Category Archives: Farm Follies

Baby Got Bat


“There’s a bat flying around upstairs,” my husband said to me as he went to bed last night.

“A WHAT?”

“A bat. You really need to get your hearing checked.”

“I heard you. I was just processing. What the hell are we going to do?”

He stared at me blankly.

“Can you close Kitt’s door, so the dang thing doesn’t go into her room?” I called after him as he ascended the stairs to do battle. Or so I thought.

About fifteen minutes later (I had to finish the episode of “Suits” that I was watching, a new guilty pleasure –Xandy can handle the flying rodent, I rationalized), I turned on the hallway light and went upstairs to bed. With each step I took, I glanced around for any creatures of the night. The hallway was silent and clear. Even though Kitt’s door was wide open, I didn’t worry as I assumed my husband had taken care of the problem.

Something still nagged at me, however, and I turned on our bedroom light. My husband looked at me amorously from beneath the covers.

“So you must have gotten rid of the bat.” I said as I approached the bed.

“Nope. I have no idea where that thing is.”

“SERIOUSLY? Only you would think of…” I turned to see the small, black critter clinging to the wall opposite the bed staring at us. “It’s right there!”

“Would you look at that.”

“So now what do we do?”

“No clue.”

The bat didn’t even flinch. It just remained in the same position like a miniature gargoyle standing watch.

“We could go to bed,” he said, and it took everything I had not to scream back at him. The last thing we needed was to wake Kitt up.

“We have to get this thing out of here. They carry rabies for God sake.”

Xandy grabbed a dirty work T-Shirt from the floor and walked towards the bat.

“No. Not that. Grab that garbage can. You can trap it and then we’ll cover the can.”

“With what?”

I glanced around the room. Thankfully, a few days ago I had gone on a TJ Maxx shopping spree and had purchased a new set of sheets. This night I was happy about the wasteful use of cardboard in the sheet packaging.

Xandy dropped the T-Shirt, not entirely convinced that my method would work. He grabbed the small bedroom wastebasket and walked slowly towards the bat, which still hadn’t made any sort of movement. I hoped it were dead. That thought only lasted seconds, however, as the moment the can covered the thing, it started to fly around inside of it. Xandy carefully slid the piece of cardboard between the wall and the can, and moved the can from the wall.

I wondered if bats could chew through cardboard as we descended the stairs. Seconds later our visitor was set free to fly the night sky.

“Hey it worked!” I was thrilled that a plan I hatched actually came to fruition.

“Yeah, well, the shirt would have worked fine.”

I just shook my head. Sure it would have. I thought about changing my profession to animal wrangler, but thought better of it when I actually considered keeping the light on for bed.

“This is totally going in the blog tomorrow,” I told him as we finally climbed in bed for the night.

“Only you would document our sex life.”

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August 5, 2013 · 8:14 AM

For All that is Good and Hole-y


My husband loves to dig holes. “I can see my progress,” he says when I ask him just what it is about hole digging that he so likes.

I think about this often as I mow our unending lawns. We have about an acre of them and during the summer the things never stop growing. Xandy HATES mowing the lawn (yes, I get the irony), which I fortunately do not. I, too, like to see the progress as I go from lush jungle to finely trimmed golf green. OK, if you have been by the house you know that our lawn looks more like the hay-field across the street than a golf green, but you get the picture.

Anyway, back to the holes. There are many holes to be dug on the farm. Most of them are due to fallen fencing from our barbed wire fence that is probably as old as our 100-year-old farm. Sometimes, though, the holes are for different purposes.

One such purpose happened a few weeks ago when I noticed a horrendous stench and volcanic-like gurgling emanating from our upstairs bathroom. Both could only mean one thing: full septic tank.

“When’s the last time it was emptied?” I asked my father-in-law when he arrived later.

“Emptied? We never emptied that thing. My father’s theory was stir in a box of RidX every now and again and you’ll be fine.” He chuckled as he mimed stirring the pot like some sort of noxious witches brew.

“UGH! Have you ever stirred it then?”

“Well, no, that would just be silly. But don’t worry, that tank is not that old.”

I knew “not that old” was all a matter of perception in this family, as our “not that old” tractor is a circa 1982. “How old is it?”

“Oh, I suppose about fifteen or twenty years old.”

FIFTEEN OR TWENTY YEARS??? For any of you non-septic tank owners, tanks are supposed to be emptied every three to five. If not, let’s just say you might end up with a wonderfully soupy manure pond in your back yard.

He then went on to tell me that there were actually three septic tanks in our back yard.

Lovely.

So first Mark and then Xandy set to digging — because not only has the tank never been emptied, Mark was not quite sure where the damn thing was. He chose an area dug for a while, and when he couldn’t find the tank moved a few inches and dug some more.

“It’s around here somewhere,” he told his son, and left him to dig.

Xandy was finally able to find the tank about four feet or so down. We both commented on what “six-feet-under” must look like and were pretty happy that we weren’t grave-diggers. Xandy did tell Kitt that he was looking for dinosaur bones when she asked, but all he found was an old toy matchbox from his childhood, which made me doubt my father-in-law’s twenty year timeline.

After even more digging, Xandy finally found one of the two tank covers. We learned when the tank was emptied (don’t worry I won’t talk about that God-awful stench) that he had uncovered the wrong tank cover, so that night he set off to digging again.

Here is the hole:

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At least that is one less chunk of lawn that I have to mow for a while.

Ah, the wonders of home ownership.

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July 28, 2013 · 6:14 AM

Hammer those Bees


So my father-in-law Mark has been quite anxious to get into my blog more. I think that he is jealous of all the attention that I have been paying to his son. I have tried to tell him that I am not sure that the type of attention that Xandy is getting is positive, but I don’t think he believes me. Anyway, this is the story he told me today.

I was out fixing fence up the road when this wicked vicious bee attacked. To hear him tell it, there was a swarm, but to go on…the thing wouldn’t leave me alone.

“So what did you do?” I asked.

Well, I started swatting at the damn thing with both my hands. I forgot that I was still holding the hammer, and I smashed myself in the head with it!

“Then what happened?”

That stupid bee still got me in the corner of my eye. Then it flew away! You should tell that story.

This is for you, Mark, and for that damn killer bee, too.

Mark deserves much more than this lame-ass bee story, considering the fact that it has been in the 90s for the last week, and his 70-year-old self has been in the hay fields every single day working his ass off. But I can give him at least this.

 

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July 17, 2013 · 8:43 PM

Once a Cheater


On the day that we were married, Xandy delivered hay. Granted, we eloped, but still.

“It’ll be fast. I promise,” he said and then off he went to the farm, to load up twenty or so bales to deliver to some customer whose own livestock was hungry.

I should have known then.

Being a farmer’s wife means that, especially during the summer, you lose your husband, taken not by another woman but by a darker enchantress — the farm. She offers constant stimulation and a place where there is always something needing to be done and/or fed.

Even before moving to the farm, before we were married, I would often not see Xandy until well beyond dark. He’d come home covered in hay and sweat, with a smile that I knew was not for me. It was his idea to marry in early May so that he wouldn’t “be on a tractor pulling a hay wagon for all of our anniversaries.” Truthfully, I yearned for the days when we would finally be living together on the farm so that I could see him more.

And see him now, I do.

I see him out in the hay fields on a tractor round-baling or on the back of a wagon loading square bales. I see him walking the fence in our lower pasture or opening a new paddock for a herd of cattle that just won’t shut-up — wanting the fresh grass that they see beyond where they are fenced in. I see him heading to the barn with his red bucket filled with warm water ready for the milk replacer that keeps the motherless calves in the barn alive or in his truck driving away to check on the free running cattle up the road.

My father-in-law told me, when Xandy and I were first married, that I should not let Xandy talk me out of a vacation. “We can come and watch the farm,” he said. “Don’t let him tell you that he can’t leave.”

I thought about that for the hour or so that Kitt and I sat and waited for the local 4th of July parade. I realized, as I watched fathers with their wives and daughters walk to find spaces to sit, that it never crossed my mind to ask Xandy to go with us to the parade. As I loaded Kitt into the car, he and his father discussed the haying that they would be doing for the day. I waved and left. Perhaps the reason that I never asked was that subconsciously I knew how miserable he would be. He would go, because I asked him to, and then he would tap his foot and look at the sun, quietly longing to be back where there was work to be done. I would then feel pangs of guilt taking any pleasure away from whatever we were doing.

The number of fathers at the parade actually stunned me. Don’t they know that now that the sun is out, there is hay to be made? I thought about that again when I saw friends of mine with their baby at the library yesterday morning. Together. The library. Really.

In the middle of the day.

Xandy and I often talk about taking a family vacation  or an actual honeymoon instead of just an overnight to Boothbay Harbor which is what we had. Maybe someday we will do that. For now, I plan trips for Kitt and I — as she is too young to help in the hay fields. Santa’s Village sounds fun.

“Won’t it be exciting when Kitt is old enough to hay?” My husband looks at me in gleeful anticipation  as I read to him this post. “Then I can come home from work and you can have all the hay raked and tedded ready to go!”

“Um, yeah, exciting.”

Then I will have lost both my husband and daughter to that temptress. Can’t wait.

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July 6, 2013 · 8:33 AM

Haying 101 with the Brown Family Swarm


Summer is officially here. I know this not because of yesterday’s Summer Solstice, nor the weeklong sun and heat, but because my house was invaded by its usual summer swarm: The Browns. The swarm descends the minute the first tractor hits the hay fields to mow and does not leave until the last bale is put up in the barn. This can take anywhere from six weeks to three months, depending on the weather.

The Queen of the swarm, my mother-in-law, often brings sweet delicacies with her that lure us into her hive. On the first day of arrival this year, she brought buttery Ranger Cookies made with oatmeal, Rice Krispies, and a cup of butter. It is true what they say about how to attract bees.

The Brown Family is a friendly swarm who land on this place not to decimate like locusts, but to help with the chore that takes as much help as possible: haying. There are three types of haying that we do here on LongMeadows Farm — square bales, round bales, and silage bales.

Mostly empty barn waiting to be filled. Hay from last year means that we don't have to bale as much.

Mostly empty barn waiting to be filled. Hay from last year means that we don’t have to bale as much.

We have yet to come into the 21st Century with the first type of haying: square baling. Most farms now have equipment that stacks the hay on a trailer, and a machine that also helps to unload in the barn. We have one of the Browns or a close facsimile standing on the back of a trailer, grabbing each bale as it exits the baler, and stacking each sometimes eight or nine high. When it is 90 degrees and humid, this is the most dreaded job (at least in my mind) or the best if you are looking to sweat off a few pounds. My sister-in-law warned me never to learn it, because once I did I would actually have to DO IT. I took her advice. I learned to drive the tractor instead. No hay scratches all over my body that way.

Until, that is, we unload.

As long as the hay doesn’t fall into the middle of the road causing  a haypocolypse with oncoming traffic, the trailer is pulled into the barn and unloaded by two, three, or sometimes four people — depending on where it needs to be stacked. The farthest reaches of the barn often call for someone to toss off the trailer to a middle person who then tosses it to a person standing high in the hay who then stacks it.

The barn holds 5500 bales, this year we are shooting for 4000. We have 350 done.

You can see why these may have a hard time crossing the road.

You can see why these may have a hard time crossing the road.

**SIDE NOTE: For those new to “haying” the most important thing to remember is NOT to stack wet bales of hay. These bales heat up and could combust bringing the entire barn down in flames. This is not a rural myth, it is true. I have stuck my hand in the middle of a bale that has heated up to uncomfortable levels and started to turn black from scorching. CRAZY, right?!?

The next two type of haying is the least labor intensive: round bales. After the hay has been mowed, tedded (flipped to dry), and raked (put into windrows for baling) it only takes one person (usually my husband) to drive around and bale the hay. While not physically exhausting, this can be time-consuming. We are aiming for 100 of these. At this time, our count is 0.

The last type is the most fun to watch at the end stages: silage bales. These are the “white marshmallow” bales that you may see on the side of the road during the summer. Silage is nutritionally-rich, fermented hay that smells God awful. In the winter, my husband sometimes spills just tiny bits of the stuff on him after opening a bale, and I have to immediately banish him to the outside to strip. Yes, winter. Yes, Maine. Yes, it smells that bad. Even the smallest amounts fills the space with the acrid smell of vomit. Cows love the stuff. It makes me wonder about them. It does.

Silage bales take the round bales one step further. One person spears a bale with a tractor, drives it to the wrapper, and the other wraps. Check out this video of how it works. My sister thinks this looks like a fun carnival ride. I have to agree. The silage bale count is 23. We want 70.

A few of the worker bees will be back today for more haying fun. I’ll let you know the count later.

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June 22, 2013 · 8:38 AM

Nostalgic Moments


Today is the last day of school, and as I do every year, I have become nostalgic. For the past week I have been putting my IPod on shuffle as I drive in to work thinking about my crazy life thus far.

“The Beaches of Cheyenne” by Garth Brooks brings me to the mountains of South-WesternColorado and the plains of Central Texas where I spent some time cowboying-up. Horses were the things to be fed back then, and I am not ashamed to say during that time I learned the two-step and saw Chris Ledoux in concert.

“Suspicious Minds” by Elvis brings me to Golden, Colorado with hot summer nights on the Buffalo Rose Patio, too much money spent on the jukebox, and a friend taken way too early.

“Estoy Aqui” by Shakira brings me to the beaches of Huatulco, Mexico where I and other Club Med co-workers snuck out of our village to the local night club to dance until dawn. Man those boys from Club Maeva across the bay were hot. Too bad I could only say “Tango hambre, quiero hombre” in Spanish. Wait a minute — that line could have worked!

“We are Family” by Sister Sledge splits my memory and brings me both to my days doing bar fundraisers working at the AIDS service organization in Florida and to my aunt’s living room when I  was a little girl. The first memory redefined to me the possibility of ALL families and the second just makes me smile.

The Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, Kate Bush, and Sinead O’Connor bring me to my angsty high school days driving around Central Maine wondering if there was anything beyond. Those summers brought mini-golf and croquet — where more than one club and mallet were launched in frustration.

I wonder, as I see my daughter embrace her life here on the farm, what music will bring her back? Will she remember our after dinner dance parties in the kitchen, where we blast music that Xandy would absolutely hate while I TRIED to clean the kitchen as he fed things and did evening chores? The dance party brought us “Some Nights” by fun and “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. Most recently, I taught her one of the Club Med Crazy Signs that we did to “I Like to Move It, Move It” — not the title, I know, but I can’t get that damn song out of my head. Maybe someday she will throw on “Little Lion Man” by Mumford and Sons and realize that the line really doesn’t say “I really MESSED it up this time” like I yell.

Perhaps she will remember Xandy throwing on some of his own albums during her bath time. While Bob Dylan is a frequent choice, we did spend a time listening to Prince. It’s TRUE — Purple Rain was on the record player for weeks! Nothing ceases to amaze me about my husband.

All that I know at this point is that I will have fond memories of my little family on the farm — and I won’t be able to get this image out of my head:

IMG_0947

For those of you who are wondering — The Angry Birds tattoo is NOT permanent.

So what music brings you back? I plan on listening to a few more songs this morning on my way to work to relive a few more memories and prepare for summer on the farm.

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June 14, 2013 · 5:41 AM

I Can Do This


As I slept that first night, I tried not to think about In Cold Blood.  The bellowing from the bulls in the barn worked as a distraction from my thoughts of serial killers and farmhouses. I’d close my eyes, and the fears crept back, however. I’d hear a noise and instantly it became someone walking methodically up the stairs dragging a shotgun behind him. Perhaps Kitt was having some of the same fears as she spent the night on my bedroom floor. I fell asleep to her rhythmic breaths wondering what Day Two would bring.

DAY TWO: FRIDAY

I woke up before the alarm rang at 5. I have to admit that sometimes I am even up long before my farmer husband. Here’s another secret that I have learned living on the farm — in the summer, beef farmers don’t have to get up before the sun. Hell, Xandy sometimes sleeps in until 7 or 8 on the weekend if he has had a particularly difficult week. Beef critters on grass practically take care of themselves, practically. When people think of farmers getting “up before the sun” they are thinking about dairy farmers. I know local dairies whose farmers sometimes have to get up even earlier than usual to milk. They set their alarms for midnight. Every now and again Xandy threatens to buy milking cows, and I threaten to move to Denver.

The morning of day two,  I had to not only “feed things” — I also had to get both myself and my daughter ready for school. Luckily, the morning chores only consisted of feeding the bulls in the barn. I pushed my way around the 25 bales that I had dropped the evening before, and tossed about 3/4 of a bale in to the bulls with a pitchfork. Sam whined outside and I yelled something about him having to wait for dinner.

“Go eat some grass, Sam. You’re fine!” He “meaooooed” again.

I fed my “thing” in the kitchen shredded wheat and milk, jumped in the shower and thought, “I can do this.”

As I drove to school I wondered what would happen if the cows got out. I envisioned coming home to some sort of cow-pocalypse with traffic backed up for miles due to an angry herd in the middle of the road. I promptly forgot about it as I opened my classroom door. The cow-pocalypse would have to wait, I had my own angry critters to tend with.

By the time Kitt and I got home for the weekend, I felt like a critter feeding pro. I put a bucket out for Sam, fed the bulls , and the cats, and went in to give Kitt a bath.  The 25 bales were gone. I guess they were “green enough.” Around 7:30, mid-bath, I heard a large rumbling sound outside. I told Kitt not to drown, and went out to see the noise.

“Hey, Xandy told me to drop these guys off.”

“What guys?”

“Two piglets. You knew I was coming right?”

Um yeah, but I kind of hoped you had waited. 

He unloaded the pigs under the barn, made sure that I knew what I was doing with them (HA!), and left for the night.

Kitt donned her footie PJs and barn boots, and came out to feed our new pigs with me. “Mumma look. They are scared!” I’d be scared, too, if I knew that someday I’d be bacon. “They’re ok, hon. Let’s feed them”

I slept with two phones and my car keys near my bed. I read on Facebook that you can scare intruders away with the “panic” button on the key chain. I hoped I didn’t have to try it out.

DAY THREE: SATURDAY

Saturday brought day three of the heat-wave. Along with that heat came the determination that I had to get my own “to-do” list done. I wanted to prove to Xandy that I could do just as much as he could on the farm, and my plan was to get the backyard ready for summer. Xandy had already taken the tarp off the pool, so I was left with getting the pool cleaned, the garden planted, and the back yard mowed —  in that order, of course. I also promised Kitt a trip to the local indoor pool since ours was far from ready. The break would be both of our rewards for putting up with me trying to run this place.

I fed the pigs and the bulls, yelled at Sam again, and set off to work.

STEP ONE: Pool vacuum. Where the hell was the pool vacuum??? I knew that I had seen it somewhere. So I searched. For more than an hour I searched. I searched through the basement, through the garage, through the house, through the summer kitchen, even through the attic. I could not find the automatic pool vacuum or the long pole that I need to run the manual vacuum anywhere. Under the garage I found a longer pole that carried the snow scoop for the roof. Kitt and I found a set of screw drivers and worked to make a make-shift pole for the vacuum. 2 hours gone.

STEP TWO: Vacuum the pool. I turned the vacuum on only to find no pressure. After a couple of tries I decided that the newly put together pool pump must be clogged. I got the ratchet set and unscrewed the 20 or so bolts holding the pump together. Through the sheets of sweat flowing over my eyes, I was able to clean the fingers on the filter and put the entire thing back together, only to find that the reason there was no suction was due to a different screw that I hadn’t put back on right. Another hour gone.

My sister came over to bring an old weed trimmer so that I  could get some of the back yard done. It didn’t start. Another 30 minutes gone.

We put the vacuum on the makeshift pole, and started to vacuum. What a pain it is to vacuum with a pole that is only about 6 inches taller than the water.

“Mumma, I’m hungry.” Oh, yeah. I have a kid.

STEP THREE: Lunch for Kitt.

As I served her I realized that it was almost time to leave for the pool. 1:00 PM — where was the day?

STEP FOUR: Indoor pool for Kitt. Left the pool around 3.

STEP FIVE: Heck, we might as well get ice cream on the way home. Sure we can go to the one with rides.

TIME UPDATE: 4:00 PM — Really? Where had the day gone?

STEP SIX: Garden. And Kitt. Oh yeah, Kitt.

“Mumma, I’m really tired. Can I just watch some TV?” I noticed that her eyes were beginning to roll back in her head. Dinosaur Train it is. Wow, am I a bad mom.

Back to the garden. By this time, the weather had thankfully broken, and a nice breeze settled onto the backyard. I looked at our flats of seedlings and packets of seeds and wondered where for the love of all that was good and holy that I was going to fit them all. This year we had decided on a “transition” garden. This was for me mostly because I broke out into a full-bodied rash whenever I went out into our weed-infested 1/4 acre garden last year. Xandy made some comment about having to get out in the garden more than once a month to keep the weeds down. More on that in a later post. I’ll just say here that we are opting for raised beds this year.

By 7 pM I had the garden in and started to think about dinner. I went in to ask Kitt and found her snoring on the couch, out for the night.

Sea Dog Blueberry Ale it was.

I fed things, frustrated that I still hadn’t mowed the lawn. Tomorrow Xandy would be home. Tomorrow I would be able to not worry about sloshing through cow manure to turn water on for the bulls. Tomorrow Sam’s bellows would not have the same ring. Tomorrow I won’t have to work so hard. Tomorrow.

I fell asleep to the sound of the bulls bellowing in the barn. Tomorrow I would learn that I wasn’t feeding them quite enough. No wonder they wouldn’t shut up.

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