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The Farmer in the Dell

Deep in the middle of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park's 33,000 protected acres, Alan Halko has a farm. On this farm he has some chickens (and some peas, and some summer squash and lots of flowers). And even though there's nothing quite like this happening in a national park anywhere else in the country, it sure isn't easy.
 
Alan Halko is worrying about rain.
 
His skin already brown as a walnut from days spent outdoors, he sits under towering trees at a weathered-wood picnic table behind his home on Riverview Road. Brow furrowed, he periodically glances at the puffy, white clouds and then out across the bucolic landscape.
 
Birds are twittering and the family's dogs, Ginger and Jack, romp in the yard. Halko, dressed in shorts and a faded T-shirt with cut-off sleeves that reveal a rose tattoo on his upper arm, is not feeling the least bit playful.
 
Unlike most of his Brecksville neighbors, who hope for June weekends filled with blue skies, bike rides, backyard barbecues and baseball games, he's yearning for a downpour. Alan is a farmer, and his five rows of trellised sugar snap peas are having a tough time thanks to an unseasonably hot, dry spring. He's been watering them, but something's gone wrong with the cistern. Trying to fix it is the next thing on his never-finished chore list.

"First thing this morning I got the mowers repaired," he says. "Then I took a look at the pump in the water tank. I'd been having trouble with the pressure. Seems like this little float thing might be broken. Sure hope I don't have to call a well guy."

Check back Oct. 1 for the full story

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