A day-old litter of pigs

A day-old litter huddles together under a heat lamp at the Albertson farrowing house.

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.

Now, let’s pause and think about this for a moment. By a simple show of hands, who out there set a New Year’s resolution for themselves?

OK, now keep your hand up if you’ve already failed that resolution miserably.

That’s what I thought. We are all insane.

Every year we drag ourselves through the emotional minefield of setting completely irrational, unobtainable goals — and for what? To accomplish some form of personal improvement that most likely wasn’t a problem in the first place.

Never again, I say! This year, the insanity will stop.

Instead of using a resolution to tell myself what I won’t do, I will use it to instead tell myself what I will do. Sounds simple enough, right?

Resolution drum roll please… This year I will do things that are completely, utterly and painstakingly outside of my comfort zone. No questions asked.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking, this flashy new resolution sounds both generic and extremely broad. And yes, it is. So, I’ve taken the liberty of narrowing it down to two specific areas of my life that are both important and relatively new to me — the farm and our new community (big surprise, ha!).

Not wanting to waste any time, I immediately sprang into action. What did I do? You guessed it, I signed up for a role in the upcoming community play. Simply put, there’s nothing more uncomfortable and unnerving in the entire world for someone who possessed exactly zero acting experience.

I sense some potentially entertaining moments coming my way. I’ll be sure to report back as things progress.

The second action I took was a little less, let’s say, high octane.

With farrowing season finally underway, I volunteered myself to assist with any farrowing-related activities for the very first time. Yes, this city girl was finally going to get her hands wet (pun intended).

For weeks I have endured jokes about my long slender arms and how they would possibly come in handy for the job, so I figured it was time to find out if my in-laws were indeed right.

Every day for the past week or so I’ve hounded my husband for an opportunity to dig into this resolution, and every day he has repeatedly explained that getting to assist with farrowing was not necessarily a scheduled action but more of an “as needed” activity with incredibly unpredictable timing.

Translation: To meet my new goal, I would have to set up camp in the alley of the farrowing house and possibly wait for days on end with no true guarantees that my assistance would be needed.

Maybe this resolution wasn’t going to be a slam dunk after all.

Despite the smell of looming failure, the kids and I still pushed to visit the farrowing house so we could take in the beginning of the baby pig action. Travis helped us, one by one, into the dimly lit farrowing house where things were surprisingly calm.

Albertson family members take their time touring each pen.

Drawn in by the newest arrivals, the Albertson family members take their time touring each pen.

Making our way down the alley, we began to observe what was going on around us. By this time, five sows had already given birth. In unison, we ooh’d and aah’d at the new babies, circling and staring at each and every one like a bunch of kindergarteners at a petting zoo.

A couple of the litters we gazed upon that day were less than 24 hours old and incredibly entertaining to watch.

Once the kids and I got our fill of cuteness for the day, we turned our attention to the sows that were yet to give birth. Travis climbed in and out of each pen, checking them one by one.

With no signs of labor in sight, we resolved to give them the peace and quiet they deserved and promptly removed ourselves from the farrowing house. It was at that moment I knew my services weren’t going to be needed — at least not that day.

While Mother Nature’s timing may have delayed my attempt to become a farrowing house pro, I will remain hopeful to reach my goal as I continue to make myself available for the rest of this farrowing season, should I be needed.

Until then, I’ll resolve to focus my energy and attention on a budding acting career with the community play. Only time will tell if my stellar performance as a ditzy busgirl will earn this small-town dreamer a Tony Award nomination.


Dixie Albertson moved from Cedar Rapids to a small town in southern Iowa, where her husband, Travis, joined the family farm. They have three children.