One Year Removed From the City – Reflections

It’s been a little over a year now since I planted both feet here on the dairy farm. It’s at this point, 27 years old, that I have realized that plans mean nothing. I lived in the future every day. I now live in the present. There’s no telling where my journey will take me. Because never in my life would I have dreamed it would lead me to a dairy farm. Out in the middle of nowhere. An hour and a half from my family, my friends, and my beloved Panera. An hour and a half from all my plans and the world I thought I was going to conquer. I’ve grown up a lot since then. Priorities in the right place now and all that jazz. I have learned to grocery shop once a week (kind of). I have become accustomed to cooking rather than running to the closest Chinese place. My domesticity has increased ten-fold. I now have culinary skills and consider myself a good cook, where all I used to possess was quick-wit and a goofy personality. This is how I won the farmer, because goodness knows I didn’t possess any traditional wifely skills.  I still can’t sew. I’m not a fan of baking pies and other delectable treats.

(Less baking = slimmer waistlines, right? Can I argue that I don’t bake because it’s good for my family? Reaching? No? I agree.)

And this will be the first year I’ve ever tried my hand at a vegetable garden. But, I can clean my house to an absolute sparkle and I. Can. Cook. Never, EVER, thought I’d be able to say that. Another unexpected twist in my journey.

I digress. Moving on. I have encountered snakes…in my yard. In our buildings. And in my dreams. If I run screaming out of anywhere, the farmer doesn’t even ask. He just comes, shaking his head and chuckling. But, you know what, unlike last year, I don’t wish death upon them anymore. It’s only ever been black snakes that I’ve seen…so far. And my hatred of mice has made snakes my new, albeit revolting, bedfellows. And you know, it’s not that I’m afraid of mice. Not at all. They startle me more than anything with their scurrying everywhere and random “eee-eee-eee’s” while I’m trying to go through boxes in storage. Yeah, they need to die, too. You would think with two barn cats that the mouse population would be hurtin’ around here. ‘Fraid not. Just another aspect of a dairy farm that I have adjusted to. With a plethora of seed, feed, grain, and corn comes an infinite population of mice. They smell awful and they are just gross.

I have dealt with more bugs than I have probably dealt with in the 25 years before I lived here. And I hunt flies with a ferocity of which I am only just learning I possessed. They, also, must die. If I could kill one slowly and make an example of it to all of its fly friends, I would. And I would revel in it.

Rewind to my fear of snakes up there. I also have an unmanageable fear of wasps, dirt dobbers, hornets, etc. Basically anything that looks like what I think is a wasp sends me ducking, running, shrieking, whatever I need to do to get away from it. I have never been stung by a wasp. You know why? Because I avoid them like the plague.  Yesterday, one was on the windshield of the tractor while we were driving. I said, “Leslee, so help me, if that thing somehow gets in here, I will jump out of a MOVING TRACTOR!” I didn’t have to make good on that exclamation, but it’s a good thing tractors go relatively slow.

Anyway, moving on, I have learned to not set trash bags on the deck for the farmer to take off. These little creatures with black and white stripes really appreciate that. (It stood there and watched me through the sliding glass door as I stood there, stunned. )

Photo taked by Kim Staton

Photo taked by Kim Staton

I have watched my husband artificially inseminate our cows. Also, stunned. (So glad I’m not a cow. So glad I’m not the farmer, too.)

Photo taken by Kim Staton

Photo taken by Kim Staton

I have watched the dog eat cow manure. (Grimace.)

I have asked incessant questions about cattle and the farm even though I don’t actually milk the cows. I have no desire to milk cows or be a dairy farmer. I’d rather just follow my husband around with a camera. But, I am very interested in the happenings of the farm and how everything works. How to be efficient and constantly improve our business model. And I can now sound fairly educated when conversing with other farmers.

I have become accustomed to the overwhelming odor of “dairy farm” as I exit my car after a long trip away. (Your senses acclimate when you’re here every day.)And I have had manure fumes waft through my windows as the farmer spreads it over the fields. My step-mom once told me, “That’s the smell of money.” It’s a good point, and I’ve thought differently about it ever since.

I have finally gotten past the point of caring what my car looks like. It will never be clean. Ever.

If I had known when I got married that my husband would now be a dairy farmer, I would never have gotten married in June. Hay takes priority over anniversary celebrations. However, I’m ok with that this year. At least this year, there is actually hay to bale.

On the positive side of things, the invention of Pinterest has helped me stay up-to-date on my wardrobe.  I love clothes, but seeing the farmer in Muck boots, jeans, and a tshirt every day was very uninspiring.  Feelings of listlessness and enui  might have overtaken me if I wouldn’t have been able to make 54 boards of total and udder randomness.  (Ha! “Udder”)

"A true photographer closes both eyes to capture the best shot." Quote and photo by Kim Staton

“A true photographer closes both eyes to capture the best shot.” Quote and photo by Kim Staton

I have learned more about photography.

I have watched my dear, sweet husband berate himself for not being able to hit the vein the first time on a sick cow. She had milk fever and was not doing well at all. I held the IV bottle while he spoke to her with soothing words.

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I have watched storms roll over the Ozark Mountains and, let me tell you, it’s a breathtaking sight. Looming thunderheads don’t look the same in the city.

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I have probably spent hours, if you add it all up, just staring at the farmer’s muscles as he works. It’s captivating. (Unfortunately for me, he never makes it easy to capture a shot of them in action. Then, I could stare even longer.)

I have sweated and felt the joy of productivity after a hot, reviving shower.

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I have listened as the creek roars or gently whispers over the rocks.

Photo taken by Kim Staton

Photo taken by Kim Staton

I have learned that a successful farmer has to have an excellent business mind. It’s a VERY risky business with no room for silly decisions.

I have watched my husband, after working like a dog all day, still find the energy to play like a child with our daughter.

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I have learned about humility and what it is to feel so small and so young  amid the vast blue sky and old, rolling hills.

I am learning what being content really means. It’s when you’re rolling down a dirt road on the tractor next to your husband and your daughter. She’s asleep in his lap and he turns to you, even amid all the stresses and worries of farming, and says, “This is the life.”

And I have watched my daughter grow from this…

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into this.

Serious Peanut

Photo taken by Kim Staton

I may not have planned this path, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this farm is where I belong. For now, at least. At first, I felt like I was losing the person I had worked so hard to become. I still had a lot to learn.  Because, you know what, that wasn’t the point of all this change in my life. It’s about becoming the person I’m supposed to be. And I’m open. I’m ready to see what else life has in store for me, without making any plans. Because, so far, I have been so blessed.

The Dairymaid

Where Da Cows At?

Feeding and checking cows is part of our daily routine here at the farm.

I use the term “our” very lightly. The farmer and Peanut usually do this. I spend this time cleaning and scrubbing the house.

I use the terms “cleaning” and “scrubbing” very lightly. The definition of those words to me, lately, is burying my nose in a book called Fall of Giants. Hee hee.

Today, however, the farmer and Peanut had the privilege of my presence on the feed run. We started at one of the pastures where we keep 8 heifers. We’ll take a little jaunt back to middle school and call them the C team. These girls aren’t bred, so they’ve got a ways to go before they’re on the line.

Um, ladies…??

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(Cue the music)

dum-duh-dum, dum-duh-dum, dum-duh-da-da-dum,

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dum-duh-dum, dum-duh-dum, dum-duh-da-da-dum…

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Texas just can’t help but lick her lips in anticipation! Corn chops, molasses, distiller’s grain, blender pellets…If that doesn’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what will!

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Uh…ya got a little somethin’ on your nose, there?

We passed by the A team on our way.

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The farmer’s uncle has some beef cattle we keep any eye on. My husband is usually extremely observant, so it didn’t shock me at all to hear him say, “I’m thinking we’ve got a baby. That gray cow is hiding in the trees.” I had to look for a whole minute before I even saw her. She was gray, OK??

I really wanted to show you this Brangus because I get such a kick out of how cute they are. Pointy heads and big ol’ floppy ears. I don’t have a full Brangus calf to show you, but if I did, you would see a bovine rabbit. That’s what they look like to me, anyway.

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If you got between her and any calf, she would cease to be cute very quickly. I’m pretty sure this breed takes pleasure in mowing humans to the ground. They’re great mommas because they’re fiercely protective.

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I’m a little concerned about this pairing. I’m thinking someone got switched at birth.

Finally, we drove over to check on the cow trying to hide and saw a little gray blob on the ground. The farmer and I were worried. It got down into the teens the night before. That’s awfully cold for a little one to come into the world.

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But not for this little toughie!

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He just might be one of the cutest calves I’ve ever seen.

So glad I went along for the ride today.

Our Cows (Silly and Serious)

If you follow along with my posts, I’m sure you’re well aware that we milk Jerseys at our farm. But, I’ve yet to introduce you to some of them. Most of them have names and they picketed outside the dairy barn the other day because they were tired of being just a number. (The farmer likes to just number them and move on. I like to give them names based on what they look like to me as a calf. Or their Sun sign. Or how the weather was that day. Or famous people. Then I have the farmer write their names on their ear tags because otherwise I would have no idea who they are. If they’re not spotted, all Jerseys look the same to me. If they don’t have a name, I can’t connect.)

But, first, let me get this out.

“Is my deodorant still working??”

I just can’t help myself….

You saw this dude yesterday. He’s the studmuffin around our farm. His name is Woodee. That is his registered name…that he was given before we owned him. (The farmer and I exchanged looks and had to bite our lips.) He comes from a very good bull (Gannon, if you’re familiar with AI bulls) and his mom’s name was Dee. The dairy farmer’s wife that we got him from liked his mom so much that she wanted to incorporate his mom’s name into his. So: Woodee. I personally think he needs something more fierce because his name is cutesy…

and it makes me think he’s nice…

and then I want to hug him.

And that’s not really a good idea.

He’s very good at what he does. One thing that I learned when the farmer started milking is that there is a need for a “clean up” bull. You would have thought this topic would come up in everyday conversation as we were going out to dinner, right? A “clean up” bull saves the day (hopefully) when the farmer is having a hard time getting a cow to “settle” (impregnated) with artificial insemination. We use AI a lot at our farm because we can pick and choose what genetics we want for a certain cow.

For instance, say a cow has a floppy utter and you want cows with utters that are high and tight. (Bear with me. I have no idea what the correct terminology for this is.) The right bull can help improve that by lending his genetic makeup to that cow’s calf. That’s just one way. There are soooo many others.

However, AI just doesn’t work sometimes on a few, so we sick Woodee on ’em.

The speed at which he undertakes this duty always amazes me. As soon as you let him loose with the cows, he immediately zeroes in on his target.

See what I mean! He’s in hot pursuit. If that’s not a look of purpose, I don’t know what is. And she’s completely oblivious.

This is Barbie.

Barbie apparently thinks her best look is with her tongue sticking out because she does it all the time. She’s not panting or anything. She just randomly lets her tongue hang out and waggle around every once in a while. I’ve tried to tell her that it’s not very lady-like but it doesn’t seem to be sticking.

This is Cheerio.

Cheerio is a lot smarter than she looks. This cow is notorious for pulling her own feed rope in the barn. The cows all get a set amount when they come in. The farmer pulls ropes on each feed bin that lets however much he’s rationed for them to have fall into their respective feed bin. Well, Cheerio has realized that the rope is what makes feed fall. So, she just tugs on it with her teeth and gets however much she wants. Needless to say, she’s a butterball. The farmer has tried everything he can think of to make it hard for her to do this, but to no avail. She’s the only cow that has figured this out. However, I found out last weekend that she is educating an apprentice. It would be comical if feed wasn’t so expensive.

Here’s a close-up of Cheerio. I think it’s kinda cute. I might have this one put on canvas and hang it in the house. Not because it’s Cheerio; just because it’s a Jersey.

This is my favorite cow. Ready?

Her name is Artist and I think she’s just gorgeous. She’s one of the nice ones, too.

She definitely stands out and she’s always so pretty and white.

Well, Woodee’s giving me the evil eye.

See, look, he’s getting very irritated.

Apparently, me being in my front yard still means he’s gotta keep an eye on me. It’s a good thing I have a zoom lens.

He appears to have it all under control.

Until next time,

The Dairymaid

Copyright. Breauna Krider. 03/30/2012.

New Additions

We’ve been having some promiscuity problems at the farm this year. First, we had feral cats all over the place. Now, we’re just down to 2 because we caught some kittens and had them fixed. My favorite of those cats, Mr., went missing some months ago. I really miss him because 1) he was a mouse/mole slayer extraordinaire and 2) he really liked me and was so friendly to everyone he encountered. Look where that got him. So, now we’re just down to 2 cats that hate people and don’t put the hurtin’ on the mouse population that Mr. did.

My beloved Mr. May he rest in peace.

Then, Miles, our hereford bull, saw greener pastures (he he) one day when a tree fell on the fence separating our beef cows from our Jerseys.

If you want to read more about his escapades, here’s the link to the post: http://the-dairy-maid.com/2011/05/20/miles-night-out/

Now, we have these:

They’re little squirrly, wiggly things that make blurry pictures. They were just born yesterday. With all the other things that the farmer has had going, he never even realized his coon dog was in heat until he saw the neighbor’s male coon dog hanging around. He got lucky and so did we, in a way, because they just so happen to be purebred Walker puppies. They are so cute, too. I can’t wait for them to get a little older so Peanut can play with them. (Apparently, you can’t fix coon dogs or you run the risk of taking away their desire to hunt. This is yet one more thing I’ve learned since I came to the farm. The farmer usually locks her in the trailer when she’s in the puppy-making way so things like this don’t happen.)

Look at this adorable lil’ thing!

These are new additions that never come as surprises.

The Dairy Maid

Copyright. Breauna Krider. 10/6/11