(The goats pictured are Al Johnson’s, and not mine.)


My dream was to run a small farm, with children able to visit, and for them to experience the wonder that I did on farms, when I was young.

Of course the problem was making it pay. Small farms tend to barely break even, when they aren’t losing heaps of money. Small farms can only succeed with a tremendous expenditure of free labor. And, because no one works for free, you have to do the work yourself. After all that work, you also need an “outside job,” because breaking even does not pay the bills.

Our “outside job” was the Childcare side of our farm. It too involves a tremendous expenditure of effort, but, although it does not pay that well, it does pay the bills. However it does not pay enough to “improve” the farm.

It is likely all small farmers dream of plowing up a small hoard of gold coins, so they could hire the hands and afford the supplies needed to “improve” their farm, however the gold rarely appears, the dream of becoming a gentleman farmer seldom comes true, and most small farms have a messy, hardscrabble look. Then, rather than the farm being improved, it gets disapproved, by the insurance adjuster.

There can few things more infuriating than having a sleekly dressed, prissy fellow, whose soft hands have never held a hammer and whose slouchy back has never bent to shovel manure, trotting about your place and telling you how to run your life. They haven’t a clue what farming entails, and in the old days would have been escorted promptly off the property with a double-barreled shotgun pressed…between their shoulder blades.

My wife doesn’t approve of those American traditions, or of my whipping out a couple of revolvers and making the fellow dance, and in fact she’d probably like it if I took a hike, but when adjusters visit is one of the rare situations I don’t take a hike. As my wife dazzles the fellow with her amazing powers of diplomacy, I am a brooding presence in the background.

In the end she doesn’t really talk him out of anything; she just makes him forget to demand. However I’ve noticed the things she doesn’t make him forget are suspiciously like the things on her honey-do list. However it isn’t quite as annoying doing things for her as it is for him, as I love her, while no love is lost between insurance sharks and me.

Our farm is basically divided into the safe part, where the children play, and the hardscrabble part, where I do my non-Childcare farming work. The hardscrabble side includes some heaps of stuff my wife deems “eyesores,” (though I myself think rust has a sort of cool, rustic look.) I would rather have the stuff close by, so I don’t have to walk so far to get to it, but she would rather it be on the far side of the barn and stable. Strangely, the insurance adjuster agreed with her. I wound up with an extra bit of grunt-work on my list of chores. Moving that pile of used lumber, fence posts, old brackets and barbed wire was not one bit of fun, and I didn’t do it for the stupid adjuster. I did it because I love my wife.

Not long afterwards, as I led a hike of children out across the pasture, one child looked back and wondered, “What are the goats doing on the roof?” I looked back and saw my seven American Alpine dairy goats were frolicking about the roof of their stable, prancing and pronging upon the roller roofing I had nailed down during the heat of the summer. Quite obviously they had made my pile of stuff into a convenient staircase.

I think I deserve a lot of credit, for the words on the tip of my tongue did not escape and enter the ears of innocent children. Instead I explained that my goats were trying to impress Santa Claus with how good they are on roofs, so they could be hired as reindeer over Christmas.

One uncanny thing about my goats is how they know when I am too busy to charge screaming after them, and whack their butts. They pranced about that roof laughing until I was off duty, and then were down in a flash and galloping off to the far side of the pasture before I took five steps in their direction. Nor was it any use to move my pile of stuff yet again. They had discovered that roof was fun, and found other routes up there, including one involving some impressive, mountain-goat leaps. And the roof was damaged.

I don’t need any adjuster to tell me I should have gotten up there right away and put down another layer of roller roofing, but it was winter, and shingles are brittle. So I bought a plastic tarp and some nails, though such a roof would be an “eyesore.” However I never even got the tarp up, because my wife does not approve of my skipping church, (or Christmas,) for mundane roofing. Then everything was blanketed by snow. I hoped the snow would hold things down until spring.

Then came last week’s Warm Storm, and the snow melted off the roof and the wind howled, and abruptly the shingles all ballooned up, tore, folded over, ripped, and landed in an ugly heap beside the stables.

Talk about an eyesore! And talk about a depressed farmer! All my efforts to improve the farm had taken a significant step backwards. And whose fault was it? Was it my fault? Did I want to move that pile of junk to a stupid place from a smart place?

No! It is that insurance adjuster!!! HE is to blame!

However do you think he will apologize and lower my rates?

I doubt it. In fact he will likely be shocked, SHOCKED, that I allow big rumpled piles of roller roofing to lie about my farmyard. But if he so much as squeaks, if so much as a little peep escapes his lips, I think I just might….

Fortunately Mother Nature is stepping in to do God’s Will, which is to cover a multitude of sins.

One good thing about a blizzard and 24 inches of snow, (which is the current forecast,) is that it turns ugly heaps of stuff in a hardscrabble farmyard, and even ugly and rumpled heaps of roller roofing, into sleek, white curves, streamlined shapes which not even an insurance adjuster could possibly complain about…or could he?

Of course he could, and would, but one nice thing about a blizzard is that, for a blessed respite in a tiresome worldly reality, there’s not a cotton-picking thing he or anyone else can do about my failures.


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