In Memory of Ruby

The goats are still on the farm.

Over the summer, our three became five.

Lavender had a little billy, and Dad brought home a little orphan the kids named Buttons from the auction. You can read about Buttons coming to the farm here.

But sadly, where we once had five, there are only now four on the farm.

With having sold the cows and the sadness of their departure I didn’t want to have to post additional sadness for you all.

As you can imagine, the children are grieving and we’ve all taken this very hard.

And yes, it’s a goat.

But she was not just a goat, she was that one of a kind goat that will never be replaced in personality or in our hearts.

rip rubyIf you didn’t have a chance to hear the stories or meet our dear Ruby, please check out these posts. You’ll see why she was totally one of a kind.

Ruby in the Morning

Ruby having fun. 

We bottle fed this little goat with a Pepsi bottle and a goat nipple. Every morning she greeted us at the milk house door and came in to get her morning head pat and back message.

goat milk in Pepsi bottle

She played with the kids. Her flying jumps across the flat bed trailer are legendary, and the happiness she brought the children of my brother and my own kiddo’s is priceless.

Ruby was a special little goat. She thought she was “just one of the kids.”

She raced them down the farm lane on their bikes and laid in the grass beside them as they rested in the shade. She picked up after them as they carried chucks of hay to the other animals and dropped some along the way.

When she saw you coming, she always had to come say hello. And while some would complain she got under foot, more now her closeness is missed even more.

The first thing I look forward to when I get out my vehicle at the farm is seeing Ruby.

Oh, how we will miss that little goat!!!

So much that I can’t get her or her daring and playful personality from my mind. Each morning I sit down to work on finishing a current manuscript, I find myself writing about Ruby instead.

For a little goat like Ruby, I don’t think there is better way to celebrate her presence on the farm with us than writing a children’s book, do you?

Rest in Peace, Ruby.

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We were so blessed to have you for the short time you graced us here on the farm.

 

 

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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.

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              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.

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.

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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.

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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

Crowd Funding For Farmers

It’s time for this farm girl to get out of town.

I’ve been a backyard farmer for way to long now.

And I know I’m not the only one. There are many of you out there dreaming of both small and large farms of your own.

If only buying a farm were as easy as crowding funding is to filmmakers or authors for movies or books.

It’s so much cheaper to live in the city. It’s also so much nosier and so much more intrusive.

For the past seven years, this is has been my little backyard farm. The only thing I truly love about our house in town is our backyard.

backyard farmI wish it I could take anything about our home with us when we leave here, it would be this piece of our backyard. My dad and brother made the white gate into the garden, and I hate to leave it behind. I remind myself that it’s just a gate and the memory of making it is worth so much more.

As a senior in high school, I wrote up a business plan for our dairy farm. As a member of DECA – Distributive Education Clubs of America – my farm business plan landed me a trip to the national competitions that were held in Orlando, Florida that year. I know for a fact, no one else had a farm plan that year. I spent more of my time explaining the functions of farming then I had to explain and defend my business plan.

I guess it just goes to show that you really can make money in farming, or at least on paper.

Somewhere, I know I still have that business plan. OR at least I hope I do or that my brother kept his copy.

I always thought my brother and I would be running the farm together. How life has a way of veering us from the places we thought we would go, or not go. Yet, I have always carried the farm along in my heart.

Farming isn’t something you just do, it’s a way of life that gets into your blood and stays in your heart. Tweet This.

Our house went on the market at the beginning of this month. I don’t know where we are going. God love my husband, as I do, for going along on this journey. Our fifteen year anniversary is fast approaching, and when we got married he promised me I’d have horses again. I’m still waiting, dreaming, holding onto that promise.

I know there is no place for us on the family farm. Thanks to the new Amish neighbors there is no place for us to buy land or a home. Even if we could afford a farm.

Most large farms cost about $500,000 to $1million. That doesn’t include the equipment or the cows. Horse farms can range around $300,000 and up. Even if I worked full-time and with my husband working to raise our family, reality is we could never afford a farm. I would need to sell more books than I could count, and even though that can happen, (because I do believe in miracles) I also know my husband is allergic to animals. I also know that by the time I could afford a farm I would be too old to enjoy the labor and efforts to see it grow. By then my children would be on their own and have no ties to this kind of life.

Even with a business plan, a bank would never grant that kind of a loan while raising a family and living off a teacher’s and writer’s salary.

Reality bites.

Practacalty kicks in, so for now I’m praying for a 3-4 bedroom house, on an acre or two of land – just big enough for a horse, maybe a potbellied pig, and space to grow a garden that is outside of town where there are no cars flying past the house every minute, or people yelling across the street to one another or throwing trash in my front yard. Just peace and quiet and a little bit of a farm that I can call my own.

Perhaps one day there will be crowd funding for farmers. Instead of offering a signed copy of a book or naming a character it could be like naming the calves, or claiming a cow on the farm (like adopting them but the always stay on the farm.) Or perhaps getting names recorded down the side of the barn to show the support of a community helping one farmer’s dream turn to reality. Or the dream of a farmer’s daughter.

What do you think, will crowd funding farms work or ever exist?

Until then, there are other farmers in other countries trying to expand and feed their families on Kiva.org. This is a place where you can loan like $25 toward the money needed by the individuals there to give them the funds to take the next step in providing for their dreams and way of life.

This story, a woman named Gulshaiyr  caught my attention recently. She’s trying to raise money to buy a bull and cultivate her land so she may continue to provide for her family and see that her children are educated.

It makes my own longing for a farm small in comparison to her simple need of one bull to rise her up another step toward her goals for her family.

So for now, I will live my dreams of farming through those I can help.

A Life Worth Living For

Her name was Sloppy. She was the only cow in the barn that pressed her nose down on the ball of the water bowl then slurped the water with her tongue.

Not only did she make a mess splashing water everywhere, you could hear her drinking from the other end of the barn shed.

She hadn’t been ‘Sloppy’ in weeks. She was the dame who laid down and gave birth to that bull calf last week.

A Life Worth Living For

For the couple weeks and this past week, she drank from a bucket that was placed in front of her and filled until her thirst was sated. She’d lay, chewing her cud, and keeping her chin up.

I clung to the hope that, while she could not stand on her own, she still ate, drank, and made manure like all the other dames in the barn.

Hope is one of those things that no one should easily let go of, nor give up.

Every day, Sloppy was picked up and put on her four hooves to stand. Without assistance she was unable to hold herself up. Her one back leg was stiff and useless. I wonder how many massages it would have taken to regain use of it. However, the number doesn’t matter. I was only able to massage her hip and leg once, but I tried.

Trying never hurt anyone. But we knew before I tried that chances were slim. That’s why I asked her to let him live.  She could have choose to give up and her calf would most likely have died with her.

Her bag never filled with milk. She’d done what she could that morning to bring her calf into the world, and now he frolics amongst the other calves.

I wish I had a happy ending to Sloppy’s story, but she simply couldn’t hold on any longer.

Yesterday afternoon, Sloppy slipped peacefully into Heaven’s green pasture.

Yet, I can’t help wondering if I would have been able to stay there at the barn longer if she wouldn’t have improved more. I’m told the answer is no, but there’s always that what if that lingers inside you. Though living on a farm has taught me that farm animals can come and go, It has always brought me grief when one of the cows dies.  Usually not that often, but often enough that like a beloved pet, you mourn them.

Sloppy was more than a number on the farm, she was one of the dames, and she’ll be missed – slurping noises and all.

 

I Asked Her To Let Him Live

Two days before Easter, I found myself crouched down in a make shift pen beside a very pregnant and very sick Jersey cow.

“Your too late,” my brother had told me. Another momma cow had given birth the night before to a bull calf. They were both healthy and well in a birthing pen on the other side of the barn. But this Jersey cow had laid down a few weeks ago and despite the advice of the vet and the medications to keep her from getting pneumonia, I could hear the gurgle in her breath.

I can’t say I blame her. Had I gotten that big, I think I’d lay down too and get so heavy I couldn’t stand up on my own. Of course, over the stretch of weeks my brother had lifted her to her feet, but she refused to stand.

Now, on what many people call “Good Friday” I ran my hand down over this cow’s cheek and messaged one of her ears.

Easter is a story of life. It’s the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection. Yet, many of us forget it all started with his death.

As I moved closer to this momma cow, I ran my hand down her neck and pressed my hand into her bulging stomach. It pressed back. There was a little life inside this Jersey cow waiting to enter this world. What would happen if this momma died before her baby was born?

So I asked her, “For the sake of the life inside you, please let him live before you die.”

I guess it’s pretty silly talking to cows. No more sillier then a horse whisperer talking to a horse. If they can whisper to horses, I can talk to cows.

Whether it was the words I’d spoken to her, or the fact the next morning marked this calf’s due date, I’ll never know. What I do know is when I heard the alarm and the coffee pot perk in the morning I was ready to stay in bed. Then I changed my mind. Not living as close to the farm anymore, I knew my opportunity to go back down the farm may not come later that day and so I hauled my butt out of bed and jumped in the truck with my dad to go down to the farm.

It was one of the coldest days’ we’ve had since the last snow.

Before I even got into the door of the milk house, my brother was there. “You’ll need to grab some gloves and go deliver a calf. That is unless you want to milk the cows while I do it.”

I grabbed some gloves.

Her water had broken and tiny hooves were pressing out. Momma cow was trying, but she needed a little help.

I won’t go into the birthing details, as I know some of you are a little faint of heart. I don’t blame you. There are some things that gross me out, too.

So here he is.

celebration of life

I didn’t know it would be a “him” until after he was born.

For now, all that matters is that he lives.

To be continued…

 

The First Day of Tomorrow

This the view I see every morning.

cross roads

While that isn’t my horse, it belongs to my new Amish neighbors.

That’s right. I’ve decided to stay on the farm. Today is the first day of my new tomorrow.

While that isn’t my horse, and I’ve dreamed about the day I’d own a horse again, at least when I step out on my front porch I get to see one, I can walk down the road and pet him and feed him a carrot or two.

The kids have started their first day of tomorrow, too. A new school. They’re already making new friends.

It wasn’t easy and the decision often leaves me with moments of second thoughts, guesses, and fears. The one thing I do know, however, if I wouldn’t have stayed I wouldn’t ever know if going home was the right thing to do.

Home.

We think of it in many different ways. The only home my kids knew till now was the house in the town where the street was often occupied by city cops, flying ambulances down the street, and nowhere to ride a bike safely.

Their bikes have gotten more miles this summer than the years we’ve lived on that city block.

Sadly, there are few who miss us. Less than a handful really.

When I think of those from our church, from the school district where I volunteered, from associations and kid activities participated in—only three or four people have noticed our absence.

Yet, so many more back here on the farm have expressed the joy of having us stay.

I guess that is one way of knowing where you belong.

They say there are people in crowds that are still lonely. It amazes me how one can be a part of something large and when a piece crumbles away it goes un-noticed.

We’re so busy reaching out and doing for other people that we become blind to those in our inner circles, and those people fade, become invisible, and are forgotten.

I once heard someone speak about taking care of what’s close to home before extending out to long distance places for offering aid. Yet, we often can’t see what is going on in our own homes to acknowledge the needs and no one else wants to tell you what seems to have gotten broken.

Where do those people go that fade and disappear?

Some of them go home.

Some go where they are not invisible anymore.

Some follow the dirt road leading to the first day of their tomorrow. Where that leads, I don’t know. But for stabilizing the foundation of my family, becoming visible again, and owning my identity—I’m willing to go down this path.

If there was one thing you thought you’d always regret if you didn’t do it, what would it be?

This is the first day of your tomorrow, too.