Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Polyface -- Day 3

While it has become painful for me to relate my Polyface tales, knowing that I will most likely never return there, I know that my own memory won't remember the small details of the visit in a few years time. So I shall finish up my adventure, in spite of the heartache.... 

 Thursday morning found me feeling sore, and with a headache. Nice way to start the day. Lydia admitted to being sore as well, and we both took some painkiller before heading outside. She took two pills, I took three. ;) Morning chores were just the same as the day before. Scattering oats, filling feeders and waterers, throwing hay to the hogs, and seeing to the rabbits. While throwing oats in hoop house #3, my boot kicked something hard. I looked down, and to my surprise I found that I had just kicked a rib cage; the remains of a deer carcass that had been thrown in for the chickens. As I looked into the rest of the hoop houses, I saw other random bits of the same deer. One hoop house had the legs, one had the neck/head, one had the extra bits... Since the chickens stay "cooped up" (couldn't resist. LOL.) during the winter, they don't get the protein that they do in the summer (in the form of insects and carrion). So the Salatins provide raw meat for all the birds, to insure that they still get the protein. I must say the chickens did an excellent job at cleaning those bones.... LOL.

On our way up to Sheri and Daniel's house to have breakfast, Lydia and I met Michael. Swoon, faint; what a cute guy. Oh, and let's not forget the adjectives 'big', 'handsome', and 'friendly'. ;)

 Okay, okay... Truth be told, Michael is actually a dog. A BIG dog, at that!! Sorry to disappoint,  if you were thinking it was a human I was pertaining to. Hehe. Michael is one of Polyface's three "LGD's" (Livestock Guardian Dogs), and is a monstrous sized, white Anatolian/Akbash cross. I'm 5'7", and Michael's head came up just past my hips. Big guy. While he is fiercely protective of his territory at night, he is a friendly, people-loving galoot during the day. Whenever he hears the tractor being fired up, he is right there, waiting to head out with you to do the latest farm job. Which is exactly what he did, as everyone loaded up into the tractor trailer to start clearing the woodlot, after breakfast...

 Michael has been clocked at running 35 mph, and he certainly had no trouble loping alongside the rumbling tractor as we climbed uphill.

 That day, I worked harder than I ever have in my entire life. Picking up and throwing huge stumps into the trailer bed; running enormous branches and tree tops through the chipper; bending, stooping, lifting, chucking.... Hour after hour, after hour. You work at a frantic pace, trying to keep the chipper fed, and attempting to make a dent in the workload. You find yourself working so hard that you think you're going to be sick. Then you find yourself working so hard that you wish you would be sick, since that might grant you a few moment to rest. After a few hours, your mind takes on a different view of looking at wood. You no longer see something as "too big for me to pull", but instead look at it as "that needs to come out next, and I have to move it." I took on a two-word motto that day: Just pull.

 While tackling huge tree tops that were almost too heavy for me, I learned to simply put one foot in front of the other. I mentally chanted, "Just pull. Just pull." as I felt the limbs beginning to move, and after awhile it actually became a rather addicting bit of work. I grew to enjoy that feeling of a heavy, inanimate object beginning to slide and shudder, as you shoulder the work like a draft horse. We all worked like a team though, and kept a watchful eye on each other. If someone had a branch that was too big for them alone, someone would jump in and help. More than once I gratefully sighed as Ches, Geoffrey (who was from Africa and had just come as we started our work), or Lydia came to my assistance when my "just pull" motto failed me.

 One 'o' clock came, and Daniel declared lunch break for the guys while the girls stayed and worked a bit more.

 Noooooooooo!!!

The guys get to have lunch break first!?!?! And we girls have to stay behind and keep working!? 

Then it got better as Daniel pointed at where we would be working: A small gully lay ahead, and it was filled with large branches and tree tops. Neither the chipper, nor the tractor could get in there, so our job was to get down there and pull those hefty pieces of wood out.

 We girls were too tired to sound enthusiastic, so we mentally buckled down, and went back to work.

I swear those guys took an extra long lunch break on purpose.

That gully actually proved to be rather fun in the end. I squirreled my way down to the bottom, jumping and balancing on branches, before working on getting each branch pulled away from the mass, and sent up to the other girls (Lydia, Savannah, and Leanna) who were keeping the chipper fed. Daniel worked his forklift a few dozen yards away; moving logs into a pile. Staying true to my typical fashion of working style, I burned out after about 30 minutes of working down in the gully. I have never been very good at pacing myself, and always throw myself headlong into whatever I'm doing. Down in the gully, I had been pulling branches out at a pace fast enough to keep three girls hopping; now I was paying for it. We all switched spots, and now the three girls were handing me branches, and I was feeding the chipper. On went the work, until a glorious sight met our eyes: The guys were back. Whoohoo!!! Leanna turned the chipper off, and the silence seemed deafening at first. The guys surveyed our progress and Eric made our day by saying, "Wow, you gals got a lot done. Good job!" The others nodded in agreement. 

 The four of us beamed as much as one can when you're exhausted and starving, and then turned to go have our lunch break. Sitting down had never seemed so delightful to me. As we drove up to Daniel's house to have lunch, I became aware of a painful sensation on my shins. I had been wearing my jeans tucked into my boots, so I assumed the pain was from all the chafing, and promptly ignored the problem.

After lunch, everyone gathered 'round to discuss the next project. Daniel decided to split the group into thirds. Group #1 would go gather and wash eggs (which amounted to 10 dozen!), group #2 would go lay down fresh bedding in the cow barn, and group #3 would start building pig gates. I was more than grateful when I found I was chosen to go to the cow barn... No hammers involved there!

Before everyone scattered, we all said goodbye to Ben. His time at the farm was up, and he was headed back to Oregon. I don't like it when people leave....

After many handshakes and well-wishes to Ben, the rest of us (Savannah, Lydia, Jeremy, and I) found ourselves headed to the cow barn on the tractor, with Daniel driving. I am ashamed however, to say that I was so sore (painkiller had worn off!) that I couldn't get up on the tractor. [blush, blush]. Jeremy had to give me a hand and help pull me up (what a pal... LOL.). Work in the cow barn went a little slower than it normally might have, as the four of us dealt with aching muscles. While I can normally pick up a 60 lb. hay bale in each hand, I was finding to my dismay that I could barely pick up one bale with both hands! But even if we were a little sluggish, the work got done, and soon the cows had a thick layer of bedding awaiting them. I borrowed Daniel's pocket knife as I went to go cut the baling twine that held the gate closed, and the cows out of the barn. As I walked to the end of the barn to let them all in, Daniel jokingly hollered at me to "not lose his good knife." I laughed and told him I wouldn't. The afore mentioned twine was cut, and 50 huge beef cows thundered all around me, as they eagerly went to check out their new digs. That was a neat experience, being in such close proximity to flying bovine heels, and dodging being trampled. After some slow maneuvering, I managed to get out of the pen, and immediately went to give Daniel his pocket knife back. Or, I started to at least. I realized in horror that I had lost a leather work glove, AND Daniel's knife somewhere in the throng of those beef cows, and I had no idea where they were. In a panic, I jumped over the gate and began frantically searching for the knife. I had to slap cow rumps and and was continuously saying, "Move over, Beef." (for some reason I just called 'em all "Beef") The cows were nervous with me winding through their pen, and I had to watch out for the rambunctious steers who were more than willing to kick me. The glove was found halfway down the pen; mucked up, and filthy. But where WAS that knife??? I was just about to give up and buy Daniel a new one, when my eye caught a glint of metal, in the midst of mud and muck. The knife was right where I had opened the gate, and a huge cow was about to step on it. "HEY!! BEEF!!" I shouted, and dived towards the bovine. My ploy worked, and the startled animal sped back in reverse. Ha ha! Victory!! The knife was disgusting, and I certainly wasn't looking forward to showing Daniel, but at least I had it. Thankfully, Daniel had the patience of a Saint, and simply hosed the knife off before sticking it back in his pocket.

When we got back to the farmyard, Daniel told us we would join group #3 in building gates. I groaned inwardly; there was no way of getting out of the job. Savannah went to go help wash eggs, which left Lydia and I to fumble on our own amidst the guys who were expertly going about the work. I tried telling Daniel about my severe lack of skills when a hammer was involved, but he simply laughed and said, "Show me." as he handed me a hammer and a nail. Lydia and I looked at each other, and then started. We both bent our nails. And then we bent the next ones. And the next ones. I watched in amusement as Daniel's 6 year old son, Andrew, hammered his nails in straight. That just didn't seem fair.... A six year old was doing better than I was! I think I must have ruined five nails when I threw down my hammer in discouragement. I asked Noah if I could admit defeat; I didn't want to completely ruin their gates! Noah smiled, handed me my hammer back, and gave me another nail. "You're doing good," He said, "You just need to keep on practicing." Noah and I repeated that sequence three more times, as I tried giving up. But slowly, I started seeing a change. I got my first nail to go in straight.

 And then a second nail went in straight.

And then a third.

I smiled to myself as my hands finally figured out what they were supposed to be doing, and soon I was wailing on those nails as hard and fast as the guys! Whoohoo! Noah grinned as he looked on. "See?" He remarked, "I told you, you just needed practice." My arms were beyond aching as we put together 10 gates. I had been working since 7 a.m. and it was now 5 p.m. It felt like they were going to fall off, or like at any moment they would just stop working. I felt like a mechanical robot. As we neared the last gate for the day, my movements were becoming increasingly jerky. When we finally finished, I found that my hand wouldn't open up to let go of the hammer. It was so sore and stiff that I had to pry the hammer out with my other hand. 

 Lydia and I leaned against each other, hoping that Daniel would call dinner break. Nope! Now it was time to unload the delivery truck that had just returned from restaurant calls! The back of the hauling van was filled with boxes and coolers that needed to be stacked in the farm store. I was okay with this job. Empty coolers are light. 

 Once that was done, THEN Daniel called dinner break! Lydia and I voted to clean up before walking over to Daniel's for dinner. Fifteen minutes later, Lydia and I felt somewhat human again, and began the trek uphill to where food awaited us. I took one step and felt a searing pain shoot up my legs. I had been so busy that I had somewhat forgotten about my hurting shins. I looked down, and saw thin trickles of blood running down towards my ankle. As I had first suspected, tucking my jeans into my boots had chafed my shins badly, and now both were bleeding. My neck was also rubbed raw where my Carhartt collar had rubbed. I was a hurtin' person. I tried limping my way along but every time my boot touched my shins I wanted to scream. I'm such a wimp when it comes to pain. So I did the most logical thing there was to do. I walked barefoot. The temperature outside was 26 degrees, and we were walking up a gravel road in the dark. Talk about a memory! But the dinner and fellowship was enough to make up for the discomfort. We all stayed up until 10 p.m. laughing and joking together. Brie had cooked up some beef heart, and we all bravely sampled it (it wasn't too bad, actually.), but the main meal was tacos. Yum! 

 I was a little envious of Savannah, who was staying with Leanna and Brie, down in Daniel and Sheri's basement. She wouldn't have to walk in the pitch black darkness, like Lydia and I were preparing to do as we called it a night. Just for the record, my night vision is terrible. I can't see anything in the dark, and I feel like I'm blind. Lydia wasn't altogether sure about walking in the dark either, so we followed our ears. We figured as long as we could hear gravel, then we were obviously on the road. I walked along in the dark that night, not able to see a single thing. It was like someone put a bandanna over my eyes. More than once I stopped and asked Lydia where she was; I couldn't see her! We eventually made it back to Grandma's house, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Just the fact that I could see it was enough to make it seem like a grand mansion in my eyes. LOL. 

I guess I somehow got in my pajamas and went to bed. I don't remember doing it though. All I remember is falling asleep instantly and sleeping like the dead. I vaguely wondered what we would be doing the next day.... My last day at Polyface...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the way you say things! It makes everything so real. you have and good way with words!
Cj