• John Hogeland

What Happened to Bessie (the Tractor)? and Other Tales

We've been writing about our challenges on the farm this past spring and summer, and it seems high time we update you on the goings on hereabouts at Whippoorwill Creek Farm. We began planting last February as our lease was about to start, frost seeding a crop of oats along with clover, alfalfa and mixed grasses to replace the corn and soybeans for the next few years.  While the oats didn't turn out as a grain crop, we baled them and have so far managed to sell a quarter of them to the local sale barn for enough to cover the initial expenses.  The rest of the seeding did well (the alfalfa, clover, etc) and since we have had a couple of grass stunting frosts, it will be a welcome addition as an extra grazing forage for our cows.

Pond in fall

And speaking of frost, No More Flies!!!  The cows are beside themselves with glee now that the flies have departed for the next life.  The cool weather seems to bring out the calf in even the most staid cow.  They kick up their heels and dash about looking for excuses to dart off in a new direction, bounding about like overgrown puppies.


A gaggle of kittens. Dobby is the one in the front center and Anita is the striped one in the back right.

The kitten crop is just about ready for harvest, but somehow, we - as a family - (Dad and Roma; Jeff, Andrea and Lucas; and Beth and I) have decided to keep all seven against everyone's better judgement (except maybe Lucas who believes that there can never be enough cats around). We will be keeping Anita (named for Anita Hill) and Dobby.


Rosie the dog continues to get older (14 years now), staggering around the farm, occasionally chasing a sassy kitten or a chicken or two, and then sleeping off the excitement in the grass near the dog house that she stubbornly refuses to use, even on nights with cold rain.

On the machinery front, Bessie the tractor continues to roll along as though she could do it forever (somebody knock on wood), and she has been joined by the once deceased Ethel, a 1973 vintage Oliver 1755.  Late last fall, my brother-in-law Jeff was brush cutting with Ethel when suddenly she banged, clanged, threw a piece of the engine block past Jeff's ear and then promptly caught on fire.  The local volunteer fire department managed to put the fire out, but the damage was done - Ethel was no longer of this world, the victim of a thrown rod and self immolation.  Never one to cease beating a dead horse, my dad located a rebuilt engine almost in Minnesota and drove the five hours each way to buy it and drag it back home.  Miraculously, almost exactly a year later, Ethel breathes once more and is again out hauling the brush cutter around the farm.

Ethel, back once more. Note the burn marks on the hood.

For next year, we have decided to buy a small herd of meat goats, either Kiko or Spanish, to help clear the farm of invasive species and we hope to plant a trial plot of field peas as a rotational row crop.  It will be our first foray into food grade row crops, if we can just get the guy in charge of them to call us back.


Fall on the farm

And in case you are worried that we might not have anything to do right now, we just bought a fixer upper house, signed up to put in 3000 feet of new fence this fall, are waiting impatiently for parts for our new wood stove so that we can install it before the weather turns bad for good, have to cut enough firewood to keep from freezing our petooties off this winter and need to sell enough hay and all the calves to keep the whole operation running until next spring, so that we can do it all again.  


Just reading that reminds me of some nightmarish "The Price is Right" episode.  All this (and more) can be yours - if - the price is right! Beth worries about the smallness of our tiny home (we will update you on the tiny house with new photos after the stove is in) and what we will do on the long winter evenings to fend off boredom.  I have recommended letter writing, so some of you may be getting some snail, mail just like they used to do last century.  She is also now taking guitar lessons. And me?  Well, I just keep working - it's what I do.

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