My Crazy Life as a Farmer’s Daughter – Part 5

Welcome back to my stroll down memory lane.  Due to some excitement with blog tours and cover reveals, I missed last week, but I’m resuming my regularly scheduled program today.

This particular story is one of those OMG, how did I not die? stories.

As I did often during the latter half of summer, this day I was baling hay in melt-your-bones-hot weather.  The machine was three pieces: the tractor, the bale thrower, and the wagon.  Here’s a picture of the bale thrower courtesy of the CASE International website so you know what I’m talking about below:

My instructions from Dad, as always, were to drive a straight line and keep an eye to make sure the machinery was working okay.  Should be simple enough, right?

Yeah, not so much.  You see, this field was almost entirely a steep hill.  Great for tobogganing down in the winter, but not so much for working on.

Everything was going swimmingly until a bale of hay jammed in between the two spinning tread-mill-type belts that were supposed to launch it into the wagon.

In the middle of the hill.

Of course.

Now, what I should have done is shut the baler off and driven to the top of hill to fix it.  Being a young teen, hot and probably peed-off, I didn’t think of that.

What did I do, you ask?  Something not very bright thinking back on it.  Because the tractor didn’t have a working parking brake, I used a stick we kept for such purposes to wedge between the tractor cab and the brake.  Once I’d secured that, I climbed down from the tractor and onto the bar of the wagon where it attached to the baler.  I commenced reefing on the jammed bale.

I think you can guess what happened next.

Yep, if that dang stick didn’t slip off the brake.

I froze for a split second as I realized I was in the middle of the 3 machines, barreling backwards down a hill.  When I pulled my head out of my rear, I did something equally stupid.  Instead of letting it go and facing Dad’s wrath (kidding, he was as capable of wrath as a teddy bear was capable of turning into a ninja) I jumped up on the baler, ran along the top of it and dove head-first into the back of the tractor’s cab, then jammed both arms down on the brake.  It took a while, and I was almost completely jack-knifed, but I eventually stopped.

I’m pretty sure I choked out my heart and it was laying there on the floor in front of me for a while before it climbed back down my throat.

Of course, Dad had seen the whole thing as he pulled up with an empty wagon.  Damn, I had rotten luck that day.  But I guess I lived to tell the tale, so it wasn’t all bad.  🙂

Next week we’ll learn how NOT to deal with an out of control brush fire.

My Crazy Life as a Farmer’s Daughter – Part 4

Welcome back to my crazy memories of my crazy rural upbringing.

Make hay while the sun shines.

I really hated that expression as a kid, because for me, it was literal.  It might be one of the reasons I love the rain.  Okay, so I’m a tiny bit lazy, but I mean, who likes to get hot and sticky and covered in itchy chaff on a nice day?  Not me, that’s who.

In July and August, if the sun shone, it was pretty much a guarantee we’d be pulling on our jeans and T’s and heading out to the fields to bail up a massive field of hay somewhere and put it in  the barn for the cows’ winter dinner.  The picture below is how we used to do it, having to stack it on the wagon by hand. 

I can’t tell you how many times I rode on the top of a load like that, not been paying attention, and been clothes-lined by a tree branch and knocked down onto the ground.  Usually on top of the stubble left behind after the hay was cut.


Good thing kids bounce!

There are so many stories I could share, and I have a few entertaining ones planned.  Today I’ll center on one involving my paternal grandma.  First, you have to know a little about her, rest her hardworking soul.

She was a hardcore farmer’s wife.  She lived and breathed hard work and never complained, because that’s just the way it was.  At least, unless you weren’t working hard enough in her eyes, and then, holy hell, look out!  Nope, my grandma minced no words, nor spared your feelings if she decided you needed to be told something.  If not working in her giant garden, she’d be whipping up a freshly made batch of her famous jam-jam cookies or making us a jug of homemade lemonade to bring out to those of us who were putting hay into her barn.

This particular day, she had done just that.  She appeared out of her house holding the glass pitcher with the blue flowers on it, jingling with ice cubes and lemon slices just as we’d finished offloading a backbreaking, heavy load.  A neighbor boy had come to help us, and had brought along a friend he had over for the day.  I would have been around twelve, putting the other two boys at around ten.

This boy, let’s call him James because I can’t, for the life of me, remember his name, found a dead snake in one of the hay bales.  He nudged me as the thing dangled from his fingers, its innards half hanging out, and said, “Watch.  I’m going to scare the jeepers out of your grandma.”

Snickering, I said, “Pfft.  Go ahead.  I dare you.”

So, snake held behind his back, James strode up to my grandma and chatted her up, acting all casual.  Meanwhile, the neighbor boy and I watched and waited.  I knew she’d do something, I just had no idea what, and it tickled me all kinds of pink watching the events unfold.

My grandma, being the woman she was, offers the kid a drink.  After all, he did work hard, right?  When she bent to pick up the lemonade off of the walkway where she’d set it and the cups, James stuck the snake in her face.

She didn’t even flinch.  Standing up straight again, she stared down at him for a moment.  I don’t think he knew what to do, so he jerked the dead thing at her again.

Well, if she didn’t grab his collar in one fist and the snake with the other.  Then, to my dropped-jaw astonishment, she shoved that snake down his shirt and said, “There you go.  How do you like that?”

I’d never seen a boy move so fast in my life.  Screaming, he stripped off his shirt and went running down the lane way, probably looking for his mommy.  Ha!  Grandma cackled loud and long, and I laughed right along with her.  Geez.  I bet he developed a snake phobia and probably breaks out in a sweat every time he sees one, even now.

That’s what you get for messing with a lifelong farm girl!

Next week I’ll tell you about my hard lesson on how NOT to fix a piece of machinery in the field.


My crazy life as a farmer’s daughter – Part 3

A few days ago my sister, Tanya–who has been my source of these wonderful old pictures–reminded me of this article from the Peterborough Examiner that ran some time in the 70s (I think) about all of the neat inventions my Dad made during his life.

Keep in mind that all of his knowledge is self taught and designed without the use of computers or engineering drawings.  Check it out.

I remember so many blustery winter mornings I’d bundle up and sit inside the cab with him as he blew the snow out of the neighboring lanes while telling me one story or another, thinking that’s just what being neighborly meant.  I had no idea not everyone would take so much time out of their day just to do something nice for someone else.  We could all take lessons from that, I think!

Unfortunately his beloved bobcat loader he built burned along with the shop when I was about 10 despite his and my brother’s harrowing attempt to rescue it before the acetylene tanks blew up and drove us all back.  The heat from it was insane, and it was a miracle the gas house only a few feet away didn’t go up and take the house–and us all–with it, too.  I remember crying myself to sleep that night because I knew how much he loved that bobcat and how proud he was to have fabricated it himself.

We all spent hours on the giant swing set he made from logs and the metal monkey bars he welded for us.  Although I don’t really remember the snowmobile with the ironing board seat, I remember the pictures and the stories of him and Mom getting dumped into the creek.  Here it is!

This is the one I remember, the snowmobile–affectionately named Big Wilb by my brother–we used to take into the back territory to pick out our Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  🙂  If anyone knows who is in the sled, leave it in the comments!  🙂

For this week’s Touch of Frost blog tour stop, on February 8th, I’ll invaded Aimee Laine’s blog, where you can read about our heated debate on the glories of winter.

My Crazy Life as a Farmer’s Daughter Part 1

I started a new job last week, and I have to say, I’m quite enjoying it.  The people are great, there’s lots of work to keep my mind and fingers busy, and I’m getting a steady paycheck again.

Life is good.

As always when I begin working at a new place, everyone wants to know me.  Where did I grow up?  Who is my family?  Where did I go to school?

Naturally, stories of my childhood growing up on a farm came up.  Below is a drawing of the farm in Lakefield, Ontario where I lived for the first twenty years of my life, created by my talented brother in law, Nick.

Our fifteen room monstrosity of a drafty house is on the left.  When the wind blew, the carpet in the living room would lift up.  Yep, not kidding.  And being on a hill, the wind blew OFTEN.  Brrr.  The white building in the middle is where I worked with Dad on all sorts of machinery.  The rebuilt version after the original one burned to the ground when I was ten.  To the right of that was the gas house, and right of that is the small chicken coop where we raised free-range hens every year.

As I told my stories, I realized how dangerous that life was, yet we never really considered it at the time, it was just normal. I thought I’d spend the next few weeks sharing a few of my craziest stories with you.  And yes, they are all true.

One of the jobs I most hated was picking stones.  Yep, it’s just what it sounds like.  After a plow turned up the soil, we went along and picked up all of the rocks big enough to damage the other machinery used before seeding.  Exciting, right?  And back breaking.

I was lucky, though, because I was so much younger than my siblings, I got the privileged of driving the tractor pulling the wagon where we loaded the stones on to.  I remember a story my Dad told me about when I was four that raises the hair on the back of my neck when I picture having that much trust in my daughter.  Yeah, so not happening.

It was just him and me that day, so we had no wagon.  I steered the old, red model ‘C’ tractor we often used for smaller jobs with a hydraulic bucket on the front, while he loaded the rocks in by hand.  Because of my short height and light weight, I had to stand on the clutch and pull down on the steering wheel in order to shift gears.  My Dad always gives a sheepish laugh when he says he just looked up from the stone he was prying on, and found me barreling across the field away from him.  He thought for sure I’d lost control and would run it into the stone fence.  He ran after me, but knew he’d never catch me in time.

Apparently I’d watched him dump the stones in the fence and had paid attention to how he did it, because he said I stopped the tractor in just the right place, raised the bucket, and dumped it just as he had.  When I backed up the tractor and turned around, he said he was just standing there gaping at me thinking he might just have a heart attack right there.

I bet.


I worry enough when my daughter crosses a country road while holding my hand and she’s almost six!  I can’t imagine sending her off on a giant death on wheels machine.  But that was normal for me as a kid, as it is with most farm families.  I was taught to respect the animals and the equipment, and I learned fast.  It still shocks me that all five of us kids survived growing up in a continuous hazard zone.  Though it was a hard life, it was also a good life.

Stop back next week for my adventures in the silo.  🙂


There’s also a terrific giveaway going on at J. Taylor Publishing’s blog today to celebrate my upcoming release, Touch of Frost.  Click here to check it out.

Coming February 1