June is only two-thirds over, but it's already been filled with many months' worth of memorable learning experiences.
The month started with the Stearns County Breakfast on the Farm at Landwehr Dairy near Watkins, Minn. We had a beautiful morning and record-breaking attendance. It's always amazes me to watch six-plus months of planning come together and transform a dairy farm into a learning opportunity that parallels no other. Seeing the sheer number of families with young children who spent their entire morning at the farm learning about agriculture is what Breakfast on the Farm is all about.
One week later, our own farm became a learning opportunity for a troop of Girl Scouts and their families from St. Paul. Twenty campers turned our farm into their campground and spent a day and a half learning about dairy cows, calves, pigs, lambs and chickens.
This event, too, was the result of several months of planning. One of the families in the troop are good friends of ours. We lived next door to each other when we lived in St. Paul, became fast friends, and have stayed in touch after moving out of the city. They enjoy visiting our farm once a year. Last fall, they asked if we would be interested in hosting the Girl Scouts troop.
I was saying yes in my head before the question was even finished. I have dreamed of having a farm where young people could learn about agriculture since before Glen and I were married. In fact, I spent most of my first summer internship in college daydreaming about the kind of farm we would have one day and the ways we could make our farm a place for learning. I still have the ideas I jotted down tucked away in a box from college. It's amazing how closely our farm resembles those plans.
Even though we had months to prepare for the Girl Scouts' visit, we saved most of the final tidying up for the week before they arrived. Needless to say, that week was a little stressful, but, in the end, the stress was worth every headache, backache or premature grey hair.
To sum it up: Everyone had a blast!
We gave our guests a guided tour of our farm, which included a hike out the pasture to watch the cows lounging by the ponds. The girls walked right up to our cows, trying to touch their noses or convince them to eat a handful of grass. The girls chased calves in the calf pen, chased pigs in the pig pen and each helped milk a cow during evening milking. They spent their downtime jumping on our trampoline, coddling the kittens from the machine shed, and playing with Suzy, our puppy. They cooked their meals over a campfire and invited us to join them. They set their tents up under the trees in our front yard; we (the kids and I) set our tent up and camped under the stars with them. Before our guests returned to St. Paul, we all went swimming at a nearby beach and enjoyed a picnic lunch together at the lake.
When we awoke after a much needed Sunday afternoon nap following the Girl Scouts' visit, Dan started weeping out of the blue. I asked him what was wrong and he said, "I miss the Girl Scouts." He proceeded to ask every hour for the next six days when the Girl Scouts were coming back.
Thankfully, the Central Minnesota Youth Dairy Days Show was the next weekend. Getting his fair calf ready for the show helped take his mind of scheming up ways for the Girl Scouts to come back, one of which was me starting a daycare so that they could come to our farm while their parents were at work.
Once again, there were last minute preparations to finish before the big event, but, all in all, Dan and Monika's first dairy show went pretty well. Dan showed a March Holstein calf named Bonita and Monika showed a May Jersey calf named Sandy. I wish I could have bottled up their excitement about taking calves to the show. I hope the pictures I took will help them remember that excitement.
Their excitement brought back my own memories of showing dairy cattle and I had to constantly remind myself not to become the soccer mom of the dairy show. As much as I was tempted to, we didn't clip the calves or groom toplines or fluff tails. Our goal was for this show to be a learning experience and an opportunity for Dan and Monika to see what showing is all about.
I'm not sure how much Monika will remember from the show, but I know the experience added fuel to a fire that's been growing inside of Dan. While we were watching senior showmanship, he said to me, "One day I'm going to show a big cow like that." He also wanted to know, after watching one well-trained Brown Swiss heifer parade around the ring, if brown calves were nicer than black-and-white calves. I told him that it didn't matter what color the calf was, but that the more a calf is led around, the nicer she gets. He responded by telling me he was going to lead his calf every day so that she would get nicer.
Quite frankly, looking back at the month leaves me feeling a bit exhausted, but, for me, providing learning opportunities for our children and other children makes it all worth while.