Making Hay
Week of December 14th, 2003 | The weather was cold and windy.

A divided hoop building.

A divided hoop building.

Hello to all my friends! It will soon be Christmas. I've been wrapping gifts for my family and sure hope they like what I got them. Mom's been shopping, as well. Dad still has to do his shopping. He always waits until the last minute! The house is decorated and the tree is up. Mom likes to make this time of year a festive one. We are anxious for my sister Jolene to be home for Christmas. Jess will also come home Christmas Eve. I'm looking forward to being together!

My Grandma had knee replacement surgery on Dec. 1st and is getting along well. She is still in the hospital and will have lots of therapy to do. I hope she will be home soon. Our feed business is very busy. We sent out our first e-mail newsletter this past week to keep all of our clients up to date on what feeds are available. We will continue to keep them informed on products and prices.

Dad came up with an idea to make a hoop building much more efficient. He decided to split one of our hoop buildings into two. On one side, we have weaned six-week-old pigs and on the other side we have sows with their 1-month-old pigs. We used large rectangular bales of straw to divide the building. When the pigs are ready to wean, we will remove the bales. Then, we will move the sows out and make the hoop building as one pen again. Each side has one water fountain and one feeder. This way, the sows and their pigs can have warm shelter, but will not use up our barn space for very young baby piglets. If this idea works, we will keep doing this process in the future.

On Saturday, Dad accompanied the new Organic Valley Pork Pool Field Representative to inspect the northern half of the Organic Valley Pork Pool producers. Dad will accompany him again on Sunday, December 14th on the south route. With the farm inspections, the field representative also delivers the farmers dairy waste from the Organic Valley Chaseburg Butter Plant. We are using this waste in hog rations. Hogs like it, and it is a good way to recycle manufactured food products that cannot be sold.

Of the eight stops with the inspection, four farmers have spent a lot of money doing major building construction for hogs. Three of the four have built hoop buildings. This year alone, six hoop buildings have been built. These six buildings should produce about 1800 hogs per year. Last year, the Organic Valley Pork Pool sold about 2,000 hogs. The pork pool is definitely growing and is looking for farmers in or near northeastern part of Iowa.

Organic Valley purchased the abandoned Chaseburg butter plant in June of 1999. This year, they have made about 2 million pounds of butter! The Organic Valley Chaseburg Butter Plant is the first and currently the only plant that the co-op owns. The plant is also a reloading station for bulk organic milk.

We had cold winds this past week. Dad continues to prepare for snow and ice to do chores and other activities on the farm. One of these days we'll get a bunch of snow and he'll be ready. Traction during the wintertime with tractor tires is very important. We used to have a John Deere 4020 tractor (no cab, with a Westendorf loader). During the wintertime, we used to put tire chains on the two rear tires. Having chains on tires gives a lot more traction. Tire chains have been around for a very long time. It's not only used on tractors, but also trucks, ATV's, and even boot chains for footwear! When we traded our John Deere 4020 tractor in for the John Deere 7405, we got rid of the tire chains. The 7405 is front wheel assist. That means that you can push a switch and the front wheels would drive and the tractor is four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive tractors do not need tire chains. Having four-wheel drive can easily drive on ice and not slip. Some farmers may put tire chains on the front wheels of four-wheel drive tractors if they live in very tall hills or mountains.

Having a loader tractor is very handy. Plowing the driveway can be a lot of fun. Sometimes, the gravel road can be snowed in and we plow it open if the snowplows cannot get through. If the tires slip or the loader tractor gets stuck, it can be easy to get out. Use the loader! The loader can push or pull the tractor by the leverage principle.

Snowdrifts form during high winds. A couple years ago, right north of our house, the road drifted shut. We were going to go with Jolene to a music contest in Waterloo. The snowplows plowed a large hole in the road the day before. It snowed and the wind was very strong. Dad woke up early that day to plow through the large drift with the John Deere 4020. He just made it through. Dad had to take loads of snow out with the bucket and moved it into the ditch. The opening was just wide enough for our car to fit. The side view mirrors scratched a long the snow banks of the drift. The opening was right along the side of the road near the ditch, where it is shallow. As Dad drove through with the car, I looked out the window in the back seat and saw the top of the drift far above the top of the car. That night when we returned, the snowplows went through and made the opening just a little wider. They had to go through the side where Dad went because the drift was so deep and massive. After Dad and the snowplows finally broke through the whole drift, I walked up to the bank. The drift was over six feet deep!

Farm Fact: Pigs need to be segregated by age and weight to be on the correct diet. They perform better as a group if they are uniform in weight.

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