Morning chores on the farm

Published 12:17 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

This week at The Funny Farm has not been for the faint-hearted.

When temps plummet and oblige us to disconnect the water to the barn and drain the pipes, while I use a couple of electric buckets to keep water warm, we still end up toting hot water from the house to help melt the outdoor water troughs and soak alfalfa.

My friend Donna likes to say that her Fjord ponies (that originally come from Norway) “are used to a foot of snow on their backs while they suck lichen off rocks.” 

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“That makes them really cheap to care for!” I enthused. “Do you want me to just throw them a forkful of gravel instead of hay?”

We were in a goofy mood as we were teetering on the edge of being punch-drunk from insomnia and infection. Me from a virus and Donna from a kidney stone.

“My doctor asked if I was getting enough sleep,” Donna told me while emptying a wheelbarrow into the bucket of the tractor. “I said, ‘Do you know of any middle-aged woman who gets enough sleep?’”

I laughed and nodded empathetically. She had gone straight from the barn to the doctor’s office, brushing herself off before she got into her car, but evidently not enough.

“I had to pull up my shirt, and all this hay fell out!” She cackled. “Out of my bra—“

“ALWAYS the bra,” I wailed. “They must think we just wander in off the street. Or a field.”

I turned to saddle my horse on the other side of the barn while Donna carried a mound of hay, as tall as she is, to deposit into the empty water trough in the back paddock which serves as a hayrack for her Fjords. I heard a gasp, then a yelp, but Donna often sings when she works and I thought she might be accompanying some early Duran Duran. What actually happened was that the hay she carried obscured anything in front of her and she stumbled head over heels into the trough, bounced off the side, and wearing most of the hay, came back to report her accident between gulps of laughter. 

“I’m going to have a giant bruise from the edge of that trough all the way across my chest!” she gulped, but she didn’t say ‘chest,’ which, of course, made me laugh harder.

“I fell so fast—and then I was trapped on my back like a turtle.”

“You’re going to make me wet my pants,” I begged for mercy. “By the way, how’s the kidney stone? I can’t even believe you’re out here working like a lumberjack, with a kidney stone.”

“My back hurts,” she admitted. “But I get these all the time. The last one I had, I just went in the house between barn chores, birthed it, then came back out and finished up.”


I like to think of us as tough broads, although Donna’s definitely tougher than I could ever be. I’ve never had a kidney stone but I’ve seen it bring men to their knees, weeping. Yet, like her, I will always choose to be outside in nature’s elements over interior recreation, regardless of the crows’ feet it brings or the fact that my hands are as calloused as a stone mason’s.

With the morning’s chores behind us, we stood for a moment at the pasture gate, gazing out over the horses blowing twin streams of steam from flared nostrils as they spent a few minutes bucking and playing before settling to eat their breakfast. The sun had just risen and its early light had barely crested the trees. Frost-rimmed leaves and fence rails shimmered beneath.

Shoving numbed fingers into my pockets, I turned to Donna and said, “Don’t ya feel sorry for everybody still tucked into their warm beds, missing all this?”