Posted on January 6, 2023
The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm.
Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby woodstove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved through the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.
“I believe this is the […]
Posted on December 13, 2022
As widespread rains begin to slowly refill lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, Thanksgiving thoughts turn back to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth where the Mississippi River, just a mile from our dairy barn, was a constant, often dominating presence.
Except, that is, in the late summer months when everything around the farm–cows, hired men, […]
Posted on September 28, 2022
One certain way to raise my agricultural bona fides among farming friends was to casually mention my upbringing on a 100-cow, southern Illinois dairy farm.
“Oh,” they would say reverently, “that’s real work.”
Yes, it was, but mostly for my father who began his farming career milking cows by hand in 1950 and ended it in 1989 […]
Posted on September 9, 2022
Two groups–one of South Dakota investors, the other tied to Texas cattle ranchers and feeders–are preparing to spend a collective $1.8 billion on two meatpacking plants that they say will be so innovative each will pay cattle suppliers more for their cattle and bison than any of today’s Big Four packers.
Most meatpacker pros, however, think […]
Posted on August 17, 2022
Each of my parents had an unwritten list of essentials to take when our family–of, holy cow, eight–left the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth on our annual August vacation.
For example, my mother never crossed the state line without a wide-mouth quart jar filled with soapy water and a washcloth so she could keep […]
Posted on July 15, 2022
From 35,000 feet, the white ring that marks the high level of Lake Powell looks just like the ring of an emptying bathtub. The only difference is the chalky top mark on this big tub, once the second largest freshwater reservoir in the U.S., is an unscrubble 1,900 miles around.
And Lake Powell, the upper reservoir […]
Posted on June 15, 2022
Despite spending every day of my southern Illinois youth on what at the time was a very large dairy farm, I never really had a clue of what made one Holstein cow or calf better or worse than the next Holstein cow or calf.
Most of that inability lay in my complete disinterest to show any […]
Posted on May 6, 2022
In a recent telephone conversation, a southwest Kansas farmer casually noted that he had stopped growing irrigated corn some years back because “it cost too much.” Curious, I asked what it cost to irrigate an acre of corn in his arid, cattle-feeding-and-corn-hungry corner of the state.
“It wasn’t the money,” he quickly explained, “it was the […]
Posted on February 18, 2022
For more than 40 years my father farmed within a mile of where the Kaskaskia River met the Mississippi deep in southern Illinois. That meant he had two, lifetime partners: the river and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, landlords of the levees that guarded our wedge of the Great American Bottoms.
Dad never argued with […]
Posted on February 11, 2022
The biggest gold rush in U.S. history is about to hit rural America and it won’t involve corn or cattle or even gold. Instead, the big money will be in pipelines.
That’s right, pipelines; pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) pipelines designed to carry CO2 from Midwestern ethanol plants to “sequestration” sites in either North Dakota or Illinois.