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Long time Storybook Home subscriber and popular Mommy Blogger, Montserrat Wadsworth, lives with her family of twelve on a roomy ranch in northern Nevada. She gives a glimpse of daily life through the seasons on the Flying W Farm in this Veranda article accompanying the 2014 Autumn Issue of The Storybook Home Journal, featuring The Sunbridge Girls at Six Star Ranch by Eleanor H. Porter.
On a crisp spring morning, the frost on the windows begins to dissolve while children bustle about looking for boots, coats, and gloves. Their cheerful, expectant voices ring out with excitement: "We're branding today!"
A little over 100 calves will be vaccinated, ear-tagged, and branded with our Flying W brand. It is truly a family and friend affair! Cowboys and cowgirls help to rope the smaller calves while some of the men wait, ready with the branding iron.
The teens take turns giving vaccinations while younger children watch from the sidelines. The bigger calves get run through the chute since they are too big to be held down. As the branding winds down, mothers and wives race back home to put finishing touches on the lunch meal of pulled pork sandwiches, jello salad, and a variety of cookies so it's ready for the hungry crew.
Welcome to another day on our farm and ranch, where my husband, his five brothers, and a brother-in-law work hard to provide for their families. Come join us to see what our farming lifestyle is like the rest of the year! As the weather warms, the pivots are turned on to begin watering the alfalfa and other crops. We have 26 pivots on 8 sections of land. A section is 640 acres in one square mile. A typical pivot is about 125 acres. Have you ever flown in an airplane and looked down to see circles on the ground? Those are created with pivots going around and around a center point watering whatever crop is growing. We grow mostly alfalfa hay for dairy farmers in California. A stand of hay usually produces well for about six years. When a stand gets too old, we tear it out and plant a rotation crop like wheat or corn.
May rolls into June and the hay is tall enough for us to begin swathing. Hay is similar to grass in that it grows back after you cut it. On good years we can get four cuttings or crops of hay. Four swathers are used to cut four pivots a day. The first cutting can get a little precarious because mama antelope and deer find the tall hay perfect for hiding their fawns. The hay lays in swathed rows for a couple of days curing in the sun before the raking crew—mostly teenagers—starts its work. The rakers are out at 5 a.m. while the dew is just right to rake two swathed rows together, turning over the hay so it continues to dry evenly. Another day or so in the sun and the hay is ready to be baled and hauled. Baling is usually done in the middle of the night when the dew begins to settle on the hay. It needs the right amount of moisture to keep the leaves from falling off the stems. If there is too much moisture, the bales heat up and combust causing the whole haystack to catch fire.
A typical summer day starts with my husband heading out to bale with his brothers around midnight. Depending on the dew, he can be out there for four hours or more. At 5 a.m. my older daughters head out to rake with their cousins. By 8:30 a.m., I've got breakfast ready and waiting for them when they get back. After breakfast, the men haul the bales out of the field and stack them in haystacks or hay barns. They stop for lunch and a quick nap before heading back out to finish hauling the hay and start swathing more pivots. The evenings are spent greasing and twining the balers and checking the raking tractors and swathers to make sure they are ready for the next day. This is repeated all summer long and into the autumn with only a one- or two-week break between crops. Even those breaks are filled with farm work: building more hay barns, moving cattle, watering fields, and fixing equipment.
Late summer heat mixed with dry lightning storms produces wildfires every year. Some times those fires get a little too close for comfort!
As the days begin to shorten and the temperatures become cooler, the corn or wheat is ready to be harvested. The corn is chopped for silage; the wheat is combined for grain. Depending on how many acres there are, this can take a week or more.
With farm work slowing down, school begins again in full force. Because we live so far away from the nearest town, we homeschool. The kids gather around the kitchen table and spread their books out to learn. My ten children range in age from 18 down to 18 months. There aren't many subjects the kids can all do together, but a family favorite is to read books aloud. Little House on the Prairie,Just David,Cheaper By the Dozen, and Little Britches are a few cherished books. We also really enjoy incorporating The Storybook Home Journal with our family reading. It seems there is an issue for almost every book we want to read, with recipes and projects to enhance our experience.
Winter snows and pogonip send everyone indoors for warmth. The men busy themselves servicing machinery and equipment or fixing up their houses working away at the honey-do lists that were created during the summertime. School continues to be a priority, but on those days where the weather can be tolerated, recess wins out! Our whole family enjoys playing in the snow.
Soon the snow will melt away, buds will appear on trees, and branding day will come again. We hope you enjoyed this peek into our farming lifestyle! We certainly treasure the close connections we are able to make working together as a family and building beloved memories.