Important Advice: Don’t Drink and Farm

The Farmer was gone hunting a few weeks ago, so I was in charge, always a heady time because I get to wear so many hats.

A few days into my solo farming career, I woke up and put on my Writing Hat, writing an hour before feeding myself and the dogs. Then I donned my Chore Hat and went outside to feed the chickens, etc. Back inside I put the Writer Hat on again. Late morning I jammed on my Maintenance Hat, and using a two-wheeled dollie, dragged my ugly gray four-drawer file cabinet (empty) out the back door, through the yard, up the driveway, and into the shed, where I spray painted it burgundy. Some of the paint actually made it onto the cabinet.

Then after lunch I switched back to Chore Hat and hopped on the 4-wheeler to move the sheep to fresh pasture. (In fall in MN the term ‘fresh’ is relative…it’s not succulent new grass, but mostly the older stuff the sheep turned their cute little noses up at the last time through that pasture.)

Then back to the house to find my Editor’s Hat, working for a few hours helping other writers improve their manuscripts. Then I had time to put on my Self-Pity Hat and watch a DVD because I was still feeling the effects of a sinus infection.

While under the influence of the Self-Pity Hat, I decided I needed a treat. No candy in the house that I could find (At my request, M hides it, then doles it out a piece at a time), but we had some wine.

First let me say that I understand excess drinking is a serious problem. I might drink 1-2 glasses of wine in a month, so please don’t think I’m out here chugging down gallons of Boone’s Farm every day.

(I drank to excess once in college, and that was enough. My roommate and I held a wapatoulie party: Take one clean waste basket, line it with a clean trash bag, then everyone brings a bottle of something and pours it in. This is just as bad an idea as it sounds. Luckily we’d used my roommate’s waste basket because I spent the night sitting on the edge of my bed hugging my own.)

But here I was, alone all week, a bit lonely, so I opened a bottle of wine and drank a glass. It was good, so I drank another. Also good. Unbelievably, and uncharacteristically, I then consumed a THIRD glass. Three glasses in about 45 minutes….ah…bad idea.

Now it was dark, so I had to put on the Chore Hat and close up the barns, feeding cats, ducks, and cattle. The ground seemed a bit unstable as I headed out, but I was fine. I started with the shed, and was suddenly fascinated with the four homing pigeons living up in the rafters (long story.) Instead of finding them irritating, I thought they were a lovely white, and I spent lots of time standing beneath them, enjoying their sweet cooing.

I turned out the lights and headed for the little barn, amazed that the ground could undulate so without an earthquake. In the little barn I talked to the chickens, collected their eggs, and told them what a marvel I thought these little orbs were. The chickens, all perched for the night, clucked nervously at the chatting fool below them.

Then I turned my attention to the four steers, and grew nostalgic. “Just six months ago you little guys were small enough to pick up. I fed you from a bottle. I taught you how to drink from a bucket.” I went on and on about how big they were now (450 pounds) and how much they’d grown. I walked through the pen, scratching heads, patting flanks, hugging heads, gushing a bit over how great they looked. Imagine a 14-year-old boy trapped in a room with a great-aunt he hasn’t seen for a few years….this was the look on the faces of the four steers.

Then I climbed up into the hay mow. I fed the cats (we feed them up there so the chickens can’t get to their food.) I tossed hay down through the hole in the floor for the cattle below. Then I returned to the ladder and looked down.

This was when it hit me: perhaps those three glasses hadn’t been such a good idea. To get down, I had to grasp the handles on the pole, step down onto the first rung of the ladder, walk my hands down the pole, grab the ladder with one hand and pull the door closed above me with the other. I stared down the hole. One misstep and I’d end up in a rumpled heap on the hard ground. Not only would I hurt myself, but I’d startle the cattle.

I donned my Instant Sobriety Hat, took a deep breath, and got myself down safely without hurting myself or scaring anyone. So the ending to this story is sort of anticlimactic, but that’s okay. One doesn’t need to be grievously injured to learn a lesson.

The next night, I skipped the wine altogether, and wore my Sober Hat out to do chores.

The first night Melissa was back, it was her job to close up the barns, so I uncorked a bottle of wine and poured myself a glass.

“Hey, can I have a glass?” she asked as she was pulling on her boots.

I snorted. “I can’t believe you. Don’t know you know it’s a bad idea to drink and farm?”

21 thoughts on “

  1. So good to see your new post! No matter what you write about, it’s always interesting and makes me smile. You’re such a talented writer. I know that’s how you make your living, but sure would be nice if you could let us, your blog readers, enjoy your talent more often. Not putting any pressure on you here, but please, please, pul-eeze more frequent posts? Thanks from one admiring reader.

  2. Okay, now I’m blushing…

    It’s nice, though, to know people enjoy my writing. I’d love to post more, but when my editor asks next October where my next book is and I hand her all my blog entries instead of an actual manuscript, hmmm, that may not go over well.

    But thanks for the gentle kick in the pants. I’ll try to step it up a notch. I’m going to take a spinning class in December, so I’m sure I’ll have some new disasters to share. I think I’ll ask the instructor if we can nail my spinning wheel to the floor so I won’t be tempted to throw it across the room.

  3. Did you know the ground can have that same effect when you have a high fever and an undiagnosed asthma attack? Solo sick farming isn’t a good idea either.

    I’m looking forward to the spinning posts! Are you taking a class with Nancy E?

  4. I, too, would looooove more (frequent) posts. As in incentive, think of it this way: if you make them “good enough”, with a little editing, you could have a ‘Life on the Farm’ book in a year or so! 😉

  5. Annie,

    There’s a big difference between sick, and stupid! Your ground had a much better reason for heaving.

    I’m taking the spinning class at the MN Weaver’s Guild up in Minneapolis…will also take a dyeing class and a weaving class. As for knitting, I have two friends who will hold my hand as I try to learn that.

    Chicken Mama,

    Yeah, I know. I’ve suggested the idea of putting my blogs into a book, but my editor wasn’t wild about the idea. (Renee…are you listening?)

  6. Regarding turning your blog posts into a book . . . .

    Yes, but WE’RE the ones who would BUY the book (not your editor). So shouldn’t our wishes carry more weight than hers? 😉 I mean . . . really!

    P.S. Learning to knit will be all the more difficult if your friends hold your hands . . . . It’s much easier to knit using your hands than your toes. (Hardee-har-har.)

  7. Chicken Mama,

    Oh, if only you ran the publishing world…

    Good point about knitting and hands….However I’m thinking I’ll just be such a fumbler that one of my friends will take the needles and demonstrate while I watch over her shoulder, encouraging her to keep going….until she’s knit the entire sweater…

  8. That was a fun story….made me chuckle as I remembered how different the outside world appears after a couple glasses of wine (during my misspent youth).

    So I’ll throw my vote in also for a book with a series of short stories about farm/outdoor life. Sometimes (for me at least) it’s easier to sit down and just read a short chapter at a time and not have to try and figure out where you left off in the story if life keeps you away from the book for a while.

    Good luck with spinning and knitting classes–I think you will enjoy handling the wooly fibers.

    P.S. Did Melissa get her deer?

  9. RuthieJ,

    Okay, another vote. My editor stops by this blog now and then, so….

    As for Melissa getting her deer, it would have been only by accident, since she and her brother were hunting grouse! These are small birds that roost in trees. They’re hard to find and even harder to shoot. M and her brother often hunt for a week without shooting anything…it’s just an excuse to tramp around the woods on beautiful fall days…

  10. Okay, I gotta put in my two cents worth here for publishing your blog entries in some form or another.

    Does your editor REALLY read your blog? If she did, she would recognize a sure winner (seller?). I’ve often wondered when you were going to pull them into book form and publish.

    Do it, do it, do it! :o)

  11. Do you know who I mean when I say Nancy E? She lives just a few miles from you, probably less as the crow flies.

    If you’re interested, there is a spinning/knitting/weaving/fiber arts group in my area. Well, from all over,(Kasson, Zumbrota, Owatonna, Austin, St. Charles) actually. We get together in each other’s homes once a month, usually a Saturday night. There is also a guild based out of Rochester. Not that I’m enabling, or anything.

  12. lol, I thought you meant spinning as in the exercise class, that stationary bikes where they all go a little crazy to loud music! Great post, I used to drink a lot socially but greatly dislike the feeling it gives me now and any form of dehydration gives me severe migraines, so I’ve turned into an old fart, early nights and plenty of water, a wild child no more!

  13. I read this post and then backtracked to read the post about the sheep getting loose. Are you sure this isn’t a reoccurring problem? 😉 (j/k of course!)

    I’ve heard Midwestern farmers claim that alcohol is a great antifreeze. I’d assume they meant in subzero temps, though.

    Add another vote from someone who wants another book from your blog!

  14. Lynanne,

    Oh, great. Now whenever I post something silly I’ve done, I can just see all of you rolling your eyes….”The shepherd’s been drinking again…!” Yikes. 🙂

  15. I checked out Hit by a Farm from the library this weekend, Googled you Sunday evening and found the blog. I’ve been reading the blog ever since — I started back at the beginning. I’m now finished!!! So, I completely agree that we need more posts. Whatever am I going to do with myself tomorrow evening (besides knit and watch TV and go to bed early to read more of Hit by a Farm).

    2nd — to your editor Renee — Have you heard of the Yarn Harlot?? One of her early books was entirely her blog entries! Her book-signing events draw HUGE crowds for a knitter/blogger. Just another plug for a book based on the blog. (There’s also the new book It Itches, based on a knitting blog, but it’s mostly cartoons.)

    3rd — you are going to love knitting. Then you’ll have a new hat (that you knit yourself). And, it is much more useful to know how to knit in Minnesota than it is in Texas.

    New loyal follower

  16. Yes, I read your whole blog in a matter of days…And last night, I bought your Compassionate Carnivore book. So, maybe I do have a problem! lol Actually your post entitled, “What about us” or something like that really moved me. There’s a farmer’s market here that has it’s last day of the season tomorrow and I am going to go buy some meat that was raised humanely on a farm about an hour outside of town.

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