My Fantastic Beasts

As a farmer and an animal lover I have always loved or felt a very strong connection to movies and books involving animals. How to Train Your Dragon is an example, but since it’s release in I believe 2017, the Harry Potter prequel movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has been my absolute favorite movie of all time.

For those who don’t know, the movie focuses on a wizard, Newt Scamander, and his adventures in NYC with his magical case full of creatures. From the moment I first saw the movie I have felt extremely connected to Newt as a character. And this has to do with both his personality and his animals. As a person I consider myself a bit of a loner sometimes, and also extremely socially awkward all the time, and many times I find it much easier to be with my animals than with humans. That’s not to say I don’t have any friends or I never talk, I’ve gotten much better at that over the years. But I’m still and probably always will be an extremely awkward person. And the same can be said about Newt Scamander.

But more important are the animals in the movie, and also the connection that Newt has to them. Throughout the movie the love and care Newt has for his creatures is obvious, especially in the moments where they make it obvious that owning and breeding the creatures is illegal in the movie. There is nothing that Newt wouldn’t do for his creatures, which can be seen for viewers after about ten minutes into the movie and throughout the rest of it.

So how does this connect to me? Well to begin, since my grandpa’s day, my family has owned a dairy farm. I bet most people could’ve guessed that by the title of my blog being called A Dairy Farmer’s Truth. For a long time it was my grandpa and my dad working on the farm with the help of our neighbors and my aunt and sometimes me and my sister. But for a very long time, I had no interest in working on the farm myself. In fact when I was younger I wanted a horse, and I even took riding lessons for a while. But then, I can’t completely explain what connected in my brain, but in 2012 when we were doing our yearly visit to the county fair, I saw a breed of dairy cow called Linebacks. Everything changed after that.

It wasn’t long after that when I had my own lineback, Katy, and I began to show cows at the fair. These days I have what my family calls my own herd among our actual herd, which is mostly Holstein, or the black and white cows. This was about eight years ago now.

About a year after Katy, more things began to happen. I lost my first cow, a Jersey named Hazelnut, and at the same time, my mom temporarily lost her job. During this time she had also began to develop and interest in alpacas. She learned more about them during this time without a job, and by 2014 we had seven alpacas and an alpaca farm in what used to be our backyard. Only a few months in, everything was still a learning process, and we lost one of our boys to something called a menengial worm, which is commonly spread through snails and slugs spread through deer poop. And since our house sits across the road from the woods, deer an a very common sight around here.

That being said, good things always tend to follow the bad, especially in farming, from what I’ve experienced. Just last year we almost lost our remaining two boys to the same worm, but with luck, and the will of God, we were able to save them. If we hadn’t lost Prince back in 2015, we probably would have no more boys today.

Another thing we learned concerning this was that ducks eat the snails and slugs that cause the menengial worm. So last year during March we got ourselves four ducks. This in itself was and still is another learning experience. We found ourselves learning how to incubate eggs, and the difference between types of eggs. And then a few months ago, we learned that we also had hawks around here, and that hawks like to get ducks. I bet you can guess what happened next. So, this next March we plan on getting more, but only after we do some work and building out in the alpaca field to protect them from hawks.

Other animals we have include cats and dogs both inside and outside the house. And also for a little while, back before I got into dairy cows my sister and I each had a rabbit that we took care of. A few years ago my sister’s died of old age, and we got another one at a different county fair than the one that I show cows in. We were assured by the owners that the one we bought was a boy, to go with the other boy that I had back at home. This it turns out, was not true. So at one point the rabbits bit a hole through the divider in the middle, and a little while later we had baby rabbits. We eventually ended up with ten. This was a few years ago now, and many have died of old age, so we are now down to three, which is still more than we started with. And after the events of the last few weeks and months, which include my dad getting diagnosed with congestive heart failure and having a defibrillator put in a few weeks ago, and my grandpa dislocating his hip for the third time on Christmas, I have become the only one with time to take care of the rabbits anymore. So just a few days ago I decided that I guess they were now my rabbits.

As you can tell I have about as many creatures as Newt Scamander. And like he does in the movie, I take care of and love them with all of my heart. Another similarity I find that also connects me to this story so much is the amount of people in the movie that don’t understand his creatures and are trying to get rid of them. This reminds me of the millions of times I have done my best to educate people on farming through social media and this blog. Indeed Newt writes a book on how the creatures should be protected and not killed. I myself have written a small book on my life on the farm with all of my creatures, which I self published, but I hope to maybe refine and publish through a bigger, actual publisher in the future. There are also a few things that Newt says in the movie along the lines of trying to educate other wizards about his creatures and protect them from humans, who are as he says, “the most dangerous creature on the planet”. I couldn’t agree with that statement more.

But protecting animals from humans really comes in farming. I have tried many times to educate people on my animals and my farms on social media and this blog all the time. There are many bad ideas and stereotypes about farming out there everywhere that people got into their heads by being uneducated. Those ideas include; shearing alpacas hurts them, when in reality it is just like getting a haircut and keeps them from overheating in the summer, moving dairy calves away from their mothers is cruel and that they cry for each other, when in reality 99% of the time the mother cows don’t even know what happened and won’t even give their newborn calves a second look, and moving the calf away is for the protection of all parties involved. Also more recently I have heard that artificial insemination is supposedly rape, which is not correct at all in that cows and animals have no concept of consent, and also go about reproduction in much different ways than humans. In fact every three weeks cows will come in heat, meaning their bodies are screaming at them to reproduce, and they will jump on anything they can, including humans or other cows. AI is the best way to calm this process and to protect the herd. In fact one of my cows in my herd had a back problem a few years back because of being jumped on like that and had to stay inside during the summer for a bit. There is also one more idea that agriculture is the biggest factor in climate change and is what everyone needs to be cutting down on and getting rid of. And I can see that maybe in large scale agriculture there is some things that maybe could be done more efficiently, but there are so many other things in cities and just in general that could be done that would dramatically reduce climate change more than getting rid of farming ever could.

What a lot of people don’t realize is how much farming is important for every day lives of humans, and also how much farmers take care of an love their animals. And that goes for every single one that I discussed above. Of course there are bad people in every bunch, and that’s most likely where the bad ideas come from in the first place. Which is why my 2020 resolution is to continue and work more on educating people about farming and all of my animals. I can’t call it my New Year’s Resolution because I didn’t really think of it until yesterday, and also putting it in that category will more likely make me forget. But education in everything is important, especially in farming. Which is why if you’ve read this and stayed with me up to this point I encourage you to comment on here or read and comment any of my other posts with questions you may have. I will gladly have civilized conversations with anyone and would love to spread my knowledge into the world to work on giving farming a better name. Farming is important, and animals are taken care of and loved 99.99% of the time. Without it, all of these animals would be lost, and like it or not most likely so would the human race. Farming isn’t going anywhere, but most likely neither are the people who spread rumors and refuse to understand it. Which is why I will never stop trying to educate people.

A Review of the Year, A Review of the Decade

During this time every year, people look back and reflect on everything that happened over the past year. This year it’s even more special because it is also the end of the decade. And a lot of times at this point in the year I find myself looking back at only the bad things that happened. Sure there were a lot of things that happened this year, because a year is a very long time. They weren’t all good, and they weren’t all bad. And when reflecting back on the year in someone’s life, it is important to remember both.

This year began with our two boy alpacas getting sick with the same menengial worm that killed our other boy back in 2015. It’s weird to think that this was almost a year ago now, and that we were lucky enough that with experience and the help of God that we were able to save them, and that they are still here today.

Also this year was the first polar vortex in a long time, and possibly my life time. It resulted in my college closing for two days last January for the first time since I think the Civil War. Also during my college year I finished my junior year of college, made new friends, got even more involved in the newspaper, which at the beginning of the decade I never would’ve thought that I would be doing. And now as I head into next year I am somehow already a senior in college and also am looking at possibly becoming a co-editor in chief in my final semester.

Another thing that happened this year was that our family got ducks after we learned that they help to eat the snails and slugs that cause the menengial worm that almost killed our boy alpacas. Unfortunately we didn’t know that we also had hawks and that hawks can get ducks. So while we got the ducks in March, we lost all four of them by the beginning of December. We will be getting more next year when they return to Tractor Supply, and also after we figure out a better way to protect them from the hawks.

And now to the dairy farming part. Out of my special show cow heard I have only had one successful calf born this year, Kit, who is the granddaughter of my Katy. Since then a few have had bull calves, and others have had miscarriages. In October I thought we got lucky and we finally had another heifer calf, Jamey, but being born a week and a half early there was most likely something wrong inside that we couldn’t see. After about eight days she got bloated like calves sometimes do, but this time, for the first time that I’ve experienced, we couldn’t save her. It was heartbreaking.

Then came Charlie. She was born in July during my second to last year showing cows at the fair. She was a Milking Shorthorn, one of the three that we had in our barn. Just recently she became old enough to breed. Only when the vet came to check, he told us that she could never be bred and that she was likely to become dangerous. I had already seen weird and slightly spastic behavior from her, but I didn’t want to believe it. Only there was nothing to be done, and we had to get rid of her. This was only a few weeks before finals. Every time I lose a cow it’s different, and it hurts in a whole new, unique way that never completely goes away. I especially learned that after this year.

This year I learned what it was like to hold more responsibilities on the farm when my dad was diagnosed with cellulitis and congestive heart failure. Just two weeks ago he had to spend the night in the hospital after getting a defibrillator put in. I spent two nights home alone, watching and taking care of all of our animals. It was probably the two most stressful nights in my life. And then just last week my grandpa dislocated his hip for the third time in his life. We got lucky that it was the week after my dad’s surgery and not the week of. But this adds more work and stress to us on the farm, which we accept because we have to and because there’s no way we are going to let grandpa come back out to the barn for a while.

Other small things that happened include; I continued to practice my writing skills and am well on my way to writing my first novel, and also a cow stepped on my toe and my toenail fell off, which is not something I realized could happen until this year.

Altogether it is much easier to focus on the bad instead of the good when so many bad things happen in a year. But looking at the decade I see so many other good things that have happened. I grew up, and became the person I want to be. I got into dairy farming and got my own cows. I learned how to be responsible and love something so much more than I could ever love myself. I learned what it was like to lose, and also to win, both at the fair and in life in general. But even more than all that I learned how important it was to live this life. I learned what it was like to become an advocate for agriculture. I learned what it was like to have someone disagree with your lifestyle, even when you know that what you do is right. Dairy farming is important, in so many different ways. More than anything it, my cows, and all the rest of my animals made me who I am today. And no matter what comes in the next year, or the next decade, I know that I will still be found out in the barn among my cows and my animals, where I was always meant to be.

If you do this you should read this book

Last week I finally finished my first novel length book after working on it for months. It is also my first nonfiction book, and it details every single experience I’ve had with all of my animals. And so if that doesn’t already interest you, I have a list of a few things that might make you want to read my book.

1. If you know me personally and know about my animals, obviously you should read my book.

2. If you’re a loyal follower of my blog and want something that goes into much more detail you should read this book.

3. If you want to read a book about animals that includes pictures at the end of each chapter then you should read this book.

4. If you only know about dairy farming from things you’ve read or seen on the Internet and want to read actual, true stories then you should read this book.

5. And lastly if you simply want to know more about cows, alpacas, ducks, cats and dogs then once again you should read this book.

Memory: True Stories of an American Farmer is available on Amazon now.

The one in which I go into a feminist rant

Throughout my relatively short life on the farm there are two main stereotypes I have heard and had to deal with. One: dairy farming is a cruel industry, and two: it’s a man’s job. I might come back to the first one because I talk about that a lot, but today I’m choosing to focus mainly on the second one.

As a woman in the dairy industry I sometimes find the second stereotype to be even more annoying than the first one. I’m not sure what it is that made me think a lot about this lately but it seems to continually come up and weigh on my mind in these past few days. But maybe it’s just the fact that I have yet to post on this topic that made me think that now is the correct time to do it.

There are many things over the last few years about why women shouldn’t be farmers. The biggest one is that it’s a “man’s job” because women can’t handle the “hard stuff”. It’s either that or when women want to be farmers their immediately labeled a tomboy or assumed to be a lesbian. I’m not saying that being a lesbian is a bad thing because I don’t think that at all and many of my friends are or a member of the LGBTQ community.

But that is off subject a bit. As a woman who is definitely a tomboy but not a lesbian I find every single stereotype about women farmers to be annoyingly stupid. As someone who has also been a feminist for a very long time I find basically every single stereotype annoying. Another aspect that continually comes up is that a straight woman farmer needs to have a boyfriend or get married so they’ll have a man to help them do that stupid “hard stuff” that I mentioned before. I have never had a boyfriend in my life, through nothing but my own choice. And I may never have one or get married because I don’t know if that is what the future holds for me or not and because unlike another stereotype that comes up not just in farming but in everything a woman’s life should not revolve around a man or being in a relationship.

Whenever I tell someone at college that I plan on taking over the farm after I graduate I always get a slightly surprised reaction no matter who I tell. It is probably because I am going to college for creative writing and not at an agricultural school but I’m sure my being a woman is unconsciously a part of it too. Because it’s a man’s job that still to this day some people think only a man can do.

The idea of something being a man or woman’s job is ridiculous to me. I firmly believe a person should be able to do the job and career they want without being judged or having things assumed about them because of that type of label. Why shouldn’t I as a woman be a farmer, and why does that have to be so uncommon? Because of the hard stuff that I keep mentioning?

Let me tell you about this hard stuff that I supposedly can’t handle. I can lift grain bags that weigh up to fifty pounds. It can be a struggle but I can do it. And if I can’t do something like that I figure out a way that I can. But that’s not the hard stuff I hear about the most. What I hear most is about the emotional hard stuff.

When I was thirteen years old my first cow died. She was nine months old and while I did not actually see her body after I saw her the day before and it’s something I will never forget. When I was sixteen on the way home from a bowling match I got a call telling me my cow that was having a calf that night had the calf that was born dead. A few months before on our alpaca farm we had an alpaca die for the first time. That was the first dead body I ever saw. And about one month after the cow had the calf that was born dead, the cow had to be taken away because if we had waited one more day she would no longer have been able to stand. She died on the trailer. And when I was eighteen nine days after my newest calf was born she died and we still don’t know why. And just last year my third cow that I ever had and that I loved for five and a half years died. Not to mention the other pets I have that I’ve lost. All this and I only stopped being a teenager last year. So you tell me, what exactly is the hard stuff that I can’t handle?

On Alpacas

While dairy farming is our main farm source that my family has, we also have a small alpaca farm in our backyard, which is pretty cool and always fun to tell people. It started a few years ago, first meaning to be a new job for my mom when she temporarily lost her old one, but then since she got it back it became a bit more like a hobby.

We started out with seven of them, five from one farm and two brothers from a different farm. We’ve got four girls; Saber, Aurora, Silver Moon and Charmin, and then we had three boys; Zonji, Coal and Prince. A few years ago back when we were beginners Prince got worms which eventually made him so sick that he couldn’t even stand anymore. Of course since we were beginners we had no idea until it was too late and he passed away. Just lately Coal, the brother of Prince, also got these worms but since we know more know and were prepared for it we fixed him and today he’s fine.

Besides when they get sick alpacas have always seemed to me to be a much more low maintenance type of animal than cows are. Obviously they have the basic food and water needs, which basically consists of a bit of grain in the morning and more in the afternoon, a big water bucket in each barn that we fill up almost weekly or whenever it’s needed, and a supply of hay that we usually have to fill up daily. Besides those daily things there is an annual shearing day most of the time around June, when we get professionals to come in and give our kids a haircut. We then use this hair, typically called fleece to make yarn and knit or sometimes weave different things. And I’ve heard some try and say that shearing them hurts them, but it is just like a haircut for humans, and it makes them feel a lot better in the summer when their heavy coats are gone. Then during the year the fleece grows back so when winter comes again they have a lot of fleece again so they stay warm throughout. Another thing that happens during shearing day and a few other times if needed is that we give them shots to help keep away the worms and clip their toenails to help stop them from catching them on stuff in the field that they spend most of their day in.

Alpacas are kind of funny creatures but they can always make us laugh, and though they can be skiddish and are prey animals, (so like you can’t hug them or anything), they still show us love and we love and take care of them as much as we do cows.