The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

April 26, 2014

Jim Bailey: Reminiscing on farming life the way it used to be

I lived on a farm during my younger years. Dad’s day job was teaching high school agriculture. But he also operated a farm of his own, and consequently we ate pretty well.

I was probably 3 years old when we moved out in the country on a rented spread with no indoor plumbing overlooking North Mankato, Minn. A couple years later Dad bought another farm, this one just inside the Mankato city limits with agricultural zoning grandfathered in.

Dad kept a flock of chickens, so we had plenty of eggs, and periodically he would whack a chicken’s head off for our evening meal. A couple of swift hacks of the hatchet separated the bird’s body from its head, and the chicken often flopped around for a few seconds before its life impulses ceased. Not a pretty sight for any confirmed vegetarians I’m sure.

We had two Guernsey dairy cows, Miss Prim and Nancy. Dad would run the milk through a separator, dividing the cream from what was effectively skim milk. Homogenization wasn’t yet in vogue then. Neighbors regularly bought cream from us, bringing in a little extra money. And I was raised on plenty of milk straight from the cow.

When the cows would go dry, Dad would have them bred to restore the lactation. I wasn’t old enough to be privy to the breeding process, other than occasionally seeing the rooster, Shadrach, get a little frisky. But on one occasion I did view the birth of a calf with my dad and another man acting as midwives. The first calf was named Snicky, short for Snicklefritz. I named the next two, with more conventional names of Billy and Bobby. Dad would let them grow for about a year before butchering the calves, renting a frozen food locker at a downtown grocery.

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