November 29, 2021 at 8:30 p.m.

An extra hour

By Natalie Schmitt- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

As November rolled in, we started to become giddy with excitement. What would we do with our extra hour on Sunday when the clocks fell back? Would we take a nap before church or even make it to an earlier service? Would we find a quiet place to reconnect with a book neglected during the busy harvest season? Would we take the extra hour to celebrate, just because? Or, would we work an extra hour longer?
I do not know what Mark was planning to do with his extra hour, but what happened definitely wasn’t on our radar.
We have been slowly building up the milking herd. Right now, it is quicker to count the number of empty stalls than the number of cows standing in the barn. We’re knocking on the door of milking 70 head. On Sunday morning, as we switched back to Central Standard Time, we filled in a few more stalls.
Once it became light enough to see outside, I started to feed the calves in the domes.  That is when we discovered a heifer had calved during the morning milking. No problem. We would get her milked, the calf fed and still make it to early church service. Or at least we could be early to the later service.  
But as Mark and I were bringing the new fresh heifer back from the milking barn, we noticed all the springers and youngstock were standing in the northwest corner of their lot back behind the shed. Something had their attention and it piqued our curiosity.
Grabbing a pitchfork, we started walking across the lot. I was scanning the crowd trying to find my favorite heifer: B-568. For some reason, she absolutely does not like me and is not afraid to show me how much. She has been head butting me since she was a baby calf. At first, I could just push her away. Then I had to start climbing a fence to get out of her reach. Now she follows me up and down the fence line as I feed milk to the calves in the domes. She tries to nudge me between the cables if I stand too close, and it is not a love tap. I can only imagine how we will get her across the yard between the switch cow shed and the milking barn after she calves this spring. I hope it does not include using me as bait to get her moving.
As we walk across the lot, we start to hear something. It sounds like a bawling calf. As we work our way through the crowd of curious heifers, the sound gets louder. Just as Mark reaches the end of the shed and the outer edge of the concrete, he catches a glimpse of something black moving behind some brush trees on the other side of the fence. We have another calf?
With the recent fall rains, the mud lot is like quicksand wrapping around your boots if you dare to venture from the concrete lot. Mark bounces from pile to pile to reach the calf. The calf sprints northward toward open fields. I high tail it out of the heifer lot to find Austin to help wrangle this very agile calf.
I grab Austin off the feed cart, and we jump on the four-wheeler. I am afraid we will have to bull dog from the bike, considering how quickly this calf scooted through the underbrush. Just as we round the edge of the machine shed, we see Mark. He has the calf wrapped in his arms as he brings her to the yard. Out of breath, he hands her off to Austin to finish the journey to the barn.
I don’t know how Mark caught her, but he does have a way with the ladies. She was already dry and steady on her legs, so we figured she must have been born overnight and wandered out of the switch cow shed to mingle with the bred heifers. Regardless, we had to find another fresh heifer to milk. Walking through the switch cow lot, we found a springer who had just a trace remnant of cleanings on her tail. Well at least she cleaned. Now to chase her across the yard to the milking barn.
After the last fresh heifer was milked and her calf fed, we scrambled to get ready for late church service. We slid into a pew just as they started to sing the opening hymn. So much for an extra hour to do something fun, lazy or just be early. It turned out our extra hour was not much different than any other hour of the day.
As we adjust to less daylight this month, I’m discovering I can never find a working flashlight when I need one to help feed calves or to help repair silo unloaders in the dark. The flashlights haven’t been used since last winter, and the power in the batteries seems to have faded. I am constantly looking for new batteries.  
Which reminds me of something I saw on Grace and Mercy’s Facebook page:
“When a flashlight grows dim or quits working, do you just throw it away? Of course not. You change the batteries.
When a person messes up or finds themselves in a dark place, do you cast them aside?  Of course not. You help them change their batteries. Some need:
AA – attention and affection;
AAA – attention, affection and acceptance;
Some need C – compassion;    
Some need D – direction.
And if they still don’t seem to shine, simply sit with them quietly and share your light.”
    As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.


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