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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Family, Farming  One Comment

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.

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.

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.

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 😆

 

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.

 

 

Electrical Issues

Snow has been forecast for this weekend ever since, last weekend. As the week went on the amounts crept upwards. By Thursday they were predicting nine to fourteen inches.
So Monday two of the heated automatic waterers were froze over. The fuse was blown and the new one immediately joined its predecessor. My husband came home from work early and he and his father check wiring, multi-meters and other things I shy away from. The short was somewhere underground between the barn and the tanks. Everyone hung their heads and cried a little on the inside.
There were no shut off valves. Not below ground at least. No way to keep the water pipes from freezing in one old tank that was perfectly good and one they had just spent days getting installed. The heat had to be fixed before the storm coming in with the weekend.
The power company came out and located lines. They found the short, or maybe just where there was a splice, simply wrapped in electric tape and  buried underground. With a payloader, skid steer and shovels they dug it up. The bucket snagged the wire, pulling it loose but fortunately just scraped the waterline, not breaking it causing any further messes.Sure enough the wires were black and insulation melted. My computer guy/farmer/electrician husband tested the wires before patching and reburying. He tends to be cautious and a perfectionist.
There was another short. Somewhere else in between, underground. The the snow melted and it all drained into the hole. Now there were not only wires to fix but they were under a foot of water. Pumps are good to have. It was still muddy.
They called up Scott. It’s good to know people with trenchers. Abandoning the old line They trenched in two new wires to reach the waterers separately to avoid anymore under ground splices than absolutely necessary. With shiny new wire, wire that’s actually rated to be run underground, above ground junction boxes, a new trench dug, and wire ran, to the tank that has had an extension cord run to it for years. All that dug through knee deep mud. Knee deep on 8 that is.
It was all buried in and working good long before the cold and snow hit. With time left over for taking the duals off the tractor and putting the big snow blower on.
Category: 8, Cows, Farming  One Comment

Quite A Cluster

Some cows got out this afternoon. Not a big deal but  the father in law stopped to ask if I would help chase them in. Of course I would. As I hopped on the 4wheeler with him I absentmindedly called Daisy to come help. She didn’t come I worried a little then forgot about her amidst the whole cow chasing thing.

8 and I went to pick The Goblin Child up from the bus. Daisy is usually bouncing around wanting to come with. She wasn’t there. Again I remembered that she hadn’t come earlier either. Now I was worried. I tried to remember when I had seen her last. She had come with to feed in the morning.  I couldn’t think of a time I had seen her since then. She couldn’t have not gotten out of the feed truck. Could she?

We had a very little time before the bus would be there, we could make it to check for sure. Barely.

Sure enough. I opened the door and out leapt Daisy. When we get out she will just sit there. She has to be told to come out with us and apparently I didn’t do so. It was dark in the quanset and I was rushing to make it to the bus. I haven’t seen if she did anything to the inside of the feed truck yet. She’s a good dog. I didn’t smell anything. Keeping my fingers crossed that she didn’t hurt anything.

Out at the neighbors driveway that is our compromise meeting place, the bus driver complained about driving clear to our mailbox, I refused to have The Goblin Child unloaded on the highway, we pulled to the side of the road and waited. At the highway two vehicles sat. A car and a pickup. Their people sat on bumpers in between hanging out, talking. The bus managed to squeeze around them and made it up the hill slick with snow and ice.

After unloading the bus went back down the icy hill and waited for room to pull out. The two vehicles still sat, unperturbed by the traffic they were impeding. While loading children I watched a FedEx van pull out from across the street and head down the hill towards the bus. I waited and watched to see if he would slide right into it. He didn’t.

Pulling into our neighbors drive we turned around as usual. Backing out into the road. I put the car in drive, and we went backwards. As usual when things don’t go anywhere near as expected, it took a moment to think it through. I put it back in park and we stopped moving. Back in drive and we slid backwards again. Well, that didn’t work. This time I tried reverse, we were getting quite sideways in the road, maybe I could straighten it out and find some traction further down the hill.

The car straightened. There was no more traction though. A couple more tries and it became apparent that the only way we were going was down the hill. Down to where those two… very nice people still sat. Apparently unaware of the traffic swirling around them, They weren’t bothered at all by blocking half of the road. Easing the car as slow as I could down the slick road I aimed for the sliver highway I could see that was unobstructed. If we could just get to some clear ground and make a run at it we could make the hill.

Of course this whole time the children are sitting, standing, kneeling, spinning circles, and talking loudly in the seat next to me. Of course they weren’t buckled in for the one mile of county road home. Not distracting or impeding my view at all.

I managed not to hit either of the vehicles. The… very nice people sat, still unbothered by how incredibly annoying they were and stared at us as we backed past them. On the cleared pavement of the highway we were able to get started and made it up the hill with no more difficulties. Then finally home. To Daisy.

Hauling Hay

8 and I went to help the neighbor haul some hay bales. The weather was perfect, warm but enough of a breeze to keep us cool. I had debated seeing f we could go in the morning so there wasn’t quite so much help. In the end I decided it was easier to do everything else without him and to let him come along for the hay. We rode along in the cab of the pickup on the way over, looking at tractors and talking. Then climbed into the horse trailer to began the gathering of hay.

8 loved it. He started out enjoying seeing how the cows and horses ride. He rode on the hay. He climbed on the hay. He pulled bales around. He helped carry hay. He learned he could jump in and out of the trailer. He slept well that night.

 

 

Category: 8, Farming  2 Comments

Happy Halloween!

This year 8 is a tractor knight and T.G.C. is a princess knight.

8’s coat of arms is a combine and a tractor divided by some sort of line that is supposed to represent the earth. The black and green represent loyalty and sometimes sorrow. It seemed fitting. A seed corn cap for his helmet. Well it also seemed fitting. What is a tractor knight if not a farmer. What is a tractor knight at all? We don’t know but it was what he wanted on his shield so we went with it, all out.

T.G.C. wanted to wear her cape again from last year after seeing a picture of herself in it. I wanted to make armor and get so sick of princess stuff. Fortunately I remembered Nella, the princess knight. She was happy to go with it. The purple is for royalty, fitting since she is the queen of the world. She requested a Pegasus unicorn for her shield. It was a fun theme to go with. A little more mundane than a tractor but that’s all right.

I really meant to get some pictures of 8 on Coyote wearing the dragon mask. Unfortunately I sold my dragon mask and haven’t gotten another one made. I still mean to get pictures of him on Coyote. Eventually.

Halloween this year is coinciding with corn harvest. Very good atmosphere with the corn husks whirling in the wind and light of combines off in distant fields.

Tonight we trick or treat in town. After the school finishes all their parties of course. Happy Halloween!