Stuck in the Mud, Attacked by Wasps

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More (mis)adventures in hobby farming, here at Three Geese Farm, where recent torrential rains threatened to send Glade and Witcher creeks out of banks and left a chunk of our land temporarily submerged.

I fear the imminent official arrival of summer mirrors last year, when the deluges of late spring promptly stopped as a heat dome covered the state and rudely refused to leave. Not that there is much to be done, other than endure it and plot escape routes to cooler climes. The grass grows ridiculously quickly as I watch helplessly, since the zero-turn mower is still in the shop, awaiting replacement of its serpentine belt. I begged and wheedled the repair shop fellows the other day with hopes of getting bumped further ahead in line. We shall see.

A particularly enthusiastic round of thunderstorms rolled through early last week, knocking out our power — a fairly regular occurrence here in the country. It happens often enough that one of the first major purchases we made when moving to the farm three years ago was a whole-house generator that runs on propane when our electric provider is down. (Natural gas is not available out here, unfortunately.) That means we are dependent on the propane tank not running out, unlike in town where a generator hooked to natural gas can last indefinitely.

I learned about this time last summer to keep an eye on the propane tank level, after we ran out on the sixth day of relying on the generator, which works wonderfully as long as there is propane. No gas, no electricity. This is admittedly a first-world problem. Most Texas folks are sweating in their homes in June when the power fails, speed-dialing AEP or their co-op provider for updates on when power will return. So I am grateful for the generator and hasten to add my heartfelt appreciation for the men and women who risk lives and limbs to get power restored after these nasty storms.

During the latest outage, I figured demand for propane could be high, so I went down to check the tank level, which involves flipping over a round, red lid that covers the gauge. I heard the buzzing first, then realized a swarm of highly annoyed red wasps had made a home under that lid. They resented my sudden appearance. I beat a hasty retreat, flailing about, as one bugger stung my eyebrow. My glasses went flying off. So did a hearing aid, knocked loose by my flailing. It remains missing in action, meaning the propane tank inspection is going to cost me at least a grand if I choose to replace the hearing aid. I might just revert to saying “Huh?” a lot.

By the end of the next day, my right eye was nearly closed shut. After another largely sleepless night, I reluctantly headed to the emergency room for a steroid shot. It immediately provided relief, so much so that by the next day I was on the tractor, bushhogging where I could, trying to avoid standing water since much of our acreage is bottomland.

At least that was the plan.

I was slowly mowing in Pancho’s Pasture, aka rice paddy, along the east fence line, trying to shear the dead ryegrass and prepare for planting 50 pounds of Bermudagrass. One moment I was moseying along dry ground, the next the tractor was stuck in mud halfway up its front tires. This has happened before. Little Red is a mid-size 38 hp machine with four-wheel drive. I have managed to rock it out of a number of tough spots in the past three years.

Not this day. I figured my next move would be fruitless, but I drove my 2001 Tundra down there, keeping on dry ground, and hooked up a tow strap. Luckily, I stopped trying just before also sticking the truck.

My immediate instinct was to wait until the next morning (it was Sunday, when charges at least double) and call a tow company. Instead, my brother-in-law Jim kindly came over. Our efforts were fruitless, the end result being Jim, my Beautiful Mystery Companion and myself all covered with mud as Pancho the Donkey watched bemusedly from his pen, safely locked up to prevent another escape. We gave up. I called the towing company.

The driver cheerfully arrived, surveyed the situation, kindly refrained from calling me a dumb*ss, and hooked a 100-foot steel cable from his tow truck, which was safely planted on high, dry ground. He spent about 15 minutes studying the situation before directing me to get on the tractor and put it in reverse, while he began sucking the tractor out of the mud. It was a tad tricky, since the driver’s side was hard up against the fence, but we got it out. I paid him off, pulled out the pressure washer and spent about an hour getting much of the mud off Little Red. Another round of washing will be needed.

The solstice has not yet arrived. I have stuck the zero-turn four times (which may explain why it is now in the shop), spent hard-earned money to get the tractor out of a quagmire, lost a hearing aid, and paid a visit to the emergency room.

It could be a long summer here at Three Geese Farm.

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