Half Moved

Posting has been slow, what with trying to get moved to our new place in Michigan. We’re back here in Illinois for the week, and make the definitive move this coming Saturday (December 1st).

To our dismay, we discovered there is no hay available for sale anywhere near our new farm in Michigan. It was a bad year for hay generally in the US, with prices spiking higher than we’ve ever seen. (I suspect some of that has to do with hay fields being converted to corn because of the ethanol boom, but don’t even get me started on that one.) Anyway, Roger, our usual supplier of hay here in Illinois, was happy to help me load 150 bales onto a 26 foot U-Haul truck last Tuesday morning; that should be enough to get all of our sheep and goats through the winter. We were assisted by Matthew, the homeschooled 16 year old neighbor that I’ve mentioned in other posts. Matthew and Roger have worked together quite a bit over the last few years, and I was floored at how efficiently they were able to pack those bales into the truck.

Still, even with maximizing the use of space, we weren’t left with much additional room. I managed to get almost all of our books, and quite a bit of the kids’ clothing, but there was very little space for all the other farm equipment we’d planned on taking. We did load both goat milking stanchions, a few stock tanks, several rolls of chain link fencing, and around 100 metal T-posts, and several of our expensive metal farm gates — but then the truck was jammed to the gills.

I’m thinking I’ll probably have to come back here for a third “mop up” trip some time later; there’s simply so much fencing material here, and other farm equipment (poultry brooder, chicken plucker) that won’t fit with the household goods on this coming Saturday’s truck and yet is far too expensive or time consuming to replace. Shocker: T-posts are now selling for $3.28 in Michigan! We have literally hundreds still on the property that I haven’t been able to pull up yet. And there are several expensive metal gates that must stay up until the last minute, to keep the animals contained. No way am I leaving all that equipment here, when we have 15 acres to fence in Michigan.

This is what we looked like, when at last we departed on Tuesday afternoon (Mrs. Yeoman Farmer followed in our minivan):
We pulled in late last Tuesday night, leaving the truck and auto trailer in the front yard of the new house. I got my 1975 Fiat Spyder off the trailer and safely in the garage; the canvas top is ripped, and a storm was headed in. Wednesday morning, we had the closing — and then we headed out to the property to unload the truck. Assisted by my father-in-law, Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I braved a steady drizzling rain and managed to get all 150 bales of hay out of the truck and neatly stacked in the upper level of the Big Red Barn while the kids ran around that barn burning off energy.

But what was supposed to be the happiest day of the year literally turned dark and ugly; the sun went down, the rain intensified…and I couldn’t find my wallet. I’d been carrying far more cash than usual, because so many people had just paid for turkeys and other produce. I tore the van apart, but couldn’t find it anywhere. 300 miles from home, no driver’s license, no credit cards, and no cash. Mrs Yeoman Farmer had a credit card and a little cash, so we’d be able to get home, but I was sick at the thought of having lost everything. The worst part wasn’t so much the money, but what it represented: all that work nurturing turkeys and laying hens, and all the effort to get them butchered. If someone at the McDonald’s I’d stopped at for lunch had stolen my wallet, what they’d really stolen was all of that work I’d put so much of myself into. (And that, really, is why I’ve come to realize that theft is such a serious sin.) Things only got darker and more miserable when we went to return the U-Haul truck. It was in a dinky town way off the beaten path, in a combination pizza parlor/banquet hall/storage facility/truck rental building. And then it took the lady 45 minutes to figure out how to check the truck in; U-Haul was clearly a very minor part of their business, and I wondered why they bothered being licensees at all.

So…rain-soaked, dark, late, hungry, exhausted, covered with hay dust, missing several hundred dollars and a driver’s license and wondering how I’d cancel all my credit cards, we made our way back to my in-laws’ house. Stopped at the McDonald’s where I last knew I had my wallet, but it hadn’t been turned in. My emotions reached a new bottom.

And then, once we brought everything in to the house, I found the wallet! It had been in my laptop bag, where I’d stashed it so I wouldn’t lose it. I’d thought I’d left it there, but hadn’t been able to find it in any of the pockets when I’d searched back at the new house. Only now, with the bag out of the van and sitting on my bed, was I able to find the wallet at the bottom of an inside pocket. Sheesh. Relieved, I took a long hot shower and turned my thoughts to the next day.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, and then went back out to the new house on Friday and Saturday. My father in law, brother in law, and 14 year old nephew helped get the lower level of the barn all set for livestock, and we even managed to drive several posts outside to mark out an initial grazing area. Getting the entire property fenced will have to wait for the spring, but at least we’re all set to bring the animals next weekend. There is a goat area, a sheep area, and a chicken area we can turn various critters loose into.

We drove home Sunday, and tried to catch our breath last night. Matthew took good care of things while we were gone, and we’re going to miss having someone like him around. But, as MYF pointed out, we won’t need someone to come over and do farm chores for us in Michigan — because we’ll never be all going out of town to visit family. Excellent point.

I’ll just be glad when it’s all over and we can finally settle in.

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