Friday, July 6, 2012

Just One Hell at a Time

It's Friday, July 06, 2012. Last Friday a freak wind storm stripped power from most of central Virginia. Beyond that major inconvenience, the temperatures have been 90 to 100 degrees for the last seven days.

My brain is so fried I can't muster up enough live cells to get angry enough to rant about politics or religion. To pass the time, I thought I would recollect the last time the farm lost power for more than 24 hours. It was published several years ago as a recounting of a farmer's trials Here is part of it, for my amusement, and that of anyone else trapped with only a generator for company.

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I hate Wednesdays.

That dislike is comparatively new and its genesis is from circumstances emanating from my new job as llama breeder. Yes, we breed llamas (to one another) and revel in the resulting "crias."

 Except when they are born on Wednesdays during a dry spell.

A dry spell is when Virginia soil turns to hard red clay making it impossible to bury a placenta that arrives shortly after the baby llama. 

We can have crias born all day on a Monday and before noon on a  Tuesday and we're home free. We put the 10-lb.  placenta in a feed bag, hope it doesn't leak (much), and then send it off to the landfill with the garbage man, who arrives promptly at half after noon every Tuesday.

I solved this timing problem a while back by wrapping a late arriving placenta in bio-degradable plastic (which is probably an oxymoron) and storing it in our cavernous freezer in the cellar until the next pickup. 

I realize if you are not tuned into the practical aspects of such a farmer's convenience, you might find the marriage - in mind only - of placentas and frozen food a trifle bizarre. In fact, if you are entertaining any prospect of dining with us, you might even find it too revolting to contemplate.

Last August,  we had a baby on a Wednesday and a Thursday and then on Saturday we had a stillborn. Our vet decided it would be useful to save him for research but he couldn't take him that day so we wrapped him up and stored him with the placentas in the freezer. And then forgot about them because we had a lot going on that year.

One of the sad things was the loss of the last of our guinea hens. I loved the old girl and wanted to bury her properly. Because of an early freeze, we couldn't, so we wrapped and froze her until we could. 

Then one night we had an ice storm. It was wildly destructive and we lost power. That night we ate sandwiches by candlelight because ice had damaged the power lines. It was cozy and fun.

By the third night, it wasn't fun anymore. We had to bring water from the ponds to the house to flush toilets and then travel several miles for drinking water for us and the animals.

I fast tired of gritty coffee that tasted of smoke, and there was no romance left in fireplace-toasted muffins.

By the fourth morning we had electric service. It wasn't until two days later we discovered that service was not connected to our freezer. We called the electrician to find out why. A heavy duty wire had become worn and tripped a circuit in a box we hadn't known existed.The electrician, a nice, helpful guy, helped my husband empty the ruined contents.

The stench was so awful I let the men do it alone. As the mess was hauled out onto our truck, I glimpsed the black and white leg of the stillborn showing through the plastic. I retreated into the house, sad for the loss of the baby.

Then I realized that I hadn't explained to the electrician. Not the corpse of the cria, the feathered hen and the sack of rotting placentas. What must the man be thinking. I ran out to explain, but he had driven off, his good deed done.

Can you imagine how he recounted that day for his wife, and described to her what he must believe is the preferred diet on the McGrath farm.



  1. I'm very glad your freeze remained icy cold!!!

  2. Hey, thanks for curtailing any over-eating I might have done while reading this at lunchtime. :-)