Jerry Nelson: Practicing patience

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Jerry Nelson

If patience is a virtue, many of us are leading unvirtuous lives. I often try to correct this by asking a Higher Power to increase my supply of patience and to do it right now.

Americans can hardly be blamed for evolving into such an impatient nation. Our modern world has trained us to expect instant everything.

We become upset if our fast food isn’t bagged and dangling out the window mere moments after we bark our order into the drive-through’s outdoor menu board. With a few clicks of a mouse, we can immediately access anything from the novel "Of Mice and Men" to Mickey Mouse to tips regarding how to rid your house of invasive rodents to videos about unusual friendships that have developed between cats and mice.

Even when I was a youngster, there was instant coffee, instant oatmeal and instant breakfast drinks. Although, there is some debate over whether Tang is a beverage or a pigment used in the manufacture of orange paint.

I think that a person can, with practice, become more patient. But devoting the time to practice being more patient would require a large reservoir of patience.

The COVID-19 epidemic has snarled the supply chain for many products. There are currently shortages of such things as container ships and microchips, although the supply of potato chips seems to be unaffected. Thank goodness! I wouldn’t care if we couldn’t buy a GPS gizmo for our dog, but I would get really upset if there was a shortage of my favorite crunchy munchy.

We aren’t accustomed to seeing barren shelves at the supermarket. It’s a bit jarring, similar to when you were a little kid and saw your second-grade teacher outside the classroom setting for the first time. 

Generally speaking, there are few people who are more patient than farmers. This is because there is hardly anything instant about agriculture.

When I was a young dairyman, I took a class to learn how to help a cow become pregnant without the need for her to interact with a bullying bull. During the hands-on portion of the curriculum, our instructor barked, “A thousand days! Remember that.”

When asked to explain this number, the instructor replied, “That’s how long it will take from the day you service a cow until the day you’ll see a difference in your milk tank. Holsteins have a 280-day gestation period. Her calf will need to grow up and go through her own 280-day gestation. It adds up to about a thousand days.”

And I had thought that nurturing a corn crop for five months was an annoyingly time-consuming project.

Speaking of crops, farmers have to patiently plan what to plant and where and when. This requires thinking years in advance, taking into account such variables as future weather patterns, price trends and pest pressures – including pesky traveling salesmen. As such, farming is pretty much a crapshoot.

Most farmers would give a major appendage for a reliable prediction regarding any one of the above factors. Even a somewhat dependable Magic 8 Ball Fortune Teller would be welcome.            

The story goes that there once was a swine farmer who became known far and wide for his extraordinarily delicious pork. A local newspaper reporter was sent out to ask the farmer how he had accomplished this feat.

“It’s no big secret,” said the farmer with a shrug. “We feed acorns to the hogs.”

“So, you gather up acorns and give them to the pigs?” asked the reporter.

“Nope,” replied the stalwart swineherd, “We pick up the pigs and hold them up to the oak tree’s branches and let the pigs decide which acorns to eat.” 

“Isn’t that awfully time-consuming?”

“Yep,” replied the farmer. “But what’s time to a hog?”

During one of our voyages to Kansas City to visit family, my wife and I became ensnared in a traffic jam. Stationary cars and glowing brake lights stretched out to the far horizon. It was much different than the traffic snarls we experience out here in the boonies, where we think it’s a traffic jam when there are three cars ahead of us at a stop sign.

My wife soon became impatient and annoyed. “We’re going to be late!” she groused.

“No, we’re not,” I replied. “We started out way ahead of schedule. We have plenty of time.”

“But I know how difficult it is for you to sit still and watch the minutes tick by.”

“Yeah. But I have a new personal motto: ‘What’s time to a hog?’”

I probably could have come up with something better, but I didn’t have the patience to work on it.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.