Very Wintery Winter- February 2023
At long, long last we are in the final countdown to John's hip replacement surgery. Since he has basically zero cartilage left in the joint it will be a real blessing to get the surgery behind us. Our good friend Pat is going to team up with me to make sure all the farm work gets done. I've been getting lessons in various skills and tasks so I'm better prepared to help while John is out for 6 weeks. Today, I got my first lesson in snow moving with the tractor (I am shovel "certified" already) so that in a pinch I can at least make a path to get a vehicle into the farm's driveway. The driveway is along a state highway and it regularly gets a huge berm built up in it from the snow plows. It's pretty normal to need 4-wheel drive to get in and out of there after a fresh snow or a snowplow pass. Pat and John have decided that plowing snow with the tractor is largely "above by pay grade" so Pat is going to take point when it comes to keeping the farm drive open as well as the access to the sheep's pasture open. He is also willing to take on the snow-machining out to the cows every other day to feed the mother cows. I'll be in charge of keeping the ewes, lambs and meat steers fed, watered and in where they belong. Multiple additional friends have offered their help and some have been out to see how our equipment works etc so they can be back ups to Pat and I. Later this week, John and Pat are replacing a weak spot in the forks that we use to poke and pick up ton hay bales. Hopefully by doing the work now, instead of waiting for it to wear all the way out, we can avoid it breaking while I'm feeding and creating a bit of a crisis. If it broke when John was up and running he could deal with it pretty easily, but me, not so much...I know which machine is the welder but not how to use it!
This year we are having a real winter, with an abundance of snow and several very cold spells. John says we have about 3 feet of snow at the Meadow (where it isn't drifted) so that should mean a lot of nice feed in the spring and summer. Interestingly, John figured out that the ground here is not frozen very deeply. He figures it's because we got so much snow that has stayed since October without a gradual transition to cold weather in the fall. He figured this out when he was moving snow in they hay yard (area where hay bales are stacked until they are fed) and when he got down to bare ground the frost line was only a few inches below the surface. We are hopeful this means that when the time comes for all of this snow to melt it will be easy for it to seep into the ground and we'll see less runoff overall.
We pretty much need to bring the tractor over to the house to move the piles off the edges of the driveway, because a shovel-er or the snow blower can get it up high enough to top them. The driveway is recessed by a couple of feet to begin with, and the piles on top of that are pretty impressive. I'm hoping that the snow sculpting will take place before John's surgery happens because it will take some finesse to move the snow and not the sod under it.
This time last week we were in one of the super cold spells. We saw negative 25 at our home on January 30th. During our drive to John's doctor appointment in Pocatello we saw negative 33. Friends that I saw at the Farm Bureau board meeting who live in Chesterfield said they had negative 40's for their low. A few people we know are having calves now and they were having a time of it during that extreme cold. Multiple neighbors were also dealing with gelled fuel (water in the diesel fuel freezes and blocks filters etc) and tractors and trucks that wouldn't start. John is very, very, picky about where he buys fuel in the fall and winter so that he gets diesel that won't gel when the temperature drops. Thankfully we didn't have any problems with our equipment, at least this year. We are due for another cold spell later this week but it shouldn't be as cold, nor as long.
I'm looking forward to having Tom home for a couple of days after John's surgery so he can help with farm chores and keeping John attended to. Tom is in his final semester at USU! He is still enjoying his job/internship doing computer science stuff. It seems to have something to do with apps and websites. He's developing a plan for a spring break trip to Chicago with friends, which should be fun! He hasn't done much for spring break in the past so a trip with friends will be a good conclusion to his college experience.
Becca has been in Pasig City (part of Manila metropolitan area) for about 2.5 weeks now as part of her trip with Mentors International. She says things are starting to feel a little less overwhelmingly new and different, and she's beginning to know where she is and how to get around. We are so proud of her ability to adapt and embrace all the novelty and thoroughly enjoy her experience. She will have about 10 more weeks of work and then a few weeks of playing/traveling before heading home. She is part of a group of 4 USU students who went to work with small business people as well as teaching about entrepreneurship and small business skills to high school students and business owners. Some of the clients have micro loans from Mentors International. Their group came across a group of ladies who weave small rugs that are then resold at a local market. The ladies were so curious about these western girls in their neighborhood that a conversation was begun and Becca and her group have now begun teaching these ladies and looking for ways they can help them improve their standard of living. In just a few days, Becca has gained a new understanding of how much of the world's population lives and a new appreciation of what she has taken for granted all her life. She has also raved about how happy and kind all the people they have met are. The girls got out of the city overnight last weekend and got to see a more rural part of the country. They went to a local lake and took a boat tour of a beautiful waterfall. John estimates they were about 60 miles from their apartment but it took 5 hours of travel to get back! Here is Becca and the rest of the USU crew with the rug making ladies. A bunch of adorable kids, and the girls taking in the waterfall.
While John has been trying to prepare as much as he can for his down time I've been trying to prepare too! I'll figure I will be out of the house a bunch more than usual as I take over the snow management and feeding chores so I've been working very diligently on having things ready for the tax accountant. I'm hoping that I will be able to manage the deliveries/markets we have scheduled for the second half of March on top of my new chores. I'm a bit nervous about shearing in Mid March too but hopefully all will come together okay. I think I've gotten nearly all the cutting instructions for the custom orders we will be filling in the next 8 weeks sorted. I've also put some time into figuring out what prices we need to charge to stay economically viable. It seems, none of us can avoid price increases on just about everything we have to buy these days. I think our last major price change was about 6 years ago. We understand the impact price increases are likely to have on our customers' increasingly tight budgets.
I am doing my best to trust that everything will work out just fine while John is down healing from his hip surgery. I'm sure I'll get the tractor stuck in the snow a time or two, not to mention the truck or minivan, but somebody will come to my rescue (maybe me) and all will be well in the end. Hopefully I will be able to laugh about my mess-ups soon after they happen. I tried to ask for preemptive lessons on getting unstuck etc but apparently each situation is different enough that neither Pat nor John thought they could teach me. I'm supposed to call for advice when it happens, so that should be fun.
Thank you so very much for supporting our family farm. We know you have a lot of choices as to who provides your meat these days and we appreciate giving us that honor! We so appreciate you being willing to set alarms and mark your calendar to come pick up your orders! We know that it takes extra steps to buy your meat from us, rather than just going to store for mass produced meat, and we are sure glad you are willing to do those extra steps! As our family celebrates 140 years of farming the same land, and 19 years of feeding families like yours, we look forward to many more years of being your family's grass farmers!
John, Lori Anne, Tom & Becca
Lau Family Farm, llc