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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Country Blues: A Journal Entry

I’m not having a “rainbows and sunshine” kind of day. Literally and figuratively. For one, it’s cloudy, windy, and a random raindrop can be felt when you walk outside. I love the rain, but today it’s only lending to my melancholy because I’m having an “I feel isolated and miss my family/friends” kind of day. To tell you I didn’t have these kinds of days from time to time would be dishonest. And even though I keep this blog lighthearted and fun, let’s be real here: Life is not always so. There are things I want to do, people I want to see, favors from long ago  I want to return that are not always possible because I live a good distance from where I’m needed sometimes. When in these moods, I try to give myself a pep talk that goes something like this: “It is what it is, Breauna. You are where you are. You are way out here because that’s where God wants you–for now or forever. You can’t always save the day. You just have to do the best you can do.” And then I do my best to remember the wonderful perks that arise out of my current circumstances:

1. I am far away. I’m far away from all the bad things that come with city life. I’m far away from family and friends, but that just makes the time I do get to spend with them that much sweeter. I treasure it because I don’t get opportunity to take it for granted.

2. I get to stay at home with my daughter. I get to sit in the living room floor and play board games. I get to teach her. If my husband didn’t dairy farm, I don’t know that I would have the opportunity to do all of that  and I feel that it is so important. On top of that, when I’m needed somewhere, I don’t always have the ability to get there quickly, but at least I have the opportunity to get there. I wouldn’t even be able to entertain the idea if I worked.

3. Not only do I get to stay at home with my daughter, but I get to see my husband on and off throughout the day. Once in awhile, he might have time for a project I have in mind and we get to work on it together. Every bit of progress around here is ours and there’s reward in that.

4. A look out the window is to see the glory of God and His great blessing. The pastures, the hills, the flowers, the cattle, the buildings that help my husband provide for us like he does… The list goes on and on. Living off the land and relying on nothing but hard work and faith brings a person closer to God. It has for the both of us and I hope that it can only rub off on Peanut, as well. We’ve hit our hard times in farming, but the blessings far outweigh the troubles.

5. A man doing something he loves, knows, and is good at it is something to see. My heart swells knowing that the farmer finally feels like he’s doing what he was meant to do. I said earlier that “I’m where I am because that’s where God wants me to be.” Well, the same can be said of my husband and… wherever he goes, I will go.

6. I wouldn’t have opportunity to write about country life if we didn’t live in it.

7. I would never have known that I really enjoyed photography because I would never have had the opportunity to play. Country life inspires me. It makes me want to take the pictures. And the pictures make me want to write the stories.

8. We’d probably never have a Blue Heeler named Banjo if we lived in the city. For one, they need a lot of space. Two, his name just wouldn’t make as much sense. I remember the first time the farmer told the staff at the feed store why his name was Banjo: “Breauna named him. Pretty sure she thought there were some scenes reminiscent of Deliverance down here.” I wanted to crawl in a hole. Fortunately, they thought it was quite funny.

I know I’m leaving all kinds of things out, but I already feel better. Hopefully, some of it inspires you to remember what your blessings are on a “down” day, even though they might be different than mine. In fact, leave me a comment. What helps you on a melancholy day? What are things you wouldn’t get to experience if your circumstances were different?

Thanks for the therapy session. 🙂

Breauna

Our Cows (Silly and Serious)

If you follow along with my posts, I’m sure you’re well aware that we milk Jerseys at our farm. But, I’ve yet to introduce you to some of them. Most of them have names and they picketed outside the dairy barn the other day because they were tired of being just a number. (The farmer likes to just number them and move on. I like to give them names based on what they look like to me as a calf. Or their Sun sign. Or how the weather was that day. Or famous people. Then I have the farmer write their names on their ear tags because otherwise I would have no idea who they are. If they’re not spotted, all Jerseys look the same to me. If they don’t have a name, I can’t connect.)

But, first, let me get this out.

“Is my deodorant still working??”

I just can’t help myself….

You saw this dude yesterday. He’s the studmuffin around our farm. His name is Woodee. That is his registered name…that he was given before we owned him. (The farmer and I exchanged looks and had to bite our lips.) He comes from a very good bull (Gannon, if you’re familiar with AI bulls) and his mom’s name was Dee. The dairy farmer’s wife that we got him from liked his mom so much that she wanted to incorporate his mom’s name into his. So: Woodee. I personally think he needs something more fierce because his name is cutesy…

and it makes me think he’s nice…

and then I want to hug him.

And that’s not really a good idea.

He’s very good at what he does. One thing that I learned when the farmer started milking is that there is a need for a “clean up” bull. You would have thought this topic would come up in everyday conversation as we were going out to dinner, right? A “clean up” bull saves the day (hopefully) when the farmer is having a hard time getting a cow to “settle” (impregnated) with artificial insemination. We use AI a lot at our farm because we can pick and choose what genetics we want for a certain cow.

For instance, say a cow has a floppy utter and you want cows with utters that are high and tight. (Bear with me. I have no idea what the correct terminology for this is.) The right bull can help improve that by lending his genetic makeup to that cow’s calf. That’s just one way. There are soooo many others.

However, AI just doesn’t work sometimes on a few, so we sick Woodee on ’em.

The speed at which he undertakes this duty always amazes me. As soon as you let him loose with the cows, he immediately zeroes in on his target.

See what I mean! He’s in hot pursuit. If that’s not a look of purpose, I don’t know what is. And she’s completely oblivious.

This is Barbie.

Barbie apparently thinks her best look is with her tongue sticking out because she does it all the time. She’s not panting or anything. She just randomly lets her tongue hang out and waggle around every once in a while. I’ve tried to tell her that it’s not very lady-like but it doesn’t seem to be sticking.

This is Cheerio.

Cheerio is a lot smarter than she looks. This cow is notorious for pulling her own feed rope in the barn. The cows all get a set amount when they come in. The farmer pulls ropes on each feed bin that lets however much he’s rationed for them to have fall into their respective feed bin. Well, Cheerio has realized that the rope is what makes feed fall. So, she just tugs on it with her teeth and gets however much she wants. Needless to say, she’s a butterball. The farmer has tried everything he can think of to make it hard for her to do this, but to no avail. She’s the only cow that has figured this out. However, I found out last weekend that she is educating an apprentice. It would be comical if feed wasn’t so expensive.

Here’s a close-up of Cheerio. I think it’s kinda cute. I might have this one put on canvas and hang it in the house. Not because it’s Cheerio; just because it’s a Jersey.

This is my favorite cow. Ready?

Her name is Artist and I think she’s just gorgeous. She’s one of the nice ones, too.

She definitely stands out and she’s always so pretty and white.

Well, Woodee’s giving me the evil eye.

See, look, he’s getting very irritated.

Apparently, me being in my front yard still means he’s gotta keep an eye on me. It’s a good thing I have a zoom lens.

He appears to have it all under control.

Until next time,

The Dairymaid

Copyright. Breauna Krider. 03/30/2012.