One busy family
Calving season, with its long days and sometimes longer nights, won’t start until the end of March at the Wayne and Annette Leier farm. But with everything and everyone already going at breakneck speed, it’s hard to imagine the family could get even busier than they are.
The Leiers, who live south of Orrin, maintain a household crowded with activity, and the hours the family puts in to keep everything on track don’t seem to ease up, even in the dead of winter.
In addition to raising cattle and small grains both Leiers work off the farm. Wayne is a drywall contractor who usually works within a 50 to 75 mile radius of the farm. “He feeds early in the morning, usually in the dark, and tries to leave home by eight or earlier,” Annette said.
By that time the Leiers’ daughters, seventeen-year-old Ashley, Alicia, thirteen, and Brianna, ten, are on the bus heading to school in Rugby.
That leaves just Annette and five-year-old Kendra at home where Annette does office work for Wayne’s business, her business, and the farm for a couple of hours. She and Kendra then start a homeschool kindergarten session which amounts to about four hours scattered throughout the day. Kendra works on the computer and completes worksheets, but Annette incorporates lessons into such household activities as laundry, making bread, baking and canning.
The Leiers started home schooling when Ashley was five. “We didn’t want to put her on the school bus for an hour and a half twice a day,” Annette said. The three older girls all had classes at home, but later started school in Rugby, which Kendra will do also, probably starting with fourth grade. “We’ll evaluate the situation when she is older,” Annette said. Because of fewer students in the country, the bus ride is now considerably shorter, Annette says, down to about two hours total per day.
With the lessons finished, Annette and Kendra are on the road by mid-afternoon heading to either Rugby or Harvey for one of the Zumba fitness classes Annette teaches late afternoons and early evenings.
The older girls ride the bus most days, but with Ashley in FBLA, FFA, Science Olympiad, choir, track, volleyball and taking stats for boys basketball, she often drives to school. Alicia and Brianna have gymnastics on Mondays, which means they stay in town and do homework at the library, go to friends’ homes or ride the bus home and later go back for gymnastics. Alicia is also in choir, track and volleyball and Brianna plays basketball and is in Hershey track. On Wednesdays Kendra has gymnastics.
This past November Annette started teaching Zumba. She had a bulging disc in her spine which gave her pain, and her chiropractor recommended she exercise. She got some Zumba videos and worked out at home. “It really helped my back,”, she said, so she became a certified instructor and now has 45 students in two towns, teachng Mondays and Wednesdays in Rugby and Tuesdays and Thursdays in Harvey.
Annette often drives the 30 miles from the farm to Harvey to teach, then makes the trek to Rugby to watch an activity the girls are in, or picks them up from practice, and heads 30 miles back home. “Lots of juggling goes on here,” Annette said, with a laugh. “The main problem with living so far from town is that we put a lot of miles on,” Wayne added. “Anywhere we go is a 60-mile round trip.”
The Leiers are fourth generation farmers, and got their start in 1995 when they moved back to North Dakota from Las Vegas. “My dad was close to retiring,” Wayne said, “and Annette and I wanted to raise our family on a farm.”
Over the years the farming operation grew and the Leiers now have 200 Black Angus cows. Everyone in the family helps with chores. “Ashley and I make hay,” Annette said, but Wayne tries to arrange his schedule during haying so he can be home by mid-aftrnoon, just about the time the hay is dry enough for baling.
They also raise corn, barley and oats, but the entire crop is fed to their cattle. Most of the barley and oats is combined, but some is baled, also. The corn is custom harvested for silage, the only job that is not done by the family.
The younger girls do their part, taking care of the dogs, cats and chickens year-round. In the summer they mow the yard, weed the garden and help with cooking and housework. “It takes the whole family to run a farm,” Annette said.
Winter means extra work with cattle, but Wayne says this one is going well, even with the heavy snow. “The cows are doing fine,” he said, “but it’s a lot of extra work keeping the pens clean.”
“Prices are up and it’s going well,” Annette said. But of course, all expenses are up too, they add.
With calving coming soon, Wayne says he has some pens to clean out. Other than that the Leiers don’t anticipate many hassles. They have some first-calf heifers but mostly older cows that they raised from calves. “We know our cattle,” Annette says, and that helps take the pressure out of calving season. In addition Wayne tries to take time off work during that time.
If problems do arise during calving and Wayne isn’t around, Annette knows she can get help from neighbors. “I’ve called Tom Reiger a number of times,” she said. Fellow cattlemen Scott Senger, Pete Burgard, Scott Filler and Mike Reiger have also helped out when needed. “Sometimes Wayne’s an hour or further away,” Annette continued. “Then I’ll call a neighbor.”
Summers give the Leiers a little break from all the driving, but some activities continue. In the past the girls were in 4-H, girl scouts and took swimming lessons. This summer Ashley plans to take CNA training at the Heart of America Medical Center and the younger girls may take swimming lessons. Occasionally the family gets away for a weekend of camping, but real vacations are few and far between.
The four generations of Leiers go back to the early 20th century and the farm will be eligible for North Dakota Centennial Farm status in 2015. Wayne and Annette will have been married 25 years in June, 2016. “We’ll probably celebrate then,” Annette says, and possibly also take some time off. Provided, of course, they can work it into their busy lives.
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