Autumn is for appreciation

I turned the calendar this morning to October.
How did that happen? The leaves are turning their brilliant array of colors. The tasty potpourri of squash soup and applesauce are filling my house. It must be fall.
We have made it through the first month of school with only minor chaos and minimal crying before the bus comes in the morning and never from Cora. She runs gleefully to the bus and doesn’t look back. Her biggest complaints regarding school thus far are that they make her keep her shoes and clothes on all day, and that there is no nap time. She may be the only child ever to wish for a nap time. The boys are pros at this whole school thing, but Ira has definitely hit the age where the complaints about homework and things at school are starting to become more frequent. Dane and Henry have minimal out of class work, so they are living the easy life of young scholars.
The second corn silage bunker is covered. We harvested more days and put up more tonnage than ever before. Overall, corn silage harvest went quite smoothly. Only minor breakdowns – flat tire on the hill with a straight truck, chopper plugged up a few times – set us back hours instead of days. That tantalizing smell of fresh chopped corn could be smelled across the whole farm, making me wish I could bottle it up and replicate it in the form of a candle. That lovely scent is now replaced by the odor of nature’s fertilizer. Dad and Ira have been planting rye as fast as the corn comes off. They are followed by the manure trucks to soak the ground and promote fast germination of the rye.
We are using the new maternity pens for our laboring cows. I am suspicious they have that new barn smell yet, and that scares some of the mothers. It is rare that a first calf heifer will lay down and be calm, and even some of the older girls prefer to walk in circles and reach their necks as far over the gate as their body allows. I keep hoping as it cools down and we get the curtains closed and a door on the end they will feel safer and calm down faster. For now, I give them a while to decide if it’s OK there, then I move them to the old calving pen if they make it clear they have zero desire to lay down. After all, my goal is to have a live healthy calf that I don’t have to deliver. So if moving the mother is what I have to do, I will do it.
With the children back in school, our main skid loader driving work force isn’t available in the middle of the day to bed the calf barn. Jaime and I are thinking we may have to promote ourselves to skid loader operators sooner than later. While the kids are perfectly capable of helping after school to run the straw bedder attachment on the skid loader, it makes for some very long days for us when we wait for them. This weekend we managed to get all the weaned calves moved around and the pens cleaned out in the calf barn. The sunshine and warmer weather helped motivate all involved, and the barn feels brighter.
I am overwhelmed, humbled, astounded, surprised and, best of all, grinning with a happy heart after the incredible party last week. OK, it was a benefit, but thinking of it as a party is much easier. It was part class reunion, family reunion, friend reunion and completely joyful. There were smiles and hugs happening everywhere. Not a single complaint about the long walk after parking stretched along the highway. The live auction was a fast-paced event peppered with tears, laughs, hugs and pictures as a record number of pies, quilts, lefse and frozen chickens made their way through the generous crowd. The tears falling were those of joy, love and amazement of our fellow humans. The hugs were given freely and frequently. New friends journeyed from Michigan after reading about the benefit in this very newspaper, and those we had lost track of for a few years came to support us and enjoy the party. People were generous, so incredibly generous. It was a mind-blowing experience while also being a restorative one. There is that tendency to focus on the misery in the world or in one’s own life. On that day, there was no excuse for not seeing the good people can bring to one another. In our small corner of rural Wisconsin, we were reminded that there are amazing, giving, unbelievably good people in this world.
Thank you, all of you. Those who flew in to party with us, those who drove miles and those who have been sending prayers to the heavens. Those who donated; those who helped orchestrate. Those who helped in any way whatsoever. We are so lucky to have all of you in our lives. Thank you.
Gracious in receiving. Generous in giving. These were the words that came to me as I drove home. This is also how I hope I live life. Being on the receiving end of something of such magnitude was not and is not easy, but if I remind myself how good it feels to give and how I need to allow others that feeling, it becomes easier to accept. I know I will forever smile about that day. Thank you.
Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos, and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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