“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
    This is the iconic opening line to the long running soap opera, “Days of our Lives.” I never watched this show but have always been intrigued by the opening line. The dulcimer tones of the narrator’s voice would capture your attention as you tried to focus on the sand shifting through the hourglass marking the movement of time. The sand travels through the narrow neck of the hourglass at a consistent pace, running the course of time. We all mark time in one way or another, mechanical or natural. We can use clocks, watches and calendars or by seasons and events. Summer is usually marked by graduation parties, weddings, county fairs, annual family reunions and closes out with the state fair. How will we know summer has ended without a state fair this year?
    Without a fair, we have missed a great opportunity to talk with and teach others about life on our farms. I am sure the Princess Kay butterheads would have loved to have been in the butter booth surrounded by hundreds of spectators, but they are making the best of the situation. Hats off to the PK program for adapting to the current situation by highlighting the ingenuity of farmers to get a job done regardless of obstacles. The virtual coronation and carvings are capturing the imagination of curious consumers. We are able to get out our message about the importance of dairy in a balanced diet. We sometimes forget that the Princess Kay program is not about the state fair but is the starting point to reaching the most people in a single event.
    The state fair also gave our children the opportunity to reach out and teach people walking through the barns. The cutest calf or the calmest cow were always tied closest to the aisle for strangers to reach out and touch as our kids told their story about the animal and how we care for them. While people will not be walking down the barn aisles this year, some farmers have opened up their farms through virtual tours, giving consumers a new way to connect with their food and where it comes from.
    While we are talking about promoting dairy, I have to say it is about time. When the coronavirus started affecting daily life, Mark started complaining about the lack of fluid milk advertising. Here was a time when consumers were searching for nutritional information, trying to develop healthy meals, and it seemed the dairy industry was nowhere to be seen. He would lament, “Whatever happened to the ‘Got milk?’ ads?” Someone must have heard him. They are bringing back the campaign with checkoff dollars. I am so excited to see the new campaign. I remember taking a picture of Katie dressed up as a princess reading her fairy tale book with a milk mustache for a contest years ago. I hope they have another contest. I have couple of cute grandkids who love to drink milk.
    While it would have been fun to be at the fair, sitting along the rail, watching the show, what I probably have missed the most is our county fair. I missed eating at the 4-H lunch stand and catching up with 4-H family friends. Even with the kids graduating from 4-H years ago, we like to catch the 4-H dairy show and enjoy an ADA chocolate mint malt. County fair week marked the halfway point of our summers. It reminded us we needed to round up a baling crew to unload racks of straw and third crop hay bales. It pushed us to start looking at the corn silage crop and getting equipment ready for harvest. The county fairs reminded us how quickly the sands of summer were shifting through the hourglass of time.
    Without all the usual markers of summer’s progression, we can find other signs that summer is coming to a close. The dull maroon of the blaze maple trees is starting to turn more brilliant as the temperatures start to drop. The stash of sweatshirts strewn around the barn signals the crisp morning air of a new day. The first bites into a crisp Zestar apple or a handful of cherry tomatoes as a quick breakfast snack after all the cows are milked remind us fall is coming.
    Time is inevitable; all the sand will eventually pass through the narrow neck of the hourglass filling the bottom bulb. And, then we will flip it over and start marking a new season because time is constantly flowing as sand through the hourglass.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minnesota. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.