Archive for June, 2011

three days

June 10:

   The past three days have been very hot and busy.  Rain was predicted for every day since we finished the first cutting at Barry’s and the TOR’s front field, so there we have stopped, but this week has had days in it which seemed to come right from God Almighty for the making of hay.  To offset this, there have been brief storms of rain or half-days of shower which would pound a cutting of hay to the earth, and leave it there to mildew and overmulch the grass beneath, both ruining the present cutting and suppressing the one to come.  We have not regretted on the whole spending this week on the barn.


   Great strides have been made, great steps forward in the construction of the barn of a century, not the century, but a barn to last one hundred years.  All the posts were set by early in the week, when we lost S-2 to a trip to Philadelphia.  Shawn and the other boys carried on unchecked, and one can now walk the floor of our new, four hundred square foot barn loft.  It is as yet uncovered, and so not ready to receive the hay we hope to cut next week, but it soon will be, God willing.  The heat has been oppressive, and the boys have overextended their stamina a little, but not dangerously.

  Cooler weather seems to be coming – Illinois has it now – and even today, although the humidity was unabated, the heat was somewhat less.  S-5 and Mom and the girls have been occupied with improvements to the house, principally the porch, where old furniture and animal beds did little to create a bright atmosphere.  Primarily by the use of paint and brushes, the porch has become a more inviting sitting area, as it deserves to be.

June 13:

   It got cooler last night, and this morning everyone was wearing jackets.  Shawn and the boys went out to work in the pasture and on the barn.  The fences needed the weeds cleaned out of them, and the floor of the loft needed about a half a course of plywood still.  By evening the fences were cleaned, and the loft had a floor and one framed wall.

   Shawn also used the weed eater with its blade to clear out the black currant bushes by the driveway.  It seemed a shame, but they had never been useful; they were supposed to be gooseberries, but true to form Gurneys sent currants instead, and they never gave enough to make a batch of jam, the only thing I know to do with them.  Over the years they had spread their prickly canes to cover a substantial area between the car park and the fence, and I have decided that this area should be at least ornamental, if not also useful.  Last summer I planted a mimosa tree a few feet from the black currant bushes, and this will fill in the space previously taken up by the bushes.  There is also a rose of sharon where it had grown up in the middle of the bushes; I will leave this for now, trimming it out to tree form, and see if it holds its own.  No doubt the ravaged bushes around its feet will send up a few canes that can perhaps be left there for the birds.

    In the afternoon I took pictures of the boys on the loft before going over to the corn patch and thinning, hoeing, and hilling.  It looks lovely now, like a real garden.  I started weeding the onions, but the boys got antsy for dinner, and s-5 had to get to scouts, so he and I went up and made chicken fried steak, gravy, and mashed potatoes.


   After dinner, I weeded the broccoli.  It was evident as soon as I peeled up the row cover on the long tunnel that something had been in there, digging up broccoli plants, and my vote goes to Sampson the black kitty.  He was right there when I opened the tunnel, wanting to play attack cat with my fingers through the spun-bonded polyester.  I threw weeds at him to chase him away.  It looks as though three of the plants were destroyed.  I fastened the cover down more tightly when I closed it up, and will have to keep an eye on it.  I weeded the other one, and the asparagus as well – those baby asparagus are so easily lost among the clover.  I inadvertently pulled at least three, but some of those may not be completely destroyed, since their root remained in the soil.

   I sprayed all the fruit trees, and hope to save the apples from too much damage.  Really, they should have been getting sprayed about once a week all spring, but the rains we had would have made such an activity useless; hopefully the second growth leaves they are putting on will remain undamaged by spider mites or whatever they are, and help those trees to better health.  I also sprayed the phlox, but forgot the roses; I’ll do those tomorrow. 

   I suckered the tomatoes in the kitchen garden.

   It’s still cool tonight.

June 14:

   The past two days have been disturbingly cool and cloudy, and although there has been no rain since last Friday or so, the hay Shawn and James cut on Sunday is drying very slowly.  Now the forecast is for thunderstorms on Wednesday night, so we must absolutely lift the hay tomorrow if it can be done.  Goodness only knows how long and wet the next spell of weather may be.

    S-3 and -2went up after lunch to check it, and found that the field mowed with the sickle bar was actually curing faster than that mowed with the brush hog, which is counter intuitive, because the latter hay is so chopped about; but it is also clumped up a bit by the mower, so that it doesn’t dry as readily.  Neither is dry on the bottom, however, and after Shawn checked it about six thirty, he decided we would hand turn it tomorrow early.

   Shawn was weed eating under fence again today, and the boys milled more two by sixes – fourteen from one log – and framed the north wall of the loft.  Mom found out that Bernard Davies Lumber in Canfield has a very good price on metal roofing, so we can make the barn roof red after all.  A couple of rows of onions got weeded, and we had an orgy of french fries for lunch and dinner, and doughnuts in between.  We were creamed in our softball game this evening, and folded the laundry before bed. 

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all in the timing

June 5:

   We just saved sixty dollars; our vigil over the three queenless hives has ended, and they are queenright, young queens with good brood patterns.  Thanks be to God, and to Joe K.’s good advice.  We have been in there every two days or so looking for eggs or brood, and all the mature brood had hatched before we found, today, two- or three-day-old brood in both halves of the #6 split, and in #5, which had also swarmed.  The smaller split, on #4 stand now, is queenright, but only has enough bees to fill a single hive box.  We will watch it carefully, and hope the good young queen will bring up the hive strength before fall comes.  All the colonies are putting away lots of honey and drawing lots of comb, and #1 is three bodies and two or three supers high right now, doing business like a New York highrise.

   The stacks of lumber around the mill are growing high, and the men have set all but three of the locust poles that will hold up the thirty by twenty foot extension to the “new” barn.  (The quotation marks refer to the fact that the barn is actually older than our residence in this place, but is still new to us because we only acquired title to it a year ago.  Always buy land when it is adjacent to your own, says Buzz McG., and we have never felt one moment of regret for paying approximately three times – make that four times – real market value for our south pasture.)  Tomorrow they will set the last three posts, and begin mounting the two-by-twelve beams to hold up the floor.

   Mom  will probably get stuck inside most of the day, because Saturday was to have been baking day, and was instead get-a-new-truck day, and we are just about out of bread.  Baking day here ususally means we fire up the oven mid-morning, have it too hot to touch by four-thirty, make pizza enough for dinner and the next day’s lunch, then quick-bake six or seven dozen hamburger buns, after which the oven is just cool enough to bake eight two-pound loaves of whole wheat/potato bread, and we’re lucky if we’re done by ten.  We throw damp towels over the cooling loaves and go to bed.

   We got about four hundred fifty bales out of the first two fields with the new sickle bar mower, which saves far more hay than the brush hog.  About one hundred twenty-five of those bales go to our friend Barry, who owns one of the fields, and we are still nowhere near done with the first cutting.  For once we have been ahead of the game, and four aces:  no rain fell until last night, about six hours after we lifted the last ninety-three bales.  Sometimes you win.  Be it understood here that while we bale our own hay, which is to say we bale other people’s, who want their fields cut, and give us the rakings, it is not necessarily economical for the one-cow revolutionary to do this.  By rotating stock over small paddocks, the grazier can extend his animals’ field time and minimize the hay necessary to overwinter them.  What hay is necessary can then be bought in affordably.  More on this later.

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June 4:

   We left early this morning to go see a truck in Quaker City.  The boys had been up late last night – S-4 was to a Pirates game, and S-2 and S-3 stayed in town after the softball game to save me picking him up.  The Bucks went into twelve innings, and 4 didn’t get back to town until twelve-thirty, so only 3 got up at the ususal time, and came with us, to lend his input to the truck business.

   It was a nice morning, cool enough for a sweater, but only slightly cloudy as we went southwest on 22.  We stopped at a few country garage sales.  The first one was in Anterim, at a Mennonite home.  We had a nice talk with the two women there, and they are going to call us with the number of some friends they have in KY who have fifteen acres or so in Harrison County, OH to sell.  The  land we were driving through was lovely; the first thirty or so miles were quite familiar, the stretch of 22 between Steubenville and Cambridge, but then we turned south on 513 and drove over land which was probably stripped at one time, but is recovering, and seems to have a growing population of Amish farmers.  Lovely, rolling country, only good for the small farmer whose methods improve the soil.  We saw evidence of other kinds of farming along 22, harsh and dry, and it didn’t look nearly as nice.

   We bought the truck.  Quaker City is a nice town, small, folksy, and familiar.  The terrain is less vertical, and the area floods regularly, from the small creeks that drain the hills around, but people there seem to like the place.  It is not prosperous.  We came home up 9 from St. Clairesville, and saw more nice farmland, much more of it cleared hilltop, probably former stripped land.  We stopped at Kuesters for parts they didn’t have, but got good information about where to look for them.

   I’m not sure what S-2 and S-4did this morning, but they were working on the barn, and the girls took care of S-6and made the downstairs neat.  They managed very well.  This afternoon the men baled the front field at the TOR’s and got ninety-three bales, which was within 3’s guess of seventy-five to one-hundred, and ‘way over Shawn’s of fifty, and mine of thirty.  That means we have about two-hundred twenty-five in the loft now, and we haven’t really begun to finish at the Sisters’.  We haven’t done Barry’s horse pasture, either, and Shawn thinks he would really prefer we bale that, too, so we probably will.  Maybe we will go into the winter with plenty of hay.

   I cleaned and made dinner, and afterward I rolled up the old hotwire on the west hill, and picked strawberries, while Shawn fixed the weedeater and cut weeds around the bee yard, and the boys fixed the muffler on the new truck.  It clouded over this evening, and there was thunder, but so far no rain.

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farm business

May 31:

   Shawn and S-3 went to Gause to order sickle bar parts this morning early.  The brake line on the van is bad, and S-2’s car in the shop, so we didn’t make it to daily mass.  The guys got out early to clean out the big barn loft, got the truck stuck and unstuck, and Mom weeded the onion patch while the girls hung laundry.  After lunch S-2 went up to rake while all the other guys took down the big elm behind the tower.  It was long dead, the wood very sound, and it made a tremendous crash.  Mom thought it must have hit S-1’s barn, but all was well, and by four-thirty they had hauled most of it to the barnyard gate.  Mom and S-5, meanwhile, were putting foundation in super frames, preparatory to working hives, but the hay was dry, and everyone went up to bale and pick up hay.  Seems like we got about one hundred twenty-five off the lower half of Barry’s front field.  We ate sandwiches in the field, and the upper-field hay was too wet, so we were home about eight-thirty and Mom trimmed the perennial border until dark.

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