The Relentlessness of Farm Life

 

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I often talk about how farm life is relentless. It’s got all the ups and downs of a real life soap opera with all the drama of a Greek tragedy. It can be physically and emotionally brutal and there is no mercy given for the weak. My best example of this was the most recent April 13th, also known as the dreaded Friday the 13th.

I woke in the early hours of the morning with the worst stomach flu I think I’ve ever experienced. It knocked me completely on my keester for over 24 hours. The first day I was bed-ridden and struggled to just keep down ice chips so I could stay dehydrated. The whole mess left me weaker than a new born kitten.

So of course during this brief moment in time when I was completely incapacitated….Vessie decided to kid. I think she hates me. Hubs had just crawled into bed (I had never left it) and turned out the light. Less than a minute had passed before we both heard it.

The light flipped back on and he rolled over to look at me, “Did you just hear a baby goat?”.

I so desperately wanted to say no, the struggle was real, but responsibility called. I sighed heavily, “Yes, that was a baby goat.” My next offer was born of the good manners my mother worked so hard to instill in me, and also some measure of desperation, “Can you handle this yourself or do you REALLLLY need me?”

Hubs didn’t respond to my question, which was an answer in itself. I gave another sigh, “Ok, give me a bit and I’ll meet you out there.”

She had a buck and a doe and thankfully, Vessie is a phenomenal mother and managed just fine without our interference. We simply tied, trimmed and dipped cords, ensured they had nursed and then headed back to bed.

A couple hours after that I woke and forced myself to get up and put Dom out to potty. 30726462_10215495165749700_8650755276221787638_n[1] He’s been having health issues for the last 7 months and after tests with no definitive answers and trying a veritable cocktail of different drugs we had finally gotten him somewhat stable on steroids. The side effect of the meds were his ravenous appetite and drinking water like a camel with a hollow leg……which means I had to get up every few hours to let him outside or suffer the consequence.

He went outside but seemed confused and then couldn’t seem to navigate the single step to come back into the house. I went outside to try to help him but in my weakened state I wasn’t much better than him. Rather than try to pick him up and risk dropping him I stumbled down the hall to get Hubs. Hubs went out to help, but when he got to the porch, Dom had disappeared. Hubs called and called for him but there was no response. He then drove down by the chickens (one of Dom’s favorite spots) and then came back up by the house to search some more. I kept asking, “he could barely walk, how far could he have gone?”

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We finally found him behind the house laying on the rain soaked hillside, confused and not responding to our calls. Hubs carried him inside and dried him off. We tried to go back to sleep….again.

A couple hours after that I woke to a horrible crying. I shoved Hubs off the bed saying, “go check on Dom!” knowing that it would take me way too long to get vertical without losing my stomach. He came back saying Dom was laying down and seemed fine. It seemed odd because Domino is stoic and I can’t recall him ever crying out, no matter the circumstances (and he’s had some significant ‘circumstances’) but there was nothing else to do. We heard him cry a couple more times over the night and finally gave up the idea of sleeping around 4:00am.

As I sat on the floor next to Dom I finally observed him during one of his crying spells. He appeared to be having small seizures. Hubs and I looked at each other and knew, it was time. We sat with him on and off for the next few hours waiting for the vet to open, reminiscing about better days with Dom.

As I shakily dressed for the trip, I briefly wanted to skip the whole thing and ask Hubs to take him. I had a legitimate reason. I was still horribly sick, shaky and slightly feverish….. but he was my best friend. How could I not be there when he needed me most? I dragged myself to the car and we made the silent drive to say goodbye.

I don’t know how to say goodbye to the one that loves you more than anyone else in the world. He was my shadow, my constant companion and my best friend. He was better than most people I know cheerful, loyal and loving. I’m going to miss him tremendously.

So you see, farming really is as dramatic as a soap opera. In just this 24 hour period we had sickness, new life and heart-breaking loss. As I’ve said before, hold your loved ones close (2 and 4 legged) and count your blessings every chance you get. They aren’t guaranteed.

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Filling Your Basket

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Friday mornings are supposed to be my me time. I don’t get much time for just me on the farm and I’m mostly ok with that. We chose this lifestyle and I love it with all my heart. However, I’m also a big advocate of self-care, or ‘filling my basket”. One of my friends described it like this, “we all have an inner basket and when we constantly give and do for others, we empty our basket and fill theirs, which is a good thing but it’s important to fill your own basket too.” My friend is a very wise woman!
 
Back to Friday mornings, I look forward to my 2-3 hours every Friday morning all week long. I love working on the farm, but during the week I dream of working on my writing, crafts, playing with the horses and goats, or sometimes I plan to just read and sip my coffee. It doesn’t really matter what I do the most important part is that I give myself a permission to do it guilt free. It is a time set aside just for me!
 
Lately my Friday mornings have been getting swallowed up by life. Some of you know 2018 has been a difficult year for us and we seem to constantly be running behind with everything. As a result my me time has gotten sucked into the black hole that is our life during spring. This morning I woke excited at all the things that I planned to do …..but once again it didn’t happen. Instead I found myself paying bills, catching up the budget sheet, sending out invoices, making cheese, and doing a lot of backlogged goat paperwork.
 
I admit I didn’t handle losing my special time once again very well. I was feeling overwhelmed, sorry for myself and maybe just a bit cranky. During of all of this I caught a glimpse of something large flying right past my office window. I looked up and saw this beautiful bald eagle. He landed in a tree right outside our house and as I sat working on the computer if I shifted my view from the computer screen 4 inches to the left I could see this most majestic bird watching over the house and farm. I was spellbound. He stayed in the tree for several hours and left just after I finished all my paperwork.
 
Some people may call me a weirdo (ok, lots of people do) but I saw this visiting eagle as a gift. In the midst of all the trials I always look for the gifts. If I didn’t look for the gifts, I think I would fall into such a well of despair I might never find my way to the surface. Instead I try to find and focus on the good stuff, my family, my friends, the amazing lifestyle we get to live and random acts of kindness. These things fill my basket too. This eagle sitting outside the window while I finished all my paperwork was a pretty amazing gift from nature and while I didn’t get to indulge in play time just for me, I had some amazing company while I worked.
#fillingmybasket

Adventures in Bee Keeping

 

IMG_0520Some of you remember that last year we embarked on a new venture for the farm. Bees! To be honest this is mostly Hubs’ adventure. I’m a big fan of honey and the process of pollination for all my garden plants and fruit trees, but being highly allergic to bee stings, I’m slightly less enamored with the little winged friends of death. However, Hubs really wanted to do this and so with the funds from one of my soap sales we got his first hive.   

Fred with beesI’ve tried to be very supportive….from very, very far away. Which probably explains why in one of the few pictures I have of Hubs working with the bees he’s about the size of an ant(and that’s using the zoom on my camera to its full capabilities).  He reminds me of the man on the moon in that get up, but maybe that’s just me.  

 

It doesn’t help alleviate my concerns when Hubs seems to get stung almost every time he has to do anything with the hive. This is not reassuring to me. In fact the last time he went into the hive to take out a couple of trays he was stung on the neck as he took his suit off. Then…….. <WARNING: this is truly gross so if you’re squeamish stop reading now>  after he removed the hood a bee flew into his ear. Yes, his ear!! He could feel it wiggling around and could hear it buzzing but couldn’t get the bee to come out. It just kept going deeper and deeper into his ear canal. You know the saying, “if you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging?” well, apparently no one told the bee.  Hubs finally had to come up to the house and use a ear cleaning thingie to get it out. Oh my! I swear my heart started beating faster and my palms started sweating just listening to him tell the story. Nope, nope, nope! No bees for me.  

I do have to admit though that the honey that Hubs gathered from the hive was excellent. It was so dark it looks like black strap molasses and the flavor is amazing. From what I’ve been able to research dark honey has better health qualities, including higher levels of antioxidants and a higher mineral content than the lighter colored honey. Awesome!  So it looks like I will need to try to overcome my concerns and be extra supportive  because Hubs is buying a couple more hives. Me, I’m buying him a pair of ear plugs. God help me!22627379_10213977725654646_1250656608_n[1]

 

When Life Attacks on a Farm

The week started with a bang and hasn’t slowed down yet.  Let’s see, my first indication that life was planning to mutiny against me was when I sat sipping my coffee and getting ready to call my mom on Sunday morning. It was a peaceful morning and I had settled down next to the open window , enjoying the whiff of the fresh morning air. Then a sudden racket broke my tranquil moment.

 Apparently Crack Shot had gotten his horns stuck in the fence. He’s never done that before and he was crackshot 0116bawling like a baby. I yelled for him to hold his horses and I would be right out. With a sigh, I set down my coffee, grabbed some shoes and went out. I wandered out in my PJ’s thinking it wouldn’t take me but a minute to free his horns, however just as I was getting close I saw him give a giant heave trying to free himself, unfortunately it backfired and I saw the fence act as a slingshot, whipping his body around. When he landed with a hard thud I was horrified to see that he looked like something out of a bad horror movie. His head faced one way and his body another. Since he wasn’t related to anything in the owl family I was convinced he had broken his neck. I ran into the pasture double time and was so relieved to see him breathing. However, with the odd angle he was contorted into his breathing was labored. I tried to free his horns but he had somehow woven them into both the layer of cattle panels AND the fence. I tried to calm him down and then ran for tools. Of course the tools I needed were going to be in the shop on the other end of the property. I grabbed keys on my way past the house, jumped into the jeep and broke the land speed record getting to the shop. I rooted around until I found the giant bolt cutters and a crow bar and raced back up the house. I went into the pasture and began the task of trying to position the giant bolt cutters between the two layers of fence while Karma was playfully head butting me the whole while. I felt like I was suffering from multiple personalities as I gently coo-ed to Crack Shot trying to keep him calm and then turning slightly and yelling for Karma to ‘”knock it the heck off!” I freed him fairly quickly and he jumped up and shook as if brushing off the whole event  and he was even sweet to me for about a whole minute.  I sat back trying to get my heart back into to somewhat of a normal rhythm,  covered in sweat, my pajamas splattered in  mud and other things and thought that this was my allotment of excitement for the entire week…… I was wrong.  I was just getting started.

 The next morning as I was doing chores in my usual pre-coffee stupor I kept thinking I heard LadyButt crying. I went back and checked the chicken coop, thinking I had locked her inside, but didn’t see her. I checked the hay storage and didn’t see her….and then I looked up. From my last incident, I knew what this meant, and I was right. She had somehow gotten up on top the barn roof and was stuck. What proceeded was pretty much an exact duplicate of the blog I wrote earlier this year (see: Adventures of LadyButt  )

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LadyButt in all her fierce glory.

 At this point I should have seen the writing on the wall and known that the week was cursed. A smart move would have been to wrap everything that would hold still in bubble wrap, fortify my coffee with a healthy slug of Bailey’s Irish Cream (or a shot of whiskey)and hunker down.  But I’ve never claimed to be particularly smart. So we decided to tempt the fates and take the hay truck and  pick up a load of local grass. As we were driving around the field, tossing bales of hay up into the back of the flatbed we must have hit a high spot. I say that because as we were getting ready to leave the field Hubs looks over at me and says mildly, “the brakes are feeling a little spongy”. This is never a good thing to hear, especially not when you’re away from home and hauling. I thought I did the appropriate thing and just ignored him. I have a theory that  if you ignore things then they won’t really happen. We got out of the field and then Hubs crawled under the truck and saw the brake fluid happily running out of the back brake line. Apparently we had tore open part of the brake line when we hit the high spot. Damn, another theory blown.  I wish I could say I was surprised but really the way things were going, I kind of expected it, losing our brakes, getting hit by lightening, I mean something was going to happen.  Hubs examined the damage and pronounced it un-repairable with the tools we had with us. He used a wrench to pinch the line shut as best he could, and the guy who’s field we were in gave us a couple bottles of brake fluid. We topped off the reservoir and we headed off for home with a wish and a prayer. It was a quiet,  white knuckle drive and Hubs mostly relied on downshifting, avoiding the brakes all together,

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Unloading a truck load of hay from last fall.

when possible.  Thankfully, we were able to make it home without any other major incidents. By Wednesday and Thursday I had learned my lesson. I was in full on survival mode and just doing what was necessary. Those days eked by with no loss of life or limb.  Sheesh, some weeks are just more exciting than others. I always wonder if this is some type of cosmic payback for something I did  in my wild and crazy teen years. If so I probably have quite a few more of these weeks coming to me. But that’s ok, even with everything going sideways I’m still so blessed to get to live this amazing life.

 Confession: I wrote this post on Tuesday night but didn’t want to post until I was fairly sure I was going to survive the rest of the week.  I still have a day to go but I’m taking the gamble and posting. Wish me luck.

Spring: the Hair Raising, Aromatic, Pud Kind of Season

 

Spring is on its way, or at least that’s what I’m hoping (insert my little plea to Mother Nature). It’s the time of year when the  weather finally starts to warm up and things begin to thaw. That means it’s time for mud, lots and lots of mud. Well, I call it mud but in truth it’s probably a lovely mix of poop and mud, or as I like to affectionately call it, pud. For my peace of mind as it ends up all over me and everything else I try to think of it as just good old, fashion and clean mud.

This is also the time of year when things begin to stink again. No truly! When everything is frozen manure doesn’t have much of a smell. During the driest part of summer everything is shriveled up like a mummy so there’s also not a lot of smell, but spring……well, it’s downright aromatic. Of course with the return of all the smells we will also have the return of the flies, insects and other creepy crawlies. From now till the return of the first hard frost it’ll be important to keep your mouth closed while working outside if you don’t want to enjoy an unintentional high protein bug snack. I always forget this early in the season but somehow I remember after a few ‘snacks’.

And finally, it’s shedding season. You can’t walk anywhere on the farm without getting covered in someone’s cast off hair. For us winter may mean hatchet season but spring is heart attack season. I’m forever finding clumps of hair on the ground and thinking I’ve come across some dead animal. My heart jumps in my throat as my mind races to identify which animal it is by the hair color and then I realize it’s only  part of that animal. The hair pile left behind is usually rather massive, it’s almost like someone unzipped and took off their outer wear and staged it on the ground for me to find. I swear they do it just to see my reaction. Great, I can see that I’ve become cheap entertainment for my animals.

Hmmmm, when list it all out like this I’m not quite sure why I look forward to the season so much….. but I do. Probably because for me, spring means hope and an awakening of the earth. There is hope for warmer, sunny days, where the air kisses your skin rather than assault it, when there’s the smell of fresh cut grass mingled with windflowers, the sound of fat, lazy bumblebees working hard to pollinate my garden and lots of time to play outside. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face, maybe that’s why I look forward to spring every year. ❤

Her Flame Burned Briefly but Brightly

I really didn’t want to write this blog. In fact I argued with myself and tried to justify why I didn’t need to put all this out there, but in the end, I had to face the fact I promised myself this page would always be honest. I promised to include it all,  the good, the bad and the ugly.

ursa kid 2This year has been a challenging one right off the bat. We didn’t keep good records on our breeding dates for the goats….mostly because we didn’t set up ‘dates’, instead we just put the does in with the buck and let nature take its course, which is not the best idea. This isn’t something we have ever done before and now I know why I usually keep such meticulous records.

So here we are in spring wondering when we should start planning for kidding season. When do we do the pre-kidding vaccinations and supplement injections? When do we set up the kidding area and separate the pregnant doe? And of course when do we try to schedule time off work to be here in case they need us?

We had some idea on dates for one doe and she was the only one to kid so far. Everything went well and we thought we were on our way to a smooth kidding season. These things lull you into a false sense of security, something I won’t fall for again. A few days ago Hubs called me while he was out doing chores (this is never a good thing in case you were wondering. Good news can usually wait till he gets back inside, it’s only bad news that requires an immediate phone call). Anyway, he called to tell me that one of the babies had died. The littlest girl, who we called Cottontail, had crawled into the warming box at some point, went to sleep and didn’t wake up. We were totally baffled since she had been fine earlier in the morning, no signs of any problems so the only thing we can figure is that she had some kind of trauma, possible being head butted or stepped on, went to her favorite place (the warming box) and fell asleep for the last time.

It can be incredibly hard to lose a baby, or an older pet, for that matter. With babies you see the loss of potential, things that they never had a chance to experience, so much life lost; with older animals you’ve had a chance to get to know them and cherish their personalities. Either way just sucks. Life in general isn’t easy, nor is it fair, this is a lesson most of us learn at some point. Life on the farm just gives you a up close and personal look all that life has to offer, both the good and the bad, on a very regular basis.

Rest in peace Cottontail. Your flame only burned briefly, but it burned brightly.

Adventures of LadyButt

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Most of you who follow my Facebook page are familiar with the story of Ladybutt. She’s a feral cat who was adopted from the Humane Society Barn Cat program by a local farm. When that farm closed we took her in. Her name was LadyBug at that time but over the last few years she’s earned her new name. LadyButt is still semi-feral, and some days she is sweet and purrs for attention, some days she attacks without provocation. Her mood depends on the way the wind is blowing, the day of the week and the flip of a coin from what we’ve been able to determine.

Lately, we’ve been having a little problem with LadyButt getting locked in the hay barn. The first time it happened I found her during morning chores and I really gave Hubs some grief about leaving the cat locked in the barn all night. Then he found her in there again that evening and gave me grief for leaving her there after my morning chores. In the marriage game point scale we were tied in a dead heat 1-1 and the pressure was on. The next day we were both super careful  about making sure she was out of the way and no where near the hay area before we closed up the barn, but we still found her inside again. Obviously, the only answer was that she had found a way to magically teleport herself into the barn but couldn’t get back out. Barns are tricky like that. Hubs decided he needed to put in a cat door so that after she did her Houdini trick disappearing into the barn she could just walk out the kitty door in style. Easy peasy, right? Except he hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

Today was the topper. Hubs wasn’t home to do evening chores so I did them when I got home. I was trying to get the horses fed and stuff the hay bags for tomorrow and I heard LadyButt yelling. I yelled back, “the barn door is open, come on out.” but she didn’t. After listening to her yowl in obvious distress I started getting worried that she had fallen in between the bales of hay and gotten wedged in place. I stopped what I was doing and went digging around the hay but couldn’t find her. She was pretty much constantly meowing for help at this time and I was more than concerned. I shut off the farm truck so that I would be able to hear what direction she yelling from. At first it sounded like she was in the woods down below the chicken yard and I started walking that way. As I crossed the driveway I heard her again, but behind me. I turned and looked up and low and behold…..she was on the roof of the barn! She had really outdone herself this time.

Grumbling to myself the whole time about how these things only happen when Hubs isn’t around, I went looking for a ladder. We have a ridiculous number of ladders on the farm but somehow I couldn’t find any of them, save for a rickety old ladder that was in the dump pile. Still grumbling, I climbed the ladder to go rescue the Houdini cat. By the time I got to the second rung from the very top of the ladder it was listing a little bit, causing me to feel like I was trying to balance on a teeter totter. I called out to her and she ran over to see me. She seemed pretty excited to be getting rescued but she was apparently a bit irritated too. As I was trying to figure out how I was going to scoop up and carry a half-wild and more than slightly annoyed cat all the while balancing on a swaying ladder and of course, not fall off, she lost all pretense of patience and took a few swipes at me for keeping her waiting. I jerked back trying to avoid getting scratched and that’s when the ladder gave up even pretending to do the job and started drunkenly swaying side to side, worse than when I try to country line dance. I figure I needed to act quickly (before I could chicken out) so I made a mad grab for the cat and scurried down the ladder before she could freak out and start dismembering me with her razor blade claws. With self preservation high on my priorities, I’m pretty sure we broke the sound barrier in our rush down the ladder. Once on the ground I set her loose…..only to have her to run back into the hay barn and burrow into the hay. So now you know a bit more about LadyButt and can probably understand how she earned her name.  *sigh* Hubs had better get that cat door in ASAP.

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