At The Farm Gate: Farm Threads Through Summer Traditions

At the Farm Gate - Joanie Stiers.2

My husband fished at the farm. Our son and his friends played paintball-style games in the farm woods. I smoked brisket from our inventory of freezer beef, and our daughter baked an order of graduation cakes that required 30 fresh eggs from her chickens. We ended the weekend as a family kayaking the river that borders the home farm.

The first few days out of school provided a glimpse of farm-infused summer traditions to come, like Sunday mornings in solitude on the front porch. Impromptu wiener roasts under starry skies. And summer-time suppers with hyper-local menu items: burgers and steaks from our farm’s cattle herd paired with green beans, lettuce or sweet corn from the garden.

Despite the Illinois humidity, I love the freedom and energy of summer on the farm between planting and harvest seasons. That feeling amplifies with timely, beneficial rains and having all the hay baled for the time being. This break between the farm’s busiest seasons gives our minds an opportunity to pause at spectacular, golden sunsets and lightning bugs dancing in the rural darkness afterward.

West Coast cousins soon visit the farm with an itinerary to catch those fireflies, view as many cows, chickens and tractors as possible and play Wiffle ball in the farmyard. The kids of my city cousins have requested to see Farmer Doug’s excavator in action, giving them more pretend-play scenarios for their favorite 1/16th-scale toy.

Once upon a time, our kids played similarly, using toy backhoes and wheel loaders in a designated corner of the vegetable garden. Now teens, the farm Jeep supercharges their summer fun. The 4×4 effectively scouts crops and teaches our license- and permit-holding farm kids how to drive a stick shift. We spend summer nights practicing on the backroads in the vehicle’s iconic, open-air glory. Subsequently, I think I found my spirit vehicle.

Summer brings sunflowers to cut, chickens to show and ice cream worth a country drive. The kids’ schedules include youth leadership events, summer employment on the farm and the debut of a 75-foot slip-and-slide on the slope north of the farm shop. The State Fair signals the end of summer break.

Soon after, our neighbors will close their “farm pool” for the season, a glammed-up livestock water tank. I give them the prize for most-creative farm-infused fun.

About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family, growing corn, soybeans and hay and raising beef cattle, backyard chickens and farm kids in West-Central Illinois.



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