Farming? How Busy The Farmers’ Days Continue

Now that Winter’s frost allows us a spell of firm footing on frozen earth, the evenings sometimes call us abroad — to walk along the fields or follow old paths of farm-lanes when the world is lit by star-shine and moonlight silvers our steps. Then indeed the farmlands are beautiful, the groves and woodlands darkly handsome as they settle against the night-sky, the resting fields so still one could believe all was wholly deserted terrain.

So it seemed this evening, when with James and the children from the house across the lane, we, taking our time in the delight of the hour walked along the intervening fields to Rob’s. How still the night was, without even the sigh of a wandering wind to disturb its serenity, how altogether hushed and lovely.

“There’s not even an owl abroad” we chuckled, following the others through the shadows of a woodsy place.

“If it were daylight” Mack commented “its surprising the things we would see — ravens and squirrels. And maybe a partridge or rabbit.” He laughed at a memory. “Rabbits always startle me.”

The sky toward its eastern boundary reflected the bright lights of the city. And here and there in mirroring brightness above them, these of the farmsteads about. On this and more distant roads, in momentary Willo-wisps of brightness, machines moved, as were we, along the fairy aisles of the night.

“This” James offered, as by way of a gap in a hedgerow we entered another field “is part of our seeds.”

“Seeds?” Mack echoed. “Oh, yes, I know… first hay. The seed was sowed last spring along with the grain.’

“And I’m thinking the flock of sheep’s nibbling over it, isn’t doing it much good!” James said. It would be as well too if we’d get snow, to cover it — a better crop we’d get instead of the freezing and thawing weather we have been getting of late.”

“We never know” Mack commented. “We just may get our best hay here.”

“It depends on the year” we agreed. “If it’s a year for clover there’ll be an abundance of it everywhere.”

“I wish” Granddaughter observed with a chuckle “we could catch the clover scent right now!”

“Girls are forever wishing, aren’t they?” Mack offered teasingly.

“I wouldn’t mind it either” James said, tones a bit wistful, “at least I could do with the Spring.”

But fragrance [sic] of Fall went with us scent of resting fields, of sere stubble [sic] and bracken. And intermingling… it came to mind, instead of the salt of shore fields the aromatic tang of the spruces. 

The farming? How busy the farmers’ days continue to be! How full of hope to farm-folk, we reflect, as we look into the new year, now reaching before us away. This will be the best winter… the best Spring… the best year of all!

                                                                                    – Ellen’s Diary, January 6th, 1958.


Care Of All Animals Is Exemplified At Alderlea

At Alderlea on a night like this, when a wind blows wildly in the treetops and blusters gustily about the eaves, it is good to come abroad to the barns with James, and follow as he settles away his last chores. These are of course, shared with the younger farmer and it is always interesting for us to see how perfectly the two work together to complete the set pattern.

The stables are never cozier than when high winds blow, warmed as they are by breaths and bodies of the animals, so comfortably sheltered within. And reflecting on this, we could heartily agree with James when shaking another flake of straw on the youngest’s calf’s bed, he offered “I often think Ellen that if a traveller were to be bewildered in a snowstorm, a stable would be a right good shelter to come to”

Outside the wind blew, not one seasonally edged with frost, nevertheless of Fall cool and gusty, making the indoors seem an oasis of safety and content.

There is a saying that a farmer’s goodness, indeed his religion we have heard and old minister say, is reflected favorably or otherwise but most obviously in the appearance and attitude of his cats. A pair of ours, silken coated, black as ebon except for the white of their vests emerged softly from the shadows of the group and pressed against James’ overalled legs for a word of attention, during a moment’s halt there.

“You haven’t seen the summer calves lately, have you, Ellen?” he said, preceding us down steps and along a corridor to their stall, where in a company they were cleaning up their supper of hay.

“Why, they’re done well!” we said

“Not bad, are they” he smiled. “These are only cross-breds, but they’re fair-good in shape, and growthy I’d say. When they get  a spell on the grass” he nodded, thinking ahead to the June time.

We like to follow him to that last rite of his round, which takes him to open one after another the shutters in front of the horses and drop handfuls of grain to the mangers. Not hurriedly but taking time to smooth a forelock. Or pet a velvet muzzle and chat with each one in turn. And tonight, names of remembered horses came back to our lips- Old Cleveland… the old-mare-of-all… the young mare, a comely animal we lost, of whom all, like the years flown, have now vanished into the past.

We came then from a world of animals, none anywhere we may say better tended, to the quiet house that is ours. Back to the old clock’s tick and the scent of maple sticks’ burning, to the peace and serenity of a work-day’s close… when a wind blows wildly in the treetops and blusters gustily about the eaves it is good to come abroad to the barns with James and follow as he settles away his last chores.

                                                                                –  Ellen’s Diary, January 23, 1958