Photo Op: Props to Martin

Each year, we stock up on 150-200 bales of grass hay, to see our herd through the winter. Typically, a bale weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 lbs.

Recently, however, we bought a truckload of alfalfa and the bales were large and densely packed. We estimate that those whoppers weighed 50-55 pounds each. A couple of rogue bales might’ve been pushing 60.


I groaned and winced as I toted/dragged each bale by its twine strands and built a stack near the drop slot.

But Martin had the unenviable task of heaving those monsters up into the hayloft from the lower truck bed. And as the load in the truck diminished layer by layer, the distance to deliver them grew greater. No longer could Martin hoist them; he had to throw each one upwards through the loft opening.


My hat’s off to you, Martin. That was a beastly chore. I couldn’t have it.

You tossed approximately one ton’s worth of alfalfa up into the loft!

And great news: There’s more on the way.


Pasture Ornament

 Mid May 04 004 

In the horse world, a “pasture ornament” is defined as an unrideable horse. An equine ill-suited for productive use.

But lately around here, the tractor’s been the ornament. It has been stuck in the back field for weeks. (Note: “it” is the only farm vehicle to escape nickname and gender assignment. Unlike Chitty.)

Not only does tractor disability result in unkempt grass, it restricts pasture use.

Technically, we could use the field. But allowing horses unlimited access to something new — namely the presence of a sharp farm implement…

…is like putting a steak knife in front of a toddler. Call the doctor.

So, the tractor. It’s a 30-year-old Ford, with issues.

Issues not entirely self-inflicted or aged-related.

We haven’t treated the “It” very well. We leave it exposed to the elements and rarely provide service.

Okay, never provide service. And this summer the tractor’s been reluctant to operate.

Really reluctant once we lost the key. The key.

We scoured the farm for it, countless times. We begged the kids to find it, then threatened them. Finally we offered a bounty: $25, no questions asked.

Meanwhile, the grass grew and grew and grew. I imagined the neighbors complaining. Actually, I pictured them shaking their fists and shouting as they drove by: “Hey, slackers! Go back to the ‘burbs where you belong!”




When green nearly swallowed the tractor, I called the local parts store for a replacement key. And good news: the key is universal. I just needed the tractor model number. So I bound up the attic stairs, crawled into the depths of storage space — through Christmas wrapping paper and Halloween costumes — and unearthed the battered manual that came with the battered tractor.

I flipped open the cover, studied the model number, then gasped in horror at a line of text immediately below.

Six jarring words, emblazoned in thick, bold letters:

This tractor engine – Made in Japan

Made in Japan?

A tractor — one of the most iconic symbols in America — and a Ford, nonetheless, made in Japan?

I am not evenly remotely xenophobic, but everyone’s got limits. And mine is the tractor.

That is not right, I thought. No way that engine’s made in Japan.

“Yep, made by the Ja…Pan…Eeze,” tractor guy emphasized over the phone. “It’s an ’83 model, right? I’ve got 10 copies of that key.”

I sighed. “Alright. I’ll take them.”

What, all 10 keys??

“Oh no, I mean… how about three? You keep the other seven for me.”

“Yea, I can’t do that.”

“Okay, then gimmie four.”

So, we were back in biz. Five keys (the original resurfaced) and the tractor started. Immediately, the battery quit. The following day Martin jumped it to life and shifted into gear. He bush-hogged one row before the the tractor threw up, all over him.

A hose blew, showering him in hydraulic fluid. So there the Ford sat. Again.

Weedy flowers blossomed all around.

I glared at the tractor and mulled over bitter thoughts.

About the Japanese, too.




Another trip to the supply store, hose-transplant surgery, lots of sweating and cursing… and the It-Tractor was back in action. Martin jounced across the rutted field, bush-hog trailing. Four hours and one (allegedly) bruised kidney later: mission accomplished. Martin parked It-Tractor in a safe location and the horses charged about, turfing up their newly-cropped confines.*

As for the spare keys? I’ve stashed them in various, undisclosed locations.

Guaranteed, I’ll never find them again.


*Possible reader question: Why must we mow the fields when able horses can do the eating? Horses are choosy and consume only the tasty clover, leaving the weeds to run amok. Mowing’s a must: lesson learned after you’ve bought the farm…



Kids and Forage


File this post under “kids grow up so fast” category.

Actually, I hate when people say that.

And trust me, they say that a lot.

Not as a declarative but as a warning. As in, “Oh, enjoy those cute kids of yours, because it all goes by soooo fast….” And then the person pats Brynn on the head and adds, “and this one’s such a little cutie…”

And I want to say: “Hey! Are you one of those morons who tries petting zoo animals between the bars because they’re so cute? Are you one of them? Don’t touch that kid — she might bite off a digit!”

But I never say that. I just nod appreciably and say, “Oh gosh I know, they do grow up so fast….”

And then I silently will that person to get a flat tire….


Anyway, back to kids & forage.

Every summer the hay fields around us rise from ankle-itching depths to waist-high waves of stems and seeds. Next door, Chet and Paula always round-bale their field (yes, I used “round bale” as a verb…)

And there’s something about those mammoth servings of livestock sustenance — scattered in bristly pasture — that draw us out of the woodwork. One neighbor, who trains Labrador Retrievers, always calls his dogs to bound atop the bales. The barn cats slink out to investigate. And our kids venture out and scramble aboard.

This year I took some photos and dug out past pictures.

This one’s from June, 2008. Cayden was 2 years old, and on my hip that’s Hadley, 8 months…



Here’s present day. Mind you, this picture isn’t staged. There must be something about a round bale that screams, “push me!”




Back to ’08, Cayden and baby Hadley




And the two of them today.




Except that now there’s three. Remember, the little cutie? Don’t be fooled… never stick your fingers through the bars of her cage…


Left to right: Brynn, 3, Hadley, 5 and Cayden, 7



While the kids were getting into position and I warmed up my camera, Hadley spotted a bug and expressed concern.




Without missing a beat Cayden told her not to worry, adding “it’s just a blood-sucking arthropod…”




Good one, Cayden….