Polar vortex challenges the farmer – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


Tough winter. I’ve fallen twice now doing chores, the first time breaking the eggs I had just gathered—that upset me more than the fall. I laid there for a couple of seconds on the ice, trying to determine if I’d broken anything, beside the eggs. I was glad I had my cell phone with me in case I had to dial 911. (“Mr. Swarm, I see you’re lying on the ice. Are you okay?” “No. Would I be lying on the ice if I were okay?”) Fortunately, I was fine. The second time I fell, I was even wearing those ice cleats that strap onto your boots. It was so cold and the ice was so hard and slick, the cleats were ineffective. I stayed down on my hands and knees and crawled back to the house—glad there was no one watching.
That was enough for me. One more fall on this 70-year-old frame might mean a broken hip, femur, noggin, elbow, wrist, you-name-it. Of course, if it was my noggin, it might be a blessing—knock some sense into me. I’m now driving the truck from the house out to the barn to do chores—hard on vehicles, easier on the bod.
I think Barney-the-Barn-Cat felt sorry for me. He delivered two dead voles to our doorstep and laid them out neatly on the threshold. That was right considerate. When cats do this, I’m told, it’s because they think they’re bringing you a gift.
Given the choice between a nice warm farm house and the barn, even in 20-below weather, Barney chooses the barn. He loves it out there and likes doing chores with me. I’ll see him charging through snow drifts I can’t drive through, in subzero weather to get to the barn when it’s chore time. He sure has cleaned out the mice, which can be a problem when you’re storing chicken and cattle feed.
I can always tell when a storm front is approaching. The livestock (in our case, one heifer and a dozen hens) will eat everything in sight to store up. It’s a throwback to their ancestor days in the wild when they would have to hunker down to wait out a storm. I find it particularly comforting watching farm animals eat—maybe a throwback to my hunter-gatherer days.
During the real cold weather that followed the freezing rain, I had problems getting into Blossom’s (our Angus heifer’s) pen. I’ve had to keep a bolt-with-a-nut through the chain to keep Blossom from escaping. She’s quite the escape artist. When we have freezing rain, the threads on the bolt ice over, and I can’t get the nut off. I was about to go to the barn for some wrenches when I thought of something else to try. I had carried water out to her, so I just poured cold water over the bolt. Voila. Off comes the nut—hard on bare hands in freezing weather, yes, but if it works, don’t fix it.
I’m actually grateful to have chores to do in the winter. Sure, it’s tough getting out there when the wind is howling—pulling on insulated coveralls and boots—but I always enjoy the fresh air and seeing the farm animals once I’m out there. As a remedy for cabin fever, chores are a good way to “get the stink blowed off you.”
I’ve found the best shovel to use for shoveling a path through all this snow and ice is still the old-fashioned farmer’s aluminum scoop shovel. Although, in reality, an aluminum scoop shovel isn’t all that old fashioned. The original scoop shovels were made of iron or steel. They were much heavier, and had a problem with snow sticking to the scoop—which makes shoveling snow twice as hard. Slick and light-weight aluminum has helped the situation considerably. At the hardware store the other day, while I was buying 110 lbs of ice melt, I saw plastic scoop shovels. Hmmm. My father once told me the true test of a man was if he could stand on top of a wagon full of ear corn, and begin scooping from the top. I probably have a ways to go before I can live up to my father’s expectations.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.

About Chuck Vandenberg 5629 Articles
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