Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tough Times

What a crazy couple of weeks we have had!  Now I know why so many old time farmers have stayed at their farms their entire lives.  It is an incredible amount of work moving equipment, animals, setting up new pens etc...  I have used up nearly all my sick leave and vacation from my "off farm" job just trying to get everything done.  It also is very expensive to move/expand the farm.  There are many little costs that we didn't think of that sure add up.  With our energy gone, bank accounts low, lots of work ahead, and the days getting shorter it would be easy to get down.  But this is something we will not allow!

This past weekend we were reminded of just how fortunate we are.  After fighting and fighting the ground with the post hole auger attachment on the tractor, I finally broke down and rented a Bobcat Skidsteer with a hydraulic post hole digger for a day.  With hundreds of posts needing to be installed I was struggling to find enough time to dig this many holes.  For being on the edge of the West Desert, we have pretty decent soil.  However, about 18-20" down there is a miserable hard pan that is very difficult to penetrate.  It is so hard that it takes about 1 hour for me to chip out a hole with a digging bar.  (On a positive note, I am starting to see a little muscle tone return.)  When I purchased my post hole digger for the tractor, I opted for a hydraulic kit that adds a little down pressure.  However, even this wasn't enough for this hard pan I have been fighting.  So, I rented this Bobcat thinking I could punch all the holes in one day.  However, I quickly realized that I was severely limited by my ability to maneuver this piece of equipment.  It takes a few hours on a machine to get comfortable with the controls.  With the time ticking I quickly realized that it was going to take a couple of days with the Bobcat to get everything done.

After an hour on the Bobcat, I had a few holes completed.  I heard Grizzly (our Anatolian Shepard Livestock Guardian Dog) barking and looked up to see what was going on.  I saw an old van parked by our house and a scruffy looking man approaching me in the field.  I shut down the machine and jumped out to greet the man.  He extended his hand and introduced himself as Mike.  He explained that he was construction worker recently laid off and was hoping to buy a live pig at a reduced price.  He wanted the pig live so that he could save money butchering it himself.  While his introduction had initially impressed me as few people seem to shake hands these days, I was suddenly put off a little.  Perhaps I was jumping the gun a little and perhaps he was nervous asking for help but the way he asked me made me a little leery.  I explained that all of my butcher sized hogs were spoken for and that if I sold him a pig that I would be shorting somebody else who had already placed a deposit months in advance.  As I walked him back to his van, he then saw our turkeys and asked if he could purchase a turkey for his family's Thanksgiving dinner.  I began to feel like a scrooge as I explained that they too were all sold with deposits.

We continued to have a friendly conversation, during which Mike explained that he had four children.  His wife was a substitute teacher was pays something like $50/day.  He told me that they had a house in Tooele in the same neighborhood that Hollie's sister and her family live.  Mike was somewhat of a chatterbox and as he was talking, a verse from the New Testament came to my mind.

"35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
  36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
  37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
  38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
  39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
  40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. "
Matthew 25:25-40 
I thought to myself, here is a grown man with a family, who lives in an average neighborhood, yet he is out visiting farms looking for food.  My leeriness went away.  I explained to him that because of our recent move, we were low on cash, but that if he was willing he could work with me for the day and I would pay him in meat.  He eagerly replied that was willing to do whatever he could to keep food on the table.  He ran back to his van to get some work gloves.  I began walking back to the skidsteer realizing that I was in a situation that reminded me of movies I had seen where the story takes place during the Great Depression.  A time when men literally went door to door looking for work.  It made me wonder what kind of visitors we would have if the economy gets worse. 
I climbed back into the skidsteer and Mike grabbed a shovel.  As I struggled with the skidsteer, Mike offered a few suggestions for smoother operation.  I began to ask what kind of construction he had worked in realizing that he knew a lot more about the Bobcat than I did.  Turns out he was a heavy equipment operator!  I jumped out and told him to run the skidsteer while I did the shovel work.  Mike thought this was backwards.  He thought he should do the grunt work while I ran the skidsteer.  I explained that I needed to get as many posts in the ground as possible and that this would be the most efficient way.  Mike proved to be very good at operating the skidsteer and we accomplished far more than I would have been able to had Mike not showed up.
At the end of the day, I went to our freezers and began pulling out meat.  We had never agreed to what cuts of meat or anything like that.  We simply made a verbal agreement and shook hands on the deal.  Knowing full well how good food can lift your spirits during tough times, I made sure that Mike received a good mixture of cuts including roasts, steaks, chops etc... During our move, we had a discovered an extra turkey buried in the freezer.  I pulled it out and added it in addition to our agreed amount of meat.  I figured his family would appreciate it on Thanksgiving.  As I handed Mike the bag of meat his face lit up.  I fought back tears as the day had been very humbling and rewarding for me.  Mike had been a blessing in helping me get my money's worth from the Bobcat rental.  More importantly, he had helped me get a good portion of the overwhelming work done.  His situation reminded me of the struggles that we have had in the past as well the struggles that so many people go through.
Our family and farm have been blessed incredibly over the past couple of years.  While it is a lot of work, we have a steady family business that has grown rather quickly during the one of the nation's most challenging economic times.  We have healthy, wholesome, comfort foods on the table that nourish our bodies after a hard day in the field.  I have stated it before, but there is something about good food that helps one cope with life's struggles.  I invited Mike back anytime.  We parted ways both being better off that evening than we had been when we started the day.     


The Monkey Mama said...

Reasons we buy our meat from Christiansen's Hog Heaven:
-ethical raising of the animals
-delicious taste of the quality meat
-a farmer who shows compassion and love to others.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

In this day and age it is certainly refreshing to see someone who lives what they read in the scriptures. As I start my farm, I hope that I too, can help those who are less fortunate. What a great example.

Rose said...

Bravo. Well done.
I know you didn't post this for the kudos you will inevitably get, but it does need to be said that you did the right thing. And how sweet it is that when you did, you got a blessing in return.
I think one thing this recession has done is to break down some walls. Many people were struggling before the recession came along. Now things are worse and people seem to be more able to talk about it and even help each other.

Chantel said...

What a wonderful story!

zoliepup said...

OK, now I have tears in my eyes. Not only do you have the best pork we've had, but I love your kind hearts! You can officially add us as customers for life :)

Anonymous said...

Tearing up here. I feel like I relate with this gentleman's plight. He is doing what a real man does- anything he can to provide for his family.

Old tired guy said...

Sir, this post just got you a customer for life. I'm placing my next order right now. God bless and Merry Christmas.