We have been standing on the sidelines of summer, longing to join in the fun as a continuous parade of boats and campers head north past our barn door. We finally got our chance to spend a day on the lake for a family reunion as Mark’s sister’s family came home for a celebration of graduations and engagements. We were to bring the folks with us to a summer cabin on a lake near Richmond, Minn. I plugged in the address on my rig’s navigation system and off we went.
    According to the mapping system, we were to take the major roads to reach the area of our final destination. I veered off the main road to take a shortcut through the country to reach Richmond, Minn., and figured the system could guide me to the lake house from there. As I jumped from one county road to another, weaving our way south, the navigation system kept recalculating how to reach our final destination. As we passed fields of corn and alfalfa, we marveled at how well the crops were looking after such a dry start to the season this past spring. Pretty soon the flat fields gave way to rolling pasture land and lakes. Now I would need to rely on the navigation system to guide us to the final stop because there is no such thing as a straight road in lake country. We found the summer cabin, second house on the end of a dead end dirt road. We were truly in the boondocks and away from everything farming for a few hours.
    As I sat in a beach chair staring out on the beauty of the calm lake, I started to think about how we are constantly recalculating our journey through life. My mind started to race with different scenarios of how I could turn this thought into a column.
    What is more important, the journey or the destination? Does it matter how the youngstock are fed or that the youngstock are fed? I cannot push an overfilled feed cart of corn silage up the incline to the feedline, but I can make two trips to equal the same amount of feed. Is it more important how I feed the youngstock or that I fed the youngstock? There is more than one way to solve a problem. Recalculating.
    On the interstate, you have the cruise locked in and the trip is going quickly. You are knocking down the miles and then you blink. You missed your exit. Now what? Our natural instinct is to stop; back up and take the right exit. A little hard on the interstate. Not to say it has not been done before. You get swept up with the traffic flow and have to keep going until you find the next exit. There you can get turned around and headed back in the right direction. If we can recognize and correct our mistakes, we can continue on our journey. But sometimes we get swept up in the flow and have to hang on until we find a way back. Recalculating.
Sometimes the journey is not about the destination as much as it is about the purpose. Driving around and around in the field flipping hay to dry. Merging rows together to bale large square bales. Hauling the bales to the shed. We do not cover much distance in all of our miles through the field, but we accomplish our goal of getting hay put up before the rains. I start to wonder how many miles I have driven in a season without leaving the borders of the farm.
    We have been recalculating how we do things on the farm. With all the kids trying new things in life, we continue to keep the farm going, but need to find ways to keep up. Austin took this summer off from starting a career to help us recalculate how we are going to manage without extra help and still get the daily jobs done. He has been cleaning out sheds to make room to store large square bales of hay and straw. I have not seen the floor of one shed since Father Mastey was a high school boy named Greg who helped stack the shed full of straw. He claims this to be one of his moments when he heard the calling to the priesthood instead of farming.
    This is the first year we have not baled and stacked over 12,000 small square bales, but we could not quit cold turkey. We baled up a couple hundred bales of straw and grass hay to stay in shape and to continue to develop our character. At least those are the reasons the guys told the kids why they had to help us stack over the years. The guys have now decided to get a portable mixer this year to help eliminate some of the labor-intensive chores and ease our workload. This has been a summer of recalculations of how we keep moving forward on the farm.
    Destinations can change throughout the journey as you reach certain points. We have raised our children. We have developed genetics to have an impact on the breed. Now what is our next destination? Is it to survive until one of the kids decides they want to farm? Is it to continue because we have locked in the cruise control and have not found our exit yet? It seems hard to map out our journey when we do not know our destination. How do you know you are traveling in the right direction, let alone when you reached your destination, before you end up on a dirt road at a dead end.
    Sometimes when we are traveling, the navigation system cannot keep up with all the recalculations and says start over. Sometimes we can get so lost on our journey that we just need to stop and start over. It is OK to recalculate where we are going, and sometimes we need to get off the main road and enjoy the view from a road less traveled in order to find our true destination.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother, Al, Schmitt farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are great help around the farm and are pushing Natalie out of several jobs. Therefore she is thankful to have something else to do. For questions or comments please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.