The last time your farmer posted to this page, the wheel of the year had just turned to springtime, and we were so grateful for warmth and growth and life and so much more. And now we are at the longest day of the year, high summer. What has changed? A lot!
Farm-wise, our right-hand gal, our farm collie Gilly, went on a nuptial visit with another English Shepherd named Smoke. We are hoping for pups in a couple of months, pups that will help on their farms, watch children, remind stock of the rules, comfort folks that need a little extra love, and help in so many ways. In other matters: Beulah is honeymooning with our boar, Possum (without sex, there is no farm - whether it is plants pollinating and bearing fruit, or animals mating and raising their young); a new female, Zinfandel, or Zinny, has joined the farm; we are raising lots of chickens and expecting more eggs this summer; the wild blackberries back in the woods are full, and now here come the Japanese beetles to strip all the fruit trees and bushes clean. Out trudges the farmer with pheromone traps to lessen the damage and put a dent in the population. She drags hoses to fill wallows and water tanks twice a day to keep stock cool and hydrated (and sometimes hoses herself off). She mends the over-worked hoses that burst, usually at a Bad Time. She weed eats the tall grass out of the fencerow so the electric fence does its job. She mends the electro twine that has fallen to the whipping line of the weed whacker. The joy of spring has turned into a lot of work!
A new batch of freshly hatched chicks feeds a black rat snake that somehow found a place to squeeze into the brooder that we thought was tight. We have also learned that even heritage breeds of turkey are still stupid, if not as much as a commercial ones; next year, we will hatch the eggs in an incubator for an improved survival rate. Life and Death. Death and Life. The wheel turns, and turns again. We see it all up close and personal on a farm.
There is so much of everything on a farm in the summer, all of it needing attention right now. We didn't get a hay crew to mow and put up hay in time, and now the grass is too stemmy. We'll have to buy hay. Chores, watering, all the bounty of the place to be dealt with - vegetables to clean and preserve for the winter. Pickles to can, jams to make. But also - fresh food in such a variety of color and texture and flavor that it is impossible to be jaded by it. Sunsets so glorious that they stop a farmer in her tracks almost every night. I sit on a feed bucket, sweaty and stinky and tired at dusk, and the fields light up with a thousand sparking fire flies. These are the gifts of summer that counterbalance the length of the work day. I sometimes have to be reminded of them by witnessing them.
So turn, wheel, turn. I will turn with you. Turn towards days that are slightly shorter, turn towards life a-borning and life a-waning, turn towards an inevitable autumn, where the farmer can catch a breath and have time to look back on the crazy, sumptuous, and arduous bounty of summer.
Merry Schepers lives on a farm with her heritage pigs in Nixa, MO.