Saturday, November 7, 2009
Autumn on the farm
I took my camera with me on a walk to the pasture yesterday, passing through the woods on the way. We're having our last week of beautiful colors here in NW Alabama, so I wanted to capture the leaves before they fade and fall to the ground.
You never know what you'll come across in the woods! The photo above is an unusual-shaped growth of branches and vines and always catches my eye. Yesterday when I passed by, the sun sifted through the canopy of trees overhead and kissed these golden leaves -- long enough to make them "pop" in the picture.
I also noticed a fallen tree covered with orange dots. From a distance, it looked like someone had used neon-orange spray paint to write on the tree, so I went closer to take a look. This is actually an unusual fungus -- a touch of vivid orange on a fallen tree in the middle of our woods. If I hadn't glanced that direction, I wouldn't have this photo. It's fun to find surprises in the quiet of our woods!
Taking that walk also stirred up a lot of good memories. You see, our children used to walk those same paths with me in the lovely days of autumn. The boys would dash hither and yon, picking up acorns to toss at one another while Melissa and I collected pretty leaves. All that fresh air and sunshine cleared the mind and strengthened the lungs. By the time we got back up to the house, we'd had a good workout.
It was in those same pastures my hubby would cut hay in the summer and have the boys help bring it back to the barn. When there's no grass growing in winter, cows still have to eat -- and they love farm-fresh hay. Hauling hay is hard work, but Phillip introduced the boys to it early on. When they were old enough to go with him to the field, they could be helpful in some way or other -- if nothing else, carrying the water jug to thirsty Daddy.
As they grew older, they learned to grab those heavy bales of hay and drag them to the truck. Later, as strapping teens, they were able to toss them up on the truck and stack them. In the photo above, a friend (on the left) helps Kevin (7) and Jason (10). They'd all been working hard and it shows! I always made it a point to feed them a man-sized meal after this kind of workout.
The children also went to the pastures in late fall and winter, rounding up the cows and heading them home for a healthy portion of hay at the barn. Normally, Jason or Kevin would slip around behind the cows who were furthest away and start working them back toward the upper pasture. If that failed, Melissa would locate the bossiest Mama cow and start her in the right direction. The others would inevitably follow along!
When they came through the gate near the pond, one of the kids would perch on the post and count heads. That could be a challenge at times, because the cows and calves were pushing and rushing toward the sweet-smelling hay. At times, the sound of their hooves on the cold ground was like an out-of-sync drumbeat. Cows usually don't get in a big hurry to do anything, but if they are frightened -- or, in this case, hungry -- they can certainly run. The little calves usually kicked their heels and pranced, which was quite cute!
After the cows were in the barn lot, I'd have have hot chocolate or a special treat waiting for my helpers, especially in winter. They would come to the back door, slapping ice off their gloves and stepping out of muddy boots before entering the sun room in their sock feet.
Now and then, I miss those days ... but we decided when all the kids left home, we didn't need to keep a herd any longer. We're thinking of repairing the fence around the barn lot so we can raise a few steers for beef. I can handle that part just fine -- befriending young calves and feeding them corn and sweet feed while they're at the barn. I'm just not nimble enough (or willing) to round up a whole herd of pig-headed cows in the pasture anymore!
Ahh, the crisp, colorful days of autumn. They stir up a lot of good memories for this Mom!