Cute, and Funny

Only a farm kid would see it this way!
When you’re from the farm, your perception is a little bit different.
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A farmer drove to a neighbor’s farmhouse and knocked at the door.

A boy, about 9, opened the door. “Is your dad or mum home?” said the farmer.

“No, they went to town.”

“How about your brother, Howard? Is he here?”

“No, he went with Mom and Dad.”

The farmer stood there for a few minutes, shifting from one foot to the other, mumbling
to himself, when the young boy says, “I know where all the tools are, if you want to borrow
one, or I can give Dad a message.”

“Well,” said the farmer uncomfortably. “No, I really want to talk to your Dad, about
your brother Howard getting my daughter Suzy pregnant”.

The boy thought for a moment, then says, “You’ll have to talk to my Dad about that.
I know he charges $500 for the bulls and $150 for the pigs, but I have no idea how much
he charges for Howard.”

The Gift, Chapter One-Tree Farm

THE GIFT-Chapter One-Tree Farm

“There is the farm,” said Morty to himself. “Look at all those trees.”

He came to the sign: Covert Tree Farm, Christmas Trees for Sale. Morty slowed Sky-scooter, and made a sharp right turn into the opening between the trees. The gravel drive wound through a grove of spruce trees. The tall trees shaded the forest floor, and kept it dark.  Occasionally, a bird flitted from tree to tree and sang a sweet song. A beam of sunshine peeked through. God is shining a spotlight on me he thought. The ferns under the spotlight were lime green surrounded by dark green in the shade.

“These twists and turns are fun,” he said to Sky. He talked to his scooter whenever he was alone. Morty steered through forest leaning one way, then the other. His curl swayed from side to side. He was anxious to find the perfect present for his Boss. An opening of bright light led into the meadow where the farmer lived.

He spotted the sign for parking, and another sign on the barn stated rules for cutting Christmas trees.

1. Cut the tree at the ground. Do not cut in the middle.

2. Use only the saw provided.

3. Bring your tree to the barn for wrapping.

4. Trees are $8.00 per foot.

Morty grabbed a saw and jumped onto the hay wagon behind the tractor. A cow mooed, and the horse whinnied in the barn. Chickens wandered all around the barnyard pecking for seed. He sat and looked around while he waited for the farmer.

Gosh, look at all those trees. They surround the entire pasture as far as I can see. He daydreamed while he sat waiting.

Farmer Jim raises trees. He sells some at Christmas, and takes the large ones to the lumber mill in the town. He plants replacement trees to keep the forest alive. It takes fifty years to grow a tree big enough to sell for lumber, and twelve years to grow a tree tall enough for Christmas.

Morty sat staring at the trees and talking to himself. I love coming to the tree farm. It is fun to explore the woods. The forest is beautiful, peaceful, quiet, and majestic. I talk to them and they talk to me. When we are alone I hug them.

Farmer Jim had a secret grove of old trees. He never cut these trees nor did his father, grandfather, or great-grandfather. His great-grandfather told him that they were there when he came to the farm in 1875. Some of them were two hundred feet tall. Morty discovered the grove last year, and fell in love with the old trees. His favorite was over two hundred years old. It lived through much of the history of our country. The big tree was a teenager when the very first settlers moved to the valley from the east.

I have to find a tree to give to baby Jesus on his birthday. I will invite my friends to help decorate, and make it special. The hay wagon jerked forward, and broke his thoughts. He was on his way to find the perfect tree.

Crane Meadows Grade-A Best

Yesterday, I had the wonderful pleasure of celebrating my youngest grandchild’s sixth birthday. He is a beautiful child who lives on a farm with horses. In fact he and his older brother have a unique pet named Buddy. Buddy is a pony. How cool is that?

This is the simplest way I can describe the process of making compost. Buddy has three friends in the barn with him. Together they form the foundation for an amazing process that turns hay into rich organic compost. The brown machine has a little help from farmers who harvest the grass and make it into hay. At the end, they get more help from the farmer who completes the process by aerating and aging the raw material that forms the basic ingredient of compost.

These photos best describe how Crane Meadows Farm produces Grade-A organic compost that every gardener covets.

Crane Meadows Farm begins with rich green alfalfa; harvested, dried, and baled.

Kitty, the barn cat, zealously guards the raw material headed for the compost process.

Buddy and friends eagerly grind the hay to begin the process.

What we don't want to be.

The brown machine digests the hay and exhausts raw pellets ready for the next step.

Pellets stacked and ready for the next step.

The raw pellets move to bin-one for three months of aging.

The pellet mash transfers to bin-two for aeration, and another three months of aging.

The mash moves to bin-three. Note the color and texture change after nine months.

Farmer Steve tests the one year old shovel ready Crane Meadow’s Grade-A Product.

Farmer Steve loads Grade-A into transport modules.

Grade-A packaged and ready for shipment via long distance carrier.

Transport modules loaded on the Death Star for the long haul.

Horticultural material nourished with Crane Meadow’s Grade-A compost.

The

End

 

Lazy Summer Days Spent Lolling On Custom Lawn Furniture

This post is excerpted from “Jun-e-or” a book of my “Recollections of Life in the 1940’s and 50’s,” available from Amazon.com

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There is something about winter that sets me into recalling times from the past. In early 2010 I posted several stories about my Grampa Jim.  This year, I will do the same. Here is the first of a series.

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Lazy Summer Days Spent Lolling On Custom Lawn Furniture

Every summer, Dad packed us up and took us to the farm in Michigan to live with Mom’s dad Grampa. That twenty-acre spread like seemed a vast wilderness at the time. Gramps’s house was set back from the road and trees lined each side of the drive giving the feel of going through a tunnel. Three tall cedar trees stood in a row with two pear trees next to the ditch. They hid the house from the road.

The front door faced the road, and served to let a breeze flow through the house. Gramps never did finish building the front steps. The main entrance was from the side door facing the yard at the end of the drive. A huge willow tree, opposite the living room window, filled the side yard with shade. The weeping boughs nearly touched the ground, and my arms reached less than half way around its trunk. A few feet away stood a very mature mulberry tree that appeared tiny next to the willow

In early summer, the birds came to eat mulberries.  I climbed the low branches and sat in the tree with them. Mom knew what I was doing because my lips and hands were purple. The low branches were easy to climb, not like the tall willow whose first branch was many feet above my head. Dad used a ladder to climb up to that branch to make us a swing from a recycled tire from his 1929 Buick

The outhouse stood across the yard from the mulberry. Grampa Jim didn’t have running water, nor a bathtub or toilet. The outhouse was the third point on a trapezoidal yard formed by the side door, and the two trees.

Grampa Jim had a unique set of lawn furniture sliced from the trunk of a huge tree.  The Table was twenty-four inches in diameter, and just as tall.  The chairs were slightly smaller in diameter and were cut to form a seat with a backrest. The set was old, and gray with no signs of bark on the wood.

I spent endless hours playing on, and around that furniture. Sometimes, I sat on a chair and watched the big black ants run crazy patterns all over the table. Often, I tried counting the rings, but got lost in the weathered and worn grooves of the cut surface.

On the very hot listless days of summer, Grampa Jim, and his buddy Mr. Toth sat on the tree furniture in the shade drinking a beer. They chatted and smoked; Grampa dragged a hand rolled cigarette of Bull Durham while his friend puffed a corncob pipe filled with Prince Albert. Often, I sat with them and listened. They spoke in Hungarian, and I did not recognize many of their words, but I understood the gist of their thoughts.

I wondered then, and I still do now, if the table and chairs all came from one tree.  If they did, the tree had to be magnificent. I asked myself, how tall was that tree? How old was it? Why was it cut down? Did it fall down, or did it die of natural causes? All I know is that I loved sitting and playing on that furniture.

City Farm

 

    I want this post to bring nostalgia to old timers, and to serve as a primer for young people. The current recession is not letting up. There are signs of economic recovery, but the news from Europe is not very good. The result may be another recession even deeper than the one we have now. The story below is from my childhood. My parents lived through the Great Depression. They knew how to survive. I was born at the end of the depression. My parents lived as though tomorrow would bring another depression. It took seventy-one years to happen, but it has finally arrived. We are on the edge of another Great Depression.

     We lived in a small two-story frame house situated on a 25 ft. wide lot in Chicago.  The house had a porch with steps leading to the city sidewalk.  Between the porch and the side walk there was room for a strip of flowers and a patch of grass.  The parkway had grass and occasionally a tree

     The space between our house and the neighbor’s was a gangway just wide enough to walk through. The back yard is what I want to describe in detail because it saved my family from starving. Immediately behind the house, dad had a postage stamp size lawn bordered on two sides by a flowerbed.  The third side was the sidewalk leading back to the alley; and the fourth side was the house. 

            At the end of the lot, dad built a one-car garage built directly on the ground.  He added a chicken coop to the side with a fenced open space for the birds.

            The plot of ground in between the garage-chicken-coop complex and the flowers along the edge of the lawn was mom’s veggie garden.  The lot was 120 feet long.  In that precious space, mom and dad managed to have a front lawn and flowerbed, a three-bedroom house, a back lawn and flowerbed, a vegetable garden, a chicken ranch and a garage.

            Mom had most of what she needed to feed the family growing right in the backyard.   She planted tomatoes, onions, kohlrabi, cabbage, corn, carrots, parsley, beans, peas, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini and more.  What we could not use immediately, she preserved by canning (no freezers).  The chickens provided us with eggs and meat for Sunday dinners. When we did not have chickens, she switched to raising pigeons, and even rabbits.

    When mom could not grow enough in our backyard, she found an empty lot a block away and started another garden.

     Are you ready to begin farming the backyard to feed your family, or are you going to line up to get food stamps?

The Well

     My family lived in a big city, so spending time on Grampa Jim’s farm during the summer was fun.    His house did not have running water, so we didn’t take baths often. When we did take a bath, Mom had my older brother fill the big round washtub with water.  The tub was set-up on bricks to lift it off the ground.  Mom made sure the tub was right outside the back porch door. Brother pumped a bucket of water out of the well and carried it to the washtub.  He filled the tub, one bucket at a time. Next, Gramps lit a fire under it to get the water hot. Then the baths began.  One by one, we had a turn in the tub.  The last one had to bathe in the soapiest, dirtiest, coolest water.

     Because Gramps lived alone, he never had a problem with a water shortage. When the family came for the summer, we often ran the shallow well dry.  It was only twenty feet deep and thirty-six inches in diameter.  The soil on the farm was sand, and to keep the well hole from collapsing, Dad lined it with huge round tiles. Stacked one above the other they formed a huge tube that stuck out of the ground. Grampa Jim and Dad completed the well by building a wooden frame over the tiles.  Dad planked the frame to protect the well from critters. 

     One hot July day the well ran dry. Gramps decided that it was time to clean it out.  He claimed that sediment built up on the bottom was impeding the flow of water. On a good day, ten feet of water-filled the casing.  When the well slowed, the level dropped to two feet. Sometimes we pumped, and pumped, but nothing came up. We had to give the well a day of rest. The water came from a water table near the bottom.  As the heat of the summer dried the ground, the water level dropped and kept from filling the well.

     Grampa Jim got everything ready for cleaning on the following day: a ladder, bricks, a bucket, rope, and a scoop.  His plan was to use the ladder to get to the bottom. Once down, he would impede the flow of water by laying bricks on the bottom. Finally, he would dig out the muck. For that, he used the scoop and bucket.  We were to hoist out buckets of muck.

      Before we began, we took turns pumping out the little water that remained.  When it was as dry as we could get it, we pulled the cast iron pump and the pipe.  Next, we lowered the rickety homemade ladder into the casing.  It was nearly vertical in the hole with just enough room for a very tiny person to fit and creep down. Grandpa Jim climbed on the ladder and disappeared into the darkness.  We lowered a bucket of bricks, using the weathered clothes line.  The bucket reached the bottom

      As small as he was, Gramps had trouble bending down to place the bricks. He managed to get the few bricks in place, and asked that we lower some more.  We were lowering the load when the rope broke.  The bucket of bricks hit Gramps right square on the top of his head.  I thought for sure we killed him.  My heart jumped into my throat!  We heard a thud followed by the most guttural groan. There was a long silence followed by a litany of unknown Hungarian words.  What a relief it was to hear those words.

      Gramps stayed in the well for a long time waiting for the stars to stop. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, he slowly came up the ladder.  He had a deep gash in his head on top of an enormous goose egg.  Mom helped stop the bleeding, and cleaned the cut.  She chinked a piece of ice from the icebox to keep the swelling down.

     After a while, Gramps came back out, and fixed the old rope.  This time, however, he doubled and tripled the rope back on itself to make it stronger.  Eventually, the well got cleaned.

     I don’t think cleaning the well-got us more water, but it did make the water cleaner. Gramps held a glass full up to the sky.  If the water sparkled like crystal, he declared it was clean. If he saw black particles swirling around, it was dirty.  Regardless, we used it.

Long Hard Winter

When Grampa Jim stayed in Michigan for the winter, his life was extremely hard.  It wasn’t until he reached his late seventies that mom insisted he come to live with us for the winter.  Even then, he would only last until March, and then one day he would disappear. He took a bus back to Coloma.  God only knows how he made it out to the farm from town.  Other times he took the train from South Chicago to Watervliet.

Gramps winterized the house for the really cold months.  The house didn’t have insulation, but did have storm windows.  The heat came from pot-bellied stoves.  One was in the living room, the other in the dining room.  To conserve heat, he hung a heavy blanket from floor to ceiling over the archway that separated the living room from the rest of the house.  This way, when he fired up the stove, the heat stayed in one room.   He closed the doors to the bedrooms to further seal off the big room.   His cot was in a corner. He pulled the dining room table into the opposite corner by the driveway and the front yard.  This gave him daylight from the windows on both walls.

Grampa Jim got icy cold water from a hand pump in the kitchen, and warmed it on the kerosene stove.  I remember seeing lots of coffee cans under his bed. Others were  by the door.  Some had fluid in them, some were dry.  He used the cans to save going outside to urinate.  The outhouse was  seventy-five feet away from the side door.  God knows what he did when the snow was deep.

Gramps didn’t weigh more that 120 pounds for his  five foot height. His diet was simple. During the winter he subsisted on canned foods like pork and beans and soups. Hot dogs were a treat.  He recycled the grease in his solitary fry pan. Sometimes, he soaked a slice of  rye bread in hot grease for a yummy meal. When he had kerosene, he warmed soup in the can.  Other times he warmed the soup can on the pot belly.

One of his vices was smoking, but in winter he never walked the quarter mile to the store to buy a pack of Camels.  There was always a sack of Bull Durham around, and he rolled his own. After he ran out of tobacco he scoured the ash trays for butts .  Friends and neighbors came by to check on him when they hadn’t seen him for a while.

The pot belly stove kept him from freezing;  he burned coal. It was a chore to drag a few pounds at a time from the basement in a coal bucket.  Winter on the farm was brutal, but he preferred living independently. He lived alone as long as he could. Eventually, he gave in to his daughter’s arguments, and came to spend winters in the city .

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