June 12, 2024

From the Pastures: Old-fashioned way

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. Finally, the crops are in the bins. It’s not always possible to harvest beans dry this late, but it’s has been a pretty good early November. The ewes and lambs and all the cows and calves are enjoying the stubble now. Organic corn and bean prices are really good this year and being able to use livestock to capture more from each acre is icing on the cake. Rain kept us from drilling the rye on the cornstalks, but hopefully by the time you read this that job will be done, as well.

We continue to get inquiries for breeding ewes and lambs and have sold 120 head so far with more folks coming from Wisconsin on Nov. 20 to purchase some after they saw the ewes their neighbors got last month. I don’t mind downsizing on today’s market, and with sheep, it won’t take long to build back with the flock remaining.

We took some of our pastured hogs to Johnson’s Locker in Chadwick for customers earlier this month. They have done a good job for us as did Elmwood locker last month. As we all know, getting a booking for any slaughter has been challenging lately, so we go wherever we can get in. We have four more hogs going to Walnut Acres Locker north of Walnut next month, which was short notice, but since it was only kill and chill, they got us in.

Those hogs go to our Croatian and Serbian friends in the Chicago area who have been our lamb customers for many years. They know how to do it the old-fashioned way and use everything but the squeal, as the saying goes. They do a great job of curing the slow way as Ruth and I found out last year when they did some for us.

Our last two beef to go in this year have been postponed until the new plant at Raber’s in Peoria gets finished. That’s been fraught with delays all year. We booked last April when they expected to be going by July.

On a sadder note, Ruth’s dad died last month, one of the few remaining World War II Navy veterans left. Although he grew up in Chicago and went to school at Lane Tech, he was kind of sickly as a child, so he was sent to relatives in the country for the summers and spent a lot of time milking cows and putting up hay and other farm work, so when he got discharged after serving his time in the Pacific, he settled in the Sheffield area and farmed until retiring several years ago when his son, Ruth’s brother, took over.

He continued to help working ground ahead of the planter and running the combine until he was 93. That was four years ago. Not many farmers I know grew up in the city and farmed on their own and kept at it that long. After he married Ruth’s mom, Grace, he borrowed from her teaching salary to buy his first tractor, a M International. One of his more recent adventures was going on an honor flight to Washington, D.C., a few years back. He loved all the attention, and it was well deserved. A big thank you to those who made that happen.

One last item to mention, Ruth and I drove out to Virginia to a gathering at Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm and heard some great speakers like Jim Gerrish and Ray Archuletta, as well as Joel and his family. While we were seating ourselves for one of the talks, another couple sat next to us and were surprised because they had read my previous article mentioning our upcoming trip here and wondered if they would be seeing us. We had a good visit with them. Like minds seeking the same adventure, I guess.

I hope you all take time to thank God for all He has blessed us with this Thanksgiving Day. Happy trails.

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.