I Have Not Been Blogging…

It is fascinating to me how the inner landscape of a persons life can shift. In my case that means I have gone from being a person excited to write or blog about daily life to being someone who feels really private. I can’t quite explain it. It has been about a month or more since I got much published about ranching or our days just being us. I have felt busy and focused elsewhere, that is part of the equation, but I have also been resistant to sitting and writing.

I am doing a lot of wrestling and maybe thats why I can’t put a foot forward into the public forum.

Wrestling. A few areas of my life have called me to wrestle. As a blogger I am wrestling with a notion that to write about what we do as ranchers gives some feeling that we are unique or special when in fact we are doing what many we know do, and having experiences very similar to many others. What I have begun to come to peace with is that in fact and of course we are not much different from the others in this fraternity of ranchers we dwell among, but I like to write and I can get some stuff across. The writing I can do is something that I bring to the mix, others have other gifts that I don’t have, so maybe its okay to express myself and put a foot forward into the public forum with the thoughts and stories that are ours. I have received many messages of encouragement among these lines and that has helped me know its good that I write even if I struggle with feeling weird about it sometimes. Several years ago when I was rather deep into Facebook my Mom would express a bit of chagrin at how much I shared, she herself had a much more private approach to life, she simply couldn’t understand what motivated me. I find it interesting to have spent much of the last month feeling so similiar to what she expressed for herself. The reality of feeling private really did have the effect of bringing the blog to a halt because I don’t really have much material other than what arises from being human and being ranchers in this time.

I am glad to share that the last month has been very good for me. I have been enjoying summer. Unlike many places in the world we have had pretty normal summer weather, unlike many other places on the prairie we have had the right amount of rain. After last summer where tears fell readily in the face of devastating conditions, we breathe deeply at the sight of the bales in our fields. We have had mostly cool nights. I planted some flowers this year and they are currently blooming abundantly and are so pretty. The schedule has been different. We got a little down time before haying started. All this has conspired to have me feeling happier than I have in many summers. I usually struggle in July and August. All of the good stuff could change in an instant, I know that, from experience, but for today I am living in the moment and expressing a deep well of gratitude for the multitude of blessings that I know to be my truth.

Over the last couple of weeks I have taken pictures and been photographed in ways that I found thought provoking. This morning an older picture came to my attention creating this set.

A couple Sundays ago I picked up Russ from the field, he had taken an early shift raking hay, without changing his clothes we headed into church. His hands were clean-ish. I was moved by the sight of these work mans hands ready to worship so I pulled out my camera. I am deeply moved by the wisdom in our church that we are welcomed just as we are.
Later that same day Russ called me needing help with some adjustments to the hitch on his baling tractor and a side door on his baler. I have to admit that I am intrigued with just how many things my hands are capable of and the fact that they can get so dirty.
Yesterday Russ asked me to come out because he needed my long lean fingers. He had been adjusting a hydraulic hose and getting it reconnected meant working in a really tight space. It was not easy getting everything lined up but with some persistence I got the hose end threaded onto the bolt. The hydraulic oil on my hands attracted every piece of dust and grass I came near.
This morning we were showing friends pictures of our Newfoundland trip and this picture came up. I love how the Atlantic Ocean is peeking through between the fence slabs under my arm. I love the contrast of our clean and well dressed hands in contrast to the previous picture.

I have always been fascinated by hands, by all they do in a day, the ways they can become intensely dirty, very soiled by life’s yuck, and then be renewed and ready for the next thing. I have sometimes wondered if I should write a speech about this, title it something like, “Don’t be Afraid to Get Dirty.” My hands have tackled some serious yuck and they have also been to the absolute opposite extreme. The hands pictured here are the same ones that have baptized babies, broken sacred communion bread and rubbed lotion into the skin of my elders. Sometimes I wonder how this vast difference can be my truth. It makes me think of a song we sing that starts with the words, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Its probably true that we should worry less about the dirt under our own and others fingernails, and offer those song lyrics as a prayer alot more. After I hit the publish button I am going to go put a load of laundry in. The last big job of the day for these hands of mine. My head and my heart need to ponder a little more what it means to have a clean heart. That is a speech I am nowhere ready to write tonight but I suspect it has to do with love. Sweet dreams.

Fake Teeth and Dirty Hands

On Sunday evening Russ and I headed to Carievale to pick up Jill from a friends’ place, enroute we dealt with a cow/calf issue at a pasture near there and dropped off a dozen buns for the Broken Bread Bakery. In preparation for the drop-off some texts went back and forth, in one of those I said, “Russ and I have been fixing rake teeth since 8am. I look terrible.” An hour later, standing in the doorway with buns in hand I was told that my message first read that we had been fixing fake teeth. For my bun customer this was quite confusing and required some thinking and then a re-read before getting this weird thing figured out. I enjoyed hearing this anecdote and the little part of me that needs comic relief enjoyed briefly letting my mind settle on what that would look like to be hovered over fake teeth all day with Russell, working on a fix, in the middle of haying season. Its absurd and it makes me smile.

The truth is it was a big day. The hydraulic problem we had with our rake earlier on the weekend resulted in a multitude of rake teeth getting broken due to incorrect pressures exerted on them. The normal process is that after Ron has cut the hay with the discbine and that hay is cured the kids pull this rake over the field and gather it into swaths that Russ then picks up with the baler.

Jill raking earlier last week.

On Sunday we replaced just under a hundred rake teeth, one by one, in painsticking picky work that requires two sets of hands. I believe the official tally, although Russ did not keep count on purpose, is that I had three small hissy fits and this included two episodes of being near tears. But….we survived. Once I got the hang of it I really didn’t mind it. The fact that it was not a dangerous job took a big amount of stress out of it. I got to be beside Russell all day and we easily could chit chat our way through the job (once the more hissy fit type moments had passed.)

My thumbs are still stiff from counter pressuring all these bolts as they were loosened and tightened.
Ever the faithful dog, loyal to Russell especially, Bingo hung near all day and got a really good nap in. Her relaxed and trusting position cracks us up.

Russ was able to park the rake mostly in the shade so we were quite well protected from the 34 degree heat. So that is how we passed our Sunday. Fixing fake teeth, er, I mean, rake teeth. Three things about this day……….all kind’ve random.

Gina left for work at the ice cream shop a bit early and then swung back into the yard shortly after. What was up? Well, Jean was home from holidays a little earlier than expected and Gina didn’t have to work. Jean didn’t want to call Gina too early, but what she didn’t know is that Gina is so affected by her mother always being on the verge of being late, that she is always extremely early. Anyways it was fantastic to have Gina back. She put lunch on the smoker and with Morgan tackled part one of the Carievale cow problem. Somehow in the back and forth of lunch prep Coffee dog got out and on the loose and she went for a swim in the dugout. Morgan and I nearly lost our minds. Coffee’s splint was soaked, she would need a repeat visit to the vet. Morgan loves that dog so much his reaction was worry about complications, I was upset about bugging the vets and the cost. I took her in yesterday (Monday) and they got her all dry and treated and resplinted with lots of kindness.

That splint is not bothering Coffee much. If she rested like this a little more I would feel better.

I don’t do alot of manual labor around here and I am never far from warm running water when I do. My day at the rake meant hours to accumulate dirt on my hands and I was a bit obsessed by the sight of it. It was mostly because I found it rather fascinating. My hands were the key tool I had in the job at hand, I was pushing, twisting, and wiggling alot. Russ and I coined a new phrase actually, “less thinking, more wiggling.” It worked in many cases, getting new teeth into tight spaces. Anyways, looking at my hands I marvelled that these are the same hands that have baptized alot of babies and presided over communion and formed alot of buns. How can one person swing from such “holiness” to such dirt and have it all be acceptable? My brain is a bit tired right now, I thought I was ready to probe that, but I am a bit muddled. I can’t help but think that it might make a good sermon though. What makes any of us ready to serve? Do the marks of our living make us better able to serve? Maybe thats enough for now.

Dirty hands at the rake teeth.

One last thing, in the afternoon Gina and Morgan went to Carievale to get that cow penned up, she had been found visiting the neighbors without her calf. (This is the cow Russ and I would pick up later and deliver back to its herd.) After a hot jog to chase it into the neighbors holding pen the kids stopped in Carnduff for snacks and they brought Russ and I each a cold drink. As they stood at the rake visiting with us while we took some sips, Morgan looked at me and he said, “Mom, you have such a diverse skill set, you are really bad-ass.” As a mother I should be outraged by his language but I was tickled pink by his comment. I think partly because it accomplished exactly what my blog web address reflects “I see you.” For me it feels so good to be seen. I also think his word choice represented some story balance for me. You see, I spent my whole childhood as a good kid, what we called in the 70s and 80s a “goody goody.” I didn’t date til I was 19 and I never had a drink until I was in university. I am kind’ve happy at the thought that maybe I am safely turning my middle years into some bad-ass days of living large and my boy sees me.

What bad-ass looks like in 2021.

Its Tuesday morning now and I am happy to report that yesterday I managed to get both my fridges cleaned. I open the doors and just look at how pretty they are. That friends is what you call middle aged, bad-ass living large!