The Farm….again

This is what the farm looks like, looking west from the little house. You may have seen this photo before. It is not, however, what the land looks like at this moment when I’m writing. Now it looks black. So here’s the story.

Actually, it’s this story because I can’t yet add to the memoir in the last couple of posts. That’s because said memoir wasn’t working with the I/you bit and I’ve had to revise. In the meantime, I’ve been reading Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and John Banville’s new memoir, Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir, to see how other writers have dealt with the past/present conundrum.

At any rate: the burned farm story. Actually, the farm has been much in my consciousness, phone calls, thinking, and doing for the past several months. It began in January with the taxes. That was the easy part. Okay, done. And then, since the farm is in a conservation reserve program (CRP) and has been lo these past forty years since Dad retired from farming, I had to follow up the taxes with more pressing farm demands. The FSA (farm service agency) rules are such that every few years, I need to get the prairie burned off, all one-hundred-twenty-acres. I recently posted an old story on burning the prairie which adventure convinced me not to try to do it myself again. The other piece of FSA rules was that I needed to get someone to cut trees out of said prairie because once trees get hold, they prosper, and the prairie is no longer prairie. And then one takes these invoices, which we’ve paid, to the FSA and have them logged in so the fall payment for CRP, which supports the farm, will be paid.

So. It has taken me countless hours on the phone to find someone to burn and to cut. Hours and hours. For months and months. Keep in mind, I began the search in mid-January and only now is it done. We had the local fire department do the burn the past few times and gave them a donation of around $1,000 (having a farm in conservation is a pricey business) but they can no longer do it. 1. the men are too old; 2. Kansas law now prohibits fire departments from doing it.

After many many calls and just as many estimates, I found a man who would cut out the trees for around $1100. It turned out to be closer to $1200 but it was done. And at the same time, I was calling leads to find someone to burn off the prairie. One estimate was $5,000. I mean, really???? I finally found a guy with whom I’d been in high school, but he was across the state line at the Liberty Fire Dept. and had several ahead of me in Nebraska and they had to come first but he’d do what he could. Keep in mind the farm is 1/2 mile from Nebraska.

And then, by a happenstance I can’t really remember, I found the Linn, Kansas, American Legion who were burning prairie to raise funds for the Legion. Whew! Linn is about 45 miles from the farm, so I sweetened the pot by adding $400 for a total of $1400. And they burned it and did a great job.

Now, after all that backstory, Stephen, my son, and I went to the farm over the weekend. Cliff had school papers to catch up on so he stayed home, did laundry, and had a good dinner ready for us when we returned on Monday evening. Which, all in all, is a fair trade. Our primary goal was to plant grass and put straw over said grass in the hopes that it would keep away critters and birds until it sprouts.

I’ve no idea where the essay is stored in this copious record of my life on WordPress, but there is an essay, perhaps the one where I pumped out the basement, on what a mess the area around the house became after construction. I’ve been struggling with the five feet times 90 feet of ground around it since. Earlier this year, I guess over spring break, Cliff and I went up, cleared out all the weed stalks/sunflower stalks/weird red berry something or another that seems determined to root, and left bare ground. Which Stephen and I covered copiously with grass seed. A neighbor brought up two bales of straw which we then used to cover said seed. No doubt, at some point in the future, I will update the story on whether or not I finally have grass instead of very tall weeds around the house. In the nonce (doncha love that word) it’s done.

And Stephen and I drove into Marysville, turned in papers to the FSA, re-certified the CRP for the next three years….and learned that the end of 2020 may be our last year in the program as the government has cut funding for conservation and instead is buying bombs and airplanes. I have no idea what we will do then, but as Scarlett O’Hara said, I’ll think about it tomorrow. What I know is that prairie roots are 12-14 and more deep and it’s hard to put it back in cultivation. (Which I don’t want to do anyway. It’s one half section of wild in the midst of corporate farming.) Stephen and I had lunch at the Wagon Wheel Cafe which has done steady business since I was a kid, and then we drove the three hours back to Kansas City.

However, I have to tell you one more story which Cliff said I should tell. Cliff, a city boy from Baltimore, is somewhat tool challenged, in a kind way of putting it. He also began wearing a C-Pap a few months ago which, as all C-Paps do, has a harness. It has strong magnets on the harness which tend to clasp onto themselves and usually, I help him get the harness adjusted. Well. I was on the farm. He had to do it himself. He said it took a while as the harness kept tangling and at one point it was in a knot on top of his head and he said, “I looked like a Polish grandmother with a babushka on my head!”

He was glad I was home.




The Wall

We have a wall….which is sort of like We have a Pope, but not. It’s not even Pink Floyd. But it is cause for celebration, none-the-less.

If you remember, and if you don’t you’re forgiven because your life has also had its crazy moments, when I last wrote, our wall was deconstructed to the studs after removing bees and honey and going to San Diego for a wedding and coming back:

Cliff and I had a few days of rest. After all, everything was out of the office – and in our bedroom, stacked – we couldn’t find anything. So we didn’t bother. We watched television and took naps. Other than taking a photo, we didn’t look at the wall much either. And then the Sons came home and began banging and building. We made so many trips to Home Depot, I felt like I should take a blow-up mattress and just live, reaching my hand out with the credit card whenever necessary.

However, I wanted insulation in the wall since the wall no longer would consist of inch-thick plaster and I hate cold drafts on my neck, so I came home with insulation and applied same. That was my job. Younger Son is alergic to insulation and Older Son doesn’t like it much either. But he held the strips as I stapled.

The Wall, Insulated

And then it was The Boys turn. They bought something called hardy-board but which to me looked like old-fashioned masonite and half inch drywall and a LOT of drywall mud. I wanted a wall strong enough to hold a wall full of pictures and drywall is not so strong. And I wanted to make the wall look like the other three plaster walls in the room (not smoothe and pretty? Younger Son asked) Hense, to humor me, they added the sturdy hardy-board (I realize I may have the wrong word here or the wrong spelling (but I do the best I can with what I know) and extra tubs of mud.So then we had a wall.

Next it was my turn again. I spent a day plastering the drywall with drywall mud to simulate plaster. It worked pretty well and gave the wall a nice texture. And while I know quite a bit about working with plaster (I re-plastered the hall a few years ago in another learning project), I knew nothing about drywall mud. But I learned. It dries way too quick and doesn’t always do what it looks like it should do. Next time.

And then we all, “all” meaning all four of us, got into the painting bit. Cliff even got involved. He’s a good painter. Me, not so much. We painted a base coat on everything which helped fill in old holes and gouges in various places (this is a 1920s built house after all), and then we added color. After a day of curing, we moved the desk in. And the computer. And then slowly, we began adding. It’s taken longer to get everything on the walls, after the paint, than it did to build the thing.

There’s still stuff piled on the desk, but I’m a writer. I have piles of stuff. But we have a room in jacaranda blue, which reminds me of the jacaranda tree outside my window when I lived in Mexico, and white trim. We have a wall. And a chair in the corner, the blue covered thing, where I can sit and write with the laptop on my lap and still look out my window at the willow.