Looking at the date on our last inspection sheet in the milkhouse, it’s time for our state milk inspector to show up again and remind us of things we probably should have fixed before he got here. We also got a note that we’re most likely going to be seeing the federal milk inspectors this year too. It seems I always have the intention of doing the little repairs he points out in the barn, but unless they directly affect milk quality, they never seem to make it to the top of the list until around six months later when he’s due back again to check I actually got them done. He won’t be disappointed as we’ve all been busy fixing and cleaning above and beyond what he mentioned in February.
I’m not sure how it works at other people’s farms, but around here, I start a little project like replacing a rotted door in the milking parlor and it tends to snowball into fixing everything in that area. It’s just not very efficient to get out a bunch of tools and get all set up then only repair one thing and go put everything back away in the shop. If I have the tools out and I’m set up, I might as well repair all those things that have been annoying me for a while. My wife, Emily, likes to compare my way of working to the children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” It’s an accurate description.
We needed to repaint the walls of the pit in the parlor as the paint was flaking off. It is just so much brighter with nice, new paint in there. Emily started painting the pit. Then, it turned into giving our new employee a dust mask and a grinder to prep the metal in the parlor. We’ve been repainting all the steel one section at a time. It’s hard to put paint on and get it dry between milkings in an area that’s always wet, so to keep ourselves and the cows from looking like we all got assaulted by a crew of painters, we paint what can be done in an hour so it has plenty of time to dry before the next milking. The parlor looks nice with all that shiny new paint. We better wash the milk lines and receiver jar extra well or they’ll look dirty even if they would have looked pretty good previously.
I told Emily that it won’t take me long to replace a door in the parlor that goes to the heifer shed area behind our barn. I was wrong, like usual. What should have been simply prying off some old rotted trim boards and a door and replacing it with a nice nail on door and frame turned into a six-hour project quickly. I found the post on one side of the door was completely rotted off from the ground to 12 inches up. I had to pull some of the steel off the wall and cut the post off then jack the wall up a bit to put a new section in. That accomplished, it was time to install the door. But because they don’t make door frames sized for pole barn walls, I had to frame it in and mount it in a nontypical way if I wanted it flush with the inside wall of the parlor. I got that all done and trimmed it out with some broken and dented cedar boards we’d stashed in the hayloft leftover from house projects. It pays to save stuff like that. Now if I can just get the garage door company here to replace a broken sliding door the cows like to run into with an overhead door, the milk inspector will have no more doors to worry about because they’ll pretty much all be new.
Today, we are loading up the kids’ 4-H calves and hauling them to the fair so I’ll finish this up by wishing you all the best of luck in whatever you’re being judged on whether it’s the quality of your 4-H cattle or cleanliness of your stainless steel in the milkhouse. Until next time, keep living the dream and add 50% to the expected time to complete a project when someone asks if you want to be honest.
    Tim Zweber farms with his wife Emily, their three children and his parents Jon and Lisa by Elko, Minnesota.