The waning days of summer at Colby Farms |

The waning days of summer at Colby Farms

Marilyn Gleason

Jem and Buttercup meet in the sage.
Marilyn Gleason / Post Independent contributor |

Suddenly it feels like fall in Peach Valley after a hot and dusty summer when the rain almost never came. Recently, gales have heralded the farmers markets where I sell honey.

Thursday the New Castle Community Market got off to a brisk start before a roll of thunder announced a bout of rain. Shoppers huddled under the shelter of my canopy and sampled honey on fingertips. One fellow told me he’d just driven in from Grand Junction and assured me more foul weather was on its way. I ignored his warning.

As on other recent market days, the shower passed as quickly as a refreshing daydream. Music drifted across the park from the gazebo stage, where my dear old friend Laurie Dameron from Boulder played her guitar and sang jazzy tunes.

Then the wind howled and sighed in the upper branches of the tall trees, pushing them into a slow motion dance. Cinder blocks cinched my tent to the ground, but I grabbed onto the struts and braced for the onslaught.

When it came, chaos ensued. All my neighbors scrambled to hang onto their trembling tents as they counted down to liftoff. Tarps tore loose from their moorings and flapped noisily, a confetti of paper fliers littered the park, my canopy tore loose from a corner and let the rain spill in. I hoped my heavy glass honey jars would hold down the wind-whipped tablecloth, and not the other way around. From the corner of my eye I saw the aromatherapy tent next to mine had crumpled.

Then the rain came in sheets and waves. As the other vendors folded up their tents, I left mine standing while I packed. At least it was keeping me sort of dry. At that moment Ed strode up to help.

Afterward Noreen threw my soaking hoodie into the dryer at her hair salon while I shivered. Maud’s and Hogback Pizza were mobbed, so I told Ed we’d have a home-cooked meal.

A salad of cucumber and dill from my garden with local onions and garlic and a dab of sour cream complemented a fabulous hot dish made with cauliflower I’d bought at the market from Laura Kolecki’s garden in Silt. Simmered with cumin, mustard and fennel seeds, a little turmeric and a can of stewed tomatoes, Ed said it was the best meal I’d ever made. Laurie, who at first was sorry I wasn’t cooking meat, told me I should open a restaurant.

I just bought fresh local produce, grew a garden and followed the recipes.

In the last episode of our adventures at Colby Farm, I managed a cliffhanger. By the time I ran out of my allotted column inches, the fate of the runaway steer Buttercup remained unresolved. I had more good stories to tell than room to tell them in.

After discovering a defect in Ed’s sturdy electric fence and escaping along the ditch bank, for a week Buttercup took up residence two doors down on the Nepps’ big unfenced lot. By day he ranged among the sagebrush and cactus up a draw in the Hogback or grazed on Greg and Leslie’s lush green lawn. He liked to sleep under an apricot tree next to the ditch. The Nepps started calling him Norman.

Meanwhile Ed paid the bovine regular visits, bringing treats and enticements. “I’m on a campaign to gain his confidence,” Ed said over his shoulder as he headed out the door with a bucket of range cake.

In the end it was Dolores at Hy-Way Feed who solved our problem. She agreed to trailer her halter-trained steer to Buttercup. Greg was blocking his path to the Hogback when Dolores and Jem emerged from the sage. Buttercup swung his huge head around in surprise, touched muzzles with Jem, mooed, and meekly followed him, Ed and Dolores down the county road to home.

“They were both bawling as they parted,” Ed remembers.

It plagued him to know Buttercup, a herd animal, was lonely. Colby Farm livestock may be doomed, but Ed wants their days here to be happy ones.

He called Nanci Limbach to see if she had any more cattle she could sell us. “They’ve moved onto the range,” said Nanci. “The only steer I had left walked himself up the hill to the butcher yesterday. They’ll shoot him tomorrow. The same thing happened last year.”

A call came from Dolores wondering if Ed wanted to buy Jem. She wanted more than twice what he’d paid for Buttercup. Ed wondered if he could get him for less.

On the phone, Dolores explained she was asking $700 plus the cost of feed. Ed split the difference and made an offer. “You can have him for $100 less than that,” she said, matching the figure Ed originally had in mind.

“Dolores, you’re breaking the rules. You’re supposed to ask for more, not less,” he yelped. “I won’t give you a penny less than I said.”

Jem, a mix of Angus and the Bavarian Gelbvieh, is black as night and daintier than Buttercup. They seem content sharing the pasture, except when Ed brings range cake and Buttercup uses his horns to shove Jem, who has no horns, out of the way.  

“I thought he was lonely,” Ed laments,”but Buttercup is a bully.”

Marilyn Gleason writes Eating Local monthly for the PI’s Good Taste page.

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