More Human Dinosaurs

It was pretty scary borrowing money and moving onto the farm in 1981 when bankruptcies were common among farmers and neither one of us were raised on a farm. It wasn’t as much of a problem waiting for a farm auction to acquire tools and machinery as it was hard to choose which of the many sales to attend.

The Farmers Home Administration committee doubted my plan to ridge-till (conserving fuel and soil) and also questioned this beautiful woman volunteering to stand by me to look like a famous photo from the Dust Bowl. It wasn’t their money so they approved the loan.

Crop failures in the Soviet Union through the 1970s meant booming exports for U.S. grain producers. Prices were high. Farmers bought land at prices they thought were impossible just a few years before. They borrowed, a lot. Then the holier-than-thou D.C. meddlers decided to sacrifice farmers to punish the Soviets for invading Afghanistan by refusing to let us sell them grain. That’s the story of the “Farm Crisis” in a nutshell. Dawn and I didn’t let that crisis go to waste.

Just for fun let’s put this in perspective. It’s wrong to invade Afghanistan if you are Russia. We are afraid China might cut off our supply of pharmaceuticals like we cut off the Soviet’s supply of grain. But what would happen to Chinese industry if their government decided to simply print their income instead of them selling to us? How long can income be printed? Pretty wild stuff. (Let’s leave that can of worms for now.) Anyway, being the luckiest guy in the world, I carefully timed our entry into the farming business right when the stuff we needed was cheap.

Before moving to the farm I was working for a pig farmer who was quitting and we bought some feeder pigs to raise them in some extra space he had. The barrows (males) we raised to sell and the gilts (females) we bred to a Landrace boar. Landrace is a maternal breed, white and very long. The moms often wean 13 pigs. We were building an efficient sow herd.

There were five acres of wet pasture on the north side of the farm where we put a bunch of huts that hold one sow and litter apiece. Our retired neighbor, Sis, said we should park old cars out there to house the gilts but we already had the huts. It was too wet and the pigs got sick. They required shots three days in a row. We needed help. We hired a high school kid who bragged about getting benched at a football game because he was too rough.

Once we gave shots to 29 litters we decided to get more help. Alan brought a friend the next day and that guy showed Mr. Tough Guy how to do it. Catching baby pigs in a hut with a protective 350# sow is pretty dicey, to say the least. I think the football player was glad he was fired.

We used electric fence to try to keep those sows in. On one side of that pasture was where we had planted a windbreak of ash trees, arborvitae (like a cedar), and dogwood bushes. The sows ran straight ahead through the fence every time they were shocked. I got pretty good at herding sows and splicing wire.

We weren’t big spenders, so Dawn could care for the kids while I farmed. My commute was out the back door. We had a wood heater and wood cook stove. Snow drifted in under the kitchen door. Hans pushed it with his toy skid loader. Someday we would get a full-sized one and the chiropractor would say the bouncing hurt my back. Hahaha. The shovel it replaced didn’t hurt my back? He had no idea. The Valium and Ibuprofen did the trick anyway in a couple of days.

Raising kids on a primitive hog farm makes them think the rest of the world is pretty fine.

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