Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making Hay While The Sun Shines

First load into the barn

The Ranch Boss had a pretty cool view from the cab of his tractor!

Carson the Great following along on his quad

Loved riding along with Clay!

Clay in his happy place!

This past weekend was as close as we get to Boot Camp here at the Rocking Bar H.  I’ve been excited to share about one of my favorite times of year around our place, but my fingers were having a hard time bending into the typing position!    Try this little exercise: hold your palms face up, and slowly bend your fingers so the tips are pointed at your face.  Do you see all those creases and wrinkles in your fingers and on your palms?  Well, there was a blister in each and every one of those creases, and then some, by the time our work was finished on Sunday night.  I’m happy to report that just a few remain, a perfect reminder of the hard work that I really love doing!  This year, haying was even better than normal, because Keith got to be part of it!  I’m willing to bet that getting to drive the tractors was just the medicine he needed as he continues to regain health!

Haying season is a family event for us.  Clay began driving the tractors – mowing, raking, and baling – when he was just 8 years old, and his brothers are not far behind!  This year, Keith and Clay ran the tractors; Cole was promoted from driving the truck to bucking bales with me, now that he’s a big, strapping 8 year old J; and Carson the Great chased mice and provided entertainment when he wasn’t riding along on one of the tractors, in the truck, or following through the fields on his quad.

It’s so fun to watch my boys have such a passion for something!  Clay has wanted to do custom hay farming for as long as I can remember.  We were talking the other day in the car and he assured me that he would own his first tractor before he buys his first truck. And I smiled this weekend as I watched Cole wrestle and stack bales that weigh more than he does. It’s by far the hardest work he will do all year, and yet he never complained; in fact, he grinned every time his eyes met mine!  All 3 boys gather around the computer as they search websites that sell farming equipment during this time of year.  They talk about what equipment they want, and how they would run their operations.  It’s so fun to watch them plan and dream!

Over the weekend, with about 1,500 bales to bring in from the fields and put up in the barn, we hired a group of high school boys to help out.  As Saturday afternoon rolled around, I had been driving the truck with a group of 3 boys loading the hay, and was wanting to get out and help.  The weather was really hot, and one of the boys was feeling some heat exhaustion, so I told him I’d park the truck every so often and get out and load bales. I wasn’t really prepared…I’d gone out for a run early that morning and still hadn’t changed from my running shorts…but that wasn’t going to slow me down. J  So, I’d move the truck across the field a hundred feet or so, then jump out, stumbling as I ran in my flip-flops and help the boys load hay.  By the time we were done, I think I’d rolled both ankles in all the holes in that field about a dozen times; my legs were scratched up, full of slivers and burning from the hay bales rubbing against them; and the countless blisters were forming nicely, as I didn’t have any gloves with me either!

When the next round of hauling rolled around that evening, I was equipped with jeans, Romeos, and some leather gloves…whew!  This time I was working with a group of seasoned farm boys who’ve been bucking hay all summer.  As the load got higher, they tossed the bales onto the trailer over their heads with ease, and being me, I was determined to keep up.  I did my best, and I can only imagine how they must’ve laughed later, thinking about the 35 year old mom, face shielded with sunglasses and a bandana over her nose and mouth so hay fever wouldn’t overcome her, struggling each and every time she attempted to hurl a bale without falling down.  I’m just thankful they saved their laughs for when I wasn’t around. J

I’m not much of a medicine girl, to say the least, but I seriously contemplated taking some Advil that night before going to sleep.  The next morning, I used as much caution as I ever have in getting out of bed.  One teeny tiny move at a time, I inched out of bed, just expecting to collapse on the floor in pain at any moment.  Thankfully, by some complete miracle, I felt okay and was ready for another round of work that day. 
By Sunday night, all the hay was put up in the barn.  The Hickles all fell into bed about 11pm and slept like babies.  Then, Monday morning, a whole new round of fun began as hay forts began to take shape!  But that will be another story…


Monday, August 8, 2011

Patience on the Mountain

This weekend, my dad and I took a little hike on Mount Rainier. About 4 hours, 5 miles, and 4,600ft above where we began the snowy trek, we took a rest at Camp Muir.

I tend to have a difficult time being patient.  Someone once told me it’s like I have no internal governor telling me when to slow down; I just go as fast as I can until I can’t go anymore. There was plenty of time to think about that on Saturday, as we plodded up the mountain, many times getting in line behind long chains of hikers loaded with heavy packs.  My initial reaction was to race past them and get to Muir as fast as possible.  When I learned that getting off the trail to pass (and blaze my own trail in the deep snow) exerted a ton of energy and didn’t pick up much distance, I got in line once again, and told myself to just enjoy it.

Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and I’m so glad the Spirit was working in me!  Slowing down just a bit gave me the chance to enjoy one of the coolest days ever!  There was everything to love about being there…perfect weather, the company of my dad, breathtaking scenery.  And pacing ourselves was definitely a must for the successful round trip!  If you read about the Camp Muir hike, phrases like “use caution”, “strenuous trek for hikers in excellent physical condition”, and “substantial snow travel” may just come up.  I can say now that these are words to take seriously.  I offered up all but just a little water I drank on the way up to my dad, who began struggling a bit on the way down (“my tongue is swelling”… those words scared me!), so by mile 9, muscle fatigue was setting in and I just repeated “one foot in front of the other” for the remaining trip.  It was then that I thanked God for giving me the patience to enjoy our seemingly slow hike up.

I did learn a few valuable things on the mountain:
  • Frequent sunscreen application is no match for the reflection of the sun’s rays off snowfields, and yes, you can get sunburned through clothing.
  • Hiking poles, when not positioned properly, can assist in catapulting a human body from the seated sledding position when moving downhill at a rapid pace.
  • The sight and sounds of an avalanche nearby can make one feel very tiny and powerless.
  • For those used to breathing at sea level, holding your breath in a solar outhouse at 10,188ft long enough to get in and out can be quite a challenge.
  • When weighing out the dangers of dehydration or Giardia, the potential stomach problems seem worth the risk.
  • Looking down on Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Bachelor, and Mt. Adams from where you stand is a very, very cool thing!
 Since I was a little girl, my dad has been telling me that one day we would summit Mt. Rainier together.  This year was going to be our year to do that, but a number of unexpected things changed our plans, and now we’re aiming for next summer.  With Camp Muir under our belts now, I’m sure the remaining 4,500ft climb to the top will be a piece of cake! J