Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Inefficient Farmer

As I carried four flakes of hay to lambs in the front pasture, returned to the barn with a bucket full of ice and walked back to the pasture with a bucket of water, I thought of a farm planning book I'd read years ago.

Minimize your steps. Efficient farmers design their layout so that few steps are involved in the daily chores.

I didn't follow that advice, and for the past month, I've been highly inefficient, and walking thousands of steps during morning chores so that I can offer hay and water to lambs in one pasture, to breeding ewes and a ram in another pastures, and to dry, or unbred, ewes that I use for sheepdog training in a third pasture.

It's not like this most years.

Most years I schedule the lambs to go to the butcher in early November. But scheduling conflicts pushed the date to December, when the pastures have little grass left and when water freezes overnight.

That changed this weekend when the lambs went to the butcher; I then moved to the ram and wether to the barn and merged the ewes into one flock.

On Monday morning, I walked 10 steps to feed the horses; 15 steps to feed the ram and his friend, and 15 steps to feed the ewes.And, with chores completed and extra time on my hands, I lingered in the barn, petting the cat, watching the ram nibble his hay, burying my hands under the horse's mane, and still the model of inefficiency.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Memorable Death

We were on the first round of sangria during the 19th Annual Cookie bake when my mother commented, "The oven is locked."

Checking the oven display, I saw it had gone into self-cleaning mode, and the door wasn't going to open.

"My cookies are going to burn," she said.

I pressed buttons, and then combinations of buttons, but the oven did not turn off. Nor did it unlock. It just got hotter and hotter.

The convection/traditional double oven is built into a cabinet, so there is no easy way to unplug it. Flipping the breaker switch and cutting power was the only solution.

But, even with the power off, the oven refused to open.

My mother suggested I look at the owner's manual.

I opted for a Google search and discovered articles that suggested I hit the "cancel" button. My oven is 18 years old and built before engineers thought a "cancel" button might come in handy.

Another article suggested letting the oven cool.With no power to it, the oven was no longer heating, but, with no fan operating, it wasn't cooling quickly either.

I grabbed a fan.

"You can't use that until you clean the dog hair out of it," my mother said. Rather than look for a screwdriver to take apart the fan, I found another fan.

And then we waited, and I sipped more sangria.

When the oven cooled, I flipped the power back on, waited and listened as the oven lock disengaged. Looking inside, I found no cookies.

Crisis averted, I pre-heated both ovens. After placing a tray of cookies in the bottom oven, I set the timer. My mother put her cookies in the top oven.

We chatted. We sipped sangria. I looked at the oven and discovered it had once again locked and gone into self-cleaning, super-high temperature mode.

I flipped the breaker.

With no fan to vent it, smoke rolled out of the oven and into the kitchen. I could keep the smoke at bay if I turned the oven's power back on, but the cookies and parchment paper would continue burning.

With the oven in death throes and the house filling with smoke, we decided to cut the cookie bake short.

When my husband returned home and the oven finally cooled, my husband retrieved his tool set and disengaged the lock. And, I took the only photo from this year's cookie bake.