15 April 2022

Doing It Myself, Or Not

Yes, it would be easier to do it myself Heaven knows it would be faster. The waiting is hard. Watching as expensive milk replacer gets sloshed around and spilled or nearly spilled has me gasping and holding my breath. I can’t stand to watch. Teeth clinched my husband and I both stand back and watch. Or better yet don’t watch, as the children prepare the milk to feed their bottle calves.

After helping and instructing on how and how much milk to mix, the preparation and most of the feeding is their responsibility. We watch them go slowly and struggle. If we didn’t it would never be replaced by smoothness and skill. Strength will be built in the difficulties, not in taking care of it for them.

We don’t over face them and are always there to help if really needed. They don’t usually want help. Pride in the ability to do the job and do it well is already setting in. That doesn’t mean they don’t need harried to get to get to work. They’re still children. Nothing wrong with that. They’ll grow up soon enough. I’ll enjoy their childishness while they’re children.

They aren’t strong enough to do everything themselves. They’re building strength though! It wont be long and those hard jobs will be easy for them.

Bottle calves are a perfect opportunity for training children!

14 February 2022

Oh Deer

If it’s not coyotes it’s deer. I’m always amazed when people think agriculture and wildlife somehow exist separately.
Coming home the other night I saw one of the big herds of deer running at us. I stopped and we watched them come at us. The car sitting there didn’t bother or slow them. It gave them a target if anything.
They ran in front of us and seemed to panic there, as we sat still. Right in front of us some stopped, some kept going, some went back and forth a few times then dove head first into the electric fence.
Groaning, knowing the damage they do and that the cows are in that field I sent my overly energetic son to survey the damage. He said the fence was gone. Hoping that just meant knocked out of the insulators we headed towards home.
Which is when the rest of the deer came back! I stopped, again. They ran at us in a panic and through the fence, again. In a different spot. One of them hung up a little. Got out a ways and did a flip. I’d have more sympathy if he had been running from something.
Knowing for sure the fence was gone there we hurried home. Trying to beat darkness, to gather supplies and get back out to repair the damage while we could still see a little.
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11 October 2021

Corn Harvest ’21

Although interrupted by a very nice rain in the middle of the first try and a fairly major combine break after the rain stopped and things dried out, corn harvest went very nicely. The corn stalks still had some green to them because there still hadn’t been a good freeze.

 

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23 July 2021

Wheat Harvest 2021

Harvest actually started quite awhile back. They got the wheat here around the buildings back around the 17th.

Then it was time to move the equipment over west to get started on the rest of it. With everything over there and ready to start my farmer husband drove the combine into the field, and right back out again.

Somehow between finishing the last field and moving to the next something had broken, something major. With some poking and prodding and cussing it was decided to head on into town. There was nothing that could be done there. At the tractor doctor, as my children call them, they found the problem and the nearest piece to fix it back in Iowa. We have a neighbor who is parting out a combine just like ours though so first an attempt was made to get the piece off of that one. It wasn’t happening though, the piece refused to come loose.

So the other part was ordered. Shipped overnight, hopefully, although we were all in doubt of anything ever actually arriving over night.

Somehow it actually did! They had it on and the combine going again by evening. It was back to work again much to everyone’s relief.

The time while the combine was broke was hot and dry. Now the weather is sticky wet with humidity and there have been a few rain showers coming through. No combining today but hopefully back to it tomorrow.

16 October 2020

A Fall Day

It was one of those fall days. The air was crisp and clear. Chilly but not cold with the sun shining in that brilliant golden way it does no  other time of year.

We left early for gymnastics, leaving my husband in the field with his combine. My daughter asked for doughnuts, who am I to tell her no. We ordered ahead and stopped on the way to pick them up. Then ate them on the way too the state park. We had good reason  for leaving early!

The children wanted to stop at the usual playground, or the unusual one. I had a goal in mind though. There was a picnic shelter, we had stopped near it to pick wild raspberries this summer. From the road you could see the trail wending up the hill. It didn’t look exciting from the road but we had never hiked there. Might as well give it a try.

Starting up the wide mowed trail the first thing we came to was a jack-o-lantern. Its face charred and black. Finding that out in a national forest surrounded by bone dry tender was horrifying. The ease with which a fire could have started was terrifying. Probably college kids out messing around? We walked on.

The kids fought the whole way up the hill. It was cold. They were tired. Why couldn’t we go back.

I was determined though and with a firm grasp of each child’s hand I drug them up the hill.

At the top the trail narrowed, then narrowed further as we walked. Then began to snake about through rocks forgotten as the rest of the hill wore away. Ungainly chunks of stone left bare and exposed. By now the children were happy.  Nothing pleases them more than cliffs falling away on both sides that they can try to throw themselves down. Up and around and down we twisted, finally coming back to the car. Laughing and happy by then to have been forced on the walk.

It was too late to have time for lunch before gymnastics though.

Oh well a lunch of the remaining doughnuts it was!

Back home again they wanted to settle in  in front of computers. Until I lured them back out with promises of combines and grain trailers.

A grain trailer full of corn is akin to a huge wonderful sandbox that could kill you. Shoes discarded at the bottom you have to scale the steep walls of the trailer, scramble over the top to find the safety within. Protected by those same fortress like walls play inside can be as wild and carefree as can be. Until the trailer gets full. Then the sides can be reached again. Bouncing must be constrained.

They frolicked until the trailer had to be hauled to the elevator and dumped. Then we took a break all squeezed into the combine together. With the children getting bigger we don’t fit as well as we used to.  It was warm and sheltered from the biting wind that wanted to be included in  the play in the trailer.

The children  finally began to wilt from  their long day. After a couple of rounds we headed back to the house. Who doesn’t deserve some computer time after a day that long? Tomorrow it may snow. Today we enjoyed fall.

 

 

 

 

 

14 September 2020

Hauling Hay

As my husband walked out the door to go spend the day planting wheat he just happened to mention in passing that if we wanted to we could come by later and check the cows over that way. We could even bring lunch! If we wanted to. Hint, hint 😉

I had planned to go check on Ghost and Blossom and Joker, plus all the others since I was there anyway, at some point this week. Might as well take him lunch while we were at it.

Shortly before lunch time he called again. Was there any chance we could bring the semi with the hay trailer when we came? Since we were coming anyway. There was a pickup there that we could use to go check the cows. Sure, what the heck. We were going anyway. Might as well get a load of hay out of the way.

We got to the hot dust field and enjoyed out picnic of sandwiches and melons fresh from the garden on the side of the seed truck.  The children wallowing in the dust as they enjoyed what little shade it offered. Then we got to loading the bales. It’s so dry this year. They had cut a field of alfalfa despite it  not being worth the effort. There were a few bales from there and some straw bales from the year before. As m father in law loaded it he was complaining about the bad shape the bales were in. Straw is slippery and doesn’t like too be confined to net wrap. I needed to keep an eye out for any bales falling off, he warned.

Leaving the field I sideswiped a corner post knocking the bales askew but luckily sparing the post. They didn’t fall off though and everything was set right with a bit of rearranging. Hopefully the trip home went better.

After loading we left the semi set and went to look at cows. My son was excited to show his sister how he could work the float to fill our water jug from the stock tank. The jug was empty so we were all looking forward to that. After a cold refreshing drink we walked down the draw.

The storm that destroyed Iowa in July came through here first. We didn’t get hit near as bad but the seventy mile per hour winds knocked down many of the huge old cottonwood trees. Now they lay in the dry creek bed, perfect for climbing. The children who love to climb their tree at home scampered over the arching tree trunks making me gasp and shut my eyes sometimes. They were not afraid though and nobody did fall to their deaths, or broken arms even.

Wore out from climbing we hiked back to the pickup, cast our eyes over the cow herd on the way. All the ones we usually notice stood out, Poppy, Ghost, Joker. The herd markers were there. In with a few more cow calf pairs counting the heifers isn’t as easy anymore. As long as the colorful ones were there we could assume everyone else was too.

Back at the field we waved goodbye to my husband leaving him any left overs from lunch to get him through until whenever he finished planting that night and headed home.

On the narrow dirt road we came upon a tractor speeding along, just barely slower than us. I hated to try to pass him. With the hay on the trailer takes up almost the whole road and I wasn’t going very fast. He pulled off to the side though and slowed. I had no choice. We hugged the grassy shoulder as tight as we could and I didn’t think we clipped him. We did leave him with lots of dust as we continued down the road.

Nearly home, far past the last intersection, I slowed even more to watch for the cows that have been coming and going freely from their poorly fenced pasture onto the road. When, inn the road ahead, there was something. Not a cow. Bigger even.

A round bale!

I had been warned to be careful of loosing my load and here instead was someone else’s bale. Lost dead center in the middle of the road!

In a car or pickup we could have easily squeezed around the edge. There were a couple of feet of road and a decent shoulder on one side. In a pickup and trailer I could have backed to the intersection only a quarter mile or so behind me. In a semi with a hay trailer I thought hard about the fence post I nearly took out earlier. Would the bale already there knock my bales off as I brushed past it? Would the trailer slip off the side of the road into the ditch if I got too far off the road?

If I tried to back with no way of seeing past the trailer how badly stuck could I get it in a ditch with a small misjudgement? Was there any possibility of the children being of assistance and not getting run over if I asked them to go back and guide me?

None of the options looked good. So laughing about the ridiculousness of the situation we found ourselves inn I called my husband. That’s what I do when life has handed me impossible options, call my husband and he will fix it. Somehow. He always does.

As I explained our predicament he laughed with me. He would get a hold of the neighbor. The one whose cows were walking through his mostly down fence to graze the road. whose hay field the bale was in front of. We could sit there parked in the middle of the road and wait.

But. No! As I looked back at the semi and trailer blocking what part of the road the bale didn’t, here came the tractor we had reluctantly passed! He had caught up with us. Now he was passing us, squeezing carefully between the bales and the ditch. He fit! Driving past me standing in the road, talking on the phone, past the children hanging out the windows watching the show. With never a wave or a smile he drove up to the bale. Was it his? Was this where he was driving to?
Wrong color tractor for the neighbor of the cows my husband assured me. This one was blue. Whether it was his or not he picked up the bale. I got in the semi, released the brake, and we followed him. He went slow, looking at the cow whose calf, still in the pasture she wasn’t in, got lined up to nurse through the fence. He looked around then found a driveway to the hay field. He slowly pulled inn and we passed him once again, grateful that he was there to clear our path.

Finally, home at last.

31 July 2020

Horseless Summer

Country kids grow up a little different than kids in town. I am forever grateful for our large backyard.

Right now that life isn’t so much about horses. They send their time standing out in their pasture, eating and fighting flies. We are busy hauling hay, working summer fallow, canning beans, freezing anything that looses it’s crisp when canned, working in the garden, and generally keeping busy.

As important as I think it is for the kids to work with us and learn the value of labor, we also do our bast to get out and enjoy the summer.

Hot days are much better spent in the shade or water than horseback though so we go to the lake or explore water holes out in the pasture. Soon enough they will be back in school and I will get to work horses again. Maybe even clean house! 🤣 Until then they will be happy with a bareback ride in from grazing the yard and petting noses over the fence. I will be happy that they are enjoying the horses, enjoyment doesn’t have to mean riding.

10 July 2020

Rain

We spent the day getting the combine ready to go. The wheat was dry and the next day supposed to be hot. Miserably hot.

It was time for wheat harvest to begin.

Getting the combine cleaned up and ready to go is a family affair. Like all things in farming are. The kids love to get out there and help, they think the combine is one big jungle gym. We love to encourage them to get out and work, to learn to love farming, and tractors, and being with us.

Finished with the combine we worked in the garden, weeding and admiring the fast growing pumpkin vines. Watching them reach towards each other we talked about how they can grow up to six inches in a day. We took pictures so we could look again the next day and see how much they grew.

Towards evening clouds began to grow.

It’s been so dry. Rain would be good.

Rain is just as scary as it is hoped for on dry years. During drought we are just as likely to get hail, or dry lightening strikes, as we are rain.

The thunder rumbles grew closer and the cloud was growing right on top of us. When the rain drops began to fall they were big and heavy, scattered across the sidewalk. Then it started. Our son said it was raining ice. Technically he was right. I love the names kids give things. He was frightened and worried by the ice rain. Honestly everyone was.

My husband stood in the open door and watched. I couldn’t and stayed in the kitchen, hiding, as I cooked supper.

Lacking the wind to drive it the hail fell straight down, scattered and small. It didn’t stop though, going on and on. Then the skies opened and dumped hail in a frozen downpour. I buried my head in my cooking. My husband cursed it from the doorway.

Once it finally stopped and the lightening moved far enough away we went out to survey the damage.

Tree litter covered the sidewalk. Hail stones still covered the ground. Glancing towards the garden told me I didn’t want to inspect that any closer right now. On the fourwheeler, as a family, like farming always is, we drove to look at the corn fields. See how bad it was.

It could have been worse. It could always be worse. We’ve all seen the corn completely destroyed, beat back down to bare ground. The trees stripped completely bare and killed in one summer storm. It was bad enough though.

With lips drawn tight my husband stared silently across the tattered fields.

In the distance lightening still flashed in the dark clouds as the sun broke through the clouds. A rainbow lit the darkness.

It’s been a rough year. We will be alright. As always, as a family.

22 March 2020

Still Schooling

It’s been busy around here. Although we are just starting this having school at home thing it is going pretty well. That might change after a few weeks 😉

We’ve fallen into a bit of a routine, wake up and eat with my husband before he heads off to work. School is being taught at home and someone needs to make that possible and be there to support the teachers just like when they were teaching from the school.

Then we go feed cows. With school going this wasn’t mandatory, now it is. After feeding we check the pasture for new calves. Back home we do our school work. Short bursts and lots of reward for their work. My daughter is blogging as part of her schooling. She needed work on her writing, how better to learn than to talk about her experiences of the day. My son, in preschool, is doing his sisters math homework. Why not take something he likes and is good at and concentrate on it? We can tailor their learning to their individual wants and needs far better than a school that has to keep the whole class together in their learning.

Then free time on the computer or outside.

The rest of the day is spent playing, working, learning. Who says any one of those is separate from the other?

I firmly believe in the importance of play as learning, now we get to do it. Checking cows we learn about science, how a body works, what is inside of us, or cattle, how calves are born, what happens when things die. We use math, counting new calves, remembering what number we were on  clear until we find another calf.

They’ve been helping get the garden ready to plant, digging the remaining, still very edible, carrots from last year, helping clean out the greenhouse, and they will soon help plant the seeds of cold weather plants.

We’ve had in depth computer science classes, something we are lucky to be in the unique position to be able to offer much better than schools are. They, and the cousins, have helped build a computer and make repairs.

They’ve gotten better about playing together, learning about team work, as long as they think they are causing trouble. Hauling old posts out of one pile and stacking them in  the middle of the garden. They learn so much in that little act of defiance 😆

 

17 March 2020

Country School

It’s official now. School is canceled for the next two weeks. To start with.

On the first day today the staff had to go in, we don’t have any cases anywhere near us, this is just an excess of caution. School is going to go on from a distance. They went in and got prepared.

The cousins came over since their mom had to go in.

We started the day by checking cows. Calving is starting and they need a close eye kept on them. They can be watched even closer if there are many children here who need kept busy. We followed the path that is safe to get through, avoiding deep snow drifts and any hill that is too steep. Talked about exactly what needs to be looked for in the cows and to be sure to check the far corners for any cow that wanders off alone. For the rest of the day it was their job to go make sure there were no new calves.

When there are new calves they will get to learn  about anatomy, science, even sex ed. Something farm kids generally have covered. They learn about what to look for when a cow is having trouble, how to tell if a calf has nursed. Maybe they’ll get to help pull a calf as the season goes on.

Inside there was computer time. I love watching them play together, together online and together in  the same room. They jump up and down  running to each others computers, they talk and plan, It’s a very social undertaking.

In between games they wrestled and played. Games were invited that had never been heard of before. The laughed and spread toys from one end of the house to the other. Or we all went outside. They disappeared off to climb hay bales while I  worked a horse, then wandered back muddy and bedraggled.

Late afternoon as everyone got tired and hungry we made cookies. 8 wanted to make sugar cookies. Make them in a pattern, square, star, square star. I  was sad to tell him we didn’t have a square cookie cutter.

But, who needs a pattern to follow!

We could cut out our own! We could make his square, we could make triangles, we could make any shape we wanted. It could be geometry!

Together the kids figured out measurements and ran the beater. Then, armed with the roller, butter knives and forks we began  to role out the cookie dough. Flour went everywhere, except on the table. Dough stuck to the roller. Little fingers scraped it free of the table. There was nothing square about the squares. The tip was cut off a triangle. The Goblin child held it up. Look! It’s a…   What’s the name of that shape again?

We made some guesses. No, No, not that. Oh yeah, trapezoid! Well if you say so dear. I have no clue.

One of the misshapen shapes looked like the state of Alabama! We were off on a new kick. I pointed at a square, look we have Colorado too! Or maybe it’s Wyoming? I can’t tell for sure. The others morphed into Illinois and Nebraska.

There did even end up being some stars.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll make it as far as getting some of them frosted, there might be a few left.

The teachers are getting homework together to send out. I’m hoping we can  continue on with it in  our small group. The older ones can help the younger ones. Nothing helps cement learning like teaching it to someone else. The younger ones may even be able to help the older ones. With geometry at least.

It will be like the old country schools, all the grades together. Learning, playing, working.

A few extra pictures of all the kids playing together along with our homeschool day.