Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Draining the Bunk

In 48 hours we have gone from a purebred cattle operation to a full-blown mud ranch. 

It really is amazing what 3+ inches of rain can do to a place in such a short amount of time. Nothing looks pleasant, everything is brown, and everyone moves slower than normal – humans included.

The mud doesn’t bother the kids, of course, until they’re face down in it. Otherwise, they appreciate puddles and endless brown paints to smear on the side of vehicles. 

I buckled them into the Kubota last evening to do chores and began filling buckets of feed from the bin. Because of the depth of the mud, I opted to carry buckets everywhere rather than attempt to drive an ATV through it. I let the kids know I was going to start carrying buckets and they could watch but they were not to go anywhere. This instruction was easier before Caroline learned how to undo seatbelts on her and her brother. 

I got about twenty yards into a lot when the mud got really bad; soupy, deep, bad. My pace slowed as every step was harder to lift my leg out of. I suddenly heard a strange noise coming from back in the barn lot. I stopped in my tracks and listened – it was Caroline, but what was she screaming?

“Gooooo Mommy! Don’t get your feet stuck!” Over and over again. I had my own personal cheerleader for MudFest 2020. That somehow made me stronger. 

Fifteen minutes later we moved over to the next lot where we feed our steers. I began carrying the buckets to the metal feed bunk and arrived to find it had standing water in it. The drain holes on each end of the bunk were plugged by sediment; remnants of feed, hay chaff, or mud that one of the stock had flipped into the feeder. I removed my glove and ran my hand along the inside of the bunk, finding the plugged hole. As soon as I cleared the blockage, brown water began draining from the bunk. The rain was still coming down steadily while I was draining this water, but I wanted to ensure it drained completely before putting anymore feed into the wet bunk, as cattle don’t like to drink their dinner. I stood in the rain and let it unload while the kids watched from afar. 

In those long minutes (maybe four, but it felt much longer), I thought about the things that take up space in life that need to go away so something better can fill it. 

Our house, especially after the holidays, has become a point of stress for me. Because I have a terribly hard time tossing anything related to our children, we now have double the toys any two kids could play with. We have books we haven’t read in months, but I can’t toss them because they bring back a special memory of two sets of footie pajamas on my exhausted lap. We have art brought home from Sunday school where Jesus’ head is missing because someone was curious and teething, and I cannot put that piece of paper in the trash. Don’t get me started on tiny tractors with only two tires remaining.

Then I thought about how I spend my time. I should probably cut out Facebook, but then how would I know what my second cousin twice removed had for supper? I should probably cut out Pinterest, but then how would I find hundreds of recipes for the four open containers of dry mustard I have in my kitchen cupboard?

What about you? 

Is there anything in your life, filling so much space or your precious time, that the things that bring you peace can’t fit in? Maybe it is clutter, knick-knacks you never even dust, clothes you’ve not worn in a year, or shoes that hurt your feet. Maybe it is time-wasters such as apps that consume your time and attention, taking you away from life happening right in front of you. Or perhaps, even, it is simply people who drain you, rather than fill you up. 

It’s ok to pull the plug on anything that is filling your bunk that shouldn’t be there. Could now be the time to finally make room for what truly belongs?

Of course, I pen this with a stack of Country Living magazines dating back to 2016, the year I had Caroline. I have saved them with great intention to “get back to them when things slow down.” 

When I have more time. 

Who am I kidding? I’m writing a newspaper column from a cattle pen in the pouring rain.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Draft

Well, I survived the holidays, but two poinsettias and my jeans did not. 

I pen this on January 4th. How can two plants die and that many pounds be gained in such a short period, you ask? Come to the farm and I'll coach you. We've been living on cheeseball, black coffee and FFA fruit for 15 days. Turns out, poinsettias hate black coffee. And children under 4 only eat the bacon off cheeseball. Then Mom is left to clean up the rest. 

I love a challenge.

Things really began going south when I was washing the bacon grease off a pan and felt wind blowing through my hair. The kids were playing in the living room and Cody was leafing through an Angus Journal in his chair. He was supposed to be watching the children.

"Everybody STOP" I yelled. "Someone has left a door or window open," I continued while drying my hands on a dishtowel. I have a genetic advantage that allows me to feel minimal drafts of air move through areas where they should not. 

I once toured the White House at Christmas in 2007 and let the tour guide know the Map Room had a draft coming from the most northwest wall. That sure cut my tour short, but I do hope it saved Barack Obama a few bucks after he moved in. 

As it turns out, I was right about someone in my family leaving a door open. 

I turned away from the kitchen sink to find my beautiful, tiny, biting 1 1/2-year-old toe-head son standing (STANDING!) in the refrigerator with the door wide open. He was holding the middle shelf with his left hand, waving his right hand to the top shelf, trying to reach the blueberries. 

Of all things he had the audacity to waste energy on, he picked blueberries? There were buckeyes made by my mother two inches to the right. Rookie mistake. One day he'll learn. 

Of course, after quickly removing him from the Frigidaire, swatting his diaper-padded bottom in the same way one might swat a fly which had a pet name, I escorted that little boy into the living room. Then I really let his dad have it. 

I may have mentioned things such as:
You had one job. 
Cyrus not only left the room, but he also found chaos in another. 
He was STANDING IN the refrigerator. 
He was probably there for 15 minutes, I don't really know, I was busy washing dishes. 
We’re so lucky he didn’t open all the salad dressings and spray V8 in every direction!
What if he would have gotten a concussion?

After my tirade, I looked at my beloved husband. 

Boy, has he got some nerve. He calmly responded with, "If it is any consolation, I sold our grain bin on Facebook 5 minutes ago. At the price we hoped for." 

I have never wanted to kiss and kill someone at the same time, until this moment. 

That night I put both kids in fleece footie pajamas, covered them in handmade quilts and wiped noses that were not running. I checked them for hypothermia-like symptoms, fed them only milk that had been warmed and asked both if they'd like to sleep in their favorite toboggan. 

They both declined. They’re tough as nails, to brave the 69-degree second floor. 

Once they were both soundly asleep, I checked the second-floor windows for a draft, and found none. I went downstairs and checked under the bathroom sink because my feet get chilly while starting coffee in the morning, behind the clothes dryer because I don’t trust an external vent that large and every west window. All appeared well sealed. The new year draft did, in fact, only come from an open refrigerator door from a curious toddler. How do you cure curiosity and hunger from a toddler in order to preserve the heating of a farmhouse? I guess I need to read to him more often and I’ll probably go make another cheeseball after I wrap this up.  

I suppose I could just up the thermostat, but that costs too much money.