Herald-Journal
Herald and Journal, February 22, 1999

Slip slidin' away to the barn

By SUE FINK

What is it that they say about mailmen? "Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail, nor gloom of night will stay them from their swiftly appointed rounds."

Well, something like that. The same could be said for the dairy farmer.

Lately, it's with some trepidation that I head out to the barn for morning milking and my "appointed rounds." The icy result of freezing and thawing temperatures makes negotiating my way to the barn an unwelcome adventure.

Under the imperfect glare of the security light, I seek out patches of snow that still offer a firm foothold. With the snow gone, the going gets trickier. Now there is ice covering most of the driveway on our way to the barn.

In my attempt to save life and limb, I scout my way along, stepping gingerly to this splotch of bare ground and then over to that stray blob of hay. I hurry to get out of the house ahead of Tom and Jesy so they won't witness my ever-so-graceful trip to the barn. Seeing me go head over heels might strike their funny bones, but I know I would feel the fall in an entirely different area. I should really make them walk with me so I have someone to land on.

While I struggle awkwardly toward the barn, I imagine strapping on my ice skates and gliding effortlessly over this glacier we have for a driveway. Then I remember that I haven't tried ice skating for several years. I don't have time to dig up all the knee pads and elbow pads it would take to ensure my arrival at the barn with working joints.

Once in the barn, we get busy with the morning milking. No ice to worry about in here. Of course, there are a few slippery spots, usually caused by cow by-products. What else would you expect in a dairy barn?

The cows are fed, and Tom takes over milking. I turn my attention to feeding the calves. We have calf stalls in the barn, and calf hutches outside.

Feeding the calves in the barn is a snap. Just mix up the milk replacer and set the pails in front of the calves. The biggest danger here is tripping over a hungry cat.

Feeding the calves in the hutches outside means picking my way across the driveway, between the two empty hutches, around the wagon with the round bales on it, and over to the string of calf hutches. This scene is partially illuminated by the security light above the barn.

The mix of light and shadow is just enough to make it difficult to judge whether my next footfall will land on ice or bare ground. I usually realize which one it is just a split second too late.

The trek to the calf hutches got really interesting when it rained one morning last week. Remember Murphy's Law? You know, little tidbits of wisdom like, "If you drop a piece of buttered bread, it will always land buttered side down." Well, Murphy's Farm Law says that the amount of rain falling at any one time will be directly proportional to whether you happen to be outside doing chores at that time.

And what could be slipperier than ice? Ice with water on it. The question for the day became, "Will I be feeding the two gallons of milk replacer I am carrying in these four ice cream pails or will I be wearing it?"

I actually made it out to the calf hutches without upending myself. I set the pails down and fed the calves one by one, hanging on to the wire panels around the hutches and scuffling along between them.

So the calves are fed, the chores are done, the cows milked. Do you suppose the rain will hold off for a while so I can slip and slide my way back to the house?

Suddenly, I have a great idea.

"Hey, Tom, how about giving me a ride up to the house on the kids' toboggan?"


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