Life is ‘Crazily’ Good

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Taking a barefoot walk on a sandy path

You wouldn’t believe it looking at the picture, but behind all that sereneness, solitude, and simplicity is a farm girl ready to take on the cows with Daddy during milking, help round-up calves for vaccinations (yes, we give vaccines to calves to keep them from getting illness ((such as Pneumonia)), and help fix broken boards in the barns. She also loves riding on the extra seat in the mower with her aunts, the tractor with her Grandpa, Daddy, or Uncles, and helping Mommy weed the garden and look for tomato worms causing havoc on the tomato plants.

Yes, she stays busy, gets dirty, and plays hard, but at the end of the day there is still a smile on her face and a song on her lips. “Oh, I’m a farm girl…and that’s how I like it.”

So here’s to all those farm girls who know how to work hard…and love the smell of manure, grease, and leather, and hay…and can turn around on a dime and be girly in flowing dresses, straw hats and baskets full of wildflowers…barefoot on an old dirt path.

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Mowing Sunsets

 

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Sun Setting & Just Finishing Mowing Hay Field

Enjoy some of the wonderful scenery just outside my front door. The cloud formations the other evening were amazing as my sister-in-law was just coming in from mowing second cutting hay.

Our family always enjoys watching the work going on in this field every year, and every season. The kids are always on the lookout for someone with whom they can go riding with whether it be in the tractors or mower.  I love it because I know where they are and if they get tired I can just pop out the front door and pick them up on the edge of the field. It also gives them quality time with Daddy, Grandpa, and the many Aunts and Uncles that are still milling about and helping out. It teaches them to appreciate hard work…and the beauty that comes from being out in God’s creation.

 

Loving Rust?

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I wasn’t really interested in the rusty wheels sitting on the front yard of my in-law’s place. I was even more disinterested in them when I was told that they needed to be put on Craigslist and could I do it. (Yes, I love taking photos. No, I hate listing things.)

I looked at the wheels, my husband, and shrugged my shoulders and hoped that would be the end of me and those rusty broken wheels. That night my Father-in-law with a big grin on his face hauled them over on the back of his four-wheeler and dumped them on top of my gravel pile. Now I had to do something with them…I took one picture on my phone. I listed it…and kept going back to the photo on my phone and thinking…and thinking. (I had listed this ‘antique’ as a possible garden conversational piece or…yes, ‘photo’ prop.

I let those old, rusty, antique wheels sit in the yard for a full day and a half before I finally, on one of the hottest mornings of the year dragged it from the front yard all the way behind the bull barn, down the path, and into one of the cornfields…I only knocked out one stalk of corn while getting it set up just the way I wanted.  Then I ran back into the house and rifled through my ‘photos’ only clothing for the kids and found something Julia was willing to wear. She was all for a ‘photo’ shoot with Mommy. We then sent  her older sister searching for Black Eyed Susan flowers while we got set up…and took a photo with those rusty old wheels. Yes, there is beauty to be found in rusty old things you find around the farm. There are numerous rusty antiques to be found and it’s what you do with them that can make them ready for the scrap pile or a work of art. Sometimes we come across people too who seem to have a bit more rust to them then we are willing to take on or even want to be in contact with, but with time and a little bit of love that rusty exterior can give way to something special, just like those rusty, antique, yet photogenic wheels.

Warming Up

 

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“You going to replace my bucket anytime soon?”

Things are finally bustling around here. The tractors are all revving their diesel engines and heading for the fields. Pulling behind themselves either a chisel, disc, rock wagon, or planter. Today we sent out another rock crew to pick off the rocks on another plowed field before we plant corn. I would love to have the beautiful flat clay fields of Iowa over the rocky fields of Michigan, but I wouldn’t trade our weather. I love cooler summers.

As of my last writing we have gotten about 60 acres of corn planted…only 340 acres to go. and that doesn’t count the 600 acres of hay we already have that will eventually need to be harvested two-three times this summer as the weather continues warm and the rains come as needed…or not needed.

My strawberry patch is beautiful and I didn’t lose any over the winter. My asparagus is finally harvestable. We did have a few days where I was covering it due to some frost warnings. I have been busy in the Rhubarb patch and sold a few pounds to our local restaurant as well as sold a few pies. This past week was a record for me in pies as I made a total of 8…all of them some form of Rhubarb.

I am hopeful that this week we will be able to start planting the garden. The girls and I are eyeing are seeds and biting our nails in anticipation of starting up again.

 

Nice To Make Your Acquaintance

 

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Getting to Know You

Hi, my name is Rebekah and I am a 5th generation dairy farmer. My husband’s family has been farming for over 100 years. Today our dairy farm milks 350 Holstein cows in a double twenty herringbone parlor twice a day. Milking takes about four hours  with two people milking. We raise our own replacement heifers as well as breeding bulls, and beef steers.

We also raise most of the feed we need to care for our cattle. We grow mostly corn and alfalfa and rotate crops in order to care for the soil and replenish nutrients. We also spread manure which is a great by-product of cows and a natural fertilizer. When spread on the fields it replenishes nitrogen into the soil and turns our corn and alfalfa into beautiful, bright and healthy green foliage in the summer that the cattle will enjoy eating all year round.

We keep our animals in free-stall barns which allows the animals to move, eat, and rest as they desire. We ensure that they have plenty of water, feed, and moving air, as well as clean stalls every day.  There has been found to be no difference in cattle cared for in a free-stall barn versus in a pasture. Studies have shown that when given the option cattle will head for the barns rather than the outdoors.

We test our milk on a monthly basis to ensure a quality product and each tank of milk is sampled and tested before it is hauled away to our local Cooperative where it is than processed into many different dairy commodities like cheese, butter, and ice cream.

So next time you are in the grocery store buying a dairy product think of the farmer and the cow who helped get it on your table.

 

Back in the Saddle…I mean Buckets Again.

 

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Taking a break from feeding a barn full of hungry bovine youngsters

I have been absent for a few weeks. I decided to take a tiny break before starting up the blog again for the Spring blitz. Yes, things on the farm are about to get crazy as they usually do when the snow finally melts and the buds start popping on the trees. We have already had two rock crews out in the fields picking up stones and boulders so that we could plant alfalfa, had a wonderful gully-washer that has Dad questioning whether the seed took or got washed away, (Time will tell on that one.), and popped tires on unsuspecting antler sheds lying mute on the fields while attempting to spread manure. (All this happened in less than five days.)

We also had two milk trucks pick up our supply of milk this week as one truck cannot hold all our product in one trip…our bulk tank is about to max out as well and now we’re wondering: “What do we do now?” Hmmm.

With all this craziness happening you may all be wondering how in the world I will even manage to get a post written once a week, but I will strive to be socially active here. I look forward to sharing with you in words and pictures what a happens on the Dairy farm as soon as the weather turns warm and we head back into the fields. I hope you will follow along.

 

 

A Work Ethic

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Helping Clean Out the Trailer and Bed with Sawdust Chips

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for life.” or so the proverb goes. This is so true even on a dairy. We could give our kids a glass of milk or a delicious hamburger and that would be the only contact they would ever have with the family business, but then the ‘family’ aspect would be gone. It would just be Dad and Mom’s business and maybe if we (the kids) get older and are interested than we’ll lend and hand and maybe decide to dairy farm.

On our dairy that isn’t the way it works. We are a family run business. We’ve been in operation for over 110 years. Why? Because our forefathers taught their children from a young age the importance of hard work, the importance of a job well done, and the importance of a dollar. Money doesn’t grow on trees…and especially on dairy farms. Dairy farm are one of many Agricultural businesses that don’t see a regular rate of income. Each year the milk price rises and falls with demand. Our salary isn’t steady. It rises and falls. One year we can make $10-15 dollars an hour. The next we’re lucky to make $7.00hr. Our forefathers didn’t stop farming because they couldn’t make a certain wage that year, the cows still needed to be milked. They farmed through the hard times and the good times. This is where training our children about the importance of work and not the almighty dollar is so important. Yes, working is the means to make an income and a living. But work should be enjoyed and looked forward to, not because at the end of a two-week period you get paid, but that at the end of each day you have accomplished something worthwhile.

As Mary Poppins said so plainly (and yes, I love to quote her regularly) “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and SNAP, the job’s a game.”

So instead of waiting for your kids to be grown up to teach the importance of hard work, have them learn through helping with family chores. It may not be a dairy operation like mine, but it can be day-to-day chores that come from running a family. Family helps each other. So teach your young child to clear his place at the table, make his bed, take out the trash, clean his room, make cookies with you, and/or even learn how to clean the windows. (My girls always are begging me to let them do this. For some reason they love the squeak of the rag across glass. 🙂 You will be glad you did. You will have taught your children how to survive as adults independently and how to raise the next generation to work hard and enjoy each days chores.

 

The Farm Photographer…Michaels Challenge

The truck needed to go to the mechanics. The stove broke down and needed to be replaced. And Michaels Craft Store had sent out a social media photo challenge. “Show us your photos taken in our store”. I had been watching this challenge for a few weeks, and jumped at the chance to go into the city with the truck for Dad. My ulterior motive? To visit Michaels. When you live on a dairy farm an hour from the nearest Michaels the possibilities of getting away for just a photo shoot are nil.

I had noticed when visiting the #MichaelsChallenge, that not many avid photographers were doing children or implementing any farm themes. So I jumped at the chance to add a little cream to the crops out there.  So enjoy a Dairy Farmer’s take on a photo challenge.

 

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Girl with a Glass Bird

 

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I can’t wait to smell real flowers!

 

 

 

Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year…

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What It Looks Like Now

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What I am Looking Forward Too!

Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year

I can’t resist attaching one of my favorite songs for this time of year to this blog post. Every time I walk out-of-doors into the frigid temperatures that refuse to believe Spring arrived a few days ago I sing the chorus of this 1944 song.  It has become my theme song and my husband always loves it when I start singing it while running up and down the manger feeding calves trying to stay warm, my breath coming out in frosty puffs and wafting away.

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for Spring. This Farmer’s wife is ready to put away the snowsuits, boots, gloves and hats, and pull out the jackets, muck boots, and baseball caps. I am ready to start getting my garden plot tilled up, explore the woods looking for deer sheds, and soak up a lot of vitamin D. Yes, I am even ready to pick stones…GASP! A job that I don’t appreciate that much; well my back doesn’t appreciate it. This year I am looking forward to crop rotations and the fact that the hay-field next to my house will be a corn field. I am looking forward to raising the curtains on all the barns and letting the sun shine in, and I am ready for the first Robin to find my yard.

I am thankful, however that the cold has remained thus far. I got a new kitchen floor laid down in my 1950 circa farmhouse, and I have started on the bathroom floor. If it was Spring I’d be outside rather than getting these necessary updates done in the house.

I did diffuse some lovely citrus essential oils throughout the house in an attempt to hasten Spring indoors while the thermometer continues to drop. So Happy Spring from this Dairy Farm, It is here, the calendar said so.

 

Saving Daylight

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Daylight Savings Day…?

I just happened to look at the calendar and noticed for the umpteenth time that Sunday will bring in the dairy farmer dreaded ‘Daylight Savings’. Whoever came up with this advancement of the hour by one obviously did not think about the havoc this causes on cows.

When we milk cows, we milk twice a day. Once at 2am in the morning and then again at 2pm in the evening. The cows do not need to tell time. Their bodies are acclimated to a schedule. When the gates open at 2, whether morning or evening the cows are waiting nearby ready to race up the holding pen and into the parlor to be milked.

When you spring ahead an hour you can’t just milk the cows at 3am and 3pm and be good. Businesses acclimate for the time change and still open their stores at 9am, not 10am…and it’s not easy for us as humans to acclimate to the change any more than it is for cows. So on our dairy we too acclimate to the change…but it isn’t easy.

Even though the dairy farmer lost an hour of sleep somewhere on the clock he still has to go, now sleep deprived, and move cows, who aren’t ready to be milked an hour early, and train them to a new schedule….Then in the fall when Daylight Savings ends…they have to do it all over again…only then the cows have to wait longer to be milked. When a cow has a full udder of milk she needs to be relieved of that pressure. If a cow is not milked on schedule she could end up dealing with Mastitis: a clogging of the milk ducts, which can lead to fevers, infections, and sometimes when not caught soon enough and treated can lead to death.

On our farm to compensate for Daylight’s Savings we milk the first day a half hour later and when Daylight’s Savings ends we milk a half hour earlier. This gives the cows the ability to ease into a new schedule rather than hit them with a full hour change all at once.

So when you’re mumbling about losing an hour of sleep. Think about the dairy farmer who loses an hour of sleep, the cow who needs to be retrained, and the extra work that has to be done on a farm where every hour has its own list of chores to be done.