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.

Friday, August 5, 2011

#12 OUR DOBERMAN


We had a break-in at our shop and numerous items were taken, including a chainsaw. Mike said it shouldn’t be hard to identify the guilty party: just look for the person with pulled muscles from trying to start that stubborn, irritating piece of junk. 
When he related the story to a friend, the friend suggested we get a Doberman to watch the place, and he just happened to have one that was 18 months old and needed a new home. It seems he had gotten the dog specifically to guard his pick-up while he was up in the woods logging, but the dog took his job so seriously that no one could get near the truck to move it out of the way of trees they wanted to fall. 
Mike agreed to bring him home for a few days to see if we would like him. I was scared to death to even go meet him, considering their vicious reputation. But he was the sweetest, most loving dog, and we fell in love with him immediately. Mike threw him a bone and he devoured it in three bites. “Gator”, Mike said. “We’ll name him Gator because he’s like an alligator.”

We just assumed that when he guarded his master’s pick-up, it was from the bed of the truck. So Mike, sitting in the driver’s seat of our little Chevy Luv, patted the side of the truck through the open window, and said, ”Get in the truck.” He did.  He sailed right through the tiny open window and into Mike’s lap.!
The second day we had him, he disappeared, and we thought sure he was headed back to his former home.  But we eventually found him down by the creek, with a face full of porcupine quills. We were hesitant to cause this dog pain, not knowing him very well, so rather than take the quills out ourselves, we took him to the vet. He put him to sleep  rather than take a chance of getting bitten. When it happened again a few weeks later, we decided to attempt this task ourselves. We hog-tied him and sat on him, and though he fought and struggled, between the two of us, we persevered. Then it happened again, only this time I was home by myself, so I had to go to the neighbors and ask for their help.  As time went on, and this dog insisted on clearing our ranch of porcupines, we discovered it was easier not to tie or hold the dog down, but just let him stand there looking forlorn, while we jerked each quill out with pliers. It is really painful because the quills go in easily, but are barbed and take flesh with them when they are pulled.  Now you would think that he would associate pain with porcupines and leave them alone, but I think it just made him madder and madder, and he vowed to rid the world of them.

His best trick was playing dead when we would pretend to shoot him with our “finger” gun. In his later years he was almost totally deaf caused by a firecracker going off close to him. He lived to 15, and died of cancer.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

#11 Christmas Part A

 
The irritating buzz of the alarm clock woke me from a sound, peaceful sleep. I hurriedly slapped the off button in hopes that Mike wouldn’t awaken, but his eyes were already fluttering. “Merry Christmas”, I whispered. “Go back to sleep!” He nodded his approval, and his head sunk back down into the pillow. He was already unaware that I was crawling out from beneath the warm blankets.

The cold air made me wish I was back in bed. Noting the frost on the inside of the window, I wondered when we’d ever find time to install heat here in the upstairs. I walked quietly past the younger children’s room, almost afraid to breathe, for it takes so little to awaken a five and a six year old on Christmas morning, and I certainly didn’t want them up yet. I passed Kris’ door, and went on into Chuck’s room, where I gently woke him. At the ripe old age of 14, he held an important position in the family as his dad’s right arm. He popped right out of bed with an air of excitement about him. (Funny how kids never seem to feel the cold!) “Merry Christmas,” we whispered to each other. “Hurry and get dressed,” I said, and then zipped downstairs to the warm bathroom to do the same.

We were starting the day off with a “Love gift” for Mike - his first morning off since the hogs had arrived over a year ago. With chattering teeth, we climbed in the pick-up, and I backed down the first short section of our driveway. It had snowed again during the night . It looked to be about another 6”. I shifted into 4-wheel drive and drove down our steep hill, turning left at the bottom, taking us to the hog barns, about 3/8 mile from the house.

“This would be a lot easier if the sun was up,” I shouted to my son, trying to be heard above the hollering and screaming of the hungry gestating sows. “Put 6 lbs. of pellets in each feed crate,” the voice of experience yelled back at me. Minutes later, he opened each gate on the 40 individual feed crates, and I opened gates on two pens to let half of the sows out. They fought and pushed and screamed and squeezed and somehow managed to all get through the small gate. All except one sow, who needed encouragement to leave the pen.

While they ate, we went into the other side of the building, the makeshift farrowing house, where the sows with litters were in farrowing crates. Those babies represented our only income. We fed the mothers, and then, using a squeegee, we cleaned under the crates.

Returning to the original 40 sows, who had by now eaten everything in their feed boxes, plus licked the floor clean, we put them back in their pens, filled the feed boxes again, and let out the other 40 sows for their breakfast. We wished they would eat faster, for by now our boots and gloves and parkas were not keeping out the cold.

“Come on, Mom,” Chuck chattered. “They’re finished, and so am I!” We put them back in their pens, and then I let Chuck drive up to the house. “Be sure and get a running start on that hill or we’ll never make it,” I cautioned, remembering only too well the events of a week ago. I had tried the icy hill at a slow pace, and couldn’t quite make it to the top. When I had tried to back down, the steering wheel was useless, and Mike had to pull me out of the muddy field with the tractor.

I glanced at my watch which read 8 am, noting with pleasure that it had taken us just two hours. “Not bad“, I bragged, ”for a semi-skilled worker and a beginner.” Chuck giggled and zipped up the hill like a pro. We ran into the house, shouting “Merry Christmas”. Andy and Lani bolted out of bed and flew down the stairs, closely followed by Kris and Daddy.

Santa Claus had indeed been here, and left Andy a very large puppet house, made from a refrigerator carton, complete with red checked curtains and red, white, and blue graffiti. Chuck and Kris beamed with pleasure, aware that their many hours of secret work produced a real treasure. Inside, just barely peeking under the curtain, were two delightful puppets.

Then Lani let out a squeal as she discovered the Sunshine Family dolls, complete with a four-room doll house. This, too, had been made after the little ones had gone to bed each night. The rugs were crocheted, walls painted and furniture fashioned from any workable trash.

“Let’s open our gifts”, chimed one child, and the other three took up the cry. There were ever so many gifts underneath the bushy tree we had cut down in the woods. Even knowing that we couldn’t reciprocate, our relatives had mailed us mounds of beautiful packages. The traditional electric train from Mike’s childhood wound in and out through the maze of gifts.

The sound of the phone caused Kris to jump up and make a mad dash in order to get there before her brother. “That was a weird call”, she announced. “A female voice said “Santa Claus is on his way”, and then hung up.”

“Who in the world would drive 19 miles from town on Christmas morning just to play Santa?” I mused. So while we waited, we made short work of opening our gifts.

Our barking dogs heralded a vehicle coming up the driveway. We all ran to the window to see who our guest was. Hanging from the running board, dressed like Santa, sporting a long beard, and wearing a parka, was Pastor Stephens. His son was unsuccessfully trying to drive smoothly up our slick chuck-holed, rutted driveway. They were both anxious to come in and warm themselves in front of our blazing wood stove, but not before numerous “Ho, ho, ho’s” had been uttered. Then, opening his pack, he distributed gifts to our four children, bowed his head asking for God’s blessing on us, and then left to finish his rounds.




#11  Christmas  Part B


“How was everything down at the barns?” Mike queried.” “One sow wasn’t feeling too good so I had to chase her out to the feed crate,” I answered. “I’d best go check on her, then,” he responded, changing into his grubby clothes. I soon heard his voice on the phone line from the barns. “Everyone get down here fast. She’s farrowed in the pen.”

Quickly we all bundled up and took off walking to the barns. The other sows had already laid on six of the babies, but we gathered up the four living ones. We then moved the mother to the other side of the building to a farrowing crate where the babies would be relatively safe. Periodic checks on her throughout the morning saw two more babies born.

By now, it was 1 o’clock and we had a dinner invite in town. Kris was ready first, so she was elected to drive to the back pasture to throw the horses some hay. For a 13 year-old it was fun to drive so she was more than willing to go. The temperature had been slowly rising, causing the top layer of snow to turn to ice. Backing down the first section of driveway, the truck slid, the rear wheel leaving the driveway and sinking hub-deep in the barley field. There was no time to pull it out since we were already late. Gingerly Mike backed the car past the truck, narrowly missing it, and we were on our way.

The meal was delicious, and the friends delightful, and by 7 pm we headed back home. “Guess we better check on the sows before we go to the house,” Mike said. The look on his face when he emerged from the farrowing house said it all. Another sow had farrowed, this time in the crate, but the newborns had fallen to the cold floor. Two of them were already dead, and one more died soon after. The other two responded once we got them rubbed dry and put under the heat lamp. Mike was beside himself, and there just weren’t any words of comfort.

By now the driveway was a sled run, but Mike managed to get up enough speed to make it to the top. We were out of clean rags to rub down baby pigs, so I immediately put a load in the washer. But it refused to fill. Not a drop. I went out to tell Mike who was sitting on the tractor, cranking it over and over and getting no spark. “I’ve got to go check on that sow,” he muttered softly and climbed in the car. By now it was so slick he was unable to steer the car, and I heard a dull “thud” as the car’s front fender hit the stuck truck’s front fender, and an instant replay as the car’s rear fender met the truck’s front fender. He didn’t even stop to inspect the damage but just drove on. It would still be there later.

I tried not to watch for his returning headlights, but I found myself drawn to the window time after time. Finally the lights came slowly into view. Panic hit me as I realized he was coming much too slowly to make it up the hill. I couldn’t stand to look, but I couldn’t bear not to. I saw the lights bouncing up the hill slowly, slower, and then, no movement at all. Then the lights receded, faster and faster down the hill, until they spun around at a 90 degree angle, the back of the car plowing through a barbed wire fence, coming to rest in the neighbor’s wheat field which sits about 12“ lower than our driveway.

There was defeat in every step as he plodded back to the house. He had dealt with this kind of trouble day after day, and now this was the proverbial camel with a broken back. I went out to him, but I could not be any comfort. This had to be worked out between him and God.

I observed him climb back onto his useless, battery-dead tractor as I went back in the house, and I could hear his audible prayers for God’s mercy and help. I, too, prayed, more softly, but equally as earnestly, for my feelings of helplessness were as fearful to me as his frustrations were to him.

“How can I help, God?”  The jangling phone was right by my hand.    “Is everything all right?” It was the voice of John, our church choir director. “I haven’t been able to get you guys off my mind all day, so I thought I’d better call and see how things are.”

Relief flooded over me as I spilled out the major disasters of the day: the dead pigs, a washing machine that wouldn’t work, pick-up stuck in the mud, car in the neighbor’s wheat field, and a tractor with a dead battery, leaving us with no vehicle to solve this mess. I knew that God had sent this man to help us. His response, however, stunned me. “Well, if there’s anything I can do, have Mike call me when he comes in.”

There’s everything you can do,” my thoughts screamed within me. “Don’t hang up. Don’t leave me to make decisions myself.” But then I heard myself say out loud, “O.K. We’ll call if we need you. Thanks for calling.”

I felt confused as I hung up the phone. “God, that was unfair to send help and then take it away. Now what do I do?” George’s name popped into my mind. Not only was he a trusted Christian friend, but he owned a gas station in town and a jeep with a winch. Oh how I hated to call him on Christmas Day night, but there was no alternative.

“Do you have a house full of company?’ my faltering voice spoke into the phone.

“They are just walking out the door. What can I do for you?” Once again I poured out our sad tale of woe.

“Be there just as quick as I can. Hang tight.” he said enthusiastically. I hung up the phone, but before I could let go of it, it rang again.

I guess I knew before I even answered it that it was going to be John. “I’ve got three men and myself coming out with ropes and pick up trucks. It may take awhile to get us all together, but we’ll be there just as soon as possible.” When I told him that George was on the way, it made no difference. “We want to come. Anyway it sounds like you need a lot of help.”

(Oh God, forgive my lack of faith in you. How disappointed you must be in me.)

Mike was embarrassed when I told him help was on the way, but he was also relieved. I walked down to the barns where I found one clean towel, and I worked with the newborn pigs, drying and rubbing them until they warmed up.

Soon our help arrived. The rescue work began. They yuked out the car, then the truck, and started the tractor with jumper cables. They determined that the washing machine was frozen, so one of them took the dirty towels home to launder. It was all over in about 15 minutes and it seemed like it was no big deal. It was almost an embarassment to have bothered these good Samaritans, but the memories of the men‘s gifts of encouragement will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#10 The Cherry Orchard

     
       When we purchased our land, it had 15 acres of Lambert cherry trees on it. 
They were beautiful in the springtime when they were in full bloom,  and by July the cherries were sweet and larger than anything found in the market.  Other growers told us that a good crop could bring in a lot of money, but the chances of a good crop happening were rare, perhaps once every seven years.   What could possibly happen to a crop? 
1.  In April bloom, if the weather was cold, rainy, or windy, the bees wouldn’t leave their hives, and the cherries wouldn’t get pollinated.  (We had to rent the hives.) 
2.   If it frosted during bloom, a common occurrence, that would destroy the crop. 
3.  The cherry fruit fly would emerge, and we would have to have the orchard sprayed, for no one would buy wormy cherries.  
4.  In July, when it was time to pick, a strong wind would bruise the cherries.   
5.  Rain would split them.  
6.  A glut of cherries on the market and ours would be left hanging on the trees because the      Grande Ronde Valley cherries are the last to ripen. 
 7. Hail is common in July, cutting the flesh of the cherries, and rendering  them worthless. 
8.  A good year elsewhere and the price would drop below our harvest expenses. 
9.  If they sat in a warehouse somewhere and spoiled, we not only lost all monies, but received a bill from the packing house! 
10.  Starlings love cherries.

            We had no control over the price we were paid,  and we wouldn’t know how much we were getting or see a check, until months later.  The pickers had to be paid, and the packers,  then the middleman, sold to the market, and then to the consumer (that could be overseas).   If there was any money left, that's what we got.  The cherries were sorted into three sizes.  We called them:    A. large and beautiful, and never seen again once they were picked.   B. the ones that we broke even on, and  C. the size the average person buys in the store, but which the per pound price we were paid didn't even cover our expenses. 
            If it rained just as the cherries were ripe for picking, the moisture would accumulate in the cup around the stem.  It would then be absorbed by the cherry, and if the sun came out soon, the cherries would split.  Our only salvation was if the wind blew gently and dried them , or we could hire a helicopter to fly low over the orchard and blow the water off the cherries.  This was very expensive, but worth it to save the crop.           

            Our Latino pickers were afraid of dogs.  They especially feared our Doberman, Gator.  They didn’t know he was as gentle as a lamb. And he loved cherries.  The pickers would scurry up their ladders when he wandered by, and he would help himself to a big serving of fruit from their buckets  We would hear the pickers yelling, “Loco perro!  Loco perro!”
          
    One day, about a week before picking, the kids and I were in town when a major hailstorm hit there.  It left the ground covered with about 2” of ice.  The storm preceded us as we drove the 19 miles to home, and we caught up with it about one mile from the ranch.  The hail was so large that we had to pull over and wait it out.  It beat on the car so loudly that we couldn’t even talk to each other.  I prayed that  God would spare our crop even though I knew there was no hope, for we were within sight of the orchard.  As the storm played out, it was with a sense of foreboding that I drove the rest of the way to the house.  We had counted on the money from that crop to pay some important bills.  When I drove in, my husband was in a fine mood, and I couldn’t figure out why.
            “What hailstorm?” he responded to my query about damage.  God had answered in a most miraculous way by diverting that hailstorm around our orchard.

           We have since cut down all the orchard trees as they were about 60 years old and starting to rot.  I don't miss them a bit, especially since I am terribly allergic to cherries.  Isn't that the "pits"?
           

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#9 First Round


 
By Jeralyn Query  2009

            My husband is retired, but he is gone from home a lot.  Someone told me he’s seeing another woman named Big Bertha.  He was seen at the Country Club, holding her so tenderly, in broad daylight, then swinging her around with all the strength he could muster.  Reportedly he then put her in a bag and put a cover on her.  When I confronted him with what I’d heard, he explained to me that Big Bertha is his 'driver'.    I didn’t know that you had to have someone special to drive the golf cart.   Right then I decided, if I ever wanted to see him, I would have to make it a threesome.   
        

First I had to find a set of clubs that fit me.  It was easy.  I just looked in a sports store for a pink bag with lots of pockets and a place for a bunch of golf clubs.    The clubs came in all sizes, so I wandered around the store and put together five clubs that were all the same length.  I like things to be neat.  When I got home, I set about filling up all the pockets on the golf bag.  My bag has 9 pockets, all of them necessary.  I filled them with golf balls, tees, markers, flashlight, pictures of my kids, watermelon, stamps, i-pod, parka (you never know when it might start snowing), i-pad, candy, stapler, hot dog and chips.

            My husband was reluctant to take me out on the course with him, but I convinced him that he would be glad to have me along.  The arrow pointed the way to the first tee.  (I noticed it was misspelled.)  I was thirsty so I was glad they would be serving it, and I hoped they would use dainty china cups and have “Constant Comment” flavor.   I fully expected Big Bertha to be driving our golf cart, but she never did show up. My spouse hit first, and his ball soared.  I grabbed a club (this one happened to say “Sand Wedge”), and I placed my ball on a tee right between the two large red markers.  My swing was awesome, and I lost sight of the ball.  My beloved said I fanned the ball and that it was still on the tee.  I swung again, and this time I made it clear to the blue markers, a distance of about 10’.  It was my turn again, and again, and again, and again, and again since I hadn’t caught up with my partner’s ball as yet.  Two more turns and I actually passed his ball.  This time, when I hit it, I heard him say “banana slice”.  Wouldn’t you know I didn’t think to put sliced bananas in my bag?
My spouse explained to me how to keep score.  He said that par doubled is the most strokes you can take on a hole.  Therefore, if a hole is a par 4, once you hit 8 strokes, you can pick up your ball and score an 8.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t even have to play to score, since I was always over double par. 


Figuring out which club to use wasn’t hard.   I just used the #1 on the first hole, #2 on the second hole, and so forth.  I had to go out of sequence, though, when a small snake went across my path on the 5th hole.  I just grabbed my putter and held him down until my husband could come over and “bogie” him into the “rough”. 

            Just as we were approaching a pond on the 7th hole, someone in the group playing behind us yelled “Four” and his teammate hollered “Duck”.  I don’t know how they knew how many birds there were in that lake because they weren’t even to the water yet.  I do know that just about that time, a ball whizzed right by my head!


Did you know that all golf balls have a water magnet in them?  I couldn’t get past any body of water without making a sacrifice to the water gods.  Most of the lakes had ducks on them, and I figured out that you were supposed to “duck-hook” your ball.  I did manage to hit a quacker, so I counted that as a birdie.


I got to where I was getting some distance on my shots, and now I had to work on getting them to go straight and stay on the golf course.  I noticed my husband looking at his watch frequently, and I finally asked him why he was so concerned with the time.  He said that it wasn’t a watch – it was a compass!


I definitely got more for my money.  I got to hit the ball many more times than my spouse did.  Except for the last hole.   Wouldn’t you know it – I hit that ball right into the hole on my first shot.  My husband said that it wasn’t fair and that he wasn’t bringing me next time, but I think I can talk him into it.  Besides, I still haven’t met Big Bertha. 




Tuesday, May 3, 2011

#8 THE THREE WHEELER




We discovered we had an underground spring in our driveway about half way up the hill. It got boggier each time it rained, and Mike tried dropping boulders and cement blocks into it. It had an insatiable appetite and just got worse. When we could no longer drive through it with our pick up truck, we used our three-wheeled ATV. Not only was it cheap to run, but it would go anywhere. And it was fun!


 I was still learning to ride it, when the hefty meter reader arrived at the bottom of the hill. I just happened to be spraying weeds there, and knowing he couldn’t make it up in his rig, I offered to take him to the house on the ATV. We started up the hill, attempted to cross the sink hole, and when we began to bog down, I downshifted, unaware of what the consequences of my action would be. The front of the motorcycle lifted off the ground, and we fell backwards into the mud in a stack: him on the bottom, then me, and the motorcycle upside-down on top of us. Wiggling and squirming, I managed to move the heavy three-wheeler off of me, and release the poor, astonished man. Needless to say, our clothes looked like an ad for laundry detergent, and he decided to walk the rest of the way up.

Another time, the horses got out. I was home alone, so I took off on the ATV to corral them. About ½ mile from the house, I slowly crossed what I thought was the fordable place on our creek, and then took off with the throttle wide open. Suddenly the world dropped out from under me and I realized I was stopped dead in my tracks, about 6 feet down, stuck crosswise in the creek, still on the 3-wheeler. What I thought was the creek had been a tributary, and now I had ended up in the main stream bed.  “I think I’m injured. I must be injured. I can’t be injured because no one is home, and no one knows I’m here.” Checking, I couldn’t find anything broken, so I clawed my way out of the creek, hobbled through the fields and rounded up the horses. Later, at the house, I discovered a monster bruise on my leg that took quite a while to heal!

One very dark night, about 3 a.m., it was my turn to go check on a sow that was farrowing. I couldn’t get the three-wheeler to the farrowing house via the driveway because there was so much snow accumulation, and the ruts were so deep, so I went cross-country by way of what we call “the saddle“, through virgin snow. I went up the hill from the house, and then down a very steep hill to get to the barns. Keeping the small grove of wild trees to my left, I found my way quickly. The sow was all right, so I headed back to the house. It was oh so dark out, and I had trouble finding my way, but then I saw the grove of trees on my right, and I took off up the hill full speed. But I didn’t realize there was another grove of trees much further to the right, and it was the one I had plotted my course by. (See picture.) It led up a much steeper hill, one that did not allow me access to the saddle, and the motorcycle broke through the snow that covered the bushes. Panic struck me as over and over I would extricate the ATV, and get stuck once again. I couldn’t go back the way I came because it was just too steep. But the story has a happy ending. Mike woke up and realized I had been gone way too long, and he came with a flashlight calling my name. (No, the flashlight wasn’t calling my name – Mike was!) In no time, he freed the ATV, drove it down the steep part, I climbed on behind him, and he whisked me back to the house. My Hero!

By the time we retired that ATV, it had been the victim of numerous accidents by every member of our family, fortunately none serious.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

#7 O CHRISTMAS TREE

The six of us crammed into the pick-up and headed for the woods to cut our own Christmas tree. After an hours drive, we came to a promising area. There was fresh snow glistening on the trees, and the temperature was a delightful 25 degrees. It’s not easy finding a perfect tree in nature, though. Tromping through knee-deep snow, it took us a long time to find just the right one. It was big, and the trunk was large, and it was a long way from the truck. We were exhausted by the time we loaded it.

By now the sun had melted the top layer of ice on the road, making it unbelievably slick, and as we drove around a corner, we slid into a snow bank. There was only one shovel, so Mike did the digging. It took him about an hour to free us, and then we were on our way. But then we came upon another stuck pick-up. Playing the Good Samaritan took another hour, but we eventually reached the freeway and the last stretch home. It was now late afternoon and we were all tired, but thoroughly satisfied with our choice.

As we got up to freeway speed, the wind currents gently lifted the tree right up and out of the truck and deposited it right in front of a fast-moving semi-truck, promptly turning it to mush.

We drove on into town, pulled into the first Christmas tree lot, and bought a tree. And we never again went to the woods to cut our tree!

Here's a picture of our family.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

#6 WOOD-CUTTING MIRACLE

It became evident that we needed a farm truck, so we purchased a used one, and boy did we use it. With two woodstoves as our only source of heat, and poor insulation, it took 12 cords of wood to get us through the winters. Fortunately we live in a place were we can still go up in the woods and cut our own fuel. We could fill that truck with four cords on a Saturday, thanks to the help of our hard-working kids.

One particular trip was more memorable than the others. We had taken a dirt side road that had a dead end so we knew no one else would be working there. Leaving the three youngest kids in the cab of the truck where it was warm and safe, we put on our heavy parkas and Mike got right to work felling five dead trees. Number six was a particularly stubborn tree, and it didn’t want to fall, so the three of us pushed on it hard. It began to fall away from us, so Mike stepped off to the side, and Chuck and I turned and walked opposite the fall line. However, as this tree fell, it hit another tree and see-sawed back, with the butt end coming right down on Chuck and me. We crumpled like rag dolls. Mike ran to me, asking me if I was all right, but knowing in his heart that I wasn’t. It knocked me out, but only momentarily, and I wondered why I was sitting on the ground. I answered in the affirmative.

Next he went over to Chuck who was by now writhing on the ground screaming, “My back, my back!!!” As Mike cradled him in his arms, Chuck went limp and began to turn blue, his eyes rolling back in his head. Mike, knowing Chuck was dying, cried out in agony to God for mercy, and He saw fit to answer that prayer, because in the next moment Chuck opened his eyes, struggled to get up and said, “What happened? Did I fall asleep?” His only marks were a tiny red spot on his forehead, and a red spot on his back, and he got up and helped haul wood the whole day.

This happened pre-cell phones. I don’t know what we would have done if we were seriously hurt. We had felled the trees across the road, and the truck was behind them, blocking us in until we cut up and loaded them. We learned two lessons that day; 1) never trust a falling tree, and 2) make sure you park the truck on the exit side of where you are falling trees.

Pictures of elk taken  in our back yard.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#5 THE FEED MILL

We found a farmer about 10 miles away who agreed to let us use his mill to grind feed. At first, we didn’t have a farm truck to haul it in, so we had to borrow one from a very generous neighbor. One very snowy day in the middle of the week, as Mike headed for the mill, he reminded me to come pick him up for lunch since he would be there all day.

At noon, as I rounded a corner near the mill, I saw a farm truck in the distance on its side, with its driver sitting on the exposed wheel. I immediately felt pity for him because I could relate to his bad luck. But as I drove closer, I cried out, for I realized the sad farmer was my own spouse. Here's what happened: the snowplow had come by earlier, but the driver couldn’t see exactly where the edge of the road was, and ended up clearing snow partly over the bar ditch. It was so smooth and solid looking, just like the road. As soon as Mike drove over it, it gave way, and the truck gently turned over, spilling 10-ton of grain onto the snow-covered field below.

Mike had already called for a tow-truck, and once it arrived and righted the truck, we could see that the damage was minimal.  We headed for home in our pickup, stopping at the school to pick up our two teens to assist us. We then called a friend from church to cancel out on a planned woodcutting trip for the next day, collected empty grain sacks and shovels, attached the grain elevator to the pickup, and headed back to the spilled grain. We had no more gone 1/4 of a mile down the road when a joint on the elevator gave way, and the whole thing fell apart. We had to leave it right there alongside the road because the grain had to be tended to before it absorbed too much moisture from the snow.

The friend we called, unbeknownst to us, got right back on the phone and found about ten volunteers from our church to come out and help us. What an encouragement it was to see each one of them arriving. No one seemed to mind the half hour drive from where they lived in town.  This is how we worked it out. We had several people shoveling feed into sacks. They would hand their full bag to a bucket brigade, passing it along until it reached the last person who dumped it into the bed of the stock truck.  One lady brought sandwiches and hot chocolate, and within three hours we finished what would have taken just our family all night to accomplish. Sometimes God answers prayer and sends help even before we have a chance to ask.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

#4 WINTER OF THE BIG SNOW

That first and second winter, 1974 and 1975, turned out to be two of the snowiest and windiest in modern history. Every day we had to contend with 6” to 8” of new snow. Paths had to be hand-shoveled before we could even feed the sows. We had nothing to move the snow off the road, and the pick-up truck got stuck again and again. What would be worse would be when we had a load of pigs on adding to the truck weight. We’d have to pull it out with the tractor. It seemed half of the day was spent fighting the weather.


One snowstorm in particular dumped a lot of snow, and then the wind came up and we had drifts 6 – 12 feet deep on the county road leading to our house. No problem. The plow came the next day. Problem. The snow was just too deep for a plow. Next day they brought out the snow blower. Problem. It had warmed up during the night and the snow was very wet and heavy. Problem. The snow blower broke. They came back the next day with another blower. Problem. It also broke. After day five of being snowed in, we needed feed for our sows and food for ourselves. Our friend, Ron, who lived in town, drove over the mountain to a town about 40 miles away and picked up sacked feed for us, bringing it to where the road was blocked, within a mile of the ranch. Our friend, Jerry, met him there with his snowmobile, and going back and forth many times, was able to get feed to the sows and groceries to us. It was a total of seven days before we were finally freed. One sow thanked Jerry by planting her manure-covered nose right in the small of his back while he was bent over!

Pigs are very intelligent, therefore they get bored easily. Give them something that shakes, rattles, or rolls, and they will play with it until they break it. I can’t count the number of times I stood down at the barns in the windy and bitter cold , shining a flashlight, while Mike repaired a waterer in the pen, hands and feet so painful when they began thawing. For several days in a row one particular pen of pigs kept getting out through an open gate. We all denied leaving it open. Finally Mike was there to see what was happening. A pig would lie down right in front of the gate, and a second pig would stand on her with her front legs, and then start flipping the L-shaped gate pin over and over until it would flip out of it’s channel. The gate would open, and the pigs were free to go look for something else to get into.

They would easily run out an accidentally opened gate, but would refuse to go out it if we wanted them to go that way. That was how it was every Thursday. Market day! Those tame, docile animals would turn into 230# demons, refusing to come out of their pens, or going left if you wanted them to go right, like they had some premonition of where they were headed. Our two older children would miss a half day of school in order to help us load. We all hated Thursdays!

Each and every pig that died was traumatic for us because we needed the income so badly. When a sow would die, we would bring her babies (usually 10-12 of them) to the only warm spot we had – a box in our bathroom. They needed to be bottle-fed every 2 to 4 hours, day and night. They were more trouble than a new-born baby. The barns were built over a giant manure pit, with cement slabs covering most of it, and grated in certain places. Somehow a small weaner pig squeezed its way into the pit. Every pig was one we desperately needed, so what could Mike do? Into the pit he went, and saved the pig. We did what we had to do. The clothes were then thrown out, but I kept Mike, since skin washes.






Saturday, February 19, 2011

#3       PIGS ON PUMPKIN RIDGE           

We owed the contractor $30,000 but couldn’t begin to pay it.  We believed that God would provide, but couldn’t imagine how He would do it.  Our answer came through the person that we bought the land from.  He held the contract, and didn’t like having a lien against it, so he paid off our debt and added it to the land contract.  Answer to prayer #1.  Incredible!

Some close friends wanted to partner with us raising pigs, and it seemed to be a good idea.  They picked out a spot on the ranch to build their home, and had a large concrete slab poured for the foundation.  But it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a struggle for the ranch to support one family, let alone two, and we amicably parted ways.  Now the question became, who pays for the concrete slab?  Well, it was a moot question.  Neither of us had the $1,200 that was owed.  After awhile, the bill went to collections, and we didn’t hear anything more about it.  Much, much later, when we did find ourselves able to start making small payments, the collection company, which had sold twice, could not find any record of our debt, and they weren’t interested in trying to find one.   Answer to prayer #2.  Inconceivable!

There were miscellaneous bills totaling another $10,000.  And then we received word that Mike’s uncle in Indiana had passed away, and we received a portion of his estate.  It just covered the bills, with enough left over to live on in the coming months.  Answer to prayer #3.  Unbelievable!

We really did live on very little money, always aware of how close we were to losing the ranch.  Even now I wonder how, with four kids, we were able to make it.  We bought raw milk from a neighbor, and made butter from the cream.  We had a huge garden, and I canned and froze all our vegetables.  We made plenty of both dill and sweet pickles.  Extra tomatoes became catsup.  Sows that went to the butcher due to hip problems kept us in bacon, sausage, ham and chops, plus I rendered the fat to make lard.  Mischief, the cow, filled our freezer, along side  4-H rabbits.  Chickens produced our eggs, and young roosters were on the dinner menu.  Eventually we had fruit off of five growing fruit trees.   I made jam: elderberry, raspberry, apricot, and cherry, for use on homemade bread, and the same flavors of syrup for pancakes.   

            If we knew then what we know now, we’d of put a basement under the house.  We had frozen pipes so many times, and Mike had to maneuver in a crawl space barely 18” tall in places in order to use the acetylene torch.  The first winter, the pipes to the upstairs toilet also froze under the house and all the way up to the second floor, and since they were built in, he couldn’t get to them to thaw them out.  So they stayed frozen for the winter.  One spring day, I walked into the living room and the whole ceiling was dripping water.  The pipes had thawed, exposing several breaks, and what a mess we had to clean up!
That first and second winter, 1974 and 1975, turned out to be two of the snowiest and windiest in recorded history.   But that story will be blog #4.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

PIGS ON PUMPKIN RIDGE

#2   PIGS ON PUMPKIN RIDGE

            Very soon it was time for the big move to the old house.  The day before, our 11 year old daughter and her friend saddled up two of our horses, and leading the third one, rode the nine miles to the new place.   The #1 horse was an ex-racehorse who loved to run.  The second one was a young 4-H horse. And the third one was Sam, a 20-year old slow ex-pack horse who was used to following the pack.  We placed them in a fenced pasture, unaware of Thistle’s ability to open gates.  What a shock to wake up the next morning and find three horses back home waiting to be fed.  We can only imagine the three horses running down the road in the middle of the night, with poor Sam yelling, "Hey wait for me, guys!"


     Mike had done a lot of research, and on paper it appeared that we could earn a fair living raising pigs.  We purchased the land with that goal in mind.  We decided to build the barns a ways from the house.  (From the county road, you go straight and up a long hill to get to the house.  To get to the barns, you go right at the bottom of the hill, and continue for about ¼ mile.)  The bank had agreed to loan us all the money, we signed all the papers for a line of credit that we needed to set up a first class operation.  But first, they said that we had to invest our money in the operation and then draw on the bank's money
       We hired crews to build a gestation house for pregnant sows, a farrowing house for the births, and a finish house for growing pigs to market size.  We ordered 100 quality gilts (first time pregnant) from a farm in Canada, anticipating the completion of building #1 in the very near future.  Soon, we found it time to return to the bank.
       “Here we are, ready to take home boatloads of money,” we told our banker.  “Sorry”, he answered. “Money is tight right now and you are too much of a risk.”  But what about the line of credit we signed for?  Turns out that was an agreement for us to bay back the loan if they loaned us the money.  It apparently was not a promise to loan the money.  We were stunned, but not discouraged.  “No problem,” we thought. "We’ll just go to a different bank."  But the response was just the same at every bank. We were at an impasse.  We couldn’t quit because we had half-built barns that weren’t paid for, and we couldn’t go ahead because we had NO money.  Construction came to an immediate halt.  All we could do was pray for a miracle in order to pay the contractor who had quickly put a lien on our title to the land.

      But the pigs were in route and they had to have somewhere to go.  Mike got busy and re-vamped the one, almost finished, building so that it served multi-purposes.  Of course, it never worked perfect because it wasn’t designed that way.  Sows would occasionally farrow in the gestation section and the other sows would trample the piglets.  They would farrow in the elevated crates and sometimes the babies would squeeze out under the rails, fall to the floor, and freeze to death.  When a sow’s milk came in, she had to be checked every two hours until she started to farrow.  Then she had to be checked every hour so we could dry the newborns and make sure they got under the heat lamps.  This wasn’t hard to do in the daytime, or in the summer, but at four in the morning in the dead of winter, it was most difficult to wake up to the alarm, get dressed, and, taking turns, go out in the snow and cold.  We had great litters, averaging 12 piglets, but due to the inadequate facilities, we had a lot of them die.

       We felt from the beginning that God was in this endeavor.  Too many doors had opened wide for us to pass through.  So we prayed and prayed, with $30,000 worth of unpaid bills, and God answered.  To find out “how”, well, that’s my next blog.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

About the farmhouse on Pumpkin Ridge

The ad read  HOUSE FOR SALE: TO BE MOVED.  $3,000.  It was just a mile from the country property we had just recently purchased, so we couldn't wait to go see it.  And we fell in love with it. It was an old (circa 1890), dirty, 2-story farmhouse, and was being used to store farm materials.  The walls were pine boards of various widths ranging from 1x12 to 1x16, covered with cheesecloth and numerous layers of wallpaper, but the cheesecloth had loosened, so it had been stapled every 12” or so in both directions to hold it up.  And then the wallpaper had been painted over, as well as all the woodwork, with flat, bright, ugly colors.  The rooms were very large, and it had a parlor and a living room.  There were four bedrooms upstairs, and a “water closet” meaning a room with only a toilet, nothing more.  The outside desperately needed painting.  But it had such character!  I said, ”Yes, I love it, but I couldn’t live in it like it is.  Let’s take about a year and fix it up before we move into it.”  My husband, Mike, also agreed.  So we got a quote to have it moved ($5,500), and purchased the house at our bid price of $2,000.   It took a week for the movers to prepare the house, and a day to move it the mile down the road. But it took another three days and three broken drive lines to get it up to the site where we had put in the foundation.  Even though it was August and the ground was very dry,  the weight of the house exposed two springs.
  
      We'd no sooner got the house on its new base, than a lady inquired about the place  we currently resided in, offering us a fair price for it.  We couldn't turn down a buyer. So we sold and moved into the farmhouse just like it was.   Money was at a premium, and all we could afford to do was basic, not cosmetic:  plumbing, electric, insulation, etc.  There was so much to do, so our Baptist church family put together a work party and a group of men spent an entire  day helping us.  They replaced windows, put insulation in the walls in some of the downstairs walls, and did various other jobs.  
      It turned out to be a very cold winter, that winter of 1974, and our only heat source was an inefficient fireplace, which we all fought for the front row seat.  Before we moved the house it sat on a basement.  I learned from the previous owner that the basement wasn't original, but was blasted out with dynamite right under the house!!  We couldn't afford the expense of a basement, so we put in a crawl space instead.  It was a decision we often regretted while crawling under the house to thaw out frozen pipes. 

August, 1974
      A friend noted our need for better heat and gave us an old wood stove, and another friend built us one. With a fire going constantly in both of them, the house was toasty warm downstairs.  We hadn't had a chance to put in wood for the winter, so we burned 2x4's from the mill's give-away pile.  The upstairs was a different story  It was not much warmer upstairs than outside, and we had to scrape ice off the inside of the windows.   
            A lady contacted us, said her grandfather, Clyde Meyers, had built our house around 1890.  He had raised his family in the house, and then his son had raised his family in the house.  It was sold to Larry Starr in the 40's who did some minor remodeling, and we purchased it from his son and raised our family in it; four families in 100 years.