Spring by many other names

Mud season is here.
The time of year when attempting to keep a clean kitchen floor becomes absolutely pointless. Dog tracks make circles around the island. They have yet to figure out how to wipe their feet on the rug. Peanut can open the door, yes, but wiping paws is out of the question. The “I just needed to grab something to eat quick” tracks from children muck up the floor by the refrigerator.
Outside, the ice is still evident in places, looking as if a thin layer of epoxy has been poured over the gravel. Almost invisible, it keeps one waddling like a penguin out of concern for your body and the bruises a fall would most definitely cause. The rain we received last week has melted much of the snow, revealing just how much gravel and lawn was plowed up with the last snowstorm. As I sit and write this column, the heavy, wet, slushy snow that fell overnight sporadically slides off of the uppermost roof of my house landing with a thud and a shake on the porch roof outside the kitchen windows.
Spring also means syrup season. Our neighbors and friends, the Duneks, enlist the help of all three boys to chase leaks in their system of hoses strung throughout the woods. They love to hang out with Craig, and he can handle Henry’s constant barrage of “How?” and “Why?” Ira and Dane are almost professionals now, having wandered the lines for Craig the past few years. Henry is eager and willing to be a part of the syruping crew. Oftentimes, we trade children. They get my boys, and I get to borrow a few of their little ones to come up to the farm to play with Cora.
This time of year, play equals climbing the mountainous sand piles near my hospital parlor. Road restrictions are on, and we are ready to keep the cows bedded. Cora and Henry decided that launching off the sand piles on a sled was a genius idea a couple weeks ago. Mom put the kibosh on repeating that feat after Cora came to the barn with ripped overalls from the barbed wire fence below the road. She was unfazed about the incident: “Mom, you can just sew them back together.” I told her I only sewed clothes, not faces, and sledding off the sand pile was now illegal. Another part of sand season is that somehow every sand mountain explorer manages to get gritty sand particles all the way down to their innermost layers, and by the time I pick up all the clothing tossed off on the way through the house, I have a load of laundry.
February was almost a vacation in the barn as far as fresh cows were concerned. I averaged about 10 cows in my hospital parlor all month. It was wild. It always seemed like there should be more, especially after the calving tornado that was January. March is expected to be quiet as well, with only 80 calves due. I was taking advantage of the warmer weather last week and heading off to clean some waterers out, explicitly telling Monique (on her third calf in the maternity pen) that she should get the job done while I was gone. I look forward to cleaning waterers out in the spring. Yes, they smell beyond disgusting, but the scrubbing and scooping of months of sand and cud build-up bring instant gratification.
As I headed back up the alley, there was Monique pacing in the pen. No baby. I locked her up and started inspecting the situation. Two babies. One breech, one in the preferred position. I wiggled calf No. 1, a heifer, out and gave her to her mom to lick the life into her. I started rearranging calf No. 2’s legs so I could pull it out safely and realized I needed two right arms. I called Peter and asked if he was ready for some quality time. He arrived with string cheese, a bag of Gardetto’s and, most importantly, another right arm. With him pushing the calf’s butt forward, I worked to get the legs up. We climbed the gate next to Monique to try and reach deeper; we tried to bump the calf around from the outside; we wiggled the calf this way and that an inch or two. An hour and a half later, after feeling as though I had given birth myself, we were successful. Heifer No. 2 was delivered, alive and well. By that time, Peter was covered with all the gooeyness that is part of the birthing process, and I had been blessed with a manure shower of epic proportions. I was cautious the entire time I was maneuvering the calf inside Monique and then let my guard down during the excitement of retrieving the second leg. That was when she pelted me. Splat. Bam. It was all over the top of my head, in my ear and down my shirt. I was a disaster. But, the calves were out and all was well. Peter gave me his bag of Gardetto’s, and Jaime said she would deal with the calves so I could go shower. I was rather odiferous. I could barely stand myself.
Happy mud-ice-calving-sand-spring season. Try to stay upright on the ice, keep your ears clean, take your boots off when you traipse into the house, and don’t try sledding on sand piles.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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