Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Coming, again

    This sounds like a doozy of a storm coming our way the next couple of days. Luckily for us we are on the back edge of the snow, only predicting 4-6 inches here. Iowa and Missouri could get really dumped on. What really concerns me is the cold and wind.
     Tuesday is to have a high of 3 with 30-40 mph winds, not a day to be outside. This is the kind of weather that really is troublesome to livestock owners. You have to provide fresh water and feed even on those extreme days, and keeping water open is horrible.
     I get to call the tire people this morning. They were out the last snow when I had a flat tire on the payloader while scooping snow. I went to move it yesterday to put our flatbed trailer in the shop and it is flat again. They won't be too happy since it is 15 now, but it is only going to get colder and we need it to move the snow later.
     Today my schedule is pretty light, after last week. Tomorrow I sign up at FSA for the government program for 2011. With the current high prices for farm commodities it is hard to remember the reason we have a farm program. The goal is to have a safety net for framers to keep them in business so there will be enough food to feed everyone. 15 years ago the farm program saved us and now we are in good shape. Without family farmers our food supply would not be possible.
     Even with the almost record high farmgate prices paid to farmers, food is still cheap to Americans. Most of the price consumers pay is for labor, processing, packaging and trucking after it leaves the farmers hands. So a doubling of price to farmers may only mean a few cents per loaf of bread.
     So bundle up, protect your skin when going outside and thank a farmer when having a hot bowl of soup.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pickering Family

“You have to know the past to understand the present.”, Dr. Carl Sagan

A few years ago I decided to put our family tree into a computer database and fill in some missing branches. The Batie family didn't need any more work since my uncle Russell had tracked the Baties back to Thomas Batie who was married in 1751 to Margaret Robson, but no idea where he came from. My Mom's side was tracked even further. John Burbank was in the American colonies in the 1660's. 


So I looked at Dad's mother's family, the Pickerings, which is appropriate since all the land we now own was previously owned at some time by one Pickering or another.  I knew that my great-grandparents James and Harriett Pickering immigrated to the United States and settled in the Plum Creek, Nebraska area.  Luckily we started having the oldest Pickering cousins start telling family stories at our annual reunions. What fun.

After much searching and looking at all kinds of websites and transcriptions of records this is some of what I now know about the Pickering family.

James and Harriet Pickering left Liverpool, England on April, 1873 on the steamship "Spain". James was a blacksmith in the coal mines around Hartshorne, Derbyshire, England. He probably had a drinking problem and Harriet thought the move would cure that. James' uncle Edward Pickering had earlier come to America and landed in Plum Creek, NE. Edward wrote to James to come to Plum Creek as the new town had no blacksmith. James sold everything and  came to America with Harriet and his two young sons, William and John. William turned 3 shortly after arriving in America and John had his first birthday on the ship coming across the Atlantic. Harriet told her grandchildren that the voyage was horrible and she never wanted to do that again. 

John had scarlet fever while on the ship and developed a high fever and lost his hearing and was deaf the rest of his life. They landed in New York City on April 14, 1873. They boarded a train for Nebraska. When they arrived in Plum Creek, Edward was gone! His son Frederick was killed in an accident involving a loaded gun and a wagon of firewood. James and Harriet stayed and filed a homestead on the SE 1/4 of 10-10-21 on April 26, 1873, having settled on the land on April 24, a mere 22 days after leaving England.

James & Harriet Pickering and family, ca. 1890

James worked as a blacksmith in Plum Creek and built a house and barn on the homestead. He had to walk the eight miles to town the first summer because he had no money for a horse. James was unable to make the final preemption payment on the entire quarter so he gave up the 80 acres with the frame house and built a sod house on the other 80 acres and paid for it.

In 1879 he filed for a tree claim on the NE 1/4 of 10-10-21. On February 2, 1892 he received the patent on that quarter. By now James and Harriet had three more children; Harry born 1874, Sarah Anne (Annie) 1877 and Jim 1879. James continued to buy adjoining land from the government, Union Pacific Railroad or neighbors. James purchased 80 acres in 1886, 160 acres in 1887, 80 acres in 1892, 80 acres in 1893 (the original homestead with the frame house) and his estate bought 80 acres in 1894, a month after he died. 


In 21 years James and Harriet had accumulated 720 acres of ground after arriving with little or nothing. A true American Success Story.

Four of the five children married and lived around the original homestead. Will moved to South Dakota. My grandmother Annie inherited the tree claim and then bought more land with her husband Kit Batie. Harry was a horse trader and kept trading one piece of land for another and finally traded for land in the Sandhills around Brewster. Jim bought another neighboring farm and lived there for awhile before trying out Oregon (didn't stay). John farmed north of the tree claim, but eventually lost his ground.


Plum Creek became Lexington in 1889, but that's another story.

Later I will post stories about the Pickering cousins who attended District 56, a rural school in the neighborhood.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snowy Morning in Nebraska

We had a beautiful snow here Sunday, if any snow can be beautiful. We got about 10 inches of light fluffy snow with little wind, so it is laying fairly flat. The wind is now starting to pick up. We will see if it starts to pile up.

My perspective is much different than when we had 2,000 cattle around the place to feed and water every morning, rain, snow or sunshine. The feedlots in this area were busy by 6 this morning blading and scooping the snow out of the feed alleys. Next came the bunk sweepers and scoop shovels to clean all the snow out of the feedbunks. You must clean all the snow and old feed out the feedbunks before you add new feed, or the cattle will waste most of what you feed them. We never had a bunk sweeper, only scoop shovels to clean them by hand. If you think cleaning off a driveway is bad, try scooping 2,000 feet of feedbunks by hand, before you do your normal chores.

Next is to clean the water tanks from ice and snow. Most modern tanks have some sort of heater or continuous flow water to keep them clean, but 10 inches of snow will overwhelm most of them. After feeding then you start to clean the pens of snow. You really need to clean the concrete apron by the feedbunks and the mounds in the pens of snow so the cattle can eat and rest on dry ground. If not done right away the snow becomes ice or mud, depending on the weather. Both are bad!!

Since our livestock today consists only of 40 laying hens (Barb's hobby), one dog and 10 or so cats, chores aren't bad. I did have to get up and clean the driveway  out to the road early this morning so C could get to school. Even 10 inches aren't enough to cancel school since it didn't blow it around. Our dog is a Black Labrador Retriever cross and thinks this is the most wonderful weather. She still wants to play fetch in the deep snow. She can't understand why we keep wanting to go inside to warm up. After all it only 9 degrees and the snow is so much fun to play in.

For me this will be an office day. Moving the 2010 file folders to the last year drawer, making new folders, printing 1099's and paying more bills. What fun.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snapshot of our farm

We operate our farm inside a regular C corporation, Batie Cattle Co. In our area we are a small to medium sized farm with around 1400 acres. Virtually all the farmland is gravity irrigated. We raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and occasionally winter wheat. The quarter-section where we live has been our family since 1879 when my great grandfather, James Pickering, filed for a tree-claim on it. He had to plant 10 acres of trees and keep them alive for 10 years before he got title on the ground. He finally received the patent on this quarter in 1892. (I will have another post just about James, an American success story)

I have one full time employee, Kenny, besides myself. We do hire some additional summer help, mostly high school boys, and some harvest help in the fall. For several years now the summer help has mostly been Kenny's sons. That is about over as the youngest graduated from high school last May and will be attending tech school next fall to become an electrical lineman. This will probably be his last year. I don't know yet whether either of my daughters will be working here this summer. They have both helped over the years, but usually are too busy to count on for regular work.

With a name like Batie Cattle Co. you would assume that cattle would be a large part of our operation. It used to be. When we formed the corporation 26 years ago, all of our income was from feeding cattle. All of our crops were fed to the cattle and we bought more corn besides. We quit feeding cattle in 2003 for several reasons, the main one being we were losing too much money. We also knew that if we were going to continue we were going to need to install expensive waste containment systems on the feedlot. It was a tough decision to make and even tougher to tell my Dad, but it was the right decision for us.

Instead we added some farmground and concentrated our efforts on raising the best crops we could. Since then we have added a sideline business of trucking breeding gilts for a local veterinarian. This started when we were looking at moving from straight trucks to a semi. Our vet asked us to look at buying one we would take over the road for him. We did and now we put 20,000 to 30,000 miles a year on our semi hauling hogs.

Monday, January 3, 2011

All about me

This is the first post in my blog about what's important to me; farming, family and my faith, not necessarily in that order. My purpose in creating this blog is to  let the non-farming public see what life is like on our family farming operation. I am also using this forum to get some of the family history and stories written down for my children and other family. It is impossible to separate our faith in Jesus Christ from either of these two areas since it is only because of his sacrifice on the cross that enables me to live my life.

My name is Don Batie. I have been married to my best friend Barb for almost 26 years. We have two daughters, J & C. J is a junior at University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Agricultural Education. C is a senior at Lexington High School. I will only be using their initials for privacy.

I have lived and farmed all my life in the Platte Valley, northeast of Lexington, Nebraska, except for the four years I attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln myself. I started to help my Dad farming when I was old enough to carry a couple of siphon tubes (more abut them in a later post), about 5 or 6 years old.

My wife Barb grew up in a dairy farm in northeast Nebraska. Besides helping me with whatever needs done, she is a freelance writer for a couple of local newspapers, a regional newspaper and the Nebraska Farmer magazine. She also has a weekly column in a local newspaper.

We are members of the Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Lexington and serve in various ministries there. I am an elder and also help with the video projections for our contemporary service. Barb runs the soundboard, teaches Sunday School and sings special music.

Both of us are very active in a number of organizations outside of church. I have been very involved with Farm Bureau, serving as Dawson County president for a total of 9 years, on the Nebraska FB board for 7 years and on several NFBF committees over the last 25 years. Barb has also been county president. I also am on the Dawson County Planning Commission, president of Nebraska Water Users, serve on the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, Ag Builders, and a rural cemetery board.

Barb is active in the Nebraska Press Women, Cather Circle and is on the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Next post will talk about our farming operation.