Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Second Stories

This is our barn. You've seen it before. 

But I'm pretty sure you haven't seen the second floor of our barn. Today's the day.

The second floor of our barn is an adventurous place. It's one of our best kept secrets. It's the place my kids' friends ask to visit about 3 whole seconds after they get here. It's also a little risky. 

Take, for example, our cousin Navalin who visited last summer from Panama. Navalin found a floor board that almost let him step right down to the first floor! It was like a secret trap door that said, "Now you're here, now you're not." Except it only let him fall so far before the floor caught him. Wasn't that a neat experience we gave our cousin?

Anyways, the best part of the second floor of our barn is the journey up. Because the only way up is by climbing this lovely, almost brand new rope:
This rope was purchased probably in the year 1947 or so. It's got a lot of life left!
The rope is hanging in an area that looks kind of like an elevator shaft. But this elevator only goes in one direction and it doesn't carry people. In all honesty, it's a hay shute. Where hay travels down, not up. But these details are trivial. 

The important thing is this is also where we climb up to the second floor. Here is a picture of how it looks once you climb into the hay shute: 

Contrary to what Marcel says, that board is of no help when you climb up the rope.

Here is a picture of my freakishly large hand:

I'm about to hoist myself up. This is a multi-step process, have you. The first step involves putting your boot onto a board that's about shoulder high. The height of this board pretty much guarantees you're going to be oriented horizontally when you first hoist yourself onto the rope. As you can see, I start with my left hand up. 

Sidebar: I'm right handed but do lots of things like a leftie. For example, when crossing my arms across my chest I put my right arm on top of my left arm. And when clasping my hands behind my back, I grab my right hand with my left hand. These symptoms are apparent indicators that I should be a leftie. Or they just prove that I'm screwed up. Which we knew already. Moving on...

I'm currently hanging horizontally on a rope. Sometimes I swing back and forth and bang into the sides of the shute. That can either be fun or make me swear. It all depends on the day. Next I simply hoist myself up the rope, hand over hand, knot by knot, until I can swing my body over to the point where I can get a leg onto the second floor of the barn. It sounds harder than it is.

I'm up! 

First things first, I glance thankfully at the rope that just held my weight and try not to think of the various contortions and shapes my body might make if the rope had snapped while I was hanging horizontally in the middle of a hay shute. 

This is the rope I show gratitude to:
Shame on me for ending my previous sentence with a proposition. And shame on me for never dusting the second floor of my barn. Just look at those cobwebs! While looking, please let me know if you see any signs of fray. I haven't noticed any...this rope has a lot of life left!

For some reason, I've never really paid attention to the fact that the rope is tied to this ridiculously small board that someone nailed to that beam probably in 1947. I'll try not to think about that little fact again.

OK, prepare yourself for the true spoils. Look at this beauty:

It's absolutely breathtaking up here. Look how the light shines through the windows and shows off the reddish color of the gorgeous wood. And I love the ladders that are everywhere. They are useful when the barn is chock full of hay and straw.  

I have to say, I really love the golden color of straw. 

Look at the amazing woodwork that my ancestors and probably most of the neighborhood back then were capable of. And that ladder in the middle of the wall.

Sometimes I want to move in up here. Doesn't this door into the oat bin look inviting? I really love that hardware. People pay big bucks for hardware like that. I almost convince myself of turning this into my living quarters pretty much every time I'm up here. Until I step in raccoon poop. Then I think, "Eh, maybe not."

This rope is the newest infatuation of Ana's friends. They want to have a party up here and swing on that rope. Which would be fine if it weren't for those sneaky, cousin-catching, hidden trap doors. Ah, but that latticework. So pretty.  

And these joints, they're just as achy as mine are! Just kidding. My joints don't ache. 

One last look before we go:

I love this place. It's so pretty it melts away the drudgery of stacking hay on a hot sticky summer day.

Going down?

Grab the rope, step onto that small rim of boards and let yourself down.  

I really do love this unconventional life. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Don't Get Lost in the Shuffle

Here in Irish Grove we've become inundated with spam. And I don't mean the kind that comes in a can and is made in Minnesota. I mean the kind that offer us all sorts of physical improvements, monetary windfalls and membership in AARP (the nerve!). Therefore, I've made the switch to gmail and hope you don't get lost in the shuffle. Please make a note of my new email address: jackie.de.batista@gmail.com and send me a line or two if you feel inspired. Just know I won't be inspired to join you on that free cruise in exchange for my personal info and, with most sincere apologies, I can't help you when you lose your passport while overseas. You're just gonna have to learn to be more responsible.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Good Enough for Irish Grove

If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times:

You don’t look like a farmer.”

I was most recently accused of this egregious transgression while presenting Farm Financials to beginning farmers at a Farm Beginnings class.** And while inviting me to present farm financials is indeed a joke-worthy topic, how I look has nothing to do with it.

I never know what to say when I’m accused of not looking like a farmer.  What does that mean, really?  Should I be wearing rubber boots and have straw embedded in my hair?  Should I be a hipster or wear dreadlocks?  Should I be fat and/or a little bit homely? Should I stink of manure and have dirt under my fingernails?  Should I wear flannel shirts and overalls with a straw hat, or perhaps a denim skirt?  Should I look like I have no other option for my life?  Should I be a man?

A few years back I was actually a student in this class.  And I remember with great clarity how one presenter (speaking off-topic) told us that people expect farmers to look a certain way and so, if we want to be successful, we should try our best to incorporate that ‘farmer look’ into our persona.  No lie, this person actually went on to describe exactly how we should dress for each occasion.  Taking produce to the farmers market? Wear overalls, a worn t-shirt with a farm-related or liberal message printed on the front, and a wool stocking cap.  Better yet, tie your hair up with a bandana!  I was apparently the only person offended by these comments (that I know of), as many people were nodding their heads in agreement. 

Maybe someone should take this idea and turn it into a class!  They could call it Farm Fresh Fashion or An Outfit for Every Outfit!  How about The Dirt on Farmer Digs?


Whatever the title, something tells me I won’t be invited to be the presenter.

“You don’t look like a farmer” is a powerful statement.  People that say this are saying I’m not    fill in the blank    -enough for their taste.  And then I get wondering….wondering about their opinions, their motivations, and ultimately their farm ethic.  Are they saying I’m not smart enough or strong enough to be a farmer? Are they disclosing their stance in the very real and terrible divide between conventional and organic farmers?  Are they trying to influence me or pressure me into something?  Are they sexist? Are they revealing an unspoken prejudice against farmers as uneducated, dumb hayseeds? 

Can they really, honestly, genuinely be simply surprised that a farmer might wear mascara? 

As a farmer—a funny-looking and apparently unfarmer-ish farmer—I can tell you that the cows don’t care if I wear a pantsuit or my pajamas as I let them into that fresh paddock when they’re hungry, the chickens are fine with both high-heels and shit-kickers as long as I throw them their coveted kitchen scraps, and the horses will just as happily grab a carrot out of freshly manicured hands as they will lovingly nibble hay embedded in hair.  Thankfully, a farmer’s animals and a farmer’s land will respond to his/her care and attention—with or without the right wardrobe. 

My response to the woman at the Farm Beginnings class?  I’m not what all farmers look like, but I am what a farmer looks like.  And I think that’s good enough for Irish Grove. 

**The person commenting on my appearance at the class was a student and not a Farm Beginnings staff person. I'd hate to give the impression that Farm Beginnings organizer Angelic Organics endorses a certain look. They always have and continue to support farmers of all varieties.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some Truths About Farming

Farm truth #1: There are tons of projects around the farm that need to be done in a farmer's spare time.

Take the barnyard, for example.

The lovely cows, during the lovely dog days of summer, love to wallow around in their own lovely muck in order to get out of the lovely heat and humidity.

The result is a not-so-lovely barnyard and a bunch of cows that can suffer from a not-so-lovely hoof condition called foot rot.

Farm truth #2: Farmers have no spare time to finish these projects.

That's right, I said it. Farmers have no spare time to do extra projects around the farm because they're too busy with:

1) their off-farm jobs
2) their kids
3) their civic duties, and
4) their daily farm work.

It's stressful, people.

And to prove it, just look at how stressed I am at my off-farm job!

Farm truth #3: No one cares to listen to you whine about not having any spare time to finish your farm projects.

No need to elaborate on this one.   

Farm truth #4:  If you whine loud enough, a few helpers may appear out of nowhere. 



Double yes!!

Farm truth #4: There are many people who are happy to congratulate you when you finally get around to finishing those farm projects.

Farm truth #5: Kids love to write their name in fresh cement.

Farm truth #6:  Farmers love getting a good project done.

The end.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scott Russell Sanders

"People who root themselves in places

are likelier to know and care for those places

than are people who root themselves in ideas.

When we cease to be migrants and become inhabitants,

we might begin to pay enough heed and respect to where we are.


By settling in, we have a chance of making a durable home for ourselves,

our fellow creatures,

and our descendants."

--Scott Russell Sanders

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Boys 1, Girls 1

Calf #2 was born this morning. It's a girl!!

She's been adorned with a very stylish #39 earring and officially welcomed to the clan.

Tally so far? Boys 1, Girls 1.