Tag Archives: farm stories

Mush, Septic Tanks, and Grand Canyons

Tired and stumbling I wiped the sleep out of my eyes as I staggered up the stairs into the warm glowing kitchen. In some instances I was greeted by the delicious smell of pancakes, eggs, or on special occasions scones. More often than not my senses were assaulted by the scent of hot cereal. It wasn’t my mother’s cooking, she did her best to make it yummy and appetizing, but my very being would revolt at the slightest hint of any kind of mush. Oatmeal was even affectionately named “mush and bugs” as brown sugar and raisins were added in an effort to make it more enticing. I was stoic in my distaste, and it wasn’t just oatmeal. I couldn’t stand cream of wheat, or cracked wheat, and cornmeal. Oh, cornmeal was the worst. I would wile away the hours knowing that the arrival of the bus would be my only salvation.

I’m not sure how much mush our poor dog lapped down in my efforts to escape the kitchen table, and I know some of it slipped into the base board heaters along the back of the table. Those poor heaters sure took a beating.

There came a time in my childhood when the septic tank needed to be emptied. Though it would be funny to say that it was chocked full of mush, the truth of the matter was that when they began to dig in the appointed location it wasn’t there! No where to be found. I guess septic tanks can be quite elusive as no one would voluntarily care to find one. So they began to dig . . . and dig . . . and dig . . . and dig some more until we had a huge colossal sized trench stretching all the way from our house down the hill and almost to the duck pond before they finally found it. We always said as kids that we had the Grand Canyon in our back yard. My brothers and I would waste (hee hee) away the hours running up and down the sides of the trench singing songs about oatmeal and cornmeal and their proper place in the septic tank.

My dislike for hot cereal, or all things mushy as I like to say, is so bad that I refuse to put milk on certain cold cereals, and even then I have to eat quick because when it starts to get soggy it reminds me too much of mush and I can’t stomach it. (I suppose this just proves how weird I really am, heh) I finally learned to stomach oatmeal, as long as it is those flavored packets and in small doses, but that was only last year, and I don’t think any of the other mushes will ever find favor with me. 🙂

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Rafter Tag

I clung to the wire side of the corncrib as my foot slipped out the square hole and felt my body weight pull on my hands as my feet dangled. I didn’t screech or cry out, I was used to this; it was exciting. I loved to feel the wind whip around me as I climbed up the open sides of the corncrib. My foot found another hole and I continued to scale the wire wall until I reached the rafters above.

The corncrib was really just a frame of a building with wire in place of walls. It had a full roof over the rafters, and down on the ground the rabbit hutches were housed. Some one a long time before had hauled some boards up to the rafters forming a makeshift platform. It was a great hangout, high above the ground and with no walls the view was beautiful, if a bit cool and drafty.

I could sit on the platforms and look out over the duck pond at the barn. I scanned over blueberry bushes and fields, woods and marsh. I could daydream for hours up there in quiet solitude. There were days though, when my brothers and I would find ourselves up there growing bored. One day we developed a new game, and rightly named it rafter tag.

In our hours on the platforms we slowly began to venture out onto the rafters themselves. We discovered that while standing on a rafter we could reach our hands up above our heads and cling onto the beams in the roof. Using the beam above us for balance we would shuffle along the rafters. Slowly this evolved into games of tag.

Paul tapped me on my shoulder, “you’re it!” and off he shuffled. I took in the position of my two brothers and quickly shuffled after Kimball. Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, nab.
“Hah! Gotcha!”
“Whoa! Watch it, don’t tag to hard,” as I shuffled off in the opposite direction. It’s a wonder any of us are still alive to tell the story, I know my mom never would have let us up there if she knew what we were up to. So, do you know what your kids are up to? Heh. 🙂

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A Tail of Two Bunnies

I loved bunnies. Soft, fuzzy, cotton ball tail, cute little wiggly pink nose. I doted on them and fed them comfrey from the garden every chance I got. My big sister Lisa was in charge of them, she is a true rabbit lover and I had the honored position of assistant rabbit keeper. I helped her feed and water them, and never passed up an opportunity to play with them.

I distinctly remember at the age of 3 owning a pink hippopotamus bath tub for dolls. Now, while I was a tomboy and lover of all things boyish, I still enjoyed girlish moments, and that pink hippo bathtub was one of my most coveted possessions. I washed every doll and barbie I could find in the house in that little bath tub. But, alas, washing inanimate objects wears and tires with time and I longed for something alive to dunk into my little tub.

One of my sister’s beloved rabbits had given birth to a batch of bunnies. They were pitiful little things, eyes still closed. I looked at them through their cage poking my chubby little fingers in through the holes and stroking their soft fur. I was sad, they looked so cheerless and soiled. I sighed, surely there was something I the assistant rabbit keeper could do for these glum little bunnies to bring a little jollity into their humdrum lives.

It struck me like a lightening bolt! To be clean! I know how I felt after my evening bath, warm and cozy wrapped in my fuzzy pajamas, cuddled up so tight and feeling soft and fresh and CLEAN. And, didn’t I happen to have a perfect pink hippopotamus bathtub yearning for something new to bath? It was the perfect plan!

Off I galloped with all the intensity of a 3-year-old-on-a-mission and filled up that little bathtub with water. I even put bubble bath in so they would come out smelling so sweet. I was careful, oh so careful, to get the temperature of the water just right, not too hot and not too cold, and I got a towel to gently wrap them in to dry them off.

I collected the bunnies and carefully began to dunk and bath each one. There was just one problem, in all my excitement I didn’t think to ask my big sister for her seal of approval. She sure didn’t look happy when she found me, in fact I don’t recall her ever looking so distraught and upset before this! I knew I was in for it when she hollered for mom to com quick and saw the horrified expression on my mother’s face. Ah, well, as all good tragedies end, so does this one end in death. No, worries, not mine (though Lisa may have been tempted at the time hee hee), but some of those poor little bunnies no doubt died of pneumonia. Gratefully Lisa forgave me and I never attempted to bath bunnies again . . .

(I hope I am not boring you all to tears with my farm stories, I need to get them down before they leave my head completely . . . )

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Look Out Below!!

It’s amazing some of the things we do as kids that would be absolutely disgusting now. I remember I used to love peanut butter and mayonnaise (well, actually Miracle Whip, that’s all my mom used) sandwiches. Yuck! There is one particular activity I remember that we loved . . .

Our hayloft was the second story of our barn. At either end we had two big windows. It was quite a ways down. On one side there was a cement patio that we used to play games and such. The other side was the animals’ entry. Usually left open so they could some and go to their stalls, etc. There was also a huge manure pile. My dad always kept it very well limed. The lime took the smell out, and it was very old and dry as well, it wasn’t all we and fresh and gooey, that would just make this story to gross to tell.

My brothers and I were playing in the hayloft, I honestly don’t remember if my sisters were involved or not. It all started with a dare. “Let’s jump out the hayloft window.” I don’t remember which brother it was or to who, I think it was to all of us in general. We all just kind of laughed, like a yeah right laugh, we’ll kill ourselves laugh, and started to play one of our make believe games. It was at a point when we were escaping a dragon or some such when one of my brothers launched himself right out the hayloft window . . . into the old pile of manure! Well, it didn’t kill him, and it looked like great fun, so we all launched ourselves out the window. Having a nice firm spongy landing every time with peals of laughter echoing through the barnyard. The animals looking at us lazily, wondering what we saw was so amusing about a manure pile. Obviously none of us were scared of heights jumping out a second story window, I’m surprised my dad didn’t skin us alive! Kimball was the only one brave enough (?) to jump out on the pavement side. We were all very impressed that he did it and didn’t even break anything! Ahh, the things kids do . . .

(*sniff* – do I smell something? . . . )

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Big Red and Secret Agent J

It was 6:00 a.m. when I was blinded by a bright flash of light. I dove for cover under my cozy blankets and cringed as dad whipped them off me. With a teasing grin he grabbed my toes and tugged. At times I thought he may tug on them so much he’d pull them right off. Maybe if he did I wouldn’t have to get up so early today. No such luck, all my toes were still intact when he returned again to see if I had made any progress.

“Hop to it!” He said cheerily, tickling my feet.

I groaned, even at the age of nine I hated optimism in the morning.

“Ah dad, can’t we sleep in just this once?”

“The animals can’t sleep in, they need their breakfast, and we have a lot to get done today.”

I nodded my sleepy head to show him I understood and stumbled out of bed. My brothers and I usually slept in our clothes to minimize the time it took to get ready for the day, and the feeling of cold jeans in the morning was just terrible. I ran my fingers through my short hair and went upstairs.

My stomach growled as I smelled breakfast cooking. “Make sure you bundle up, it’s really cold out there,” mom called to me.

“Okay.” I grabbed my boots and yanked them on; they sure were stubborn on early mornings. Just as I grabbed my coat, my older brother, Kimball, came up behind me bopping me on the head, “Come on squirt, I’ll race ya.”

I grinned, not being able to pass up a challenge, “You’re on!” I shrugged on my coat and raced out the door. The snow was up past my knees and it wasn’t long before I firmly planted my face into a drift. Kimball came up behind me, picked me up, and set me on my feet once again. Then he raced ahead, “Last one to the barn is a rotten egg!”

I laughed and raced after him, trying my best to step only in his footsteps. I stumbled and fell in the snow a few more times. Finally Kimball turned and came back for me. He picked me up and lifted me onto his shoulders. Then he ran and turned in circles all the way to the barn. Our laughter echoed over the quiet fields, and the sheep looked at us sleepily to see who was disturbing their breakfast.

My job was feeding and watering the chickens and gathering the eggs. Kimball would break the ice out of the bucket for me and gathering the eggs wasn’t too bad, except when it came to Big Red. Big Red was true to her name, a big fat red chicken who had the meanest streak and a terrible liking for little girls’ fingers. She was almost always sitting on her nest. I dreaded trying to shoo her off. I closed my eyes and opened the door, hoping with all my heart that she wouldn’t be there, but sure enough there she was on her usual roost. I gathered all the other eggs first, putting of Big Red for as long as possible. The beady black eyes stared at me with a hatred that seemed to say, “Today is the day I’ll get you.” I cringed. I could hear the evil laughter; the gloating; I was scared and I knew Big Red could sense it. I took a deep breath, “Okay Big Red, you aren’t going to get me this time.” I reached out a hand to try to shoo her away.

Something came flying at my face. I could feel the chicken’s claws and beak. Its wings were batting at my face. I could feel the feathers sticking through my shirt. I screamed batting and hitting at it trying to get it away. I was gasping for air when suddenly I stopped and looked down. There was hay all over me, sticking in my shirt. I could taste particles of hay dust on my lips, and as I ran my fingers through my hair I found a clump of hay sticking to my head.

“Huh?” I muttered confused, there was no sign of a chicken attack; in fact Big Red was still resting peaceful in her nest. Then I heard laughter, I turned around only to see Kimball holding his sides laughing. My great battle with a deadly chicken was only a battle with a flying pile of hay.

“Look out J, the big bad chicken might be coming to get you. You should have seen your face, you were positively terrified. Your arms were wind milling and you invented a great new dance! By the way, you screamed like a girl.”

“I am one, half wit. Besides it’s not funny, Big Red practically eats me alive every time I try to get her eggs.”

“Don’t be a poor sport; I was just having a bit of fun. You’re not really mad are you?”

“Not so long as you get the eggs from Big Red,” I said laughing. “You can sacrifice your fingers to her this morning.”

I grinned to myself as we carried the eggs inside; the teasing was worth not having to get eggs from Big Red.

Once we were thawing out in the warm kitchen, eating up our yummy breakfast, Dad announced that we would stay up a bit late that night so we could gather up the stray chickens that had flown the coop. I smiled this was a favorite.

The appointed time arrived and I became: “Secret Agent J: Chicken Catcher.”

It was dark outside and pitch black in the barn. Dad toted along a flashlight so we could see where the chickens were roosting. They usually roosted in clumps for warmth. We found a batch of them on the wall of one of the stalls. My sisters, brothers, Dad and I snuck quietly up behind them with great stealth tracking the fugitives. We all kept an eye on Dad waiting for the hand signal to attack. We were in position. The fingers came up, a silent 1, 2, 3.

Everyone pounced at once. The barn was instantly filled with the din of squawking chickens and flapping wings. There were legs, arms, wings, and chicken feet flying in all directions. My first grab wrapped around Lisa’s ankle, “J! I’m not a chicken!” Finally I hit my mark. I latched onto the skinny legs and hung on for dear life. “I got one, I got one!” I could feel the wings flapping into my head and face. I was spitting feathers and laughing at the sight of everyone battling their renegade chickens. I suddenly saw my self with one chicken in each hand taking flight over the farm, “Super J!!”

“What are you laughing at, J?” Heidi asked as we carried our fugitives to the chicken coop. I flushed; I hadn’t realized I had laughed out loud. “Ummm, nothing.” That was definitely one day dream to keep to myself. We deposited our chickens and then stood in the snow comparing our trophies and battle wounds by flashlight.

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The Great Escape

“There, it’s finished!” I shoved the last hay bale into place and looked up at our golden castle. “What do you think?” I asked searching my brothers’ faces for any signs of approval.

Kimball nodded and smiled, “It looks really great.”

“Yeah, ” Paul agreed. “We had better take cover before the enemy attacks.”
We dropped to our hands and knees and slithered into the secret tunnel on our stomachs. I had only gone a few feet when Paul reached out and grabbed my shoulder, “Shhh. Footsteps, do you hear them?”

I froze, straining to hear; my eyes grew wide as I nodded my head. The attackers were in the room above us. We remained motionless; afraid even to breathe for fear that they would discover our hiding place. Finally the footsteps faded and I looked at my brothers.

“Go on,” Kimball mouthed not wanting to speak in case they were within earshot. I continued to crawl through the tunnel with my companions at my heals. We came to the end of the tunnel; we were almost ready to enter the banquet hall. Paul drew his sword. Motioning for us to do the same, he waved us forward. Holding up his fingers, he silently counted to three. On three his foot lashed out connecting with the door, sending it flying. We leapt into the room with our swords raised, ready to free our castle from the enemy. We stood back to back fighting the guards and monsters off with all our might.

“There’s too many of them!” I cried. “We have to retreat!”

“We can’t, ” Paul shouted, his eyes wide. “The entrance to the tunnel is blocked, we’re trapped! ”

“Wait, we can climb up the rope by the wall over there! ” Kimball pointed across the room.

We fought through the enemy making our way to the rope. Paul got to it first and started climbing while Kimball and I fought to drive the enemy away.

“Kimball, look out! ” I screamed as a sword narrowly missed his ear. “Hurry Paul, climb faster! ”

“I’ve made it! Hurry J, start climbing,” he called.

“No. Kimball, you go first. You look like your getting tired and you’ve been wounded in the leg. I can still fight a while longer.”

Kimball started climbing up the rope as fast as he could. I gasped, as the throng pressed harder against me I found my self being pushed away from the rope and against the wall.

“Kimball, help me! ” I screamed as I felt the guards seizing my arms. My companions could only watch helplessly as they dragged me to the dungeon. The guard kicked the door open and threw me to the ground.

“I’ll be back for you later, ” he growled.

I scrambled away from him and tucked my knees up under my chin. Cold and scared, I found myself dosing when I heard voices, “J, J, look up.” Looking up, I smiled when I saw my companions grinning. Eagerly they lowered a rope. I grabbed hold of it and started climbing, but just as I reached the top the guard threw the door open.
“They’re escaping! ”

“Quick, jump! ” Paul yelled.

I grabbed the rope and jumped, swinging across the courtyard. Letting go of the rope, I fell into a large pile of hay. When I landed there was as a crack and a nauseating stench and our magical world disappeared.

My brothers started laughing, “You landed on rotten egg! ”

“Those stupid chickens,” I groaned, letting myself fall back onto the hay.

I believe I met the hose again . . .

(A little background: One of our favorite places to hang out was in the hayloft – the upper story of our barn. We would stack the bales and create grand castles and secret tunnels. Many of the bales got broken in the process, much to my father’s chagrin, though he admits now were he do it again he would let us break all the bales we wanted. The broken hay was shoved into a big pile. From the rafters we had tied ropes with footloops to swing on. We would pile up 4 or more haybales put our foot in the loop and swing away. Most often we would swing and do amazing leaps into the hay pile. Sometimes our chickens would fly the coop (I’ll do a chicken post one of these days) and lay eggs in hidden places and we always had to check the hay pile and other such places for eggs. Every once in a while we would miss the inevitable egg . . . )

p.s. Today is my one month mark, I have now been blogging for one month!! Yippee!! My posts may not be great or even very interesting to anyone else but I am having much more fun than I ever thought I would. 🙂

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Duck Ponds and Buried Treasure

I grew up on a small farm in Pennsylvania. We had 15 acres which housed fields, woods, marsh, and ponds. There was a hill in the backyard which was perfect for sledding and at the bottom was our manmade duck pond, barn, chicken coop,and cornhutch. In on of our fields was a solitary hill which rightfully earned the name, “The Lump”, complete with trees. It wasn’t a farm for income but mainly for teaching us kids responsibility. I guess it has something to do with dragging your kids out of bed at 6:00 in the morning in the dead of winter to feed the animals and break the ice out of the water buckets before leaving for school. That farm holds a myriad of memories.

I was a swimmer, I dearly loved the water and any chance I had to take a plunge I did. I think I gave my mother grief by constantly diving into the nearest body of water, suited or not. One hot summer day, I believe I was around 4 or 5, shortly after my dad and brother had dug the duck pond (with some mechanical help I believe) I was dearly wishing I had a way to cool off.

My two older brothers sauntered up to me, “Why don’t you go for a swim in the pond, that’s what its there for.”

I eyed them warily, “I thought it was for the ducks. It’s awfully dirty.”

“It’s not that bad. If it’s good enough for the ducks, its good enough for you.”

Now that comment would typically set off warning bells, but to a five-year-old-water-lover it was a green light. It never occurred to me to ask, “Then why aren’t you swimming?” I just dove in clothes and all and swam happily for quite some time. This was not a clean pond, it was quite disgusting really. I was so proud of myself afterwards and so excited that I ran up the hill to the house calling for mom. She came out and seemed to look around for her youngest daughter but all she could see was a disgusting mud and duck poop ball.

“You didn’t! You did!” she gasped in horror.

I was not permitted to set one toe in the house and was immediately hosed down, for probably a good 10 minutes. I never swam in the pond again but it didn’t deter us from having the occasional barrel race. We had these big empty metal oil drums that we would float in the water and sit on then we would paddle across. I’m sure we fell in from time to time. We just changed and hosed off or bathed before mom could catch us. 🙂

I wasn’t always in trouble, and most of my trouble was innocent happenstance. Being the youngest though I was often underfoot. I had two older sisters and two older brothers and often found myself the oddball out and would attach myself to my mom.

It was fall, and I was 3 and we had just sent everyone off to school and I was moping because I didn’t get to go yet. My mom is a genius, taught school for a long time, and knows tons of things about bugs and animals that kids love to know about. She is very creative and is always ready to whip something out of her sleeve. To me it was nothing short of magical, and sure enough on this fall day she worked her magic. She pulled out the little red wagon, a lunchbox (which I was sure there was something yummy in there), and some shears. Then she put my hair in pigtails and I put on my red sweater and we headed off across our field to the woods. I insisted numerous times to know what we were doing, but she kept her secret locked away. The woods were ripe with color and I delighted in the numerous colors and leaves I found as we entered through our gate.

“We are going to make a path” my mom said. And we set to work. She cut branches and underbrush away and I piled it into the wagon. After sometime I was visibly wearing down.

“I think there is buried treasure here” Mom said.

My eyes glowed and I scanned the ground, “There! By the tree!” We walked off the path a little ways and mom provided a small shovel and we dug a hole big enough to line with rock and fit the lunch box in. We pretended we were pirates who had just found a secret treasure. I eagerly opened the lunchbox, “Chocolate!!” I was so excited I almost passed over the real treasure but my mother guided me back to it. There lying in the bottom of the lunch box was a Book of Mormon. We sat down on the side of the trail, and I ate my chocolate while my mom read to me. When we were done we boxed everything up and buried it, for another day.

I don’t know if that box is still there, or if I would even recognize the spot. We went back to it frequently, each time on some adventure or magical journey. The real magic is in the memory and the love. So don’t be surprised if you visit my house and find my back yard full of holes. 🙂

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