Strawdust in my Eyes

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There’s a bale of hay and a 50-pound sack of dry cob goat food under a tarp on the driveway that need moving up to the barn. The Bearded One usually does this sort of job, but I’m craving an outdoor break between all the jamming and summer cooking, some little task where the beginning, middle and end all fit nicely into twenty minutes.  I open the junk drawer under the bread-dough counter and grab the tractor key.

It’s a lovely 75 degree afternoon, the sky is blue, and when I pull back the camouflage tarp, the sweet hay smells warm and summery.  When I march down the trail to the tractor, bright light filters through the cedars and firs and birds chirp and tweet.  The breeze is from Puget Sound, which is just up the road.  Farm livin’ is the life for me, I hum to myself.

I lift the hitch on the trailer with one hand and pull the pin out of the back of the tractor with the other, and then I force the two together.

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And crunch the knuckle on my left middle finger so hard it turns purple as a squashed berry.  But the tractor starts right up and I shift into Gear 4, ease off the choke button, lift my left foot and the tractor lurches forward.

I crank the steering wheel left and make the sharp turn out of the covered parking spot onto the trail, zoom around the tool shed, past the storage shed and out onto the driveway.

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I can’t back up with the trailer — I can never make it work — so I circle out to the easement and get it all lined up just right.  Then I turn the noisy machine off.  I fetch the dolly from beside the garbage cans and recycling bins.

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My knuckle is hardly throbbing at all.

Hay is baled with baling twine so tight it snaps like a whip when you cut it with a knife.  I try to move the bale by wedging a finger — not the hurt one — under the baling twine and can’t, so I tilt the sofa-sized block of dried grass onto the foot of the dolly and then rock the dolly back on its wheels and push.

Flecks of hay poke into my clothes and whittle on my skin as I plop the bale next to the trailer.  I slip the dolly out and away and then crouch down, grab the hay bale’s huge bottom and heave it over and into the trailer.

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No problemo.  I don’t seem to have hurt myself.  The dry cob will be nothing compared to the bale, I think.  Just a few moments of dead-weight lifting.  We move a lot of 50-pound sacks around here.

And then — so what if I pull my gluteus maximus a wee bit — I get the sack into the trailer.  A small price to pay for victory.

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I pile the dolly onto the top of everything hillbilly-style and limp around to the driver’s seat.

It’s a heavy load and I have to shift into Gear 5 to make it up the hill.

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The dolly falls off halfway there, when I’m going downhill before I go uphill, so after I park the rig at the upper gate, where all three goats and most of the chickens watch, I hobble back down the trail to fetch it. And then I unload the hay.

Only now I’m also watching the gate and Leah, the Rhode Island Red hen who is fast, curious and persistent.  I angle the monstrosity, I mean the hay bale, on the dolly through the gate and then through the barn door and then through the interior gate until I finally wrestle it onto the platform.  The goats press in as close as possible every step of the way.

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With sweat dripping down my face, I cut the twine, and the hay bale explodes and sprinkles me with strawdust  flecks which will swim laps in my eyes for the rest of the day.

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Back to the jam.  Break’s over.

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30 responses to “Strawdust in my Eyes

  1. ……I don’t seem to have hurt myself….thanks

  2. Be careful what you wish for, Christi, you may just get it! Don’t you just love the irony of “best laid plans” running amok. This was a wonderful glimpse into your daily life and, as a factory working city girl, I’m envious. My day consists of the same routine, unvaried and mind-numbingly boring. It’s like the instructions on the shampoo bottle…..lather, rinse, repeat. That’s my life, hang door, shoot screws, repeat! What I wouldn’t give to have hay poking into my clothes! Sending all my love and hopes for good health and a wonderful summer wedding coming up soon. ❤

    • Thank you, Kathie! It’s so good to hear from you, factory working city girl. Hay stickers are serious business! 🙂 And thanks for the wedding wishes…I’m at 85 jars of jam now, just 115 to go. Love you, and hey to Andrew and Will.

  3. Jamming is definitely something that requires an occasional break (not that I do it much these days, but I helped Ma many times growing up). However, my vision of break is somewhat different from yours, as mine normally would entail a cold beverage and a seat. Your break plumb wore me out! Love your narrative, Christi — you make it sound almost fun! 😉

    • It was definitely more fun writing about it than doing it, Becky. 🙂 lol Thanks, and I’m in a jamming frenzy over here. I’m making 200 half-pints of 4-berry jam (strawberries from Local Boys stand in Purdy!) for our oldest daughter’s wedding next month. The hay seemed like a grand time from the kitchen window…. 🙂

      • That’s right — the wedding jam! I still think it a glorious idea. The weather is pretty warm for jamming or canning, but…I’m not complaining!

      • That’s right — wedding jam! That will be such a wonderful gift. The weather has been a bit warm for jamming or canning, but I’m not complaining…

        Just bought salsa ingredients from Local Boys — mmmm… and the berries looked fantastic!

  4. !!! I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time but I laughed the whole way through, knowingly…that determination – hair flying out behind you as you race around the Farmlet on the tractor. Brava!!

  5. oh jeezy pete — I didn’t see that the first comment ‘took’ — so I apologize for the double post. Go ahead and zap one of them into the ionosphere, if you like.

  6. You are amazing! I love your bravery and determination! Rock on, sister!

  7. I love that! 🙂

  8. “…sprinkles me with strawdust flecks which will swim laps in my eyes…” The kind of turn of phrase I wish I had.

  9. I was chuckling when you squashed your poor little knuckle, but Laughing Out Loud by the end!!! Thanks for the healing humor…now I will send you some love!

  10. Love your discriptions of farm life and the pictures. I used to drive the odd tractor or two around the various farms i’ve lived on and have very fond memories of feeding the cows with my uncle via a trailer of hay or sileage tootling along behind. He’d put it into a low and slow gear and one of us kids would steer it while he pitchforked the feed off the back. Such a joy and responsibility for us kids. Loved making hay as well and even picking up the bales and trucking them to the shed was made fun. Happy memories. Thank you Christi 😀

  11. Steve was just sitting here and I read your post out to him. He burst out laughing and said that you look out of control on that tractor like Pink riding that ride on lawnmower in her song “So What!” and he also said that you appear to have a bad case of gas (painful at that!) ;). I love the little window into Farmlet life. It’s lovely to read about what other people do on their own little patch of grass. Our grass is at least green at the moment. The ash trees are already budding up and it looks like it is going to be an early spring for us. So long as we get plenty of rain I don’t care :). I don’t know if I could heft a 50lb sack of anything so kudos to you girl, you are a superwoman! :). Best lay off the kefir and the Jerusalem artichokes though if you ever want to get over that killer gas 😉

    • My secret identity is outted by Steve! lol I could be Pink’s mother, of course. I’ve been wondering how to wear my hair to Molly’s wedding…hmmm. Not. And the B.O. is a gifted illustrator, I agree — he can even capture the nuances of the gas posture, which Steve recognized immediately! Kefir’s only down side.

      We’re dry here now. Our grass is browning quickly — the dirt under the decks is powder. It’s full-on summer, and I’m missing the rain! Hard to believe I’m saying that, eh? Stay warm, my southern sister. 🙂

      • You are like us in exact opposites. You get the brown and dry for a tiny proportion of your year and we get it for a large proportion of ours. Your verdant lush greenery will be back ASAP and our dry dusty tumbleweed lawn will be our fate sooner than we know it 😉

      • Opposites attract. 🙂

      • We are yin and yang…not sure which one is which but hey, who cares? We balance out 🙂

  12. Christine Widman

    Here – a brilliant rain cooled morning.
    Every creature great & small – the doves, cardinals, quail, cactus wrens, desert cotton-tail bunnies, desert grassland lizards, turkey vultures, harris antelope squirrels, & me – are celebrating in frolic and song all over the property.
    We’re also guest-free so I can soak all this in all day if I want to.
    Aaaahhhhh.
    I am very glad that your knuckle wasn’t crunched to crumbles.
    The illustrations are – as always – fantastic. I especially love you zooming down the driveway (I can just FEEL your “task” determination – lol) and the quite gorgeous hay bale explosion.
    Off and on during each day I think of you jamming for the wedding. It makes me smile every time.
    xoxo
    C

    • Rain is liquid joy in the desert, I can feel the love. The B.O. drew NINE illustrations this week…he was hot. lol It will be so good to see you at the wedding — and you get your own jar of jam!

  13. Loved your tractor ride; I never mastered backing up with a trailer, either and a good story hides in there; a future post, perhaps. I miss those days of putting up hay on various farms, then a burger, float and ice cream sundae at the Dairy Queen later in the evening. Your story, again, was not funny, exactly, but had me laughing . . . and those drawings!! Having the dolly fall off is something that would happen to me, too.

    You need a screened in summer kitchen! (But you know that, I’m sure)

    I love how the goats get right in there to help you lift; so sweet . . .

    Hope your finger’s getting better. If you have castor oil, make a poultice with some wool or cotton flannel, cover with plastic wrap or a bit of bag, then a light bandage to keep it on overnight (I often use disposable plastic nurse gloves that I keep for painting; it’s easier than a bandage). Castor oil is awesome for reducing sprains and healing bruises, along with tonnes of other things.

    • The B.O. says that I’m not “spacial” and that’s why I can’t back up trailers. Maybe. I can never turn the steering wheel the “right” way to correct the trajectory of the wandering trailer! When the got the goats, however, the B.O. had to back up a trailer (full of goats!) onto a ferry — twice — and was doing it so slowly that a pro truck driver took pity on us and whipped that trailer onto the ferry in less than a minute. It’s good to know what you can’t do, eh?

      Thanks for the castor oil, tip. I will definitely get some…for future smashes. My knuckle isn’t purple anymore. The miracle of stem cells. 🙂

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