Well, friends, Christmas has come and gone on the farm. The cows were merry about their extra hay, the sheep were jolly upon discovering their salt lick, and the chickens just plain giddy with excitement over their giant suet cakes. The New Year, however, brought some disgruntled murmurs. I asked the creatures of the farm to think hard about what their resolutions would be for 2021. They have a few; some are not in my favor, I’m afraid, and some are just downright ridiculous. Yet, they will likely keep theirs long after I pretend I’m not going to eat as much sugar. (She says, as she finishes off a delectable piece of cinnamon chip bread.)
    The wooly women – Tasha, Armella, Margaret, and Magdalene – promised to concentrate on growing their babies (fingers crossed) healthy and strong. This is provided that I supply them with the good hay from time-to-time; turns out they have a Sunday deal going with José. They won’t bleat their heads off like guard sheep every time someone moves near the house as long as he gives them the rich alfalfa hay one day a week instead of the perfectly suitable grass bales. Tasha (referred to as ‘The Greedy Bugger’ by Cora) mentioned that they will really try to not be such greedy creatures regarding the grain, but if I would be so kind as to give them a bit daily, I would be rewarded with even more lovely wool. I gently reminded Tasha that she will gain a bit too much weight that we can’t pass off as simply wool. Margaret is quite adamant that Harold leave; he has overstayed his welcome. Harold (their boyfriend that came for a month-long sleepover) lifted his massive four-horned head and eyed me up, and decided that he was too cool for resolutions. He has declared his work here done.
    Pearl, Fern, Opal, Fuzzy and the rest of the laying ladies vow to keep performing as best as they can with the limited daylight hours and clucked a happy thank you for the heated waterer. They mentioned a desire for more treats. Leftover bread chunks, suet cakes, and all the scraps, please. They promise to continue to take good care of Chuck the Chicken-Duck (long story) and continue to let her have her pick of the nest boxes for bedtime. Ralph and Elvis, the men of the coop, nodded in agreement when we discussed how one treats the womenfolk. They concur, it would do them no good to be aggressive to me. And as far as their coop-mates are concerned, they will be gentlemen as much as nature allows. We etched out a deal that if they fail on this resolution, they get plucked and potted.
    I asked the ducks if they had any resolutions. They just up and flew off to the back of the shed. I guess that meant they weren’t changing their routines at all. One would think they would figure out that speed of moving off the road would be a good idea. Especially after Dad squished one of their friends last Saturday morning.
    The barn cats and I have a love-hate relationship. I love it when they catch rodents; I hate them underfoot while I milk. They made a resolution to try harder on that rodent catching bit, even expanding their territory to the house, if I would not “forget” to give them milk every night. That’s a workable bargain; particular creatures they are, anyhow.
    The oodles of springing heifers and I chatted while I took inventory last week. They made a couple resolutions. First being that Nugent will lead the crew in the recitation of the mantra, ‘Keep Calm and Kick Less’ during their morning calisthenics as they get moved while their pen is scraped. They offered to try to hold babies in for an extra day if they hear the overworked human whining from the calving pen, but no promises there. Babies have a mind of their own, I was informed. I asked if they can do anything about their edema issues. Corn Flakes and Oatmeal curtly responded they can’t do much about it, and please keep the mint rub handy. The more seasoned mothers of the herd were listening to our banter and offered to step in when needed to lick a calf if the first timers weren’t up to the task. This started a bit of a tiff about who were better mothers (old or young), but Lizette squashed the battle but announcing that they would always give the heifers the benefit of the doubt. They resolved to give us as much colostrum as they could muster up, knowing how appreciative we are of it.
    Peter and I made a ‘Senior Living Center’ for 48 of our oldest fresh cows this past weekend. I asked the ladies if they had any resolutions. In all their years of wisdom, they said they do their best work regardless of resolutions. The younger girls in the usual post-fresh pen are thrilled with the space we provided them, and had nothing beyond firm resolve to stay as healthy as possible so as not to come back to see me until their first dry period. I didn’t take insult to it; I don’t want to see them either, it turns out.
     Well, then there’s Peanut, our new puppy. He isn’t quite sure about this resolution business. He is only five months old, after all. He promises to try not to chase chickens and ducks, no matter how enticing they seem to be at that moment. He admitted to loving to run off ahead and disappear from my sight, and bartered more treats for better behavior. He also resolved to become a good protector; I think this is more of an attainable goal for him by far.
    Here’s to 2021, a year full of brand-new goals!
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (3), 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.