Thursday, March 19, 2009

Country Girl Goes to the City

We leave for Panama tomorrow morning.

And it was exactly one week ago today that I had a rare moment of clarity. An awful, stressful, panic-inducing moment of clarity.

It was about 10:30 PM and I had gone to bed. I was lying there thinking about everything I needed to do to prepare for our trip. And, coincidentally, feeling rather self-congratulatory at how organized I (thought I) was.

As I was falling asleep, however, a disturbing thought crossed my mind. A horrible, dread-inducing, heart-sinking-ly terrible thought: Passports.

I knew, knew in that very instant, that Madelina's passport was expired. I jumped out of bed, to check, and sure enough, I was right.

I have been suffering mild anxiety attacks ever since.

I can't breathe. Can't. Breathe.

What to do? Well, thank heavens Chicago has a passport office. (The next closest is located in Washington D.C. Or Houston, TX. Or Denver, CO.) And we found a telephone number to call to make an appointment for passport emergencies. Luckily we could get in right away, so we dropped all other plans and headed to the Windy City the next day.

Madelina was happy, because she got to skip school and make a trip with her parents to the Big City. And the Big City to a country bumpkin like Madelina is pretty darn exciting. She was all "Wow, look at that!" "Whoa, mama, look at that!"

So I gave her my camera and let her take pictures of whatever she wanted.

Here's Country Bumpkin in her natural habitat, after climbing down the rope from the hay loft:


Here's Country Bumpkin on her way to the Big City:


Here's what she found exciting about the Big City.

A pretty church.


Airplanes flying over the highway. This was a BIG highlight.


The El train.


And graffiti.


But then.

Then!

Then she saw something wondrous.

Something incredible.

Something unimaginable.

She saw the Oscar Mayer Wiener-mobile.


With an Irish theme, no less.


And then, well, then this Irish Grove Country Bumpkin felt right at home.


And I dare ask, who doesn't wish they were an Oscar Mayer Wiener?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sorting Cattle

In Irish Grove, the time has come to separate our young Murray Grey calves from their mommas.

Unfortunately for the calves, this is pretty darn awful. They've got a good life...I mean, who doesn't like a little milk with their hay? Add in a mother's watchful eye, some playful nudges here and there.....well, there's no better feeling in the world than Mom.

But the mother cows are pregnant, you see. And if you've ever been pregnant and nursing a babe at the same time, you'll know that it isn't much fun. And then you've got a certain bull with a certain, um....drive to, um......well, you know....checking out those poor little heifers, all innocent and cute and much too young to be initiated into such wordly matters.

Yes, it was time to move the babes onto the next phase of life.

Of course, we picked the most lovely of all late winter/early spring days. It was so lovely, in fact, that more than a few Irish Grove farmhands tried to get out of the job.

But being the whip-crackin', ass-whoopin' farmer that I am, I was having none of it. I mean what kind of farmer reschedules a work day because of a little rain?

Marcel and I are all geared up and ready to get working


and yet Marcel's still stalling on account of the rain, the wimp.


When you separate the cattle herd, all of a sudden space becomes an issue. All the animals need access to a water tank and shelter. We've got two barns and two groups of cattle. No problem, right?

Wrong.


'Cause we need shelter and water for the horses and goats, as well. And if you've read this blog for awhile, you'll know that Lucero and cows don't mix.

So we spent a few hours moving the horses and goats to the chicken pasture. First we had to get the animals to move, and then we had to move the gear. Or bale cages, to be more specific.

You see, horse bale-cages and cow bale-cages are different.


The tractor has ahold of a horse hay-ring. You can see that the sides are open at the top. In the background is a hay-ring for the cows (on its side). There's a top bar on that one with diagonal supports. The cows have to stick their heads through the holes to eat while the horses get to raise their heads high and chomp in fashion.

Life is stacked against the cows at most every turn like that.

Anyways, Marcel brought one cow cage down from Mom's place for the calves, changed the horse cage over into the chicken pasture, and then filled them both with hay. In the meantime, I was very handily opening and shutting the gates for him. Yeah, it's a no-brainer, but also an immense help and time-saver for the tractor driver.


After everything was in place, I walked the lane down the hill and back up to Mom's, opening all the gates through which we'd soon be running the calves. Did I mention it was raining?




It's pretty much not a good thing when your pasture has been converted into a mini river.

Anyways, to make an already long story a little bit shorter, we got the calves shut in the round barn and sorted out rather nicely. I gave my mom the camera to take some action shots, but then we had to ask her to hide around the corner because her presence in the doorway was keeping the calves from wanting to run out. Sorry Mom.

So unfortunately I have no pictures of me manning the exit gate, swinging it open to let a calf out when it came round the bend and quickly shut again to keep the momma's in. This was pretty hard, seeing as both my boots and the gate were sticking, in that suction-type way, in the ankle-deep "mud".

No photos of Gordy, our most recent Irish Grove addition (and Mom's new beau), as he dodged the bull and bravely shoo-ed the calves through the barn

No photos of Marcel, cattle-handler extraordinaire, as he weaved in and out through the mass of cows, calves and bull--31 of them to be exact, skillfully separating the mothers from the babes and telling me when to open the gate, and when to quickly shut it.

Just this photo of us in ankle-deep in "mud" after we had the calves first separated,

and this one, after we had successfully driven them through the pasture, up the lane and into the barnyard at our house:



A job well done.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Haunted Barn?

A little earlier I snuck out to check on the calves.

We separated them from their mommas yesterday so they're not too happy. In fact, we couldn't sleep last night from all the bawling and bellowing. Poor babes.

But when I got to the barn, I saw something that made me rethink my assumptions. Maybe the calves were bellowing and bawling for another reason.

A super scary reason. 'Cause this is what I saw in the bullshed tonight:


Ahhhh!! What is it? A ghost? A monster?

An evil spirit come to whisk me away?

Umm.....It's a spirit, all right.


A spirited 4-year old that's come to finish me off.



This face gets me every time.