Farm Girl Values … a mini series. Part 2: Resourcefulness

This is the second part of a little mini series on 3 key values established in me during my growing up years on a farm in Arkansas.  These values have defined my personal and professional life.

Value number 2 – Resourcefulness.

The farm was a shared effort between my parents and grandparents.  My parents ran the dairy farm aspect and my grandparents ran the poultry side.  In the early days, we didn’t have the luxury of hired hands, so the 5 of us formed a pretty good team. We all had roles to play, though not formally assigned they suited each of our skills (or in my case as a kid, lack thereof).

Dad milked the cows, built fences, pulled baby calves and dealt with many other gory jobs associated with the lifecycle of animals.

Grandma tended the garden.  I helped her harvest the garden produce.  We snapped beans while sitting by the fan and watching her daily soap operas. She cooked our supper every evening.  We enjoyed her fresh vegetables all through the summer and her canned veg got us through the winter. Grandma’s laying hens supplied all the eggs we needed.

Grandpa managed the chickens and pigs.  He produced feed for the cows with the green chopper which occasionally included the head of a copperhead snake mixed in with the feed. Grandpa was also our chief snake shooter. A lovely creek ran through the middle of our farm but in the summertime it was home to scary snakes like water moccasins. My job was to spot them, scream and run while my Grandpa would take aim with his crooked gun – I don’t think he ever managed to hit one.

Mom was the boss of the farm.  She ran all the administration and record keeping. She had to run the whole farm when my grandparents became disabled and Daddy went off to pursue his master’s degree in teaching. She planned the use of various fields and managed the rotation of crops based on changing needs of our farm. She did all the research into the breeding requirements of our stock, sourcing top quality red & white Holsteins which were quite innovative at the time compared to the more commonly seen black & white ones. An image of these striking cows featured on the grand sign that stood at the entrance to our farm … Rolling Hill Ranch – Home of Shiera’s Red & White Holsteins. 

My mom togetherwith my dad and I were a three-person hay hauling team. Dad would mow.  I followed behind on my little red Massey Ferguson tractor to rake the rows of hay together and then Mom would follow with the baler. Dad and I then returned to load the square bales of hay.  I drove the pickup (barely able to touch the pedals) while Dad walked alongside the trailer hoisting the bales aboard.

I had my share of other chores like rounding up cows in the morning. Once I was in a hurry to catch the school bus and a cow wasn’t moving fast enough for me. Despite Dad’s warning, ‘she’s going to kick you’, I persisted to thump her rump and ended up getting catapulted into the creek.

It was also my job to feed the baby calves and train them to go from bottle to bucket drinking. And whenever we had baby chicks, I had watering duty  – one year, I had such duty on a Christmas morning which made me think this might not be what I want to be doing with my life, long-term.

I tried to boost farm income (or maybe just top up my weekly allowance) by attempting to sell packets of seed by the side of road.  No one stopped.  Maybe I should have offered the traditional lemonade stand instead, but I was trying to be different.

Our farm needed to be self sufficient to get through the recession of 1973.  Gas prices were sky high.  Milk prices were dropping.  It was a rocky time. We had to be resourceful. We grew our own corn and hay to feed the cows. The farm gave us our own food too … meat from the livestock (always plenty of beef, chicken, pork), vegetables from the garden, and eggs from Grandma’s laying hens.

Without such teamwork and resourcefulness, I doubt we would have been able to run the farm as long as we did.

In this world of abundances, especially that which defines our western society, I’m unsure how anyone learns to be resourceful (or even values the concept of resourcefulness) if they’ve never been faced with the circumstances of having to be.  My early life prepared me well for my consulting life, having left resource-rich corporate world I love working for clients with modest marketing budgets where we do great things for very little (if any) cost.  That’s particularly rewarding and the stuff money can’t buy.

Next up – value number 3 – Endurance.

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