Baling Hay

Before long, Assy had puppies. There were also several farm cats that had kittens—and then the kittens had kittens and their kittens had kittens. Mice weren’t too much of a problem at the farm. The horses were soon joined by sheep, followed by chickens, goats, rabbits and ducks.

Ed and John in the hay pile with Assy's puppies. Crew cuts = misbehaving

Ed and John with Assy’s puppies.

“Now that we had a tractor,” Dad said, “it always seemed we were loaded with rubbish and tree cuttings that we had to take to the dump along the railroad tracks off Brookfield Road. We thought we ought to really have a wagon to pull behind the tractor. I had noticed a used farm implement dealer just off of HWY 94 on my way back from Madison one day. So on a Saturday, the boys and I drove over to check it out. We found a pretty good farm wagon—the only problem was that the wooden tongue was pretty rotted. We bought it anyway and took the side roads home. On the way, we found another implement dealer and stopped to ask if he might have a tongue for our wagon. He didn’t—but, he did have a saw mill. He ended up cutting us a beautiful 6 x 8 inch wooden tongue and attached it to our wagon. Now we had a beautiful wagon! This became another toy for the kids of the neighborhood. Whereas before we had a bunch of kids on the tractor, now we had a whole neighborhood full of kids on the wagon.

To keep the horses fed, we were going back to Reinder’s regularly to buy baled hay and buckets of oats plus vitamins the salesman said we really should have for them. It wasn’t too long before Ed, John and I went back to Madison to the dealer we bought the wagon from, and asked about equipment to make our own hay. The dealer said he had exactly what we needed. We ended up buying a John Deere sickle-bar mower and an old New Holland baler and he delivered them to us. Now we were all set—we could make our own hay.

20131210_170236_resized

Ed at the wheel with John on the baler

About this time, the church we attended, Faith United Church of Christ, became involved in a merger and we got involved with the church located in Milwaukee on 4th and Meinecke. We would drive in town to 4th and Meinecke every Sunday. One of the things I remember well were the breakfasts our church held after the Easter sunrise services. All the tables would be set up in the fellowship hall—members and families gathered around big platters of scrambled eggs. There were challenges with the merger but those breakfasts were great. Dolores eventually took on the music ministry which included playing their beautiful old pipe organ—the organ console was located in the balcony, where she also rehearsed the choir—and I taught the senior highs.

Sometime around then during the summer, the boys and I had succeeded in mowing, raking and baling our first hay crop.

20131210_170440_resized

Kids in the field

Following that was the chore of picking up all the bales, stacking them in the wagon and putting them in the barn. I talked to my Sunday school class and asked my students how they’d like to help me pick up the hay out at our farm and they were all excited. I also got the guys from my office to help out. It must have looked interesting to the neighbors to see this large mix of African American teenagers and architects out picking up bales in our field. I remember one of my students was very strong. He would pick up two bales in each hand and throw them up on the wagon. We got the bales picked up pretty quickly and stored away in the barn for our first crop.

20131210_170520_resized

Wagon full of hay bales

Now it was a piece of cake in the morning to go up into the second floor of the barn where the hay was stored and just simply kick out a bale to feed the horses.

Samsung 111213 IMAP 167

Senior Highs

On the side of barn facing the hayfield was a built up driveway to the upper level of the barn where the hay was stored. I found out all the kids had become quite adept at walking across the wooden beams in the barn and jumping into the stored hay beneath. Ed had built a hideout in the corner of the barn where the beams connected to the outside wall. You’d have to walk approximately 20 feet on a 10 inch wooden beam to get to it. So that’s where the neighborhood kids would gather. I didn’t find out until later that this adeptness with heights led to jumping out the second story sliding barn door we used to drop the bales down out of to feed the horses. So here all the kids are jumping from the second floor of the barn, landing beneath in the lose hay from the opened bales. Oh, those poor neighbors who had to watch all this.

samsung 092813 farm 223

Ed’s innovation–a bridge

When the kids were running around they learned to duck under the barbed wired fence. One of Ed’s friends, Gary Robinson, didn’t duck quite far enough and caught the barb on his back, leaving a bloody injury. About then, his dad happened to come by and I was concerned about what he would say about it. All he said was, “Gary, if you can’t duck far enough, don’t go under it.” Then he got out a first aid kit from his car and patched him up.

20131210_164842_resized

John helping Dad with two broken arms.

Anyway, I would distribute the oats and vitamins by pouring them out on the ground at a fence post near where the hay was dropped and I soon became aware of what was going on. Three of the horses are mares (Lady, Subi and Fleta) and one is a gelding (Sam) who was by far the biggest. I guess I just assumed the horses would sort of divide the food but that wasn’t Subi’s idea. She’d flatten her ears and the other horses, including Sam, would back away. Subi would eat all she wanted. To solve this problem I bought a halter for each of them and knotted short ropes at each of four fence posts.

When it was time for the oats and vitamins I’d attach the ropes to each horse. Now they each got their share. I’m sure this didn’t make Subi happy but it did the other three.

20131210_171702_resized

Dad and Sam

I still can’t imagine what the Mitchells (our neighbors across the road) thought of my farming. We were always into something.

20131210_172149_resized

Wiggles, Waggles and Peep Bo in the orchard

Peep Bo being sheered. The wool was used for the quilt that lays on  Dad's bed!

Wiggles being sheered. Mom had the wool made into a quilt that still lays on Dad’s bed.

I remember the time Mom ran to the store and left Ed in charge. It was snowing hard and he got the idea you should all to go to the Mitchell’s for a visit. You got your snowsuits and boots on and trudged over there together. On the way, John’s boots came off in the deep snow and he arrived there bare footed. You can imagine Mabel Mitchell’s reaction to that…and your Mother’s when she found out about it!”

20131210_171014_resized_1So, we ended up getting a great deal for that $75/month rent. The Kiekavers were a wonderful family and before long, Dad was helping Lolly Linnley, the Keikhevers’ daughter who lived at the farm past the castle at the end of the stone road, rein her horses in. We had a lot of good times together. Though the barn is now gone, our house on Gebhardt Road still stands. Ed eventually lived there with his wife Georgine and their two sons Christopher and Michael—that’s another story. Now Chris, along with his wife Lisa and their son Eddie live there.

Today, it’s hard to imagine a five year old walking alone on a mile-long stone road through the woods but that’s how I often got home from kindergarten. For my birthday in 1st grade, my parents invited my class over for a picnic. We walked on that road together from Brookfield Elementary to the farm with our teacher Miss Miller. I heard that after Mr. Kiekhever died, the nuns moved into the castle and it became a home for unwed mothers.

As life would have it, I was invited to an event at the castle for work last week. I found out that In the 80s it was bought and renovated by Don and Kate Wilson. It felt a little like I had stepped through time as I walked up the front walk. Memories of swimming in the pool that was once off to the left came back along with the old tennis courts where new homes now stood.

The coach house to the right of the drive, where our babysitter Fern lived, had been a mini replica of the castle, but it was gone.

I remembered there was also a log cabin, long forgotten, that sat deep in the woods. We spent one family Christmas there with Mom’s family. Someone later bought, renovated and added on to it.

Did Santa come?

Johnnie and me, “Did Santa come?”

As I remember the golden fields and sound of my brothers voices yelling in the fresh air I can’t help but think how blessed we were by our time on the farm. It’s funny to think now that the kids on the school bus would laugh at me when I got off at the farm house. To avoid it, I began getting off at the stop by the subdivision a half mile down the road and walking home. I wonder how often, like the kids then, we overlook God’s beauty and miss His miracles which surround us every day.

“We were….eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16. NKJV, from Max Luxado, Blessings for a Day, December 14

Horsing Around

I liked riding with Dad. I preferred sitting behind him on the horse and looking up at the stars to being in the saddle myself. I wish I could say I was a daring horseback rider but National Velvet was on my bookshelf not in my blood. Dad said he could always tell when I had ridden because he’d have to retrain the horse. I never rode Sam, Lady was nice, Subi was slow, Fleta had a mind of her own and they all had their way with me. While my brothers were helping Dad around the farm, I was off making imaginary castles in the tall, golden grass carpet of a field behind the barn. When Ed and John were mowing it with their friends, I was busy organizing my friends into neighborhood productions—using any available garage, the roof over a big sandbox in the play-yard, or my friend’s backyard patio as a stage.

Samsung 100313b 003

Ed and me with our sheep Wiggles and Waggles in the play-yard. (Bruflats house in distance.)

Anyway, since we had all these horses, Dad thought we should have something for them to pull. He noticed a two wheel cart for sale at one of the neighbor’s farms.

“I thought that might be a good way to start to train them,” Dad said as he remembered the old cart. “A guy named Landsberg had a shop on the corner of Bluemound and Barker Road and he sold lots of horse equipment. I bought a harness and whatever else I needed to hook up a horse.

Dad leading Lady

Dad leading Lady

The first time I hooked Lady up we were behind the barn at the top of the field. When she heard the noise on her heels, she took off, trying to get away from it. She raced down the field to our property fence and managed to turn around, then came running back up and headed west towards Bruflats. I don’t know how she got that cart to turn with her, going as fast as she was, but she did. When she was heading back towards me, I stood right in front of her, waved my arms and finally got her to stop—which I was very grateful for. Oh, she was scared.

Ed and his friend Gary Robinson pulling us in the two wheel cart

The two wheel cart

I suppose this was a clue I shouldn’t have tried to train that horse but I kept at it until I thought I had succeeded. I hooked her up to take her over to Paul Mitchel’s farm across the road to share my achievement with Paul and his family. When the calves in the pasture saw me leading Lady down the Mitchels’ long driveway, they got excited and came running towards us. This startled Lady and with a full gallop she headed straight for a station wagon parked in front of the Mitchels’ house. Lady swerved to miss it but the side of the wagon hit the back of the car and broke the wheel off the cart. I was thrown over the top of the station wagon and landed on the hood. Paul was standing there with a veterinarian who owned the car—both of them with their mouths hanging wide open. I said I wanted to show him how I had trained the horse. The vet said I had a little work yet to do.

Meanwhile, Lady ran through their electric fence and out into the field, pulling the broken harness behind. I went after her, grabbed her mane like I often did to jump on her bareback, and pulled but realized both of my wrists were sprained so I led her back on foot. I stopped to talk to Paul and the Vet and told them I would check with my insurance company to see if I could get some help to cover all the damage we had done. When I called the company I asked my agent if they covered horse damage to cars. He said it was the first time he’d been asked about such a thing but thought maybe it would fall under general liability. I think I did end up getting a little money to help fix the damage we had done to the vet’s station wagon. The rest was up to me.

Winter came and I found a sleigh with red velvet seats called a cutter for a horse to pull. By this time I had broken Subi. It was great to work with her because the snow was deep so she was more manageable. I bought a toboggan and I’d put a rope from the toboggan to the horn of the saddle on the horse I was riding and I could pull you kids. I’d get Subi out there and she’d be so tired from the deep snow I wouldn’t have to worry about controlling her. I also came across a buckboard which I bought and I eventually found a buggy for sale and bought that too. I had several country school jobs at that time which kept me out on the country roads. It was easy to find these old horse-drawn things and they were all pretty cheap mostly because there wasn’t a big market for them. Subi was great to pull with her sore hoofs—she never tried to run away. Lady was too spooked and the others were too skittish.

Subi

Subi and buggy alongside the farmhouse

I should mention we had a couple acres of grass to cut. I well remember the first time I was going to cut it with my little push mower from the city. I decided to go to Reinder’s and bought a used power mower which worked for a while. Then one day Ed, John and I were out looking for something that would cut faster and found the Ford dealer on HWY 100. They had a dandy 1948 Ford tractor. They also had a 60 inch mower to attach to it. We bought them both and this made what was a chore a ball. The boys would fight over who was going to cut the grass. The tractor was unique because the left main wheel was a farm tread and the right main wheel was a golf course tread. So we always knew which tractor was ours.”

Fast way to cut the grass

John on the Ford tractor mowing with friends

Horse Stories!

Samsung 111213 IMAP 100

Dad’s love of horses goes way back

One day at the farm, a young neighbor girl stopped by and knocked on our door with a question……

Dad starts his story as the rain pounds on the roof of the car and the wind rattles the windows. It’s Sunday after church and we’re sitting in his car outside my house. There had been tornado warnings and sirens on our way to church. I was feeling like the weather. I start to get out of the car and Dad says, “Wait a minute. I’ll come around with the umbrella.”

“I’m fine Dad. It’s only water.”

“Well, I don’t want to let you go when you’re feeling like this. Stay there. Let me pull the car over to the curb.” The gutters are gushing with rain water so Dad was letting me out in the middle of the street. We sit in silence. “I have a thought,” he says as he parks the car. “Why don’t you write about not having a story? Or….you could tell them you realize there’s so much more you want to write about before you get into the story you just wrote.”

“I don’t know about that Dad…..”

“Yeah well, I don’t’ know about that either. Okay, then how about this?” he clears his throat and starts in.

“…….One day at the farm, a young neighbor girl stopped by and knocked on our door with a question. The young neighbor girl told me she wanted to have a horse but needed one close enough to ride because she didn’t drive yet. She asked if we’d board her horse for her. I thought that sounded like fun so we did. It was white. I didn’t really understand the horse’s temperament nor did I check into it as much as I should have. It managed to get out of the fence I had put up and Mom went to retrieve her. She put a lead rope on the horse’s halter and was leading her back when it started getting balky. The horse kicked at Mom who was pregnant with Joanie at the time. Mom managed to get her leg up fast enough so that the horse ended up kicking her thigh and not her stomach. After that, I told the young lady to take her horse somewhere else. We got rid of the horse but the idea of horses stayed. There’s your story!”

Farm 004

Easter Sunday with a barn waiting for horses.

“But how did we get our horses, Dad? Tell me about that.” The rain was not letting up anyway.

“You want more horse stories?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, one of my clients and I had been talking about our mutual interest in horses. He had a stable and asked if I wanted to go for a ride. So we went, he saddled up a couple horses and we rode.This is when I decided I wanted a horse for the farm. I let him know and it wasn’t too long after that when he called to tell me he found a horse he thought would be perfect for me. We set a date to go take a look. It was a brown mare and was fairly old—10 to 12 years. He said she was gentle and you kids could ride it. I told him it sounded perfect and when I found out it was 100 bucks I told him he had himself a deal.

So we named our first horse Lady. We all enjoyed having her. Of course I had to also buy a saddle, bridle, blanket, a grooming brush and some baled hay along with other miscellaneous things. It wasn’t long after that, that somebody told me about another horse. Ed and I went to look at it and bought that one too. I rented a horse trailer and we went to pick it up. I tied her in the trailer—apparently not very well because as we were coming down Bluemound Road the trailer started bumping around. I pulled over and here the horse is looking at me. She’d gotten lose in the trailer and turned herself around so she could see out. I tied her back up and finished our trip home. Joanie was born by this time and we all went up to look at the new horse Ed and I had bought. We wanted to name her and Joanie, who was not quite two years old, pointed at the horse and said “Subi Sa.” We thought that was a good name for her so that’s what we called her—Subi Sa—Subi for short. We didn’t know enough about horses at the time to know she had sore hoofs.

Farm 026

Friends riding horses

Lady had gotten out on several occasions so I realized I had to get better fencing. I started looking into electric fences. I went to Sears and Roebuck and bought a fence charger, a bunch of insulators and some barb wire. I figured out how to put it all together—stretched the barb wire around the pasture and rigged up the electric part and attached the electric fence. So now we had two horses kept reasonably well and staying where they belonged with the electric fence. Although there were times that our neighbor Mabel Mitchel called from across the road and said, “Bill, will you come get your horses? They’re in our cornfield and eating all our sweet corn.” Or a call from the police department saying, “I think one of your horses is downtown Brookfield. Will you come and get her?”

Somehow we heard about another horse that was also the type we were looking for—it was also $100. She was another mare but much younger.This was the time when your Mom was singing at the Skylight. She was in Iolanthe and somebody came up with the idea to name the horse after one of the characters—a fairy called Fleta. Now we had three horses. Sometime after that we got a call from a person who had a gelding. He was larger than the mares and also had a lot more spunk. We ended up buying him too so now we had four horses, four saddles, four bridles and four kids. We had to name this horse and I have no idea where the name came from but we called him Sam. So that’s how we ended up with four horses and I never paid more than $150 for any of them. They were either old and tired or so full of pep and vinegar that nobody else wanted to ride them.

It was great living at the farm.  I could get rid of my tensions from architecture by hanging out at the barn.The west side of the barn was much older than the east side and it was made out of field stone.The east side was made out of poured concrete. One of the things I loved to do was go home from the office and stack up a bunch of newspapers, set up targets and shoot my 22. Other times I’d come home from work and surprise you kids—I’d saddle up an extra horse and ride over to Brookfield Elementary to pick you up after school. I’d wait for you to come out—Ed and John would get on one and you’d climb on the back of mine. Joanie was not in school yet and still had this to look forward to.

There was a stone road that connected our house to the Kiekaver’s Estate (they owned the farm we rented). It went through their property up to their residence—or the castle as we called it. One of the times I was taking the horses to pick you all up, I was riding through the stone road and ran into a group of nuns. They were from a home for unwed mothers. I stopped to talk to them and one of the older nuns said to the younger nun, “Don’t you like horses?”

“Yes!” the young nun exclaimed.

I asked her if she’d like to go for a ride and she said, “Yes!” So she pulled up her habit and revealed her knee length green stockings. I don’t know if it’s typical for nuns to have knee length green stockings but anyway, this one did.

There, how’s that for a story?”

“Really good Dad….Thanks.” I smile and lean over and give him a kiss.  He drives me up to the back door and I prepare to make a dash for it.  “I’ll figure out what I’m doing with all this…..slow and steady the turtle won the race, right?”

“You can’t rush it, Debbie. Take your time.”