12 January 2024

Breaking Ice

The weather went from pleasant, in the thirties and sunny, to miserably stinking cold.

School was canceled. Everything was canceled. The light dusting of snow never did stop. We eventually ended up with a few inches of dry dusty powder. None of that means the kids get to stay inside.

Nothing spoils an other wise pleasant day like coming in exhausted to bored energetic children. So they get to go out and play when we do. Besides, it makes chores so much more fun.

They chose to stay behind and play outside yesterday while we went to break ice in the evening. It seems like they should be old enough to stay home alone for short periods like that. Apparently not, especially with the terrible influence of the movies they’ve been watching. Trying to be like their favorite characters, one of the children, who wishes to remain anonymous, stuck her tongue to a metal bar. She managed to get free on her own without too much damage, but the evidence was there. A sore slightly bloody tongue and an odd frozen white spot still there on the bar the next morning.

No more Christmas Story for them.

We got to see the spot her tongue left when we went out this morning to break ice.

On our way out we stopped and gave the horses some extra cookies. They deserve a little extra to keep them warm in this cold weather. The heated waterers were keeping up just fine. Then we fought our way across the corrals to the unheated tanks.

Half way across the children collapsed to the ground. They couldn’t go any farther. The trek through the snow was more than they could handle. They took turns pulling each other up then collapsing on top of each other.

After that bit of rest rolling around in the snow they were rested enough to carry on.

Once we reached the cows I left the children to break ice while I gave my pet cows some cake. Soon the children let our cries of distress. The fork part had fallen off the pitchfork. It sank away to the bottom of the icy cold water tank. The three of us stared forlornly into the depths. We could see the tines down there, just sticking out of the muck.

With the handle and the ice breaking bar we fished around, stirring up the muck. I took off my sunglasses and handed them to my son to hold. Peering into the depths I could see a little better. Fishing around I hit it a few times. I also dipped my gloves in the water. Shaking out the icy water I went back to fishing.

Pretty soon a bare hand reached into the water in front of me. My son had decided to get the ice out by hand since our pitchfork was dismantled. I yelled at him about playing in water while it’s below zero. He put his gloves back on. Then continued to pick up ice chunks with gloves on.

Luckily the fork caught on the handle and I was able to slide it up the side of the tank. It was just about to break the waters surface when something else splashed into the water.

My sunglasses, forgotten by my son as he amused himself clearing ice, had fallen in. In that split second I pondered all my choices in life. What choices had I made that brought me to this terrible cross roads? We needed to fork to keep the ice from freezing a foot thick in this weather. I needed to glasses to survive the bright sunlight reflecting off the blinding snow. I might be able to stumble back to the house with my eyes closed. Why weren’t the glasses floating. Shouldn’t they float? They didn’t They sank clear to the bottom as I hung tightly to the fork.

Maybe we could fish them back up the same way?

My hands got soaked reaching in for the fork, but I wasn’t going in up to my armpit digging for my glasses. So I fished some more with the fork handle. And actually found them! They came up in a clump of moss and muck. I plucked them out, wiped off the ear pieces and tried to wipe the lenses. I didn’t have enough dry places to get them clean so I peered through icy frosted lenses. It blocked the sun even better.

At the next tank we held the fork by hand and scooped ice out. My sons gloves froze quickly to the metal guardrail fence as he climbed over. We all gazed on very impressed until he yanked them free, leaving chunks of glove behind. At least it wasn’t anyone’s tongue.

My husband came and rescued us in a heated vehicle making the trip home much more pleasant. Once inside we pealed off layers and laid gloves out in front of the fire to thaw. They need to be ready to break ice again in just a few hours.

 

13 November 2023

Cows Out

The sun was setting quickly.

I had planned the mid afternoon cow checking with plenty of time to spare. But the best of plans are often laid to waste by cattle. First there had been the calves out in the wheat. I chased with the pickup and chased on foot. They had mostly gone back to their calling mothers. Walking through the electric fence as though it wasn’t even there.

Trailing the last two down the fence I had the opportunity to check the fence all the way along. The place where the electric wire had been twisted with the barb wire explained a large part of the problem. The calves trailed on past clear to the gate. Racing ahead I was able to open the gate and allow the calves back in.

All the mama cows and their calves had come along for the walk. They would like out the gate please. They may have plenty of grass and the weather is holding but they know when it’s time to go home and the date has come if not the need.

Unfortunately, I needed to get in the gate.

My two biggest pets, or pests, were in the front of the bunch at the gate wanting to visit. I threw cake on the ground off to the side then ran as fast as I could to get the pickup through the gate. Then made a mad dash back to get it closed. I squared off nose to nose with one old girl who was sure she should get to go out. Then I latched the gate behind me.

Then the float needed adjusted. And the trip across the pasture was long and bouncy. By the time I got through the cows and checked all tanks it was nearly dark.

Just one last thing to check.

The cows had been rubbing my woven wire fence down around the old house. A brave few had let themselves in and wandered about. There is a cellar under one part of it. Cattle have died falling in there. I needed to make sure my fence was holding.

It wasn’t.

If I left now I would have time to get to town and pick up my child on time. If I left the fence as it was one of the cows could die. So I walked back to the pickup for a post to set. I was going to be late and it was going to be dark. So be it.

I love the old house. I would live there if I could. It is a happy friendly place.

But it was nearly dark. If nothing else there were coyotes to worry about. Probably not mountain lions. Not likely at least. I don’t believe in ghosts. There was nothing else to worry about.

Up against the rapidly darkening interior I couldn’t stop myself from peering through the holes in the ceiling above me. Nothing peered back.

I set the post, attached wire clips. and peered into the dark interior. Nothing peered around doorways looking back at me.

The lack of company didn’t leave me any less jumpy. I peeked around the side of the house, under the big tree, to check for more places the cows could get in of course. Nothing there.

In the gathering darkness I looked back at the house one last time as I passed through the gate. Admitting some hope for a farewell wave from an empty window.

The house held as tight as ever to the secrets of its past. If anyone waved farewell they didn’t show themselves. I said my good byes and rushed across the dark pasture towards town.

 

1 November 2023

Halloween ’23

Halloween is over. Come and gone once again. For us that means the whole month of October. It’s my favorite time of year and can never last long enough.

I can’t possibly fit everything in. It started with festivals, an eclipse, moved on to our Halloween/pumpkin carving party. The kids all ran so fast and played so hard that I didn’t even get pictures of my own children. The weather turned perfect for it. 8 organized a pumpkin hunt, then ran so hard, with so much enthusiasm leading it that he lost a good number of his participants.

We did a wonderful chili feed and hay rack ride with our church. Again, beautiful weather and a great time with friends. We even stopped by the lake on the way home,played in cat tails and admired the beautiful trees.

There has been nothing cuter than our kittens twining about the pumpkins.

Then it got really cold. My pumpkins froze solid as did everything else. But we dressed up warm and did one haunted house. As the children disappeared into it ahead of us I thought how nice it was that they were getting so big. Never thinking about the one tiny one among them. He came out crying and terrified. Poor thing. The older ones begged to go through again. I was happy to oblige. Nothing like a good haunted house.

When Halloween day finally comes it’s always a bit bitter sweet. The month is over. Fall is done. No more kicking through crinkling leaves. No more pumpkins and beautiful decorations.

But, we jumped in, ran full tilt, squeezed every drop of enjoyment there was to be had from it. The school trick or treating through the halls. I always get in to watch the kids come through. Then supper at the church and their trunk or treat. Finally down the streets of town.

There’s nothing like a small town Halloween. We know everyone so as children disappear into houses we stand on the streets and wave. Groups of children meet up, greet friends with happy shrieks as the faces under masks are revealed. Then they run off together for a few houses before parting ways.

By the end of the night The Goblin Child had morphed from a fairy to Sherlock Holmes and I think we have next years costume figured.

Once done in town we head into the country and stop by the houses of friends. With only the few expected visits they give out loads of candy. Visits get long. The night gets late. Once home children collapse into bed but are to wound up to sleep. This year school will come bright and early the next day.

This year it means one more day of dressing up. The theme is western. That means mostly just the normal clothes. except for one. The Goblin Child gets out her most treasured shirts. Shirts made by a friend in Australia special for her own daughter then sent to us once out grown. They almost fit her perfectly now. And she asks if she can top it off with one of my buckles. We dig them out and she looks carefully to decide which she wants to wear. Looking at them is bitter sweet, to keep with the theme of the holiday. Almost twenty years ago now. They’re getting old. How can that be?

I had wanted to get back to showing again so bad as the kids got older. Then we started doing tricks and it isn’t even on the radar now. It’s fun to relive the past, but I wouldn’t trade it for the current.

 

25 October 2023

Meeting The Bus

The sun had come out. After being foggy and drizzly all day the clouds had broke.

There wasn’t going to be time to work horses. Not before I had to go meet the bus. But now the sun was shining. I hadn’t gotten horses worked. Had to get kids from the bus.

I’m a bit embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out. I could take the horses to get the kids!

If I hurried there was still time for that. Lady would have to go with burrs in her mane. There was not time for that. I did get them saddled and we headed off. Or tried to.

I stepped onto Rusty from the mounting block. He spun and took off. At a walk. If you’ve ever been taken off at a walk on a Morgan than you know that it is like being bolted with. Almost. Dancing on his tiptoes he bounced across the yard spooking and shying.

Out to the driveway I gave him his head. Work it out I told him. Use up some of that energy. He was off. At a trot. Lady followed behind. My phone started to slip. Reins and lead in one hand, fumbling with the phone with the other.

Rusty, noticing I was distracted, ducked his head and proceeded to crowhop. Then he spun back towards home. Lady was still back there quietly being drug along through all this at the end of the lead. Keeping a hold of phone and reins and lead I got everyone stopped. Rusty was still mad, but remained still long enough to get the phone secured and Lady reeled back in. Then we were off again. At a walk this time.

None of this was looking like a very good idea. We were going to ad children and backpacks to the mix of spicy horses and a cool windy fall day? Oh dear.

We made it to the bus stop and paced in circles for awhile while waiting. I finally got off and convinced the horses to graze. We didn’t tear up the yards too badly.

The bus came. The children got out and dove onto their horses. No one spooked. No one died. I was left on foot. That was fine. It was getting cold. Walking a little was warm. Then I begged a seat from my daughter and she obligingly allowed me on her horse with her. We zipped towards home.

The children played and laughed and had no idea they were riding fire breathing dragons. The dragons kept their feet on the ground and abstained from flying. Despite my nerves, we made it home safely.

If we get anymore warm afternoons, I think we’ll need to do this again.

17 October 2023

Knight Errant

Good husbands really are a good thing.

The children had run out of a few things that they desperately needed. Or so they kept saying. Monday was already packed but when they were in such desperate need, what could I do but fit in a trip to the store. Coming out with my cart full of groceries I looked lovingly at my car, thinking how much I loved the old junker. There’s no need to worry about parking carefully so she doesn’t get scratched and it’s nice to be able to leave windows down and doors unlocked when it’s hot out. No one would think there could be anything to steal in that old thing. And they’d be right.

Then I got in and started her.

The thunking and banging as the motor sprang to life was shocking. I thought at first there might be a mouse in the fan. Again. Got the air-conditioning shut off and the noise didn’t stop. Oh dear. Now I wasn’t feeling quite so proud of my old dear. It’s somehow more embarrassing to have car trouble when you know people will be judging you for the old piece of junk you drive. Popping the hood, and carefully holding it open because it no longer holds itself, I peered into the engine.

Not sure what I thought I’d be able to find. I know nothing about cars. In this case, the trouble was obvious and I actually was able to pinpoint it!

The belt. It was coming to pieces. Strips were coming off. As they banged around hitting everything in their path as the belt made it’s loop, they were the cause of the racket. It was also splitting the other way, cracks running across the short way. This didn’t bode well for the long drive home through a large area with no cell service.

I called my husband.

He was very busy. Mondays at work are always hectic. He was not quite as far away as home was. But almost.

He advised a little trimming. I tried that. It silenced the noise, and maybe without the extra flapping and added damage I could make a run for home? As I drove off I asked God to please not let the car die where there was no phone service. Back to our town would be nice. I wasn’t asking to make it all the way home. Just closer and not in a bad spot. Please, if he didn’t mind.

By the time I got out of the parking lot it was obvious home was not going to happen. The belt was falling apart fast and the racket was back to full volume. So I pulled into Runza. Parked and called my husband. Again. He would take care of me. And he did. Borrowing tools from a friend in town he called around and found a new belt, then started driving. I waited contentedly in the parking lot, after going in and getting a drink. He picked up parts and met me. We had lunch together. Then it took him all of five minutes to replace the belt.

Our cars have never died in a bad place. It’s always things like this. The best possible of a bad situation. Once we got off a train and got in the old car we had at the time, well after midnight middle of winter. The car started up and drove us the rest of the way home. Then would never start again. But it waited until we got home. This time God said, um, no. You can’t try to drive that home. How about this instead? I asked Him not to let it die in a bad place, and He didn’t. He also got me a very nice lunch with my wonderful husband.

I’m not sure how people survive without good husbands like this. Men who can fix anything, who take care of all the things despite already being loaded with responsibilities and a heavy workload. I have a father and brother and even a son, young still but well on his way, who are the same way. Hard working, loving, taking care of their families no matter what. The good men out there are one of God’s best gifts to us. Even better than cars that always die in the best places.

 

3 October 2023

School Visitor

As far as I’m concerned there are nothing but advantages to a small rural school. Small classes, individual attention, and the focus on the agricultural community are great benefits to offer the children. A lot of the kids are from town but even those get their fair share of farming knowledge. Whether they want it or not.

I recently read that no matter how you raise your children, the environment you chose to raise them in will have a stronger effect on them than what you do. It made me happy to be raising ours where we are.

Yesterday my husband called, excited to tell me about a visitor to the school. Our local John Deere dealer, and by local I mean regional, had called the school asking if they could bring their educational trailer around and talk to the kids. By trailer I mean one pulled behind a large pickup, not an intro to a movie. The school had given permission to bring it that day and it was impressive. John Deere has their flaws and are down right evil when it comes to proprietary software and right to repair. But, even a stopped clock is right twice a day and they got this one right big time.

All the classes from fifth grade up got to go spend one class period outside on a beautiful fall day learning about STEM. The guy talked about GPS, how it works and why we use it with a GPS driven lawn mower that gave a lucky few rides around the lawn. Drones, again how and why, with each child getting to watch through the camera on the drone through a headset as it flew crazily about the school yard. Inside, the trailer was equipped with all sorts of gadgets and toys, all interactive for the kids to get their hands into and really see what was going on.

The guy talked about job opportunities and gave examples of the end results, uses, of the things they were learning in school.

That seeing reason for what they are being taught is such an important thing. I often look at my child’s homework and think how stupid and completely pointless the lessons are. I have never in my life had to know the difference between a line and a line segment. Much less how to name them. It seems so pointless fighting to make sure homework gets done when there is no conceivable point to the home work. Although I will remain convinced that 99.9 % of the people in the word will never need to know those things, it is great to have examples like this of cool, real world applications of so many of the things that seem so abstract and pointless to many of the children.

The thought of our die hard farmer son missing out on this broke my heart. I thought he would be devastated to hear about it afterwards and have missed out. So, we snuck him out of class and brought him to join in with one of the older classes as they went through. As usual with this school, the kids welcomed him. His friends int he much older group talked to him and hung out with him. He loved it as much as the older kids did. Maybe more. He did have to stay after school to make up the work he missed, but he said it was well worth it.

All lessons are learned more easily and quickly through the use of play. This great playday for the older kids made it fun and will stick with them longer than any boring classroom lecture.

A huge shout out to 21st Century equipment. Loved their educational trailer and sincerely hope the school will have them back again. Maybe for some more in depth lessons next time. The guy doing the talking said they had barely begun to scratch the surface of what could be offered.

Category: 8, Farming | LEAVE A COMMENT
2 October 2023

First Day Of October

I had things I wanted to get done. It’s October! Time to decorate everything with Pumpkins and corn. These things should have been done already.

We spent the first part of the weekend hauling hay and getting some posts set so they’ll be ready when I fix fence next spring. Today was going to be the day I cut corn stalks and covered our house.

But first there were a few things that needed done.

We forced the kids to come with. They had spent too much time sitting at the computers while their father and I worked at jobs that would have meant them sitting around if we had made them come with. Might as well let them have fun instead.

Today there were things they could participate in. First, to secure the cables on out internet tower. The wind over the last couple of years had been hard on the straps. We’d like to keep getting internet. So some preventive maintenance was called for. And the bucket of the payloader. The wind was blowing but was supposed to get worse. My husband wanted to get to it before that happened.

The four of us loaded up and went to work. Son and husband in the bucket. I got to drive. I gave our daughter my phone and told her to take pictures.

I lifted the boys up. Fortunately the ladder wasn’t needed. They strapped the cables back down securely. The pole was waving in the wind. Watching it sway back and forth made me happy they weren’t up in the bucket truck and that we didn’t wait until the wind got worse.

Then it was off to fix the pivot.

It was a major repair, or attempted repair. We all got to lend a hand. The kids climbed, the tower, and the 4wheelers. They laughed and played, and worked. Then they conspired. Grabbing him by the hood of his sweatshirt, I heard my sweet daughter tell her brother that “this would be a lot more enjoyable if you cooperate.” Then she whispered in his ear. They giggled, looked at us, and ran away. Apparently it had occurred to her that they could escape this dreaded work we were forcing on them if they left. Home was a little under a mile away.

They thought they were being devious. I thought they were being darling. They had done their work. No reason they couldn’t get the exercise that walking home would give them, then go do their own thing.

The work part is what they’ll remember. How they got to climb the pivot tower and ride up high in the bucket of the payloader. How we did things together. How they outsmarted us by running home.

It was a good day. Much better than decorating for Halloween even. Sometimes it’s the things you don’t plan on that are the best.

 

17 September 2023

Autumn

It’s September. The best and the worst month.

I can feel fall coming. The pumpkins are big and beautiful. The garden is subsiding. The air is still hot, but with crisp cool nights.

I can feel fall passing by and am doing nothing about it. The need to harvest, to carve pumpkins, to set by supplies for the winter, it’s overwhelming. But it’s hot and still mostly summer. The contradictions leave me feeling depressed with a wistful longing for times long past.

Watching Tales from the Green Valley to satisfy my craving my son sat and joined me in the watching. He stared at the boiled partridge with dumplings they prepared from scratch, as in alive, and insisted on finding the recipe. Then as they hand spread wheat seed, covering it with a Hawthorn branch pulled by a horse he wanted to try that too.

Ah, a child who takes after me.

That is one thing that we can do. I discussed it with my farmer husband. He bequeathed us a corner of his garden that will be fallow through the year. If we wanted we could gather left over wheat seed and give it a try. We spent the morning raking and tilling a very small piece of land. Then went in search of seed. Our search is a bit late. They’ve spent the weekend up until now cleaning out the drills that planted the ‘real’ wheat crop in the last couple of weeks. He was slightly annoyed as he was trying to get work done when we came asking for scraps. But, he found a place in the seed truck where seed always hung up and needed cleaned out. Then came in search of us so we could catch it to use.

It was way more than our tiny plot needed and we kept the extra to grind over the winter. I love having home grown and ground wheat to cook with.

Then we planted. He planted. He hopes to harvest by hand next summer and use the straw for braiding rope or making baskets. Maybe together we can fill this craving I always feel.

We have put up as many vegetables as we have jars and room for. canned tomatoes, green beans, pickles beans. Frozen corn. Soon we will dig potatoes and bring in some pumpkins and store them away. Some things don’t change as much as we think. The pleasure of putting away food for winter is still strong.

I’ve begun picking a few of the pumpkins and placing them around the house. Maybe the best season of all isn’t quite us passing by.

4 September 2023

A Day At The River

We got to spend a rare afternoon at the river with good friends yesterday. And even more unusual my husband was able to escape and join us.
It was the perfect day. Miserably hot, cooled beautifully by the cold river water. There is no phone reception down there so my husband wasn’t bothered by the usual phone calls every few minutes. We got to enjoy piece and quiet.
The kids bounced and screamed in the deep water under the water fall. They found a huge trout in the shallow water. I walked up to see it too and shrieked as it swam at my foot. No more doubting their story about the big fish. They floated down stream, allowed beyond our careful watch for the first time to explore a little on their own.
Us adults soaked and rested and occasionally played in the deeper water too. Two of us shrieked as we saw the trout jumping up the waterfall. One of those was a grown man 😉 It appeared briefly feet above the water as it climbed up stream.
As we stood together for a moment, my husband and I, my friend said wait, hold still, I’ll get your picture. We gathered one child and called the other.
Nothing more clearly shows this child’s personality and the story of our lives with him than these pictures.
19 August 2023

The Best Gifts

Some men buy their wives flowers. And maybe the type of wife who wants flowers is naturally drawn to the type of man who buys flowers?
I never have been a huge fan of cut flowers. I’d rather see them growing happily still on the plant.
Luckily for me my husband is the type who gives much better gifts. Even with his tendency to give good gifts the one he gave me yesterday was above and beyond.
My allergies are killing me. I spend my days sneezing, eyes watering, very attractive all the way around.
One of my favorite cows was sick. Black Betty, after the song which gets stuck in my head every time I say her name, has been happily raising a couple of bottle calves. She went from a wild range cow to a pet this spring after loosing her calf and getting a new one to raise. She is big and sweet and I was very worried about her.
I had locked the little bunch of cows she is running with in the corrals but there was a impenetrable barrier between her and the chute I’d need to get her in to take care of her.
The weeds in the lanes and corrals are well over head high. Clouds of yellow pollen billow from them at the slightest touch. If I tried to pass through them I would die. There was no chance I could bring her up to the barn.
My husband does not like cows and is working hard to get the wheat harvest finished. He put off getting started combining to take the children and together, bring Black Betty up to the barn.
The 4wheelers were turned yellow from their coating of pollen. Even my non-allergic family were coughing and sneezing. But they got her up.
I waited in the barn, which had taken climbing through some weeds to get to. I cleared spider webs out of the way and got the cute ready. We gave her the recommended shots and turned her back out into the wall of weeds.
Then he hurried off to the combine.
It may not seem like much. Running a cow in to the barn. But to me it was the best gift he could have given. Betty seems to be feeling much better today.
A gift of time, which is in such limited quantities, spent doing something you hate is such a valuable gift. I will treasure it always.
Category: Cows, Family | LEAVE A COMMENT