March 24, 2023 at 8:42 p.m.
About six weeks ago, on a Saturday that started out like any other Saturday, the noontime chores were underway. My brother-in-law, Dan, was running the barn cleaner, my husband, Jason, was mixing feed, and I was in the house watching our kids and making dinner.
It took a little longer than usual for Jason to come in for dinner. I assumed something must be up. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last time some issue arises and dinner gets put on hold. When Jason came in, he said the barn cleaner had frozen up. Thankfully, Dan was able to get the majority of the manure out of the barn before it all came to a halt. We have a gravity flow system going from the barn to the manure pit, and it had never frozen.
The day before had been on the colder side with a strong south wind, and the barn cleaner is on the south end of the barn. But, the temperature had remained above zero. Jason and Dan tried running water to the back of the barn for several hours to no avail.
The next day came time to pitch the manure out by hand. Thankfully, the barn door is wide enough to get the skid loader in and drive down the middle walkway of our stanchion barn. Armed with pitchforks and shovels, Dan, Jason, Justin (a neighbor kid who helps us part time) and I began the process. My youngest stayed in the house and napped, and my 2-year-old came out to the barn and watched the process unfold.
Scoop by scoop, we made our way down, making quick conversations while Dan jumped in the skid loader and hauled out the bucket load of sloppy, squishy manure. My dear husband, who always has the best intentions, would often continue these conversations while we got back to work shoveling manure into the bucket of the skid loader. He tried to keep things light by trying to get us to smile or laugh with his endless stories and tried-and-true dating advice for Justin.
Jason considers himself full of helpful dating advice since it only took him 36 years to find a wife. He teased Justin that manure shoveling is something one should not do on a first date to impress a girl. These meanderings would occasionally result in a few drops of manure going into my mouth while I was laughing or responding back to one of his revelations.
In just under two hours, the task was done. While step one was done, we still had to get the reception pit unplugged. Even though the temperature was in the 20s, it still wouldn’t budge. This was not a good sign.
Jason called and requested a portable tank to come Monday morning to vacuum out the remaining manure so they could see into the funnel and hopefully find the issue. When that didn’t seem to make a difference, they called a guy who has a jetter, a hose with a special nozzle that is designed to unclog pipes. After about half an hour, the manure that was still sitting in the reception pit started to go down. After an hour and a half, the manure started to flow, and the barn cleaner was running like it should.
After 48 hours, finally it was revealed. The mystery was solved. It was not frozen like we originally thought. There was a buildup of straw in the funnel right before the elbow that led to the pipe to go to the manure pit.
The silver lining to all this is how you look at it. Yes, I had to help shovel an entire barn full of manure on a Sunday afternoon. But doing it with family, working toward a common goal, it hardly felt like work. To me, it goes to show even small things can leave a big impact. According to Jason, it goes to show couples who pitch manure together stay together. I will admit he does have a point. Working together in good times and bad will make us stronger as a family.
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