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.
So this blog post has been writing itself for a couple of weeks in my head. I’ve been thinking about it since I ran into a gentleman that used to dairy farm near my Daddy. We talked about how farming gets in your blood and you can’t get it out. How I know that my husband and I are crazy for trying to farm. We could already have that quiet little house in the suburbs, but that isn’t our dream. We are dreaming of something different. Of course the conversation turned to dairy cows and how they also become a part of you. It really got me to thinking about cows and how much they mean to me. I really can’t even put it into words but I want to try, so here goes. Every single person has something that means “home” to them. Maybe its your old bedroom, your backyard, your parents’ home that you grew up in, or a grandparents house. For me, home is a 1500 pound black and white cow. You see its more than just the fact that I grew up on a dairy farm. So many of my favorite and most memorable memories revolve around holstein cows. Every other day my parents would get us all up at about 5:00 in the morning. They would leave me at my grandparents house while they milked cows. As a very young child I remember riding the 4-wheelers with my mom to go round up the cows. It was absolutely one of my favorite things to do. The majority of the cows would be waiting to be milked right there in the alleyway, but you always had to right threw the pasture to be sure there wasn’t a straggler. I would stay in the barn sometimes and sit on the step and just listen. Listen to the rhythmic sound of the milkers, the sounds of the gates opening and shutting, and the sounds of the cows. The cows would walk by, right behind me, and occasionally lick me, with their sandpaper tongues. And crazily enough that to me is home, right there on that barn step, that was always so wet. That’s where I watched my parents work together sometimes silently and sometimes laughing. I have so many stories that come from growing up on a farm, in fact most of my stories come from there. I mean we spent the majority of our days at the dairy, probably more than I spent at my on house. There was the one time I went and helped my uncle feed the baby calves. I accidentally left one of the calves lose and he made me chase her around until I caught her. It took me forever and he just sat there laughing at me the whole time. I used to help my Dad fix equipment, well I would go and get tools for him. Other times I just sat under the shade tree and watched everything go on. I think of all the tractors and trucks that I rode along in. And it really just all came back to the cows. I sat right there on that step and I knew so many of the cows. I knew their spots, their tufts of hair they had on the tops of their heads, their feet, and all their personalities. Of course I knew their smell too. I know people that aren’t around cows say it stinks, but the smell is home for me too. Really I just wanted to say all that, because I need to make a point. I know times have changed and people want to know exactly where their food comes from. They want to know that it was raised responsibly, sustainably, and humanely. I agree with all that and I want to be a good steward of the land. I will not apologize though if I get upset when someone attacks my “home.” Those cows are as much a part of my family as my uncles, my grandparents, or my cousins and I will stand up for agriculture and dairy farming every step of the way.
I promised I was going to try to blog as much as possible. It looks like I am holding up my end of the bargain! I just have so much stuff going on right now and I want to share how busy we have been. We actually got five acres of sweet potatoes planted. It was not nearly as easy as it sounds. I am used to someone grabbing the planters and planting about 15 to 20 acres a day. It took us four days to get all those little plants in the ground and it definitely was an adventure. This whole adventure started after my hubby met one of the biggest sweet potato farmers in the state of North Carolina, Jim Jones. We decided to head up to visit in February and that was all it took to convince me that it was worth a try. We’ve done some research and bought some different machinery. In order to plant sweet potatoes you have to start with a hill so we started by plowing. The field had to be plowed a few times to get the ground just perfect. Then we used a hiller that made two rows of hills. The field looked something like this
We had to call Jim Jones and then wait on him to have all the sweet potato slips ready. The slip was a cutting from a sweet potato plant packed into a box. My hubby calls me on Thursday, when I was desperately trying to finish up paperwork at school, and tells me we were headed to Raleigh to pick up the slips. So around 3:00 we headed out with a U-haul trailer. He had ended up renting a trailer to make sure the slips did not get damaged on the way back. When we got there I was amazed at all the action going on. We were quickly loaded and instructed on how to make our slips last the longest. We were told we had about 5 days if we kept them in a cooler at 65 degrees. So imagine the panic that set in with me when we didn’t really have a good place to put them. We have a building, but it is full of junk. I knew we could spend an hour and have it cleaned out, but we wouldn’t be home until 1 am! So where do you put boxes of sweet potato slips at 1 am? I could see the panic look on my hubby’s face. So I fixed the problem as any dutiful wife would do. My idea was to put them in the living room. It’s not much different from having a houseplant, this was like having 76,000 house plants. The plans were to start planting the very next day so that wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Tomorrow sometime we would take them out and put them under a shade tree. Of course our plans quickly changed when it started raining that very same night and rained on into Friday. I was glad the ground would be wet but not happy my living room looked like a Steven King novel. We probably could have started doing something Friday night, but I wanted to attend the Dairy Appreciation Dinner with my family. It is not often that you get to see so many people who love dairy as much as my family does. Here are a couple of pictures from the dinner.
Thanks for reading and on my next blog post I can explain the next few steps we took with our sweet potato crop.