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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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  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

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

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!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

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  
  August is Here
On the way to church last Sunday I noticed the first golden rods of the year. This isn't really too surprising as that many years I've seen them come out in late July. It would appear that the recent two weeks of hot weather has allowed the flora to catch up from the cool Spring and Early Summer.

Once August is here, then Summer seems all the more delightful; mostly because its ending is in sight; but also because the growing season is coming into its fruition. Already we are eating beans, cucumbers, cherry and plum tomatoes, and we are still harvesting lettuce. And the early green bell peppers! I cut them up, pour some Italian dressing over them, and I have an absolutely wonderfully crunchable treat! Last week I brought a container of this concoction in to work to give to my friend Dana and she described it as "super delicious". The sweet corn is in tassles and silk, (that very description makes me think of sweet corn as the queen of a vegetable garden) and the other night, as Big Brother Tommy and I poked about the garden, picking a few pickles, we noticed all the young green pumpkins that are growing. This year, like every other, I made a point to plant acorn squash and pumpkins amongst the corn rows. As you can see in the photo that I posted, the leaves of those plants have completely filled in the spaces between the corn and there's one poor green pumpkin wedged in the wire. Needless to say, I couldn't hoe the garden now if I wanted to; (which is part of the plan, weed control and optimum use of the garden space.
Now the green beans (which are actually a type of pole beans) are climbing up the fencing. I had to laugh when I saw that the bunnies had chewed off a few of the climbers and that they were wilting on the wire. Just the other day I was able to pick beans off of the vines that remained upright on the fence. The apples are growing larger on the three trees of the old orchard, though the present drought has caused the trees to discard a number of them. That same day I sprayed them again and I will be sure to inform you about their yield.

So that's the wrap on August so far. Please stay tuned for further developments. -- Gary

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

08/07/2015 05:12.42 PM Report This Comment  
  So Here Was My Summer's Evening, Part II
On another such night I dragged the hose down to the segment of the Valley Garden that's being used for this year's vegetable garden and being a decent multi-tasker (for a man); I moved the hose from place to place in order to reach all parts of the garden while I also roto-tilled some fallow plots which I intend to use next year. We've had a heck of a dry spell lately. I've had to water my peppers and tomatoes twice so far and I try to run water down at least some of the rows of the vegetable garden every other night or so. The only reason that I put the section of the Valley Garden under cultivation on the Northern side of it is so I can run my hose down the hill from my outside faucet and give it some help from my well. (Sometime I should do a blog on my family's attempts in the past to irrigate the entire Valley Garden, resulting in disaster.)

Last Thursday night I had almost an hour to spare to putz around outside. With the dry weather, it was another beautiful Summer's eve. The goldfinches were soaring in wide circles, as is their wont during this time of year, and I was made to feel that I needed to save the two pumpkin plants that still survived under the power lines. The soil under the lines is almost pure sand because it's on the top of a moraine and unlike the Valley Garden, there is no loam. Therefore, any cultivated vegetation is extremely susceptible to drought. So on this Summer's evening I brought two five-gallon pails to the Homestead and filled them at the pump in the courtyard. I then took a shovel walked down the power lines about 50 yards to where Big Brother Tommy and I had planted these pumpkins last May. I dug some holes around the plants to act as reservoirs and then I went back and toted out the two pails of water. I slowly poured out one of the pails into the holes and then I sat on the now empty pail and waited as the water seeped into the sand. I had to laugh at myself. The Westering Sun cast my shadow long to the East as I was seated on that green plastic pail, watching water being absorbed by the earth. What an absurd sight it must be to anyone glancing out from a car on the highway on the East side of La Ferme Sabloneuse! They would've seen a pudgy old man in a white T- shirt and blue jeans sitting on a pail, staring on two pumpkin plants. What a waste of time and energy; spending 20 minutes to water two plants that have little or no chance of producing anything; just because it was something that a dead brother had wanted to do a couple of years ago. Still . . . it was a good Summer's evening. -- Gary

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

08/01/2015 08:44.13 PM Report This Comment  
  So Here Was My Summer's Evening, Part I
I would like to describe a typical Summer evening; one that makes you treasure this time of year and also makes you long for Summer's return throughout the long months of Winter. Actually, I'm going to describe a number of evenings so typical of this time of year. Now on this one particular evening I working on the Barn. (You may remember that this Summer's project was to take the old, shredded tar paper off the Barn and pull out the tacks in order to give the old stable a clean, all-wooden appearance.) On that evening I picked a couple of hand fulls of wild raspberries in the thickets between Big Brother Tommy's Homestead and my Home Property. In the past, I would've brought the berries to Ma to eat while she was seated in her chair in the living room; but on this eve I washed them in water from the courtyard pump at Tommy's and then I set to pulling tar paper and nails from the Barn. After some 20 minutes of using the wide pry bar and hammer, the pounding started hurting my arthritic hands and arms and so as I sat on the steps of the Corn-crib and drank well water and ate the raspberries that I would've in the past given to Ma, I sang the old Doxology written by Thomas Ken, an Anglican priest in the 17th century, which is now known to all the Christian faiths:

"Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

Next, I recited the wonderful prayer written by Garrison Keillor:

"“Thank you, dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough."

It was a good evening. More on My Summer Evening next time. Gary

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

07/29/2015 08:13.32 PM Report This Comment  
  Songbirds
Oh, what hope you have settled in my heart, Gary! It's hotter than blazes down here and so dry the grass crunches in its brittleness. We are ready for an early winter, so I hope you are right about this!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

07/26/2015 05:17.13 AM Report This Comment  
  Songbirds and The Turn of the Year, Part II
Last time I was writing about birds and "comme d'habitude", I returned to the subject of Summer flowers. "Neamoins", this blog continues my thread about birds. My dear friend 'berta messaged me recently and said that she'd noticed the blackbirds and swallows have been gathering and flying in large flocks. She wrote that this seemed to be much too early for that type of observed behavior and she wondered if I'd noticed the same thing. Strangely enough, I had. I told her that I would mention this in my blog, but I am made to wonder if this doesn't portend an early Winter. Maybe it's just the First Nation's blood in my veins which moves me to think this but over the years I've learned to listen to the whisperings of my heritage. Neamoins, I've included an edited version of a literary classic on the subject. -- Gary

"In the osiers which fringed the bank he spied a swallow sitting. Presently it was joined by another, and then by a third; and the birds, fidgeting restlessly on their bough, talked together earnestly and low.

'What, already,' said the Rat, strolling up to them. 'What's the hurry? I call it simply ridiculous.'

'O, we're not off yet, if that's what you mean,' replied the first swallow. 'We're only making plans and arranging things. Talking it over, you know—what route we're taking this year, and where we'll stop, and so on. That's half the fun!'
'Fun?' said the Rat; 'now that's just what I don't understand. If you've got to leave this pleasant place, and your friends who will miss you, and your snug homes that you've just settled into, why, when the hour strikes I've no doubt you'll go bravely, and face all the trouble and discomfort and change and newness, and make believe that you're not very unhappy. But to want to talk about it, or even think about it, till you really need——'

'No, you don't understand, naturally,' said the second swallow. 'First, we feel it stirring within us, a sweet unrest; then back come the recollections one by one, like homing pigeons. They flutter through our dreams at night, they fly with us in our wheelings and circlings by day. We hunger to inquire of each other, to compare notes and assure ourselves that it was all really true, as one by one the scents and sounds and names of long-forgotten places come gradually back and beckon to us.' .... 'Ah, yes, the call of the South, of the South!' twittered the other two dreamily. 'Its songs its hues, its radiant air! O, do you remember——' and, forgetting the Rat, they slid into passionate reminiscence, while he listened fascinated, and his heart burned within him." (Kenneth Grahame, "The Wind in the Willows")

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

07/25/2015 07:04.37 PM Report This Comment  
  Songbirds and The Turn of the Year, Part I
It is at this time of year that I know by the lack of birdsong that High Summer is here. It occurs to me as I write this that it's when the songs of the insects overtake the songs of the birds that the Summer has really turned and that we are now descending from the apogee of the season to its gradual progression to Autumn. The cicadas and crickets can be heard every day; and while they're not nearly as melodic as the birds, I still appreciate their song. Now I've related in past blogs at this time of year that the demise of birdsong means that the broods of young have all taken flight and therefore there's no need for the adults of the species to proclaim territories or call after their progeny. Presently, the dominant bird calls are the young goldfinches who are joyously expressing their delight at their new-found ability to fly and soar. I know, I've written about this every year since I started these blogs, but it they were out in such numbers last evening when I was out and about that I just have to mention it again. Regardless of their relative silence, it's heartening for me to see so many gold finches, purple finches, rose-breasted grosbeaks, blue jays, and cardinals frequent my feeders and birdbaths. I must also include the usual chickadees, sparrows and bluebirds who add to my delight.

Since I've been talking so much about flowers lately I might as well add that the day lilies and hostas are now blooming. I mention this because I love watching the humming birds flit about my Garage Porch, working over the blooms. I'd written in a recent blog that I wouldn't have a garden without cone flowers. Well this goes double for hostas! I love how this plant dies down to nothing (much like the hydrangeas) and then is one of the first to sprout come Spring. It's the perfect plant for Northern climes. Even at this latitude hostas are a shade plant. The green and white-striped leaves are worthy enough in and of themselves; but the purple-bloomed stamens are the icing on the cake. To top it off, the fact that they attract and sustain humming birds make them, to my mind, perhaps the best perennial to plant in a Northeast Wisconsin garden. More about this next time. -- Gary

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

07/22/2015 08:31.53 PM Report This Comment  
  The Best Flowers of All, Part II
I also had an interesting experience with two other wild perennials. Just a few days ago My Ruthie told me that she would like to see some bridal wreaths on the Home Property. Now bridal wreaths are usually considered to be a domesticated shrub, much like the lilac; but the day after Ruthie had mentioned them, I noticed that these same bushes were blooming on the Home Property on the marshy land next to the railroad right-of-way. I took a walk out thataway and saw that they must've "gone wild" and transplanted themselves. I also noticed two wildflowers that I just had indetify. I cut a sampling of them both and brought them home so I could compare them with photos from my field book and find out what they were. So like a naturalist of old, I laid the specimens next to the photos of the field book and I identified them as Queen Anne's lace and Great St. John' wort. Then, like a naturalist of our own times, I googled them and was able to confirm my findings. Heck, the photo of the St. John's wort was almost identical to the specimen that I'd cut. As for the Queen Anne's lace, I've found in the past that it had been difficult for me to differentiate between this wildflower and the Yarrow, but this time, with the aid of the field guide, I was easily able to see the differences. Queen Anne's lace is a smaller bloom and the fioretti, (floret), is much closer to the ground than the much larger Yarrow (also named wound-wort and blood-wort).

So there it is; another post about flowers, both domestic and wild, or a bit of both. I enjoin you to consider buying a field book of your own and joining me in the appreciation of all the flowers around you. -- Gary

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07/18/2015 08:26.58 PM Report This Comment  
  The Best Flowers of All, Part I
I've been writing at length about wildflowers, but now I want to talk about the flowers that are the most important to every Countryman; the blossoms on his fruits and vegetables. Right now in my own garden, raised beds, and on the berry bushes of La Ferme Sabloneuse, the peas, beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins are all blossoming. Every morning now, for probably almost the next month, when I first go outside, I will be able to see the bright yellow-orange pumpkin blossoms in the Valley Garden all the way from my back porch. I'm already harvesting peas and a few cherry tomatoes. In a few days I'll be picking beans and I am checking the cucumbers daily. As for the fruits, I think that most of the berries have all blossomed out and are now bearing. I've already eaten most of the blackcap raspberries that was produced this year on the Home Property, and two out of the four apple trees on La Ferme Sabloneuse have set out impressive amounts of green apples. Tomorrow I will spray the apple trees in order to cut down the losses due to apple maggots.
Now that I've paid homage to the blossoms that produce fruits and vegetables, (of course technically, they would be all fruits) I must tell you of the other flowers that have presented themselves in the past few days. Our cone flowers are now blooming. A hardy perennial, because it is so hardy, it's become one of my favorites. I can't imagine ever having a country garden without them. I've also noticed a few blooms in the Windmill Garden that I've identified as cynthias. This one, like the daisy, can be either domestic or wild; which to my mind makes them all the more desirable. (Please scroll up for Part II, Gary)

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07/18/2015 08:23.00 PM Report This Comment  
  Appreciating Beauty
Wonderfully said, Gary! It's high time people started to slow down and see the beauty around us. And now it's my turn - I'm 'borrowing' (sorta) from you!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

07/16/2015 06:06.40 AM Report This Comment  
  Appreciating the Beauty Around You.
I've been writing lately about all the wildflowers I've been seeing. This may be boring to some, but to me, ever since I've started educating myself on the subject, I find that when I drive down any road I notice the roadside flowers and appreciate their beauty. The last couple of times that I've driven down to Green Bay I reveled in the various streaks of blue, yellow, white, and purple colors rushing past. These in turn, belonged to the bell flowers, sow thistles and black-eyed Susan, daisies (which are still going strong), and Canadian thistle. In my unending thirst to know, when I see a wildflower that is unknown to me, I find that I just have to consult my field book and find out its name.

Now the same goes for birds. It's not enough for me to hear them and watch them; I needs must know their names and be able to identify them by both sight and sound. You may think that this is because I want to be a show-off; but the real reason is that I want to do the species respect by being able to call it by its true name. I've said this a time or two before; knowing their names doesn't make them smell or sound any sweeter, but I feel driven to learn about what delights me out here in my neck of the woods.

Yet again, I feel the same about both clouds and stars. Back when I was in the second grade, Belle Soeur Susie's sister Joann was my teacher. She had me and Mike LeFebre study and do charts on every type of cloud identified by meteorologists at that time, (the mid '60s). Even now, I can tell you what type of weather cirrus clouds predict and the timeframe of its arrival. As for the stars and planets, being awed and amazed by their beauty should be, but just isn't enough for me. It delights me in a way that I cannot describe to learn their names and where and when they appear in the yearly procession of the night skies. To look up and say that the stars are beautiful gives neither the creation nor the Creator the honor both deserves. For me, I want to be able to call the stars by the names the ancients gave them and to marvel each time I'm able to identify every planet that's present in the night sky on any given night throughout the year. The best that I could wish for you, dear reader, is that you will feel the same way. -- Gary

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

07/15/2015 09:14.51 PM Report This Comment  
  High Summer, 2015
Every year at this time I write about High Summer. I suppose this might seem to some of you all to be redundant, as I return to this subject year after year; but I can only repeat my yearly refrain that to a Countryman, each year's repetition of events is a life-cycle of its own and that a Countryman is blessed to experience each and every one.

Since my last post I've finally heard the whine of the cicada, a good two weeks later than normal and all the High Summer flowers are now in attendance. In the two photos I've posted tonight you can see many of these blooms in tiers. In one photo you can see the still-present daisies joined by the quintessential High Summer flower, the black-eyed Susan. Inter-mixed with them are the yellow hawkweeds and the purple Canadian thistle. In the other photo you can see the afore-mentioned blooms along with the unfolding yarrow plants which over-arch the rest. And the late-blooming turkmen's caps that I mentioned last time? Well, they've now joined the pageantry, and we welcome them.

How I love observing and marking the arrival and passage of every wildflower of the growing seasons! You may be moved to write me off as an eccentric bucolic, (a wierdo bumpkin, if you will), but I stand fast in my appreciation of the pageantry of life that takes place once again in High Summer, 2015, at La Ferme Sabloneuse. -- Gary

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07/11/2015 09:35.57 PM Report This Comment  
  Flower Update
"Flower Update". Now that's a heckuva title for a blog; but it pertains for a true Countryman. Every year for most of three seasons, I go on and on about which wildflowers are in bloom and which ones are coming up in the yearly line-up. The daisies are still hanging in there, I had to mow around them last night yet again; but now I notice that the day lilies and the wood lilies have just come out. The Turk's cap, a true wildflower, will be joining the pageant shortly. The brilliant sky-blue bell flowers are opening up and what I think is cow parsnip has joined the celandine to grace our roadsides. The Sow Thistles are blooming and the first marsh milkweeds are blossoming as well. This is a beautiful time of year for those who have the time and perceptiveness to look around them. I invite you all to do so. -- Gary

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07/08/2015 08:30.49 PM Report This Comment  
  Independence Day, 2015, and the Day After, Part II
There was a bit of fireworks on the Fourth at La Ferme Sabloneuse; in the form of my .410 shotgun. Around noon My Ruthie returned home from doing errands and she told me to "get the gun!" as there was a groundhog on the front porch. Now I had noticed earlier in the day that some of my pea plants in the Home Garden had been chewed on, but it didn't occur to me that it might've been a groundhog. Anyways, when I finally got the shotgun and some shells and joined her, she pointed out a groundhog (or woodchuck, which is the Algonquin name for the animal) next to the porch. I was reluctant to shoot; I was afraid the nr. 4 shot might ricochet back at me and Ruthie and I was also afraid that it might duck behind the concrete to die and create a bad stench. I gave it a shot anyways (so to speak) and the poor beast absorbed the load of bb's and died immediately.

Now a woodchuck is the worst of critters to have around a small holding. It can ravage a garden in a few days while it digs up more than a few holes and tunnels for its abode. I was darned glad to kill it and save my gardens. I dumped its body out in the middle of the Valley Garden to see if it would still be there the next day. This morning after Belle Soeur Susie and I were done hoeing the patch of vegetable garden I'd put in in the valley, we took a walk over to where I'd dropped the carcass, and sure enough, it was gone. We think that a coyote must have came along during the night. Well, at least the animal didn't go to waste.

It was finally a hot day today, the day after the Fourth. My corn was definitely knee-high or better and both the beans and pumpkins are sending out runners. I'm hopeful that the crops will make up lost ground after the cool May and June. So that's it for this year's Independence Day weekend. I hope you all had a good time as well. --Gary

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07/05/2015 07:18.45 PM Report This Comment  
  Independence Day, 2015, and the Day After, Part I
I've mentioned in the past how this time of year, with its fullness of growth and greenery, leads a Countryman to believe that he doesn't need anyone else's help in order to make his way in the world. Of course this isn't actually true. Winter, and its corresponding hardships, lead a man to the realization that he needs the help of others in order to survive these very same hardships and in return, he also needs to render help to his friends and neighbors in order to validate his identity as a true Countryman. This "self-actualization", as Rogers and Maslow describes it, is to arrive at fullness of what it means to be human.

Heady stuff, but now to the more practical things. On this Fourth of July Big Brother Tommy and I has plans to improve the appearance of the Barn on the Home Property by tearing the ragged old tar paper from the walls and letting just the bare boards of the barn show. I assured him that between the two of us, we could knock this job out in a couple of hours. I've always liked that deflating sense of dull surprise when you realize that what you'd thought was an afternoon's simple task will probably end up being a Summer-long project. The larger strips of tar paper came off okay but the nails and smaller pieces will take awhile. Even worse, behind each layer of paper is a myriad of various sorts of detritus that has been deposited for decades by chipmunks, rats, and squirrels, not to mention the dessicated hulls of maybe a million insects that had sought shelter under the paper. This insect dust alone made the work miserable. When one of us tore out a piece of tar paper, the other got a facefull of the stuff. I once got a nasty pink eye infection from sweeping out this very same sort of insect dust from my Wooden Shed a few years past. After about a half-hour of this, Tommy and I came to that realization I've just mentioned and we left the tools and tarp next to the barn until the next time either of us has the time and inclination to work at it again. This will take all Summer. (Please scroll up for Part II -- Gary)

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07/05/2015 06:38.14 PM Report This Comment  
  High Summer, 2015
So we're approaching the Fourth of July. It's always a pivotal event up here. It means that early Summer is definitely over and it's when we begin to realize that the first of the harvesting has begun. Of course the first fruits of Summer for us are the strawberries. My own plants have run their course and next Spring I will start up a new colony of berries in a new raised garden bed. In the meantime, I suspect that My Ruthie will have me pick a few quarts at the berry farm just to our South in the town of Abrams. My next post will be on Independence Day, or Declaration Day, or again, as the less patriotic of us will refer to as the Fourth of July.

The blackcap raspberries that I noticed behind the wooden shed are turning red now. I've noticed that the wild raspberries are either blossoming or past blossoming and setting into fruit. Unlike years past, there aren't many blackberry bushes in the front area of the Home Property. Regardless, I am made to think that like everything else, all the wild berries are a tad late.

It's not really High Summer yet. I haven't heard the whine of the cicada (locust) and the daisies and celandine still hold sway over the yearly pageant of Summer flowers. The fireflies are still out in force and I haven't seen a single turkmen's cap or marsh milkweed. The crown vetch have blossomed though, and the dark blue blossoms of the hairy vetch show up in fine contrast to the orange and yellow hawkweed in the old untilled pasturelands of La Ferme Sabloneuse. It's close to being High Summer here at La Ferme Sabloneuse. Each year has its own schedule, and instead of demanding that Nature conform itself to our whims, the Countryman and woman realizes the he and she must conform to the yearly whims of Nature. -- Gary

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07/01/2015 09:32.54 PM Report This Comment  
  Cutting Firewood and the Woodshed, Part VIII
The frenzied events of the early growing season have put in abeyance this series, but now, during the temporary breathing spell between the year's planting and its first harvest, I have just enough time to insert another installment about cutting firewood. Now the subject of firewood may seem out of sync with the height of Summer at end of June but not to a Countryman. We know that the task of chopping and splitting wood for the stove and fireplace knows no season; so it comes as no surprise that we turn our hand to these tasks whenever we can.
You can never have too much split wood on hand. I knew one man who tried to get enough wood chopped and stack for two years. His reasoning was that if he was laid up for half a year with a broken leg or something like that, he wouldn't have to depend on others for his fuel supply.

We've always used a splitting maul and wedges to split wood. (The two newest photos are of the mauls and the wedges we use at La Ferme Sablonuese.) Only the smaller blocks of wood and kindling are cut with an axe alone. After awhile, you get to recognize where the natural crack lines lay in a block and you place the wedge along one of those lines. You tap it in with the maul and then once it's set, you simply whack it in until you hear the satisfying cracking of the wood; and if everything goes well, you're rewarded with the block splitting sharply and neatly. Of course, everything doesn't always go well. Sometimes you get the first wedge stuck deep in the block and then you have to start a second one. God help you if you get the second one stuck as well. Then you'd have to use a third, hardwood wedge to hopefully open one of the cracks wide enough to pry one of the wedges out. I've been in that fix more than once or twice. Pa, of course, never had this happen to him; or else if he did, he never told anyone. I do remember once getting the wedges so stuck that I had to go and tell him so he could figure out what to do. I thought he'd get angry, but he just smiled. I think it was because he knew that he could show off just how good he was; and he did. He got those wedges out in no time.

Splitting and chopping wood in the height of Summer surely fulfills the adage about firewood warming you twice; once when you cut it, and again when you burn it. As for me, I am made to think that every single time you handle firewood, from felling to sawing to splitting and stacking to the ultimate burning; warms a Countryman some five times over at least. --Gary

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06/27/2015 08:06.53 PM Report This Comment  
  Summer Solstice; 2015
"The Willow-Wren was twittering his thin little song, hidden himself in the dark selvedge of the river bank. Though it was past ten o'clock at night, the sky still clung to and retained some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer night." -- Kenneth Grahame, "The Wind in the Willows".

I was unsure if I had quoted this passage before in these blogs. A quick check told me that I hadn't, but if I have repeated this quote, I beg your pardon. This passage perfectly describes today. The morning had a perfectly blue skies but it turned hot and humid by noon. In the late afternoon it was starting to cloud up as a cool front approached. I took out one of the tractors and the drag and smoothed out the Valley Garden in this Summer's process of preparing it to produce a stand of hairy vetch for the next couple of years. Around 5 p.m. the front came through, with heavy winds and clouds, but no rain. Later in the evening we were able to open the windows and shut off the AC.

Tonight, when I went out to look at the stars, it was very cool and yes, "the sky still clung to and retained some lingering skirts of light....". At this time of year, no matter what time you would rise during the night, you can see dusk turning into dawn along the northern horizon. At 9:30 tonight I could still see to navigate around the backyard as I checked the sky. At 10:30, between the half-full moon and the night-long residual daylight, it was almost just as bright.

I love this time of year. I confess that I will go out on every clear night for the next month in order to observe again and again what I hold to be the magnificent spectacle of "the short midsummer night". -- Gary

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06/24/2015 08:53.46 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Summer, 2015, Part V
I was finally able to disk the Valley Garden this week. Big Brother Tommy was home and was moved to come down from the house and watch, (after all, the Home Property is his now). He good-naturedly chided me on the bits of land that I'd missed with the disk, and when I was finished, he helped me unhitch it from Eldest Brother David's 1950 Farmall and patiently waited while I took the usual two or three attempts to back the tractor next to the '38 Farmall in the Tin Shed. Next he and I took a walk around La Ferme Sabloneuse (all three properties, Tom's, mine and Belle Soeur Susie's) in order to find out if the pumpkins we'd planted some two weeks ago had sprouted.

Now last year, on Memorial Day, I'd pushed a wheelbarrow with some seed and a trowel and planted a pumpkin seed or two in each of the tiny patches of plowed ground that Eldest Brother David had prepared in order to do the same the year before. (If at all interested, please see the blog-posts of May 24, 2014, "Honoring the Dead" on pg. 4) Unfortunately, none of the seeds sprouted that year; so this year I took out that same Farmall and hooked it up to the tractor trailer. Next I drove it up to my property and put in half a yard of black soil, some left-over pumpkin seeds, a shovel, and some chemical fertilizer. As I was loading everything up, Tommy, who had heard the tractor, walked over to see if I needed help. I certainly welcomed his company; so he drove Eldest's 1950 Farmall and I sat in the trailer just like I used to do as a kid when Pa drove us around the property in order for us to help him way back when.

We went out to the deer tower at Susie's, the tower next to "Wayne's Pines" on my property, and lastly out under the power lines in front of the tower on Tommy's property. At all three locations I laid down some black dirt and fertilizer, then dropped in the seeds. Finally, I covered everything with more black dirt. Goodness, it was fun! As a matter of fact, during the course of the evening I was moved to shout out to Tommy on the tractor the very same thing. He understood. My memory hearkened back to once when Tommy, Wayne, and I were riding in that very same trailer with Pa on the tractor, the hitch-bolt had popped out and the trailer tongue fell, digging into the sand and abruptly stopping the trailer. We boys all shouted out to Pa and he, looking back, laughed like hell, and then turned the tractor back around to pick us up again. It was certainly a poignant memory; one that was all the more remarkable because it was a pleasant one with Pa and Wayne.

Anyways, in our walk, Tommy and I saw that a few of the many seeds that we'd planted had sprouted and seemed to be doing well. We think that the rest of the sprouts were eaten by the deer. Next year, I expect, I will had some wire fencing to the mix when I go out again to try to maintain Eldest Brother David's legacy. -- Gary

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

06/20/2015 09:54.29 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Summer, 2015, Part IV
I mentioned the black-cap raspberries a week ago. Since then I'd noticed a new bush near the Wooden Shed at the Home Property. It was full of young berries. For once, I may have the chipmunks to thank. In-spite of my relentless persecution of the little beasts, they still populate La Ferme Sabloneuse in droves. I've related in the past how they've transplanted petunias through their consumption and digestion of the flowers. They very well might've done the same with the black-caps, although I prefer to give the credit to the birds.

The white daisies are now in full bloom! The PFR's know how much I love these flowers. As I've might've mentioned before, I always leave them untouched when I'm mowing if I see them budding. I especially love watching the rabbits eat them. As with other long-stemmed plants, the bunnies nip them off at the base and then chew them up stem first, continuing all the way to the flower at the top. Watching them do this reminds me of a tree barking machine that the lumber companies use.

Joining the white daisies are other member of the daisy family, the flea bane and daisy flea bane. The former have purple-pink petals, the latter, of course, have white petals. Both closely resemble their daisy "cousins" the fall asters. The other roadside flowers most noticeable now are the orange and yellow hawk-weeds, white campions, and what I think are starwort and celandine. As with the other wildflowers that I'd named in the first segment of this series on early Summer, these are ours to enjoy in the lush, fresh, hopeful onrush of the new growing season for only a very short time. More on Early Summer, 2015 next time. -- Gary

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

06/17/2015 09:28.39 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Summer, 2015, Part III
"Comme d'habitude", early Summer means that the jobs pile up and a Countryman must prioritize his work. Just like the reports that I read from Casa Smith-Coushatta, we're having a wet stretch of weather here in NE Wisconsin. It was finally a clear and sunny evening here last night at La Ferme Sabloneuse so I took advantage of it by working until sundown. First I hoed this year's vegetable patch that I'd set aside from the rest of the fallowing Valley Garden. It might've been an exercise in futility as the soil was still wet from all the rain and I was basically re-planting the weeds, still, it was nice at the end of the evening to look down on the garden from the top of my backyard hill and see the clean, green rows of young plants in contrast to the dark surrounding soil. Next, I did about an hour's worth of mowing around the trees at the Home Property, and finally I took out the weed-whacker and cleared out the new sumac growth on the South side of the garage.

There's still so much to do. Tomorrow I will have to spend some three hours mowing at the Home Property and, if I still have the energy, I will weed the raised beds in the Home Garden and then transfer clods of turf dug out from our flower beds to the many bare spots on our backyard. We've been trying to introduce grass to our sandy hilltop in back of our house for some 29 years now and we've made a good deal of progress, but I suppose I'll be transplanting sod and spreading grass seed, lime, and fertilizer 'til my last day at La Ferme Saboneuse. More to come in a few days. -- Gary

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

06/13/2015 09:44.53 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Summer, 2015, Part II
I've said it before, but it bears repeating; while Autumn is my favorite season of the year, I hold these precious few weeks of early Summer just as dear. It's at this special time of year that we not only can delight in the long awaited and welcome warmth of early Summer, but we can also revel in the knowledge that there are months of Summer yet to come. I've grown to find this time of year so transient, even so ephemeral, that I find that it pains me to see it pass. I think that's because as I grow older, I realize that there are fewer early Summers (and accordingly) fewer Autumns left for me to enjoy. While I comfort myself in the knowledge that these parts of the Seasons will always remain for others after me to enjoy, I am saddened to know that they are no longer in unlimited supply for me. Knowing this, however, just makes this time of year all the more enjoyable.

The snowball tree is shedding its blooms now, and, like I described last year, the ground around it is a carpet of delicate white. As I was sitting out on the garage porch for a little bit earlier this evening, both a bunny and a chipmunk came to sample the soft, silky petals. (The rabbit ate for free, I made the chipmunk pay the bill.)
The raspberries are in blossom here at the Home Property and across the road the blackberries are as well. When I went down our hill to do some tasks at the Homestead, I noticed the black-cap raspberries that had transplanted themselves from the old canes that Grandma Truckey had given us some 40 years ago were blossoming too. With all the rain we've been getting, it looks like a good year for berries. (Bytheby, if any of my newer PFR's would like more information about these berries, I invite them to check out my post of some three years ago on the number 10 page of my blogs.)

The early Summer flowers are blooming, the gardens are doing well, and I am already planning ahead for this Autumn and the 2016 growing season. Check back with me Saturday evening for my the next installment of Early Summer, 2015. -- Gary

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06/10/2015 09:41.35 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Summer, 2015, Part I
I was on vacation this past week, which allows me to catch up on the work that needs doing at La Ferme Sabloneuse, and more importantly, to have time to observe life unfold during this still-young 2015 growing season. We're behind this year, "comme d'habitude" (as usual). We've been having late Summers for years now here in NE Wisconsin and this one is no exception. As a result, the garden is still just coming up. Yesterday I'd thought to replant the gaps in the corn and bean rows only to uncover seeds that were still just sprouting under the surface. Replanting is something that I imagine can be done easily in the Southern climes of Julie Murphree and Ms. Kate; but up here, it has to be done by the end of the first week in June in order to be worthwhile. I do remember one year back when I was a boy that Pa had us planting the pickle field on June 8th. As I remember, we had a decent crop that year.

Every year on these blogs of mine, I report on the succession of wildflower blooms in my area, and every year I comment on how each year it's the same procession, but different. The lilacs are all done and, like every year, I mourn their passing. I've written in the past how I wish that these blooms would last longer. I suppose I should be admonished to "man up"; but I stand by my sentiment. Of all the shrub-produced blooms, these should be the most-revered, "a mon avis" (in my opinion). In their place, the early Summer wildflowers such as the wild geraniums, columbines, anemones, saw toothed sunflowers and the first white daisies are now taking center stage. I've chosen to post the photo taken today by my son Andrew of the columbines near the property of our cousins the Youngers. More on Early Summer to come. -- Gary

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06/06/2015 08:08.24 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring Poetry, Part III
The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world! (The Year's At The Spring by Robert Browning)

At least a few of my PFR's are probably put off by my predilection for "mushy" poetry but it's part of who I am and I will not apologize for it. A perusal of "The Family Book of Best Loved Poems" will show you just how many poems are dedicated to nature, home and hearth, and the frontier days. We Countryfolk love to read and write poetry. It's to my mind very ironic how the folks with the least time on their hands turn their hand to creating poetry in order to describe their love of nature and the lives they lead. Excellent examples of Spring poems are those by William Wordsworth and William Shakespeare, who both wrote about daffodils, and of A.E. Housman, who wrote of the blossoms of the cherry trees and laments that at the young age of twenty he can only expect some 50 more years to see them blossom:

"... And since to look at things to bloom,
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow"

Those readers who have pin cherry trees on their properties know just how transient the blooms are and just how quickly we must then resign ourselves to wait until the next brief blooming. I feel the same way about the lilacs here at La Ferme Sabloneuse. Neamoins, I celebrate the "down-home" poets; those who, regardless of their training or talent, fulfill their desire to express their lives in rhyme.

"Presently the tactful Mole slipped away and returned with a pencil and a few half-sheets of paper, which he placed on the table at his friend's elbow.
'It's quite a long time since you did any poetry,' he remarked. 'You might have a try at it this evening, instead of—well, brooding over things so much. I've an idea that you'll feel a lot better when you've got something jotted down—if it's only just the rhymes.'

The Rat pushed the paper away from him wearily, but the discreet Mole took occasion to leave the room, and when he peeped in again some time later, the Rat was absorbed and deaf to the world; alternately scribbling and sucking the top of his pencil. It is true that he sucked a good DEAL more than he scribbled; but it was joy to the Mole to know that the cure had at least begun." (Kenneth Grahame, "The Wind in the Willows")

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

06/03/2015 08:54.59 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring Poetry, Part II
Last Winter I posted a parody by Ezra Pound of "Summer is Icumen In". The original poem was written in the Wessex dialect of Middle English in the mid 1200s.

Svmer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu
Groweþ sed
and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu

(Translation)

Spring has arrived,
Loudly sing, cuckoo!
The seed is growing
And the meadow is blooming,
And the wood is coming into leaf now,
Sing, cuckoo!

While some scholars have claimed that the song itself was a sort of parody, most of us "rank-and-filers"appreciate it simply as a celebration of the return of warm weather and life. The sentiments of this English poem certainly correspond with a wealth of later English literature:
"The pageant of the river bank had marched steadily along, unfolding itself in scene-pictures that succeeded each other in stately procession. Purple loose-strife arrived early, shaking luxuriant tangled locks along the edge of the mirror whence its own face laughed back at it. Willow-herb, tender and wistful, like a pink sunset cloud, was not slow to follow. Comfrey, the purple hand-in-hand with the white, crept forth to take its place in the line; and at last one morning the diffident and delaying dog-rose stepped delicately on the stage, and one knew, as if string-music had announced it in stately chords that strayed into a gavotte, that June at last was here. One member of the company was still awaited; the shepherd-boy for the nymphs to woo, the knight for whom the ladies waited at the window, the prince that was to kiss the sleeping summer back to life and love. But when meadow-sweet, debonair and odorous in amber jerkin, moved graciously to his place in the group, then the play was ready to begin." (Kenneth Grahame, "The Wind in the Willows")
More on Spring poetry next time. --Gary

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05/30/2015 07:14.21 PM Report This Comment  
  Spring Poetry, Part I
"Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with OPEN ye,
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.... (Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Canterbury Tales".

About two-and-a-half years ago I did a series of posts on Autumn poetry. For some reason I was made to think about poetry again this Spring; so I decided to do a series about Spring poetry. You have to understand, we are moved to write poetry about the things which strike us deeply in our hearts; hence all the love poems. As for us Countryfolks, I think that each of the seasons have in their turn a special place in the Countryman's heart. It's just that Autumn is so beautiful and so full of a sense of accomplishment and plenty; and it comes at just the time when a Countryman or woman starts to have the time to reflect; that it is the subject of so many poems. Winter too, has its share of poems, and I suppose that I will get around to doing a post on that subject sometime in the future; but there's a fair amount of poetic celebration of the arrival of Spring and the return of life to these Northern climes.

It's understandable of course; the relief and delight of a Countryman and woman to see the Sun returning high in the sky and the renewal of the growing season. It's not for nothing that so many cultures celebrate this rebirth with various fertility-based religious festivals. Easter eggs, the Easter Bunny, along with the gods of the mystery cults of Mediterranean civilizations serve only to underscore this.

One of the most well known poems of Spring, of course, is the beginning of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", quoted above. Some of my PFRs might remember during my series on the poems of Autumn that I'd talked about how so many of the relatively uneducated men and women I'd known in my childhood were proud of the fact that they could still recite the poems they'd learned in grade school. The farmer I had worked for when I was in high school could recite the prologue to "The Canterbury Tales" in its Middle English when he was in his forties. More on Spring Poetry next time. -- Gary

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

05/27/2015 07:20.08 PM Report This Comment  
  Odds 'n Ends, Late May, 2015
Once again, it's been a late Spring here in NE Wisconsin. We used to plant corn on Pa's birthday, May 10, but nowadays I wait until after the middle of May to plant our gardens. Just last Thursday I finally put in the vegetable garden down in the valley below me. Sure enough, the next couple of nights there were frost warnings.
The lilacs are in full bloom at La Ferme Sabloneuse. Every year I make sure to go around to check out and smell the blooms around the Home Property. This year the lilac blooms along my driveway are especially noticeable and the row of lilacs that we'd planted in the mid '80s with saplings taken from Ruthie's mother's property are just splendid! Malheureusement, this is the first year that I will not be able to cut blooms from Ma's giant lilac bush in the front yard of the Home Property and present them to her, whether at home or at her bedside at the nursing home. Her lilac bush produced well this year, as always, and she would've been pleased. It was Ma who'd taught me just a few years ago to trim off the previouis year's growth in order to facilitate better growth the following year. The amazing thing is that she'd told me this while she was well into the midst of her dementia. She had read it somewhere and it was important enough to her to retain it. So.... every year when I clip off the dried up old blooms sometime in late Summer, I thank her.
An update on our bunnies; on the day that I observed the mother rabbit tearing her fur out, I saw her and her split-eared mate at Tommy's (the Home Property). Just a couple of days ago, when mowing at Tommy's I scared up a single tiny bunny that was hunkering next to the house in the long grass. It ran off okay, but I was hoping that it would make it back to the big lilac bush in Tommy's front yard. A day or two later, Tommy looked out his kitchen window and saw a crow on the ground trying to get to the lilac bush, and big mother-bunny was standing in its way, matching its movements and preventing it from getting to her offspring. Tommy (to his everlasting credit) immediately lumbered out into the yard and yelled at the crow, causing it to fly off. This reminded me of the same scenario described in Richard Adams' "Watership Down", only Big Brother Tommy was Bigwig. The comparison surely would fit. --Gary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

05/16/2015 08:12.52 PM Report This Comment  
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