Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I started thinking about farm cats recently when our middle-aged house cat, Tuffy, was diagnosed with diabetes. Jeepers, where did that come from? Of course, we're going to try to take care of him, but there was a part of me that questioned whether I was going too far in intervening in nature. I wondered what would happen if old Tuff were a barn cat?
Well, he might get a little extra feed and water. But how likely is it that he would get insulin shots twice a day?
I don't know how this thing with our cat will pan out, but I have to admit that darn cat is part of the family, and we aren't going to stand by and do nothing.
The incident started me thinking about the place of farm cats on the farmstead totem pole. In a recent Agriculture Online poll, dogs were the run-away winner in the farmer's vote for most useful animal.
Seems like cats earn their keep, don't they? They patrol rodent populations, they bring a certain dignity to the place with their calm demeanor, and they can pretty much fend for themselves. What's a dog do to earn its elevated status? Bark at the moon and chase cars? Yet dogs get to ride in the pickup, appear in seed corn commercials, and maybe even pose in the family Christmas card photo.
By the way, check out that farm animal poll, and you'll see there are some other nominations for our appreciation. There's the horse, of course. But anybody keeping mules? Says one farmer, "If it weren't for the mules we wouldn't be farmin'." Or what about guineas? Great for tick control, as well as eggs, one farmer says.
What animal do you think is most useful around the farm?
Posted by John Walter at 12:47 PM
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
My grandparents, Otto and Alma Betke
In a new Agriculture Online poll, farmers express major concern about the ag economy. Uncertain times it is out on the land as well as on Wall Street and Main Street.
The financial meltdown we've all been living through, drawing comparisons to the Great Depression and other worst-ever scenarios, has had me thinking about personal roots and old stories of hard times.
My greatest heroes are my grandparents, Otto and Alma Betke, who farmed through the Depression and the Dust Bowl in Buffalo County, Nebraska. Grandpa once told me what it was like during the Dust Bowl days, one year to have the entire wheat harvest be two sacks of grain. "That's all we took to town," he said, shaking his head.
In the picture above, taken in another tough year, Otto and Alma were pretty proud of their wagon load of corn. Their faces are wind burned, and they look dog tired, but they took the time to pose with an artistic touch, getting their German shepherd to hold an ear of corn in his mouth. Picking corn by hand was always one of the toughest jobs on the farm, I'm told. Here is what the real hard times look like, and the folks took some passing pleasure in their humble harvest.
I don't think the Betkes ever looked to town for a financial bailout. They planted windbreaks, tilled a bigger garden, and expanded their eggs-and-butter business. They faithfully planted their crops until the good times returned.
So when I start worrying about the current financial crisis, I try to remember to take a look over at this picture in my office and remind myself what real hard times look like. The Betkes got through it, and lived long, happy lives. So will we, I suspect.
Posted by John Walter at 12:09 PM