the height of color and the bright sunny day by using her camera to take photographs around the farm.
I was able to get a start on spading over the raised beds in the Home Garden. There's eight of them; four of which I used this year for produce with the other four used to hold the perennials that we'd transferred from the flower beds from the house. Unfortunately, like many jobs that a Countryman or woman undertake, each can take on a life of their own. I was able to lift out and transplant the perennials but after doing so I found that I needed to put more black dirt in those bunkers. So, instead of hauling a truckload of manure for use at La Ferme Sabloneuse, I spent the evening filling, pushing, and then emptying about a dozen wheel barrow loads of soil for the raised beds. I was also able to expend the tiny plastic gas tank of the two-cycle brush cutter. Again, as I mentioned before, I was able to find and cut around a number of small maple seedlings.
As it turned out, I was able to give a number of seedlings to friends and neighbors. Some three years ago, in one of my earliest blogs, I'd written about "passalong plants"; those young trees, shrubs and perennials that we Countryfolk love to give to others. Now with most urban people, I find that it's a case of pearls before swine. Non-Countryfolk view such gifts much like the "mathoms" of the Hobbits; something that would otherwise be thrown out if not given away. Once these gifts are planted, they, and the givers, are soon forgotten. This is not the same with Countryfolk. We give a bit of ourselves when we give what's been grown on our land; and, if you'll pardon me for my vanity, we want to be remembered for our gift. On my property, I remember that it was my Pa who'd planted the oaks some 40 plus years ago that now grow tall and feed the deer and squirrels. I remember my Grandma Truckey when I see the black cap raspberry blossoms and I remember my mother-in-law Regina Lotter when I see the lilacs bloom every Spring. To give an even more extreme example, I am the only person who remembers that the beautiful white pines growing on Grandma Dort's old place, now inhabited by people I don't even know, were planted by my Uncle Earl Truckey back in the 1940s.

In turn, I would like to think that when these maple seedlings I've given away have grown to really beautify the properties of their recipients, "Old Man Truckey" will be remembered as the Countryman who passed them along. -- Gary

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

10/13/2015 09:09.17 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part VII The Brabant Farm
My mother, Ariel Brabant Truckey, was the youngest of what I think were nine children born to Amos and Victorine Brabant. They never had electricity on their farm. I remember back when I was an adolescent in the early 1970s and we were watching "The Waltons" on TV, Ma would be irritated at how the Waltons could afford electricity during the Great Depression. Neamoins, her family managed to survive on 80 acres near the Bay of Green Bay. Ma said a number of times that if it hadn't had been for the apple orchard on their farm, they never would've survived. She told me that as a child, she ate apples nonstop as long as the trees produced them.

The Brabants were in debt. This hung over the family's head like the Sword of Damocles. The mortgage stated that the farm had to have at least 8 milking cows. My eldest cousin Junior Shallow, who was born in 1927 (just seven years after Ma was born) and is the only person alive who had actually known my grandfather, told me that the Brabant's usually had 13 to 15 cows in production, all of course milked by hand. Ma told me that her pa, Amos Brabant, had a regular job in Oconto working at Stock's Lumber Mill. Despite the dire financial straits, he owned a Ford Model T, and later, a Model A. While he "worked out" according to the old farm expression, his sons worked the farm and also set up trap lines in the marshes bordering the bay and skinned muskrats and the occasional fox to augment the family income. The family had a team of draft horses that was used for all the field work.

My cousin Junior told me that Amos fed his cattle on hay and corn silage. The Brabants never had cob corn or shell corn to use as feed. Belle Soeur Susie's brother Randy Monette, the eldest of the Monette children, informed me that this was because the farm was so close to the bay, that the Brabants' field were never dry enough to plant until well into June and therefore their corn never had enough time to ripen before the end of the growing season. The result was that the Brabants green-chopped their corn in September and used an old-fashioned silage pit to store it. (Randy Monette and Susie knew full well about farming close to the bay. The Monette Farm was even closer to the bay and they faced the same problems, but I'll tell you about that in due time.) More on the Brabant Farm to come. --Gary

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10/10/2015 08:18.53 PM Report This Comment  
  More on October, 2015
Because I'd been helping My Ruthie work on the retaining walls of her flower gardens, I've fallen behind with my fall chores. The tasks staring me in the face include spading over the raised beds, taking down the wire fencing around this year's Valley Garden and storing them away for the Winter, hauling one last load of manure to put on those raised beds and then leave the rest in a pile to be used as needed next Spring. The most pressing task though, is cutting down this year's growth in the acre of land in front of the house at the Home Property. This is the acre that we'd like to turn into a part of our front yard, with a green lawn and bunkers of perennials, with red maples and white birches interspersed throughout.

As I mentioned last year, I use a gas-powered weed whacker, only when I cut brush I put on a little three-bladed saw attachment; and like last year, I cut down any and all new growth except for red maple seedlings. This is the time of year to do this culling because the leaves on the tiny maples have all turned red, making them easy to spot. Hal Borland made a beautiful quote about maples that I can only paraphrase from memory, "Like little children being sent to bed early, young maples turn color before their elders".

I know already that taking down the wire fencing in the Valley Garden will take a few hours. I will have to pull off all the dead pumpkin and squash vines and push any leaning sunflower trunks (not stems, trunks!) away from the fence as well. This year, per Big Brother Tommy's suggestion, instead of storing the fencing equipment in the tractor trailer and leaving it in the Wooden Shed for the Winter, I will haul it all to Bill's shack just a few dozen yards away.

This weekend promises clear, warm weather, and I have the Columbus Day holiday on Monday on which to work. I'll keep you posted on my progress. --Gary

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

10/07/2015 08:41.41 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part VI (More on the Bell Farm)
My cousin Brenda told me that the Mexican family they'd contracted to go on halves with the cucumbers were wonderful people who came up Summer after Summer. The Bells would clean out the garage and the family would make their residence there until the cucumbers were done. They would use the outhouse (nearly every small farm back then still kept the outhouse in operation as a second bathroom) and they had use of the outside pump for water. You must remember that this was in the 1950s and 60s, before regulations designed to improve living accommodations for the migrant workers made it impossible for small farmers to hire them and therefore put the migrants out of work.

The Dominquez family, like most of the Mexican migrant workers of that time, outfitted an old truck to make it a primitive camper. They would work their way North during the Spring and Summer and make enough money hoeing and harvesting to live well back home in Mexico during the Winter months. The Dominguez family loved Aunt Vay's home-baked bread. (The Brabant girls all knew how to make wonderful bread. Vivien and her sister Gladys Shallow, were renowned for their baking and when my own Ma would bake bread, it would be the highlight of the week for us boys.) Brenda, in turn, loved the Mexican flat-bread that Mrs. Dominguez made each morning. Each morning, a trade was made and all were happy. This reminds me of the story my eldest cousin, Junior Shallow told me. Junior is 88 years old. (Only in the country can you find an 88 year old man who goes by the name of "Junior") He said that his mother Gladys would make her kids fried egg sandwiches made with her homemade bread. (The two things that all the small farms had enough of during the Great Depression were homemade bread and eggs.) Junior's cousin, who's family was "on relief" and received a large ration of peanut butter each month, always had peanut butter sandwiches. Needless to say, Junior never saw a jar of the stuff at his house. It was another classic trade. Each got what he craved and got rid of what he was sick of.

Another neat story that Brenda told me was about the time she came out of the back door one morning and spied a giant pine snake on the concrete slab at her feet. She screamed out just as Eduardo, the head of the Dominguez family came out of the garage. Eduardo told her to stand back, and then he drew out his belt knife and threw it, skewering the snake right in the head. I have plenty more about Small Farms to come. --Gary

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10/03/2015 06:41.08 PM Report This Comment  
  October, 2015
Now tomorrow is the the first of October, but today, because it was my day off, seemed like the first real day of Autumn, 2015. What made it even more so was the fact that last night was the first frost of the year. This morning there was frost on the rooftops. This meant that down in the Garden Valley, there was a killing frost and I could harvest the pumpkins and acorn squash.

I had spent a good part of the day laying down sand for the base of My Ruthie's walled flower gardens. This evening, early evening if you looked at the clock, late evening if you kept track of the Sun, I brought up the acorn squash and pumpkins from the Valley Garden. Supplied with my Buck knife, a side-cutter, and my trusty wheelbarrow, I made numerous trips down and up the Backyard Hill and hauled the produce. I also cut the wires around the two pumpkins that had bisected the fencing while growing and brought those up the hill as well. I also pushed some of the dying sunflower plants off of the fencing and then pushed them the opposite direction.

It was a good evening. It was cool and clear and I had to wear my "de rigour" blue flannel shirt over my T-shirt as I worked. I brought up two wheelbarrow-loads of "calabazas" (Spanish for gourds, squash, and pumpkins). It is a part of Americana to display cornstalks, pumpkins, squash and gourds as images of the Autumn harvest, and so at the end of this evening, as the sunlight lit the tops of the poplars, I cut the calabazas off the dead vines and hauled them up the hill to my house. In between trips I also helped My Ruthie haul stone blocks to her garden wall. At the very end of the evening, I sat on a lawn chair in the back yard and watched the blue Autumn sky turn to black until the first stars came out. Like I'd said, it was a good evening and a good virtual first of October. --Gary

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09/30/2015 07:50.38 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part V (Bell's Farm)
Now Ma's sister Vivien (Vay) was a farmwife throughout all her life. She was my Ma's favorite sister and one of my favorite aunts. She married Lawrence Shallow when she was a lass. I believe that he was 20 years older than her. Ma's and Vivien's family, the Brabants, were of French Canadian stock (although their mother was a Belgian Walloon who hailed from their settlements in Door County). The Shallows (originally the Chaluts) were also French Canadian. The two families were closely entwined. They lived less than a mile apart, were of the same background, and spoke the same language. It was inevitable that three Shallows married three Brabants.

When her husband passed away, poor Vivien was literally destitute. One of her brothers-in-law was able to get her "on relief" as welfare was called back then. Eventually, she married another widowed person, Wally Bell, who eked out a living from an 80 acre dairy farm. Together, Wally and Vay were able to provide a decent living off of that 80 acres, milking 20 cows and later, putting acreage into cucumbers and sponsoring a Mexican family to pick the produce as share croppers. My cousin Brenda, the youngest daughter of Vay and Wally, told me that they used two milking machines operated by a vacuum system. During the Winter the herd's milk production was at full speed, which was convenient to my way of thinking since you could afford the extra time in the barn milking cows as there wasn't any fieldwork to do. In the Summer, when most of the cows dried up in preparation to be bred, the Bells had as few as three or four cows left giving milk. Later on, when Wally reached the age when he could collect Social Security, he still farmed and at the end of the year was forced to sink some of its profits into fencing and other improvements just so he wouldn't exceed the income limits allowed by Social Security. (As an aside, back in the early 1970s when my Pa was collecting Social Security, he was only allowed to earn $1600 in addition to his S.S. check.) As a result of this, the folks on the Bell farm were "in deep clover". More on the Bell farm next time. -- Gary

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09/26/2015 06:14.50 PM Report This Comment  
  Odds and Ends, September, 2015, Part II
So I had to transplant some phlox, and in order to do that I had to dig up some yucca plants that keep coming up in the flower bed we call The Windmill Garden. The only way I've found to dig up yuccas, or any thickly rooted perennial (like hosta) is to use a mattock, or adze. (I know that I've mentioned this tool in a past blog.) Nothing rips up sod, turf, or matted roots better than an adze. Upon doing some research I found that an adze is more properly the term for a tool used to smooth wood (which is what Pa chiefly used it for and it was what he called it) while a mattock is the term used for a farm implement that had a flat blade (like the adze) on one side and a pick on the other. So basically, I'm using the adze as a mattock.

Now yuccas are also like a two-edged tool. Like sumac, they grow where almost nothing else will. Lord knows that they thrive here on the sand hill that is my back yard. On the other hand, like sumac, they send out rhizomes and soon you'll have yuccas sprouting through the ground everywhere! My friend Dana recently told me that the yucca plant I'd given her last year died. I teased her that it's almost impossible to have a yucca die but to be honest, another co-worker had told me that one of the yuccas I'd given her had died as well. I told them that it must've been because the soil on their properties was too rich for the yuccas' taste. Neamoins, a few days ago I gave Dana a few of the yuccas I'd hacked out and I teased her that if she planned to tick off her neighbors she should plant them on her property line. This reminded me of a few years back when another co-worker asked me for some sumac shoots for his property. I asked him if he was looking to do the same thing; plaguing his neighbors with a sumac invasion.

The darker asters are coming out now. I can see them unfolding day-by-day each afternoon along the sides of the freeway as I drive home from work. While I find it impossible to identify all the various blooms, I think that they have become my very favorite wildflowers of all. -- Gary

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

09/23/2015 08:31.18 PM Report This Comment  
  Odds and Ends, September, 2015, Part I
I'm taking a break from the Small Farms thread to catch up on what's been happening at La Ferme Sabloneuse. I've been transplanting. Dear Belle Soeur Susie's eldest brother Randy was thinning his phlox and had brought over a large number of plants. Susie gave me a call and I ended up with whole lot of shoots and some great stories for the afore-mentioned Small Farms thread about the Monette Farm. It was also time to move some hydrangeas that were being kept in the Home Garden and find them new homes.

So each evening during the past week, after I came home from work, I worked and putzed around La Ferme Sablonuese until dark. Malheureusement, during the early Autumn of mid-September here in N.E. Wisconsin, the days have shortened to the point where I only have an hour of workable daylight each evening in which to accomplish one task or another. Still, it is amazing to me how an hour or so of hauling dirt, shoots, and around in a wheelbarrow, shoveling, hacking, and planting, and making a couple of treks down and up the hill to the Valley Garden can wear me out. Of course, that the temps were in the high 80s and dew points in the upper 60s had something to do with it as well.

I had to laugh to myself as I was trudging from one task to another. Mostly I had to laugh at myself. I must've looked a sight; a slightly pudgy, slightly stooped figure in mud-spattered carpenter's jeans and a sweaty t-shirt, staggering while pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt with a half-filled five gallon pail of water dangling from each of the wheelbarrow's handles. I also had to laugh at the silliness of my thought processes as I did so. I stumbled across a single shoot of Timothy hay-grass in the front yard. Recognizing the value of such a nitrogen-fixing legume, I put it in the wheelbarrow and later, while going through the Valley Garden on my way to the Home Property, I planted that single grass stem in the hopes of it reproducing and helping to fertilize that field.

I'll have more odds and ends to talk about next time. -- Gary

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

09/19/2015 07:45.39 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms
I finally have enough time to sit and catch up on your blog. Absolutely LOVE the history! It always amazes me to read about our ancestors - how they lived, and how they got us from where they started to where we are. Excellent, Gary. Keep up the great work!

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09/17/2015 01:52.56 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part IV (Another French Connection)
More about the Lessards. They were called the Lessards, the Lessarts, and the Lessors; the last being the American spelling of the French pronunciation of Lessard. There's even a township in Shawano County named after the Lessards.

My ancestor Etienne de Lessard operated a large "bateau" (boat) used to transport goods up and and down the St. Lawrence even after he acquired land on which to establish a homestead. I've written in these blogs at least twice about how Etienne, along with a kinsman, had gotten lost in the fog while fishing on a small boat on the St. Lawrence and prayed to the St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to guide them back to shore safely. (St. Anne was and is revered greatly in Bretagne, the land of my ancestors.) Etienne promised the saint that if he was spared, he would donate the land needed to build a church dedicated to her. The rest of the story belongs to history. As I've written before; I had heard this story from my Grandma Emma (Lessor) Truckey and 40 years later, while doing genealogy research, found it all to be true.

When Etienne was 29, he married a 15 year old girl, Marguerite, of the Sylvestre family. One official witness to the wedding was Governor de Lauson. Etienne and Marguerite were destined to live long and prosperous lives. According to a source quoted in Wikipedia, "In the 1681 census Etienne declared to be 59 years old, married with Marguerite Sevestre 45 years old and to have 10 children; Etienne 28, Charles 26, Pierre 24, Marie-Therese 20, Anne-Dorothee 15, Noel 12, Joseph 10, Prisque 7, Jacques and Dorothee (twins) 4 years old. The couple had a daughter named Marguerite born September 4, 1664, she died December 7, 1665. He also declared to own: 3 Guns 7 Cows 40 farmable acres, on which was growing wheat, barley, peas and cabbage."

Clearly, the lives of my ancestors were intertwined with small farms. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to them. -- Gary

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09/16/2015 07:10.48 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part III Another French Connection
Now my penultimate ancestor, Gilles Trottier, died just some three years after finally earning enough to buy his own small homestead; but his descendants became an important force in New Canada. Some became large land owners and others became important in the fur trade. The ones from whom I descended were content to create small farms in Saint Batiscan township near Trois Rivieres. It would be another 200 years before any decided to depart permanently for Wisconsin. But there is yet another renowned French colonial family from which this countryman descends.

I have already written about my Grandma Truckey's ancestor Etienne de Lessard. He came to the New World at about the same time as Gilles Trottier. Now the way the French colonial government bestowed land grants in the New France was dependent on the use of rivers as a means of transportation, travel, and more importantly, for supply and trade. Nearly all land grants were narrow and long. This is to say that the landowner was awarded a few acres of frontage on the local river, with his property extending many times that inland. Initially, these grants were make along the St. Lawrence River in present day Canada. According to the source: "On February 10, 1651, Etienne obtained a land from Olivier Letardif one of the members of the Company de Beaupre. This land was 10 frontal acres on the St-Laurence River and 5 miles in land."

This standard procedure of granting land deeds also was applied to French settlements "au haut pays", in the upper country. The early maps of Green Bay, Wisconsin show the same "spaghetti farm" land grants. Even in the far west of Canada, in the area of the "Northwest Rebellion of 1885" by the Metis in Saskatchewan, the long and narrow land grants claimed by the French-Canadian Metis along the Red River figured heavily in the conflict because this archaic French system which was passed down from medieval times was disregarded by the British government. Fittingly, on a monument in Saskatchewan honoring the Metis who'd died in that unsuccessful rebellion the name of an older man is included. Of course, his name is Trottier. More next time. -- Gary

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09/12/2015 07:45.28 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part II (The French Connection)
Now instead of homesteads, the French settlers to New France hoped to attain a “seigneury” or fiefdom. Evidently, the King of France and the men who directed the colonies hoped to attract men to the New World by the promise of becoming lords of their own fiefs. Certainly that’s what motivated my ancestor, Gilles Trottier, to take his entire family to Canada at the age of 55. Even though he lost his eldest son to the Iroquois, had his first farm lost to their attacks and had to move three times in order to finally find a permanent site to set down his roots; Gilles Trottier, who died in May 10, 1655, (the same date that my Pa was born in 1909) left behind four sons who ended up generating one of the most common French Canadian surnames in the New World

The Trottier descendants established seigneuries of their own, becoming the DesRuisseaux, DesRivières, DesAulniers, Belcourt, Bissonnière ou Beaubiene. (It would appear that these folks wanted to establish their own particular lordships. We Truckeys do seem to have a pronounced view of ourselves.) In doing further research for this posting I came across information that I hadn't known. Gilles was a wandering carpenter and cattle breeder in Normandy, who had no permanent residence throughout his life. Being a skilled worker with a number of skills, he was a perfect prospect for anyone recruiting settlers for New France. According to an article that I've just discovered, "On the morning of 4 July, two people met with Master Teuleron at his home: Pierre Legardeur, Sieur de Repentigny, in charge of finding recruits for New France and Gilles Trotier, master carpenter and cattle breeder, living in the parish of Chemilli in Perche. With no fixed domicile, Gilles Trotier, artisan and farmer, was until then, an itinerant who went where there was work at his trades. In 1633, we find him at Mamers (Sarthe); in1636 and in 1640 At Igé (Orne), and now we find him presently living in Chimilli. Clever and resourceful, although without property--it was necessary to advance him 46 livres at the time of his departure to clothe himself--Trottier was the man for whom Msgr de Repentigny was searching, on behalf of his brother-in-law, Jacques Le Neuf, Sieur de la Poterie. Around 55 years old at the time, one wonders what Gilles Trottier's motivation was to move his family to New France. It was probably to assure his sons a better more stationary life. His contract to work for Jacque Le Neuf on his seigneury of Portneuf near Quebec for seven years is one of the longest such contracts known in New France." --guilletcinqmarsfamily.homestead. com/TrottierFamily.html More on Small Farms next time. -- Gary

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09/09/2015 07:11.57 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Autumn, 2015, Part III
Yesterday at sunset I went down to the Valley again to see what I could find. There were no cucumbers to be found; the plants are dying, it would seem that the squash and pumpkin leaves are shading them and most of the beans as well. Most of the beans I've been picking are from the pole bean vines that are climbing the wire fencing. Next year I will make sure to separate the types by planting the cucumbers and beans in the Home Garden and squash and pumpkins in the Valley Garden. The pumpkins are turning orange, which allowed me to do the first accurate count. I expect to have a good dozen Jack-o-lanterns pumpkins this November to put out near the deer stands. And the acorn squash? I've never seen so many magnificent fruits! I'll have to get Ruthie to take a photo of them come late October when we harvest them.

After checking the garden I went over to the apple orchard. The beacons are about done, only a few are left on the highest branches, well out of reach of Pa's decades' old picker. The winter apples are coming into full fruition though. I picked a couple for my next day's lunch and then headed up to the Home Garden.

Now most of the Home Garden has been left fallow in order to rest and regenerate. I had spread a load of manure on it and then planted hairy vetch seed as "green manure" in preparation for next year; but I used four of the raised beds this year for melons, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers. The melons especially have done well, so I picked one for my lunch and then headed in for the night.

And finally tonight, I putzed around the Homestead. I called my Big Brother Tommy and told him that I'd finished with our (my) project with The Barn (I've posted a pic on this site on how it looks today). I told him that I would put all the rest of the tar paper in a garbage bag for him to take to the town dump. As I did this, I noticed that another beautiful early Autumn sunset was taking place at La Ferme Sabloneuse. I was moved to borrow my Ruthie's camera and take some photos of this. So goes Early Autumn, 2015. You can be sure that I will post more of this year's Autumn and the season progresses. -- Gary

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09/03/2015 07:33.02 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Autumn, 2015, Part II
So last Sunday afternoon My Ruthie and I were just finishing working on next year's flower beds when Belle Soeur Susie stopped by for a chat. It was a beautiful sunny day in the 70s. So beautiful that I would have almost forgiven anyone calling it a late Summer day instead of an early Autumn day. It was pleasant; the three of us sitting in the shade of the young oak in our front yard with a nice breeze coming up out of the South, thick with the smells of ripeness, of corn, of drying grass, and of apples from the orchard. After awhile Susie and I went down in the Valley and we picked beans, cucumbers, corn, and then a few apples before heading back up the hill to the Home Property. I also picked two cantaloupes from the Home Garden, one for Susie to take home and another for me to cut up and take with me for lunch at work.

The asters are coming into bloom. I've noticed the smaller arrow asters and on the way home from church I also the first fall asters. As with every Autumn, I shall have to take out the trusty field guide and use it to identify exactly which is with. My favorite, if you'd like to know, are the magnificent smooth asters.

On Monday night I was finally able to complete the task of taking the tar paper and nails off the Barn. What I had called a Summer-long job was pretty much that. It was begun on July Fourth and finished on the last day of August. (Okay, half a Summer-long, but long enough for me and I'm happy to be finished with it.)

On that Monday night I noticed that the sunflowers were now bending over from the weight of their ripening seeds. I am sure that the two inch-thick stems will now bend and break from the strain and that the plants will soon die and the massive flowers will fall prey, as they do every year, to the onslaught of songbirds eager for the windfall of tasty protein. In two weeks time I expect that these magnificent specimens will be nothing but dried out husks. More on Early Autumn tomorrow. -- Gary

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09/02/2015 08:41.14 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Autumn, 2015, Part I
Every year I remind my PFRs that up here, Autumn begins in late August. Maybe I'm getting testy in my old age, but I actually feel a little irritated when I hear or read someone stating that there's only three weeks left of Summer. Here in our neck of the woods, the maples are already showing dashes of red and the sumac, the tough little earliest harbingers of fall, are already turning color. I beg your pardon if I repeat from last year's posting a wonderful quote by my oft-mentioned literary inspiration, Hal Borland: "When Fall begins to creep across the land the sumac is the first to know it."
Last year I had asked the reader what it was that caused him or her to realize that Autumn is upon us. For some of us it's the colors, for others it's the smell of ripeness; the ripeness of the apples, the corn, the melons, the leaves and grasses themselves. I think that I might have identified myself with that particular stimulus. For others it might be the decreased angle of sunlight; we all know that the flora and fauna react to it. But as I was thinking about this posting, for the first time I was made to think that it was the tasks that we Countrymen and women do at this time of year which moves us to think that Summer has ended and Autumn has begun.
For this Countryman, the tasks have to do with the harvest. I've mentioned the early Summer harvests of berries, then the High Summer harvest of cucumbers, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and the early bell peppers; but when you get to harvesting corn, potato, melons, and start picking blackberries and canning apples and pickles, you've arrived at early Autumn. Today My Ruthie and I froze ten pints of sweet corn. Now maybe you haven't ever noticed that a cornstalk usually produces two ears of corn, a primary and a secondary, (those are my terms). In a bad year one only gets a decent primary ear and the second one is not even worth picking. In a good year the primary ear is magnificent and the secondary ear is also worthy of harvesting. Well, for the second year in a row, the patch I've cultivated in the fallow Valley Garden has produced a wonderful crop of sweet corn. We've eaten and gave away some few dozens of primary ears and today we froze another two. Those two dozen provided some 30 cups of corn kernels which turns out to be the aforementioned ten pints of corn for the freezer. I reckon that there are still some three dozen secondary ears available for consumption. In addition, today I noticed that there were still green beans to harvest and that the muskmelons are just at the cusp of being ready to eat. And the apples? Well I've been picking the Beacons for some two weeks and the Winter apples will be ready in another week. For me, it is Autumn at La Ferme Sabloneuse and I glory in it. --Gary

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08/29/2015 07:06.46 PM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms
Love the history lesson! This is a great post, Gary, and I can't wait to read the rest. So - are you going to get cows now? I'm nor sure of their color, but your guess may be right. Although, with that white face, I'm wondering if there is some Hereford in the mix? Love the photo!

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08/27/2015 05:11.51 AM Report This Comment  
  Small Farms, Part I (Dave’s Heifer)
Now as the PFRs of these blogs know all too well, I am a passionate aficionado of the small farm. As the reader may or may not remember, the Spanish term for small farm is "cortijo". The Spanish term for farmyard is "cortil". As I'd explained in a past blog, both terms are related to the English words "orchard" and "courtyard". Being a French Canuck, I've tried to find an equivalent French term but the closest would be simply "petite ferme", an exact translation. Of course, we've come up with the American phrase, "farmette", which makes sense. The reason I mention all this is that the small farm, or "small holding", as the English call it, is such an important part of our cultural heritage that the concept possesses its own specific term.

Perhaps the best term for a small holding that the USA has ever invented is the "homestead". It was designed by Abraham Lincoln and installed in 1862 as a means of providing government support for the settlement of the Great West. (And I don't need to be reminded of the moral implications of taking land illegally from the Indians). As it turned out, only 40% of homesteaders were able to “prove up” their claims and the “quarter section” of 160 acres was too small to be able to be farmed for profit with 19th century animal driven machinery. (Wikipedia)

Neamoins, the term “Homestead” is what I use for the original family property; and make no mistake, it was originally a small farm. Ma and Pa would have it no other way. The barn, (or stable, if you will) held two milk cows and a few chickens. The two cows were named Buella and Bessie. According to my sister Donna, Buella was the mean one. The photo that I’ve posted is of the two cows. If anyone can tell me what breed they were, I’d be grateful. As for me, after doing some research, I’m thinking that they were a mixture of Holstein and Guernsey. I had related in the past that Ma had told me that when the cows were allowed to graze on their own, they would eat acorns under the oak trees and this would not only increase their butterfat, it would also give their milk a slightly bitter taste. Now Ma’s sister Vivien was married to Wally Bell, who had about 80 acres and managed to make a living milking about 20 cows. When Buella had a heifer Pa sold it to the Bells and my cousin Brenda told me recently that this cow was always called “Dave’s Heifer”. It was just like Buella, it took charge of the entire herd and took over care of every calf that came along. Bell’s herd dog was able to drive in every other cow but Dave’s Heifer. She would face down the dog and the poor pooch would leave her alone. Brenda also said that this cow would produce more butterfat in her milk than any other two cows combined (which makes me think that she was part Guernsey). Dave’s Heifer was Wally’s most valued cow. More on Small Farms to come. -- Gary

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

08/26/2015 07:24.40 PM Report This Comment  
  The Overlooked Flowers, Part III
Just as I'd reported last year at this time the bull thistles are ripening. There are some beauties growing next to the St. Patrick Church parking lot. As my PFRs would know, I do so love the bull thistle. I love it for both its tenacity and stark beauty.

The other overlooked flower that I'd been meaning to write about for awhile are the orange and yellow hawkweed. Usually they bloom in June, but if the ground on which they grow has been mowed, hawkweed will grow again and again throughout the growing season. Even now in late August, I can take photos of them as they grow along the edge of the mowed grass all over La Ferme Saboneuse. According to Hal Borland, hawkweed came into this country in 1889 in the way that oh so many other immigrant plants have; that is to say through hay and bedding for livestock. Wikipedia states that hawkweed was imported as ornamental flowers and escaped from domestic gardens. The Wikipedia article goes on to say: "It is found across Canada and the north of the U.S., reaching more in the south on the coasts." I don't know how quickly hawkweed spread throughout the United States but I do know that in the 1960s they were growing on our land.

Now the Wikipedia article on yellow hawkweed rings especially close to home when it describes the plant as one which "... prefers silt loam, well-drained soil: coarse textures, moderately low in organic matter, and moist. Its presence can be an indicator of low soil fertility or slightly acidic soils." Sad to say, "low soil fertility" and "acidic" certainly describes La Ferme Sabloneuse. But what I hadn't known was that hawkweed got its name because it was thought in ancient times to have the quality of improving eyesight. As the article states: "(Hawkweed) has, in the past, been used for healing eyesight. Pliny the Elder had recorded information regarding how other species, specifically hawks, utilized H. caespitosum, specifically believing that they would eat it in an effort to improve eyesight" I have to admit this information was a real eye-opener! (Sorry, couldn't resist).

While Wikipedia says that one of the local names for yellow hawkweed was "devil's paintbrush", we kids used to call orange and yellow hawkweed "Indian paintbrushes". It was the old metis woman, Grandma Dort (Dorothy LeFebre Becker) who forcefully corrected us. This grand old gal was a wealth of wisdom, both old and new, and was both sophisticated and homespun. She admonished us neighborhood children to learn and use the proper names for flora (of which she was an expert). So ever since the age of thirteen, I've called these wonderful plants by their proper names. -- Gary

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

08/22/2015 07:13.13 PM Report This Comment  
  Great Post!
Your Ma must have been a very special woman! Here on Paradise, regardless of how good or bad things are going, I always at least whisper at least once a day, 'It's a lovely day on the farm' - just because God has blessed us with being stewards of a farm! (I wonder if I've actually been channeling your Ma at that time) :)

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

08/19/2015 09:12.30 PM Report This Comment  
  The Overlooked Flowers, Part II
The common mullein is blooming. We used to call it "Indian tobacco" on account of the broad fuzzy leaves. In researching for this post, I found that this plant is not native to North America, but rather it was introduced during the early colonial period for its medicinal purposes. According to Wkipedia: "It is widely used for herbal remedies, with well-established emollient and astringent properties. Mullein remedies are especially recommended for coughs and related problems, but also used in topical applications against a variety of skin problems."

I also hadn't known that mullein is a biennial plant. The first year's growth results in a
"rosette of leaves" (Wikipedia). It is during the second year that a single spear grows and then is covered with yellow florets. It's these spears that I used as well, spears when I was a boy. Once they'd dried out and weathered some, you used your jack-knife to sharpen the pointed end of the tap root and you had a nifty spear.

I had read that common mullein was called both "Indian tobacco" and "Devil's tobacco". This is because the leaves resemble tobacco leaves. The plant that are called by these names have psychoactive qualities, which is why they were so valued by the First Nation peoples as a means of achieving an altered state of perception. It is my belief that while common mullein may have arrived rather late during the colonial period in order to have been used as a part of the original kinnikinnick, the smoking mixture used among the Algonquin speaking First Nations people of the colonial period; I am made to think that when it was introduced, the peoples of the First Nations took it upon themselves to experiment with it because of its physical resemblance to tobacco. The psychoactive qualities of common mullein must have readily lent itself to the Native Americans' need for a means of achieving a spirtual state of consciousness. More on overlooked flowers next time. Gary

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

08/19/2015 07:17.30 PM Report This Comment  
  A Lovely Day on the Farm, Part II
(Before I finish tonight’s post, I would like to draw your attention to the latest photo I’ve posted. It’s of the brand new shoots of hairy vetch.)

So yesterday evening I finished digging another trench for Ruthie's planned retaining wall for her garden, then I went over to the Homestead to tear some more tar paper off the Barn and pull out more nails. It was during this time that I noticed some two dozen night hawks circling overhead, feeding on high flying insects. This was the most night hawks I've seen at one time in years! I think that they're a bit early this year but it makes me hopeful that there'll be a larger migration this fall. I also got a chance to check on the two pitiable pumpkin plants out in the sand under the power lines. They've actually set out blossoms now and I'm even hopeful for them as well.

Have you noticed how early the Sun sets now? Last night I found that at 7:30, it was too dark to work in the shaded side of the Barn. After I had put the tools and ladder away for the evening I sat for a minute or two on the steps of the corn crib and looked around at the Homestead. The Sun had already set, and the clouds were turning pink in a paling blue Summer sky. For the umpteenth time that day, I thought to myself, "What a lovely day on the farm." Gary

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

08/17/2015 06:29.08 PM Report This Comment  
  A Lovely Day on the Farm, Part I
This is what Ma used to say. I don't know how many times on a particularly nice day she would say "It's a lovely day on the farm", or where she'd picked up the phrase, but she would mostly say it when Pa and we boys were around working together on some project or other around the place. Because of her upbringing, Ma always liked to think of the place as a farm. I do think that it would've made her happy to have always had some livestock around the place. In any case, she was always interested in what we were planting and how the gardens were doing even into her extreme old age.

So Sunday I thought of her as did some chores around La Ferme Sabloneuse. It wasn't hard to think of her, as it was the first anniversary of her passing from this world. It was a brutally hot and humid day here. The temps reached 90 and the humidity was around 70%. To her credit, My Ruthie told me that I wasn't allowed to work outdoors until this evening. Nevertheless, it turned out indeed to be a lovely day on the farm.

The rye and hairy vetch had sprouted! I use an exclamation point because I was so elated that I had been successful in planting the cover crops and that they had sprouted. So about 4 pm Belle Soeur Susie was visiting and she wanted to see the sprouts. I had wanted to pick beans and cucumbers anyway so I accompanied her down to the Valley Garden. She admired the success of the "hairy vetch experiment" but she also notice the young ears on the sweet corn. She told me that they were ready to be picked. For me, I thought that they weren't full enough to do so but Susie insisted that they were ripe. Sure enough, Randall Monette's favorite daughter was right; every ear we peeled was ripe. I told her to pick what she wanted for her supper. We picked six ears for her to take home. The other ripening ears will have to wait until one of us all have the time to pick and prepare them for a meal. The fact that the raccoons haven't already raided the patch (because, as we all know, they seem to sense just when the corn is ripe) means (hopefully) that they haven't discovered this year's garden. Pleas scroll up for Part II. -- Gary

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

08/17/2015 05:38.40 PM Report This Comment  
  The Overlooked Flowers, Part I
Now as you PFRs know oh so well by now, I love recounting (racontering) the wild flowers that show themselves throughout the growing season here in and around La Ferme Sabloneuse, as well as any domesticated (or semi-domesticated) blooms. While I know that I've mentioned the Canadian thistle and perhaps the pink phlox, I haven't written about the other less appreciated blooms that I've been seeing here lately. One is red clover. Like the dandelion, it's so common that we tend to ignore it; but when an observant soul like my Ruthie happens upon it while carrying a camera, she can turn it into a prize-winning flower. I'd noticed the clover blossoms before, and it was I who'd pointed it out to Ruthie. They stood out from the rest of the grass that had grown from my repeated sowings on the South-facing slope of the Backyard Hill of the Home Property. In Ruthie's photo that I've posted above, the blooms do exactly that; they stand out beautifully.

To me, the red clover flower brings to mind my Pa. That man was able to find a four-leaf clover like no other human being. As I think about this, it must've been because his brain was wired in such a way that he could see things that no one else could. It certainly would explain both his brilliance and his aloneness. As I'd once told my Punky, it was a Truckey trait. Like the Waylon and Willie country song, Truckeys are alone, even when they're with someone they love.

Pa also taught me that the red clover blossom was as edible for humans as they were for wildlife (remember Thumper in "Bambi"?) It's true, red clover blossoms are slightly sweet to the taste. As a child I would eat the fluffiest blossoms when I would find them. I have to laugh, my Pa taught me that wild asparagus, eaten raw, tasted like peas, red clover tasted even better, and that lamb's quarter leaves were as good as lettuce (which it is, verily). More about the overlooked flowers next time. -- Gary

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

08/12/2015 07:49.12 PM Report This Comment  
  The Garden
I definitely want to know how this experiment works out. 2016 marks the 14th year we've been here, and I've decided to apply the 7 Year Sabbath to our garden. I'll be planting a cover crop this fall, and letting it sit for a year. Then, in next fall, I'll be piling leaves, manure, cut grass, chicken litter and other compost-type things throughout the winter to cover the entire area. In 2017, I'll disk/till everything in around February, and continue to work it until time to plant in April. My line of thinking lends to a deeper interest in how your plan works out!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

08/09/2015 04:11.54 AM Report This Comment  
  The Hairy Vetch Experiment (Part II)
So tonight I seeded the Valley Garden in hairy vetch and winter rye. The rye was planted in order to provide the stems that the tendrils of the hairy vetch needed in order to climb and produce the blossoms necessary for pollination. I can only hope and dream of watching the bumblebees working that entire field! I first spread most of the vetch seed in the valley and then I climbed the hill to the Home Property to the Home Garden and spread the rest there. Next I brought down the "light drag" from its storage position on the side of the Corncrib in order to use it to drag that field oh so lightly, (duh! hence the term "light drag"). Tomorrow I shall impress my son Andrew into helping me to rake the seed into the Home Garden.

Now the "light drag" hadn't been use in over 30 years. Pa had restored it in the early '80s and we'd used it then. Pa had driven spikes into the South side of the Corncrib in order to use it as a place to hang it. After Pa had passed, it remained in its proper place for decades. As for me, I had thought that it was broken and couldn't be used. It wasn't until tonight, when I wrestled it down from its perch that I realized that it was still perfectly sound and capable of being used. (I should have known better. I was there helping Pa cutting poplar wood into one-by-one poles for that very purpose back in 1982)

So tonight I broadcasted winter rye and hairy vetch seed and then I lightly dragged them under using Eldest Brother David's 1950 Farmall and Pa's light drag. Again, it was a good day. I will let you all know how things progress. -- Gary

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

08/08/2015 09:11.28 PM Report This Comment  
  The Hairy Vetch Experiment (Part I)
The drought was finally broken yesterday. It was a slow steady rain; starting before noon and keeping on till sunset. We must've gotten almost two inches. I'd been waiting for some moisture before proceeding with my grand experiment for the Valley Garden.

Now I'd alluded to this topic in previous blogs. The Valley Garden itself deserves a blog post of its own but for the purposes of this posting, it's enough to say that this field had been used in a two crop rotation by Eldest Brother David and the rest of us for some 30 years; one half in use as the garden, the other half left fallow for most of the year until Autumn, when it's planted in Winter rye as a green manure. After Eldest had passed, it remained to me to decide what to do with the field. I decided last year to undertake a grand experiment of taking a number of years to restore the fertility of that (which is to me) is a hallowed piece of ground.

As I'd written last year in my post about hairy vetch, no other plant exceeds it as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. It was my plan, starting last year, to leave the Valley Garden fallow for two years and then plant it in hairy vetch for some two or three years before finally putting it back into crop production. The only exception was a rotating 20 by 30 foot section that I fenced off, fertilized with manure, and then planted in vegetables. So last year the Valley Garden was fallow, producing a copious amount of ragweed. This year, it produced very little ragweed, but a lot of yellow hawkweed. In June I plowed the field under and over the following weeks I disked it and then dragged it a few times. Finally today I spread hairy vetch seed and winter rye seed in the Valley Garden and for the first time in over 30 years, I used the light drag that my Pa had restored to cover the seed. The latest photo that I've posted shows me pulling the light drag this evening. (Please scroll up to read Part II, Gary)

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

08/08/2015 09:08.46 PM Report This Comment  


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