Never a Bull Moment

I remember sitting in our living room when we lived in the city and discussing farm life. Even as we itched to escape the bustle around us, we talked about what we each wanted. From the first conversation, it was always a bull for my husband. He wanted a bull. Not a steer. Not a heifer. Had to be a bull. I wasn’t a fan of the idea, but I didn’t even know when we would live in the country, so why shoot him down?

Fast forward to moving to the country and we went hog wild with ALL the animals. Boy have we learned some lessons the hard (and expensive) way. One of those mistakes is a bull. We got him as a bottle baby. He was as cute as could be.

“Don’t head butt with him,” I’d scold the boys.

“Don’t play with his horns,” I’d warn my husband.

While I didn’t have cow experience, I did have goat and sheep experience. You don’t play that way with things designed to headbutt out their battles. You’ll always lose. So it stood to reason that we don’t play that way with the bull, either.

Well, Mom is a dud and her only goal is to ruin all the fun, so despite my warnings, the play continued. It became a problem as that little bottle baby is hit the 500lb mark.

20190321_203116.jpgThe first major incident happened to me. He charged me twice. In a moment that I thought I was thinking fast and going to stop the collision, I got my shin between me and the oncoming bull. My shin lost. The pain was indescribable.

I hobbled to the couch and started icing the thing, rubbing arnica all over it, and pleading with God to let nothing be broken. The resulting bruise took 3 weeks to heal. It still hurts in spots a couple months later.

The second incident involved my sweet 2-year-old daughter. We call her Wild because, by most accounts, she is just that, wild. But she is kind. She isn’t mean to our animals. She was minding her own when this darn bull went after her. That was it. I listed him and sold him immediately.

We weren’t quite ready to process him, and I value the safety of my kids and myself first and foremost. We are out here day in and day out working, doing chores, playing. We have to be safe.

It was shortly thereafter that my cousin reached out and let me know that Jersey bulls can be some of the meanest (which is what our guy was). I would have thought a dairy bull to be docile like a dairy cow. Guess I thought wrong.

And that leads me to the point of all of this – I have said to fellow small farmers that sometimes you just have to take the leap, no matter how ready you think you are, you’re never ready enough, so sometimes you just have to do things, try them, gain some experience, sweat a little, pray a lot, work hard, learn to work smarter. But it is often the experience that teaches you what your next step should be – more than a book, blog, vlog, or whatnot.

But sometimes, you have to know your limitations. We should have castrated that bottle calf IMG_1756right away. We should have looked at our fencing, lack in separate and adequate pens, and our experience with a stud purchase or two (don’t let us go to the auction, it’s just bad), to inform our decision about that bottle calf. The bull should have come later, when we built a bullpen, and when we had matured enough to know better than to mess with horns/head of a bullheaded critter.

There is never a bull moment on the farm, and for that, I am quite thankful. I’ve learned a lot this past couple of years. I am looking forward to learning more in the years ahead of me.


The Changes We Make

Years ago my mom would come home with these face masks and tell me to wear them for dusty jobs. Hauling hay, cleaning the tack shed, stripping the stall, mowing, and more would come with the admonition that it would be better to wear one.

Flu season would come with the suggestion to wear one in public.

But being cool and not being seen as sick overrode wisdom. In all my teenage glory, I looked at parental concern and care and I scoffed. I was certain that they just wanted to ruin my life and make me look ridiculous to my friends, boys, the world. (Sorry Mom.)

As I got older, the cool thing didn’t play such a role in rejecting the masks, but not wanting to be seen as sick sure did. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time pretending that my lungs work better than they do. Illness is so often seen as weakness.

Illness made me feel like I had to work twice as hard to prove myself. I’ve failed time and again to bring the proper medications and my nebulizer with me when I knew I’d need more than an inhaler. I’ve hidden in bathrooms using too many puffs from a rescue inhaler, trying to get my breathing back to normal (or at least to where no one noticed) and I could continue an event/activity/outing.

I didn’t want to be seen as less.

My husband has been kind to me these years we’ve been building a life. As he learned how reactive my airways are, he has swooped in to handle all the dusty jobs. When I’m talking about my to-do list or particular jobs, he’s known to ask, “But will it be too much for you?”

I’ve bristled at the question and even snapped at him. I refuse to live like life is too much for me. But I’ve had to admit defeat and that some jobs are hard for me.

Life has thrown transitions our way time and time again, and here we are, facing more 20190627_200812.jpgof them. As I settle into my role keeping the home and farm on target and he travels, I knew I’d have to face some dusty jobs. So, while I was at the store, I bought masks. And I put off the first dusty job for a couple of days because I was struggling with wearing the mask.

The chicken coop – a dusty mess of feathers, wood shavings, and poop. Never a good combination, and an especially bad combination for an asthmatic. For the last two years, my husband has faithfully cleaned out the coop. But with his hours home shorter than we like, I don’t want him to be cleaning coops, I want him to be playing peekaboo with toddlers and driving dirt bikes with teenagers.

I conquered the job, in a mask and all. And I realized how much better it is to wear the mask and protect my airways and still get the job done. I didn’t have to bow out, pass it off, or neglect the task. I did it, no rescue inhaler needed, and the mask wasn’t as bad as I expected. In fact, I plan on wearing one when I tackle the next dusty job.

I’m learning that living with illness takes a measure of embracing that I am sick like it or not, which means taking measures to prevent flares. It also means doing the best I can with what I have, learning to rest when I need it, and learning that denial doesn’t make one healthy.

And we don’t get it all right, 100% of the time. As I was writing this, I was snacking on a bag of Skittles my husband left for me. And I realized that’s not the fuel my body needs to be as well as possible. So I put those up and switched it for carrots because I snack while I write. I am a work in progress and I am okay with that.

Struggling with chronic illness? What preventative (like a mask) or other change can you identify that will help you manage your illness? Tell me about it in the comments below.


Happy Trails

Happy Trails!