From the Zweber Farm

Errands with friends

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I heard a story on a radio station about running errands with friends as a way to connect when life is so busy. I think it was related to new mothers, but it reminded me of one of my favorite parts of being a teenager and young adult. This was that my friends and I often accompanied each other while running errands. Tasks like running to the lumberyard are much more fun with someone to chat with while driving, and it’s great to talk through the best way to improvise when what you needed to buy isn’t available for some reason. It doesn’t hurt to have an additional person with you when you need to load a bunch of heavy posts in the back of the truck, either.

My friend, Jon, asked me a couple months ago if I could haul a steer to the butcher shop for them since he doesn’t have a cattle trailer. Being flower farmers, it wouldn’t make much sense for them to have a cattle trailer. It wasn’t a problem to get the bottle calf to their farm when it was 100 pounds. But at 1,400 pounds a couple years later, no matter how well halter trained, I don’t think it’d be a good idea for Jon to try to get it to the butcher shop in the back of his half-ton truck.

I try to help people whenever I can, especially friends, so I told Jon we’d get his Brown Swiss steer there, no problem. I’m hauling cattle and pigs most weeks, so chances were pretty good I’d already have the trailer hooked up on his butcher date if not already hauling some cattle in for our farm that day. 

Usually, this would be the point in a story where I’d reveal how wrong I was in those assumptions, but thankfully this isn’t one of those stories. I have one of those from a couple of days ago that involves fishing round bales out of a creek with the skid loader at 2 a.m., but I will stay on topic here and possibly write about that next month.

The morning I had to get my friend’s steer to the butcher shop, the truck was, in fact, hooked to the trailer and no tires were unexpectedly flat. My son, Jonnie, even came down to the barn and finished milking so that I could get going earlier. It turned out I didn’t have any cattle booked that day, so it would be a trip with a single steer in the trailer. This isn’t very efficient fuel-wise, but Jon was happy to cover the fuel anyway as $30 in fuel is much less than $3,000 to buy a trailer. So, no big deal.

It was a pleasant sunny morning, and their steer behaved quite well, letting us put a halter on him and jumping right up into the trailer with no hesitation. I wish every animal I hauled was that well behaved. A week ago, Dad, Emily and I had to use the manure spreader, a gate and the skid loader to load a couple of heifers into the trailer to take them to the pasture we rent in New Prague. They really did not want to go into the barn to load for some reason. 

Jon joined me to haul his steer in, and we had a great time chatting on the way there, with the windows down, enjoying the weather. After dropping the steer off and sorting out the cutting instructions, we headed to Kwik Trip to refill our coffee cups and get some donuts for the drive home. We stopped off at my rented pastures which were on the way and moved the cattle to their next paddocks. The heifers who were such a pain to get into the trailer a couple of days earlier seemed to be very happy with all the grass they could eat and the attention from Willy the bull.

It’s not as easy to find a friend to join me on errands as it was when none of them were married or had kids, but it’s worth checking what people are up to. A sunny early summer morning talking crops, kids and neighborhood news is good for mental health. Until next time, keep living the dream, and if you’ve got a friend you haven’t seen in a while, check to see if there’s an errand they could join you on or one you could help them with. Both of you will be happy you did.

Tim Zweber farms with his wife, Emily, their three children and his parents, Jon and Lisa, near Elko, Minnesota.

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