I promise you that I really don’t mind writing these blogs.  Yet, look at the time or rather weeks that I’ve been MIA.  I also promise you that I have not been on a beach somewhere neglecting my duties.  Quite the opposite.  Days seem to come and go so quickly, much like the fleeting hours of light from sunup to sundown.  Which reminds me, can I just take a sentence here to complain about daylights savings time?  Why on earth are we still practicing this ridiculous manipulation of time and daylight?  Just leave the clock alone and let the sun shine when it’s going to shine. It’s bad enough we get limited daylight but when it gets dark long before supper something is not right.

So back to my logical excuses why I am failing at my weekly blog I promised myself to write in 2018.  Generally I find myself busy hustling here and there and then I’ll see that “great photo” or I think “that would be great for the blog”.  I take the photo, jot down a few notes, and then before I know it the weeks over and I didn’t find the creative space to sit and write.  That is one thing that I completely underestimated within my writing goals.  I would love to get tips from any professional writers reading this blog.  How do you craft a creative story-telling blog if you are a) rushed for time b) stressed c) tired after a long day of chasing cattle and kids d) don’t think you have stories exciting enough to share e) you’re irritated and just not in the “writing mood”.  Throwing all of that aside, here I am, sun shining, coffee hot, feeling good and trying to remember all those mental notes of the last 6 weeks to share.

I do have one funny story to share.  The overhead shop door at our rented farm all of the sudden didn’t open.  It has a motorized opener and we had an issue with it months back so I was thinking maybe it is the wiring or a fuse again.  I attempted a fix, with little knowledge I have in this department, but to no avail.  And wouldn’t you know that a huge winter storm was bearing down on us that night.  The first thing I had to do was scale the door upwards about 15 ft and unlock the tracking clamps.  Easy enough and only a slight pucker factor was induced.  Second, I tried lifting the door from the bottom thinking that if I got enough purchase I could open it manually.  I mustered enough to get it waist high but this beast was not rolling up by my mere mortal force (I hear my 9 year old snickering…”Dad, what force?”).  So I grabbed a 2×4 and propped it open, barely, and started looking around for a solution.  Not getting the door open was not an option because both the skid steer and the tractor with hay mixing wagon was inside.  These two machines work each day to feed cattle in the winter…no machine…no ruminating on breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Luckily, I had the pallet forks on the skid steer, so I did an 8 point turn and was able to use the loader to open the door.  Flash forward 3 hours and I’m sitting there thinking how I’m going to get this beast shut.  Of course I didn’t think to tie a rope off on the bottom of it so I could pull it back down.  Remember that storm coming earlier in the story?  It’s an east facing door, so with an expected 6-8 inches and 40+ winds with it, we’d be looking at a shop full of drifted snow covering the hog feed and water tank, not too mention the air hoses and shop tools, etc.  Not getting it shut was also not an option.  So as I’m sitting there trying to problem solve, again, I’m realizing that opening this bad boy was much easier than closing it.  I didn’t have a tall enough ladder so I had to raise the skid loader boom to the top, get out and scale it to reach the forks and then shimmy out to the edge to fasten a cord to the bottom of the door.  All I could hear were two little voices in my head…my wife and my mom saying, “are you crazy? or stupid? Or both?”  Yes, I have had a past of near death experiences and may not be as fleet of foot as I once was, but somebody has to shut this damn door, and soon.  So I get the cord looped around the bottom of the door and I safely get back to ground level…hospital trip averted.  Then I start tugging and 4 or 5 inches is all I can get it to budge…not nearly enough to swing the momentum my way and bring the door down.  I connected another rope thinking if I had more leverage I could pull back and almost sit into it.  Yeah, the Boy Scouts called, they want my knot tying merit badge back.  The cord slipped off as I was tugging with all my might and ass over apple cart I went tumbling…right into a mud puddle….lovely.  And the damn door is still open.  I take a second stab at the knot and triple knot it.  I almost thought to tie it off to my truck and backup but it would be just my luck the angle was wrong and I’d rip the door off its hinge.  Then the proverbial light bulb went off.  I just needed to close it the same way I opened it.  So I backed the skid loader into the shop, tied a few loops around the forks and slowly pulled it down….easy peasy.  And wouldn’t you know it…that frightful early winter storm never made it to the farm…not a single flake!  Oh, the struggles…but at least I had a story for my blog!

We continue to get some wet and cold weather.  The key for healthy and productive livestock is to keep them “high and dry”.  We luckily put up a lot of straw from the transitional oat crop this year.  At the time you wonder why in the hell you’ll rolling up so much straw, sweating profusely as the 96 degree humid sun beats down relentlessly.  Then on that recent 31 degree day, as the 40 mph wind rips from the east and with it brings horizontal rain (that you don’t need to grow a crop), you look back and go ahhhh, yes…we were smart farmers with crystal balls or at least a good memory of winters past.  Well, technically its fall…which makes me a bit sour.  I try not to complain about the weather…I really do.  But can we take a minute to recap the 2018 season?  We went from winter and seemingly blasted through to summer.  It was a late and cold spring with just enough time to plant before it was over 100 degrees on my birthday of May 31st.  That was so odd!  Then we have a very humid and wet summer.  For the first time since I’ve lived here on the farm, almost 10 years, I was fighting off mosquitos at dusk in August.  Then we start my favorite season of fall…or should I say monsoon season.  We had record rainfall and we luckily got the last of the crops out without burying the equipment…a lot of neighbors were not as lucky.  Then as my anticipation awaits a lovely Indian summer, we roll right into the arctic blast freezer.  Needless to say, I’ll be ready to turn the calendar to 2019…and with it hopefully some normal Iowa weather.  I won’t hold my breath.

As I look towards the remaining weeks in the calendar, all I see is future planning and forecasting, budget analysis of 2018 and 2019, and speculation of what the world looks like regarding organic farming and grass-fed beef.  I do know another 6 million pounds of beef was just recalled…again…from JBS.  They are the largest meat packer in the world and with that comes cheating, corruption, and the hunt for the almighty dollar and profits.  Did you know that there was a recall?  And furthermore that there were “grass-fed” beef labels affected in the recall?  Of course you didn’t.  That’s because the mainstream media isn’t talking about it.  A decade ago and this would be front page news.  It would rival the “pink slime” debacle and the “mad cow” craze of years past.  How is it that this is not news worthy? Maybe I’m in the wrong here and it was out there in various media coverage but I’ve asked a few people if they heard about it before I posted it on Facebook and they didn’t have a clue.  Back to the recall.  Essentially, they are grinding up old sick dairy cows and blending it with a bunch of other trim.  If that’s not bad enough for your low cost grocery store price shopper, somehow someone got it approved for “grass-fed” and charged a premium price for it.  I know you’ve read my thoughts before on this subject but PLEASE DO NOT buy “grass-fed” beef at the grocery store.  I can promise you that you are not getting what you think. You are not supporting local farmers and you will eventually kill off all small livestock producers in the United States.  This last statement may seem like an overreach or extreme…I am confident it is not.  More and more of my friends and other similar farmers are either doubting the grind of trying to compete with big grocery stores or quitting the direct-marketing model all together.  I can assure you this farmer is not!!!  I am going to have to get creative though and you will see some changes to our current system.  You may see announcements for different drops and delivery times…different pricing and creative bulk discounts…but always the same great meat raised the same great way!

With that I wish you a great month leading up to the holiday season.  As I shuffle between chores, deliveries and spreadsheets, I will be jotting down more thoughts on seasons past and seasons ahead and will be sure to share them before we ring in the New Year.  I feel great about the future and I hope you do too.

 

Your Farmer,

Nick