How can it be December already? In the nick of time, the guys tucked the last corn stalk bale into the rows with the other 200 bales, cleaned up and parked the equipment in the machine sheds for the season, and wrestled sidewall curtains back into place on the north sides of the heifer and cow barns for the winter winds to come.
    Then, thankfully the kids made it home from college and a few days of appreciated extra help. The Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated with family and friends at Lois and Mike’s house, and much delicious food was eaten and enjoyed. Next came a big Gopher/Badger game (a tough one for our family’s Gopher fans). Now, just like that, we are in the Advent season and the shortest days of the year.
    I am always happy to see November go. It is not a favorite month, with many gray days, winterizing tasks, too much to do to wrap up harvest and way too many calves to care for in not so nice weather conditions. Forty-three calves on milk taxes our facilities and my cheerful countenance.    
    This year, the month was complicated by a hip replacement surgery for husband, Rolf. It was simply time for him to have that done, so he did, and he is recovering nicely. We are taking care of the milking, manure scraping, cow feeding and countless other farm duties with employees, family and myself stepping up working many more hours outside.
    During these weeks of recovery and healing, Rolf gets to catch up on reading, farm paperwork, and do a lot of walking around the house to get his new hip and surrounding muscles back on track.
    When I go about the work outside, I sometimes like to listen to podcasts or other radio programming. On one recent day the topic was an interview with Henry Winkler, an actor, also known as The Fonz on a popular TV show of my era and now a character actor on other shows.
    While I was listening, we were struggling to move snow from the recent storm, get chores done, feed many calves, bed all of the heifers and dry cows because of the wet sloppy snow, and get people to the big football game at the University of Minnesota stadium.
    In the interview Winkler said, “I live by two words, tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets you where you want to go, and gratitude doesn’t allow you to be angry along the way.” His quote was on target for my struggles that day. It more than likely will be a nugget of inspiration for some of the tough winter days to come.
    Yes, it does take tenacity to power through a heavy workload on a dairy farm every day. Sometimes where I want to go is simply back into the house to get done for the day.
    I feel real gratitude for all of the help along the way from so many people who work with us on our dairy. Our employees have stepped up to put in extra hours to complete the things that need to be done. They sometimes sacrifice their own family time to help us. Though we do not tell them enough, it is appreciated very much. None of us can make a go of it in this tough business alone. It also takes a lot of assistance from those who offer advice, drive the milk or feed delivery trucks, the veterinarian, the friend who brings a pie, a brother-in-law who plows out the mailbox … just a few of the examples.
    I am sometimes reminded of the Laura Ingalls Wilder story of when Laura and her sisters moved the entire wood pile into the log cabin when her ma and pa were away. Laura did not want to run out of wood and freeze in the impending snow storm. Her pa told her admirably that she was as strong as a little French horse. That story has stayed with me since my childhood. As much as I try to emulate Laura, my little French horse skills are usually lacking, and it takes a great deal of help from others along the way to accomplish what needs to be done.
    It also takes a strong dose of faith. This is the season of Advent when we are focusing our thoughts on the coming of our Savior. It can be a quiet and reflective time to contemplate the wonder of God’s love for us in sending his son to earth. It is a time to renew our faith, to remember that we are not alone and to rejoice in our belief that the best is yet to come.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.