My love for dairy was born on the steps of our old milk parlor. The steps were always wet so I would have to sit on these little brown paper towels. I can still close my eyes and be there. I can hear the clanking of the metal gates, the chomping of the cows and the pulsator singing. I can see those big black and white faces staring down at me as they had to walk past. My Mom and Dad discussing life as they worked side by side. Oh how I loved to be asked to help. I would get to spray the post and pre dip. My Dad would brag on what a big help I was. I had to stretch to pull the cord that would drop pellet feed down to each cow. It was amazing, I spent every single day of my childhood running back and forth between my Mawmaw’s house and around the dairy. I could stand beside Mawmaw watching her cook, wrestle in the floor with my Uncle Doug, or run around the dairy. I loved playing in the cotton seed and riding my bike back and forth on our dirt driveway. I also very quickly saw the pressures, the tireless days and nights my Daddy worked. There were many nights he had to come tell me good night long after I had fallen asleep. We never even tried to play sports since there was no extra time for hobbies. There were many family dinners that we barely made it to or were always running late to. Money was hard. My Dad made it work, but there were bad years. There were years you barely thought you would make it by, but that would be usually followed by a decent year, and then a good year. It all would balance itself out in the end. I quietly listened to it all, took it all in, silently. I went to college, in an attempt to figure myself out away from the dairy. I told people back then that you could take the girl away from the dairy, but you couldn’t take the dairy out of the girl. The day they decided to use cow manure to mulch around campus was a day that I went back crying in my dorm. I came home and milked cows on the weekends. I needed to know that there were other things out there to do besides farming. I needed to know how other people lived without the everyday struggle of raising livestock. I found out I can’t live that life. I can’t fit myself into a 8 to 3 job. I can’t function without the pressure of having to finish before the next big catastrophe. I had kids and I would sob into my pillow at night that I wasn’t raising them how I was raised. I wanted it so bad it would hurt, so I quit my job. I came home to the farm. Only now we are four years into a bad year. We’ve never survived four years of it. It’s hard. It’s hard to watch an entire milk check go to feed and labor. To watch machinery that needs to be replaced fall apart and you can’t do a damn thing about it. To watch something that you can’t imagine your life without slowly slip through your fingers. I’ve tried to picture life after the dairy and I can’t. I just simply can’t. I’m afraid if it goes, I go with it. I’m sure I could do something else, I have a Masters degree and an amazing skill set. I just don’t want to do anything else. Really though why can’t farmers just make a decent living? Why do we have to struggle more than most? Something so vital to living as food and the people who produce it are barely scraping by. It makes absolutely no sense to me.
It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, but we’ve been busy. This trying to farm and raise a family is tough. I know lots of people are busy and can’t seem to squeeze it all in, so I am sure you can relate. Besides that this weather has been getting me down, at least I hope its the weather. I feel like such a drama queen, we haven’t seen the sun in 3 days, wahhh. Really, I have been so down about it. Maybe I should be taking some vitamin D. I have found myself wondering how I ever worked inside. Gosh I love being outside, but anyway. Let’s see what has happened since the last time I blogged. Oh yeah, Hell froze over. Just kidding, my hometown froze over. Seriously I live in the south, land of the heat, land of everyone going crazy over one inch of snow. We went something like 10 days of below freezing weather. This wouldn’t have been a problem if we were prepared for it, but we aren’t. Nope, not prepared, at all. We spent days on end just knocking ice out of waterers. One day, I started at 8 going around with hot water and due to some frozen water lines, I never even made it to all of them before it got dark. We had water lines freeze under the ground. You have to understand in the south, we don’t bury water lines very deep. We haven’t had water lines freeze in the last fifteen years. I also wore my arctic blast coveralls that seriously weighed 30 lbs, so by the end of each day, I was exhausted. I have never been happier to see it be 34 degrees in my entire life. Besides dealing with cold weather, we have also been dealing with taxes. I hate having to finally deal with all the paperwork at the end of the year. I hate having to sit inside, sort papers and stare at a computer screen. See above where I complain about being inside and again how did I work inside for so long. Anyway besides that I have just been trying to learn as much as I can. Sometimes I feel like I have figured something out and then it seems like I don’t have a clue. Its the old one step forward and two steps back thing. I knew going into this I would have to push myself. I have never been good at doing new things, because I have no patience to learn. If I wasn’t good at it the first time, I immediately stopped whatever I was trying. In that way I have been so proud of myself. I have had to stand holding a needle and a blood tube and gave myself a pep talk. I got so frustrated I felt like throwing it all down and running away. But that was the old me, the old me who decided on an easy career(yes as an 18 year old I thought teaching was “easy”) so I never had to push myself. I like this new me who spends hours busting out waterers during the coldest week of my life. The new me who takes blood samples, iv’s cows, assists in a surgery, and helps untwist a uterus. The new me who doesn’t hesitate to drive equipment(although I do admit I need more practice in this area) I am just going to be over here waiting on some spring weather enjoying this time in my life.
I keep getting asked the same question over and over, so I thought I would blog about it. Every one that I run into has to ask me if I am happier farming than I was teaching. Or they want to know if I miss teaching. I know everyone either thinks I am crazy or lucky. Either way, it isn’t easy for me to give anyone a quick answer. I mean the short answer is yes I am happier farming and I do miss teaching a little. But in order for you to understand, I need to back up a little. All the way back to when I picked my college and declared my major. I was always torn between working on the farm or going to work for someone else, an “in town” job. I mean I was practically raised in between the milk parlor and the tractor. I honestly don’t know what it is like to not have to work 7 days a week. Seriously once you have black and white cows in your blood that stuff is in there. Although I chose to go to a college that did not offer an agriculture major and I decided on a different career path, the farm was never far away. So much so I milked cows on the weekends and during the summers. I would farm all summer long to help pay my way through college. I can tell you I had some thoughts about what it would be like to get a 9 to 5 job and a house in the suburbs. At some point I thought maybe teaching would be less stressful than all the stress I had watched my Dad go through. And then I was teaching and raising my family and let me tell you, I was so incredibly stressed out. Teaching has two types of stress, long term and short term. The long term stress in a low performing school is terrible. I would end up with students two grade levels below and be expected to push them above grade level, all while dealing with the behavior. I could handle the long term stress, because I love to nurture. I love watching something grow and boy did I have kids that would grow every year. I am most proud of all the growth I always saw, but it was never good enough. Now the short term stress is what really started getting to me. The short term stress was the twenty little voices that always needed me for something. Eventually the constant stress that drained me every day is finally what made me decide to try something different. So farming, how is it different? I still have plenty of stress. We have lots of long term stress on the farm. Milk prices are supposed to drop pretty low this year. We are always behind and something is constantly breaking. I really enjoy how every day is different and I love being outside so much. I never did well chained to a schedule and now I get to keep my day as flexible as I want it. I still get to nurture things. I’m really still trying to figure this all out. I really hate that I haven’t had time to blog about all the stuff I have been up to, but I have been really busy.
This isn’t a blog post to update on things. I don’t really have time for that and all I can really say is we are as busy as crap. I have been finding that I pretty much fall asleep as soon as I sit down at night. No this is something that has been on my mind for awhile. Basically what I want to say is that my Dad is my hero. He always has been and always will be, but now more than ever, he is my hero. Farming is tough. Farming is tough in ways that other people can’t even imagine. Its a get up in the morning and go till dark kind of tough. Its hours in a field kind of tough. Its pulling an already dead calf kind of tough. Its having to put down one of your favorite pets, because she broke her leg kind of tough. Its a you don’t sleep all night, because you don’t know how you can pay all the bills kind of tough. I grew up with it and I never fully realized it. My Dad has done it and lived it. I remember so much from growing up. One of the things that I remember well was how he often came home when I was headed to bed. He always made time to see me and hug me, but he spent many hours working. I also remember how on holidays, we had to work around his schedule. We would open presents after the cows were milked. I would have to wait till then to see what Santa brought me.
My Daddy and his brothers, built our dairy into what it is today. And it is something to be proud of. Things aren’t perfect, but the biggest thing is the dairy is here. He weathered so many storms and it amazes me when I think about it. As I sit back and take it all in, he’s my hero. I just hope that I can work hard enough that I can make him proud of me.
It is so hard to believe that Summer is coming to an end. I can not believe how fast the time has went, since I have been working on the farm. Over the last two weeks I have been reflecting on the summer and I have to say I have enjoyed myself. Working on the farm is overwhelming and we never seem to get it all finished, but it is rewarding. My kids have been right beside me the whole way. It has been good and bad. I have to hope they are learning the value of hard work, but they slow me down even on a good day. They are constantly asking for drink or food and I have to worry that some kind of accident could happen. They have been a big help at times, by opening gates or cleaning things up for me. I will miss them once school starts, but I am looking forward to getting some things done.
I have also been reflecting on how it feels to be doing a different job. It didn’t feel real until a week ago, when I would have been going back to school. I kept waiting on myself to start feeling sad, to miss something, and I haven’t yet. I feel guilty that I haven’t missed any part of it yet. I saw on facebook where my teacher friends had fixed up their classrooms and I felt nothing. I went to open house with my own kids and I felt nothing. So after much thought, going back to a classroom is not in my plans. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I love farming. I didn’t really realize how much I missed it until this summer started. I can tell you that I am still pretty stressed out at times, which does remind me of teaching. Just this past week we were chopping corn silage, which leaves little ole me to do a lot of stuff. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we weren’t having a baby boom. In just 2 days we had 13 calves born. It is great to have that many cows coming in, but its stressful when you aren’t used to it. If I get a chance maybe I will blog about what we have been up to.
It’s been about two weeks since I started farming with my family. It has been an interesting two weeks that is for sure. I feel pretty good about it and I have definitely learned a lot already. I went into this knowing that I would have a lot to learn, I mean I know a lot about dairies and a little about row cropping. I just don’t know all the details to everything that needs to be done on a working farm. Dairy farming is complicated, way more complicated than most people realize. I have a feeling that I will continue to learn stuff from now on. So really quick here are a few of the lessons that I have learned:
- Always open the gates before you try to move cattle. See I have this problem where I want to get this stuff done and I want it done now, well this caused me a lot of trouble. I tried to run a couple cows up into the milk barn from the maternity barn, only I didn’t open any gates first. This made a big mess where I almost lost the cows out of the barn. Soooo from now on I set everything up first before I try to get the job done.
- Slow down and caress the tractors. Laugh it sounds funny, but this is true. I wasted a lot of time, because I was jerking knobs and pushing levers with all my might. Again I need to slow down and take my time to get the job done.
- Start early and work hard. I had to plant 80 acres of corn and pretty much without my usual support(my hubby). I am not going to claim that I know everything and my hubby always sets me up and gets me started. It was scary to try to do it without him, but I started early. I tried to pace myself and just work hard at it. Guess what I got it finished and I feel accomplished.
- Organization goes a long way. I am not the most organized person on the planet, but I do realize organization is really important. My hope is that we can get more organized at the dairy. I know it won’t be perfect and it is going to take some time.
- I’m happy. I can’t tell you guys how happy I am right this minute. There are going to be some rough and hard days. Days that I might go home crying, but I am so happy.
I have been waiting for the right moment to put this out there to the world and today seems like as good as any. I have some big news that I have been excited to share.
I graduated from high school 15 years ago last week. I remember it all pretty well. I remember the trying to decide where to go to college and what my major would be. I chose education, because it just made sense. I knew I wanted a family and something that would always be there, so it just fit.
Over the years, as I have got more and more frustrated with my education career, my roots started calling me. I started reading dairy farming blogs and following farmers on facebook. At some point I started reading the dairy magazines that had always filled my Dad’s coffee tables. My husband was row crop farming at that point. (Believe it or not I begged him not to do it) I helped him when and where I could. I would actually volunteer instead of complaining. Trust me I still complained, but it stopped being the please do this complaints. I day dreamed about a day that we could both farm together. And then some things just started to work out. One was an idea that hit me when I was showing my oldest my wedding album. The book is filled with pictures of all these people who are and were so important to me. All the family and friends that came to support my husband and I are in those pictures. They are forever a part of the history of the two of us. Even though some of them are no longer with us, they are remembered in that album. A thought hit me, there is something else that is etched into the history of me. There is something else that will forever be a part of me. There is a reason why my first sentence to describe me is, “I grew up on a Dairy farm” It is who I am. I love cows just about as much as I love my family. In fact they might as well be family. Around the time I decided that I just couldn’t stand not helping on the farm and that I needed to be around the cows more, some things just sort of fell in place. So I took the plunge and switched careers. It was a big decision, but it’s really just me coming home.
I absolutely can not believe it has been this long since my last blog post. Time has gotten away from me, because we have been so busy. I guess it all got started about the middle of April. My husband started trying to get the corn planted and we have had one problem after another. The planters broke so many times that I have lost count. We were also slowed down by rain. Rain isn’t a bad problem to have, especially when we have had two really dry years. I am excited to see some rain happening, it gives me so much hope. I think that my husband has forgotten what it is like to have to rush to get something finished before the rain. We just haven’t had to deal with wet weather in so long.
It seems like every day since April, we have been so busy that I haven’t been able to catch my breath. Some of that had to do with my boys playing baseball and t-ball. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else, but geez sports are exhausting. I don’t even mean they are exhausting for the kids, they are roughest on the parents. We had weeks were we had 4 games and a practice in one week. That makes for some very busy evenings. But hey we got through it and I already miss it. Well I miss it a little.
And last but not least, potatoes. (I know everyone just lives for my sweet potato updates) Well I like to pretend everyone just lives for them. Believe it or not are entering into our fourth year of potatoes. I mean wow, really? How has it been four years, since we started all this craziness. This year, we weren’t sure if we should even plant the potatoes. So much has changed since last year. My hubby is back at work full time and last year was just tough. We lost so much of our crop and we had to replant. The thing is, I think we both really like doing the potatoes. We have some very reliable customers and we have all this equipment. We are doing a few things differently this year. We are only planting 5 acres, that is about half of what we grew last year. We also decided to not plant our own slips. We just didn’t have the time to try to grow our own. I feel so far behind, but we started getting the field ready. It takes a lot of work, but I will keep you guys updated!
I am back to trying to blog. I am ready to do this thing as regularly as I can, because boy do I like writing. Here are some random thoughts on this Tuesday. We are three weeks into Jody working his new job and things are going fairly smoothly. We have adjusted to the changes it brings on the farm. I haven’t been able to see my husband nearly as much as I like, but I know he likes staying busy. A typical day has now gotten even busier, even busier than before. I now have to get my youngest up and drop him off, before I can head to work. It adds a few minutes onto my day, but I enjoy the time with him. I am trying to savor every minute, because this Fall he will be in preschool. That will be a hard day for this Mama.
One thing my husband and I have been doing, is checking our fields. I added this picture of us checking the fields in the Fall, since I haven’t taken any pictures this year. We have to see what kind of stand we have and what kind of weeds are growing. How many husband and wives do you know pull up weeds, then sit around talking about and staring at the weed? And I do mean the kind of weeds that grow in a crop that is not the crop. This is an important step in crop management, because then my hubby knows how much and what to spray. This is also based on the crop that is growing, we have barley and wheat this year. My hubby has been spraying over the last few weeks and will probably have to spray again before harvest. It keeps him busy. He will also be working on some of our equipment so that it will be ready to go.
I have an unhealthy obsession with sweet potatoes that are clean and in a box. I like to take pictures of them. I find it so beautiful to look at something that we grew and how much hard work went into them. We still have a lot of potatoes left from last year. Most of them look really rough, so they will end up being pig food. Hopefully this year, we get more rain and the heat isn’t as bad. We have had some good weather the last couple of weeks and it has me itching to plant something. I can’t wait to get back out there and smell some dirt. (Another thing that makes me weird)
As crazy and as busy as 2016 was, 2017 will be even more. This year will be a year of change for us and it is a change that I am very happy about. I just can´t tell you guys about everything all at once. Let me tell you about what has been happening the beginning of this year, on Circle C Farms. Cooper has been playing basketball and is loving every minute of it. The other two boys wish that they were doing basketball. I have been working non stop and working on organizing paper work. There has also been a lot of spraying going on. We have to get put out herbicide and fertilizer on all our spring crops. Probably the biggest thing was that, Jody went to the Sweet Potato conference and met the governor, Roy Cooper. I find it really awesome that Roy Cooper came out to the national sweet potato conference to talk with NC farmers. Even better that my husband bumped in to him and shook his hand. They even got to talk for a few minutes. But that isn’t even the biggest news that we have for the month. Our big news is……. Jody went back to full time work. Yeah it isn’t very exciting, but for us this is a huge deal. It just felt like this was the right time to make some transitions. We just both felt like God was opening this door up for us for a reason. When Jody originally quit full time work, we needed someone to watch our kids. We had three little ones at home and we couldn’t afford day care. It just fit. We couldn’t live on his salary alone, but we could live on mine with some farm income. So it has worked and it has worked well. Jody has been able to watch our boys, take them to doctor visits, ride them on tractors, and be at the school any time they needed him. Only now with two of them in school, he has been freed up some to be able to go back to work. If all things work out our youngest will be in school this fall and there won’t be any little ones at home anymore. This just opens up a lot of possibilities. Now for the future of Circle C Farms, well it is definitely going to go on. Honestly I don´t think much is going to change with our farm. We have decided to only grow 5 acres of sweet potatoes. We know that we can plant 5 acres in 2 days and hopefully will be able to harvest in just a few days. We plan on row cropping about the same amount as last year. So really the biggest difference is now my husband gets an earlier start every day and is starting to get in the bed earlier. I am already looking ahead to March and how busy it will be. It still amazes me that some people think farmers can take time off. Somehow we stay incredibly busy no matter what time of the year it is.