Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What? 9 words that have a totally different meaning on a farm

What are they talking about?

1. Feed.

What do you feed a cow?  You feed a cow … feed.  You don’t say, ‘cow food’, like you say ‘dog food.’  It’s ‘cattle feed.’

Our cows are on pasture, but we also feed them a supplemental feed.  (See what I did there?  I can’t get away from it.)  We chop up corn and alfalfa into tiny bits and feed them their feed.  Looking at ‘feed’ repeated so many times is … well, it’s making me hungry. 

Regular use:

“I tried to feed Cujo, but he wasn’t hungry for his dog food.”

 Farm use:

“Everything broke today when I went to push up the cattle feed.”

2. Lagoon.

Ah … a shimmering, azure body of water, tucked away in the Caribbean, the perfect temperature for a dip.

Or, a manure storage system.

Why is it better to have a giant lake of manure instead of having it in pits underground?

Lots of reasons!  The best reason, in my opinion, is that if you fall into a manure pit, you die.  The fumes, which are in a very small, enclosed space, overcome you and kill you.  There are many instances over the years on farms of someone falling in, and a dad, a brother, an uncle, etc. – trying to help and also perishing. 

But!  If you fall into a lagoon, the air isn’t trapped, so you’ll just be really messy.  No real harm done.

There are many other reasons – great engineering, easier way to spread the manure on fields in a timely manner, bigger, and basically everything is easier to work on when it’s out in the open and not under a barn.

You’d think it’d smell really strongly, right?  Amazingly, it doesn’t.  The manure forms a crust on top of it, and it doesn’t smell like you’d think it would.  (I know you’re thinking porta potty at a football game, right before kickoff.  It is only one million times better than that.)

Regular use:

“I’m going to lounge in the lagoon.  You’ll find me by the mermaids.  They’re thinking of making me queen.”

Farm use:

“A cow tried to fall into the lagoon today.  It must just look really inviting.”

3. Combine.

Okay, say that word out loud.  What syllable did you stress - did you say comBINE or COMbine?

If I were reading it, I’d say comBINE, as in to bring two separate pieces together. 

But on a farm, it’s a COMbine, which is a piece of farming equipment used to harvest grain.  It used to be called a combined harvester, and the name was shortened.  But that begs the question … were people pronouncing it the COMbined harVESTer?  And how did the NFL decide on their combine pronunciation?  And which quarterback could best run a combine this fall harvest?  Sports talk radio, I look to you.  I know you have an opinion.

Regular use:

“I wanted to combine my interest in taxidermy with my love of pets, but it just didn’t work out.”

Farm use:

“I wanted to combine my interest in combining with my interest in the combine, but sports talk radio ignored me.”

4. Fresh, freshening, freshen, freshened.

Crisp, bright vegetables, just from the garden!  Waking up bright and rosy-cheeked!  Reapplying perfume and touching up makeup!

Or, a cow that has just had a calf and is giving milk.  After they start giving milk, we refer to them as the ‘fresh cows’.  (Which makes me think of a gang of cattle, sassing their teachers and smoking across from the school.)

Regular use:

“My laundry never smells fresh.  It’s probably because I leave it in the washer for days before I realize I’m out of underwear again.”

Farm use:

“The fresh cows are milking well.” (This does not mean as opposed to the stale ones.)

5. Bagged up.

At the grocery store, a kind gentleman bags up my groceries for me. 

On the farm, it means that the cow’s udder is getting bigger, meaning she’s closer to delivering a calf. 

Kris drives out in the pasture and walks in the barns to see which cows are getting close to calving, so he can keep an eye on them.  They give signals, like getting really big on their right side (cows carry calves more on that side of their bodies.)  Their udders get larger.  They start complaining about their ankles and water retention.  Just kidding!  

Regular use:

“When I bagged up my groceries, I forgot to put in the conditioner.  So I had to cut all the snarls out of my hair before I left the house.”

Farm use:

“A few of them look pretty bagged up, so they’ll probably all have calves when we should be leaving for the football game.” 

6. Deacon.

You’re thinking – religious position.  Here, it’s a term for newborn dairy bull calves that you’re selling.  (If you’re keeping them, or they’re older, they’re just called ‘bulls’.  Isn’t that incredibly specific?  It is not a standard definition in Merriam-Webster, but it is one that we all know. 

Regular use:

“The deacon jumped from the church balcony to save his nephew from drowning.  No, wait, he made that up.”

Farm use:

“I sold three deacons today.” (And after they’re sold, they magically turn into bulls!)

7. Pasture.

When I think of a pasture, I think of a green meadow, full of grass.  That is a pasture!  It’s also used as a verb.  When I say, ‘we pasture our cattle,’ it means that our cattle graze on a pasture.

I think only farmers use it as a verb – but really, who else talks so much about pastures?  Endlessly?  For hours, months, years?  Pasture farmers!

Regular use:

“Do you see that pasture over there?  They’re turning it into a Denny’s.  If it were any other restaurant, I wouldn’t be mad.”

Farm use:

“We pasture our cattle on pasture.  It’s pasture bedtime, young man!”  (Raucous laughter.)

8. Crick.

Sometimes you wake up, and you have a crick - or a painful stiffness - in your neck.  Here, we often have them running through our backyards.  They’re a natural stream of water smaller than a river.

I well remember when I was a little girl, writing my aunt a thank you note.  I wrote, “We’ve been playing in the crick until we get leeches.”  My mom looked at my writing and said, “That’s not how you spell that – it’s C-R-E-E-K.”

Oh, that crazy English language, I thought.  A word sounds like ‘crick’ but is written ‘creek’?  Except I noticed … everyone didn’t call it ‘crick’ that rhymed with ‘brick’.  They called it ‘creek’ that rhymed with ‘seek’ - JUST LIKE IT WAS SPELLED.

Since then, I’ve said ‘creek’ to rhyme with ‘seek’.  But I’d say it’s 50/50 around here.  But everyone knows what everyone else is talking about, so there’s never any confusion. 

Regular use:

“I can’t believe I still have this crick in my neck from headbanging in the ‘90s.  Darn you, Nirvana!”

Farm use:

“I’m soaked, because I had to run through the crick to chase that cow that got out.” (Sometimes causes back cricks.)

9. Scours.

What do you scour – a sink?  A pan?  The internet?

Here, scours is synonymous with calf diarrhea.  (Aren’t you glad you know this?)  Scours isn’t a disease, but it is a symptom of several diseases.  No matter what’s causing it, scours can make the calf dehydrated and lose electrolytes.  Since they’re just delicate little babies, you have to make sure that everything that’s going into them and coming out of them is right.

Regular use:

“I scoured that pan for upwards of five minutes.  Then I just threw it away.  I think I’m actually coming out ahead on time if I just buy a new pan every time I make omelets.”

Farm use:

“Kids, I was just treating that calf with scours, so let me take a shower before I hug you.”

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Anonymous said...
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Mandy Thomas said...

Deacon was the only one I hadn't heard before! The rest of them I've used many times...including the "crick/creek" debate.

As for the lagoon, well I've seen horses walk and drink out of hog barn lagoons...I'm not sure what the heck they were thinking but I wouldn't want to be drinking out of that! And as far as deep pits...I am definitely not a fan either.

Lorna said...

We have lots of examples here in Ireland too but different to yours. We call castrated bull calves steers or bullocks. Never heard of them being called deacons.

Carla said...

Mandy - drinking out of them?! Wow, that seems ... gag-inducing. : )

Thanks for reading!

Carla said...

Lorna - Ah, I bet the difference between Ireland and the US terms are fantastic! I've only heard 'bollocks' as meaning 'no way'! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sara1025 said...

Just found your blog. I was raised on a farm in Southern Miami Co, Ind, on the banks of Honey Crick, which runs into Pipe Crick. (Yes, I know it's spelled 'creek' but I always say/write crick just to mess with people's heads.) I follow a lot of farmers in the UK, so your blog will be shared there, as it just was.

Sara McKeefer
Syracuse, Indiana

Carla said...

Ha! Glad you liked it, Sara! Thanks for sharing it. What blogs do you follow in the UK?