We moved to Kentucky in 1992 after Lee’s sister,
Carin, and her husband, Jim, purchased a second farm. They asked if we
would like to help them work the farms. Never any money in it but it so
much more relaxing than the usual rat race. They raise beef cattle and
grow Kentucky’s cash crop, burley tobacco. With cattle you have
to produce your own supply of hay to get through the winter with. So summers
are devoted to hay production, both rolled hay and squares.
Tobacco is such a labor intense crop. You start in the spring raising
from seed your plants. We used the greenhouse/waterbed method. In late
May you have to transplant them to the ground with a tobacco setter one
plant at a time. With 10-15 acres to plant it takes a lot of time. Then
you have to side-dress (plow fertilizer next to each row). Sometimes you
have to do that a couple of times. Then there is always the weeding with
a hoe walking up and down each row. When the plants mature they will produce
a flower at the top BUT it is the leaves you are selling so you have to
break the flower out of each plant causing the top leaves to grown more.
In late August/early September you cut the tobacco (one plant at a time).
To cure the tobacco leaves you hang it in a barn. To do this you spear
6 stalks of tobacco on a 4’ stick. These sticks are then hung in
the barn on rails. Most barns are 8 to 10 rails high and the rails are
made of 4"x4" boards 12’ long and that is what you stand
on passing the sticks up and hanging as you move through the barn. In
late November/early December after the tobacco has cured to the brown
color you have to drop the sticks down from the barn and strip the leaves
off the stalks one at a time to put the different shades of brown in separate
piles. The tobacco companies are looking for the darkest color to buy.
By the time you get it sold it is time to start on the next year’s
crop. Never ends and it sucks. The amount of tobacco each farm is allowed
to sell is determined by the government and they have been cutting that
number each year. Jim’s has been reduced down to where it is now
more advantageous for him to lease it to another farmer and let them grow
it. You won’t hear any complaints from me.
We were able to purchase a 21-acre farm in 1995 and started our own cattle
farm (with Carin and Jim’s help). We had 5 cows and a bull. But
last year with Lee’s disease he was no longer able to help Marge.
Her cows were like pets and would come right up to you. A couple times
Lee tried to feed them and they knocked him down. So she sold them and
bought Boer Goats to replace them. She started with 5 nannies in the summer
of 2002, had 5 kids (3 girls and 2 boys (sold 1)). Seven of the nannies
(Last one to deliver anytime now) had a total of 14 babies so far this
spring (one set of triplets). It is so cute to watch all the kids running,
jumping and playing around out in the fields. We had an old picnic table
that we put in the field with them and they love to play king of the mountain
Marge had been raising Mini-Rex rabbits to show for a number of years.
She would show them at the Kentucky State Fair each year and had won a
number of ribbons. Unfortunately she became too busy with the church,
volunteer work and the grandkids and didn’t have the time to devote
to them. We got rid of all but 3, which are more for the grand kids.
Those of you that know Marge know that she has always named all of her
animals. She can sit on the porch right now tell you the names of all
14 of the kids and who their mothers are. She sure does love her animals.
Sometimes Lee gets a little jealous of all the attention she shows them.
*smiling* Needless to say, she is in seventh heaven here on the farm
and always felt she was meant to be a farmer.
UPDATE..... We have decided to retire and have only the 3
goats, Oreo, Stella, & Stan and all rabbits have passed on.
But........ We now have free range chickens for eggs and entertainment.
UPDATE..... Marge decided to get cows again but is going miniature, two
Dexter heifers, Maggie and her half sister, Millie, and a miniature
Herford bull, Scully ....... they are smaller, very gentle and easier to
handle. Maggie, had a heifer calf, Joy with Scully as the father.
Millie came to us bred due next spring/summer. Marge is 'planning'
t raise our own beef .....but........ we'll see how that goes!!!!