Continuous color from spring through fall—that's our yard! After the spectacular iris were finished, the daylilies dazzled us with their bright, bold colors!
This post’s title came from my book chapter of the same title where I described my “Farm Fresh Filosophy” that hay fever is an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that afflicts farmers during hay season. Our goal is to get hay put up without it getting wet in order to preserve the nutritive value for our cattle.
OCD hay fever has been an epidemic in our area this year. A weather pattern of rain during late spring and early summer delayed hay-baling. Not that we’re complaining about rain, not after the last two summers of drought conditions! Even with the rains we’ve had, we’re still behind the average and most ponds are not yet full. So we’ll take that rain. We just needed a few days of “hay weather,” which we finally received.
In a couple of earlier posts, I described the baling process for the big round bales, or “jellyrolls” as one friend called them: “Catering Jellyrolls” posted 1/22/14, and “June’s Jellyroll Jaunt—Loading and Transporting” posted 3/2/14. The steps involved in baling the little square bales are the same—swath or cut, rake, bale and transport—but some of the equipment used is different.
First, the swather cuts the grass and swaths it into rows. This swather is used for both round and square bales.
Second, raking turns the rows of hay over so the bottom will dry and also fluffs them up so they feed into the baler. This is a different type of rake than the one used for round bales.
Third, the square baler picks up the cut and raked hay, forms the bale, ties it with wire and pushes it out the back. (I had to take several shots to get the one I wanted with the bale being ejected but not yet on the ground, which involved trotting all over the hay field!)
This is a view of our hay field after baling. No, I wasn't holding the camera at an angle. The field actually slopes downhill from a terrace I was standing on above the bales. More about terraces and how not to drive over them below!
Fourth, loading and stacking by hard-working young guys like these enable us to continue putting up square bales.
Finally, the bales are off-loaded into the barn. A neighbor bought 100 bales from us and this was the scene at his barn.
Occasionally, I’ve been drafted into service to drive the one-ton flatbed truck that pulls the 24-foot trailer. My instructions are to drive very slowly in the lowest gear. Doesn’t sound too difficult until you consider:
1. I have to sit on the edge of the seat because the seat adjustment mechanism is broken and the seat position is set for someone about six feet tall—I’m five feet, six inches; and,
2. The hay fields are terraced to prevent erosion.
The trick is to drive over the terraces at an angle, not straight up one side and down the other. The latter method guarantees becoming high-centered, leaving the truck straddled across the top of the terrace, wheels off the ground, teeter-tottering back and forth. Meanwhile, my stomach plummets to the floorboard, due to motion sickness compounded by terror. The potential rescue operation entails being towed off the terrace by a much larger vehicle, risking damage to both truck and trailer. On the other hand, if I drive over terraces at too sharp an angle I risk spilling the trailer contents: hay and crew.
I’m proud to say I only high-centered once, and it was the trailer not the truck. Bill was still baling in another area of the field, so the neighbor helping us coached me on how to get off the terrace by alternately rolling forward and backward, thereby rocking myself off the terrace. No teeter-tottering and no towing!
In these pictures, Bill demonstrates how to navigate terraces without high-centering.
Final count on little square bales was 506. We’ll finish out hay season doing the large round bales.
I am a farm wife…I diligently practice the trilogy of farm survival: reuse, repurpose and recycle.
This statement is from my essay, “I Am a Farm Wife” and was inspired by a chapter in my book, “Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose—The Farmer’s Trilogy.” June’s Junque is an excellent example of two-thirds of this trilogy: reuse and repurpose. Recently, Bill put the recycle part into action.
On our farm, anything made of metal that can’t be reused or repurposed is piled on a scrap heap to await a trip to a recycling center near Topeka. Last week, Bill decided it was time so he loaded the junk metal on a small trailer.
No, the trailer wasn't part of the junk being left at the recycling center. Even though it may look a little rough as a result of a tree falling on it several years ago during a windstorm, it’s still a reliable and important piece of equipment on our farm. It can haul 60 square bales of hay, the Ford 8N tractor or the mini-truck—but not all at the same time.
The items destined for the huge recycling magnet were:
1. a broken mineral feeder for cattle;
2. frame and springs from an old hide-a-bed couch (The springs couldn't be repurposed as a yard art trellis or, believe me, they wouldn't be on this pile!);
3. old pieces of roof guttering;
4. lots of old rusty baling wire (The pile was over seven feet tall before Bill mashed it down!);
5. a bundle of even rustier woven wire; and
6. stuff I couldn't identify.
But wait…what was this on the bottom underneath all this junk? They looked like steel cylinders and were painted “John Deere Green.”
Those cylinders apparently came off a piece of farm equipment. Anything “John Deere Green” has huge yard art potential. Why didn't I know about these? No way were they going to the recycling center!
I grabbed one of the cylinders and tried to pull it from under the scrap pile. It was heavy and only came partway out. I dug through the pile and found a bolt sticking out near one end that had caught on another piece of junk. I finally liberated my potential yard art treasure and laid it on the ground. There was a second cylinder, as well as longer pieces connected together. I trotted to the house and told Bill I had scavenged items from his load. He fished out the other cylinder before he left. The longer pieces were too tangled up in baling wire to take off the trailer.
Here are my “John Deere Green” pieces of future June’s Junque. I don’t know yet how they will be repurposed. I’ll just wait for a burst of junque inspiration. That’s the fun part!
When Bill returned from his trip to the recycling center, he told me the cash he received for the load was just short of $100 due to me scavenging his load!
I am a farm wife...I hang laundry outside on a clothesline.
I was born in the mid-1950’s. My dad was a self-employed plumber and electrician who worked long hours six days a week. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. I am the oldest of four kids and that accident of birth set me up as the target for Mom’s Housework Apprenticeship Program (HAP). I didn't volunteer, I was drafted.
I became eligible to enter the program the summer I was six years old. The first skill set was Introduction to Dishwater. Many would follow: Speck-Free Dusting, Porch Sweeping, Basics of Vacuuming, Floor Scrubbing, Spot-Free Bathroom Cleaning, Lawn Mowing and Laundry.
The Laundry Apprenticeship was divided into sections: Proper Sorting, Clothesline Preparation, Clothespin Selection, Techniques of Hanging, Wrinkle-Free Ironing and Folding. Notice the Laundry program didn't include operation of the washer and dryer. We didn't own the latter. The former was a wringer washer which Mom operated because of the danger the wringer imposed. Besides, how could I successfully complete the apprenticeship if my arm was permanently flattened and the bones crushed from being pulled through the wringer?
The main event on Laundry Day was staged on our enclosed back porch. Besides the wringer washer, the operation required two rinse tubs: one for the first rinse and a second one for the final rinse. A few drops of bluing, a whiteness enhancer for grayed or yellowed white clothes, were added to the final rinse. The wringer apparatus on the washer swiveled to be repositioned between the washer and the first rinse, then between the two rinse tubs and, finally, between the final rinse and the clothes basket. Our enclosed back porch was pretty crowded on laundry day with just enough space left for Mom. Fearing she might change her mind about teaching me to operate the wringer, I didn't hang around underfoot, but waited in another part of the house until I was summoned to hang out clothes.
For Mom, hanging clothes on a clothesline was a science. White clothes were hung in the sun, while colors were hung in the shade, if possible, to minimize fading. We used two types of clothespins, spring-operated and one-piece straight pins, each of which was used on certain types of clothing. Some items were hung separately—underwear, shorts and slacks—using two pins; while others—sheets, towels and T-shirts—were strung together by slightly overlapping the corners and securing with a pin. Our clothesline was a masterpiece of laundry day efficiency!
The clothes were brought in as soon as they were dry to prevent further sun fading and weakening of elastic in waistbands. Underwear and towels were sorted, folded and put away. Sheets and pillow cases were put back on beds (mandatory hospital corners!). Most outerwear was made of cotton which required ironing to remove wrinkles. Mom didn't yet own a steam iron so some clothes were dampened with water from a sprinkler bottle— a Pepsi bottle with a sprinkler head set in a hollowed-out cork in the bottle opening. The dampened clothes were stored in a large plastic bag in the refrigerator until the next day. Some clothes were ironed immediately.
Now, I use a clothesline on warm days when the temperature is at least 60 degrees. However, towels go in the dryer because we like soft towels. Despite using fabric softener in the rinse cycle, towels hung outside are still scratchy. What we refer to as our “good” clothes, those we wear in public, go in the dryer but only for a few minutes.
One word of advice about hanging clothes outside when you live on a hilltop and the forecast calls for winds gusting in excess of 30 miles per hour: Don’t!
Shortly after we were married and living on a hilltop near Valley Falls, I learned the futility of attempting to wrestle a king-sized waterbed sheet on the clothesline on a windy day. This sheet was the type with the fitted and flat sheets sewn together at the bottom. When spread out in a single layer, there was enough yardage to outfit a fraternity toga party! One windy day, after I’d struggled for several minutes to drape this bedding behemoth over the line, a wind gust whipped it around me until I was wrapped tighter than a mummy. Since the sheet was nearly dry anyway, I shuffled to the house, unwound myself and crammed it into the dryer.
One recent morning, when I hung clothes outside a nice breeze was blowing. But a couple of hours later, a powerful gust rattled the house. I looked out the kitchen window and saw underwear turbo-jetting across the yard. I sprinted out the door in hot pursuit, fearing our undies would end up in the next county before I caught up. Grabbing the rest of the clothes off the line required two of us: one to hold the clothes in the basket and the basket on the ground, and one to take down what was left of the clothes.
Did reading this account of my Laundry Apprenticeship exhaust you? It may seem primitive to those of you from Generations X, Y and younger. But Baby Boomers feel fortunate that we didn't have to heat a cauldron of water over an open fire and use homemade lye soap and a washboard to scrub clothes clean. Or, haul dirty laundry down to the creek and beat it on a rock. We count ourselves lucky, indeed!
As a kid, I didn't appreciate the home-making skills Mom taught me. Now, I consider those skills priceless! Thanks, Mom!
I’ve decided I like exterior decorating better than interior decorating—no vacuuming, dusting of furniture and knick knacks or cleaning bathrooms. Just plant, water, fertilize and occasionally pick off dead blooms. Then, in the fall, empty the pots and store for the winter.
Our annuals of choice are: pansies, petunias, verbena, impatiens, geraniums, Shasta daisies and, this year, we added coleus. We try to plant mostly heat-tolerant flowers with the exception of the pansies, which we plant early, then replace with something else if/when they die. We also have to be careful with the impatiens, so we plant them in deep pots or tubs, or put the containers in a shady area.
Our containers of choice are old enamelware pots, buckets, tubs, dishpans, chamber pots, coffee pots, bread boxes and even an old crisper drawer out of a retro aqua refrigerator. The plant stands are old milk cans, various stands with peeling paint, old chairs, an old three-burner gas stove found in a junk pile on our property, a replica of an old bucket bench that Bill made for me, and an old bicycle with a repurposed freezer bin as a basket. These items are gleaned from antique shops, flea markets, estate and garage sales and junk piles.
Punch a few drainage holes in the bottom of the container, add a layer of gravel, a mixture of dirt and potting soil, a pretty flower or plant, give it a shot of water laced with plant food and, in a few days, we have…
June’s Junque Garden!
We also have hanging planters—old funnels that were used on farms. These are suspended by chains from old pulleys. We use plastic containers that hanging plants are sold in as liners so we don’t have to add so much dirt mixture; plus using a liner helps preserve the funnels from rusting out so quickly.
The little enamelware bucket pictured below was a find from our trip to Alta Vista recently for a book talk at Ag Heritage Park. I browsed the antique shops and was thrilled to find this bucket at a reasonable price. Bill planted “Raspberry Blast Supertunias,” one of our favorite petunia varieties, in it.
I’m taking a little break from the Purple Profusion series to let the annuals in container pots fill in and spill out, a process that shouldn’t take too long with the recent rains.
In my essay, “I Am a Farm Wife,” I stated “I like rusty yard art.” In fact, we call our exterior decorating scheme “June’s Junque.” I’ll take you on a tour.
My last post included a picture of our clematis climbing a rusty, junk-yard pile trellis made from an old iron wheel and cot spring. Here’s another picture taken a week later. Clematis gone crazy!
This is our “Anything Goes” perennial bed. It’s filled with wildflowers, a few iris and daylilies, a couple of rose bushes, hollyhocks, larkspur, and too many other flowers to mention. The goal is to have something blooming from mid-spring into fall. The rusty yard art display in the center is almost swallowed up. It contains an old stump, iron wheel, small pieces of farm tools and equipment parts, and a wind vane—no longer functional—featuring a Golden Retriever that my dad made for us years ago.
At the far end of this “Anything Goes” bed is St. Barb, Patron Saint of Barbed Wire Fences—a barbed wire ball with a bovine skull enshrined on the top. As I said in my book chapter, “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Incur her wrath and risk shredded clothes, lacerated skin and cattle wandering all over the countryside…I pay homage to St. Barb, asking her blessing on our fences that they may have the strength to keep our cattle where they belong. But, if I fail to show the proper reverence, she’ll get even.”
Next stop, more iron wheels. When we moved here, some of the guys on our hay crew helped us with the move. They unloaded these wheels out of the stock trailer and leaned them against this shed just as you see them. I liked the randomness of the arrangement.
Anyone need a pit stop? Just kidding! Although this outhouse could be functional, we don’t consider it as such. We converted it from an eyesore to yard art. The siding was corrugated tin—pretty boring—so we gave it a make-over and added some pizzazz! Bill attached old barn boards, mixed together various colors of old paint and rag painted the boards in barn red, white, Jadeite green and an interesting pinkish-lilac hue. Then we decorated with junk, antlers and cattle skulls. Pretty snazzy redo on a rustic outhouse!
Last stop—June’s Whimsical Junque. On one end of the bed are two old iron headboards from a bed. At the other end is one footboard. Because of the layout of two neighboring perennial beds, we could only use one. The side rails are old telephone phone pole crossbars with glass insulators. The centerpiece is my bottle bush, a shorter version of my bottle trees. It’s actually an old bottle drying rack. It’s filled with colored bottles and quite stunning when the sun hits it just right. Other whimsical pieces include glass garden totems I made, metalwork flowers and stalk of corn from a flea market, two croquet end stakes with croquet balls, a flywheel from a hay swather with a section from a rotary hoe as centerpiece, and the garden caretaker, Jerome, the Gnome. He was a gift from a friend. Just look at that grin! You can tell Jerome, the Gnome, likes his new home!
This bottle tree stands to the right of the Whimsical Junque bed.
Hope you enjoyed the tour of June's Junque!
In mid-May, it’s time for the iris—and we have a lot! We know very few of the variety names; we just enjoy their colorful display. Shown below are our many purple/lavender bi-color and tri-color irises. The first one, of course, is the “Batik” iris shown on my Facebook profile.
OK, so the two pictures in the next to last row are not of purple iris. I just threw those in to prove we do have other colors! The pictures in the last row are an iris nightlight and sun-catcher.
Our purple clematis burst into bloom this past week. The trellis is made from repurposed junk pile finds: an old iron wheel with a cot spring on top and both are wired to my clothesline T-post. The finial on top is a rain gauge.
The day lilies have buds, but no blooms yet. We don't have many true purple or lavender varieties. We'll catch up with those in a later blog post.
Next—Profusion of Purple Annuals & June's Junque!
Purple has been my favorite color as long as I can remember—before I attended Kansas State; even before I attended school in Burlingame, KS, where the colors are purple and white. Family lore has it that even before I was five years old, whenever there was a family dinner at my paternal grandparents’ house, I requested the shiny purple aluminum drinking tumbler over the other colors in the set.
I love purple!
Imagine my deep and utter disappointment, then, when I recently discovered “my” color is green. At least according to a highly scientific and reputable source: one of those quizzes that popped up on my Facebook timeline because one of my friends took the quiz and shared it. Even my aura is green!
But, my research into those Facebook quizzes to determine who or what I am, or was, or will be, is a subject for a future blog post.
Anyone who visits us this time of year will find a profusion of purple in our yard and garden. We have many varieties and shades of purple flowers as well as purple asparagus and a couple of salad greens that are partially or totally purple. Later in the summer, we will have eggplant.
The earliest purple flowers are usually the little violets that grow throughout the yard. I gather bouquets and display in a miniature vase in my kitchen window sill. Unfortunately, the idea for this blog post didn’t occur to me until the violets were finished blooming so I really had to hunt to find one to photograph.
The next blooms are vining vinca, a ground cover plant, then dame’s rocket, meadow sage and sweet william. Again, I almost missed the blooming season for sweet william. Earlier, our timber was full of it.
No creeping phlox, you ask? How can this be? We’ve never had a good visible, sloping area for these, but now we do. Bill bought some this year and we will add more next year.
Considered an invasive perennial by some people, our spiderwort bloomed this week. As long as it’s purple, it can invade! Larkspur also spreads readily. Ours has buds, but no blooms yet. This picture is from last year.
Our early bulb flowers with purple blooms are hyacinths, tulips and allium. The purple tulips were history before I got pictures. To me, allium looks like dandelions gone to seed with purple fluff!
Six years ago when we moved to our current farm, I was sad to leave our gigantic snowball bush (hydrangea family) and a lilac bush that was finally about six feet tall and producing wonderfully fragrant blooms. We have a small lilac bush here, but it struggles and only produced a few blooms this year.
A couple of years ago, a friend who came out to see our iris pointed to a huge bush and asked, “Isn't that wisteria?” The bush itself wasn't wisteria, but there were cascading clumps of lavender/white flowers hanging from vines within the bush. We researched and found out they were, indeed, wisteria. I promptly named an opening in the row of bushes “Wisteria Lane,” after the street on the Sunday night television soap, “Desperate Housewives.” Does this, then, make me a “Desperate Farmwife”? Desperate for more wisteria, yes!
Last weekend, we visited friends in Meriden who host a showing of their extensive iris beds every spring. They also have other perennials. We brought home and Bill planted purple chives and columbine. The chives still have their heads; but Bill clipped off the columbine blooms, hoping the plants would survive the heat last week.
Speaking of iris...
Next—Profusion of Purple Iris!
Bluebird House Rural Renewal Project
Some of the bluebird houses featured in our spring listings were later condemned by the building inspector due to code violations; a couple were even falling apart! The inspector was not impressed by the use of cute adjectives, “handyman delight,” “rustic” and “shabby chic,” and could not be persuaded to reconsider.
As a result of this ruling, there was a flurry of construction activity in the basement. Result – six new bluebird houses built of all-natural wood siding with weather-proof coating. No, these are not “row” houses.
These immaculate new homes have been mounted on sturdy fence posts and generated immediate interest and swift move-in activity among the bluebird population and one pair of sparrow squatters.
This bluebird found a new home to his liking for his family.
The sparrow squatters staked their claim so fast you’d have thought it was the Cherokee Strip Land Rush. Their decorating scheme can only be described as “eclectic”—grass, twigs or anything else they can haul in. This pair even decorated the ceiling but not the back wall!
Bill snapped this picture of a bluebird house interior—thoughtfully planned and very cozy. Mama bluebird laid three eggs. But Bill checked the nest prior to taking the picture and, tragically, the eggs were gone, likely victims of a hungry predator.