I spy with my little eye.
Most of us are familiar with the game designed to entertain children on long car rides or to simply pass the time as you try to keep their squirming under control. I have used this game to help children become more aware of their surroundings and keep them calm when the situation calls for it. Lately, however, it seems I have been playing my own personal game.
Those with children know that a bit of spying can be quite rewarding; you can catch some priceless moments between siblings or precious moments of kids just being kids. This morning, Henry was my lucky sidekick. As I was getting ready for my day, I could hear chattering through the wall. I crept quietly through the living room, and the noise became louder. I gently opened the door to the so-called man-room of our house and peeked my head in. My ears relished the sound of my 9-year-old reading aloud to himself, as I spied him sitting in the cozy office chair with his nose to the pages of “The Legend of the Ghost Buck” by Lane Walker. I felt myself smile, knowing he enjoys reading, but it doesn’t necessarily come easy to him. It was about that moment that I was spotted as he saw me and gave me an innocent grin.
Sunday afternoon, I sent Ira and Dane outside to pick the rest of the apples for us to crush into cider this week. On my way past the screen door, I glanced outside to take stock of their productivity. I went back to work in the kitchen, stirring this and kneading that. It wasn’t long until I was interrupted from my kitchen therapy session by thumps on the side of the house. I moved in the kitchen so I could see the apple tree and Dane winding up with another apple to pitch presumably at Ira near the corner of the house. I watched, unobserved, for a few tosses and giggles before reminding them that the apples were meant to be in the bags not thrown through windows.
I love spying the boys being gentle older brothers with Cora. She is not a big fan of hugs or cuddling, so when I see her snuggled up with Dane reading a book together, it makes me so happy. I always feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the period of the life when they fight so much. Spying on Cora playing by herself is as good as any television show. Her imagination runs wild and free when she plays with her animals. Her voices change nonstop, and she builds and creates incredible structures to follow her elaborate storylines.
This past weekend, we had a heat wave. I took advantage of it (battling the beetles that also enjoy the weather) and worked outside. I glanced up to see some of the fat heifers milling around in the pasture. I also spied a black clump. It looked like a piece of plastic or a clump of dirt. I had a fleeting thought that it was a calf, but because that pasture houses open heifers, it didn’t seem too plausible. I let the thought pass through my brain and went about my day. Saturday morning, I received a poetic text from Peter. It read as follows: “I spy with my eyes a surprise just below the sunrise in the lot where Dave (a heifer) used to reside.” Guess it wasn’t plastic. A few hours later, a team effort resulted in carrying a small, yet frisky, Angus crossbred calf up the hill and into the calf van. Two delivered the calf to its appropriate home, and two of us chased the new mom, Zipper, up the alley into the fresh pen. Even though Zipper had been placed on the cull list early in life, she made it to the heifer grower and after one breeding was confirmed pregnant. Peter and I must have put her in the heifer lot because of her due date being so far out. Thankfully the weather was nice, Zipper was calm, the calf was healthy, and Peter had spied it nursing in the early morning hours.  
The maternity pens have had an uptick in business this past week. It seems the new smell I wrote of has worn off at last. Saturday night, it was as if we had a revolving door on the pens. As fast as one cow would deliver her calf and have it all licked to perfection, the next mother in labor needed the pen. I found that being sneaky about my spying pays off when I have cows in the pens. The farther away I stay, the more likely the mother is to lay down and do her job in a timely manner. I can pretend as though I am walking through the hospital pen and cast a glance over my shoulder. It seems to be far enough away not to get her to hop up and be anxious. If I stand in the doorway of our vet room, I can see far enough into the pens so as not to be suspicious to the mother. Both spy methods have proven quite effective.
Now, as I write, I spy with my little eyes the hands on the clock telling me it is time for the children to rise. Another busy day is destined to arrive.
    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.