Monika started walking a couple weeks ago. She went from taking a couple steps to walking across the room in less than a day. It was almost like, all of a sudden, she figured out she could walk. It was so much fun to watch her face light up with pride every time she added a couple more steps. Now she's cruising around like a pro.
Of course, with her first steps came her first black eye (from crashing into the bathtub while trying to walk around in the bathroom) and her first skinned knee (from falling on the sidewalk at the park). She proved again that she's one tough cookie. She didn't even shed a tear when she skinned her knee. Either all of the roughhousing with her brother has made her resilient or she inherited my pain tolerance.
Monika also got her first haircut. I figured that if she was going to be walking she needed to be able to see where she was going. She wouldn't leave a ponytail or a clip in, so now she has bangs.
Dan, too, reached a major milestone last month: He learned to step across the gutter without help. One thing always leads to another, so now that he can join us between the cows, he's started helping us with the milking. He knows which cows are nice and which cows aren't. He waits for the units to move to Dinah and Peanut and then jumps in to help. He pre-dips the teats and then helps attach the unit. I just hope he's this excited about milking cows when he's 15. Somehow I think he will.
I've noticed that he's been paying more attention to the cows' udders now, too. When we're bringing cows into the barn or he's waiting to milk Dinah or Peanut, he'll tell us, "That cow has a big milker," or "That cow has a nice milker." (I've been trying to teach him the word udder, but he still calls udders "milkers".) Apparently he's picked up on the dairy judging we do in the barn or maybe he's just a natural.
Monika's first steps and Dan's accomplishments prompted me to pull out their baby books. The scantily filled-in pages in their books made it perfectly clear that they're the children of a busy farm mom. I always feel guilty for not keeping up with their baby books. It's one of those things-to-do that never seems to get done because there are more urgent things to do. My hope is that one day we'll be able to look back through these columns, my blog posts and all of the pictures I've taken and relive their youth that way.
After I finished jotting down notes in their baby books, I saw our memory book sitting next in line on the bookshelf. It, too, was covered in dust. I pulled it out and added a couple sentences about the farming milestones we reached this summer.
The most obvious milestone is our new (used) bulk tank. It's double the size of our old bulk tank. Our return to every-other-day pickup was much anticipated. What I didn't anticipate was how the new bulk tank would change my attitude about our farm. The new tank looks really big in our milk house. I find myself wondering, does that mean we're a big farm now? Not based on national or state average herd sizes, but we're certainly bigger than we were when we started.
Our second milestone for the farm: We brought our 70th cow into the barn last week. I used to think farms milking 70 cows were big. Seventy cows certainly feels like more work - mostly because we're switching cows - but it doesn't feel that much bigger than 50.
The dictionary defines milestones as actions or events that mark a significant change or stage in development.
For Monika, learning to walk means leaving babyhood behind and becoming a toddler. For Dan, crossing the gutter and learning to dip cows and attach units means he's becoming a helper and not just a spectator.
For us, 70 cows should be full capacity. We can't keep growing unless we make some major investments in our facilities. Which means (shudder) we're going to have to sell some cows or heifers. I think that means we're transitioning from a growth phase to a herd improvement phase.