Saturday, June 30, 2012

Scents of summer

After the Stearns County Breakfast on the Farm, held earlier this month, the St. Cloud Times' story about the breakfast featured a photo of a little girl holding her nose while touring one of the host farm's barns.

So often it seems that when visitors come to dairy farms, the first thing they notice is the smell of cow manure. Most of us who live on farms don't usually notice the smell because we're accustomed to it.

What we do notice are the dozens of other scents that come with living on a farm.

During milking tonight, the barn was filled with the aroma of the blossoms from a tree in our front yard. I don't know what kind of a tree it is; and most of the time I'm cursing it for leaving such a mess on our patio and sidewalk; but right now, with its heavenly perfume filling our yard, our house and our barn, I can overlook the messes and be thankful for its presence.

Thinking about the tree made me notice several other scents on the farm tonight – some delightful, some less so.

There's a small stack of big square bales of second crop sitting in the yard, waiting to be fed to the heifers. Walking by the stack is like walking through a cloud of the sweet, herbal scent of sun-cured alfalfa.

A less delightful scent – but not a bad smell, at least to my nose – comes from the pig pen. We're raising a pair of pigs this summer and the corner of the heifer lot where their pen is located smells like pigs.

Every day when Monika helps me feed our lambs, we stop to give the pigs their feed first. As we get close to the pen, Monika always says, "I smell our pigs."

Another new scent on our farm this summer comes from the raw wood shavings we bought from an Amish sawmill. We're using them to bed our heifers and the pigs. With each bucket of shavings that comes into the yard, I flashback to the Minnesota State Fair. The shavings smell just like the wood chips the beef exhibitors use to bed their cattle.

I think it's neat that, much the way a song on the radio can take you back to a particular place or time, certain scents can do the same.

The scent of the ripening sweet grass (at least that's what my family calls it) that comes from the road ditches right now always reminds me of childhood trips to southeastern Minnesota and Iowa during the summer to visit family. My dad always says the smell reminds him of Nebraska and his childhood trips there to visit his mother's family.

What scents of summer do you notice right now? What scents bring back memories of your past?