Giving Thanks

With the Thanksgiving Holiday fast approaching, I thought it appropriate that I should write one last post from the 2014 season.  We have had so many adventures in recent weeks, and so much to be thankful for.

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Ian (age 9) and Eliot (age 7) pruning raspberries.

Several weekends ago, with chilly temps arriving and forecasts of our first big winter snowstorm approaching, Dean and I set to work to cover the 2 1/2 or so acres of strawberries with their winter blanket of straw.  Typically we are able to get the strawberries covered before such a storm is impending, but this year was extremely unusual.  Since it is best to cover the berries after about a week of 32 degrees or lower temps in the overnight hours, the opportunity honestly didn’t arrive until right before our big weekend straw spreading date.  So here we were caught between a warm October and an early snowstorm rushing frantically to get the last of our field work completed before those wintery flakes arrived.  Our older boys worked hard in the raspberry fields pruning as much as they could, while Dean and I worked on the straw.  They didn’t complete everything, but they made a good dent in the field… and continue to do so.  Still, this morning with snow falling and temps of 20 degrees, they were outside pruning with Dean and I.  Each day we are thankful for their smiles and their willingness to help out, each in their own way.

Back to the straw story…   Sometimes people ask us how a process like this works, and though we do lots of things by hand on our farm… this is not one of them.  I cannot imagine spreading 460 bales of straw by hand!  When we purchased the farm four years ago we also purchased various pieces of farm equipment… the straw machine was one of them.

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All loaded up and ready to go!

Upon brief inspection the straw machine looks much like a wagon with some sort of weird contraption up front, which is 100% true.  The wagon holds 50-60 or so small bales of straw (depending on how tricky we are at stacking it) and then up front there is a bale-shaped opening where one person (usually Dean) loads a bale down into.  As the straw goes in, the blades in the bottom part of the contraption cut the string (Dean pulls that part out) and then continues to cut and spread the straw over the strawberries.  Attached to the back of our slow-moving tractor, the machine moves at a snail’s pace and the process (although not done by hand) still takes quite awhile.

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Dean trying to “unclog” the straw machine.

Now all this seems rather simple… one would think.  And theoretically, it is.  But the difference between theoretical and practical can become quite gargantuan when working with machines and weather.  On this particular weekend things went as planned initially.  We were able to cover one field on Saturday without much difficulty.  But when Sunday arrived, the machine seemed to be going through its teenage rebellious years.  Several times per row I would be startled from my concentrated-straight-but-not-too-slow tractor driving by Dean’s frantic yells of “STOP.”  And even though I KNOW that Dean is very careful when the blades are moving, I always, for a brief second, have a panic attack when I hear that yell… thinking that he got his hand or sweatshirt caught in the machine and hurt himself.  I think it is a fear more than one farmer has felt over the years.

Throughout our 8 1/2 hours in the field that Sunday we saw various forms of precipitation and many times I wondered if we really would have to put straw on by hand… because after all, they were forecasting BIG snow… we wouldn’t be able to get the tractor in the field again it seemed.  Finally, after many starts and stops and several getting-under-the-machine-unclogging repairs, we finished putting the straw on.  The rain/snow had begun to fall, the sun was setting, the tractor lights were on and Dean still had to cultivate between the rows (to prevent weeds in the spring) and I had to load and drive all the raspberry canes to the burn pile, but in the end we completed everything and ended our evening thankful and exhausted.

As each of you settle in for the arrival of a Midwest winter, we hope that wherever you are and whatever your circumstances in life, you can find peace, hope and something to be thankful for.   For truly, there are always things to be thankful for… even on the worst of days.

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One of our smallest gifts!