Infrequently Asked Farming Questions

Why is hay called hay?

The word hay is derived from Greek. On sunny spring mornings, after the dew had dried, ancient Greek farmers would start cutting grass with a scythe, only to look up a few hours later, point to the sky, and utter the exclamatory expression, “Hαγ!” Soon thereafter, the ominous cloud building overhead would dump inches of rain, ruining the prospects for drying and raking the grass into haystacks. Then all the farmers would gather at the sale barn and curse the local weather oracles. Exclaiming “Hαγ” at clouds after downing grass occurred so frequently that the whole process became known as κάνοντας Hαγ, or “making hay.”

Ham comes from pigs, so why, pray tell, are hamburgers made from beef? 

pigs
These were the first two pigs we ever raised. The black and white one led the cliff-diving expedition.

That’s a question that has long plagued me. I bet it has something to do with the fact that most pigs belong to Mensa. Those smart little porkers probably tricked cows into volunteering for hamburger patties. Once, a pig convinced me to jump off a cliff. I won’t bore you with the details of that story, but if your mom ever asks, “If your best friend jumps off a cliff, would you follow?” I can pretty much cut to the chase and give you the answer if your best friend is a speedy piglet who dives into a groundhog hole just before the edge of a deep gully. In that case, you would go flying off the cliff while rotating your arms like helicopter blades.

What exercises best prepare new farmers for the physical demands associated with farming?

I’m assuming the questioner is just being polite and using “physical demands” as a euphemism for pain. To increase on-farm pain tolerance, I recommend the following workout routine, performed twice weekly. (Remember to consult your healthcare professional before starting any new workout routine, especially this one.)

1: Three Acres of Strawberry-Picking Toe Touches. This exercise focuses first on flexibility and second on straighten ability after prolonged periods of bending at the hips.

2: Whack a Finger. This exercise mimics the pain associated with on-farm hammer use. Take a hammer, pick a finger, and give it a good whack. You’ll know you did the exercise correctly when the fingernail falls off in two months. An advanced method involves remaining silent while performing the exercise.

3: Corral Dodge Bull. This exercise provides a good cardio workout that lasts as long as you can escape the bull’s horn, after which the exercise focuses on how to stick a landing after being tossed thirty-feet in the air.

4: Hive Tipping Sprints. This exercise increases speed under duress. Pick your meanest hive and tip it over to resemble a fresh bear attack. Try to outrun the bees.

Where did the expression “meaner than a Jersey bull” arise?

Some people suspect the Holstein Breeders’ Association coined the phrase. Likely, they merely mimicked the marketing tactics of the Copperhead Snake Handlers’ Association who pushed  the saying “meaner than a rattlesnake” into the collective consciousness. Personally, I’ve always found Jersey bulls and rattlesnakes unobjectionable, though I’ve hardly got to know any as individuals since I was too busy running in the opposite direction.

Chicago Bull