Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
The Happy Homesteader
When I was a child summer had a very different meaning. We would look forward to summer as the ultimate vacation. It meant no school, long lazy days with nothing to do but play, and carefree moments where time didn't seem to matter. I spent my days in shorts and flip-flops exploring the woods and climbing trees. Often we would take trips to Grandma's house to swim in her pool. I remember my parents lounging in chairs for hours while the kids turned to wrinkled prunes in the water. There were cook-outs and family gatherings and everyone seemed to be relaxed and tan.
As an adult in the suburbs summer didn't change too much. I no longer had the long summer vacation with no work and all play, but time did seem to take it easy for a couple of months. I still had to travel to the office Monday through Friday, but the sun shining through the windows brightened everyone's spirits. Summer meant wearing layers because the cold air-conditioned office required a sweater that would need to be shed during your walk to the hot car for your lunch break. It also meant afternoon treats of iced coffee rather than hot coffee. I would look forward to the nights and weekends because the long days of summer meant more daylight hours when I wasn't working. I filled these with light yard work, grilling out on the deck, and swinging in a chair reading a book with the sun on my back or under a shade tree. Sure, there was still work during the week, but the weekends seemed longer and rejuvenated me. Summer was a blissful time!
It wasn't until I became a farmer and homesteader that summer took on a totally different meaning. I find myself here again, as I do every year, in the midst of summer and thinking about how the seasons really change my life. Winter, and even spring, are just a distant memory and summer no longer kisses us like a butterfly on a flower, but rather sits on our shoulders like a heavy sack of feed. To a farmer, summer does not mean time off or lazy days. Summer no longer brings carefree feelings of bliss. Instead, summer is the season that you just try to get through unharmed.
Now, to me, summer means waking up with the sun and heading right to work. It is a constant race against the heat. In the morning you try to get as much done as possible before the sun makes it unbearable and dangerous outside. This means rushing through chores, cutting the grass, trying to get some weeding in the garden done, harvesting veggies, and watering plants all before 11 am when you are forced to call it quits outside. Summer means changing clothes at least twice a day because they are soaked with dirt and perspiration. It means dreading the mad dash outside in the afternoon to dump hot pails of water and refill them with cool water for the animals. Summer is about bug bites, heat rash, and sunburns. Most of all, summer now means thinking about heat stroke. As we try to push ourselves to get done everything we need to do in such a short period of time we are always thinking about whether or not we've gotten too much sun for the day. Every now and then it creeps up on you and realize that you've pushed yourself too far. Heat stroke comes on like a bad dream and before you know it you are light headed with an intense headache and feeling of nausea. Even when we are inside the oppression of the summer heat weighs on us heavily. We see the heat radiating outside, the shade disappear, and worry that the livestock will make it through. We gaze upon dusty driveways and burnt browned out pastures and pray for rain. And we see the corn wilt under the lack of water.
This past week has been one of the most intense heat waves we have experienced since farming. We have not had rain in over two weeks and the temps have ranged from 95 to 108! The heat index was 129 degrees yesterday. We lost a handsome 50 lb. older tom turkey to heat stroke. The cucumbers and beans have died in the garden. We have trees down on our fences from a pop up wind storm that teased us by bringing no rain and we are about to have to feed our winter's hay to the animals because the grass is disappearing. Despite all of this, I enjoy summer. I actually wouldn't trade it for the other summer memories I have. I know that the heat will break and the rain will come eventually. I hope that you, your animals, and plants have survived the heat wave. I tell myself...This too shall pass.
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