Sweet, simple things

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“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all,” said Laura Ingalls Wilder.
My latest sewing project has fabric with these words on it. I cherish this quote; the words in it are very grounding for me. When the world moves too fast, it reminds me to slow down for a smidge and look at the simple things.
January has been a heavy calving month for us. When a day or two goes by without new calves, we start to worry we will get slammed with 10 calves the next. So far, the highest has been eight, but with 10 days left in the month and 40 animals due to freshen, we could achieve 10.
There have been multiple days this month where I have had to run to the transition pen after hearing the telltale bellow that says, “Calf is on the way – fast!” Yet, a cow calving unassisted in a cozy straw pen, and unaware of my watchful eyes, is a sight to behold. Watching that wiggling, slimy creature gasp for its first breath is beautiful. The mother, upon realizing what just happened, heaves herself up, does a spin and begins to initiate those sandpapery licks to work the life into her baby. I have seen hundreds of calves born, and those first moments are still sweet to watch. One cannot get more real than viewing new life coming into the world.
This past Friday was an in-service day at school, which meant extra barn help. Peter, Jaime and I had actual lunch at the table with the kids, and it was before 4 p.m.
It is an unspoken rule that whenever we sit around the table to eat a meal together, we go around voicing the things we are grateful for that day.
Our list that day ranged from a farm that brings us together to heat to warm the house. It is always entertaining to hear what the kids are thinking.
After the table had been cleared, Dane, Ira, Oliver – three giggly, smart-talking teenage boys – and Uncle Peter set to playing euchre with Henry and Finley there as eager observers trying to learn the game.
I had my back to them and was up to my elbows in soapy water in the sink as I smiled listening to the joy radiate from their game. What a fun, snowy day bonding experience. They were thrilled to be able to play euchre with Peter. He does a fabulous job of making time for something so simple as a few hours of cards with the kids, knowing the lasting memory it makes and the feeling of importance it shows these kids.     
A year ago, my dear friend Kayla and I, out of concern and love for the older people in our area, decided we should start making breakfast for them twice each month at a local church. The little restaurant in town had closed its doors months earlier, and the crew that had been eating breakfast together for years was left to drive farther to find a gathering spot or, worse, not leave home at all. I watched Grandpa Ike decline when he could not have his lunches and conversations with people during the pandemic and learned how important those connections are as one ages. During chores one night in the barn, I posed the question to Kayla, “Why couldn’t we feed them breakfast?”
Kayla, because she speaks my crazy language, responded with an emphatic, “Why not?” Thus started our every-other-Friday breakfast venture we lovingly refer to as “Old Folks Breakfast.”
Kayla’s husband, Jason, and our friend and fellow calf feeder Jaime make up our kitchen team of four. Kayla’s children and any others we may recruit for the day become our wait staff. They take orders, deliver plates, wash dishes and are a ray of sunshine for all. Our breakfast guests are always delighted to see children involved. Our menu consists of two main dish options, meat, fruit salad, a muffin choice and is often rounded out by a dessert to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. We all work like a well-oiled machine at this point and love every minute of it.
This breakfast venture is as wonderful and heartwarming a year later as it was the very first time we did it. This generation understands the fragility of life better than many. The majority of our guests are over 70 with one special lady celebrating her 98th birthday this past week at breakfast.
These people were one of my greatest support networks during chemotherapy last summer. Their words were heavy with caring, love and concern. After wearing a bandana most of the time and finally deciding to be bravely bald, many of them commented it was about time I got rid of that thing and that I looked beautiful as I was.
These people are some of my favorites to hang out with. They appreciate the simple things of life. They offer wise cracks and wise words and have the years of life to support both. The volume level when our guests start arriving crescendos like the lunchroom of an elementary school, and it is a beautiful noise. We started with a group of 25 hungry humans last January. We now sometimes we feed over 40. We never know exactly how many to expect. The first time our guests numbered 40, a neighbor had to run home and snatch eggs from under his hens for us to fry quickly.
I am looking forward to another year of the goodness this breakfast brings to my life. I hope your year is filled with sweet and simple things that bring you joy.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored

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