The Family that Hays Together

Last weekend was a momentous weekend in my years on the farm.

It all started with knowing Dad, Mandy, and the farmer would be gathering up all the square bales from a neighboring farm we cut hay off of and split between the owner and ourselves. So, I was aware of what Saturday’s plans were; I just wasn’t aware of what MY plans were until my dad informed me Friday night that I would be driving. Driving meaning I would pull the trailer with the truck as the rest of them walked along beside, picked up the square bales, and hefted them onto the trailer. Sounded simple enough even though I’d never done anything like that before.

So, what do I do? Arrive ready to do it straight up farm girl.
20160924_1157501Dad has to hook up the trailer and tells me to go ahead and drive the truck to the field. Since he’s in the passenger seat, I’m already feeling a fair amount of anxiety–because I have a good feeling he’s not going to get in the driver’s seat and back the honkin’ truck up to the trailer himself.

Me: “Are you going to back up to the trailer?”

Dad: “No, I’m going to coach you.

Oh no…said the city girl who 1) is not an expert backer and 2) cannot read hand motions or follow directions.

The farmer was already headed down the dirt road and saw us–or more importantly me in the driver’s seat–cross the road into the field. He later told me he wished he could have stopped and watched because he knew it would be good. Brat.

So, he has me swing around to where the hind end of the truck is in front of the trailer, hops out, and proceeds to wave me on back.

“Ok, straighten up a little! 

I straighten.

Straighten up your wheels!” 

I am straight.

“Straighter! Turn your wheels to the left!”

How is that straight?? He’s walking towards the driver’s side window.

Pointing at the steering wheel, he says: “When “Ford” is straight in front of you, you are straight.”

It wasn’t. I was looking at the tires the whole time.

Ok, so now that we got that part accomplished, he continues to hand motion me back ward and then throws up the fist that means stop. Well, I found that the difference between my husband’s fist and my dad’s fist is that Dad means for you to slam on the brakes while my husband means an easier stop.

Therefore, I have to pull forward again.

I think we did that about 3 times before Dad said, “Two inches. That’s all we need. Two inches.”

Finally, we got it as Mandy was pulling into the field on the side by side. Dad waves and points at the truck like “HA HA! Isn’t this a kick in the head?” Her expression mirrored his.

Little did I know he was going to continue to make me drive. He hopped back into the passenger seat and by this time, I’m being more vocal about my anxiety. “Dad, I’ve never done this before! I’ m going to take out every fence post from here to there! I’m not coachable!”

Long story short, I’ve watched my husband more than I realized, swung wide where I needed to, used my mirrors, and trusted Dad to tell me how best to maneuver through tight spots.

So, now it was my turn to learn what “bucking bales” was all about.

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Even though it was 94 degrees outside, look how beautiful it is! It was my job to slowly drive the trailer down the lines of square bales so all the farmer and Mandy had to do was walk along and throw the bales on the trailer. Then, Dad grabbed them–as I’m continuing to drive, mind you–and stacked them. He may be eeking ever closely to 60, but he’s still spritely. Staying on two feet while stacking 60 lb. bales on a moving vehicle is definitely for the sure-footed.

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I’m just guessing here, but the “bucking” part seemed to have to do with your knee motion as you heft the bale onto  the trailer. You use your knee for an extra nudge up.

You don’t know how many times I giggled thinking about making the farmer chase the trailer with one of those bales. If Dad and Mandy hadn’t been working like dogs themselves, I totally would have done it. Don’t feel bad for him. He’s ornery.

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There’s Mandy. I got the cush job, for sure. She’s She-ra.

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Fun fact: Mandy did not grow up on a farm and had no experience with farming until she met my dad. And yet here she is, buckin’ bales and later shouting “GIRL POWER!!” as she jumped out of the truck after grabbing a quick drink of water. I’m feelin’ it, man. I’m driving the diesel in 4-low with a trailer full of hay behind me.

The trailer soon grew as full and high as it could get. I gladly hopped out of the truck and into the backseat so Dad could drive. I wasn’t feeling so confident in my newfound skills to think I could maneuver the squirrely path back to the highway without losing half the bales. In no way did I want to be the person that made all this hard work for naught.

And when Dad lost about 8 bales in a ditch along said squirrely path, I was just thankful it wasn’t me.

We arrive back at my Dad’s barn where the hay will be stored…

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and go to work undoing all the work we did before. And by we, I mean not me. I have the VERY important job of making sure all of this gets documented.

First, one must pick up the bale.

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Then, one must throw it into the barn where the man in black awaits…

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to stack it all over again.

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Mandy climbed to the top of the heap to continue to push bales down for the farmer to throw. He likes to throw stuff.

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In other news, MUSCLESSSS!!!! I’m likin’ my job right about now…

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The sweaty assembly line. Mandy may or may not have tried to take my beloved out a couple times with a flying hay bale. Don’t feel bad for him. He’s ornery.

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Sweaty sweeper. Boots were not working in anyone’s favor that day. If you look at the two above photos, you’ll see that the truck and trailer is practically parked up a cliff. Slick hay + very worn boots = an extra element of fun while working. Sliding around like they were on slick floors with socks was not part of the objective that day. So, we look like OCD farmers instead. Something appears to have my dad very perplexed here.

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Mandy doesn’t take herself too seriously. That’s one of the things I like about her. Are we surfing or working here? Well, both…in an attempt to keep herself from sliding off all the bales straight into the farmer. I personally think Mandy and I add a lot of fun to the workplace. They wouldn’t know what to do without us. No laughter. No shenanigans. Possibly more productivity. I mean, can you imagine?

But seriously, Mandy’s one of the hardest working women I know.

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Last one of that load! Did I mention that I really like my job? This view never gets old. 😉

We still had some bales left to load, so back to the neighbors for the rest of them.

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After those were loaded, Dad and the farmer had some straggler hay in the corners of the field.

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In goes the hay, out comes a square bale.

 

The farmer hopped in one tractor and Dad had to drive this one out. Mandy was in the passenger seat of the truck. Who does this leave driving the truck with a trailer load of hay down the squirrely path to the highway? ME! This is bad…this is very, very bad.

But, you know what? I made it. I made it the whole way. Without losing ONE bale which totally showed my Dad up.

It mattered in no way that they double strapped everything that time.

Winning’s winning.

It was a good day.

 

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Puddle Buddies

We had a puddle jumping session a few nights ago. My sister-in-law, Staci, is visiting along with my two nephews and naturally anytime there’s a good rain, puddles are going to happen.

Where there are puddles there will be muddy children.

Here’s the cast of characters:

Taegan:

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The oldest of the four and instigator of all things ornery. Look at those eyes. Mischief. Intelligence in spades. Spirit. Sparkle. Pray hard for us.

Drayson:

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Rough and tumble, fearless, all boy. There’s very few daring things I haven’t seen this little guy attempt. But, look at that sweet, mud-splattered face.

Carson:

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Carson has always been a calm, quiet type (at least around me). He’s shy, sweet, and is usually more content to observe from the sidelines  (sidelines meaning wherever his mommy is). Give him a rock and a stick and he’s good!

Luxe:

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Prissy. Purposeful. Pint-sized sweetness with a smidge of sass. Puppy dog eyes at level 10. Curls for days. Lover of all things cute and cuddly. This was taken after one too many times of being splashed in the face with mud. That’s a look of “Mommy, PLEASE! Can’t a girl get a little time in the mud puddle by herself??”

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To start things off, though, we’re all still relatively clean. Testing the waters. Onesies and shorts are remaining mostly white.

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Sticks and rocks again…Boy, they’re just the most interesting things!

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A good, dry time is being had by all.

And then…

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there were four.

Taegan thought a little too much good, clean fun was being had. If you’ve been following along over the years, you know my eldest has no problem getting as absolutely filthy as she can get.

Exhibit A.

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Exhibit B.

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“Walk with your nose in the air, little lady…even though there’s dirt all over your hiney.”

 

And the grand finale.

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“Dirt Road Camo”

Yeah.

Naturally, she took it up on herself to show everyone the joys of getting a run at the puddle from above in order to land in it with as much splash as possible.

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The race was on after that between Taegan and Drayson to see who could make the biggest splash.dsc_4330

 

On the days she’s not being heart-meltingly sweet and responsible, it’s this:

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A perfectly timed jump just to splash Little Sis. Even though I felt kinda bad for Luxe, I knew exactly what these kinds of antics do in the reward centers of an older sister’s brain. Let’s all just hope this is as bad as it gets and I don’t pay dearly for my raising…

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Whew! I finally got it to myself.”

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“Ohhhh, I see…feelin’ a little bad now, aren’t we?” Meanwhile, I can’t appreciate Luxe more for bringing out the affectionate side of Taegan. Not only does Luxe get the hugs and kisses that she dearly loves and bestows on all of us, but the farmer and I get to enjoy a few extra from Taegan, as well. That wasn’t the case before Luxe. You were lucky to get to steal them. “Hey, Mommy, is it just me…or would you say I won this?”

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At this point, I’m not sure Drayson’s boots are being effective at their job.

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Dirt roads…country kids…rain…boots…and a love of mud = puddle buddies.

Things to Watch Out For on the Farm

The girls and I hopped in the truck this morning for a ride along with the farmer as he fed. I brought my camera along today because sitting in the house on these cold, drab days washing dishes, “catching up” on laundry (2 farm kids and a husband that is splattered with manure daily and I have the reel of “This is the song that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends” on replay in my head except it’s with laundry), and feeding hungry kids and a husband all at different times leaves this mama feeling a little uninspired sometimes. So, when I feel uninspired, I go out looking for inspiration. Granted, it’s a little more difficult with winter not being the most beautiful of seasons, but it always there if I’m looking. 🙂 Today, it came in the form of literally “looking.” Or maybe I should say “watching.”

The first stop on our feeding rounds is the heifers and the not-so-favorite bull.
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This is Instinct. He’s two years old. Give him another year and he’ll be a muscled up, mature Jersey. Any bull is unpredictable. We always operate with caution no matter which breed of bull we’re dealing with, but Jerseys have a reputation for being extra ornery. Given half a chance, this dude will clean. your. clock. He’s a beautiful safety hazard. If Instinct were to tell you a little bit about his likes and dislikes, here’s what he would say:

“Hi, my name is Instinct, and I like my grain. Quickly empty it into the feed bunk and we’ll have no trouble here. Disclaimer: I may or may not bristle up, bellow, and paw the ground at you while you empty the feed. Depends on the day. Depends on my mood. Should you find yourself on the other side of this fence with me, my “instinct” to show you who’s boss around here will no doubt manifest itself. Drive that tractor through my field and I will exercise my right to headbutt the hay bales on the front end loader. Try…just try to put one of my lady friends in the squeeze chute and that mess of metal and I will throw down! Oh, and after I’m done with this grain, I will show you how creative I can be with feed bunk placement. I fancy metal art projects. I DON’T fancy people.”

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We caution anyone that comes to the farm: Watch out for Instinct.

Shortly after, we drove through my dad’s pasture to check his beef cows.

Lot’s of new babies are being born and, that being said, you really have to watch out for little black blobs in tall grass.

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We scoured the ground while driving through the field so as not to run over a calf and look what we found!

One must always watch out for hidden calves.

And then one must always watch out for mamas.

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It goes back to that whole “cleaning your clock” idea. Jerseys are so used to being messed with and their natures are usually docile and gentle. Beef cows, on the other hand, can make for some entertaining stories every once in a while. For example, the farmer got chased back into his truck yesterday after trying to find out the gender of a new calf. His truck barely got out unscathed. Dents in farm trucks are a common occurrence. That mama apparently wants her calf’s gender to remain a secret. (SO wish I had been there and seen that!)

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The last thing that we always have to watch out for are these two. They might be little girls, but they are FEARLESS. No concept of danger = turning Daddy into a nervous wreck, sometimes. But, neither one of us would trade raising them in the country on a farm. Teaching them to watch out for things…and for each other…will come.

Back To School Disclaimers

Today started the first day of Taegan’s last year of preschool. She was so excited!

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This little girl loves school.

Taegan’s learned a lot over the summer being on the farm with us every day. This summer she took much more of an interest in helping her dad. Morning and night, she could be found in the dairy barn milking, shoveling manure, spraying manure off the walkways, bottle feeding calves, doctoring cows/calves for various illnesses, riding around with the farmer feeding, and sitting in a chair watching as crops were cut and baled. She’s been taking it all in.

That being said, here’s my disclaimer to her teachers this year: If the words “We had to breed last night” come out of her mouth, please don’t be alarmed. The farmer is trying to teach her to substitute “breed” with “AI,” but it hasn’t stuck yet.

And if she tells you that she milks 81 goats and that sometimes she has to treat them for “masatitis” with an antibiotic called “Colitis,” just go with it.  Once in a while, she has to take a few of those goats to the sale barn for “rotten foot,” rather than foot rot.

She tried to milk her calf, Triumph, by hand a few weeks back and barely got her nose out of the way before Triumph tried to knock her flat. We had to tell her that you can’t milk calves and I think Triumph’s response has detoured any other attempts.

Last year, she told her teachers that “Daddy goes into the bathroom and screams!” They died laughing and then said, “Do tell us more!” This prompted the farmer’s sister to give him a call and say, “Hey, I’m on my way down, but I’ve got to stop at Wal-Mart first. Just thought I’d call and see if you need me to pick up some stool softeners or anything.” Taegan likes to throw him under the bus, most of the time, and all he can do is run his hands over his face and just shake his head.

We have no idea where that came from.

And I didn’t come out unscathed last year, either. She told her teachers that I fed her dog poop. Her teacher said, “I am positive your mommy doesn’t feed you dog poop.” Taegan’s response: “Well, it tastes like it.”

Thanks, love. You’re a real peach.

Honestly, we have no earthly idea what will come out of this child’s mouth from one minute to the next, so if you seek clarification about something, PLEASE ask. Our reputations might depend on it.

Yesterday, we just enjoyed our last day of summer vacation on the farm with the normal day-to-day stuff. Taegan helped the farmer milk that morning and then we both rode around with him while he fed. After that, we worked out in the yard and did other things that needed doing.

The day always goes by fast and then it’s time to milk again.

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Your inspirational quote for this fine Wednesday is: When life gives you manure, you shovel it.

You’re welcome.

And, obviously, Taegan does this with a smile on her face because, goodness knows, there’s plenty of manure.

Let me just say that this  qualifies as “clean” compared to what she will look like when milking is done.

This is more like it after.

I see this coming across the yard at me and I want to go lock myself in a closet and suck my thumb.

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She likes to greet the girls as they file into the holding pen.

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And work out a little, too.

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Our cattle honestly don’t know what to think of this little creature.

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She doesn’t need a horse to be a cowgirl.

Later that evening, I walked outside to find her freeing all the bottle calves.

It just might get a little boring around here during the day.

 

Breauna

June-July: A List

Whew! This summer has been crazier than any other summer I think I’ve experienced. And by crazier, I mean BUSY. And by busy I mean, my poor little blog takes the back burner more than I would like.

Today, I’m going to attempt to squeeze June-July into one post.

1. I’ve been working 2 days a week at the law firm I work for in the city. I love the job, but I do not love the 2.5-3 hours I spend on the road getting there and back. And see, my right foot is kind of on the heavy side and I’m all about efficiency, so I’m waiting for the day when I become both an employee and a client.

2. After returning from Orange Beach, we had the Tri-County Fair to go to. This is Taegan leading her calf, Triumph, into the barn.

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She’s looking less and less like a toddler every day, which means I catch myself just staring at her while wave after nostalgic wave rolls through me all the while trying to picture who she’ll be when she grows up…

WAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!

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She had a great time and made new friends. Some human, some bovine.

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Naturally, she and Triumph won first place.

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(Little secret: It helps when you have absolutely no competition. Zero.)

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A blue ribbon, a new lead rope, and a good friend.

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Because of Triumph’s star status and her new position as playmate, she gets the privilege of just running free in our yard. I look out the window and there’s Triumph just walking around, picking grass, looking in windows, chasing Banjo, or being led around by Taegan. (She still gets “showed” on a daily basis). Basically, Triumph is now a pet.

She sometimes gets tired of being led around and runs into the brush and weeds. This occurred a few weeks back. Never fear, though. I’m definitely not raising a dummy.

Who does one call when a cow won’t come out of the brush and weeds?

That’s right…Banjo.

I stepped out on the deck and witnessed this: Triumph had made it impossible for Taegan to get to her, so I heard Taegan yell, “Banjo!”

Dun-Dun-DAAAHHH! He really does need a cape.

He runs to her and looks at her like, “What ya want me to do?” She says, “Go get it!” Trust me, you don’t have to tell him twice. He lives for this. He bounds off barking and carrying on, gets behind the calf, and drives her straight to Taegan.

I was totally enthralled. The intelligence of both my daughter and her dog…I couldn’t do anything but laugh and then go call her dad.

Triumph doesn’t run into the brush anymore. And Taegan really doesn’t need a lead strap for Triumph to follow her around now. She just does it.

And Banjo gets to lay in the shade and enjoy some reprieve.

For now.

(Note about Banjo: I mentioned that we were sending him to get trained a few posts back. Weeeeellll, it didn’t go so well. See, we wanted him to learn how to herd. Like, go get the cows and bring them all to the barn for us. Long story short, he got kicked out of herding school. You should have witnessed my husband. The disappointment. The anguish. The embarrassment. Blue Heelers are what the trainer called “drivers.” Border Collie’s are “herders.”She told us up-front that she didn’t know if he would do it, but she’d give it a try. Yeah…no. But you know what? He’s still very useful around here. As a playmate, as entertainment, as a guard dog, and as a helper. Taegan obviously knows what he’s good at and when the farmer is out rounding up the girls to go the barn and he has one that just doesn’t care about going, all he has to say is, “Where’s Banjo?” and she’ll start moving right along. She doesn’t think we really need to go to extremes, now, do we? They’d rather him not be around.)

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Getting a picture of all of our kids even looking at the camera is impossible, but they all really enjoy this time of year. It’s a lot of work getting these calves ready and they (and their parents) put a lot of time into preparing. My sister-in-law, Tanna, was the one that really worked hard with Taegan and her kids and we’re glad because Taegan probably wouldn’t show at all if it wasn’t for her. Thank you, Tanna!

There’s a lot more over the last couple of months to tell you about, but I’ve got to take Taegan to swim lessons, so I’ll just have to write more throughout the following days. Stay tuned.

 

To be continued…

 

Breauna