Thursday, April 30, 2009

Snow Flu


I know the world is up in arms about Swine Flu, but here in Montana, we're suffering from a bad case of Snow Flu.

It's that unfortunate malady that strikes when a population realizes that the first snow of the season was nearly seven months ago and that they are, indeed, sick and tired of looking at the color white.

Symptoms include overzealous observation of the radar loop, grumbling, and general depression accompanied by anxiety (due to the inability to seed the spring crops) and fatigue (due to shoveling out the feed pickup after it got stuck in a drift). 

Unlike the Swine Flu, which has the amazing ability to depress both the grain and livestock markets, the Snow Flu has few immediate consequences. Planting delays, calf illnesses, and other delayed effects will not be fully realized until the point at which the dust is blowing and the temperature soars into the high 90s. 

A subsidiary effect of Snow Flu is the underlying guilt felt by agricultural producers who know better than to complain about moisture in any form, so the grumbling is usually followed by some half-hearted comment such as, "But the dam should be full for awhile, so I guess we should be thankful. Those calves should weigh up come October."


In cattle, the disease presents as a general bad attitude accompanied by droopy calves and depletion of the haystack.

The only known remedy is July.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Not A Moment Too Soon

The calves are branded, and not a moment too soon. 


Looks like May is going to come in like a lion. It's going to be a long week for the farmers who are ready to be in the fields (and the wives who live with them).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Love My Kids

Today is my birthday. 

My plan for the day was simple. After enjoying church with my family, I was going to catch up on some housework, do some baking, and then watch a movie I've been wanting to see for ages but haven't had time to sit still long enough to watch it. 

As a farmer's wife, I know better than to plan.

And I knew my plan was going to go far, far awry when my spouse requested help sorting off pairs (cows and their calves) prior to branding tomorrow.

Then it started snowing. It was a mixture of sleet that hits your face like hundreds of tiny daggers and sopping wet snow that soaks through your clothes and chills you to your core.

My position in the cattle sorting adventure was, of course, at the gate. My duty was to let through only those pairs delineated on a list in my hand that was becoming more and more difficult to read as the paper soaked up the water dripping from the brim of my hat.

The task might sound easy, but when all the cows want out the gate in which you are standing, and your job is to let only certain cows -- and their darting, kicking, naughty little calves -- to the other side, you begin to imagine all sorts of activities that would bring you more pleasure. Cleaning the bathroom seems like a lovely way to spend half an hour. Listening to a clarinet recital sounds diverting. Anything that can be done in dry jeans and a warm sweater would be preferable to your current position.

My punishment for thinking that my birthday could not get much worse than that was, naturally, an additional hour that was, in fact, quite worse. I found myself once again on the wrong end of a kicking calf, but this time, my job was to splint a broken bone. I will spare you the details, but I will share that it is impossible to rip duct tape when your hands are frozen stiff and soaked in blood. 

You may be wondering why this post is titled "I Love My Kids." Allow me to explain.

When I returned to the house, soaked, frozen, filthy, and tired, I expected to find mass chaos. Instead, I found a (relatively) tidy house, happy kids, a vase full of dandelions on the table, two "Happy Birthday Mom" banners taped over the doorways, and a frosted cookie decorated with candy. 

The three-year-old presented me with a card covered with the letter "E" for her name. It's the only letter I've gotten around to teaching her. She was so pleased with herself, as were the other kids who experienced the joy of doing something nice for someone without the expectation of personal gain. Their excitement shone in their faces.  

It was the perfect ending to a not-so-perfect day. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Just A Guess

It's just a guess, but I'm thinking that my kindergartener was probably the only one in the world today who took a toy grain auger to school for Show and Tell.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Very, Very Best

"Wow, Mom," my little blonde boy said, his blue eyes wide with admiration. "That was a really good supper. Did you try your very, very best to make it taste so good for us?"

The sincerity in his voice caught me off guard. As an at-home mom, I am unaccustomed to accolades. My kids are under the impression that I am here solely to provide them with their every need. I've always been here. I've always fed them, hugged them, and made them brush their teeth. I'm a given. There's no real need to recognize me because I'm just serving my purpose.

So the fact that he recognized my culinary efforts tonight came as a surprise. I smiled, thanked him for the appreciative words, and felt blessed. And then I felt humbled.

The dish with which he was so very impressed was not a carefully planned meal. 

I did not try my very, very best. In fact, it was hastily thrown together with a slight attitude of irritation.

Today it snowed. Again. And while we're thankful for the moisture, we're really, really tired of snow. And snowpants. And snowboots. And cold. It was 75 yesterday, and today it was 28 degrees and snowing. That's just annoying. But I thought I would make the most of the cold day and do some baking. I was so caught up in my homemade rolls, banana bread, and doughnuts that I didn't plan for supper. I found myself thawing out elk burger at 5:30 p.m. while I tried to flip doughnuts in the fryer and keep all the kids on task with chores and homework.

The dish that was so appreciated by my sweet six-year-old was tater tot casserole. Made with leftover tater tots.

But the reality check for me is that I was so caught up in the extra baking and trying to clean up the house that I didn't tend to supper with a nurturing attitude. My children expect that I will do my best when I present a meal to them, and while that doesn't mean it needs to be gourmet food, it does mean that I should prepare it without the attitude of irritation. I expect them to do their very best when they are doing their chores or school work, and I should set the example for them in my daily tasks. 

I am often reminded that my every action, attitude, and comment is being absorbed and processed by four young minds. 

I have a feeling that those words will echo in my head for a long time to come.

"Mom, did you try your very, very best?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

All Grown Up


Our little guy


is all grown up.

He's very handsome when he's planning a strategic attack on the deer invading his territory, don't you think?

Now, if we could just keep him from going to investigate every single time the skunk comes around. . . 

Sunday, April 19, 2009



The deer are in good condition after the long winter (thanks to our readily available haystack and the newly green alfalfa they've been eating like candy).

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I guess you could say that I'm a tough sale. A hard nut to crack. Stubborn, even.

Remember when I asked my faithful blog readers about tonsils and adenoids?

I read each comment.

I valued each opinion.

I received emails, phone calls, and more advice than I could process, and it was nearly unanimous: yank 'em out.

So what did I do?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I didn't call the ENT and schedule surgery. I didn't block out a week in my day planner to devote to the procedure and recovery. Instead, I decided to wait. If we could just hold out until the end of cold and flu season, I reasoned, maybe she would outgrow her tendency to acquire an ear infection with every stinking cold she catches.

And what, pray tell, did I get for my reasoning, my wait and see philosophy, and my stubborn dismissal of the perfectly valid advice of many others?

A little girl with an "ouchie ear" who allowed me only 30 minutes of sleep last night, a trip to the ER today, yet another round of antibiotics which will be followed by intestinal upset, and a headache.

I guess you could say that I am now convinced (and feeling rather sheepish about allowing my baby girl to go through another round of infection because of my hesitation to follow good advice).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Skunk Is Amongst Us

There are many reasons why people prefer to live in cities rather than in the country.

Pizza delivery comes to mind. Being able to drink the water that comes out of the tap instead of hauling five gallon bottles from the town 50 miles away would certainly be an advantage. Paved streets and quick access to medical care and groceries are appealing.

This time of year, however, the first and foremost advantage of city life would have to be the fact that city folks don't have skunks lurking in the barn at night eating the calf pellets and spraying the dogs.

The skunks are hungry after their long winter's nap, and they seem to be quite prevalent this year. In fact, my father-in-law recently encountered one in an outbuilding and was brave enough to lasso it and - er - relocate it.

I'll not be doing that with our bushy tailed visitor.

But it would be nice to pet the dog without smelling like a skunk for two days afterwards.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Expressions of Easter

We had a beautiful weekend.


The weather was nice enough to hide eggs outside, which was delightful.


Even those who are now too mature for egg hunts had an enjoyable time.


The chocolate pie was so good that we dove right in with no regard for the mess it was making on our faces.


The company was grand.


The sunshine was a fitting backdrop for a day filled with the joy of the risen Lord.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On My Soapbox

If you are in the mood for an old-fashioned English teacher lecture, go ahead and click here to read my latest column in which I solve the country's problems.

Just be forewarned that it took quite a stepladder to reach the top of the soapbox I was standing on when I wrote it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rethinking Traditions

Many of my fondest childhood memories are those of traditions my family established. When I became a mother, I made it a priority to establish traditions for my children as well. 

The first tradition was to create a special birthday cake every year for every child. 

That sounded like a fine idea when I had one child who was born during one of the slowest seasons on the farm. I made an adorable teddy bear cake, invited everyone we had ever met several of our closest friends and family members, and celebrated.

The birthday boy hid under the table.

Undaunted, I continued the tradition for every subsequent birthday and every subsequent child.

Last year, I realized that I had made more than 20 very special cakes. Apparently I had failed to do the math when I began this tradition. I had also failed to take into consideration that the subsequent children would be born during busier times of the year.


This child was born during calving.

As a matter of fact, when I was about 7 centimeters dilated while in labor with this baby boy, my husband looked deep into my eyes and asked if he should just go ahead home, check the cows, and come back in the morning. He quickly reconsidered his options and stayed by my side. I'm sure it had nothing to do with my sweet response.

As the third child, Matthew has been well aware of the special cake tradition since he was 2. His birthday cakes have included a teddy bear, a lion, Winnie the Pooh, a horse, and a John Deere tractor.

This year he asked for an excavator.

He also wanted toaster waffles for dinner, but we compromised. 

He got hamburgers and a dump truck.


His cake this year is evidence that I am in no danger of being hired by a bakery.

Even the six-year-old realized its shortcomings.

"It doesn't really look like a real one Mom, but that's okay. I still like it," he said, patting me on the arm.

I learned two things on Matthew's sixth birthday.
1. Traditions trump perfection.
2. I'm not going to attempt fondant in the future.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009



Monday, April 6, 2009

The Difference Of A Day

April is a fickle month.


One day it's mud boots,


and the next day it's snow boots.


The wise rancher is well stocked with hay.

The wise mother never puts the snow gear away until May.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

If You Give A Child A Puddle

If you give a child a puddle,


she'll throw her mittens in it.

She will sit in it with her brother and fling mud.


They will probably get all muddy.


Being muddy will remind them that their mama doesn't like to do laundry.


They will find a snowbank and roll in it to get clean.


Rolling in the snowbank will remind them that they are cold, and they will ask to come in and have hot chocolate.

Before they have hot chocolate, their mama will make them have a bath. Being wet will remind them of how much fun they had in the puddle. Chances are, as soon as they are all clean, they will want to go back outside. . . with clean mittens.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Camera Shy


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pretty Girl


There is a story to accompany this photo, but I'm too busy doing laundry to tell it.

I'd just like to confess that I have now eaten all of the Easter basket candy I purchased two weeks ago. Chocolate is my drug of choice, and it's been a rough week.

Another batch of doughnuts is definitely in order.

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