The old farmhouse keeps on giving


The title Ag engineer devises simple forage dryer followed by this blood-curdling opening line, “Using items commonly found around the house …,” appeared in a recent issue of the East Coast Farmshine paper.
Fine. Just one more item “commonly found around the home” to migrate out to the barn or workshop.
It starts out slowly, and in the glow of starting a farm, is almost exciting.
Need something for the cows, calves or crops? Don’t buy one, don’t spend extra money, I think we have something in the house. … Somewhere along the line it turns into “Where is the hair dryer? … Oh, we put it in the showbox for the fair.” What, they want a mother that looks like King Kong on a bad hair day?
Migrating. Triggered by this article, I started thinking about items that had migrated out over the years.
The county fair creates a big sucking sound as the hair dryer, laundry soap, combs, hair clippers, hair scissors, hair spray, scrub brushes and black shoe polish disappear from the house. We have very well-groomed cows.
Calving and calf care stimulate additional outward flows of goods and services. Goods include rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Q-tips, cotton, thermometers, rags, paper towels, dish soap, blankets and, the biggie, towels. Beach towels are particularly good for drying off calves as they are nice and big and usually clean.
Having boys helps. They really don’t care if there happens to be an iodine stain on the towel, but at a certain point it seemed prudent to invest in a few towels strictly for calf-drying use.
Keeping an eye out at the local discount store for good, inexpensive towels, three were ultimately purchased.
Strategically planning ahead, the selected towels were somewhat ugly so that I wouldn’t want them hanging in the bathroom. They are clearly defined as “calf towels.” It worked great. Now those three towels and the beach towels get used for drying calves.
Less demanding? Milking is a slightly less demanding enterprise. The Clorox and paper towels occasionally migrate when the supply truck is late.
Light bulbs disappear in a pinch, but since we don’t routinely use 100-watt bulbs in the house, they have to be willing to settle for a dimmer environment.
Need a food storage container? The cupboard is bare? Must have been a good production run of colostrum and they are out in the freezer.
Where is the car blanket? Oh, it is hanging over the front of the new calf’s pen blocking drafts since there is a 20-below wind chill factor.
Need the heating pad? Oops, haven’t cleaned it up since using it on that newborn calf the night it was wet, windy and 20 degrees out. (I’m the guilty party on that one … and no, I didn’t use it long enough to either burn the calf or burn down the house … did I mention that she spent two days in the basement?)
Other way around. Which brings us to the other way the house keeps on giving. Migrating in. Calves in the basement (only a couple times over the years). Medications, paint and pesticides stored in the basement so they don’t freeze in the winter.
We fenced in the side yard when the kids were little. Being normal kids, they didn’t like staying in there with the rest of the world in plain sight. So, what happened to the fenced area? Auxiliary calf pen and infirmary.
When there was “cow nose residue” on the living room window, (I want to be clear that this was on the outside of the window) there was a resident checking things out. Fortunately this was a short-lived situation and the fence came down, though the yard is still used for the occasional “yard cow.”
This would be a cow recuperating from some event who needs good footing, shade, clean air and isn’t likely to head down the drive and visit the neighbors.
Responsibility. All in all, I’m responsible for some of the things that migrate out of the farmhouse.
For the fairness record, one time a small electric drill migrated “in” when they graduated to big drills in the shop.
At the top of my birthday wishlist this year was a nice set of screwdrivers for the house. My mother-in-law, Barbara, gamely purchased the set I had picked out at the hardware store. And a fine set of assorted flat and Phillips screwdrivers it is.
When I opened the gift, my husband, Steve, commented that the screwdriver selection in the shop was getting thin.
Nice try, dear. These came with an anti-migratory feature. This set is mine.
(The author is the northeast Ohio district dairy specialist with OSU Extension. Send comments or questions in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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