Spring Break for Farmers

     The weather forecast showed pouring rain. An ideal forecast for farm owners planning a four day vacation in late April. When the weather prohibits spring plowing and planting, departures can be quilt-free. We set off with the suitcase packed, our feet in decent shoes and both of us outfitted in stylish clothes. The itinerary included one day at Valley Forge, one day in Lancaster County PA, and the trek home brought us across New York’s Cherry Valley. 

     Our day in Lancaster County included a visit to Stoltzfus Manufacturing in Honey Brook and Messicks in Mount Joy. For Larry these were essential stops. At Stoltzfus Manufacturing, we needed to exchange bale grabber parts. In Mount Joy, we visited Messick’s new 60,000 square-foot store. This Home-Depot sized store is 100% devoted to farm equipment sales and service. It's a jaw-dropping, eye-opening facility.  Plus there were three drive-throughs at equipment dealerships owned by Mr. Horning, Mr. Zimmerman, and Mr. McFadden. 

     This might strike you as an odd vacation plan, but that’s how we roll. Nestled among the stops at farm equipment dealerships, we enjoyed several meals out, one quilt shop, a visit to John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, a show at Sight & Sound Theater, and an evening of ice cream at a farm that advertised itself as a “cow to cone farm”. 

     While driving through Ephrata, I enjoyed observing an Amish farmer plowing his field with a six horse team. His neighbor was spreading manure with a two horse team and a spreader with steel wheels. I thought about how much patience they must practice when completing their farm work with only horsepower. Patience I often lack. (I’ll have to work on this virtue.) The only bad spot of the whole trip was when my Honda’s gas gauge plunged to near empty and our onboard navigation system directed us round and round some neighborhoods that were gas station deserts. Tensions were high, patience evaporated, and frustration multiplied tenfold. 

     The best part of driving over 400 miles south in April is that a New England native can enjoy two springs. We were amazed at how far along the forage and foliage had progressed at this latitude. The maple leaves covered the palm of my hand. The rhubarb was harvest height and recipe ready. Farmers were already mowing some fields. 

     It’s not easy to plan an extended stay away from the farm. When we left this spring, we realized two years had lapsed since we left the farm for an overnight trip. How did we let this happen? 

     A barn and a book consumed all our attention. Larry built a barn. I prepared a book for delivery to the publisher. 

   The new barn is a lovely gambrel barn. It replaces an old dilapidated structure that is just up the road from the main farmhouse. We’re hoping the new barn will allow us to unload hay with ease. Throughout last summer, Larry and his barn raising crew installed the hayloft floor. It was December 2, when Larry, Jeff, and our neighbor Bruce secured the last piece of metal roof. The barn is close to completion but not quite. It’s been a multiyear project with labor also supplied by our sons. Our friends, Paul and Chip were also involved. Sometimes they spent hours leveling cement. Just this week, Larry and Paul installed lighting.
     While the guys were giving the air-hammers a workout, I was working on finalizing the Loudon history book. The book is expected to arrive and be ready for sale around the first of June. I researched and wrote the book to celebrate Loudon’s 250th anniversary. In September I was glued to a desk chair fine tuning photo captions, bibliographies, and chapter headings. In October, I reviewed 77 photos for quality. In November I submitted materials to the publisher in Portsmouth.
     Now that we met the deadlines associated with these projects, it’s onto spring work. Here in Loudon, it’s continued to rain. The leaves on the maple, beech, and oak trees are at a standstill. The heat predicted for this weekend might kick the season into high gear. The fields are still too wet and too cold for planting sweet corn or other vegetables.
     I’m sharing a photo of Larry’s barn. I’ll share news of the book when it arrives from the printer. Happy Spring and let’s dream about a wonderful growing

season to come.