DIY a Farm Attitude

 “Do It Yourself” (DIY) TV shows flood the cable networks. My father, The Farmer, would probably say that farming is just one huge, never-ending DIY project.  Building, repairing, fixing, constructing, and creating is every day on the farm. Being part of the unpaid labor (I was worth it) on the farm, I was fortunate to be involved with many DIY projects during the years. A special thank you goes to the sharing nature of the Farmer. Here are a few quick DIY examples that I still carry skills (scars) from today…

·        We took a massive section of roof off of a confinement chicken grower building, hauled it 5 miles using a tractor and to jack it up 14 feet to set it on top of telephone poles that we had stuck in the ground. A DIY machine shed!

·        We tore down a barn and saved the wood and the roofing tin to construct a new shop (to complete DIY projects in comfort and style during the winter). We neatly stacked the wood and the roofing tin for its reuse. That night, someone set fire to all of our work. We later learned that the pyromaniac was one of the volunteer firefighters who came out to fight the blaze (he finally got caught repeating the act). My brothers and I were so mad. What wasted sweat and labor. DIY firefighter?

·        The Farmer and his partner, my Uncle Keith, really enjoyed salvaging old, obsolete farm equipment and robbing their parts to create their own homemade farm equipment versions.  They would purchase odds and ends, hunks of metal, broken implements, and old equipment at farm sales and proudly bring the treasure back to the shop.  The next step was to spend a lot of time looking at the parts and piles and drinking a lot of coffee. This would eventually lead to the demise of the pile followed by creation… cutting with acetylene torches, hack sawing, greasing, welding , stripping, painting, drilling, bolting and bending.  Inevitably, creation would include many trips to Farm King, Farm and Fleet, Tractor Supply, or the local hardware store for additional parts and supplies. Ultimately, the result was actually quite impressive. I can remember rotary hoes, crop spraying systems, a field cultivator with soil saver,  seed corn harvesting equipment, and equipment haulers coming out of the shop.  After all of my doubts, the creations actually worked! DIY torture

·        My Mom’s favorite DIY project was always called “plant/tend the garden”.  The Farmer would bring the tractor and plow and tear up an area that seemed like the size of a football field. We would spend hours breaking up the clods with hoes and rakes. Why he used the plow rather than the field cultivator which would’ve broken the soil up much finer, I never understood. It was probably another one of those “work ethic” or “elbow grease” lessons. I have learned that my children love those same lessons! DIY summer camp.

Endangered farm animals of Illinois?

Illinois has an alpaca shortage. There are only 2,380 alpacas in the state according to the 2016 Farm and Food facts book. (located on the Illinois Farm Bureau® website).  In a state that is 57,915 square miles, finding one of these small, wooly “camelid” creatures can be difficult. Described as cute, and quirky, I choose not to denigrate the defenseless alpaca. I hear that alpacas are supposed to produce fine wool and a meat that is lean, low-fat, and high in protein. This, I do not know firsthand. I may have to try an alpaca steak.

If there is an alpaca shortage, we have an ostrich crisis. There are only 406 of these big birds in Illinois (data from the same facts book). My knowledge of ostrich is composed of attending a Specially Growers tradeshow at Pheasant Run in St. Charles over 20 years ago and chatting with a few ostrich ranchers. I do recall enjoying some ostrich jerky at that event: Ostrich is a low-fat, red meat, their eggs make ginormous omelets, and their feathers, eggshells, and leather contain great retail value for artisans.

I can remember the excitement of those ostrich ranchers at the tradeshow. Ostrich(and Emu) was the new and exciting livestock option that was going to boom in Illinois!