They say you never know what you have until it is gone. This may sound cliche but I can relate to this one hundred and ten percent. From the time I was born, my farm was always alive. There was an enormous amount of energy and atmosphere around my house. We raised dairy cows and if you are familiar with dairy farming, you know that it gets to be quite a task. It is a year round job that requires a large investment of your time. It involved my entire family – my parents, grandparents, uncle, and my brother and I.
Knowing all of that, you can imagine the feeling of emptiness I experienced when we sold our cows around the time I was ten years old. Since then, the atmosphere around our farm has changed drastically. It is hard to describe the atmosphere around a dairy farm to someone who has never been around one. Many people do not realize the excitement associated with a farming operation. In particular, when it is a family operation, you feel very close to everyone because you all have to come together and work towards a common goal, much like the feeling of being on a team.
I for one am also very inclined to be outside and there is a lot of that on a dairy farm. Imagine the smell of fresh cut hay in the fields, the aroma of corn dust filling up your nose, and the sounds of cattle bellowing in the distance. These things may not seem all that appealing, but to me they remind me of home. They make me think of family and of hard work. It might sound odd, but they make me think fun. The smell of manure and of silage, the sound of the barn fan turning over, the rumbling of the corn dryer – all of these things bring me a strong sense of comfort and peace.
The only way I can explain it is that they reminded me of good times. They made me feel happy. Nowadays, whenever I step foot on any farm that is alive and full of these smells, sights, and sounds, I feel this same way. It reminds me of how much I miss the days when our dairy farm was functioning. Beyond all the fuzzy warm feelings involved with our dairy farm, there was a business being run and it was set up in a very particular way. We were called “Triple F Farms”. This was based on the fact that the farm was run by primarily three parties: my parents, my grandparents, and my uncle.
All of these people having the last name Forst, they thought it clever to call the entire operation Triple F Farms. We milked around sixty head of cattle. Each morning around six o’clock the cows would come into the barn and find their stanchion and each evening around six o’clock they would come back and do the same. This was a seven day a week task. Each morning around ten o’clock, a milk truck driver would come and pump milk out of our bulk bin in the building attached to the barn and it would be sold at whatever price milk was currently at.
Beyond that, the operation was also in control of around six hundred acres of land that was planted with either corn, soybeans, alfalfa (hay), or when I was much younger, oats. The corn and soybeans were usually used as feed for the cattle as was the hay. A smaller portion of the corn and soybeans were sold on the market. Just describing the business aspect of the farming operation to you does not do it any justice however. Each person on the farm had a special place and I have very fond memories of all of them. My dad was always one of the three that were actually milking the cows.
No matter what, rain or shine, winter, summer, and spring, hot or cold – he was always in the barn twice a day to milk. He taught me the value of hard work and family. I can still picture him in those days, standing in the door of the barn after milking talking to my grandpa about the current price of milk, about which cows were getting sick, or something of that nature. In describing my dad, I could very well have been describing my grandpa and the words could have been essentially the same. I feel that everything that my father is, he was taught by my grandpa.
Many life lessons were learned in the barn and I feel that has been an important piece of all generations of the Forst family. My grandpa was almost always the second milker, in the barn morning and night. I was fortunate enough to see my grandpa every day during my childhood. Along with my grandpa came my grandma. They made for tons of great memories on the farm. When they needed to stay overnight at our place due to something going on very late or very early, they stayed in a camper type trailer parked behind our shed.
My brother Cody and I could always count on pudding snack packs being stowed away in the cupboards in that trailer and we spent a lot of afternoons eating them. My grandma, along with my mom fed the young calves morning and night. One job that I can remember from when I was very young was mixing up the milk replacer with my brother for my mom and my grandma. My uncle Alan was also a milker and when he wasn’t, it was either me or my brother filling in his spot. All these people came together to help make things run smoothly and everyone played a big role in the farm.
Other than milking, which was a huge job in itself, there were also many other jobs to be done throughout the year on a dairy farm. Starting in the spring of the year, you having to work the field over with a digger, followed by planting and eventually, spraying and cultivating. Digging makes the ground more easy to work with while the planting itself is pretty self explanatory. Spraying and cultivating are just two different methods of dealing with weeds that might pop up in your corn or bean field. As the spring turns into summer, you have to take care of the alfalfa fields which includes first cutting it.
After a time, the hay is raked, and after it is dried a good amount, it is square baled. Square baling is probably one of the hardest jobs on a farm. There were summers where over 3,500 bales were made, all of them having to be taken off of the hay rack and put onto a conveyor which took them up into the top part of the barn where they were stored. My grandma always drove the baler, my uncle Alan drove loads along with my grandpa, and my dad, my brother, and I unloaded and occasionally stacked when we had to. It was probably the time of the year when everyone had to pitch in most.
It was an all day event and we usually baled three to four times during the summer. I always had a good time but I can still remember my dad telling me, you won’t like this so much when you get to be my age. Then, in the fall of the year was harvest time, when you had to combine beans and corn, dry them to make sure they were safe to be put away into bins. My uncle Alan drove the combine while everyone else drove loads. After all of that, the cornfields needed to be chopped to get rid of the bottom of the corn stalk.
When all of that had been done, sometimes corn stalks were baled into round bales to be used as bedding. Finally, the fields were all plowed to get them ready for the next year of planting and harvest. The cycle was never ending. I spent a good chunk of my childhood on a dairy farm having a fun time working, talking, and laughing with my family members. I’ve never had such a good time as I had in those years. After my family decided it was time to sell the cows, I was crushed. I had a very rough time accepting the fact that so many things in my life were going to change forever.
We still raise beef cattle and have cropland, but it most certainly isn’t the same. It took me a long time to get over the cows being gone. However, I can remember the day when I stopped feeling so badly about it. It was a couple of months after the cows were gone; I was sitting in the living room watching television. I saw a quote that not only helped me in the situation at hand but also in many situations later in my life. It was something that Theodor Seuss Geisel once said, whom you may know by the pen name Dr. Seuss. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. ” Amen good doctor, amen.