Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beware the Gardener: No Critics Allowed!

It's Fertilizer Friday!!  Click on the arrow to view our latest (and last) lily of the season in action!
OT Lily Conca D'or

I've been seriously gardening now for going on 25 years, ever since I quit my full-time job, became an at-home mom and decided to do something with the two acres of hay field we had surrounding the house.  I didn't know a thing about Fine Gardening or even Not So Fine Gardening; I just knew I loved flowers.

As a kid, growing up on the farm, I adored my mother's flower beds, though I did next to nothing to help her maintain the narrow strip of plants growing right along the driveway and the borders around the farmhouse.  Whenever I had a spare moment in the summer after chores on the dairy farm, I was out riding my bike or horsing around somewhere else.

Despite working what would equate to two full-time jobs, Mom always took time out to tend her flowers.   I can remember her deadheading and weeding, staking and pruning her flowers even after a long, hot, grueling day of baling hay was over and the cows were all tucked in for the night.  We would all be exhausted from the day's work, but she would be out there until dark and the mosquitoes drove her inside.

My father's take on flowers was a lot less enthusiastic, 'They're all weeds, you can't feed them to cattle; what good are they to anybody?' 
Volunteer rudbeckia
Dad was a farmer, and if you can't grow it for farming purposes, then you are wasting your time.  I'm so glad Mom didn't listen to his gripes or give up when he invariably swung too wide going out of the driveway with a farm implement, running down many of her flowers as he went.  She used to get so mad when he did that, and he would often say, "You shouldn't plant your stupid weeds so close to the driveway in the first place."

With help like me and encouragers like my father, it's a wonder Mom had any flowers at all.  She had a friend named Bea who had a large flower garden and used to share her plants with Mom when she lived up the road.  But then Bea and her husband, Bert, moved FAR away to Denmark...(that's Denmark, WI, not the country, ha) though as it was a 40 mile drive to visit, I guess it may as well have been a different country.

Living on a farm back in the day, we just didn't get away from it that often;  by the time the morning chores were done and the noon meal eaten and cleaned up, it was 1PM and to drive 40 miles to see their friends took almost another hour (this was a major trip for us) and then we had to be back home by 5 at the latest to eat supper and get back out to the barn to milk cows. This left about two hours to visit their friends and play Sheepshead.

Despite the time crunch, my folks and Bert & Bea used to try to visit several times a year, taking turns going to each other's houses, always on a Sunday which was SO boring for me.  I had to go along because I was too young to stay home alone and they wanted a fifth person to play cards with as 4-handed Sheepshead was not challenging enough.   'Five-handed Jack of Diamonds is partner' was better and that's where I came in handy, Karen can play cards with us old folks--(oh, I hated the game when I was seven years old!)
As soon as we would pull into Bea's driveway, she and Mom would scout out the garden.  Mom would see something pretty and Bea would  run and get a shovel to dig up something for Mom to take home.  Dad would be grousing about how long they were dilly-dallying in the weeds, let's get to playing cards.  The new flower would be stuffed into a grocery bag and set carefully in the shade next to the car until we were ready to leave.   Later on that night, after we were done with chores, Mom would be out planting her new treasure in the driveway border.

As a result of Bea's generosity, Mom's flower garden grew to contain quite a few different plants, many of the descendants of which are growing in my garden today, and when I see the Missouri Primroses, yarrow, creeping phlox and the pinks, just to name a few,  I think of Bea fondly.  She passed away over ten years ago, but her flowers are still thriving here and at my mother's.

Mom didn't know what the botanical names were, she just loved the flowers  Mom's garden was always a riot of color, she loved annuals from seed at the grocery store:  four o'clocks, moss roses, petunias, bachelor buttons, castor beans, daisies, cosmos, marigolds and gladiola bulbs.  Every color, every form, all jumbled together, it was and is beautiful.....Mom still gardens at age 89 though she downsized to just the beds in front of the house.  I start the annuals for her in the spring and she tends them just as carefully as ever.

When we built the house in 1978, Mom said I had to have something around the front to make it look less bleak and while I was at work one day, she came down and planted some of Bea's flowers right out front.  I thought it looked really nice, but didn't have time to tend it much, so over the years, Mom would come down and putz with my front border every so often.

When I quit working after Joel was born, I became seriously depressed.  Depression was always lingering in my life, but a non-functioning thyroid and post-partum depression pushed me right to the edge. The one thing that helped me, besides medication, was my flowers, they were so pretty, just like Mom's.  I became more and more interested in flower gardening and  thought I was doing pretty well, but I was in for a rude awakening.  We had put in a little round bed encircling a tree and I planted several different kinds of petunias in vibrant colors and a little of this and that and thought it was really pretty, that is, until one day a neighbor lady, out for her daily walk, stopped in to visit.

 I proudly showed her my new flower bed and she said, "Oh, well, now, isn't that something.....?" but it wasn't the tone of voice I was hoping for; rather condescending or more of a 'Look, I just stepped in some poop," enthusiasm. 

I was kinda hurt and confused, but she cleared it up for me right away.  "My daughter has a beautiful perennial flower garden in her backyard," she said, "And she sticks to a color palette and pays strict attention to the plant's form, not this mish-mash of annuals and perennials and what all you have going on here.  I mean, don't get me wrong, this is ok.   I guess you're off to a start, anyway."

Ouch.   I thought I'd ARRIVED, not merely begun my journey!  She was the first Color and Plant Snob to cross my garden path. I was crushed at first; her words really stung.  What I thought of as my pretty little garden was diminished in less than five minutes by a garden critic telling me it wasn't 'right'.  Somehow the cheery petunia faces smiling up at me from their homes next to the glowing marigolds looked tacky now and I felt stupid; like I should have known better than to plant something like THIS to offend the eyes of passersby.

As the years have gone by, I have continued on the 'start' I had and have learned a bunch more about gardening, or at least I like to think I have, and yet I remember the day so well.  I guess I should be mature enough to say I thank the lady for her insight and for critiquing my efforts and 'forcing me to grow as a gardener' and all that crap, but you know what?  I still don't appreciate what she did.  Her helpful criticism almost made me want to quit gardening as I was so unsure of myself in those dark days and gardening was the one thing I had that lifted my spirits.
"Yellow is not allowed in my garden."

So, where was I going with this?  OH, yeah..  I have had some visitors to the garden over the years complaining about my color scheme.  Well, not 'complaining' --yeah, ok, I'm probably being over-sensitive--but commenting,  "You have so much yellow and orange and red and EVERYTHING in your garden.  In MY garden, bright colors are not allowed, especially yellows, reds and oranges!! I stick to only pastel pink or purple or white or blue, blah, blah, blah, no hot colors, only this or that or the next thing."

I usually smile and nod, ok, good for you, you grow your favorite colors and plants, that's nice, I'm happy for you.  But why do you need to tell me my color choices are horrible?

There was a t-shirt popular some time ago, 'Friends Don't Let Friends Plant Annuals' and I had so many comments on that too when people would tour.....'Ugh! Look at all these annuals!"  What are you, a glutton for punishment?  Don't you know annuals are a waste of time and energy?  You grow them for three months and they die!" Once again, thank you for your concern for my waste of time and energy, but I love them!

"Ugh, look at all these annuals!!"

So, Mr. or Ms.Garden Critic, wherever you are, please, be forewarned.  After all of these years I have developed many callouses: on my hands, my knees and even the tops of my feet from kneeling in this garden, tending these plants I love.   More importantly, I have an even larger callous on my heart when it comes to criticism, so if you don't like what I plant, I won't break down and cry, I'm not going to stop planting horrid colors together and annuals or get rid of my rocks and 'tacky garden art' to appease you.   This is my garden and I am the boss and I say what goes!! (Well, ok, Mother Nature kicks my behind now and again, but you know what I mean!)

Seriously, what concerns me is this: 25 years ago, I was badly depressed, with little self-esteem and finally found gardening to be something that took me out of myself, out of doors, and much nearer to God and made me a better wife and mother. My first random garden visitor had nothing whatsoever positive to say about my effort, in effect making me feel like a failure.  I almost quit gardening that day.  But I didn't.   What if I had?  What a shame!

We never know how our words may help or harm a person on their journey through gardening or life...whenever I see a back stoop with a geranium in a plastic pot or a grand property overflowing with manicured gardens, I feel the same appreciation for those wonderful gardeners out there who wanted to make their little piece of real estate a bit more like heaven and share it with the rest of us.

To all my fellow gardeners, whatever color or type of plant you grow, I salute you!  And Mom.........Thanks to you, bring on the color!  I love you!
Yes, it's ORANGE! and I love it!

And don't forget--- to see other wonderful gardeners, head over to Fertilizer Friday with Tootsie!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I love rocks more than EVER now!

Little Wolf River rapids, downstream of where we were
I should warn you, this is a LONG post...tried to shorten it, but you all know I'm long-winded, so here we go:

Well, here's a bit of humble pie and downright thankfulness to my Higher Power/Guardian Angel that I have to share:  I went kayaking on Monday evening with Carl, Joel and Ann.  We decided on Sunday night to go back up to the Little Wolf on Monday after the three of them were done with work to run the river.

I had an uneasy feeling about it all day, though, and even asked Joel to stop and pick me up a helmet as I was leery of the water being so high.  No, it wasn't at flood stage, but it was much higher than we had ever seen it before. 

We arrived at the river around 6PM and put in without incident.  Ann, Joel and I were in kayaks, Carl was in the canoe.  The first stretch of this run is rather slow which always fools newcomers; they think they are in for a mild float trip, but it becomes a wilder river after the first section, generally very bumpy, with lots and lots of rocks.  The only rocks exposed that night were the really big ones, everything else was submerged, and the current was unbelievably swift.    

Maybe it's my age, maybe it's the experience we've gained after having canoed for so many years, but I told Carl I would be glad to see the takeout point as soon we put in.  It just didn't feel 'right' to me.  He asked me if I wanted to jump in the canoe with him instead of kayak and I said, nah, I'll be ok--Mistake #2.  (Mistake #1 was getting in the river at all!)

 We have had record rainfall here, and the local rivers are doing their best to siphon off the overflow.  To have water this high in late July is very unusual and both Carl and I remarked that the river didn't even look familiar really.  This is one we have canoed every year for decades, and you get used to certain landmarks over time and know what to look for.  Yesterday, nothing looked all that familiar because the water was so high.

We did ok at first-- I was worried about Ann because she had only been in a kayak once or twice before on a much easier river (turned out I needn't have been worried as she is a true river runner!)  Entering the first set of rapids was good, we all made it, no problem, but the second set was not as easy.  There was a tree down.

In the canoe/kayak world, downed trees are called 'strainers' because they strain everything that goes through them and sometimes hold on to what doesn't fit through.  The major problem with strainers is they are usually right across a river and when the river is narrow, they often do not leave much (or any) room to navigate around them.

Carl entered into the rapids at a bad angle with the 17' canoe and hit the log sideways.  Normally this wouldn't be a horrible problem, but the current was far from normal, being ultra-pushy and it tipped the canoe and swamped him immediately.  The canoe filled up with water and sank, but it was still floating enough to spin around, putting Carl very much in harm's way-- for the canoe now weighed in excess of 1000 pounds and he was on the downstream side of it.  I've mentioned before, you NEVER want to be on the downstream side of a swamped canoe!  What often happens is the canoe will pin a person between a rock or a strainer and the consequences of this are serious injury or drowning. 

Joel went to Carl's rescue in his whitewater kayak and was yelling for Carl to get out of the way of the canoe.  Easier said than done, because the current was so strong and deep and Carl couldn't get his footing.  Ann & I had managed to beach our kayaks and were watching from a distance.  I felt so helpless just sitting there; but was elated when I saw Carl finally gain the purchase of a foothold on a big, granite boulder and get out of the water a bit.  By the time Joel reached him he was already trying to dump the water out of the boat.  Ann and I were catching flotsam and jetsam from his canoe as it came down to us.  Carl got back in the canoe, unhurt, but shaken up.  Remember, he's a fan of 'Dry Canoeing' and after decades has only been dumped out of the boat two or three times before.

I wish I had more pictures to share, but bear with we went on from here and Joel wanted to scout out the next set of rapids before we ran them.  This next section of river is the worst for its steep gradient and rocks, even in lower water it's a challenge.  We waited while he kayaked down.

After looking, Joel waved at us to come on through, but as we got close enough, he yelled to stay river right to avoid a downed cedar tree.   So Carl went first and negotiated the downed tree and the huge waves and was safely through.

Then it was my turn to go.  This is where everything went bad for me.   I'm not sure what exactly caused it, all I know is I was almost around the end of the cedar tree when I found myself suddenly sideways in the river; a definite no-no........I tried to correct it, but the current was unbelievably pushy and, faster than lightning, the boat tipped over facing downstream and I was now one with the water in the worst of the rapids.  . 

Now this wasn't like you sometimes see on TV, when they show people rafting, say, the mighty Colorado River and how they fall out of the raft sometimes and are getting alternately tossed around, sucked under and bashed on rocks and need to be rescued by people on the shore with ropes and be helicoptered out to the, it's not that dramatic.......but I tell you this, I felt every bit as terrified as anyone else who has had the bad luck to have to swim for it in heavy whitewater even though this is a small river.

First off, my swimming ability is so-so, even in a swimming pool, which doesn't have a current---but I did have my life jacket securely fastened, something we ALWAYS wear, even in a foot of water on a rookie river---because stuff happens and you never know.  And boy, was I glad I had my new helmet on, because this was a bumpy ride.

My head went underwater immediately and I remember seeing nothing but murky water; luckily I held my breath going in which must be a reflex, because I did not have the time to think about it.  When I surfaced, I was facing downstream, another NO-NO--you don't want to go downstream headfirst because you can ram into rocks and you don't want to use your head for a battering ram.  The kayak had slipped free from me and the last I saw of it, was charging downstream at a much more rapid pace than I was.  I was still clinging foolishly to my paddle, as if that was going to save me.  I saw a big rock coming and tried to grab on, losing my hold on the paddle, but the current was too strong and I couldn't hang on.  I went under again, but popped up just in time to see a strainer, a newly fallen ash tree, dead ahead. 

(As I'm writing this, it's nearing 1AM, and there's a fierce thunderstorm approaching outside-oh, boy, more water!) but back to my dilemma, I realize this is not good at all, I really, really REALLY did not want to go through this big tree, but had no choice.  Another thing that happens to many people in these situations is the almost incurable need to want to grab on to something and hold on for dear life,  so what do you think I did?  Yup, I grabbed onto one of the downed tree's branches as I was going through the strainer.  Unfortunately, the branch bent down lower in the water and the next thing I know, I'm underwater again and somehow or other, I am stuck in the tree.

It was at this point I guess my life should have passed before my eyes, I had already swallowed way more river water than I should have and things weren't looking very good.  All I remembered thinking was, 'So this is how I'm going to die- how stupid of me!' and making a weird moaning, gargling sound. 

Then a miracle from God above happened, the tree branch I had been hanging on to broke and whatever I was caught on set me free.  I was back up on the surface, able to breathe and rapidly approaching a granite boulder again.  This time I was able to hang on and hauled myself out of the water. 

I was SO thankful to that rock!  I mentioned in an earlier post how I love tractors, well yes, I do, but my love affair with rocks goes even deeper and crawling onto the rock was the luckiest thing to happen in the last ten years!  I sat there coughing up water and vaguely remember Joel flying past in his kayak, yelling to me, "Are you ok?!"

I must have waved at him to keep going (I don't really remember) and he sailed on downstream; it wasn't possible to stop very easily where I was perched and he wanted to get down river to see if Ann and Carl were alright.   He also managed to retrieve my wandering kayak which he said was near the shore, jammed under another fallen tree a very long way downstream.   
Not THE rock, but this is very like  the situation I found myself in next.

I sat there for quite a while....time seemed to go so slowly.  Once the shock began to wear off, I realized I wasn't out of trouble yet, since I was still in the rapids, albeit about halfway to the right shore.  In order to actually get to shore, I had to leave the rock I was perched on and I found myself actually wanting to cry (such a wimp, I know) because I was now more scared than ever.  I took a quick physical left shoe was gone and my foot was bleeding a little; my shin hurt, as did my left hand, my rib cage, and my hip, but nothing was broken.  Another miracle!

And get this, without my glasses, I am nearly legally in, when the optometrist asks me to read the eye chart from the top with the big E, I say, "There's an eye chart around here somewhere?  I don't even see a wall."  Somehow or other, my glasses were still with me.  I could barely see out of them, but they were there. 

I shakily tried to stand up but had to wait awhile, since I was as wobbly as a newborn calf.  I wasn't cold, but I think it was the adrenaline rush and shock causing it. I tried to fight the rising panic, because once I realized I had to actually leave my rock to get to terra firma, the thought of being back in the water terrified me.  But the more I thought about everybody waiting downstream, worrying or at least wondering what the heck happened to me, I managed to crawl off my precarious perch.

Once more I was dismayed to find the water very deep there, with no bottom again; so I was swimming again, shoved downstream a bit more before I got to the next rock.  I sat there, gathering my strength and mapped out a hopscotch pattern of nearby rocks to actually step from until I was about two feet from shore.  Oh, when I finally stepped into that mud on shore, the tears started to flow then!   It was SO GOOD to get back on my feet on solid ground, mud or no mud, poison ivy? who cares!

Just as I got back on land, Joel came running up the same path.  He asked me again if I was OK and through my tears I told him I was, and I asked him how everybody else was.  I started walking downstream, limping from only having one shoe and Joel just followed along, encouraging me.  We got to where his kayak was beached, with mine alongside it.  The going got tougher on the shore, so he wanted me to get back in the kayak and finish out the next rapids.

I was thrown from a pony when I was a little kid and I know the old saying about once you've been thrown, you gotta get right back on the horse again, but for the first time in my life, I nearly had a full-blown panic attack.  I dutifully climbed back into my kayak, but when Joel was putting the skirt back on the boat, I looked him right in the eye and blubbered, "I just can't do this."

I was very ashamed of myself for saying it (and still am) but I couldn't help it at that point.  I just knew if I got back in the kayak I wouldn't be able to handle it.  I was too shaky yet.

Joel took pity on me and helped me back out of the boat and I continued on my way, walking the shoreline, climbing through the brush, which to me was preferable to getting back into the water.  Joel followed along, dragging my kayak. After a bit, I met a panicked Carl, running back upstream to help.  Joel handed my kayak off to Carl and went back for his own; and Carl and I proceeded to where Carl's canoe was parked.

Joel kayaked back down to where the three of us now were and announced we were going to have to portage the next obstacle, yet another tree down across the entire river.  In order to portage, we had to cross the rapids from river right to river left, meaning we had to go sideways through the river while keeping a very healthy distance from the strainer again.  I crawled into Carl's canoe and knelt down as low as I could go with my butt on the bottom of the boat.  We all managed to successfully cross the river ( Ann too---she is a trooper, let me tell you!!)  and portage.  I was of no help whatsoever in the portage, still shocky and hurting, kinda out of it.  All I wanted to be was out of it! I was ready to walk to the car even though the road was far away and it was nearing dusk.

Carl and I got back in the canoe and made it through the next rapids and managed to stop with some difficulty and wait for Ann and Joel.  We were in an eddy waiting and nobody was coming which scared both of us, and doubly so when Ann's paddle came sailing by.  We grabbed it and looked upstream to see Ann in my kayak flip over again.  Luckily, she was in water she could walk in somewhat and made it to the opposite shore from us again.  Carl and I then caught the second paddle she had lost when she went over and realized we needed to be back upstream to be of some assistance because we couldn't see Joel at all.  Ann yelled, "I'm up a creek without a paddle!" and something about Joel trying to get the kayak and then she took off to go help him. 

We turned the canoe around in the whitewater and gave it all we had to get back upstream as far as we could before another tree blocked forward progress.  Finally Joel appeared again with the kayak Ann was originally using and we both breathed a sigh of relief.  Joel came across the river and retrieved Ann's paddle from us.

Everyone got back in their kayaks, except for me---I was staying in the canoe with Carl come what may---I am a pretty darn good canoeist....but kayaking may not be my forte' (ya think?)

We tied my kayak to our canoe and followed Ann and Joel downstream, who by this time, had disappeared from our sight.  The next rapids was the Big Curve, I imagine there's a local name for it; a huge granite outcropping where people come to swim on warm days and the river makes a big bend there with standing whitewater which is fun, because there's no rocks in it until right at the end where it kicks you out.   Yesterday, there was no granite outcropping, no friendly swimmers, just rolling standing waves. 

Joel and Ann were on the shore there already because Joel wanted to do some surfing in the rollers, but Carl and I were both determined for this excerpt of 'Deliverance: The Sequel' to be over.  We plowed right on through the waves, took on at least 50 gallons (no exaggeration) over my head and still managed to hold her in the road and on downstream.  Another few minutes and we were at the takeout point, hallelujah!

That's when Carl said, "Oh, no! Your kayak is gone!  It must have come unhooked!"

I muttered, "Good, I hope it finds a nice new home,"  as I scrambled up the riverbank and onto the gravel parking lot.

So, long story, I apologize, but it's almost over......Joel and Ann came downstream towing my wayward kayak which Joel said came unhooked from our canoe when we took on the water entering the curve.  He said the kayak filled up immediately and got caught in the surfing hole, going around and around over four times before sinking totally out of sight and then after what seemed a long time, popping up some yards downstream.  Better the kayak than me doing any circling and popping up again, that's for sure.

I should have listened to my intuition and stayed the heck off this river; I was sorry I had ruined the trip for the others, though Carl was pretty shook up from his swamping, too.  Ann and Joel had a great time, which is good, but I know it would have been more fun for Joel if he hadn't had to rescue us all many times over.  He wanted to run the Canyon, which is the next river section below if all had went well with the one we just did, but it was already nearly dark when we crawled out of the river and even if it wasn't there was no way I was going to allow him to go alone! 

So, there you have it, I am officially an old geezer now, who knows when to say no. With age has to come some benefits and one of them is Common Sense.  Just float trips for me from now on in water less than a foot deep most places and the next time I do this river, (trust me, it will be awhile) it will be so much fun to bounce off of rocks again with my dear, just-as-old husband in the canoe! 

I dozed off somewhere in here writing this, the storm has passed without damage, thankfully, and Joel's alarm is going off.  The sun will be up soon.  I know I should stop this nightowl lifestyle of mine, but just writing about what happened has helped calm me down, because I didn't sleep well last night anyway and the entire day on Tuesday was kind of a blur of aches and pains, MAN am I stiff!

Monday night, I tossed and turned, felt nauseous (probably a bit too much river water?) and when I did fall asleep I kept reliving the underwater I hope I've put the fear to rest and maybe someday I will get back on that horse.

Thank you to all of my friends and loved ones; life is short, and a special thank you prayer to God!
Waterfall downstream in Big Falls
Remember, a rock might just be your best friend someday!

Monday, July 26, 2010

From Flowers to Tractors to Rivers

 I was out taking some pictures of daylilies this morning, all of them castoffs from my friend Leo's hybridizing program.
 I was particularly enjoying the throat colors of the blooms when I noticed something odd:
Why is this center green?
I got a little closer and oh, that's why!
East-facing daylily blooms soak up nice, warm morning sunshine rays for the little tree toad

I was thinking how blessed I was to see such a rare sight this morning and moved on down the row of daylilies only to discover this!
Do you see it?
Another tree toad sunbathing!
I guess I couldn't find a better place to soak up sunshine myself!

This past weekend was a doozy.  Remember I said we need to create a crisis (CAC) to get something substantial done?  Well, we haven't settled on any one crisis yet, so now we are running around in circles and doing all sorts of things.  I did manage to get some work done in the garden this weekend, despite the fact we received another 1" of rain on Friday night into Saturday and a brief, heavy downpour on Saturday when I was mowing lawn. 

We had some delightful visitors from Minnesota come over on Saturday afternoon right after the rainstorm to  check out the yard with their aunt and uncle who are friends of ours.  It's great fun having fellow gardeners tour and our visit was over much too soon.

Joel has a new gadget for his camera, extension tubes, and I have to learn how to use them.  He's only had a few minutes to try them out and here's what he managed to capture:
Lily stamen closeup--this is the pollen I always get on my face (and especially my nose-which answers my question as to what garden visitors are staring at me for)  and hair and just about everywhere when I work around the lilies.  There is a lot of pollen produced, isn't there?
Lily interior closeup

Dewdrops and pollen on nasturtium leaf

Saturday night we had company, Ann,  Richard & Emily and their beautiful baby daughter were here and we visited and played Sheepshead until nearly midnight. 

Geranium closeup

Sunday morning Ann arrived around 9AM and Carl, Joel and yours truly headed to Waupaca County and the town of  Symco for the Thresheree.  The Thresheree is an annual event with vintage tractors and steam engines, farm machinery of all types, threshing demonstrations, and all things farming.  I guess every year they highlight a tractor manufacturer to feature and this year it was our big yellow friends, Minneapolis Moline.
I have another confession to make:  I love tractors.  Always have, always will.  I grew up driving Dad's Farmall H tractor on the farm at a very early (unsafe age!) of around seven and hope to be driving them when I'm a very unsafe age once again just like my dad did until the day he died at age 88. When I see tractors in a parade, especially the old ones, all restored and shining, I have to fight back the tears, but most of the time I don't even bother...just let 'em roll.  (Horses in parades also make me misty, in case you're keeping track, there might be a quiz later.)   I cannot explain what it is about tractors I love to anyone who doesn't get it--I know there are people out there who feel all warm and fuzzy about their pet boa constrictors, too, so hey, this is my thing, don't laugh!

We arrived early, around 10:30AM, toured the grounds a bit, chatted with Ann's brother-in-law who was doing a blacksmithing demonstration and then took our folding chairs and staked out a place along the highway to wait for the parade.  One thing we forgot was hats, water, and sunscreen, wow, it was hot!  Joel, Carl and Ann all got a sunburn, but for some reason, I didn't.  I suppose it's because I'm outside a lot at that time of day when all three of them are working so I've already got my sunburn from that angle.   

There was a veritable garden of tractor colors to be seen today:

Case Steam Engine
Rumely Steam Engine
John Deere
David Bradley--but not sure if it's a tractor or a tiller

Allis Chalmers

Ann's nephew, Ray, driving a Minneapolis Moline
Once Ray realized who the crazy fans yelling at him from the sidewalk were, he gave us a wave and the tractor a little gas....

 Great job, Ray!
Ann grew up with Oliver tractors on her Dad's farm
Carl grew up Case tractors--when repainted, this one would be a bright orange.
 Of course, Joel and I have a prejudice to Farmall red:
 Farmall H just like the one I started driving way back in the day--if I could find our tractor, I would restore it, but it's whereabouts are unknown...maybe this is it??
Both of these tractors are Farmall's...not sure about the black paint on the one on the left; have to do some research to see if there ever was a year they came in black from the factory.
This proud Super C owner is the father-in-law of one of Joel's friends...what a beautiful restoration job!
From the unpainted to the 'too pretty to drive' below:

What a great parade!  Despite my love of tractors, this is the first Thresheree we've ever gone to (and they've been having them for 43 years) so we will have to go back next year.  Joel's Farmall M should be parade-ready by then, too!  The only problem with being in the parade is you can't see the parade. 

After the parade, we toured the rest of the grounds and exhibitions ranging from chopping hay and corn to grinding feed, hay baling, sawmill operation, rock crushers, hit and miss engines, huge generators and old, restored churches, banks, stores, blacksmith shops, etc.  

There was an announcement just before we left about a chainsaw competition so we dutifully trekked over to the bleachers and sat down to watch people saw wood.  I know how silly it sounds, a whole audience of people seated on wooden bleachers to see which competitor could saw through a large block of wood the fastest, but it was fun (ok, you had to be there, but it was fun).  At the very end, the last competition was for two-man crosscut sawing which was a whole lot slower but also a lot more work, with teams of men and women competing.    Ann and I need to practice and come back next year and give it a try....we can do this!

We bid the Thresheree farewell at 5PM and then headed up to Big Falls to see the Little Wolf River.
Baling hay
This is the two-man chainsaw competition
Here's Carl standing near the dam in Big Falls, we have never seen the water this high in July!
With the abundant rainfall, the rivers are at capacity right now, so since we were in the area, we had to take a look. 
Joel debating the best place to toss a kayak in.......
He had to wade across to scout the river
Holding my breath, didn't want to see him swept downstream without a kayak or a life jacket
Farther upstream, above County J--this is normally a big, sweeping curve with a rock face rock today, all water.
If we would have had a kayak along, Joel would have dived right in.  It was around 7:30PM when we were scouting the rapids and he did talk to two guys who had gone kayaking all day.  They said the water was fantastic.  We left the Little Wolf behind and headed to the Embarrass River in Hayman Falls County Park.
This is normally a small stream that branches off the main flow of the Embarrass that a child could hop across---but not yesterday!  Here Joel wades across to see what the other side looks like.  Luckily, he had a tree branch to help him hang on.
On the way back
Embarrass River rapids Hayman Fall Co. Park
I struck up a conversation with some folks in the park who told me they watched a canoeist get in serious trouble in the rapids yesterday.  His boat filled up and basically folded up and came apart, but thankfully, he was ok.  This section of river is a bit tricky at lower water anyway, but at high water, wow, what a difference.

The first time we canoed this stretch of the Embarrass River (in much lower water) was in 1981 when we were both around 22 years old.  Now it's 30 years later and this is way more water than I feel like tackling.  I started kayaking a few years ago and it's fun but I'm not the greatest at it.  Carl tried a kayak once and only once, tipped over almost immediately and that was the end of his kayaking career; he is a connoisseur of 'Dry Canoeing' and rarely ever gets wet.   Joel is a river rat and was just itching to get out and run this river yesterday.    Ah, youth!

We finally stopped at a restaurant in Clintonville around 8:30 PM and made it home just before 10PM.  Long day, but we had a great time! 

1. What is my favorite tractor?
2. Reading between the lines, which pet am I most likely not to own?
3. True or False: I am not getting old.