As a kid, my father’s Russian heritage was obvious for me when he’d be conversing with his relatives over 3,000 miles and switch from English to Russian, and back again.  I’d be eavesdropping and trying to pay attention to the news or family gossip and then suddenly, bam, he’d swap into his mother-tongue and I’d hear tone and consonants crashing in ways I wasn’t accustomed to arranging them.  I always felt like I was being transported into an epic tale where there were large, dark woods, thickly blanketed with snow…and horses with bushy manes, babushkas in scarves, borscht in pottery, hot tea in glasses, onion domes somewhere off in the distance, Tevye and skinny rooftop violin-playing men, matchmakers…all that.  A little girl, I’d sit under the overhanging countertop on the floor where the dog would lie, imagining fabulous stories while listening in.  It’s likely he and his family were discussing the weather, but in my mind it was so much more.

My friend Kerry, talented musician and singer, amongst her numerous other performance and leadership positions that she carries, teaches voice at Bennington College and Williams College and leads a local children’s chorus.  She has a knack for helping students to feel the lyrics, the story of the songs, and one of my favorite expressions of her is when she lapses into a slavic accent and describes struggle, encouraging you to go with her into some terrible hardship that will help you to convey exactly the intension of the music, not just the right notes.  I wish you could hear her, the way I hear it in my head, when she shares this message.

You know exactly what she means and it throws you into the Old World, just as if you were a child eavesdropping on your father’s conversations with the mother country…or just his mother.

It’s Valentine’s Day and a very pretty one at that.  A lovely, powdery snowfall over the past 24 hours has left deep piles in front of the doors, the paths, and the roads.  My winter overalls are about two sizes too big, but I didn’t have the heart to tell my husband to bring them back when he gave them to me for Christmas a couple of years ago.  The snow came up to my knees today while I moved to and fro, back and forth around the barn.  My friend Coco says it’s like I’m playing Tetris, which I think is a computer game, when I do the chores.  I have to go back and forth a lot with buckets, retracing my steps often, and in my extra large insulated overalls, against piles of snow, I am getting a pretty decent resistance-workout in the barnyard.  I wish I could say that the hours of labor were productive, but mostly I think it’s that I can’t move that quickly that it takes me so long.  As in, when spring comes, I should be flying around here.

So, the struggle?  I’m not a fan of the cold, and we’ve had more than I care for in the past month(when I say cold, I mean zero, and below.)  And the snow is beautiful, but pushing and pulling a wheelbarrow full of manure from the frozen paddock makes me less appreciative because of the half hour it took me to get the poop out to the pile.

My apologies for being less than elegant about how I convey chores, I really don’t mean to complain. I’m just saying how it was for me this day.

I struggled so much pulling that poop, which I’d first had to collect amidst the climbing goats that were playing ring-around-the-Rosie with the horses & pony, knocking me and my tools and my wheel barrow over twice.  I struggled carrying and pushing and pulling through the piles and drifts.  I had to stop twice and fall onto my back to catch my breath.  I lay for 10 minutes in the deep and cold, feeling the powder melt and trickle down my gloves and sleeves, eyes shut against the falling flakes, resting. I started to worry, though, that if someone saw me from above, they’d think I died.  So I’d get back up and pull again and use visualization techniques to help me imagine myself on the other side of the job….

Visualizing the Czar, the onion domes, pre-revolutionary Russia…hoisting back up on my feet and finishing the work, tasting the boiled tongue, tripe, hominy, the piroski and cheese blintzes, the Manischewitz grape, the matzoh of my youth, hearing my dad’s voice in my head.

It is good to struggle.


Valentine Coop

Milkweed gets himself tangled in the electric mesh if he doesn't like waiting for me to feed him in the morning.  He's learned how to get in, but not out, and actually doesn't struggle at all once he fines himself entangled.  It's like a game he plays with me to get attention.

Milkweed gets himself tangled in the electric mesh if he doesn’t like waiting for me to feed him in the morning. He’s learned how to get in, but not out, and actually doesn’t struggle at all once he fines himself entangled. It’s like a game he plays with me to get attention.

Knee Deep on Valentine's Day

Knee Deep on Valentine’s Day

The Scout can be depended on to plow us out of a Nor'easter

The Scout can be depended on to plow us out of a Nor’easter or any struggle – Jim & his chains, to the rescue!


12 responses to “Struggle

  1. Can’t we figure out a way to harness up some of those goats or horses or sheep to pull their own poop? You shouldn’t have to sccchhhtruggllle so, dear Tammy. Next time call me and I’ll serenade you in Russian as we fling manure about. Fun to be mentioned on your blog…

    • I do wish I had a little Kerry I could pull out of my pocket for the chores! It would be SO much more fun to chore with you, my singing friend! And I’ll cash in on that serenade-call – you just remember you offered it! Miss you – hope that the semester is treating you well….as I type this there is a chicken having a dust bath in my potted Meyers Lemon Tree in my family room….it is a sunny afternoon here and I have tea, dogs, cats, and a dust-bathing hen for company.

  2. I love your post Tammy, you are so good to describe how it feels when you are doing hard work and thinking, is it me doing it in the right way or… 🙂 inspired me to be honest in my weekly report tomorrow !

    • Love your reports, N! I am glad you enjoyed mine and I know you could relate to it. I am grateful to you for the “visit”, for reading and commenting, and I hope that the snow is not too deep there in the snowy north!

    • Thank you so much, Charlotte! I have had many rewards, too, so struggle is temporary! Jim helped me shovel and plow and clear paths all weekend and it feels like I’ve got a runway to success now for all of the chores!

  3. Oh my! Tammy … if this post was written with the singular intent of drawing in one single person from across the entire Universe for empathy and understanding … I’m it! I so totally understand! Why is it that absolutely EVERYTHING is more difficult on the days that choose to be difficult? I so, so, so, totally understand. Nothing goes right on a wrong day. From scooping, chiseling, banging away at frozen manure to trudging through the snow! I’m exploding with understanding. Yesterday was BAD for us too. Our backup supply of horse hay is down-the-hill from the horse barn. Our drive was covered with eight new inches of snow (on top of the 12 already there). It took almost an hour to get the drive plowed sufficiently to get the loaded truck up the hill to feed the horses! [I was sooo mad I could have split.] Hauling the wood with a wheel barrow would have, I think, sent a normal person to the local emergency room. Chores normally take 45 minutes … yesterday they required all of 6 hours! Yes, it was always said in my family as well … that suffering is good for the soul. But, please, give me a break – I’m only one little person! I was so mad and so exhausted that it didn’t even feel good to stop at the end of it all. I was just so … so … so … well, you know. As I write I have yet to do chores this afternoon … not looking forward to it. Knowing that I’m not the only one helps. D

    • D: SO glad you could relate to this – we’re all a little fried right now from the one thing after another, aren’t we? But I hate to be a moaner and groaner so I try to refrain from too much complaining. I’m not moving to Florida anytime soon, obviously.
      Jim got the Scout out this past weekend and plowed up a storm for me so I can get to the manure pile now without killing myself. And he helped to make paths all over the back so that I can get to the poultry housing without having to trudge through the snow with all of the buckets. It’s a huge difference to have a path to walk on vs. truding. And supposedly the weather will improve this week?!?! But your plight with the wood sounded just the kind of muscle-tearing that I’d been through so I’m glad you could find that you weren’t the only one out there in that snow that was working up such a sweat! Good luck with the rest of the getting out and I’ll send you that link in an email.

      Thanks so much for the stop-by/the read.

    • Karen: Thank you so much! What a huge compliment to get from you! Your blog is amazing!!!! ANyway, I appreciate your visit and also your thoughts – it’s a labor of love because of course, I’m crazy about the farm. But I will love it more when it is slightly less laborious! Appreciate your kindness,

  4. I lived on a farm when I was a little girl and can appreciate all the hard labor that it takes to run a farm. Thanks to that environment, I have good work ethics today. It’s funny how a cleared path to the henhouse can make your day! I love all your stories.Thanks for sharing.

    • Debbie -thank you for the kind reply and you are welcome- I love reflecting on the days’ work, even when it’s not all roses. But the good news is that my husband helped me to plow and shovel paths everywhere and I definitely wouldn’t have appreciated them so much if I hadn’t had to push through the drifts! So, hidden blessings in all of our trials 🙂 I always hope my kids will have a good work ethic – it is easier to not have to fight it when a job needs to be done!

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