March is a month with a lot of waiting involved. The term holding pattern comes to mind. It is a state of inaction with no progress and no change, or when airplanes are circling back and forth waiting to land, according to my online research. But in my livestock mind, I think of it as a group of animals rounded up and waiting to move to the next pasture, pen or perhaps onto a truck.
    On our farm, we are waiting for snow and ice to melt and then mud to dry up. While we had been able to haul manure onto the fields this past week, we may be waiting for that opportunity again in the days to come if the warm up continues. I want that one patch of ice on the sidewalk that I encounter heading down to the barn to melt so I do not have to walk so carefully every time I traverse it. Do not worry, I plan to chip it away as soon as the warm sun melts it enough to let me. Cannot wait.
    Cows are due to calve later in the month, so right now I am waiting for new babies to take care of. The heifers that have come back from our heifer raiser’s farm are due to calve, too, and so we will be done with our two months of no heifers calving in cold weather. It will be getting busy in the calf barn very soon. If we are wanting a bit more milk in the tank for the truck to pick up, hopefully that comes along with more fresh cows.
    I am also waiting for an opportunity for calves that are way too big and have been off of milk for a few weeks now to move out of the barn and to their next pen. They are weaned but are still enjoying my special delivery of their feed, water, bedding and head scratches.
    The inactivity in the cropping area gets long this time of year, and when the fields will be ready for the next round of tillage, seeds and season-long nurturing is hard to determine this far out. Will there be poor-doing alfalfa fields to till and new plots to prepare and seed? Will we decide to plant soybean this year after a few years of planting none? What type of spring will we have: normal precipitation and temperatures, or something else?
    My mother-in-law, Lois, is waiting to once again dig in the earth to plant her garden, care for the seedlings and keep the birds away from her fruit trees. She spends the summer months outside with gardening, plant watering, lawn care, and then collecting fruit and vegetables for canning and freezing. I think this time of the year might be the most difficult for her. She can only shine up her garden trowel so many times while the mud dries up.
    In the big picture, what will the next few months of politics, a possible pandemic, stock market gyrations and many more factors beyond our control mean for our decisions and livelihood? Those items are good for thought, discussion and clever memes on social media but are not worth being kept awake worrying about at night. That is best left to prayer and our faith that God has our backs.
    Our kids are weighing options for summer work and internships while they finish out their last few months of their sophomore and senior years at college. They might need better vehicles to drive depending on which jobs and which locations they decide upon. But so far, I have not convinced anyone that we need to start looking, and that a bank account might need tapping into for this purpose.
    It will seem like only a short wait before 4-H dairy kids are here to choose their project calves for the summer. We hope older lease kids are willing to help the younger kids to learn the ropes of halter breaking, leading, setting up, washing, clipping and how much fun the fair is. Their hard work will make the summer speed by. For now, there is a lull.
    I am trying to use this time to organize and clean, perhaps not only my house and my work area but also my mind. My thoughts are cluttered by all of the things thrown at us from factors beyond our control.
    Perhaps like the mud, the unknowns and inaction that results when spring is almost but not quite here will wash away with the rains of a new season. We will bust out of our holding pattern with renewed activity. With this renewal, let us hope seeds are soon planted and life can move forward.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.