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KAREN SCHWALLER

By Staff | Mar 25, 2016

With the fitness craze that has people flocking to gyms – sporting their cute workout clothing and carrying their water bottles everywhere – it’s been an ongoing struggle for the farm family as to how they’re going to fit that into their schedules.

Around here the only flocking that gets done is when we’re working with the sheep.

Unless there’s cheesecake.

It seems rational to think that farmers invented physical fitness – and the best (and most ingenious) part for them is that it’s all done in the grandeur of the great outdoors.

If we were to follow a farmer through the year, we’d see that they start out lambing and calving. Anyone who has wrestled to get a stuck calf out of its mother has to know that it’s an “all-in” event.

It takes just about every muscle in the body to get that calf out and on the ground, and limber legs to amble yourself away from all that’s coming out with it. Yeesh.

Lambing isn’t quite as strenuous if the lamb is normal sized, but after a ewe has lambed you need to make sure she has a good milk supply – and that can be a test of wills and strength. Truthfully, if someone came after me to test me like that, I’d run, too. Poor mama.

Then there’s the worming and shearing of sheep. Last time we sheared, our sons grabbed clippers to help. They stood up from each finished ewe – tired, sore and sweaty.

They now don’t know if that job keeps people fit or turns them into old people.

After that they get right into the planting and spraying season, where they climb up into and down from tractors and implements. Anyone who uses seed bags knows the load it can be to carry them around and empty them into the planter, time after time, until the planter is full.

And there’s the rock picking. If we were meant to do that, God would have kept His “long-armed” version of human ancestry. That job would have killed the Vikings off.

Anyone who has milked cows knows that, back in the day, farmers had strong hands and forearms from all that hand milking. They also had keen aim from shooting some milk into the mouths of nearby waiting cats.

Today, with the new parlors, farmers have strong hands, upper arms and shoulders from working with the milkers that are at eye level.

Wrestling hogs up the chute and closing the trailer door behind 24 head of them should be something considered by the International Olympic Committee as a new world competition.

When summer arrives farmers are out on the hay racks loading bales. That mostly makes for strong backs, arms, thighs, backsides and smell, all in one efficient outdoor workout.

Soon fall is here and they’re out weaning calves. Separating moms from their babies is risky business and one needs to be able to escape and scramble up a fence in short order.

And with the coming of fall comes the crowned jewel – harvest.

Farmers climb up and down their combines, tractors, wagons and semi trucks a billion times each season. We have a cab-over truck that always tests my skills. I pray a “Hail Mary” for the upper arm strength to hoist myself up into the truck and pray that the rest of me follows. Our guys just climb in.

It’s really annoying.

Changing tractor and semi tires is also an all-over workout, even with long socket wrenches and power tools that try to keep the job from seeming like hand-to-hand combat.

It explains why our local tire repair service guy eats like he does. He needs the carbs just so his pants will stay up when he coughs. It’s that physical.

A lot can be accomplished in the great outdoors.

For farmers, it’s where family ties begin, and are secured. And farmers wouldn’t want to do those things anywhere else.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net and at www.karenschwaller.com.

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