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.