- Van Wert
Diary of the Schwab Family - January 17-23, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Good Morning Monday. Hello to another beautiful week. As the daily routine moves along with the feeding and watering, Jeff already ran into a problem. A tire blew out on the trailer. That is a few hundred dollar cost that wasn’t expected. He called a local place to take in the tire and see if it could be repaired or to purchase a new one. Since Toni did not have to go to her off-farm job today, she always gets the rover jobs. Toni hauled the tire, dropped it off, and went back late in the day to pick it back up in between other duties. Why does it always seem like the hard winter months have more things go wrong? Few other occupations provide the variety of physical work and productivity indoors and out. It is true that the emotional attachment to the lifestyle keeps us here. From a totally logical and practical viewpoint, many people have wondered why we keep farming and keep putting ourselves in such hardships. To understand that would be to understand the bigger picture which spans lifetimes… ours and our children’s. The work is rigorous and challenging and requires a variety of managerial, scientific and practical skills and this is what our children have been learning all their lives. As I’ve heard more than one business owner say, it is these life experiences and skills that gives “farm kids” an advantage over other young people during and after college…especially in the job market.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
A sense of family intertwines many farm families and with that brings a need to work in the community. We enjoy working with other farm families as we work together in our churches, 4-H organization, county and state pork producers, county and state Farm Bureau and our township land-use committee. We enjoy helping to organize one of the community’s Easter egg hunts for the children of our community every year. As we start to think about it already for this year, it brings welcome thoughts of spring. Lauren was selected to be a National Collegiate Agricultural Ambassador. Her job is to increase public understanding of the food and fiber industry, and how the agriculture industry affects their daily life. Another goal is to create awareness of how science is used to meet tomorrow’s global challenges in the production of quality food, feed and fiber. In addition, she promotes education and awareness of the importance of agriculture and agribusiness to the general public. Many ask how we find the time to work seven days a week and still find the energy to want to give back to the community and educate others about agriculture. I say that when you spend that much time with people working to exhaustion, you get to know each other really well and getting to know each other is the key to our team work and filling in when another member of the team is in college classes or out educating others. Jeff always says he’s never been more tired but wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the intangible rewards associated with farming that keep us going. Long-term planning is extremely difficult as production and income are determined by a combination of weather, disease, price fluctuation, and many, many other variables. Too many to list them all. Research shows that farmers have a higher-than-average level of daily anxiety (I guess that’s why Jeff’s hair turned gray early), but in general farmers enjoy what they do and certainly enjoy what they produce. I know that’s true for us. We make arrangements for the transportation, purchase, and sale of our pigs, and negotiate and coordinate all agreements relating to them. So, besides spending many hours in the barns, Jeff spends a lot of time meeting with or talking on the phone with other business people. Today, he was spending time with someone who provides us with breeding stock and another business who supplies our fuel. Farmers today are not just farmhands, they are business people too – true entrepreneurs.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Snow Day this week for the local school district which means Toni doesn’t need to pick up the neighbor and drop her off at school. As everyone heads out to start weaning pigs, Ryan has to stop and take a considerable amount of time moving snow out of the barnyard with the skid steer loader. I guess he forgot about Mom because Toni had to find her own shovel to dig her car out so she could head off to work. Sure wish he had started with the driveway by my car first, but they couldn’t even move around between barns until he dug them out. Of course by the time Toni got home late in the day, her area of the driveway was done..Thanks Ryan. Traveling with the pigs on the trailer was cold and slow going. It took Jeff longer than usual to drive the truck and trailer to the farm that raises our pigs. While Jeff is gone, the others start pressure washing the inside of particular barns. This keeps the barns clean and sanitary. Jeff is a stickler for cleanliness and always tells us how important it is to keeping all the animals healthy. Jeff schedules herd visits with our veterinarian once a month. The doctor checks the entire herd. Can you say that you get checked out by your doctor once a month when you’re not even sick? Most people say the animals get better health care than we do; I guess they’re right when you look at that way.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Another Snow Day for the local school district. I’m keeping count and that makes five. Sure looks like they are going to have to make up at least a couple of days in June. We received a call from the veterinarian to schedule the monthly herd visit. One of the bins was frozen and the feed wouldn’t come out. Fortunately, there are other bins that contain the same feed, but carrying it bucket by bucket from farther away is tough and slow. One sow today had several pigs and another only had a couple. In order to help each and every pig, we will move some of the pigs from the overcrowded litter to the other. The scientific term for this is cross-fostering. It has been researched by swine experts and it works. This saves the pigs that would otherwise not get enough milk in the overcrowded litter. The two litters are evened out in numbers and the sows can provide enough milk for all the pigs. It really is a win-win situation that allows all the pigs to survive and flourish.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
The temperature is minus 9 degrees outside. Anyone want to volunteer to help us? We didn’t think we get any volunteers to help us with the outside work. The furnaces are running non-stop to heat the barns. Sometimes I swear our toes are going to fall off. This time of year it is even more important than ever to check and double-check the furnaces, electric, and plumbing in all the barns. We can’t take a chance of the heat stopping or the water lines freezing up. Self-motivation and self-discipline this time of year is a must. In addition to everyone watching out for the problems associated with the cold temperatures, we have to take advantage of any downtime in order to take care of long-term projects. The few spare minutes at the end of the day was devoted to finishing up the re-organization of the tool shed. Jeff, Lauren, and Ryan finished putting all supplies into bins, cubbies, on hooks, all labeled and ready. Now we know what we have on hand when a repair is needed. This makes the operation run more efficiently, saves money from buying parts that we already have, and just as important, continues to teach Lauren and Ryan the importance of organization and saving money. Teachable life moments that they can use in their own households some day.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Good Grief… didn’t make Sunday School again this morning even after all four of us getting up at 2:45 a.m. It was hard enough today to just make the 10:30 am service. There are too many road blocks on the weekends because most of the baby pigs are born on Saturdays and Sundays. The time it takes for ice and snow removal has been tremendous because it just hasn’t let up this winter. Later today we will do the afternoon feeding and watering and make a list of items to tackle for Monday. Toni will help in the afternoon and then edit some of the forms we use on the farm. It is important to document everything, keep track of all litters, and use the forms and records as a tool for communication between all of us. For example, if Ryan fills out a status form on a sow and she needs checked later, it is left near her pen. Ryan may be gone in the afternoon, but Lauren takes over. She will look for any status forms, read them, and act accordingly. Even when we are not working side by side every minute, we communicate via the forms. It is very similar to a nurse making updates on a patient’s chart for when the doctor returns.