Turn Left At The Cornfield

Learning how to hurry up and slow down.

Country Living With The Cat 12 May 2014



Ah, Utopia, where a cat looks like a rock; where a Bobwhite “tweets;” and where a birthday is celebrated with song, tools, and water.

Tree planting season has officially arrived.  As ever, just a day after making a trip to Ames to get eleven hundred shrub and tree seedlings; and to Hickory Park to celebrate a birthday, a lot of rain is on the way. One could mark the calendar with rain clouds and lots of rain, as soon as those trees are in the bag, and in the basement laid out in piles, according to species.  Fortunately, the basement acts as a cooler to keep the trees dormant during the rainy season, which can span several days.  After all the rain, one has to wait at least four days before the tractor and tree planter can get anywhere near a field.

Like farmers anywhere, a tree farmer depends on fair and sunny weather during tree planting season. Although the equipment for planting thousands of tree seedlings isn’t nearly as complicated and expensive, an old adage, commonly known as Murphy’s Law with such quotes as  “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” and “…will cost the most…do the most damage…be the most embarrassing,” will settle in around the homestead, like a dark cloud of doom, until every seedling is safely and carefully placed in the soil.

Every year, the woodsman says he doesn’t want to celebrate his birthday.  No one listens to him and celebrates each passing year to honor him and his longevity, much to his reluctant delight.                                                                                                                                     The woodsman’s birthday happily dawned with an early call from Ohio, and high birthday spirits, which were quickly dampened by water pouring from the side of the washer.  Happily for the woodsman, the Ohio Belles, one in a purple tutu and mud boots, and the other barefoot and minus a tooth, sang the “Happy Birthday, CHA-CHA” song to their beloved Pa.

While birthdays may be “…nature’s way of telling us to eat more cake…;” and, while, Skype is pretty amazing for bringing family members together who live across thousands of miles–it isn’t possible to enjoy the same cake and candles–a big disappointment for the little ladies who enjoy blowing out the candles’ flames, especially for someone, like the woodsman, who has  a forest of candles to extinguish.

After mopping up water, moving the washer and dryer, and skinning a few knuckles, the “fun-time” was just beginning–figuring out what is wrong with the washer–and fixing it.  The era of self-reliance and do-it-yourself repair is a far, fond memory, since every appliance, even a coffee maker, is now electronic, complicated, and with nary an owner’s repair manual.  The woodsman has the patience of Job, working endless hours transforming a piece of lumber into a beautiful and useful item; however, for anyone who knows anything about the woodsman, it is well-known that he hates to work with anything like plumbing or mechanical malfunctions.  It is a  traumatic experience–for children, animals, and woodsman–alike.

Seemingly, fixing anything built after 1950 requires x-ray, eagle vision, since the diagrams on the Internet are the size of a newborn’s thumbnail, and dissolve into funny pixilated forms when any effort is made to enlarge the image. Finding a parts list, schematics, and instructions is “frusterating,” as the curly haired, moptop, three-year-old would say.  If one is lucky enough to actually find the part in the miniscule diagram, hopes for a speedy repair are dashed when the closest supplier is in Papua New Guinea, and the shipping timetable is so iffy, that one can only hope that the washing machine will be out of commission for only a week and a half.

After wasting several hours looking at repair videos on YouTube, and trying to decipher diagrams for the washer, the pair decided that using a water level setting that doesn’t overfill the washer tub–low tech and low cost–is the best solution.  As the possible parts list was surveyed, and the cash register tape was longer than the house is tall, the days of a washer with three working parts–a wringer, a tub for suds, and a tub for rinsing—that lasted for decades was fondly remembered and desired as a replacement for the leaking, broken automatic washer.

In preparation for the tree planting season, the old 1990s era Massey tractor’s fuel lift pump had to be replaced. Thankfully, that repair was a lot easier, since pages and pages of parts lists, installation directions, and diagrams come nicely bound in a three ring binder, supplied by the manufacturer, which is something truly mind-boggling.

While acting like a guard cat for the birds, Sir Fur AKA The Trickster completely fooled the humans, when he laid so still that he looked like a nearby rock in the flower bed.

Filling the feeders for the birds on the homestead, has evolved into a full-time job for the woodsman, which for him, is a labor of love, since he enjoys watching many species of birds with many colors and bird songs.  Since the first hummingbird was spotted, the other day, this writer needs to get busy and fill the hummingbird feeders with the delicious nectar those “hummers” love.

Surprisingly, a Bobwhite AKA a quail perched on a deck post singing and calling to others, within feet of the house, and seemingly posed, when the writer took pictures.

Murpho has loved every time she and the woodsman go to the ponds, since she can not only sniff out varmints and dig for mice, but also splish-splash in the mud along the banks.  If her wheelbase weren’t so short, she would probably wade further out .

So, an aged tractor proves to be still reliable; a homesteader turns another year young; and birds provide hours of entertainment, all the while “…memories are being made…”

Abraham Lincoln once penned, “…in the end, it is not the number of years in your life that counts. It’s the life in your years.”





Author: Prairie Writer

No one could have predicted that a fourth generation native Coloradoan, in love with the mountains, would migrate east to the Southeast corner of Iowa; and fall in love with rolling hills and fields. Ten years ago, my husband, the woodsman, and I moved to the 200-acre farm he had inherited in the early 1990s; where we built our dream house over a span of five or six years. One of my hobbies is teaching! Although I retired over ten years ago from being a full-time geography teacher, the teaching bug continues to flow through my veins. I have found the perfect way to teach—substituting—where I enjoy teaching something different every day I’m called. My other hobbies include reading any and every thing; planning and planting our flower gardens; sewing; being “crafty” and creative; finishing furniture pieces crafted by the woodsman; and writing. I was the editor for a pictorial book about Van Buren County, the first year we lived in Iowa. Additionally, I wrote two weekly columns for the local newspaper for eight years. Now, I look forward to writing regular posts about living in the country with a cat, a dog, and a woodsman in my blog, “Turn Left At The Cornfield.”

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