Tim left me for a weekend. He signed up for an obstacle course race, which was in Dallas, Texas. He was going to drive down and back with a couple of relatives and a friend, leaving me to handle the farm on my own. It was the last weekend in October, so mid-fall for us southeastern Wyomingites. We weren’t expecting winter weather just yet. Usually, October has some of the nicest weather we have all year. He left me with the basic chores and handling the farm on my own. We took turns doing the chores, so it wasn’t going to be any huge feat.
Then the weather predictions rolled in for the weekend. Frigid cold, snow and our wonderful Wyoming wind. It seemed like winter was coming early. This was January or February type weather. We prepared the farm as best we could before Tim left for the weekend, and I had to handle it all on my own.
The day before Tim left, he went out to do chores. He found our ewe (Hera) on the wrong side of our fence in the neighbor’s cow pasture. Hera seemed like she had gotten on the other side of the fence by accident. Tim helped her back in and headed home.
Day One: Handling the Farm & Home
Friday morning came, and Tim left on his way to Texas. Friday was beautiful, 70 degrees and little wind. I headed out to the farm to check on the animals on my way home from work. My first order of handling the farm on my own, and in preparation for the oncoming storm, was to bring a sick turkey home. I made her a bed out of grass clippings on the south side of the house, and put food and water close to her reach. Then, I ran an extension cord out to her water bucket heater to keep it from freezing. We hadn’t figured out what was wrong with her yet, but she wasn’t doing well.
When I was out doing chores on Friday, I was checking the animals and noticed the ewe on the wrong side of the fence, again! I called Tim to see what he thought about the situation. With the storm moving in on Saturday, Hera couldn’t be caught on the wrong side of the fence. We decided maybe the barbed wire fence had a loose wire somewhere so I should grab a hammer and some staples and check the fence. It ended up needing a lot of staples. Surely this would keep our sheep in!
Day Two: Handling the Fence
Saturday came and it was another nice day. The temperature was in the high 60’s, but a wind from the north was blowing in the winter storm. I headed out to the farm early afternoon. Everything looked good, and naughty sheep was in her correct pasture. I took a quick walk down to the fence I had worked on to check things out. While I was down there miss, naughty sheep walked right over to the fence and slid underneath it to the other side.
That wasn’t good! My first thought was that an electric wire needed to run along the bottom of that fence to keep her in. Since I was handling the farm on my own, that meant I would be putting in electric fence that I had never done before. The day was going by and the storm would be moving in soon. I didn’t really want to be hustling around trying to get electric run.
Learning The Hard Way
I called Tim for his thoughts. He told me what I already knew, but didn’t want to do. Run an electric wire along the bottom of the fence. Determined to get the job done with my responsibility of handling the farm by myself. I ran up to the shop and got some supplies. I tossed what I thought I needed (and probably more) into a 5-gallon bucket and headed down to fix our sheep escape problem. The nails I grabbed were too small to use with the insulators. I ran back up to the shop, and found nothing. So I called Tim again. “They are in the bag with the insulators”. So I picked up the bag of insulators and sure enough, I had them with me the whole time.
I spent the next half hour doing my best to hurry and put insulators on every other fence post down the entire side of the sheep’s paddock. The wind was getting colder with every minute and the sun was getting close to setting. Once I made it all the way across, I had to unsecure the roll of poly-wire that was at the end of our paddock fence. The roll came out pretty easily, so I ran it down to the corner where my first insulator was and started down the fence, hooking it at each insulator along the way. After a few insulators, the roll became tangled and wouldn’t unroll anymore as I walked along. I spent the next twenty minutes trying to unravel the world’s worst knot with my frozen fingers.
The End of The Battle
The sun was reaching the horizon and the temperature had dropped low enough I was shivering. Eventually, the roll untangled and I continued my way down the fence line. I could almost see the last insulator when I noticed my roll was getting low. The poly-wire ran out with six fence posts left. I walked the entire length of the existing fence trying to stretch it as far as I could. It was no use. It just wouldn’t give me anymore. The sun was setting, it was freezing cold and I wasn’t sure how to get my wire to the end.
So I called Tim, again. At this time I was really grateful that he was able to take my calls and help me through our sheep situation. He informed me about some extra wire in the shop that I could cut a piece off to finish my project. I found the wire, cut a chunk and finished my poly-wire line. The chickens were putting themselves in for the night, the storm clouds were rolling in, the sun had set and it was almost dark. The temperature had dropped 30 degrees from when I started my project. I turned the fence back on and headed home, hoping that I finally won the battle with the escaping sheep.
Day Three: of Handling the Farm
The storm came in the night. Mostly wind and cold. We got a little bit of snow, but it was just a dusting. I got up the next morning and got my kids up for the day and fed. I put my insulated coveralls on (that I should have had with me the day before) and I went out to check the backyard coop’s water and on our sick turkey. The coop water was still okay, but the turkey was unresponsive. She was still warm. I moved her into our garage to try and warm her to wake her up. She, unfortunately, didn’t make it. It crushed me. After everything I had been through so far, I thought I had everything under control. Losing the turkey made me feel like I had failed at handling the farm all on my own.
I finished getting ready for the day and taking care of the chores around the house. Bundled up in my insulated coveralls, hat, gloves, boots, etc., I headed out to the farm. I was anxious to see if the sheep were going to be on the right side of the fence after all of my work the day before.
At the farm, the first thing I found was a frozen to death rooster who had not made it back into the coop the night before. That was not a great way to start out. I fed the dog and collected eggs. I then made my way down the pasture to see if my electric fence had done its job. Hera was in our pasture, but she was in the correct pasture when I had first gone out the day before. I walked along my poly-wire, looking for hoof prints or a slide mark in the snow where she could have crossed. After walking the whole fence line, everything seemed to check out. It didn’t look like the sheep had tried to go under the fence! I had won! I loaded up and went back home.
When I got home I checked the backyard coops water again to make sure it wasn’t frozen. Unfortunately, it had. So another quick call to Tim and I was back outside in the cold in my insulated coveralls working on keeping the animals alive. I hooked up a heat lamp in the coop to temporarily fix our problem until the water circulator could be put together. Then I went back inside to warm up.
Conclusion of Handling the Farm By Myself
Tim would be home by morning. I had made it through the weekend. It wasn’t easy, but I made it. Even with a crisis or two. With Tim gone, I definitely learned a lot , like how I rely on him a lot. I was grateful I was able to call him for help even while he was gone. I also learned that even if you don’t know how to do something or you haven’t done it before, doesn’t mean you can’t figure something out. Now, I’m sure my fence fixing isn’t perfect, but as far as we know it worked. This will help give me confidence as I work my way through learning farm life.
I also learned that sometimes you’re not going to win. Sometimes you lose and that’s still okay as long as you learn from it. These past few months, I’ve learned a lot about turkeys and it hasn’t been easy. That’s why the turkeys get their own post. We have had lots of different experiences with them. As much as I enjoyed feeling good about handling the farm on my own, I am definitely happy to have my partner home. It is good to do things on your own, but it is way more fun with someone by your side.