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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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  Love it!
I just spent the last twenty minutes playing catch up and reading all your latest posts. I will probably spend the rest of the day chuckling. I can just picture you and David as children, hunkered down and trying to be so adult-like in your hunting attempts. And all I can see is Pa and Earl, covered in mud from head to toe, with more of it dripping down on top of them from the trees and power lines. Thank you, Gary, for all of these great stories!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

12/21/2014 12:49.44 PM Report This Comment  
  Fun With Explosives, More Truckeylore (Part I )
The previous thread on muzzle loaders and black powder reminded me of a few "contratemps", or mishaps with explosives that have become a part of Truckeylore.
I've already related how Pa had inadvertently seeded nitroglycerin into the soil one of the fields of La Ferme Sabloneuse through a combination of glycerin coolant leaking from a gas engine-powered wood saw and nitrate fertilizer spread over the same area. As I've written, the following Spring, as Pa dragged the field in preparation for planting, he heard a popping noise whenever he drove the drag over the spot where the saw rig had stood the previous Autumn. In spite of himself, Pa had created nitroglycerin at La Ferme Sabloneuse.

At about the same time, in the late 1940s, Pa decided to try to create a conducive habitat for wood ducks. Pa's brother Earl had come upon a stash of dynamite and so the two of them decided to deepen the seepage in county-owned land adjacent to La Ferme Sabloneuse. They planted the sticks in the mud and lit them off. The resulting explosion hung massive globs of muck on the power lines on the Truckey property next to the County park. Fortunately, this blasted earth did not upset the power flow to the residents of Oconto County and so no repercussions ensued.

Now Pa's friend Wild Bill Beaudin was a kindred spirit. That man had a lot of experience with black powder, especially in regards to loading his ball-and-cap Navy Colt revolver. Bill also liked to roll his own cigarettes. He even had his own Zig-Zag rolling machine. The problem was, Bill liked to smoke regardless of what he was doing. I can still see his 6ft-4inch frame in an "Indian kneel" over whatever task he had at hand with a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. So one time Bill was crouched over the workbench preparing cap-and-ball charges for his pistol when an ash from his ever-present cigarette fell onto some black powder. Bill ended up losing both eyebrows and half his beard. He thought the situation so funny that he refused to shave off the other half and used his facial appearance as a conservation piece. More about these adventures next time. -- Gary

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

12/20/2014 06:22.38 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part VII (Muzzle loaders)
So when I prepared for this muzzle loader deer season, I went through the learning process with the two aforementioned rifles. It was much the same as the post I'd made over two years ago about Eldest Brother David (09/11/2012). I found that David's Hawkens wasn't able to strike the percussion cap consistently hard enough to ignite the charge. I was finally able to fire off the existing charge and then cleaned the Hawkens and then put it away. As for Pa's Kentucky rifle, I found that the hammer would set off the cap, but the sparks wouldn't set off the charge in the barrel. I had to unscrew the nipple and then sprinkle some powder next to the touch hole. I screwed the nipple back one and then was able to bulls-eye the target. I had to laugh when I realized that a frizzen and powder pan would've worked better. As for the Hawkens, I expect that I'll have to research on how to tighten the internal spring that gives the hammer enough torque to set off the cap.

Nowadays for hunting with muzzle loaders, they use what's called an "inline system". This type of rifle breaks open between the hammer and the barrel. You still load the weapon from the muzzle, but instead of loose powder, wadding, and bullet, you drop in two Lifesaver candy-shaped rings of compressed powder and then the bullet, (no wadding). At the breech end of the barrel is a little aperture in which you insert a primer cap. You snap the rifle shut and when you pull the trigger the primer cap sends sparks through the center of the to "life savers" which ignites all the powder at once, instead of the slower, more gradual ignition that you have with loose gunpowder. This results in longer range and greater accuracy. On the Outdoor Channel you can watch hunters use such a rifle, (with an attached scope) to take deer from some 200 yards.

Finally, last Sunday eve as I climbed down from Eldest Brother David's stand at the North end of La Ferme Sabloneuse after seeing no deer..... again. The thing about muzzle loaders is that you have to unload it by firing it. So I set up the target again and sure enough, the Kentucky rifle shot sure and true, bulls eyeing the target again. I put the gun in David's shop, to be cleaned in a day or so when I had more time, and I walked down the road towards home. As I got to my driveway I saw five deer cross the road a quarter mile South of our land. Again, I had to laugh. So ends my first real muzzle loader season. --Gary

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

12/13/2014 06:53.23 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part VI (Muzzle loaders)
During the development of the firearm, gunsmiths found that they could greatly increase the accuracy of both muskets and cannons by "rifling" the barrels. This simply meant grinding grooves inside the barrel of the weapon. As Wikipedia states: "Rifling refers to helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis. This spin serves to gyroscopically stabilize the projectile, improving its aerodynamic stability and accuracy." It was German craftsmen who came upon the idea. German craftsmen who'd emigrated to Pennsylvania (the "Pennsylvania Dutch), in turn, developed the Pennsylvania Rifle, which, in turn, became the "Kentucky Rifle". Both Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett achieved fame with the Kentucky rifle. During the American Revolution, frontiersmen with their rifles were used as "skirmishers" and snipers. As skirmishers, those militiamen fired two or three shots into the British ranks, targeting officers in order to disrupt the battle formation of the enemy. Because the rifling of the rifles would quickly become clogged after these few volleys, the "riflemen" would then withdraw and leave the battle to the muskets of the "rank and file" of the general soldiery.

During the Battle of the Alamo, Davey Crockett reportedly shot an enemy soldier walking across the plaza of the town of San Antonio from some 250 yards away. The marksmanship of the "Texicans" at the Alamo became legendary and this reputation was carried on through the Civil War. Such was the legacy of the Kentucky rifle and its later derivative, the Hawkens. In later times, the firing mechanism was altered so that a percussion cap was placed over an aperture (nipple) which shunted the cap spark to the charge in the barrel. This eliminated the problem of the powder in the flash pan getting wet during bad weather. More on muzzle loading next time. -- Gary

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

12/10/2014 08:32.26 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part V (Muzzle loaders)
So let me give you a tutorial about muzzle loaders. You know how the old rifles worked; you poured black powder down the muzzle, then wrapped a ball in a greased patched and shoved it down the barrel with a ramrod. (You can find a wonderful description of this in Laura Ingalls Wilder's first "Little House" book", "Little House in the Big Woods".) In the 17th and 18th century they used a piece of flint fastened to the hammer which struck a "flash pan" filled with fine powder which, in turn, lit off the powder in the barrel. The piece of metal covering the pan was called the "frizzen", which was ingeniously designed to provide the friction needed for the flint to create sparks. Wikipedia describes it nicely:
"The frizzen, historically called the steel, is an "L" shaped piece of steel hinged at the rear used in flintlock firearms. It is positioned over the flash pan so as to enclose a small priming charge of black powder next to the flash hole that is drilled through the barrel into where the main charge is loaded. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer or cock—which includes a shaped piece of flint held into a set of jaws by a scrap of leather or thin piece of lead—snaps forward causing the flint to scrape down the face of the frizzen (historically called the 'battery'), throwing it back to expose the black powder in the pan. The flint scraping the steel causes a shower of sparks to be thrown into the pan, igniting the black powder and sending flames through the touch hole, which in turn ignites the main charge of black powder in the breech of the barrel, shooting the projectile out the barrel."
Now the powder in the flash pan was of a higher quality than the black powder poured down the barrel. It was of utmost importance that the hammer, flint, and flash pan all operated without fail. Otherwise you would experience the "flash in the pan" which would fail to ignite the charge and result in a misfire. This, in turn, in the frontier, would, at best, cause you to miss your game and at worse, cause you to lose your life. In those days you had to carry two separate flasks, one for the black powder for the charge, and another, smaller one of fine powder, to use for the flash pan.
From the 16th to the middle of the 19th century, the armies of the European nations, and later, the Regulars of the young United States Army used smoothbore muskets. This meant that the barrels of these weapons were smooth inside, just like a modern day shotgun. The upshot (pardon the pun) was that the soldier could fire more volleys before the musket got too fouled to work. The downside was that the muskets' accuracy was limited to about 75 yards at a maximum. This was compensated for by the European armies developing tactics of massed volleys by compressed blocks of troops. They say that a well-trained infantryman could fire up to four rounds a minute, quite an accomplishment when you think of all one had to do to reload in the heat of combat. -- Gary

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

12/08/2014 07:47.31 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part IV (Muzzle loaders)
I've been trying to hunt during the muzzle loader season. Over two years ago I had written about Eldest Brother David having bought himself a Hawkens .50 caliber CVA rifle and spent two days test firing it and Pa's .45 cal. Kentucky rifle. Pa had gotten a kit and built both the rifle and a .45 pistol back in the '70s. When Pa knew his time had come he told me that he wanted me to have the muzzle loaders. I took the rifle once squirrel hunting, just for the fun of it and sure enough, I had a shot at a grey squirrel that was clinging to the side of an oak. I decided to "bark" it, c'est-a-dire, to hit the tree next to it and kill it with the explosion of bark from the ball. This, in theory, prevents you from tearing off half the squirrel with a .45 caliber bullet. As it turned out, I missed the tree and shot the squirrel through the head. It was weird. The ball went neatly through the critter's skull without any collateral damage. When I related this story earlier this week to the owner of the gun store in Oconto Falls, he laughed and said, "I bet you don't tell people about trying to bark it, you just tell 'em that you tried for a headshot and nailed it!"

A few years later, David wanted to try hunting during the muzzle loader season. He borrowed the Kentucky rifle and a year or so later asked if he could have it. Since I was just happy that Pa's gun was being used, I said okay. A year or two later, David asked to have the pistol as well. For the same reason I agreed. During those seasons, David would load both rifle and pistol and take them to one of his towers. He figured that if he shot a deer with the rifle, he'd be able to deliver a coup de grace with the pistol. Unfortunately, David never did see a deer during those seasons.

So two years ago Eldest bought himself that Hawkens. He spent time shooting them both and announced to me that both of us would be able to hunt that muzzle loader season. As I wrote back then: "I suspect that he needs a native load-bearer and as I was the closest thing to one living in the immediate area he figures that I needed the enticement of my own muzzle loader in order ensure my participation." I don't remember, actually, if we had the chance to hunt together that year. I'd probably had to work 50 plus hours as is the norm for early December with the USPS and David probably chose not to hunt the last Sunday. More about Muzzle loaders next time. -- Gary

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

12/06/2014 05:28.53 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part III (Eldest Brother David)
"Hunting alone means you are on your own time-line. You don't have to worry about others, and taking their needs into consideration." A perceptive observation by "The Farmwife's" husband Randy. This definitely holds true for me. But for me, For these past many years, I've been dutifully loyal and supporting to Eldest Brother David. I've already told you how one of my greatest experiences of hunting was being there for Eldest as he was recovering from his heart surgery and had dropped a deer with a great long shot from his stand. As I'd written before, being there to field-dress David's deer for him and then drive him to have his deer registered, all the while listening to him elate about his accomplishment was better than if I'd shot one myself.

After all this, in the last few years David had become so limited in his physical capabilities that my hunting consisted of doing drives for him as he sat in one or another of his stands. I didn't mind that. I've already stated how much I enjoyed helping him. In spite of everything, my brother engendered loyalty. I basically gave up hunting for myself in order to be there for him. Last year, the first in decades that neither of us hunted, grieved us both. We both knew down deep in our hearts, that an era had ended.

How I looked up to him! I remember when I was a small child, I was sitting in the living room of the "new house" watching "The Twilight Zone" with my brother Wayne at around five pm on a November evening during deer season. We heard a muffled sound outside the bay window and Wayne screamed as we both looked up and saw David grinning at us from outside. He had returned from deer hunting on our land and couldn't resist the opportunity to terrorize two of his kid brothers. My memory is faulty, but I believe Eldest was about 22, Wayne about 16 and I about 10. I can still see him, young, dark and thin; looking every bit the part of a young Indian hunter as was his (our) heritage. You must understand, my brother David held a position that was almost sacrosanct in our family's French-Canadian tradition, that of the oldest brother. To be honest, I worshipped him. Whatever Eldest said was law.

I had a dream one night after David died. I was a kid again, in a blind sitting on the ground alongside of my brother. Both of us had the old single-shot 20 gauge shotguns we'd hunted with back then, hunkered down in the old red coats we wore at that time. It was a child's dream; one that hungered for something that had never really existed, but like all such dreams, it was of the "ideal"; a happy place that exists only in our imagining. Regardless, it expressed my love and admiration for my eldest brother. --Gary

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

12/03/2014 07:09.41 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Winter 2014, Part III
How many of you love Winter? So far, only our friend Suzanne Snyder freely admits to this. The rest of us range from being ambivalent to being downright hateful towards the season. My dear Belle Soeur Susie, who last year broke in Winter by breaking her wrist and fracturing her pelvis, is renowned for her "I Hate Winter!" yell, shouted out at each and every forecast of approaching snowfall and/or subzero temperatures. Of course, this last Winter she'd had to shout it endlessly.
This time of year I always think of Ezra Pound's parody of the old poem "Sumer Is Icumen In". Written in the Wessex dialect of Middle English, even in its original form it conveys the joy and relief of a new season of life.

"Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med,
And springþ þe wde nu,

(Summer has come in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow
blooms,
And the wood springs anew,)"

That was only the first stanza. You'll have to go on Wikipedia to read the entire original poem. As for Pound's "Winter Song":

"Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM."

While I certainly try to find things about Winter to enjoy, this poem describes how I feel much of the time. -- Gary

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

11/29/2014 07:59.45 PM Report This Comment  
  Thanksgiving, 2014
So what are you thankful for?

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is 'thank you', it is sufficient." --Meister Eckhart

I've always loved this quote. For me it emphasizes what we tend to forget; that there is much in our lives that we should be thankful for. When I feel down (and in this day and age, this is an everyday event) I remind myself of the gifts I've been given. Instead of looking down, I look up, and even in the cloudiest of days I can see beauty in the sky and see God's creation all around me.

So, again, what are you thankful for? I won't bore you with my list, I would much rather hear yours. All I can wish for you is that you are able to recognize and appreciate what is good in your lives and how you can use these gifts to help others.

I've posted the following saying before: "You cannot always have happiness, but you can always give happiness." This is what I try to remember everyday. If I can help other people; if I can ease their suffering and increase their joy in this life, then I too, have reason to be thankful. --Gary

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

11/26/2014 08:18.52 PM Report This Comment  
  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  
  Thistle
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
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

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  
  Excellent!
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  
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