Like many of the farms around here, the Germans who decided to make this place their home built their barn just a couple hundred feet from a water supply. The three-and-a-half acre pond we share with our neighbors is situated between our barn and the pasture.

We have four old cows - Dinah, #945, Mara and Lollie - who won't come in from pasture on their own for morning milking. Dinah will stand on the far side of the pond and bellow for the others to come with her, but she won't come in by herself.

Most mornings, I'm the one who ends up soaking my pants and shoes in the dewey grass to escort the Old Ladies up to the barn. And as much as I wish they'd just come up on their own, I'm secretly glad they don't. I find myself looking forward to my stroll past the pond; every morning the main attraction is something new and fascinating.

A pair of Great Blue Herons, one perched on the long-dead oak that hangs out over the water, the other wading in the shallows, no doubt sampling the frog population. Two little muskrats scampering on the shore. A family of mallards tipping their tail feathers to nibble on the pond's plant life. Dozens of killdeer and sandpipers flitting about the shore, filling the air with their tweets. A flurry of songbirds harassing a Red-tailed Hawk.

One of the neatest sights is the turtles feeding. There must be a hundred turtles in our pond and in the morning when the bugs are heavy on the water, the pond sparkles like a diamond with glistening little turtle heads popping up out of the water to snatch bugs. The surface looks as if it is alive with ripples. On still mornings, you can actually hear the snaps of the turtles' beaks as they close.

We had three pairs of Canadian geese hatch and rear their goslings on our pond this spring, but they took off as soon as the goslings could fly. They're back now, though - and they brought their friends with them.

Most of the oats in the neighborhood were combined two weeks ago. The only small grain left standing is our neighbors' wheat field. From a goose's perspective the field is located conveniently close to our pond. The combination of wheat to feast upon and open water refuge is apparently goose heaven. I counted 42 the other night. I wonder how many bushels of wheat 42 geese can eat in a day.

A couple days ago I was a half a breath away from taking the four-wheeler out to get the Old Ladies. I decided to walk instead; my reward was worth every step. Six Sandhill Cranes were visiting the pasture - hopefully gorging themselves on the hoards of grasshoppers that have infested the field. Sandhill Cranes are one of my favorite birds. For many summers I woke to the raucous cries of the nesting pair that made my childhood farm their home. We watched every spring for their return, trying to be the first to announce, "The cranes are back!" Then we watched as their fuzzy chicks learned to trot after their parents, crossing our fingers they would survive long enough to join their parents for the migration back to a warmer climate.

Yesterday, a pair of pelicans made our pond their wayside rest. They were only here for a couple hours, I imagine to fill their tummies and rest their wings. Watching them gobble down pond critters makes me want to take a net out there and figure out just what else is sharing our pond with the turtles. Because it certainly didn't look like those pelicans were eating turtles.

This morning, I was graced by the presence of one of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen - a Great Egret. Its snow white plumage was a stark contrast to the muted greens and browns of the pond. I'm not sure where it came from or how long it will stay, but I'm glad it stopped in at our pond for a visit.

My love for animals is one of the primary reasons I'm a dairy farmer. Each morning as I stand at the pond and survey the scene I am reminded that it's not just cows, chickens, cats and dogs I love - it's all God's creatures. And I'm thankful our farm is a place where these wild animals are as comfortable as our domestic critters.