It’s been one of those weeks at our farm. No, it’s been one of those years or maybe a decade or possibly a century where there is always something in need of repair. Really, it’s more like a whole bunch of somethings are perpetually broken. My skidloader recently broke, and the tile lines have been broken for quite a while. I saw a joke going around the internet the other week pertaining to this concept of the never-ending fix-it list.
Crop farmers: “Run on Sunday, fix on Monday.”
Livestock farmers: “There’s a 50% chance I find something broken any day of the week but 100% on a holiday.”
Dairy farmers: “What day is it?”
The top thing on the fix-it list at our farm has been drain tile. I share a mutual enjoyment with a friend of taking logs, which could be burned for heat, and converting them to lumber. He happens to be a landscaper and lets me borrow his excavator when it’s not doing something important for his business. This week, it wasn’t busy for him so I’m busy using it before it needs to do some landscaping, probably for the rest of the summer. After two years of the wettest weather I’ve ever experienced, we’re fixing the new problems created by the insane amount of water as well as old ones that were exposed by the ultimate drain tile stress test. Last year, we got many problems fixed. And, this year is cleanup of all the ones we missed on the initial attempt to dry areas out. There were a few areas where I fixed two or three obvious problems of water on top of the ground and missed a few smaller ones. The problem was that in some areas of the pastures and fields, the tile isn’t very deep due to the clay being close to the surface. That’s not a problem normally, but when it never stops raining, cows can step very deep in the soil and the manure spreader can sink almost as deep. The tile got crushed in a number of places.
I’ve been told my great-grandfather was the first person in the county to install drain tile in his fields. I believe this based on the number of repairs I’ve had to do to aging clay tiles that are quickly approaching an age where, were they human, they would be receiving a letter from the president commending them on reaching centenarian status. It’s always an adventure when I start digging up a drain tile hole or geyser. I might find clay tile. I might find concrete tile. I might find plastic tile. I might find all three in the same place. Years of repair and replacement, some of which was done quickly with what was available, have led to some head scratching moments of wondering how this mess occurred and how to remedy it. The answer is obviously to just connect it all together and make sure it’s all running downhill, but the tricky part comes with the wondering whether I’m working on the same line 30 feet away or if I’ve dug just past where another line joins in, or maybe I found another parallel line. Belle Plaine Block and Tile have been added to my phone’s speed dial to get that one adapter or wye needed that never seems to be on hand so I’m not making quick fixes I’ll have to dig up again 10 years later.
My wife likes to say that I always have something I should be doing when I say we can do another thing. In the world of dairy farming, or at least the way I do it for better or worse, there’s always something to do. The never-ending list makes it easy to stay out of trouble as well as other people’s business. If you ever find yourself lacking in things to do, stop by my farm. I guarantee there is something you can fix for me. Until next month, keep living the dream and repairing the things that break along the way.
    Tim Zweber farms with his wife Emily, their 3 children and his parents Jon and Lisa by Elko, Minnesota.