I woke up bright and early to get ready for my day on the tractor tilling the fields. As I padded down the stairs I stopped suddenly. I know I live on a farm and things will never be pristine. There will always be some amount of dust, dirt and mud tracked in, but as I stood there in my farm house I saw a farm mouse scoot across the floor chased by my farm cat. He caught it, released it and off it went again. I went back up stairs and called Tom.
“I don’t want to go down there while Emmett’s got a mouse. What should I do?”
“Go back to bed.”
“What? Go back to bed? That’s your advice?”
“Yep. That’s what I would do if I was there.” He went on, something about carpal tunnel syndrome from the computer and some big meeting he had to get ready for, Craig was arriving early this morning and I don’t know, I wasn’t really couldn’t concentrate on his problems when I had an episode from the Discovery Channel playing out at the bottom of my stairs. He hung up. I sat there a moment feeling trapped. Then I knocked on Mike’s door.
“Mike! Wake up! There’s a mouse! Emmett has a mouse and I need you to get it ok?”
“OK.” I heard stumbling and grumbling from behind the door but out he came groggy with a plastic bag ready for action. I didn’t tell him it was still alive. But as luck would have it, Emmett had finished off the poor thing and Mike disposed of the body.
It rained almost all day. I was on the tractor from 10:30AM until 8:00PM with a couple of bathroom breaks during which I canceled all my plans for the next day, as it was evident I was going to need to spend it on the tractor.
At around 8:00PM I stopped because I literally could barely keep my eyes open. I was surprised at how physically exhausted I was. Mike and Henry had fed the animals; I took a hot shower and rolled into bed before dark.
The next day, was much more fun. I knew what to expect, I had mastered the tiller and felt confident. Irish accompanied me to the field and spent forty minutes chasing a butterfly around the field as I went back and forth, back and forth across the field. I tried to be mindful of critters. I didn’t want to slaughter anything so I would go up and back in my same track then pivot and go right next to the track I just made. I figured the animals would hear the noise and feel the vibration and instinctively move in the opposite direction, which is why I didn’t make a big rectangle and move around the perimeter.
Riding a tractor is the anti-internet. On the computer you can look at lots of things, but you don’t really actively have to think. On a tractor all you can do is think. I spent most of the day replaying “Field of Dreams” in my head. Humming along in my soon to be corn field I kept imagining James Earl Jones and Kevin Costner. I could envision baseball players tossing the ball around my new cornfield. “Plant it and they will come. Plant it and they will come - I keep hoping.
After a while I thought I should make the most of my time and I did tummy-tightening exercises, kegals, meal planned and in general thought about what else I could do to make something happen out here. My idea for a corn maze grew. We could have music and and Tom could paint cut outs. We could have
every one here dressed in colonial and we could put trivia cards in the maze, then have a trivia quiz after the
maze. Like "What was George Washington's dog's name" etc. I thought about a pumpkin patch. I’d considered growing Cinderella pumpkins after reading an article in Hobby Farm™ Magazine. I figured I’d need to grow a couple varieties. We could do cider pressing, and kids could buy little bags of food to feed the goats, cows, sheep but I don’t think Miracle will play ball. She’s awfully shy. I continued to go back and forth over and over again. Irish got tired and went to a small hill to watch me. The cows came over to the fence intermittently to investigate my shenanigans. A raven arrived. I started considering scarecrows. I bet Tom could make a fabulous one, maybe with a tricorn hat. Back and forth. I watched the raven as he walked through the tilled soil completely unafraid of the tractor. When I got closed he sort of half flew and half hopped a few yards away. I kept watching him, he was looking through the soil and suddenly reached in grabbled a snake and flew off with it wriggling in his talons. I ducked afraid he might drop it on me like in some sort of horror movie.
I ran out of gas. So I drove the 10 miles to the gas station filled up the diesel can and drove the 10 miles back and started again. Every pass over the field I thought, it ‘s really starting to look good now. And then I’d do another pass and think the same thing. The grass was about 18 inches high when I started and it needed to be all chopped up kind of like chopping onions. You just have to keep going until their minced or you’re recipe isn’t going to come out right. I wanted to have pretty fields. I noticed as I went back and forth that every time a car did pass by I saw brake lights. Every one was curious which is why I didn’t pee in the field as was suggested by some -too many potential onlookers.
Toby arrived, but I wasn’t done so she waved and went in the house. Henry came out and helped for a while Mike and I took measurements to see how much more I had to do. I’d tilled a little more than an acre. It looked like a huge expanse to me, but I’d done research on corn mazes and many of them are 12 acres or at least 3-4 acres. Of course many of these people live in Iowa. And after all, what else is there to do in Iowa? I’d have to be happy with an acre; it was already 7:00. But I didn’t think I could plant my pumpkins in the same space as I’d originally planned. So I hopped back on and started to punch out another field for my pumpkin patch. I was hauling. Up and back, up and back – as I was quite experienced by this time. Suddenly, the tractor sputtered and stopped. The tiller was smoking and wouldn’t lift. I sat there stunned. I got off looked at the tiller and found that I’d gone over a some wire buried in the grass left there from who knows when. Worried I’d not only broken the tiller but the tractor too I went inside to tell Toby. She’s a farm wife she’d know what to do and I thought I should just let everything cool down. Just then my dad walked in as did Mike, collectively we all agreed farm equipment had to be designed for these sorts of mishaps and we got our coats back on, a couple of flashlights as we were starting to lose light, it was 8:30PM.
Luckily, the tractor had cooled down, started right up and the tiller lifted. I was done for the evening like it or not. We disconnected the tiller and were amazed by the size of the cable.
“You could practically support a bridge with that thing.” Mike said in disbelief.
We loaded it up on the truck and I went inside for a much-deserved glass of wine and chat with Toby. Bless her heart she had dinner ready. We talked laughed, researched corn mazes discussed pumpkins and laughed about all the changes in our lives. We’d come a long way from Calabasas High. She said when they called her for “Monk” they’d asked for that “organic farmer”. Exhausted we talked until we couldn’t keep our eyes open and said good night.
In the morning, Toby was up drinking her chocolate almond milk when I got up. I took one look at her and glanced down at the floor.
“A mouse.” I stated. Living with the assassin, Emmett, this becoming a daily occurrence.
“It’s right there by your foot. A severed head, and over there is the body.” My dad walked in. “Dad can you get that?”
“Sure,” he got some toilet paper and picked it up. As he was just about to put it in the kitchen garbage. I yelled.
“Not in there! Outside!” He looked at me like I was a kindergartner and went out side.
After things had settled down Toby noticed I was walking kind of funny.
“Are you all right?”
“Well, I can’t believe it, because I didn’t hurt on the tractor, but my back has been killing me since I stepped off it.”
“Oh, there’s a name for that, you have what’s called ‘tractor-back’ it’s a condition farmers get.”
“You mean like carpal tunnel from too much time sitting in an office at the computer?”