Numerous of our neighbors swathed 2nd cutting alfalfa just ahead of blizzard warnings. Two storms later and after a couple of dry windy days most of them managed to bale. Surely winter-baled hay will be nicely leafy if it got wrapped up in rounds. Small squares are still sitting out, squishy-full of rain water, sleet, and snow melt. Thankfully, we round baled before winter arrived but I ask myself what I would do with 80 acres of sopping wet square bales in mid-November. Could I background calves for someone? Cut twines five acres at a time, erect quick-to-move electric fencing around each five acre plot, and turn calves in to make use of the bales before they molder into small lumps of compost? Would intense swarm-feeding of cows make efficient use of the bales if I cut twines on the entire 80? Could such tactics bring in enough income to cover the cost of buying hay for later use, after calendar winter arrives? None of the options seem as good as reverse time travel and a reset on autumn.
On more positive notes:
In September, my sisters hosted a belated 70th birthday party for me, a celebration worth waiting for. It included family and friends, wonderful food and drink, plus essential gifts for geriatocracy. (My laptop doesn’t like that word, but I’m sticking with it. Yes indeed, I think we could thrive under beneficent rule by mature adults who embrace gray hair.) Their gifts to me: a bejeweled shower cap worthy of royalty, capacious undies that could accommodate diapers in case of incontinence, "Old Bag" balm, various potions, lotions, and preparations for posterior misbehaviors, plus a saucy limerick from my poetic sister. How we laughed! I have stashed the gifts for reuse at my younger brother’s 70th party.
The past months also included time and motivation to paint. Landscapes, lovely old homes, and barn scenes have offered escape from the grim, grey, grumpy gruel outside our windows. In between blizzards I indulged in a four-day workshop in Kalispell with Eric Wiegardt. The supply list included numerous full sheets of watercolor paper. A full sheet measures 22” X 30”, and I thought there was no way I would use that much paper in four days. After completing one of Wiegardt’s exercises—a half sheet painting completed in fewer than 50 strokes—it was clear that paper was for using . . . extravagantly. Pigment, too, got squeezed out generously and used by the dollop. And water? Holy moley! Holding our brushes like spoons, we scooped it onto our palettes and swooped it onto our paintings. My extensive inventory of brushes with synthetic bristles all lacked the necessary water-loading uumph. That inadequacy called for a new pointed round, flat, and squirrel mop, all of which drink water and pigment with joyous abandon.
We dewormed and sorted ewes into breeding groups and turned bucks out with them on a day when fleeces were dry. We timed calf weaning and seasonal vaccinations and pour-on for both cows and calves to coincide with a brief window of friendly weather. We got a truckload of barley and peas into the grain bin during an equally brief interlude between precipitations. I did not miss a single dog obedience class—Dozer at 6:30 and Toots at 7:30—although on two occasions, the return trip home from Great Falls in the dark was white-knuckle, white-out terrifying.
The 8-week Basic Obedience series was a repeat for Dozer. Though he may look like a big dumb galloot in need of repetitive drills, he is not. He is smart, quick to understand and obey the various commands, and utterly devoted to me. However, he needs every bit of remedial inter-canine socialization that I can provide. He is a powerhouse when he gets his dander up about dogs that wag and smile innocuously or small dogs that bark sharply or German Shepherds whose aggression is close to the surface. Handling him in close proximity to other dogs requires total vigilance. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the time in class with him and with Toots.
At home, Dozer is the underdog, constantly pecked at by his sister and disciplined by his mother. Around livestock, however, he finds glory. Despite evidence to the contrary, Dozer thinks that he is quite a stock dog. He is undaunted by glancing kicks from cows; he marches officiously, if ineffectively, in the middle of the parade of replacement ewe lambs as they move out in the morning. The traffic jams when lambs stop, press close, and tip their heads toward him to have their ears licked. And at dark, he bellies up to the feeders with the lambs to lick ears and share grain. Here he is partaking, happy as a clam beside a tolerant lamb.