Making Hay
Week of August 18th, 2002 | The weather was windy. Bad windstorm on Friday night.

Our backyard garden

Our backyard garden

Hello everyone! We had a busy week of working on many repairs around the yard. A windstorm made our yard a mess Friday night, too! We really had a lot of cleaning to do.

Sunday, we held a garden tour on our farm along with others around the Alta Vista community. As you see in the picture above, we worked on a big garden project just last week. We poured in rock, placed a gate, and built a brick wall just outside of our family garden. The gate is from my grandparents' farm and it reminds my mother of her birthplace. Mom also has a section of an old porch railing from grandpa and grandma's and we've got that in front of a flower box by our pond. She has morning glories on the railing. It looks nice. We also showed our water garden, swing, birdhouse, and our flower boxes. About 30 people came out to see it.

We were happy the tour was before our bad windstorm on Friday night. What a mess we had! We helped our neighbor clean his yard, and in return, he helped us clean our yard. We had hundreds of leaves down, almost all of our apples fell from our apple trees, many branches, and a few very large branches. We even had half of a tree down near the shop! It really flattened down the flowers and garden vegetables, especially our broomcorn we have growing in the garden.

Dad and I worked on repairs this past week. I would like to explain the large part of farming that I do not usually talk about. That is doing chores.

Every day of the whole year, Dad and I care for our livestock. A big part of caring for the livestock is to do the chores. The summer is easy because we do not have to keep the water from freezing and much of the livestock is outdoors. Winter is not very fun. We have to deal with the cold, ice, frost, and the worst, the inches of snow. Just all of this weather makes the chores more difficult. This is why we purchased a brand new four-wheel drive tractor with a new loader. A two-wheel drive tractor with a small loader is worthless in the deep snow doing cattle chores. I can remember a couple years ago when I was doing the cattle chores for Dad one cold, snowy, winter day. I was using the John Deere 4020 - two wheel drive. I drove it down the road with the cow's hay, and I got off, opened the gate to the pasture where the cattle stood. The tractor had chains on the back tires to help drive on the ice. I drove through the driveway with snow banks 4 feet deep. I had a lot of throttle and was in low gear. I almost got stuck just trying to get through the driveway! I got through and made big tracks through the many snowdrifts. With our new four-wheel drive tractor, we can go through the snow banks much easier.

The summer chores are pretty easy. Every morning, Dad wakes up about 5:30-6:00. The first chore is to work on the computer. On the computer, Dad sends messages to people that we do business with. He makes up the sales receipts after a customer has made a feed purchase. The computer has our farm operations and farm financial reports in it as well.

After working on the computer, I wake up at about 7:00-7:30. Then, Dad and I will eat our breakfast. While we get ready to go outside, Dad feeds and waters Noel. My part is to pet him! Noel likes to get attention. Then, we go outside and play with Sammy. She likes attention, too. After feeding and watering Sammy, we do sow chores on the hog floors. Sammy likes to watch us do that! Using 5-gallon pails, we throw the sows their feed in feed bunks. Feed bunks are cement troughs. This way, the sows can eat their food in a clean area. The amount of feed a sow eats changes during the year. While a boar is breeding her, the sow only eats about 4 pounds of feed. While she is pregnant, the sow eats about 8 pounds of feed. After giving birth, a sow will eat 16 pounds of feed so her baby pigs can live on her milk she is producing. After feeding the sows on the hog floors, Dad and I feed the weaned pigs on the other hog floors. Weaned pigs are pigs that are separated from their mothers. They can live on their own. These pigs won't leave their pen until they are ready to go to the market. After the hog floors are done, Dad, Sammy, and I check the hoop buildings. While Dad checks them, Sammy and I play with the pigs in the straw bedded hoop building. The pigs like to come up and sniff me. But Sammy likes to chase them away. If Sammy is tired, then she'll let the hogs come up and sniff her, too.

Next, Dad, Sammy, and I do the chores out in the pasture. The pasture has sows with their baby pigs. To do these chores, Dad hitches the trailer up to the four-wheeler. Then, I fill up about a dozen pails of feed and place them in the trailer. With Sammy riding on the four-wheeler or in the trailer, Dad and I drive out to the pastures and feed the sows. Sometimes, if the sow doesn't want to leave her sow hut because of her baby pigs, we'll give her a little feed right outside of her hut. It is fun watching the sows and their little piglets run from their sow huts to the feeding spot in the middle of the pasture. Usually, we feed the sows near the water fountains. Sometimes, the baby pigs like to eat a little sow feed with their mother. It is fun listening to all the noise the sows make eating their food! Sammy likes to watch the sows run around finding their food that Dad is feeding them. When Sammy gets too excited, she'll jump out of the trailer and run around with the little pigs! After the pasture chores are done, we work on the day's job. In the evening, Dad and I check the cows. They are usually ready to get fresh grass, or a new paddock area in the pasture. We have to check to see if their water is working well. Sometimes, they drink from the creek.

That's the daily chores for the summertime. Chores in the summer can take up to half the workday. In the winter, it can take up to the entire day! We do the same chores for the hoop buildings and the hog floors, but when you have to deal with snow and ice, it takes much longer. Our tractor and loader can push away a lot of snow, but we still have to use snow shovels and pick axes to clean the snow and ice away in the spot where the loader can't reach. We have no chores in the pasture during the winter, they are inside of the heated barn, or the baby pigs would freeze to death! I like doing the barn chores because I can get out of the cold weather! The barn has sow huts inside so the sow can make a nice nest for her baby pigs. We can put 24 sows and their baby pigs in the three barn rooms.

The cattle chores are different, too. The cattle are stationed in one pasture for the whole entire winter. The calves are separated so they can be on a special calf diet and sold in February. We have three cattle feeders. Using the large rectangle bales of hay we made all summer, we feed the cattle up to three bales. One large rectangle bale can feed about 35 cows. We have about 75 to feed. (You can see how we feed the cows in the glossary—look under cattle feeder.) I have been feeding the cows in the wintertime in many different types of weather. Problems can arise just when you least expect. A calf can be born unplanned and during a blizzard, the tractor can break down, there can be so much snow that you spend an hour just clearing a path, a cow can break out, and many more problems like that. We have improved our winter feeding and caring for our cowherd that it's much better and easier. I actually kind of enjoy winter-feeding.

Farm Fact: Part of our chores is to count our hogs each month. This gives us an inventory of our hogs to check for theft and to report for marketing purposes.

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