Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Before Swine...

As a country kid I had 4-H to teach many a lesson. I took sewing, cooking, food preservation, interior decorating, shooting, lamb, swine, and beef steer projects.
  My first livestock project was a beef show steer when I was 10. He was a big lesson in persevering as he drug me thru the star thistle, mud and barb wire, kicked me across the pen, head butted me into any available cowpie and stomped on my feet.     
I had to develop a budget for the purchase of the steer, feed costs, supply costs, and what price I had to get for him at the Jr Livestock Auction in order to break even. It meant a trip to the bank to present my budget and request a loan. Yes, my parents co-signed, as I had yet to establish my own line of credit.  But, it was not guaranteed that I would get a loan if my numbers didn't jive. After I had secured a loan I then had to negotiate with the ranch I was purchasing the steer from.  After many months of raising that steer, I had to show him at the fair,  hustle for companies, neighbors, and businesses to bid on him.  After he was sold, at a profit thank goodness, I personally went to the buyers and thanked them, as well as sending a follow up letter that asked them to remember me at next year's auction. Then off to the bank, to pay off my loan & interest.  Put some money in my college fund, and some in a working capital savings acct, and spend a little on school clothes. Then my 4-H record book had to be turned into my leader, detailing all that had been done since the purchase of my project steer. After a few goes like that I was able to self fund my show projects out of the working capitol savings acct.  But the lessons on doing business and persevering were in place.  
Some of my project animals, swine & lambs, I didn't have to purchase.  I worked out a deal with a local sheepman to raise some of his bummer lambs, (lambs that the mothers wouldn't take) getting to keep two lambs each season.  Traded work with a local farmer for feed, and I was off showing & selling lambs. 
The swine I got in the 4-H pig scramble. The pigs were donated, put in an arena, and by age group, all the kids that wanted to participate could.  But, you had to promise that you would raise your pig and show it and sell it at the Jr. Livestock auction.  There were always more kids than pigs, so you had to be fast on your feet and willing to get mud and shit from one end of you to other, with no guarantees that you would end up with a pig.  Some how I managed to catch one each year, again worked a deal with a local farmer for the feed, and increased my working capital.  After enough times with a mouth full of pig shit and mud I decided I wanted to just raise show steers.
That is the way we raised our kids too, and I think it has served them well. They have carried on that practice with their kids, my grandkids, and I hope it continues going forward.
 I cherish my memories of a little girl with blond pigtails, in a ratty shirt, cutoffs and boots, washing a 1,200 lb show steer in the heat of a long summer day.


  1. That post made me laugh (catching piglets) and also made me feel quite envious of all those wonderful experiences. I would have liked that childhood.

  2. Those lessons of work, self reliance and the reward of a job well done are lost on most non-farm kids. And more's the pity. You can't develop character on a video game.

  3. Life's lessons were truly not wasted on you. Hard work needs to be taught to kids now a days. Thanks for the future post and I sent my location.

  4. I wish that many city children had this opportunity to learn about hard work, negotiation and saving.

  5. So grateful to all the 4-H adults here who have kept my grands as well as many others involved. Great experience.

  6. You and I must have known each other at Shady Lawn Farm, that kids'horse camp in Escalon.

    Your description in this post is terrific. Your recall of the details sets up the perfect visual.

    You sound like a perfect person to come help wrestle the 100 turkeys that deposit turkey droppings all over the property.

    Are you game?

  7. 4H was and IS one of the best programs to teach kids responsibility... And it worked out pretty well for ya! :-)

  8. NELLY: Thought of you & the porkers when writing about the scramble. I did like that childhood, thanks.

    LL: Never quite understood the premise about city kids not getting it. I knew city kids that got it, just in a different format. Now they all are at risk of OD on multimedia platforms.

    ODIE: Thanks, neighbor. Maybe we just don't hear about the great kids out there today.

    TABOR: They do, just that I don't see the level of parent involvement that country kids get.

    CELIA: They can make a huge difference in the lives they mentor.

    CHERI: I sort of lived horse camp, so never actually went to one. Thanks for your kind words.
    We had about that many wild turkeys on the last place the Cowman & I had. Free fertilizer, I'm in.

    OLD NFO: True!

  9. It sounds to me that 4-H is an excellent prerequisite to parenting as well as entering other facets of adult life.

  10. GRANNY ANNIE: Could be. Did you have 4-H or FFA?

  11. O was a city girl, a month of your lifestyle would have been wonderful.

  12. GRANNYMAR: It was at a minimum a 6 month commitment to a live animal.