A few weeks ago I happened upon a pacing old cow just put in the calving pen. Was she uncomfortable? Was she in the early stages of labor? I crept into the pen and added another layer of straw to freshen it up a bit for her. I stood around the corner and watched her. She left her station by the waterer and inspected the straw. She circled it twice; then settled her bulky frame down on the cleanest spot in the middle. After a few wiggling adjustments, she took a breath and started to push. Within 15 minutes that calf came sliding out. What’s the moral of the story? She didn’t like her nest. As soon as her nest was improved, she was ready for action. I tested this theory out on a few other older cows – young heifers seem to have no preference – and every time I added more bedding, they were laying down in short order. They would sniff it, circle it, and upon proclaiming it suitable to give birth on, would lay themselves down.
Peanut, our dog, must have his spot just so as well. If he’s in the house, it is nearest wherever I am; a sniff and a circle and he’s nested. If he’s outside, his nose goes crazy first, then he curls up if it meets his requirements. Peter and Lynzie’s dog, Oakley, is quite persnickety about her napping spot. She circles and circles, scratches the ground multiple times as if to fluff up the grass, then at last will gently set herself down.
In the spring when the birds are building their nests, it is such a sight to watch them swoop into the barn and carry away a single piece of straw, twice their length, up into the rafters. They come into the yard and make off with the garden cuttings that I have cleaned up and piled. Flower stems, sticks, twine pieces – if one watches close enough, you will see them lift up all sorts of materials to make their home to their specifications.
They say women close to giving birth have a nesting phase before they go into labor. Having given birth four times, I can attest to the truth of that statement. I recall having a surge of energy and being adamant that everything on my to-do list was done before said baby was allowed to enter the world. I canned apple pie filling the night before I had Ira, got the Christmas tree up and decorated and had Dane the next day, built a new flower bed prior to Henry, and had meals made and frozen before Cora.
Nests are viewed as a home for many animals. Nesting is the act of building a nest, or the act of cleaning and organizing as it pertains to pregnant women. As I think about this – probably too deeply – I think that I work on my nest every Sunday. As my only full day at home, I usually have quite the to-do list to accomplish. This is not to say that I don’t relax a bit; as a family, we do. It turns out I go into a bit of a nesting mode weekly. I want to have my home nest organized and clean to start out the week. I have a personal goal of being able to see my tablecloth before Monday morning. (I have the tendency to be a piler – one who puts papers, books, cookbooks and such all on top of each other because you are sure you will get through them all soon, but those extra minutes do not always appear.) It sets me up mentally for the week, if my table is under control; my brain feels ready to tackle the week better. I want my nest to be cozy and comfortable, even the outside parts of my nest. I work on my flower beds as much as possible. Primarily for stress relief and sheer love of flowers, but also that they may bring joy to people beyond me.
In all of my personal analysis of nesting things around me, I think the animals and pregnant women nest out of an innate drive. As my nesting cannot be attributed to pregnancy, I have my own ideas about why I do what I do. There are a lot of things in life that are beyond my control. My weekly routine of baking bread, hanging out laundry, puttering here and there on projects all keep my mind focused on things I have control over, rather than wandering and worrying so much. My husband had major surgery for his cancer two weeks ago, and everything came out far, far better than we had anticipated. He is home and healing, feeling more like himself every day. I cleaned bedrooms and drawers that had sticky bottoms, dusted, trimmed flower beds off, built a new flower bed, and even scrubbed the milkhouse floor in the weeks leading up to it. I could control these things. I had no control of what would happen in the operating room. Trust, faith, hope – yes, I have all of these things; what I do not have is control in the situation. So I cook, bake, clean, worry, pray and think – sometimes all at the same time. I nest with purpose every week and when I focus on the things I can control, it leaves me better set to handle the things I cannot.
    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.