It's been a pretty good growing season here in the Kickapoo Valley. The pastures have stayed green for the most part, and there have been a couple good crops of hay. There's been just enough rain to keep the farmers from worrying too much, but they know better than anyone that we could use a lot more. The dairy cows look clean and shiny—good examples of what pastured cows should look like.
Most of the shallow ponds and potholes have had water in them all summer, and are producing lots of aquatic life.This year, there were more places for frogs, toads and salamanders to lay their eggs, and for little tadpoles to live. There are insects around that wouldn't be here if the ponds dried up, and more insects overall, which means more food for birds and other animals. A little water makes quite a difference!
The farmers here have had good weather for haying lately, and the smell of mowed hay is on the summer breeze. Whenever that fresh smell hits me, my thoughts return to times I spent standing on a hay wagon. The hot, sunny days I spent stacking hay bales were hard, but gratifying. There's nothing like harvesting the crops you have tended, living so close to Nature. If you talked to most farmers around here, they would tell you that they could probably make a lot more money doing something else—not to mention having more spare time for themselves. I guess money isn't the only reason to live and raise a family on a fram.
The prairie remnants that I know of seem to be doing well, and hopefully will produce lots of seeds. The hot, wet weather suits them just fine, but the weeds too have done well this year. There's lots of new growth on trees and shrubs, and the woods and river valleys look more lush than ever.
I bought a couple of organic melons from an Amish farmer at the local farmers' market the other day. The price was right, and the taste was priceless! The plants with vines in the garden have really taken off in the past couple of weeks. The winter squash and pumpkin have sent their runners out 30 feet in all directions. Birdhouse gourds have doubled their size in only a week; some are already large enough for bird houses. These gourds are easy and fun to grow if you have enough space in the garden to just let them take off. I'm looking forward to picking the gourds about a month from now, after frost turns the vines brown. You never know how many gourds there are until the large leaves on the vines have wilted away, exposing the harvest.
The gardens have done very well here this summer, having just the weather to help them flourish. I was disappointed Thursday to find many of the flower beds had been laid down by strong winds. A tornado passed through, missing my place by only a quarter mile. It was close enough, though, to make a mess of the garden. It reminds me that wind is the one element in nature that I have trouble making peace with. There's nothing I can do but take it in stride.
Naturally yours, Dan Hazlett
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