Every year, around the fall of the year, Lee comes into the house and says the "V"
word. Itís a word that chills the blood and makes the hair on your head turn gray. Your
hands shake like they have palsy and your heart beats fast, causing you to stagger and
find a chair to sit in. That time already? I thought I still had a month or two to go.
Yes, itís Vacation time. Some people actually look on Vacation time with great joy.
They happily load up the kids and off they go to visit America. Or, Disney World, same
difference, I guess. It only costs them two years of wages and they can either visit sites
that 60 zillion people have stood before, or go stand in line for two or three hours just to
get on a five-minute ride. And, they look forward to this as a time of getting away from
the crowds and hustle and bustle of normal life like they have at home.
Vacation for us is getting ready for Winter. Itís two weeks of uninterrupted work. No
time for regular meals. No time for visiting friends. No time for shopping. Itís getting up
to work before itís light and not quitting until itís too dark to see at night. Lee and I
make a list of at least triple the stuff we are capable of doing in two weeks and we go at
it like our lives depended on it.
Why do we do this? Itís because of Winter. If we arenít half way prepared for Winter,
we find ourselves outside in the middle of Winter at 6 below, usually at night, trying to
do something we could have had done during the warm Vacation time.
Like cutting wood. We decided a long time ago when we bought our badly over grown
farm that we would only use wood heat. That way we could clean up all the dead wood
lying around and also any trees we cut in trying to make pastures. How much more
economical can you get? You clean your place off and use the excess in keeping your
house warm. Perfect.
Not realizing exactly how much wood we would need for a winter, we thought a couple
of truckloads would do it. Well, it might have done it if we had kept the house at 20 F
all winter. What happened was we found ourselves in the middle of a snowstorm, a
"white-out", cutting firewood to stay warm. Since then we know that we will need at
least 22 large truckloads to get through a mild winter. That became first priority during
Lee always likes to get an extra load of wood or two because he knows me. I like a
warm house. None of this, "My, isnít 64 degrees F nice and toasty for our house?"
Visiting relatives and friendsí homes in the winter freezes me to death. I usually arrive
with two layers of clothing and nice woolly socks and wishing I could keep my gloves
We work out in some nasty weather in the wintertime and when I come in I like to
defrost fast or I canít face going back out again in another hour or two. This constant
freezing and thawing has created some interesting wrinkles and cracks all over my
person. I am sure itís the constant freezing and thawing every winter that I go through
thatís causing this, not my age, no matter what people may say.
Second priority was to have all the hay safely in buildings for the coming of Winter.
Usually we would have our second cutting in by then, but we would always contract out
for more. We would then have to drive at least an hour one way to find the orchard
grass/clover we wanted or the alfalfa hay. As much as we tried, we couldnít raise that
on our place because of the deer. They loved it. They would eat it down to the roots
and leave just the fescue. This fescue we would bale and feed to unbred horses, but we
couldnít feed it to bred does without running into fescue toxicity.
So, at least four to five days of the Vacation was spent hauling in hay from farms that
could grow the hay we wanted. We were truckers from morning till night on those four
to five days. Weíd arrive at the farms early, drag the hay out of the hay loft, load up
truck and trailer, make the trip back to our place, unload the whole lot, set up the hay
elevator, work on filling up the loft in one barn. The whole time we are coughing,
sneezing, and snorting, hay and hay seeds covering every part of our persons.
In the middle of these hay trips we would always stop and get a treat to egg us on,
maybe a Little Debbie cake and a pop, at some Speedway or BP. The looks we got
were always the same as we stepped out of the truck. Imagine the Scarecrow from the
Wizard of Oz, two of them, walking towards your establishment. We would be covered
in hay. Hay in our hair, down our shirts, sticking out of the cuffs of our pants, all held
together with sweat. Faces streaked with dirt, sweat, and hay chaff. Iím surprised they
didnít lock the doors and pretend they werenít there. This says a lot for free enterprise.
No personís money is refused, even if they are sweaty scarecrows.
After we have filled up all the nooks and crannies in our barns and sheds with hay, itís
on to the next project. Cleaning out the goat barn and run-in sheds that havenít been
touched since last Winter.
During the summer the goats rarely go into the shelters, unless itís pouring down the
rain. But, in the Winter when the sleet and snows and rains hit, temperatures suddenly
dropping thirty degrees, the whole herd dives for shelter. All you see is little eyes
peeking out the doors and windows and them asking, "Has it quit sleeting yet? Has the
snow squall quit?"
Usually Lee and I are looking at only 3 foot or more of manure and hay, all mixed
nicely together, composting all summer, to clean out before Winter hits again. The one
good thing you can say about this time of yearly goat barn cleaning is, you can eat all
the forbidden foods you want, because it won't have a chance to turn to fat. Of course,
you usually donít get into the house that often to eat, because Vacation is nearly over
and you have 10 other projects on the list to finish.
But, if you clean the barns the way we do, donít worry about eating high calorie foods.
We clean barns fork full by fork full. No fancy end loaders for us. Just good old fashion
six pronged forks. We did get extravagant and buy a manure spreader, definitely Godís
gift to farmers, but we probably wonít get a front-end loader or a bob cat until we donít
need one anymore. Ever notice how that works? Youíve wanted something forever and
when you finally get it, you donít need it anymore. It just sits in the corner of the shed
and you go out and look at it and say, "Man! We really needed that way back when."
After three or four days of cleaning out the barns and sheds, covered in sweat, coated
with manure, Lee finally says, "Thatís it."
Iím staggering around to the other side of the manure spreader with a big forkful of
manure. I clutch the side of the spreader. "Weíre finished? Weíve got it all?" I gasp.
"Naw, weíll have to finish up next week-end. Vacation is over. I go back to work
Weíve survived the Vacation. I thank the good Lord that it will be another year before
Vacation starts again. I will try very hard to forget the V word until that time rolls