A Good Day

August 12, 2013


A good day yesterday in the breezy sunshine. Between morning and evening chores I spent seven hours mowing at Betty’s and the farm; I loaded and dumped the manure spreader, I rode the four-wheeler to pick up rocks, I weedwhacked around boulders — and I didn’t break anything. This alone made it a red-letter day.

My north pasture is grazed off and I needed to clip the remnant weeds before I start to dress the field with the twenty tons of last summer’s manure pile. Since my tractor and brush-hog can’t cut low enough between the ledges, I was using my lawn mower.

Somehow the long hours alone on the mower, listening to hymns under my new improved ear-protectors, and watching the crickets and grasshoppers jump out of my way and the bumblebees climbing the clover and the dragonflies zig-zagging in mid-air, laid a quieting hand on my mind. Normally I am so anxiously aware of the long list of chores covering the refrigerator and the undone tasks reproaching me from every corner of the farm that I can hardly see what I’ve already accomplished.

But yesterday as the sweet fresh-cut grass and weeds fell in tidy windrows, I was remembering the years of battling saplings and briars and rocks in this field. It’s come a long way. When I drove the mower out of the pasture to refill the gas, I looked up at the garage apartment. It too represents a lengthy to-do list. Nevertheless I found myself thinking, It’s pretty nice.

I’ve been pleased by the little perennial garden I threw into the ground just before freeze-up last fall. Though (of course) it is overdue for weeding, its small splash of color heartens me every time I walk by — a tiny pocket of domestication on my 22 shaggy acres.


It was a sweet feeling, to shed the demanding taskmaster in my mind for a few hours and appreciate how far the farm has come.

A Run-In Shelter for the South Pasture

August 11, 2013


It is the nature of my farming life, with limited dollars, limited time, and limited skills, that I generally have half a dozen projects going at once. I always have to jump on opportunities as they arise — whether it’s an unexpected windfall of low-cost materials or the sudden possibility of help.

Therefore, back in June when I had my friend Allen working on the farm and the free loan of an excavator, I decided we would put in posts for a future run-in shelter in the three-acre south pasture. The cost of the treated 6×6 posts was negligible compared to the enormous gift of the heavy equipment.

The south pasture (having received most of my manure compost over the years) is my best pasture. This does not mean it is great grass. But it improves every year and the animals are happiest there. Unfortunately it is entirely exposed, with no shade or protection from the wind and storms that roll in from the western horizon.

So Allen and I started another project.


In a few hours we had six posts buried four feet in the ground in a 10′ x 20′ rectangle.


And there the posts have remained, untouched, until yesterday, when I had a moment to work on the project again.

Our friend Larry R. kindly stopped by for two hours, and he and I put up the headers to tie the frame together.


One post had settled slightly out of plumb, and we used my truck and chain to tweak it straight again before tacking the boards in place.


In the next few days I will drive galvanized 16-penny nails into each face to fasten the headers securely.

Then the project will have to sit again until sometime next month, when I hope to have time to scour the lumberyard for cull boards for rafters, and keep my eyes peeled on Craiglist for used roofing tin.

The side walls will likely have to wait until next summer.


At Fairhope Farm, all progress is slow and incremental.

Book Reviews

August 9, 2013

My daughter Lucy is 15 and between her many part-time summer jobs, she is doing a lot of reading.

Some of the books were given to her by teachers as graduation gifts and some are required for her 10th grade curriculum. So far she has read Pride and Prejudice, Gone with the Wind, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. She is currently reading The Catcher in the Rye. Next up: The Crucible and Things Fall Apart.

I read almost all of these titles when I myself was 15. However Lucy and I have such different reading tastes (she loves fantasy; I love history) that I have tried to be careful not to share my opinions with her before she finished each one.

But finally… “How is Gone with the Wind?” I asked timidly, when she was halfway through the novel.

“Wow. Rhett — ” she began.

I smiled to myself. At her age I had absolutely adored Rhett Butler.

“What a jerk!” said my mild-mannered, kindly girl.

Jerk? Rhett? What?!

In the first place, she said, he was a blockade runner — a despicable war profiteer — “and then he left her on the road to Tara!”

I got the impression Lucy would have slapped Rhett harder than Scarlett did. She did end up fond of him by the end of the book, but when I told her of my adoration, her glance was slightly pitying.

I felt a little better when she told me that she was having a tough time enduring Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.

“He is so whiny and he curses all the time!”

I too had not liked Holden Caulfield or Catcher, but I’d never pinpointed exactly why.

“I just want to ask him,” she went on, “can’t you ever be positive?”

Lucy obviously doesn’t put up with a lot of guff in her fictional heroes.

I hardly dared to ask her what she thought of the moody Mr. Darcy.