When the temperature takes its annual plunge and daylight diminishes, giving way to increasing darkness, one must overcome the urge to hibernate and make the best of the challenging season we call winter. Yes, we can complain about the cold and the snow, but given where we live that is a fact of life in Minnesota. Winter provides the opportunity to catch up on repairs that had gotten overlooked in summer. While I never get totally caught up on this never-ending list, I always try to make a dent in my daydreaming list that initiates during milking time.
     One of my goals since I started farming was to do something positive each day. Besides going through the routine chores and daily motions, doing something good for the farm or another person has been part of my daily agenda. Some days its as simple as repairing a gate, a post or replacing a broken board. Other days it may mean spending a few hours with Joey’s house project. On certain occasions going to the wake or funeral of a relative or classmate provides satisfaction beyond the extra effort it took to get there. Sometimes my plan gets over ruled when Greg has a different project to work on. That in itself, giving up my plan for his, is rewarding. That feeling of pushing yourself above and beyond the daily routine results in a feeling that has always been important to me – the feeling of accomplishment. Evening chores seem to go so much better if I have done something constructive during that day. I may not have completed a project, but the fact that I am farther today than I was yesterday creates satisfaction and propels me to look forward to tomorrow.
     I recently visited my sister Marcia in Chatfield. Marcia has an area in her house that she has named My Happy Place. This room is filled with crafts and scrap booking items to outlast a lifetime. There is always a project being worked on – either just completed, in the process or will be down the road. When in this room, her enthusiasm is contagious and radiates like a beautiful rainbow. This is Marcia’s little heaven where she can escape the demands of this world. Here she dreams, sets goals, accomplishes and is rewarded. For it is in giving that one receives.
     As I stated earlier, morning milking generally is my daydreaming or problem solving time. During these couple hours I plan my agenda for the day, whether it is approved or not is not always in my control. If chores, cows and weather cooperate, I am fortunate to spend a good part of the day in my happy place – our shop. Our shop was built in 1984. It represents the last 30 feet of our machine shed. The once bright white walls and ceiling have been over shadowed by years of exhaust fumes, dust and many colors of errant spray paint. The once bright lights have dimmed with age and replaced with brighter lights, which seem to have faded down the same path. The constant throughout all these years has been the heater, which makes a comfortable place to work no matter how cold it is outdoors. This is where dreams come to life.
     During the early years, the shop was a novelty place. It was the home for Mom and Dad’s 25th anniversary celebration, calf meetings, a twilight meeting, birthday parties and where we ate grilled food after a long day of making hay. I could not even put a nail or screw in the wall without Dad’s permission. This was a sacred place, compared to the dirt corner in the old Quonset shed with a diesel- scented Knipco, ready to light you on fire if you got too close to the flame. What initially seemed to be a large space quickly became filled more and more as the weather got colder. But no matter how cluttered the shop had become, there was always room for another new project.
     Looking back, the best projects involved spending time with our children while teaching them how to use tools, solve problems and create memories. The shop is where Joey learned how to overhaul his first engine. Over Christmas break, we built and wired his first workbench. Laura shot baskets endlessly while we all listened to the song “Angels Among Us” by Alabama. Many 4-H projects were finished late into the night. Mary constantly drew horse heads on scraps of plywood that we would cut out and she would screw onto a stick and hop around the farm. Becca would come to me with ideas for a school project and together her ideas came to life. During another Christmas vacation, the song “Streets of Heaven” by Sherrie Austin became our theme song, only to prepare us for the unexpected tragic death of my Godmother Angela in 2004. Welding and wood projects were a natural fit for Johnny. He welded benches, stars, tail pipes and anything metal.
     The satisfying part now is when Patty or the children come to me to share an idea, they trust together with Dad they will get it done. My father, Dennis, instilled in me a positive attitude towards repairing most anything on the farm. Dad never appeared frustrated when some thing broke. Rather, he looked upon it as a challenge to make something better than before. No matter how much time it took sawing with the old hack saw, he always had a smile on his face followed by that feeling of accomplishment. Today, we have cordless tools that make repairs easy and fun compared to what our parents had to work with.
     These days there are many reasons to doubt the future, to question our industry and feel bitterness. Most of these are a result of what we cannot control. We must focus on things we can control, like our attitude, our approach and our trust that God will care for us. Try to do something each day, no matter how small, to help your farm or your neighbor in need. Set a goal and accomplish that goal by finding your own personal happy place.
    John Rosenhammer farms with his daughter, Laura Scholtz, and brother Greg, on Roseview Dairy near Sleepy Eye, Minn. They milk 200 Holsteins and run 580 acres of cropland.