Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Farm Kids Christmas Break

I am writing this column during the heart of Christmas break. Christmas break is that much highly anticipated period around Christmas and New Year’s when visions of sleeping dance in the heads of high school and college students. After a grueling round of finals all they want to do is rest, relax and recuperate. They take the break part quite literally.

Parents, on the other hand, especially those of us who farm and ranch, have a much different idea of what Christmas break should look like. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the pressure on kids in high school and college and I also understand the need for rest and relaxation. All of that in moderation and after chores are done.

Farm and ranch parents view Christmas break as a time when you finally have that extra help at home. I wish I had a dollar for each time I heard about how one of my kid’s non-farm kids got to sleep in and had no other obligations during break. I am sure that is not really the case, but being the cold-hearted Dad that I am, I don’t really care. I lost that nomination for Dad of the Year a long time ago.

What I do see is that lambing and calving season are rapidly approaching and we are not fully prepared. I also notice that there is a long stretch of nice weather that should be taken advantage of to prepare for said calving and lambing seasons. The fact that I have all hands-on deck for this stretch run is just a bonus.

I must also admit that each year I have these lofty expectations for what we will get done during Christmas break and each year those lofty expectations crash and burn. This year was no different and that is what made today extraordinary. We knocked several things off my to do list and even made it possible to get more done tomorrow. Along the way, we got some Dad and daughter bonding too.

Child number one had to go to his “paying” job, his words not mine and that left child number two with dear old Dad and his lengthy Christmas break to-do list. We discussed my plans for us for the day the night before and she gamely agreed to help. The morning started relatively bright and somewhat shiny as we again discussed our game plan for the day. We would start off by moving some portable panels down at Dad’s in anticipation of working replacement heifers the next day and finally bringing the second 4-H steer home. You must understand that our portable panels are only portable in name only and not much fun to move. Only a true farm girl would be able to lift, shove and coax them into place and only a true farm girl would be so excited about bringing her 4-H steer home to go through such an ordeal.

We then ran some errands in town with Grandpa. Errands in town around the middle of the day is code for going into town for lunch. OK, that part of the day probably wasn’t so awful even for a teenager, it beat the alternative of leftovers. However, the list was still long and the day was far from over.

No mid-afternoon nap followed lunch. Instead we built a pen for the bulls that were long overdue to be moved to their winter quarters. This involved driving many fence posts into semi frozen, rock laden ground. Again, not something most teens enjoy, especially on Christmas break. I must admit that the work was done and the attitude of my help was quite pleasant. It was almost fun, almost.

When the fence was finished, the water tank and the bale feeder were filled another line on Dad’s to-do list was crossed off. My assistant wouldn’t admit it but I think there was a sense of accomplishment. The next task on the list was as much for her as it was for me. We had one 4-H steer at home but we had no way to start the halter breaking process. To do this we need to move more portable corral panels, (these panels were much more portable) and set up a smaller, more secure place to slip a halter on the calf and tie him up. Again, this is one of those things only a farm kid understands because number 2 or 3 on her list for Christmas break was breaking steers to lead.

Finally finished for the day, we rested while waiting on supper to be finished. I didn’t dare bring up the to-do list for the next day, I decided to enjoy today’s accomplishments. It’s funny how satisfying a day of productivity can be, even if it is not so restful or relaxing.

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