Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

Harvest October 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 2:38 pm
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So the past week or so has been all about getting the corn (maize) out of the fields.  I figured that I would share with you a few photos of it…

This is the combine with the head up. The head is the front part of the combine that looks like a demonic comb or fingers. You put the head up when you aren't actually harvesting, like when you are trying to get from one part of the field to another.

Here it is with the head down, ready to start harvesting the corn.

The combine cuts the corn plants off a little under a foot from the soil surface and then "ingests" it eventually separating the corn kernels from everything else, which gets ejected out the back-end of the combine.

There is a lot of organic material left behind the combine. Farmers used to disk this all under every fall but now most leave it on top of the soil as it helps to prevent erosion.

I don't have a lot of chances to get pictures of the combine this time of the year when it's not moving. They had a flat tire, which is why it's in the farm-yard. Here you can see the head clearly. This combine can harvest 6 rows at a time. There are combines that are out right now that can harvest 12 rows at a time. They are HUGE and have to remove their heads before they can go on the road.


This is what it looks like between two of the fingers on the head. You can see the chains with the teeth that grab the cornstalks and drag them in. These are why you don't want to be wandering around out in a field when they are harvesting! (Well, one reason at least!)

This is the hopper where the corn kernels go. It's a lot bigger than it looks in this photo.

A view from the driver's seat.

When the hopper is full, the combine unloads the grain into a truck or wagon. It used to be uncommon to see grain trucks being used but now pretty much everyone uses them as they are much faster than using a tractor and wagons.

Gratuitous cute shot!



The Creek October 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 5:45 pm
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The corn down along the bottom land has been harvested so we can get to the creek now.

This time of the year it’s pretty low, perfect for exploring with some little dogs!

I’ve found a nice sandy bend which is out of the wind and sort of hidden from the world.  We are obviously not the only ones enjoying these characteristics!

Malcolm loves walking around in the water checking out all the angles.

Weezy gets excited over every little sound.

Meara and Micheal are really not interested in coming down here and have to be coerced into coming down the bank.

Malcolm seems to think that the water in the creek tastes better than anywhere else!

Meara is skeptical about this claim.


Buried Treasures October 16, 2011

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been cleaning-out the upstairs closet of my parents house.  This is sort-of an exciting endeavor as I couldn’t ever remember getting to the back of this closet in my lifetime.  It’s a really deep and big closet as the makers of this house simply closed-off the end of the hallway and put a door on it!  This house is the oldest of a trio of houses built by members of my family from the same blueprints.  Makes sense if you think about it as it’s more or less what they do in modern housing developments.  Our house is (I think) the closest one to the original layout minus a wooden front porch and with the addition of an enclosed back porch.  One of the houses has been pulled down and the other is so different from ours that I didn’t realize that it was the same floor plan as a child until someone pointed it out to me.  But it has a built-on garage and a fair number of changes from the original plan so I think I can be forgiven my oversight:-)

I decided to clean out this monster-sized closet more or less on a whim.  It was like the answer that a lot of mountain climbers give when asked, “Why did you climb that mountain?” “Because it was there.”  The stuff at the front of the closet was all pretty modern.  The further back I got, the older things were until I came to a huge box full of linens and blankets.  When I say linens, I think I mean linens from linen.  Some were so patched that it was hard to see where the original sheet had been.  There were embroidered pillowcases and old quilts.  There was one blanket that had been wool, but was now mostly a pile of moth dust (it was kinda gross to get rid of!).  All of the linens are stained and in need of a serious cleaning, which I plan on giving them when I get to a point where I could put them outside to dry without major dust issues.  One of the tricks that I learned a few months ago when I was trying to get sweat stains out of some vintage pillowcases with colored crochet work on the edges is that the sun is an effective bleaching agent.  If you keep something damp, the sun will just keep working on it to get it white.  I think I am really going to miss my conservatory for this effort!  I will share these with y’all when I get them to a point where they don’t look a mess (don’t worry, I’ll try to take before and after photos!)

I finally managed to get to the shelf up high at the back of the closet.  There were some really heavy filing boxes back there and I asked mom what was in them.  It was some teaching materials from when my mom taught home-ec in the late 60’s and early and mid 70’s.  She had been given a ton of information by a teacher that was no longer teaching which what was in these massive boxes.  Getting them down off the shelf meant that I had to remove about half of the files from each of them before I could manage the weight (they probably weighed around 70 pounds full).  I’m glad that I had to as I found a few treasures in those massive filing boxes.  One was an envelope from the Belgian Linen Association containing a bunch of glossy black and white photos showing the processing of Belgian linen, some pamphlets about Belgian linen products and a sample of both raw and dressed flax.  This will be fun to use when I am giving spinning demonstrations!

Another treasure in these boxes were samples of fabrics of the time.  They were used for demonstrations so the majority of them were stapled to cardstock along one side.  I am going to have to learn how to quilt after finding these as some of the prints are just too cute for words!

A very special treasure that I unearthed is a stack of Needlecraft magazines from the early to the mid 1930’s.  They are in perfect condition and have been sitting in a Sunkist Orange box for who knows how long.  All of them are addressed to various women in my family tree, which is a bonus in my opinion as I can imagine these ladies reading through them making the patterns just like I am.   I’m really looking forward to going through these when I have some time to do it correctly not just flip through them.

These little gems make all the cobwebs and dust worthwhile!


Adjustment October 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 9:18 am
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I knew that there would be some adjustment moving back to Iowa, but I can honestly say that I didn’t expect this:



He’s like the wind October 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 3:20 pm
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We’re finally running in the wind here again.  Malcolm has been in full-on sniff mode for the past few weeks.  Rather than running around and getting his energy out he has been nose-to-the ground checking-out all the new and interesting smells.  Sometimes I wish I could explain things to him as you can almost see with the look on his face his questions.  Like, “What is THIS smell?  I’ve never smelled this before!”  I wish I could tell him (with pictures and graphs and maybe an interactive display of some sort) that this smell is a raccoon and it is called a wash-bear in Dutch because it washes it’s food and it looks like it is wearing a little mask and it is very cute but leave it alone as it can be very mean and tough.  But, I can’t so I just watch his fascination when he comes to the smell of an animal that he has never met before.

Today was one of the first days that he has really stretched-out his legs and ran.  Maybe it was because it was windy or perhaps it’s because he is getting used to all the new smells but today he ran.  And I didn’t capture it at all.  These are the two shots that I got on my iPhone of him today.

You can get an idea of just how windy it is seeing how his tail it nearly flattened and his ears are flopped the wrong way!


I think that Malcolm and Micheal will be playing outside soon enough as this little hop preceded Mal trying to entice Micheal to play with him.  I’ll be really glad when they start to rough-house outside and not only in the living room.  Neither one of them is especially small and it sounds like a herd of elephants jumping on each other!



Flyover Country October 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 7:54 pm
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From my after-dinner walk tonight.


Autumn In Iowa October 5, 2011

Autumn in Iowa is… quirky.  It can go from the 80’s to below freezing in a day and does so often enough that it’s not commented on as “strange weather”.  There isn’t as much fall color here as there is in other places I’ve visited.  It is definitely not Rhinebeck, but few places are!  However, we do have the harvest, which is oddly fun to watch.  In my opinion, it is way more interesting than the football that everyone seems to get all excited about this time of the year. They even have stats on the evening news like they do for the sports as to what percentage of the crop is harvested, etc.

Perhaps I am a little odd.

The past week has been so warm that I feel sorry for the kids in the non air-conditioned schools around here. It seems a pity to be trapped indoors in this weather with its crisp mornings and flawless skies.  Knowing the kind of weather that will be coming down for us express from Canada in a few weeks makes these few weeks all the more glorious.
I’ve been taking the dogs out at every chance but I’ve not brought the camera all that much.  Today I rectified that.

This is a field that was harvested earlier this week.  It had soybeans planted in it and at one point they had 3 combines taking them out at one time.  It didn’t take very long for the crop to be out when you have that many machines (and people) working on it.  In the background you can see the Ackley Co-op and water tower.

The dogs are enjoying their daily walks with the exception of Meara who has to be coerced into coming along.  Micheal, who is a tubby little tank of a dog alongside Malcolm, sometimes quits early too, but he’s always game for going!

Autumn color in Iowa is more subdued than in other parts of the county, but it’s still there.  These are the sugar maples in front of our house from out in the field.

And from up close:

Trees aren’t the only things that provide fall color.  Here is a wild asparagus plant that grows in the ditch in front of the house:

One of the bad parts of harvest time is the grain trucks.  These are semis that haul grain from the fields to the elevators.  There’s nothing wrong with the trucks or the folks driving them in themselves, it’s the amount of dust that they kick-up on the road.  Even the dust isn’t really their fault, it’s just that it’s dry and the road gets dusty.  But the fact that there are probably a dozen of them going by each hour makes it so that everything outside is covered in a fine sifting of beige dust.

(Funny enough, with the 4 trucks that I took pictures of in order to get these 2 photos, all but one slowed-down when they saw me snapping pictures of them.  I’d guess that they have had complaints about their speed [they are going fast] in the past:-))

There is still a little other color around.  I found a few wild violets blooming still.  These little plants with their heart-shaped leaves have mostly taken over the lawn here and I don’t think anyone is complaining.  They make a lovely carpet of purple in the spring and summer.  I used to pick handfuls of these when I was a child and display them in juice glasses on the kitchen table.

Dad and I had dinner tonight at The Goat Barn out at Crazy Acres which is a great camping facility not too far down the road from us.  As you can guess, they put the restaurant in what used to be the goat barn.  This is a great place to camp around here as they even have cute cabins that can sleep a ton of people for really reasonable prices along with RV hook-ups and more traditional camping stuff.  The food at The Goat Barn is really reasonable with good-sized portions.  If you are around Ackley, you should stop in!