It has been a rainy morning today. I had about 1 3/4 inches of rain in my rain gauge this morning. I realize that many people might think that statement almost bereft of any important meaning. Those who are not engaged in Agriculture, do not have a garden, and have no yard to mow, may very well find rain nothing but an inconvenience or even a hated problem. We’re going back to the basics for this post.

Farm ponds and creeks are very important water sources for plants and animals. They are also great for fishing and playing! I have spent Many an hour fishing in farm ponds and enjoyed many a meal of bluegill and bass that I caught and cleaned myself. A historic drought in the early 1950’s was the incentive for many ponds being built across Southwest Missouri. Most of the elm trees on my boyhood farm were cut down so the cattle could eat the leaves since there was no grass. Ponds don’t help the pasture that much but they at least are places for livestock to drink.

Livestock drinking brings up another aspect of water availability. Winter cold means that water sources can freeze over unless it is a sufficiently large creek or other moving body of water. Cows and calves can’t break the ice by themselves if it is thick. I remember many times taking an old axe out to the pond and chopping through the ice to create a hole where the cattle could get a drink of water. That is cold, wet, hard work. There has to be Enough water underneath that ice for the cattle to get a drink. That is one place where that 1 3/4 inches of rain I got today becomes VERY important.

Rain this morning!

Rain this morning!

Rain is very important to Agriculture. Water availability may very well be THE MOST IMPORTANT factor across all of Agriculture. Crops need rain, livestock need water. Animals depend on crops to eat that depend on water to grow. Water is the basis for cleaning pretty well everything relating to farm production. The biologic nature of Agriculture means that everything has a time limit. Everything either goes bad after a certain amount of time (think of rot, mold, and decay), or starts off bad as in manure, contaminants like ag chemicals, and waste  animal parts in meat processing.

I grew up on a dairy farm where the equipment had to be carefully cleaned and dis-infected after every milking twice a day every day. Think about how quickly milk goes bad when left out. My brother had a gallon of milk spill in his car once and it stank that car up for the rest of its life! Water is the basis for cleaning in almost every part of life. Guess what? Animals poop! (Poop is such a silly sounding word. It makes 6 year olds out of everybody. I always want to giggle when I hear “poop….. poop, poop, poop”.) Manure is a much more civilized term. Milk cows produce manure and they really don’t care where they let it fly. You haven’t lived until you have had a cow swish a manure filled tail around while you are attaching the milker and it wraps around the back of your head and slaps you in the face and mouth! Take my dad’s word for it! Milk barns have to be cleaned of all that manure during and after every milking. Manure is right there at the production point of milk. The two have to be separated. Water is the key.

Water is used for mechanical advantage in processing a lot of produce. Apples,  cucumbers, and many other types of fruits and vegetables are examples where sluices are used to convey produce from one place to another without bruising it.  The product gets washed and safely moved at the same time. Water is safer, cheaper, easier, and more energy efficient at moving things than belts or rollers.

The next time the weather forecast calls for rain, think about all the benefits that water brings with it. I happen to enjoy water quite a bit. I enjoy drinking it alot. Here is a link to an article discussing the value of water as a vital commodity to be invested in for the 21st century. Just a head’s – up, water availability is going to become very critical to everyone in the next 50 years. That rain may be a nuisance, but you better keep praying for it.


Heifers versus Herefords?

Grab a seat. Get some chips and a beverage. Here’s another cautionary tale. Go ahead, I’ll wait here until you get back.

imagesOnce upon a time, I was actually much younger. This was before I got married so it really was some time back. ( I have been married over 30 years.) My parents were great friends with a family from a large city in Nebraska where I was actually born. These people were bred, born, and raised city folk. Nothing wrong with that. I just didn’t realize how much of a difference that really was (and is). This family came to visit our farm every year. This was huge. They had a son just a little older than myself and we would spend the whole week fishing. This went on for years.

This family also had two younger daughters and, logically enough, there came a time when that started to register in my fishing beclouded mind. (Fishing tends to overwhelm rationality at times. That is a story for another day.) I was talking to one of these young ladies one day about cattle and happened to mention Hereford heifers. Ok. Put the chips down for a second.  Here is the point of this story. The young lady replied ” What is the difference between a “heifer” and a “Hereford”?

I literally stood there a minute looking like one of the largemouth bass her brother and I had been catching out of our farm ponds for the last umpteen years: my mouth hanging wide open and a dazed look in my eyes. She was a more or less adult young woman who had been visiting our farm most of her life. She was reasonably intelligent and well spoken. She was a High School graduate. My mind struggled with the concept that she did not understand what a “heifer” was and what a “Hereford” was! The kicker, here, is that I tried to explain that a “heifer” was an immature female bovine and a “Hereford” was a bovine breed. I couldn’t get the point across.

I got the point very well. Fundamental information that is basic to life on a farm may be, and probably will be, incomprehensible to someone whose life has had little common frame of reference. THIS IS IMPORTANT! The whole raison d’être (look it up) behind this blog is that I feel the need to help expose people to a frame of life reference that is shrinking exponentially. I must always keep in mind that some of the references I make have to be explained in language that people who don’t share my background can understand. That is what Communication is! True communication is not just vomiting out reams of information. True communication is imparting information to others in such a fashion that they can absorb it, understand it, and implement it in their life. My “story”, and your story, and anybody’s story deserves to be told in the most comprehensible fashion possible. I may have to get out my iPad and my stylus and diagram that story with stick figures. Agriculture, rural Ag culture, deserves the best treatment I can give it.

Let me know if I get to spouting Agspeak “gobbledygook”. I work in Healthcare. I know how frustrated people can get when they don’t understand. Do you know what is worse? Worse is when people THINK they understand but they don’t. Being afraid to speak up and ask for clarification is even worse than that! Communicate with me so I can more effectively communicate with you! Let’s all try to learn a little bit.

Existential stuff. Who am I?

On the back deck

On the back deck

Hi! I grew up on a small dairy farm in Southwest Missouri back when you could throw a rock and hit a small dairy farm in Southwest Missouri. You would have to have a much better arm now than 40 years ago. That is part of the reason I am blogging.

My parents came from farm families. My wife worked on her grandparent’s farm. My two children spent time on their grandparent’s farm. My grandchildren may not have that opportunity. There are many life enriching lessons that can be learned from contact with the realities of farm living. These are lessons we all can benefit from. I want anyone who is looking for a richer life to, at least vicariously, enjoy some of these experiences.

I don’t live in the country at the moment, but I have in the past. I work in Healthcare and have for over 20 years. I feel a great connection with my patients partly because I have experienced the realities of life and death on a farm. Farm life involves highs and lows and a close connection to the Real World of seasons, natural cycles, and their effects on animal and crop vitality.

I love God, my wife, my family, singing, gardening, fishing, and reading Science Fiction among other things. I love living in Southwest Missouri. I love expressing myself. Hopefully, in ways that can influence others.02-14-09 copies 004