Summer in the rear view mirror
A few late summers ago I stopped by a neighbor’s farm to drop something off, and was visiting with the woman of the farm on the front step of their home.
I noticed two children’s red wagons nearby steeped with the crown jewel of garden produce- large ripe tomatoes – which she was going to process that day.
As farm women do, we exchanged conversation about our garden crops.
And then she said it. “I always like picking tomatoes because it’s a change of seasons.”
Until then I really hadn’t thought about tomato season being a segue to fall and the fact that summer was closer to the rear view mirror than the windshield. Oh, late summer.
I thought about all those summers growing up on the farm – and adult summers before children were part of my life.
Before they came along, I remember lying out in the sun one afternoon, going for that tomato-like look that seemed to be the only other option on my skin’s color palate.
I’d been out there awhile when I began to feel a spooky presence.
An investigation showed it was a billy goat who had wandered over from the barn, standing almost directly over me, watching with fixed and quiet fascination.
He had to have been downwind from me, and it startled us both when I spotted him. Of course, there was traffic past our place that day, and I was certain people who witnessed it told others they saw me out in the yard with an old goat.
Hopefully people didn’t think they were talking about my husband.
Back in the day, my parents, siblings and I walked a lot of soybeans.
Oh, the feeling of satisfaction upon tossing our corn knives into the truck bed after we had finished a field, piling in and leaving.
By then it looked like a perfect, weed-free carpet of green.
The feeling lasted only until the arrival at the next field, which was dotted with volunteer corn, cockleburs, sunflowers, thistles and milkweeds which needed to be removed.
We put the water jug in the shade of a row, counted rows and started in again. I’m sure young bean walkers were the original American migrant workers.
Our dad raised seed beans for Sands of Iowa, so as luck would have it, we got to walk our beans twice every summer. Though I wasn’t a fan of it the first time around, it was a tiptoe through the tulips compared to that second time in late summer, after the beans had grown to chest height and were tangled underneath. It was like wading through the seed corn cap storage room in the home of any farmer.
Most farm homes are chest-high in those caps as well.
Though I would not enjoy going back to the days of walking beans, especially those late summer beans, I’m glad I had the experience growing up.
Today, when I see clean bean fields I appreciate them more because I remember what it used to take to get them to look that way.
For the farm family, late summer brings many things – combines and semi trucks need to be serviced, the last of the garden produce waits to be preserved, baling continues in earnest, corn needs to be chopped for silage and field lunches begin.
Rams need to be secured so they can be turned in with the ewes, calves are weaned and we watch the leaves fall.
A tomato on the vine certainly does indicate a refreshing change of seasons, but following the natural high of the coming fall harvest, my husband would just as soon throw rotten tomatoes at Old Man Winter.
But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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