September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

While the cat's away the mice will play

By Jacqui Davison- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

I can remember when I was finally old enough to do all the milking chores by myself, right about the time I was in sixth or seventh grade. I could run all six units in the stall barn, even though the rule was I was only supposed to use four when I was by myself. I loved the feeling of adultness it gave me to be able to milk all 70 cows so Mom and Dad could go out. Our farm has changed tremendously since I was a teenager, but somehow I still feel like that kid when Dad leaves. My dad took a two week vacation during the first part of August to visit the Czech Republic and friends in Ireland. Amazingly, Stacy, Peter, and I didn't have any problems we couldn't handle.
The first Monday of vacation, Peter decided it would be a good week to make some small square bales. In anticipation of not having enough discbine operators for fourth crop, he taught rookie drivers Steph and Lynzie how to cut hay. They took to it like fish to water, doing quite well, with the rows being only a little uneven. That week also brought the jetter guys, the men that come and clean out the excess sand build-up in our manure channel. This meant coordinating with the milk hauler to make sure he was back from hauling milk so he could haul the water needed to flume the channel. He had the hay all raked and ready to bale when it got rained on Friday morning, but trust me, we are not going to complain about rain. Saturday morning, Peter managed to get the hay baled so the girls and Ira unloaded with Thomas and Peter in the haymow.
The following week brought fourth crop harvest. Thank God for the rain last month, or we wouldn't have had to worry about cutting any hay. Plastic was up on the bunkers, tractors ready to roll, trucks geared up and going, and on the first load something went wrong with the White (the packing tractor). No problem; Ray came back and fixed what turned out to be a minor malfunction. Peter stayed unruffled throughout an ordeal that had the potential to put a major kink in the speed of hay harvest. Discbines stayed running through the better part of two and a half days. When he needed a relief driver, his training paid off and Lynzie was recruited after she checked the sick cows in the morning. Stacy even took Oliver out to fill in the midday gap of cutting so that we could keep the discbines running far enough ahead of the merger and chopper. All in all, fourth crop took three days, and provided us with 20 more loads of nice, green haylage than third crop did.
On Wednesday, as the end was in sight for chopping, I was just tying my apron strings to start making stromboli when I got the call that I was needed to pull a calf. The first calf was out, and the second had it's head too far back for the average arm to reach. Steph and Lynzie made fists and gently rocked the side of the cow, gradually moving the calf up to within reach, and ta-da, a live calf was delivered and I was back to the house to cook in less than 15 minutes. Don't tell my dad this, but I may have learned that trick from him somewhere along the way. With the stromboli in the oven, the guys all rolled in with their last loads, and proceeded to the pile. Rain in the forecast made covering the pile a priority, but no one was complaining; 14 helpers make a job like throwing tires go fast.
Ira was so excited, "Yes! It's the best part!" I think he verbalized what all of us were feeling:"Yes, we got done with hay, with no major problems. We did it without Dad here, and before the rain!"
Stacy managed the parlor employees in Dad's absence, calling and occasionally 'laying down the law' as they say, but always making sure someone was here to milk the cows. She even worked it out to have Oliver out at the farm a few extra days so it was easier for her to help with something extra. I found two DAs, luckily on days when we had the vet here to do herd checks. It seems as though there is an unspoken law in the barns when my dad is gone:'anything that can go wrong will.' So, of course, I had two cows die - one from gangrenous mastitis and one from a perforated bowel. There was nothing I, or anyone else for that matter, could have done to save either of them, despite Peter and Lynzie giving a cold water enema to the latter cow to bring her temperature down. Sometimes things just happen on a farm.
Ira and Dane had their usual truck rides during haying, and constantly managed to convince Steph, Lynzie, and Peter to play ball with them. We also balanced two weeks of swimming lessons, snuck in a trip out to eat, and a night at the tractor pull. But the highlight of their play was the last day of Dad's vacation when we had a supreme game of Hide-and-Seek. It was Thomas, Peter, and Ira versus Steph, Lynzie, Dane, Abby (Thomas's girlfriend), and me. I think the big kids had as much fun as the little kids! We played much like we did when we were younger, with lots of giggles and running to gool.
It always amazes me that we can handle the farm when Dad is gone. It really shouldn't, though we are all adults now and quite capable. We all know our strengths and gravitate towards them, making sure all gaps are filled along the way. Dad knows we can handle it or he would never leave. We also know he has taught us well over the years, though we may not readily admit it. So, while the cat was away, the mice indeed did play, but we also worked quite a bit, too.[[In-content Ad]]


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