As everyone knows, the arrival of spring means the hard frozen ground gets deliciously warm. On a farm, this means we go from fighting with snow to fighting with mud. Now our farm doesn’t have very many muddy spots. We work very hard to manage our cow lanes to prevent erosion and mud. But the fact remains that our cows walk in and out of our barn four times a day. Cows love to either huddle in a herd or walk in a single file line. This means that the same ground gets stepped on over and over again. So despite our best efforts in the springtime, we normally have one or two places near the barn that are very muddy.
Springtime is one of the reasons I love whoever invented boots. Every farmer knows that a good pair of boots can make all the difference in the world. Any and every task is helped with properly shod feet. Many farmers favor rubber Wellingtons as their boot of choice. But my family tends to use steel-toe boots, although Rachel rebels and uses cowboy boots. Steel-toe boots are excellent for milking cows because if a cow steps on your toe, you can’t feel it. They are also easier to run in than rubber boots. We rotationally graze our cows so we walk and run through our fields every day moving cattle. I would also argue that steel-toe boots, while not as fashionable as cowboy boots, are way more stylish than rubber boots.
Be that as it may, steel-toe boots have some downsides. Firstly, the majority of them are not waterproof. They also have laces, which tend to break through the rigors of farm work. Additionally, they do not go up nearly to your knee like rubber boots. They only go a bit past your ankle.
Many times I have misjudged the depth of a patch of mud and have emerged with one boot filled with mud and a ruined sock.
I also think they wear out faster than rubber boots. That probably depends on how you use them however. I know the rubber boots I have had in the past ended up getting full of holes from being speared one too many times with a pitchfork.
Sadly, I have been bootless since I came back from Central America in December. The day before I left the States I had taken my old steel toe boots on a walk to the dumpster. They had survived an entire winter and summer of use and were way past retirement. They were both cracked, the sole was falling off of one, and the laces were rotting. I thought saying goodbye to my boots was a proper symbolic way of taking leave of my cows for three months. I thought as I threw them away that I would begin farming again in December with a new pair of boots.
It is now March and I still do not have a pair of boots. This is why you should never leave the farm – no one believes you when you say you’re back. To ask them to spend money on a pair of boots for you is only to beg to hear, “Why do you need boots? Aren’t you leaving? How long are you going to be here anyway? There are a bunch of old boots in the basement – use those!”
So I make do with the rejected boots of antiquity who live in a pile in our basement. They are all boots who have been discarded by others’ feet for being the wrong size, uncomfortable, or otherwise dangerous to one’s health. Most of them are pretty worn out, but not quite worn out enough to be thrown away.
My first pair was too small for me. I hobbled around in them until they cracked from the stress of winter. I threw them away and found another pair. This pair was actually comfortable, but they had the biggest thickest tread I have ever seen. The soles alone added two inches to the height of the boot. Because of the tread, they tracked in a lot of dirt, but otherwise they were serviceable. Sadly last week the sole on the left boot began to fall off. I glued it back on but I knew the boot’s clock was ticking.
As it always is in farming, the sole chose to fall off at the most inconvenient moment. My sister and I were trying to corral a heifer into the youngstock shed. Outside of this shed is one of the muddy spots on our farm. As I ran back and forth through the mud, my sole came halfway off, stuck itself down into the mud, and tripped me. I got back up, shook the mud out and kept running. Again, I was tripped by my boot. We were at risk of the heifer getting away from us, so I pulled the rest of my sole off, and hopped and skipped through the mud on one foot.
We eventually trapped the heifer. I ruined my one sock and caught a cold from having wet feet. Now I am on a pair of boots that are too big for me. My toes jam against the front of the boots every time I take a step. I’m getting blisters as we speak.
But honestly, I don’t mind any of it. Spring is here, summer is coming, and my trials are giving us all a head start on spring cleaning the basement. Who knows, I might make my way through that pile before May.