I took this photo exactly seven years ago today while I was checking my roads as a township trustee in Holmes County, Ohio. Wheat shocks standing in fields like this one was once a common scene in Ohio’s Amish country.
Today, only the lowest order of Amish still shock their winter wheat, oats, and corn in the fall. The mainline Amish have introduced horse-drawn harvesting machines to gather their grain. Doing so was a matter of efficiency. With less than 10 percent of Amish still farming, fewer farmers are available to help in the harvesting process.
Consequently, this photo perhaps is a shocking scene in today’s terms. “A Shocking Scene” is my Photo of the Week.
Oats shocks standing at attention in a field during the dog days of summer is a familiar scene in Holmes Co., Ohio. When the border between them and the road holds a row of summer’s wildflowers like chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace, the landscape is all the prettier.
Fields of golden shocks of wheat create the iconic Amish country scene around this time of year. Like so many soldiers, they stand at attention air-drying in the sun. Soon armies of oat shocks will reinforce their numbers. If the weather cooperates, however, the wheat shocks are usually collected before the oats are cut and stacked to dry in the sun.
A machine cuts the stocks of grain into bundles. Men, women, boys and girls follow along and set up the shocks with the last sheaf placed on top to protect the heads of grain from the elements and birds.
Cute as it looks, this photo shows much more than a grandson riding along as his grandfather encourages a team of workhorses across a farm field. This exemplifies the hands-on part of an Amish education. Children learn at a young age how the work gets done, whether on a farm or in a shop or the house. It is practical, productive learning at its finest.
The first flowers of the year bloomed in our yard on April 1. No fooling.
My wife found them while picking up sticks after several additional days of steady, biting winds that brought down more tree debris. I had done the same chore a week previous.
Golds, lavenders and purples of spring, assisted by the blossoms’ compatriot green leafy shafts, poked through the tree trash. That’s the one nice thing about crocuses. They replenish themselves without any effort on our part, as long as furry varmints don’t devour them.
The royal purple, lovely lavender, and buttery yellow crocuses were welcomed splashes of joyous color amid the decaying aftermath of winter’s harshness. Even the honeybees thought so.
Dead limbs and burnished leaves littered the yard thanks to continuous cold winds. It was mostly the shingle oaks and red oaks that finally released last year’s growth.
It could be easy to be remorseful given the depth of winter’s persistent, piercing punches. To be blunt, the last two winters in Ohio have been brutal. The current condition of any highway, rural, suburban, urban or interstate, is proof enough of that.
The fact is that when you live in northern Ohio, awaiting spring requires patience. We shouldn’t allow either the sullenness of winter’s negative effect nor the cloudy, cool spring days to dull our senses to the numerous subtle changes that are occurring beyond the short-lived flowerings.
Those hints are our daily hope. We only need to watch and listen to realize spring’s emergence.
Here’s what I’ve witnessed so far. The glint of another promising sunrise flashed off the harness hardware of the draft horses pulling one bottom plows turning topsoil. Chilly mid-morning April showers sent them all to the barn.
A Chipping Sparrow trilled its repetitious song from the safety of the blue spruce at the corner of our home. It was nice to hear its monotonous melody again.
A Red-winged Blackbird sang its luxurious chorus from the top of the tallest pine on our property. It had been doing so for a month already. When our son was a youngster, he always noted when this common bird with its flashy red wing patches first sang its welcoming song atop that tree.
Cardinals and American Robins joined in the musical mayhem, staking out their territories, and trying to attract a mate. The robins regularly asserted themselves, especially against their diminutive but beautiful cousins, the Eastern Bluebirds.
Molting American Goldfinches squabbled at the bird feeder by the kitchen window as if their changing colors irritated their familial demeanor. An Eastern Phoebe popped onto the same limb it claimed last year and naturally bobbed its lobed tail.
An awakened fox squirrel was a sight to see as well. Pelting rains had disheveled its scrubby fur as it munched and munched on sunflower seeds.
Buds on trees like the flowering dogwood and shrubs like the lilac swell slowly, stealthily. Eventually, they will burst into full blossom, spreading both their beauty and fragrances for all to enjoy.
Long, hard winters followed by chilly, wet starts to spring can get us behaving badly if we’re not careful. We get antsy for the weather we so desire. Tending to both flower and vegetable gardens beats shoveling snow any day.
With the recent rains and warmer temperatures, it looks as though our steadfast but frayed patience has finally paid off. Let’s hope both fairer weather and pleasant attitudes prevail right on into summer.