Monday, April 18, 2016
Open Spaces and Open Gates
One of the things that I love most about growing up on our family farm was the wide open spaces. During the summer months especially I loved just wandering around the farm with my siblings and cousins or even just all by myself. I love being out in the open fields with hardly any one else around: just me my favorite people and the animals . . . the cows and the horses and the cats and the dogs, and the birds too. We children were mostly free to wander wherever we wanted on the property as long as our work was done. With acres of pastureland, hayfields and sheds, willow trees, a big canal and multiple irrigation ditches, trees, natural springs, there was always a new place to play and new worlds to imagine.
We were taught to avoid the hay fields when the hay was growing, as our wanderings might tramp down the hay and ruin it. Once or twice though, we had been known to create "tunnels" or mazes in the tall hay in the small field behind Grandma and Grandpa's house. Have you ever been to a corn maze before? A maze in the hay field is much, much more fun, especially if the hay is taller than you are!
Another thing we were taught at a very young age was to never leave the gate open. Fences and gates are extremely important barriers when dealing with cows and horses. Most of the time they keep the animals in the pastures or corrals where they belong, and out of the road, the garden, they yard, or the neighbors fields. One of our daily jobs during the summer was to herd the cows (really just follow along after them as they all knew the way very well) up the road and across the canal bridge to their summer pasture each morning, and then to return in the afternoon and herd them back home in time for the evening milking. Since the cows knew the way, our main job was to open and close the gates that kept them safely in the pasture. Many of the gates to the pastures on our farm are made of three or four strands of barbed wire stretched from the last fence post in the fence to another lose fence post. To close the gate, you must stretch the barbed wire taut and place the loose post right next to the last post in the next fence. A loop of strong gauge wire is then slipped around both the post in the ground and the loose post to hold it in place. This is not always an easy feat for a small child, but a skill that is learned early on the farm. No one wants to be the one that let the cows out of the pasture!