Seven & a half weeks ago the cows moved into their new home... and now we're finally home too - right next door!
Saturday was moving day.... here are the pictures of the Guest House ready for us to move in! (remember to click the pictures to get the whole picture)
And thanks to friends & family all of our stuff is now here and we can start living together as a family again!
Today was great because we were able to see Dan so much more! He could step in for a quick update and say hi or read a book or eat lunch or tuck the kids into bed.
The kids might say the best part was after playing in the mud while I was organize the porch before the blizzard comes they got to continue in their dirty state by helping daddy in the barn. The best part for me? Getting to strip off their outside layer after spraying them off in the calf care room, then stripping off the inside (still dirty!) layer in the mudroom/office and heading right inside to a nice warm bath.
Since working together & having fun together is one of the main things we value (remember that post?) we're so glad our hard work has paid off and we're all together again!
Don't worry there's still plenty of hard work ahead (I mean look at all the unpacking I still have left... that's real life!) but now we can do it together and truly start to enjoy the flexibility that having Rita the robot milk our cows for us brings!
Plus now that we're living so close to the cows you should hear from me a bit more often about what's happening on the farm! I've got all sorts of ideas and plans up my sleeve for this year!
Well, honestly, we'll probably stop counting the weeks pretty soon. Today marks 3 weeks since the cows moved into their new home - 3 very INTENSE weeks! We knew it was coming... we'd been told. But living through it is another matter!
I've been told that in disaster response there is 3 days of immediate, intense relief efforts, 3 weeks of continued relief efforts, 3 months of recovery efforts, and then 3 years of rebuilding. And I think in a lot of major changes, such as starting a new robotic dairy barn, this holds true as well.
3 days of ADRENALINE
3 weeks of INTENSITY
and we're moving on to
3 months of ADJUSTMENT and finally
3 years to NORMALCY!
On December 9th the cows literally followed Dan into the barn - if you haven't seen the movie, check it out! We had a great big crew of family, friends, & neighbors assembled who used their vehicles & bodies as fences to guide the cows into their new home!
And then the fun started... we got the first cow, Meramet, into the robot box. Dan's mom, Pam bought her great-great-great-great-great-great (you get the idea) grandma when she was in 5th grade and her cow family line has stayed in the family ever since. Dan's grandpa milked Meramet's ancestors and now he would be the first to milk her in the new barn!
But wait... it didn't read her leg band which gives out a radio frequency telling the robot who she is (important in robotic milking!). We'd done practice runs but now the time had come and it wasn't working... disappointment and scrambles abounded. We had to get it fixed because we sure weren't taking them back down to the old barn!
Thankfully we had great tech support from AMS Galaxy on the ground who had dealt with this before. After switching about everything imaginable on and off we found the problem... the well. If the well pump breaker was turned on the robot couldn't read which cow had just come in. So now we had a new problem because water's kind of important for drinking and cleaning and all sorts of other things.
Eventually we figured out it only needed to be off for the cow's first 10 seconds in the milking box to be read. So until we got it fixed a week and a half later (yes, a week and a half of phone calls, fix-it attempts, and parts ordered) we and all of our amazing help ran back and forth turning on and off the well pump breaker switch.
In the end Meramet didn't get to be the first cow milked, the importance of nostalgia slipped away so we could finally just get started!
Since then 3 weeks have flown by with Dan rarely leaving the barn (he has a bed in the upstairs walk-in closet), Christmas celebrated a bit differently than we imagined, support & help from wonderful family, friends, and neighbors, and cows that are starting to adjust. They say it takes humans 30 days to form a new habit and cows are no different. Eventually they should almost all decide to go get milked by themselves but for now each day a few more figure out they don't have to wait for Dan to come get them to get milked, they can just go!
There are more stories I could tell - how once we finally got everything figured out and were ready to milk a cow, Dan's Grandpa Pete leaned in to start getting the cow ready to be milked and with the bill of his hat hit the button that kicked her out of the milking box; how we've had lots friends & family stop by to check it out; how in the midst of frustration Dan erased the feed pushers route; how my mom showed up just in time for me to get violently sick for a day; how one of our little Jersey's was able to jump in (and then out) of the robot arm area in between the milking boxes; how we've had 3 heifers born in the new barn; how Secret Santas brought us treats & goodies; and how even though these last 3 weeks have been intense, we've had fun, been blessed, and are so thankful that after years of planning, preparing, and building we're actually milking cows!
Happy New Year!
To Start or Not to Start?
That was the question we had to answer mid-morning this morning. Thankfully when the time came our team was in agreement... WAIT.
We were SUPPOSE to start today. The cows were SUPPOSE to make their journey up the hill. We were SUPPOSE to be working through the night getting the cows use to their new barn and way of getting milked.
But instead we'll sleep for one more night :)
As Monday dawned the barn was buzzing with activity, each crew with it's own "last minute" list to get done and most of it did get done. But a few key parts hadn't arrived and been installed like planned and we had a few minor things (some step ladders, self closing doors, the right light bulbs, and more) that we needed to check to pass the State of Iowa milk producers inspections.
We knew our 8am Tuesday cow parade was postponed but for how long? Mid-morning we had to decide and even though we may have been able to push and start sometime today, we determined it was better to wait and start fresh in the morning sticking with our original plan just a day late which gave us time to finish a few other things too.
In the end, this is best and we're thankful for the extra day.
Tomorrow is a new day... and we're praying it'll be a good one!
Since we've launched our website and Facebook page with a bang, thanks to all of our family & friends who are excited about New Day Dairy, I'm launching our blog earlier than expected! Right now you only have little bits and pieces about New Day Dairy and what we're going to do, but hopefully that picture will be filled out in weeks & months ahead as you follow along on our journey. Today I'm sharing a slightly edited version of the Executive Summary of our Business Plan.
New Day Dairy is a new farm on a new building site that is a spin-off of the existing 125 year old Bolin dairy farm. Our mission is to develop, milk, and bless both our cows and people. As Penn State University Site Evaluation for Dairy System states, we believe that “planning our investments to allow us to build toward our future, not just spend more money on continuing the past” will allow our farm to not just survive but thrive through another 125 years.
The global consumers of food continue to increase and are continually desiring more nutrient-dense, quality food sources. Milk and dairy products are a vital part of the this future food movement. New Day Dairy, LLC is moving along with the future of animal care and food production by embracing new technologies and combining those with established best practices for cow care and management. As a cooperative member of Swiss Valley Farms, our quality fresh milk will be processed into various products, most notably fine cheeses, that are marketed locally, regionally and increasingly globally.
Prices received for our milk have in recent history covered the extreme range of high and low. Input costs as well undergo major fluctuations. Entering 2015, margins are expected to be narrow for dairies, yet New Day Dairy, LLC believes in the long-term value of milk and is confident in its ability to be a “top-tier” dairy prepared to persevere though the swells and troughs of the markets.
Partnered together in New Day Dairy, LLC, Dan Bolin and Pete Jensen (Dan's grandpa) along with Dan's parents, Dave & Pam Bolin, offer a full spectrum of talent and experience that will serve this dairy well in a challenging, yet rewarding industry.
The nucleus of the milking herd will be brought from the Bolin's current dairy farm, Beaver Creek Farm. The current facility at Beaver Creek is where the replacement heifers will be housed for the first few years of establishment.
Another exciting opportunity for New Day Dairy is the growing agrotourism sector. Our barn will feature viewing into the barn from an attached office, hospitality, and living area. Maintaining a connection between consumers and the source of their food is the responsibility of all dairy farmers and we feel we're positioned to do that well in our new barn.
New Day Dairy is poised to continue, and improve upon, a family dairy tradition by utilizing the tool of automatic milking, focusing on top-quality care and management for developing productive, profitable cows, and embracing the value of relationships.
So hopefully that gives you a better understanding of what New Day Dairy is all about! Questions? Let us know and we'll answer them as we go!
Growing up a city-girl, after marrying my dairy farmer husband and spending a few years abroad, we came home to expand the family dairy farm and want to share our journey & farm life with you!