Doing your part, even when it’s hard

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Yesterday, all of my kids (five of them) were sick. The middle three were the worst, and my seven year-old, Oliver, was also a bit cabin feverish and couldn’t help but have bursts of activity – he’s my “Tigger”. But every time he got up and going, and got his heart rate up, his sinuses, already full, would flair up and he would be in tears for several minutes from the pain and pressure. Some good food, home-made hamburgers from our own beef, with plenty of herbs, oregano and thyme, sautéed kale (“I love this green food mom!”), a big grapefruit for a snack, and today he is back to his bouncing self –well, close enough for him, anyway.

When we woke this morning, the temperature was negative sixteen degrees, and the wind was blowing from the west. A mean wind; I don’t know what that brought the wind chill to, but it left my fingers aching even with my winter gloves. We shuddered to think of the cows, and we were afraid to get up to the barn and discover what was broken or frozen. Last week we had a cold snap that broke a water line for the cows’ water bowls and when we got into the barn there was water running out both ends of the feed manger into the barn drop. It was easily 1,500 gallons of water. The cows were not eating the soaked feed, the manure drop was over-full, and it was time to milk. And it was time to bring the calves over to their mothers to drink. And it was time to feed the cows. And we had to fix the water line ASAP, because the dairy cows can’t be without water. And the manure drop had to be cleaned out. There are only two of us, Paul and me, and a person can only be in one place and doing one thing at a time. Sometimes a person just wants to quit. We care for our cows 365 days a year. Some days are easy, but many are hard, and you don’t get a weekend or holiday to regroup or catch your breath. So what do you do on a day like this day? You just do the next thing and work away at it together until the mess is cleaned up!

We fed the calves and I milked the cows while Paul cleaned the water out of the manger with the help of our 13 year old son, Vincent, and then started on feeding. Vincent fixed the water line and then helped Paul feed. Later that day it took me and Paul with Vincent and our daughter Grace, 14,four hours to get all the manure and water out of the barn, much of it spilling over outside and left for cleanup later.

We didn’t throw in the towel though. We kept going, and we keep looking forward to the days when the sun will shine and the wind won’t blow. And when we sit down with our kids, who smile and sing a lot, and we have an amazing meal together, we are the kind of deep happy that one can only create for himself. My favorite quote (I believe came from Abe Lincoln) goes: “The worst thing you can do for someone you love is something he could have done for himself.” There is a great power in knowing that we are creating the world we want to have for ourselves and for all people. Yes, it really is too hard, and it would sure be easier if there were more people “towing the line”, but there are more people all the time. We need to care for our Earth and our fellow creatures. We need to care for ourselves and for others. We need to do it together, and I love doing my part, today, tomorrow, and all the days after that…..even the hard days. We always think about the fact that it could be worse, and we think about the fact that we are strong and healthy, and health is true wealth. It’s really amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, and our children already feel that in their hearts—that makes Paul and I proud to be farmers.

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