June brings haying to Carson Valley
First part of June haying starts early in the morning in Carson Valley. Our own hay will not get cut until mid-July because we let our cattle graze the field until late May. But it was comforting to hear the faint hum of the neighbor’s swather cutting about a ¼ mile down the road as I hung out my morning wash.
Late spring rain helped turn May into a beautiful living green. But June is getting hot and dry. Even so the cows are fat, calves quiet. Our bull so content he bellows at the neighbor’s cows and acts belligerent towards the bulls on the other side of the fence.
Water will get tight and tension will come. But for now it’s time to just take a deep breath and appreciate sleek cows standing in tall grass. And wait for the next irrigation.
Being on a set irrigation schedule allows me a quick summer trip to Minnesota to see school friends. We meet for dinner at a roof top restaurant and quickly fall into the remember whens. We got onto a subject not many women talk about today. When was the last time you butchered chickens as a kid?
Yep, butchered. We did not process, we did not prepare them. We butchered them. Parents cut off the heads. Kids ran after the bodies to gather them from where they dropped. We plucked feathers while we could still feel the heat of the chicken’s body. Then singed the skin pin feathers over a gas fire. That we all agreed was the worst part. After that particular pronouncement we sat quiet for a minute thinking what we did was history.
But we quickly recovered our speech to figure out what we did with the feathers. And why did we stop doing it? One in our group had raised geese. Her family saved the down in sacks her parents took to town to have cleaned and made into pillows. And I shared, I think I was still in elementary school, less than 10 the last time I remember butchering. One was 12, she thinks. The others had no idea.
We are all professional women, college educated, some with advanced degrees, all glad we do not have to do that anymore, but were unable to recall why each family had stopped. Did egg prices get so low? Did the cost of chickens change dramatically? When you are young changes come and you don’t even notice.
But as adults on the rooftop we wondered aloud how many of the folks sitting at tables around us, typing with their thumbs on devices in their hands instead of talking to the person next to them would understand what we did. Could understand.
Then we humorously questioned if these same people’s children would even know at one time phones had cords attaching them to a wall. And you had to listen for a certain short Morse code type ring to know if the call was for your family or for the neighbor’s miles down the road. We laughed more trying to remember our rings. Two short? One long? And you knew the neighbors could listen, like you, any time they liked to any call. We had had our own NSA wiretapping service long before it was cool.
Home now, cool or not, irrigation water is running. Better go check the ditch. Do not want to waste a drop of water or this could be history too.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher