Saturday, December 5, 2009

The William Arbuckle company of Toledo, Ohio makes some fine stuff! Our "Tiffin" corn sheller is probably over 110 years old, and still works wonderfully. Their corn shellers are such a pleasure to use that 5 year olds who typically prefer to lounge around in their underwear will jump at the chance to operate one.

Armed with a bushel of field corn from our garden and my experimental plot, we set to work, and now have a couple gallons of shelled corn to make our own cheese puffs with.

One evening I decided to bring the camera down to the barn with me for milking time, where I snapped this photo of warm fall sunlight streaming in through the windows.

It's a very pleasant place to be, with the cows munching their hay to the sound of milk streaming into the pail. There's the occasional protest from one of the barncats being molested by Bilbo in the corner. I can hear the horses chewing on the barn, hoping they'll annoy me enough that I toss them some hay to make it stop.

Since I've taken that photo, things have changed. It's much colder now, and not quite as pleasant.

Michigan has four very distinct seasons, and winter just arrived this week. I like them all, but some a little more than others. Winter has a sort of austere beauty around here. The leaves are gone from the trees, and I can suddenly see through the woods that seemed so dense until now. The wind makes a whistling noise once the leaves are off. It reminds me of the wind in the sailboat rigging when we lived aboard our boat in Bellingham. It's often snowing, but so far it's been just a few scattered flakes, each a perfect star. They don't accumulate, but seem to disappear as they hit the ground.

Rachel did a fine job of announcing winter's arrival, saying "It's 22 degrees, and I'm going outside to use the outhouse!" I wonder if she'll make the same announcement when the temps go below zero again.

The barnyard, despite a load of wood chips, had grown very muddy over the last few weeks, especially after being churned up while I extended our water line to the horses' paddock. It's not a problem anymore though, as the mud has all frozen. It's nice that the wheels on our poo-cart no longer sink into the mud, but they don't roll over this frozen stuff too well either.

Our barn seems to produce its own barn-cats through spontaneous generation, as evidenced by the appearance of "Coon" the kitten late this summer. She's a true barn-cat, as I rarely see her outside the barn at all. She survives on a diet of second-hand chipmunks left by Meowie and Burrito, along with some milk donated by Josie.

A trip to the vet this week revealed that she's got pneumonia, so she gets to play house-cat for a week while she's on antibiotics. She now lives underneath the woodstove.

While bow-season didn't produce anything for me this year, firearm season went pretty well. The bucks, as I'd anticipated, grew careless. I had a 40 yard shot at a 6 point buck who was busy making a scrape. He ran away as the smoke cleared, just as healthy as ever. I guess there was a little too much brush between us.

Later in the evening of opening day, I spotted a nice buck running along one of the trails I've cleared with the tractor. This time the shot went where it was supposed to, and he was down within 50 yards.

Our local library hosted an astronomer a few weeks ago, and Henry was quite excited to go out and sleep under the stars after seeing his presentation. We loaded up the backpack with sleeping bags and found a nice cowpie-free spot out in the middle of the pasture.

Henry saw his first shooting star, and I was amazed by how many airplanes there are flying over our house at any given moment. We lasted until 1:00am, when Henry announced that he couldn't sleep any more, at which point he ran for the house and spooked the horses who thundered around the barnyard and terrified him.

There's an old play-house in our woods which I had promised to bring up to the house for Henry. I was going to do it with the tractor last summer, but never got around to it.

This year I finally had the time to bring it back, but was able to load it on to our stone-boat and drag it back with the horses. It's not in the best of shape, but should last at least until Henry loses interest in it. Inside is a "witch's kettle" made from the top of an old cream separator.

I managed to find an old Oliver 99 walking plow at the auction in Topeka, which is perfect for the smaller space of our garden. We harnessed up the horses and went to work. I worked the lines while Rachel steered the plow. The plowing went very well once I stopped staring at the plow and paid attention to where the horses were going.

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