If you put 100 people in a room, chances are 80 of them had grandparents who were farmers or ranchers and maybe 30 of their parents were. (These are my “statistics” so accuracy is not guaranteed.) There would be a slim chance that even one of these 100 people is a farmer or rancher now. Only one percent of Americans are. Yet, there is a renewed sense of desire to get back to the land. Many people who have never set foot on a farm or ranch are getting the idea of an idyllic, easy life. Heck, all you have to do is get up, saddle your horse, and ride. They watch too many movies.
One of the objectives of this column is to open dialogue with those of you who have questions about country life, but don’t know anyone to ask. You can contact me and I will do my best to give an answer. I am not as altruistic as this may sound though, as I do have an ulterior motive. I am writing a book about what city people need to know before, during, and after they move to the country. The topic is loosely defined because I would like to hear from a variety of sources. It may mean that you moved from Chicago, bought a working ranch and are doing the actual labor yourself. It may mean that you moved from a house in town to a piece of raw land. In any instance you may be facing a steep learning curve. I am not from the government but I am here to help.
The jargon you hear in the country can be mind boggling. For example, when a rancher speaks of feeding “cake” to his cattle, do you wonder if it is chocolate or angel food? That would be a fair question. In this case, cake is grain, soybean meal or other feed for animals that has been compressed by machine into small pellets or cubes.
What do you do if you are driving on a rural road and come upon a herd of cows, complete with cowboys herding them along? Country etiquette says you should stop or almost stop until the cowboys acknowledge your presence. Do not honk! The cowboys may part the cattle so there’s mostly a clear path or they will motion for you to come through the herd. Either way, drive very, very slowly so as not to spook the cattle. If the cowboys don’t help you through the herd, just be patient. It may be that they are coming to their turn off. Or they may be approaching an area where the cattle could pose problems, such as a neighbor’s yard. Remember it is a fairly rare occurrence and nothing like the twice-a-day traffic jams you may have left behind in the city.
I would also greatly appreciate hearing from farmers and ranchers. What do you want others to know to make their lives — and yours — easier?
Peggy Sanders writes from the family ranch at Oral, SD. Her internet latchstring is always out at Peggy@PeggySanders.com. ❖