Memories in color


Having a smartphone has allowed me to take hundreds of photos of our experience raising kids on the farm over the past decade. The only problem is, I never did anything with the photos. I would capture the moment and then let it disappear into the cloud.  

Since the dispersal of our herd in June, my 10-year-old daughter has really been missing a few of her favorite cows. I decided to get a few photos ordered so that she could remember them. I navigated to Google Photos and immediately went down a rabbit hole of memories. I ended up spending a couple hours and a few dollars on ordering way more prints than I originally intended to. When I saw the total number of prints ordered, I thought perhaps I went a little overboard.

When the box of about a thousand photos arrived in the mail, however, I had no regrets. The kids and I sat down and put all the photos in albums, laughing and crying at all that we have endured in the last decade or so and all the animals we were blessed to care for along the way. 

There are photos of everyday life: the kids filling water tanks, feeding bottle calves, my husband doing fieldwork or hauling manure, selfies with my favorite cows and kids riding bikes through the mangers.

There are photos of momentous times, like remodeling from a tiestall barn to a step-up parlor and freestall setup. This included pulling out 480 feet of barn cleaner chain. Out with it came a lot of stress and grief it had caused us. It also included my brother taking a week to help us pour concrete. There is a photo of all the cows lying on their sand-bedded stalls after the sand shooter bucket failed and my husband spent an entire night pitching sand by hand to get the project done.

There are so many photos of animals too. Dogs, cats, cows, chickens — and one of the time I came out to milk cows and found a huge owl perched in the holding area. I’m amazed that the kids can remember the names of all the cats that have come and gone as well as so many bull calves that were not even with us that long.

Some times were not so great when they happened but are fun to reflect on since we know we all survived. Like the time my oldest daughter took her bike down the biggest hill on the farm and ended up with a concussion while I was milking and her dad was working in the fields. The photo of that day includes her three younger siblings waiting in the emergency room, covered in dirt and manure and missing shirts and shoes. I’m still thankful for that understanding doctor who said she would rather see dirty kids playing outside than clean kids who sat around and watched TV all day.

A decade worth of memories filled four big photo albums, and I can’t describe how therapeutic it has been to page through them. It has been almost six months since we closed the chapter on our dairy career, and every day I have conflicting emotions about it. Sometimes I can’t believe we ever did all that work, and some days I can’t believe we quit. It is tempting to dwell on all the hard times that went with milking to justify why we chose to sell our cows.

These photos reminded me of how many smiles we shared during our dairy days. It’s hard to realize that even if we brought cows back, it would never be the same because our kids will never be that little again. All we can do is be grateful for the time we had with our animals and be happy that our glory days included cows and children.

There is something special about seeing the memories in colorful, tangible photos. I encourage you to take more photos and treat yourself to getting them printed. It was worth it for me, and it might be for you too.


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