By Jerry Mevissen
Editor’s note: This story is taken from The Nimrod Chronicles, authored by Mevissen and published in 2003 by North Star Publishing.
Middle of July, middle of summer. Must be the old-school-year mentality that says summer is June, July, August. Time to review accomplishments, survey the present, plan the remaining weeks.
In a word, summer is good. New farm babies-- as of Monday, four Scottish Highland calves, another Arab-Belgian cross colt, thirteen baby chicks. All doing well, thank you. I’m way past capacity for these 50 wooded acres. But I have trouble with herd reduction. Which one of the kids do you get rid of?
The river vacillates this year, up and down, fast and slow, cold and warm. Wild rice is growing in the slow waters of the bay. The sandbar at the bend is inches below water. Canoe traffic is light. Seems strange, because the river is so calm now, so clear, so relaxing.
The bald eagle perches predictably at the bend. Sam, the great blue heron, stands stoic in his assigned spot in the afternoon shade. Warblers, finches, and phoebes work the river for mayflies that reflect sun through their wings and float like thistle seed.
Midsummer has its own smells. Fresh cut clover. Bales of new hay. The aroma of blooming basswoods rides in on a breeze from the driveway. Subtle, mysterious, alluring.
Wildflowers switch from pink and purple to yellow and orange. Tiger lily, brown-eyed Susan, goldenrod. Cattails form in road ditches. Wild babies breath blooms in total abandon.
This is my year to take a break from all capital improvements, to cut back on maintenance. No garden, no sidewalk project, no fencing, greenhouse, or sauna. Strangely, I’m getting accustomed to the untrimmed grass, the stalks, brown and seeded, waving in the breeze. And where I did mow, it’s brown, brittle.
Chipmunks work the cattle feeder for spilled corn. Red squirrels steal from the unattended dog dish. A fox makes gutsy daytime forays, scouting a chicken dinner.
At noon, it’s quiet. The windmill rotates slowly, indicates a breeze from the southwest. Horses stand side by side, head to rump, swish each other’s flies. Cattle are up to their bellies in the stock pond. Calves sleep in the shade, alone. Mother hen dusts herself in the shade of the barn, in powdery sand. Baby chicks watch, mimic.
Pasture grass is low. Tonight, the cows and horses will surround the bale feeders. Weatherman says 60 percent chance of rain. Clouds gather, move slowly north. A sudden breeze builds, blows north, billows sheets hanging on the clothesline soaking up river woods air.
During the night, an owl calls. Close to the house. Calls again. One of the joys of talking to animals is deciding what they say. This one says, “Hey, nice corner of the world.” I agree, roll over, and sleep.
This morning, I check the pasture. I count Highland calves. Five. I count again. Five. A newborn calf last night. Cute little bull calf. He lies under a birch tree while mother eats at the bale feeder, doesn’t move until Kelly the collie sidles up, whimpers, sniffs. Proud mother waddles over, licks his coat, looks at me, and says, “Kinda cut, huh?” Proud father, MacDuff, stands by the barn, chews cud with a grin, and says, “That’s my boy!” Draft horses watch from their side of the fence and say, “He has his mother’s color.”
Back to the house for coffee. I’ll listen closer to that owl next time.