What It Takes to Leave

As far as I can tell, the list of things it takes in order to leave the farm includes (but is not limited to): 1 tractor to plow the driveway, 2 hours dedicated strictly to opening and closing the barn doors to get to said tractor, 4 hours of farm chores, 23 gallons of water hauled from house to barn, 2 sad donkey faces, 8 eggs, 1 pie crust, 3 bales of hay hauled down from the loft, 3 full loads of dishes in the dishwasher, a massive shoulder bruise, all of the swear words I know, and one very brave, very tolerant mother (which is to say… mine.)

When I look back at the last few months, the big question looming over my head is, why the hell aren’t you getting anything done? Then I spend a weekend prepping to leave the farm it becomes real clear what I’m doing with a lot of my time… shoveling shit. And also about a dozen other things that have become so integrated into my daily routine that I don’t even count them as “work” until I’m leaving the farm for a few days and I have to do all of those things at once.

On top of cramming a few extra days worth of chores into one weekend, I also have to admit that over the last few weeks– since right around the time I was laid up with The Fever to End All Fevers– I’ve started to fall behind on what can only be described as, ah, the general upkeep of life. Like… I’ve now missed garbage collection day five weeks in a row. And the dish situation? Let’s just say I know things are getting desperate when I’m using my measuring cup as a soup bowl.



Yep. The state of things around here was… what would you call this? A huge effing disaster? Yeah. Basically.  So, I knew that every waking moment of my weekend was going to be devoted to digging myself out of this mess and getting things in order so that I could leave the farm in good shape.

Here’s how I thought this would go: I needed to get to Tractor Supply, but there were some huge snow drifts in my driveway, but I thought, no problem, I’ll just get the neighbors tractor out of my barn, plow the driveway real quick, and maybe spend a couple of minutes mucking out the barn stall while I’ve got the tractor out. Couple of hours tops. Right?


In real life, which differed significantly from how I saw this going in my head, looked a little like this…

To start, I spent a good thirty-minutes shoveling out one barn doors to get it open.


You know what that looks like? Wishful thinking. There’s no way that was clear enough for the door to budge even an inch. So then there was a lot of ice chipping and swearing and a brief moment where I considered just ramming the thing with the tractor and knocking the entire door down.

Instead, I managed to force the doors open just enough so that I could wedge by body in-between them for leverage.


And then there was this…


It took about an hour, but finally, THE TRACTOR WAS FREE!

My elation at this point lasted about 100 yards, until I got to the pasture gate, which looked like this…


Ah. Okay. So more shoveling then? More shoveling then.

And, of course, even then the cane bolts were frozen solid. I grabbed the closest thing I could find to try to un-stick them, which was… pliers?

Yeah. I don’t know. That idea didn’t work for shit and I ended up carefully easing the tractor up to the gate and using the bucket to lift the bolts.

This entire time the donkeys are looking at me with what can only be described as the equine version of “WTF?”


We were about three hours into the day now and while I felt like I’d scaled some mountain-sized challenges, I hadn’t even begun the work I set out to do.

Which actually consisted of even more shoveling. But instead of snow, now I got to shovel shit. And, not just shit,  frozen shit. Let me be clear, I don’t mind shit-shoveling as a general farm-related activity. In fact, I rather enjoy watching my compost pile  grow to an impressive size. However, using a pitchfork to gouge tiny pieces of frozen manure out of the stall one by one? Not on my list of all-time favorite activities.


It was taking forever, and the donkeys– who are usually cool hanging out outside the barn until I’m done– were like, “Are you effing crazy, lady? It’s way too cold out here for this.” The three of us were tripping all over each other and I was afraid someone (me) was going to get a donkey hoof to a kneecap, and then I had a brilliant idea…


Opened the gate and gave them free range of the barn. You can clearly see by their expressions that they know they are doing something that they aren’t usually allowed to do.

After another hour, four cubes of pine shavings, and a bale of straw, the stall was looking far more cozy. I was, however, getting short on time to make my run to Tractor Supply for, well, supplies.

No worries though, right? All I had to do was put the tractor back in the barn, close the door, jump in my truck and head in to town.

You know how this is going to go down…


Would. Not. Budge.

Which doesn’t even make sense because I ALREADY OPENED IT. Right? But I guess in my struggle to open the door a lot of snow and ice got packed in the track it slides on. So, yay. First, I broke the snow shovel trying to chip the ice out.

Then I resorted to using my bare fingers to try and clear the track.


If we were going to pinpoint the moment in the day where I completely lost my shit and started stomping around, kicking snow, and swearing? This would be it.

Once I get the temper tantrum out of my system though, then I start to get creative. Like combining-a-tractor-and-a-winch kind of creative.


This was one of my better ideas of the day, actually. I mean, it ripped the handle of the door and even dented the angle-iron of the door frame…



With the tractor tucked safely away, I headed to tractor supply, specifically to buy a large heated trough for the barn. I’d been filling a 5 gallon heated bucket with water in the morning and evening, but I really didn’t want my mom to have to haul ten gallons of water across my icy yard to the barn in -10 degree weather.

So… an upgrade.


Then I spent another hour hauling 20 gallons of water from the house to the barn to fill it.

And while I’d made considerable progress on getting the animals set up for my extended absence, during the five hours I was working outside, I started to have another concern… the snow wasn’t stopping. The snow wasn’t stopping and my mother with her tiny little Chevy Cavalier was going to drive up to the farm to take care of the animals, get snowed in, and probably starve to death.

Because that’s a rational fear. Particularly from someone whose refrigerator looks like this…


Um. So I’ve been doing things in kind of a rush lately, and since the Nugs have had a heat light on them in the below-zero weather, they’ve been laying more eggs than usual as well. Which I have apparently been shoving into every nook and cranny in the fridge for the last, ah, week(s)?

I did what any logical person would do at a time like this. Baked my mom a quiche.


And, after a few more hours of dishes, dishes, and more dishes (which was a nice break from shoveling, shoveling, and more shoveling) I actually found my kitchen counter.

The last act of the weekend was saying a big Thank You to my mom, by drawing her her own tiny planet. With all the farm animals, of course…


And a care package that included a not-insignificant amount of alcohol. Because honestly, when it comes to life on the farm? Sometimes you need it.

And now I’m finally ready to leave… but the truth is that even with the freezing, snow-covered, chore-filled days, there’s really nowhere I’d rather be.

16 Responses

  1. I’m exhausted just reading this post! Glad you got everything accomplished, even if it took a heck of a lot longer than anticipated! Hope you have a good time away, and your mom has a relatively easy time taking care of the animals!

  2. “Equine version of WTF”…bagel choked on…coffee snorted … odd noise related to out of control laughter made…and I am at work. Thank you.

    Seriously, hope your Mom has an easy and awesome time at Liberty House and you have a great (preferably warm) time wherever you go!

  3. You can’t see me, but I’m bowing down at your awesomeness. I’ve said it before in a comment, and I will most definitely say it again, but you are an INSPIRATION. I always think of this quote when I read your posts:
    “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
    ― Theodore Roosevelt

  4. That tractor is coming in handy, and you’re definitely honing your tractor skills in the form of frozen shit that needs to get unstuck.

  5. It’s a battle out there all right! Sometimes, when all expletive combinations have been exhausted, I’m reduced to incoherent spluttering. Then I have to laugh. Way to persevere.

  6. Dante got it wrong. Hell is not fire and heat but a Northeastern winter. Reading this post, I suffered for you. Glad you got the trough warmer. Is getting water out to the barn on the list? There has got to be a better way of dealing with the barn door. Would salting around the door help? How about a blow torch?You come from stronger stock than I.

  7. the….snow….is ….never…..going….to ….STOP…..FALLING!!!!!!!

    Snowed in here, could really use that tractor bucket as my Jr Tractor (1987 JD L&G) with it’s awesome snow thrower can no longer throw the snow over the HUGE piles where the driveway meets the road…the road that has had semis rumbling down it all afternoon because the parallel I94 is closed due to a pile up. I don’t know what’s worse, watching the snow never stop falling all fucking day or STILL listening to the semi’s rumble by.

    In other words…I hear ya sister!

  8. Have been battling frozen barn doors here in Ohio too. Metal doors are definitely the pitts this time of the year. I visit 2 barns regularly & the main one has wood doors & cinderblock stops – much easier in this kind of weather. I was really afraid over the weekend I wouldn’t be able to unstick the metal door to feed the horses!

  9. Kit Kat, Those sliding doors are great, maybe the slider should be on the inside for winter op’s. How about a short term solution, lean sheets of plywood cut 2′ x 8′, up against the barn to protect the track and the door bottom. I’m not sure I probably would have left the door open. My door froze to the ground, nothing worse then having a mountain of snow and the tractor on the planet un-obtanium. That’s pretty good tractor skill if you can lift your cane bolts with your tractor bucket.

  10. Maybe I’m in ignorant California jerk, but there has to be an easier way; of course it depends upon budget and time, but some ideas are: roll up door, empty out rock salt bags along track before a big snow, build overhang above door, wood doors, hell even plumbing a hot water hose bib to the outside of your house and having like 300′ of hose seems like a better alternative even if the ice afterwards would be annoying.
    Good luck.

  11. I hate days like that. And on a farm – well, can’t avoid them sometimes.

    Sounds like a lean-to on the side of one of the barns might be a better tractor storage option – no doors to deal with, just crank it up and start pushing snow. Or-

    One of the first things I did the year after my husband died was replace the sliding barn door with and industrial-grade overhead door. The previous owner had broken a should trying to open and close it, and it almost blew off its rollers in a big windstorm we had.

    And thank god for the two frost-free faucets on each side of the barn, just have to make sure to disconnect and drain the hose every time. And with a full-size water trough and heater I only have to fill it a couple times a week.

    My donkeys are screaming bloody murder these days about the weather. So I can’t imagine how miserable yours (want you to think they)are. Hope you at least got to go somewhere warmer with some sun! Hang in there.

  12. Ahaha…yeah. Barn doors in the winter. We’ve taken to just leaving ours open in the winter. Better frozen open, than closed considering we don’t have animals in there. We just keep our cars, tractor, snow blower etc in it.

    Of course, then we leave town for a week and have my (also awesome) mother over to watch the house and take care of the cat. She helpfully moved my car to the other side, got the door closed (using who knows what voodoo), and parked on my side. Get back from vacation, need to go to work on Monday. I also threw a tantrum and tried to kick the door in. Didn’t work. So I turned my car around, INSIDE THE BARN. Yeah. 27 thousand point turn. Ok, not quite that bad, because it’s a mini, but seriously, Thanks mom, love you!

    Husband got the door open 3 or 4 days later.

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