Fair season ended for our family a couple days ago when Emily took the kids back up to the state fair one last time for their non-livestock project judging. It’s been a lot of fun seeing them take the projects they worked hard on all year and show them off. The last month has been a lot of trips back and forth to the county fair and then to the state fair with kids, animals and projects. As fun as it has been to see our kids learn and grow through doing, it will be nice to settle into the school year and something of a routine, or at least as much of a routine as we ever have around our farm.
It’s a bit early to be saying the year is winding down from the busy season of seemingly constant haying and moving cattle around the pastures, but the start of school season for the kids is the first sign, like the first leaves falling from the trees not too long from now. We homeschool our kids, and Emily has been busy getting needed books and planning out field trips…the kind of field trips that don’t end at a hayfield but some historic or natural site that is. The boys have put in their fair share of learning in hayfields this year. They did almost all of the wagon unloading and management of the forage bagger this summer. That’s not an easy job, and the consequences if it’s not done right are high. I’m proud of them for doing such a great job with a task I don’t even trust some adults to do without me supervising. It freed me up to keep ahead of the chopper with the mower and get bales wrapped. I’d usually have to be running between unloading haylage and unloading and wrapping bales purchased from other farms.
Our daughter, Hannah, bought her first animals this spring. A flock of bantam Rhode Island Red hens with a rooster she named Tommy. She has spent a lot of time caring for those silly little chickens all summer, and they did well at the fair. Unfortunately, she wasn’t old enough to take them to the state fair like she wished she could. She even hatched an egg in our incubator and expanded her flock. As soon as she had her chick, one of her hens mysteriously died. She learned one of the hard lessons of owning livestock. They sometimes die no matter how pampered and looked after they are. She has all sorts of plans for next year to expand her flock to include even more interesting breeds of chickens. Who knows, maybe someday she’ll take over management of our poultry enterprise.
We don’t chop corn anymore since we converted our herd to being grassfed, but I see some people are starting to chop. I might have to stop in at the neighbors for a smell of fresh chopped corn silage. I love that smell. It’s also fun seeing all those corn stalks disappear into the chopper and come out as tons upon tons of cow chow. Hopefully everyone has a good and bountiful harvest in the next couple months. We’re really dry here but caught a little over an inch of rain a couple of weeks ago to keep the pastures going just a bit longer. We’ll need another rain to come through, or we’ll be sliding into the winter feeding season sooner than I’d prefer. Thankfully this drought is pretty local, so there seems to be plenty of feed available to fill in what we’re not getting off our land. Might only be a three-hay-crop year for us. That hasn’t happened in quite a few years.
Until next month, keep living the dream, and send those kids off to school with some great stories of what they did on the farm this summer.
Tim Zweber farms with his wife, Emily, their three children and his parents, Jon and Lisa, by Elko, Minnesota.