Let’s sit and talk a minute.

OK. I have been blogging for a week now. Blogging is something I have thought about doing for a while. I just didn’t have the impetus to start investigating the process. The Ag Communication class I’m taking at Missouri State “pushed the rock off the top of the hill”. Are you ready for my “Manifesto”?

Wikipedia (which I LOVE!) has the following definition of a “Manifesto”. “A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus and/or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual’s life stance.” I realize this is somewhat grandiose for a small little blog. After all, this blog may never be seen by more than a few of  my Facebook  and Twitter friends and those involved in my college class. Or, maybe it will. You never know what will catch the interest of the Net and go viral. Lets look at that whole “political, artistic, life stance” part of the above definition.

I passionately believe in the values inherent in people connecting to the land on which they live. This connection may be in little things such as planting a flower or a tree, watching a sunset from your front porch, or feeding hummingbirds in your back yard.  The ultimate expression of this is dependance on your land to provide life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through agriculture.

I’m referring back to Wikipedia again: “Agriculture, also called farming or husbandry, is the cultivation of animalsplantsfungi, and other life forms for foodfiberbiofueldrugs and other products used to sustain and enhance human life.” I was raised on a farm. My parents were raised on farms. My wife’s parents were raised on farms. My wife spent a lot of time on her Grandparent’s farm. My children invested time on their Grandparents farm so they were exposed to some of the realities of farm life. These realities include the vagaries of weather, the fragility of life, what “sustenance and enhancement of life” entails, and a visceral knowledge of where food comes from. My grandchildren are one step further away from experiencing the realities of farm living at this point. I believe they need to connect to these realities in order to form a solid basis on which to make the decisions which will influence their lives.

The Political aspect of my manifesto is that everybody needs to face life with the type of personal responsibility that comes from things like knowing you have to feed the cows (pigs, sheep, chickens, goats, CHIILDREN!) or they won’t get fed. We all need to confront the Real World. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places Physiologic needs like air, water, and food as the basis that has to be met before anything else in life can be sustainable. Personally experiencing a cow give birth or a field of wheat waving in the breeze as it goes into the combine explicitly defines how our physiologic needs are being met. 

This is where the “Artistic” part of the Manifesto comes into play. It is physically impossible for everyone to directly experience the real world  as expressed by Real World agriculture. It is impossible to try to  supply a meaningful relationship between all the people in the United States and the physical reality of modern agriculture. There are too many people, there is too little time, it is too impracticable to attempt in a meaningful fashion. Part of the answer lies in media. A picture is worth a thousand words. A video can be worth way more. Words have painted pictures in our minds for thousands of years. Language was invented as a way to convey information. Artists convey ideas and emotions with the power to influence lives and change the world. “Give me Liberty or give me Death”. “Remember the Alamo”. “I have a dream”. Memes like these resonate through the years with the power to infect the hearts  and minds of ordinary people resulting in extra-ordinary, even supra-ordinary life change. I am admittedly somewhat out of context but consider the Bible. James 3:5 states “…Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark”. I can only hope to spark thought in my Readers.

My life stance requires me to act. My Instructor in the first Ag Communication class of the semester passionately expressed how “we have to tell our story or someone else will”. Passion is a wonderful thing to watch. The eyes spark fire. The body leans in to the audience. The intensity of the voice is not in volume but in tone and tension. There is no possibility of passive non-involvement when someone speaks with true passion. My words may not carry the eloquence of the ages. My pictures may not embody “LIFE!”. My related experiences may not grab something deep inside you and yank it screaming into the light of a new and glorious world. Do not doubt that what I say is said with passion. I will tell my story and I will change the world with my little vignettes of life connected to agriculture. I will die trying.

Calf Scour Yellow

Once upon a time, there was a High School that decided to arrange a deal for the Basketball team to all order game shoes together. The arrangement was made that the Team would put in their combined order for game shoes resulting in uniformity in their uniform shoes. They would all be the same style and color. Now, this was way back in the day. Shoes didn’t much come in many different styles or colors. I know this may seem mind boggling to people who have grown up with the overwhelming plethora of styles, shapes, soles, names, colors, and brands that are offered these days. This was kind of a big deal to the players who would all be getting this same shoe. The big day came and the shoes were handed out to the team……… and they were CALF SCOUR YELLOW! Oh, the HORROR!!!!

Those of you out there who are familiar with the phenomenon of “calf scours” will immediately bring to mind a particular shade of putrid yellow. It is an almost fluorescent color with maybe a hint of “biliousness”. ( I really don’t think “biliousness ” is a word but it is descriptive.) Scours is otherwise pretty much known as diarrhea. It is a not uncommon affliction of calves. It particularly affects calves confined together and fed together. (We will discuss bucket feeding in a later post.) It is fairly treatable but can can be very serious to fatal if ignored. You can Google an image of it if you are really enthused by my description. We had seen scours On our shoes ( actually, our barn boots), but to see this as an intentional color choice was, at the least, disconcerting. Imagine with me running up and down the basketball court looking like you had waded through liquid calf excrement. We could only look forward to an entire basketball season beset with trying to hide our feet under the sideline bench. Kind of like tying to hide a “hickey”, it only made the embarrassment more acute. This color choice was not repeated in subsequent years.

Here is a link for those of you interested in a more in-depth investigation of the phenomenon known as “calf scours”.

http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/courses-jmgay/VMADCalfScours.htm

Snapshots

  • Drinking well water from a tin cup.
  • Whipporwills at dusk.
  • A skunk waddling in the pasture.
  • Watching thunderheads build.
  • Drought strangling the crops.
  • PICNICS!
  • Gettin’ the cows in for milking.
  • Picking gooseberries,
  • Chiggers behind the knees.
  • Rain on the barn roof.
  • Minnows in the creek.
  • FISHING!
  • Feeding the cows in winter.
  • Cleaning the milk barn.
  • Feeding the cows in summer.
  • Bucking bales of hay.
  • Riding on the tractor.
  • SUNDAYS!
  • Homemade ice cream and fresh blackberries.
  • Bucket feeding calves.
  • Shoveling manure.
  • Wiffle ball with my brothers.
  • Working side by side with Dad.
  • FAMILY!
My old dog. Long time gone.

My old dog. Long time gone.

I want to be an Astronaut when I grow up.

I grew up in the Golden Age (at least to me) of Space Exploration to this point. President Kennedy set the goal of putting an American on the moon in a speech to Congress on May 25th, 1961. I was not even two years old. Exciting news of rocket launches and astronauts who were practically supermen filed the Evening News with Walter Cronkite on a constant basis. My twin brother and I had a model of the LLM (Lunar Landing Module) in our bedroom on the window sill. That is the only model of any kind I have ever put together.

Older generations wanted to be Train Engineers or Fighter Pilots….. or Veterinarians. Generations of farm kids have grown up needing to be a Veterinarian. It has historically been harder to get into Vet School than into Medical School. You have to have better grades to get the letter DVM after your name than MD or DO. (Trivia point – Medical Doctors and Doctors Osteopathy sit the same Medical Board tests.) It takes roughly 7 years of College to get a DVM degree.

EVERY Rancher/ Farmer has had the gut wrenching experience of finding an animal in distress that needs a Vet…… yesterday. You call the number underlined in the phone book (old school) or already listed in your phone contacts because you have called them before and WILL call them again. Sometimes, this call is in the middle of the night. Vets will probably tell you this call is always in the middle of the night. The frame of reference here is that you can’t load a 1200 lb cow suffering from Grass Tetany (which is a magnesium deficiency resulting from eating too much green grass) in the car and drive to the Vet’s office. Severe examples of this condition can result in this roughly $1200 animal lying prostrate on the ground gasping for breath. UGLY! You wait for the Vet to get there. It seems like it takes forever. The cow is still gasping and thrashing around. You watch the road. You see lights coming over the hill but it is the neighbor’s kid, John, getting home from work at McDonalds. The Vet finally turns in the driveway. You climb in the Vets truck and drive out across the pasture to where the cow is. The cow shows up in the truck headlights and it hasn’t died yet, Thank You, God! He hooks up an IV and the cow is (hopefully) fine the next day.

That is just one example of what a Large Animal Vet means to a Farmer.

Bessie the cow vs Bessie the pig

Me nombre es Don. FYI, that is the extent of the Spanish you will probably ever see in this blog. Hope I spelled it right. (Spelling is a topic we’ll get to on some other post.) “Don” is what pretty well everyone but my Mom calls me. She still calls me “Donald”.  “Hey, Don” usually refers to me because there are not that many “Dons” roaming the wild. This is a little less accurate in my particular case because I am an identical twin. Again, more on that in some future post. (Piece of trivia – Most “Dons” I ever meet are my age or older which is over 50.)

Applying the same logic to “Bessie” would mean that when you talk to someone about “Bessie” they are pretty sure about who or what you are referring to. Having a cow named “Bessie” and a pig named “Bessie” on the same farm just leads to mass confusion. When you holler “Bessie got out in the road”, whomever you are hollering at doesn’t know who got out! Was it the cow or the pig? This could be a problem.

Now, to the point of this post. Why is this blog named the way it is? Names have power. I am not getting all arcane and mystic here. Names confer information. That is why you do not name both your pig and your cow “Bessie”! (Well, I guess George Foreman got away with it.) “MeanwhileUpOnTheFarm” came from thinking about “Meanwhile, back on the ranch” which is a classic movie/ TV phrase. I was raised on a farm not a ranch. The relevant phrase to me would then be “Meanwhile, down on the farm”. The whole point of this blog is that I am NOT “down” or depressed about farm life!  I think it is the BEST way of life! Therefore I am “UP” on life on the farm. There you go. A semi-rational explanation of a totally emotional decision about the name of this blog. Go out there and Name Something!

Intermittent periods of Light and Dark

What do you know? Its brighter during the day and darker at night. Pretty obvious, right? Almost as obvious as the fact that fewer people every year are exposed to commonplace realities faced routinely by folks who live outside of cities. One reality is the fact that it really is brighter during the day and darker at night. Take an old quilt out in the yard as far from light pollution as you can get. Great company, some good beverages, maybe a bag of chips, and you are ready to lie back and enjoy actually seeing the stars. Take your time. The stars aren’t going anywhere.