Pursuing the presence of the season

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Busy, busy, busy. 

This seems to be the current theme on our dairy and in our lives as of late. Looking around, it also seems to be the current theme in our society. There is more to do, more gifts to buy, presents to wrap, chores to complete, cards to send, food to prepare and places to go. The older we become, the faster time seems to move, and before we know it, another year has come and gone. Another holiday season will have flashed before our eyes, and we will be off and onto the next season. 

This past week, we found ourselves very busy trying to capitalize on the warm December weather. 

One of the tasks on our long to-do list was moving heifers. If you are a dairy farmer or grew up on a dairy farm, you will understand the significance of moving heifers. 

For the few unseasoned participants that may be reading, moving heifers is the job of routinely moving our heifers to different pens as they grow and outgrow the size a specific pen has been designed for. It’s usually a task we all want to just get done so we can move on to other, more important things. A task that is often the least favorite or dreaded task to do as it requires all hands on deck, oftentimes makeshift gates, (This can include things like machinery, kids with arms stretched wide or any ol’ piece of wood lying conveniently close.) loading heifers onto a trailer or just running the heifers across an open space. 

We remember helping with this task with our grandfather and uncle, then uncle, dad, and cousins, and now with dad. This year, however, while moving one of the groups, we were hit with a moment, a flash of a memory of moving heifers all those years, and a subsequent feeling of an urge to pause in that specific moment with our dad. Instead of wishing for the project to be done so we could move on to all the other things that needed to be completed, we should instead enjoy the time that we were spending with our dad. The time that we were spending working together as a family. It’s moments like this where we allow the ordinary to become the extraordinary that add richness to life on the farm. 

It is tempting to think there is always something better coming around the corner or constantly thinking of all the things that we need to do that day, or that week or before the cold weather arrives. We are guilty of that on our farm and in our lives, especially during the Christmas season. We can’t wait to do all the things, check all the items off our to-do lists, and before we know it, the season is over. Our grandparents and parents are a year older. Our children are grown and then soon gone to build their own lives. Time is precious. Therefore, this season we are focusing on being intentional about the moments we are spending this Christmas season. This isn’t about adding more to your list or actively trying to make more memories. It’s about allowing the little things to capture our attention and pausing in those moments, rather than just brushing them aside. 

The most important gifts aren’t found under the tree. Time, the here and now, is our most precious gift. It’s presence, not presents. It’s appreciating moments spent with loved ones milking cows, a conversation with friends at church, helping a newborn calf drink its first bottle, frosting Christmas cookies with kids and grandparents, a few minutes of gratitude and observation while waiting for the mixer to process a batch of feed or fully partaking in a beautiful Nativity service at church. Immersing ourselves in these moments rather than being worried about the next allows us to live a fruitful and rich life on our family farm. Some may be sad that the year is coming to a close, while others can’t wait for it to be over. Either way, for today, let us focus on today. Today is a gift. This moment is a gift. Let us be present for the beauty and treasure it holds.

Megan Schrupp and Ellen Stenger are sisters and co-owners of both NexGen Dairy and NexGen Market in Eden Valley, Minnesota. They can be reached at Nexgendairy@gmail.com.

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