Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Princess of Pigs

Coach and I have been waiting on a gilt to farrow for, I don't know, maybe twenty years or so. Maybe it's just been a week but we've been antsy. We have cool farrowing huts with crates on the inside and Coach made the comment, "When she tears the front of the shed off, she's ready to pig." ("Pig" being a verb in this case meaning to farrow or, for the farm impaired among you, to have babies.)
We went outside to check her yesterday morning before six a.m., threw the door open to the top of the shed pig. The gilt had apparently had her fill of not being with her girlfriends and had made an escape. She was in the alleyway, she was happy and we were late for work so off we went. "Hmrph, she's not going to go today, anyway," I told Coach and took off.
At three that afternoon, I rolled back into the farm. The cows were out, the water tank in the truck needed to be filled, I had more grocery bags than I could carry and there were three piglets in the alley with the gilt who was in obvious obstetrical distress.
It is not a good deal when one reaches inside a gilt and feels the ribcage of a piglet. A little snout? Super. Front feet? You bet. Back feet? Not great but do-able. A rib cage? Ah, $%*($&#!
I got the piglet pulled and it was too late for his little piggie soul but his removal opened the proverbial piggie floodgates.
Coach didn't see me when he pulled in an hour later but as he drew nearer to the alley, he saw my hair behind the gilt and me, the Princess of Pigs, shoulder deep in his gilt. Right as he reached the gate, I pulled a little Hamp pig into the air, covered with yucky, yellow mucus.
"Here you go, Coach,"
"Love you," and he grinned.
"Love you. Take the pig,"
Later that evening in the house, after we fed the cows, processed the piglets, put the cows in, moved the gilt back to the repaired shed and ate the carrot cake I baked that day, (I know, right!) Coach told me he darn near proposed to me while we were in the alley and I was arm deep in the gilt. It was the most romantic thing I had ever heard and it sounds like, one of these days, it will be a really good story.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stalking Awareness

You can't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. Sometimes you have to throw things back.
A recent newspaper article in the local paper about my photography mentioned the school where I teach and garnered some unwanted attention from an old acquaintance. At the risk of being too long winded, this person finagled my cell phone number from one of my students through a friend of a friend and seemed harmless old high school (a very shortlived and quite frankly, unremarkable) boyfriend just trying to catch up.
To make a long story short, hundreds of texts were sent to my phone, most of them unanswered for two weeks until I reiterated that I was seeing Coach, was not going to end that relationship and to please give me space and not text me. The texts intensified, stuffed animals and photographs of this person and his son were left on my front porch. A side gate to my yard was left open allowing my dog to go missing briefly.
I won't sugar coat anything. The texts were downright creepy. After three or four weeks of this with the texts becoming increasingly odd and threatening, I texted back and asked for no further contact. This caused a flurry of angry texts and I had to contact the Sheriff's Department in this neck of the woods.
Here is what I've learned:
1. Men like Coach who are protectors, lovers and best friends don't come along every day and we should thank our lucky stars when they are in our worlds.
2. Stalking is very real. I didn't want to contact the Sheriff's Department about this person's behavior because I didn't want to adversely affect his life. Bottom line: he made the decisions and he was in control of the situation. I should have contacted the department earlier.
3. Famous in a small town is more than a song title. Sometimes through occupation, we are more in the public eye than we realize and we need to be smart.
4. If you or someone in your life goes through a similar experience, support them, encourage them to be aware of their surroundings and contact law enforcement if they feel unsafe or threatened. Many women, especially, suffer from "too nice" and we have to realize that occasionally, we have to take off the catcher's mitts and throw things back.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


There's an great Alanis Morissette song about irony that I have always liked, especially when feeling particularly jaded. I really like the line that said, "It's meeting the man of my dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife,"

When I began teaching English, irony became a literary element to be taught alongside rising action, plot and setting.

I was diagnosed with Celiac disease several years ago months after my son was born. Celiac disease is a digestive disorder triggered by consuming gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. I was diagnosed in Pratt, Kansas, the Wheat Belt, if you will. Ironic, isn't it?

As the years went on, life happened and I returned to Colorado. This is where the laundry list of ironic comes into play. My sister married into a big, beautiful Italian family and they own a restaurant famous for its pasta dishes and bread. My step father works for Bake Mark, a bakery supply company and supplies the flour to hundreds of the bakeries and eateries in Colorado. Then, I began dating Coach. Coach is a Lincoln County wheat farmer. So...Coach raises the wheat, my step dad sells it to the eateries, my sister's family serves it up and I avoid it at all costs. Ah, irony.

For the gluten free among you, I'll be spending some time sharing some of the gluten free tips and recipes I've discovered over the years. If you have any to share, email me at and if there's a gluten free gal or guy in your life, send them my way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I love calving. I do. I love watching the baby calves run around, I love the genetics in action and I love the occasional obstetric challenge.
Caden was in the corral with me and Coach when we brought this little darling in to pull her calf. This picture is courtesy of Caden. It may appear that I am of little use to Coach during this process, but that is actually untrue. That bucket would have blown over had I not been there. Later into our little obstetrical challenge, I was on the chain right next to Coach and later holding a variety of tissues away from the calf's little nose so she could breathe while Coach readied the calf jack. Whee. It was a grand time had by all.

Caden took this photo from the truck after the little darling escaped through the palpation gate that was left open by the previous chute-users. Note: it was neither me nor Coach and it was not a pretty scene, I assure you. I believe Caden's words were, "That's disgusting. I can't take it any more. I'm outta here." That's me in the photo pushing the increasingly agitated, still not pushing, little darling up the alley. I was calling her names at this point.

After over an hour, this is the little heifer calf that landed in Coach's lap. If we thought we were tired and sore, I can only imagine how she was feeling! It's tough work being born!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Travis Griffin

I attended the memorial service for a friend of mine from high school last Friday. Travis Griffin died the Sunday previous in an ATV accident and left behind his family, including his wife, Krista.

I went to high school with Travis and showed sheep in 4-H with Krista and Travis' younger sisters. I felt guilty attending the memorial service after being gone so long and not having really seen him literally in years.

The memorial service was held at the site of his crash east of Kiowa. We stood in the pasture while the wind whipped around us, looking for closure.

The official of the memorial service was Dave Hoffman, another childhood friend, and he was able to give a great speech to his friends about one of our own.

The moment that really got me was when we were standing listening to Alan Jackson's song "Remember When". Travis was five days older than me and the vast majority of those standing at the memorial are about the same age, early 30s. The song lyrics say,

"Remember when the sound of little feet was the music we danced to week to week. Brought back the love, we found trust. Vowed we'd never give it up. Remember when. Remember when thirty seemed so old. Now looking back it's just a stepping stone to where we are, where we've been, said we'd do it all again. Remember when."

The crowd uncomfortably shifted when the song said, "Remember when 30 seemed so old,". Thinking back, when I last saw Travis was when 30 did seem so old. We buried him at 31. With his passing, we're reminded that we're now mothers and fathers and wives and husbands and we are left with plenty to remember.