Well, I have to admit that it’s starting to feel a little like spring! Has anyone else noticed the warmer temperatures and the rain? The gravel roads are mucky, our cattle lot is squishy, my house is muddy and my laundry pile is larger than normal. I wonder how long this will last.
I also have to admit that I was not here for all of the recent cold snap. My husband, Robb, and I were in Arizona for six days on a Farm Bureau trip. It was quite nice, especially considering that we left during the very cold weather. It was 5 degrees below zero with a minus-22 wind chill when we left Moline, and 62 degrees when we touched down in Tucson. Sorry to make you all jealous.
The trip was great. We were taken on tours of various farms and agriculture-related facilities, including a 7,000-acre pecan farm, a 4,000-cow dairy, a fruit and vegetable import business/warehouse in Nogales, a rosebush farm and an agricultural research site. Others visited a carrot/vegetables farm. We also heard from local ranchers and Border Patrol agents about the illegal immigration problem and how it affects them. We saw lots of desert and cactuses, and realized how much we love our green home state.
The thing I like most about these tours is visiting types of farms that we would not see here. I had never, for example, been to a pecan farm or any other nut tree farm for that matter. The thought of it being a type of family farm really hadn’t occurred to me. The process of raising pecans was very interesting, though. Did you know that they harvest the trees by shaking them with a big mechanical device until the nuts fall off? Then they gather the nuts with a huge machine that resembles a hay rake.
The rose farm was incredible! He had more than 350 acres of rosebushes planted in long rows — each row a different variety. In a three-year process, the roses begin as twigs in the ground, are grafted with the desired variety, eventually are mowed off at about 24 inches in height, dug up with a tractor-mounted device, shaken to remove all dirt and packed into semitrailers for shipping all over the country. I’ll bet you have never thought of roses as a “crop.” I also learned that if roses can handle the digging, trimming and tossing onto a semi, they can survive in my backyard!
Immediately upon our return, we had to ship out four loads of hogs Thursday night/Friday morning and more last night. The last of them go tomorrow, I think. Then it’s on to pressure-washing the barns in preparation for the new group of baby pigs arriving later this month. At least the weather has warmed up a little so we won’t be paying a ton of money to heat empty barns. We can’t just turn the heat off, you see, because the pipes and the manure pit would freeze. Barns full of pigs stay warmer than empty barns — for obvious reasons. There’s lots of body heat!
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Well, I’ve got to finish catching up from the vacation. I think I still have laundry and grocery shopping to do, but I won’t complain because I was wearing just a T-shirt a week-and-a-half ago while standing in the middle of a cactus desert.
Jennifer Ewoldt, DVM, and her husband, Robb, are farmers in the Quad-Cities. Her column about life on the farm is published every other Monday.