Monday, June 30, 2008

Time away down on the farm - Part I

Oh my gosh! I can’t believe how quickly time has flown. I’ve been back from my week away for almost two weeks now, and I was gently reminded (thanks Lindzee) over the weekend that I had yet to write about my adventures.

So today, because I’m pretty much the only one who’s shown up for work, and lacking motivation to push myself, I’ll finely get back to business here. Tomorrow is July 1st and Canada day. Many folks decided to make it an extra long weekend. How unfair is that? However, that said – I get a chance, relatively unhindered, to update. Yippy!!

My time away - - - - was wonderful, witty, wild, wistful, wacky, warm (does not express the extreme humidity, but it was the only word I could come up with that began with “w”). To begin my journey I needed to be at the airport around 5:30 am. Not my or my husband’s best time of the day. Being that I was up so early in the day the beginning of the flight was subdued in temperament. I had the darndest time clearing my groggy brain. A recommendation to all that fly and enjoy a ‘good’ cup of coffee – don’t drink the coffee on the plane. It’s a waste of taste buds time. However, the highlight for the 4.5 hour trip between Victoria and Toronto was that each seat had its own individual tv screen to watch a selection of tv show episodes, movies, documentaries or news. I could barely contain my excited with my choices. I started out watching “The Other Boleyn Girl”, but found it too heavy a fare to view at 7:30 in the morning, and was very displeased with its lack of sticking with the book. So I quickly changed gears and moved over to the family friendly selection and watched “The Spiderwick Chronicles”. Entertaining, and easy on the brain.

This filled a couple of hours after which I channel surfed (so to speak) and ended up whiling away the hours with my Nintendo DS. Spongebob Rocks!!!

I had a slight 1.5 hours layover in Toronto before continuing on to London (Ontario). This gave me ample time to stretch my legs, send “miss you” text messages to my husband, and “almost there” ones to my waiting girlfriend. Once fitfully stretched I sat down and began playing Spongebob again. With earphones in …. I almost missed my connecting flight. It wasn’t until I heard “Paging Passenger Mugwhump” x 2 that I realized I had been oblivious to all surrounding. After a stressful few minutes I got on the plane and settled down for a quick 45 minute final leg of my flight plans.

The minute I got off of the plane in London the weight of the humidity hit me full force. We don’t tend to get this kind of humidity on the coast. We have too much in the way of ocean breeze for there to be much time for humidity to takes its toe hold. But my excitement was such that I was pretty much walking on air anyway. Mere steps away from one of my oldest and dearest friends!!

Kim and I met when I was in grade 5 (she in grade six, being she was one year older than me, almost to the day). My family (my parents and myself) had just moved down to a very very very very (did I say VERY?) small town in Southern Ontario – the heart of the (then) tobacco farming country of Canada. Kim’s town and my town were 5 miles apart, and neither village contained a four corner stop, let alone a stop light intersection. They were/are mere blips on the radar if you weren’t paying attention. Kim’s family and my family attended the same church, and being small town our paths had little choice but to cross.

This moved proved to be the beginning of three of the most horrid years of my youngish life. Difficult times within our household, and well as being considered an “outsider” in my school environment. The two places I had to spend the most time. However, a bright spot was spending time with Kim’s family on their working tobacco farm. I loved it, and didn’t realize the safe haven they gave me until much, much later in my adult life.

Back to reconnecting with Kim – although Kim and her husband had come out to visit us in Victoria a couple of years ago, I hadn’t set foot back in Ontario since her wedding over 25 years ago. Her adult life there was completely foreign to me, and her four grown boys were strangers - but not for long. Kim married a dairy farmer, and that is what life is all about for her. They live just north of London in a very dairy oriented area, and I fell in step with farm life pretty quickly – the quiet, the smell, the pace – all so very different than my life in the city. Yet I felt strangely at home. Kim and I have never lacked for words between us, and almost immediately launched into news and happenings in our lives. To be honest, I don’t think either one of us took much of a breath between my arrival on the Wednesday and departure the following Tuesday. But it was so wonderful and fun to just “be” with someone you had so much history with. Relaxed as it was, early June is a very busy time on a farm. It’s a time of harvesting the first cut of hay, getting it into the barn, and keeping up with the birthing of new calves. And I was reintroduced to the importance of following the weather from a farmer’s perspective. This turned into a lunch time ritual – who’da thunk the weather channel could be so engrossing?

I got a full tour of the barns. Met several barn cats – some friendly (“Tugger” can be seen on my Flickr page), some … not so much (they call him “Hitler”). I met the 8 or so new calves they have, ranging between the ages of 1 week to 8 weeks. Too cute! At least in this farm girls heart's opinion. Kim and family have 62 milking cows, plus an assortment of “dry” cows (cows that are presently pregnant) and heifers (female bovine under 2 years that haven’t been impregnated yet). You will not find a bull on the farm. Dairy farming is a society that does not think highly of the male of this ruminant species. Other than a well qualified sperm donor, there is no use for a bull on a dairy farm. This takes the expression “As useful as tits on a bull” to a whole new level. Artificial insemination is all these girls get, down on the farm. I suppose this way Daisy never has to plead a headache!

I digress ……

The milking process was very interesting (to me), it’s changed greatly since I was a kid visiting my Uncle’s and Aunt’s farms. It’s much more sterilized and stream lined than I’ve ever seen. And for most “producing” farms – did you know that cows never get to go outside anymore? For the most part cows are not pastured. Due to the strict regulations on the germ free and cleanliness factor of the milk, cows are kept in as sterile an environment as can be. This would mean well ventilated fresh air barns, machines that come along the alley’s of the barn to sweep away the ‘aftermath’ of the regulated feed, to name a few. It also means that you can’t have any other farm type animals on the property for fear of cross-contamination. So no horses, no chickens, no goats …. Etc. (Dogs and cats permitted of course)

With the exception of not being able to have a horse, I was quite enamored by the whole lifestyle. The Romantic side of farming ……

But there is also the not so romantic side – the continual manure, the 5am wake up calls, the potential for constantly muddy floors, you can only have dial-up for your computer – no such thing as wireless in the country, and finally (and probably my clincher to never being a dairy farmers wife) the cows have to be milked twice a day – at the same time - EVERY DAY - regardless of the day of the week, weather outside, holidays, shopping sprees, or birthdays.

I learned quite a lot about dairy farms in one week. And I think that about all I’m going to fill you in on my holidays – for now. I still need to tell you about going down to the township that Kim and I grew up in, seeing her mom, seeing my old house, meeting up again with another girlfriend that I hadn’t seen in 26 years ….. You’ll just have to stay tuned, and I’ll have to make sure I post about it.

Happy Canada all you Canuck’s out there. Happy 4th of July to all my American friends!! Stay safe.

1 comment:

linds said...

YAY! I am so glad to be the one to force you to update!! :P Teehee. It sounds like you had a great time. I loved your use of alliteration in the entry and about artificial insemination of the cows! Lol!!! Can't wait for the next installment. What are you up to on Canada Day? We have no plans as of yet.