I’ve come to understand, after all these years on the farm, that even the most valiant effort to get things done will often remain just that – an effort.
Even the farm wife who has it all together will run into this phenomenon now and then, like when she goes to clean the mud room or garage in late-winter and early spring. The scoop shovel isn’t sitting outside her front door just because it looks so elegant there.
When a push broom won’t do the trick anymore, she can be found on the business end of the shovel, scraping and scooping out dirt and piles of grime that the car and pickup drag in from late-winter, quagmire-like gravel roads.
She may also discover a dehydrated hot dog that strayed from its bun at last summer’s family picnic, and maybe even some sheep’s wool that clung only temporarily to someone’s shoes or clothing on shearing day.
Now that our children are grown, I’m done finding lamb’s tails in the garage and on the basement floor. They used to be brought in by much smaller (but just as dirty) hands that were ‘helping’ their dad on the farm – hands that had come across such irreplaceable treasures that had to be clutched carefully and brought to the house to be preserved in special hiding places.
She knows that during lambing and calving season, the effects of her work of scooping out and fumigating the mud room or garage will be short-lived, lasting until everyone come in from chores.
At that point, the aroma and unavoidable hint of a natural fertilizer deposit is enough to send her nose hairs retreating.
Some of the bank deposits she’s made over years of livestock market dives have smelled just as bad.
Sometimes staying focused on just one project is the biggest trick for the woman of the house, who often finds herself being the web that binds all facets of the farm family together.
Just this week one day I sat down at the computer to get some writing done, when my husband asked if I had time to help with sheep chores before he left for the morning. The sheep were lambing and chores are more labor-intense at that time, so I set my writing aside until I could come back in and get a good start.
Shortly after I returned to the office he asked if I knew where some FSA papers were that he needed for one of his morning errands. I rounded them up, changed laundry loads and got started on my writing, and soon it was time to meet our daughter for lunch.
When I got home I put supper in the oven and was gathering some thoughts for my writing assignment, when my husband said he was going to the bank and wondered what our immediate finances looked like. Of course I hadn’t balanced the check book yet, so I put my writing aside and worked on that so he could go to the bank a more informed borrower.
I’d been back at it a short time before our son came in asking if he could have a haircut before he was to leave the next day for an event.
By the end of the day-by the time their needs were met, the laundry was done and put away, supper was over and the kitchen was cleaned up-but before it was time to check the impending sheep and cow mothers before we went to bed, my family members had everything they needed to keep themselves going, but my writing was in only slightly better shape that it was when the day began.
I made the valiant effort, but it fell short of success. Wait until the cows find out what it’s really like to be a mom on the farm.
They’ll need all four stomachs.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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