How Great The Yield From A Fertile Field

Random musings from an old farmer about life, agriculture, and faith

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Wednesday night, about the time people were driving home from work, a heavy fog rolled into the area.  There was a great deal of concern about the danger of people driving to church in the heavy fog.  As a church trustee, I contacted the rest of the trustees, and the decision was made at about 6:10 to cancel services.  Before I received the message from One Call Now (the service we use to alert the entire congregation) at 6:25, a rain front rolled through the area and dissipated the fog.
We would have been fine having church.  Oh well!
We listened to the sermon from Fairbury on AC Central.

A week and a half ago, I underwent outpatient surgery.  I believe it was my first time under the knife (other than a finger operation), and my first time under general anesthesia.  The surgeon planned to do the repair work with laparoscopic surgery, but was unable to complete the job correctly.  So, I was then sliced open to do the job through open surgery.  Now I have four incisions to heal in my abdomen!  I am thankful that everything went well, I had minimal pain, and no complications so far.  I was given a prescription for Tylenol plus Codine for pain, but everybody in my family that has used it in the past has gotten sick from it.  I definitely didn't want to be throwing up with abdominal wounds and sutures, so I didn't use it!  I was able to get by with Ibuprofen for three days and then I didn't need anything.

I ran into three female nurses I know in pre-op and post-op while wearing my less than full coverage hospital gown.  Not to mention that my surgeon was female, the anesthesiologist and her intern were female, as well as all the support staff in the operating room!  I guess at my age it's not much use getting embarrassed anymore!

We are blessed with access to superb health care, and I realized again as I witnessed others in the hospital at how blessed I am to be healthy.

The worst part now is that I'm feeling so good that I am ready to get back to normal activities.  But my surgeon looked me right in the eyes and said, "Be very careful and do not lift anything heavier that 15 pounds for 6 weeks!"  I begged and pleaded, but she was adamant.  I told her I would do my best, but I am afraid that I will forget myself.  I can't lift feed or seed bags, pigs, straw bales, scoop manure, or lift grand-kids!
I'm afraid that I will get out of shape and gain weight!

 Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.
Jeremiah 17;14

Friday, January 06, 2017


From the time I was an early grade schooler, I can remember having to get up early mornings before school to help Dad load hogs to be hauled to Peoria.  In the summer, if I wasn't too tired, I would ride to Peoria with him.  The stockyards was a very busy place with dozens of trucks jockeying for chutes to unload cattle, hogs, and sheep.  We often had to wait a few minutes before backing up to the chute/pen and unloading our hogs.  Then we would report in to the yard office with our farm info, pen number, and the commission firm we wanted to handle our sale.  We always used IPLA ( Interstate Producers Livestock Association - a farmer owned Co-op).  Another popular commission firm was "the Dick Herm Firm."  Either Dick Herm or Dewey Christopherson would give the stockyards report on the WMBD radio noon farm show.

There was a large office building on site that had a restaurant in the lower level for the employees, farmers, and truckers.  It was acceptable to wear your livestock clothes and boots in there, so sometimes Dad would stop for breakfast before heading back home.  Stockyards Farm Supply and Tractor Supply stores were located just outside of the gates, so we often would stop to pick up supplies on our way home.
After I got my drivers license, I started taking turns hauling the loads to the stockyards.  Our truck held 30 - 34 head, depending on weight (which in those days was 210 to 220 lbs.).  We usually loaded at 6:00 A.M. and got to Peoria around 7:00 A.M. Traffic was light then, but I did enjoy driving down Washington Street, downtown Peoria, with a load of smelly, squealing hogs between the Caterpillar Headquarters and their parking deck with the executives in suits and dresses waiting to cross the street!

Since winter storms usually came out of the west, we would watch the weather and when a snowstorm moved into Iowa, we would plan on hauling hogs the next morning.  With Iowa shut down, the packers would bid up the Peoria hogs and we could catch a $2 higher market for braving the incoming snowstorm.

Established in 1874, the Peoria Union Stockyards eventually became one of the largest "livestock hotels" in the country.  Originally, the idea was to feed grain mash byproducts from the local distilleries to cattle, but soon it became a livestock market.  The capacity as a feedlot was 28,000 head of cattle.  Peoria was once known as the "whiskey capital of the world". Even while I was growing up, the Hiram Walkers distillery (now ADM ethanol plant) was the largest distillery in the world.  The stockyards were built along the river and along the railroad tracks.  In the early days livestock would come in by rail, barge, or horse-drawn wagon.  Soon, packing plants sprang up around it, and at the packing prime in the 30's up to 1000 people were employed by the yards and the packing plants.  Peoria became the 6th largest hog market in the nation, with 11,400 hogs handled on its biggest day.  The biggest year for sheep was 79,000 head.  In the mid '70's, the stockyards handled 1.3 million head of livestock per year.  When I was hauling, they typically handled 2000 cattle and 7000 hogs per day.

But the packing plants were closing, consolidating, and moving to rural areas.  By the mid '80's, farmers were shipping hogs direct to the packers and pooling semi trailer loads, bypassing Peoria.  Farms got bigger and bigger with fewer small farms.  The Stockyards downsized several times, and recently were just handling numbers in the hundreds.  It was one of the last remaining stockyards in the Midwest.

The week before Christmas, the stockyards shut down for good.  It is no more.
The Peoria Union Stockyards are now just a part of history.

 And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.
Genesis 47:17

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Year

When I went out to do chores before sunrise this morning, I was greeted by a calm, crisp, still, peaceful, clear morning with a light frost covering everything.  What a beautiful way to start the new year!

We had our last Christmas gathering on Wednesday night, so our Christmas is officially over.  The big extended family Christmas was two weeks ago Saturday, and our own family gathering was on Christmas Eve.  It's fun watching our kids exchange gifts and watching the grandchildren open gifts.  Books remain a staple gift.  I believe somewhere between 30 and 40 books changed hands at that gathering!  I received seven books myself over the holidays, and have finished two of them already.  One of them (Dear County Agent Guy), had this quote that I found amusing.

      Marriage is a dicey proposition at best.  Half of all unions end in divorce court, while the other half end at the funeral parlor.  Neither prospect seems very pleasant!

Christmas day was a laid back, relaxing day for us.  We had the oldest farmer and my mother over for our traditional oyster stew supper in the evening.  Of course, I didn't partake of the oyster stew.  That's one of the few seafood dishes that I don't particularly enjoy.

Since Christmas fell on Sunday this year, our fellowship lunch and the second service were cancelled.  Christmas is the celebration of our Lord's birth, and Sunday is the Lord's day, so it would seem to me that the most appropriate thing to do when Christmas lands on Sunday, would be to spend it with our church family in worship and fellowship.

It only happens about fourteen times per century.
It seems like nowadays people look for any reason they can find to cancel services or reduce the amount of time we have to spend in church.

I am reminded of the Kingsmen Quartet song, "Excuses".

Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.
And the Devil he'll supply them, if the church you stay away.
When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses
So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

In the summer it's too hot. And, in the winter, it's too cold.
In the spring time when the weather's just right, you find some place else to go.
Well, it's up to the mountains or down to the beach or to visit some old friend.
Or, to just stay home and kinda relax and hope that some of the kin folks will start dropping in.

Well, the church benches are too hard. And, that choir sings way too loud.
Boy, you know how nervous you get when you're sitting in a great big crowd.
The doctor told you, "Now, you better watch them crowds. They'll set you back."
But, you go to that old ball game because you say "it helps you to relax."

Well, a headache Sunday morning and a backache Sunday night.
But by worktime Monday morning, you're feeling quite alright.
While one of the children has a cold, "Pneumonia, do you suppose?"
Why the whole family had to stay home, just to blow that poor kid's nose.

Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.
And the Devil he'll supply them if the church you stay away.
When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses
So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

Well, the preacher he's too young. And, maybe he's too old.
The sermons they're not hard enough. And, maybe they're too bold.
His voice is much too quiet-like. Sometimes he gets too loud.
He needs to have more dignity. Or, else he's way too proud.

Well, the sermons they're too long. And, maybe they're too short.
He ought to preach the word with dignity instead of "stomp and snort."
Well, that preacher we've got must be "the world's most stuck up man."
Well, one of the lady's told me the other day, "Well, he didn't even shake my hand."

Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.
And the Devil he'll supply them if the church you stay away.
When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses
So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.
So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses.

And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
Luke 14:18

Friday, December 16, 2016


We had our furnace ducts cleaned this fall, and somehow in the process a damper on the run that feeds our bedroom got pushed shut accidentally.  The duct cleaner ran his camera into the duct from both sides, but could not see the problem.  In an old two story farm house the duct routing is unpredictable.  We believe the damper in question must be in the finished ceiling in the basement.  It may take a carpenter to take down the ceiling to find the problem.  Anyway, as a result, our bedroom doesn't get any heat.  On some cold nights, despite the house thermostat being set at 68 degrees, and leaving our door open, our bedroom will be 63-64 degrees.  So the old farmers wife pulled out our old set of flannel sheets that we used to use for camping.  Now we sleep a little toastier!

We drove to Omaha this week for a 3 day get away and to attend the Farmer2Farmer Conference.  The theme was taking an entrepreneurial approach to farming by using all the data we collect on the farm now days and aggregating it anonymously with other farmer's data for decision making.  I really enjoyed the speakers they had lined up for us. They included:

Dr. Tom Osborne, three time National Champion former head football coach of the University of Nebraska, and former congressman.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, former COO of TDAmeritrade, and board member and part owner of the Chicago Cubs.

Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander, star of Duck Dynasty, and an unashamed and outspoken Christian.

Steve Case, the founder of America Online (AOL), the first company that made Internet access available to the masses.

I also enjoyed meeting, visiting, and networking with the other farmers in attendance, including some I knew from Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota.  I was surprised by the large number of farmers there from the Dakotas and Montana.  It was very interesting learning about their operations.  A couple of farmers from western Montana shared the troubles they have with the growing grizzly bear population destroying their chickpea crops and the nuisance that wolves now pose to livestock operations.  The Dakota farmers complained about farming around rocks the size of a table top, along with farming around the piles of rocks that previous generations made while clearing the fields.  They could hardly fathom having 30-36 inches of annual rainfall on topsoil that was several feet deep.  We farmers in the Midwest are blessed!

For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.
Exodus 22:27

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Empty Nest

The old farmer and the wife of his youth are officially empty nesters now!  Son #2 took an engineering job with HawkeyePedershaab in Mediapolis, Iowa.  He moved out and started the new job last week.
The gold key found its way ahead of him to welcome him!  (Inside family joke!)

The motherboard died on our laptop computer.  I decided I wanted to replace it rather than buying a new laptop (which was recommended).  Son#1 ordered one for us and then on Thanksgiving Day at our house, he and SIL's disemboweled the laptop and replaced the board.  It has been working great!

With five grandchildren now, I think I spent most of Thanksgiving watching/playing with kids!

We did go on a couple of date nights in the last couple of weeks.  One Saturday night we went out to eat at McDonald's (her choice!) and then spent some time in Menard's (my choice).  This week we drove down to C-U to watch nephew Ned perform with the U of I Symphony Orchestra.  They played Wagner (Vagner!) and Stravinsky, including one of our favorites, Firebird Suite.  Afterward, as is our custom, we took him to DQ.

We went to Uncle Bill's one night last week, because our Alaska cousins were in town.  It was a nice evening, and I heard a new joke.

What do you call three rabbits walking backwards?

A receding hairline!

And winter has arrived on the farm.

As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.
Proverbs 27:8

Saturday, November 26, 2016


General James Mattis, whose name is being kicked around for a position in the Trump administration, sent an email to colleagues back in 2003 that is going viral again.  In it he explains the importance of reading to those who are "too busy to read".  He applies it to his job, the military, but it would apply to just about any job, title, or position.  I would include the title Christian.  Of course, as Christians, we have the greatest compilation of reading material for life application that there is, in the Bible. The Bible should clearly be our primary focus, but we can learn a lot about life and the human condition from other good books.  I recommend reading his email which can be found here.

For our nephew's home-school play this year, they obtained a dehaired hog's head from a packing plant for one of their props.  After the play, it was brought out to the farm to be disposed of.  Of course Gus found it and claimed it for his own.  He got downright testy if you tried to take it away from him! Now we have the hog's head as a prop in our yard.

Last Friday was opening day for shotgun deer season.  It was a little windy, but still a beautiful day to be in the woods.  While scouting earlier, we found a large dead (but healthy looking) buck not far from the stand I was going to use Friday.  There were no visible wounds, so we wonder if it was hit by a car and received internal injuries that eventually killed it.  I worried that it might keep other deer away from that area.  In the evening a young 6 pointer walked right up to the dead buck and sniffed and inspected it for a while.  After he stepped past it, he stepped into my sights.  He will be tasty!

Sunrise from the stand in the deer woods.

Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
I Timothy 4:13

Sunday, November 13, 2016


I have a new grandson!  Gideon Ray was born to daughter#2 and husband about a month ago.  He's a cute little guy, and gives us 5 grandchildren now.  My baby had a baby!

We drove down to visit Phil a couple of weeks ago Sunday.  It was a beautiful day, but when we got to the prison, there was a very slow moving line of people outside the entrance waiting to enter.  After waiting in the line about 30 minutes, a gentleman in uniform parked out front and as he walked to the entrance apologized to the line and said he would see if he could speed things up.  It took another hour (a total of 45 minutes is not unusual), but we eventually got processed and as we were sitting in the visiting room with Phil, the same man walked in and started visiting and mingling with the visitors and inmates.  Phil pointed to him and said, "That's the Warden".  I was surprised and impressed!  Including the fact that he was there on a Sunday.  I had a totally different impression of what wardens are like.  Probably too many movies and TV shows warped my opinion.
We had a nice visit with Phil and a nice trip down and back, but it was a longer day than we expected.

Saturday morning as we were sorting hogs from the hoop buildings, two Hispanic gentlemen in an old green pickup drove back to where we were working .  They wanted to buy a 250 pound hog and kill it on the spot.  They offered a good price and paid cash, so we picked one out for them.  My brother held the pig with a snout snare while one of the men tried to roll the pig and hold him down and stick him.  The pig was uncooperative (imagine that!) and the man had trouble finding the artery he was looking for with his knife, so it was not a good situation for a while.  Eventually he succeeded, and the pig was finished, so we loaded him in the back of the open truck bed and off they went to butcher him in their garage in Peoria!  We hope not too many people saw them driving through the city with a dead pig in the back!

I know many groups stick without stunning or shooting first, but I didn't like it.
We will sell them or anyone else pigs in the future, but we will dispatch it first with a .22, or it will leave our farm alive.

    He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.
Isaiah 66:3