Ramblings from the Ridge

Not a moment to rest


The calendar has turned to June Dairy Month. Signs are up for our local dairy breakfast, and I am trying to channel my creativity into coming up with different projects for the FFA kids to do to engage the 1,200 visitors we anticipate coming. One of the other fair moms and I spent two hours registering kids (and ourselves) for the Elroy Fair last week. We really went out on a limb with some of the entries; let’s hope the cattle all feel like cooperating. The kids are excited, and that fuels us to keep moving on things. The pigs have to be walked over the scale to make sure they are not overweight, and if so, we have to put them on a salad diet, and trust me, that does not impress them very much. 

I suppose that I am preaching to the proverbial choir when I say that trying to get first crop done in between rainstorms has proven to be a bit of a challenge. The hay grew taller and thicker, and the only thing that keeps us from complaining about all this moisture is the fact that we were bone dry last year. We know very well that “it could be worse” because last year it was. For a few days last week, my dad bounced between planting corn and cutting hay. Ira left school early the last two days so that he could come and take over in the discbine. We started chopping at 8 a.m. Friday and stopped at midnight. It was raining by 7 a.m. the next morning. It was the right amount of moisture to make things a tad greasier in the fields, so no chopping on Saturday. 

While the guys were readying the equipment for action Sunday morning, the girls in the barn had some noteworthy excitement. We had a set of triplet heifer calves born. All three are adorable, spunky, tiny and have great appetites. We went rogue on our naming this time. Snap, Crackle and Pop was the majority vote with Stella, Brynn and me. They will most definitely be accompanying us to the dairy breakfast in town for their public debut. 

We uncovered the pile at noon on Sunday while watching the merger start out in the fields across the road. His speed and frequent stops were evidence of the thickness of the hay crop. The trucks started their rattling and grumbling shortly thereafter. As I worked on lunch, with my back to the window, I could tell who the driver was by their usage of the Jake Brake. The addition of a dump cart was a great timesaver for this crop. Some spots in the fields had standing water, while many slopes were slimy to try to crawl up. The cart would load and meet the truck at the road to transfer the silage to them. The chopping crew was all in agreement that they had to keep going to prevent the hay from getting rained on again. The forecast was talking more rain on Monday morning. They chopped all night long, thankfully with no breakdowns and no accidents. I’m not so sure the neighbors were impressed, but hopefully they understand that “make hay while the sun shines” is a real deal sometimes. 

Don, the milkman, was the early breakfast delivery guy on Monday, bringing the posse milk and sandwiches to keep them fueled up. My crew of kids, who actually got to sleep a few hours, arrived at 8:30 a.m. bearing muffins and energy. Ira was among the weary who drove a silage truck all night, and while he still had a smile that said he felt good for working hard, his eyes were tired. As the last truck pulled in and dumped, we could see the rain coming in the distance from the peak of the pile and knew we were in for a cold shower. The load was pushed and probably should have had more packing, but time was of the essence, and we knew it. Peter drove the skid loader up with the plastic rolls on it, and we each grabbed and ran to pull it the length of the bunker. As the first wave of rain hit, we were all scrambling to overlap layers of plastic and hold it down from the wind. Ray Baby brought buckets of tires (and two mice) to weigh it down, and we worked, laughed and squealed as the rain pierced us. Lightning struck in the distance, and the electricity in the air sent any wayward hairs the girls on the pile had straight up in the air. 

We took a break when the rain became so intense that we couldn’t see straight and the makeshift tire umbrellas weren’t working and headed for the shop. As I looked around at all the bone-tired, puddle-dripping, muffin-eating, smiling and laughing faces, I was so appreciative of this crew. From third grade to their 40s, we all understood how important this was to get done. We could feel the rain soaking through to our underlayers, and we were not quite done with the bunker. But there was no complaining — just storytelling of the naps snuck during the night, the wet fields, the drivers’ antics and the thankfulness that the rain did actually come. Staying up all night would have been pointless had it not. When we could hear that the rain let up, we went back out and finished our job. 

It was a wild 24 hours on our farm. All animals and people made it through them safe and sound. The first crop is tucked in tight, and Snap, Crackle, and Pop will move outside today. What a start to June Dairy Month. 

Jacqui Davison and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres in northeastern Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help 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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