Saturday, December 20, 2008

She's here!

The newest member of our family has arrived!

No, not Dan's little brother or sister. Our new puppy, Annie.

Look at all those adorable puppies!

After reading my column in the Dairy Star about losing Rosco, we got an email from another couple who loves animals. Mark and Michele wrote to express their sympathy and, in one of the kindest gestures we've ever received, offered us pick of the litter from their Australian Shepherd, Duchess.

At first, after Rosco's death, we thought we were just going to not have a dog. But as time passed we realized how much we missed his constant companionship, his "something's in the yard" and "there's a cow out" barks, and the importance of his job in keeping the cats out of the barn. So we took Mark and Michele up on their offer.

Dan was in heaven.

The puppies were born on November 4. We made the arrangements to pick one out last week. Talk about a tough decision.

This little girl is the one who stole our hearts.

We ended up picking one of the tri-color puppies. She was the first one who came up to Dan when I put him in their pen. She was also very calm.

Annie has now wiggled her way into our hearts and quickly erased any hesitation we had about getting another dog.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Somebody hit pause, please

There are times when I wish life came with a pause button. For those days when life is happening so fast I can barely keep my footing as it rushes past. Yesterday was one of those days.

Maybe a pause button is only a Band-Aid solution, but it sure seems appealing.

For example, when Dan sits me down and asks me to play I could hit pause and the world outside my little bubble would slow to a halt. I could play to my heart's content with Dan, without worrying about getting out to the barn or supper or the million other tasks that need my attention. The cows are on hold – they'll wait. The world is on hold – my year-end bookkeeping deadline can wait. Right now I'm just going to enjoy this time with my son.

I believe the experts call this concept 'living in the moment'. It's the secret to happiness. Well, it's a secret all right; because without a pause button, it's awfully hard to sit for awhile without worrying about what else one should be doing. I guess that's why we take vacations. It's a lot easier for me to just sit when I'm away from the calves that need bedding or the floor that needs sweeping.

Or, take last night, for another example. Glen came in for help after I'd gone in to make supper. A new heifer had calved. Somebody hit pause, please. The casserole I have in the oven magically won't burn. The rest of the world will wait while we coax Dixie into a stall, harvest her colostrum, and feed her little heifer calf. When we do finally crawl into bed after our perfectly-done supper, we won't be an hour behind bedtime and faced with another short night. Oh, imagine the possibilities of life with a pause button.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finding a farm

Midwest Dairy Expo marked the two-year anniversary of the start of our search to find a farm.

Two years ago, we were expecting our first child, working for another farm, and wondering what on earth we were going to do when our year-long herdsman appointment expired. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked us "What are you going to do when you're done here?" we wouldn't have needed a loan to buy our farm.

Our answer was always the same: "We don't really know yet, but we'll figure something out." We were operating in a state of blind faith and forced optimism. We really couldn't see around the next corner, but we kept moving in that direction anyway.

For me personally, not having a 'plan' was incredibly unnerving. Looking back, though, I realize the experience changed the way I look at life. We refused to dwell on 'what if we don't find a farm' and instead faced each day with the belief that we truly would find something. I've always been a relatively positive and optimistic person, but this was a larger-than-life example of the power of positive thinking and turning thoughts into action.

We ran into our Farm Business Management instructor from up north at the 2007 Expo. We talked with him about what was next and decided to organize a search team. We met with our search team, which later developed into our Dairy Profit Team, in the spring of 2008.

I can honestly say the advice offered at that meeting is the primary reason why we own a farm today. We had been asking around about farms since we moved to Stearns County; since there weren't too many options for buying a farm we had turned our focus to finding a farm to rent. Our search team turned our focus back towards farm ownership.

So, with our young son in tow, I started the process of finding a farm. I taped a map of the county to our kitchen wall and drew two big circles around our preferred areas. I followed over two dozen leads on farms to rent, eventually visiting a half-dozen. I looked for weeks for farms for sale before finally finding a candidate. It turned out not to be a good option: it was too far away and needed too much work to be functional. I was so disappointed I told Glen I was taking a break from farm-finding.

Then, on the day I declared my break, I drove by a farm-for-sale sign on my way back to the house we were renting. That particular farm hadn't showed up in any of my online real estate searches. I found the listing after I searched the exact address. The farm met all of our requirements. I could barely contain my excitement when Glen got home that night. We called a realtor the next morning. Looking back, we maybe should have hired a realtor in the very beginning and saved me the stress of searching, but hindsight is always 20/20.

We visited the farm and made an offer. By mid-summer, after three months of ironing out the details of buying a farm and relocating cattle, we were on the farm. By fall, we (ourselves and our cattle) were finally all in one place again. (While we were working as herdsmen we had cows and heifers in five different locations.)

Now, whenever we start to lament about the challenges currently in front of us, one of our loan officers kindly reminds us, "Look at how far you've come." It's hard to remember to look back and recognize our achievements when we're so focused on moving forward and what the future holds, but our loan officer is right. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a successful dairy farm. Sometimes we need to put our concerns about what we don't have on hold and celebrate what we do have.