Wednesday, April 4, 2012

#19 LOCKED OUT


            We had new front and back doors installed , and you could actually lock them.  We had never had locks on the house, so this was a big deal. That first night everyone was gone for the week-end except me, and it felt good to be safely ensconced in my solid-built house.  I awoke the next morning to a fresh layer of snow on the ground, and I went outside in my nightclothes to burn trash.  (We can still do that here in the country.)  What I didn’t know was that opening the door didn’t automatically unlock it, and once I closed it behind me, I was locked out.  I had no cell phone, the nearest neighbor was ½ mile away, and I had just socks on my feet.  

            All the windows were shut tight for the winter, leaving only two ways to get in.  The first was through the doggy door, and I tried crawling through the 1’ by 2’ enclosure that led to the door.  No dice.  It just wasn’t big enough, and I was afraid I’d get stuck.  The other choice was the crawl space under the house where I would attempt to find the board that lifted up into the floor of a closet.  I wrestled with the heavy crawl space cover and propped it against the house.  The crawl space itself was only 2’ to 3’ high and it was totally black as a panther on a moonless night.  I started out boldly, but became disoriented several times, and had to crawl back to the entrance and start over.  I had to feel between the floor joists, hoping to find this loose board, and not think about spiders.  Finally, after much prayer, God reminded me that the built-in vacuum pipes were close to the board I was looking for, so I felt around until I found them.  And there beside them was the board. 

         Now I could just push up the board and be in the house.  But in that 3’ space were pipes for the furnace as well as for the vacuum, and I had to lay on top of them to lift on the board with my back.  It was so heavy!  Then I remembered that there was a card table and four chairs stored right on this board in the closet.  So I kicked into Superwoman mode , and using all the strength I could muster, I moved the board about ½”, and then an inch, and more, until I was able to climb up into the closet.   How good it was to be back in the house, curled up by the wood stove,  absorbing its heat while I thanked God for caring for me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

#18 A MYSTERY (1988)


          Mike was training in Portland for his new job, leaving Andy and I at home to hold things together.  It was winter, and we had a major snowstorm while we were both in town, forcing us to spend the night with friends.  The next day was no better, with more snow and much wind, and the snowplow didn’t bother to open our road.  Knowing the horses and dogs would have to be fed, I called around until I found a friend with a snowmobile willing to take Andy to the house.  He lived two miles from us, and Andy was able to 4-wheel drive to his place.  The snow was light and fluffy and very deep, and the snowmobile kept sinking, taking them over an hour to cover the first mile.  So the good Samaritan had to give up and turn back, and Andy walked the last mile.  I should say “crawled” and “clawed his way” because the snow was impossible to walk on.  Hoping to cut some distance off his trek, he cut across our field, and tried to cross the creek.  However, he could not get any footing to jump across, and landed in the water.  It took all his strength and fortitude to get out of that water, grabbing bushes and weeds to pull on, wondering the whole time how long it would take people to find his body.
            Finally he reached the house, totally exhausted.  The Lab and Doberman were so happy to see him, and he immediately set about starting a fire in the woodstove.  Then he noticed it:  fresh red blood splattered on the T.V. screen!  There must be somebody in the house, and they were injured.  Looking around, he found drops of blood on the walls of two other rooms.  He was too exhausted to run, and too scared to check the rest of the house.  He frantically called me at the hospital where I worked.  I asked him not to panic, and we would look at this logically.  First I asked him how high up from the floor these splatters were?  About one foot.   Then I had him check the end of the labs tail to see if she had wagged it so hard against the furniture and walls that she had cut it open.  Relief! Mystery solved!
            It seemed to happen often.  This time Andy and I were snowed IN,  with no way of getting OUT. The wind had created unbelievable drifts. I was concerned about the weight of  3' of snow that had accumulated  on the roof, so I asked him to get a ladder and shovel some off.  He had a better way.  He climbed out his second-story bedroom window onto the steep, first story roof, just like he did as a young kid.  However, we had put on a new metal roof since then, and with snow on it, it was slick.  He made it a little way, but then he started sliding.  As he went over the edge, he gave himself a little push, hoping to land on the roof of the car so he wouldn't fall as far.  Instead, he smacked the car on his way down with his frozen hands and then hit his head on it.  He staggered into the house and collapsed on the floor, hollering about how much his hands hurt.   I was more concerned about him hitting his head.  I kept asking him questions about his head, and he kept crying about his hands, especially when they started thawing out!  He laid around the rest of the day, and I kept a close eye on him, ever so grateful he was ok.   

Sunday, November 27, 2011

#17 NEW YEAR'S EVE

    Mike’s head was throbbing with migraine pain as we drove home at midnight from our church's non-alcoholic New Years Eve party.
    “So you want me to drive?” I asked sympathetically.
    Never one to resist a chance to horse around, and noting the absence of other cars on the road, he cruised erratically down the center line of the highway.  “I think you better,” he responded with a grin. 
    As he pulled into the empty market parking lot, I noticed the lights of a rapidly approaching car, which then slowed down and stopped across the highway from us. 
    Flinging our doors open simultaneously, we jumped out and sprinted in the January chill to rearrange our positions.  Glancing towards the street, we  realized our strange antics had been carefully observed by the uniformed driver of the afore-mentioned vehicle with “State Police” printed on the door.  He watched as I slowly  and cautiously pulled back onto the roadway.
    Within moments, his blue and red lights began pulsating with life.  Heart pounding, I pulled over and opened my electric window, getting my license out of my purse.  He chose instead to approach the passenger side.  As Mike opened his window, the officer stuck his head part- way in the window, noticeably sniffing Mike's breathe for tale-tale alcoholic fumes.  Then he began questioning him about his wayward driving and subsequent behavior.  We giggled nervously as Mike explained.  Leaning on the window pane, the policeman inspected Mike’s drivers’ license, aided by a large flashlight.
    I was getting cold.  “Well, I guess there’s no problem,” I heard him say as I groped in the dark for the one bar out of four that closed my window.  Pressing what I thought was the correct bar, I was startled to see that the flashlight’s beam was now aimed at the ceiling, with the wide-eyed officer barely having time to extricate his hand from the fast-closing passenger-side window.  The flashlight didn’t make it.
    My stammered apology was so inadequate as Mike returned the flashlight.  The trooper chose to send us on our way without a citation, but on the way back to his patrol car, he just kept shaking his head and muttering to himself!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

#16 GIVING UP


            There was just so much snow the second winter on the place,  and without the equipment to clear it, we ended up walking to the barns.  The sows had wood chip bedding that had to be changed every other day.  We would go get a pickup load of chips from Boise Cascade, park the truck at our front gate, and then fill feed sacks with them to drag down to the hogs.  By late February, there was a break in the weather, and the higher temperatures softened the deep snow, causing us to fall through it with every step.  We were exhausted just getting from one place to another. 
Last half of trek to the barns
            This particular day, Mike was working at the barns. I filled my two sacks, tied them to each end of a long rope, and wrapped the rope around my waist. Each step I took on the 1/4 mile trek was agony.  Not only was it physically draining, but I was just so tired of the daily coping with disaster after disaster, and I was on the brink of defeat.  Dragging myself the last few steps, exhausted, I just crumpled in the snow hoping to get a pat on the head or a word of encouragement from my spouse.  Instead, he yelled, “Hurry!  We’ve got a sow farrowing in the pen instead of the crate.  We’ve got to get her moved.”
            For another half hour, zombie like, I assisted, but when I left to go back to the house by myself, the tears fell freely as I struggled through the snow.  I cried out to the Lord, “I cannot do this another day.  I have reached the end of my resources.  Help me, please!”  As I looked up through blurry eyes I was drawn to a bush alongside the drive.  It was covered in buds just ready to pop open!  My heart soared!  Spring was on its way!  Now I knew I could do this, even if it was just one day at a time.  God had answered my prayer in a most unusual way.
            Much later, by a year or two, I was again passing that bush, but this time in late fall, and I noticed it was covered in buds just ready to open.  But wait.  That can’t be.  I had to laugh when I realized this was a bush that budded in the fall, and remained budded until spring.  I  had been blinded to that fact of nature so that I could have an encouragement from Him.  Praise His name!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#15 A TYPICAL DAY

    I wish I could say this was an unusual day, but it wasn’t.  We seemed to have many days like this on the farm.  The actual incidents varied, but the general slant was the same.
    Mike was out of town, and not expected back until late that evening.  First thing in the morning I let the dog out.  When he didn’t come back after  1-1/2 hours, and the temperature was 23 degrees, I took off looking for him in the truck.  After 30 minutes, I found him, down by the creek with a mouth full of porcupine quills.  I spent the next 1-½ hours removing them.  Returning from taking Andy to school, I discovered a broken water pipe, so I had to turn the water off to the house for the day.  I went for a walk.  My foot slipped by the stream.  Foot, shoe, sock soaked.  Time for Andy to come home and do his chores.  He tried to take a short-cut through a muddy field covered with snow and got the pick-up stuck.  I had to walk back to the field to get to it.  I got it out by backing over chains.  The three-wheeler had a flat  so Andy took it to the shop to fill it with air.  The starter rope broke.  Mike got home after dark,  too late to work on the water.  Well, it got down to 13 degrees that night and the next morning Mike discovered I had left the pump house door open when I shut off the water.  Now the valve was frozen.  He got it thawed out, but then the water pump wouldn't work.  He had to replace the capacitors.  Then he fixed the leak.  (Took about 6 hours working on the pump, 10 minutes to cap off the leak!)
Meanwhile, the engine is having to be rebuilt in Kris’ car; the battery bounced out of it’s holder in the pick-up and burned a hole in the header, plus burned one of the lines; the 3-wheeler keeps cutting it's starter rope, so that part has to be replaced; the fuel pump went out again on Chuck’s car; Chuck had a ground wire corrode, so we had to keep jumping it until the cause was found; his car quit on the way to school today, and I think it was the alternator belt; the cat had water in the fuel line so that froze up; the driveway is so slick we can’t take the car anywhere because we couldn’t get it back up to the house to plug it in (a disadvantage of a 1978 Oldsmobile diesel); plus it is now snowing and blowing, and we don't dare leave the house because we will be snowed in in less than an hour. The bummer is that I had to cancel  a dinner engagement with a family who had the meal all cooked and ready for us.  Bah!  Humbug!

Friday, September 30, 2011

#14 THE BEES

In order to have an abundant cherry crop, it is necessary to have large numbers of bees for pollination. The man we purchased the ranch from gave us all his bee equipment and his live bees. So Mike read everything he could get his hands on that dealt with maintaining hives, and he cared for about 15 of them.

When it came time for us to collect the honey, we put the combs into a stainless steel centrifuge honey remover, placing it on the kitchen table. Suddenly we became aware that there were bees everywhere, finding every nook and cranny, coming in to claim their honey. They were finding ways to get in the house that defied logic. Their numbers were increasing rapidly, and it became impossible to work around them. We finally gave up and took the rest of the combs back to the hives.

Sometimes a queen goes bad, and the entire hive follows suit.   Mike was working the hives, fully covered in his bee suit,
 when he opened one that turned out to be angry.   The bees swarmed on him, getting inside his bee suit, and stinging him.   He was close to his shop, so he ran in there because bees don't like a dark confined space, and had our son turn the blow torch on him, rapidly killing many of the bees. He ended up with about 75 stings and a new found dislike for the taste of honey. After that, he sold his bees.

Friday, August 19, 2011

#13 THE SWATHER

Mike and 10 year old Andy were cutting pasture grass in the back field,  ¾ mile  from the house.  They went back and forth cutting the grass sideways on a steep hill.  When the swather became clogged, Mike shut it off, and they both climbed into the space between the header and the main body to remove the hay.   All of a sudden the counter weight caused the swather to slowly swing around and start rolling down the hill, heavy end first.  Mike quickly realized what was happening, and the two of them started walking  to keep up. Andy was too big to lift over the side, and there was no time to climb out. As the swather picked up speed, it became apparent that they wouldn’t be able to keep up, so Mike threw  Andy to the ground, and covered his son with his own body. The header rolled over them, and Mike heard his ribs cracking. The swather continued rolling down the hill, going faster and faster, but now Mike and Andy were clear of it. Andy’s first words were, “Dad, we’re alive, it didn't kill us!” Andy must have raised up while the header rolled over him, because he now had a deep crease across his right temple. Mike tried to pick him up and carry him, but his ribs were just too painful. “Stay right there,” Mike warned. “I’ll go get the truck”. The truck was about ½ mile away, and Mike’s ribs were hurting, but he made good time. When he got to the shop where the truck was parked, he noticed he had a flat tire! Never mind. He drove on it flat, picked up Andy, and drove to the house. Next on the agenda was a trip to town to the ER.  Mike didn’t have any breaks, but he had separated the cartilage between several of his ribs, every bit as painful as broken ribs.  Andy had a minor concussion, and his face swelled up so big you could hardly see his right eye.

This picture of a swather isn't the actual one.  It weighed more and the sides were taller.  But this one gives you an idea of what it was like.