Storing the equipment in the barn at the end of hay season every year is truly a puzzle. Every piece has to be jockeyed into place in the correct order so that all the sticky-out parts fit snugly without bumping into other sticky-out parts of other machines.
With the weather forecast calling for a stretch of good grass drying temperatures, it’s time to bring out the hay equipment.
First out of the barn is the fluffer. Once serviced and unfolded into position, the four egg beater type tines fluff the windrows of mowed hay so air can circulate through the wet blades to dry evenly.
The mower will be attached to the big tractor with the PTO (power take off) shaft and hydrolic hoses. The mower will be the first piece of equipment into the field to cut the tall grass.
Hedgerows have been planted on two sides of the house to encourage pollinators.
Since early spring, lilac, sage, lavender and daphne have been blooming and scenting the house with lovely garden smells.
Looking out the windows we can watch the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds visiting the flowers. The hummingbirds come into the area in groups of three to six at a time. The plants shake with the ruffle of the small birds flitting this way and that.
As I was rotary mowing the tall clumps of grass and weeds (stickers) in the pasture, the calves came by to investigate the tractor and mowing deck.
They never got close enough to be in danger, but every time I would swing by their hangout area the would nose their way closer to see what I was doing.
The bull calves are the most curious and usually the most brave but also tend to be much more skittery and will kick up their heels and bellow before running away from the noisy chatter of the rotary mower only to repeat the performance on my next round around the field.
The kittens are seemingly always hungry and when new kibble gets set out for the barn cats, the kittens are right int the middle of the feeding frenzy.
Boaz the large spotted cat, seems unconcerned about the amount of activity going on around him because he got his mouthfuls downed before the black Grandma cat and the kittens joined him for dinner.
Grandma cat has a little trouble eating because every time she sticks her head into the chow-bowl a kitten has fully climbed inside to for easy munching.
The larger cats have been hunting the fence line and have been bringing the kittens rodents and birds to snack on between meals along with both Mama Cat and Grandma cat nursing. All in all the kittens are content and well fed.
The next piece of equipment that needs a bit of work is the Big Red Beast, my name for the old dump bed farm truck.
This old relic has seen a lot of use even before we bought it many years ago. It no longer is road-worthy and is only used to haul hay, rock and firewood from one part of the farm to another. Even with the small amount of use, something is always breaking.
The red cab sits on top of the engine. There is no kind of insulation and the driver sits in the metal cab in intensive heat. There has never been any air conditioning in the truck, but over the years the vent system fans corroded. To top that, most of the windows cannot be opened except for the driver side window which has to stay open so one can reach outside to open the door since the latch on the inside does not work.
When the truck was in better condition, I was able to drive it, barely. The controls for the gas, clutch and air brake are all very tempestuous and the only way I could push the clutch in was to pull the steering wheel for leverage while I stood to force the clutch to the floorboard. All I could manage was be 1st gear and reverse when I was lucky.
Things have deteriorated a lot since then, I am no longer able to even start the darn thing. Mike is the only one strong enough and has enough dexterity to maneuver all quirks, levers, and hinky fixes with finesse and brute strength.
I am relegated to stacking bales as they are dumped into the back of the truck by the field elevator.
I think, in fact I am certain I am getting the better job with all the fresh air I can suck in while hefting the bales into stacks in the back rather than cooking myself inside the Big Red Beast.
After a week of cool, wet weather the strawberries are coming on strong. For the last two weeks we have had fresh berries with meals and to share small tastes with visitors to the farm.
This is the first full picking. Aside from fresh eating, this early harvest will be dedicated to the freezer. We just love frozen berries and the ability to have them all winter long. Later pickings will have smaller, sweeter berries and those are the one that I process with the food dehydrator.
I wash and freeze the berries in single layers on cookie sheets before transferring the frozen orbs to gallon freezer bags. Having the berries individually frozen means I don’t have to use a full gallon at a time, I can take a few out at a time.
This year, my Aunt had given me some advice about the way she would freeze berries to help them keep their shape and texture after being frozen. After washing the fruit and letting them air dry, I mixed dry pectin (like what is used to make jam and jelly) into the berries before traying and freezing. It only takes a small amount of pectin like a rounded teaspoon full for every gallon.
The results will be a new story come October or November.
Pink Digitalis purpurea also known as Foxglove, is a plant that can be seen growing in small batches near the river banks and around pasture areas. I found these beauties growing along the cement wall of the west side of the barn.
This plant is a relative of the heart medicine that was used to produce heart medicine in the 1800’s. Although this plant could be toxic if eaten, the cattle don’t seem interested in even taking a nibble of the pretty flowers.
As I walked around the barn to the south side, I found a loner of another color.
This white foxglove is not as sturdy as its cousins around the corner. The white color is not as prevalent as the vibrant pink ones. The foxgloves have to seed themselves in order to grow and the first year have no blooms at all. It is a surprise to see both white and pink pretty close to each other and blooming during the same year.