Lots to do. Even in the dead of winter there is work to be done. Right now we have a couple of pieces of equipment torn apart awaiting a complete engine overhaul. My husband is Master of the Used Universe. He has never bought a new anything…. well maybe underwear and a couple pair of dress shoes in the past 40 years, but I buy that. He should have grown up with his parent’s generation during the Great Depression because his way of life is reuse, repurpose, overhaul, fix it up! He keeps our local paint distributor in business.
I neglected to give credit to the winter farm scene. http://society6.com/artist/ellemoss
My job, this time of the year, is getting all the paperwork done for Tax Time. Since we have employees, that adds another dimension to the job and since we have an excavating business as well as the farm business, there are sometimes 2 sets of paper shuffling to keep straight. It’s also “clean-out-the-file-cabinet-drawer” time and after that deciding “What-do-I-do-with-all-this-stuff” decisions. We have been computerized with our bookkeeping for at least 20 years which has helped immensely but there are still a lot of receipts and invoices to keep track of.
Last week my husband filled a couple of January grain contracts by hauling grain out of the round storage bins and selling it…. Income for the non-growing season. I referred to farming as a kind of a dance in another post awhile back http://retiredruth.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/farmin-aint-no-picnic because it seems like you have to keep moving no matter what the season to stay in step. We store almost all of our corn crop (which was less than usual this year with the drought and less than fabulous growing season). In any business you need cash flow and sometimes in the middle of the winter… there just isn’t any! Part of the dance is deciding whether to contract your grain at a certain price for future delivery. It’s kind of like going to Las Vegas with your grocery money and hoping you come back home with enough to feed your family for a few months.
We don’t have livestock any more but we had hogs on this farm since long before I arrived. Livestock farmers never run out of things to do. Winter can be hard on animals so feed and water and care are especially important. During the winters our hogs would huddle together to stay warm in the finishing houses. We had heaters but the barns were open on one side and when it’s 10 degrees outside and windy, it’s hard to keep the area warm. Unfortunately sometimes they would pile up and one would smother. So just keeping an eye on the herd and keeping them moving around was a chore.
Just like humans, hogs can catch colds, too. And they are not very good about covering their mouths when they sneeze and cough so a simple cold in one animal could mean a fast moving epidemic.
I am going to digress here just a bit. There is nothing wrong with the animal rights movement in general. Out on the farm, I just never understood the criticism we sometimes received about the care of our animals. If the sale of livestock is part of your livelihood, why in the world would you mistreat your animals? A sick or mistreated animal is not a good product whether it produces milk or meat or other byproducts. And if you don’t have a good product, you don’t make any money. Just seems like common sense to me. I know there are people who DO mistreat animals, but the farmers I know are too smart and caring to have an operation like that. (Ok rant over.)
Water was always available for the hogs but even heated waters can freeze up, so that was a constant chore as well. Keeping feed flowing to all pigs is required and looking out for the weaker hogs that get pushed out of the way by the more aggressive animals was also a constant activity. We had a farrow to finish operation at our farm, which just means that our sows gave birth to the pigs, we weaned them at the correct age, we finished them out and sent them to market. Baby pigs come when they are good and ready and more than likely it’s in the middle of the night. When it was time for the sows to farrow, my husband would make several trips to the barn to make sure things were progressing well. There were a few times he spent the night in the barn just keeping an eye on all the mommas.
Other winter farm activities include ordering seed and chemicals for spring planting, regular maintenance on all equipment so everything is ready to roll when nice weather begins. Attending crop insurance meetings, farm educational seminars to keep up with the latest products, trends, and technologies is a big one, too. Some farmers have even been known to take a few days off for vacation during the winter months. This year our vacation will consist of needed surgery for my husband because you can’t be laid up in the middle of spring planting or fall harvest. I’m pretty sure part of his recovery time will also include searching online for that next piece of “used” equipment!
Ending this post on a lighter note…..