“It ain’t going to hurt anything.”
That was my husband Dave’s response to my predicament: our electric-wire fence had fallen into the icy lake in the middle of the farm and my first attempt to repair it stopped when the manure-laden water hit the top of my knee-high boots. His recommendation — ignore the ice, the water and the manure, and just do it. Get out there. It won’t kill you.
And so, I pulled off the barn boots, pulled on an old pair of socks and laced up a very beat up pair of running shoes. It’s a pair I’d relegated to barn duty the last couple of years. They live in the garage when they aren’t on my feet.
Bundled in layers, and with my wool barret pulled down over my ears, I gritted my teeth and walked out the door. I grabbed a light-weight walking stick and made for the dark brown pond. It’s a temporary body of water that forms every spring when the ice melts on our hilly fields. It collects in a small valley that runs north and south right down the middle of the farm. Because we use that same little valley to feed our BueLingo beef cows hay all winter, this is also where months of manure built up. Great natural fertilizer for the fields. Not so great for the task at hand.
I stepped into the water and watched a cloud of sediment billow over my shoes. Then the chill hit my feet. “Just do it” I told myself. “Get this done.” I picked up speed and felt the water creep up my leg. Cold. Brown. Lots of hay. Lots and lots of manure.
No wind, I thought to myself. Thank goodness. “And thank you God for making me a big girl,” with no fear of going into shock. The water was at about 32 degrees.
I kept the walking stick in front of me, using it to plumb the water’s depth and feel out the quality of the pond floor. Every once in a while I’d hit a patch of ice and have to poke around for more solid footing.
The water hit five inches above my knees when I got to the break in the electrical fence wire. I leaned my walking stick against one of the posts along the fence line, pulled out my tools, some extra wire I’d pushed into my pocket, and begin to pull the downed wire from the murk. It came up easily and I was able to make the mend fairly quickly. But as I was doing so, I helplessly watched my walking stick slide from its perch and disappear into the water. Darn. I was not going to reach into that mess to find it. I didn’t like the idea of walking back without it, however, so I tried digging around for it with my toe. Found it! I carefully lifted my foot to bring the walking stick to the surface, but I started falling backwards.
“I don’t want to fall,” my mind was yelling. I had my smartphone in my jacket and hated the expensive thought of replacing it. Fortunately, I caught myself, straightened up and abandoned the walking stick to a drier season.
I began the slog back, even more slowly this time because I had to feel around for safe footing. Who would of thought that a spongy mat of hay mixed with manure would feel so much better than a slab of wicked ice! I inched back to the water’s edge and dry land. Well, not really dry. What wasn’t covered in a slushy layer of snow was mud. The romance of farming in early spring.
What would my sisters back in New York City think if they saw me now? I smiled to myself. I could hear their “Oh, my goodness!” from here.
The electric fence is working again. I threw my jeans and socks into the washing machine (set to disinfect), and the running shoes are back on the garage floor. They may never forgive me.
I’m sitting with a steaming mug of cocoa and have to admit that Dave was right. That dip into the icy manure didn’t hurt. If anything, I’m hoping it boosts my immune system.