Every dairy farm family is familiar with the duality of our way of life. We all have good clothes and barn clothes. We have good boots and barn boots.
Glen and I have good eyeglasses that we wear to town and old eyeglasses that we wear to the barn. Like many dairy farmers, Glen has a good truck and a farm truck.
Many dairy farm families even have separate entryways into their houses: one entryway for going in and out with barn clothes and barn boots on; one entryway to use when coming and going from town.
We had separate entrances in the house I grew up in. The barnroom, as we called it, was a way in and out without messing up the front entryway, but it was also a place to store our barn clothes and barn boots.
I didn't realize how nice it was to have two entryways until I moved here. We do not have separate entrances into our house. There's only one way in.
We keep our barn clothes and barn boots in the basement. To get to the basement, we have to walk through the entryway - the same entryway where we store our good shoes and good coats. The same entryway guests use when they visit.
We have both a boot scraper and a boot brush at the end of the sidewalk that leads up to our house. I know for a fact that the kids seldom use them.
I swear that I'm constantly reminding the kids to wash their boots before coming to the house - or, better yet, take them off outside. My words seem to go in one ear and out the other.
I even made it the kids' job to clean the entryway floor, thinking it would help them understand how much of a mess dirty boots can make. I'm sure they'll understand someday, but right now there's still a pair of dirty boots sitting in the entryway.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm glad my kids have dirty boots. Because it means they're learning the good life lessons that farm chores teach young people. And it means they're outside playing and exploring, growing in the fresh air and sunshine.
I'm glad they're parched from playing so hard that they need a drink right away. I'm glad they're too excited to tell me about the kittens they found to remember that their boots are covered in mud. I just wish I had a separate door for them to come in.
I found one thing that helps keep the entryway a little more presentable. A couple years ago, I invested in heavy-duty waterproof rugs for the entryway floor. These rugs are the industrial-strength variety you normally see in schools and businesses. The two rugs cover my entire entryway floor.
The rugs have kept more of the barn boot mess in the entryway - less gets tracked into the kitchen. The rugs clean up easily with the vacuum. A couple times during the summer, I take them outside and pressure wash them for a good deep cleaning.
I ordered the rugs in the shade of brown that most closely matched mud and manure. That way, even if the entryway doesn't get vacuumed as often as I like, you have to look real close to see the evidence of dairy farming.
There are still days, though, when I wish I could take a hose to the entryway floor and wash it all down the drain. At least that's what I think every time I spray down the milkhouse floor.
Just like our entryway, our milkhouse is the only way into our barn. When we rearranged the front of our barn to make the large group pen for our calves, we put a gate across the double door.
That means almost every trip in and out of the barn goes through the milkhouse. Mud comes in from outside and little bits of chopped straw come in from the barn. I am constantly spraying and sweeping the milkhouse floor.
I get green with envy when I visit newer dairy farms where the milkhouse is its own room tucked off to the side and a separate entrance is available for traffic in and out of the barn.
But that's the great part about visiting other farms: you find ideas to bring back home and improve your own farm. If we ever remodel our barn or build a new one, you can bet it will have multiple entrances.
At one farm, I saw a fancy wash station for boots, the kind with built in grates and floor drains. I haven't found a way to build one here, but I still dream about it. We wash our boots over the milkhouse drain, which usually leads to washing the floor down again.
We visited a dairy farm when we were in Germany. We chatted in the house for a while before our hosts took us out to see the barn. We walked through their kitchen and opened up the door to go outside. But instead of stepping out into the sunshine, we walked right into their freestall barn.
I cannot imagine what that farm mom goes through to keep her kitchen floor clean. If our house were connected to our barn, I would surely need a hose with a sprayer to keep the floor clean.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 75 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children - Dan, 9, Monika, 6, and Daphne, 3. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.