So, I needed, no wanted, some pumpkins to scatter in our landscaping. The sign placed along the highway pointed to a rural pumpkin patch. When I got there Friday, I spotted a large assortment of orange pumpkins of various sizes, along with a good many miniatures in white and orange. But where were the prices? Then I saw this money box, above, and this sign, below.
WHO does that? Who entrusts his large crop of pumpkins to consumer goodwill? The Hoosier farmer who lives at this residence, that's who.
So I looked around, trying to decide which pumpkins I would cart home, how many I needed, and where I'd place them. The farmer spotted me and walked down his driveway. He told me to take what I want and leave what I thought was fair. I looked around some more. Maybe they weren't perfect, but neither am I. And how perfect do they need to be to adorn our landscaping and porch just fine?
Then ... he walked back to the house and left me to my own assessment on what the bounty is worth. I hope he liked what I left. I think I was actually more generous than had I bought them at a pricey agri-tourism attraction, well known for its annual harvests.
I was touched.
And inspired by the generosity he offered to not only do up the exterior of the house, but hang the fall wreaths, get out the beautiful fall pillow friend Gay gifted me with in the summer, and fill a bowl with cinnamon-infused potpourri.
Then Sunday morning, when I got ready for church, I decided to wear my new sweater. It's a goldenrod hue, a color I never wear, but I like it. It was on the final clearance rack at a favorite local consignment shop, Sisterhood Exchange, in Pendleton. I was drawn to the subtle ruffle along the row of buttons. But what sealed the deal was the $1 pricetag. I'll be sporting this a lot this fall.
Happy fall, y'all!
The following article appeared in a special section Sunday in The Courier-Times under the theme Cultivating Henry County: Family Farms. Any time I can mix it up with some llamas, it's a good day.
by Donna Cronk
For years, Allen and Sue Davis and their daughter, Lindsay (now Lindsay Brown), raised sheep on their rural New Castle property, west of Cadiz. After Lindsay's tenth year showing 4-H sheep, she and her mom were at the Indiana State Fair and watched a llama exhibition. But they did something more than merely watch.
"We bought two llamas," recalls Sue of their quick decision that day.
The two geldings, Prince and Romeo, were the start of a new era for the family, that of raising and showing llamas all over the country as well as Allen becoming a show judge with the Alpaca and Llama Show Association.
"It just kept growing," Sue says of their interest in these animals that has spanned almost 25 years. "We've met lots of nice people from all over the U.S. and Canada."
At one time they also bred and sold the animals but now maintain their herd for their own family's enjoyment.
There are two classes of showing llamas: performance and halter. The Davises work in the halter class.
When judging llamas, Allen says, "You're basically looking at the confirmation of the animal structure. You watch their walk, squareness of front legs and rear legs, walk, top line, sqareness of their rump, length of neck."
Historically, llamas were used for packing / utility animals in South America where they were better than horses or mules for that purpose. They are also guard animals by nature. Interestingly enough, Sue says that Noblesville has the largest 4-H llama youth association in the nation with an average of 100 4-Hers participating.
Lindsay says they are used on farms within herds to protect the other animals. If they become aware of danger, they sound a special "alarm" call to alert the others. A herd of llamas will surround its own young ones to protect them from predators. And when llamas are content, they hum.
Says Allen, "They're like a dog. A lot of it is in the breeding."
Other attributes of the creatures are that they are people-pleasers, very clean and can even be potty trained.
The Davis farm, called Rose Cottage Llamas, is home to the one-time national grand champion wool male llama, a Bolivian llama named Conductor. The family says he won every show he was in for three years. He also served as national reserve champion during his prime. He is deceased now but a large, framed picture of him is featured on a wall. Llamas can live into their 20s.
Allen says of llamas, "When you are around them, they have a calmness to them that makes your mind and your body calm." He says they are quick learners.
Says Sue, "I like to watch their gracefulness. They're nice to each other."
Adds Lindsay, "They always remember you by your scent."
Lindsay says of the animals, "They all have their own personality. There's always one female in charge." Lindsay and her children, Luke and Layla, were on hand to talk about the llamas on the day The Courier-Times visited. The Browns make their home in Hagerstown.
Right now the rural New Castle family has a herd of 10 females and three males.
Allen owned AJ Pools in Anderson for 40 years. He's now retired. Sue, who is a high school special education teacher at Shenandoah, says she misses showing the animals. However, with two young grandchildren, who knows? Rose Cottage llamas may again be back in show rings once again.
I have an old iron bell from my folks' farm where I grew up, and where my paternal grandparents lived before that. There's no reason I would need a farm bell. There are no men in the field awaiting its ring to dinner 'round the threshing table.
But I like it because it reminds me of such scenes from farms of old.
For years after it left Dad's barn, it sat in first one garage, then another, until finally I asked our friend Monty Foust to post it in our backyard. I like it there and wonder why we didn't raise it sooner. It does require a bit of maintenance. It had been painted silver once, for what reason I can't guess, and I painted it black. Now it needs a good touching up a couple times a year, most notably, after the winter months. Most notably, now.
But its fresh coat will have to wait a while. Things are pretty busy inside that bell. A few weeks ago I noticed that a family called Robin had claimed squatters' rights by building a nice little home there, sheltered sweetly by the protective shell of iron. I've stayed out of Mrs. Robin's way, observing from the window that she's been spending a lot of time maintaining her new digs which she decorated beautifully with found bits of dried grass and straw.
Some years robins nest in ferns on our back porch, but I don't have the plants up yet. One year a front-door wreath hosted a family. When the family sets up housekeeping in an eye-level fern or on my front door, I take the liberty of carefully peeking into the nest. Never touching, mind you.
Sometimes the tiny birds mistook me for their mother and opened their mouths wide, only to be briefly disappointed that I couldn't deliver a juicy worm. But soon, their mother swooped in and picked up the tab for lunch.
This bell is too high and I might do great damage to the family dynamic if I got out a ladder. So I watch from afar and was rewarded while ago when I saw a tiny head lift toward the heavens and a mouth eagerly await a to-go order.
Soon enough, the cozy nest will no longer suffice, and the birds will wing away, as birds and boys do, and their mother will do something else with her time besides deliver lunch and cuddle with them.
Meanwhile, here's to you, Mrs. Robin. Enjoy your family. Stop by again next year if you want.
It’s a treat whenever my friend Sandy, a farmer's wife, can get away from the joys of retirement long enough to squeeze me in for lunch at Café Royal in New Castle.
I love to hear about her life on the farm, about her horses, her granddaughter Carly, about Mike, her farmer husband, a retired school-bus-driver.
Even though unlike me, Sandy is tall and blond, beautiful and inspiring, sometimes I think in other ways we were separated at birth. We can talk for an hour without taking a breath and it feels like five minutes.
Yesterday she brought me a treat: a bag brimming with a dozen beautiful ears of yellow sweet corn, crisp and tender, delicious and perfect. Once we finished lunch, I rushed off toward work while she got an iced-tea refill. I had forgotten her request: Remind her not to forget to get the corn out of her vehicle.
Back at the newspaper office, I noticed someone pulled in beside me at about the same moment I did. It was Sandy with the forgotten sweet corn! I put the cobs in the seat beside me so that I didn’t forget them again once I got home.
The funny thing was, I couldn’t forget about that corn. Instead, I thought of little else.
Corn reminds me of my dad. Some joke about Indiana corn with a slogan that cajoles, “There’s more than corn in Indiana.” Or people say they live in the middle of a cornfield as though that’s a bad or boring thing.
When I told Brian last night I planned to devote my next blog to corn, he groaned, adding that only I would write about something as corny as, well, corn. He suggested a two-part series: Corn and Beans.
This morning on the way to work, I stopped along the road near Shenandoah High School for some photos of corn growing in the field. I looked closely at that healthy stand of Hoosier gold and I saw, in my mind's eye, my dad. So many things change but corn and my dad take me back. Back home. OK, back home again.
I think of that particular gold color, ears of field corn in the fall that are the exact shade of a school bus. And how the buses are back in action and that too, reminds me of him as much as do the corn stalks standing so straight and uniform in the morning sun and dew.
Then I realized with a start that my father has been gone for 25 years this summer. How can that be? He’d had advanced Alzheimer’s disease for a while but still, the July he passed, his death came as a shock, as death always does.
His natural habitat was our big, old barn. He was many things: A beef, corn and soybean farmer, a school-bus driver for 32 years, an artist, an inventor, a guy who could figure out how to fix anything, a seller of Lincoln Arc Welders on the side, and a repairman for dairy refrigeration operations besides. He could play a violin, roller skate with the best of them, shoot a basketball, kill you at croquet. He could, in my mind, do anything. He was king of his little slice of rural kingdom.
But for today, I think of my father the farmer and how we would drive around the country roads to check on the crops, and in those moments, and many others, how I knew to my core how much I loved our farm, and how lucky I was to be that farmer’s daughter.
So Sandy and Mike Moore: thanks for the beautiful ears of corn. And Dad: thanks for the memories.
I’ll be passing through Union County tomorrow. I may have to leave the house early. I may have to take the back roads to get there. Just so I can watch the corn grow.
I guess you know you are a farm girl at heart when you look forward to a barn festival and tour of southern-Indiana barns. And all the better when you get to take the tour with a van load of like-minded gal pals.
That's the plan for Saturday, Oct. 3, and I thought if you are a farm-geek like me, you might want to know about the doings. A bunch of interesting barns are on tour in Madison and Switzerland counties from 9-5 tomorrow. Some are drive bys, and others, I think you can go inside. Then at 5, just outside of Madison, there's the grand finale, farm style, it's a Barn Fest, with food, music and more. I wonder what they mean by "and more?" A hoe-down? A shindig? Guess we'll find out. Yee-haw.
Check out the Indiana Barn Foundation on Facebook for details about the festival. (Scroll down; they curiously don't have it as the lead post). Basically, you'll need to slip by the Switzerland County or Madison (city, not county) tourism bureaus to pay a small fee for directions and addresses and you are off.
As for the photo with this post, it's my late grandfather, Roscoe Jobe, with his draft horses. This is one of, if not my very favorite old family photo. For one thing, Roscoe looks exactly like my own father, and for another, the photo is taken in front of the barn that was on our farm all of my growing up years. It's still there today.
I never knew Roscoe -- he passed on before I was born -- but Dad spent countless hours in that barn. It was, I suppose, his office, so to speak. I always found something comforting about seeing the barn lights aglow at night, spreading yellow light across the barnyard evenings when he was working late welding something that broke or doing whatever it was he did in his special domain.
When I think of Dad, I see him in his barn. In this barn.
I came along when we had tractors, not work horses. I would have loved to have seen and known them. But now, it's all part of Indiana farm history, not the way things are today.
But tomorrow, we'll take a tour of the way things were. Can't think of a better way to spend an October Saturday. Maybe if you don't have anything else on your plate, you'll join us; we'll offer up a friendly howdy-do wave as we pass you on the back roads.
It's a rural thing, you know.