The January thaw that usually only lasts for a couple days has lasted for a few weeks this year and we have been taking full advantage of the warm weekends. It has been a great time to get everyone’s pens deep cleaned before we plummet back into sub-zero temperatures. It was pretty exciting to have a blister on my hand mid-winter that wasn’t from a woodstove. That’s some good work! This Sunday was no exception.
Once the kids were down for their afternoon naps Mike and I headed to the barn. I was busy cleaning in the cow pen; we are going to have some great compost this year! I was happily running my pitch fork getting things all pretty for the herd while Mike was busy in the goat pen. I had the bigger area but he had the bigger job I would say. The ducks are doing quite well in the goat pen and not making nearly the water mess they could. They are however making themselves known. Mike spent a portion of time chipping the little ice rink out from around the mini stock tank. He then removed the tank and shoved Stinky Hank back into his own pen. His time with Scarlet was up. With any luck there will be some kids coming late spring! With everyone separated accordingly we were able to install the insulated tank my dad made. Talk about nice! Those are some spoiled goats!
I had the cow pen cleaned just as Mike was ready to start wheel barrowing out the goat pen cleanings. It was the same time that the cows remembered there was a fresh bag of alfalfa cubes in the barn and if they all line up to the rail there’s a good chance of getting a treat or two (or five if the Little Miss is feeding). This isn’t a big deal but to get to the winter heap we have to go through the cow pen. For the most part this is done without a second thought. The eager faces were quickly disappointed when the realized I was not going to be handing out and treats, but they were not moving. G.W. (the bull) has watched me take Sweet Caroline out of the pen a few times through that gate and he’s been pretty sure that that’s where he wants to head. Smart cow, he knows where the good stuff is kept.
I turned around just in time to see the Little Boy slide out of the wheel barrow, barefoot on the gravel driveway. The wheel barrow was clean according the wheel barrow standards; it hadn’t carried manure in a few months and had been used elsewhere in the meantime. His jeans would need to be removed before he goes into the house, mud dried between his fingers and dirt from ear to ear. “Thank God we are able to raise our children out here.” I thought as I turned back to the Little Miss who was sitting on the tractor. She’s all about cows, tractors and baby dolls right now. There she was clothes speckled with dried mud from the duck pen, sand in her ponytail that was already falling apart (again) and a face that was looks like she was eating dirt not too long ago.
I know it’s crazy to be thankful for dirt behind the ears but we are. Did you know that most people forget to wash behind their ears? Not at our house! Our kids are very involved with our outdoor work. It starts with the baby carrier in the stroller and once they can walk they are on our heels… or somewhere close by. They are always encouraged to help even when their helping is not so helpful. I’m already talking up how much fun it is to stack square bales on the hay wagon in July. They are so excited to be big enough to help with that! Yes!! They really do enjoy helping with any task at hand. Especially tasks that require a hose and/or water, the ones that can get really messy. The trick is to keep them busy allowing them to explore but not too much (if that’s possible).
It’s been a long time since I’ve talked with a dear friend. Years, to be honest. In fact I think the last time we hung out I could have killed us both if it weren’t for Jane stopping us before we left the bar parking lot. Not the brightest decision I ever made, the angels were watching over us that night. It was a fun night of bad karaoke, Jack Daniels and a polka if I remember correctly. Years leading up to that had plenty of good times, shooting clays in the gravel pit, four-wheeling and so on.
A lot has changed since then, life sent us other directions which is expected. The news a few years ago that a pace maker was needed was a surprise. More recently the news of him in need of a heart transplant caught me completely off guard. It’s not news that you hear every day or if you’re lucky never in a lifetime and especially about a friend so young. I sent a message “we’ll be praying for you” and that’s what we did. What else is there to do in a situation like this?
Today we say “goodbye” to a great little steer. Elvis and I have had “the talk” a few times and the day has come. Last night he was loaded into my uncle’s stock trailer accompanied by a few more with the same destination. I was both excited and sad as I filled out the butchers order form indicating how I would like him returned… little white packages. The freezer has been unplugged for most of the summer so the thought of it once again full and of our grass fed beef this time is pretty exciting. It will also be nice to not be calling mom “do you have an extra package of burger?” It happens often.
“Maybe you need to sit in the barn for a day.” – Mike, husband
I have been struggling with almost constant headaches and migraines for a few weeks now. The barn was Mike’s suggestion to my curiosity about an ear piercing that supposedly minimizes or cures migraines for good. He’s right. I am in need of some serious barn therapy. The lack of writing about the farm and animals is a good indication that I haven’t been doing my fair share of chores this winter. It’s true, my pregnant farmer days have slowed to next to none unfortunately, but with the nice weather coming it’s time I get out of the house and get going on things again. Mike has been doing a great job out there and has tamed the girls down again. Finally Lucy (the milk cow) will eat out of our hands again and Wheezy too!
It seems like a very long time since I have been knee deep with my pitch fork. I’m pretty sure when he said “sit” he meant just that. Just sitting in the barn although a great thought, just might do me in. The longer I sit, the more time I have to see everything that needs to be done and think of what can’t be seen that needs doing too. Nope, sitting will come after the barn time. After I waddle my way to the house, just before my back tightens up for the night and I make pancakes for supper because I’m done for the day. (Yes, that happens here too. Mama fails to plan ahead and its pancakes for all!)
Last weekend, Mike was able to sneak me out of the house while the kids napped and bread rose. It was nice to wander through the barn and check on everyone. The goat’s hooves looked pretty good. I will pencil them into my schedule a couple weeks from now for a pedicure. Otherwise, everyone was looking great and eagerly waiting at their fences for whatever handout they may be offered. Lucy and Wheezy are looking rather wide, and healthily pregnant. Little G.W. could use some green pasture for a while. He’s looking good just small yet. It won’t take much summer for him to catch up. Elvis’s horns are more than nubs now; I’d like to keep him around for another year or two just to grow those out before butchering. That isn’t going to happen though.
If you have never spent serious time in a barn you really should! (you can use mine, pitch fork included!) There is nothing like it. When chaos happens in the barn, (yes “when”, there is no “if” there) it passes quickly and once again you are left in a quiet calm. There is peace in there. Time to think and relax, even while working. It seems to be the easiest way to reset yourself, to regain a handle on things and recharge. This is probably why morning chores are my favorite… though I haven’t been doing them in a while. Even a quick “hurry up and get the animals fed before the kids wake up” takes twenty minutes or so and is enough to start your day on the bright side. (again I will offer the barn therapy sessions for free seven days a week)
I’ve now seen how things go when I skip out on my barn time and it’s past time that I get back out there!