Round the Home Place: Summer 2007

Greetings from the warm summer skies of Minnesota. I hope this letter finds all of you content with wonderful memories of your summers' past. With summer here on the farm comes the gathering of family and friends, as well as a myriad of activities.

At the end of May we marked the beginning of summer with Memorial Day. We put together our family's terracotta cemetery pots with their black wrought iron stands filled with red geraniums, spike plants and Old Glory to help us remember the heroic, selfless acts of service given to our country. It was a day of remembrance for us as a family. Twelve noon marked the raising of the flag in the center of the farm. The children and adults alike gathered round the flag pole as our oldest veteran presented and raised our country's colors. The children then led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and sang "My Country Tis of Thee." The poem Flanders Field was recited and a moment of silence held as the names of those who have served were read. We were reminded that we are standing on holy ground, a place where heroes once walked, those who were born of our family and served in our nation's wars without fear of keeping freedom's fires alive and well. And our farm safe from harm's way.

Through the summer the good Lord continued to bless us with timely rains, cool evenings and warm humid days. The first of June brought us a glimpse of summer's arrival, the ever-agile scissor tailed swallow. They come in silence every year with the beat of their wings, like an earthly clock. They appear in the warm summer air, all dressed in feathers of sapphire blue, with a dash of red upon each head. In the cathedral of our farm they'll bed, to raise their families so it's said. And in the evening when you look way up high, where the cupola stands in the red summer sky, you'll see them soar, dart and dive. Then they tilt their wings to say good night at every summer evening tide.

In early June, Thomas and Gerridean arrived. We took them to the southwest pasture where they made our home place their own. At first they stomped hard on the ground, with just one hoof, as if to see if this new land would hold their girth and weight. Then suddenly with shrill and low pitched whinnies and neighs, they in unison paraded up and down the fence line with massive pounding hooves and wind tossed manes. Then through the shade of the cottonwoods and back again, announcing to all the creatures here the arrival of these gentle giants of bygone years. In the past our Grandfather had referred to these beautiful beasts as "Hay Burners," which is an inquisitive name at best. However these massive equine in just one day dine on twenty-five pounds of grass and hay each, then quench their thirst with fifteen to twenty gallons of cold sparkling water. At the end of the day when they're curried and brushed they nibble on two gallons of cracked corn, rolled oats and a sprinkling of molasses and mineral. These giant beasts of burden have found a tender spot in our hearts, with their kind brown eyes that sparkle and wink, and that knowing nod of their majestic heads.

Construction continued in mid-June on the stable. We also replaced the old fruit cellar door and landing, and had rain gutters put around the kitchen porch and north side of the house. The projects are many and progress is slow. The main house is now finished and ready to warmly greet all her visitors. We have a saying here "The ornament of a house are the friends and family that frequent it." We hope you will be one of them.

RoateIn late June we had another member of our equine family rumble and rattle on to the home place. He would not be a giant like the others, but another kind of creature from God. We all stood in the gravel lane in front of the barn, as he slowly and carefully departed his conveyance of steel and iron. A standard breed with his head held high and his fine boned features, he stepped out onto the farm with his rowan coat of red that glistened when touched by the evening sun's twilight rays... Black mane and tail, with four white socks and a star full center in the middle of his brow. The first four years of his young life were spent on the clay racetracks of Georgia. A pacer at the track was his station in life, made to be fleet of foot, with speed and endurance his only companions. He is graceful, kind and gentle in nature. He stands fifteen and a half hands tall. A placatory creature, he embraces the art of nuzzling both shoulder and head. When harnessed to his gossamer black runabout carriage he starts his dance like pace. A race in the wind with his head and tail held high, he finds pride in giving you a swift and smooth ride.

Early July marked the celebration of our nation's birth. We gathered together as family once more to renew our bonds of faith and belonging. The entire home place was decorated with vestiges of Old Glory. With the singing of the Star Spangled Banner the festivities began. There were three legged races, gunny sack races, and a myriad of others that entertained the young and old alike. A red, white and blue lunch was served under the boughs of the ancient hackberry trees in the front yard. Chicken salad sandwiches, potato salad, cold slaw, homemade pickles and much more were the fare. We then retired to the orchard to crank out homemade ice cream, garnished with strawberries and blueberries and of course to hold our annual watermelon seed spitting contest. After all this activity we went to the front porch for rest and the reading of "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere." Then onto the scavenger hunt for history, where the children drew the Liberty Bell, sang Yankee Doodle and recalled the duties of Francis Scott Key and Dolley Madison. Dinner was a barbeque of hot dogs, hamburgers and all the condiments that accompany them. It was then time to present our nation's Birthday cake adorned with sparklers as we sang Happy Birthday to America. At dusk it was off to the north pasture for an explosive and colorful night-filled sky of fireworks of our very own. The moments of silence after the booms and bursts were filled with the long oohs and ahhs of the children. Thus marked the end of a beautiful day.

The rest of the month was filled with the constant construction of the inside of the stables. A feed room and tack room were built, and work continued on the stalls.

With August came the early harvest of apples from the orchard. This means the beginning of canning season here on the farm. Fresh applesauce with hints of cinnamon and sugar, crab apple jelly with its red jewel like sparkle in the old Ball canning jars, and Red Wing ceramic crocks filled with pickling brine and spices permeated the air of the kitchen, as well as pints of pickled beets. Dill pickles, sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles and pickled onions were all carefully put away. Canning is a time-honored practice here as we use the same recipes and crocks that have been handed down to us through the years. It's a time of conversation and the passing of skills from one generation to another.

The remainder of August was filled with the rebuilding of the garage doors, the placement and laying of flag stone walkways, the staining of fences and the building of the hitching posts as well as the placing of the front cast iron gate. Once again God's hand has changed a season not only as a mark of time, but one in our lives. We now journey into Autumn.

From the last cool summer days in Minnesota
Warmest Regards:

The Tostensons

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