This winter, something amazing happened. My husband installed equipment so that we no longer have to haul feed to our 750 laying hens using five-gallon buckets. This has been a long time coming. The tall metal feed bin that now towers over our hen coop on its spindly metal legs spent months lying on its side in the grass, looking like a space ship that had crashed to its doom. This fall though, we resurrected it and set it up to do the work it was made to do.
It was quite a project. First a cement truck dropped its sloppy grey load as my husband and I stood on either side of the pool of grey goop, pushing a two-by-four across its slippery surface to smooth it while Chuck, our dear friend and mentor, offered advice. Next, neighbors brought their construction equipment over to lift that crashed space ship out of its field and set it up on its feet on that new concrete pad. We made trips to three different stores to find the right kind of screws to safely anchor the great metal structure to the concrete, and then my husband muscled those screws into place, bruising a rib in the process. The structure was up, and every time I approached our place from the road, I celebrated as I was its grey outline where there had so recently been only sky.
Several more months of carrying feed buckets passed before we had pipes set up to carry food from the bin into the chicken house, but the equipment was finally erected and fine-tuned into functionality, just in time for spring. Now a hulking feed truck pulls right up to the coop to deliver hen feed, with the driver carefully adjusting hydraulics to swing an enormous auger right over a small door at the very top of the feed bin.
We thought we were living an easy life with the feed being delivered without so much lifting. But then one feed truck driver left the top door open after delivering feed, and it rained. Ian decided that he had to go down into the bin to haul out any feed that might be wet and vulnerable to mold.
Like most things, he started this project after dark. He asked our fourteen-year-old son to go out there with him, so they went out wearing headlamps and carrying equipment. My son felt like they were part of a Star Wars movie, carrying equipment around in the dark, looking up at huge metal structure that they were going to enter. It was as though they were sneaking into an alien space ship.
His first impression was unfortunately accurate. The two of them climbed a ladder to the top of the bin and peered down into the hole, but there was no easy way for my husband to go down into it because there was a nine-foot drop before he could stand on the feed. The ladder they heroically hauled up there was too big to fit. They marched back into the garage and made a ladder from knotted rope and boards, which looked like a brilliant idea. They secured it and threw it down the hole, and then Ian stepped onto a rung. He began to descend slowly without making another move because the ropes stretched. It was like he was on a low-tech elevator that gently transported him down into the bin until he could step off onto the feed. The disadvantage of this, of course, was that the ladder would not be so good at helping him out of the bin again.
There he stood on top of the feed, looking up at his son’s face that was framed by the trap door of the bin, about six feet above his head. Our son, who was taking this whole thing with a gentle sense of humor said that he felt like his main contribution to this particular job was emotional support.
Ian got down to the job at hand, looking for wet feed in the bin. There wasn’t much. He scooped up part of a bucket of some grain that was marginally damp, and my son pulled it up with a rope. Then it was time to get back out of the bin.
I am still not certain how he pulled this off, but he did, no doubt making use of some of the strength he developed carrying all those five-gallon buckets of feed. It also took some creativity, as he doubled the rope over between rungs and tied large knots to secure the rungs close together. The last part of his maneuver was complicated by the fact that his boots did not want to come out of the hole, but like some kind of acrobat, he held himself over that hole, twenty feet in the air, in the dark, and somehow extricated one foot at a time. The job was done.
They came back into the house smiling, and they had me laughing out loud as they acted out Ian slowly descending down that hole on the rope ladder. It occurred to me very soon afterwards that the night could have inspired swear words and unshed tears instead of laughter and a fabulous story. Good company and a creative sense of adventure made all the difference that night. I am so grateful for the story and for the many blessings that made it possible.