Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Day with the Amish or How I Learned to Roll Barbed Wire

Besides my garden, I also own some acreage that was part of the family dairy farm farm. It was left to my sister and I by my grandfather and now I own it. He got it from his father before him. Our family has farmed this land continuously since 1905. It has fields and pasture, quite a nice woodlot, two unruly streams, and an apple orchard. While the fields have been in use right along, leased to the neighboring dairy farm, and the woodlot is under management, the large pasture has fallen into partial neglect. This year we will again be leasing the pasture to the same dairy which will help with the rest of the taxes and put the land back in use. However, it has been a long time since the fence was fixed. In the past two years I have spent quite a few lunch hours out there lopping off saplings and generally trying to restore order, but there is a lot of work to do on the fence itself before we turn two dozen wild heifers loose in it.

We have a nice Amish family that my mother and stepfather are quite close with. Irven spent almost two years working on stabilizing and weatherizing the two old dairy barns so we could save them. Elsie is one of my Mom's best friends and is a wonderful baker and gardener, and always a cheery spirit. Their children Levi, Anna, Rueben and Daniel are as charming as you can imagine. The whole family turned out today to work on the fence. Little Levi is quite the go-getter and diligently pulled staples for hours.

I spent the afternoon working along with them and got my first ride in an Amish wagon. I didn't think to bring my camera, but brought my vintage cell phone along to keep track of the time (I don't own a watch) and managed to snap a few very poor photos. I felt like I was on the set of Little House on the Prairie.

The wagon and some very bad fence

Back in the day, every landowner had a "dump". There was the "Metal Dump" and the "Glass Dump". These can be fascinating to dig through in the spring when the frost brings new treasures to the surface. My tidy self has always been rather bothered by the existence of these dumps. But I'll tell you, I have a new view! How convenient to have a dump, way older than I, conveniently located 12 feet from the fence line I was working on. Problem solved. This one is built on rocks. To the left is an abandoned hay rake.

There is wire in this dump that is older than my mother and I put together. We happily piled our coils on top. Now is the funny part. I was dismayed to find that my wire coils sprang open like Slinkys run amok. I was messing up my tidy wire dump! All the coils in there already were round and tight. The last thing you want is your wire coils springing open and entangling your livestock. So I began to study wire rolling. Mom and I had been coiling it like you would a water hose or a lariat. This was NOT working. I tried wrapping it between my palm and elbow like an extension cord. Nope. The wire was too brittle and broke into 2 foot lengths.

A perfect coil of Wire

Finally I discovered the proper technique. You roll it in front of you like a wheel or snowball hand over hand, it's hard to describe, but it works great. The wire catches on itself and forms a cohesive reel. You can even safely set it down without it rebelling. I quickly passed this new info on to my mother, and we happily coiled up all the old useless wire.

Figuring out the usefulness of a fencing tool for pulling staples took a lot less time. I showed little Levi my new skills, and he was unimpressed. Apparently Amish kids are taught how to pull staples and coil wire!

Anna and Levi struggle with a stubborn fence staple

I had a great afternoon fencing with the Amish. It beats sitting at a desk any day. We removed the old broken wire, pounded new fence posts and lopped off rose bushes and willow bushes. We waded through muck and tripped over hidden rocks. I got wound up in rusty wire and multiflora roses more than once (Rueben had to disemvine me), but my $2 gloves from Walmart and heavy clothes saw me through. I don't think I even snagged my favorite hoodie. It was wonderful!

I enjoyed it almost as much as the day Tim, Stepdad Richard and I spent digging rocks.

2008 Tim and I pull rocks (BOULDERS) so the land can be safely bush hogged.

The Monster Rock and the rock pile. This was not our only rock pile. On the other side of the pasture we found a spot where someone had filled in a well or treefall and there were 23 rocks the size of a large suitcase or more in ONE HOLE. I actually sold these rocks to a friend who has an excavating business and needed a quick fix for a retaining wall that had washed out. One rock was too big to move. We dug down about 4 feet and didn't find the bottom. Because it was right along the gas right of way we elected to leave it.

I feel so fortunate to have been born in the countryside with land to work. Farming is in my blood. Thank God I'm a country-girl!

1 comment:

  1. If you ever feel the need to practice your newly found wire rolling and staple pulling/pounding skills please let Melissa and I know right away ! I don't wear watches either, FYI, and since I seldom have my phone with me I rarely have any idea what time it is !

    My creative and crafty idea for the day was to take a photo of two thumbs up to show how much I liked your post. However, two thumbs up = two hands occupied and I couldn't figure out how to run the camera ! Yes, I'm really that dumb ! :)