From Pipi’s Pasture: The hatchet returns |

From Pipi’s Pasture: The hatchet returns

Diane Prather/For Craig Press

During the winter, we have to work around snow drifts and ice at the corral, often making it a challenge to put out hay. Another challenge is keeping track of livestock equipment, such as grain pans, mineral tubs and buckets. All too often, they get stranded in drifted snow, waiting there until they can be found in the spring.

The container used for cut-off baling twines gets filled with snow, and twines end up being tossed somewhere near the container. By spring, there's a tangled-up mess of twines all over the ground.

The unheated stock tank used in late fall and early winter is eventually covered with heavy ice that can't be broken, so the tank has to be abandoned. Large, recycled mineral tubs are used for water, instead, but they freeze over, too, and more tubs are lined up along the corral gate (where they can be reached with a hose). By spring, as many as eight tubs might be lined up there, some with thick ice on them from early winter and others that can be kept open.

In the corral, hay is often snowed over, too — that, on top of the manure. A pile of manure from cleaning pens keeps growing. Late in spring, the corral gunk starts to thaw, making a real mess that doesn't dry out until the end of May.

All this is to explain what we're facing when it warms up and the snow goes off. We have to clean up and put everything away. So, a couple of weeks ago, when we were getting ready to brand calves, Lyle and grandson Kenny decided to haul some of the manure gunk out of the corral so there would be a place to put the propane tank and other branding equipment. (After all, we could barely walk around the calf table.)

However, what started out as moving a few tractor buckets of debris turned out to be a full-fledged corral-cleaning venture. The men worked into the evening until the corral was down to dirt level again. When I went out to do evening chores I walked across what could only be described as a "boulevard." Even our granddaughter Megan reported," You should have seen how fast Grandma walks across the corral!"

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During the corral cleaning, mineral tubs and buckets were retrieved and carried outside the corral. The stock tank is now clear of ice and can be cleaned and filled with fresh water so the mineral tubs were dumped and put over the fence. Some of the twines have even been carried to the trash cans.

Before the men left the corral, there was just one more thing to do. Lyle and Kenny rolled up their sleeves, stuck their arms down into the partially-filled stock tank where the hatchet got away from me last winter. They felt around in the algae, mud (from dirt that had blown into the tank), pieces of hay and probably lots of other nasty stuff until Lyle finally held up the hatchet. There it was, dripping water but not looking too bad. The hatchet has been found.

Thanks go to readers who called me during the winter with advice as how to retrieve the hatchet. The problem was that the tank was completely covered with thick ice, so we had to wait until spring melt. However, I'll keep your suggestions in mind.

You never know …