Getting It Down Pat (Happy Belated St. Patties Day)

I don’t have a story to tell. The problem is I have many many stories to tell. I don’t know where to start. Do I start with the black birds that are flying back for spring and filling the tops of the tree in the early morning, or do I start with the way the sunlight shines off the old 46 Chevy that graces the yard in all its rusted glory? Do I tell you about the way 80° in South Dakota feels different then 80° in California, or do I tell you the way that hearing John Denver sing Sunshine on My Shoulders makes me cry every time? Do I tell you about the way that Queenie, the oldest horse on the farm, whinnies good morning to me every day, but backs away from my hand in the afternoon, or the lack of lambs that the sheep are having? What do I say? What do I tell you, my audience?


Buster and Queenie in the background.

I don’t know. I guess I will start off by telling you about my new shirt.

The last few months I have been free of mundane choices. My life has been filled with excitement and adventure, and the big questions like where to next? What route? What road? Who should I meet next? When is the next meal and cupa tea? The questions that I’ve had to answer, the decisions I’ve had to make, have been engaging and worthwhile. I don’t posses much clothing as of late. I have three jeans to chose from. I wear one of them specifically on days filled with grunge. I have six shirts to choose from, all of them specifically chosen for certain temperatures so the day chooses them, not me. This has made my clothing choice easy and allowed me to redirect that energy towards more positive, enlightening things, like what route? What road? I had forgotten that buying a new shirt is like a renewing of the spirit. A new piece of good apparel to slip on and make your own is a like creating a whole new statement about who a person  wants to be seen as. I bought a shirt yesterday. A second hand shirt from Goodwill that I fell in love with. An airy tunic with big beautiful flowers on it. A shirt that has me feeling like spring. It has me feeling like a barefoot walk on a hot day or a roadtrip through a green landscape. It is interesting how that happens. I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, the feeling of comfort and enjoyment from a piece of clothing. Do others see a certain shirt and know it is the one the same way I do? This feeling that I get from a new shirt is the same feeling I get when I finally figure out what to type up. Sometimes a story catches my imagination and I know I have to go write it down. Other times I get so many of them, I get overwhelmed. Like having a closet full of nice shirts, which story do I choose?

Grandma found some old paint. Some old tempura paint that is marked with brands I am not familiar with. They are tempura and I believe they are child grade paints. Most tempura is for children, or at least it isn’t the same grade as acrylics or oils. I use tempura, but I also use house paint and crayons on a regular basis too. The majority of tempura is reserved for kindergarten painting or cheap paints for festivals and such. Well, anyway, I like it. I haven’t read the date on the old paint Grandma found, but I did look through the contents of the box. I found that some of the paints rattled the raspy cry of bygone paint. Others didn’t rattle so much and when opened they were sticky to the touch. I am considering the chances of having some good old tempura paint to use in the next few days versus the alternative of it all being rotten when I actually examine it thoroughly. I am not sure, but it is an interesting find nonetheless.

An interesting piece of history.

We have been finding those a lot as of late, those interesting pieces of history. Grandma and I went to clean up the old house. It is attached to the new house by way of the garage abd is a heated farmhouse built in the 1880’s. It was the first house that my grandparents lived in when they moved to the farm in the 1980’s. The new house was built after they had bought the land and old house. They hired a contractor and the contractor hired Dad. So Dad got his first construction job on his mom’s and step-dad’s land through a third party builder. That in itself is a bit of history. This house was the first that he cut his building teeth on before going on to build the home my sister and I would grow up in a decade later. Cleaning the old house was history too. Not just the history from the original owners, but also the history that is stored in the boxes that fill the old house. Grandma found a drawer of paperwork that had bussiness cards from her grandpa and dad. She also found some of her bussiness cards from the 70’s too. We discussed her grandfather and father who owned a shared real estate and insurance agency. In the drawer there were old letters from customers regarding debts and payments. There was an old map of Watertown, SD, not dated but clearly from the start of the 20th century. We also spent the day vacuuming up flys and dusting shelves,  but the best part was the silence. When all the machines were shut off and Grandma could tell me all about her dad and grandfathers bussiness. When she could point out the portraits on the wall and tell me about her great grandparents and the history stemming from their lineage.

Besides cleaning the old house we are all putting our hands to cleaning up the garage. To do so the old granary had to be cleaned out and rearranged, then the garage became the next endeavor. Dad is insulating and wiring and putting shelves up. Grandpa is cleaning out boxes and rearranging tools. Grandma is sorting paperwork and old glass bottles and jars. I am standing on the sidelines and watching, mostly. Sometimes Dad will have me saw something or help him lift a heavy object. Sometimes Grandpa will have me be a gofer, and sometimes Grandma will have me come look at something interesting. My favorite part is the looking. We have found old school pictures of Dad and his brother and sisters. There is paperwork with cursive writing samples from my family, and old school notebooks with Grandma’s doodles. There are books and  playing cards from different generations. Dust from previous residences on toys and newspaper articles fill the air. We found a box of old fishing lures made by my great grandfather and old tools from his shop. It is like a treasure hunt that comes with more value than silver or gold. When we finish in the garage Grandpa and I go do chores.


Old cards from my Dad's childhood.

The other day, the day it got up to 80°, Dad prepared a tree to be chopped down. Grandpa and I stood on the ground and watched as he climbed up the tree. I stood on the ladder and handed him up the trimmers and saws before going back down. Dad sawed off a bunch of branches and when he tossed them down I piled them up. I didn’t do much work compared to what Dad was doing, but I got it done. I did manage to wack myself in the face once with one of the branches. It was more like a log with a few branches sticking out. When I went to grab it I didn’t realize how many branches were still tangled in the tree. I gave it a good hard yank causing the branches to wip out and thwack me on the cheek. It took a second for me to realize there was a sting to it because it initially just made me numb. It left just a small, thumbprint sized, bruise. Not bad for a day working in the woods, or, ahem, the one tree in South Dakota. The bruise goes well with my new shirt anyhow so I’m not worried.

After I got over the sting I continued working. Dad and Grandpa think the tree is going to get cut down because it is too close to the house and is rubbing on the roof. It was to windy on that day to do anything about it so Dad just got it all trimmed up. As he did that Grandpa went to go get the rope that were going to tie around the tree to direct it which direction to fall (preferably away from the house). All Grandpa had for rope was a couplr lariats. He used to be cattle farmer and he knew how to ride horse pretty well, he still does but he doesn’t do it as much. He gave me a lesson on roping and I watched. I tried it, but I was clearly not a roper quite yet. When Dad finished up in the tree I climbed up with the lariat and hung it as high up as I could reach. Then when Dad came back from his coffee break he got back in the tree and tied the rope where he wanted it. That was it for the day. We had done what we could. Grandpa got the tractor with the loader and grabbed all the piles of brush.  He made a pile down by the dry slew and there has been talk of a bonfire soon. I am hoping so.


The fire prodding stick.

In the area where we were working on trimming the tree there were weeds scattered all around. A certain weed with burrs kept finding purchase on my clothing. Dad told me that it is called burdock and it is a sign of good fortune. First he told me that it is where the idea for velcro came from, and then he told me that it is said to be a sign of new friends. He said if a person leaves it attached to their clothing it means they will make new friends throughout the day. I don’t know if that’s true but I do know it leaves slivers. I unattached hundreds of the buggers, and chose to take my chances relying on my charm rather than a weed when making new friends.


Good morning.

Like I said, I have been helping with chores. Grandpa gets up early in the morning and I follow him. We get the food for the barn cats and grab the banana peels and other food scraps for the sheep and chickens. I put on my mucky snowboots and Grandpa slides on his over shoes. We get the grain for the horses and we head out to the yard. If I remembered to bring my camera with I try to capture a few pictures of the rising sun, and then I pet the horses while Grandpa feeds them grain from the bucket. We check the live trap for the predator that has taken a liking to the chickens.

Grandma and Grandpa had four roosters in a chicken coop with 17 hens. They didn’t need that many roosters. They only needed one in the coop and so the other three found themselves in a separate shed. The three in the seperate shed lived with the gueneas for a bit, but eventually the guenea hens decided to move along to the sheep barn and leave the roosters behind. After this seperation something big happened, there was a plot twist in this rather mundane story. A predator of some sort snuck into the rooster coop and made all three of the foul disappear. The only evidence of the creatures existence were the feathers and a distant memory. There was no blood and there were no body parts, until. Until the day there was.

Grandpa and Dad had set out a live trap right after the incident. Two weeks went by without a sign of the hunter. The trap was moved from inside the coop to outside and a few days later the morning was met by newly scattered feathers outside the coop. Opening the door revealed a munched on set of wings and a couple chicken feet. The culprit had struck again. There was a fresh dugout under the door and the inside of the coop looked like a massacre. The immediate fear was that a new chicken had been killed but after further sleuthing Grandpa, Dad, and myself concluded that it had been an old kill. Dad looked around while I took pictures. He discovered a board missing at the base of the wall. It lead to an eight inch tall crawlspace under the floor of the adjoining barn. In this space there were dead chickens. Roosters to be exact. Whatever had murdered the chickens hadn’t slunk off with them, it had instead made a den in their old home and had turned it into a pantry. After these findings the live trap got moved back into the coop and baited with chicken legs and some old lamb liver. So far the culprit hasn’t been caught, but we check it every morning. This morning we were met by a friendly face when we looked into the shed. The barn cat, Goldie, was staring out at us from behind the bars of the trap. He was mewwing quite folornly, clearing not enjoing the night he had spent incarcerated. We let him out and reset the trap, then we went on about the rest of the chores.

After feeding grain to the horses, and checking the trap, we bring the cat food out to the barn cats. I give a little to both of them. There are two barn cats, Goldie and Checkers. Checkers is the female and she likes me a lot more than Goldie does. It took her awhile, but now she lets me pet her when I bring breakfast while Goldie insists on running every time he spots me. The barn cats aren’t the only cats on the farm though. There is also an indoor cat. Her name is Dumpster Kitty. We shorten that up and call her DK. I have a special bond with her since we share the same intials. She loves me and often sleeps on my feet at night.


Dumpster Kitty on cat nip. In this picture she is playing under my chair at the kitchen table. She is using the legs and brackets on the chair as a jungle gym while waiting for the right moment to swat my feet.

DK loves me, and I am growing on Checkers,  but Goldie doesn’t care for me much. Regardless, I feed them all. After feeding the cats we check on the sheep. We see if any of the ewes have had their babies, and they haven’t. Grandpa will go get the grain bucket to feed the sheep and I will toss the banana peels out for them to eat. The barn gets opened and we let the sheep out and then we go check on the chickens. We feed them and make sure they have water. We open up the laying box to get ready for the eggs that the hens will drop throughout the daylight hours. After all the light stuff is done we go out to pitch hay to the horses and alfalfa to the sheep.

I hadn’t ever pitched hay before so Grandpa had to show me how. It takes a certain stab and twist inorder to pick up all the hay that one wants to pick up and then deposit it all into the right spot. It is a new technique that I look forward to using in the coming years, I guess we shall see. Grandpa Larry will have me turned into a regular farmer if I ever get the roping right.

After all those chores are done we go eat breakfast. If I remembered to carry my camera along I try to capture as many photos as possible. The rest of the day isn’t quite so planned out. Like I said,  I help out where I can,  but the truth is I don’t have much to offer. I enjoy the memories so I am taking photographs and writing inorder to recollect it all.

It is all so very interesting. A new thing happens everyday on a farm. What specific story does one pick out to write about? But what can I say, a new thing happens everyday in life, what does one pick to write about? Which shirt do I buy,  which shirt do I wear? What story do I write? What story do I publish. Well, I guess I will just have to answer those questions later.

Have a good day audience.