Moving off the farm

Picture of dad milking by hand/ early 1970’s

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Tomorrow is a BIG day.

We are moving my parents off the family farm.

I was nine years old when we moved to the farm.  Had never been around farm life before that, except for a few early memories of my grandparents farm (I was 4 when they moved to town.)

Growing up on a  120 acre working family farm shaped me in ways I will probably never fully appreciate.  Dad bought 20 Holstein milk cows when I turned 12.  Expressed purpose was to give us some spending money. (And keep us out of mischief.)  Milking is a two times a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year activity.  Up close and personal with the whole cycle of life.   Learned about delivering babies, afterbirth, still birth, cesarean births,  the art of milking a first time heifer whose utters are on fire with mastitis.  Learned how to deflect the back hoof of an animal ten times my body weight, that wanted to kick the crap out of me, because she didn’t  like what I was doing to her.

Manure.  Could write a book on the topic.  Sometimes you just have to block out the fact, you are getting splattered with e-coli.

Doing chores… Climbing into a dimly lit haymow in the dead of winter, afraid one of the banshees from Darby O’Gill would appear at any second.

Winter mornings so stink’n cold my fingers felt like they were on fire.

I learned it was not a good idea to engage the power-take-off on the manure spreader with a 20 mile wind to my back.

I remember side raking hay,  singing along to the radio, in the middle of August listening to Band on the run.

Last month, I worked alongside a young man vacuuming hallways.  He  lasted three days. Told my son that his wrist was bothering him.  Said he had pulled an all nighter playing video games, and wondered if he could knock off an hour early. I felt sorry for him.  He doesn’t know any different.

Baling hay in the summer is still one of my favorite memories.  My job of choice was  in the hay-mow.  Our barn could hold 300 tons of hay if we packed it to the top.   (10,000 bales X 60# = 60,000# divided by 2000# = 300 tons) Over the course of a season, I would have handled every one of those bales at least once.    In mid July, in Iowa, the temperature gets into the upper 90’s, so it had to be 100/ 110 degrees in the mow.   We never gave it a second thought.   It was just a part of getting the crops in.  Working in those conditions shaped my attitude about the weather.

When our kids were still home, out of financial need, we started a small commercial cleaning business on the side. The older ones went with us in the evening and weekends as we emptied trash cans, scrubbed toilets, vacuumed and mopped the floors.  I wished we could do more to incorporate the chores of my youth, but we were living in town and a dairy cow was not an option….

Final story.  Look at that picture of my dad milking again.  See that fuzzy cat on the left getting  milk straight from the cow?    Come to find out, she (Fuzzy)  was a prize winning show cat. Had blue ribbons to prove it.   She used to hang around the lumberyard where my dad worked.  He thought she was a stray, so he took pity on her and brought her home. Year later, lady who lived close to the lumberyard happened to be visiting our farm, noticed the cat and mentioned she used to have a cat like that.  We never let on.

If you were a cat, would you rather spend your days  eating dry cat food or having a front row seat by the family cow?

You can take the boy (or girl) off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy (or girl)… thinking too about my fellow farm kid, MJ as I wrote this post.

You get extra credit if you can tell me the breed of the milk cow in that photo.

Later! DM

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Update 12 hours later…just got home.  Lots of great help. Went without a hitch.  Here are a couple of action photos:

Dad loading up the family picture 

The moving crew

 

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21 thoughts on “Moving off the farm

    • Yes! You are correct 🙂 It is a Guernsey . I am impressed! Gentle, and lots of rich cream. (the rest of our herd were Holstein.) I just saw one for sale earlier this week on a local garage sale website…a tiny little part of me wished I could have gotten it, as long as I didn’t have to milk it.

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        • I am familiar with the Scottish Hiland cattle..(ever since I fell in love with Scotland/ John Muir/ Queen Victoria series/ some of my relatives/ etc. etc. A dual purpose shorthorn sounds like the way to go..(the Holstein were so bony compared to the Herfords and Angus when it came time to eating them) I enjoy comparing farming notes with you 🙂 (was this when you were growing up, or “we” as in you and your husband?

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          • My husband and I, 2 city kids, found ourselves looking for our first house to welcome our first child (born 47 years ago today). Needless to say, we couldn’t afford much at the time. My husband asked the real estate agent, “Are there any farms for sale?” For $18,000 we bought an little old farm house, 3 barns, and 100 acres. (How times have changed!) Nine years of learning, learning, learning. No-one has more respect for farmers than we do! 🙂

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  1. Great memories Doug. Did I miss any background on this story of the move? Or maybe you just haven’t written about it, which is understandable what with such a momentous change. Maybe not the easiest thing to talk about.
    I always wanted to be a kid on a farm, but never had the opportunity. The closest I came was helping my paternal grandmother garden on her small plot of land. I think she may have had a chicken or two, so I was pretty impressed, even with that!

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    • The move actually came up pretty suddenly….I may have to give it some thought (writing about it)….if your grandma had chickens,that’s good enough for me…(farmer at heart) 😉

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  2. It will be a wrench for the entire family I guess. Happy memories though. My uncle had a cow. They had fresh milk every morning and my aunt made her own butter. I never got close enough to milk it though. Love cows, they’ve got such beautiful eyes.

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  3. I still have the postcard advertising the auction when my great-grandparents’ farm was sold. And I have a few photos of my mother there on the farm, with her youngest sister. She loved the hay mow and squirting milk to the kitties, too — although she didn’t like to milk. Gathering eggs was more her speed.

    I still have my great-grandmother’s butter paddle, hanging in my kitchen. I wouldn’t want to be running a farm today, but country living? I’d take it on in a minute, even though I see it through far more realistic eyes today.

    I hope your folks do well with the change. It sounds like the logistics of it all went well, and that always makes it easier.

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    • Wow, those are some precious keepsakes! I too see life on the farm with my eyes wide open, which is why I have never/ ever been tempted to have a milk cow..no way/ no how. Dad’s going to have the harder time adjusting to life in town…he turns 86, was still heating the house in the country with wood (even though they also had a gas furnace attached to it) I know he liked the fact it kept him physically involved.

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  4. What an amazing post! Chock-full of details that really bring your earlier life on the farm alive. I was a nerdy kid who announced to her class on “what I will do when I grow up” day that I was going to grow up to be a farmer…but I haven’t done that yet. And probably won’t. I got my ideas about farms from Little House on the Prairie and other books….and then the Foxfire series of books (Appalachian folk lore) in my teens…But ideas are nothing next to reality! Thanks for sharing. I am glad everything went off with a hitch and really hope things for your parents are as good as they can possibly be in their new life. I wonder if you could have your dad do some work with you once in a while, or ask him to come do things…if he would receive it well, it almost seems like he might just like to have his hand in some productive physical work, if he has been doing that for the majority of his life.
    My husband’s father was a life-long farmer and in his retirement, his family (he had five sons who between them made good money) bought him a piece of land within walking distance of the newer family apartment in town, in the city much of the family had moved to. (Since that’s in Yemen, the “city” still had buildings with fodder stacked on the roof for the donkey hanging out front), and it was not uncommon for fields to sit next to new apartment buildings, or for camel, sheep, cows, or donkeys to be strolling by). He and another older former farmer, in their 70s and into their 80s, would head off walking every day, to hang out all day on the farm…doing some farming but also just sitting companionably out in a shed they had on-site, as much for him to sit in as for storage. I was there when a couple of the sons decided to take care of the potato harvest for him–using a giant (hired for a few hours) ox to plow up the field and then basically the entire extended family to collect potatoes, including both men and women– and the kids, who were sent behind to collect the tiniest potatoes. Too bad my kids were too little to remember…I will have to tell them. I am pretty sure that’s the only harvest I ever took part in! I think being on that land kept my father-in-law happy until he died…it was not just what he was, but who he was…
    Best wishes to your parents. I can’t imagine what a big change this is (or what might have precipitated the change…although “old age” is something we’re all having to come to terms with, I think, either in ourselves or in our parents….). Love to you all!

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    • So good to hear from you Lisa… You may have mentioned it in the past, but I don’t remember your love for the foxfire series. I picked up a couple of the books in a second hand store years ago.. I loved them. Remember them to be very detail oriented. Don’t completely write off your desire to be a farmer..you never know…that is an example of what I teach about when I do the “Bucket list” workshop. It is like when a tuning fork starts to vibrate @ a specific pitch. It is a glimpse into something important that is hard wired into your soul. You may not be able to live on a 120 acre dairy farm, but I bet there are ways you can “scratch” that itch, even living in the big apple…something to think about. And you were @ another mini harvest BTW…when you and the girls stopped here, we harvested potatoes 🙂 Good to hear from you. DM

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  5. Love this, and love the picture 💙 We may be adding a cow to the barn next June! Was supposed to be this June, but I’ve got my hands full so am holding out one more year. Daughter just started milking her goat. And, what an adventure as you described… She doesn’t end up with much in the pan but she is persistent and keeps trying!

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    • Do you have a particular breed of milk cow you are looking for? If you’re milking a goat you’re already 80% there 🙂 (know how to milk, know what kind of commitment it takes, know where milk really comes from… You need to do a blog post on milking a goat. (if you haven’t already)

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      • Ha! I was actually going to but haven’t yet. I got the funniest pictures of the “goat rodeo”! Since we don’t have a milking stand yet, my daughter got quite creative… Our county has a dairy cow partnership with 4-H kids, they give them a pregnant cow to care for, train and show, then auction off at the 4H expo/fair and the 4-H kids keep the profit. Its a great program and a good introduction into the dairy cow world 🙂

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