June Dairy Month is different this year. While dairy farmers usually plan, attend and hold celebrations on farms, most have been canceled. Yet, there are many positives coming out of these uncertain times where dairy farmers have risen up to help and provide.
    In our own small dairy county, our leaders held an online fundraiser for donating milk to our local food shelf and $1,200 was raised. Our 4-H club leaders are putting together June Dairy Month activity bags for members via drive-thru at our Lake Prairie Township building and offering a dairy ice cream treat to each member who participates. Our family is making plans for a safe, small group Summer Solstice Ice Cream Party held annually outside with our neighbors now that this is allowed once again.
    On our farm, we spend the days doing what we normally do at this time of year, minus most of the events that bring us together with others for either worship at our church, a cow show or other social events. We are learning to adapt to a new normal like many people around the country.
    To be honest, our dairy farming lifestyle is not very different from what is typical for us this time of year.
    Our summer is focused on forages. We got the first crop finished with a small pile made, and the bunker was covered in the span of two days and no rain fell. We have a dedicated team of people to help us prepare the bunker, truck the alfalfa from the field and drive over the pile. Mike or Rolf usually run the chopper, and they seem to enjoy it. Maybe it is their idea of time away from the dairy.
    Then when the fields are all chopped, we need all available strong backs, arms and legs to place the plastic and tires to get the bunker covered. We got it done in record time this year.
    What comes next is intense manure hauling onto the alfalfa fields in the small window of time after chopping. Mike and Rolf hauled most of the loads, while others of us filled in on milking and chore duties so they could keep hauling.
    The next tasks were meeting with our banker, DHIA testing, reproduction shots and other various projects. Next week’s agenda includes a meeting with a carpenter to talk about reroofing the leaky freestall barn roof and the vet herd check.
    Sometimes I wonder how we ever attended those social obligations that we used to want to go to.
    Using the extra time to continue to work on the to-do list around the house and farm is how we have been staying positive and moving forward with the lockdown.
    One nice thing about living on a dairy farm during a pandemic is there is no shortage of projects to do as well as the materials to make many of them happen. For example, we now have a mini bunker in our backyard. This is daughter Emily’s project of killing the Creeping Charlie by covering the 20-by-20 patch with plastic and tires. She did not have to go far for the materials. When it dies, we will replant it with grass seed later in the season.
    Matthias stained a wooden fire pit bench he had made a few years ago, something he had wanted to do for a few summers but did not have the time. He has been helping his uncle, Eric, with checking the flow in field tiles, a task that requires two people, time and muddy boots.
    I continue to sort, organize, purge, clean and refurbish. It seems overwhelming, but I try to accomplish at least one small thing each day. Boxes and bags can now be donated or tossed as designated. With the kids home to help with more of the farm work, I can use the extra time to get these back-burner tasks done. At least that is what I keep reminding myself.
    So, we work hard to continually improve through these strange and uncertain times. Focusing can be hard with all that is happening in our state, country and world. Being far removed from the center of the protests and unrest has obvious benefits, yet all of the struggles of others affect us deeply. It seems that the hard work of rebuilding devastated cities and human relationships will ensue for many months and years to come.
    Though dairy farming is not an easy way of life, the care and attention we give our animals, land and family each day cannot be taken for granted when life around us is so uncertain and fractured. We have a good life of honest work.
    Take some time to celebrate June Dairy Month with delicious treats with those around you who work day in and day out to produce them.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, 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.