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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
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  Hunting Alone, Part II
Didn't see a darn thing today but I went to the Hunters Mass tonight in Oconto and I'll be out there tomorrow. I found that I was actually looking forward to hunting for the first time in decades. Lord knows that my Pa had had to hunt by himself for many a year before his sons grew old enough to accompany him. In short, I am made to believe that if you don't like to hunt alone, then you are not a true hunter. Our American (and French Canadian) predecessors certainly had to hunt alone and in addition, had to make sure that they weren't in turn being hunted by unfriendly First Nation warriors. I try to remember that when I'm bummed out about not seeing any game. As for my Pa, I had written some two years back how it must've allowed him an escape from his worries as a husband and father to go hunting.

"One time he came home from work around midnight right after a fresh snow under a full moon. He saw fresh rabbit tracks in the snow. While the rest of us slept, he took his little single shot .22 and followed the rabbit tracks. I imagine it must've been pleasant for him; being alone in the quiet moonlight, enjoying a chance to provide for his family in an older, more traditional way instead of sweating in the noise and stress of the paper mill. After trudging the length of his forty, Pa spied the rabbit huddled in the lee of a fence post. One crack of the .22 and he had yet another rabbit for the freezer, (much to the joy of my Ma, to be sure)."

So what is it about hunting? As I'd written a year before: "For us humans, as I'd described a year ago, we feel the need at this time of year to hunt for or slaughter the proteins and fat that we will need from wild game or domestic animals. It is cold enough to store meat and also cold enough for our bodies to sense the need for added fat. It is not for nothing that Thanksgiving has become a feast day for us to overeat and grow fat at the threshold of Winter. We will need it during the months to come."

And again, to quote a Facebook friend: "Fall comes and we are drawn to the cozy warmth of the hearth fire and heavy meats." More on hunting alone to come. -- Gary

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

11/22/2014 07:49.04 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part I
For the first time in my life, I am hunting alone. Eldest Brother David has passed, Pa's been gone for almost 30 years, and Wild Bill Beaudin for 37. Big Brother Tommy hasn't hunted for many years and despite my urgings, has refused to take it up again. Too bad, Tommy was a decent shot. My nephew Dave is not able to hunt this year as well so I am all alone.

I'm torn. In the distant past of my youth the whole point of hunting was to have fun spending time with Pa, Eldest, Big Brother Tommy, and whoever was dumb enough to hunt with us all. A part of that, certainly, was a boy trying to win the respect of his elders. This, of course, harkens back to humanity at its earliest; we are descended from hunters and gatherers. Looking back, I have to smile ruefully. Hunting with Pa in order to have fun and earn respect was, often an exercise in futility; oft times you got neither. Pa was difficult to hunt with; it's as simple as that. He would send Tommy and me out to make elaborately-designed drives and then rail at us when we got mis-directed in the thick woods. If you spotted a deer, no matter if it was just a flash of white disappearing into the underbrush, Pa would demand of us why hadn't we shot at it. And Lord, if you missed a shot.... it was better that you said nothing and hoped that he hadn't heard your rifle. I think what I miss about Pa was his enthusiasm. He was the only man I ever knew who in his sixties and seventies, still loved to hunt. Of course, if you actually got a deer, then you earned his praise. For us "sons of Dave", it was gratifying indeed.

As it turned out, both Big Brother Tommy and myself got our very first deer within seconds of each other on a warm opening day of 1982. We were all sitting at various points in Caldie's woods when I heard the Youngers shoot in the next "forty". Sure enough, I saw some does and a buck heading towards Tommy on the old railroad grade. They checked when they saw Tommy and then I heard him shoot. The deer broke from the "right-of-way" and headed past me. For one of the few times in my life I did everything right and dropped the eight-point buck with a running shot right through the heart. I heard Tommy yell, "I gotta deer!" To be totally honest, I was as happy for him as I was for me. I can tell you that it was a joy to find Pa and tell him that the both of us had gotten deer. Pa was so pleased that even at the age of 73, he field dressed both those deer for his sons. Later that Winter, Pa took it upon himself to buy a mounting kit and spent a few days putting my eight-pointer on a velvet-covered plaque. I had earned my Pa's approval as a hunter. He was well pleased with me, and regardless of all the baggage that went with this father-son relationship, I was pleased as well. More about Hunting Alone to come. --Gary

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

11/21/2014 08:08.41 PM Report This Comment  
  Eary Winter 2014, Part I
While not record-setting, it's been cold here this week at La Ferme Sabloneuse. The ground is undeniably frozen now and ice is covering every pond and lake here in Oconto County. No katydids rasping these nights. Last Friday I noticed a large flock of Sandhill cranes croaking, and circling, gathering together for their migration South. They are the last of the migrants to leave, save for the robins, which will stay as long as there's enough bare ground on which to scavenge. The cold weather hadn't started the rut season; it was going on full bore even before this cold snap, but I am made to wonder if this snap will actually lengthen the rut because the early cold might interfere with normal white tail activity. (This is a question I'll have to ask a "real" deer hunter. I'll get back to you all about this.)

While the early arrival of Winter, 2014 means at least a temporary end to Autumn chores (e.g. the last raking of the oak leaves from around the Bear Garden, digging up the cornstalks, and hauling and spreading a final load of manure) it also allows me to get an early start on Winter tasks. (A Countryman must be a "glass half-full" kind of man or else he won't remain a Countryman) I was able to start pruning the old apple trees. It was so cold that I could only work out there for a half-hour or less. I will continue to keep at it another day or so until I'm finished. Sadly, the first tree, what we call the "Winter Apple", is almost dead. The trunk is hollowed out and only one limb remains alive. I can only hope from year to year that it continues to survive. Today there was a light snow falling most of the day as I accompanied dear Belle Soeur Susie on an errand she had to do for her son. She and I, in my little old pickup went slowly on the slippery back roads to her family's homestead in order to pick up some bales of hay. We then hauled them all the way down past Green Bay to her son's property so he could cover his septic tank before the frost sank down too deep into his lawn. It's just one of the many preparations we have to make for each Winter. More on Early Winter 2014 next time. --Gary

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

11/19/2014 04:47.58 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Autumn, 2014, Part III
How long is Autumn? Over two years ago in these blogs, (8-24-2012) I'd done a blog entitled "Autumn is Here". At this latitude Autumn starts in late August. It is a long season. It starts at this time and runs until Thanksgiving. This year we've had our first taste of Winter with a slushy snow event around Veterans Day and a so-called "Polar Vortex" predicted to bring 20 degrees below normal temps for the next week or more. The ground will freeze around La Ferme Sabloneuse, making it impossible for me to dig up the cornstalk roots or spade over the raised beds in the Home Garden. I can only hope that early December will bring the aforementioned "Squaw Winter" so I can catch up on my end-of-season gardening. Early Winters are nothing new around here. I've written before how I've finished up disking a field for a neighboring farmer during an October 28th snowstorm in 1981, having his Ford tractor sliding around the snowy-sandy hilltop of his sandy field. The disk assembly was too heavy for the little Ford and as a result every time I used the hydraulic to lift the disk, the front of the tractor rose up as well and I was balancing everything on two wheels as I skittered along the crest of the hill.

This Late Autumn reminds me of 1985. It's been too wet for many farmers to get out and bring in their corn, just like it was back in that year. By the start of Deer season that year we had some permanent snow in the woods, the ground froze up, and the ice was thick enough to walk on in the swamps and marshes. The cornfields were finally able to be harvested. Now most farmers held off harvesting so they could hunt deer but two of my cousins on my Ma's side, Russ and Dewey, who shared the Shallow home farm, decided that work came before pleasure, and spent most of that late November week bringing in their corn. As it turned out, the second weekend of Deer season, November 31 and December 1st, saw the "Blizzard of '85", dropping some fourteen inches of snow on NE Wisconsin. (This was the weekend of the semi-famous "Snow Bowl" of the Green Bay Packers versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Of all the farmers around our neck of the woods, only my cousins had a corn crop. All the rest saw their corn sit throughout Winter in deep snow, a Providential source of food for the deer population during a truly hard time.

This Winter has already started at La Ferme Sabloneuse (so much for the "Late Autumn" moniker). More about this next time. --Gary

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

11/15/2014 09:21.59 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Autumn, 2014, Part II
My literary muse, Hal Borland, once wrote a whimsical article about a personified Autumn descended down Tom's Mountain in upstate Connecticut a few weeks early in order to announce his eminent and inevitable arrival and then return up the mountain. The same could be said about Winter here. On the last day of October I drove My Ruthie out to the breakwater at Oconto which juts out into Green Bay. As my latest posted photo shows, the northeasterly gales were driving the waves right over the causeway. Even though the Sun was shining intermittently, the scudding cumulus clouds were spitting snowflakes on us two from two miles away. We stood out in the freezing wind while Ruthie took her photos. Those few flakes were the harbingers of things to come. This is what I love about Late Autumn; we have our days of Indian Summer and Squaw Winter. Indian Summer is what are called the warm Autumn days after the first killing frost. Squaw Winter refers to the mild days after the first real snowfall. Please don't lecture me about those racially-loaded terms. As for me, a Countryman who identifies himself as a "metis", I use those terms with respect for the First Nations people.

Comme d'habitude, at this time of year we get things ready for Winter. On the second day of November I raked leaves, both at the Homestead and at the Home Property. As the trees get bigger, the amount of leaves get larger. A person on my mail route asked me, "Have you noticed how many leaves we've got this year?" I knew the answer, but I just smiled and nodded and kept on shuffling through leaves.

At the Home Property, my Ruthie had ordered a load of black dirt that was dumped next to our back door. As the year progressed, I noticed that weeds had grown on the dirt pile and needed to be hoed out. I had put it off until I noticed this last weekend that the tops of these weeds had been chewed off. Sure enough, the deer had come up to within a few yards of the house and had consumed them. There's a lot of deer around here this fall, despite the previous harsh Winter. I look forward to the coming Deer Hunting Season, which is the highlight of Late Autumn here at La Ferme Sabloneuse. -- Gary

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

11/08/2014 08:23.51 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Autumn, 2014, Part I
I've addressed this subject before, of course. "Another Late Autumn", (11/30/2013) and "Late Autumn", (11/14/2012) speaks on the same theme.

The post from November of 2012 quotes (who else) Hal Borland talking about how he enjoyed the widening of the horizons of the countryside where he lived in rural Connecticut. I also quoted one of my favorite lines from Kenneth Grahame's "Wind in the Willows": "He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple."

Fittingly, last Sunday, my Ruthie and I cut out a number of pin cherry trees and scrub oaks in the areas in front of our house. (This would correspond with the post I'd done on "Culling" a few weeks back) The next evening we marveled at how open this area appeared from our front bay window.

The post from the last day of November, 2013 was mostly about the departure of wildlife before the approaching Winter. We are presently a month later here at La Ferme Sabloneuse, (the end of October), still, it is late Autumn. "Comme d'habitude" (as usual) I am surprised at how fast the season has progressed. On warm days I can still hear the katydids (much hardier than the crickets) rasping and croaking from their cover among the bushes and underbrush. Hal Borland wrote that he heard a katydid as late as mid-November during his time on his farm along the Housatonic River in Connecticut. If I do hear one this late, I shall let you know.

I had spent some six hours raking leaves at the Homestead. Now I shall have to spend another few hours raking oak and yellow maple leaves here at the Home Property. I need to do this in order to prevent the leaves from smothering next year's growth of new grass. That's the crux of our never-ending project here at La Ferme Sabloneuse; to grow trees in order to provide cover and humus to the soil and then to encourage the growth of grasses in order to do the same thing. More on Late Autumn, 2014 next time. -- Gary

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

11/01/2014 08:35.48 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part V
This final story has to do with a haunted farm house. We've all heard of some such house in our respective neck of the woods where weird things were supposed to have occurred. This story had to do with an old farm house on what's called the "Airport Road" leading from Couillardville (about 4 miles east of Stiles) on east to Oconto. This story was told to me by no less than the Oconto County judge himself. The poor retired farmer who lived there would wake up in the middle of the night to feel something grabbing his toes. After some time of experiencing this the farmer put the house up for sale and moved into town. One Sunday morning after church, the farmer drove out to the place, driven by his regret and shame at having let his imagination get the better of him. As he sat in his car that morning, staring at the vacant house, he saw the curtains of his former bedroom window being pushed aside, yet no one could be seen in the window. The poor farmer revved up his engine and sped off, relieved to done with the place.

When this all had occurred the aforementioned judge was an attorney, practicing law in Oconto. Late one Saturday night he, his wife, and another couple were out late wining and dining at an Oconto supper club. They all got to talking about that haunted house because the other couple happened to be the local realtor and his wife. The realtor said that he had the master key for the key-keeper for the house and in their alcohol-fueled exuberance, they all piled into one car and drove out to the place at around one in the morning. Of course this was in the day before the existence of those bright mercury-vapor lights that lit everything up in the yard or motion detector porch lights. It was dark as could be as the foursome drove into the yard. They tiptoed up onto the porch, giggling like school kids, with just one flashlight among them to see their way. As they got to the door, the porch light came on. (Remember, no motion detector lights back then) Needless to say, this took the wind out of their sails and all four of the formerly intrepid intruders beat a hasty retreat back to the car and back home.

For years after hearing that story, whenever I would drive past that farmhouse (it stands to this very day) I used to make the Sign of the Cross... just in case. -- Gary

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

10/28/2014 07:06.44 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories
I love these posts, Gary!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

10/27/2014 12:07.58 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part IV
My Ruthie's mother Regina was a fiesty, yet grand old lady, a wondeful grandmother to my children and an independent thinker who was ahead of her time. She loved gardening, birds, and was the best cook I've ever known. Naturally, one can see how she would be near and dear to my heart. My Ruthie, who I think is the best cook in the area, freely admits that her Mom was a better cook and that her mother, Ruthie's Grandma Ceil, was better yet! As for me, I'm just glad those two took the time to teach my Ruthie about cooking and that she was willing to learn.
Now Regina would clean the rectory at St. Anthony Church in Oconto Falls for Father Pat Benardy, who was a close friend of the family. Once or twice Regina would see an elderly couple descend the stairs in the rectory and walk out the front door. She sensed instinctively that they were spiritual images. Regina would actually greet them and they would say hello. Finally, Regina asked Father Pat who they were. Father Pat answered matter-of-factly that he saw them all the time. He figured that the couple must have lived in that house many years ago and that what they were seeing were "imprints" or echoes of those people.
As it turned out, my Ruthie cleaned both the church and rectory at St. Patrick Parish here in Stiles for a number of years for Father Carl Steiner. Many times Ruthie would see an old car pull up and three people would come into the church to pray, on old man and woman, and a younger woman who Ruthie assumed was their daughter. The old man and woman would prostrate themselves on the floor before the altar, their arms outstretched. The younger woman would just sit in the very last pew. Ruthie would continue her work and after awhile they would get up and depart. Ruthie would watch them leave. She would hear the church door open and close but she would see that the doors never moved. Ruthie would ask the daughter if she wanted her to leave so they could be alone in the church but the woman said that no, that Ruthie could stay and do her work. Ruthie says that the old man would always tell her "danka" (German, for "thanks") as they left.
The funny thing about the car, a black sedan from the '40s, was that Ruthie would see it coming up the church hill, and then when they left, go down the church hill, but it would never re-appear on the road below.

Just a couple of years ago the lady who cleans the church now button-holed me after Mass and said that she heard that I had done a history book on St. Patrick's. She asked me if there were any reports of anything weird being seen in the church. I told her what Ruthie had seen but this lady said that she would only see the barest outlines of people out of the corner of her eye. I think that Ruthie was able to see more because of her sensitivity. Regardless, we're not afraid of these spirits. If they are drawn to worship the Lord in His own church then they are definitely okay with us. --Gary

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

10/25/2014 06:49.26 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part III
My Ruthie is one of those people who are called "sensitives", that is to say she has always been "open" to seeing those who've departed this life. When Ruthie was a child she would awaken from time to time to see an older woman in a black dress and apron, with her white hair tied up in a bun, tucking the covers around her. Ruthie would even see an indentation on the side of the bed as if an unseen person was sitting there. Ruthie would tell her mother Regina about this and finally one morning, when her father George was at the breakfast table, her mother told her to describe the woman. Once Ruthie finished, she went up to her room to play and her father told her mother that Ruthie had described his mother to a T.

Grandma Lotter had died in that house and in the fashion of that time, was "laid out" in the front room. Regina had the same gift. She and George had moved into that house after WWII. A time or two, while Regina was ironing in the front room she would hear a woman crying. Looking up from the ironing board, she would see casket in the corner. Regina asked her parish priest, what it was all about. The priest told her that the next time this happened, she should pray a rosary for that soul; that what she saw and heard was a plea for help from someone who needed prayers.

Accordingly, the next time my mother-in-law heard crying from the corner of the room, she recited a rosary for the repose of that soul and Regina was never bothered again. A couple more ghost stories next time. -- Gary

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

10/22/2014 10:13.35 PM Report This Comment  
  Cleaning Up
Beautiful posts, Gary. I can just hear those acorns!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

10/19/2014 07:14.21 AM Report This Comment  
  Cleaning Up, Autumn 2014, Part II
So my experiment this last Summer had been a resounding success. I'm not bragging, merely rejoicing. The sweetcorn was incredible! We ate a bunch, we froze a bunch, and we gave away yet even more, some to my friend Dana and a couple dozen to my sister Mother Superior Donna's convent. (It was gratifying to hear how much the sweet petite Vietnamese sisters loved our corn!) We had so much corn from that patch of garden that we never even got to consume the sweetcorn in the Home Garden. (The grey squirrels got those.) My Ruthie was able to bake and freeze some squash and we had some half-dozen pumpkins. In addition to all this, we had some magnificent sunflowers. (I posted a photo of those last time.)

So one day this week I cleaned up the enclosed part of the Home Garden. It took a few hours; First I had to take down the fencing and then roll it all up, then I had to gather up the 2 x 4 boards that I used to line along the ground level, and then pull up all the poles. Next I had to prep and then start Eldest Brother David's Farmall after a long idle period (it started immediately). I hooked up the "tractor trailer" in the wooden shed next to the "Old House" and then drove it out into the valley and loaded up all the fencing materials, all to the tune of falling acorns. Over two months ago I had written that the oaks were starting to drop their acorns. I had mentioned that this was early, though now I suspect that the dry spell then was causing the oaks to drop a few unripe ones much like apple trees drop some green apples in order preserve moisture for the rest. This week the acorns are dropping like a hard rain. The tractor shed at the Homestead, with its aluminum sides and roofing, was pinging all day long. It was funny, because after I'd painstakingly backed the tractor trailer into the wooden shed with all the garden fencing left inside, I drove David's 1950 Farmall A over to its home in the aforementioned tractor shed and carefully backed it in next to Pa's 1938 Farmall A. As I did so, above the growl of the tractor, I was startled to hear the sharp rap of yet another acorn bouncing off the roof just above my head. I had to laugh. It seemed to me that everything at La Ferme Sabloneuse was still in cohesion, despite the losses we've had to endure. The tractors still ran, the gardens still grew, the acorns still fell, and yet another year is coming to a close. -- Gary

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

10/18/2014 07:15.27 PM Report This Comment  
  Cleaning Up, Autumn 2014, Part I
I take a break in my "Ghost Stories" theme in order to write about a mid-Autumn event that is close to my heart, cleaning up the gardens and prepping them for next year. I've perused my past blog postings and found these entries: "Garden Fatigue" and "Requiem of a Garden". This year I'll just call it "Cleaning Up". I know already that this shall be a multi-part post so please bear with me. (The latest photo I've posted is one of my garden experiment this year.)

I don't remember if I'd posted about the enclosed garden I had set up last May in what had been the "Valley Garden". With the passing of Eldest David last Winter, the Valley Garden was left unattended. It is my intent to put this piece of land through a process of renovation; leaving it fallow for a couple of years and then seeding it down with a legume (hairy vetch). Still, I wanted to do something this year that I'd been thinking of doing for a few years now, which is to enclose a small part of the Valley Garden in fence in order to keep the deer and raccoons away. In years past, David and dear Belle Soeur Susie had planted a large vegetable garden in one half of the Valley Garden and put the other half in winter rye. Year after year, however, the deer, and then the raccoons, had ravaged everything. I suggested to Eldest that I could put some of the garden behind fencing, webbing, or netting, but he was never the innovative type.

So this year I found a roll of wire netting in the barn at the Homestead and I resolved to try out my idea. I arbitrarily decided upon a 20 by 30 ft. garden and plowed, dragged, roto-tilled, then planted it with sweetcorn, squash, pumpkins and then sunflowers, just for fun. Later, with Big Brother Tommy's help, I pounded in metal fence posts with eight foot wooden poles screwed into them. When I stretched out the metal netting, I was chagrinned to find that it was a 100ft. in length. Yes, do the math, it fitted perfectly with the dimensions of the garden. As I tucked the last of the wire around the last fence post I looked up to Heaven to give thanks, first to The Lord, and then, perhaps whimsically, to the two Davids for their intercession.

More about Cleaning Up, Autumn 2014 in a day or two. -- Gary

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

10/15/2014 07:20.31 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part II
The neatest ghost story from those days was the one Pa told about his sister Ruby. Before the Truckeys had come to Stiles they had traveled from place to place throughout northeast Wisconsin. At one of those places an old farmer had expressed an interest in Ruby, even though he was much older than she. The old man had even given Ruby a rosary as a gift. Ruby and Pa's father, my grandfather Theophile (Tuffel), had tried to disuade the man but to no avail. Finally, one night the two men returned to the the Truckey home arguing about the matter. They were in the kitchen, which was the only lit room of the house. Pa said that he was awake in the next room and could hear them talk. Like Pa, Ruby and the rest of the family were in bed. Tuffel Truckey was seated at the kitchen table with his back to the next room when he saw out of the corner of his eye a white-clad arm appear next to his shoulder and throw Ruby's rosary on the table. Tuffel turned and saw nothing, but the old farmer yelled and made for the door. "I'm not staying here!" he shouted.

Tuffel tried to calm him down. "Wait," he told the man, "at least let me get you a lantern."

"No!" hollered the farmer, "I'm not staying another minute in this house!" The old man left and never bothered Ruby again. Tuffel closed the door and took the rosary. By now, of course, the entire family was awake. At this point of the story Pa would go on to relate every word that was said by his father and sister, but in order to keep this posting within blog parameters I will have to boil it down: Tuffel asked Ruby where her rosary was; (he thought that she, in her white nightgown, had thrown it on the table, and that the white arm he'd seen was hers. Ruby, who had just returned home from working at another farm, said that she had put it in a box that was still inside her locked suitcase. Tuffel had her open everything up and of course, the rosary wasn't there. Tuffel held up the rosary and asked the whole family if anyone had thrown it on the kitchen table. Of course, everyone said that they were in bed and hadn't seen anyone else get up to do anything.

So that's how this ghost story ends. The old farmer's terrified behavior and his steadfast refusal to tell Tuffel what he saw made for a great tale. Sad to say, Ruby's experience wasn't her last one with the supernatural. She was the first of Pa's syblings to die in adulthood. Ruby married and had ten children before she became ill at the age of 37. As she lay on her deathbed her family gathered at the house. Pa told me that one evening, as he and some of his sisters entered Ruby's room, they all saw a dark shadow on top of her chest. As they came in, the shadow seemed to leap off her chest and off into a corner of the room and disappeared. Ruby gasped out, "It was on my chest, crushing the life out of me!" I remember that as a child, that story alway scared the heck out of me. More ghost stories next time. -- Gary

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

10/11/2014 07:17.47 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part I
The title I've chosen for this series of posts is perhaps a little misleading. Yes, there's going to be a number of what can be called "ghost stories", but as a Catholic Christian I know that it is much more than that. Oftimes we are blessed by the intervention of our guardian angels who, of course, are directed by the Good Lord.

Having said all this, I am chagrined to relate that Grandma Truckey and at least one of her daughters liked to use the "spirit board". My Pa told me that back in those days before TV and even radio, in addition to playing cards and telling stories, when his mother and sisters were feeling adventurous, they would break out the spirit board, basically, a ouija board. The dichotomy of a faithful Catholic like Grandma Truckey using a spirit board is beyond my ability to explain, although I offer as a similiar example of such a paradox the behavior of Saint Padre of Pietrelcina's parents who, after the saint's birth in southern Italy in 1887, went to a fortune teller, as was the custom in that time, in order to find out what she had to say about his future.

The only story that Pa ever told me about Grandma's spirit board is the time she had it out and it spelled out the neighbor woman's name and that she was coming. A minute later the Truckeys saw her coming down the road to visit. Despite her use of the spirit board, Grandma Truckey seemed to be in the Good Lord's graces as a result of her pious faith and her willingness to help anyone in need. In a past blog, I told the story of how a farmwife in labor, who had been turned out into a blizzard by her frantic husband, made her way over a mile in the snow to Grandma's house because she knew Grandma would help her. In another blog, I wrote about the time my sister, Sister and Mother Superior Donna, then a child, was sleeping with Grandma at her home. Donna woke up to see a powerful and stern-looking angel hovering near the ceiling of the bedroom. Donna marveled at, rather than feared, the angel.

So there you are, ghosts and angels and the Truckeys, more stories to come. --Gary

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

10/05/2014 08:48.32 PM Report This Comment  
  More on Culling
This post follows closely in theme to "Fall Chores". One of the fall chores I do is the annual brush cutting of the land in front of my house on the Home Property. It had all been in Norway Pine that Pa had planted in 1950. It had been logged out three times since then. The last time we had the loggers clear out every mature pine in that area. We spent one miserable Summer carrying off every branch and bough in order to encourage the growth of hardwood saplings and grass. These last few years I've cut out all the new underbrush (mostly raspberry bushes) each Autumn while spreading grass seed now and then in the hopes of establishing a tree-dotted lawn in front of our house. I use a gas-powered rotory brush cutter for the small stuff and then, as mentioned last time, axe, saw, and clippers for anything larger.
In this operation, it is the tree seedlings and saplings that are culled. As defined before, culling is simply eliminating species that a Countryman doesn't want to grow in order to help those that he does. What I want to grow in this area are maple trees. So, any of those seedlings are left to thrive as best they can until the next culling. What oak saplings there are, I will allow to remain, but any new seedlings of oak and pine I ruthlessly eliminate. The same goes for the pin cherries. I welcome them as soil-fixing ground cover. Basically, they are a "pioneer plant" like the sumac and Norway pine. My Ruthie was able to transplant quite of few of these to the barren sand on the edge of our back yard. I also welcome their blooms in April and May. Neamoins, (nevertheless), while I do allow the larger ones to grow, I cull the rest.
I am encouraged by the young maples. At this time of year even the smallest seedling is easily seen by its red and yellow leaves. I mark some with red ribbon in case I want to transplant them or give them away as "passalong plants" (as the Farmwife calls them). The rest of them are left to do their best. It is my hope that before I die, My Ruthie and I will be able to stroll through a wonderful park-like front yard of tall grasses punctuated by red maples, white birches, pin cherries, shady oaks and a few selected white pines.
Whether this comes to pass in my lifetime or not, I will have left this piece of land in better ecological condition than when I received it, just as my Pa had over 60 years earlier. --Gary

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

09/27/2014 06:17.56 PM Report This Comment  
  Re: Fall in the South
What a wonderful description of Autumn in Louisiana! I love reading how the seasons change as well down there. I really feel blessed to have you write on this blogsite. My Precious Few Readers are lucky too to get to read your writing. --Gary

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

09/21/2014 08:04.25 PM Report This Comment  
  Fall in the South
For us, fall means a relief from upper 90s and lower 100s to a 'chill' in the air of the 80's. We are granted very little of the brilliant color changes, but watch as the garden is disked under, the days getting shorter and the firewood rack getting fuller. The shifting of farm chores are also a sign - the tractor and hay baling equipment is in the shop being cleaned, instead of being prepped for the field. We feel the sun heaving a sigh as it goes to bed earlier - tired after all the heavy work of heating the summer air. The true welcome of fall is when my brother-in-law, Timmy, delivers the 4 bushels of apples, and the farm kitchen begins to smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and apples, blended with the aroma of a hearty beef stew and loaves of Tabasco Cheese Bread wafting throughout the entire house. As the North is feeling the bite of the first frosts, the South is still at least a month away (maybe two, if we're lucky) but the anticipation of cooler weather floats on the breeze through the pecan and pine trees. And with your kind permission, I am going to edit and rewrite my own Welcome Fall column to include a piece or two from your post, Gary. After reading it, I just know that I'll walk back outside and be able to feel that crisp fall breeze that you'll be pushing this way!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

09/21/2014 06:35.33 AM Report This Comment  
  Fall Chores
It is at this time of year that I usually come up with a blog post discussing Summer transitioning to Autumn, along with such topic headings as "Garden Fatigue", "Autumn Again", "Sounds of Autumn", or some such moniker. This year is no different, but again it is different, as every year for a Countryman takes on its own character. One of these previous blogs was entitled "First Frost". Fittingly, this last Tuesday morning saw the first frost on the rooftops of La Ferme Sabloneuse. Not too early, really, for this far North, but still surprising, as is the first frost of every year. The frost hadn't reached to the Earth's surface here (this time) and so the growing things which haven't already died a natural death still live.

I am behind on the chores that are incumbent of this time of year. The garden, as I've mentioned, us still producing but there was the task of going about the Home Property culling the new growth. Because of Ma's passing, I hadn't had the time to cut off this year's dried blooms of the lilacs or to go on my yearly trek around the Home Property with axe and machete and hack out unwanted growths of oak, pine, sumac, and box elders.

So on a clear Autumn evening this week I put hedge and pruning clippers, machete, and George Lotter's big axe in a wheelbarrow and I started working my way around the my land. Starting along the driveway, I clipped the lilac tops, hacked at the small oak shrubs and then took George's heavy axe to anything larger.

Over two years ago, in a blog entitled "Autumn is Here", I asked the reader: So what is the "'official' sign of Autumn for you?" So I ask my Precious Few Readers the same question. What is the the phenomena that tells you that Autum is here? Back then I wrote that it was the smells of decaying plant matter and of ripened produce. This year for me it is the first notice of the turning of the leaves. The Great Maple at the homestead is starting to turn. As mentioned in years past, red sumac leaves are also "first responders" of fall. At La Ferme Sabloneuse this week I worked until the dark in the evenings culling and trimming, getting things ready already for the next year. As I worked, I took time to drink in the heady air of Autumn, and to watch the sunset rays on the tops of the colored trees. -- Gary

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

09/20/2014 05:09.28 PM Report This Comment  
  Thistles, Part III
The final subject of this series is the bull thistle. This thistle is also named the "spear thistle", "Scottish thistle", "cotton thistle", and "common thistle". The leaf lobes are spear-shaped, hence the English name. As for "common thistle," I find them anything but commonplace around here.

Would you believe that the thistle, co-related with asters, are part of the daisy family? They have one thing in common with the asters in that the post-flowering stage produces seeds enclosed in down. As stated before, and no doubt what all Countrymen and Women already know, thistles are pretty much useless or worse as a plant on agricultural land. But here at La Ferme Sabloneuse, only a couple select patches of ground are currently being cultivated. This means the uncultivated majority of our land supports all sorts of native and invasive weeds and wildflowers. Still, when I see the bumblebees flocking around the pink thistle flowers I am glad that these plants are here to supply nectar for pollinators. As Wikipedia states: "The flowers are a rich nectar source used by numerous pollinating insects, including Honey bees, Wool-carder bees, and many butterflies.[6] The seeds are eaten by Goldfinches, Linnets and Greenfinches."

As my friend Suzanne Mary Snyder well knows, the bull thistle is the national symbol of Scotland. Again, quoting Wkipedia: "According to a legend, an invading Norse army was attempting to sneak up at night upon a Scottish army's encampment. During this operation one barefoot Norseman had the misfortune to step upon a thistle, causing him to cry out in pain, thus alerting Scots to the presence of the Norse invaders. Some sources suggest the specific occasion was the Battle of Largs, which marked the beginning of the departure of King Haakon IV (Haakon the Elder) of Norway who, having control of the Northern Isles and Hebrides, had harried the coast of the Kingdom of Scotland for some years.[3] Which species of thistle is referred to in the original legend is disputed. Popular modern usage favours Cotton Thistle Onopordum acanthium, perhaps because of its more imposing appearance, though it is unlikely to have occurred in Scotland in mediaeval times; the Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare, an abundant native species in Scotland, is a more likely candidate." (Wikipedia)

The tenacious thistle is close to my heart. I hope that I have illuminated you as to why. --Gary

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

09/15/2014 04:58.51 PM Report This Comment  
  Thistles, Part II
I only was able to identify the swamp thistle just a couple of weeks ago when I took a walk with Amanda. As stated above, to the average person, the swamp thistle resembles the Canada thistle closely. It's the Canada thistle that's predominates around here. In addition to scattering its seed via down, it also spreads by sending out rhizomes It is classified as an invasive plant (to say the least). One of its nicknames is "cursed thistle". It's easy to see why. at La Ferme Sabloneuse, these thistles produce a shade of pink in every uncultivated field throughout August and early September. I have to smile, every year the open field beyond Wayne's Pines glows orange and yellow with hawkweed in June and then white with daisies in July. Finally in August the field turns a dusty pink until the Canada thistle blooms fade out. Much of what had been cow pasture and before that, had been cut-over pine of the logging era at La Ferme Sabloneuse was planted in Norway Pine in 1984 by our forward-seeing Pa Truckey. I had been tempted to plow and seed this field in some type of soil-enriching legume or crop cover but now I'm glad that we've left this small field to its natural design of growth. Upon researching Canada thistle I was chagrined to find that it has been classified as a "contaminant weed" since its seeds could be found among exported grain seeds. Like so many other invasive plants (hawkweed comes to mind) Canada thistle, which originated along the Mediterranean, came to the New World inbedded in fodder for imported livestock. One only has to access the state agriculture sites of some 35 US states to find out how many weed control programs are in effect in the hopes of limiting the adverse effects of this variety of thistle.

I am reminded of the line from the movie "Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World", in which the ship's surgeon and naturalist Dr. Steven Maturin says to his friend Captain Aubry, "Jack, I fear you have burdened me with a debt I can never fully repay."

Aubry's reply is, "Nonsense! Name a shrub after me. Something prickly and hard to eradicate."

"Something prickly and hard to eradicate." This is why I find thistles both beautiful and admirable. More about this next time. --Gary

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

09/07/2014 08:54.30 PM Report This Comment  
Gary - in the early days of moving to the country, one of the things I brought with us was my bucket of bird seed and a bag of thistle seed. When one of the neighbors saw that, they almost had heart failure! Thistle is now the bane of our existence (even if I never did open that bag, and instead took it to Mama for her birdfeeder in Shreveport). I'll admit it's a gorgeous flower, but around here, you can get a bad reputation if you allow it to flower and seed. It's invasive and extremely bad for our pastures! Ah, the joys of living in the country. Come South some time. I'll loan you our field guide and you can search out wildflowers to your heart's content!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

09/04/2014 05:22.48 AM Report This Comment  
  Thistles, Part I
I've always thought thistles were cool. It all started when I was a little kid and heard my Grandma Truckey tell Pa about her bad back. Grandma was about 88 at the time (she reached 98 before she was through). She said that she had wrenched her back somehow and was limping along in pain for a couple of weeks. One day she noticed that a bull thistle was growing next to her mailbox on the other side of the road next to her house. (If you wish to find out more about Grandma's house, you can check out the blog posts of 4/13/2013, 4/20/14, 2/27/2013, and 5/25/2013; all on nr. 4 of the list of pages at the bottom of the blog column) Grandma figured that she needed to pull it out or else it might spread seeds all over her property. She grabbed the prickly stem base with her old, work-worn hands and pulled with all her strength. Suddenly the plant popped up out of the damp soil and Grandma sat down hard on the road. After that, she told Pa, her back didn't bother her anymore. (My latest photo posted on this blog site is of the most magnificent bull thistle I've ever seen that is presently growing near the stable at the Homestead.)

While this is typical of "Truckey Stories" where chance events and discoveries can solve all sorts of problems (please don't ask me to describe how Uncle Earl cured his hemorrhoids), still, I was intrigued by the toughness of that bull thistle. Later on, when my Pa pointed one out to me, I was fascinated at the mixture of tenacity, resiliency, and beauty of this plant.

There are three varieties of thistles in our neck of the woods; swamp thistles, Canada thistles, and bull thistles. If there any other varieties, like field thistles or bristly thistle, I don't possess the acuity to identify them out of hand. In fact, it took my trusty old field guide to differentiate the swamp thistle. (Its flower heads are an inch larger in diameter than the smaller Canada thistle) More on these varieties next time. --Gary

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

09/03/2014 08:41.40 PM Report This Comment  
  A Walk With Punky
So on the last day of her stay with us Amanda and I decided to take a walk. We usually try to do this when she's here by herself. I think the last walk we did was more than two years ago. In my post of 10/10/2012 I described a walk I'd taken with Punky when she was about 2 and a half. From that time till now we've taken a good many.

On this night I wanted to show her the various thistles on La Ferme Sabloneuse. She took some great photos. I took along my trusty field guide and I identified Canada thistle, swamp thistle, and bull thistle. On down the road we saw were trying to identify some yellow flowers. We had nailed down the woodland sunflower and Canada goldenrod but as we were looking over another roadside flower in the ditch, a man drove by in his car and then stopped and stepped out to join us. A quick, appraising once-over by both Amanda and myself and a glance between us two served to satisfy us that this man was probably on the up-and-up. (It is neither overly dramatic nor self-aggrandizing to express that both Amanda and I have received enough training in order be able to give a good attempt at protecting ouselves if something "untoward" were to happen.) In this case, the gentleman simply wanted to join kindred spirits in identifying wildflowers. He told us that he had been on numerous field trips with naturalist instructors. Our companion showed us that what we had thought were a different variety of goldenrod was more likely evening primrose. A quick cross check in the field manual confirmed that he was right. As Amanda wrote later, "Decided to take a walk with my dad. Only in the country will a totally random guy stop his car on the side of the road and pick through the ditch with you."

Later we noticed what had to be a red loosestrife near Devereaux' Crick and the arrival of large-leaf asters. Soon will come all the other varieties that we're used to seeing up here, smooth aster, flat-top aster, and the prettiest one (a mon avis) the bluish-purple fall aster. I was also finally able to check out an stand of flowers that had gone into "down" much like the thistles do. It had intrigued me as I'd driven past the last few days because I didn't know for sure what type of wildflower it was. I found that it was fleabane that had turned into down. Upon researching fleabane, I was chagrined to learn that its Genus is named Erigeron, Greek for "old man" because of the downy white hairs that formed on the fruit after the flowers had faded.

I have to admit that this is a somewhat esoteric post this evening, interesting only to those who are truly interested in the various fauna and flora of their local environment. Indeed, I would never be permitted to express all this in a conversation with the few people who actually talk to me. But this is what this blog is all about, isn't it? To express what's in the heart of a Countryman to others of the same mind. --Gary

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

08/30/2014 08:20.04 PM Report This Comment  
  So Much Depends...
Ah, see, Gary? Your posts get me into trouble. I had a very visual image of a sweet little red wheelbarrow sitting out beside my chicken coop, early in the morning when the newly rising sun shimmers trying to reach our farm through the trees. Now that image is stuck, and I've remembered the iron wheel that I have which was once on a small wheelbarrow my Daddy built. As soon as Randy is out of the hayfield for good on Tuesday, I will not let up until a replica of that wheelbarrow is built, painted red and placed beside the chicken coop, and filled with pots of beautiful flowers. Oh, and Randy says 'Thanks a lot, Gary. Next time, keep your posts to yourself!" :)

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

08/25/2014 05:09.59 AM Report This Comment  
  So Much Depends....
There was a ridiculously short poem by William Carlos Williams entitled "The Red Wheelbarrow":

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white
chickens (William Carlos Williams)

This poem has been analyzed, psycho-analyzed, anthologized, categorized, and reviewed beyond any other collection of sixteen words with the possible, (I say again, possible) exception of verses from the Bible. Wikipedia describes it as a prime example of "imagism" and "enjambment". This is to say that the poem emphasizes the importance of a single image which speaks volumes in the mind of the reader, and seeks to slow the reader from his/her urban rush in order recapture a more bucolic past. Since my Punky, Amanda, was here for her grandmother's funeral, I've asked her for her take on this poem. Here is her appraisal:
"Even though the wheelbarrow can be used for so many different things (like carrying feed, bedding, moving dirt, holding tools and fence to fix the coop), all it's doing right now (in my mind) is sitting still next to the chickens collecting rainwater with a misty coat of rainwater." -- Amanda Truckey

Amanda has also advised me to remind the reader that each individual has his or her own interpretation of what the image represents. As for me, I am made to think that at the time of the publication of the poem, (1923) one of the first waves of young educated Americans had already migrated to the cities of the USA in order to find better and more fulfilling lives for themselves. These ambitious and intelligent men and women nonetheless felt a sense of nostalgia about the rural world that they'd left behind. In our day and age, only us Countryfolk can understand the longing to return to our country roots. In their day, I expect, it took a bit of courage and a whole lot of desire to forsake the country life for the life of the city. A popular song of the post WWI period said, "How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?" A friend of mine from my youth told me that he'd heard a variance of the lyrics to go: "How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen the farm?"
The point is that "The Red Wheelbarrow" touched a responsive chord among the newly displaced countryfolk who had opted for urban living. It is the same in our time. "A farmer has dirt in his veins," is the common saying.

The point I wish to make is that the images of Country living, the images of our youth, is what we all hold dear. So much depends upon this. --Gary

Postscript: The photo I've posted on this site tonight is a pic that Amanda had taken a few years ago of raindrops on garden netting at the Home Garden.

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

08/24/2014 06:59.39 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Summer, Part II
Last year at about this time I had written about woodland sunflowers, goldenrod, and the arrival of migrating nighthawks. This year, it's still too early for the nighthawks, but the woodland sunflowers and goldenrod have bloomed, as well as the afore-mentioned marsh milkweed, ironweed, and joe pye weed. All the various thistles have also flowered out, Canadian thistle, centaurea, and the magnificent bull thistle. As for the birds, "comme d'habitude" at this time of year, it is silent except for the calls of the young osprey from their nest in the tall white pines in the Park. We are left only with the chirps and cheeps of the chickadees as they call to each other to let it be known that there is fresh water in the birdbaths and new seed in the feeder, and the caws of the blue jays as they raid these same locations. Hal Borland (with whom you PFR's are already familiar) once wrote how in addition to these crow-like raucous caws, blue jays also expressed themselves in a downright musical twitter. As Borland expressed it, it is as if the blue jay only used it in a more pensive mood, whenever it thought it was not being observed. Borland went on to relate that, in his experience, whenever the blue jay found that it's more melodic notes had been observed and heard by a human, it's enraged and embarrassed reaction was one of even more outraged (and outrageous) caws. So I have found it to be at "La Ferme Sabloneuse". When I'm seated in the Garage Porch in the morning, the jays will come to drink out of the birdbaths without knowing I'm there. They will perch in the oak branches and twitter, or drop down for a quick and surprisingly dainty drink, and then flit back up to the oaks and chirrup. Then, when they finally notice me, that's when they get all indignant and fly off in disgust.

I've also noticed that the oak tree next to the tractor shed has started to drop acorns. Due to the recent dry spell, it's a little early this year. Regardless, as the acorns ping off the corrugated aluminum roofing of the shed, it is a further reminder that that the year is now shifting towards Autumn and many more changes will be coming our way. -- Gary

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

08/16/2014 08:20.55 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Summer, Part I
I try to be conscious about repeating blog titles. Of course, considering the cyclical nature of, well, nature, it is hard not to do. Before entitling this piece I went back and checked out the posting at this time last year. I found that I had posted two blogs, "The Turning of the Year" and "Between Autumn and Summer". Upon re-reading them, I was chagrined to realize that in describing the flora and fauna that have made themselves noticed this week I could merely "copy and paste" the same things that I've noticed last year at this time.

But this is not how it really is! Pardon the dramatic exclamation point, but I think that my PFR's (Precious Few Readers), being Countrymen and women at heart, will agree with me once I've gotten around to making my point. Each year is a wonder of its own and the arrival of each and every development of both plant and animal life in the cycle of the seasons comes to us as both an eye-opening surprise and as a welcome and well-known old friend. A paradox? Well sure, but that's country living for you. (Please scroll up for Part II)

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

08/16/2014 08:16.38 PM Report This Comment  
Beautiful posts, Gary! Love 'em all!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

08/16/2014 06:31.35 AM Report This Comment  
  Monarchs and Milkweed, Part II
The second generation of monarch butterflies is born in May and June, and then the third generation will be born in July and August. These monarch butterflies will go through exactly the same four stage life cycle as the first generation did, dying two to six weeks after it becomes a beautiful monarch butterfly.

The fourth generation of monarch butterflies is a little bit different than the first three generations. The fourth generation is born in September and October and goes through exactly the same process as the first, second and third generations except for one part. The fourth generation of monarch butterflies does not die after two to six weeks. Instead, this generation of monarch butterflies migrates to warmer climates like Mexico and California and will live for six to eight months until it is time to start the whole process over again. It is amazing how the four generations of monarch butterflies works out so that the monarch population can continue to live on throughout the years, but not become overpopulated. Mother Nature sure has some cool ways of doing things, doesn’t she?" (Monarch Butterfly Site)

I've been moved to post this blog as an exhortation to all Countryfolk to allow milkweed plants to grow on their property. As Wikipedia puts it: "The yearly decrease in the monarch butterfly population has been linked to the decrease in the milkweed plant (Asclepias)—a primary food for monarchs—from herbicide use in the butterfly’s reproductive and feeding areas. The destruction of common milkweed has effectively eliminated the food source from most of the habitat monarchs used to use."

Another vital threat to the survival of Monarchs is the loss of suitable Winter habitat in Central Mexico. Conservationists are lobbying transportation departments and utilities to reduce their use of herbicides and specifically encourage milkweed to grow along roadways and power lines. The goal is to reduce roadside mowing and application of herbicides during the butterfly breeding season. Environmental conservationists are lobbying large-scale agriculture companies to leave small areas of cropland unsprayed to allow the butterflies to breed.

It would appear that butterflies and milkweed are so connected that it defies explanation. Again, according to Wikipedia: "Monarch butterflies can and have crossed the Atlantic. They are becoming more common in Bermuda and Spain, due to increased use of milkweed as an ornamental plant." How monarch butterflies could acquire the information that there was suddenly suitable habitat in Bermuda and Spain is beyond my ken.

So please allow milkweed plants to thrive on your property. It is, perhaps, the only thing that will preserve the Monarch butterfly for our future. --Gary

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

08/13/2014 06:50.19 PM Report This Comment  
  Monarchs and Milkweed, Part I
This post was easier to write than most, simply because all I had to do is research, copy, and paste. Who doesn't love watching the Monarch butterflies at this time of year? "Fluttering" is too chiche' of a term to describe the Monarch's flight. If I had to describe it, I would call it a "graceful search".

I've known many people who've claimed that Monarchs are the souls of ancestors who have been given the grace to return in order to remind us of their love and support. While I don't necessarily agree, I can understand that the delicate nature of the Monarch's physicality and its nature of flight would lead one to come to that conclusion. I am made to think that if there are any animals that epitomize the presence of God in creation, it would be the horse, and the butterfly. The lifecycle of the monarch is as follows:

"Monarch butterflies go through four stages during one life cycle, and through four generations in one year. It’s a little confusing but keep reading and you will understand. The four stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle are the egg, the larvae (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult butterfly. The four generations are actually four different butterflies going through these four stages during one year until it is time to start over again with stage one and generation one. In February and March, the final generation of hibernating monarch butterflies comes out of hibernation to find a mate. They then migrate north and east in order to find a place to lay their eggs. This starts stage one and generation one of the new year for the monarch butterfly. In March and April the eggs are laid on milkweed plants. They hatch into baby caterpillars, also called the larvae. It takes about four days for the eggs to hatch. Then the baby caterpillar doesn’t do much more than eat the milkweed in order to grow. After about two weeks, the caterpillar will be fully-grown and find a place to attach itself so that it can start the process of metamorphosis. It will attach itself to a stem or a leaf using silk and transform into a chrysalis. Although, from the outside, the 10 days of the chrysalis phase seems to be a time when nothing is happening, it is really a time of rapid change. Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation, called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will emerge. The monarch butterfly will emerge from the pupa and fly away, feeding on flowers and just enjoying the short life it has left, which is only about two to six weeks. This first generation monarch butterfly will then die after laying eggs for generation number two. (Please scroll up for Part II)

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

08/13/2014 06:44.44 PM Report This Comment  
  Sweet Clover (and Yellow Sweet Clover) Part II
The latest photo I've posted on this site is of roadside sweet clover near our place. Around my neck of the woods, sweet clover lines the sides of almost every road. Growing up to five feet high, with crowning blooms of white or yellow florets, it may be to most just another roadside weed, but to me, it's a marvel of a plant. Like many legumes, sweet clover grows well in disturbed soil. When I was a boy, work on our road resulted in a beautiful stand of sweet clover in the ditches lining alongside it. To a boy my size it was perfect concealment in which to play Army. (You have to remember, back in the '60s it was considered normal for a kid to do that.) I remember that Eldest Brother David had dug deep into the roadside clay that the township workers had left in our ditch to get enough to fill in the batting box at our softball field in Stiles. The ensuing hole, deep within the hedge of the tall sweet clover, served as a perfect fighting position. I rememer finding a cast-off blanket and hunkering down with it one cool Autumn evening with my baseball bat rifle and keeping watch for the enemy. When my Pa drove past on his way home he was chagrinned to see me out there and when he had parked the car he walked over and in as kindly a manner as he could, he told me that one: it was kind of dangerous to be sitting there at ground level so close to the road, and two: he didn't need the neighbors talking about how crazy Dave Truckey's youngest boy was acting. (Lord, if that poor man could've only seen the future!) In any event, this country boy has always had an appreciation of this tough, stringy, yet immensely valuable legume. --Gary

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

08/09/2014 07:37.50 PM Report This Comment  
  Sweet Clover (and Yellow Sweet Clover) Part I
This is a plant that has been an integral part of my life even though I hadn't realized it until recently. For all my life I never knew its proper name until only last Sunday. Sweet Clover (Melilotus) is a legume that most of us would commonly categorize as a roadside weed. Originating in Europe, it was introduced into the United States and throughout the world as a result being present in stored feed for shipped livestock (much like how orange and yellow hawkweed came to America). Yellow Sweet Clover, seen around here as well, is just a colored variation. Both types fix nitrogen into the soil, as all legumes do. As Wikipedia states: "This legume is commonly named for its sweet smell, which is due to its high content of the perfume agent coumarin." Coumarin smells like new-mown hay (well duh!) but it can also be used as an anticoagulant. According to Wikipedia: "Warfarin is a synthetic derivative of dicoumarol, a 4-hydroxycoumarin-derived mycotoxin anticoagulant originally discovered in spoiled sweet clover-based animal feeds. Dicoumarol, in turn, is derived from coumarin, a sweet-smelling but coagulation-inactive chemical found naturally in "sweet" clover (to which it gives its odor and name)." Coumadin, which is derived from sweet clover, is used as a blood-thinner for medical patients and as rat poison for home owners.

While researching this subject, I was surprised to find that despite sweet clover's anti-coagulant properties, especially when moldy, it has been used for centuries as fodder for livestock. It's best use, however, is as a cover crop because of the aforementioned nitrogen-fixing qualities. (Please scroll up for Part II, -- Gary

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

08/09/2014 07:23.22 PM Report This Comment  
  High Summer (yet again)
Usually I talk about High Summer as it concerns the garden and field crops; how they are either already producing or approaching that point. This time I've taken special notice of the wildflowers and weeds at this time of year. I've already mentioned the black-eyed Susans and Turkmen's caps but now I see that the Canadian thistles have started to bloom, along with the Joe Pye weed and yarrow. I mentioned the yarrow a few blogs ago but now I see them all in full bloom along the roadsides and in the fields. To me, the cloudy white discs of hundreds of fioretti (or florets) suspended over the terrain, held up by thin stalks, look like so many flying saucers or like a myriad of spiral galaxies viewed through a telescope. It is now that I love to sit on the garage porch and look at the purple hosta flowers, the orange day-lilies, and the cone flowers down in the Bear Garden, accentuated by the yarrow interspersed throughout all.

In what we call the "Windmill Garden" under our flowering crab apple tree, I noticed the that a cast off lily plant that I had planted last year and that had been chewed off by the bunnies has survived and is now putting forth a beautiful set of blooms. In years past I would have already noticed the beginnings of the goldenrod but this year's late Spring has precluded that. Perhaps the most notable of blooms at this time of year, especially in the mornings, are the pumpkin and squash blossoms. We take them for granted you know, just as we take for granted the dandelions and (God forbid) even the purple violets of May. I love seeing the deep, rich, yellow flowers (yes, flowers) of these garden vines each morning as I come out of the house to go out to the garage.

Now so much for the flora. As for the fauna, "comme d'habitude", at this time of year, once again I sadly realize that the morning birdsong has been reduced to just the cardinals and robins, and the evening to my oft-mentioned gold-finch fledglings. Even the seed in the bird feeder lasts longer. Either this means that some of our Summer denizens have already departed Southwards or that the ripening grasses are now providing more available seed. (I tend to lean towards the latter theory.) My Ruthie tells me that tonight she saw yet another new litter of tiny rabbits poking out from under the wooden shed. If so, that would be the third generation of baby bunnies this year. So much the better from my point of view, though I would love to see some foxes, hawks, and owls around La Ferme Sabloneuse as well. As I've stated ad nauseum, my goal here is to provide habitat for wildlife throughout the entire scale of the food chain. While I love bunnies, I also would be gratified to have a den of foxes (as in past years) or a nest of raptors (like the ospreys) at Sandy Farm. As any and all Countrymen (and Countrywomen) I am a lover of life, and want to promote it for any number of species, (except chipmunks). -- Gary

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

08/02/2014 08:46.40 PM Report This Comment  
  First Fruits, Part II
So yesterday I was able to pack a lunch for work of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers; all from my home garden; along with some Italian dressing. Only a gardener can truly appreciate this. My Ma would tell me that her own Pa would call tomatoes "hankerings" because he had such of one for the first tomatoes of the season.

And do I need to describe the first "feed" of sweet corn? Each and every year the ripening of the corn comes as a surprise to me. It seems that each Summer I find myself perplexed as to how what had been waist-high corn stalks have suddenly transformed themselves to be mature plants with fully ripened ears. Eating, no, feasting, on the year's first corn-on-the-cob can only be described as a luxurious experience. I challenge anyone to nay-say me on the primal pleasure of corn niblets, butter, and salt on an August suppertime. I can already feel the corn silk strands between my teeth!

First Fruits; even this tired, old body craves it, treasures it, and still is enlightened enough to offer it up to those I love, especially the Creator. -- Gary

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

07/30/2014 08:38.06 PM Report This Comment  
  First Fruits, Part I
The tempo of the season forces me to interrupt my planned series of postings on "Hospitality". Tonight I am moved to talk about "first fruits". In the Bible, the first fruits of the year's harvest were supposed to be offered to the Lord as a sacrifice. I am made to think that in reality, offering up the first fruits by burning them was an act of faith in the Lord's promise to provide for His faithful. Think about it. You've waited all Winter and Spring for the vitamin-rich produce that your body craves and now you are called upon to make an act of sacrifice and faith by destroying the first and best of your harvest. Big Brother Tommy tells me that you can't out-give the Lord. Theoretically, I am forced to agree, based on how his practice of tithing has benefited his own life. As for me, a miserable backsliding sinner, I fall short. Still, I am moved to express how wonderful it is to harvest first fruits, and how indescribably delicious they are. The other night I cut up one of the first cucumbers of this Summer. The aroma of this produce of the vine smelled of Earth and Life and of green photosynthesis. As my friend Jennifer Krause Bahrke said, "The aroma of Summer." There's no other way to describe it. The taste of the first tomato of the Summer is also beyond description. And how would one describe the taste of the first raspberry and blackberry?

Again, as for me, a confirmed sinner, but one who had been taught by a kindly mother to be kindly, I offer up the first fruits to those who are most important to me. I've written in the past how I would bring the first raspberries and blackberries to my Ma at the Homestead. The very first tomatoes, peas, and tomatoes go to My Ruthie. When she was small, I would also give my Punky, Amanda, my first pickings of berries as well. (Even last year, when she visited in June, I found some raspberries just for her) As I would say to her, quoting a line from a book I had read, "Ah, I can refuse you nothing!" After all this, I take some of the next pickings to my friends Dana and Tammy at work and then the rest I use for our common consumption. There was a quote I read somewhere that said in effect that making a gift of the Summer's first tomatoes to someone says more about your feelings towards that person than any words can express. Ironically, and I've described this in one of my first blogs, the ensuing over-abundance of tomatoes later in the year led to surreptitious deliveries of garden produce to unsuspecting neighbors who were absent from their front yards and porches. It's ironic, to my way of thinking, how what can be so prized and so precious early in the season can become so unwanted later. (Please scroll up for Part II)

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

07/30/2014 08:33.30 PM Report This Comment  
Hospitality is the very essence of Southern heritages - something that we are taught, beginning when we are just minutes from being born. It begins in the heart and then works its way out from there. It is the epitome of the Southern lifestyle and considered one of the major sins if it is not offered to family, friends, neighbors and strangers alike. I just recently completed a women's Bible study called 'A Life That Says Welcome' by Karen Ehman. She took us from the very heart of hospitality - your home - right out into the trenches of strangers. Hebrews 13:2 puts that into perspective, telling us that by entertaining strangers we may be unwittingly entertaining angels. As much as people want to believe that it is a dying art, it really isn't. Being from the city, and moving to the farm, I had the exact opposite reaction. I have long been told that by moving out into the country, I should expect isolation and unfriendly people who have a natural 'distrust' of strangers. In the city, I found countless examples of goodness in people, and was reluctant to move away from that 'security blanket'. How delighted I was to find that I worried needlessly! Randy and I were welcomed with open arms and we found even more avenues to either offer hospitality or to be on the receiving end. I truly believe that it all boils down to where your heart is, and that you usually receive back 10 times what you give. If it doesn't start with a willing heart, then you probably won't find much of it, mainly because you aren't willing to believe in it, give it or accept it. Absolutely excellent post, Gary. This one has spoken directly to this Southern Girl's heart, and I look forward to the next post. Tell me again - are you SURE you aren't a Southern boy???? You sure do SOUND like one! (For anyone else reading this Comment, please know that I am all too well aware that Northerners (or Yankees, as we down here in the South LOVINGLY call y'all) are just as hospitable as we are - I've never met Gary face to face, but he is my emissary to the North, and through words he has offered all kinds of hospitality to me. It's just that I have to get a dig in to Gary every now and then! One more thought - there is still a pitcher of homemade Lemonade and a plate of tea cakes waiting on the virtual porch for your visit to the farm, Gary!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

07/27/2014 06:16.39 AM Report This Comment  
  Country Hospitality, Part I
After 50 some odd years of living I've found that there are truths and lies to the term "Country Hospitality". I think that we country folks have been taught to believe that out here "in the sticks" folks want to help one another and that they are giving and forgiving in a true Christian sense. Furthermore, we've been taught that city folks are grasping and unfriendly, more ready to take advantage of a neighbor than to help him. A good example of this mindset can be found in Willa Cather's famous short story, "Neighbor Rosicky": "If he'd had a mean boy, now, one who was crooked and sharp and tried to put anything over on his brothers, then town would be the place for him."

In my experience I've found that there tends to be more neighborliness among country folks simply because they are separated more by distance and therefore less likely to grate on each other. Having a neighbor a quarter-mile away mowing his grass at seven a.m. is different than him doing the same thing next to your bedroom window in the suburbs. In short, the actions of your neighbor decreases in effect proportionally to the distance you live from him. I do believe that in the country it is incumbent upon a man to show his worth and manliness by helping people in distress. Even a relatively "bad" man out here seems to know that his manhood would be questioned even by other "bad" men should he refuse to help a neighbor stranded on the side of the road or worse yet, someone's child in trouble or in danger. Simply put; if you want to be considered a man by Countrymen, you better be willing to help your neighbors.

Now I have to admit that in the city of Green Bay, folks are quick to help you. Being a mailman, I found that during the Winter, whenever my Postal vehicle is immobilized by ice or snow, nearly always someone will come out or stop to help me get out. But I submit that Green Bay is still a "small town city" and especially if folks are at least acquainted with you, they'll usually help out.

All the examples that I've just given has to do with helping someone with whom you are at least acquainted, but I am made to think that the true test of hospitality is when we are called to help out a stranger. (More about this next time. --Gary)

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

07/26/2014 07:56.06 PM Report This Comment  
  Summer Evening
As usual (comme d'habitude, as my ancestors would've put it) I had but one hour this evening available to catch up on tasks here at La Ferme Sabloneuse. I have to admit, I was gratified with what I'd accomplished. Upon returning home from visiting Ma at the nursing home my Ruthie told me that the expected thunderstorms were going to pass to our South and that we would miss out on the rain. I decided, therefore, to water this year's cultivated patch in the valley garden. Starting at a little after 7 pm I ran out two lengths of connected hose down our hill and spent a half-hour irrigating that particular garden. The recent hot spell had caused the sweet corn to tassel out and set out rich, red corn silk. I also noticed one or two pollinated pumpkin blossoms. Thus, I thought it necessary to give the plants enough moisture to ensure that it would survive this temporary dry spell and give up a good yield. After I rolled the hose back up the hill I noticed that the wild raspberries had ripened around the wooden shed in my front woods and I decided to pick some of them. Finally, I had just enough time to pick some yarrow plants that had infested what we call the "Bear Garden". (The yarrows have also started to bloom among the hostas on the slope next to the garage porch but this year I'm leaving them because I think that they too, have a beauty all their own.)

At a little after 8 pm I was thoroughly tuckered out and ready to go in for the night. I sat for a moment in the garage porch and listened to the young goldfinches soar in clockwise circles over the backyard hill as is their wont, joyfully celebrating their newfound ability to fly. After a minute or two, I retired for the evening.

It was a wonderful Summer evening. While I was working, I was reminded that a suburbanite can enjoy a Summer's eve while sitting on his porch. A Countryman however, has to learn to enjoy the evening while attending to his land. --Gary

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

07/23/2014 08:41.03 PM Report This Comment  
  Summer Sunday Afternoon
Great work, Gary! I love a good storm, especially in summer! I think storms are a way of reminding us to slow down and just enjoy life!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

07/20/2014 06:23.33 AM Report This Comment  


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