Friday, July 24, 2009

Behind the scene

No, we didn't win a million dollars from Publishers Clearinghouse – although that's what Glen wanted to tell the neighbors. The film crew in our yard wasn't here to document our newfound richness; actually it was just the opposite – they wanted to hear about our need for credit and how the Farm Service Agency's Farm Loan Program has helped us start our career in dairy farming.

We had no idea how involved the filming would be. Like clowns coming out of a circus car, cameras and lights and sound equipment rolled out of the film crew's van. They even came prepared with a voltage meter to make sure their power source was adequate; we learned that the outlet in our garage needs a checkup the next time our electrician is out.

They shot footage of us as a family out with the cows and moseying around the yard and then filmed individual interviews. The filming took about three hours. Had the film crew been around all day, they could have dubbed the film "Grand Central Station".

Our "movie day", as Dan called it, started with a fresh cow on the far side of the pasture. The neighbor we rent the pasture from was out for his morning walk to check his crops when I went out the get the calf, so I stopped to gab with him a while. The neighbor we borrowed the weed mower from came over to bring it home. Our nutritionist stopped in to discuss a recent ration adjustment, our route guy was here to change inflations, and our field rep stopped in to see how we were doing. Derek, our employee, came early to help with the last minute yard preparations. Our babysitter and Glen's mom were here to help with Dan and Monika. Glen announced the arrival of Mara's heifer calf just as we were finishing the filming. After the film crew packed up and left, our DHIA tester arrived for our monthly test. While Glen milked, Derek and I moved and cleaned hutches for the two new heifer calves.

I think I was asleep that night before my head hit the pillow. It was neat to be part of a film project, but I'm glad events like this aren't everyday affairs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Buzz cuts

It always amazes me how fast the buzz-cut alfalfa fields can turn from that brownish-yellow color to green almost over night – even without any rain. I guess that's one of the benefits of growing alfalfa. There was very little alfalfa planted in the part of the state where I grew up; I didn't see my first real alfalfa field until I was in high school. The grass hay we grew and harvested was much more susceptible to drought conditions. A first crop was almost always guaranteed, but all bets were off when it came to a second crop. My family and friends from up north ask for clarification when I mention that we're finished with our second crop; most of them are still working on their first crop. Dad said there won't be a second crop this year unless they get some rain.

The other crop that seems to be fueled by sunlight alone around here is our son's head of hair. I swear I just cut it a couple weeks ago. I think his hair is on the same schedule as our alfalfa – every 28 days. I finally decided last weekend it needed to be buzzed after I couldn't get the sand, silage and hay out his hair during his bath. So, the next night the clippers worked their magic and turned his shag into a buzz. I'm getting used to his new look. He still rubs his head and says, "Tickle my hair." (He thinks the clippers tickle.)

Before the buzz

After the buzz

In another 28 days, son.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


My how time flies when the sun shines! It seems like the days just disappear: one minute we're finishing breakfast and then, before we know it, it's time to start evening chores. It always seems to feel this way when there's hay laying.

Last week was a like a game of fruit-basket upset. We switched the cows' schedule in an attempt to keep them cooler. Usually they go out to pasture during the day and stay in at night. After we installed two 48-inch barn fans on Tuesday, we kept the cows in during the day and turned them out at night. That meant we had to rearrange mixing, feeding, and barn cleaning schedules as well. We're back to our regular schedule right now, but it looks like there will be another switcheroo coming next week if the weather man's forecast for 100 degree heat holds true. The cows really struggled with last week's heat wave, hopefully having the fans from the start will help them stay ahead of this coming wave.

We weren't planning for any major investments for this year with milk prices where they are, but some friends of ours offered us their barn fans for a very generous price. Big fans have been on our wish list for the future, so we took them up on their offer. A half-day's work later and standing in the front door of the barn feels like standing in a wind tunnel. I still can't believe how much more comfortable the barn is now. There are only two problems with the fans: first, the cows like to stand in front of the door when they come in rather than going right to their stalls, and second, we move so much air through the milk house that I almost need wind goggles to work in there.

Now, if we could only get that much air to move through our windrows today, we'd be set.