Last Friday night as snow fell DH helped me remove all the seats in our minivan. Then he set his iPhone alarm for me for 3:45 AM and on Saturday morning by 4:45 I was doing barn chores and by 5:15 I was on the road to the slaughterhouse two hours away.
On my return to town five hours later, I spent all morning delivering large, cold, heavy boxes of frozen beef and pork. In a couple of cases the buyers were out of town and I had to stagger with the meat down flights of stairs to put it away in family freezers. Shortly after noon, my back was aching and the van was empty.
I rushed home for ibruprofen, a cup of coffee, and to walk the dog again, then raced down to the farm.
The guys were coming!
Allen and D have worked for me in their spare time for nine years now and they are so funny, kind, talented (and profane) that my heart always lifts when they are on the farm — especially together.
I have been desperate to get the barn addition finished before the worst of winter strikes. When I built the original barn in 2008, it did not occur to me that I would need gravel inside the frame to raise the level of the floor until after I had put up all the siding, closing in the building. This resulted in two days of insane sweat with a shovel and wheelbarrow as I moved more than 25 tons of material by hand. I was determined not to make the same mistake this time.
I figured I would call the quarry and arrange for delivery of their least expensive fill, and hire Allen to use my tractor to dump it inside the addition. Then all I would need to do is to spread and smooth it with a shovel and rake.
D had a different idea. He happened to be scheduled to trench for a cable line for one of my neighbors Saturday afternoon. He said he would stop at the farm with his truck and mini-excavator for a couple of hours beforehand and dig gravel for me out of my pond, then truck it up to the barn. His father could lift the gravel over the bottom girts into the frame. Not having to buy expensive fill and pay for delivery would save me hundreds of dollars. It was a huge gift.
By the time I arrived, breathless, at the farm, the guys had been working for a little over an hour and were almost done.
D had shucked his jacket and was soaked with sweat, shoveling inside the addition. The floor was raised and there was nothing left for me to do but rake it smooth. Both men made sardonic jokes about the timing of my arrival — “Figured you was waitin’ ’til it was all done!” — but luckily I have a reputation for work and there were no hard feelings.
Next Allen drove the tractor out to the run-in shelter in the paddock and began removing the four-year-old bedding of wood chips, now rotted and well-mixed with manure.
He loaded it in the manure spreader and, driving the truck, I crept across the snowy back field at 5 mph to spread the heavy, wet material without snapping the spreader chains.
“Don’t go breakin’ it, now!” Allen warned me. (I have a reputation in that department, too.)
While Allen was moving fresh chips into the shelter and I was shoveling and raking them smooth, D was cleaning up the last of the gravel in front of the barn.
I had asked D to pile the leftover gravel inside the frame of the addition, out of the weather, so that with luck it would not freeze immediately. There are many advantages to a gravel floor in a barn, but one disadvantage is that the animals paw holes in the floor of their stalls. Even the chickens create craters with their dust baths. Every fall I try to fill these holes and craters to raise the floors level again.
Now I have a big covered pile of clean gravel waiting to be used for this purpose.
I try not to shudder thinking of the forty-odd heavy wheelbarrow loads to be shoveled and spread, or to wonder too dismally when in the next week I will possibly find time to do it.
Instead I count my blessings, two of which are a pair of very kind men.