On July 22 we celebrated 10 years of marriage which is an amazing accomplishment, although not quite as impressive as Dan's grandparents who celebrated 65 years and 60 years of marriage this year! We have a long way to go!
Today, 10 years later, we're together living, breathing, and sleeping (or not sleeping) dairy farming. And while that hasn't always been the case we have always shared a love of milk including the fateful day we first met...
We both attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa and were part of a fraternity & sorority. Our lives were quite far from what Hollywood would have you think college life in frat house is like and in fact the night we met Lynn happened to be attending a Bible study at Dan's fraternity. As the night got started it was probably long after supper time and I was thirsty so I asked if I could grab a glass of milk from the kitchen and of course no one minded. I headed to the kitchen filled up my cup and rejoined the Bible Study paying no attention to what else happened to be going on in the kitchen.
When I got back though I was transported back to Jr. High as Dan's fraternity brothers began teasing me... "You're going to marry D-Bo because you both like milk...ha ha ha" and on and on they went. Up to this point, to my knowledge, I hadn't met Dan, or D-Bo as his fraternity brothers called him, and so this all seemed rather childish and I noted that we should get back to our Bible Study.
What I didn't know & hadn't observed was that Dan had actually been in the kitchen when I grabbed my glass of milk baking cookies for a Bake Sale at his church. When he'd finished baking he had some extra and being the amazing guy he is, he decided to offer our Bible Study a few, so in he came...
As he came around the corner everyone started snickering in my direction and noting "Here comes D-Bo..." And it just so happened, I suppose because I'd gone to grab that glass of milk, that I was sitting just inside the door so I was the first one D-Bo offered cookies to.
So, what's going through my head since he walked in and the snickering started? "Ok, who put him up to this? Did I miss someone leaving & telling him it would be funny to offer some cookies to me because I like milk? This is silly...." And you know what? I couldn't even eat a cookie! I'd given up sweets for Lent...
I'm sure my face was bright red as the jokes continued as he offered everyone else cookies & then headed back to the kitchen. Because although I didn't know it then, it turns out that Dan's just a great guy who wanted to offer us all cookies since he had a few extra. I was embarrassed and did feel a bit like I was in Jr. High but I suppose the jokes & snickering did the trick because my curiosity & interest was pricked and I began noticing this D-Bo guy a bit more....
The rest of the story? You mean you want to know what happened next? Well from then on it's a pretty normal story. We crossed paths here & there, hung out at Sonshine Music Festival LINK where we happened to be camping in the same large group of friends, and eventually the next fall in 2003 starting seriously dating.
(So, I went in search of one of these pictures & couldn't resist including them all... enjoy!)
And finally on July 22, 2006 we were married and honestly we didn't have a farm wedding at all... I think the only way you would've known Dan was from a dairy farm a picture included with 20 others at each table. We didn't have any old cool old milk cans (like the wedding we went to a few weekends ago!) or other references to cows or the farm. Barely a hint that one day we'd end up back here on the farm enjoying glasses of milk together.
On our Honeymoon thought we did stop at Flayvors of Cook Farm for lunch
and of course some ice cream!
What's your story of how you met?
Have you been following along this month as #DairyManDan has been snapping pictures of his days?
Did you miss a few? Not to worry! Here they all are, telling a story of #DairyManDan's days on our family dairy farm!
Since typically I'm the one who snaps photos around the farm & posts them I wanted to get #DairyManDan's perspective on things and, as I expected, it's bit different than mine! Some of the photos I still took... especially if I happened to be around (plus that way you can see him in action!).
As you'll see, no day is quite the same although the jobs that have to get done are! My original intent was to have #DairyManDan snap a pic at the top of the hour everyday for the first half of the month & then on the half hour the second half of the month. That was unrealistic expectation!
His hands are usually busy with something, so the pictures ended up getting snapped when he'd take his phone out and would see that one of his many to-do's was to take a picture! The second part of the month they're not really even in a time order anymore!
To celebrate June Dairy Month I'd like to introduce you to some other amazing dairy farmers & what a day in their life looks like! One of the things I love about dairy farming is the multitude of practices or ways you can care for your cows! After reading about what Dan's days looks like check out what a day in the life of these farmers look like... it's so different & so similar all at the same time! The links are all below my introductions.
First up is Renee from Eat, Farm, Love! She farms in Pennsylvania where they milk 200 Jersey cows. 20 of those Jersey's get milked at one time, a bit different than 2 at a time at our farm! We have a few Jerseys & their eyes are so gorgeous!
Next is Alicia from Happily Married... To The Cows. She too lives in Pennsylvania too, which happens to means lots of beautiful things... I love her double story porch, old beautiful stone barn, and they have beautiful white fences, we just have some electric wire!
In the links below I'm up next so look around & check out our farm a little more!
Jumping to the west coast, we have Darleen at Guernsey Dairy Mama in Oregon. As you might have noticed she has Guernseys, all Guernsey, like Dan's Grandpa use to have. We only have a few left, but they are beautiful! I love her post about what's in a dairy farmers day since now that we have Rita the robot #DairyManDan's days look so different than they use to! And her days will soon be changing too as they're putting in robots.
Up to my home state of Minnesota we find Sadie at Dairy Good Life. Her 75 cows are milked in a stanchion barn, which means they each have their own spot and Sadie & her husband bring the milking machine to each cow to milk them. Check out their farm page & the great video about their farm!
And last but not least is Caci at The Farm Wife who heralds from South Carolina, which I'd say is the south, which means we're covering a good bit of the US! Their family has been farming for 10 generations... that's amazing! And she could be describing #DairyManDan, except he's actually averaged a little over 30,000 steps this month, with his high days at over 48,000 steps!
Explore A Day in the Life of Dairy Farmers Across the US!
What does your typically day look like?
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!
I've been writing this post in my head and jotting down notes on my phone for over 2 months as I've been doing calf chores most mornings and evenings. Now it's here. I have a moment to share with you how I really feel about calves and doing calf chores, which by the way, if you want to know what in the world these "calf chores" are check my post out from last week! (A link will not insert, so I guess you'll have to find it yourself in the Dairy Farming 101 series.)
For one, I feel like I can truly say "I am a dairy farmer." Sure I would've said that before and I think it would've been true but now that I've really gotten dirty and sweaty, gotten to know my calves, and done it day after day for 2 months I think it's a more legitimate statement. And, for better (because now I can do it) or worse (because now I can do it & can't plead ignorance), I also know a lot more about how to do things on the farm.
Since I'm a beginner but am still dedicated to our farm and calves I feel like I can give you an honest perspective. Now I say beginner because I'd done calf chores before and I knew our farm so I wasn't a complete novice. I'd help Dan out here or there when Dave and Pam were gone or the kids and I would visit and help for awhile but it was random. Over the past 2 months I think I've moved from novice to beginner and maybe even a little bit into the basics, which is impressive for this suburban grown city girl!
Even though I now can call myself a basic dairy farmer I still have a shocking confession:
I don't really like calves.
There. It's out there. I've said it. I don't really like calves or calf chores.
Why? But, Why? You may ask. Well, I'll break it down for you, from the reason I least like calves and calf chores to the best part about it (yes there are some good parts).
Now I'll be honest that this list has gone through some changes over the past 2 months because I've gone through some changes. The first week after Dan had surgery a good friend asked how I liked doing calf chores and I said "good". At that point my mom was still around caring for the kids and my house and helping me take care of Dan, so calf chores were a nice little break and I was still in the "honeymoon" stage of doing something new.
But it didn't take long and the honey started to disappear. Throw in a week of VBS and then my mom leaving (which she had to do - she'd given us 10 days!) and Dan not recovered enough to do anything but keep the kids alive and hopefully entertained while I was gone, and it went downhill fast. My plate was overstuffed and overfull and that didn't help my attitude toward the rowdy seemingly ungrateful calves I spent hours caring for everyday.
The last few weeks the tide turned again as Dan had been able to help the kids eat dinner or breakfast, get them ready for bed or the day, and into bed while I was doing calf chores in the mornings or evenings. With less responsibility on my plate I didn't have to fight for joy quite as hard. Going forward I'll continue to help with calf chores to help Dan out when Dave & Pam are gone but thankfully for me it won't be ALL. THE. TIME.
So here we go with our list of why I don't really like calves or calf chores...
5. Calf Slobber, Kisses, and Nibbles. Seriously, for some reason, this is the thing I have the least patience for. No matter how I'm trying to care for a calf, whether giving her fresh water, some food, or trying to give her a dry place to lay down, I can't get near her without her trying to suck and nibble on any part of body or clothes that's available. Calves have no discretion - they suck on my hair, my arm, my shirt, my leg, my elbow... you get the idea.
Truthfully this just makes my job harder because it turns out I'm usually using my arms and body to take care of them and if they're nibbling on me it means they're in my way. AND I just don't really like wet warm slobber all over me....
When I told Dan's aunt, who has been dairy farming her whole life, about my predicament she said she doesn't even notice that this happens to her anymore. So maybe if I did calf chores long enough I'd get use to it too... but I don't really want to.
I'd rather figure out how to train these little calves to stay out of my way and respect my body bubble...
4. Messy, Misbehaving Calves. Now obviously calves have to eat and drink to grow, which is what we want. And obviously some of what goes in must come out but calves are not the smartest creatures when it comes to where they're going to poop and pee (like, ahem, pigs). No matter how much I'd tell them to make sure to relieve themselves in their yard not on their bed in their hut, they usually didn't listen.
And then related to #1, if I was providing them with fresh straw to lay on instead of ground papers, I had to climb into their yard and hut to spread it out all nice for them, which usually involved trying to get them out of their hut and into their yard so I could stoop down and go into their hut and spread out their straw. While in their hut I often have to balance on one leg to keep the other leg out behind me to protect me from the licking, nibbling, slobbery calves - as well as a few rowdy ones who just want to head butt me (literally!).
Dan thought he should take a picture of me doing this to insert here for your viewing, ah, pleasure... I don't think it'd be pleasurable. Instead just imagine yourself doing the above described acrobatics and you'll probably giggle a little!
Equally as annoying is when they decide to poop or pee in their water bucket, especially if I've just given them fresh water! There are even a few chronic offenders who not only often poop in their bucket they figure out how to get their bucket out of it's holder and then roll it around in their messy yard. And then I'd clean it again and again and again and again....
Now this isn't number one because every so often it can be helpful. During my first week one of those chronic offenders happened to pee in her water bucket and it wasn't yellow but red - which means bladder infection. Thankfully we were able to catch it early and get her the treatment she needed fast and now she's doing great! If she'd peed anywhere else we wouldn't have caught it as early.
3. My Body. There's some good and bad here, so it rightly falls in the middle. Even though I haven't been milking cows just carrying buckets of water and feed, it has caused my wedding ring to no longer fit and for callouses to form on my hands. Now that I'm not as actively helping with calf chores the callouses will probably fade away and hopefully my hands will shrink back to my wedding ring size. Either way I still love my husband unconditionally but I'd hate to see my beautiful ring just sit around! (PS... the ring is already back on!)
And I've lost weight and for sure some inches with all the physical lifting and walking twice a day. I took a strength and weight training class in high school and my teacher would be proud. I've been using my knowledge to lift with my legs and engage my abs while lifting and carrying buckets. Hopefully I'll be able to keep being active and eating right to stay in shape now!
2. Getting to know the calves. Now honestly, I'd probably feel a lot more lovey fuzzy feeling toward my calves if I got to know them even more than I have. If I'm truthful my 2 and 5 year old have some of the same issues I don't particularly like in calves - getting in my body bubble, having to feed and then clean up after them, and caring for them in general. Thankfully I spend a lot more time with my kids and I know them and all of their amazing attributes too - like cuddles and "I love you's", funny faces and phrases, learning to help, saying "thank you", and so much more!
But I've still gotten to know the calves I've been caring for and each one has a personality - even if it's a rowdy in your face personality. You know who will drink their whole bucket of water as soon as you give it to them so you'll have to refill it right away. You know who will stand in the door of their hut so you can't get any bedding in it. You know who is going to get their bucket out of it's holder. You know who thinks she's the boss and always gets the first drink of water (one of my calves, Peyton, I renamed PrimaDonna because she's thinks she's number 1 and the most important in her big hut group!). And thankfully you know who's just going to be chill and laid back, although you might not notice them.
1. Experiencing God's Creation. My favorite thing of all was getting to experience God's creation each morning and evening. Now on those hot humid days this wasn't my favorite but thankfully I knew I'd get to take a shower as soon as I was done working, something they didn't have the luxury of when Dan's Great-Great Grandparent's started farming our farm over 125 years ago!
Since I was helping through summer which was turning into fall I usually got to experience dawn's arrival and evening's dusk settling. For around two hours each morning and evening I'd be in and out of the barns and caring for the calves at the huts, getting to both see and feel the new day's arrival or the day's end. I've watched the sunrise and set before and can usually see it from inside my house but then I'm on to the next thing on the to-do list - usually inside, missing the beauty of the slow change as the days come and go.
Perhaps my favorite morning was after a stretch of hot humid summer days I drove to the farm at 5:15am and it was still icky and sticky out with my car's thermometer at 72 degrees. Over the next two hours I experienced the weather shift like I never have before. The wind picked up and spent a good 30-60 minutes working on blowing away the hot heavy air mass, bringing with it cool crisp refreshing fall air. Driving home a bit after 7am that morning my car's thermometer had dropped 8 degrees and more importantly the humidity had been pushed away.
The weather and our atmosphere is truly amazing. I so appreciate that we have meteorologists who really are pretty close when it comes to telling us what's coming our way but I think most of us usually miss out on the wonder of our world and getting to really "feel" the weather and the way it shifts and changes. Being outside in God's creation to see how many different beautiful ways the sun can set and rise, experiencing the changing weather, feeling rain drops on your head but continuing to work has given me more of an appreciation and awe for this amazing place we live called earth.
In the end I really am thankful that I had the opportunity to learn the day in and day out pattern of calf chores as well as get the farm through a tough time, being down a more than full-time worker! I may not have said that one month into doing calf chores but that's what perspective is so important!
What are the blessings and annoyances of your job? They all have 'em!
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!