Fall on a Minnesota Hobby Farm

A personal reflection on country living, 70 miles west of the Twin Cities

Photo courtesy of Katie Ballalatak

One Saturday morning, I walk out onto my the porch steps. I’m struck with the quietness of country living—it’s been more than a month since I’ve last visited my family’s 10-acre hobby farm in Arlington, 70 miles west of the Twin Cities. There aren’t any birds singing in the trees anymore and the crickets aren’t making their usual summer racket. Lately my family has been waking up to heavy fog, which sticks around until the sun fully rises. The fog and the rising sun create a picturesque sunrise (pictured above), the kind you see mounted in frames, or on the cover of note cards. I know that in the upcoming weeks, my family will soon wake up to a frost-covered farm—the growing season will soon be complete and winter’s freeze will take over.

To my right, I can see our big red brick barn where our animals are housed and stationed beside it is the silo, which doesn’t do much apart from adding to our hobby farm aesthetic. Right now the cows graze in the front pasture and our chickens cluck, bobbing their heads as they walk. Our gray tin shed in the distance holds my dad’s tractor and other machinery such as our garden tiller and old lawn mowers. The woods that frame the west and north side of our property are in the process of changing colors, rustling against each other with the slightest breeze. I smile at the festive decorations my siblings put together for the exterior of our house, like the hay bales they pulled from the barn and our homegrown pumpkins and squash that they picked from one of our gardens, the furthest one from our 1910 pale yellow farmhouse.  

I can see all three of the gardens from where I stand, our biggest one being around 30×30 feet in size. The gardens are reaching their end, with only a few tomatoes and basil plants still determined to stick around. My mother is exceptionally dedicated to our gardens, which means we’re canning, freezing, and preserving left and right when late August and September roll around. My mom has the ambitious yearly goal of canning and freezing 52 mason jars or freezer bags of everything—canned items include applesauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa, and pickles while freezer items consist of pesto sauce, cut up rhubarb, and sweet corn. Some years we meet this goal; some years we don’t. Sometimes our garden harvest is amazingly robust while other times it’s less than substantial. My family tries to use the resources on the hobby farm and reap the benefits all year long thanks to the hard work put in.  

I know that later in the day, after the morning fog disappears and the lazy fall sun makes its way through the sky, I’ll hear the farmers in the fields, working to take out their corn and soy beans, brown and dry, ready to be harvested. Our neighboring farmers work tirelessly to bring in their crops, often putting in long days, hustling to get the all the corn and soybeans in before the weather gets to them. Fall afternoons are filled with the sounds of combines making their way through the fields, and tractors slowly transporting all the crops down the road. They will be working in the fields far into October before they finally finish their own fall harvest.

These are the moments, sounds, and sights that I go back to when I’m surrounded by the buzz of the city or feel confined by the number of buildings and the way they obstruct my morning view of a beautiful sunrise. My farm is always with me, even when I’m 70 miles away—the jars of applesauce in my St. Paul kitchen cupboard make sure of that.