Work & Play

A young Illi­nois cou­ple grows their herd and their fam­ily.

Farm & Ranch Living - - CONTENTS - Story by Kelli Black Herrick, Illi­nois PHOTOS BY HOLLY BIRCH SMITH

My hus­band, Brady, and I have al­ways had a mu­tual love for agri­cul­ture. I fol­lowed that love to col­lege, where I stud­ied agri­cul­ture ed­u­ca­tion, and then to our 40-acre farm in Shelby County, Illi­nois, which we bought shortly be­fore we got mar­ried in 2014. We wel­comed our first child, Ada, in Oc­to­ber 2017. We now have 12 black An­gus, red An­gus and Here­ford beef cat­tle we use in a cow-calf breed­ing op­er­a­tion. We also have a Duroc/Ch­ester White boar and three York­shire sows that we breed and far­row for my nieces and neph­ews to show at the county fair and to sell as mar­ket hogs. Our two minia­ture don­keys, Mr. Jack and Miss Jenny, serve both as pets and as guardian an­i­mals. Fi­nally, we have Bo, our 2-year-old golden re­triever. I can’t wait to buy Ada a bot­tle-fed calf to raise, but that might need to wait a few years. When we aren’t work­ing on the farm we are at our full-time jobs— also in agri­cul­ture. Brady works for a fam­ily-owned ag re­tail com­pany, where he sells fer­til­izer, seed and chem­i­cals. He also does cus­tom ap­pli­ca­tions of an­hy­drous am­mo­nia and sprays her­bi­cides dur­ing the busy sea­son. I teach high-school agri­cul­ture and am the Na­tional FFA Or­ga­ni­za­tion ad­vi­sor in nearby Shel­byville. I’m also in­volved with the county 4-H fair and serve on the board.

MON­DAY Brady’s been work­ing long hours seven days a week. We got so much rain in late April and early May that most of the re­gion’s corn and soy­bean fields now have to be re­planted, so Brady is busy with spray­ing. I am just start­ing sum­mer break, do­ing house­work and farm chores. To­day Bo and I went to my par­ents’ farm, and I picked cherries with my mom. Once home, Bo and I checked on the cat­tle, fed the pigs and don­keys, and then took Brady sup­per and went on a walk. My fam­ily gives me a hard time, but I love to take Bo with me when­ever I can. He re­ally is a part of our fam­ily.

TUES­DAY About 35 acres of our farm are pas­ture. Last sum­mer we built a quar­ter-mile-long barbed wire fence down the cen­ter so we could im­ple­ment a new ro­ta­tional graz­ing sys­tem. We re­cently turned the cows onto the south side of the pas­ture, which has sev­eral trees, many steep hills and a nat­u­ral spring. The north

side has some rolling hills but very few trees. Most south-pas­ture days, we’ll find the cows con­tent­edly wad­ing in the spring. They’re a bit stub­born, though. They don’t want to leave the cool wa­ter to make the trek up to the feed­lot.

WED­NES­DAY To­day I took 11 stu­dents to the Illi­nois FFA con­ven­tion in Spring­field, where we lis­tened to key­note speak­ers, went to a ca­reer show and did some plan­ning for the com­ing year. Our chap­ter was rec­og­nized with the Bronze Em­blem Na­tional Chap­ter Award. Four of our stu­dents walked across the stage to re­ceive their state FFA de­gree, the high­est honor in the pro­gram.

THURS­DAY I worked at the 4-H ex­ten­sion of­fice on en­tries and get­ting things ready for the 4-H fair. When I got home, Brady told me that a new bull calf had been born. In two years of breed­ing, about 75 per­cent of our calf crop has been bulls. They’re great for the bank ac­count, as we typ­i­cally band them and sell them as steers at the sale barn in the fall. But bull calves are not as ideal when you’re try­ing to grow your herd. I don’t want to com­plain, though, since a healthy calf is bet­ter than no calf at all.

FRI­DAY My mom came over this morn­ing, and we made fruit pies to put in the freezer. All of the cherries, ap­ples, rhubarb, peaches and black­ber­ries were picked on our farms or neigh­bor­ing farms. It may take time to pick and freeze the fruit, but the in­gre­di­ents are cheap—and they sure make good pies. I like to keep home­made pies in the freezer for cook­outs or fam­ily sup­pers. We also can and freeze as much pro­duce as pos­si­ble each sum­mer: sweet corn, tomato juice, zuc­chini, pick­les, green beans and ap­ple pie fill­ing. My fam­ily gets to­gether to make big batches for all of us. It’s one of the many things I ap­pre­ci­ate learn­ing from my mom and dad. Not many of my friends know much about food preser­va­tion. It seems it’s be­com­ing a lost art.

SATUR­DAY My dad, my two brothers and Brady and I all raise cat­tle. We each have our own small hay­fields, wa­ter­ways and patches of grass hay and al­falfa. We share the hay equip­ment and help one an­other bale hay. While Brady and I don’t own any of the hay equip­ment yet, I con­trib­ute la­bor, and in ex­change we get round bales to feed our cows through the win­ter. I love hay­ing sea­son. We had a bit of a set­back to­day, though. The fuse on the baler mon­i­tor fell out, and ev­ery­thing came to a stand­still. We robbed a fuse from the other trac­tor and made do un­til the end of the day.

SUN­DAY Brady had the day off. We went to Sun­day school, which he teaches, and church, and then to my fam­ily’s an­nual re­union—a potluck, of course. Later we went and vis­ited with Brady’s fam­ily. When we got home, we saw that two of our sows had rooted un­der the hog pan­els and es­caped their pen. The pig­pen is surrounded by a larger pen for the don­keys and wean­ing calves, so the pigs didn’t get very far. We drove some t-posts and rewired the pan­els, and the pigs fol­lowed me into the pen like dogs. It was an easy fix! Brady’s long days at work are, hope­fully, reach­ing an end, and we’re look­ing for­ward to tack­ling our sum­mer to-do lists. Thank you for read­ing—we en­joyed shar­ing!

Af­ter a busy day spray­ing oth­ers’ corn­fields, Brady Black takes time to feed the cat­tle on his own farm.

The Blacks’ red and black An­gus cat­tle have made their way out of the pas­ture for din­ner.

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