A good friend with a couple more years of dairy farming experience than us told us when we started farming that, "As long as you're having more good days than bad days, you're doing all right." And in the beginning, there were a lot of bad days. Now, we have mostly good days, but there are still bad moments and bad days. Except I prefer not to think of them as bad; I call them challenging, because they are the moments and days that test our abilities. So, now I gauge days and weeks in terms of joys and challenges. If we had more joys than challenges, it was a good week. Here are the joys of the last week... • Klarice, one of our cows, gave us a good laugh. Glen walked into the barn to find her standing at the end of her chain, backed up all the way into the aisle. I'm sure if the chain had busted, she'd have bolted. Glen said he went into the manger to see what was freaking her out and found a salamander crawling on top of her feed. We thought only elephants were scared of creatures that creep. • I tripped and fell outside while we were moving calves, landing in the mud. Dan was watching from the shed. He came over after I got up and said, "Wait, Mom, I brush you off." His sweetness (and near-perfect recitation of what I always tell him when he falls) erased the pain in my knee. Maybe we are doing a good job raising our son to be a compassionate person after all. • My sister was here to visit a couple weeks ago and took Dan and her son out to the pasture to bring cows in. Being that she's seven months pregnant, she had to stop and relieve herself while they were out getting cows. Dan and I went to get the cows the other day and on our way back, he stopped suddenly, squatted down, said, "I have go potty," popped back up and took off running again. I about died laughing. Apparently my sister made a big impression. ...And the challenges. • We got a letter in the mail from Central Bi-Products with the new fee schedule for picking up dead animals. The explanation of the new prices was pretty confusing. By the time we got it all figured out, all we could say was, "Holy cow!" How can any small farm afford to render livestock anymore? Knock on wood, we've had one cow picked up this year and two last year. I can understand the pick-up fee for animals over 30 months of age, but several hundred dollars for an annual fee is hard to justify when you only use the service a couple times a year. Needless to say, we'll be looking into the construction of an on-farm compost station. • Rain. I've had enough of it. I am always thankful for rain, but our moods are beginning to mirror the gloomy skies. We've rescheduled our family picture twice now. Glen said, "Ever since that month of rain when we were up north, I've got something against rainy days. They never used to bother me." And with rain, comes mud. And little boys love mud. Dan was playing in a mud puddle last night and ended up soaked. His blue snowsuit was brown by the time he was done. I do a pretty good job permitting these "boys are boys" activities, but the last time he played in the puddles in front of the barn he ended up vomiting for a week. I can't conclusively say that ingesting puddle water made him puke, but I can't rule it out, either. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he's developed immunity to the microorganisms in the mud. • Lawlessness has once again returned to the farm. Ever since Annie disappeared, there's been a varmint in the hay shed eating chicken eggs and strewing shells all over the place. I met him (or her) on Sunday. After I fed the dry cows I went into the shed to chase the last cow out to the feeder wagon. With Monika in one arm and a flashlight in the other, I entered the shed. Scanning the bales with my light, I thought to myself, "Has there always been a piece of ag-bag there?" Glen lays ag-bag plastic on the ground under the bales; the edge of the plastic is visible, but I couldn't remember if the plastic extended all the way to spot where the chicken eggs fall from the ill-located nest in the bale above. Then, just like that, my question was answered. The ag-bag moved. Then, the ag-bag grew a tail and the tail was sticking straight up in the air. I calmly backed out of the shed and returned to the barn. "Uh, Glen. I can't chase Hopscotch out of the shed because there's a big old skunk in my way!" I was pretty proud of myself for staying calm. The first time I encountered a skunk while farming - I found it eating out of the cat food dish while the cats watched - I ran screaming into the parlor to tell Glen. And Glen will never let me forget it. So, on Sunday, he told me to calm down before I dropped Monika and come watch the milkers so he could escort Pepé off the farm. Every week brings something new when you live with kids and cows. I hope your week has more joys than challenges. 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.