The sun has been shining for the last six days in a row and I've been enjoying every minute of it. This morning I hung out my wash again--how blissful! I love the smell of fresh laundry and it dried in a matter of hours. I try to keep up with the housework during the growing season, but it's tough to do, and when the sun shines, well, I'm outside. The dust in the house will be there when I get back to it, right?
Did I mention we had a lot of rain in June? We took a little side trip this past Saturday to the Eau Claire Dells County Park. The Eau Claire River was running at an unheard of rate, over 3000 cfm when this time of year it normally runs about 300 cfm, so of course, we had to drop everything and head up there.
In our defense, it was really hot last Saturday. Ann had stopped in and we were working on the stone wall in the Formal Garden and sweating profusely until Carl went in for a drink of water. While he was in the house he checked the radar to see if any more rain was expected. Then he took a detour online and checked the river levels and one thing led to another and before we knew it, Joel, Ann and Carl and I were on the road again. Ok, the rocks (and weeds) will still be there when we get back to them, right?
The river was running high, the internet database wasn't kidding. This park is in Marathon County which is about an hour and a half away from home.
|The noise of thundering water was almost deafening.|
|Hard to see us, but left to right there's me, Carl and Ann overlooking the raging water.|
|Be still my heart, but every time I see the rock formations in this park, I am so humbled. Mother Nature sure knows how to do rock work.|
|I'm glad we took the time to make this trip even though we should be working. It isn't every day the river is like this.|
With all the rain we've had, I have a lot of catching up to do around here, especially when it comes to mowing lawn. In addition to the 2.5 acres we live and garden on, I have to keep the Back Eight mowed, too.
The Back Eight is where our little 'White Forest' of pine trees lives, the same trees my late father, Carl and I planted over twenty years ago. The whole saga of the Back Eight is here: Full Circle in the White Pines
I try to keep the eight acres mowed (probably only five, actually, since a lot of the area is in trees) every year to keep down the tall grass and weeds. Mowing that much land with grass over 4' tall is asking too much of our lawn mower, so that's when we hook up to the 'bush hog' (an attachment that goes on my tractor) and I go out to cut hay.
I love my tractor. Did I ever mention that? (Yeah, I know I have, lol., just wanted to see if you're paying attention!) I love all of our tractors, right now we have four total; but the 574 is my pet. My father bought this tractor brand spanking-new in 1972 when I was fourteen years old. It took the place of a 1940's Farmall M that Dad sold to upgrade to the new one. ( Ironically, Joel bought a restored 'M' two years ago, so we have one just like it back on the farm again).
|Here I go after supper last night, on my way to meet Carl out in the Back Eight.|
I remember the day the International 574 arrived in our driveway from the local implement dealer in town like it was yesterday. It was a hot morning in June and Mom and I were just finishing up the breakfast dishes when the truck pulled in. I stood there with my damp towel drying a coffee cup and just stared out the window. It was love at first sight. I set the towel down and fairly flew out of the house, not even remembering to be shy around the truck driver. (I was a shy kid back in the day.) The tractor was so..so...shiny and New, it was just amazing to me.
We hadn't had anything new on the farm before in my lifetime; everything was old and rusty and then this shiny red tractor arrived and my whole world changed. This tractor had Power Steering (cue the Heavenly Music!) and a live PTO (I won't bore you with the details on power takeoffs in this post, but I will write about them at a later date since it's a funny story) and you could shift on the go! I have never ooohed and ahhed over any new car (make that anything!) as I have over this tractor when it came here to live.
The implement dealer delivery guy tilted the bed of his truck and then climbed up and started the engine on the tractor. The sound of the engine gave me goosebumps, I kid you not. Dad and I stood on the gravel driveway and watched as he carefully backed the tractor off the truck and we both breathed a sigh of relief when it was safely on the ground. The guy had some paperwork Dad needed to sign so I just went and stood next to the idling tractor, carefully approaching it as if it were a prize thoroughbred race horse I might spook if I moved too fast. After all, there were 52 horses under that shiny hood.
The truck driver left and there we were, Dad, me and the still-running 574. Mom had stayed in the house to finish the dishes; she's not as nuts about machinery as I was. She knew soon enough she'd have to deal with yet another cantankerous piece of equipment and though she was happy we had something dependable, she wasn't looking forward to learning how to drive it. My father was a hard-working man, as all farmers are, and he was also a hard man at times. He had a tough childhood and a very stern demeanor and never suffered fools lightly. There would be no exuberant hugs and excited babble coming from him, but I could tell he was a bit overwhelmed, too, though he did his best not to show it.
Dad climbed up onto the tractor and stepped in the clutch, put it in gear and drove down the driveway slowly, putting the tractor through its paces for his admiring audience. Me. Then he bid me to help him hook up to the new green chopper he had had delivered the day before and we were off to see what these new-fangled pieces of equipment could do for us.
Before the new tractor and chopper, we had pastured our cows on our farm. Every field was sectioned off with barbed wire fences with a lane running through the middle of the acreage. The cows would be milked and then left out to go to pasture and graze for their feed. As they grazed down one pasture, we would simply move them to a new one later on in the season. Times were changing on farms back in the 1970's and our neighbors were all much more progressive than we were and had given up on pasturing their cattle long before. To this day, though the equipment was a wise move, I miss seeing cows heading out to pasture at the end of the day. Cows form a single line when they walk and the cowpaths they leave behind are about two feet wide and devoid of any grass after a few weeks. To see a herd walking sedately but purposefully out to the field, especially in the evening, with their tails swishing the flies away as they walked past the old cedar fenceposts and the bluebirds nesting in them is a scene indelibly planted in my mind's eye. Those days are gone, and it is a shame.
We had the smallest farm of anyone around and the oldest and smallest equipment, too, so this was a giant step for us. Never mind that Dad's new tractor was less than half the horsepower than our neighbor's tractors and tiny in comparison; it was still an advancement the likes of which I'd never seen. Though our tractor stood about half as tall as any of our neighbors big machines, I was proud of it and I think Dad was too, though he would never admit it. Bragging wasn't his style and pride always goes before a fall.
Now we could be modern like the rest of the neighborhood, and we put the cows on a much smaller pasture closer to the barn, about five acres, and with our new equipment, went out twice a day, morning and night, to chop feed (green chop) and haul it back home to them. Though it was an improvement, since less feed gets wasted due to the cows trampling the field and also from them ah, well, er, pooping all over the place (no, they won't eat where they relieve themselves) it was still a rather labor-intensive job because after milking in the morning and before milking at night, someone had to go out and chop a wagon full of hay for the cows to eat. Before we could just leave them out to graze on their own, but now we were the delivery people.
We took all the fences that separated the individual fields down and for the first time, the farm was fence-free except for the line fence that separated our property from our neighbor's. That fence is still standing in places around the farm, but the posts are nearly rotten now. Between the neighbor's woods and our field up in the Back Eight, there's still remnants of the barbed wire that marks the line in the trees.
Before the week was out, I was driving the 574 by myself and before the summer was out, I was going out to chop feed alone, too. We used that tractor for everything on the farm, baling hay, green chopping, corn harvesting, plowing everything. We still had a pair of Farmall H's to pull wagons with, but the 574 did all the heavy, hard work.
|Who is that old woman on the tractor? Me.|
|Here's the view from my lofty perch in the driver's seat. (Yes, we need a new muffler, it's getting rusty, just like me.)|
Here's a portion of the hay I cut the last two days
and here's some more.
You'd think I'd get bored out of my gourd cutting all that hay at about a mile an hour, wouldn't you? But the weird part is the time just flew by. I always did love field work; just me and Dad's tractor, farming away. The tractor is hot, I'm sweating, the bugs are annoying, there's trees to duck around and rocks to pick up, but I love it.
|Carl has hooked up the chain to the tree and I'm backing up to pull it out.|
|Hmmmmm, that's a tall tree, and a very short chain.....I have a feeling this isn't going to be good...|
|Ok, not so bad, hey, it even missed the muffler.|
|Unhook me, kind Sir.|
|Another tree....the mosquitoes were really having a high old time last night, too. We started working faster.|
|It was getting dark out, time to quit.|
To the day he died, in 2001, my father was quietly proud and fiercely protective of that tractor. Dad was putting his wind protection 'cab' on the tractor that fateful day in October, getting ready for our Wisconsin winter and the snowplowing to come. He was 88 years old and was getting a tad forgetful; had voluntarily given up driving a car years before, but he would never give up his tractor. He had misplaced some bolts for the cab attachment and had gone to the house to ask for Mom's help in finding them when he lost his balance on the stairs in their house and fell, causing a fatal blow to the head. In less than eight hours, he was gone. When the nurse at the hospital brought Dad's clothes to me after he passed away that night, I found the bolts he was looking for in his pocket. Along with the key to the 574. Still brings tears to my eyes, even now, ten years later. He loved that tractor.
And so do I.