Our soybeans are harvested, but not our corn. We've been waiting for the corn to be dry enough and now we're waiting for the weather to be dry enough.
Since it was nasty outside today, Bob and I started reminiscing about early days in Mokena, IL.
We met sometime in 1971 when I worked at Frankfort Grain and Lumber. I was the bookkeeper/clerk and Bob was a farmer/customer. Something we heard on Wisconsin Public Radio got us revisiting our past.
Bob started talking about how the majority of farmers don't take cob corn and oats into the granary to be ground for feed any more. These days the grain is stored off-farm and delivered fully ground in a big bulk truck. It was very different back in the 70s.
I used to work the scale at the granary. Regular pickup trucks would be loaded with cob corn to be ground in town.
"We'd shovel everything into the back of the truck at home," said Bob, "then after having it ground, we take it home and shovel it off the truck into a small bin." Lots of physical work.
When feed was getting ground, farmers would visit until their turn came. Bob remembered waiting his turn when a neighbor (Rafus) brought in a pickup of pig feed to be ground.
Mr. Rafus had contacts in Chicago at a candy factory. He'd get the mistakes from the factory to feed to his pigs. He also got the 'garbage' from fancy city restaurants. No one knew what would show up to be ground when he came.
Bob was there when the feed to be ground was mostly turtles. You know the kind. They are made with caramel, pecans, and chocolate.
That day the mill really had to work getting that gooey caramel through the grinder. Actually, it gummed up the blades and made a mess for Henry and his crew to clean up. But, oh did it smell good back there, all sweet and chocolaty.
Everyone thought about reaching into the truck before it was dumped and taking a turtle to eat, but no one did. It was going to be pig food after all.
Mr. Rafus had an odd collection at home. Bob and his dad were on his farm for some reason and saw a big box of silverware near the pig pen. Rafus offered some to Bob and his dad to take home. They asked how he got so much silverware.
It turned out that the silverware came via the food picked up back of the restaurants. After that was mixed with corn, the whole lot was dumped in for the pigs. When the pigs were finished eating, the silverware was behind. It had been tossed out with the food in the city. Funny, no one ever took Mr. Rafus up on his offer of free silverware.
Shorty, Bob's dad, worked at dairy plant and he brought home the whey, which was a waste product from their cottage cheese making. That whey was fed to the Manzke pigs. Bob said they did real good with that added to their diet — I bet if they knew about the candy bar pig rations they would have been jealous.
The Manzke pigs weren't deprived though. Their sweets came in the form of day-old bakery from Service Bakery in Tinley Park. That's where Bob's Uncle Bud worked.
The scraps that came out of the bakery were the packages that hadn't sold in stores. Bob remembers that the macaroons were especially tasty — not all those returns made it to the feedlot. Some went straight into the house.
We did the same thing. Mom would fill the car with 'animal' feed bakery. When she'd bring it home, we'd go through all the packages and find the best for ourselves. The chickens, ducks, and geese got the rest. For us, a day when the bakery arrived was like a party. Everything we couldn't afford to buy retail was ours for almost nothing.
One last story.
'The egg man' the Manzkes' knew, used to pick up bakery, too. One time he got a call to hurry in for a load of dough that had been mixed up wrong. He loaded the dough into his dump truck.
At home, he drove into the pasture to feed the dough to his steers. When he started up the hill, the tailgate broke open and the risen dough rolled out. The egg man had a tailgate to fix, but he was happy the door hadn't broken while on the road. Now that would have been a sticky mess to clean up.
Farming has changed over the years, but we hope someone is 'recycling' the food scraps to lucky animals and maybe some lucky farmer gets a not-so-stale treat, too.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke.