Summer dreaming

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What a difference a year makes! I’ve mowed my yard more in one month than I did all last summer. The grass in the front of the house appears to have come back from the dead. It is now soft as velvet. I can’t seem to keep my shoes on because I just want to be a little girl running around the yard catching butterflies. Summer dreaming.

The corn is loving these first few weeks of summer. I think I can actually see it growing as I look out the living room window. In one month, the rows have completely canopied over. Forget knee-high by the Fourth of July. It is hip high by Flag Day (June 14).

Because of the great growing conditions, it has been a chaotic rush around the farm to get everything done between chores and milkings. The summer life of a dairy farm family. Living the summer dream of excitement, adventure and travel. Of course, I think there is a difference in definition. Travel is between fields. Excitement is juggling several jobs — spraying, fertilizing and first-crop hay — all at the same time. Adventure is waiting to see which direction I have to run for parts when equipment breaks down. The summer pace makes all the other workdays of the year seem like a lazy day on the couch.

The great growing conditions also mean the short-bred heifers need to get moved to the pasture. Last year, Austin tried an experiment in selective paddock grazing. By grazing selected areas, it gave the rest of the pasture time to recover, and the heifers had a continuous smorgasbord of young plants to eat. In theory, it should work, but last year was the wrong year to experiment. With no rain, the pasture never recovered. The best thing that came out of Austin’s experiment was the ease with which we could move heifers around the pasture. They were well trained and waited to enter the next paddock without much struggle.  

Previously, when the heifers used to have the whole pasture all summer, moving them was a pure workout in agility training as you tried to cut them off from escaping a small crack in our defensive line while they were oblivious to a wide-open gate to freedom. You know, if you left a gate open by mistake, they would find the opening within an hour. When you leave the gate open for them to go through, they can’t see it right next to their head! As my dad always said, “There’s nothing dumber than a heifer;” then he would look at his teenage daughters. He was quite the comedian.

Right now, we’re trying to finish up spreading fertilizer between rains. After last year, we can’t complain about too much water, but maybe we can be a little frustrated. The forecast is calling for flooding due to the current weather system sitting above us. We just have to be flexible and breathe. Kind of like pilates or yoga. We will get through it one way or another.  Irving Berlin said, “Above the storm clouds is a clear blue sky.”

For me, summer dreaming has the soundtrack of the Beach Boys and Mustang convertibles cruising down the back roads on a warm summer day. There will be dirty dishes in the sink and farm clothes to wash. There will still be weeds to pull and lawns to mow, but I will choose to get away from the race for a moment to enjoy time with my family and friends.

You know, we all have a choice each and every single day. We can choose to feel blessed. We can choose to feel grateful. We can choose to be excited. We can choose to be thankful. We can choose to be happy. I choose living the summer dream on our farm.

As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark Schmitt started an adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.

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