I’m sure there are many readers who would heartily disagree with me. But, I think sometimes doing things the hard way is better than taking the easy route. In these days on the farm when vehicles and machines allow us to ride much of the time, there are also times when a farmer can learn much by simply walking.
I'm not talking about farmers who are disabled, injured or suffering physically and need these valuable vehicles and tools to do their job. I'm talking about farmers like me who could use a little more physical activity.
Walking is healthier than riding. In the old days, farm families were physically active most of the time. They walked behind a plow. On the Overland trails, covered wagons were filled with necessary household items and provisions for the trip, so emigrants literally walked their way to Oregon, California and locations in between.
Veteran farmers can tell their own stories about walking to country school every day, uphill, both ways, on their knees, in a raging blizzard. Seriously, they walked the pasture to bring cows home for milking. They walked cornfields and chopped cockleburs. They walked or rode a pony to town. Walking was part of their work, play and daily lives.
A few years ago, our aging ATV was in need of repair most of the summer. I missed it deeply, especially when the cows helped themselves into the cornfields. But not having a machine to rely on helps you take a closer look at what is really going on in your fields and pastures.
Without a vehicle, when I’m working in the field, I walk home for parts or to do chores. During harvest, I might walk home to get a truck or wagon. During calving time, I walk the pasture to check for newborns.
I learned plenty by getting out of the tractor cab and off the driver's seat. One spring day, while I was walking home for lunch, I found a wire broken in one of our pasture fences and a place where my cows were building an interstate highway into a soybean field. I fixed the fence immediately before the road work was completed, to the dismay of my herd. If I hadn’t been walking home that day, I wouldn’t have noticed the problem until the entire herd had relocated.
During calving time, I’ve found that my cows and calves respond in a quieter way to me wandering through the herd without the noise of a vehicle. By walking, there is no engine noise or blaring radio, just the birds, the smell of freshly cut alfalfa and a few pesky gnats biting at my flesh.
Farm vehicles are great, but once in a while, it pays to park the vehicles and hoof it to our destination. Farming is supposed to be a peaceful occupation. For me, walking on the job brings some of that rare peace back into our profession.