Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not So Bad Day

Today I was in line at the Driver’s License office and it was a bad day. OK, Ike was in line at the Driver’s License office and I was there as the responsible adult, but that really was when the day went bad. No, it had nothing to do with the wonderful people at the Driver’s License office or the prompt service (really they were quite nice and the line moved fairly quickly), I got” the call”.
What call was that you ask? It was the call from the Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Department saying that we had cows out on Highway 99. The dispatcher said she had tried Dad but he was not answering his phone. Most likely that was because; 1) he was shearing trees and could not hear it ring, 2) he was in a place with no signal and, most likely, 3) cell phones do not work when you really need them too. I thanked her for calling me and hung up the phone, pondering my dilemma.
There I sat, in the Driver’s License office, cows on the highway and no way to get home. Oh yeah, I left out another detail. Jennifer was in Frankfort, a wonderful small town, but the black hole of cell phone reception. Back to the story, the cows were out, I was stuck in Manhattan, Dad was out of communication and the cavalry was unavailable. Things were not looking good. Then I did what most of us in rural America do in similar situations, I called a neighbor.
Ron answered the phone and agreed to set out to find Dad. In the meantime, I did the only other thing I could do; I alternated between frantically trying to call Jennifer or Dad and worrying. I consoled myself by assuming it was the old cows and calves on the East side of the road that were probably out and not the replacement heifers on the West side of the road. The cows and calves would not be that hard to get back in, I told myself.
Finally, I got through to Dad and he started to make the long journey out of the wilderness back the road and to the law enforcement professional currently watching the aforementioned bovines. Then right after I made contact with Dad, Jennifer answered her phone. The connection was not good, but I have perfected the art of communication through a bad signal. OK, so Jennifer could sense the desperation in my voice even with only getting every other garbled word.
Things were getting better, or so I thought, I had Dad on the way, he had help, and Jennifer was on her way. About that time, Ike came back in from his driving test, grinning, with a newly minted farmer’s permit. In retrospect, that might end up being my bad day, but for right now, it was a good thing. Ike and I left in a cloud of dust (I was driving) to help save the day.
We, strategically, snuck around the East side of the highway to help corral the cows and calves. We found nothing but the cows standing contentedly in their pasture minding their own business. There went the day again. We crossed the highway to see the neighbor’s truck abandoned in the road and Dad’s truck creeping along the road, 200 yards to the West.
We caught up to Dad only to find out that; 1) it was in fact the replacement heifers that were out, 2) only about half of them had been found, and 3)he had no idea where the other half went to. That was why he, our neighbor, Jennifer and Tatum were looking for tracks, heifers or any sign of where they might be. Things were looking bad for the home team, because instead of fifty degrees and dry, the weather had turned to thirty and snowing. I guess that was the rock bottom right before things got better.
First we found most of the remaining heifers, leaving us only three short. Jennifer, Tatum, our neighbor Bryan and I pushed the newly found heifers back to the pen. Meanwhile, Dad and Ike continued to search for the last of the three wayward ruminants. When we had safely penned the second group with the first group, we saw Dad and Ike pushing the remaining three calves our way.
With the heifers safely back in the pen, the gate securely latched and our nerves beginning to quiet down it was time to reflect on the bad day. That was when I realized that my bad day was really a good day. The heifers were found, rounded up without incident. Most of all I was reminded that I was lucky to live in a county where the sheriff‘s office knows who to contact and when we are contacted there are neighbors who are willing to help. I guess, in the end, that makes for a pretty good day.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Worrying About Tinker Bell

Tinker Bell, the Suffolk ewe, is very near lambing and I have to admit I am worried. She is Ike’s old show ewe and one of the best we have ever owned. That means if any ewe will have trouble lambing or if something weird is going to happen, it will happen to her. I hold my breath each time I open the barn door to check on her. Tinker Bell does not share my concern and often meets me with a look of bored contentment.
Worrying is something I do quite well. I seem to worry about everything, maybe it is just part of being a farmer. Right now I am worried about the drought. Will we get enough rain to fill the ponds? Will we get enough precipitation to grow the grass we need this spring? Will we have enough soil moisture to produce a crop? I am obsessed with the weather and often watch two different forecasts and check three weather sites on-line. Can I do anything about the weather? No, but that does not stop me from worrying.
I also spend a lot of time worrying about the markets, especially when the weather gives me something to sell. Similar to the weather I check the prices and market news in several different places. There is a bit of euphoria when the market is going up and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when the market drops. Much like the weather my worrying does nothing but keep anti-acid manufacturers in business.
This winter I paced by the windows worrying about the calves as the snow came down. I worried about whether I had put enough hay out and if they had a place to get out of the wind. This summer I will worry each time I see a flash of lightening. I know, at that point, there is nothing I can do to protect my cattle, but that doesn’t stop me from staring out the window and, worrying.
Of course there are many other worries. Little nagging thoughts like; did we plant the right hybrids, will the interest rates go up, will the tractor start, and the big one, are the cows out? You know the kind of thoughts that go through your head about 1:00 at night. The kind of little worries that cause me to lose beauty sleep (and I have obviously lost a lot of beauty sleep over the years).
I also tend to worry about laws and regulations. What monkey wrench will the EPA, USDA, KDHA, or some other alphabet soup agency come up with to trip us up? I do what I think is best and try to do things the right way, but is there some rule I am missing? Will this fiscal cliff or sequestration cause the economy to crash? I know it is really silly to worry about the government; it makes more sense to worry about the weather.
Then there are the kids. A great deal of my worrying time is spent worrying about my kids. Are they happy? Do they have everything they need? How are we going to pay for college? Did Ike find his coat? Did Tatum finish all of her homework? All legitimate worries and the worst part is that I don’t have a driver yet. Soon the worry will be multiplied each time the car leaves the driveway.
So why do I worry if there is nothing I can do about most what I concern myself about? I guess it is human nature; the early caveman had to worry about getting eaten or freezing during the ice age. We had to learn how to worry to survive. We also learn to worry from our parents. I remember Mom and Dad worrying about whether I had lost my coat (I guess some things never change). Then throw in farming and I guess worrying is in my DNA. To quote Buck Owens, “It just comes naturally.”
I have also come to the realization that I tend to worry about the things in my life that mean the most to me. My family, friends and my way of life, all of the things I care the most about. If I did not have all the blessings I have in my life, I would not worry or care so much. Maybe worry is a good thing, a sign that I have many good things in my life. Those good things even include the very pregnant and ever worrisome Tinker Bell.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Daylight Savings, Only Better

Daylight savings time began this week, there are very few times of the year I like less than the day it starts. I am not sure why it bugs me so much, but I dread the idea of going to bed knowing that you will lose an hour of sleep. I know, I could go to sleep an hour earlier, but then I would miss the 10:00 news and the all important weather forecast.
I also need one of the people who thought it was a good idea not only to initially start daylight savings time, but also to move it up a month, to come to my farm. They need to explain to my animals that the clock has, in fact, changed and even though it seems like 9:00 it is time for the 10:00 nightly check. I would also like to explain to them that because they wanted to give everyone an extra hour of daylight after work, they have effectively made it so I have to wait another hour to check my cows in the morning.
I know the idea behind moving the time change up a month is that it would save money by allowing people to be outside another hour. I am a bit skeptical about whether it serves its intended purpose or not, but it made me think. I have an idea that will help all of us. The brilliance is its simplicity.
I have trouble getting everything done during the day that I need to get done. It seems I am always behind schedule. I also suffer from not getting enough sleep at night. We have heard from many experts that many of our health problems are the result of not getting eight hours of sleep each night. The bottom line is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Oh sure, we could try to cram a little less into our lives each day. We could set priorities and, heaven forbid, make our kids set priorities. I suppose we could learn how to say no to some of the people and things pulling for more of our time. But we feel guilty about turning some of them down, others we just enjoy too much to let go and there are those that we do because we always have. The bottom line is that we cram our schedules too full for the current 24 hour day.
In the spirit of daylight savings time I propose that we had two more hours to each day. I thought about adding one more but that creates too many problems for clock makers. Think about it 13 o’clock would be the perfect solution to our time dilemma. We would have that extra hour each day to squeeze a couple more appointments in, maybe a couple more activities for our kids.
The real beauty of my time solution would be the extra hour of sleep we would all get each night. We all enjoy our extra hour of sleep each fall, how great would it be to get that extra hour each night. The health benefits would be far reaching and we would all be much better rested and less grouchy. Not only would we be healthier but the world would be a much nicer place. We would also generate economic activity, all of the clocks in the world would need replaced or retro-fitted for 13:00. It would be a really boom for the clock industry.
Of course, my plan is not without its problems that need to be thought through. Things like when would we have lunch and would noon still be 12:00 pm and midnight 12:00 am? What time would the evening news come on? There would also be the messy issue of when the sun would come up and set. Just minor details similar to those faced with moving the time changes a few years back
Join with me to lobby for a 26 hour day. We could call ourselves 13o’clockers. Call your Senators and Representatives right away. Let’s make this a bi-partisan effort; it might even break up the grid-lock in D.C. It’s a cause everyone can get behind. Until then, we will just all have to muddle along with our old-fashioned 24 hour day and modern hectic schedules and only dream of two more hours each day.