Are you ready? 1…..2….3….4
When I was a little girl, I loved coming down to the barn to see what Dad and Pappap were up to. Often they would be milking, feeding, or most of the time fixing something that was broken.
I have many memories of working and playing in the Big Red Barn. When it was warm we played hide and seek, running up the barn fill, and sliding open the door. Then, after making sure it was closed behind us, we scooted across the floor, down the ladder, across once more, then through the hole where the board is missing, up the cattle shoot, to take a flying leap just to do it all again. American Ninja Warrior style! And in the winter the sweet smell of alfalfa as I looked down through the hole to see the Jerseys bedded down together. Then, I felt the steam rising from their warm bodies and thought all was right in the world. It was a stark contrast to the cold wind just outside.
The Big Red Barn hasn’t always been there. The story goes that the original barn caught fire when an employee, who was stealing gas, used a match to look inside the can. The herd was saved, but they had nothing to eat. That winter they fed straw and molasses and prayed.
My great grandfather rebuilt the barn in the spring. Pappap always said he made the best of a bad situation. The new barn was built according to plans from the Maryland/Virginia Milk Producers. Tudor Hall Farm could now ship milk to MD, VA and DC. The pride and joy of my great grandfather eventually led to his demise. He was re-baling hay to save it in the top of the barn. The dust from this job would lead to the pneumonia that led to his death after his reaction to the sulfa drugs.
Around this time before my great grandfather’s death, my grandfather and his brother were at separate military academies. They were called home to work. I often thought of how awful it must have been for Pappap and Uncle White to be taken away from their buddies and the promise of adventure. Instead, they came home and listened to their father give instructions about when to dry off the cows and what to plant where next spring. How my great grandfather trusted Mr. Wesco, his right-hand man, to guide them. And then they hopelessly watched their father fade away. They were only 19 and 20 years of age.
Now that Farmer Bill has been diagnosed with ALS, I am finding out first-hand what that feels like. Every day, I am asking Dad about which vegetable varieties he has had success with. Which breed of chicken does the best? Which order do I rotate the vegetables plots to lessen the stress on the soil? Then when to add the fertilizer and compost? What makes up a good feed ration? Which beneficial insects do I release, and at what times of the year? How do I cut the power when something goes wrong? And then who do I call? What does powdery mildew even look like? All while hoping I don't forget and, more importantly, don't mess up.
Pappap always said that death is a part of life, not the other way around. The inevitable will come, but we will still carry on.
So, with my father’s right hand man as my guide.
97…..98….99…….100. Ready or not here I come!