A Farm Girl’s 401 on Farming

Life doesn’t always take us in the direction we want to go.

If you would have asked me twenty years ago what I wanted to do with my life I would have shared with you my dream of farming. I was young, but I had it all figured out.

Because it’s tradition for the first son (or only son) to inherit the trade or legacy of a father, I knew my brother would inherit all the farm stuff from our father. And, that was okay. I went to school and got my degree in accounting. I’ve been keeping the farm books since I was seventeen.

My plan was to work alongside my brother on the farm, I’d do the bookkeeping and care for the young cattle and he’d do the milking and we’d both raise our families.

Sounded like a great plan right?

Maybe you’ve seen those commercials lately for the farmer match maker dating site: Farmersonly.com (note: I have no affiliation with this site, I’ve just watched their commercial on Television one night.)

That’s how I saw my life. Living on or close to the farm, working the land, tending the animals, and marring a handsome farmer.

As the daughter of a dairy farmer , naturally, I assumed I’d become a farmer’s wife.

Then I fell in love with a mathematician.

IM000378.JPG
              My other half

Do you hear life laughing at me?

Not only did I marry that mathematician, he was also allergic to animals, including my beloved horse and the cows.

Can you hear the laughter now?

Yep, the joke was on me.

For years, I followed my husband from new jobs to other states so he can teach and get his teaching certifications and degrees. Yet, all the while I kept telling myself I could live without the farm.

Who was I kidding?

Not me.

Not anymore.

While you can tie down and try to pen up the farm girl inside me, it can’t be contained for long.

Because no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop being who you are or yearning for what it is you’ve always wanted.

Deep down– farmer’s daughter,  farmer’s wife, — it makes no difference. Being a farm girl is who I am. Farming is in my blood. I might have been born in a hospital, but  my parents brought me home and raised me on the farm.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: you can take the girl from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the girl. Go ahead share tweet this to your friends. 

Sometimes we all need to return to our roots.

Sometimes we need to stop asking, “What if” and instead formulate the “How.”

It’s like falling in love and courting your future other half. The answers will come as you need them. Just rely on your heart and the faith you hold inside you to be your guide.

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Emptying The Milk Parlor and Draining The Tank

The milk cows are gone.

The parlor is empty. I miss the sound of the metal gates clinking, and the loud rumble of the milk compressor kicking on in the evening.

Inside the milk house is an empty tank, cleaned and ready— for a period of bareness.

It’s happened before, only this time I fear it is the last.

As I watch the trucks and trailers pull out of the farm lane, I fought to hold back the tears. I’m bad at not crying. I wanted so badly to be strong like the men in my life.

There are not enough deep breaths or attempts to squeeze my eyes shut to prevent the tears from rolling free.

So I turn my back, look upon those last remaining cows standing in the shed and cried.

DairyDameHolsteins

They are just cows.

They come and they go.

Or at least I tried to remind myself.

Silly girl. Crying over cows!

They’re not pets. They’re farm assets.

Yet I couldn’t convince myself enough to stop crying.

Even though I didn’t hold any official ownership over these dairy cows, I knew them by name – not numbers. I knew which ones preferred to be milked on the left side or the right side of the milk parlor. I knew which ones kicked and the one that liked to bluff. I know which calves belong to them.

And then there was Jenny. The Holstein last summer that I refused to allow anyone to give up on. You saw the video here of the day she first walked through the parlor after recovering from pinching nerve in her back after delivering a Hereford cross bull calf.

DocHerford

That same Hereford stared back at me from inside the shed. Now a year old, no longer a bull, but a steer. Maybe I’m just crazy, but by the look of his large dark eyes, he knew his mother was on that last trailer.

Here in the summer, Jenny had another calf. A heifer that frolics in the calf pen on the other side of the shed. She’s pure Holstein and she’ll stay here to be raised for next year or so at least.

JennyCalf2

Before the trucks pulled out, the new owner offered if I was ever in the area for me to stop in and visit his farm and see the cows again. It was a kind offer. One I feel was made only because the chance he felt of me actually showing up at his farm one day are slim.

If only the new owner knew that for three years I lived in the small town on the West Virginia border beside where his farm is located while my husband was student teaching and working on his PH.D. at the West Virginia University. I loved that little town and the people in it. I still do, and keep in touch with many of them thanks to social media. But now I’m heading down a cow path and need to get back to the cows.

I wipe my eyes and turn back on the cows to look ahead at the rest of the farm, and to my dad. I can’t speculate the future–not for the cows — not for our family—not what lies ahead for the farm.

While this is sometimes the way of life. It’s a business.

As I mentioned, we’ve had to do this once before during a time when my dad was in the hospital, had surgery, and was off his feet for some time. With all other options assessed, there was no other choice. The milk cows had to go.

Once more my dad’s headed back to the hospital for surgery. My brother can’t run the farm alone, and as God has it at this moment I’m too far away to pull the extra weight from anyone’s shoulders.

Farming takes more than one man or one woman to operate. Tweet This

That’s just how most businesses operate in the dairy industry. Perhaps one day when children are older or other halves don’t have to travel so far for work outside the farm, things will change. I don’t know. It’s in God’s hands now.

To the new owner of our cows. 

Dear fellow dairyman, 

Nothing personal, but just wanted to let you know that one day I will be stopping in to check on the cows. If I’m not able, please know I have friends who don’t live far from your dairy that will happy to do so for me. I wish you all the best as you enter this new way of living and pray that these cows bring a blessing to you and your family. 

So without the milk cows, where does that leave the family farm?

That my friends is a bunch of ideas still developing and I promise you’ll be the first to know.

 

Feature photo credit: Jess Johnson via Flickr CC

Finding Parts to Replace What’s Broke

There’s nothing more useless than a broken piece of equipment. It can’t function to do its job. And on a farm, everything has it’s purpose.

Take a forage harvester for example.

A forage harvester’s job is to chop and blow hay or corn in a field. In order for this to work, all the cutting blades have to be sharp and functioning, along with the blower working to suck up and throw the chopped grain into a silage wagon that is hooked behind it.

This is all pulled by a tractor and ran off the tractor’s PTO shaft that connects power between the chopper and the tractor.

All it takes is one part and the entire system fails.

When your car is broken, it can’t take you where you need to go. It’s not safe to travel with.

When you break a leg, you’re unable to walk until it heals. You seek a doctor at a hospital to set it.

Yet, when your heart is broken, it can’t beat the way it once did. What place is there for it?

It’s a good thing there are places to go to find parts when your farm equipment is broken.

This past week, I went part hunting and found myself at a farm machinery place.

used farm equipment

It’s like a junk yard for broken farm equipment.

farm junk yard

I walked into a red shed in the midst of it all, which was the office. When I walked up to the counter, a gentleman asked me if he could help me. If only finding the parts we needed were so easy, right?

I told him what I was there for. “I need an electric motor for a 1260 Gehl Harvester with the tin cover.”

He flipped through pages of parts and notes and I told him, “We called a few days ago.”

“Last week maybe?” he asked.

“No, just a few days ago,” I said.

“There it is,” he said. “Days, weeks, they all fly by here.” He laughed as he picked up the phone.

A few minutes later, another man came and my request was relayed. “It’s Hydraulic,” the man told me.

I shook my head. “It’s electric.”

“No, that’s the motor for the blower, it’s hydraulic,” he insisted.

“Its electric,” I assured him.

I know I’d been off the farm for a while, but I knew the difference between a  hydraulic motor an a electric one. Plus, my brother told me it was electric before I went on this adventure to get one.

So then I waited…and waited.. and waited.

It was hot and sweat slicked my face. I could have sat in the car, but I’d rolled down the windows and left my pouting tween to play her Nintendo DS and hang her elbow out the window. I’d told her if she was too hot she could get out of the car. It wouldn’t have mattered if the air condition was left on or not, the window breeze was cooler than the air blowing from the dash. Note to self, gotta get that checked out this week.

Farm Equipment PlaceWithin an hour of arrival, I had my electric 1260 Gehl Havestor motor in the back of my car.

“You’re right, it’s electric,” the man said with a half smile on his face. It was that kind of smile where you get the impression that he knew, and this was just a test to see if I wasn’t just some city girl on a blind mission.

While my open-toed sandals and stripped blouse may have made me look like I just came from sitting behind a desk at a bank, inside I’m still a farm girl, through and through.

While I drove away, I got to thinking about that part in the back of my car. Soon the forage harvester would run again. Maybe not good as new. Perhaps even better, who knows. But I know one thing, when you’ve been missing something and a part of it gets restored, it’s like hooking up that motor and being able to run again.

An Introduction

Transition, the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

I believe there comes a time in our lives when we all go through a period of transition. For some of us it’s choosing a new career or deciding to move to a new place, but for many of us it isn’t always about discovering who we are, or who we want to be, but reclaiming what once was.

Dairy Cow

This evening I stood outside the milk house door listening to the rain ‘ting’ on the metal roof and gazed past the parked machinery and into the empty fields awaiting the cows to come from behind the house and gather in the south wing of barn. As the rain rippled across the puddles in the drive and a goat brayed at me from a calf hut by the tree, I felt more like myself than I have in a very long.

I come and visit on weekends and holidays, each time knew this was the place I belong. This is the place I should have never left.

This is the place where I have returned.

After fourteen years, no place has ever felt like home as it does at this moment with the rain beading down my arms and dampening my clothes. It’s cleansing in a way.

“It doesn’t matter what I do, your never happy,” my husband has often accused. And, he would be right. I’m never happy, because my happy is here.

I’ve returned to the farm for the summer, bringing my urban tainted children along with me. Rather than them hear the stories of growing up on a farm, they will at least have this time to experience it for themselves.

Video games will be few. Texting/ messaging– what’s that?

I believe that every great adventure needs to be recorded, this is where you’ll find mine.

When a heifer has her first calf, she becomes a cow. If you ever look at a cow’s registration certificate (birth certificate) every cow has a Dame (mother) and a Sire (father). As a mother of three, for this purpose of this blog, I guess you could say I’m a dame.

As the daughter of a dairy farmer, I suppose that makes me a Dairy Dame, and thus the name of this site.

Welcome to my adventure, I invite you to come along on this journey in the pursuit of happiness, discovery, and farm life.