Somehow, I blinked, and the boys are out of school for the summer. I should have more time to prepare myself for their energy borne out of freedom from school. I told them we are sticking to a schedule so I don’t lose my temper daily. This was also explained with the clause that it is a farm, and sometimes things happen that aren’t planned for, so they had better be prepared for that. They are all old enough now that I don’t need to have them at my side in the barn, but that also means they are old enough and tall enough to help me sort cows if need be. This is a very handy thing for me. Ira, Dane and Oliver are all learning how to be cow men in a pinch. I take for granted how fast Carmen and I can process a cow’s number on a small pink tag. It is a learning curve for the boys, but they are gaining confidence as I practice patience.
    No school also means the kitchen has to be fully stocked at all times, because growing boys are hungry every five seconds. They eat a full lunch, then are back digging in the refrigerator within minutes for a little snack. Last Friday, we resumed our family lunch at the table and, after last year’s quarantine meals, a meal at the table means praying and stating what we are thankful for. My dad started this with the kids last spring, and they love it. (If you stop in for lunch, be prepared, you will be asked yours.) We go around the table and mention something we are thankful for that day. Some of the most seemingly mundane things make the list: lightbulbs, pants, pockets, eyes. There are days when we go deeper: trust, faith, family and the love of old things. Cora is most often the first to draw attention to the fact that we need to do our thankfuls and will call on the boys to say theirs. It is a lovely tradition; one that will stick with this crew of farm kids long into the future. It is a fun way to see what is going on in those little, dirt-covered heads of these kids of ours.
    My little flock of sheep is doing well, except for the bullheaded Armella. My first three ewes lambed with no difficulty, and their inner voices told them how to properly mother their lambs. Armella apparently got shorted in the mothering instinct department. Following the advice of three sheep men, I left her locked in a headlock for two weeks. She had the ability to eat, drink and lie down. However, she couldn’t head butt her lamb, Hermione, with her horns, drill her into the ground or swivel away from her so she couldn’t nurse. This obnoxious creature is not a fan of letting her lamb nurse unless she is restrained. Now we have a daily schedule wherein she is locked at night but free to graze with the rest of the girls during the day. Hermione is growing well and showing no signs of malnutrition, so it must be working. Armella’s future may be a cold one; I’m not sure I want to worry if her mothering brain will be activated by her second lamb.
    Even though we only expect 80 or so calves this month, it seems as if they are born in groups of five. We can go a few days with no fresh cows, then the gate on the calving pen seems to have a revolving door. As fast as one calves and is taken care of, she’s pushed out to make room for the next one. We have had two sets of twins in the past week. I loathe twins; cute, small, fragile and awful for a cow to have anytime of the year but worse when it’s 90 degrees. The first cow had a bubble of air under her skin by day two, likely from some unknown rip inside. This isn’t a terribly common occurrence for me, but I’ve seen it enough to know that medicating her immediately makes all the difference. For the second set, I missed the twin when I first went searching with my arm inside. I trusted my gut (and Dad’s advice) this time and checked on her an hour later to find a foot popping out. I delivered No. 2 with minimal problems, and the cow drank pail after pail of warm water and even pushed out her placenta. This is a huge step in getting a twin cow on the right track fast, so I was pleased. The heat will likely send some mastitis cows my way, as this time of year we typically see more. I’ll grumble about them, though, knowing some will not be curable.
    For years, my right foot has not been able to wiggle its toes in the bare soil as I putter about the garden. I have had varicose veins in my right leg since kid No. 2, and they didn’t disappear after kid No. 4. I have worn compression stockings daily to ease the tired, throbbing feeling the veins cause in that leg. When my toes started tingling and my ankle started to ache worse than normal, I rescheduled the appointment that had been put on hold due to COVID-19 and a few bouts with ringworm last summer. The veins were stripped on account of the fact that mine were so zig-zagged they couldn’t inject them like they can with many people. Ten incisions, two weeks of no lifting more than 10 pounds, four nights of icing my throbbing leg and a month of healing up later, I am almost back to being barefoot. Slowing down enough to take care of myself has never been one of my strengths. I don’t like to add my work to anyone else’s to-do list, but I will enjoy not having an extra layer on in the heat.
    A bit of this, a bit of that, happy June Dairy Month to all of you!  
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), 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.