Saturday, February 19, 2011

#3       PIGS ON PUMPKIN RIDGE           

We owed the contractor $30,000 but couldn’t begin to pay it.  We believed that God would provide, but couldn’t imagine how He would do it.  Our answer came through the person that we bought the land from.  He held the contract, and didn’t like having a lien against it, so he paid off our debt and added it to the land contract.  Answer to prayer #1.  Incredible!

Some close friends wanted to partner with us raising pigs, and it seemed to be a good idea.  They picked out a spot on the ranch to build their home, and had a large concrete slab poured for the foundation.  But it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a struggle for the ranch to support one family, let alone two, and we amicably parted ways.  Now the question became, who pays for the concrete slab?  Well, it was a moot question.  Neither of us had the $1,200 that was owed.  After awhile, the bill went to collections, and we didn’t hear anything more about it.  Much, much later, when we did find ourselves able to start making small payments, the collection company, which had sold twice, could not find any record of our debt, and they weren’t interested in trying to find one.   Answer to prayer #2.  Inconceivable!

There were miscellaneous bills totaling another $10,000.  And then we received word that Mike’s uncle in Indiana had passed away, and we received a portion of his estate.  It just covered the bills, with enough left over to live on in the coming months.  Answer to prayer #3.  Unbelievable!

We really did live on very little money, always aware of how close we were to losing the ranch.  Even now I wonder how, with four kids, we were able to make it.  We bought raw milk from a neighbor, and made butter from the cream.  We had a huge garden, and I canned and froze all our vegetables.  We made plenty of both dill and sweet pickles.  Extra tomatoes became catsup.  Sows that went to the butcher due to hip problems kept us in bacon, sausage, ham and chops, plus I rendered the fat to make lard.  Mischief, the cow, filled our freezer, along side  4-H rabbits.  Chickens produced our eggs, and young roosters were on the dinner menu.  Eventually we had fruit off of five growing fruit trees.   I made jam: elderberry, raspberry, apricot, and cherry, for use on homemade bread, and the same flavors of syrup for pancakes.   

            If we knew then what we know now, we’d of put a basement under the house.  We had frozen pipes so many times, and Mike had to maneuver in a crawl space barely 18” tall in places in order to use the acetylene torch.  The first winter, the pipes to the upstairs toilet also froze under the house and all the way up to the second floor, and since they were built in, he couldn’t get to them to thaw them out.  So they stayed frozen for the winter.  One spring day, I walked into the living room and the whole ceiling was dripping water.  The pipes had thawed, exposing several breaks, and what a mess we had to clean up!
That first and second winter, 1974 and 1975, turned out to be two of the snowiest and windiest in recorded history.   But that story will be blog #4.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011



            Very soon it was time for the big move to the old house.  The day before, our 11 year old daughter and her friend saddled up two of our horses, and leading the third one, rode the nine miles to the new place.   The #1 horse was an ex-racehorse who loved to run.  The second one was a young 4-H horse. And the third one was Sam, a 20-year old slow ex-pack horse who was used to following the pack.  We placed them in a fenced pasture, unaware of Thistle’s ability to open gates.  What a shock to wake up the next morning and find three horses back home waiting to be fed.  We can only imagine the three horses running down the road in the middle of the night, with poor Sam yelling, "Hey wait for me, guys!"

     Mike had done a lot of research, and on paper it appeared that we could earn a fair living raising pigs.  We purchased the land with that goal in mind.  We decided to build the barns a ways from the house.  (From the county road, you go straight and up a long hill to get to the house.  To get to the barns, you go right at the bottom of the hill, and continue for about ¼ mile.)  The bank had agreed to loan us all the money, we signed all the papers for a line of credit that we needed to set up a first class operation.  But first, they said that we had to invest our money in the operation and then draw on the bank's money
       We hired crews to build a gestation house for pregnant sows, a farrowing house for the births, and a finish house for growing pigs to market size.  We ordered 100 quality gilts (first time pregnant) from a farm in Canada, anticipating the completion of building #1 in the very near future.  Soon, we found it time to return to the bank.
       “Here we are, ready to take home boatloads of money,” we told our banker.  “Sorry”, he answered. “Money is tight right now and you are too much of a risk.”  But what about the line of credit we signed for?  Turns out that was an agreement for us to bay back the loan if they loaned us the money.  It apparently was not a promise to loan the money.  We were stunned, but not discouraged.  “No problem,” we thought. "We’ll just go to a different bank."  But the response was just the same at every bank. We were at an impasse.  We couldn’t quit because we had half-built barns that weren’t paid for, and we couldn’t go ahead because we had NO money.  Construction came to an immediate halt.  All we could do was pray for a miracle in order to pay the contractor who had quickly put a lien on our title to the land.

      But the pigs were in route and they had to have somewhere to go.  Mike got busy and re-vamped the one, almost finished, building so that it served multi-purposes.  Of course, it never worked perfect because it wasn’t designed that way.  Sows would occasionally farrow in the gestation section and the other sows would trample the piglets.  They would farrow in the elevated crates and sometimes the babies would squeeze out under the rails, fall to the floor, and freeze to death.  When a sow’s milk came in, she had to be checked every two hours until she started to farrow.  Then she had to be checked every hour so we could dry the newborns and make sure they got under the heat lamps.  This wasn’t hard to do in the daytime, or in the summer, but at four in the morning in the dead of winter, it was most difficult to wake up to the alarm, get dressed, and, taking turns, go out in the snow and cold.  We had great litters, averaging 12 piglets, but due to the inadequate facilities, we had a lot of them die.

       We felt from the beginning that God was in this endeavor.  Too many doors had opened wide for us to pass through.  So we prayed and prayed, with $30,000 worth of unpaid bills, and God answered.  To find out “how”, well, that’s my next blog.