Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chance Airplane Meetings

(This is my article for our local paper for 5-1-09)

I did something very un-bumpkin-like this past weekend. I traveled on a plane to visit my sister-in-law, Stephanie Fulford Gault, in Jackson, Mississippi. Bumpkins don’t normally travel, let alone to go see a live theater production of the musical Oliver! (Stephanie played Nancy and stole the show), so I guess I’m only half bumpkin after all. Meeting people on a plane can usually go one of three ways. Either you meet someone who wants to tell you everything about their life, you meet someone who wants to know everything about yours, or you don’t speak at all to the strangers next to or around you. For me, it usually goes the second way.
On my flight from Jackson to Atlanta, I sat next to a gal similar in age to me, so it was natural for us to strike up a conversation. Once we got past the initial small talk, I waited for the inevitable question: “So, what do you do?” And then I brace myself for the conversation to follow. I am pretty comfortable now with “the farm talk” that I have to give to most people. I have listened to my husband give the talk so many times now that I sound like the expert! “The talk” usually consists of a Q & A session on the crops we grow, the animals we have, if I grew up on a farm, what I think of it, how wonderful it must be, etc. I usually throw in a few little known facts that impress people to seal the deal. For example, did you know there are four different types of peanuts? Did you know that a peanut is actually a bean and not a nut? Or did you know that cows don’t produce milk until they’ve had a calf? What about this one… I bet you didn’t know 98% of all American farms are family operations! So we got through all of that rather quickly, and I heard her fascinating tale of her job as a “personal assistant” to an extremely wealthy couple in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She gets paid a salary to run errands, accompany them on trips (to run their vacation errands), ensure that the housekeeper and personal chef are doing their jobs properly, make phone calls for them, etc. I was as fascinated with her life as she was with mine. And I was pretty proud of myself for giving “the talk” so well.
When I sat down on my flight from Atlanta to Valdosta, I had no idea at what was ahead of me. When my small talk was over with the man next to me, and I had broken the news to him that my husband was a full time farmer, he asked what types of crops we grow. I replied, “peanuts, cotton, corn, sorghum, and soybeans.” He smiled and said, “I work for the University of Georgia as a peanut specialist. What type of peanuts do you grow?”
You can imagine the look on my face when I realized that I was no longer the expert on the farm talk. I was talking to the expert! He casually asked me all sorts of questions that are not part of my usual farm talk. I was definitely in unfamiliar territory. This was a Q & A session for my husband, not me! I am still in shock that my brain didn’t completely freeze up. I was able to answer him and he seemed satisfied with my answers. I even remembered that the specific variety of dry peanuts that we grow is called Georgia Green and we’ve had great success with them, and also that our most problematic weed was “pig weed”. I was really on a role here. I was secretly hoping that the questions were over, because I knew I was getting very close to the end of my knowledge. Lucky for me, he spent the rest of the flight talking about his life.
When I got home and told farmer-husband all about it, he told me there are probably about 25 peanut specialists in the entire US. So my chances of ever meeting one again on a plane are very slim. In the meantime, however, I plan to promptly read and memorize all our back issues of “Peanut Farmer” that sit idle in the magazine stack just in case.

Friday, April 17, 2009

News Update

Just yesterday, I was bragging to friends that today would be the 21 day mark since Tony had been here. Sweetums had been laying down so much over the past few weeks, taking lots of breaks from the goats, and obviously in a different state of mind. I thought for sure she was "in the motherly way" or whatever that saying is.

First thing this morning, though, she began pacing the fence, watching the house. Then the mooing started. Then the desperate mooing followed. I was so disappointed. By noon, this had not let up, and I convinced farmer-hubby to call Tony. She has apparently come in to heat again which means...no calf.

But good ol' Tony was available this afternoon at 3:30, and after checking with Sweetums she said really anytime was fine with her, so he should be on his way. I think this time I'm going with the more expensive semen. I don't know why, but hey- why not.

I'm trying to think on the bright side, and the only thing I can come up with is that at least this might put a few more weeks between Sweetums' baby and my baby, which can only be better on us when it comes time for her to deliver.

I drove by a pasture today that was what is referred to by ranchers as a "cow/calf operation". There were probably 50 calves all laying down in their "nursery" area being watched by 4 or 5 momma's. The other momma's were off eating, taking their break. This is such an incredible phenomenon that cows do...next time you drive by a field, see if there is a nursery and you will smile. It is kind of like their version of Mom's morning out. But when I saw those babies, it made me so sad that Sweetums wasn't pregnant. I felt like a woman who was hiring a surrogate mother to have a baby for her and the surrogate couldn't conceive! I looked at the calves and said, "Why was it so easy for you?!"

Then I got a grip. We've only tried 1 time, and I have a really good feeling about today. Well, Tony is pulling up...and my life continues...

Tony has done the deed again, and is on his way home. Same exact process as last time, except the following commentary that I got from Tony afterward:
"She has a real crooked cervix. Real crooked. I really had to weave my way in there. But she was in a good heat, and I think this time we will have success."

Now, I'm really not trying to give TMI, but for those of you who know me personally and know my 2 birth stories well, you can imagine what was going through my mind when he mentioned a 'real crooked cervix.' He did go on later to say that it isn't that uncommon in Jersey's but hers was especially so. I asked his advice on how many times we try. He said he'd give it one more shot after this time, and then put her with a bull. He also said most heifers have a 70% success rate of first time conception with AI. So, we were in the 30%. But Tony is hopeful, and I am hopeful.

We then went on to talk about animal welfare, the recent tea-parties on tax day, religious beliefs, discipling children... you know, typical non-controversial small talk. The more we get to know Tony, the more we like him. I can't think of a better AI tech for my sweet girl.

Sweetums is laying down in the pasture now, enjoying a smoke. (that one is for you Dad)