The Cs of summer

Here we are more than halfway through summer, and as always, it seems to have flown by far too fast.
As I was milking one sweaty evening this week, I got to thinking about how much of the activity of this summer starts with the letter C. I know it is a crazy way to group things in one’s brain, but that’s just how this chemo-infused brain of mine works right now.
At this point, I have two miserable treatments left. I am fairly bald with only a bit of peach fuzz on this white head of mine. Looking in the mirror is an experience these days. I tell myself that my eyes still look like me and on a good day are still shining bright and a smidge sassy.
During chemotherapy week, I feel like I am crawling slowly to do everything, and that while my eyes are wide open, I can only see a sliver of the light of the sky. Perhaps the best way to describe it is standing in the feed alley of the freestall barn looking up at the peak to see the sky, and that is all the sky I can see.
The mental strain is a big one, because so much of my mental health relies upon my physical strength at the moment. I don’t know if I have ever been so happy to be able to throw hay bales and have sweat running into my eyeballs as I was this summer during a functional week. Another C word to go with these awful ones: considerate humans. I am so increasingly thankful for them.
Chopping. I am writing this to the background noise of a busy farm. The manure trucks are whizzing past the house, trying to empty a pit onto the freshly chopped hay fields. Ira and Dane are in the bunker; one pushes as the other packs our third crop haylage. They have managed this crop’s placement in the bunker entirely themselves. The chopping crew gives them compliments and constructive criticism. For two teenagers, they are doing a great job. They are on day three of going back and forth, back and forth, watching the farm’s activities from their perches on the pile. I am assured we will be done chopping today, which then means the necessary job of covering the pile with plastic and tires.
Construction. It seems everywhere you look there is a pile of lumber waiting to be put into position for a new building on this farm. The cement has been poured for the commodity bays on the end of the to-be-built shed. This shed will replace the one lost in the fire this spring, with certain things in place to better serve our farm at its current state; hence, the commodity bays. It is being built on the footprint of the old shed with a slight expansion in size. We are also putting up a three-sided shed near the calf barn for straw and hay storage. This will save time and be so convenient for the calf barn team. Our faithful cement crew poured a pad and set posts for a row of maternity pens alongside the transition barn. We have been discussing this addition for a few years and are finally putting it into reality. This will allow us to use our current calving pen as a bedded pack for injured cows.
Critters. My flock of wooly wonders has escaped but once this summer (so far). Peter got them back in by rattling dog food in a pail. You should have seen their dismay when they realized it wasn’t their grain. The laying hens are keeping us supplied with gorgeous eggs on the daily. I never cease to be delighted by this gift. The not-so-attractive broilers have at last taken up residence in their very cold homes. Our annual butchering party was this past week, and I think Dane is the happiest of all about it. He has been the token critter-feeder all summer and was happy to have less water to haul every day. The pigs went to the fair in June and came home in freezer packages. Freezers are full; winter sounds tasty.
Children. Chaos. Camaraderie.
These farm kids we are raising are pretty amazing. Yes, they can make Peter, Stacy and I crazy to be sure, but they are great help and entertainment. Henry, Finley and Cora have enlarged the sandbox twice this summer. Henry decided they were running low on sand again this week and brought not only a half a skid loader bucket of sand but all the wood cast offs from the hay shed construction. They spend every moment they can out there building pastures, pens, chopping hay, digging pits and more. As we sat down to lunch one day, the two boys informed Peter (with smug grins) that they were already done chopping their hay. Oliver and Dane are two peas in a pod that occasionally need to be separated to make sure their individual brains work. Ira can do a man’s work in the shop and never fails to amaze me with his tractor skills. They all work hard and play harder. On hot days, after work is done, they escape to the creek to catch crayfish or construct every child’s dream slip-n-slide: bunker plastic with hay bales at the bottom to make a pool.
Cows. Cooking.
I can’t forget these two. They are both so crucial to my sanity this summer. This past week was a rough one for the cows. The compost pile grew in size, unfortunately. I know that it is part of farm life, but it’s never an easy pill to swallow. The kitchen is where I am when I am not in the barn. A friend made mention of my wearing an apron as if it were my superhero cape. It is. When I put my apron on, I am mentally ready to cook, even if my body is complaining.
I hope your summer has found you content.
    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 (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), 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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