Sometimes my line of work is terribly frustrating. Now isn’t that the understatement of the year for all of us who farm and ranch. In fact, I find that a great deal of my life I am frustrated, and that usually makes me grumpy. At least that is what my family tells me. I don’t mean to be grumpy but when I don’t get the things I planned to do done, it annoys me.
Let me give you an example. Right now I am planting rye as a cover crop and for the cows to graze. I don’t mind drilling, in fact when it goes right I kind of enjoy my tractor seat time. The problem is that the whole project is taking longer than I had scheduled for it to and now I am behind on the other things I want to get done.
The reason I am behind is because other, unplanned disturbances keep popping up. Each morning I plan on getting started around 8:30 a.m. when I finish with chores and the earliest, I have gotten started is 2 p.m.
The really frustrating part is that it is something new and different each day. The first day I was delayed because the cows got out. I got them back in fairly quickly, but the electric fence needed a lot of attention, and they were threatening to get into the wrapped bales. That would not have been good. I started out working on the fence at 8:30 a.m. and finished about noon. By the time I got the other things done that needed attention it was 2 p.m. I planted until dark that day. Little did I know it would end up being my most productive.
The next day I had a long list of chores that needed to be done. All of the bale feeders needed filling, water needed running and I had to move some bales out of the field so I could plant. Suddenly it was 1 p.m. and I had not eaten lunch. If you know me very well, I don’t miss lunch. That evening I had to quit early for a church meeting. I did not meet the expected number of acres I wanted to plant that day. I was beginning to get frustrated.
The next day was really a lost day. Dad needed me to bring him some things, and that killed a couple of hours. We were also planning on going to the State Fair the next day, so I needed to get chores lined up for my help and make sure everything was as organized as possible. Needless to say, I missed Friday and Saturday, but those two days were self-inflicted. I enjoy going to the State Fair enough that I put up with that distraction. I was going to make up for it by planting all Sunday afternoon.
To add perspective to this, we are dry enough that the rye is not going to sprout anytime soon. There really is no urgency, I just want to have it done. I also should have known better than to think that I was really going to get anything done on a Sunday afternoon.
I started out really well Sunday, the drill was working perfectly. I was making great progress. That was when the tire went flat. It was no big deal to change the tire, but I had to quit with several hours of daylight left.
The next morning dawned with me taking the tire in to get fixed. It was going to be a couple of hours, so I went to visit Dad. While I was there, I found out he needed a couple of necessities. I picked them up right as the tire shop called. It was noon before I got home and 2 p.m. before I got the tire on and the drill filled. That evening Jennifer called to tell me that we had five new calves to tag. It was great news but did not help me getting the drilling done.
The next morning came with an online meeting that went over the allotted time, putting me behind. I also had to make a seed run and get the side-by-side back from the mechanic. It was after 2:30 p.m. before I got started.
I did finally finish the farm I was on, which represented most of my acres to plant. I had hoped to start the next field, but another flat tire and new calf sidelined me. I know that it is important to get the other tasks done and they are all necessary, but I am one that likes to focus on a task until it is finished.
It is early and what I am doing is not urgent. With no rain in sight it might be a futile task. I also have been around long enough to expect the unexpected and know there will be interruptions. That still does not stop it from being frustrating. I like to see the positive and I guess I can view it in two ways. One, it is a chance to work on my patience and two, a never-ending task list is job security.
Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at email@example.com.