Spring has Sprung, Maybe….

Had to be in the area of the farm today, so I took the opportunity to take the battery for the “Bad Boy”, and get it hooked up with the idea that I will go down sometime this weekend to change the oil and clean it up a little more before starting the mowing season, which by the looks of things, won’t be too long down the road. I am more than ready, I love spending a couple of hours riding around on that mower, getting some work done, but also soaking in the fresh country breeze, enjoying the sights around the farm, and just relaxing.

While they may be small and hard to spot, there are definite signs of spring all around the farm. The trees in the front yard are budding out really nice, if the warm temps hold on, it won’t be long till we see the green of small, new leaves. Next thing you know, there will be the sound of the birds singing and flittering about, making nests and getting ready to raise the seasons new “crop”.

I also saw some workers prepping for some tile placement just south and east of Mom’s place, another sign that spring is just around the corner, getting the last of the winter projects cared for just in time for planting. I also saw a couple of guys getting their planters tuned up, can’t wait to see them in the field. The smell of freshly turned soil, is a joy that I think that most would not understand, but it is perfume of the highest quality, I wish somebody would bottle it.

As I was leaving, the sun was still kinda high in the sky, but the clouds coming in helped to turn it into a beautiful sunset image, another view that is always different on the farm, but always beautiful.

Going to Town

If we stayed on the farm with Aunt Millie and Uncle Jim for more than a day or 2, there was a good chance that one day would be dedicated to going to town, to the market. Time to take the eggs to the market and do a little shopping.

It was an adventure to say the least. Uncle Jim made the ride in exciting, can’t say he was the best driver in the world, but hey, we got there, and we got back, and that is what counts.

While in town, Uncle Jim would find the bench on the town square and sit down for a nice relaxing smoke on his old corn cob pipe. Millie and I would go to the store to sell the eggs, and to pick up essentials before heading back to the farm.

It was interesting to see how the eggs were handled. Until I got to go to the market with them, I had no idea that the eggs had to be checked, to make sure they were “good”, aka no embryo’s forming, and edible. Then they would settle up on a price, and Millie would walk away with the “egg money” tucked away in her purse, now it was time to shop. Can’t say I remember much of what she would have bought, they had almost everything they needed on the farm, but she picked up a few things, and then it was back to the farm. Back into our “work” clothes, and back into the garden, weeding and picking some good fresh veggies. Jim would take care of the animals, and then any other chore that needed to be done, then take his place on the well platform to have another smoke on the ole pipe.

Life back then, and in particular, on the farm, was a lot different than living in town. You had to plan your trips to town, take care of as much as you needed to so you didn’t have to make any unnecessary trips that would take you away from work needing to be done on the farm. A pretty nice lifestyle if you ask me….

While this is not the small town that Jim and Millie shopped and did business in, it is very typical of the small farming towns in the area.


The Garden

You have heard the term “green thumb”. If you looked up a description for Aunt Millie, that would be at the top of the description. She could grow a garden that seems impossible to me. Every common vegetable from radishes to sweet corn was planted with care, and according to the signs of the moon. I think she used the Farmer’s Almanac to get her information on when to plant, but it was all by the different phases of the moon. It seemed to work for her, I remember helping her in the garden, harvesting some green beans and cucumbers and peppers. I remember munching on a fresh picked green bean, man they were good fresh picked. Think I would occasionally manage a green pepper too, one of my favorite garden veggies.

She also grew some of the best cantaloupes in the area. At least that is the story that I heard. She would bring a big bunch of them up and I would load up my wagon, maybe along with some cucumbers, maybe some green peppers and a tomato or two. I would walk my neighborhood street and it did not take long to empty the wagon. I don’t think she could have grown enough to satisfy the neighborhood, but we did have to make sure there was enough to enjoy ourselves…

While I remember how much fun it was to help Millie in the garden, today, I do not care to garden. If it weren’t for my wife, we would not get the fresh tomatoes, green peppers and other garden delicacies. I do love fresh veggies though….

Below, is a recipe from Aunt Millie’s recipe collection. I do remember these pickles, and I can attest to the delicious taste that thes had.

Bread & Butter Pickles

Heirloom recipe handed down from:             Millie Watts

Region of origin: N/A                                      Origin date: N/A

Tradition: Serve with Meals                                       Prep time: 2 hours          Servings: N/A


1 gallon of Cucumbers                               2 Tsp. of white mustard seed

1 Quart of onions                                        2 Tsp. of celery salt

4 green peppers

Salt, 1 quart of vinegar

2 cups of sugar

2 Tsp. of Turmeric


Soak in salt water. Slice cucumbers, onions and green peppers. Sprinkle with salt while slicing. Add all ingredients and cook till tender. Put up in quart jars.

Sharing History with the Young Ones

A few years ago, I was mowing down at the farm when a truck rolled to a stop in front of the farm. A gentleman was in the truck, along with his grand or great grandson, I can’t remember for sure. He waved at me, so I stopped to see what he might be looking for. He introduced himself and his offspring, and asked me a few questions about the family aspect of the farm, as well as a little history on the place. He then turned to the child and said “son, this is what a family farm looks like. There aren’t many more left like this, and by the time you grow up, there will be even less of them.

He then introduced himself as somebody who lived across the road, and a little south of the place. He was taking the child around to show him where he grew up. As it turns out, he spent many a day, hanging out with Dad back in the day, as a child. His large family would visit Aunt Millie and Uncle Jim often, and the evening usually involved some pinochle for the adults. The kids played outside and enjoyed the fresh air. That is the way it was done back then.

The conversation turned to “What is your families plan for this place”? I told him that Mom now had the farm, and her goal was to keep the farm in the family, and to keep it as Dad would have. I also told him that as Mom and Dad’s kids, we all had the same mindset, keep the legacy alive, maintain it as close to what Dad would do if he were still here, and hopefully pass it on to future generations. He lit up when he heard that. He told the child in the truck, “This is what it is all about, this is what family farm is, and at least for the foreseeable future, this farm will still be a family farm. There is hope…….”

Uncle Jim and his corn cob pipe

Our Uncle Jim lived life to the fullest. I am not sure that I ever saw him that he wasn’t laughing or had a big smile on his face. He also was very adventurous.

As it turns out, our love of balloons may have been inherited. Except that Jim used to jump out of them. Yep he would travel with a team, and parachute out of (may have been gas ) balloons. if memory serves me, he said they had a trap door in the floor of the basket, and once they got to altitude, he would open the door and make his descent back to terra firma. I loved to hear his stories.

Uncle Jim was also a painter. He worked for a local paint shop, and he painted gold leaf on the ceilings of several old churches in the Springfield area. He had a lot of stories to tell about that too. Again, he enjoyed life, and what ever it was that he had to do, including farming.

One of Jim’s other loves, was his pipe. It was rare to see him without it. Corn cob pipes to be precise. He would smoke them until he burned a hole in it, then go buy him another one. The new ones, he had to smoke them a lot to get them broke in. He didn’t care for the taste of a new pipe. Kentucky Club Tobacco was his choice of tobacco”s, pretty strong stuff from what I remember. Even in his final days, he had to have his pipe, to hell with the Emphysema.

One of a few times Uncle Jim didn’t have his corn cob pipe. Looks like the dog “Star” and my brother Jim were hanging with him . This is in the back yard of the house, I think that the cinder block building/garage is about where the current metal shed is located, and the old outhouse in the background is about where the apple tree used to be.

A tough but simple life

When we look at all the modern conveniences that we have today, it is interesting to look back to life as Aunt Millie and Uncle Jim lived it on the farm. While it was not an easy life, it was simple. They probably had their own brand of stress, but at the end of the day, they pretty much had what they needed on the farm. If not, they made it out of what they had on the farm. Here are some tidbits from Aunt Millie’s cookbook that kind of give you a look at just how simple life was on the farm.

From Aunt Millie’s Cookbook

Let stand for 24 hours before use as a liniment

½ cup turpentine

1 cup of vinegar

1 egg

Mix well

Let stand for 24 hours before use as a liniment

Plant potatoes when sign is feet in the dark of the moon

Plant Squash after June 10th to keep bugs off

Put slice of onion on Bumblebee sting

Mantles Fish Bait

⅔ cup of Rye flour

⅓ cup of corn meal

Make a still dough with a little water

Flatten to a cake, boil till floats

For foundered horse

A teaspoon of pulverised alum. Put as far back as you can on horse’s tongue so horse gets it all.

Help for sore Bunion

Take 1 tablespoon fresh lard and 1 small teaspoon common baking soda. Mix and bind on bunion or rub on. Two of three applications usually sufficient

Going Hunting with Dad and Pop

Hunting is, and probably always will be a right of passage for many young men. I haven’t been hunting for years, but one of my favorite memories from the farm, was to go hunting for the first time with Dad and Pop. It was that day, that I felt like I was grown up.

I was still pretty young, so I could not actually carry a gun, but I had the important job of being the “bird dog”. My job was to stir up the pheasants or quail in the grass along the edge of the field. (No, I was not put into harms way, I had to walk behind, I was too young to know that I was just tagging along).

None the less, it was a great day, trudging thru the snow, quietly, I might add, waiting to see that pheasant or quail, or maybe even a rabbit, come out of the grass, and then find it’s way to our dinner table.

The best part of the hunting experience was coming back to the house. After an hour or so, the cold soaked into your bones. We all were looking forward to getting back to the house, getting out of our hunting garb, and backing our fannies up to the stove in the living room, by now, Jim had that thing glowing red, and I have to tell you, it felt mighty nice to soak up that heat. Of course once we got warmed up, the heat in the living room was pretty intense. Jim liked a warm room……

More about field tile

In my previous post, I mentioned that with a 1 inch rain, an acre of ground receives about 27000 gallons of water. Once the ground becomes saturated, there is no place for the water to go but to run along a path of least resistance, washing away topsoil and fertilizers that have been applied. This creates erosion, and fills our lakes and streams with unwanted chemicals and silt that will eventually fill in a lake or stream if not corrected. Not only is this an environmental issue, think of the cost for cleanup and and the lost crop inputs creates a huge financial burden for not only the farmer and the governmental bodies that are responsible for cleaning up our waterways. Don’t forget, that cost filters back to the consumers in higher taxes and higher costs for consumer goods. Not a good situation, no matter how you look at it.

By placing field tile in the fields, the fields will drain, allowing additional rains to soak into the ground. This allows the applied nutrients to be drawn into the soil, to the roots of the plants where it is needed. as the soil processes thru the soil, it is filtered, so that when it comes out of the tile, it is clean water, free of chemicals and much more beneficial to our water supplies.

There is a lot that goes into placing tile, both in cost and in labor. The payoff is in many forms. When Mom’s fields were tiled, the farmer was able to get in to the fields much earlier, allowing the plants to be in the ground, ready for the timely spring rains, which resulted in a beautiful crop. It also allows more flexibility at harvest time, as the rains of fall create muddy field conditions. With the tile in place, those fields will dry quicker, allowing more access to the crop, and a much easier harvest.

Again, the trickle down of all of this is something that benefits all of us, the environment, the farmer, the consumer, and our taxing bodies.

The next time you drive down the road after a heavy rain, take a look at the fields. You will be able to see those that have great drainage, could be natural, could be because of placed field tile. No matter, those are the fields that will be the most productive. As you take your drive, you may notice that more and more fields are being tiled, further proof that it works.

Country Road

I mentioned earlier, that the road leading to the farm has not always been a good road. When we would go to the farm as kids, it was one of the fun parts of the trip. Dad dodging potholes, watching the plume of dust out the back window as we drove down the road. While I don’t remember any real issues traveling the road, in it’s best condition, it wasn’t a good road.

I remember Dad’s stories about getting to the farm in bad weather. During the winter or a rainy period, as soon as they got to a farmhouse that was located just on the other side of the house in the picture, they would give Uncle Jim a call, and he would come down with his tractor and pull them down to the farm, thru the mud and muck. Sometimes, that was the only way they would make it. Sounds fun to me, but I am sure it was a royal pain in the keister back then.

Today, it isn’t even a dirt road. Oil and chip (you can count on having to clean tar off of your car during the summer), it is also a bit wavy. You could almost get sea sick on some parts. Still love the road though, it gets me to my safe place, where I can soak in some peace and quiet, listen to the birds and the insects sing, and otherwise reset from a week of work in the city….