Friday, February 15, 2019

Adjusting...

It's been two weeks today since we sold the cows, and we've been gradually adjusting to our new normal.  We're still feeling good about our decision, but there have been adjustments.

I will say, it's been easier in some ways than we expected, and harder in others!  The hardest part for me has been giving up my time at home.  Although we were very tied down with the cows, we often had flexible time throughout the day for running errands, etc.  That has changed a bit and is an adjustment, but we'll figure it out!  I need to be more intentional about meal planning, cleaning, laundry etc.  Jim still has some manure to haul and projects that he would like to tackle, and will have to adjust to the same thing.

I headed off to a new job almost two weeks ago, working in the office at a feed mill. I'm enjoying being able to remain a part of the ag community and I'm also enjoying the work that I've been doing.  I have a LOT to learn, but thankfully the people there have been very patient with my many, many questions!

Jim has been trying out a few things and hasn't decided for sure which direction he would like to go.  He will find a good fit I'm sure, but it might take a little time.

The dogs and cats may have the hardest adjustment of all!  They were used to having us around all day and would enjoy many ear scratches or belly rubs, and sneak treats throughout the day. Snickers has, in the past few months, bedded down in a pile of straw and corn fodder in the cow stable.  When the barn was full of cows, it was nice and cozy even on the coldest of days. When Jim cleaned out the stalls, he left her little pile in place so that she would have a comfy bed.  She could easily sleep upstairs in the straw with Murphy and Phoebe, but she chooses this...  


I'm headed off for a half day today, and when I get home the dogs will be jumping (at least Phoebe will be!) with excitement.  It's good to be loved, especially in the midst of big life changes!  :)

Friday, February 8, 2019

Reminiscing...

I had a day off from my job training today so I tagged along with Jim to the other farm when he went to feed the heifers.  Settlement is next week, so we took what will likely be our last opportunity to walk through the apartment where we lived for nine months when we were first married.  We lived on the second floor of the farm house (our kitchen was inside that huge bay window), Jim's Grandma lived on the big side of the house, and another family lived directly below us.

Here's our trip down memory lane... 


We entered off the porch and headed upstairs...


Our little kitchen table was inside those windows.  This faces south and east, and was a beautiful warm sunny place for eating breakfast and keeping my African violets blooming!


The tile back splash and cupboards have since been painted, but the tile was a bright aqua blue and the cupboards were a natural wood twenty five years ago...


Sycamore trees really make a mess in the yard, but this beautiful landmark is huge, old, and such a familiar sight outside our kitchen windows...



Older and hopefully wiser...


Our pretty little bathroom with the huge linen closet...


Checking out the heifers in the barnyard from the bathroom window...


On the north east side of the house was our bedroom.  When we got married, the bedroom suit that we had ordered from an Amish carpenter, wasn't ready yet.  So, we put our mattress and box spring on the bedroom floor and borrowed a dresser from Grandma D.


The tobacco shed out the spare bedroom window...


We lived here during the fall, winter and early spring months, so we didn't spend much time on the balcony, but it was so warm and sunny today!


Here's Jim almost exactly twenty five years ago, with the balcony behind him, holding our very first milk check!


Jim will be feeding heifers here for a little bit yet and then we'll be bringing them home to our farm.  The gorgeous blue sky against the beautiful white barn and tile silo today was just begging to show off in a photo, so here you have it!


Thanks for coming along on our trip down memory lane!  More coming soon on our new jobs and how that's going!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Time For Something New...

It's been a season of changes around here, and this week, they became reality.

On Monday morning, David, a young Amish neighbor who is starting out farming, came to choose which of our cows he wanted to purchase.

On Tuesday we sent several cows that he didn't want, to a dairy sale.

Yesterday several older cows went to the sale barn, and early this morning Jim and I headed to the barn to milk for the last time...


It was pretty cold, but thankfully not windy...


We finished up milking and kept our eyes on the clock, anticipating the cattle hauler arriving soon...


He first transported some cows from another neighbor and then arrived at our farm...




The cows cooperated quite nicely as they were loaded onto the truck.  Off he goes with the first load...


Last trip down Clearview Road...


...and here they are, settling into their new home!  Henry, age 2, looks on...



Our job for the next hour or so will be draining all the water lines in the cow stable.  We don't need any surprises when the weather warms and we turn on the water again to the barn!  For now we'll water the heifers with a hose from the milk house into a stock tank.

It's the end of an era, and as we expected, we have mixed emotions.  One thing that helps is knowing that most of the cows went to a neighbor, and will be helping him get off to a start in dairy farming. We've felt a lot of support from friends and family, and are looking forward to what's next.  What all that is, we don't know yet, but we're slowly piecing it together.

Jim and I spent almost twenty-five years working together, and we think that over all it went very well!  We might not get to eat three meals a day together any more, but we'll be fine!

For now, we still have some heifers and a couple of young calves that will keep our fingers in farming for a little while!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Prepping For the Cold...

Cold weather doesn't have to be terrible.

Wind doesn't have to be terrible.

But put them together, and they're a mess!

We think we're prepared for the cold and wind combination that is to arrive later today.  It's only to last for a few days, thankfully, but water pipes freeze quickly, and animals need water!

A couple of years ago, we had a longer stretch of cold weather like this.  Jim came up with a clever way to help insulate the west side of the barn.  You can read about it here.  He saved all of those pre-cut pieces of insulation, and we put them up again this morning...


In anticipation of the cold weather, along with the cows leaving this week, Jim has been thinking ahead about more ways to keep the water pipes in the soon-to-be-almost-empty barn from freezing.  If it gets too cold we can turn the water off to the barn completely, from the house.  We would like to keep running water in the milk house though, so we wrapped the water pipe where it comes into the barn with heating tape and insulation.  There's a valve at the end of this section that we can turn off to the rest of the barn, but we'll still have water in the heated milk house...


The heifers that we are keeping can then be watered with a hose run from the milk house into a large water tub.

Life is changing quickly here, and we are filled with mixed emotions.  It was our choice to make changes, but it's still hard.  I'm heading off to a new job next week, and I'm looking forward to it! I'll be staying connected to the ag industry, and I hope I can learn quickly!  I will have to do more planning ahead for meals and laundry, but lots of people do it!  Jim will be busy for a while with hauling manure and some projects around the farm, but will also be pursuing other ventures.

In the mean time, here are a few pictures of the snow we had last night.  It didn't amount to more than an inch or so, but it's pretty!







Stay warm, wherever you are!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Brrr...

It finally happened...winter arrived!

We knew it was coming, but still, when that wind picked up on Sunday afternoon...brrrrrr.

After milking, we shut the barn up tight, drained water lines and watched the AFC Championship game with my sister and brother in law. Since the Eagles lost last weekend, Jim and I gladly joined the KC fan club...


It got pretty exciting there at the end, but disappointment prevailed.  I have to keep reminding myself that "it's just a football game"!  Sorry if I offended any die hard fans, but it's true!

I stayed up and checked out the lunar eclipse.  It was soooooo cold, but I think it was worth seeing!

The winds howled all night long, and we saw single digits by morning. The cold and wind combination is one thing that I will not miss after the cows are gone.  Yes, it might still be cold and windy, but we won't be trying to keep water bowls open all day long or fixing a barn cleaner in the bitter cold, or fighting with frozen corn silage! Most of those headaches fall on Jim, and he deals with them much better than I do!

Meanwhile, on the south side of the house...


All three dogs CHOSE to lay in the ivy, in the sun and out of the wind. They could have gone inside the barn, but then they might have missed some activity.  For Phoebe especially, that would have been just too boring!

Tuesday morning brought single digits again...


...but the wind had died down almost completely.  Yay! What a difference a calm day makes, even in the cold!  We had more barn cleaner problems, which took most of the day for Jim to fix, but he got it done!  I am amazed at the amount of knowledge a farmer has to have, about so many different things!

Two days later, and guess what?  Temps are in the 40's and there's rain in the forecast.  Surprise, surprise!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Changes Are Coming...

I suppose some of you have heard "rumors", and others of you may have wondered what's happening on our farm in 2019!

Changes are what's happening...

Changes can be exciting...changes can be challenging...changes can be unsettling...changes can be fun...or they can be all of it rolled up in one.  That's kind of what our coming changes feel like!

Jim and I have been dairy farming since the day we were married, just over 25 years ago.  We started out with Jim working for his dad on the farm, while I worked full time at a local bank.  In April of 1994, we officially took over the dairy, while I remained working at the bank.  I slowly took on less hours at the bank and eventually stayed at home full time to help Jim on the farm and to start our family.

The past 24 years of being self employed dairy farmers have been mostly good ones!  I say mostly, because no job, however wonderful, is completely without challenges.  It was great to both be at home, and to raise our kids on the farm.  Being self employed certainly has it's benefits! When the kids were small, I could go for groceries while the kids were napping, and Jim had the baby monitor with him...we could eat three meals a day together during the "slow" times on the farm...the kids had lots of fresh air and space to explore, and many more. There were sacrifices however, like being able to get away rarely, even for weekends, having to "divide and conquer" to get to our kids activities over the years, and being "on call" 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  We chose to farm, and we don't regret it!

All that said...we just spent our last evening working all together as a family in a barn that's full of cows...


Eric went back to college on Monday, and Jenna heads back next week.  By the time they're both home again at the same time, our cows will be gone.

A lot of thought has gone into this decision; it was never taken lightly.  The kids have chosen paths other than farming...and we're totally thrilled for them.  We are making this choice voluntarily, and perhaps in a few years, Jim will choose to crop farm again.  For now however, we have rented out the ground, and will be working at jobs primarily off the farm.

I'm sure there will be visible emotions when the cows leave, but that's natural.  We've talked to many farmers who have gone through this transition, and they have shared the ups and downs that go along with the changes.

I hope to keep blogging, but my blog will look different, for sure!

If you pray, we would appreciate prayers as we make decisions regarding our jobs, and for the changes that our family will be going through.

We're still "happily married...just not to the cows!"


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

PA State Farm Show...

Jim and I are glad for the opportunity we had to go to the PA State Farm Show in Harrisburg  between milkings on Monday!  The kids were both still home on break, and chose not to go with us. They helped with the morning work and agreed to feed the cows at lunchtime, so we could get on our way in good time.

You never know what kind of traffic you might encounter in that area, but we  had no delays until we got to the parking lot.  We parked about a mile away, and took a shuttle bus that dropped us off at the door to the complex.

I always enjoy the butter sculpture.  Each year it has a different theme,  and is unveiled at the opening of the farm show.  It is carved from 1000 lb of butter, and features individuals wearing super hero capes...a doctor, an athlete, a soldier, a firefighter and a dairy farmer...


We wandered through various exhibits.  This one featured old tractors that were restored by various FFA groups...




We saw many, many animals , but I only got pictures of a few.

These piglets were about two weeks old, and growing fast!


I'm not sure what breed of cows these are, but I thought they were especially pretty...


This steer was getting his pre-show bath...


There were lots of displays...veggies, flowers, fruits, baked items, and more, too numerous to count...




We were there for several hours, and could have seen so much more if we'd have had the time.  Throughout the week there are lots of animal judging contests and special events. Tomorrow,  I'm  taking my mom up to see the Sheep to Shawl contest.   She has always wanted to see it, and I never have, so it will be a new experience for us both!