Dan and Monika have a great little book in their collection titled "When the Elephant Walks" by Keiko Kasza. It's a simple story about a chaotic series of events that starts when the elephant walks and scares the bear.
In real life, it's harder to determine just how or when the chaos starts. But if I had to turn last Tuesday's mayhem into a children's book, the opening line would be, "When the lightning strikes ..."
I heard the thunder clap just after my head hit the pillow around one o'clock in the morning. Then the fan in our bedroom shut off and the backup power supply in the office started to beep. I told myself I should get up and shut the computers down.
The next thing I heard was Dan crying for us. Without the central air or the fans running, the room he and Monika were sleeping in had overheated. Without the night light on, Dan couldn't find his water cup.
Suddenly, everyone was wide awake. The alarm clock in our room, the one with a backup battery, said 4 a.m.
Using our cell phones for flashlights, we made our way downstairs, quenched everyone's thirst, and called our electric cooperative to report the outage. We decided it would be more comfortable to sleep in the living room, so Glen and Dan laid down on the big couch and Monika and I curled up on the little couch.
I woke up to the thud from Monika rolling off the couch and landing on the carpet. I looked at my cell phone and winced. I looked across the living room, saw that Glen was still sleeping and winced again. Even though we had both set alarms on our cell phones, and the alarm clock upstairs was still blaring, neither of us had heard them, and now we were late.
Normally, being late isn't a big deal - we are certainly not the type of farmers who can set our clocks by when the vacuum pump starts up. But, on the days we test milk, we really try to start on time so the cows have close to 12 hours of milk in their udders. And we were scheduled to test milk on Tuesday night.
Thankfully, most of the cows were waiting at the barn door. I fetched the rest from the pasture and we got them all tied up. Glen started milking and I went back to the house to get some breakfast. I hadn't even taken the strawberries out of the freezer yet when my phone rang. It was Glen; our load of shavings was a half-hour away.
I hurried back out and took over milking so Glen could get the conveyor set up for the shavings. This would be our first time putting the shavings in the grain bin, so we weren't sure how it would go. Turns out, it worked pretty well, but it took nearly all of milking (which took longer than normal since I don't milk as fast as Glen). And, since it was windy Tuesday morning, the shavings made a big mess in the yard.
The pandemonium continued with the arrival of the milk truck, the feed truck (which required pulling the gravity box out into the driveway since the conveyor was in the way), and the lawn service (which required moving all of the equipment off the lawn). And our neighbor stopped in to let us know the heifers he houses for us needed straw. When we finally sat down for breakfast at lunch time, Glen asked, "Geez, do you think anyone else could show up today?"
Shortly after, Glen's brother showed up to start cutting second crop hay so we could go get Shamrock and her new heifer calf in from the pasture.
After we got the calf settled into a hutch with a tummy full of colostrum, Glen brought straw to the neighbor's and then went out to cut hay. Monika went down for a nap in the stroller and I decided to finally put the shade cloth up over the hutches. Dan grabbed his little yellow shovel and started pushing shavings around the driveway.
When I heard the fuel truck pull in, I ran up to the barn to make sure Dan was out of the way. He was busy cleaning the shavings off the slab in front of the milk house, so I went back to finish putting the posts in for the shade cloth.
Between the pings of the post-pounder hitting the post, I heard Dan crying. I ran to check on him and, as I got closer, I could hear him saying, "My fingernail, my fingernail."
I figured he had shut it in the milk house door again, but when I got there that wasn't the case. He had tried to move the silo stave we use to prop the milk house door open and dropped it on his toe. His big toenail was now hanging on by a thread.
I considered rushing Dan right to the emergency room. Instead, I called Glen's mom, who happens to be the triage nurse at the clinic in town. She said she'd come right away.
Glen and his mom pulled into the yard at the same time. By that time, the blood had stopped gushing from Dan's toe, and the bucket of ice water I made him stick it in seemed to be helping with the pain.
We decided Dan's toe didn't require a trip to the emergency room, just some TLC. I got him some Tylenol and set his foot to soak in some soapy water. By the time I left him to go back outside, he was already too busy telling Grandma stories about his toenail to keep up with the drips on his ice cream cone.
Our DHIA field rep came right on time and waited patiently while we finished getting the cows in the barn. Glen milked. I finished my shade cloth project and fed the calves and heifers. Grandma took Dan and Monika to her house. We finished feeding the cows after milking. Thank goodness Grandma brought some supper over when she brought Dan and Monika home.
When we finally crawled in bed, my alarm clock was still flashing from the power outage. I started to think to myself, I hope tomorrow is a little less hectic; but I stopped myself mid-thought, because I knew better. Tomorrow will bring more chaos, we just don't know yet how or when it will start.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 4, and Monika, 2. When she's not parenting or farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.