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Trying just about anything

From the Farm

April 15, 2011
By Kerry Hoffman , The Journal

I pride myself on my willingness to try just about anything.

Growing up in town I would have never imagined the things I would learn being married to a dairy farmer.

I have learned how to artificially inseminate cows, and that really isn't a fun task. Remember when you were a child and you wrapped a rubber band around your finger to see how long you could take the pain? Well, when a person inseminates a cow, it's like having a large rubber band cutting off the circulation from your bicep down. The pain, for me anyway, is unbearable, once I pull my arm out of the cow.

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I have learned how to remove a retained placenta from a cow after she has given birth. If a cow actually does expel the placenta we say, "She's cleaned." Sometimes cows just don't have enough energy to discard the waste after spending hours trying to discard an 85-pound calf and they give up on pushing the placenta out, then we say, "She hasn't cleaned." I suppose that term came about years ago when using the word placenta in public was taboo.

Yes, I would have to say I am pretty open to just about anything.

Just about anything; there is one exception now that I think about it.

I will absolutely not help anyone empty our small manure-storage pit. It's sloped on one end, so the person can drive down near the manure and take a big heaping pile of poo out to load into the manure spreader.

You see, I have this fear of my car going into water and me drowning because I couldn't get out. I don't know why this thought tightens my heart muscles. I would also classify myself as a very skilled swimmer, and I love to go out in a canoe or kayak.

I am so terrified of this possible event, I even asked for a center punch for Christmas one year just in case.

Every time I go over a bridge, three males in the car with me will be explaining just how far down the water is, how deep it looks and how fast it's moving.

Imagine my horror when the I-35 Bridge collapsed. All I did was say, "See, I told you it could happen." My fear involves flying over the edge of a bridge where I can't see the other side like a lift bridge or a bridge with a hump in the middle.

Don't tell the Sheriff, but I speed across bridges faster than Smokey drove his pitch-black Trans Am.

Imagine my terror when Steve asked me to help him empty the manure pit, and then informed me, "While you are emptying the pit, I am going to run to town with the semi and pick up a load of bedding."

Being the I-can-tackle-anything girl that I am, I agreed while my heart was pounding faster that Thumper's right foot.

Driving a skid loader into a filled manure pit brings up fear of drowning in a skid loader in a poop-laden pit.

What if the skid loader quits and gets sucked down into the crap. I won't be able to open the door, because I know manure weighs a crap load. I cannot escape out the side windows because there is a wire mesh covering them! I am not so sure the back window even opens.

Why, oh why, didn't Steve buy me that center punch when I asked for it?

Instead of using the skid loader, which I now considered a death trap, I chose to use the 2940 John Deere tractor with a bucket on the front. I am most proficient at driving this tractor shifting without even feeling a lurch, especially when I am on flat, ground.

I drove down the slope into the pit, pushed in the clutch, shifted to reverse and the tractor started rolling forward!

It rolled so far forward; the manure was touching the bottom of the front axle. There I was, sitting on the tractor, left leg braced on the clutch; right leg shaking, but braced on the brake and my two hands turning white on the steering wheel.

I was frozen; couldn't decide what to do.

I thought about waiting there for Steve to come find me. But I know Steve, and it could take an hour or more.

I had no choice but to try to back out.

I only killed the engine three times. On my fourth attempt, I eased up out of the pit, pushed the clutch in, shifted to neutral and shut the darn thing off. I walked over to the tractor attached to the manure spreader and shut that one off too.

I hung my head as I walked to the house to find my husband. I needed to beg him to help empty the pit the following day.

"It's alright," he said. "Once you get more comfortable doing it, you'll be just fine."

I don't know if I will ever be comfortable driving into a manure pit to scoop the poop; it's like asking me to drive over a lift bridge.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net. You can also visit our farm facebook page at SKH Dairy Farm.

 
 

 

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