Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow Day on the Farm

Any snow over four inches deep means that the work on the farm is doubled. Today we have at least 14 inches and it's still snowing.

 First Joe opens the driveway so we can get out to feed the cows.

Halfway through, he must stop to repair the four-wheeler.

While he's working on that I carry corn out to the horses. They get extra rations in the winter weather to help them stay warm.  The ice all over them  is proof that their long winter coats are protecting them from heat loss. 

Then, Luke and I go down to the creek to knock open a water hole for thirsty
livestock (and dogs).

Joe has finished the driveway, so we hop in the truck and drive down to the barn where we must shovel open the gate.  This is where Gate Girl gets her exercise.

Then the barn doors are shoveled open so Joe can get the tractor out and give the calves and cows their hay.

While he's doing that, his wife entertains herself in the truck taking selfies...

Finally, we head back to the house.  I carry water to the chickens, gather eggs and carry in firewood, while Joe plows out the driveway again.

It's still snowing outside and our county has been declared a local disaster area, but we are tucked safe and warm in our house.  We'll worry about that tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2015




February flirts,
looks back coyly
blows warm kisses
melts hearts and streams
turns a cold shoulder to her promises
and chooses winter
as her partner

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Rooster Love

     The chickens are always so much fun to watch, but I especially enjoy watching the roosters.   They know their job is to protect the girls, so they crow alarm when a hawk flies overhead and crow about supper when I take slop out to share with the hens.  But, they also love to crow for attention.  They crow in the morning, long before the sun comes up.  They crow in the hen house. They crow outside.  They crow just because they can.  They are cock-a-doodle Carusos, standing tiptoe, reaching deep into their diaphragms for air, and belting out melodic morning arias.

      But, they don't crow when they are trying to seduce the ladies.  Besides living to protect the hens, roosters also exist just so they can get them some chicken love.  When a rooster wants love, he is strangely silent.  He morphs from a sassy soloist to a shy salsa dancer.

The rooster struts
and scratches
and crows
He jumps to the left
and bounces on his toes.
He waggles his wattle
and he cocks his eye,
quicksteps to the right
when the hen passes by.

The hen scratches seeds
with her eyes on the ground
She never looks up, 'cause
she's always looking down.

The rooster on her right
isn't nearly as thrilling
as the bug in the ground
for which she is drilling.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Polished With Prayer

     February is a muddy month.  It's great weather for the maple sugar producers.  Cold nights and warmer days make the trees and the producers run.  But, it's not so great for those of us who gather eggs from free ranging chickens.  My hens are not confined to nests or even to the hen-house.  They run around outside all day parading through puddles, digging in dirt, and stomping out designs on the muddy paths.  After all that fun, the hens hurry back inside.  They do not stop to wipe their feet.  Instead, they hop on the nest, deposit an egg and wipe their feet on that.  February is egg cleaning month.
     Customers who buy eggs in grocery stores are buying eggs laid by hens in cages.  The eggs never have a chance to get dirty because the hens don't.  Customers who buy my eggs are also buying the time my hens spend outside and the time I spend hand polishing their eggs. My hens are laying about 45 eggs a day. That's a lot of mud and a lot of time with a rag, and I forgot to polish eggs yesterday.
     When I picked up my rag today and stared glumly at the 90 eggs waiting for a cleaning,  it occurred to me that, after they are polished, the eggs glow just like rosary beads.  That gave me an idea.  Today, instead of moaning about the job in front of me, I decided to treat each egg as an opportunity to pray for the people I love.
     Now, looking at the cartons full of glowing eggs, I am looking at cartons full of prayer. I suspect the praying polished me a little as well.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gate Girl

This was published in my local paper, but never made it to the blog.  Thought those of you who hadn't seen it might relate.

     Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  With love is in the air, it’s no wonder that, when Joe asks me to go along with him to feed, I am lulled into believing he wants to spend a few romantic moments holding hands in the truck.  That notion only lasts until we reach the end of the driveway.  That’s when I realize that he wants me to go along because he needs the services of Gate Girl. 
     Being Gate Girl is one of my biggest responsibilities.  Tonight is a nine-gate evening.  Each gate is different and demands a different skill set.  
     Gate number one is brand new, but fell off of its hinges a week after we hung it. First I pry it open.  Then I move to the back side and drag it over the bumpy ground.  This is complicated by the sheep who are anxious for their evening grain.  I have to abandon my dragging to shoo them back into the field.  
     Gate number two has both hinges, but the latch has been replaced by a strand of barbed wire.  I prick my fingers as I untwist it. 
     Gate number three is made of wood.  Some nails are loose and the boards shift and creak as I push it around.  
      Gate number four is new.  I like gate number four.  
     Gate number five is lightweight, but must be lifted over a mound of dirt as I open it.  
     Gate number six has a sliding wooden latch that pinches my fingers.  
     Gate number seven must be propped open with an old fence post or it will swing shut on the truck as we pull through.  
     Gate number eight has one baler twine hinge and no latch.  It leans drunkenly against the posts and has to be bullied around.  I hate gate eight. 
     Gate number nine opens on the left instead of the right.  I always forget and try to open the wrong side.  Tonight is no exception.
     When we were first married I loved any excuse to ride along with Joe and help out on the farm. Being Gate Girl was something a city girl could do with no training. Now that I am older and more experienced, I can drive tractors, feed hay from the back of a moving pick-up truck, bottle feed calves and lambs, give shots and rake a pretty tidy windrow.  But, being Gate Girl is still my favorite farm chore.       
     Gate Girl will never make it to the super hero hall of fame.  I can’t leap buildings in a single bound or put out fires with my bare hands.  What I can do is open any gate on the farm and make my husband’s life just a little easier.  And when all the gates have been opened and closed, perhaps we’ll pull up to the top of a hill and watch the lambs play in the fields below.  

     Then, Joe will turn to me and whisper softly in my ear, “Can you help me again tomorrow?”