Farm family planning
It’s nothing new to farm families.
They schedule a time to turn the rams in with the ewes, the bulls in with their female counterparts, the boars in with the gilts and sows, etc. They even artificially inseminate.
Someone once told me anyone can raise livestock, but it takes a real manager to plan and implement a reproduction schedule. But when family planning moves from the barn and into the house, it’s a little more complicated because it also involves what’s happening outside.
When barnyard birthing is scheduled around the rest of the work that needs to be done, how does the human species schedule around a time when all you-know-what is not breaking loose out in the yards or in the fields? Something is always breaking loose, whether it involves a barnyard gate or fence, or something that needs to be cleaned up with a skid loader bucket.
Late winter and early spring means no one leaves the farm while farrowing, lambing or calving schedules play out, but directly after that, farmers are squarely faced with machinery and land preparation, spring planting, rolling and spraying to prepare for and carry out before that window of opportunity closes. I guess that means February, March, April and May could find mothers in the delivery room alone if they truly enjoy celebrating those spring birthdays.
June, July and August bring with it unyielding lists of hay cutting and baling. There would be time for childbirth only if rain threatens and the work is done faster, or the racks of hay are backed into sheds to wait out the rain. Those months are most likely out, since it would be difficult at best to time labor and rainfall at the same time.
Any woman engaged to a farmer, and who ever dreamed of having a September or October wedding knows it will not happen then, for fear of harvest starting up before the altar calls. It nearly KO’d my then-fiance when I suggested it. It’s the same with child bearing then.
December babies are an especially bad idea because even mom has no time then -with full-time work and the long lists that go with holiday preparations. She even faces headlong into it with a Thanksgiving hangover and bandages for her checking account, to bind up damages she knows will be coming with the holidays. She would just have to hold baby in until January.
It would appear, by our process of elimination then, that January and November would be the months for farmers to add to the family.
When it came to our first try, we went for a November baby. Turns out that child took her sweet time gracing the world with her presence, and she appeared in December. It was a fool-proof plan that was an epic fail. But we still loved the outcome. Unlike my mid-October birthday, her day of world entrance always gets celebrated.
Fast forward to our next attempt at family planning. We thought we’d go for sometime in January. We would miss the tax deduction cut-off, but it would ensure us cheap birthday gifts every year afterwards if we could get in on those after-Christmas sales. Not only did that pregnancy surprise us with a stowaway baby (yes, twins), but they couldn’t wait to come out.
They arrived in December, too.
There were many wonderful things wrong with that plan. But we all came home from the hospital on Christmas Day, which seemed somehow poetic.
My mother’s ring, which should have had one amber and two garnet stones, sports three blue stones. They should match my lips-and maybe my hair -by now; this motherhood thing will be the death of me yet.
The way our family planning schedules worked out, it’s a good thing they don’t have us in charge of the peace talks or the world’s tariff negotiations. We better just stick to scheduling baby time for our sheep. So far we’ve hit that one pretty much on the mark every year.
Karen Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.karenschwaller.com.
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