Voices From the Farm: An Idle Mind is the Devil's Playground

2003: Catching Up

I must add a postscript to my 2002 story, as I left out the fact that our family had grown! Chris and Lisa were married in March of that year, and they were married by my sister, Merle. Since she was our County Court Administrator, she could legally marry people, and she officiated at their wedding. Chris’ parents were in attendance, as was I, on a short break from the lambing barn… it was March, after all! The new couple resided in Burnsville, MN.

Now, in August 2003, Chris had just been laid off from his computer tech job at Brown College and was looking for a new job. Lisa was working at Blue Cross Minnesota and liked the job, although it was more demanding than her previous job at the Mayo Foundation in Rochester. However, the commute from Burnsville to Rochester each day got to be too much, and she made the job change.

Time to take in the view and enjoy life!

Meanwhile, things at the farm were going along well. The lambs had been weaned, the feeder lambs sold, so life was pretty peaceful. Time to settle back and enjoy life a bit.  However, some people never know when they are well off!  The old saying, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground” comes to mind!

Sean began thinking of improvements, such as… adding a 2 1/2 car garage onto the house! Then it followed, if we were excavating for a garage, it would be the perfect time to also excavate for a basement under the kitchen (which had never had one). And we could extend the circle drive out further, so it would not be such a tight turn when Sean was pulling his big flat bed trailer loaded with tractor, skid loader, post pounder, backhoe, fencing supplies, or ALL of the above…

The justification for this gambit was, “What else would we do with all that dirt excavated for the garage and basement?” Well, yes of course, that makes sense! Then a retaining wall would be required to hold back all that dirt, and since it was in the vicinity of the barn, it would also be a good time to raise the roof on the machine shed portion of the barn, put in a new west wall, windows, overhead doors, a cement floor, etc. Let the games begin!

Remember those 25 new perennials I labored to get planted the past spring? Well, it turned out the entry to the new 2 1/2 car garage would have to come through… guess what?  My upper front flower border; displacing not only perennials, but also requiring removal of the gorgeous flowering crab apple tree!

Good-bye to the flowering crab apple!

So, in the middle of a hot summer, scores of perennial flowers and shrubs had to be dug up, divided, and moved to a new location in the back yard. Each old clump of day lilies, iris, peonies, dictamus, bee balm, etc., yielded several new divisions, and in the digging process several hundred daffodil bulbs were unearthed. Friends, neighbors, and relatives were called in to share in the largesse, and the back yard flower border enlarged to accommodate the overflow.

Then we hoped most of the new plantings survived our extremely dry summer and fall. Despite long bouts of watering, mornings and evenings, some specimens looked pretty sick. Mid August is not the time to be transplanting perennials!

Sean will never run out of work! He keeps getting more equipment so he can do more things. Since he now had a Bob Cat with tracks, and was able to do our own excavating, he was also getting quite a few excavating jobs for other people. Besides his day job as a diesel technician at Caledonia Haulers, he did a lot of night work on tractors, trucks, and combines for several neighbors who have their own shops.

All those perennials got moved…

He also did DOT inspections on trucks and trailers, installed 5th wheel pates in pickups, and helped neighbors with harvesting. With the dry weather, his fencing business was pretty much on hold until spring, although he had pounded about 60 railroad ties for someone, and had about another 100 to do. The ground was so hard and dry the rest had to wait until spring. And during winter he plowed snow, as he had a heavy duty plow mounted on his “grunt” pickup.

We lost our Zhuzhie, the  huge and beautiful Calico Cat in early fall. She was 15 1/2 years old, and although she was dearly loved by the whole family, she had a special attachment to Sean.  So it was fitting that he was with her when she died. We had kept her on a soft diet for some time since her teeth were going bad. But finally that was not helping anymore, and she was slowly shutting down her digestive system.

Sean came in late one night and heard a noise in the basement. He went down, found her, and sat with her until she passed.  It was a nice final touch. She was very special, looked very much like a Maine Coon cat with a white bib, 4 white feet, and rings on her big fluffy tail, which she held aloft like a banner. My special name for her was my “rackety coon cat.”

A little later that fall, Sean bought a Black Labrador puppy! He had been wanting one for years, but we always had 2 or 3 dogs, 2 cats, sheep, a horse, and a llama… enough animals I would say.  But now Zhuzhie was gone, our Lhasa Apso, Patches, was now 15, and Sheba, our wonderful Anatolian Shepherd, was nearly 12 and slowing down. It was time to bring  in a new member to the menagerie.

So, “Tar Baby II” came to live with us, and life was never dull!  He was the 2nd Tar Baby, as I had a beloved Black Lab many years earlier. “Tarby” moved right in like he owned the place, pestered Sheba, who tolerated him, and even seemed rather bemused at being jumped on, licked in the face, etc.

But Patches bore the brunt of his teasing, since, if she was in the house she was usually on a leash in the sunroom to keep her from eating the cats’ food, drinking their water, etc. Tarby had heaps of fun picking up her leash in his mouth and pulling her around. She actually seemed to rather enjoy it; after all, attention is attention!

Ewe lamb on her way...

Ewe lamb on her way…

Thanksgiving was spent with Chris and Lisa in Burnsville, and we dined sumptuously on baked ham, deep fried turkey, and all the “fixins.” Chris is a gourmet cook, and Lisa added the hors d’oeuvres, side dishes, fruit salad, candied sweet potatoes, you name it!  I supplied the pumpkin pies and stuffed celery. Chris’ family were there too; we had a nice day visiting, and no one went away hungry!

Toward the end of the year, the basement was completed, the frost footings, masonry walls, etc. for the garage were done, and we were awaiting the carpenters to come and finish up. The ewes were still surviving on pasture, with a small daily assist of grain, but soon they would come inside the windbreak and be fed round bales until shearing time in February. And, for the second year in a row, the young Amish man from IA came and purchased all my ewe lambs! He was so pleased with them!