June 13th……...”GRANDPA, DID YOU HAVE AN ORCHARD ON YOUR FARM THERE IN SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA? WHAT KIND OF YUMMY, TASTY TREATS GREW THERE FOR YOU TO ENJOY AND EVENTUALLY STORE FOR WINTER USE”??
The tasty trifecta of a boy, his belly and a baler came about one fine Summer’s day on our farm northwest of Kiester, Minnesota.
As the back-porch screen door of our farm home slapped shut behind me, the next sound I heard was the bellowing, massive, “Wisconsin” brand, onboard motor of Dad’s 1948 “New Holland” baler. My little farmboy “radar” ears zeroed in on the sound coordinates of a west/southwest bearing that was filtering towards me through the orchard of our family farm. Our handsome Massey-Harris 44 tractor was faithfully pulling the “New Holland” along as the self-sufficiency of that baler engine pulsed with every downward, packing throw of the thrusting arm mechanism. That, coupled with the baler’s horizontal, plunging hammer-head, packed the alfalfa into tight, perfectly rectangular bales that inched their way out of the rear chute of the “New Holland” with every forward roll of this haying operation.
I had been drawn to that farming sound and, on “Shank’s Horses” (my legs), had just arrived at our family orchard. Since I was still too young to be part of the baling crew, I figured the next best thing would be to enjoy a double delight; I’d “supervise” with my eyes and fill my belly with orchard wonders at the same luxurious time. 😉
With Dad and big brother busy baling and stacking bales on the flat-rack, I played “straw-boss” and shinnied like a squirrel up to the top of one of our apple trees in the orchard. From those high, breeze-blown branches, the cotton clouds above me skidded along on those cooling prairie winds. Now, I could now relish each pass of Dad and the baling operation while I chomped merrily on our apples that were still a bit green, but ohhh so tasty!!!
With plenty of room still available in my tomboy tummy, I saw my next tasty target in the pear tree that was next door to my current pleasant perch. “Mr. Gravity” almost got the best of me on the way back to ground level that day, but, aside from a bark abrasion on my arm, I was a rarin’ to head for the heights of the pear tree and continue my feast there. Mmmmm, GOOD were those pears as they ooozed their liquid gold around my choppers as I bit into and consumed each one with the gusto of boy joy!!
With my “hollow legs” somewhat satisfied with apples and pears, it dawned on my miniscule memory that Mom had instructed me earlier that she wanted a harvest of some of our rhubarb that dwelt in a type of cool hedgerow that ran east to west on the northside of our orchard. Trusty pocketknife at the ready, I scrambled down from that perfectly playful pear tree and sauntered over to the rhubarb plants that grew flavorfully under a “roof” of elephant-sized leaves that crowned and shaded the tart, celery-looking red trunks below. A quick slice at the bottom freed each red trunk from the ground and another quick fling of my knife blade beheaded the green elephant-eared crown.
It was a good thing, that day, that I had brought along one of our metal, galvanized pails to carry these organic treasures back up to Mom and her great skills of making delicious rhubarb “sauce” and rhubarb pies.
One last thing on Mom’s “shopping list” for our orchard that day was for me to cut and bring her a large portion of asparagus from our patch that rested at the west edge of our grand orchard. As the distant drone of Dad’s baling operation sounded from the far corner of the farm acreage, I was one blessed boy in the richness of that provisional orchard that was planted long, long before us by the Thompson, Santmaier and Holstad families who were the original pioneers of our farm land. I can still vividly recall the simple joys of that terrifically tasty time for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.