Farm Memories

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I had returned to my parents home on a warm July evening and was immediately greeted with a smell that brought me back to my childhood. The smell of freshly cut alfalfa is one that always causes me to have a sense of nostalgia. If I close my eyes I can go back to waking on those lazy, dewy mornings, a breeze coming through my upstairs window and breathing in that grassy freshness. Most of the time I was praying I could drift back to sleep without hearing dad’s voice echoing up the stairs to get up because there was work to do. Summer on the farm in Nebraska meant laying out irrigation pipe, walking beans and picking up hay bales back in my day. Today it’s been replaced with automated pivots, herbicides and big round bales picked up by tractors. No more loading square bales onto the pickup bed as high as you could and then throwing them up into the hayloft to stack. What fun we would have walking through those piles and making forts in the haymow. The old calico farm cats almost certainly would choose to have their litters of kittens somewhere among the bales of straw or hay. When we saw the mama cats had lost their big bellies we were on the hunt to find those babies. We knew not to get too close or sure enough she would move them so we would keep a watchful eye from afar. Summers meant gardens and beans to snap, sweet corn to freeze, 4-H meetings and livestock to take care of and it also meant a lot of time outdoors. To some the smells of the farm may be offensive and some certainly are. I can’t say I want to relive my scooping manure days anytime soon! However the smell of fresh turned soil in the spring and the rows of ripe cut alfalfa will always bring back fond memories. Life seemed simple then when as a child our biggest worry was finding the newest litter of kittens.

Lunar Eclipse from Nebraska

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA     I sat alone parked on a country road on a chilly Nebraska night and watched the Lunar eclipse. It was a serene and beautiful night. I don’t suppose many are willing to venture out on a weeknight at 2 a.m. just to watch and capture a few pictures of the moon but I had the time and the desire. It was well worth the effort. I drove to the outskirts of town and found a lonely hill to perch on. Behind me I had a gorgeous view of the Omaha skyline and in front of me a dark field with a red moon glowing overhead. I bundled up in my winter Barn coat and hat. I noticed there was still a bit of snow left along the dirt road from the weekend’s spring snowstorm and I shivered as I took in the view. I snapped a few shots of the eclipse every few minutes. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to capture the moon and I had to fumble with the settings on my Olympus quite a bit. I’m new to photography and am realizing I have a lot to learn. I didn’t want this outing to be all about getting the perfect shot but more about enjoying the experience so I put “Ms. Perfectionist” aside and just went with the flow. I listened to the sounds of the night. I could hear an owl in the distance and the faint sound of an occasional car on the highway below. I breathed in the night air and felt totally at peace. I have no fear of the countryside. Odd that I felt safer there than in my backyard in the city. There is something about stargazing and moon watching that always soothes my soul. I remember once I playfully invited my then husband to come out on a gorgeous summer evening and watch the stars with me – he looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. He shook his head and told me no as he went back to watching tv. Disappointed I went out to our backyard filled with flowers and fireflies and watched alone. I’ve done a lot of stargazing alone since then. I think of all the millions of people gazing at the moon tonight and I wonder what they are all thinking. It’s hard not to feel a bit lonely and insignificant under such a magnificent sky. It’s hard to not want to share it with someone. Yet I have hope that somewhere out there someone is looking up thinking the same thing. Somewhere someone gets that same feeling by looking at the stars that I do and would rather look at a night sky holding my hand than a television any night of the week. Someone who will spontaneously grab my hand to experience life with me and we can count stars together. Until that time I am not afraid to drive out on a gravel road at 2 a.m and find my own moments of peace and happiness. Here’s to the next Lunar Eclipse and hope!

Spring Hike at Fontenelle

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The thing I love most about the arrival of Spring is just getting out and breathing in the fresh air. In Nebraska the winters always seem long and confining and the older I get the longer they seem. Last week we were blessed with a beautiful spring day with temps in the 70’s and I took full advantage. I went out and did some hiking at Fontenelle Forest located in Bellevue Nebraska, on the south edge of Omaha. Fontenelle Forest is one of the largest deciduous forests in Nebraska at close to 2,000 acres. According to the website” Fontenelle Forest is listed as a National Natural Landmark and a National Historic District by the United States Department of the Interior, and the State of Nebraska officially designates its upland and lowland forests as ‘very rare’ ecosystems” It is indeed a beautiful place to hike, bird watch and breathe in some fresh air. There is a 1 mile wooden boardwalk that is easily accessible for all ages and provides stunning views of the Missouri river. For the more ambitious there are many dirt hiking paths that allow a variety of options for those who want to explore the forest more thoroughly. The center provides guided maps that describe each trail and its length and terrain.

 

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The rangers list what birds and animals have been sighted at the beginning of the trail. I could hear many birds chirping but my eye is not trained to spot them so I only caught a few glimpses. (I will work on this skill)  I could hear the woodpeckers and a little boy about 3 years old asked me as I was walking if I knew where ” that woodpecker was?”  He must have thought I looked like I knew something important but I just smiled and told him that I couldn’t find him either but he sure sounded loud! I am anxious to get back out on the trails and to watch spring unfold. The weekend did not cooperate as it was rainy and then snowed. The much needed moisture was welcomed though. The tiny bits of green that were attempting to peek out will become larger and the trees will soon leaf out. The bleak browns of winter will be replaced and life will once again be colorful and lively.

Ah Spring… welcome!

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LOST
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree of a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

-David Wagoner