A farm publication that lists used machinery for sale asked its readers for the best and worst advice they had received about farming.
I read it through and one piece stayed in my mind. It said hogs will buy groceries and cattle will buy land.
From my experience of growing up on a farm in the 1950s and early 1960s, I can say that statement is true. Livestock production is not the same today as everything operates on a much larger scale, but I believe there is still some truth in it.
From watching my dad, who raised beef cattle, hogs, and chickens, I can say that hogs bought the groceries and cattle put his three children through college. My dad always thought land was too high priced and never bought any.
If this statement is true about cattle and hogs, where do the chickens fit?
The chickens’ contribution was important on our farm even if it was third in size, after the cattle and hogs.
Farm kids of my generation know about “egg money.”
Gathering the eggs was a daily chore and there were several hundred eggs a day to collect and clean before putting them in egg cases.
My after-school job was to carry the four egg baskets to the chicken house, take the eggs from where they were laid, and carry the baskets to the house where my parents would clean them each evening one by one.
For many years, starting around 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. and lasting about one to two hours, my mom and dad would use a wet washcloth, examine each egg, wash off what needed to be removed, and then put the egg in a flat that would be stacked with other flats to fill a case of eggs.
It was not fast work, and while they did this usually a radio would be tuned in to the local AM station that played music. As they worked, they listened to the softly playing radio, they talked to each other.
Think of it – every evening for at least 90 minutes they sat at the kitchen table and actually talked to each other for many years.
When the evening’s egg cleaning was done and the eggs were put in the porch with the empty baskets, they reheated the coffee left from supper and found something to go with the coffee.
I can’t help but think that had something do with their accumulating over 50 years of marriage.
In today’s world of marriage counselors and marriage therapy, my parents had their own marriage therapy and got to sell the eggs.
The egg money provided a steady income as they were paid for their eggs weekly. That money went for buying lunch tickets at school, clothing, and many more things that were bought with the pocket money that egg check provided.
So, while hogs bought the groceries (and much more), cattle educated the kids (and much more), it was probably the chickens that helped hold the farm and marriage together.
That’s no small feat and a valuable life lesson.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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