hay

My niece, Ashley Parmely married my nephew, Eric Parmely on July 23, 2011. Since then, their happy family has grown to include four children, daughters, Reagan and Hattie were followed by son, Bowen, and most recently, daughter Maeve. These days, having four children is considered a large family, and many people would consider Ashley to be a supermom based solely of the number of children she has. I agree that with larger families, mom’s are supermoms, but coming from a family of five children, I don’t necessarily consider Eric and Ashley’s family to be overly large, and it is not the size of the family that makes me think of Ashley as a supermom.

There are, however, several other things that I think do qualify for supermom status. In years gone by, when people lived on homesteads, mothers juggled things that most of us don’t these days. These days, many mothers work outside the home, and their children spend their days in a daycare facility. Ashley, on the other hand, is stay at home mom, and while that isn’t unheard of either, it is a bit more unusual these days.

That still isn’t what makes me consider Ashley to be a modern day supermom, however. Eric and Ashley have lived in the country almost since they got married. Recently they bought a bigger place, because they wanted to be able to rise more animals. Eric works in the oilfield, and that leaves Ashley and the children they work of taking care of the animals. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t do it alone, because when Eric is home, he works very hard too, but Ashley loves her animals and love spending time with them. And this is where her supermom status comes in. It doesn’t matter if her youngest is too little to leave in the house, or to walk alongside “mommy” either, because Ashley has a backpack. The work must go on, and Ashley loves to do it anyway.

The day might find Ashley, baby on her back, moving hay, feeding animals, or mucking stalls. She has done this with all four babies, so she is a expert at working with the extra weight attached. She gives “baby weight” a whole new meaning. One might think that Ashley would be worn out and tired, and I suppose that at the end of the day, she is, but it never causes her to look tired or grouchy. Instead, all these babies…human and animal…put a smile on the supermom’s face, everyday. Today is Ashley’s birthday. Happy birthday Ashley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, Mike Reed is becoming quite the rancher. A few years back, Mike and my sister, Caryl bought a ranch west of Casper, and started fixing it up. It was…a process, to say the least. The ranch had been a sheep ranch, and had a huge complex that was used for birthing lambs. Since Mike and Caryl were not going to raise sheep, and because of the disrepair of the complex, they had to be demolished and removed. Since that difficult job, Mike and Caryl have been working very hard to get their ranch ready for their future retirement plans. They are boarding horses, and they have a ranch hand who lives on the ranch and takes care of things, since they are currently still living in Rawlins, and coming to Casper for the weekends. The have been building a house and a barn, and this weekend, they are putting together side roll wheels for irrigation, as they continue to get ready for the hay field they are planning to plant. They are becoming real ranchers, in every way. It is one among several of the new chapters in their lives.

Recently, they decided to buy a Trike, and they have found that they really enjoy their outings. They joined with some friends, including Mike’s brother, Shawn and his wife Tia for a 300 mile poker run from Saratoga, Wyoming through the Snowy Mountains, into Laramie, Wyoming, then back to Saratoga via Walden, Colorado and Riverside, Wyoming. They had a really great time. In fact they had so much fun that they have made plans over Labor Day to take a trip up to Red Lodge, Montana.

Mike is a avid hunter, and he has made several trips to hunt, including Canada, Alaska, and Africa. Mike is getting ready to take another hunting trip to Alaska in September with his good friend, Scott Penman, to hunt Alaskan Moose. This trip will be what is called a drop hunt, which means that the plane lets them off at a camp spot and then leaves them there on their own. Then it comes back for them later. Mike is pretty excited about this hunt, and according to my sister, he’s been gathering everything together for months!! I don’t know, maybe he’s a little excited!! I’m sure the guys will have a great time, and I hope their hunt is successful. These kinds of trips really get Mike’s adrenalin going. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

This past summer, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; my cousin, Pam Wendling; and I went to visit Pam’s dad, our Uncle Bill Spencer at the nursing home where he lives. Uncle Bill has dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease, and so how the visits go, depends on the kind of day he is having. The day of our visit was a really good day. Uncle Bill may not have known who we all were, and even some details about our lives, but he had some funny stories to tell us…one of which was how his brother, our dad, Allen Spencer had never gotten married!! That one was new to my sister and me, who are the eldest of Dad’s five daughters with his wife, our mom, Collene Byer Spencer. I guess Uncle Bill’s mind went back to the pre-Collene era of Dad’s life.

Uncle Bill also told us about the days on the family farm. I think my sister and I always thought of it as a small little patch of land…maybe 5 acres or so, but Uncle Bill told us that the farm was actually 80 acres. The farm was big enough to grow enough vegetables to sell them exclusively to Stokely Foods Inc. Stokely foods is a large company and it was founded on August 18, 1943, later merged with Van Camp’s, and then sold the Stokely brand to Seneca Foods in 1985, and the Van Camp’s brand to ConAgra in 1995. I guess you could say that the Spencer farm got in on the ground floor of Stokely Foods, Inc. This was really interesting to us, because it was confirmed by Uncle Bill’s cousin, Les Schumacher. I suppose Cheryl and I should have assumed that the farm was bigger than we thought, because they grew hay, and it took days to get it all stacked, but when you didn’t grow up on a farm, I guess you don’t really have a good way to gauge such things. I think we should have had some inkling, however, because the pictures we have seen should have told the tale…to some degree at least.

As our visit with Uncle Bill came to a close, we found ourselves very sad about the speed with which the time had passed. We don’t get to see him very much, and he is such a precious person in our lives. He was really in rare form, laughing and smiling a lot. There were no awkward moments when no one knew what to say, and Uncle Bill carried much of the conversation, which was absolutely wonderful. Our only regret is that we can’t get up there to see him more often. Today is Uncle Bill’s 97th birthday. That’s amazing…97 and going strong. Happy 97th birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand niece, Reagan Parmely is the oldest of the three children of her parents, Ashley and Eric Parmely. Being the oldest, Reagan feels the need to be the mother’s helper, and so she is very motherly to her siblings. That’s not to say that the children never fight, although Bowen is to little to fight much. Nevertheless, Reagan and Hattie ire very good friends too. Reagan has a wonderful imagination, and she is able to figure out ways to entertain her little sister. Of course, on a farm, there are lots of games kids can play. Kids usually mimic the activities of their parents, and Reagan is no different. She and Hattie pretended to be milking the goats one day, using Hattie as the goat. Of course, I’m sure Hattie got her turn to be the milking maid too, because Reagan is pretty fair about things. Reagan loves to take her little sister for rides in her car too…yes, I said car. Reagan and Hattie have an electric car and they drive it around the property often. They are pretty careful, but they are always under the watchful eyes of their parents.

Reagan loves helping out on the farm too. Recently when her parents were moving the hay they bought into stacks, Reagan was right there, helping as much as she could, and hoping it was helpful even if she couldn’t do much. Reagan has been such a blessing to her parents, and her siblings too. Whenever I see her, I just love to hear her tell about hat is going on in her life. She tells stories about her day at school, and all that she is learning there. She is a smart little girl, and learns very quickly, but I think the thing I like the most is her wide eyed wonder about the world around her and her joy of learning. Reagan recently got a horse of her own, and she is proving just how much she is her mother’s daughter. She absolutely loves her horse. She rides as often as she can. She is getting quite good at it, and of course, her horse loves her too, so they make a good team.

Every birthday Reagan’s Oma, Jennifer Parmely bakes the family a cake with anything they wanton it. Reagan has decided to have dinosaurs on her cake, so it will have Dino sprinkles on it. I think it’s going to be a wonderful birthday. Today is Reagan’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Reagan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece Ashley Parmely is such a busy person and mom. She takes care of the farm and the animals that she and my nephew, Eric Parmely have, as well as being a great mom to their three children, Reagan, Hattie, and Bowen…not to mention teaching them how to be little farmers too. They all love the outdoors, horses, cows, goats, chickens, and every other animal known to farming. I would say that they love every animal known to man, and they might, but some are simply not the kind of animal you would take care of, unless you are specially trained for jungle animals or something. Eric and Ashley plan to their own grow hay, but for now, they buy it and they stacked 8+ tons of it, resulting in two very tired people, who needed a serious nap. I must say that these two wear me out, and I didn’t move any hay or take care of any animals. They are amazing.

Ashley is a hard working woman. She could outwork many men, and she really just never quits. Even having babies didn’t slow her down. She just loaded up the babies and worked on. Every time I saw those pictures, I found myself thinking, “No way!! How does she do that??” Ashley is a farm mom I guess, but I sure don’t think I could hook a baby to me and keep right on working, but Ashley did and she never skipped a beat. From mucking out stalls to feeding the animals. She just keeps right on going. Kind of like the Energizer Bunny!! Ashley has always loved animals, especially horses, so it’s not surprising that she would love to be around horses. She loves riding, caring for, and owning horses. In fact they just got a new horse recently, and that makes her very happy. Ashley has always been a country girl, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ashley has such a great sense of humor. She is always saying or doing something very funny. The looks she gets on her face are just classic funny. Ashley likes making faces, and doing just about anything that will make people smile. Ashley is just such a happy person, that she brings joy to all who know her. We are blessed that she became a part of our family, and continues to be a very special part of it. Today is Ashley’s birthday. Happy birthday Ashley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Making Hay 1These days there are machines that can cut, bail, and stack hay with ease, but in times past, it was not so easy. There were machines that cut the hay, but then it had to be thrown up on a wagon with a pitchfork and hauled to where the haystack was going to be placed, unloaded and thrown up onto the haystack by hand using the pitchfork again. Then someone had to be up on the top leveling it out so that the ha could be stacked higher. It was no easy job, and the more people you had helping the better off you were. It was definitely not a job for one person, and definitely not for wimps. The farmer and his crew had arms of steel, because hay is not light, no matter how it looks. I have helped move hay bails, and found out for myself that it is not a job for lightweights.

My dad’s family spent a lot of time making hay when they owned the farm in Minnesota, and Making Hay 2my Uncle Bill helped his wife’s family too over the years that they owned a farm. Load after load, they worked the weekend away. Moving the hay from the hayfield to the stack behind the old barn, where it would stay stacked until it was needed. It was hard work, but Uncle Bill was on his days off, and so they wanted to get as much done in the time they had before he had to go back to work in the shipyards. I haven’t had the impression that it was a job that any of them enjoyed very much, but rather it was a job that had to be done, so they did it. I think I can agree with Uncle Bill when he said that he was glad when hay making time was finally over. Now that we don’t raise cows, I can honestly say that moving hay around in any form, is something I don’t miss. I think it must have taken a very determined person to work a farm the way it had to be done back in the days when there weren’t all the machines there are  these days. The work is hard enough these days, even with all the machines, so Making Hay 3imagine what it would be like without them. No wonder those people were so strong.

And after the hay was stacked, you had to use a pitch fork again to move it to where you needed it for the animals. So, now the whole process is reversed, as they haul the hay off of the stack, thereby bringing about the need to make more hay the next summer. Of course it is all necessary, and that is why farmers and ranchers do it. The hay is needed for the animals. This whole process causes me to really respect the farmer and rancher…especially the ones from days gone by because theirs was one really hard job.

Kids & CowsKids have always had a fascination with animals. Any animal will do, but pets don’t seem to fall into the same category as other animals. I suppose that the reason for that is that after a little bit of time with a pet, they become normal everyday parts of the family. It doesn’t mean the child doesn’t love the pet, because they do, but the pet is an animal they see everyday, often in the house, so it’s nothing special. Farm animals, on the other hand are something different. Here is an animal that isn’t a domesticated pet, and yet it isn’t afraid of people either. They understand that they need people to bring them their food and water, and they also understand that people aren’t usually scary. Yes, the animal could hurt a child, especially if it stepped on the child, but for the most part the animal is as curious about the child as the child is about the animal.

As small children, my dad and his siblings lived on a farm, so being around farm animals was a part of life. Still, that did not stop the curiosity about those animals from forming in their minds. When they went out to play, a part of their time outside always seemed to be spent visiting the other residents of their home. They would trek out to the haystacks where the cows would be feeding, and watch those strong, yet gentle animals eat, while the cows watched these tiny versions of the people who cared for them watching them. Funny how we all teach our kids not to stare, but when put in a situation like this, all that rudeness doesn’t seem to matter. Both sides are staring anyway, and since it isn’t a person…it just doesn’t matter. I suppose in many ways the whole situation was a lot like the petting zoos that most city children have been to as their only real interaction with farm animals.

When my girls were little, we too had a little place out in the country, and we raised a cow now and them. The girls were quite curious and really wanted to help with our cow. I had to be careful what they helped with, because when it came to grain…our cows always became pigs, and a tiny little girl could get trampled in the cows effort to get to what the cows considered candy. Most of the time the cows were a gentle as they could be, but the grain had to be given in a certain way, and very quickly, because they couldn’t wait to get to it. One cow we had named Rosie, due to her red color, was so excited that she was trying to follow me and still scratch her belly too. The end result was one good, but unintended kick to the back of my knee. It left a knot that stayed with me for the better part of 6 months. It was a good thing for Rosie that I liked her, and it wasn’t butchering time, or she would have been on our table in a matter of days.

Hay was always a very different matter. Little kids could be around cows eating hay, and there Allen, Ruth, & Bill (2)was not a dangerous rush to the food. I suppose that was the vegetables of the whole deal, and we all know how kids, which is what cows are a lot like when it comes to food, are with vegetables. The girls loved to help put the hay in the feeding troths for the cows, and then sit and watch them eat. I suppose it was an interesting sight. If you have never watched a cow eat, you might not know it, but they really are strange when they eat. I suppose that is why Aunt Ruth, Uncle Bill, and my dad were just standing there, out by the haystack when they could have been playing in the snow, just watching the cows eat.

Living in the country and raising a few head of cattle for the purpose of butchering to feed the family is the way of life for the small rancher. A small rancher is of course, someone who doesn’t sell the cattle for profit, but just uses them for a food source. That is what Bob’s family used to do…Bob and I included. This was a new kind of life to me, as I had never been around cows much.

Corrie, Amy, and I would feed the cows in the morning, or at least the girls would come along. If you have never been around cows when someone is bringing in a bucket of grain, I promise you that you do not want to let small children in there. You see the grain to a cow…well, that’s their candy, and you had better move fast and get it into the feeding trough, or you will get run over. They have absolutely no discipline when it comes to grain.

I remember one cow in particular that I had named Rosie, because of her coat. Rosie was a Hereford cow. She loved her grain. She would run along side me to be first in line. One time, she was running and needed to scratch her belly at the same time, so she tried to do both. The result was that she kicked me in the back of the knee. Man…that hurt. She left a quarter sized bump and a huge bruise. The bump was with me for about a year and the bruise actually re-occured off and on. I can still feel her kick. She didn’t mean to do it of course. She was like a little kid and very gentle, but she loved her candy, and anyone in the vicinity of the bucket had better beware. Needless to say, you can see why the girls watched me feed the cows. They did help with the hay though, but that was done from the other side of the fence where they couldn’t get run over.

Butchering the cows…well that is another story. After caring for the cows and even naming them…probably not the best idea, I simply could not stand the thought or the sight of my pets being shot in the head, even though I knew it had to be, and I was ok with eating the meat. So the girls and I stayed in the house…with the TV or radio on fairly loud while the butchering was taking place.

We have long since moved into town, and we do not raise cows anymore, but I look a little differently at the cows we pass on the roads when we travel, because I know a little more about how they act, and what it takes to raise them than I ever imagined I would.

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