Peggy Sanders
Oral, S.D.

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September 10, 2013
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Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles 9-9-13

My mom used to say that farming is one crisis after another. For sure farmers do have many variations in their activities.

A roughed-out schedule for our operation goes like this.

In late January our cows begin having calves.

February is the busiest calving month.

March is the beginning of fieldwork in preparation for planting the new crops, and the last cows calve.

April is occupied with more windshield time in the tractors. The bulls are put in with the cows. Corn gets planted and fields are readied for new plantings of alfalfa hay. Calves are branded and cattle are getting ready to go to their summer pasture in May and new crop alfalfa is sown. If there has not been much moisture, irrigation of the already established alfalfa hay fields also goes on in May.

June is the when the first of three hay crops is harvested. In the corn fields that don’t have center pivots, as soon as the plants are tall enough, so they won’t get buried by dirt, machine made small ditches for future irrigation are made between the rows. This is called ditching the corn.

July, usually by the 4th, our water sports begin. That’s what we call our irrigation. Another cutting of hay is put up in July.

By August it is all routine, irrigation and haying, checking cows and fighting grass fires.

In the month of September the irrigation is done but haying continues.

October finds us bringing the cows and calves back from their summer pastures and getting ready to harvest corn.

In November the calves are weaned and corn is combined. We begin to get an idea of the price we will be paid for all the year’s work.

If the corn is all in, December can be our relatively free month, except the calves we weaned need to be fed twice a day for optimum growth. The cows usually are turned into harvested cornfields to glean and eat the cornstalks. If it snows enough to warrant it, the cows have to be fed hay. January is when we sell the previous year’s calf crop, a major payday. We feed hay to the cows to get them into condition for calving and we go around again.

Since I rarely drive a tractor, and most of my field time consists of taking snacks or meals to the guys, I am frequently asked what I do all day. Aside from the usual homekeeping duties, I am on-call every day to help in any other above listed activities. That is why writing fits so well into my lifestyle. I got up this morning with the intention of writing this column. I got my first load of wash in and sat down at the computer. Then came the call. Would you please drive the tractor and pull the irrigation pipe trailer? That only took a couple of hours. In addition to that I took an hour to go to town (an hour round trip) for welding supplies. By then it was lunchtime. These activities were exactly what I missed the most when I had to work in town for four years. I wanted to be here and be available. Now when my husband asks me to “ride along” I try to drop what I’m doing and go.

And, I do windows.

Peggy’s internet latchstring is out at

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 17, 2013 09:24AM Published Sep 23, 2013 01:39PM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.