Holidays are a great time for families to get together.  However, animals don’t recognize holidays and their care doesn’t either.  Around our farm, we try to have lunch around 1:00 so we can finish milking and get the cows out, the barn cleaned and bedded.  We eat lunch, visit, relax, then at 4:00 p.m., we go out and get the cows back off pasture and into the barn for night milking.  For the guys, it’s pretty much the same routine.  For me, it’s controlled chaos.

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Photo taken at the Parker farm in Richland County, Wisconsin

I have to make sure the pies are made the day ahead, turkey or ham is thawed and ready to go.  I make homemade pies, rolls, potatoes, veggies, pretty much everything, along with cleaning my house (ugh) and my daily morning and night chores.  Then I get to get myself ready, set the tables, serve the food, clean up, and do night chores.  By night, I’m exhausted, but happy everyone had great food and family time (and glad holidays only happen a few times a year!).  Going away to someone’s house isn’t really any better, we’re in a complete rush to get there in time and have to leave earlier to get back home.  Can’t win.

This past August, my son was married and I didn’t have to do anything but show up.  It was fantastic.  I even found someone to do my chores that night so that I didn’t have to leave (like I did for my daughter’s wedding 5 years ago).  It was wonderful, I actually felt a part of the whole day and not the farmer who always has to leave.  My husband, brother in law, and my other son had to leave while wedding photos were being taken and cocktail hour went on.  They did chores and rushed to get back for the dinner and reception.

The problem is that milking the cows is the most important job on the farm.  Where we live, hiring someone to milk for you just isn’t smart or easy.  One of us always has to be here, so it’s just easier to do the job and rush back.

Is it worth it?  Yes, because there is something special about being with family and also being outside in winter wishing my baby calves a Merry Christmas as the snowflakes gently fall.  Our animals are like family and after the rush rush of the day, it’s just really relaxing to hear the sounds of happy cows eating, milking and things returning to normal.

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Congratulations to my son Austin, and his beautiful new wife, Cori!  I love you both.   Pictured with the tractor purchased by Austin’s great-grandfather, Ralph Westaby, and still used today on our farm.