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Farm Time

Here’s what you need to know about Farm Time. It is a figment of my imagination, yet it is as real as the clock on the wall. Farm Time came about two years after we moved to the country. It also exists in the city, but is not nearly as prevalent or powerful as in our rural location.

This is how we define Farm Time: when you plan out your day the night before and everything you never expected to happen will stop you from getting anything done. It’s different from Murphy’s Law. Murphy must have been having some terrible mishaps to get such a bad rap. Sometimes Farm Time is surprisingly refreshing and amusing. It is always tinged with a little whining as you realize it’s going to be one of those days. The trick is learning to live with Farm Time and discover appreciation for what it brings you. My all-time best Farm Time event, at least to date, was last week.

It started before I even got out of bed. My husband walked into the bedroom as I was trying to wake. “Come see what I caught in the trap.” I have learned to be skeptical of these kind of offers, especially before my coffee. Grudgingly, I agreed and wandered out to the back porch. Before me was an adorable baby raccoon. She was too scared to even complain about her situation. It was a cool morning and she was shivering.

“We were supposed to catch an ornery mama woodchuck,” I said.

“I know,” he replied. “But the strawberries must have lured her in.” We agreed to set her free at the back field with the hope she would find some new friends. I watched as my husband, still in his robe, marched the little raccoon out to the sheltering woods behind our house. Now I could get my coffee. Joe returned to the porch with the empty trap. “You know, Dwaine says these raccoons will come right back to the house.”

“That’s not going to happen,” I reassure him. “The woods are full of these guys. She’ll latch onto another pack.”

Before my second cup of coffee, I walked down to the basement freezer to defrost chicken and make dinner for my neighbors, Eddie and Sue. The day before Sue had been returned to the hospital for a dislocated hip following surgery. I wanted to help so I offered to cook dinner. It’s an Italian grandmother’s go-to for comfort and support. Immediately, I regretted going down to the basement. It was my turn to surprise my husband.

“You’re not going to like this,” I said. He looked up from his cereal. Our eyes met. He understands me well enough to know I don’t exaggerate and this was going to be a big problem.

I took him downstairs to show him the carnage. The enemy woodchuck had infiltrated our space and ransacked the basement. The size of a beaver, this animal crushed one of my seed storage boxes, knocked over canned goods, brought concrete chunks down from the ledge, splayed my fishing poles all over the floor, and chewed through the frame of the basement window. Further examination revealed a mountain of dirt in the crawl space, undermining our 100+ year old stone basement. I knew nothing about rehoming woodchucks.

I thought back to what I had planned for the day. Some writing, of course. Maybe a load of wash. I needed to check on the newly planted vegetables, make some phone calls and prepare my upstairs bedroom for guests. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. At this point Farm Time had turned my day into a recovery plan. Now it was time to fix the woodchuck issue before my house collapsed. Joe insisted we had to pull up the deck.

“Wait,” I begged. “We don’t even know what we’re dealing with. We have to make her miserable and then she’ll take her kits and leave. No one gets hurt.” He called an exterminator. Notice the word terminator within this title. I wasn’t happy. “Let me call a wildlife rescue group. They have to have resources.”

No, they didn’t. They were over capacity and the only thing they were taking in were turtles. I had just rescued a turtle the day before. I didn’t need turtle help. I needed woodchuck help.

About this time I noticed a pile of asphalt gravel at the bottom of our rain gutter. Sue had warned us about a powerful hail storm that had destroyed her roof last May. I decided to call her roofing guy to look for damage.

An hour went by. The phone rang. Joe answered and called out from another room. “Owen (a different neighbor) wants to cut the back field to collect hay for the cattle.”

“Tell Owen okay, but don’t find any turkey nests or baby rabbits like last time. I just can’t handle anything else.”

The roofing guy, Adam, showed up at my door an hour after I called him. He seemed to be very professional and wanted to get right to work. He happened to be in the area. This is one of the dominating side effects of Farm Time. After fifteen minutes, I set him free to explore my potential roof damage and provide an estimate tomorrow.

Owen called Joe again. He found a baby rabbit in the field where he was cutting hay and wanted to know what I wanted him to do. “Is it hurt?” I silently prayed to St. Francis that this animal was healthy.

“No, he’s just sitting out in the field.”

“Leave it!” I bellowed. “Mama will find her baby.” I returned to the kitchen.

I was still trying to get dinner prepared for Eddie and Sue when the exterminator, Jim, dropped in for a quick visit. He also happened to be in the area. Don’t get me wrong, these drop-in visits get things done in a hurry. A favorite Midwest saying is, “we’ll get’er done.”

I like Jim. He’s a very nice man, but I don’t like the fact that he kills things for a living. He tried to comfort me. “It’s real quick.” He didn’t provide the details of killing these animals.

“What about the babies?”

“Sometimes they get trapped too.” He stopped short of the final destination. I shivered from my tailbone to my head and it resulted in a negative head shake, advising the two men I wasn’t ready for that move. I couldn’t destroy a mother and her babies.

Joe walked Jim out to his truck. As he did, an ambulance and fire truck drove by on the way to the hospital. Around these parts there are no secrets. “Everyone’s trying to reach you,” Joe told me.

“For what?”

“They just took Sue back to the hospital. The neighbors say don’t make Sue and Eddie dinner. Her hip dislocated again.” I looked at my legendary oven-fried chicken cutlets, steamed fresh broccoli, roasted baby potatoes and buttermilk biscuits.

“Oh well. Guess they’re getting leftovers tomorrow.” I boxed up the food. “After we eat, we’re going to the hospital.” I knew they’d be in the E.R. for hours and would need moral support after two dislocated hips.

After inhaling dinner, we rushed through dishes and drove off in the SUV. We found Sue flat on her back waiting for her latest assessment and like me, her new plan. Eddie’s expression was something along the line of worry and disgust and who would blame him? He also looked tired.

We tried our best to distract them from reality. Sue was slightly relaxed with pain medication, but it was wearing off. I felt like it’s time for us to leave and then all our phones went off. It’s a tornado warning. My turn to fall apart.

I hate tornados. Other than scorpions, dust storms, and snakes, Arizona is relatively harmless. I thought of my little cockatiel at the farm admiring the storm from a bay window. “We have to leave,” I announced to anyone paying attention. “I have to get Bubba.” I had a flashback to the movie, Forrest Gump, where Tom Hanks repeats the same line referring to his best friend injured in the Vietnam jungle. “We need to be in our basement.” I told Joe. “Both of us and Bubba.”

“You can’t leave,” Eddie cautioned. “They want you to shelter in place.” I peeked into the hall plotting my escape. I have done this before. Once to rescue a chicken in a lightening storm, and again to rescue my dogs, patiently waiting for me to return to my vehicle during another tornado warning. I eyed the police officer guarding his prisoner in the E.R. He could’ve make our escape difficult. As if this wasn’t bad enough, a nurse came into the room asking for names. I assume this was to identify the bodies. Surely I must’ve been on my last nerve.

The warning passed, Sue needed more medication, and I was ready to run home. But even that simple effort was overpowered by Farm Time. We got a mile from our home and saw flashing lights and flooded streets. A tree had fallen and taken down a powerline. We considered if the SUV could make it around the downed lines and tree, but the deputy would have likely stopped us. We were rerouted to another road where two more trees had fallen. We made another U-turn. As it turned out we had to take the longest route home, but not before we got lost and delayed again.

We arrived home at 9:30 that night and thankfully our power was on. As we approached the back steps the motion light came on. The baby raccoon was sitting in my herb garden. She looked at me affectionately, and squeezed under the porch where the woodchucks were nesting.

“That’s it,” I yelled and waved my hands frantically. “This Farm Time day is officially done and so am I.” I clomped up the stairs vowing there will be no plans for the next day just to ensure Farm Time wouldn’t strike again, and I would have time to finish everything that wasn’t accomplished today.

But darn. That baby raccoon sure was cute.

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