(this is kinda like Dog Day Afternoon, but not as casual)
This is the story of Marian's afternoon of Dec. 20, 2008
First I should say that this is not a typical afternoon. Come to think of it, I suppose people in all walks of life have "days like this." And certainly things could have been a lot worse – some seemingly broken stuff could have actually been broken– you’ll see in a minute:
It’s Sunday afternoon after church. I go to take a fellow church member home, leaving Erik and Therese at the chapel (we won’t all fit into our tiny Toyota pickup). On the way back from the gal’s place the truck starts sputtering, and acts as if it won’t go another foot. I press on, avoiding the highway and going the back roads so I will be able to call Erik from a house or business when I break down near it (we’re diehard Ozarkies now and don’t have a cell phone). I’m very antsy because it’s very cold outside and I’m not exactly wearing walking shoes. By the grace of God the thing, spewing lots of smoke, makes it back to the chapel.
Erik says it’s done that before and dispels my notion to call a friend and warn her to come looking for us if she doesn’t get a call from us at home in the appropriate amount of time. We head home, and sure enough, the pickup clears its pipes and starts running fine.
When we get home, instead of going to bed in preparation to work graveyard shift Sunday night like he usually does, Erik leaves for the "big city" to pick up a stove/oven for the senior sister missionaries, who have just moved to a different apartment. I go into the kitchen to make Therese and me some lunch. I turn on the tap and the water fails to come out.
I go out and put a 2nd heat lamp in the pump house. I’m thinking soon I’ll have water but then the power goes out which means, of course, no water – again. I go get a bag of stored water from our pantry, and proceed to fix lunch and help Therese wash her hands.
Pretty soon the power comes back on, and then the water. I’m elated. (Keep in mind that the thermometer -- although it is a cheap little thing and may not be even close to accurate [but lends itself well to describing my pitiful situation in this story] -- in the middle of the house says 35 degrees, as it reads in the kitchen -- the bedrooms are colder because we keep the doors closed).
Ok, now I need to give a little background on attire. For my head I have a new balaclava (third one I’ve tried), but like the rest, it’s a "one size fits all but Marian" and I’ve been struggling with a way to get it to stay on without it edging down over my eyes and encroaching on my vision. Also, when it’s bitterly windy and cold and I need to cover my mouth and nose, condensation gathers from my breath and makes slobber droplets inside the mouthpiece part. Slimy! Yukky! But I really need such covering today because it’s not very warm and there’s a gale blowing. I also have two stocking caps, one thin and one thicker.
I figure among the three of them I’ll find an outfit that will keep my entire head warm. So I’ve decided to try the balaclava, with the lighter stocking cap over the top part of it to keep it on but from falling down over my eyes.
I’m wearing thermals, down underwear over them, then pants and a down coat for the top layer. For my hands I have thin rubber gloves, followed by thin garden gloves, followed by larger, thicker rubber gloves. I need something waterproof so my hands don’t get wet and freeze when I’m doing the animal’s water (like the rabbits’). I have some heavy neoprene gloves but despite the thin fleece lining, they don’t keep my hands warm an iota.
Normally in cold weather a pair of minus- 40 degree Sorel waterproof boots are home to my feet. If I am constantly on the move they keep my tootsies warm down to about 10+ (someone has feet that fit in these boots that stay warm in them to minus 40? – or does that just mean you don’t lose toes until the temp is that low?).
Anyway, got those all iced up yesterday, so today I’m going to wear the other boots, which are not waterproof or very warm. I’m buying a new system of socks and I have other boots but they don’t fit me right and I have to return them – I think I’m on my 3rd set of boot returns.
Anyway, I’m off to check on and feed the critters. First I tend to the two cows and their two little calves in the barn/corral (I had brought them in so the babies, born the month before, could have some protection from the weather). I give the two cows some hay and treats and the babies some water from the trough with the heater in it, and all is well, except...
The headgear is falling down over my eyes, acourse! I take it off (trying to adjust it isn’t working very well, especially since I’m wearing my anti-dexterity gloves), fold it over and cram the balaclava on OVER the knitted cap this time.
I move on to the sheep, breaking the water in their pond with a sledge hammer, and bringing them some hay. On the way down the little slope to their pond the balaclava has gotten caught and yanked off by the low-hanging branches of a juniper tree. I didn’t know this was going to happen because the headgear is partly covering my eyes again and I can’t see anything above eye level.
The little stocking cap is not going to be warm enough by itself because next I am headed to the back pasture to check on the rest of the cows and will be out in the icy wind. So I pick up the entire headpiece and cram both head coverings back on.
I go to the back 20 acres and after checking on the cattle, aim for their pond, which is at the most faraway corner. I have the pick axe to break the ice – have decided the sledge hammer is too heavy to carry that far. I get there and step onto the pond ice. You see, it's much less effort to break it by stomping on it (or jumping up and down on it) than by wielding the axe. The ice looks to be solid like on the other ponds. It's not. My non-waterproof boots go down and one of them gets nice 'n' muddy and wet.
I make several holes in the ice and head back to the barn area and the cows follow me in. I'm still battling the stupid hat outfit but I don’t want to take it off because then I’ll freeze my fool head off, especially my snout.
So I get back in as far as one of the gates. I struggle to undo the latch and the lower hinge shifts and the gate falls to the ground. The hat system is covering my eyes as I try to lift the gate, which is almost too heavy for me, with one hand. Meanwhile I'm attempting to fasten the gate latch with my other hand. This is all part of preventing the cows, who are now supervising me, from going on Christmas vacation at the neighbors’. As I’m doing this juggling act, the pick-axe, which I had rested on my shoulder, slips down and its head and mine collide.
I leave the gate where it drops and head for the barn for some more hay for the cows. I'm so exasperated with the hat that I throw it down and also give the pick axe a good toss --well, two tosses, actually. When I go to pick up the axe, I find that the handle is broken in two! I pick up the lovely hat ensemble and set it down inside the barn, accompanying this motion with the expulsion of a few words describing my ex-mother-in-law’s son (who, by the way, amply deserves the description uttered).
The rabbits and dogs are last on the feed/water schedule. First for their water. Their ceramic crocks are full of ice so I intend to load them up and bring them in the house to thaw and fill them from the tap (if the water stayed on). I place one of the crocks on the top of a garbage can in which we store the rabbit pellets. The other four crocks I put in a bucket on the ground. I’m fumbling with the latches on the cages and trying to accomplish opening them with the mess of gloves I am still wearing, but at least now I can see because I’ve shed the hats. I have one eye on the cage latch and the other eye on the crock lounging on the top of the garbage can. Before I can grab the teetering crock, it slides off and lands in the bucket. It hits another crock and breaks.
Next I am feeding the rabbits. The index finger of the left glove is poked through the cage wire and the buck rabbit inside bites a hole in it. So much for waterproof gloves now!
The gloves come off and I feed the dogs without incident. Somewhere along the line I must have fed the hogs without a catastrophe, too.
I put some of the gloves back on and head for the house. I find another, unbroken crock (you probably think this whole story is one) and go to the house and get them de-iced (water's still on!). I still have my down coat on and all that under-gear, and while I'm rinsing one of the crocks, water goes up my sleeve.
One more trip to the barn and I give the rabbits their water and some more hay for bedding, and skedaddle for the house for the last time today. Besides this keyboard I am going to try not to touch anything until I pull back the covers to crawl in bed.
Have a nice day! -Marian
Epilogue: That same day I typed up an abbreviated version of this story. I tried to send it to a friend and my computer locked up and I lost it. Then something that is wrong with my e-mail sent one friend the same note 350 times, locking up his system so he couldn’t get or send any other e- mails. Guess I shouldn't have touched the keyboard, either! Do you think my biorhythm was off?
Erik never did get to come back home that day -- he got caught up in some other church service stuff after the stove delivery to the missionaries and from that went straight to work his graveyard shift at the local truck stop. I think it was the next day or so that he had fun in the pickup on the ice on his way home from work:
He was coming up the hill that meets the road to our house and the truck started to slide backwards. He looked behind him for a shallow spot in the ditch and directed the pickup backwards into it. He got out and locked the hubs in 4-wheel drive (he couldn't have done that before he headed up the hill!?) and crawled the thing up the ditch until he could get it back onto the pavement at the intersection of our road. I would not let him go to work that night--it was raining but only reached a high of about 25 degrees.
One of the cows DID go on a vacation jaunt (very grateful it was just one –they could have all taken a walk like they did a week or so before when I left the barn entrance ajar). It was late afternoon when I looked out the window and saw young Nicole down the road a piece. She was easy to get back here with some grain bait, but I secured the gate after that instead of leaving it sitting on the ground where it had dropped (remember?).
Another couple of days went by and it was nice and "warm" again. After temperatures hovering around zero, when it's in the 40's I'm out in my shirt sleeves. That’s one advantage of having a near-freezing house -- I seem to be acclimating!
During another cold snap I broke the handle on the aforementioned sledge hammer. I just held it over the fence and let it drop. Broke off right at the base of the head. Apparently the water that had penetrated the wooden handles of these tools turned to ice and weakened them. Erik came home from the store with a new handle but it was the wrong size.
To answer many a question: No, we would not go back, given the opportunity, to our former lives -- we love farming -- most days!
(The foregoing is property of Five Ponds Farm and is not to be copied or reprinted without written permission from the author).