What it Means to Me/My Story Part 3

Yesterday I ended with my first year as a Junior Superintendent so today I’m going to begin with a few stories of what happened that year. First off one of our main Junior Superintendent duties is/was collecting cans at nighttime when the fair was shutting down. One of these nights we had a man go running past us yelling “curse this fatness!” It was super random and funny so I still remember it. Other things that happened that year is that there was a long power outage that lasted pretty much all night and there was a fight on the midway causing us to lock down the barn for a while. So yeah, that was an interesting year.

Moving on to after the fair, it came time for Acorn to have her baby. Of course not having any major problems before this I was very excited. But what I didn’t know at the time was that the one we bred her to was related to her, because the other farmers weren’t very organized when it came to that. The baby was born dead, and a few weeks later Acorn was gone too. It was three years after Hazelnut, and since Acorn came to help me with dealing with that and it being my second time something like this happened it almost hurt worse this time.

Back a few months before that we got another Lineback cow at the same auction we got Annabeth from and we named this one Holly. Also during this year Annabeth had her first calf that we named Rey and Eclipse had her second baby that we named Neptune. Along with those three my sister decided that year to claim a Holstein and have me show her at the fair which she named Noel. A few months after she was born she got bloated which farmers can always fix by having the calf swallow dawn dish soap and with Noel being the first one I’d ever seen that happen to, from that day on her name became Bubbles. If that name sounds familiar it’s because a few posts ago I had the large Mishaps and Mayhem post that was mostly about her, especially since she almost broke my ankle. That fair year the most exciting thing was that Holly got Reserve Grand Champion Lineback in both shows, mainly because there was only two Linebacks that year but either way it was cool. I really don’t know how many posts this is going to turn into but it keeps getting really long and I guess I am going through seven years of my life so I guess that’s what happens.

What it Means to Me/My Story Part 2

Yesterday I ended with Hazelnut’s passing and how that set up so many other things that have happened since. So to continue with my story a few days later a neighboring farm offered us another Jersey which we went and saw and then got that weekend, and I named her Acorn. And even though it was still very soon after it happened Acorn did help to make it a bit better. A little while after that, with a few months of practicing with Annabeth and Acorn I decided to claim another of the family farm’s Holsteins, mainly because a Holstein that was born at the time that I was helping to feed as I got more involved on the farm reminded me of a dog. So I registered her in my name, and I named her Bingo. During this time I also had begun to help feed the heifers and sometimes scrape off the floor if it got dirty when the cows came in before milking time. With all of this happening it gave me a bit less time to work with my show cows, but I made it work.

Eventually we had to tell the family that gave us Hazelnut that she’d died, and they felt so bad that they let us have another one of their Jerseys for free. This one I names Lilly, and suddenly I had four show cows to bring to the fair that year, which is more than I’d ever had before. It was also my first fair that I ever got any big prizes in. Annabeth won Reserve Grand Champion Milking Shorthorn that year, and it was the first time that had ever happened for me, which was really exciting. So exciting in fact that I honestly don’t remember much else that happened that year.

Also during this time my other cows were getting older and it was time for them to start having calves. Unfortunately it turns out that Katy was born with or possibly developed over time a hormone problem, meaning we had to breed her nine times before she had her first calf. So then Jasmine was born, a fully white lineback which I thought was interesting. This was in November, and a few months later in March Eclipse had her first calf, Martha. Martha was a half Jersey and half Holstein, and usually our farm doesn’t keep those but we did for the first time. Primmy also had one like that, but we sold her calf to a farm close by, but I don’t really remember why we got rid of that one but kept Martha. So with these two in mind, along with Lilly still being of a small size, these three went with me to the fair that year. Nothing as exciting as the year before happened that year prize wise, but it was my first year as a Junior Superintendent, which I think I’ve mentioned before but in case I haven’t it just means that I helped the adults take care of the barn during the week, and I got to sleep in the barn. There were many stories that happened during that time, but I already feel that this post is going on really long, so I will begin part three with that tomorrow.

What it Means to Me/My Story

Mainly because I can’t think of anything else to write about today I decided to just go with a bit about what dairy farming means to me, but it might possibly turn into a rant because I don’t really know what I’m about to write…

So I probably have mentioned this before but I really got into dairy farming when I was in the eighth grade. It started the summer before when we stopped by the County Fair that would become my home for the next seven years of my life and I saw a few lineback cows that I believe I have also mentioned a few posts before. So a few months after that in February Katy was born and you could very easily say that my life was changed forever. Suddenly I was in the barn all the time with her, walking everywhere and going anywhere around the yard that we possibly could. Of course this was so long ago that there are many stories I could go into that I might not fully remember so I can’t really go into them.

But anyway after that first year and the first time I had a fair week and I loved it so much I decided to try to find more cows. Of course having a family farm full of Holsteins, they were what came next. This idea came to me shortly at the end of the fair, so of course August came next and a few weeks later Primrose was born. We shortened it down to Primmy after a while especially when she was bad, which when it came to walking and showing she was, and eventually we had to decide she just wasn’t a show cow and ended up not bringing her along to the fair the next time. But it was okay because there was still Katy and a few months later in October another Holstein was born that I decided I wanted to show, Eclipse (yes that Eclipse). So she joined my show cow group and she actually could figure out how to do it and became my third cow but my second show cow. Then one of my mom’s friends that she works with who was also a dairy farmer with a farm full of Jerseys which they sold to us. So then I had Hazelnut, my third show cow.

With those four cows/three show cows we went to the second fair of my life, which was as good as the first time. Once again there was many adventures that I can’t fully go into again because it was so long ago (maybe I have too much information in my head I don’t really know haha). Then August came again and we found out about a cow auction at a different county fair close by, and though it was unplanned we came home with my first Milking Shorthorn, Annabeth.

After all of this it was about the end of 2013, October specifically, and then through no fault of anyone in the barn, we lost Hazelnut. No one really knows what happened, only that we came in and she was lying on the floor. It was the day before Halloween and the next day she was gone. It was the first time anyone or anything close to me had died. I’ve been lucky in the aspect that I never lost a human close to me, and until recently I hadn’t lost a house dog or cat that I could remember. So this turned out to be an actually very important thing for me, even though it was terrible and I’ll never forget it until the day that I die. But I know now that it happened for a reason, because if it hadn’t so many things that have happened since probably wouldn’t have, and I know that God knew that. It might’ve taken me six or seven years to realize this, but I think that’s okay and that it might’ve had to happen that way. But anyway I feel like I’ve been going on about this a long time so I’m going to stop now, and just say that part two comes tomorrow.

A Letter to the One I Lost

Dear you, you the one I no longer see every day. The one I lost, the one that was found in the field with no explanation. The one I thought maybe I was finally starting to miss less, but who was I kidding it hasn’t even been a month yet. I miss you so much I can’t even make myself write your name in this post. I don’t know what brought this on really, just that I realized in a week it’ll have already been a month, and I swear it was only like a week ago. Or just when I can finally make myself look at the empty stall where you used to stand, and I can laugh at the cats sleeping in a pile in the hay that is all that is left. Did you know for a while I couldn’t even take the milker off of your neighbor when she was done because I couldn’t make myself stand up in there, let alone look at it. Did you ever get the feeling that something wasn’t right behind you, or like something was empty when it hasn’t been in a long time and it shouldn’t be? That’s what it was like for weeks. I sometimes like to imagine you running around in the field with Hazelnut who I don’t really know if you remember or not, but seeing as you’re with her now I’m sure you do. You’re up there with her, and with Cas who I know you remember seeing as she was your calf and she’s barely been gone over a year. Acorn is there with you too, though you never got to meet her. And I thought all of these names I listed would have been the worst, the ones that would hurt the most, but none of them have ever hurt as much as losing you did. I don’t know if it’s just that it’s more recent or what but there are days where it’s some small thing that has me on the verge of bawling my eyes out once again. And I don’t know if you went to heaven, because I don’t know where animals go when they die. I tell myself you do though, because I know that God put you on this earth for me for a reason, and he wouldn’t have done that if I was never going to see you again. It might not be for eighty or ninety years or so, but someday we will be together again. But right now, with this pain I still feel at random times during some random hour of some random day, well it sucks. And it sucks that some people still can’t see it, and they can’t see what dairy farmers go through and that they think of their animals as nothing more than objects, and that we are inhumane and don’t care when you die. Well I care. I care a lot, and it hurts and when I got up this morning and thought about what to say today I wasn’t planning on this but it seems to have happened. Eclipse, there I did it, I got your name in here, not that anyone reading this who knows me doesn’t know who I’m talking about, I miss you so much and it’s not fair that you got taken away, but eventually I’ll learn to accept it, even though this pain will never fully go away.

Until we meet again in eighty or ninety years, I will always and forever be your Sara.

On Pain; Alternative Title “Why?”

Yesterday started out as a perfectly normal, pretty good day. I had slept in after the busy Saturday I’d had, and I had woken up doing everything I normally do to prepare for church on Sunday. Everything was fine, until it wasn’t. Yesterday morning my life came crashing down for the third time this summer. My dad was forced to come home once again with the news that one of my cows had died. I had always thought that when the younger ones died it was worse, but after five years and eight months of seeing my Eclipse every day when I came to the barn, it hurts so much more.

Anyone who hears the fake news about the dairy industry and hears that dairy farmers don’t care about their animals should’ve been there yesterday morning to see my parents and I standing and hugging in the walkway between my room, my sister’s room, the basement, the bathroom and the rest of the house. They should’ve been there to see us all sobbing and to see me barely getting through church yesterday, and having to continually run to the bathroom, crying, and not being able to sing along until the last song. Growing up as a Christian in the church I’ve always been told that everything happens for a reason, and that God always has a plan for us and he never gives us something we can’t handle. All the other times I’ve been able to see that. I’ve seen that when one of my other cows died it always lead to something else. Many things at the barn today wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t lost one of my other cows. It’s only been a day and I’m sure eventually I will see that this happened for a reason this time, like maybe since we’re bringing Eclipse’s granddaughter, Hazel, to the fair maybe this will make it more significant or special if she wins something. But for now it just plain hurts.

On Alpacas

While dairy farming is our main farm source that my family has, we also have a small alpaca farm in our backyard, which is pretty cool and always fun to tell people. It started a few years ago, first meaning to be a new job for my mom when she temporarily lost her old one, but then since she got it back it became a bit more like a hobby.

We started out with seven of them, five from one farm and two brothers from a different farm. We’ve got four girls; Saber, Aurora, Silver Moon and Charmin, and then we had three boys; Zonji, Coal and Prince. A few years ago back when we were beginners Prince got worms which eventually made him so sick that he couldn’t even stand anymore. Of course since we were beginners we had no idea until it was too late and he passed away. Just lately Coal, the brother of Prince, also got these worms but since we know more know and were prepared for it we fixed him and today he’s fine.

Besides when they get sick alpacas have always seemed to me to be a much more low maintenance type of animal than cows are. Obviously they have the basic food and water needs, which basically consists of a bit of grain in the morning and more in the afternoon, a big water bucket in each barn that we fill up almost weekly or whenever it’s needed, and a supply of hay that we usually have to fill up daily. Besides those daily things there is an annual shearing day most of the time around June, when we get professionals to come in and give our kids a haircut. We then use this hair, typically called fleece to make yarn and knit or sometimes weave different things. And I’ve heard some try and say that shearing them hurts them, but it is just like a haircut for humans, and it makes them feel a lot better in the summer when their heavy coats are gone. Then during the year the fleece grows back so when winter comes again they have a lot of fleece again so they stay warm throughout. Another thing that happens during shearing day and a few other times if needed is that we give them shots to help keep away the worms and clip their toenails to help stop them from catching them on stuff in the field that they spend most of their day in.

Alpacas are kind of funny creatures but they can always make us laugh, and though they can be skiddish and are prey animals, (so like you can’t hug them or anything), they still show us love and we love and take care of them as much as we do cows.

Sometimes Life Isn’t Fair

Sorry for not posting the last few days, I got super busy over the weekend. I also apologize for leaving my On title theme, but this is a subject I need to talk about today.

There are days that life just throws curveballs at you and suddenly you find yourself curled in a ball on the floor (figuratively but sometimes literally too I guess). This happens a lot more often than normal if you live on a farm. With all the animals you have to deal with and take care of and everything breaking or people getting hurt all the time sometimes in the barn it seems like nothing goes right anymore. And during those times you have to sit back and ask “why do these things happen?” Sometimes life just isn’t fair at all.

Just yesterday afternoon my favorite barn cat got ran over by a feed cart. His name was Flopsy (featured above and below) and even though he was a few months old he became like a son to me. I used to have one named Chippy who also died, and Flopsy was the closest I had been to a barn cat since. Some might question why I get so attached to barn cats if they die a lot just because of sickness and other circumstances and it’s really, mainly because I can’t help it.

Of course with the curveballs comes the guilt. When the unexpected comes, a farmer usually can’t help but blame themselves. Yesterday since my dad was the one pushing the cart he blames himself. And even though I tell him not to, because it’s nothing anyone could’ve done to stop it I can’t help but blame myself too. I was the one who made him tame and therefore he kept trying to follow me and come after me and other people without learning how to move, with his only thought of being by people and he was probably trying to find me when he died builds up my guilt even though I know I shouldn’t because there wasn’t anything we could’ve done like I just said, but it happens and it’s inevitable.

And even through all this and even right now as I sit here and write out my feelings I can’t help but take a deep breath and tell myself that God has a plan even when we don’t see it and even though my heart is breaking somehow someday I’ll see what that plan is.

On Life and Death

I don’t mean to start off on such a depressing note but this is something that’s been on my mind for a while lately. This is mainly because about a month ago now we had to put our house dog down, but that’s not what this post is about. Rather this post is about death on the farm. I mentioned in my last post that I have been helping out on my farm since the eighth grade, and to elaborate on that a bit more I got my first dairy cow then and I began to show cows with my local 4-H Dairy Program. My first year it was only my one cow, Katy, and the year after that I took on three more. And that year was when I learned the first real lesson in my life about disappointment, responsibility, life and death.

Though I had taken on four cows at that time I was only able to bring three to the fair I went to with the 4-H Dairy Program previously mentioned above mainly because one was just too nervous to be able to show properly. Though I was only about fourteen years old I was forced to take responsibility and learned that not everything will always work out as you want it to.

Now we come down to the main message for today. A few months after that in October 2013 I experienced the first time one of my cows died. Her name was Hazelnut, and even though this was years ago now, and I barely remember anything about her now, it was the first time I had ever REALLY experienced death, and it was one of the hardest moments of my entire life. (She’s the cow in the picture below).

I’ve always told people that becoming a part of the dairy industry was one of the best and most important decisions I’d ever made in my entire life, and this was one of the main reasons why. I was forced to grow up and become much more mature than I probably would’ve been, and most likely than I ever would’ve become, if I hadn’t taken responsibility over the lives of these cows. Death is not something that one can just take lightly on the farm. These are animals that you’ve been with since the day they were born, or just a few weeks after that. They are more than just pets or a way to make money, they can become like your own family.

A few years after this, I lost another one of my cows, once again due to reasons that no one could’ve predicted or changed. And just last year I lost my latest one, after only nine days old. Each one of these was like a tear in my heart and I will never ever forget any of the ones I’ve lost even if I might forget a few things. Along with these, lately on the farm we’ve had a surge of cows having babies early, which then turn out to be twins, and the cows get sick and so far two have died. Watching a cow get sick, deteriorate and die is one of the hardest parts of dairy farming. And no matter how often it happens, no farmer ever gets used to it, no matter what they say. It hurts, it’s not fair, and sometimes I find myself worrying about it happening again. But even through all this farming continues on, and dairy farmers keep the lives of their cows as clean, happy, and as comfortable as they can. And even though there are days when it’s easy to question why we keep going, and if it’s even worth it anymore, there’s always something that makes it worth it. 534359_236317669861936_1262886793_n