Of Vampires and Chain Gangs…..

I hope you are enjoying the Self Reliance Challenge.  To be honest, I am learning some great ways to take my self-reliance goals to the next level.  But as much as I love all of this, there is a darker side to Self Reliance that you may not think about. 

Vampires and Landmines…Oh, My!

Being self-reliant means that you do what is necessary, regardless of the day, time or weather.  All too often you have to not only think outside the box, but you also have to step out of the box and onto some rocky terrain that can be filled with landmines.  After all, vampires don’t stay in their caskets at night, and members of a chain gang don’t always sing. And cow pastures are full of bombs, just waiting for the unsuspecting…

Two calves in hay

Is that all a bit too crypt..ic for you?  Sorry about that, I am still a bit sleep deprived.  In order to fully explain, I need to take just a short step backwards.

Let me Explain…

With cows, hay is a priority during the winter.  Several months back, we secured some hay from Jim, who lives several miles from us.  It was up to us to transport it.  (Here’s where that thinking-outside-the box-self-reliance lesson comes in…)  Unfortunately, we do not have a tractor with a front end loader on it.  We also do not have a trailer long enough to haul all the hay in one or two trips.  But we have to have hay…so, we studied the situation and started thinking outside the box.

Tractor and hay

Step by Step Plan

Our plan was this: Step One – We would take our trailer for the hay.  Jim offered to let us use his tractor (with a front end loader – or FEL from here on out) to load the hay from his end.  Perfect.  We could load three round bales on our trailer at a time.  So, we loaded up and headed for the house.

Step Two – since we don’t have the luxury of a FEL, The Country Boy figured on throwing a chain around the girth of the bale.  He would attach that chain to another chain that was linked around the back of the tractor. From there, he could pull the first bale off, causing the bale on top to settle down and into the #2 position for unloading.  (Can you hear the snap of the shackles here?)

Once the first bale was on the ground, I (being the chain gang member) would remove the chain from the bale, and the one from the tractor.  The Country Boy would shift the tractor into position, lift the bale on the fork of the tractor, and move it to where he was storing hay. The first day we managed about four loads.  It takes approximately 45 minutes a load. (Keep that in mind, if you enjoy doing the math…).


Do you have a picture of all that in your mind?  Good.   Add this to the mix:  The Country Boy works a little better than an hour from the farm.  By the time he gets home, dark is getting ready to settle down, so we have to wait for the weekends to haul hay.  Now – picture days and nights that have produced approximately 4” and more of rain.

raging water in creek

Rain and Pastures don’t always Mix

Think about what heavy equipment – such as tractors, trucks and trailers – can do to a pasture.  Now, think about four days of sunshine, then rain all day Saturday and Sunday.  Consider all that rain for several weeks at a time.  Now think again about what heavy equipment can do to a pasture.  Yep.  We put off getting hay, as we really had no desire to trash Jim’s pasture in the process. We did manage a few loads, but we still had fourteen bales left to get, some of which had been munched on by a few rogue Jerseys.

Then we get a call.  If we still want the hay, we need to go get it.  Jim needs his pasture for something else.  The day we got the call was a Wednesday.  I was in Shreveport and The Country Boy had to work late.  We had until Saturday to get it done, but it was supposed to rain starting Friday and going through Sunday.   So, we put our self-reliance armor on, and did what we had to do. 

 I know we must have looked odd to anyone who passed by.  We worked until midnight last night, using head lamps, flashlights and cars to give us enough light to see what we were doing.  I lifted, hooked, swung and toted those chains so much my muscles were begging for a silver bullet, and I heard the rattle of chains in my sleep.

Sheriff pulling over a vehicle

When the Law is Called…

You also have to keep in mind: we live on a back road, which means mostly wooded area on both sides, with four houses along a mile and a half strip – and one of those are abandoned. Very little traffic, and even less, if any, after about 8:00 pm.  We still had two more loads to make (we made 7 altogether), when Randy got a phone call. 

It seems one of our neighbors noticed the truck and trailer making multiple trips past their road.  Their house is set back, and it truly is black as pitch down their way, so they couldn’t see who it was.  Preferring to be safe rather than sorry, they called the Sheriff’s Department.

We could have been angry, but in truth, we would have done the same thing.  We are protective of not only our homes, but our neighbors as well.  Fortunately, we got a phone call from those same neighbors, managed to get things straight, and the dogs were called off.  We just laughed, and waved at the deputies as they passed by.  I can only imagine what they were thinking……

The Job is Done!

The good news is by midnight, we had all the hay moved.  We were not arrested, and I didn’t stumble across any vampires.  My prison…uh, um….the hay chains are safely stored back in their bucket, and the cows should be happy for a day or two.

The moral of this story is that self reliance doesn’t just mean what I would consider the fun stuff, like baking bread, canning the harvest and knitting Christmas gifts. It means thinking outside the box, and considering ‘what if’; then having things in place to combat those ‘what ifs’.

Lisa at The Self Sufficient Homeacre  understands that concept well – she knows that gardening isn’t just plowing and planting seeds. It means planning ahead and moving to the ‘what if’ level by creating  a Survival Seed Bank.   The Country Boy and I understand, and do what it takes to get the job done, even at the risk being shackled to chains and dancing with vampires.

Speaking of which….does anyone have a hack saw and a few silver bullets they can spare?  I want to take my own self reliance journey to the ‘what if’ level, and be fully prepared for the next time I have to work outside ‘til midnight……

Want to read more on our farming practices? Check out Accountability on the Farm!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. Murpheys law! I get it! Told like a true homesteader! Great post and the title was awesome!

    1. Author

      AnnMarie – Around here, we call it ‘Murphree’s’ Law – if it is going to crash and burn, we will be the test site! Thank you for your kind words. It’s great to know there are other homesteaders out there that understand what we go through!

  2. We must be sisters…some days it seems everything that can go wrong does. However, I like to try to solve issues as they crop up. I like how you tackled the issue and got it done. Thanks for sharing to help others who have to think and step outside the box!

    1. Author

      Welcome to the family, Jennifer! I always find that going ahead and tackling a problem puts it behind me all the faster. Next time, I will appeal to that ‘Sister’ comment and make you come help!!! 🙂

  3. Love the title of your blog! Glad you got the job done and I agree being self reliant does means thinking outside the box!

    1. Author

      Nancy – thank you. That title tells you just how sleep deprived I was! With all of us homesteaders, it won’t be long before we not only think outside the box, but the box will disappear because we need it for some project we are working on!

  4. Wow what a story! Love your style! You vamps get some good work out in the night! I don’t have cattle only dogs! But I’m getting my first chickens in spring ! And do a lot of other self Reliance on my little 1/2 acres in a small river town!
    Thanks for all the great info ! Now maybe I can start seedlings that actually grow!

    1. Author

      I have faith in your, Pamela! Chickens can bring their own middle of the night headaches, but they are few and far between. And personally, I think chickens are well worth it. If you have problems growing your seeds, let me know and I will try to help. AND – as you can see, there are some other great folks out here that will be more than willing to help as well!!!!

    1. Author

      Thanks for the encouragement, Lisa! Adventure is my middle name. (Just don’t forget to start a bail money jar for me. Who knows when I might need it!) 🙂

  5. Julie,
    your luck sounds like ours. I’m so glad you got the hay though.

    1. Author

      We look at these trying times as ‘adventures’, Dianne. It helps us keep our sanity!! 🙂

  6. MAN, you guys really just rolled with it! Great job doing what you had to do, Julie!

    1. Author

      Ha! Kristi, I love that comment! Yes, we did. And thank you!

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