Readjusting

Once again, calving season is upon us.  Our seasons seem to be lasting longer and longer the last year or two.  Not just calving, but sale season, hay season, planting season, harvest season……weren’t we supposed to have a break of some sort in there somewhere?  We placed a ban on calving in January a few years back.  Apparently that ban was lifted without my knowledge or consent.  This is the 3rd week of January and we have already had 3 calves with 2 being born this week and several more due “any day now”.

img_0260

We AI several of our cows.  Some are AIed for purebred calves & some for club calves.  All run with a clean up bull and we should finish calving in April.  We have some embryo calves, some AI calves and some natural calves.  All in all, there’s a good deal of money walking around the pastures each and every day.  The greatest threat to our income statement comes not from theft but from death loss.  Ten days ago it was sunny and 64 degrees.  Seven days ago it was 36 degrees and we were gearing up for a winter storm (Winter storm Gia).  A near 30 degree drop in 3 days and going from sunny to heavy clouds is hard on cattle – they need time to adjust, just like I do.  Now we’re going from having 19 inches of snow on the ground last Sunday with a high of 30 degrees to rain/freezing rain the last two nights and Winter Storm Harper on its way this weekend with highs predicted in the 20’s.  Not much time to adjust for them, is there?  And that’s why we’re going to have Roundup Part 2 this weekend….possibly during the storm.  The guys have found another half dozen or so cows that could calve “any day now”.  We’ll get them sorted and to the house so they can have shelter in the calving shed and be brought into the barn if need be.

img_1616

And this is where my adjustment period has me.  Mike’s in Denver this week working for Lee Simmentals.  This is the first year Chris isn’t living at home during spring calving.  He’s still out every day doing chores and working on the farm.  But he’s usually heading home by 6 pm.  Therefore, for this week and part of next, I have the overnight calving checks all to myself.  10 pm, 2 pm, 6 am….roughly.  Last night I didn’t think I’d make it awake until 10 pm so I bumped it all up an hour.

9 pm – All’s good.  Cows are lounging in the calving shed on cornstalks.  Abby, the farm dog, and I head back to the house to go to bed.  I’m in bed by 9:30.  By my calculations I should have plenty of time for 2 complete sleep cycles.  My calculations must’ve been off.  I didn’t fall asleep as quickly as I’d hoped.

1 am – The alarm sounds and this is when I realize I’m more tired than I thought.  I tried to shut off the alarm on the bedside clock.  I swear I hit every button possible and it kept alarming.  By this point I’m awake enough to think, “Fine, I’ll just unplug it.  It must be stuck.”  Just what exactly was stuck, I’m not sure.  But I was sure unplugging it would stop it.  Imagine my sleep deprived stupor when it didn’t.  It took me a full 30 seconds for my brain to wake up enough to process this.  The alarm that I had set was on my phone.  DUH…..I haven’t set an alarm on the bedside clock in probably 10 years.  Why did I think I’d set it last night?  I was so confused, but I was now awake.  Off to check the cows, who by now were enjoying a midnight snack around the hay ring.  Ok, girls, I need to go back to bed.  See ya in a few.  Back to the house, bathroom break, get a drink of water and snuggle back into bed……with my eyes wide open and my brain fully awake.  CRUD!  I read a while, prayed a while, played a game for a while.  I tried to tire my brain back out to go back to sleep.  Finally at 2:45 I was tired enough to go back to sleep.

5 am – Seriously, wasn’t I just out there?  They can wait another 30 minutes.  Reset phone alarm and drift in and out of sleepiness for 20 minutes before giving up.  Check cows who are once again comfortably resting in the calving shed and beginning to be irritated with the crazy woman with the spotlight interrupting their night.  Back to the house for a shower to warm up and clean up for work today.

6:30 am – Leave for work with a stop at the store on the way.  Realize my tired self is one that should NOT be communicating much with people today.  Pray that we have few calls at work and that the women at life group will understand tonight.  Wondering if I can sneak in a nap on my lunch hour today.

This tiredness will not last forever.  Just like the cows need time to adjust to the colder weather, I need time to adjust to less sleep.  And just like it is when you have a new baby, I’ll forget it all by next calving season and be excited for the new babies on their way…..just maybe in February next year boys.  Work with me here.

Melinda

Time to Bring the Spring Calvers Up

Three weeks ago we planned on giving our spring calving cows their Scour Bos shots this Sunday. Each of the boys had a weekend of Christmas with their in-laws so this was the first weekend since Christmas we could schedule enough help. Then came the forecast…….6 to 8 inches of snow from Friday to Sunday. Well, that may throw a wrench in the plan a bit.

Fridays find me home from the town job. This Friday found me trying to get several things done before the winter storm moved in. Mike called and asked if I could go after a load of hay. I had two quick errands to run first and managed to be headed out for hay by 10 am. Unfortunately, I hadn’t confirmed my plans with Mike’s dad who would need to load the hay for me. Fortunately, I got to spend a couple of hours visiting with Brittany, Avery, Wyatt and the Heimer kids. We played some Farm Bingo, danced and played with Lincoln Logs. Finally I was loaded and headed back home. I had a couple of hours to kill before I needed to get a haircut. I finally called and found many had cancelled their appointments with my hairdresser, April, and she could get me in and hour or so earlier. I was back home by the time Mike got home from work. It had started snowing by that time and we wondered just how much snow we might get. Little did we know at that point.

Saturday we woke up fairly early and shortly thereafter got a text from Chris and Kailey saying they were without power. We suggested they come on out and we’d make some breakfast and get started on the day. We had about 12 inches at that time. There was a lot of cleaning and clearing to do so the extra help was much appreciated. By night time we had 18 inches of snow. Mike had cleared the drive once in the early evening. Chris and Kailey decided it was best to plan on staying here for the night. We watched some football then fell into bed.

Sunday we awoke to more snow. It measured 19″. Some had melted down so we’re not quite sure what the total accumulation might have been, but we decided 19″ was plenty. We knew we weren’t going to be able to vaccinate the cows, but we also needed to get a few up to watch for calving. Jesse and Brittany along with the kids were coming up at noon for lunch, fun in the snow then getting those cows up. Mike and Chris plowed paths to get the cows up. And this might be where we should have stopped the story. But, even though we should have stopped here, we couldn’t.

You see, one cow, one stinking cow, who is due January 21st (one week from tomorrow) did NOT want to cooperate. Let me set the scene for you. Kailey was stationed at the end of the drive way with the Escape. Brittany and Wyatt were going to be stationed at the corner of the two gravel roads that border our property in the truck. Avery and I were to be stationed at the corner gate making sure the cows headed south and not west on the gravel. Mike, Chris and Jesse were to sort out the cows needed and bring them through the gate. We had a plan…..a good plan at that. BUT, it was not the normal plan for bringing the cows to the house. We normally bring the cows through the pastures, across the creek and then up to the barn lots. BUT with all the snow, that route wouldn’t work.

Kailey got to her post. We all got to the corner and Mike told Brittany and Wyatt to back down the road to the corner. He forgot the pail of corn in the back of the truck and when we flagged Brittany to stop, the truck slid off the road into the ditch. Mike tried to get it out and got it stuck….completely. Brittany and Wyatt walked to the corner. Avery and I took over our corner. Mike, Chris and Jesse brought up 4 cows rather quickly. But the last two were less cooperative. Especially one…..yup, you guessed it, the one who’s due in 8 days. We could not leave her in that pasture. The weather isn’t the best yet (we still have most of the snow) and the temps are due to get frigid this weekend and, well, yes, we’re expecting MORE snow this coming weekend. Mike headed to Denver today and yesterday was the only day we could have all hands on deck. And all hands were necessary to get CBC (uncooperative cow) on the road for this mini cattle drive.

Things we learned in this process. Chris is able to drift a tractor and bale processor when chasing a cow and slamming on the brakes . Avery likes to make sure we remember she’s sitting in a truck in the ditch by yelling “Grandma” and waving every few minutes. It’s probably a good thing I took the keys out of the ignition. People will call the sheriff’s department when they see a young woman and child standing on the road in the cold. A deputy turned up and gave Brittany and Wyatt a ride up to Kailey then got Brittany back to the corner JUST IN TIME. I’m certain he was questioning our sanity at this point. We did have a moment of panic when the deputy hadn’t gotten Brittany back to the corner yet when the cows started down the road. Another neighbor helped Kailey block the entire road, making sure the pregnant lady who had a toddler with her could get them to turn. A workout in 19 inches of snow is definitely a cardio workout. Added to a 1/2 to mile walk on slick roads and, yes, we were all getting a little tired. Thankfully we didn’t turn on one another and still talking and laughing with one another at the end.

It took us much longer to get them to the house than it should have and we still had to get the truck out of the ditch, sort the cows at the house and get them all situated. We prayed a prayer of thanks, had a good supper, a rowdy game of Candy Land and even a game of Matching Sesame St. And slept soundly.

When Snow is in the Forecast

When snow is in the forecast, most people lose their minds. They rush to the grocery store and stock up like they won’t be able to get to the store again for months! I went today because I had the day off and needed to pick up frozen roll dough for a family Christmas gathering this weekend. The lady behind me declared, rather loudly, that “the shelves are empty here!”. Really? I saw the meat cases were full, as was the produce department. I noticed plenty of milk and eggs and frozen bread products and frozen veggies. I’m not sure what she was looking for.

When snow is in the forecast, drivers forget basic safety rules. Slow down, leave plenty of space between you and the other drivers, be courteous. Seems simple enough. While I didn’t have to work today and therefore didn’t have to commute to Columbia, Mike heard on the radio that traffic in Columbia was slowed down to 5 MPH due to accidents. Seriously, there was less than 3 inches of snow at the time.

When snow is in the forecast, people cancel plans. Schools let out before the first flakes fell. Stores and offices were closing early. I’ve been asked if we’re still having Christmas tomorrow. Are we still working cows this weekend? Life on the farm keeps on going no matter how much (or how little) snow we have.

When snow is in the forecast, I burn candles, bake and do laundry. Why? It adds warmth to the house. Most of what I bake I don’t eat anymore because I’m on a low carb diet. On the other hand, I’ll have clean clothes and a nice smelling house.

Lastly, when it snows, Abby, our Aussie, likes to curl up in her dog bed in the living room. And, yes, we let her. She’s almost 12 years old so she’s allowed a few more creature comforts.

Stay warm & safe.

Melinda

I Can’t Make This Up…..

I often wonder how fiction authors come up with their story lines. Some of the fiction published today is so far out there, they must have tremendous imaginations. I don’t. And so every now and then God provides me a story that I just wouldn’t be able to make up. Today, today was one of those times.

I went to work early this morning because I knew I was behind in my work. Last week I was off Monday and Tuesday for New Year’s. Wednesday I went to work but by noon was feeling “off”. By the time I got home that night I knew I was sick. I had caught the stomach virus that’s been going around. I crawled into warm clothes and two pair of socks. I had two heavy blankets covering me and my feet were still cold. I didn’t get off the couch other than to get to the bathroom until Thursday evening. Friday was better but I still took frequent 1/2 hour naps. Saturday and Sunday I was back to normal and knew I had a lot to catch up with at work. I’m not sure how many internet browser windows I had open, but knew that I had a Facebook message. I saw it was from our county sheriff, but it said just to get with him sometime – no emergency. So I thought, “Ok, I’ll get with it sometime – just not now.”

Fast forward about 30 minutes and he called our office. I’m pretty sure he freaked out the other secretary because she was quite concerned the sheriff was calling for me at work. My boss certainly helped when he told her I like to cause trouble in Audrain County. Seriously, man!

Anyway, he starts off saying it’s not an emergency and everything’s ok. We’ve been having trouble with calves sneaking through the fence over the last few weeks and I assumed the neighbor had enough and called the sheriff’s department. Sheriff Oller then went on to tell me they had recently recovered a couple of stolen 4 wheelers, a utility trailer, bale spear and wait for it…..4 round bales with unique net wrap.

“Unique net wrap?” I guess I never thought of our net wrap as unique. Apparently it is. I guess most in our area use the black net wrap, but we use a green that fades to white. The department had checked with most of the area farmers and found they either use twine or the black wrap. Could these be our bales? Were we missing 4 bales?

Now here’s the thing. We feed about 6 bales a day at this farm alone. We haul hay home from my father-in-law’s place. There’s so much hay moving around here, I certainly couldn’t tell you how many bales are at each location. He then told me they had gone to our hay barn to match the wrap. And in their opinion, it was a match, but one of us would need to confirm that it was.

I called and left a message for Mike to call me when he got off work. I gave him the sheriff’s number. He asked me where it was. “I don’t know, he didn’t say.” “Why do they think it’s ours?” “Because our wrap is unique.” “Surely we’d know if someone was stealing hay.” “It was only 4 bales, dear.” “Hmmmm. Ok, I’ll call.”

I called a friend and relayed the story to her. I was certain someone would find the humor in this. Let’s run down the day so far, the sheriff used Facebook Messenger and my work affiliation to track me down; made my co-worker wonder what I had done to have the sheriff after me at work; asked if I was missing 4 bales (out of a few hundred) and if I could identify them. Are you seeing this as funny? I was. My friend did. But then I got home and the story got even better.

“It’s our hay. I mean I’m like 99% sure it’s our hay. Same wrap, looks like ours, same size.”

“So what do we do to get it back?”

Pause….I believe I heard Chris chuckle a little at this point.

“Well, we’re not sure just yet.”

“I’m sure we have to fill out a report first, huh?”

“Well, I asked how we’re supposed to get it back and he said, ‘I’ve never had to recover hay, I’m not sure'”

“So where is it?”

Drumroll………………

“IN TOWN! Some meth head stole it to sell it for money.”

“In TOWN?!?!?!?”

See, I told you, I can’t make this up. I’m not sure just who this person thought was going to buy big round bales of hay from him in town on a street that we’re not sure we can get a trailer on. Oh, wait, he probably wasn’t thinking. And honestly, if you’re trying to steal something to resell, wouldn’t you find something less obvious to hide in your yard IN TOWN?!?!?!

Now I’m sitting here wondering if I could somehow come up with a plan to make this person work off the debt he owes us. Dad, I may need some advice on how to work that. One winter Mike needed a new pair of coveralls. We were poor newlyweds so Dad told him he would buy Mike a pair and let him work it off by cutting wood with him that winter. I think Mike cut wood all winter for that pair of coveralls. We have a feed lot that needs cleaning (by hand of course) and a bull run, calving shed and calf pens to start. Unfortunately, that may be considered too harsh in today’s society……but I bet they’d never steal again. And by the way, cameras will be installed by the weekend in the hay barn so if anyone wants to come try again, we’ll have a lovely picture of you for the sheriff. Consider it your free portrait – a pre-mug shot, if you will.

Melinda

Things Most Don’t Know About Farm Women

While I got a bit of a late start this morning, I was still up and had 3 rooms changed over from Christmas decorations to more of a winter decoration theme. A little tidying of the house and I decided I deserved a little break. Today’s the first day I’ve felt like being very productive after a bout with a stomach virus. So glad to be feeling up to getting my house back in order. Anyway, back to the story. On my break I discovered a show entitled “Girl Meets Farm”. The young cook lives on a farm on the Minnesota – North Dakota boarder. She moved there from New York to live on the farm with her new husband.

The first episode I watched was her delivering a sandwich to the farm shop. Awww, isn’t that sweet?

The second episode had her making a brunch recipe when she said, “This is a great dish because it can simmer for 10 minutes or an hour, depending on how long your farmer husband’s ‘just a minute’ is.” I had to chuckle at that one.

The third episode had her making some dessert bars that she pointed out travel well to and in the tractor. I think I’m beginning to like this girl.

You see, those of us raised in ag take all these things for granted. We assume everyone’s lives are just as unpredictable and chaotic as ours. But you know what? They’re not. I recently sat in a meeting where something was being planned for just an hour earlier on a Sunday morning. One person in the meeting said, “People will just need to get out of bed an hour earlier to get here.” I looked around the room and realized I was in the minority here but I had been up since 5 am and barely made the meeting. Yes, I had been up over 4 hours but life on the farm is never predictable. So, what sets Farm Women apart from many others?

1. As I stated above, we have to be ready to adapt our times. The plan is the plan as long as something doesn’t happen to change the plan. Want to know what we can’t plan a year in advance? Because that cow will decided to have calving issues that day. It will rain the entire week before we planned on going away, delaying planting, haying, harvesting, whatever. There are very few days that are etched in stone in our calendars. We set goal dates and work toward those, but exact days are tough.

2. We have to be able to adapt our meal plans. See the recap of episode 2. I’ve come to realize the value of browning several pounds of burger at once. This means on the days we have unexpected company or help, I can pull out some extra burger and come up with a plan B or C or X. It also takes nearly an hour to make the trip to the grocery store, get what’s needed and get back home. This is also why I have gone to doing much of my grocery shopping in the morning before I head to the town job. Very few people want to be in the grocery store at 6:30 am. My daughter-in-law has come to the point she no longer asks me how much of something to add to a recipe and says, “I know, I know, enough to taste good.” We adapt. I’ve been known to use a mason jar lid ring for a biscuit or cookie cutter.

3. Kids learn that they have to adapt at an early age. A few years ago when we were cleaning out some of barn stalls, we discovered some buried toddler toys. Stop for just a minute and think about that. We discovered toddler toys when our boys were young adults (like 18 and 20) and we had no grandkids yet. You see, when our sons were little, Mike worked evenings at his job in town at the Brick Plant. Therefore, when I had to do evening chores, I would put the boys in one of the stalls with some toys to keep them both safe and occupied.

4. Many times, farm women don’t ask for help, because they think everyone’s just as far in over their heads as they are. I remember the days of toddlers and chores and housework and on and on. That’s why I’m always ready to offer the daughters-in-law a day off from the kids, husbands or farm. Sometimes you just need to step away. We’re at the stage of life that we’re no longer busy every night with kids’ events. We do stay busy with farm work, but if we’re too busy we can just say no to other commitments.

5. We have an usual vocabulary and sense of humor. Dinner time discussions of scours (bovine diarrhea), prolapses, tumors, etc. aren’t normally considered acceptable, but are commonplace here. Laughing at someone falling on the ice or losing a boot in the mud with an upset cow coming at them……well, some would find that cruel, but some of us find it quite humorous. I feel like I should apologize. When you’re dealing with income statements that don’t quite balance for the last few years, mysterious illnesses that affect the herd and then personal health issues besides, you’ve got to find something to laugh at.

Hope you have an amazing day that goes (somewhat) according to plan.

Melinda

Helping the Helpers

I got a call today from a good friend saying she had been diagnosed as clinically depressed. She’s evaluating her options for treatment including medications and therapy. And that one phone call got me to thinking….How do we help the helpers?

I find it interesting that I had answered a questionnaire earlier this morning about what my life group does together outside of our regular meetings. I answered we don’t schedule extra get togethers due to the fact that my group is full of helpers – helpers in our churches, communities, schools and workplaces. So how do these two parts of my day tie together?

I’m left wondering what we can do to help the helpers in our lives. You know the ones I’m talking about. They never ask for help. They’re so busy taking care of everyone else that they forget to take care of themselves. Can I share a few ideas with you?

1. Pray for them. I have challenged our women’s ministry to pick one woman this month and pray for her daily. They’re not to reveal whom they’re praying for and just watch for the difference that even unknown prayers make.

2. Lend an ear. I have a few folks that I can call or message and just let loose with. There are days I’m positive that my husband is eternally grateful to those folks.

3. Drop off a meal or send them a gift card for a meal to be delivered. Now I realize many of my friends live outside the delivery area of most restaurants. That being said, I’m sure there’s a teenager or a retiree who would be willing to deliver a meal for a few bucks. Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed you can’t even think about what to fix for a meal or even remember to thaw meat out for dinner.

4. Ship them a care package. If you know me, you know that Amazon Prime is my lifeline. Last year a friend had cancer. Another friend had put together a list of chemo care items. Know someone who has a new baby? How about some household essentials like toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, paper plates? Know someone who’s just completely overwhelmed? How about putting together a spa kit and a meal. Something to say you care.

5. Send them a note or a card. Here’s one that I fail at quite often. I’m known for text messages but rarely do I get cards or notes sent. I do know the notes people have sent me are treasured. I actually have a file in our filing cabinet titled the “Warm Fuzzy” file. It’s those notes that build me up on days when I need to be reminded of my purpose. I have kept some emails as well. They’re like little rays of sunshine on a gloomy day.

6. Share resources with them. Do you know a good therapist? Counselor? Pastor? Online resource? Doctor? Group? Share these with others. When you’re not sure how to cope with what’s going on, looking for help can be even more daunting. Getting a good referral from someone who knows you well is more valuable than anything else.

7. Offer to help them with a task. Do you enjoy organizing? Maybe they could use your help in some area of their house, their schedule or just life in general. Enjoy cleaning? Maybe you could help them deep clean one or two areas of their home. Yard work needs done? Christmas decorations need taken down? Chores need done at certain times? Could you run errands for them? Care for the kids while they do some errands alone?

Do you have other suggestions to add? How do you help the helpers in your life?

2019 The January Chapter Begins

Here we are at the beginning of another year of adventures. I hope that as we travel along through the calendar pages, you might get to know us a little better and that something you read here might give you hope, peace, confidence or mercy for yourself or those around you. So join me, won’t you?

January 1 found us sleeping in until 6:30. Like most years, we’ll be celebrating Christmas with Mike’s parents, siblings and the nieces and nephews today. Not all will get to make it this year as there’s a new great nephew in Texas. A couple have to work. A couple are sick. I think I counted 36 people ranging from 16 months to 82 years! This year we’re doing soups and sandwich stuff with appetizers and desserts. Mike was lamenting over the fact that it’s just not Christmas without hot ham & cheese sandwiches, baked spaghetti and potatoes with kaneflies. I guess I know what I need to fix for him soon. I volunteered to bring cheeseburger soup. I modified the recipe a little to make it a little more me.

Cheeseburger Soup

2 pounds burger browned

Garlic powder and onion powder sprinkled over meat for seasoning

1 tsp basil

1 tsp parsley

1 tsp celery seed (I like the flavor of a little celery but not the texture of celery)

4 potatoes peeled and diced

1 onion diced

About 15 or 20 baby carrots minced or grated (I used the Tupperware processor thing to make them into tiny bits that the kids couldn’t identify.)

32 oz chicken broth (can also use beef broth but I was out of beef so chicken it was)

1 brick of Velveeta cheese

1 brick of cream cheese

Throw all but the Velveeta and cream cheeses into the crock pot and cook on high for about 4 hours. Cut the Velveeta and cream cheeses into smaller chunks and drop them into the crock pot. Return to high for an additional 2 plus hours. Stir prior to serving.

There wasn’t a drop of this soup left after lunch, so I’d say it was a hit.

Mike and Chris got chores done and hay fed to all the cows so we could head over to Mike’s parent’s a little earlier to help with set up. We got there and discovered Jesse had come over early to help get everything ready. Brittany and Avery were sick with a stomach virus that’s running around our area so they stayed home. Wyatt has obviously been moving too fast for this to catch him yet. He was wound for sound and ready to eat about half an hour before the rest of the crew was ready. I know he had a couple of pieces of summer sausage, a chocolate cookie coated in powder sugar and a piece of peanut butter fudge as his “appetizers”. We gathered, prayed and ate. And ate and ate. Mike and I washed up the silverware and the emptied dishes. We opened gifts, played games and just visited in general. I watched a young great nephew eat an Oreo ball on the run, burning off the calories as he went. I watched a couple of early elementary kids debate politics. I listened to young adults talk about their plans for the future. I watched the middle generation watch their “kids” and wonder where the years went – missing the simpler times and yet enjoying this stage of having adult kids. And I watched the oldest generation take it all in – treasuring all the memories being made. It was a vey good Christmas.

We got a call midway through opening gifts from my dad. He had a cow who had calved and the calf needed some help. Jesse, Brittany and Avery went to help drench the calf and bring it home with them. Mike and Chris did evening chores and brought home a load of hay. Wyatt, Kailey and I stayed and played with play dough (making snakes!) and eating cookies. We finished off the night playing a round of Redneck Life. Kailey was the winner with all her teeth and even a little cash left at the end. Many laughs were had while playing the game. It was a very good Christmas celebration.