September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

A day in the life of the Stommes family

Cold weather, basketball games keep dairy household buzzing
Janice feeds a group of steers during morning chores Jan. 2.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY MISSY MUSSMAN
Janice feeds a group of steers during morning chores Jan. 2.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY MISSY MUSSMAN

By by Missy Mussman- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

EDEN VALLEY, Minn. - With frigid cold temperatures and two evening basketball games to attend, Reuben and Janice Stommes have no problem staying busy Jan. 2.
"We are always busy with the kids," said Janice, whose two daughters play basketball for Eden Valley-Watkins High School.
Before heading off to cheer on their daughters at the basketball game, chores were a priority. The Stommeses milk 56 cows, run 260 tillable acres of land and raise their own steers on their farm near Eden Valley, Minn. Reuben and Janice have 11 children, Matthew (27), Luke (26), Megan (24), David (23), Emily (21), Rachel (18), Greta (16), Elaina (15), Adam (12), Noah (8) and Andrew (6).
Jan. 2 started like any other normal day on their dairy farm. Janice and Reuben were in the barn by 5:30 a.m. to start milking cows. The Stommeses usually have two people milking at all times.
"I love it," Reuben said about dairy farming. "You have to have a passion for it."
Reuben grew up on their current farmsite and later joined his dad, Elmer, on the dairy after high school.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do out of high school," Reuben said. "I liked the cows enough, so I stayed with it."
Reuben married Janice in 1986 and purchased the farm from his parents in 1991.
The barn was built in 1971 and is the same size today.
"Dry cows used to be in the barn with the milking cows," Reuben said. "Now we just have the milking cows."
There are both stanchions and tiestalls in the barn.
"Dad didn't know what would work well, so he did both," Reuben said. "We usually put the heifers in the stanchions."
By 7 a.m., Janice went to the house for an hour to get the kids ready for school while Reuben finished milking and feeding calves their milk.
"Having no kids here during the day sure is different," Reuben said.
"I like being around the kids," Janice said. "When they went back to school, it was kind of a let down for me."
Once the Reuben finished milking and feeding calves, he headed to the house for breakfast.
At 8:30 a.m., Reuben and Janice threw on their insulated coveralls and headed back outside. Reuben removed ice built up on a small exhaust fans. Both Reuben and Janice then started to mix the cow feed and feed the heifers and steers housed outside.
The Stommeses have been using a TMR mixer since June.
"It simplifies feeding," Reuben said. "It's all in a mix."
"It sure makes chores easier," Janice said. "We get more free time if we need it."
Once the cow feed was mixed and Janice started feeding the heifers and steers, Reuben began to let the cows outside for an hour. This allows Reuben and Janice to bed the stalls down with fresh straw and put fresh feed out for the cows by using wheelbarrows.
"We feed everything with wheelbarrows," Reuben said.
After finishing bedding and feeding, Reuben and Janice work together to get the cows back into the barn.
"Some days this is easy and others the cows just don't want to go into the right stall," Reuben said.
When the cows are all back in the barn, Janice finishes feeding the cows while Reuben starts the barn cleaner.
"We always wait till the cows are in to clean the barn," Reuben said.
With the temperature below freezing, Reuben had to loosen up the barn cleaner before starting it. In 1988, the Stommeses put in a gravity flow pit, which the barn cleaner dumps the manure into.
"It works really nice," Reuben said. "It helps not to have to spread everyday."
While the barn cleaner is running, Reuben puts down fresh barn lime, and scrapes the alley and behind the cows.
For the Stommeses, most of the chores are done in the morning, especially during the winter.
"We like to get a lot of it done in the morning," Reuben said. "That way we know what works. We even mix a batch of feed for the evening before lunch."
"It's helpful to do it that way because there are not many of the kids available with sports going on," Janice said.
Reuben and Janice head to the house for lunch and take a little break before starting up chores for the evening.
When it comes to doing housework or farm work, Janice enjoys being in the barn.
"I prefer milking because it is easier," Janice said. "In the house you are always busy making sure the kids are doing what they are supposed to. Doing farm work breaks up the day, so you are not inside all the time."
Of course, once the kids are home, they help out with chores.
"If you get them between the ages of 9 to 11, they realize that helping the family is part of life," Janice said.
Both Greta and Elaina are expected to help with chores, even on game nights. The other nights, they rotate chores.
"They work hard on the court just like they do at home," Reuben said.
By 4 p.m., Greta helped feed TMR to the cows while Elaina was busy feeding grain to the young calves in the huts and then corn to the steers before helping feed TMR to the cows with Reuben and Greta.
Once the girls finished with their chores, they came in and ate before heading off to their basketball game.
Janice and Reuben started milking at 5:30 p.m. Janice pre-dipped the cows and Reuben changed the milkers.
After milking, Janice finished feeding the rest of the TMR and Reuben rinsed and washed up the milkers and fed the baby calves before heading off to the game at 7:30 p.m.
Greta and Elaina are both forwards on the basketball team.
"To me it's a sense of accomplishment," Reuben said. "The kids are successful in school and in sports."
"We hope to raise our kids well to be hard workers in life," Janice said. "We want them to be ambitious."
With the girls active in sports, it has provided the family the opportunity to share their dairy farm story.
"One time, the girls basketball team all came down to watch a calf being born. It was the perfect opportunity for these kids to see what goes on on a farm," Janice said. "It was the highlight of the season, seeing these girls connect to the farm."
That night, Greta and Elaina's team won 60 to 35 against Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School.
They returned home later to go to bed to be ready to get up and be ready for the next day.
"Farming is a business. It's a big sense of accomplishment to do what we do," Reuben said. "It's a nice feeling. It's a way of life. I like it more than I ever did. It has grown on me."
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