Let’s face it. It’s no news flash that farmers are often known to be great innovators. It’s also no big news that, over the years, they have learned that skill out of necessity.
It is, after all, the mother of invention.
Most of us have experienced that prices are not always good on the farm, and expenses just keep coming and repairs all still need to be made.
When the farmer takes a gander at his check book and sees that buying new just isn’t going to happen, he’s left to ponder what it will take to replace the new with the rebuilt or redesigned.
It doesn’t always look like it came right out of the factory, but most of the time it gets the job done, and with very little cost. Enough of this kind of thinking could render him enough cash flow to farm yet another year.
My husband, who has stayed as busy rebuilding tractor and implement parts as Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeons, is always on the lookout for a bargain.
Thirty years of farming has taught him that you might have this year, and you may not have again the next year.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that my husband could have survived the Great Depression – with the drive he has to make do with what he has, to do things himself, and by being smart about doing necessary things as cheaply as he can.
I hope that last characteristic didn’t govern how he selected his wife.
Here at the Schwallers, it’s no different when that same farmer undertakes a task in the house.
Take, for example, my husband’s approach to child care when one of our then elementary-school-aged sons was sick and stayed home from school.
I had some things going on at work that I needed to be there for but could have rescheduled. My husband, on the other hand, said it would be ridiculous for me to stay home when he would be home and working outside all day anyway and could check in on our son from time to time.
Concerned that he still would not be in the house when our son’s past 24-hour diet would be seen visibly, (I didn’t want to be called home to steam clean the carpet), I said I would just stay home.
He, being the farmer and the one used to coming up with his own ideas and inventions, had an idea, of course.
He went to the office and cut a long piece of yarn and grabbed a sheet of red construction paper. He tied the yarn into a hole he’d made at the top of the piece of paper and draped the paper and string over the curtain rod, letting the paper fall to the floor.
He then proceeded to explain to me that his plan would work great. Our son would be on the couch (which was next to the living room window – which faced out into the farm yard).
If he felt like he was getting sick and needed help, he could pull on the long string of yarn, pulling the sheet of construction paper into full view in the window, and my husband would then, (even if he was outside) see that he needed his help right away.
And there we had it, a father’s health care plan hanging from a piece of yarn in the window. And the plan did work perfectly.
Fathers of invention get very little credit compared to their gender opposite.
Of course, one of those things that many a farm wife has learned to do, is cut the family’s hair.
When the hog market first took a dive in 1993, paying for hair cuts was something that was slashed from the budget.
I had to learn how to do it or let everyone walk around looking like they belonged to the Rolling Stones. It would be years before our children wanted to look that way.
After a lot of years of using the apron that separates man from his own severed hair, the string used to tie it around the neck finally wore through and broke.
Wondering how I was going to fix this, my husband, who happened to be in the basement barber chair at that time, had an idea right away.
Out came the veterinary supplies tub, and he fished out a clean prolapse needle and some string, also used to fix said prolapses.
He threaded the needle, then proceeded to sew the string very carefully in and out around the top of the apron, leaving two long pieces at each end so that I could tie it again.
Who knew that female problems could actually contribute positively to household repairs?
It’s been said that, to be successful at raising livestock, you have to learn to think like the livestock.
While happy that I never did learn how to think like a hog, I do think I better first master learning to think like a farmer.
It could keep me in the farm wife business for yet another year.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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