A truly rambling update

Temperatures this week may trick us into thinking we skipped over spring in favor of the heat of summer. The calendar, however, tells us differently.
I am trying to mentally prepare myself for the chaos of summer on a farm. This is not saying that spring has been calm. I am up to my eyeballs in the critter department, and I say this without even a hint of complaint. I enjoy every minute of it; I just wish I had more minutes.
Five of the seven puppies are still taking up residence in a calf hutch with a modified puppy proof calf panel on the lawn. They are lovely, clever creatures that I wish would find good homes. I have considered taking all of them to the barn with me so they would get some exercise. That thought lasted all of about five seconds before I decided I wasn’t that crazy. They get out to run a few times a day and are professional landscapers already. They like to zip through my flowers without a thought, leveling some along the way. One puppy wouldn’t be bad, but five is like a small freight train that can level a hosta in seconds.
Dane went to a small animal auction and came home with two rabbits, which we named Blackberry and Chocolate Chip. He has built them a two-level rabbit mansion that we can drag across the lawn as needed. They are quite efficient little lawnmowers. They can zip up and down the ramp to get to their grassy plot or to their sleeping loft upstairs.
My flock of chickens is doing quite well. I have about 23 hens and two roosters. Our oldest rooster has beautiful plumage, spurs longer than any of the turkeys the boys bagged this spring and a quick reaction time. Everyone has been conditioned by him to keep one eye on him and one eye on the eggs when you go into the coop. He receives a death threat from me weekly, and I keep the dogs close by when I go near. Is there such a thing as a nice rooster?
Next to the chicken coop live our pigs. Two are being raised for the fair; two are being raised specifically for the freezer. Bert and Ernie are the fair swine; Abby-Cadabby and Grover are my milk-drinking, leftover eating squealers. I have never had such a friendly batch of pigs. They love to be scratched, and I swear Abby carries on a conversation with me. She is by far the most vocal in her appreciation of the variety in her diet, and it entertains me to no end. They were a favorite of our recent field trip guests, because I let the kids feed them their uneaten pizza crusts after lunch.
It wouldn’t be spring without a bouncing crop of speckled black and white Jacob lambs. Their antics are so joyful, one can’t help but feel cheerful. From my six ewes – Tasha, Magdalene, Margaret, Armella, Hermoine and Tinkerbell – I have 10 lambs. Six ewe lambs and four rams. They are so close in markings it is hard to know who belongs to whom as they zigzag around the pen. This year I promised Dane (my chief sheep fence mover) that I wouldn’t keep all of them so long and vowed to sell some by the time they are weaned for his sake. It is a bit for my sanity as well. It becomes tricky to keep them all obeying the fence as they grow in size.
Calving has been steady this past month. When we go a day or two without one, we catch our breath and then attempt to prepare to be hit hard again. We haven’t even had too many sets of twins. (I probably cursed myself in writing that.) Vesta had a triple wham-my a couple weeks ago. She delivered twins, came down with milk fever and then cast her withers. My dad wasn’t impressed with the phone call that pulled him away from planting corn on a warm Saturday evening. She has recovered nicely and is doing well. I have been drying cows up rapidly in order to keep the pens in balance. There has to be a good flow of cows hitting the pipeline and cows coming out of the pipeline. It is a juggling act to be sure, but I do love my time working with the cows.
Farm kids and the last month of school are a struggling relationship. Late nights do not work well for school days. Cora and Henry are battling sniffles that are part of their lack of sleep, no doubt. Every day, I try to get done and get home faster for their sake, but I do not always win. Ira drives separately many days because he can leave school 30 minutes early, which gives him that much more time in a tractor. He is either hauling manure or working the fields and definitely wishes school was done already. Dane is a great help to me, and I am already hoping he doesn’t get promoted to tractor driver quite as fast as Ira did. There are days I know for sure that Henry and Finley get dropped off by the bus, but no one sees them for hours. They head straight to the shop, hop on their lawn mowers and head to the longest grass on the farm. Cora delights in all the critters, and when she isn’t begging to hold a bunny, she is building her extensive farm in the sandbox with the boys.
Keith is doing well. He is on a schedule of an hour-long chemo infusion every three weeks, followed by two weeks of chemo pills taken morning and night. Then he gets the next week off. This regimen isn’t quite as harsh as the previous chemotherapy he received, but it is not without side effects. His cancer isn’t likely to ever be considered gone. It is being treated to keep it from growing at a faster pace.
I have some wild hair, and for those of you who knew my mom, I am the spitting image of her. It’s a bizarre thing to look in the mirror daily and see your mother. Overall, I feel good. I have hormone pills I have to take daily to keep the estrogen sleeping in my body. Everything I do is based on the ‘just in case there is something floating around in there that we didn’t kill with chemo’ principle. I can’t complain too much. I feel 100 times better than I did last year at this time.
Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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