The peace of country living

So you think you want to move to the country.

You want to experience waking up to the peace and quiet of rural America.

I used to feel the same way. I grew up in the city and loved visiting my Uncle Jerry’s farm. I loved being in the milk house during chores and watching him pour the milk into a bucket and see it get sucked into the big glass jar in the milk house.

My mom always told me I would marry a dairy farmer and I did.

I never knew the peace and serenity were all a fallacy.

Just this morning I was reminded of how noisy it can be on the farm, during those “peaceful” morning hours.

There is this calf. I thought it was a bull calf, because a heifer calf would never do what it was doing.  I was wrong.

During the winter months the calves are kept in little calf huts on the south side of one of our barns. The sun keeps them warm and happy. I have even napped in those domes with a calf during the winter.

In the summer, in an effort to keep them cooler and in shade, we move the huts to an area just across the driveway from our home. My bedroom window is on the side of the house facing the calves.

Take a calf away from the mother and he/she tends to get one or two attitudes. One…I a going to curl up here in a ball and sleep the day away until someone comes along with my bottle of milk. Two…scream away that he/she wants his/her mother and a bottle of milk.

Now!

This particular calf insists on bellering 24/7! Even Russell came down this morning at 6 a.m. and said, “I am ready to shoot that calf.”

That’s how bad it is. Even my sweet, kind son wanted to do away with the calf.

Another time this past week, I was awoken by a beeping sound much like you here when a piece of large equipment is backing up. I would like to describe the sound as a beep, beep, beep, but it was more like siren, siren, siren, at 5:00 in the morning. Normally, on days I have to go to work, I sleep until 6:00.

Turns out, Russell, who also works full-time for the Farmers’ Co-op of Hanska, drove the big sprayer home from work. I guess he was closer to home at the end of the day and because, he was so tired, he just made home his pit stop for the evening. I did hear him drive into the yard that night.

The sprayer is also what they call, “Hydrostatically driven.”

Now I don’t know what that means. I think it has something to do with using hydraulics to make it move. I also know that it’s really loud.

Needless to say, when Russell left for work at that ungodly time and woke me with the not requested alarm, I was up for the day as well.

We have dogs that we keep outside too.

The coyotes and other creatures of the night also call the farm area home.

When the coyotes start coyoteing, the dogs start dogging.

It’s a constant vocalization war. Usually, to add to the drama, the dogs will rip off the front porch, while they are barking. The porch also happens to be right below my bedroom window.

Our neighbors have a trucking business. His drivers come and go early in the morning and later in the evening.

Some mornings Steve leaves early to do a bit of trucking on his own.

I think you get my point.

Sure, it’s not like this every morning or evening. Occasionally I get to fall asleep or wake to the sounds of the birds welcoming the day.

But then there are those other days where it would be much quieter if I lived in town.

 

 

 

I’m pretty damn great today!

What was supposed to start out a casual trip into the deep-dark, thistley woods turned into one of the best days of my life. Not only did I find what I was looking for, but I accomplished something I never could have imagined doing.

I was off work early today, so I thought, “Hmm. I think I will go down into the woods to see if any morel mushrooms have finally decided to pop up from under the thick cover of last years leaves.

I was getting a bit discouraged until I came upon our hot spot from last year. There were cute, adorable, little, gray mushrooms popping up all over.

Being that everyone else on the farm was busy – Joey was at the golf course being the assistant coach to the boys’ team and Stevie was at his monthly AMPI corporate board meeting – I had to do a little taunting as soon as I found the delicacy. I immediately took out my phone, and snapped pictures of the cute little hummer and sent it in a group text to Stevie, Joe and Russ.

What a beauty,  huh?

Joe, being the avid mushroom hunter that he is, demanded to know how big it was.

I had since found several more, so I dug the largest one out of my mesh bag and lay it on the ground next to my thumb.

Yes, I have ginormous thumbs! In the end, I found enough delicious mushrooms for a family of four.

I continued meandering. Checking out several ponds we have in our pasture for the beef cows I found the following: a Killdeer trying to convince me that he/she was injured in an effort to protect her nest, another bird with a long beak (If you can identify it, I would appreciate it. See image below.), a flock of ducks that flew away so fast when they saw the dogs running at them that the image is blurrier than a child’s smudged finger painting, and a frog I assumed was dead, until I poked it with my stick.

“By god, he’s alive Lilly,” I said to the Great Dane. She looked at me like I was from Mars, but she looks at me like that all the time!

I grabbed the frog out of the water and put him on a dark-colored stone and within a matter of minutes he was looking more lively. He just needed a bit of warmth.

I saved a frog today!

I again started tromping through the woods, looking for the elusive morels.

I found another type of mushroom as big as a dinner plate; obviously last years vintage too.

Here are my images:

 

The dogs and I continued on our way. There is a point on a curve of  the river with a dead Elm tree on the very end. It is quite harrowing in my opinion to reach the tree. I am always afraid the banks are going to give way and wash me downstream. It was quite worth the effort. I found FOUR mushrooms. On our walk back to the four-wheeler, I could hear a calf bellering. I figured it was hungry and looking for its mother.

I told the dogs, “Let’s go find that calf.” They all agreed; Lilly still looked at me like she didn’t quite understand.

I walked along the river and as I looked down over the edge, just out of curiosity, I couldn’t believe what I observed. There, on a little patch of mud no bigger than a standard door mat, was a beautiful, big, brownish-black calf!

“It’s gotta be a bull calf,” I thought to myself. “No heifer calf would be so stupid.”

I looked around for the momma, for safety purposes. Mother beef cows are more aggressive than honey badgers! OK, I exaggerate, but they are very protective of their babies.

No mom in sight. Time to send out the SOS on the phone. (I always take my phone into the woods when I go alone. I am very accident prone.)

“Umm, we have a problem. How we gonna get him up over the edge?”

See him in there? The image is deceiving. He’s about six feet down a straight drop!

Joe texts back, “I already saved one today.”

What is that supposed to mean? I should let this one go? Sheesh.

“Go down and get him,” Joe added in another sweet text. “Is it blind in one eye? It could be the same one.”

“Nope. It’s not,” I respond.

I decided call Joe to ask him for advice. He wanted to leave his golfing responsibilities and I refused to let him.

“If you can’t stay there and focus on golf, you shouldn’t be doing it,” I said.  “I’ll figure it out.”

I find a rope in the storage case on the four-wheeler. Luckily, Joe had left the slip knot in the rope from his earlier rescue. (I still have to ask him about it.) I gingerly hang over the edge and try for several minutes to get the loop over the calf’s head. He’s hungry so he keeps trying to suck on the end of the rope. Eventually, I can call myself a cowboy and get the little humdinger lassoed, but I had to lower myself down about four-feet, feet first on a sandy, crumbly cliff. I was a bit nervous and scared, but don’t tell anyone.

By golly, I think this calf weighs 500 pounds. I have never had to pull a calf straight up over an edge. He thought I was trying to kill him and bucked every inch of the way.  I used a small tree as a … what … to pull the rope sideways, so the calf comes straight up the cliff.  I thought I was a genius.

The damn dogs were absolutely no help. Ole keep trying to give me kisses. Lilly just stared at me. Digger and Eddie, the Rat Terriers were doing things in public they should only do in private.

I finally get the the calf up on solid ground and tie him to a small ceder tree. Then, I remember seeing something in the four-wheeler that would make everyone proud of me, if I used it correctly.

The bander!

It’s the thingy that puts a rubberband around his two, tiny bull parts to make him a steer.

I have never banded a calf. I do remember Joe talking about rubbing a calf on the underside to make them descend. Whether his is factual or a little stunt on his mother, I am unsure … but I give it a try anyway.

O lord, I must have been a site. Hanging on to the bull’s private parts and rubbing his belly. I must have been a bit aggressive, because he didn’t like it one bit! I was ever thankful to be down in the woods, far from any roads and houses. Where not a single soul could see the spectacle.

The calf kept running away in circles.He was making it difficult. Finally, I tackled him, put my right elbow into his ribs and with my left hand, felt for his nuts.

I grabbed the bander, pulled his tiny parts through the band and let it go. I wasn’t quite sure I did it correctly. The felt the bull parts, but it didn’t feel right. It’s not like I feel them every day.

Meanwhile, Joe had texted and requested I do the banding with one stipulation.

“Don’t put the band on if you are not sure you have his nuts.”

I texted back, “The band is on. You want me to take it off now?!”

I had to call him.

“I am not so sure I got his nuts to drop,” I said. “They feel all spongy.”

“Mother, don’t you know what nuts feel like? They are soft and almond-shaped,” Joe replied with disgust.

“Yep, I feel the almonds! I just didn’t think they would be squishy like that,” I replied to my 23-year-old son.

Now I had the task of trying to find the calf’s mother. I hog tied the calf. Yep, front legs to the back legs, prayed to God that I wouldn’t throw my back out and hefted the 200-pound calf (Weight discrepancy meant to be. I was freaking tired.) onto the back of the four-wheeler and drove toward the rest of the beef-cow herd.

I was immediately approached by a black cow that thinks Ole is the cat’s pajamas. I don’t know why she likes him so much. The cow seemed to think the calf was hers. Now these cows scare me. As she was approaching I was trying to untie the calf as fast as I could and toss it from the four-wheeler. Yes, I tossed it. I was just a few feet from an aggressive cow and all alone with just Lilly, the Great Dane, by my side and I have explained  her intelligence already.

The momma cow started getting a bit ornery so I drove off as fast as I could.

Then the pseudo-momma decided she didn’t want to be a nurse-cow and kicked the calf away, as did any other cow that he tried to nurse on. This dude was hungry.

Eventually a big red Angus decided to adopt the calf. She chased away all the other bitchy, mean moms and let the little guy nurse. I am not sure she is the mother, but that’s beside the point. The hungry, heavy dude was getting supper.

I felt relieved and happy. My day in the woods couldn’t have been better.

I saved a calf from the edge of fast-moving Little Cottonwood River and found him a momma.

I also found a bunch of mushrooms.

It’s a good day!

(Due to time constraints, I haven’t proofed this story yet. I am tired, muddy and hungry. I need a pseudo-mom too. I just want to finish, clean up, and eat. I also wanted to share this story immediately, so if there are typo’s please just gloss over them.)

 

Finding a career after family hiatus; harder than I thought

 

Years ago, when I was young and somewhat naive, I chose to forgo the option of becoming a professional.

I attended college as a non-traditional 29-year old mother of a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. I knew I wanted to give them everything they needed.

I am not talking about fancy clothing, expensive toys and computers and cars.

Nope.

I wanted to give them a happy home to come to when they jumped off the bus, greeted by dogs. I wanted to teach them how to color Easter eggs, how to squish pudding through their teeth and drive bicycles really fast through deep mud puddles – and maybe fall over into those huge puddles.

I wanted to teach them a work ethic too. Every other day, one of our sons had to crawl out of bed to feed out baby calves. Starting at the age of 6, our boys knew how to operate an alarm clock, get out of bed, change into chores clothes to feed calves and then get back into house to shower, eat and get on the bus.

Sure they complained about having to do it, but they did it. If they didn’t, they knew I was going to come in and get them up and I wouldn’t appreciate it.

For 20 years, we managed to live and work side-by-side. Our sons are amazing human beings. They work hard all the time. They managed to save enough money to pay for college and graduate debt free. My husband taught them about budgeting. I stink at budgeting.

I gave them the fun; Steve taught serious stuff.

Now, when both of said sons are gone and out on their own (I do still see them. One works with us and the other comes home from college every weekend.), I  have the opportunity to return to a professional career.

And it’s so hard!

It’s not like I sat on my ass for those 20-years. I wrote a farm column for 18-years. I kept myself up-to-date on web programming, Adobe PhotoShop, InDesign and all social media. I learned these programs on my own to have that background when I started applying for careers. I use them on a regular basis.

I am committed. I am a hard worker. I love writing, when I am in the mood, which is obviously today.

I have been given permission by said husband to do what I need to do in order to gain employment in the public relations/communications field.

But that doesn’t seem to matter. Getting an interview is a struggle in this employee-filled market.

I guess the main reason I write this edition of my blog is this: If you are a woman, you have a four-year-degree, and you want to stay home with your children, seriously look at your choices.

I made that choice. I stayed home. I am working in a soil lab. A job that doesn’t use my best abilities (well, I think anyway).

After a 20-year hiatus from the professional world, I struggle to return to a career that gives me the chance to be creative and fun. Meanwhile, I see mothers that have chosen to stay in the workforce and continue careers while they are mothers.

I find they have succeeded. They have gained knowledge and influence. I am proud of them. Their children turned out great too. So there really is no right or wrong decision. I just never planned on it being so difficult to return.

I am a tad envious of those women that stayed in workforce and were successful as a mother and professional.

Seriously look at your options. Make sure you do what is right for you. I know I did make the right choice to stay home, I have raised amazing human beings. I just never imagined returning to a professional career would be so damn difficult. I will continue to fight for a career. One of these days, it has to work out. Right?

 

Life on the farm is kind of laid back. Memories!

Sometimes life on the farm is so laid back. We found this all-natural swing down in our woods!
Eddie!
A beautiful field of wheat (If I remember correctly.) up near Battle Lake, MN. Summer 2015
Family image from several years ago! Love these guys!
Ready to bale some straw – early Summer 2016

 

Loving cows as much as pets

I am fortunate enough to have employment that I love. I am also fortunate enough that my employer allows me to take care of a few things at home.

I guess it could be a bit unfortunate too.

As I was perusing all the photos I have gathered for my next work-from-home project, I stumbled across images I had taken last fall.

The bad news is, they didn’t have a lick to do with anything I was trying to accomplish for my work project and I ended up looking at a lot of pictures before getting down to brass tacks.

The good news is I can just deduct the time I spent looking at said images when I record my efforts on my time card.

More good news? I get to share what was so captivating about the image that they pulled my away from my money-earning responsibilities.Joe

As I looked at the images, I couldn’t help but compare our pet cow Moose to our favorite house dog Ole. He’s a snuggler. Moose was a snuggler. Well as much as a cow can be a snuggler. Joe road her and laid on top of her. We fed her fresh-cut grass and her favorite snack of frozen balls of corn silage. We curry-combed her until our arms were sore. She wore Santa hats on Christmas!

Why, you ask, did images of Moose stir up emotions? Just look at my son giving his favorite cow a massive hug when he was saying his final, “Good bye.”IMG_1922

How can anyone argue that cows don’t become pets? That they are just milk makers and we have no feelings or concerns for our cows. Moose was really old, for a cow anyway. She lived for approximately 12 years. (She was two when we purchased her and I think that was in 2004.)

She was the cow that, as a youngster of 8 or so, Joe decided was going to be his pet. She would never have to go to the butcher shop to be processed into food for human consumption. (I would have never been able to consume that hamburger.)

Just look at how much Joe loves her in these images. He refused to let me get pictures that included his face. Mothers, who also have grown sons, know why this is. Joe was crying. It was hard for me to watch. He cried as much for his cow Moose as he did for his Yellow Lab Jake several years ago.

For a 22-year-old man to feel such emotion puts all doubters to shame. We love our cows just as if they were our household pets. I miss Moose. So does Joe.

IMG_1895
Moose

 

(Moose never did end up off the farm. We have our very own pet cemetery and she was placed right next to Jake.)

 

 

Joe’s on his own. I done good!

Our oldest son Joe recently graduated from college with a degree in dairy production and returned to milk cows with his us on our dairy farm in Southern Minnesota.

He finally considers himself a full-blown adult.

He arrives at 5 a.m. and works almost 10 hours every day. He milks the cows, feeds the cows and does a ton of other work. Then he leaves and goes to his house.

JoeBob

As a college student he promised me that after he graduated, he was “not going to live with you.” As a kindergartner he said, “I am going to live with you forever!”

I scolded him for that comment. I only had 16 more years before he left! Just kidding. I didn’t yell at him, but I assured him he wasn’t going to want to live with me forever.

So after college, we kicked him out of the house.

Now, he spends his free time in a house that we own in the small village of Searles, which I think is the greatest village on the planet.

Joe’s house is a true bachelor pad.

No dining room table at which to sup.

No couch to sprawl out on after a long, hard day.

No decorations on the wall.

The curtains are closed so much you would think he’s doing something illegal.

Because his roommate isn’t moving in until January, Joe was a bit lonely, so he adopted a cat from the Humane Society.

And he was happy.

He named him Aphid.

Joe actually asked me to go with to find the perfect kitten to fill his empty home with activity.

Who was I to say, “No.”

As long as he was gracious enough to ask, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to spend time with him. Apparently, his younger brother Russell, 19, didn’t want to miss out on brotherly-bonding as well.

We all drove to town for a chance to spend time with Joe.

Anyway, I digress.

Upon returning to Joe’s home, with a cat and supplies, I couldn’t help but think of how much he’s changed. (Joe, not the cat.)

Years ago, when he still filled my house with laughter, tears and a smell that only mothers of teenage boys can understand, who knew things would come full circle.

As I waited for my husband to come and give me a ride home, Joe was making supper.

Really! I am not telling a lie. I suck at telling lies; my eyes give me away.

Joe fed me the most exquisite Hamburger Helper – fancied up with a can of kidney beans that expired in 2011 – I have ever had. (He’s cheap and it was $1 per box.) No, I did not get sick either.

The best part of having supper with Joe?

As he made it; I watched television. (Not many options there either, as he thinks cable costs too much.)

After consuming my Chili-Cheese meal-in-a-box, I started decorating, and, I cannot make this stuff up, Joe started cleaning his kitchen.

I thought I had entered the Twilight Zone. I poked myself with a nail to make sure I was not in some weird, scientific space-time continuum.

I finished hanging several paintings and was pretty much just farting around – not literally. I have been banned from this sort of activity.

I have been barred from releasing gas anywhere. Joe has the right to do it where ever the hell he wants. It’s a double-standard. He, and men in general, even get to add facial expressions and bodily poses. God forbid I let one slip out with a snarky smile on my face.

Anyway, as I was hanging paintings, from the depths of his small, galley-style kitchen, I heard a voice that sounds like it’s parting the heavens.

“Mother, go get your dishes!” (I love it when he calls me Mother.)

Yes, I had left my empty silicone cup with “Chive On” emblazoned on the side, a plastic bowl and a cheap-ass fork on the living room floor, next to the recliner. He has no tables for his legitimate bachelor pad.

Where else was I supposed to set my stuff?

It was then that I had what Oprah calls a light-bulb moment (which explains the recent puffy hairstyle I have seen her wearing), “Why is he so different in his house?”

I had to know.

So I asked.

“How come at my house you didn’t do all the things you’re asking me to do now that you have your own house?”

“Mother, I am just trying to keep things as clean as possible because I don’t have any cleaning supplies.”

He didn’t really want the pictures hung either; he’s going to have to dust.

No shoes in the living room.

No dishes in the living room.

Put your dishes in the dishwasher.

No putting clothing on the invisible dining-room table.

Put the broom back where it belongs.

Put your Mountain Dew can in the trash.

Apparently Joe’s father and I are not allowed to hide jars of peanut butter, empty beer cans we find in the trash, and the infamous Hamburger Helper around the house either.

It annoys the hell out of Joe, but Steve and I sure giggled while we were placing the “goods” around the house.

I guess, my point is this: While Joe filled my house with smells, odd facial expressions and body poses, and trash and dirty laundry, I thought I had failed as a mother. Why didn’t I spend more time teaching him to be neater and more appropriate?

Little did I know that as he turned into a young man, he would dig up all those neatness lessons from the recesses of his male mind.

The appropriate part I am still working on by whining about the unfair rules of gas release.

I done good.

He’s a good man.

From my entire heart…

So, I wasn’t going post a usual hugs-n-kisses “Happy Thanksgiving”short essay, but as I lie here, stuck in bed for the third day in a row, because of a stupid pinched nerve, one particular Thanksgiving popped into my mind and I had to share with everyone.

It was 24 or 25 years ago. I couldn’t attend family gatherings because I was also in a bed at the New Ulm Medical Center In-patient facility. Let me tell you, “It sucked.”

I am so humbled to say I have been sober ever since!

Wow! (I don’t keep track of the exact number of years my yesrs of sobriety because I dont focus on that. Only today matters.)

My life HAS been so blessed. I have a husband that stood by while I was in treatment, even though we had no long-term commitment to each other at that point in time. I have two absolutely amazing sons that I DO want to shout from the mountain tops just how proud I am of them.

I whole-heartedly believe my past, and honesty about it, has helped me be a great mother. I’m not ashamed to say, “I done good!” (Grammatical error intended.) (Of course Steve has helped too and our parenting styles vary greatly, but we manageto work together for what’s right for our completely different sons.)

So I guess I have ended up with a sappy, Happy Thanksgiving post.

I will be forever grateful to each and every friend and family member that has had my back through it all.

Thank you from not just the bottom of my heart, but it’s entirety. Did you know your heart is approximately the size of your fist? Well, I do and just so you know, I have large hands!

P.S. As I typed this I could here Steve telling.the dogs he was grateful for them! Lol.

 

 

He loves me

20150922_084019

So there’s a story behind this note. I was trying to mow lawn and found out the battery connections needed to be cleaned and repaired. Steve was helping me this time. As I scrubbed the connections with a wire brush, I quickly grew frustrated with the quality of said brush. Half the spiny bristles we missing.

“You think you could buy one when you go to town,” I scolded.

Steve rebuttled, “You think you could buy me pepper when you go to town!”

I have no idea what the connection between a wiry brush and pepper is, but Steve has it figured out.

He was faster than a young-whipper-snapper with his smart-ass response.

The following day, I found this on the fridge. (Yes, I placed the pepper on the island, right where I knew he would see it.)

He makes me smile!

Here we go!

And so it begins. Harvest 2015 was just getting started when I returned home from work this afternnon. Onward with a husband that gets a little frazzled and anxious and me that has to reign him in every once in a while. It’s an exciting time of year.

Stevie and his brother, Peter, checking how the combine is working. It's time to roll!
Stevie and his brother, Peter, checking how the combine is working. It’s time to roll!
%d bloggers like this: