Dec. 27 marked eight years that my family and I have lived on our farm. While the new year inspires most people to look forward to resolutions, I inevitably think back to the winter we made our move to Norwalk, Wisconsin.
This was our fourth move in three years. We were determined to dairy farm, even though the industry and the odds told us it was impossible to start on our own. This time would be different because there was language in the rental agreement that allowed us to purchase the farm within the first year of renting. We made plans to leave our rented farm in Muscoda, Wisconsin, and plant some roots in Monroe County.
We had all four kids by this time. Alice was 7, Sam was 5, Emma was 2 and Lily was 10 months  old. Since we had 80 cows, around 30 youngstock and a small line of equipment to move 70 miles, we decided it was in everyone’s best interest to have the kids spend Christmas with my parents in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, while we packed up the farm. 
The night before the cows were scheduled to move, the pickup truck and flatbed trailer were loaded with a bale of straw, the bedding chopper and the feed cart. We had a friend plan to leave with that load around 4 a.m. the next day. We had no way to haul our tractor and mixer to the new place, so my husband Jason mixed a batch of feed and left at 1 a.m. to drive it there. A 986 can make it from Muscoda to Norwalk in about 4.5 hours, and the pickup truck made it to the farm shortly after Jason arrived with the feed.
I stayed behind in Muscoda to milk the cows in the morning. The semitruck was scheduled to come to the farm to load the cows at 7 a.m., so I planned to start milking by 4 a.m. (We were milking 80 cows in a 40-stall barn at the time.) The trailer would be dropped at the new place, and Jason and the friend would drive back to Muscoda to help load cows.
I went to bed around 11 p.m. while Jason was still mixing feed and loading things (Yes, he pulled an all-nighter, like many of you reading can probably relate to.) and set my alarm for 3:45 a.m. I am naturally a morning person and had no concerns that I would be up on time. I did not realize, however, that going to bed knowing there were no children to potentially wake in the night (for the first time in seven years) would cause me to fall into such a deep slumber that I would miss the alarm the next day. 
I woke up at 6 a.m. and ran out to start chores. A few minutes later, a couple high school kids showed up to help, thinking I would be done with the first round and ready to switch cows. I had to guiltily inform them that I had not even started yet.
Luckily, the semitruck was slightly behind schedule as well, and everyone showed up just as we were finishing. Jason and our friend arrived back with the pickup truck. My dad and his sister came to start packing the house, and the cows were loaded. The driver of the truck asked me about our plans. I told him we were moving to our own farm. His wife was riding with that day, and he was glad to be able to inform her that we were not selling out. I will always remember how optimistic and confident I felt when I assured him we were just moving and not selling. 
The cows were all loaded into the semitruck and a few trucks and trailers. Jason went on with the cows, and I stayed behind again to take care of the heifers and calves and continue packing. The first milking in the new barn was done by those helpful high school kids, and Jason went to get a load of hay from Richland Center, Wisconsin, where we purchased it from another farmer.  
I got the house packed with the help of my dad and aunt. My uncle and cousin came the next day to help drive loads and haul furniture. Our new house was supposed to have new flooring in when we got there, but it did not. We ended up unloading all of our belongings into the garage, except the kitchen items. The first month at our new residence was spent sleeping on the floor around the construction. 
The following weeks were spent driving back and forth to Muscoda between chores and after chores for load after load of equipment. There was also a silo and a bag of feed to haul to the new place as well. 
The new barn was an 88-cow tiestall barn of 240 feet in length. The first 10 days straight of us being at that farm, Jason came to the barn only to find the whole thing flooded every morning. It had been empty for about six months before we arrived, and when the water was turned back on, there was something that caused a drinking cup or 10 to malfunction, causing a flood. The barn cleaner would go round and round for hours trying to get the barn clean again. 
Jason has a hard time remembering that winter without developing a nervous tick for all the hours he spent in the truck and all the nights of sleep he missed. I try to remember the highlights – all the people who showed up to help us move, taking our kids to school the first day after Christmas break, reassuring our oldest this was her last new school and waking up every day to the sight of that big, red barn. That is a sight I had only ever dreamed of. Eight years later, I’m glad to call this place home.