Friday, July 31, 2015


Our praiire this week is a mass of purple and gold. And yet, I didn't go out there. I knew that the purple was thistles and if they were blooming, it was too late to cut or spray them. They would be going to seed no matter what we did. But I needed  a prairie photo for my next blog posting, so yesterday morning I walked across the hayfield, forded the ditch, pushed my way through head high grasses and emerged into the prairie.
                                             photo by Dave Ellison

It was so beautiful! So beautiful! I just kept saying it over and over as I stared. I was standing in the midst of a sea of black eyed susans, sunflowers, vervain, wild bergamot and yarrow. All in bloom. It was so beautiful I could hardly catch my breath. This land that had been a wasteland of thistles only a few years ago was now the most beautiful thing I had ever seen (with the exception of my daughters and my grandsons).

Our friends Doug and Mike had assured me that the prairie would take over the thistles, but I hadn't really believed them until I saw the flowers with my own eyes. Golden black eyed susan, pale purlpe bergamot. So beautiful.


photos by Kate Andrews

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


We've been baling hay for 31 years (It really just feels that way, actually we've been baling hay for two weeks a year for 31 years) and it doesn't get any easier. The machinery breaks down and Dave repairs it. The skies fill with rain clouds every few days and wash the windrows. A few of our part time employees realize how much hard work baling is and suddenly discover that they need to be elsewhere. Dave and I bale three wagon loads by ourselves after the dew has dried. I build the first half of the load while Dave drives the tractor. When my arms and back run out of energy, Dave takes my place on the wagon and I drive the tractor.  We call three or four high school boys to help us unload the wagons in the evening.

Those things happen every year and this year was no different. What was different this year was the big river of smoke that drifted from the wild fires in northwestern Canada, keeping the dew point high and obscuring the sun. Mornings and evenings the sun glowed, an orange red sphere on the horizon. "What's wrong with the sun?" the boys asked as we rested after unloading a hay wagon. "Why doesn't the hay dry?" Dave asked as he turned windrows. "When will we ever be done haying?" I complained.

And then came the day that is marked as a personal best on my internal checklist of such things, the day I built a load of 80 hay bales all by myself. I'd never made it past 40 bales in the past. Normally, I couldn't boost very many bales up four feet onto the top layer. Normally, I couldn't keep up with the speed that the bales came off the chute of the baler. But this summer wasn't normal. It was a perfect year for me to build an entire load. The smoke kept the heat down. The field we were baling  was mostly grass and thus made for lighter bales. and the field also needed to be fertilized so the plants were shorter and the bales were fewer so the bales came out of the baler more slowly. Even with all those excuses, I felt strong and triumphant as I pulled bale number 80 onto the wagon and Dave turned off the tractor.

Of course, the next mornings bales were so heavy that I could hardly lift them at all. I drove tractor and Dave built the entire load. But it didn't matter because yesterday, I, a sixty-seven year old woman, had built an entire wagon load of bales, all by myself.