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Dust on the Dashboard

Blowing winds and the final straw

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

Yesterday it was a bit breezy. Breezy if you consider breezy 50 mph gusts a breeze.

Of course, the cows were out of hay, and I needed to fill all the hay feeders. Or I thought I needed to because of all the rain that was predicted. We got about a tenth of an inch. You would have thought with all of that wind we would have at least had a decent thunderstorm.

There I was out trying to take net wrap off in gale force winds. I admit that I am not particularly smart but by the second or third bale I have usually learned which side is the best for not blowing hay into my face. Yesterday I did not find that “happy” spot. I still feel like I am covered in hay dust and pieces. My ears and eyes will never be the same.

Trying to figure out the best way to park the tractor to get out of the door was the other conundrum. If you parked into the wind, it would blow it shut on your leg, and that was not good. If you parked with the wind, you better have a good grip on the door or you will be buying a new one.

Parking sideways into the wind was the worst because as soon as I would open the door the wind would move a winters worth of dust, hay and other things around the cab. It was bad enough to brave dust and junk outside, let alone be trapped with it in the cab.

I guess the fact that the temperature was in the upper 80s was a blessing because if it had been cold, it would have been far more miserable. However, I did find out my air conditioner did not work, and I was not about to open the windows (not that the wing windows help a lot anyway).

Once you got the bale to the cows and managed to get out, the fun really started.

I did notice that, in general, the cows were much smarter than I was and watched from spots protected by the wind. After the first two bales I learned to leave my ball cap in the tractor rather than try to chase it down. Between cutting the net wrap and braving the dirt blowing in the wind I felt like I had breathed in about 10 pounds of “stuff.” This morning when I woke up, I had to pry my eyes apart.

The whole time I was feeding I could smell smoke in the air, and I knew that some of the fires from the previous couple of days had rekindled. I feel the need to shout out to our local volunteer fire departments. They managed to contain and put out all the fires. I am not sure how they did it, but they are real heroes and saved a lot of people, animals and property. I probably should not be whining about my working conditions compared to what they were dealing with.

Back to the bales. When I finally got the net wrap cut, pulling it off of the bale was another challenge. That brought a whole new wave of hay bits and particles. The worst part was if there was a small part of the net wrap that separated from the bigger whole. Fat boy was trying to chase down this wispy bit of net wrap. I was really glad no one was watching.

My last bales went to the calves in the corral. Thankfully, the outside gate opened so that the wind kept it open. The inner gate was the opposite. Opening it, getting back in the tractor, and getting through before the wind gusted and blew it shut was a real challenge. The last straw happened in the calf pen, and it just put the icing on the cake.

I was removing the last net wrap off of the last bale with my eyes closed. I had learned to do this so to minimize the amount of hay particles and dirt in my eyes. Just as the new wrap came loose and I was wrapping it up, the drops hit my cheeks.

Funny, I thought. The rain isn’t supposed to start for a couple of hours and the clouds didn’t look that dark. Then I opened my eyes, and standing just upwind was one of the heifer calves who had just finished relieving herself.

It wasn’t rain but it did a good job of mixing with the dirt and hay to make mud.

That was it, I quit. (Actually, I was done and after finishing chores around the barnyard.) The first thing I did was take a shower.

I realize that it could have been worse. I could have been driving a semi down the road or I could have been one of the volunteer firefighters protecting us, so I am not complaining. I also realized that gale force winds or not, this still was better than being behind a desk in an office. Life really wasn’t too bad, high winds be darned.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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