Friday, August 04, 2006

Scary night! or is that Spooky night?

This is scary. Or is that spooky?

Anyway it was in the middle of the night.

One AM. Sunday night.


No moon.

So hazy you could barely see the stars.

And out here in the country there aren't any streetlights, or on our farm, no house lights to be seen.

Just an occasional firefly.

And croakings and creekings and night birds calling from the forest.

I was up in my office, reading the news on the internet when I looked out the window by my desk.

And suddenly up the hill.

The tractor.

The lights came up.

One moment it was dark

And the next the tractor lights flickered on.

And then off.

And then on and off.

And suddenly the emergency flashers came on and stayed, flashing. on, off, on, off.

I turned off the reading light on my desk and blackened my computer screen.

I couldn't see anyone moving around. Just the tractor, up on the hill with its emergency lights flashing in the dark.

Was someone out there? Someone who had turned on the lights? Or an animal? One that was capable of reaching down below the tractor's dashboard and turning the light switch?

Or could this have just happened. All by itself?

Either way I had to go out and turn off the lights. I couldn't leave them on. In the morning, with the lights flashing, the battery would be dead.

So I went downstairs and got my boots and began to lace them up. Thinking...

Thinking, should I go get the shotgun out of the closet and go get some shells out of the locked drawer.

Is there something out there that I should be afraid of. Something with hands that turned on the tractor lights, someone waiting for me to come outside?

Let's, though, stop right there and give that question a moments thought.

There is much more important farm news to hear.

First there's the egg crisis. This concerns you if you have an egg share.

As you've no doubt noticed, we are having a heat wave. Not just this week (which I must admit was quite toasty), but its also been hitting the 90's off and on for the past month. And the chickens, especially Susannah's chickens (the certified organic egg raiser from the southern part of the county who provides two-thirds of the eggs), have been suffering and have cut way down on their egg laying. Instead of providing us with 75 dozen a week, Susannah has only been able to give us 40-50 dozen eggs a week. Which means a lot of people haven't been getting their full egg share.

Solution? there are no good solutions but here's what I'm going to do. Everyone with an egg share will be cut back to a half dozen egg share. So if you were getting a whole dozen you now will only get half a dozen per week. (and if you were getting a half dozen, you will still get a half dozen).

Sweet Corn. sweet corn starts today. last night one of my neighbors called and said he had grown several acres of Silver Queen to sell on a roadside stand but he had changed his mind about the stand and he wondered if we wanted it. I just got back from his corn field after picking several hundred tender ears for today's share. Nice sweet tender tasty corn.

Rain, or the lack of it. When I went out Monday to pick up the fruit from the orchard over by Sperryville the farmer that runs the orchard said they were starting to hurt from the lack of rain. I agreed but that morning I had started running the sprinklers. We have been irrigating all week. Right now the water is running on the tomatoes and eggplants. Extra work but no major water problems.

Tomatoes. Next week should be 'all you can eat tomatoes'. This means there are plenty of tomatoes and if you have a one person share, take all the tomatoes one person can eat in a week. If you have a two person that's as many as two people can eat in a week. Four person...

Those smallish oblong tomatoes are a Roma type cooking tomato. A cooking tomato has more meat and less juice than the larger, rounder slicing tomatoes.

The slicing tomatoes coming up next week are heavy in heirloom types. Bradywines, German Johnson's, Caspian Pink, Mortgage Lifter, Box Car Willie and half a dozen others. Don't ask me which are which because by now I've forgotten which plant was planted where. Next year (as I say every year about this time) I'll make a map when I plant them.

Which gets us back to the middle of the night and the flashing lights and me putting on my boots and deciding whether to go and get the shotgun or not.

I didn't get the shotgun, but I did make a compromise in the interest of paranoia.

Instead of stepping out the front door with my super powerful flashlight blazing, I went out the side door with the flashlight turned off.

I walked out across the tomato field, down a row of tomatoes.

The lights were still flashing up in the field where we've been picking the leeks. If you've been out to the farm, the tractor was parked just below the two 2500 gallon water tanks.

I took the path around behind the storage building.

It was dark. I could hear a train going through Thoroughfare Gap, three miles away. It seemed unusually loud.

The lights on the tractor, though, were still flashing up on the hill.

There are two paths through the natural hedgerow bordering that field.

I looked up through the darker one, the steeper one around the side.

I didn't see anyone. Or hear anyone.

Nothing moved.

The train had stopped blowing its whistle but you could hear the clacking of the wheels as it made the turn on the far side of the gap.

The lights were still flashing, though. I could see the tractor rather clearly. On and off. on and off.

I went through the hedge row and up on to the field, out into the clearing.

If there was anyone there, and if their eyes were adjusted to the dark. They could probably see me.

I walked swiftly up the hill and right to the tractor.

No one was sitting on the tractor. The seat was pushed forward.

I quickly reached down to the light switch and snapped it off, standing right beside the tractor. Standing in the dark.

And listening.


The train had disappeared around the mountain. I couldn't hear it anymore, but I could hear something coming up through the other break in the hedgerow. Running up across the field.

It was coming right towards me. Through the leeks. Up the hill.

I aimed my flashlight, pointed it, and snapped it on.

There, crossing the field, tail wagging, was Andorra, our outdoor, anti-wild animal, Great Pyrenees.

She bounded over to me, licked my hand, and then bounced around the tractor several times. and then came back over to me, tail a wagging.

I patted her on the side several times and then asked: 'Who turned on the tractor lights?'

She didn't answer but bounded back across the field, completing several circles in front of me.

I looked around but there didn't seem to be anyone there. so I let her lead me down the hill and all the way back to the house.

On the way, no one jumped out of the bushes. But no one explained how the tractor lights turned on either.

When I got back to the house I left Andorra out side, and went up the stairs to bed.

Leigh Hauter


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