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.

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Monday is Here

Monday is here, and my son is at home, where he didn’t want to be. He wanted to get on the bus and go back to school and continue his journey in the public education sector. I wanted him to make it a great year, and I was working hard to ensure that he was making the most of it. I desperately wish I had gotten involved sooner – I knew he was having trouble with a couple of the boys, but when I asked what he wanted me to do, he said it would get worse if he tattled, and to let him sort it out.

I know kids are cruel and even more so to a snitch, so instead of jumping to action, I tried to listen. I tried to be a strong shoulder and place of comfort while allowing my boy to navigate this new territory. I know now, I made the wrong choice.

We could hang our heads this morning, pout about the things that have gone wrong. We could hang our heads this morning and whine about the injustice we’ve been served. But what good would it do? It won’t change any minds, it won’t make things any better.

We will hold our heads high, and we will learn something new. We will hold our heads high, and we will learn to do better. We are going to dig our heels in and head to the library. I may even look for a casual home school group so he can fulfill his desire for social interaction. But I will not give in, or give up, or let the poor decision of one school, one man really, dictate how the rest of our year will go.

I will not teach my son that bad calls wreck our lives. Alter the course, maybe, but not wreck them. I will not teach him to lay down in defeat, or to wallow in how awful this stuff feels. I will teach him to own and acknowledge how it feels and then to take the next step, because it starts to feel better faster if you don’t just wallow in the yuck.

I’m sorry to the kids and the parents before me, who’ve dealt with a failing and faltering school system. This fight is new to me, but I know many of you have been warring against a broken system for a long, long time. I’m sorry the system is broken, and I realize now there is no easy answer. Keep warring, Mama’s and Papa’s, your babies need you. They need your strong voice, they need your defense. Don’t let this broken system define you, or them. Keep fighting and press on, and maybe one day we will see this system changed for the better.

Then and Now

A few years ago, I got an interesting job. In a matter of months I went from bartender to office manager at a country club in the Middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma. It was never an easy job, but it was at times a fun job. Many stressful things were thrown at me while I was there, and they were usually thrown at top speed. Sometimes, that place was just plain nuts.

I learned something new every day to be able to do my job, to be able to help my staff with their jobs, and to keep the place functioning. We were running with a skeleton crew – a golf course, pro shop, restaurant, office, weddings, etc. There were never enough hours in the day. In fact, there were many occasions where I would pick my kids up from day care, only to go back to work and work until we closed for the night.

Sun up, to sun down, repeat the next day.

The hours, the style of work, the go-go-go nature of things at the country club were right up my alley. The challenges, the things I was forced to learn to get the job done, all of it. I would get so wound up with a new challenge that I could hardly sleep until I conquered the problem. I also thought it was just a paycheck. I could only see my right then. I had no idea what my future held (we never really do though, do we?) and I believed that God was providing the groceries, the trip to see my parents, and a few other freedoms, for a single mom of two boys.

I had no idea.

What I know now is, God was teaching me. He was teaching me to solve problems, to sleep the night before, to take a deep breath. To go-go-go when it’s time to, and to slow down when I need to. He was teaching me how to use Quickbooks, how to handle irate customers, how to collect past due accounts, how to fight and not give up. He was teaching me how to order supplies, plan ahead, handle last minute emergencies, and answer the phone while searching the internet for parts, pieces, or how-to videos.

God was teaching me how to run a business, so that later, I could help my husband fulfill his dreams – a husband I didn’t know I’d have. A man I hadn’t met. But God was preparing me.

And here I thought He was just providing a paycheck…

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