Five whole days with no cooking, no cleaning, no kids (almost), no cows and no calves. You could almost say we went on vacation. But it wasn't exactly a vacation, at least not like the vacations we took when we were cow-less and kid-less. We weren't basking in the sun on a sandy beach with umbrella drinks in an exotic locale.

No, this was more like a business trip. Our days were filled with meetings, receptions and banquets, and the drinks in our hands were chocolate milks. Glen and I attended the National Young Cooperator Leadership Development Program, held in conjunction with the National Milk Producers Federation Joint Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas.

It was a much needed get-away. If the pre-departure excitement level was any indication of how much we needed this trip, then we were way overdue. I was bubbling over with excitement. For the entire week prior to the trip I found myself going through my chores humming, "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...hmm, hmm, hmm... Yeah, I'm leaving on a jet plane..."

At one point I asked Glen if he was excited yet. "No," he said. "I'll be excited when the plane takes off."

His reserve was a reflection of the all the time we spent getting everything lined up to operate in our absence and his concern that we make it to the airport on time. At times it felt like the upcoming vacation wouldn't be worth all the extra time we put into arranging help, writing chore notes, checking fences and gates, and so on.

The work was well worth it. Our children and our cattle were very well cared for while we were gone. And we had a grand time in Texas. The program, the camaraderie, the accommodations and the dining were all out of this world. To be honest, we were a bit overwhelmed with the magnificence of the whole event.

Another couple from Land O'Lakes told us before we left that we'd feel underdressed the minute we walked into the hotel. I didn't really believe her. But she was right. I changed out of my airplane sweatshirt as soon as our luggage was delivered to our room. (They wouldn't let us bring it ourselves; the shuttle driver told us the hotel staff didn't like to see guests carting their own luggage.)

It was a nice change of pace to get dressed up in suits and such. I'm not sure why putting on a suit makes a person feel important, but it does. In reality, we should feel important every time we lace up our boots because our country's abundance starts with us.

And that abundance was displayed every time we sat down at the table. As I guess we should have expected, we enjoyed several meals of beef prepared in assorted ways. Even though it seemed like a lot of beef, it was very delicious beef. This was obviously not beef from an accident-prone dairy cow. It didn't take us long to figure out why there were no steak knives on the tables - you don't need knives for fork-tender beef.

We have a rule when dining out that we'll never order something off the menu that we can make just as well at home. I'm afraid to say we never had to exercise that rule in Texas. Glen and I are pretty good cooks, but we'd have a hard time matching the culinary artistry of the cook staff at the Gaylord Texan. Everything - not just the beef - was done to perfection.

And there was plenty. We learned pretty quickly to leave room for dessert. We were treated to Vanilla Bean Cremé Brulee, Bittersweet Chocolate Bombe with Raspberry Coulis and some of the most mouth-watering pecan pie I've ever tasted. I haven't seen such decadence since our honeymoon.

After all that beef, I'm definitely ready for some turkey. And when our turn comes to share our blessings, we'll add one more to this year's list - a grand time in Texas and a safe return home to our kids and our cows.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn., with help from their 2-year-old son, Dan, and their infant daughter, Monika. When she's not farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.