The Winter of My Discarded Stomach Contents

Just in case any of you might have been wondering if I finally attempted a farming feat so stupid that it ended in my untimely demise, I’m happy to report I’m still alive; I just haven’t had the chance to write much lately since my intestines have unionized and gone on strike, bringing to a retching halt the normal function of my digestive system. 

First, it was Flu B, then it was a pre-Christmas stomach bug, followed by a repeat stomach bug last week. I have upchucked more in three months than I have in thirty years. I blame my son for all this projectile vomiting: we shower him with big Tonka trucks, and all he gives us are microscopic germs. He seems mostly impervious to the weekly germs de vogue that circulate at daycare, barely slowing down from hyperactive to active for a tummy ache, meanwhile his mom and dad are taking turns jettisoning the contents of their stomachs for days on end. 

I thought it was supposed to be the other way around. I thought adults were supposed to have more fortifications against microscopic invaders than children, but alas my white blood cells have apparently fallen asleep on duty; meanwhile, I can’t sleep at all because I’m too busy guarding a porcelain throne. 

Anyway, I hope everyone had a good holiday season and here is hoping for a good 2023–full of new farming feats, fewer daycare germs, and a return to normality, at least for my digestive system. 

A Boy and the Beekeeping Bug

Men, if your wife is trying to tell you she’s pregnant, whatever you do, don’t turn to her and say, “But I don’t need one, I’ve already got three.”

Not that I had three children already, I had three bee jackets. The fact is I didn’t have any children–my wife and I had been trying for years. Once you’ve been married for eight years, you start to resign yourself to the possibility that the only offspring you’ll hear in your house will be when you rediscover your long lost burnt CD collection in a storage box1 (sorry, if you didn’t get that joke, it was really very clever–you just weren’t a teenager in the 1990s. Please refer to footnote #1 for historical context). 

So I certainly wasn’t expecting to be greeted with life changing news when I walked through the door one Friday after a long day’s work. Still, I should have known something was up because on the kitchen counter was an envelope with my name written in my wife’s handwriting. That should have been a red flag because it wasn’t my birthday and, after a quick mental panic, I realized it wasn’t our anniversary either. My wife then handed me the envelope and told me to open it. 

“What’s this for?” I asked. 

“Just open it, and you’ll see,” I said. 

Well, I didn’t see. The greeting card had two little cartoony bees on the inside, and it said, “I’m so happy to bee with you.” Underneath that, my wife had written, “It looks like you’re going to need a new bee suit.” And underneath that, she had drawn a tiny little bee, about the size of a popcorn kernel. Likely, because I’m a man and was too busy wondering where the gift card was to pay for said bee suit, I overlooked that baby bee and blurted out, “But I don’t need one, I’ve already got three.”

And my life has never been the same since. Thomas is now two years old, and I’m actually starting to shop for his first beekeeping apparel. Now that he is old enough to run, I figure he’s old enough to run from bees with me. Secretly, I do hope that Thomas will one day enjoy beekeeping. Growing up, my dad always took me fishing and metal detecting, his two favorite hobbies, and some of my best memories are from spending time with him doing those two things. That said, beekeeping is a lot more like work than fishing or metal detecting, so I’m not terribly optimistic. Right now, he does have some semi bee-related interests, namely rolly-pollies and caterpillars. Mostly, though he just like trains, firetrucks, tractors, and monster trucks.

Even if the beekeeping bug doesn’t bite Thomas, a boy has got to develop a good work ethic, and there is no harder work than lugging honey supers around on a hot July day. We will see.

1In the 1990s, there was a popular band called The Offspring and this thing called Napster where teenagers downloaded music for free to record, a.k.a. to burn, onto CDs. This was more or less illegal, but everybody did it.

My Philosophical Thoughts on Playgrounds

Earlier this week, Thomas looked out the window and said despondently, “Deddy, turn rain off.” 

Ah, my sentiments exactly, son. If only I could control the rain, I might have made a few dollars farming, but unfortunately I don’t control the rain; God does–or possibly the Illuminati–but either way I have little control over what falls from the sky over my farm. 

For Thomas, rain was the major impediment upon our progress to the park. Parks are wonderful places, places where toddlers can discharge energy without risk of your couch collapsing. Sure, there’s a slight risk you might pull your left deltoid muscle while showing your toddler how to climb the miniature rock wall, but thankfully your toddler shouldn’t know the four-letter words associated with a muscle pull yet.

Anyway, I’ve learned that what makes a good park isn’t so much sliding boards, rock walls, or an impact-friendly synthetic rubber surface, but the playground’s greater containment system. When you do pull a muscle, you will be considerably less mobile while your arm is hanging limply, so a good fence that at least impedes a toddler’s escape from custody is a nice feature. I’ve dealt with many types of livestock over the years, and I’ve always thought pigs were the most adept at probing fences for weaknesses, even more so than goats. Toddlers exceed even pigs and goats at escaping containment. Apparently, toddlers live to defy authority, whereas goats and pigs just take pleasure in it. 

Another important attribute of a park is its proximity to your domicile. It needs to be close enough to your house that your offspring doesn’t have time to fall asleep between departure from the park and your return home. Indeed, the whole point of taking your child to a park in the morning is to earn the 2 ½ hours of free time in the afternoon–and nothing sabotages all that carefully laid groundwork and sacrificial muscle sprain more than a toddler’s twenty-minute power nap on the way home. I’ve heard rumor that some superior specimens of human parents are capable of transferring a sleeping toddler from a car into their home without waking the sleeping ball of energy in their arms, but mostly I believe that’s a myth, given that modern-day car seats are about as user friendly as a twisted ratchet strap. Extricating sleeping toddlers from a car now requires a modern miracle, and good luck getting a toddler back to sleep who has awakened refreshed from a twenty minute power nap.

That said, you can, eventually, sleep soundly at night knowing you took your child to the park. Indeed, if there is one thing I’ve learned from fatherhood, it’s that happiness is a toddler on a sliding board.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugh

Some farmers have all the luck. They can get a good hailstorm right when they need it most. I’ve been waiting for a good hailstorm for years to replace the roof on our barn and farmhouse, but all I get is piddly little hail pellets and enough wind to rip the barn door off, not the barn roof. And, of course, the cost to replace the barn door doesn’t even meet the insurance deductible, so there is no point filing a claim. 

The barn door continued my string of ugh luck–not bad luck, not good, just ugh. A few days earlier my tractor broke down again. I’m pretty sure the safety sensor that prevents the tractor from starting in gear has gone bad again. Luckily, it’s a cheap part to replace. Unluckily, it requires you to remove the shifters and shift cover and afterwards put it back on in the same configuration, a maneuver that requires either x-ray vision or much craning of the neck, false hope, despair, and curse words.

Speaking of curse words, I never knew my wife had such an extensive vocabulary until I overcooked a meatloaf a few days ago, continuing my string of ugh luck. By overcooked I mean even the fire extinguisher residue was crispy. I must say, during the actual panic to locate a working fire extinguisher (the first extinguisher underneath the kitchen sink was so antiquated it barely mustered a wisp of retardant), she remained quite calm while confronting the very real possibility that the remains of our house would soon be ash floating through the atmosphere. Thankfully, after a short ransacking of the junk in our closet, I was able to quickly locate our second extinguisher, at which point I handed it off to her to wield, all while I charged headfirst into danger and risked sacrificing myself, not to mention my eyebrows, by cracking open the oven the door enough for her to blast the leaping flames. Needless to say, the meatloaf did not survive. But we did save our house from a fiery doom, so I guess my luck these days isn’t all bad. Plus, we ended up having Chic-Fil-a that night, which is probably better than my meatloaf would have been anyway.

Happy National Intern Day! (a.k.a You’re Getting Old Day)

It has come to my attention that I’m getting old. This revelation occurred to me while I was conversing with our summer intern at the agriculture office. Starting next month, he will be a sophomore at NC State University. Despite his enrollment in a premier institution of higher learning (I also attended NC State), he confessed that he cannot write in cursive. 

“How do you take notes in class?” I asked.

“Laptop–nobody takes notes on paper anymore,” he said, with a sense of bewilderment, as if paper was as antiquated as papyrus.

“Do you have textbooks?” I asked.

“Well, kinda, we have e-textbooks,” he said.

Oh, I miss the days of tangible tomes–you know those big heavy textbooks that could be repurposed as an anchor once they’re out of date. Sadly, kids these days will never know the pure joy of getting assigned a used textbook that already has the answers written in it. Nor will their back muscles develop adequately. I swear the backpacks in our day had their own gravitational pull, and likely weighed more than the kids wearing them. Nowadays the only reason kids wear backpacks is to advertise for North Face; they certainly don’t use them to lug around textbooks and Trapper Keepers. 

FYI: The intern didn’t know what Trapper Keepers were either. I had to explain to him that Trapper Keepers were basically overpriced folders, in which middle school boys stuffed all their papyrus; meanwhile, middle school girls used them to neatly organize and catalog their correspondence, that is the notes that were passed back and forth on the information superhighway, also known as the back row in class. 

It makes me sad that kids these days never experience the excitement of passing notes, of making shadow puppets in the overhead projector, of playing pencil break and paper football, of piloting paper airplanes that fly straight and true. 

Now, with only electrons used for learning, school sounds a lot less electrifying.