FARM LIFE FROM A FARM WIFE: Farm humming with plenty of animals

Kay Reminger

We have a proper McDonald’s farm over here on Leopolis Road. All we’d need is a couple of chickens.

Wait. We did that already.

I’m not a chicken farmer. While it was a very good experience, I’ve found that raising meat chickens is worrisome.

When I had to scoop one, two, and then three lifeless, little sunny-yellow forms out of the incubator, I realized with a sinking heart this wasn’t for me. I literally cried and hastily checking each morning, found I was holding my breath until I discovered everyone moving and cheeping. Getting the rest to full term, I had overfed them, all waddling around like mini turkeys close to butcher date. I think I could try again, but my husband’s stern no overrules. So these days, we just have pigs, cats, heifers and cows, which is great plenty, keeping my natural farm girl heart full.

When I was a kid, we never had pigs on the farm. Picking up our litter of four 40-pounders, I again marveled at the uniqueness of these animals. Their little round snouts, curly tails and perpetual smiles never cease to amaze me. Unloading them into their new digs, the neighboring heifers all gathered ‘round bellering their welcome.

After they were here for a time, two of them burrowed their way under one teeny part of the fence that was not tightly secured. Spotting one dillydallying around outside of its pen, my husband and I hurried out to corral it back in. As we started walking toward the escapee, it started walking toward us, instinctively knowing we were safe. One was inside with the heifers, intertwining itself through their pen. Ears perked forward, sniffing, the heifers were wondering why the little beast with these half-pint legs was over on their turf. Everybody eventually got back home.

Two kitties live up in our barn mow. When I was away on a trip late February, my cat-loving friend reminded my husband quite often, “Did you feed the cats?” He was perpetually reminded to tend. They love only me. He barely saw them as when he opened the barn door they scampered to one of their many hiding spots.

Creatures of habit, I’ve found they do not like their domain tampered with. We hauled big round bales of shredded cornstalks off our field and stored them in the mow when we had that tantalizing spell of August weather mid-April. (I told my husband as I was sweating in the tractor cab, “Do not let me complain about the heat.”) The cats disappeared.

One day, I opened the barn door and per my usual singsong greeting, “Hi kitties. Hi girlies. Good morning,” they jumped down from a bale and immediately knotted themselves around my ankles, purring, talking back to me. Winking, they looked up as if to say, “Hi Kay. You we trust.” So gratifying. My friend laughs because she knows I have not been in love with cats, like, ever. She swears one day they’ll make it to the house. My husband’s stern no overrules. Zero mice population; those outdoor kitties are doing their job.

Back in the day when we were milking cows we’d be at chores for hours each day. The morning and night milking alone would take over two hours, then cleaning and feeding, fieldwork and various fix-it projects. As we aged, we just didn’t want to spend that energy tackling the sheer volume of work. Getting rid of all animals wasn’t for us either (the place looked like a ghost town) so now that we have Holsteins on the farm — heifers and cows — we’re back in the saddle. This time, however, no milking. Chores, while still daily, don’t require the backbreaking, overwhelming work load.

My husband, using two interchangeable skidder buckets, completes chores relatively easily. He has one for feeding and one for cleaning and bedding. The feed is dropped from my brother’s main farm every couple of days for the heifers in our heifer barn and for the cows in the cow barn. The cows are bred, the heifers are not, so we watch the heifers for heat detection and call to have them bred.

Cleaning barn, he opens up doors on one end and, using the skidder, makes five or six swipes down the aisle, dumping the full buckets into the waiting manure spreader. Before he does this, he scrapes behind each free-stall, bedding with sand as needed. Meanwhile, the cows are partitioned off by gates in the cow yard. When he cleans the cow yard he chases them back into the barn, again securing them inside with chained gates. Their feed bunk is outside and with those same gates, we wall them off when feeding. It’s really a convenient set-up, easy and secure.

Pigs, cats, heifers and cows; a McDonald’s farm, full of God’s unique creatures.

(“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26)

Kay Reminger was born and raised on a dairy farm, and she married her high school sweetheart, who happened to farm for a living in Leopolis. Writing for quite a few years, she remains focused on the blessings of living the ups and downs of rural life from a farm wife’s perspective.