Sunday, March 28, 2010

Food for thought

We are at our very best and we are happiest when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we've established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.

—Earl Nightingale (1921-89)

On the lawn

It's March 28 and Dinah already thinks it's time to go out to pasture. I forgot to put the gate up in the barn this morning so she let herself out the front door and is now grazing on the lawn. What she's actually eating, I'm not sure, because the lawn is only starting to look green.

Glen, upon seeing her out the kitchen window just now, said, "Great, now the rest of the cows are going to be jealous and everybody will be out."

While it's true that the rest of the cows would probably be jealous, it would be much more difficult for them to get out. Dinah doesn't get tied up in the barn, so it only takes a small oversight for her to get out. Since she won't lay down in a stall, she has a little pack to lay on in the entryway of the barn. She goes freely between her stall to eat and her pack to rest. The only thing that keeps her in the barn when the front doors are open, as they are now, is our drop gate — the one I forgot to close.

Soon she'll be laying on the grass, looking much like one of the gigantic sculptures on The Lawn at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus. I can only imagine what the neighbors think as they drive by and see our cow out lounging on our lawn.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thanks, TechMix!

After looking through my posts for the past three months, I noticed that my posts seemed more focused on challenges than joys. So, this post, and a couple more in the next few weeks, are going to focus on celebrating successes.

The topic for this post actually came to me when I stepped out of the house to get the mail. Sitting on the front step was a large, white box. Glen was coming in as I was going out and we both looked at each other and asked, "Did you order something?"

Neither of us had. The unexpected box came from TechMix, the company that makes Fresh Cow YMCP Plus, BlueLite and other animal rehydration products. The note inside said they'd read the story about us in the St. Cloud Times and were sending the box of samples as a way to introduce their company and say keep up the good work.

What the folks at TechMix don't know is that we're already two of their biggest fans. Their products make our work a lot easier. We've been using their Fresh Cow YMCP Plus for over three years now. Every fresh cow is orally hydrated at least once with Fresh Cow YMCP Plus; cows off feed or otherwise not feeling well are hydrated with YMCP and alfalfa meal.

Keeping cows hydrated during times of stress has been one of the biggest reasons we haven't had a single mortality on the farm in over 12 months. And in the 12 months before that, we had only one death.

After reading the letter from TechMix, Glen's comment was, "I can't imagine where we'd be without YMCP."

Thanks, TechMix!

Monday, March 22, 2010

He must have read that wrong

There's been a lot of excitement around here lately. Between Monika's birthday and my birthday, we've had lots of visitors and good times. Plus, the sunny days have dried the yard up nicely, so we aren't constantly trudging around through the mud. But even more exciting is how well the cows are doing right now.

We made some changes to our ration a couple weeks ago and saw a huge response from the cows. The girls are eating better (next to no refusal), their rumen fill is like nothing we've ever seen before, and the bulk tank average is up nine pounds per cow. We can hardly believe it.

This morning after our milk truck driver left, Glen looked at the weight manifest, shook his head in disbelief, and said, "He must have read that wrong."

It seems like we've been trying to get the cows to this point for a long, long time, but nothing we'd tried up this point seemed to make a difference. It was like intakes and milk weights were on a yo-yo.

We're only a couple weeks into this new ration, but we're hoping against hope that this time we've got it right. It feels really good to see the cows eating and milking so well.

Monday, March 15, 2010

But at least...

There's no doubt about it, this is my least favorite time of the year. It seems like everyone's always talking about spring and new life and all that happy blather, but all I can think of during spring is mud. And I hate mud. But I'm trying to look on the bright side. The last couple weeks were pretty dismal around here and the weather didn't help any, but, like they say, there's a silver lining behind every cloud.

Here are my silver linings:

The eggs are so muddy from the chickens' dirty feet that we can hardly tell what color they are until we wash them, but at least we have fresh eggs to eat.

The dry cow pen is full, their pack is a disaster, and there's no relief in sight because every time a cow calves another one gets dried up, but at least that means the barn is full.

At the end of the day, Dan is covered in mud from head to toe, but at least that means he is able to run and play.

What are your silver linings?

Friday, March 12, 2010

The invasion

The first wave of the invasion has already arrived. In a few short hours, our house will be completely under siege.

It's time for Monika's birthday party and everyone is coming.

My family is arriving today and staying for the weekend. My sister's friend and her friend's three-year-old son are coming as well because my sister's husband had to work and my sister needed help making the trip from Sioux Falls with her own two boys. All totaled, we'll have ten adults and six children under four in our house for the next 48 hours. And, as my sister's husband put it, "that's no mansion of a farm house, either." There will be people sleeping in every room of the house except the bathroom and kitchen. To add even more excitement to the arrangement, the yard is so muddy that the kids can't play outside.

Glen's family will come tomorrow for the party, adding seven more adults and four more children to the mix and bringing the grand total to 17 adults and 10 children. At least the adults will outnumber the children.

Considering the fact that both my sister and Glen's sister are very pregnant and Dan is suffering from some sort of allergy, it's safe to say the house could spontaneously combust at any point on Saturday afternoon.

If you don't hear from me for a couple days it's either because my computer was damaged in the crossfire or I'm trying to recover from the invasion.

Does anyone have a white flag I can borrow?

(P.S. I wish you could see the smile on my face as I write this. I may question my sanity by the end of the weekend, but I am so excited for everyone to be here. This will be our first joint-family birthday party, since Dan's have always been split. Wish me luck!)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Keeping the old

I can still remember singing during Girl Scouts meetings, "Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold."

From 1999 to 2007, I moved eight times. And, thankfully, I've been blessed with the ability to make friends easily, so each time I moved it didn't take long to find a new friend who made the new location a little easier to adjust to. I am still close with many of those friends today. The beauty of these friendships is the ability to pick up where we left off, even though months sometimes pass between our visits.

One of the challenges of maintaining these friendships is the busyness of our lives. We don't spend all that much time away from the farm, and when we do, it seems like family events occupy most of that time. Our friends' lives are busy, too.

The other challenges of maintaining these friendships is our limited budget for travel. I try to send family updates with pictures of Dan and Monika by email every couple months and I send cards out once a year, but nothing replaces a face to face visit. Unfortunately, visits with our friends don't seem to happen as often as I feel they should.

Some good friends of ours from 'up north' were in the area this past weekend and stopped in to visit for a couple hours. We gave them a tour of the farm and chatted while the children played together. It had been much too long since we'd seen them, so we were especially thankful for their visit. Their visit was much too short, but it gave us an opportunity to catch up — and a reminder of just how much we miss them and the time we used to spend together.

We so enjoyed welcoming our friends to our farm; I think they enjoyed seeing the farm as much as they enjoy seeing us. As they pulled out of our driveway, everyone was smiling. Seeing old friends is like pouring water on a thirsty plant; what was once dormant is blossoming once again.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A farm mom without a voice

The first time I lost my voice was during the middle of my week-long stay at Bible camp. As a middle schooler without a care in the world, losing my voice wasn't so bad. Actually, as I look back, it was kind of cool. The condition garnered lots of attention (what pre-teen doesn't love attention?) and the camp nurse doted on me until I could speak normally again.

Now, there's absolutely nothing cool about being voiceless. This ridiculous cold virus or bacteria or whatever it is has held nothing back in attacking my body. And now it's holding my voice hostage. It didn't take long to realize that being a farmer without a voice is not very efficient. Now, instead of yelling to find Glen or yelling to ask him a question or yelling at Dinah to get back to her spot, I have to actually look for Glen to find him and walk to the back of the barn so he can hear me whisper and personally usher Dinah back to her spot. At least it's wintertime and we're not trying to lower the silo unloader together (a job which requires super-yelling).

Glen didn't even ask me this morning if I still wanted to attend the feed mill's customer appreciation day. He must have been anticipating my answer: "No! The only thing worse than losing your voice is having two dozen people ask you what happened to your voice and then expect you to answer."

Actually, the only thing worse than losing your voice is being expected to parent without a voice. I never really understood how much yelling I do as a mom until I couldn't yell anymore. Fortunately, Dan thinks it's pretty cool to whisper, so the house has been remarkably quiet. Unfortunately, whispering, "Don't sit on your sister's head!" doesn't really get the point across quick enough to prevent a Monika meltdown. A mom with no voice also means Dan has been reading the books at story time; it's pretty interesting to hear his version of the stories we read.

I keep telling myself I can't be sick forever. And sooner or later I'll get my voice back. I just wish I had a camp nurse here to dote on me until I feel better.