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Sunday, August 09, 2015

Stories from the Farm - Riding Katie

Three little friends on their first mule ride
In the country the pace of summer usually picks up in July, right after Independence Day celebrations. The county fair is two weeks away and there are projects and entries to ready for the Home Show and 4H exhibits. There's pre-registration. Then there's getting these items to the Fair. And then there's the week of the fair, By then the weather usually turns blistering hot and the vegetable garden starts producing. There are summer family reunions to attend, the usual home chores to complete, the yard to mow, and the garden and flowers to water (but not this year). People start to meet themselves coming and going. 

Ben and I really enjoyed the week of the fair this summer. Ben participated in three tractor parades and one night I brought my ninety-year-old mother, so we were there almost everyday for one reason or another. We usually ate dinner at the pork and cattlemen's tent and visited with friends and neighbors we hadn't seen in a while. Ben also loves the stand that sells roast'n ears (corn on the cob). The Extension Homemakers run a Country Kitchen that is air-conditioned. They serve breakfast and family style meals in the evenings - we usually eat there at least once with our friend Lowell Oesterling. And then there's the carnival. We get ice cream cones and lemon and orange shake-ups from the carnival vendors - and ever since I discovered funnel cakes at the State Fair a few years ago,  I am always sorely tempted to buy one. YUM!

Ben pulling the surrey in Monday's Antique Tractor Parade
Ben defied the unusally rainy weather and drove his Ford and Allis-Chalmers tractors in for the Antique Tractor Exhibit the Friday before the fair, the Allis in the morning and the Ford after lunch. He pulled a little surrey with a fringe on top behind the Ford for the grand-kids to ride behind the tractor in the parades. I drove behind him on that second trip to town. Our half of the sky was sunny most of the way but all the while a vast black sky loomed before us. I could tell by the water tower that it had swallowed the fairgrounds. The rain cut loose a few blocks before we reached Teal Road. Ben pulled over and made a dash for the car but still got absolutely soaked. Good thing I thought to bring along a change of clothes, just in case! 

Dairy Tent
The grand-kids worked in the dairy booth and showed dairy calves this year as well as participating in the rabbit and chicken exhibit. The rabbits and poultry are usually housed in the same building at the fairgrounds - one of my favorite exhibits, but this year sadly 4H participants couldn't bring their chickens, ducks, and geese in because of the avian flu. Instead the cages had photos in them - and I think the actual  judging took place at people's homes and farms. We missed seeing all the beautiful and sometimes exotic poultry.

Double-page Scrapbooking Layout for the Fair
For my part, I usually bring entries for the Home Show's photography and scrapbooking exhibits. Every year I say it's going to be my last time, but every year I seem to end up with a few photos earmarked for the fair.

But today's farm story, while it occurred during fair week, actually took place at our farm - as a sort of respite from all the commotion and activities of a rather muddy fair. (Coming home to our old farmhouse in the country always seems so peaceful after being at the fair.) Tuesday of fair week, some former neighbors called and asked if they could bring their new neighbors out to see Kate and Annie, Ben's draft mules.

Ben said that he couldn't hitch and drive the mules because the surrey was at the fair, but that he could saddle Katie for visitors to ride. So out came our former neighbors with three little girls in tow and we all spent a couple of hours visiting and watching the girls enjoy the country. They fed apple-oat cookies to Kate and Annie, rode Katie, and fed sunflower seeds to the chickens. They were genuinely interested in the animals. They accompanied me on my rounds and asked all kinds of questions. When they heard me calling, "Here, chick-chick-chick," and saw the hens come running, they started calling too, just like they had heard me do.

They asked about the aprons the hens were wearing: "Do you put those on them so you can tell which ones are hens?"

I sort of hesitated and then just said, "No, sometimes the roosters accidentally tear off their feathers - but they don't mean to  ..."

The girls wanted to get right up close with the animals so I let them go in the coop and collect the eggs. Then I caught Rudy Junior, our enormous half-Jersey-Giant and half-Leghorn rooster so they could get a closer look at his shiny, colorful feathers and pet him. The only misfortune that happened was that Katie accidentally stepped on one of our little visitor's toes, yipes! But fortunately, while bruised, nothing seemed broken, and she was a trooper and continued enjoying her day. But I told Benny we should never let anyone lead the mules when they were wearing flip-flops or sandals. The people, I mean - mules never wear flip-flops. Everyone knows they wear horseshoes. ;)

Rudy Junior as a chick and all grown up

Our Rhode Island Red hen models a
chicken saddle, aka hen apron, aka hen saver
Contributing to everybody's enjoyment was the beautiful sunny day. We just haven't had many of those this record-breaking summer of rain and cooler temperatures, so when one comes along, you tend to feel like you're in heaven! Taking pictures of the girls on Katie was challenging because of the time of day - early afternoon, bright and sunny, and I was out of practice and made all kinds of bad exposure decisions, argh, because the originals turned out very dark and backlit - but after I post-processed them in Photoshop, I think these photos will make some pretty nice memories for the girls and for our former neighbors!


Here they are again!

There they go around the horseshoe drive with Ben leading them.

Look at Katie stepping out with her three pretty little ladies!

Okay, looks like Katie just got a little frisky - dratted horse fly!

But our three little heroines have it all under control

Looks like four good friends!

The girls collect chicken eggs.
Wishing you all blue skies and sunny, warm days! Unless you happen to be in California or South Carolina this summer - then I wish you some long-needed rain. Preferably some of ours!

Until next time,

JuneBug

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