I had a really hard time leading up to the holidays this year. Fred had been working for UPS as a seasonal driver since October, so I was solo on the farm during the week. Thankfully, he was off weekends, so he could deal with round bales, fixing things, mixing and grinding feed, and helping with chores. Basically, he fit full-time farm work into 2 days.
I don’t have family here to call on for help, and it really started to get to me both physically and emotionally.
So when my sister said she was coming for Christmas, I was so grateful. I saw them for a brief visit in California last year, but this would be a godsend in so many ways.
You see, my sister married a Dutch man, Dennis, who likes to work. Not a workaholic kind of working, a “what do you need done and let’s get it done!” kind of working. He and Fred are exactly the same that way–always ready to help and always looking for a project.
Before they came, I made a list of the daily chores and what projects needed to get done. The first day here, one project was complete and another was in the works. Do you know how great it feels to do chores and have a project you haven’t had time to do be completed? It’s AMAZING!!!!!
Fred took Dennis and the 4 boys out to cut and split wood that needed to be out of the pasture before spring. Fred ran the chainsaw, Dennis and 2 boys ran the splitter, while 2 other boys filled the truck. Yes, my sister has 4 hard working boys-Kees, Nico, Louie, and Thys.
The first day, my sister and I went to the store to stock up on groceries and when we came back, our wood pile was twice the size and those boys were ready to eat!
Dennis saw the list and asked, “what fence needs to be picked up?” I pointed out the netting fence and he was out the door. An hour later, over 1000 feet of fence was rolled up and put away.
Having the boys here to mix the daily feed and haul it in and out of the truck really gave my back a rest. They would carry it to the pens and I would feed. Sometimes they would come in and slip and slide in the mud. Once Louie fell and his mittens went straight into the mud. He said, “AAAWWWW I got mud on me!!!!” When I told him it was also pig shit, he seemed a bit too happy about it as he screamed, “PIG SHIT!!!”.
Fred got help with grinding and mixing feed which is always nice. We usually divide and conquer tasks, so having others scoop, weigh, and mix grain is a huge help.
Our north pasture where we fed our 5 yearling steers needed the manure spread, so I had the boys go out and kick the patties. Of course I phrased it as, “who wants to go kick some cow shit!?” Then “cow shit” became the phrase of the visit working it’s way into conversation whenever possible–Hey Auntie, do we need to kick more cow shit? Auntie, that was fun kicking cow shit. And so on.
I took the boys out on an adventure walk to the creek one afternoon. We found the old trash pile of car parts, bed frames, and everything else imaginable. The boys worked hard at removing an insulator from a tree. We found some old lion’s mane and turkey tail mushrooms as we walked along the deer paths.
One morning we found the main cattle herd busted through 3 fences overnight. It was me, my sis, and 3 of the boys. When I realized the extent of the damage I sent her and 2 boys back to get Fred and supplies and Louie stayed with me.
I couldn’t get one area fixed in time, so I decided it was up to me and Louie to get them back where they should be. I gave Louie a herding stick, told him, “hold it out in front, and if anyone comes towards you, say ‘HUP, HUP!’ as loud as you can and go where I tell you. Got it?” He did a practice HUP and gave me an “Alright Auntie!” and off we went.
I went left by the fence and he flanked right holding the stick moving slowly but steadily towards them and the gate. We got them as far as the gate opening before the herd broke apart. Well, at least they were closer to where they need to go.
We gave them some space and went to meet Fred and Dennis to start repairs. Eventually, Fred and Dennis with Louie got them secured in their paddock.
We went to visit Northern Prairie Alpacas and my friend Deb down the road. The boys were very excited to go meet an alpaca and they did not disappoint. Raven took quite the liking to Thys and Louie and Lilly seemed to like Kees and Nico. Thys drew two super sweet pictures for Deb as a thank you for letting us come out.
Louie and Nico brought us 2 amazing pictures to add to our collection and Thys drew a picture and my sister embroidered it. After being here, Thys wanted to add a caption that captured his thoughts of the farm.
I loved being able to visit with my sister while we cooked and cleaned. After doing all the farm stuff, coming in to a sink of dishes can really push me over the edge. Having someone to help with that really takes a weight off me.
Having extra help means we were freed up to make lots of good food. I made eggnog, lasagna, burgers, ice cream sandwiches, angel food cake, chili, pork roast, viennese potatoes, tacos, and migas. Fred made garlic knots, dutch baby (twice), hot cocoa, biscuits, and crepes.
And Fred introduced the boys to The Food Renegade and The Food Busker on YouTube. They all liked it, but Louie and Thys were especially mesmerized by it.
Dennis is a pilot, so when they travel it’s a waiting game to see if they get on a flight. Same thing for getting home. I wasn’t one bit disappointed when the Sunday flight was full and they stayed an extra night. We had a relaxing evening of burgers and ice cream sandwiches with one of our favorite movies, Second Hand Lion.
When your family can quite literally go anywhere in the world they want and they come to Gerald, Missouri AND work for 5 days, well, that’s what family is all about.
Thank you Van der Meers! It was great having you all and we really appreciate all the work you did.