My husband and I are busy this summer transforming massive piles of dirt that have been our yard for the past six months into what we hope will be beautiful yards and gardens.

Joe does the heavy lifting – moving our never-ending supply of rocks into place, digging holes for trees, running heavy equipment and any number of chores that require muscle.

I get the lighter duties – washing dusty windows, planting flowers, sweeping muddy floors and generally bossing the brawny guy around.

But planting grass is the job I enjoy the most.

It’s kind of fun pushing the little cart around; spreading lime, fertilizer and grass seed.

And then there is the best part of all – covering the mixture with straw.

I love everything about the stuff. I love the way the yellow bundles look tightly wound with new ropes. I love to sit on the blocks. I love gathering a bunch in my arms, throwing it around to cover the seed. I love to see our dog rolling in it.

But most of all, I love its sweet smell.

It takes me right back to those lazy, hazy summer days of my childhood.

Though not a farm girl, I grew up in tiny rural community and know the joys that come with country living.

My brother and I would stand at the edge of a farmer’s field to watch him bale hay and straw.

The tractor made one slow pass after another, fresh blocks of hay shooting out the back like a giant Pez dispenser. A tanned teenager on the wagon behind grabbed the blocks and stacked them in neat piles.

Sometimes the farmer looked in our direction and waved. We’d wave back, happy smiles on our Popsicle-stained faces.

One hot summer day, my sister and I walked about a mile down a country road to a friend’s house.

She lived on a farm and invited us to come jump in the hay.

I didn’t know what to expect and held back awhile, but I eventually joined the others climbing the rickety ladder into the loft. We took turns jumping onto a huge mound of fragrant hay piled on the well-worn wooden floor below.

With sunbeams streaming on us through cracks in the old barn, we screamed and laughed and threw hay at each other while collecting it in our hair, dresses and dirty white Keds.

Sure we got a bit itchy, but it was one of my most memorable afternoons.

Back then, summer seemed to take its time.

These days, I’m struck by just how fast my favorite time of year is flying by.

I try to slow down and enjoy the moment – to sip iced tea on the porch, take long walks in the woods, sit among giant ferns, climb massive rocks, splash my feet in the creek below the house.

I even wear my Keds and lick a Popsicle, but it’s not the same.

Only when I close my eyes and lay my head in an armful of fresh hay can I go back. And just for a minute I’m that skinny little buck-toothed girl with long brown pigtails standing by the farmer’s field watching summer go by ever so slowly.

Arlene Johns can be reached at 532-5065 and

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