Fetching Furniture

June 22, 2017

Here is Moxie’s expression yesterday morning at 6:30 AM. “Who, me? Calve?”

Here is her udder, swollen and hanging below her hocks, when she limped into the barn for the day. Surely it can’t get much bigger?

But since there was no immediate milk fever crisis at hand I decided to jump in the truck and head to Connecticut.

Early this spring Jon and Amanda began driving all over Connecticut, picking up furniture bargains I found on Craigslist. After thirty years in faculty housing DH and I owned no furniture apart from a couple of beds and two dozen bookcases, so we needed a lot. Connecticut options seemed to be nicer, more available, and less expensive than those I saw in the Adirondacks. Amanda and Jon were kindly willing to lend a hand.

First up, appropriately, was a dresser and mirror for their room. This is a solid piece, extremely cheap due to a couple of chipped and scratched drawers. I think I will be able to repair the two chips and hide the scratches.

Jon and Amanda were able to get both the dresser and the mirror into their Explorer and safely home to their garage.

(I asked them to document their trips so I could enjoy them vicariously.)

Next up was a dresser for DH and me. This one came with not only a mirror but a matching nightstand.

I like this dresser. It reminds me of the furniture I grew up with. It is a knock-off of an expensive piece, but still heavy, decently made, and, second-hand — cheap. Jon was dubious that they could fit both the dresser and nightstand in the car.

But with squishing and Amanda’s finely-tuned packing ability, they succeeded!

On another trip they picked up a dresser I found for Lucy. It was the heaviest yet, in white cottage beadboard style, exactly what Lucy wanted. (Sadly, no photo — we’ll have to wait to see it in the room.) In an amazing stroke of luck, a few days later I found the matching nightstand up here in the Adirondacks.

Finally, they picked up a set of six ladderback chairs to go with the dining room table I had previously bought in Vermont.

Yesterday I drove to Connecticut to fetch it all (except Lucy’s dresser and a couple of the chairs, which Amanda had brought up on her recent solo visit). When I saw their packed garage I worried that we couldn’t fit everything in the truck, but with some climbing around, adjustments, and clever repositioning, we succeeded. Jon and I were damp with sweat by the time we had the tailgate safely latched.

It was wonderful to spend a quick hour with the kids over lunch. I am so grateful for their hard work traipsing around Connecticut to get all these things for our home. I dream of lots of happy family times in this house.

Thank you, Amanda and Jon!

It was a whirlwind 12-hour trip. DH had baked a frozen pizza and was just pulling it out of the oven when I got home in time for a late supper at 8:30 PM.

And… still no calf!

Kitchen Starting

June 21, 2017

When the kitchen was first painted, I worried. Was the yellow too mustard? Did it actually look green in certain lights? I tried to hush the Worrier in My Brain. Lucy had wanted a yellow and white kitchen and my goal was to make it happen.

A few days ago Nick started to put up the cabinets.

Naturally, that made me nervous, too. I’d chosen a line I’d never heard of (Wellborn) and I’d chosen MDF doors for inexpensive practicality. I devoutly hoped this had not been a mistake.

Nick has been working at night. In the early mornings before barn chores, before the men arrive, I walk around and inspect the progress.

I think the cabinets are going to be fine. They don’t look like expensive cabinets because they are not. But they will be great for us.

We are due to move in nine days. There is so much work still to be done on the house, so much choosing, purchasing, and picking up still to be done by me, and I’ve barely started packing our things in the lake house. Can it all really happen in time? Stay tuned.

 *   *   *  

As of last night, Moxie still had not calved! I’m pulling on my Carhartts and heading down to check on her now.

Still No Calf

June 19, 2017

Moxie is hugely engorged, the ligaments around her tail have relaxed and sloped away, and she can hardly walk due to limping on her right hind leg. Again last night when I returned from Vermont I debated what to do. She had not eaten all day. She was frantic when I let the Terrible Teens out for the evening but kept her in.

Finally I let her out, also — but immediately regretted it. She did not graze (my purpose in letting her out of the safety of her stall), but simply stood cocking her bad leg so no weight rested on it. I chewed my nails.

Ten minutes later we were in a terrible thunderstorm with lashing rain. I tried to shoo her back in, meanwhile armed with a pitchfork to protect me from Mel, the bull, but she staggered further away instead.  Finally I gave up. I am  tired. I have driven to Vermont four times in the past week and have to go back today. It’s all for a good purpose but the long days on the road are wearing me down.

I drove down to the farm in the night but couldn’t see anything in the dark. I’m finishing my coffee and heading back now.



…Not Yet!

June 18, 2017

I was on the road most of the day yesterday. When I arrived home at 8 PM I fully expected to find a calf. Moxie just looked at me. Not yet!

I debated what to do. That morning Moxie was limping badly on her right back leg. Elsa, my heifer, had been bellowing on and off for twelve hours and had been jumping on Mel, the bull, and sniffing excitedly at Moxie. It wasn’t clear to me if Elsa was intoxicated by hormones in the air from an impending birth, or from heat. (I have suspected for months that Elsa was not in calf, and when in May she stood to be clumsily bred by 9-month Mel, it was confirmed.)

Either way, it was clear that someone had mounted Moxie in her heavily pregnant state and she was not enjoying the attentions of either of the Tedious Teens. She had been happy to limp down the aisle, bag swaying, and come into her stall for the day. Privacy!

Now a part of me wanted to keep Moxie safe in the barn overnight. There were two problems. One: if I separated them, all the cattle were likely to bellow for each other through the dark hours. My neighbors wouldn’t appreciate that. The other was though I provide water and hay in each stall through the summer, the hay is ignored. The cattle prefer to wait for grass when they are turned out. If I kept Moxie in, I’d have to keep them all in, and they wouldn’t eat. While I wasn’t concerned for Mel or Elsa, fasting couldn’t be good for an older cow about to give birth and already at risk for a metabolic disorder. So, I turned them out.

Here are Moxie and Mel drinking some cool fresh water from the refilling trough as dark began to fall. Minutes later Moxie was cropping grass. I’m about to head down to check everyone this morning.

Tom… and Moxie

June 17, 2017

Yesterday Tom and I worked on the basement wall, to bring the recessed 13-foot section of the mudroom foundation forward to be flush with the new walls, so that someday I will be able to sheetrock it. Our plan was to hang treated 2x8s on 2-foot centers along the wall.

First we put up treated 2x4s, which would be nailers for the 2x8s. To attach the 2x4s to the foundation wall, Nick lent us his concrete gun. This is nailer that you load with single .22 caliber blanks and a 3″ concrete nail, and then pull the trigger. It makes a lot of noise (you’re firing a gun! in an enclosed space!) but it gets the job done. I was timid so Tom calmly did all the shooting.

In fact, all day long I was the trusty squire to Tom, the knight — I fetched and carried while he did all the brain work. Each 2×8 had to be cut to length, then notched to lap over the footing.

One problem was that the wall had knots of concrete along the seams of the original concrete forms.

When the 2x8s fell on the seams, Tom used my jigsaw to cut notches for those, too.

It was restful to spend the day with someone so unhurried, patient, and skilled.

I still had leftover foam insulation board from putting in the foundation in 2009. We decided that while we were prepping the wall, we might as well insulate it. I only had to buy 2 more pieces. The new ones were pink; the old ones, blue. Here is Tom, ripping a piece.

Due to seams and other unevenness, we could not keep to perfect 2-foot centers. Thus we overbuilt, adding an extra 2×8. By suppertime, we were done. I told Tom the wall looked like  Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Now all I need is the sheetrock. Someday!

Meanwhile Moxie’s udder is getting bigger and bigger. She has developed the “I’m carrying a portmanteau between my legs” waddle. She is due very soon.


Grass At Last

May 18, 2017

Yesterday evening after work, before cooking dinner, I took down snow fences, pulled T-posts, and fixed perimeter lines for 90 minutes — and finally got the cattle out on pasture. It is always heartwarming to see their gamboling and excitement.

Grass at last. Not great grass, but grass.

Thirteen years ago, a state biologist came to the property. He said my soil was so thin and sour that I would never be able to grow grass. He underestimated the transformative power of manure.

Also a dreamer’s maniacal effort. Every year, in addition to spreading manure, I have pulled rocks and stumps, picked up broken logs and branches, burned brush, pounded fence posts, strung electric line, cut back saplings and choking weeds, and mowed for countless hours. (I’ve also saved up for truckloads of lime, only to need the money for school tuition and other real-life demands. Someday liming will happen.)

Still, the land is slowly improving. Last summer I was frustrated not to have time to dig out rocks in the south pasture that forced me to dodge and feint while mowing. Every two weeks I would add them to my list and two weeks later they would still be there. When school started again I looked at the rocks and told them mentally, “I’ll get you next year.”

I’ve realized this is the secret of progress when one doesn’t have enough time or money. Even the tiniest gains eventually accumulate.

The Blizzard of 2017

March 15, 2017

We knew snow was coming, but after a couple of years of promised storms passing us by, everyone in town had doubts we would really get the 10-12 inches they were predicting. Still, just in case, Nick spent all Monday putting up new ice and water shield on the back roof.

The snow started Tuesday morning. The flakes were so dry and tiny, it was easy to pay no attention. Mindful of the forecast, however, I mucked the barn and filled the water buckets so everything would be ready if I decided to bring the cows in early. Then I sat at the dining room table with my mug of chicken broth and my box of Kleenex, and got lost in accounts of prisoners of war starving to death in Manhattan in 1776.

When I looked up it was 1:30 PM and snow was blowing past the porch, a fog of white. Only a few inches covered the ground, but the tiny snowflakes were so light they were hanging in the air. Deciding the cows would probably like to come in out of the wind, I climbed into my coveralls and headed out in my truck.

I pulled onto the highway and I was shocked. It was a white-out — blowing snow so impenetrable I could barely see the icy road directly in front of my truck.

I was even more appalled when I reached the farm and discovered that Nick and Mike were working at the house. I knew immediately that they’d made the same mistake I had. Looking out the windows at a few inches of snow, they’d dismissed it as a concern. I drove down to the barn, hurriedly let the cows in, and tossed everyone hay. Then I texted to Nick that he and his father needed to leave as soon as possible. Nick knows I am a worrier, but I insisted. He texted me later that it had taken his father more than two hours to get home. “Dad said it was a wild ride!” Soon afterward the county highway department closed the roads.

But the farm animals were snug in the barn and I was safely at home with the dogs and my books. As Charles Ingalls would sing, “Let the hurricane roar!”

It did. The tiny flakes were now adding up at an unbelievable rate. Walking the dogs before bedtime, Toby was swimming underneath the powder like a snow mole, and even Stash was floundering in snow up to his ears.

It appears we got a bit over three feet overnight. This is our Honda. I’d swept it clean just before dark.

The plows were out all night long. This morning Stash kept me company while I dug out the truck.

I was worried when I drove down to the farm that I might have to hike in on snowshoes from the highway, but Mike had already plowed.

Of course, the barn paddock electric fences were buried and useless.

The water trough was below the level of the snow.

I decided I’d keep the cows in. After their breakfast grain I began mucking stalls. Moxie looked at me and indicated she’d like to go out.

“You really don’t want to, Mox, but I won’t stop you.”

Moxie plowed through the snow with the resolution of a tank. Then she seemed to have second thoughts.

“Hmm. Maybe I should reconsider.”

However, once the Boss Cow was out, Elsa and Mel Gibson were bellowing that they too wanted to come out to play. Wading in, they bucked and snorted and explored.

I threw them some hay to munch while I freshened their beds.

I’m an old mom. I know toddlers get tired of playing in cold snow faster than you think. Sure enough, in just a few minutes they were mooing at the door.

“Can we come in yet?”

When I opened the gate, they rushed down the aisle to their box stalls with dry straw and lay down with sighs of contentment.

Even cows know that’s the best way to enjoy a blizzard. From inside.