The 2009 Blizzard Through the Tweets of Two Farmers

As the calendar clicked over to Christmas, I posted a blog entry on some of my thoughts about staying home for the holiday.  Staying home was like a dream because I travel a lot and while I LOVE travel, the change of pace sounded like a fantastic idea.  I took time to point out that a few farmer friends would also being staying home… caring for the livestock that becomes meals for those of us who are consumers.   At that point I had no idea what “staying home for the holidays” would really mean for them!

As I tapped out my blog post, Mark McHargue was one of the farmers that immediately came to mind.  He and his family has a hog farm in Nebraska and had already been letting those of us on twitter know what was happening in his part of the world.  Debbie Borg is another of my tweeps and her family has cattle.  Both of them produce corn and other row crops — and while weather was tough on a lot of farmers, Debbie wrapped harvest right as the blizzard was headed her way — an incredible one-two punch!  I’ve focused on the tweets related to weather & livestock related but both of these folks have a lot more they offer up on twitter.

Living in New York for a few years, I got somewhat accustomed to snow storms.  The worst storms I saw were nor’easters — what I would describe as a hurricane that dumps snow rather than rain.  I remember having the snow drift overnight so badly I couldn’t get out of the apartment til Sal dug me out.  I spent long hours huddled in front of the TV and suddenly having the urge to bake (it helped warm the apartment!). I’d walk around the neighborhood a bit & snap photos.  While I would dig out my car and at times that would take hours, I’ve obviously never experienced the sort of weather the plains has endured the past several days. And while several college friends have been in the midst of this one,  not very many of my college friends had to fight the snow the way some of my farmer tweeps have! I wanted to share their story.

Debbie posted this photo Christmas night

For those who don’t use twitter & are not familiar with some of the ways it works I want to give a few tips before you read the timeline. Since you are limited to 140 characters per update, using 4 for “for,” R for “are,” and others are common.  They replying to questions or comments from a few folks — @jplovescotton is me and @JeffFowle is a rancher in California — Debbie’s husband is farmer1 :).  The pound sign (#) serves as a way to search for the word that follows, there are quite a few we use often.  Mark’s using #farm, #food and #agchat since some of us follow frequently.  #HSUS refers to the Humane Society of the United States — an organization many farmers & ranchers point to as trying to eliminate livestock & meat production (Advocates for Agriculture has several posts that will provide more info).

Before I posted my thoughts on Christmas Eve, Mark had posted some of the following tweets:

  • Will be a busy day getting ahead of feed making sure were ready 4 the blizzard coming in 6:01 AM Dec 22nd
  • ppl like to set back drink hot coco and sit by the fire in a blizzard but 4 livestock farmers its some of our longest days on the #farm 6:08 AM Dec 22nd
  • Hogs R taken care of for the day big weaning day tomorrow even if it storms we will have to work through it not much choice #agchat#food3:26 PM Dec 22nd
  • We got the weaned pigs trucked to a nursery through the snow , now were going 2 make as much feed as we can B 4 we get snowed in #agchat 12:02 PM Dec 23rd
  • Mixing last load of feed 4 our pigs in snow storm. Animal cruelty is not feeding your animals our hogs are warm in there heated barns#HSUS 2:45 PM Dec 23rd
  • Busting some big snow drifts with my truck on my way to check my last hog building #agchat1:05 PM Dec 24th
  • Made it home but sent boys back to get tractor and blade to clear a wider path so I can out to do chores in the morning.2:13 PM Dec 24th
  • Finally going to find the fire place and some hot chocolate. Wishing everyone a Christ filled Christmas!2:54 PM Dec 24th

And Debbie had given us a few tweets including:

  • Now we’re playing catch up-oh but we’re going 2 help the neighbor combine 2day-so guess we’ll put catching-up off 4 another day of#hrvst09 7:23 AM Dec 22nd
  • Thank you all for the sincere support of getting through #hrvst09 –it’s been like no other.7:26 AM Dec 22nd
  • school is letting out and cancelled for tomorrow-everyone preparing for a very WHITE Christmas…kids are excited11:08 AM Dec 22nd
  • Heavy fog has set in, combines just got started again—frost plugged them up this am–ice is building on our power lines too @TroyHadrick 2:09 PM Dec 22nd
  • It’s about as white as a white Christmas could be. Heavy snow falling, trees covered and fog like.1:54 PM Dec 23rd
  • Even a whiter Christmas eve here – church programs have been rescheduled-may everyone have a very blessed Christmas.9:12 AM Dec 24th

So on Christmas Eve, when most of us were visiting with family, opening presents or picking up a few last-minute gifts, Mark & Debbie were already starting to fight the weather.  They were running early and hard… for the bulk of the day.  On Christmas, Mark posted the following:

  • Merry Christmas my the little babe in the manger became the Lord of your life. Have a great Christmas with your family and friends.6:00 AM Dec 25th
  • Getting some of the hogs fed in this blizzard. I’ve decided livestock farmers don’t get pay near enough to work in these conditions!10:01 AM Dec 25th
  • Not going to make it to all the barns one nursery has no power and can’t get to it hope we don’t find a disaster in the morning. #agchat1:40 PM Dec 25th
  • My great wife been waiting all day to serve christmas dinner haven’t eaten since went out this morning to care for our hogs smells great!3:07 PM Dec 25th
  • @JeffFowle your D8 is just what were going to need to dig out from this mess tomorrow if the wind ever quits6:28 PM Dec 25th in reply to JeffFowle
  • Good night everyone and Merry Christmas going to try to catch some sleep and see what day break brings.7:44 PM Dec 25th

Debbie was brief on Christmas saying:

December 26 & so far on December 27, Mark’s battle with the snow continued and we’ll be watching it for a while yet as the snow has stopped but drifts keep taking over the roads.

  • Mark snapped this photo as he arrived at one of the hog barns

    Mark's pigs warm inside & lined up to eat

  • Winds starting to die down only about 20mph my sons out with the tractor trying to plow out a few non farm neighbors #agchatabout 17 hours ago
  • Everyone in our house was getting cabin fever so we went 2 town to the movies got stuck in our driveway coming home son had 2 pulled us outabout 11 hours ago
  • Digging out with tractor again 2 get 2 hog barns!! Would love to make it to church later if we can get our livestock cared 4 #agchatabout 2 hours ago (posted around 9 am Sunday 12/27)

Debbie has given us a bit more too:

  • Well the wind was dn 4 abt 30 min-picking back up. Everyone out 2 help feed the livestock–it’s going to take the rest of the morning.8:45 AM Dec 26th
  • Drifts R growing-farmer1 cnt evr remember a 3 day blizzard & we’re going on day 4.Please pray 4 all the farmers & ranchers in ths blizzard.8:47 AM Dec 26th
  • Had to dig out, dig in and dig some more to get the cattle fed- but done for the am chores now http://twitpic.com/vbxj4 about 23 hours ago

Doing chores at Debbie's farm

  • Check this video of pigs that wish they were in a factory farmhttp://bit.ly/6Eswwd Oh the benefits of buildings to protect the animals.about 22 hours ago
  • Started snowing again–oh my–will we ever get dug out?about 21 hours ago
  • The forecast says mayB another inch of snow overnight–oh my, ths is setting up planting 2 B delayed said farmer1 today.about 13 hours ago
  • It’s not snowing and the wind is hardly blowing–let the scooping begin…..oh where are we going to put all this snow?38 minutes ago
  • @JPlovesCOTTON Last night farmer1 estimated 15-20 inches–really hard with the drifting – Thanks for the thoughts Cabin fever is setting in about 1 hour ago in reply to JPlovesCOTTON (posted around 11 am Sunday, 12/27)

Fighting a snowstorm has never been so tough for me. I usually take a walk to snap a few photos and spend more of my time avoiding the weather.  My biggest concern is usually being sure I have food at the house (& I mean the foods I want to eat at the time).  Food that farmers like Mark & Debbie have produced!

Give these guys & gals and the thousands of others like them a bit of thanks as you eat dinner or get to decide whether you want to go out during a big storm… do you have the same demands?  I sure don’t.

You can also read the blog posts of a couple of others on this topic:

  • Darrell & Jody Donohoe at AgrOpinion who raise have cattle in Kansas.
  • Glenn Brunkow who has livestock in the Flint Hills of Kansas on his blog Dust on the Dashboard.

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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19 Responses to The 2009 Blizzard Through the Tweets of Two Farmers

  1. Michael December 27, 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    I hope lots of folks read this to see how life really is when the wind blows and the snow falls. As a former livestock producer I’ve been there and am glad to not have to shovel snow. Hat’s off to all of them.

    • Janice December 27, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

      I agree!

  2. Bea Elliott December 28, 2009 at 7:24 am #

    This is very interesting… But predictable on how you’ve warped the original truth that pigs were not supposed to be in these types of climates to begin with! The origins of porcines is in semi-tropical and tropical climates. It was humans that dislocated them to begin with… And now use indoor cages as a cure. Ridiculous isn’t it? And oh so very “natural”…

    • Kristin December 28, 2009 at 10:10 am #

      I bet those hog barns feel “Semi-tropical” for their occupants considering the climate controlled conditions they live in! If we didn’t raise hogs the way we do today, we probably couldn’t afford the pork chops and pork roasts that my husband and I love so much! Thank you to the farmers who stuck out the cold weather and snowy conditions as they provided excellent care for their livestock!

      • eric May 8, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

        Trapped pigs in cages. Animal abuse.

      • Janice May 13, 2010 at 8:27 am #

        Eric, I disagree as I don’t think pens/cages equal abuse. Although I’m sure some instances can be abusive, a blanket statement goes too far for me. Knowing Mark, I can’t imagine him being abusive to any living thing.

  3. Bea Elliott December 28, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    How strange… Pigs in “climate controlled facilities” – Pigs in air conditioning and in heated buildings… Meanwhile many humans are turning down their thermostats to save on energy – or to save on the cost of energy. Oh! But that’s right… The government and taxpayers help pay for the costs of heating these warehouses – Never mind… Waste away!

    Pity though… that much money from people who would never think of eating a pig have to pay for others to do so.

    • Mark McHargue December 31, 2009 at 11:16 am #

      I have not received any Government money to heat or air-condition my hog barns not sure where you received that info. As a modern hog farmer I produce 50% more lb. of pork on half as much energy as 30yr ago I call that conservation of our natural resources and am feeding the world more food at the same time. I’m very proud of that!

      • Bea Elliott January 1, 2010 at 8:38 am #

        I get the idea that the government buys out so many in animal agriculture from the simple fact that it “buys” so much of this product for the military, schools, etc. If you look at the USDA pyramid of what we should be eating & what is available in Federally funded programs – The pyramid is totally upside down!

        But I don’t know that you are “feeding the world”… considering there is someone dying of starvation every 10 seconds… If we didn’t feed animals we could be feeding people instead… 6 to 10 times more people can eat a plant based diet as a meat based diet.

        Unfortunately the cost of animal agriculture is not seen at the cash registers; But exists in poor health, antibiotic resistence, compromised water/air quality, etc.

      • Janice January 1, 2010 at 9:17 am #

        Bea, You seem to have a number of ideas that you would like to discuss with farmers. Are you by chance on twitter? There is a weekly forum on Tuesday night from 8 to 10 pm EST called #agchat where all perspectives are welcome. That gives the opportunity for immediate exchange of ideas, numerous perspectives, etc. That may be a way for you to have more open discussion on the information you would like to put forward.

        I hope you will understand this blog post was meant to stimulate discussion about the blizzard and the efforts people undertook in their farms. Your comments bring up a lot of ideas to discuss and could certainly generate a number of blog entries and having looked at your blog (http://beaelliott.blogspot.com/), I am sure you would welcome others coming there to read your opinions & provide comment.

  4. Bea Elliott May 13, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    Janice – thanks for the twitter suggestion. And I have no problem with any visiting my blog. In two years I’ve never deleted or censored opposing views. I appreciate the owner of this blog doing likewise.

  5. gclub August 19, 2011 at 3:05 am #

    Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be running off the screen in Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue solved soon. Cheers

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