Dan has become quite the young farmer in the past couple months. As soon as the snow was gone, he was in his fields (aka his sandbox). He had everything tilled by the end of March, despite his father's warnings that it was too wet.
He spent so much time outside "working" that a week later he had all his planting done and he'd hauled all his heifers out to pasture. I think Glen was wee-bit jealous, even if he isn't the type who starts itching to get in the fields as soon as he can see the soil.
If Dan wasn't in his sandbox, he was in the tractor and skidloader with Glen hauling out bedding packs from the cow and heifer yards or tilling the fields. After they finished an afternoon of field work together, Dan would insist upon helping Glen mix feed. They'd come in for a snack before evening milking and Dan would be covered in dust and dirt and full of stories.
"Mama, I tell you story..." he would start every time.
Then, one time it was, "Mama, I show you something!"
Curled up inside his grimy little hand was an earth worm. While mixing feed that afternoon, Dan spied an earthworm in the soil where the bale of baleage had been. He begged Glen to get him a worm and then carried it around for another couple hours. You can imagine the poor worm's state by the time it made it to show and tell.
My favorite story from the past couple months, however, is about nurturing.
Dan found a short piece of red garden hose (the end of the hose that was sliced in two by the skidloader this winter) up in the machine shed. When I first saw him with the hose, he was using it as a chicken chaser.
When I checked on him a little while later, the sight melted my heart.
He was standing outside Ginger's pen with the hose in hand. (Ginger's been having some trouble with her feet, so she's been in a pen by herself.) Ginger was standing right in front of him, trying to eat from her bunk. There was a half a pail of water next to her water tub. He had one end of the hose in the water and was putting the other end up to Ginger's nose and saying, "Here, Ginger, take your medicine."
I was astonished (but I shouldn't have been). My three-year-old was trying to stomach pump a 500-pound heifer. He "helps" Glen use our stomach pump (which has a red hose on it) to orally administer fluids to fresh and ill cows all the time. He calls the pump solution "medicine" even though it's usually just electrolytes and sugars.
He knew Ginger was in the pen by herself because she wasn't feeling well. Now that he had a pump of his own, he told me that Ginger should have some medicine "to help her feel better".
My thought later that night was, this is how farmers are born. Whenever you ask farmers why they farm, most of the time their response is something along the lines of "farming's in my blood" or "it's what I feel called to do". I feel the same way. It's hard to describe the force that pulled me back to farming after I left the farm to go to college. But I have an idea now of how that force got it's start. I, too, grew up out in the barn and started "helping" at a very young age.
Dan probably won't remember trying to pump Ginger (or trying to plant corn in his sandbox), but if someday he sits us down and says, "Mom and Dad, I want to farm," I won't be surprised. The seeds have already been planted.
*This column was originally posted on Glen and Sadie's blog on www.dairystar.com
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 3, and Monika, 1. When she's not parenting or farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.