Cattle pant in the leafy shade of trees. Horses perspire at work and later stand in the pond fighting flies with the wet brush of their tails. July … steamy afternoons, sticky necks, salty sweat. July … picnics, straw hats, iced tea and sugar snap peas.
July works hard, plays often and rests out of real need. The hammock, the porch day-bed, the coolness of grass … they whisper your name and assist you in perfecting the art of repose. When day is done, the sun ends July days with an evening masterpiece. The heavens echo the contrasts of summer … fiery tones, cool blues … and green all round that looks like cilantro tastes.
Everything leaps toward flowering and fruit. Baby grapes cling to their mother’s leafy hands and hide behind her arms. Ants make work look like work. Butterflies make work look like play and that is why we look up from whatever we’re doing to watch their contented work ethic. July is just too full, too brimming with life & luxury, too eager for every morning, too much of the best kind of toil … the kind that rewards browned hands. July, the workaholic, the farmer, the lover that brings you flowers and bends over backwards to win your favor.
From William Quayle’s book, God’s Calendar :
“July is the working man, brawny, naked armed, bare-breasted, huge-handed, man-handed. July is the farmer of the year. Stalwart singing like a plowboy working like an owner of a farm glad for the chance. July fairly tires a strong man. Things are doing when July rolls up his sleeves.”
Below photos: My husband, Lynn, making bales. Me operating the swather (cutting the grass).
July makes me wake early, makes me nappy in the afternoon, makes me hunt for a shade tree when I park my truck. July makes me want to embrace the fella who invented air-conditioning and kiss him right on the lips! How is your July shaping up? For us, it has been very green, a great year for grass (which means good haying). My husband bought an old swather so that we could put up some hay from the pastures. The grass is that good. This ranch is what is referred to as a “cowboy outfit”, not a farming brand of cattle ranch. We normally graze the entire ranch and buy all of our winter hay. But, with this much grass, it makes sense to put up some of our own hay, what with the obvious surplus. These fields are not smooth like a tended farm field. When you drive the swather, you bounce along and realize that as smooth as the waving grass makes the land look, it isn’t.
Haying. The weather controls your every move. When it is clear and hot, you cut and later bale when the hay is ‘just right’… not to moist and not too dry. You might need to consider calling it quits when darkness falls in mid-afternoon. Hail, how I loathe it. You hope that it passes by and grieve for those who aren’t so lucky. Nature’s missiles are the curse of mid-summer. Below: Lynn, just prior to giving up baling. The rain began to fall hard … stinging rain. See him tucking his head away from it. Shortly after, he hopped in my truck (I’d been following him because of threatening skies); we could hear the hail coming, big hail. It cracked both of my side-mirrors and the windshield on Lynn’s pick-up.
I’d covered my garden with old window screens earlier that day, propped them up with rakes, hoes and shovels. Most of the garden was spared. My flower bed … not so much. In another hail storm, I tried to coax the horses into the barn, but they’d turned their backs to it and wouldn’t be budged. Poor things. I got hit a several times while out there and I still have a bruise on my calf from a golf-ball sized whopper. Surely they must have also had several bruises. Oh – How – I – Hate – Hail! Fortunately, most plants seem to recover and get right back to the business of growing. They have a better attitude than I do. I know they’re right …. so, I did the only thing you can do: I cleaned up the carnage and moved on like Ma Turtle. Nothing keeps her from her mission …
Every July, female snapping turtles crawl out of the creek in our lower pasture and follow an ancient unmarked trail to a secret place where they lay their eggs. A few of the old girls are as large as wash tubs, most are half that size. Through our driveway and then the horse pasture, across the highway and into the next pasture they slowly go. I’ve yet to see a turtle that has been run over. I have, however, seen motorists slow down for them and even get of their cars and carefully carry them to safety. I imagine the ancestors of these turtles have made this same journey long before white men arrived here … and maybe even before the red man too.
And so, July marches on. Spring babies in the wild are growing fast and are more independent. The antelope kids now travel with their mothers, rather than laying hidden in the grass. The two does that live here showed off their youngsters the other day. One (the doe in the top photo of my last blog entry) has twins – aren’t they cute?
Do you remember going for sunday drives when you were a child? My grandparents enjoyed getting out just to see how the world looked. There are a lot of country roads hereabouts and no end to the sightseeing. How I loved to stick my head out the window … my arms & my feet :o) Wasn’t it a blissful kind of freedom? The kind that you can breathe in deeply, your hair blown back … and without a care just watch the world go by.
From Mr. Quayle’s book, chapter 7, July: “Argosies of white clouds sail at the wind’s will across the summer sky, beautiful to see and far beyond the telling. Thunderheads lift white as snow peaks, but the day portends a tempest.”
“We cannot grow used to the sky. It refuses to be commonplace.”
This is also the time of year that a few galpals and I like to take day trips to the hill country to go trail riding. Although we live on the prairie, the western edge of the Black Hills is our backyard. The plains give way to pines and cedar, then fir, spruce and aspen. Ferny undergrowth appears as you ride higher and in the gullies, Queen Anne’s Lace adds a feminine touch to the scenery.
Our lunch rides along in saddlebags and when we find just the right spot to take a break, we tie the horses in the shade. Their lunch is underfoot.
“Now is the time to lie under trees flat on you back and forget your book and watch the swaying branches. The shadows and the warmth make you drowsy. The tree chuckles a little through all his branches when the wind comes sparking and spills a whole cupful of dazzling sunshine upon your drowsy eyes.”
For awhile you can escape the noise of a busy life, but work and home tugs on your sleeve and reminds you it is time to head back … and back to work.
“The bees are working eighteen hours a day, knowing no eight-hour law. They are farmers.”
Speaking of busy, my farmgirl pals and I are getting ready for our next arts & crafts show this weekend. I’ve been making jewelry, below is a photo sampler:
My farmgirl pal, Anita, is bringing some of her handmade oak baskets to the show … as well as canned goods, homemade soap and bath salts. Below is a basket she made for me recently. I was hankering for a jumbo basket to hold pillows and blankets in the living room. She and I have a great barter system. It’s a farmgirl thing ;o)
Have you gotten your new issue of MaryJanesFarm magazine? My farmgirl friend, Lisa, called the other day and said, “Very nice.” I didn’t know what she was referring to. I had yet to go to the post office to get my mail. She opened her issue and lo & behold there I was. The magazine kicked off a new regular feature that focuses on farmgirl collections. MaryJane and Carol Hill asked if I would like to help create the first offering. Fun! I love to see what other folks like to collect and look forward to future submissions. Sometimes collections are whimsical while others are quite serious (maps, guns, historic clothing etc). Mine? Eclectic “whatever tickles my fancy.”
“The robin sings for fun. The bluebird sings from a telephone wire. Mourning doves drift along fields in company … father, mother, children all out for an evening’s frolic. The fields are peopled with farmer folk. Everybody works in July. Even the firecracker does. But the toiling is as the toiling of a happy heart.”
We’re midway through the seventh month. Gardens are showing us that our work will be rewarded in the near future. I’m so looking forward to two things: that first tomato, bacon and avocado sandwich and tasting for the first time the Ground Cherries I planted. What does late July have you looking forward to?