Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Coming out of quasi-retirement

So this morning, as I'm getting ready to leave on yet another adventure, I realize that perhaps it's been so long since I've posted that no one will read this. In that case, they'll miss out, because there's been lots going on.
Starting way back in September, over Labor Day, we have the yearly extravaganza that is Turtle Creek Threshing. Everyone's been bugging me for pictures, so here they are. So stop whining - you know who you are... ;)

The tractor line-up, which runs the whole length of the field. Some are rarities, some are more common. Some are still in active farm use, others only get to come out for special occasions. One thing they all have in common - all are remnants of an older time.

The east end of the field is where the action is. We're running two threshing machines here, one hooked to an early 1900s steam engine (more pictures of that later), the other hooked to my cousin's Farmall Super MTA-Diesel. The machines are hooked to the engines by long belts, which transport power from the engine to the threshing machines. The hay racks hold the shocks we made earlier in the summer, and they are hand-fed into the threshing machine, which separates the usable grain from the chaff.

A look at the driveway, some of the transport trailers for the machinery, and the windmill, which watches over the whole day's festivities.

It would not be threshing without the food tent. This year the donations for food were given to our local youth ministry, Youth In Christ, which tours local churches giving services based on popular Christian music and skits. They raised several hundred dollars, so it was a great fundraiser for them.

The makeshift tables. Decor was courtesy of Super Sue and her Genetically Gifted Garden. :)

The serving line, with the Step-Monster giving directions and generally heckling the crowd. Under the pink gingham is the pie table, which contained an assortment of the 20+ pies of 6+ different varieties, provided by yours truly. Yes, I'm crazy.

The steam engine. Cousin Goober manning the controls in the engineer hat and overalls.

Sometimes a Farmall M (or H, not sure) is the best place to soak it all in, get off your feet, and get a good look at the entire field.

Or just grab a corner of a hay rack and stand in a little shade from the windmill.

Belt supervisor extraordinaire Mikey. Ladies, he's single, handy, and (contrary to this picture) he cleans up ok! If you're interested, drop me an email and I'll send you his contact information. You're welcome, Mike. :)

Bother #1 hands green corn stalks to Bother #2, who, along with Papa Oink, is feeding them into a machine that makes chopped corn feed for cows and other farm animals.

Barold, B's cousin, helps the Bothers on the stalk chopper.

Here Bother #1 leans in to grab another group of stalks. You can see the chopped stalks shooting out the pipe in the back right of the picture.

This little W-9 is owned by Barold, and was being used to run the stalk chopper. I was told I had to take a picture of it, so here it is...

One of the best things about threshing is the combination neighborhood picnic/family reunion/block party atmosphere. While it is about preserving the past for the future, it's also about celebrating family ties and friendships.

Xtina, Karaban, Little John, Cousin Goober, and Mandabelle in front of the steam engine.

One of my favorite pictures from the weekend - Uncle Wayne, pitching bundles.

Again, all about neighbors, family and relationships: neighbor Mark and Uncle Wayne.

My Padre-in-law, pitching in by pitching bundles.

Family friend (and if you'll remember, shocking supervisor from earlier in the summer) Leon, inspecting the machinery row. See that beautiful little orange Minne-Mo in the front row? *sigh* I'm in love! :) She belongs to a neighbor, but I totally vow to own one like it one day. Sooo CUTE!

And speaking of cute, Turtle Creek Threshing would not be complete without the next generation. And it's even better if they're eating straw. Cousin Little John, holding court and chowing down.

The weeks leading up to threshing are always hectic, and this year was no exception. I was in Dallas, TX, the week before, and the weekends before that were taken up by a wedding, a baptism, a bridal shower and bachelorette, my grandmother's (highly successful) knee replacement surgery and a funeral, not to mention the 10,000 other little everyday things. So that means the weeks after are spent recuperating and getting life back to normal. Except for this year.

Three weeks after threshing, B had an accident. I've told the story to some people and not others so I'll reiterate. Friday, Sept 21st I was at my boss' house when my father-in-law called saying B had had an accident. He had fallen from the rafters of a building the two of them were working on, which would eventually be used to house heifers. It was one of the most surreal phone calls I've ever had, because I knew something "more than the usual" was wrong, since they had even called me, and because my father-in-law's voice was so wavery.

My boss, who was standing in the room when I got the call, decided I wasn't able to drive, so she packed me in her vehicle and we sped the 5 1/2 miles from her house to mine. When we pulled in, the ambulance had just arrived, and B was sitting against the shop wall. His face was bloody and swollen and black and blue, and he had blood all over his face, shirt, arms, and hands. He was going into shock, and the adrenaline that got him from the accident site (30 feet away) to his current position was wearing off quickly. I helped our local First Responders get him loaded in the ambulance (good thing, because one of the ladies is nearly 80) and we set off for Barron. It's only about 15 minutes away, but we called ahead to have another ambulance from the hospital meet us, because they wanted to get him on IVs, and First Responders aren't able to start IVs so we needed paramedics.

So we met them, added their crew to our ambulance, and sped toward the hospital. B was starting to get tired (an after-effect of the adrenaline surge), but I knew that we had to keep him awake as long as possible, so I was asking him all sorts of questions. I wanted to establish not only lucidity, but also memory, so I asked him how many hours are on the IH1586, a make of tractor of which we happen to have 2. He caught it immediately though, and asked "Which one?" and then proceeded to give me the operating hours on both. It doesn't seem like a lot, but him answering me that way helped my state of mind immensely, because it told me he was still "with it."

When we got to the hospital, he was wheeled into the ER immediately, and there were about 15 Drs, nurses, anesthesiologists, and assorted personnel waiting for us. They tried to intubate him while he was still awake (the rationale being that since he was so sleepy, it would be easier, and they wouldn't have to knock him out so quickly), but he was having none of that. I've never been intubated, but from what B tells me, it was the most painful thing he's ever endured. They finally realized, after a couple botched attempts, that it was not going to happen and they knocked him out.

By this time the decision had also been made to LifeFlight him to Luther Hospital in Eau Claire via MayoOne, so the helicopter arrived. Because of the head trauma, they almost always take the precautionary step of sending cases like B's to EC, where there is a Level 1 Trauma Center. They got him strapped down (and I mean strapped down - by the time they were done, he looked like a mummy in a sleeping bag) and loaded, and the Mother-in-law and I hopped in her truck and headed for EC. (She had driven up with us, following the ambulance).

When we got to the hospital in EC, a trip of about 50 minutes, my MIL's brother and sister-in-law, Randy and Cherie were there. They had already talked to the ER Drs, and trauma surgeon, and told my MIL and I that B was in the imagery center getting CT scans. After speaking with the trauma surgeon ourselves, we found that after the imaging he was sent up to the NICU (Neuro ICU), and the hospital staff took us up there. He started waking up after getting to the NICU, and he was NOT happy with the breathing tube. He told me later it was like breathing through a straw. As soon as his breathing and oxygen levels were regulated, around 10PM that night, we were able to remove the breathing tube, which made him MUCH happier. My father-in-law, some other relatives and family friends came down to see him that night as well, and it was tough for everyone, because he looked pretty rough.

MIL and I ended up staying the night, and the next day (Saturday) he was transferred over to the regular neuro floor. We had a bunch more visitors, and he felt strong enough to get up and walk around the room a little, and even take a shower and eat a little, which were both big reliefs to him. He had been without food since around 10AM Friday morning, and hadn't showered since Thursday night, so he was ready to get a little more comfortable and fill his belly, since the medications had made him sick to his stomach.

I spent Saturday night with him at the hospital, and Sunday we got word that he was able to be released. It was a long, slow trip home, since his medication made him motion-sick. He was anxious to get back to the farm, though, since we still had the building to complete and crops to get off. However, on Saturday a number of our (great, wonderful, exceptionally kind) neighbors came over and harvested all our corn. This made B feel a little better, and let him just concentrate on getting well.

He still was very dizzy, and could only be up and about for about 15-20 minutes at a time until Wednesday, when we had to make a follow-up trip to Eau Claire to see an ear, nose and throat Dr, and get the all-clear from his trauma surgeon. The ENT gave us an interpretation of the results of B's cat scans, telling us he broke his face in 4 places. The breaks were compression fractures, as a result of his face flexing as it hit the cement, and they radiated around his orbital bone (around the eye) and along the back sides of his maxillary and frontal sinuses. However, none needed to be reset, because as his cheekbone flexed back out after the impact, it set the fractures it had created upon compression. The ENT said he couldn't have set them better himself, and that at most B has a 1 millimeter deviation in the bridge of his nose, which isn't even noticable.

So the moral of this story? People can't fly, and they shouldn't try it. B is back to his regular goings-on, and things around the farm are starting to wrap up for the year. A couple of pictures of B, post-hospital stay, and after most of the swelling had gone down. He also caught himself with his left wrist, so he ended up with a pretty severe sprain there, which if you ask him was almost the most painful part. It's also taking the longest to heal.

Beatrice has been GLUED to her Daddy since the accident. I know they say dogs can sense when things are not right, and while I didn't think she was smart enough to notice, she's proved me wrong while proving conventional wisdom correct.

As kind of an illustration of how the accident happened: my picture is divided into two parts, before and after. Before is on top, after below. B was walking along the catwalk (A), when that board broke. By instint, he grabbed for a 2x4 in the rafters (B), which broke under his weight, and the force of inertia, but which succeeded in slowing him down. He was further slowed by a wire mesh cattle panel (C), which was set up directly underneath him and functioning as a temporary fence while the construction project was underway. The cattle panel caught him and slowed him down again, before flipping him onto his face on the cement (D).

The bottom version shows all the steps, post fall. However, I just noticed I forgot to show (A) as broken, which it was. But it gives you the idea. The 2x4 was broken and the cattle panel were bent as well.

We still had other things going on after the accident, including the completion of the cursed heifer shed project and the new cow-calf facility inside the barn. For those of you unfamiliar with how the barn setup works, some picts:

This is one of the freshening pens, where pregnant cows go to have their babies. We keep the cows with the babies for a little while, until it's time for the cow to go into the milking line. Then the baby goes in a little "box stall" of its own:

The box stalls are the little cubicles in the back, and if you notice on the front, they are equipped with bottle holders. This allows whomever is feeding to slide a bottle in and walk away, which is a huge time-saver, compared with having to stand there as each baby feeds. After they are too big for the box stalls, they are moved to the baby stanchions, which are in the foreground, where they are weaned before being sent outside to the new heifer shed facility. It all works very well, and B is excited for it to be completed.

B falling off the building hasn't been the only excitement lately. We also have been busy in other aspects of farm, family, work and everyday life. We recently got three kitties, all natural brothers, who are in the process of proving themselves to be able mousers, and thus endearing themselves to B. Beatrice hates them. She is sure they are plotting to move into the house and steal the affections of her mommy and daddy, and so she is completely jealous any time B or I stop to pet one of the boys.

The boys are, from left to right, Smokey, Puff and Max. They were named by B's nieces, from whom we got them. Smokey has a tendancy to climb onto the roof, Puff likes to pick fights with Beatrice, and Max plays possum whenever Bea tries to egg him into a fight.

November has brought us snow, and a lot of travelling for me. I returned to IA for Wartburg Homecoming in mid-Oct; to Des Moines, IA the last weekend in Oct for a reunion with my college friends; to Waverly the 1st weekend in November for Little Sister's high school musical (Disney's Beauty and the Beast - she was a Silly Girl, one who chased after Gaston, and she's shown here in costume with my cousin. Which one do you think is the natural redhead?!); and to Jacksonville, Florida for work, where I stayed next too and walked across this really cool bridge.

Jacksonville is a very pedestrian-friendly city, and all along the downtown part of the St. John's River is paved riverwalk lined with shops and restaurants. It's a nice town, not as shabby as some FL ones I've been to.

Speaking of FL, right before I left for the mid-70s sunshine, we had our first measureable snow.

I hadn't taken in my patio furniture yet, so I thought this made kind of a sad little picture. *sigh* The fun's done for the year.

So what is the next adventure?

Stay tuned. :)

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