Monday, July 05, 2010

More McClosky Farm Adventures

You can’t control the length of your life,
but you can control its

Update on PO, TA, and TOE

The big event on Father’s Day was moving the chicken house. Richard had built this on skids years ago and it had not been used for quite some time. Once moved, it required a lot of cleaning inside and out.

With that finished, the three chickens acquired at the Chicken Yard Sale, Po, Ta, and Toe, were moved in. Then trouble started.

Yes, one of the “roosters” from the Chicken Yard Sale is indeed a hen – and with giggles accompanied by silly grins – Richard and Essie have named her ‘Carol’! The roosters got new names, too. Ta, the Banty rooster, became Herald. The large Rhode Island Red, Po, was briefly named Mighty Mouse before Essie finally settled on Rocky.

The two roosters did not like each other. Herald and Carol evidently decided to be a ‘couple’ and Herald objected to Rocky sharing the house. That was solved by letting Rocky out of the house, which seemed to be OK by him. He took over most of the house yard; Herald and Carol opted to stay in and around the chicken house. There was calm again.

PO - now named Rocky

Weeding strawberries on the McClosky Farm

Yesterday this ‘wanna-be’ farmer helped weed the strawberry field (strawberries planted this year are for next years crop). I was working alongside five Amish "kids" and Farmer Richard.

weeding crew ready to work

Richard explained we were to hoe weeds from between the plants and then bend over or squat down to hand-pull weeds that are real close to the plants. I started hoeing and bending over to hand weed. When my back was tired, I decided to pull weeds while on my knees. Then, that grew tiresome and I decided to just sit on my butt in the middle of two rows and weed plants on each side of me.

The earth smelled great, the morning was still cool, birds in the nearby woods were singing, cabbage moths were busy laying eggs in the cabbage plants on an adjacent field, the "kids" chattered away in their Dutch/German language (they speak great English also, but mostly communicate in their ‘home’ language with each other) and when I felt thirsty I picked and ate sweet strawberries (with Richard's permission). Three-plus hours later it stopped being fun, I stopped weeding and walked back to Jeremiah and the farm house. I'm just a teensy bit sore this morning. (Richard and the workers put in even more hours after their lunch break! I guess I'm a wuss.)

Richard is an amazing 80-something guy with farming in his blood. He squats to pull weeds and easily stands up afterward. And he works all day long except for meals. At 6:30 this morning before the workers showed up, he headed out to plant some sweet corn.

Essie, 60-something, is a spry and a diligent worker and great farm-partner for Richard. There was plenty to keep her busy, even before the ducks, kittens and last weekend’s three chickens were added. When the vegetables and blueberries are ripe, she mans the farm store, selling to people that come from all around the area.

Essie - taking a break from field work

Crazy ‘starving’ Carp

Today was to be ‘weed the pepper plants’ day, but God had other ideas and sent a good rainstorm. When the rain let up, Richard, Essie and I were off to explore a portion of nearby Linesville Lake and Spillway. Richard’s young grandson, Cordell, went with us.

The most amazing part of the lake is the spillway and the seemingly starving Carp. Essie and Cord tossed bread to the Carp and I took photos. We also went to a Wildlife Center (sadly the building was closed) to see birds and to walk in the woods.

The Amazing Cabbage Planting Machine

20,000 cabbage seedlings to be planted? Oh, my! My eyes glazed over as I looked into one of the greenhouses and saw the waiting seedlings. This sounds and looks like more back-breaking work. Essie would get three willing Amish kids to help us. But still …

A Side Note about the Amish

There is Old Order and New Order Amish. In the mid-1700s and again in the first half of the 1800s, Amish came from Europe, searching for political stability and religious freedom. With the rising tide of industrialization in the late nineteenth century, some clusters of Amish became known as the Old Order Amish. They are the most strict and least likely to compromise with the worldly culture around them. In the 1960s some Old Order Amish, wanting modern conveniences, formed congregations of New Order Amish. The small numbers of New Order Amish groups sometimes permit their members to install phones in their homes, use electricity from public utilities, and use tractors in their fields. And they allow their pictures to be taken. (A good website to learn more about the Amish culture is

Back to cabbage planting

Richard hooked the cabbage planting machine to a tractor and led the three-vehicle parade to the waiting field. I followed, driving the farm pickup with workers Gertie, Elsie and Vernon, and Essie brought up the rear with the large farm truck that was loaded with trays of the cabbage seedlings.

At the field, Essie drove the tractor, Richard and Vernon placed individual seedlings in the clever planter, the two Amish girls walked behind as “quality control,” adding seedlings if needed and pressing in any seedlings that landed cockeyed. I took photos – either walking along or riding on the tractor’s fender. It was a barefoot-day for most of us. Here are photos of the process:

My view of the planting

Adventures at an Amish Auction

Saturday’s great adventure for Essie and me was an Amish Auction in the nearby town of Atlantic. The flyer promised multiple auction venues at an Old Order Amish farm, selling everything imaginable: furniture, farm equipment, quilts and such, small, moveable buildings, kitchen ware, small farm animals, harnesses, and much more. Proceeds would be going to the local Amish hospital.

We were somewhat delayed in leaving the McClosky Farm because the 15 young ducks were missing. After looking all over – using the golf cart to extend our search beyond the yard – they were nowhere to be found. Essie recalled hearing coyotes so we feared the ducks provided a tasty meal. With heavy hearts, we left for the auction.

There were hundreds of people – mostly Amish – at the auction, and at least 10 auction venues scattered throughout the farm going on simultaneously. Some were in tents and some just out in the open. Families with children of all ages milled about. I took very few pictures, respecting the Old Order Amish customs, but the scenes are still vivid in my mind; words just don’t do it justice.

Amish-made furniture for sale

After sitting in one auction venue selling furniture, Essie and I found the area where small animals would be auctioned. Immediately Essie spotted some good looking chickens, some in wire cages and some closed up in cardboard boxes. She oohed and aahed – and I could see the wheels turning in her head! She wanted more chickens, especially one handsome Banty rooster and hen couple.

The auction started, and Essie’s coveted chicken couple soon was up for bid. Essie offered a bid, but then quit when the chickens went for more than she was willing to pay. A couple of boxes later, I heard the auctioneer say “sold” and a box with chickens was placed at Essie’s feet. Assuming Essie was though buying, I let my attention wander to all the surrounding activities. Then another box was deposited at Essie’s feet, then another and another until there were eight boxes (one box had two young rabbits)! Oh, dear! What have we done? Three Amish boys helped carry the boxes to the car, Essie paid for her new critters, and we headed home.

At the farm Richard was coming in from a field and he got a look at the boxes in the car!

We started putting chickens in the chicken house, and trouble started again! We had already learned that two roosters don’t get along, and neither do five roosters! That’s right! The new purchases included three full-grown roosters, four or so hens and their broods. In all, we added 23 chickens to the original three. Quick, open the chicken house door and get the roosters out, all but one rooster. In the process a couple hens and young chickens got out. Then the rooster fights began until we managed to get them to scatter.

Essie took the remaining box that had two young rabbits to a cage by the farm store.

The ducks are back!

On a cheerful note, amazingly the ducks were back. They had wandered all the way to the pond – not in it, but in the tall grass.

Total farm critters: 26 chickens, 15 ducks, 3 kittens, 2 young rabbits, Katie the dog and Boobama the original cat. In one week, the McClosky farm added 46 assorted critters to the one dog and one cat.

And I left the next morning, heading northwest, before Essie and I got into any more mischief. But not before Essie gifted me with my very own rooster – a stuffed one to join Cat, Bucky, and Fargo (my Wells Fargo Bank stuffed horse). I thought about naming my rooster Richard but that is my son’s name. I named him Mack (short for McClosky).

Essie’s Farm Update via email, July 3

“We have 26 chickens including everyone. The bunnies are over at Martha Yoders (an Amish friend). Her children just fell in love with them and they had an old rabbit cage that had been left there by the previous owners. Martha said the kids love to dress them up in doll clothes and wrap in baby blankets. The three kittens are there, also. It made my heart happy to leave them there with those kids, but I couldn't talk Martha into taking a rooster or two. Then I rescued a very small kitten in the Walmart parking lot, brought it home and named him Max!”
A life without adventure is likely to be unsatisfying. – Bertrand Russell