We’re making hay. Last week Gary spent Sunday mowing grass, using the tractor to pull his new sickle-bar mower. He spent most of last Monday fixing a rusty old hay rake that looks like a rural lawn ornament; Tuesday he was raking well past twilight. When Ella and I found him out in the fields, I climbed onto the rusty seat of the rake behind the tractor and rode the last round. Releasing the lever, I dropped the grass onto the long windrow Gary had begun. Then we gave the horses a surprise nighttime snack.
The sickle-bar mower and the hay rake are horse-drawn equipment, and our little draft ponies should be helping make the hay, it being for them, after all. But the ponies aren’t ready for that adventure and neither are we, so we used the tractor. At first it was my job to drive the tractor at a walking pace while Gary managed the mower, pulling up the long sickle bar to avoid rocks and other hazards. It was surprisingly hard to position the tractor so Gary’s mower would find grass I had not managed to trammel with the tractor tires. Instead of calming rows of mown field, the trail I left was a higgledy-piggledy hodge-podge, as my dear brother-in-law Sepp would say, tire impressions and grass clippings in full chaos.
We were lucky to get a couple of rainy weeks at the end of May, but the sun is shining now. Days are long, with dusk around 10:00. Our little world is alive. Our garden is started (just barely); I managed to give my squash and tomatoes frostbite and sunburn within the span of a couple of days, but they’ve recovered. I have more kale and mustard spinach to harvest than I can easily use. Our apple trees are now planted, enormous patches of sweet ripe wild strawberries the size of blueberries are underfoot, and we discovered we have wild mint.
The mallards had ducklings, a Great Blue Heron lives by the pond, we have hummingbirds, and Gary found Tiffany-blue evidence that baby robins have hatched out. One night I took Ella out just before dark, and counted 19 bats as they flew from under our roof; I could still hear more squeaking inside. I know the sound well: I hear them when we’re in the living room, too. Swallows roost under the eaves, with one nest right by the kitchen window.
Our kitchen remodel is progressing. Gary finished his part, including digging a 20’ trench for the propane line in pouring rain. Cabinets were installed this week, with countertops soon to follow. We are making progress downstairs as well, where the last of the filthy carpet is soon to be pulled up. I painted the cement floor of the tiny bedroom a cheerful “Tequila Sunrise.”
We are happy to be busy. We go to bed tired and sleep well, for the most part, despite everything. As some of you know, at the end of April we learned that Gary’s sarcoma is back. He’s been undergoing chemo since mid-May, but has been amazingly strong so far. His late-night mowing coincided with a pre-treatment 72-hour fast (and another 8 hours post-treatment): he preferred working outside to the chance he’d come in and find me eating. I did fast for 24 hours, but I realize now it didn’t begin to help me feel what Gary is going through. A few days ago Gary outpaced Ella in their shedding competition, and decided to shave off his beard and mustache. He’s had his second round of chemo, and is more tired now, but still very much himself.
It’s been hard for me to write as we fight this disease, our emotions, and time as it rushes us through an important season for planting our garden, building our fences, and making hay. But our adventures continue, and staying in touch with our family and friends is important, now more than ever.