Both kids came home for Christmas break in the middle of December. Ike was going to be home for about three weeks before he needed to get back to school and Tatum was back for four or five weeks.
First of all, I was thrilled to just have the kids back home for an extended time. They are both about done with school, so the long visits are probably nearly a thing of the past. I know I will miss them. Who knows they might end up close to home when they graduate, or they may not.
On a more practical note, I really wanted to make use of the increased labor force I would have for a month or so and get some of those odd jobs done that I had not had time to do. We had all kinds of time to get them done and my list was long.
It’s funny just how fast time passes when you have that much to do and a deadline to get it done. I had fence to build, homesteads to clean up and livestock to move.
Moving the sheep and cattle around to where they needed to be for the winter and getting ready for lambing was the No. 1 priority and we knocked that off the list in short order.
Cleaning up the iron and junk around the various homesteads on the farm was next. We spent a couple of days and put a really big dent in that, too. Unfortunately, we had some weather move in and it sidelined us before we could finish, but the junk is not going anywhere. Come to think of it, that is the main problem. It can be dealt with later.
My most pressing concern was to get some new fence built where I winter the calves. My grand plan had been to build two pens, or to build one new pen and recondition the pen we use to feed calves in. Both projects were easy, flat ground with few rocks or other obstacles. They should have been a piece of cake to build, or at least they were in my mind.
Suddenly I looked at the calendar and it was the week before New Year’s. Ike was leaving on the seventh of January. We still had two weeks, but the end was coming up fast.
Complicating matters even more was that winter had finally decided to make an appearance. I knew that the long string of nice, warm, dry weather would not last forever, and I was frustrated that I could not take more advantage of it.
Ike, Tatum, and I worked feverishly to get the corners set and the line posts in the ground before the winter storm and hard freeze that was predicted.
Honestly, setting the posts and corners went very, very well. We did not hit any rocks, and the ground was about right for drilling post holes. The biggest issue we faced was time. This time of the year there is not nearly enough hours of daylight. We are feeding everything now, too, and chores last the longest they will all season. By the time we finish in the morning we have only a couple of hours before lunch, and after lunch we only have two or three hours before evening chores. Every day it seemed like we would just get started and then have to shut down for chores.
This week we had two days of relatively nice weather that were to be followed by two bitterly cold days, and then Ike was leaving on Friday. I was on a mission to get the wire up on the fence and have it finished. I wanted to plant my flag on at least one mountain top and say we got something done over winter break. This fence was it.
To me, running the wire and clipping it to the fence is the most tedious, time consuming part of building fence and this did not disappoint. We started right after chores and got most of the wire run and stretched on the longest part before lunch. We felt good about our progress and the prospects of finishing before chores that evening.
After lunch we clipped the wires. When we got that done, we had about an hour and a half before dark. We still had the short stretch to put wire up on. I must say it was past sundown when we clipped the last post, and I was grateful to have one kid working on the fence and one kid doing chores.
The most important part of this story is that we did finish, and I have replaced one problem fence. Jennifer called it dental floss with a nice, stout five wire fence. It is just barely a start on the fence I need to build, but it is a start.
I am also fairly certain that the kids are really looking forward to the start of the semester and getting away from Dad’s to do list. Little do they know, I have already started my spring break list.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.