The Alarm Clock

Once upon a recent Saturday…

bing-BiNg-BING! bing-BiNg-BING!

“Ugh. It can’t be 5 already.”

It isn’t. Julie’s phone decided to announce a 30 minute alert for her 5:00 appointment to get up, study her Bible and make breakfast. Good job Julie’s phone. Good job me for putting Julie’s phone next to the bed last night.

Please, God, let me fall asleep again.

I can’t.

My eyes are too bleary to focus on the tablet we use for an alarm clock. After several attempts I log into my account to disable the alarm for the day then I lay back on the bed.

I don’t feel like I used to feel after a day of work. It was just 150 bales yesterday and they are still on the wagons. Is this “old” or just “tired”?

The weather says it’s going to rain today. Hot too. OK. I need to come up with a plan. A list. Things to get done. Then I’ll get up.

I need to spread compost where we cut hay. Hay. I need to stack the hay in the barn before it gets hot. Ugh. It’s already hot. Maybe it’s still hot. Either way, it’s hot. I wonder how much hay I can stack before Julie goes to milk the cows at 6. We are behind on dishes and laundry. I wonder if I have any clean clothes to wear today. We have an outdoor wedding reception tonight too.

Julie is still asleep. I don’t know how she does it. Maybe she’s just pretending.

I turn on the bathroom light so I can see, manage to find something to wear and start my morning routine. Then I slip on my boots and head out the door a few minutes after 5.

By 6:00 I have seen the livestock, stacked first wagon load of bales that were in the barn from last night and loaded another 30 from the back of the pickup. Just another two wagons between me and the finish line. Before stacking the bales I just put in the barn I return home to get Julie, the milker and the cooler. I can’t help but smell myself as I drive the truck. What a way to greet my wife in the morning.

alarm clock chickens 2

“You ready to go Boo?”

The oldest boy is coming too. Thank God.

I’m down to two wagons of hay to unload. Dad showed up early and the three of us got everything loaded and stacked by 8.

I need a glass of water.

The oldest daughter is making quiche for breakfast. It won’t be ready for a little while. Well, I better get at that horse manure.

After a little work I get the spreader out of the barn and parked next to the manure pile. No sooner than I get started shoveling dad calls to say a man is coming in 20 minutes to bid on building a pond. I just keep shoveling compost until they roll up.

I need a glass of water.

We drive out to the pasture and I point to the old pond with a failing dam. I also point to a new location where I would like to build a dam. They spend about an hour talking while standing in the full morning sun. They take some measurements, ask about a few options and he references a table to determine the cost.

Ho. Ly. Cow.


Back to shoveling manure. The oldest boy is helping me now. He needed a little breakfast before he could do much of anything. He’s growing like a weed. At 13 he’s as tall as I am. Kid’s going to be a monster.

Dad has a lot to say about some folks from his church who were recently in Africa. “Should we be shipping rice from Arkansas to Africa or should we be teaching them to grow their own?” Along those lines, our conversation frequently drifts to wealth. Are the wealthy obliged to the poor? What can we do to help the poor? How can we build and preserve wealth while respecting others? That’s a funny conversation to have while shoveling rotted horse crap into a rusty, broken down manure spreader on a 100 degree Saturday morning.

Am I wealthy? Is this wealth? Will this activity help make me wealthy someday or am I wasting valuable time working too hard for too little return? I guess it’s a matter of perspective. Am I doing this because I’m rich or am I doing this because I’m poor.

I don’t know. Depends on who you ask I guess.

alarm clock cows

I need a glass of water.

It’s not that I don’t drink water. It’s that my cup keeps getting empty. I bet I’ve had at least a gallon of water today and it’s only 10:30.

We top off the manure spreader with a layer of crushed limestone and head off to spread in the pasture. The plan is to work from the outside in, moving slowly for good coverage. I don’t even get 10 feet before the manure spreader breaks. The shaft that drives the beater has worn through under a wooden bushing.

We’ll have to drive back to the house to weld it up again.

Good. I need a glass of water.

Dad is a better welder than I am. That’s saying it too gently. Dad can weld. I can watch the welding rod spark and spit and make little piles of goose poop. I fill up on water and turn the shaft as he welds around it. We are using a stick welder on rusty metal so he has it turned up pretty hot. Dad burns through the shaft once…then again. Toward the end we’re really just crossing our fingers as he sews up the holes he made. Really, we should remove the shaft and replace a section but…well…let’s try it.

By 11:30 we have successfully unloaded the manure spreader and have positioned it where I can shovel a load of pig bedding for the same field. The pig bedding is in a shaded building. I snag a little lunch (the quiche) and a lot of water then dad and I chat while loading the wagon again…one forkful at a time.

I’m starting to feel tired.

By 2 we have that load on the field.

I need a glass of water.

Dad goes to his house, I go to mine. Remember that conversation about wealth? Running water is wealth. Cold water, running out of the shower is a blessing beyond description. The water feels cold as it hits my head but warm as it runs down my back.

Water is wealth. I need to save my water. I guess I’ll build the pond dam.

Dad calls and asks if our house is on fire.

“No, dad, it’s not.”

“Well, where is the smoke coming from?”

“What smoke?”

“Look south.”

The neighbor’s machine shed was on fire. The fire department kept things lively for a couple of hours as trucks with water tanks zip back and forth from town. Nobody was hurt. The neighbor lost a couple of tractors, some equipment and a lot of hay. We stop by to express our concern as do most of the neighbors. Nice living in a small community.

I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself now. Some new books came in the morning mail but I can’t seem to get myself excited about them. Looking back, I really don’t remember what I did between my shower and the reception. There are two hours that are just missing. Somebody got the eggs and checked that the stock all had water and then it was time to go.

alarm clock chickens

The reception was nice. Way out in the woods, a little music, a little BBQ, a little to drink. We saw an old classmate, some old friends and made arrangements to buy a few pigs the next day from Mike. It was really nice out there. Giant trees, a slight breeze, More food than we could eat. Kiddie pools full of water, soda and other drinks. Cake, pies, homemade ice cream. Thinking back to my conversation with dad, I don’t know what “wealth” looks like but what more could you want?

Then the storm arrived. We watched it roll in on radar and hopped in the car just as it arrived. It looked like it was going to be a pretty quick storm. I chose not to total tee at the reception so Julie drove us home. In the rain. Fortunately the storm was moving from north to south and we were able to get ahead of it most of the way home. We left the party in the rain then as soon as we walked in the door the rain hit our house.

It was not a quick storm but the lightning abated.

The chickens are in a new house and haven’t learned to roost inside of it yet. I need to go tuck in the birdies so I can move them to fresh pasture tomorrow morning but the storm won’t let up. I just have to do it. I just have to do it. Julie goes with me. I love her.

The birds are all roosted by 9:30. Not an easy chore to wrestle each bird in the mud and carrying it to the door of the coop. The rain still hasn’t let up. I hadn’t realized my rain coat had so many leaks. I’m soaked to the bone. I just spent two hours in the mud and chicken manure to convince a flock of chickens that it was bedtime. I must be wealthy. Maybe just stupid. Maybe wealthy enough to afford to be stupid?

Another shower and it’s time for my own bedtime.

I just closed my eyes and I hear it.

bing-BiNg-BING! bing-BiNg-BING!

“Ugh. It can’t be 5 already.”

2 thoughts on “The Alarm Clock

  1. This reminds me of “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” by Solzhenitsyn. One day in the Russian Gulag. Not that I’m saying your life is to be compared to the Soviet prison system. But you present one day’s activities with a serious question, How is wealth defined? At this point I think it’s relative to our circumstances. Imagine yourself in your ideal life, or starting a new life, a do over. Is this what you would do? I ponder that many a moment right now.

    When family was here this past weekend, I was figuring how I could steal away and haul off some trash that need cleaning. And fixing that shop. So I’d have to say I’d be next to you with the manure and in the rain with the chickens.

    • That’s right. It’s subjective isn’t it. Let me tell you, cold, running water is bliss.

      At certain points in the visit it seems appropriate for company to busy themselves for a little while. Let me take a break. Get some things done. At other points in the visit they can either pitch in or get out. ‘Cause apparently I’m the only one who knows that used Kleenex goes in the trash.

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