Seedtime & Harvest Newsletter This week’s produce is bright, beautiful and delicious!
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June 20, 2014Asparagus plantings can go to weeds in a hurry. When weedy, it is almost impossible to find the fresh new shoots which are pushed up every day. If asparagus has heat and moisture, it needs picking twice a day in order to offer a quality product to our customers.
This spring, being cool and dry, the harvest has been on the skimpy side. Especially after a dry winter and a dry 2013 summer. When dry, the patch is impossible to weed but we had no water to spare.
The weather man predicted rain every day for weeks. Not a drop fell.
Finally, the cycle broke and it started raining. After the first good soaker, the crew and Alissa and I headed out to weed the asparagus. I led the way by harvesting any good shoots and pulling some of the weeds in each plant so the crew could easily avoid breaking any of tomorrow’s shoots.
I was squatting on the ground near the Asian pear trees, head down, hands busy, when I heard, “Hello!”
On the other side of the pear tree is a woman, also squatting down, asking me, “Do you own this farm?”
Ok, Lady! Who are you and why do you want to know?
I pulled myself off the ground and straightened my spine. I moved away from the pear tree.
“ Y . e . s. . . . and who are you?”
“I’m SO-and-SO and my grandpa, Gerrit Horstman, owned this farm years ago. We are here from Colorado and we came out with my dad, Gene, to look at the farm and realized the barn is down. What happened?”
“Oh! You’re a Horstman!’ and the conversation began to flow.
“Let’s go back to your family so they can hear, too.”
“This is my dad, Gene Horstman.” Gene was a grandpa now, too, and looked just like his brother, Virg.
“Yeh, I didn’t grow up here, but my four younger brothers did. Pa had gone broke and lost everything. They moved to Sioux Center and me and my three brothers grew up in Sioux Center. I’m the oldest and I was already married when Pa bought this farm. We had four boys, then a sister Gertrude, and then four more boys.”
“Your younger brother, Virg, built our house. We gave the old house away. It is now standing on the blacktop, north of the Dordt Dairy. They spent a lot of money restoring the house. We have been through it and cannot ever recognize the old floor plan.
“Virg talked about the four boys and maybe a bit about his sister, but I never knew there were four more boys!
“I’ll always remember your dad and Grandpa. Grandpa and Grandma drove out to the farm one summer day, shortly after we bought the place, 1986. I had little kids and was canning beans. Grandpa wanted to see the inside of the house so I invited them in but Grandma said, ‘No, Pa. We can’t go in. She probably has a mess.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “Come on in anyway.”
I remember the table and counters were full of canning jars and other stuff and I especially remember the cupboard doors were hanging open. I did have a mess!”
Grandpa said, “Ah, Ma! It looks just like home!”
“Grandpa touched my heart right there!
“I started asking Grandpa questions, where the well was, where the water lines ran, etc. Out went Grandpa. He was in his 80’s but he tramped right through the weeds.
“This place had been abandoned and repossessed and the weeds and thistles were higher than our heads. In fact the day we took possession, the weed commissioner showed up. “These thistles have to go!” he commanded. We were city kids; we only owned a disposable push lawn mower. Not a neighbor around would loan us a larger piece of equipment. They knew the weeds were hiding lots of junk, downed fences and barbwire. Finally Farmer Tiedeman set Henry up with his oldest corn stalk chopper and a tractor to knock down the thistles. That started Henry on his journey to farming.
“Grandpa found the well, “A good well, too! We always had enough water for our cows and pigs.”
“Grandpa said it was a good farm for him. He told me he made his money here. If I recall, he bought this place in the ‘50’s.”
“That’s right! He did. After going broke, they moved to Sioux Center. He bought this place in ’57 and moved with the four younger boys. He was 53. But us four older boys never lived here.”
“What happened to the barn?”
“We took it down on Memorial Day. The barn had been slowly leaning for years and the Mother’s Day storm pushed it over even farther and made it very dangerous. Son Rick brought his telehandler and shoved the forks into the leaning side of the barn to prop it up and make it safe for us to go in and get out any stuff we wanted to save. Then he began to push and shove on the roof and slowly brought the whole thing down right in its footprint.”
“Could we buy a couple of boards?”
“Are you kidding? Take what you want!”
“How about that window there?”
“I think there is too much pressure on it.”
Gene dove right in, just like Grandpa, and started tugging on the window. “Nope, it’s rotten,” he said as the window pulled apart in his hands.
“There’s a door over here that someone pulled out of the heap.”
Granddaughter nodded. She wanted it!
“It’s too big for the van,” said Grandson-in-law.
“It will fit,” said Granddaughter.
We lifted up the door and underneath was an even nicer door.
“Can I have that one, too?”
“Sure,” I said. “Not sure who pulled it out of the rubble.”
Granddaughter saw another door, higher up and still attached. “Can we get that one, too?”
Son-in-law muttered, “What do you want it for?”
“A privacy fence,” she said under her breath.
Grandpa Gene said, “We could get it if we had a crow bar!”
“I think I know where a crow bar is,” and I marched off to get it.
“Look out for nails!” said Grandpa Gene. “You don’t want to step on a nail. I don’t think we can get it. Those are huge nails holding those hinges.” He even knew the size of the nails.
Just then our crew came dragging back in from weeding the asparagus patch. “We are done!”
“Ah ha!” exclaimed Grandpa Gene. “Let these two strong young men try to get that door.”
This was just up Dolan’s expertise. He climbed right into that pile of broken boards and nails.
“Look out for nails, Dolan! You don’t want to step on any.” I admonished as I climbed down from the heap.
Suddenly, I hear, “HARRIET!”
Alissa made a commanding motion that said, ‘Come Here Right Now!’
“What are you doing? Let Patent-Leather-Shoes-and-Dress-Pants son-in-law get that door for her! You are paying wages for those two boys to do the bidding of strangers!”
By the time I turned back to the barn, the door was being loaded into the van and Dolan handed me the crow bar. The strangers said good-bye and thank you.
I still felt kind of rosy inside, thinking of and reliving my youthful days.
When I repeated the story to Henry that evening, I got another lecture. “You let those boys climb into the disaster? What about Workmen’s Comp? Are you crazy? What if something had happened? You have to think things through!”
And Dolan? He only put three nails through the sole of his boot.
June 21: Chef Drew Laberis will serve springtime goodness.
Dayne Versteeg will play the piano and sing.
June 28: Vince Clapper will be juggling.
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