Dear County Agent Guy

Scoop shovel 2.0


The timeworn phrase, “Kids sure have it good nowadays!” has never been truer than it is nowadays.

I blame the so-called digital age, which led to the advent of the so-called internet. Back when I was a kid, the only digits we knew of were those that you might use to scratch yourself and the term internet was only used by fishermen.

Young people are overindulged by the instantaneousness of our digitalized world. I have a friend who lives in California and refuses to have anything to do with anything digital. Our handwritten communications take place via the U.S. Postal Service; the back-and-forth of a letter and its reply can take a week.

Today’s youth would wail and gnash their teeth if an exchange of messages took longer than a nanosecond. What if it took seven days?

Long before the internet was even a tiny spark in the infinite emptiness of cyberspace, our family’s dairy farm coined numerous digital words and phrases that remain in use to this day.

Take the oats that we grew on our farm and fed to our small herd of Holsteins. Oat harvest always happened at midsummer, during the hottest time of year. Wagonloads of oats would stream onto our farmstead, grain that was then offloaded into our Kelly Ryan grain elevator using the protocol Dad called Scoop Shovel.

When my siblings and I complained about this sweaty, dusty task to Dad, he replied that we had it good and should count ourselves lucky that we had access to the hardware that was capable of uploading oats into the granary.

Once a week, a truck-mounted grinder-mixer that was operated by Van Hoepen Feed Service came to our farm to reconfigure our grain into cow feed. The thundering machines would update our oats into tiny particles, which is why we called the grinders microprocessors.

The day before the feed truck came, I would use Scoop Shovel to allocate a preselected amount of oats from the granary into one of our wagons. The wagon was then topped off with ear corn. We called this process a transfer protocol.

The grinder truck would drive onto our farmstead and navigate to a spot near the wagon. I would scramble up into the wagon and download the grain into the feed grinder’s insatiable hopper. Since both ear corn and oats were involved, a diverse shoveling skillset was required. I decided to call this multitasking.

But, first, the feed truck’s operator — either Clayt or Gary — had to start the grinder’s humungous diesel engine. If the engine failed to catch, the operator would curse mightily, kick the engine and administer a liberal dose of starting fluid. We dubbed this procedure booting up.

As I transferred grain into the hopper, Clayt or Gary would monitor operations. This involved standing at least 30 feet away — upwind from the dusty, roaring grinder — and watching me shovel. Clayt and Gary had invented the pre-internet version of system administrator.

After the grain was processed, the grinder’s auger utility transmitted the feed into a granary vector we called the bin. My siblings and I then began to gradually uninstall the feed using an operational paradigm called FGB, which was our acronym for 5-gallon buckets. As we manually spooled out the feed to our bovines, it occurred to me that my siblings and I were the cows’ servers. Our Holsteins were normally browsers, but when they greedily gobbled their feed, it was said that they were taking megabytes.

We weren’t yet done with the oats. Some hours after being consumed by the cows, oat and fiber byproducts were downloaded into the gutter that had been preinstalled behind the bossies. A computer’s recycle bin can be emptied with a quick click, but that wasn’t how things worked with the gutter.

The byproducts were manually uploaded — again, utilizing our archaic Scoop Shovel protocol — into a manure spreader that was rerouted to the domain Once it arrived at this site, the spreader would broadband the byproducts. Worms and bugs would slowly reconfigure the manure’s resources into the components that would be reallocated into the infrastructure of new oat plants.

There were times when weather conditions or a faulty gateway resulted in the denial of access to We would store our recycling in a cache called randomly accumulated manure, or RAM.

We frequently harangued Dad about our outmoded operating system and strongly recommended that he requisition an upgrade. Dad would reply that he was looking into installing new hardware that was currently being developed but needed additional testing and debugging.

He said that it would soon be released under the exciting title Scoop Shovel 2.0.

Jerry Nelson is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].


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