Farm Girl

The biggest risk

Complete the sentence, I’m really good at _________________. It’s suppose to be a moment to compliment yourself, but the only words I could come up with were raw and honest and sad.

20180912_215212_0001Because hard as it is to acknowledge, it has been the truth. I am a VERY good cheerleader for other people’s dreams, and yet I allow myself to give up. When milk prices headed south and my husband looked for an outlet for his stress as a volunteer firefighter, I said “ok”. And when the farm was taking away from our savings account and my husband said he wanted to pursue a full time job as a firefighter, I said “you can do this”. And truthfully I’ve been jealous of him the entire time, envious of him for following his passions, chasing a new goal, believing in himself, and challenging himself.

I wanted things. Before the farm, before the family, before the months blended into years and I allowed myself to believe it’s no longer important. So I thought about that sentence again and I stopped.  I decided to stop being jealous of others because they were doing something I wasn’t. I decided to stop doubting myself. I decided to stop putting everyone else and all their opinions ahead of mine. I decided, to stop giving up on myself.

I thought about the words I told my husband when I had informed him that I’d quit my job 4 years ago (not a very important position by any means, but…), I had said that “I’m working full time on the farm and I’m raising my family and I’m not going to work for someone else’s dream anymore”. I decided to find that person inside me again and change my sentence.

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I told Brad that I decided I was going to build our dairy farm into the business I day dreamed about. I want to provide for my family, care for a small herd of cattle, and market my own dairy products. So there it was in words, my goals explained to someone else. And I didn’t stop because I knew that if just Brad knew my plan that I might still back down. I told my dairy inspector, my family, a few close friends. And I reminded myself  E V E R Y  D A Y — I am not stopping, I’m not taking ‘no’, and I’m going to be committed.

Which honestly, during the last seventeen months on more than one occasion I’ve thought of getting myself committed, but I digress.

Yes, 17 months I have been researching, and planning, and making business plans, plural because there has been a ‘NO’ to my dream and instead of giving up, I changed it up. I’m refusing to accept NO. And I’m here, in the final stretch of my business application and I do not know if it will be approved or denied but I do know this:

  1. I have become more determined in making my soul happy, more than ever before in my life
  2. I have learned that my introvert personality will take a back seat to my entrepreneurial side
  3. I have learned that I am determined and if it doesn’t work right now, I’ll try again

Rachel Hollis in her book “Girl, Wash Your Face” reminded me that nobody gets to tell you how big your dreams can be and that if you’re unhappy with your life, that’s on you. I’m currently taking the BIGGEST risk of my life and I pray I can follow this post with good news but in the meantime I’m just gonna continue to work on my plan — for the future of my family & farm.

Xo, Nicole

for fun

49 Reasons to love the farm life

Fourty-nine. Really?

Right, well then — you must be asking yourself two questions: 1) why 49 and not 50? 2) will there be a quiz at the end? The answer to the first question is because cow #49 on my farm is my favorite so it seemed fitting. To answer the next question, you’ll need to read through the post

  1. Sunrises so beautiful they literally stop you
  2. Calf cuddles
  3. A full kitchen table with laughter and planning
  4. Working with family, the bond becomes quite unique
  5. You fall asleep easily after a long days work
  6. We never say no to ice cream, or chocolate milk
  7. Make-up and bra is optional
  8. You can squeeze the bosses tush – maybe not on E V E R Y farm but at least on my farm
  9. The peace and quiet of watching animals just being content
  10. Tractor rides
  11. Welcoming a new life into the world
  12. Sending your niece and nephew home waayyy dirty
  13. Drinking from the garden hose
  14. Eating a meal from the produce and meats of your own work
  15. The smell of fresh cut hay
  16. When your favorite good jeans gain 2nd life as your favorite barn jeans
  17. Singing to the animals in a judgment free zone
  18. Working at your pace
  19. Tailgate lunch & dinner
  20. Crop checking
  21. Free fall decorations
  22. Sunsets. Sunsets. Sunsets.
  23. When you heal a sick animal
  24. Neighbors pull in the drive with a cooler of cold ones
  25. Hay rides
  26. Watching your kids run across hay bales
  27. The final pass on the field

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  28. Tractor acoustics are top notch
  29. Big breakfast
  30. Spring planning, the excitement
  31. Tan lines before the 5th of June
  32. Learning to communicate without saying a word
  33. Boots! Sexy boots, shit boots, comfy boots.
  34. Caffeine is plentiful and encouraged
  35. Educating consumers who want to learn
  36. Patience is learned
  37. Confidence in yourself and what you’re capable of
  38. Seeing 1-3 shooting stars while you walk to the barn
  39. Calling it a beach day, or a fishing day, or a rain day
  40. Cursing is like speaking in cursive, it’s allowed
  41. You can drink on the job
  42. Gratitude
  43. Likely to be hired at future jobs without a resume because farm work kicks ass
  44. The sound of rain on a hot summer night, as long as there isn’t hay down…
  45. End of harvest satisfaction
  46. Teaching your child how to hold a bottle, or swing on a milker
  47. When an animal comes to you, the trust you’ve earned
  48. Sorting cattle ends in “good-job”
  49. Feeling useful and needed

 

What would you add to the list? I’d love to hear, leave a comment!

Xo, Nicole

About Us

Raising farm kids

My children have fallen asleep to the steady sound of pulsator’s. They have crawled and learned to walk smack dab in the middle of the parlor. And they’ve been exposed to more germs in the first 12 months of life than you’d probably like to hear about.

They have no idea that a lot of families have Saturdays and Sundays off or go on vacations to visit new places. They don’t realize that most Dad’s and Mom’s who work can’t take their kids with them. And learning to drive a tractor at 5 is not the norm.

Rain days are their favorite because Dad stays inside. They drink from the well and run around outside until they can no longer see and the bugs start to bite. On good days they get hosed down in the milk house before they take a shower because Mom’s tub just can’t handle that much dirt.

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My children are learning things before they even know they are being taught. Kindness, compassion, loss, independence. This is just life for them and I hope one day they find the beauty in it.

Beauty–like the way the sun lights up the morning sky in pinks and orange. The quiet calm of working with creatures much bigger and stronger than you. The love in your heart to work for what you want, even knowing that the gains are minimally visible. The struggle to find balance between family and work and to realize those struggles makes you cherish the time together just a little bit more.

I continue to learn every day with them and these memories we make remind me I don’t want life any other way. For them or for me. They may grow and walk away from this life but the values they learn will help them still. Raising my kids here and now on the farm is the only way I can imagine these handful of years I have to teach them. Share your childhood memories with me, or what you love about the life you’re teaching your little ones.

Xo, Nicole

 

About Us

Don’t forget about small dairy

When we talked about starting our own dairy farm we never imagined milking 400 cows, we have always just had a different mindset. Often times I hear that if a business isn’t growing it’s dying, but there are other ways to “grow” than by increasing cow numbers. We currently milk 60 cows and that is definitely enough to keep my farmer and I busy, and I enjoy visiting bigger dairy farms and learning how they operate, but it just isn’t for me. A lot of farms around us milk more than we do so the question of whether or not we will grow seems to come up. Often. With the trend being to grow I wonder, can a small farm exist? I want to believe they can, that they also have a place in this industry. And for anyone who wants to know why I’m just not on the bandwagon to expand here are a handful of my reasons:

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Our barn. Our barn has 63 free stalls and narrow alleys so if we crowd around 70 the cows just aren’t comfortable. Cow comfort is an important part of good milk production and happy animals. In the summer we do let the cows out onto a small dirt pasture which helps but in the winter months we don’t have that option. To expand our herd, we would need to build an addition to the barn or (more preferably) build a new, more up-to-date barn. At this time building a free stall barn is not a possibility.

We are only 1 family. Many farms are still family owned, even if they milk a large number. As the farm continues through generations there are more family members involved and the need to support those families grows. My husband and I started our own dairy farm so at this time we only need to support one family of 5. Also, I have three little kiddos who are young and need us, a lot. As our herd grows the labor involved to run the operation grows and I would rather spend more time in the house with my kiddos than in the barn playing in cow poop. Yes, I could hire a few employees to help with the workload but I’m not ready to go there.

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Available land. The area in which our farm is located is populated by other dairymen, beef farmers and crop land. As our herd increases we struggle to find more land so we can feed the animals. We could grow and just purchase the feed we are unable to grow ourselves but that is an expense that needs to be considered as well, survival mode 101 tells me to reduce expenses.

We are young. We started our farm when we were 23 & 24 and jumped in with both feet. It seems crazy to think that we could sell out and do something different but the option needs to be there. I want to keep the farm small so that if one of us decided to try a new career or if we chose to stop milking cows all together, it would be easy for someone to manage and grow as they desired.

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I am tired of growing. For almost eight years we have been building and growing this business and at some times it has felt like we were sliding backwards. Our herd grew from 6 cows to over 160 head. We have converted an old barn into a milking facility, then started over by building a new parlor & milk house, we have built a house & pole barn, and we have built a heifer barn. We went from a newly married couple to a family of five in just 6 short years which is full of exhaustion in itself! I’m tired. I am tired of growing and expanding and to be honest I just want a break.

It takes all kinds of kinds – we all have our own struggles and accomplishments, heart breaks and road blocks. For us, for now — being a small farm that operates efficiently is the goal, spending time with my kids and cattle, and being able to do it all {which is my over bearing, over-controlling, first child, stubborn to the bone, right}.

Xo, Nicole

Quick Reads

Mornings in the parlor

On mornings I milk with my farmer I get coffee. He makes better coffee than I do. On mornings we milk together a little one usually joins us in the parlor; they sit, they watch, they help, and they listen.

This morning it’s my middle one. Little features appear in the door way, a small smile spread across her face because she found her way to us…slightly underdressed but in boots. She borrows my hooded zip-up, and takes a seat on a bucket.

20180903_213843_0001Plans. Goals. To-do’s. Shoulda done differently. Some mornings there is silence. She sees damn near everything this farm makes you feel. There is excitement and joy, stress and worry. There is accomplishments and failures. This is where we talk it out. This is where we hold our business meetings.

She watched us dip a set of 8, swing milker’s to the other side and bring in 8 more. We talk about a few from each side:

she’s down on milk, -watch her tonight
she has a pinched nerve, -she’s my girl! get up there and rub it out
she needs to be dried off this week, -we can rotate the bull too
should we sell her next week, -i don’t know

She knows every cow has a story and we discuss every one. She knows what we do because she sees the whole process. She asks questions because how else will she learn.

So when my farmer asks me why I put this out there, why I put our farm out there, all I can say is – how else will people know?

Xo, Nicole