Hay

You don’t harvest hay, I’ve learned.

Raking Hay

Raking Hay

You put up hay.

Many of you already know this. But I didn’t. Not until recently. In fact, I had never really thought about it, because I’ve lived within city/small town limits in one way or another until this year.

Until I had horses, hay wasn’t a part of my everyday life. I’ve never had to know necessarily the process of how it got from the field to our alley. It’s kind of like the whole issue of people eating but having no idea where, other than the store, their food comes from. You need hay? Go to the hay store, right? Just kidding. I wasn’t that naive. But the entire process of how it was cut, raked and ‘put up’, I didn’t need to know.

……………

It’s almost too late in the year here in South Dakota to be haying.  There is a heavy dew on the ground each morning anymore and hay needs to be put up at a certain moisture level. If it’s too wet or the moisture level is too high, it gets moldy when baled. Worse yet, it can actually start on fire.

(So can the underbelly of a hot vehicle out in a dry field when trying to fix broken down equipment. We may or may not know from experience this past week.)

Regardless, the Cowboy, his brother and dad wanted one last cutting before winter this year.

Raking Hay2

It had been quite awhile since they had cut their own hay. Typically, the Cowboy would trade it out for horseshoeing and the trade ended up being pretty fair. That was, until last year when the price of a round bale went from around $60 to $180. The drought across a good stretch of the country had much of the hay grown in the northern states going south, driving prices up.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the process: The grass grows. Whatever kind you’ve got or want; Alfalfa. Prairie Grass. Timothy. Bermuda grass. You wait until it grows tall, it gets cut, lays on the ground and you wait for it to dry/dehydrate. The sun and wind are responsible essentially for taking out all the moisture. Once it’s in the right state, the grass/hay gets raked into windrows (another new term to me) with a piece of machinery called a ‘rake’.

2010-04-08-hayrake-2010-04-031

Hay Rake. Photo – Courtesy pottedfrog.wordpress.com

The hay then needs to sit again anywhere from one to five days without any rain getting on it. If it’s dry enough, it gets baled into whatever your preference might be. Round bales, little square bales, big square bales, haystacks .. “but not many people do those anymore,” the Cowboy says to me.

Alfalfa, he adds, you want to leave a little bit moisture content so the leaves stay on it. He tells me, that’s where all the nutrients come from.

“The problem is, this time of year it doesn’t get warm enough to dehydrate it so that’s where we’re running into problems right now. You might have to rake it two or three times to get it dry enough. If it gets moldy, they’ll eat it if they have to, but otherwise the horses get sick.”

His dad just called to check on the status of where things are at .. the Cowboy tells him he hopes it’s dry enough. But he’s off to rake again one more time today in an effort to get the hay put up before the first snowflakes of the season. Forecast for this weekend…

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On a windy day ..

There’s an old saying, the Cowboy said to me this morning when I told him what I was writing about.

“Every day is a good day in South Dakota when the wind isn’t blowing. That, and we teach our kids here to lean into the wind when they are old enough to stand.”

………..

I have always enjoyed a gentle breeze on a hot summer or fall day. But ..

A rare still moment ..

A rare still moment ..

I’ve never experienced anything quite like the winds that howl across the Great Plains states. With little in the way of stopping them, they seem to gain momentum the further they travel. By the time they reach us, they’ve typically traveled far and wide, and they are howling. We often double check the kids and small animals are still in the yard.

Yesterday, the gentle breeze was blowing at 20mph in our area. May not seem like a big deal to some of you, but it’s mean a few relatively humorous life lessons since moving to South Dakota earlier this year:

When the winds are above 10-15 mph, it’s usually wise to take the hammock down or someone might get hurt trying to lie in it or in simply walking by.

Going for a run in and of itself feels like resistance training.

Grasshoppers catching a ride on the wind feel like bb’s when they finally hit you.

Talking, shouting to anyone into the wind is relatively fruitless. Behind you though, they can hear for miles.

Sunglasses are often helpful, not because of the sun, but to protect your eyes from dust kicking up off of all those gravel roads.

Pitching hay to livestock should be done with the wind at your back.

Clothes on the line may end up at the neighbors, a mile away.

Semis often drive in the passing lane just because. Well, because if the wind blows them over, I’m thinking it means they blow over into the media versus over onto you. The passing car.

It’s not a wise choice to wear a flowy above the knee skirt.

Hats are a wonderful alternative to an otherwise bad hair day.

Fall

“You have to come see the sunrise,” the Cowboy said to me earlier this morning ..

I had already been out, after the bus came to pick up our oldest for school, in my pajamas. With a steaming cup of coffee.

Sunrise

It is the second full day of fall 2013.

The morning could not be more perfect here in South Dakota. The sun is rising, the colors across the horizon are absolutely stunning and it’s about 60 degrees. One of the best morning’s to go for a ride ..

Nightmare

.. or a run. Or even just hang out on the porch with a cup of coffee and soak it all in. We all know, days like this are numbered.

………………

For about as long as I can remember, fall has been my favorite season. When I was a kid, I loved that it meant the start of another school year, cross country season, football games, crisp cool nights, the smell of campfires, leaves crunching underfoot as we would run through miles and miles of woods behind our house and the holidays once again around the corner.

While it still means many of these same things and I still have a very genuine love for the season .. I found myself yesterday, for the first time I ever I believe, not wanting summer to end. Not wanting to feel the cool breeze of fall or see the leaves turn. I realized after really allowing myself time yesterday to think about why .. it’s because it means another year is about to end. But, not just another year – another season of life. And the seasons, the years anymore, seem to be passing us by so fast.

Cliche, I know. But how very true.

I was helping my daughter with her homework the other night and as I looked over at her, all I could do was wonder where the first 12 years have gone. I looked later that night at the Cowboy who’s been sick for weeks now, fighting some sort of lung infection and all I could do was wonder how many more years of good health and life we might be blessed with. It has been a year of incredibly joys but also great sadness, aging family members have suffered major health complications, a few within just the past few weeks. Several family members and close family friends have recently passed away.

I do my best to never take a day or a moment for granted. Sometimes that means I, and many others like me, often go 500 miles an hour and throw ourselves into everything life, family, community and each day have to offer (often to the dismay of the more laid back around us). But it is also why we can appreciate the opportunity to slow down, reflect and spend time doing nothing but, say..

Soak up a beautiful sunrise.

Hope you are able to get out and enjoy all this fall and this beautiful season of life have to offer. Off to run ..

Minimum Maintenance

“I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve been on these roads,” the Cowboy says to me as we were being rerouted recently on a trip to a friends place. Road construction had completely shut the two lane highway we were on, down. There were only dirt roads in either direction and it was a crapshoot which direction might get us where we were going faster.

“Getting a detour out here isn’t fun,” he said. “You never know where you’ll end up.”

Casey

We were driving through rural, remote Central South Dakota where the roads don’t run quite the way they do in Eastern South Dakota. At least in Eastern South Dakota, there is an intersection with drive-able roads in any direction, just about every square mile. Even if it is a gravel road. It’s tough to get lost. And your GPS works (most places).

Not where we were that day.

South Dakota Backroads

South Dakota Backroads

It wasn’t long ago .. okay, it was actually a long time ago, I was a little kid .. when I couldn’t fathom being in a place like this. I sincerely thought on the family trips we used to take out west, that if we were ever in a place like this, our car would quit, the prairie dogs would eat us alive and no one would ever know. Because, well .. because it really is in the middle of nowhere.

But there is a strange beauty and peacefulness in the fact roads like this, places like this still exist. I would challenge any one of you that might not see yourself being comfortable anywhere but in the middle of a city, immersed in chaos and around tons of people, to make time for such a drive. Detour or otherwise. There are still so many places like this that exist. Places and people and a lifestyle that truly are minimum maintenance. It could be an incredibly rewarding trip.

……………..

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. And in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself. – Unknown

Tuko

I received a package in the mail this week. I can’t wait to tell you about it. Seriously. What arrived is like the best thing since sliced bread. Especially for those of you with animals. That might ever mark in the house. Or on things that aren’t the lawn or the litter box.

But it’s too nice today in South Dakota (and a lot of other places it seems) to sit inside and write or work any longer. I’ve done it most of the day, working for others and I’m ready to get outside. I did want to share though, the following because it’s had me laughing all week.

We’ve got this awesome donkey, Tuko.

Tuko

Tuko

Tuko has been figuring a way out of the field we typically have him in, all week. None of the others in the herd have tried or found a way. He has. There is an abundance of water, shelter and food in this particular field. He’s preferred to sneak out and go hide in the barn. In the shade. Away from the heat.

When he’s rested up, he comes out and either finds me or hangs out close to the house and waits until I come out. He then follows me (or anyone else that might be here) around as long as I’ll let him. Like he’s one of the dogs.

Tuko 2

The Cowboy just laughs. “Leave him out, he doesn’t go anywhere,” he says to me. “As long as he has some water, he can eat the grass.”

I keep putting him back in. Because I don’t want him heading down the road or getting lost for days in the corn fields. Like say, our cattle might have done a week or so ago. Maybe.

While it’s been frustrating and we think we know where he’s escaping, it’s also been incredibly entertaining. And the dogs this week, I do believe, feel like they’ve gained a new bud.

Dogs

Alongside The Road ..

“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

………….

“They’re just weeds,” the Cowboy replied on our drive back from Wall again this weekend. I was asking him if he’s ever paid much attention to the flowers lining almost every roadway in South Dakota this time of year.

Small Roadside Flower

I’ve noticed these beautiful mini-sunflower like blooms the past couple of years in my time back and forth between South Dakota and Wisconsin. But now living here, I’ve been able to enjoy the full season of weeds. Wildflowers. Sunflowers. Whatever you care to call them.

Millions fill the medians of major highways in this state, line thousands of miles of gravel roads and seem to sneak in just about everywhere else in-between. Almost every state boasts something seasonal like this.

Roadside FlowersIt amazes me though, how many drive by wherever they may live, not often noticing. The weeds. Is it because they’re just there, every year .. and we grow accustomed to them? The colors. Their proliferation. Or, is it that far too often, we are too wrapped up in the business of our day-to-day to notice?

Enjoy the weeds while we have them. Their passing means if nothing else, our summer days are numbered.

What I Love About Sunday

We had wanted to go to church this morning .. but the Cowboy needed to get on the road before we would have been able to return from town. He was leaving to get to a rally for a man he’s grown rather fond of, a man quite honestly we now consider a friend, who is entering officially today the race for U.S Senate.

We stayed home instead, sat down to coffee and breakfast together and logged onto last week’s service from my home church in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a poignant message for us ..

While I still feel incredibly connected to my home church of Blackhawk, a church where upwards of five thousand people attend each Sunday, where it could feel easy to get lost but I’m not sure anyone does, where there is this incredible team of pastors that I miss terribly because their message each week is somehow spot on and where the music just moves you .. finding a new home church here in South Dakota has been heartwarming. Our Sundays, when we are home, have become a mix of attending a nearby contemporary Christian church .. and this wonderful small church in Flandreau that reminds me so much of the church I grew up in back home.

I miss Blackhawk.

But there is just something about a small town church .. and Sundays here on our little acreage, that I love having dearly again in my life.

What I Love About Sunday

What I Love About Sunday

What I Love About Sunday – Craig Morgan

Raymond’s in his Sunday best,

He’s usually up to his chest in oil an’ grease.
There’s the Martin’s walkin’ in,
With that mean little freckle-faced kid,
Who broke a window last week.
Sweet Miss Betty likes to sing off key in the pew behind me.

That’s what I love about Sunday:
Sing along as the choir sways;
Every verse of Amazin’ Grace,
An’ then we shake the Preacher’s hand.
Go home, into your blue jeans;
Have some chicken an’ some baked beans.
Pick a back yard football team,
Not do much of anything:
That’s what I love about Sunday.

I stroll to the end of the drive,
Pick up the Sunday Times, grab my coffee cup.
It looks like Sally an’ Ron, finally tied the knot,
Well, it’s about time.
It’s 35 cents off a ground round,
Baby, cut that coupon out!

That’s what I love about Sunday:
Cat-napping on the porch swing;
You curled up next to me,
The smell of jasmine wakes us up.
Take a walk down a back road,
Tackle box and a cane pole;
Carve our names in that white oak,
steal a kiss as the sun fades,
That’s what I love about Sunday,
Oh, yeah.

Ooh, new believers gettin’ baptized,
Momma’s hands raised up high,
Havin’ a Hallelujah good time
A smile on everybody’s face.
That’s what I love about Sunday,
Oh, yeah.

That’s what I love about Sunday,
Oh, yeah.