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January, That Quiet Time on the Farm

| 1/25/2010 8:59:52 AM

January was always my favorite time on the farm.

During the 1940s and 1950s, almost every farm in our small rural community was a family farm. Let us describe that farm as a rather small holding, from 40 to 150 acres or so. Each farm had its inhabitants: first the human family, then a few cows (either a small beef or dairy herd), a few sows, some sheep and, of course, chickens.

Each month all year long was a working month – except January. January is named in honor of the Roman god, Janus, the two-headed god. One head looks backward, the other forward – into past and into the future. That’s the way it is with farming, too. It is a time to look at the past year’s production accomplishments and to look to the future and plan for the coming year’s production cycle.

And for me, and my dad before me, the best time to do that was during early morning chores in the barn. That was an ideal time to go a little more slowly and spend quality time with livestock.

We usually started feeding in the hog barn. There the ever-hungry hogs would greet us with grunts and squeals as we carried their special treats to them. Even though they had automatic feeders, when we walked in with a metal basket full of ear corn for them, they acted as though they had never had a bite to eat. As we walked amongst them, they relished the idea of a scratch behind their ears. In fact, most would rub against my legs just to get a little special attention. And it was good for me too. It gave me a chance to look over the animals to make sure all were healthy. These were the animals that brought in the most money throughout the year. Healthy, well-fed hogs gain weight more quickly, finish faster and go to market earlier.

Next we would go to the sheep shed where the old ewes were impatiently waiting to be fed. It seemed a few of them were always bleating as a way of welcoming me to their pen. The older ewes would line up at the trough waiting for their ration of grain. And we learned never, ever to climb in the haymow to throw down a bale of hay before sprinkling grain in their feed box. My goodness but they would all scold me to let me know they were unhappy. But once fed, they contentedly munched away while I put hay in their manger and spread a new layer of straw in the loafing area.


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