13 December 2022

Blizzard, First Day

They dismissed school early yesterday. There was a rumor roads would be closed mid afternoon. Before it ever started snowing. A rumor confirmed by the principal. But not actually acted on.
Shortly after school was called early it was canceled for the next two days. I had to run to the next town over to pick up the last gallon of milk they had. In our preferred type. Apparently no one likes skim πŸ˜‰
Then it was home to get ready for the storm.
A load of feed quickly called the cows in from cornstalks and we locked them in the corrals for the night. They’d probably come in one there own but might as well start out with them there.
A heavy mist left a layer of ice on everything. By morning snow had set in. Drifts were high. We either waded through knee high drifts or walked on blown bare ground as we walked down to feed cows.
We had started out driving but snow drifts are hard enough to see in white out conditions, much less through iced over windows. We stuck the suburban almost immediately.
The payloader was parked in the quanset facing out. once we shoveled enough to get the door open it was ready to go to work. The extra help digging helped get the feed truck out much easier. Then it went to work getting the gate dug out enough to get a bale in to the cows.
With bales set out in the most protected spots the cows spent the day snow covered but sheltered and warm. Snow fell gently on their backs instead of wind driven.
The horses chose to stay out for the morning. I insisted on them coming into the barn after lunch. The milk cows and bottle calves are also well sheltered with a shed they can go in.
The animals will make it through this just fine. No idea how much snow there is. Between bare ground and waist high drifts it could be anything. We are good here, luckily because every road in the panhandle is closed. So we are tucked in, enjoying hanging out together.
2 December 2022

Advent Calendar Time

December is here. That means it’s time to start some of our favorite traditions.

Advent calendars!

Not the usual kind. We’ve done that but aren’t very good at it.

We have one new one this year. A Christmas tree. All computery like. It has 25 lights on it. My husband sat down with the kids in the end of November and explained to them how he was programing it. Did i stick? Do they suddenly know how to program in java?

No.

Do I even know that that’s what he was doing it in?

Again, no.

But they were very interested and actually paid attention for once, so there’s that. The lights are coming on one at a time, a new one each day of the month. He showed them the numbers for different colors of light and all the things I have no clue about.

The other one, that we do every year with a LOT of enthusiasm, is Mary and Joseph. They travel around our house having all sorts of adventures. Until, eventually, they reach a stable where baby Jesus is born.

I have fun moving them around and trying to come up with fun things for the pair to do. They ride on horse drawn wagons, in tractors, even trains. We’ve added on considerably to the original stable kit they all came in. Now there are cows, fences, chickens, horses. All the good farm toy set accoutrements.

It will be fun to see what the lovely family gets up to on their trip this year. I love when the kids help with the daily moving and how enthusiastically they search for the new locations.

23 November 2022

Elk

We had to go back to eastern Nebraska last weekend. As I was driving on the way home my husband went off about something in the field over there. Did I see it!!
It’s hard to pick something out in a field while speeding down the highway.
Luckily there were no other cars. I managed to spot it.
We discussed if we really could have seen what we thought we thought we saw out there. Just to be sure I flipped around and we went back to look.
Pulling off onto the shoulder we stopped to get a really good look. And some pictures.
It was an elk! A big bull elk. The antlers were clearly visible from the middle of the field where he lay comfortably among a herd of cattle.
We have plenty of elk back here. But to see an elk in the overpopulated civilized eastern half of the state? Ok, maybe more central than eastern. Was he a pet? It seems unlikely but who knows. Was he just wandering through or is there good habitat among the fields and pastures?
No matter what he was fun, and impressive, to see.

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21 October 2022

Lost Shoes

After waiting all night, daylight had finally come. It was time to unload the semis.
Strangely the people working at the elevators want to go home at night. Between that and the worry about working lights on the semis, they have to stop hauling corn over night. After getting the trailers on hand full they were left parked for the night.
Now we could finally haul them in. And hopefully find the missing shoes.
We dug up chicken wire and were hoping no one would be waiting in line as we sifted for shoes and socks.
The same very nice kid was there again today. Kid as in a youngster somewhere in his twenties probably. Maybe thirty. Kids get older as I do. He wasn’t worried at all about finding the shoes. Even less about accidentally running socks through the augers and into the big grain elevators.
They get wrenches and even pry-bars through regularly he said. Those cause some damage, getting stuck in the augers or the conveyor belt. They’ll shut the whole elevator down. Socks are no big deal. Boots will catch for sure in the grate. Don’t worry about sifting through the chicken wire.
My husband and I crouched on the grate watching for shoes. Our son wouldn’t crawl under there but waited to grab them as we handed them out. Our daughter wouldn’t leave the truck. It’s hard to almost b a teenager and have to be embarrassed by everything. We waited, and waited, then waited some more. So much corn came out, could we have missed a boot somewhere? Then with a thump and a pile of grain, one pretty turquoise boot landed on the grate. Slowly all the others followed. From both compartments, no simple searching through one for us. That’s a long time crouched in the corn dust and chaff watching for shoes. Fifty seven some thousand pounds of corn, I checked the ticket. And six shoes buried in there.
We found them! And one sock tucked neatly in its boot. The partner never to be seen again. That poor lonely sock. Is it better to be the one survivor or to pass on with your friends and companions? Who knows what great adventures they will get up to. Eaten by a cow? Hung up for eternity in the grain bins? We can only imagine.
20 October 2022

Corn Harvest ’22

Corn harvest has begun. The weather is beautiful for it. Perfect for the children to get out and play in the grain trailers.
Perfect even for them to have friends over to play in the trailers with them. These things are always more fun with friends. For me especially because it means I don’t need to get in there with them. I had a chance to ride a few rounds in the combine with my husband.
A date!
When we got back to make the last dump the children were waving at us, just as they had done for every other load of corn.
I got out of the combine to let the extra children know their mom was here. Time to get out and head home.
That was when I got the news. One friends shoes were in the trailer!
Ok I could deal with that. We’d go digging, maybe we could find them. But that wasn’t all. Apparently everyone’s shoes were in the trailer! Under the load of corn we had just dumped.
Why hadn’t we stopped dumping corn? Couldn’t we see them waving at us?
Well, yes. We saw the waving. Just like we had seen all the other waving. Why didn’t you guys get the boots picked up instead of waving?
What was there to do but laugh? The boots were all well buried. There was no finding them under a full combine load of corn. We will figure out a way to sort them in the morning.
Boots are one thing. The socks add a whole ‘nother level of difficulty.
6 October 2022

Chasing Rainbows

The sun shone bright under dark clouds as I picked the kids up from the bus. They had gotten rained on in town. Here there was no more than an occasional mist.

At home they hopped out at the corn field. A small corner had been wind-rowed for hay and was more appealing than they could resist. They were going to pick up some ears! I just happened to have a bucket in back of the pickup. They were set.

I went on to the house and started feeding animals and gathering from the garden for supper. The footsteps of my daughter echoed through the yard as she ran for the house. I waited until she got to the door then yelled at her from where I was hidden under tomato trees. Apparently she was looking for me, not headed inside. She ran towards me then, gasping out of breath, and saying…Β Β  something.

It took awhile before I could catch it. There was a rainbow. With the misty rain coming down in bright sunshine that wasn’t surprising. They had found the end of it though! Come quick, we could catch it. Looking around I could see it. There at the edge of the stackyard, into the cornfield. The rainbow came right to the ground. There was no way I was running that far. Instead I ran the other way to the shed.

On the fourwheeler I picker her up then we went for her brother. All children gathered, we took off after that rainbow.

It was no longer at the edge of the corn field. We chased it through the middle of the corn, down the sectionline, then stopped on top of a hill to look at it over a friends house, way off at the highway, We were too late. Too late didn’t make it any less fun.Who needs a pot of gold wen we have all the riches we could want right here.

Turning for home the kids asked me to come pick more corn with them.

After a busy day I still had chores that needed done, there were dirty dishes in the sink, and supper to get on the table. I paused with all the reasons I couldn’t on the tip of my tongue.

Sure! I said and we wen off to play in the corn. Some opportunities are to great to let slip by.

 

28 August 2022

First Flight

As they disappeared from view I did stop to think about how we had no idea who this man was they had left with.

Their cousin said she had been offered a ride in one of the planes. Did The Goblin Child want to go with? Of course she did. I didn’t know that the offer would actually come to fruition. It did, and when it did 8 was standing there to hear. She asked if she could please go in the airplane. Of course! But only if your brother can go too. It’s the usual requirement. It didn’t occur to me until she ran off to ask that maybe one more person couldn’t fit in these tiny planes, most of them with room for no more than two people.

Apparently there was room. All three children ran off.

We followed to see them climbing into the biggest plane there. It sat four.

The fly in breakfast is an annual affair. We always try to make it. It’s fun to watch the little planes come and go. One flown by a friend of ours was bright yellow, sporty and pretty, He flew it like a sports car, buzzing our house once years ago. Old and married now, maybe he’s calmed down a bit.

We watched our children load into the plane. Talked to friends as they taxied to the grass runway. The friends told flying stories, near misses. It didn’t make me feel better.

Then the plane was off and going. It rose into the sky, then disappeared into the distance.

We stood and talked and waited. We talked some more, checked the time and waited. They had been gone for quite a while. I saw them coming in for landing and got my phone out. Turned out to be just a bird. They had been gone a long time. With a stranger whose plane we had helped load them in.

It was almost enough to make me worry.

Almost.

Except we were at a fly in breakfast for a small town celebration in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. Where we can still feel comfortable sending children off with a nice old man who is willing to offer his plane to introduce children to the joys of flying. Where we can trust our neighbors. Where everyone is welcome. I waited nervously because I’m a mother and my children were off in a pane. I was not worried because they were off with a stranger.

Finally the plane came back. It circled the airport, over the town, them came in to land.

Safely on the ground they climbed out of the plane. The smiles on their faces were huge. They had flown over our house, over the cousins house, over their school, over the lake. All of the sights they’re used to seeing from the ground. It all looked so different from the air. Their lives had been transformed. They’d seen everything from a whole new perspective. Did we know how small everything actually was?
After that the rest of the day paled in comparison.

20 July 2022

Wheat Harvest, Almost

I had help driving the semi over to the wheat fields this morning. He drove while we off roaded. Before too long he’ll be driving for real, hauling the grain to the elevator. His sister was behind us in the combine. Other than getting the semi over where it could be loaded with wheat our job was to watch for traffic coming over the hills. The combine header is as wide as the road. Meeting vehicles is difficult. We need to slow them and warn him so he can get off the road as far as possible. Luckily we only met a couple of cars.

While my son steered I texted a friend along the way. Her kids met us on the road and road along. They could come ride in semis or in the combine and play in the wheat in the trailer once it started getting filled.

That was the plan at least.

Driving and talking I wasn’t paying as close of attention to the combine as I had been. There were no big hill and no traffic to worry about. Soon I looked back and there was no one there. We slowed to a crawl and waited. Eventually they caught up. My daughter came over the walky talky. They’d had a small break down. But they were going again.

We went around the corner and looked back to see they had stopped again. She came over the radio again, it was stopped, the break was set. It wasn’t moving. I set the breaks on the semi there in the middle of the road and we waited.

It wasn’t going. It wouldn’t be going any time soon. The kids and I went ahead in the semi and parked next to the wheat field we had just almost made it to. Then we started walking. It was almost a mile across the field and pasture. As we got close I got a phone call to say they, my husband and his father who had gotten there by then, were driving to a neighbors house to take the broken piece off of his combine. Borrowing the part needed to get the pully going toΒ  release the parking break so they could get it out of the middle of the road to work on it for real.

Our daughter started walking across the pasture to meet us. Anything is more fun that working on machinery with grouchy guys who are mad about it having broken down. It was apparently enough to make her brave walking past the cows.

We were right there and all walked back towards the combine together. The kids played in the water hole under the bridge. We petted a cow. Hung out in the shade. It wasn’t the playdate we had planned but it was still fun.

There were a few pickups that went by. They had been polite and friendly. Talking to the guys as they worked. Offering condolences, because everyone understands how much that sucks. Then they went down into the ditch and around.

The guys had just gotten back from borrowing the part off the other combine when we looked up to see a semi coming down the road. It’s a big open stretch and you can see the combine blocking the road from a long ways off. There was no reason to worry. We watched him keep coming and keep coming without slowing. My husband was under or behind that combine in the middle of the road. The idiot in the semi was getting really close and still hadn’t slowed at all. I started running for the road. There was no way I could get between him and the combine, or get him to stop if a huge combine in the middle of the road wasn’t enough to do it, but I was going to try.

Finally he slammed on the breaks and skidded noisily to a halt. He sat there. It was a manure spreader, still a semi, technically. Three more came behind him. I didn’t really care if they hit him. So I stayed where I was in the pasture. The lot of them were together and sat there in the road. Apparently unable to figure out that the road was blocked.

I walked over, prepared to be friendly, let them know how they could get around since they didn’t seem to be able to figure it out on their own. With cigarette smoke billowing out the window I stepped up on the running board and said hey, sorry, combine is broke.

He was snarling and grouchy. Couldn’t we tow it out of the road?!?!

Nope. I’ve been saying that a lot lately, need to get to that story too. But for now, the break was stuck on. They’d have it fixed enough to get off the road in a little bit, or you could back up to the intersection just behind you and go around the block.

More snarling. They could sure drag it out of the road with that, he said gesturing vaguely behind him. I could only assume he meant the big payloader he had on a trailer behind the manure spreader he was very fittingly driving.

Nope, there it was again. We aren’t interested in ‘dragging’ it anywhere thank you. He was welcome to go around the block.

While I still stood there on the running board and his other manure filled buddies sitting in the road behind him, he threw it in gear as he got on the cb. I stepped back off the side and mentally flipped him off enthusiastically. The whole herd of swine started to back up.

Unfortunately about that time they got the combine going enough to limp it to the driveway that had been so tantalizingly close the whole time. The road was clear. The snarling yappy little creature who had chosen a carrier so incredibly suited to him was able to go forward. Heaven forbid he have to go a couple of miles out of his way. I hope they have fun spreading the manure that it was so terribly important for them to get to. Maybe like fish out of water they were suffocating with out poop to wallow in.

The combine sits there now. Out of the road in a neighbors hay field. Parts no where to be found. The wheat sits in the field, ready and waiting. The frustrated men had no trouble fiding other jobs that need done while they wait impenitently for the needed parts. We dropped the friends off. Maybe next time we can actually play in the wheat.

19 July 2022

Yearlings

It started out innocently enough.

The kids and I swung by the pasture to check the tank on our way to town. We only had a few minutes because, as usual, we were running later than I had hoped and we didn’t want to be late for an eye doctor appointment! As we got the salt put out I looked at the cows grazing in the not to far distance and thought I saw too many hanger downers πŸ˜‰

There were two of the bulls. But a couple other cattle standing next to them also had the tuft of fur under the belly. That didn’t seem right.

I checked my watched, contemplated the length of the drive we still had and decided there was enough time to walk over to the bunch. Once I got over there there were way to many cattle with hanger downers. Yearling steers. Yay. That meant the neighbor had cattle out. I would need to get a hold of someone. But first we had to get to our appointment. We were going to be late.

In town I texted around and got numbers for the suspected owners. Called one, the father, and left a message. Then got the number of the son and texted.

The son answered immediately. The response made me so made I had to sit and think a bit before responding. Always best not to text mad πŸ˜‰

He said “Probably ours, went around fence, but your half was not great. We fixed it up some, but needs a lot of posts. We are out of town until tomorrow but will get it then. ”

Now I’ve dealt with these people before. I’ve been out there fixing fence on miserably hot days because they told my husbands father the same thing and he said oh ok, or some such. Then ordered us out to fix fence for the neighbors. Knowing what they are like I was extra careful when I went over that fence line. I wasn’t having it. I informed him the fence had been fine thank you. Very politely of course. He didn’t respond.

The father called me back as we went through walmart. He was very polite, until he started in on it too. Figured out who I was and which of their pastures I was talking about, which took awhile. Then said they’d get to it once they got back from vacation. But, you know, that fence isn’t very good between us. I wasn’t having it. I was already pretty grouchy after talking to the son. My children had chosen that moment to start a brawl in the aisle. I grabbed handfuls of what ever I could get, hair, and yanked them apart. Giving them my best knock it off or I will beat you look I sent them cowering apart. Then smiled, because it can be heard in your voice and told him, nope, the fence was good, I walked it and have been checking it. We chatted a bit more and he started in again!

You know, your fence between us….

Nope! If he wanted to repeat himself I could repeat myself. I thought a moment about the absurdity of it then decided I could do it as many times as he could. And we did. There in the middle of walmart with a smile fixed on my face, sobbing pouting children and people trying to get to the chips behind me. I held my ground and refused any reply except to restate that the fence was in great shape. Yealings can be hard to keep in, no one is mad at them but it was not the fences fault.

Seriously! Accept blame. Be polite, apologize for your cattle, and promise to come get them. I’ve been on that end of things before. It happens. Refusing to accept any responsibility is the behavior of a child. Grown men should know better.

The kids and I went over and took lunch to their father in the field where he was working summer fallow. Then we started driving the fence line.

There were way more than the few head I had seen earlier. It was really beginning to look like there were way more yearlings than pairs! A handful of them were in the summer fallow. They had torn the fence down between it and the pasture. We put it up and, after careful consideration, I texted the son again. Let him know that we had a bunch more than originally thought and some didn’t have water.

He texted back that they’d be there this evening. Then started insisting that I didn’t need to be there to help with the sorting!

The more he insisted that I not come the more determined I was that I was going to be there. The way they had acted so far didn’t lead me to believe they would treat the cattle decently or sort thoroughly. I wanted to make sure my cows didn’t disappear or get run hard.

The kids and I loaded up the 4wheelers. There’s plenty of barb wire laying around I wouldn’t want to risk any horse’s legs.

We got there. Drove over and picked up my husband from the summer fallow. By the time we got back they were there. All two of them. They had been determined that two guys were going to sort fifty plus yearling out of the pairs by themselves? I had even been assured, in one of the many texts telling me not to come, that it would only take them a few minutes. They had high opinions of themselves. Or hadn’t believed me about the number of steers.

They took over issuing orders. Their yearlings, so fine. We sorted and pushed and sorted some more. It was actually going rather well. We were able to leave cows and calves behind as the herd walked towards the gate.

Then everything balled up and the easy sorting was done. Working hard we got a few more out. My son put in a good days work, real work not kid stuff, pushing cows we got out back to that herd and holding them there. Someday his kids will be as fascinated and horrified by his tales of life growing up on the farm as we are when my grandpa talked about driving the team farming by himself when he was five. If he was as dedicated and hard working as this boy I can see how he would have easily done the job. My husband worked the cattle on foot. My daughter and I ran around doing a bit of everything. Hopefully helpfully πŸ˜‰ Daisy dog clung to the back of the fourwheeler.

With a few head left in the bunch it was decided that it would be easier to pull a couple of cows back out of their pasture than to sort where we were and the whole bunch was sent through the gate.

There they all took off at a hard run. The three of us took off after them. my husband had rejoined our son and were busy keeping cows in the pasture I think. I don’t know. We never looked back. Despite my determination not to let them run our cows hard there wasn’t much else to do at the moment but to keep up. We caught them before the draw and each took a cow. Either the guys did a better job chasing them, or they had easier cows. They got theirs back while we fought with ours

I think a 4wheeler should work cows like a horse. Stop and turn on a dime after them. Daisy was having a hard time holding on. My daughter was giggling hysterically with an arm around me and the other holding tight to Daisy. Back and fourth we cut that cow until she quite fighting and, somewhat, quietly went back to her pasture.

With that part done I begged my daughter to please take Daisy back to the pickup. This was hard on her and there was nothing she’d be able to help with. They got dropped off as close as possible to the pickup and they walked back with plenty of water holes and trees to play in along the way. Then we, my trusty green mount and I were back in the fray.

We had sorted part of the herd, but there were plenty more to work through. It took a couple of hours and lots of wear and tear on the 4wheelers but we did finally get all of the yearling steers out. The grass, which had looked good went from having another week or so of grazing to needing the cows moved soon. The cows were run hard. I can only imagine how hard they would have been run without us there. I pulled the father aside one time and told him to take it easy. I didn’t want the cows pushed that hard or to lose any calves. Not sure he actually herd me. Or listened. I had worked hard to avoid screaming when one of them took off after my old 524 cow. She’s the second oldest in my herd and a dang good cow. If they hadn’t backed off before I could react, well, I do seem to be a bit grouchy lately, I think I’d be willing to take a grown man πŸ˜‰

There were yearlings coming back to the fence already as we finished and paused to talk a bit. Fortunately they didn’t say any more about how their cows being in our pasture was my fault. Of course they didn’t acknowledge me at all, only deigning to speak to my husband. Probably for the best. He has better control over his temper than I do.

They went down the fence line to chase their yearlings the other way. Their only concession to the trouble their calves had caused when the father said they’d be taking three or so of them back with them to a different pasture because they were high headed trouble causers. On his way to get the steer who was waiting right back where they had taken the whole fence down, he stopped and very self righteously put a staple in our fence. He had claimed it to be weak, falling down, and generally bad, guess he had to find something wrong with it. I hope that one staple made him feel better.

12 June 2022

Audacity

We, the children and I, were headed to the pasture. Going to check cows, maybe play in the creek.
As we came over the hill, on the empty county road, we saw a tractor parked at the edge of a field. The driver, standing next to it, turned and walked to the road as we approached.
He held his hand up and waved us down as we got to him. We stopped and he opened the passenger side door.
Could we give him a ride to his pickup? He asked.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew who he was, I knew before we ever stopped. I wouldn’t pick up a random stranger. But helping a neighbor, even one I don’t personally know, is different. I cleared off the passenger seat and he hopped in.
On the way to his pickup we visited. Had his tractor broke down? I asked.
No, he just needed to get back to his pickup to run some parts over to a different tractor working in a different field. He saw us coming and thought a ride would be faster than walking.
Who was I by the way?
Apparently he hadn’t waved us down because we were a somewhat distant neighbor he recognized and asked for a ride. He just saw a random car coming down the road and asked for a ride. The audacity!
I was amazed and rather impressed.
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