Monday, March 16, 2015

Cherry's trip on Deer Creek

Welcome back to my life on deer creek.  As I have mentioned before I am proud to say I'm a 5th generation family farmer and I grew up on a beautiful farmstead located in Frontier County Nebraska on Deer Creek.  My parents bought our farmstead when I was a baby and we moved down on the creek in the Spring of 1974.  Over the years I have seen a great many things happen on the winding creek banks I call home.  We have had a tornado or two and many hail storms and flash floods from when the rains would come from up above us in the state.  Several times the creek banks have ran full to the brim in my lifetime and occasionally they have even flooded into our home.  We have experienced years with severe blizzards and ice storms that have left us without power for days into weeks.

I truly love this creek that I grew up on.  I have spent many a day on the banks of it riding horseback for just a quite trail ride or doing serious business like rounding up cattle.  Either way this creek has brought lost of pleasant memories and times into my life.  At the top of our creek property is a place called horseshoe bend.  And I can remember as a young teen whenever I would say "well everyone is doing it" my parents would ask me "and if they jumped of horseshoe bend would you follow them?".  Of course my answer was no because when you stand at the bottom of this bend in the creek and look up the tallest trees don't even reach the top of the bend.  I would guess this to be a 400+ foot drop off.

We have a lot of wildlife that live along this creek from beaver to coyotes and deer to wild turkeys.  There is not a day that goes by that you can't enjoy some of Gods great creatures in full view.  I don't hunt but my dad and son do and they always enjoy a quite day on the creek looking for the game they are currently hunting.  We work hard to make sure we leave wildlife plenty of space on our land so that we co-exist in harmony.  Fact of the matter the beavers just moved back to our section of the creek a few years past and we don't allow anyone to trap them so they will be here for future generations to enjoy.

But the story I want to share with you all today is about the evening of January 30, 2015.  My daughter and niece each have a Jersey dairy heifer that just turned a year old on January 8th.  I went outside to start my evening chores and I noticed that the heifers were not in their pen.  Now these calves are well halter broke as the two girls plan to show them in 4-H and they have never been out of their private pen except to go on walks with the girls up and down the driveway and over to the second barn yard on the farm.  Well after some looking I find that one of the two is in the pen with our older Jersey milk cow but the other is missing.  Now I have no idea how they got out of their pen or where the second calf could be but I start driving toward the second barn yard looking for her.  At this moment I think I'm looking for my niece's calf Diva Daisy.  I don't find her but upon driving to the backside of their pen I find where they got out at; a small wire broke on the back pen gate and they pushed it out.  So I head around to fix the pen still wondering where Diva Daisy could be.  As I'm wiring the gate back into place I hear a cry of the calf but I can't see her.  Their pen runs right along the creek bank with about a 5 foot walk space before you go off the embankment.  Well needless to say I'm sure you all know where I'm going with this story now.  I look down over the drop off and find her pinned in a cradle of broken trees about 30 foot down.

I have no idea if she is okay or not at this point only that it is getting dark and she is stuck and crying for help.  I hurry and get the hired men and my dad to help me.  We realize we can't go off the embankment to get her the way she went down and that we need to wind our way around the creek and come in from the bottom to see if she is okay.  James goes in ahead of me while my dad is still trying to see how we are going to lift her back up the side of the creek.  Finally I follow James into the creek because I can't hear him or see him anymore.  It is barely light out and down on the creek it is getting very dark.  After climbing up and down the sides of the creek and falling into the water several times to walk/climb my way to her I finally can see she is about 20 feet still up the embankment tangled in a tree cradle.  Now at this point I'm worried she has broke a leg, neck or her back and won't be able to be saved.  James says "stay back she could fall on you". But me being a worried care giver of this animal and super attached to her I have to get closer.  So I start trying to climb/crawl my way up the steep slick side of the creek.  All the while I am talking to this calf trying to calm her down.  She recognizes my voice and flips over and walks out the the tangle of trees to me.

She is on a small bank about 5 foot above me and I can't get to her when I realize its not my niece's calf Diva Daisy, but instead my daughter's calf Cherry.  I keep talking to her to keep her calm and the other two hired men Doug and Jason show up with a wrench to try to lift her up out of the creek.  They toss me down a lariat rope and ask if I can get it around her neck to help stabilize her as we lift her out by her back legs.  I finally crawl up the bank and reach her pulling myself by small sapling trees.  Once I put the rope around her neck she decides she is safe and that we should take a walk.  So she heads down the embankment for the creek.  Now I know she can't get out of the creek the way I came in because there are too many large trees fallen in the path way.  So our only option is to climb up a 25 foot slippery embankment and if we make it up to the top we can walk out across a field and be picked up in a trailer to get the 3 miles back home.  Keep in mind I'm only about 50 feet from her pen right now down in the bottom of the creek.

Well this is one determined calf and she starts up the embankment with me, but with 5 feet to go she falls down on her belly and can't go any farther.  So me and the men rig her rope into a halter and we proceed to pull/lift her up the last 5 feet.  She probably weighs in at about 700 lbs, but we got the job done.  Once we had her on top the bank she just laid there exhausted.  I was worried if she was hurt somewhere and couldn't get up again.  However after a few minutes I decided maybe she would feel safer if I removed the rope and let her think she was free.  She got up shortly after that and came right over to me ready to be lead out of the creek.  Thank God my daughter and niece did a good job teaching her to be gentle and to lead.  I will admit these calves are the first halter broke cattle we have had on our farm since I was 10 or so.  But since they will be milk cattle in the future we felt this was an important part of raising them.

My dad met us at the gate to the field with a trailer and she loaded right up and was brought back around to the house.  Where I found that by a miracle she didn't have any injuries and was just fine.  She joined Diva Daisy and their pen mate Delta for her evening routine of oats.  The next day she was a bit stiff but by Sunday she was back to her normal self.

Now I will admit this was a very unusual thing that happened to our family here on Deer Creek but it was not the first time a animal was trapped on the creek and needed help getting out.  We have had beef cattle get stuck in the mud.  We had a horse once picked up in a tornado and set back down in what appeared to be a log cabin by the way the trees fell during the storm.  And she was also un-injured and we had to use a chainsaw to get her out of the trees and back home.  Another time I was riding with a friend Nick Mead chasing cattle when he and is horse just disappeared on the other side of the creek from me.  Only to ride over and find them both okay but in a cave out that suddenly dropped them down into a 10 foot hole.  Mother nature takes her own course here on Deer Creek and we as the caretakers must work with her for the benefit of our livestock and ourselves.

Thank you for joining me on another short day as "the farmer's daughter from deer creek".  I have enjoyed sharing some more of my life story with you and I hope you will continue to follow me as I share more of my life next time.

Sincerely yours,

Andrea Sayer
Proud to be an American Farmer

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Soapmaker

Being the farmers daughter from deer creek I grew up with dreams like any other farm kid.  I used to wonder about who I would marry and what my role might be in the family farm.  Of course some days after a really long day on the farm I would occasionally wonder what it would be like not to return to the farm as well.  Because we all know the heart of a child can be fickle it is quite amazing to me that I have ended up where I am in life.

When I was 17 almost 18 I headed off for college at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture with the dream of not spending more than one year at this small college so close to home and transferring in to Lincoln at the University of Nebraska to study agronomy.  Now this was a pretty far fetched dream considering I was totally allergic to just about every field crop grown and could never even think about going to the fields after pollination or during harvest without a trip or two to the hospital.  But still I wanted to end up the leader in a Seed Corn sales company so I could attend meetings world wide and promote their brand of seed while of course earning my once a year cruise with colleagues so I could see the world.  Little did I know that what my real dream for a career would become and that if a guidance counselor would have listened to my reasons for wanting to be in my chosen career that they might have suggested I go into a career as an Ag advocate ambassador doing public speaking around the world about the benefits of agriculture.

Then while still in my first year on college I met and got engaged to the love of my life.  And as anyone in love knows your heart wants what your heart wants.  He is a wonderful loving man and we will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary this year.  Yes he grew up with an agricultural background but wanted nothing more than to be and auto technician.  Which I am proud to say he is a great one and that we are in the process of  purchasing the small shop he has worked at for the past 10 years.  However, during our years together at one point he tried to step into the role of the farmers son-in-law and work on the family farm.  That lasted all of a year.  Just was not a good fit for any of us.  This took place while I was busy working at a local coop as the bookkeeper because I just didn't know if there really was a place for me on the family farm.

However when our oldest son was 18 months old and started refusing to come home with me from the farm at night we as a family knew things had to change.  Grandma and Grandpa were his whole world and so was that farm.  So I quit the coop and went to work with my parents on the family farm so I could raise my kids in the great lifestyle I had been raised in.  And this had been a great fit for over 18 years.  But along the way I have faced so many challenges its amazing I'm still on the farm or even sane and yes I know the sane part can be debated by many.

You see I went on to have a second son and a daughter.  But along came tragedy in my life by the stack.  Shortly after my youngest son was born my younger sister (Amanda the middle daughter) was killed in an unexplained to this day single vehicle accident.  This hit our family way below the belt like it does to all families with a tragic death and we were reeling to the bottom.  But before we could hit bottom my oldest son (Tyson) was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia.  And I had just found out I was pregnant with our daughter at the time.  So I spent years running him to and from treatment while my parents and husband raised both of my other children (Dillon and Amelia).  Fact of the matter I walked out the door 6 days after Amelia was born to return to Omaha with Tyson for treatment and never came home to stay til after she was 18 months old.  Oh we visited back to the farm as much as his treatments would allow but for all real purposes we were a separated family due to cancer.  Amelia would end up donating her bone marrow to Tyson to save his life and it worked.  We came home and worked at becoming a family under one roof again.  This was with a lot of struggle and prayer that we made it work.  Dillon had abandonment issues having been 18 months old when I left and Amelia had attachment issues to only Grandma and her Daddy.  But this trying period was not in vain.  It made us grow and become a close knit family. My children still find refuge in the farm.

But as fate would have it tragedy would strike again a short 9 years later when Tyson was killed in a freak ATV accident on the farm while spraying musk thistle.  The accident he had would probably have left a healthy person with just bruises and story to tell.  For him however it broke his spleen and liver causing him to die.  Now my world hit rock bottom.  For months I didn't know if I was coming or going and I definitely like all people in this situation had no idea how to handle my grief or how to be a good parent while dealing with my grief.  There is a period of about 4 years that I just functioned but not in a good way.

Its during this period that I decided if Dillon or Amelia wanted to try it they could.  After all the fear that they might die too was and still is in the back of my mind and I wanted them to have everything life could possibly offer them.  So we ended up with boar meat goats, Nubian dairy goats, and hogs on our family farm.  These were what they wanted to do in 4-H.  Now remember I rode a horse and that was my entertainment as a child and my 4-H project.  Well it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that a horse is very different from a goat or a hog.  But I gave it my all and learned all I could along side my kids, husband, and parents about their projects.  And along the way we developed our own small niche in the family farm.  We call our project become business DJ's Creek Farm.  And we are located on my family farm Bob Farr's farm and ranch.  My parents have encouraged us and our business choice every step along the way.  Even going so far as to buy Amelia a Jersey dairy calf to add to the chaos.  But in doing this we are teaching our children the love of agriculture and farm life along with the fact that hard work is part of life.  We are also ingraining them with the same motto I grew up with that the family that works together.....plays together.

And I'm sure by now you are wondering why did she title this blog "The Soap maker".  Well that is because during all this transformation I sometimes didn't quite know where I was headed personally or what path God had in store for me next.  Yes I was busy being a farmers daughter, an auto technician's wife, and a good farm mother to my children but nothing I was doing was anything that brought out my personality or creative abilities that were bottled inside.  Remember before when I said if only a counselor would have listened to my dreams they would have realized I could have made a great job as an advocate for agriculture.  Well while upstarting DJ's Creek Farm it became increasingly obvious that we had more goat milk than we knew what to do with and we were not big enough to become a licensed dairy.  So I spent about a year just feeding the hogs what we couldn't use as a family.  However, this didn't help the dairy goats pay their way very well.  And I started brainstorming how I could make that division of our small business turn a profit.  We couldn't justify becoming a licensed dairy due to cost and size, but in my research I found out that goat milk soap was an art that was becoming very popular.  So I taught myself to make soap over the Internet.  With the help of many great u-tube videos and some wonderful facebook chat pages I learned to create beautiful soap and products that are healthy for your skin and that my customers love.  It also gave me that outlet to be an advocate for agriculture.  See we now have a subdivision of DJ's Creek Farm that we call Sayer Soapworks and thru Sayer Soapworks I attend craft shows all over a tri-state area of Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado.  It is at these craft show that I'm able to tell my families story in agriculture and share that as a 5th generation family farmer I milk the goats to bring you the soap.  My customers love that I have such a rich heritage behind the love for creating beautiful handmade soaps just like our generations before us did for survival.  Back then our ancestors made soap out of necessity now I create art out of soap and sell it for your benefit to your health and skin.  I have finally found one of my many hats on the family farm and I am proud to say that I'm an American Farmer who happens to make you goat milk soap.

Til we meet again my God bless you and your family.

Sincerely yours,

Andrea Sayer
"The Farmers Daughter on Deer Creek"