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.

Time Ticks On

I’ve been finding myself thinking a lot about the passage of time lately. Especially around this time of the year I find myself looking back at everything that has happened in my life. Specifically yesterday I was thinking about how by the end of next month it’ll have been six years since the worst day of my entire life. Other random times I’ll find myself thinking about how old some of my first cows are getting, and about how much we’ve been through together.

Today specifically I find myself thinking about all that, plus one thing more. One year ago today I went home from college for the weekend and heard the news that my ag teacher, the one who throughout all of high school I referred to as my favorite teacher, was arrested for possession of child pornography. A year ago I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how to handle it. Today I find myself a lot different.

A year ago I was still trying to defend him, to wrap my head around it. Here was this gentle, kind man that I had known for what seemed like my whole life. He wasn’t a criminal, he wasn’t a monster. So many other people were so quick to jump up and say he was disgusting and why can’t I just see that. And I know I couldn’t have been the only one feeling that way.

Today I feel different. Today it has sadly become a fact of life. I couldn’t stop crying for days after that last year. But today my feelings are different. I no longer cry about it. Honestly today I feel a mix of things. I feel anger, angry at him a little bit, but more so at the world and whatever could’ve happened in his life that I wasn’t a part of after I graduated to make him decide that he needed to do this. But mostly I feel pity. Pity that something did in fact happen, and that whatever happened it made him feel that he needed to turn to this. I don’t know if I forgive him or not, because he didn’t actually do anything to me, so it feels weird to think that I actually have to forgive him for anything. Except what he did, it affected everyone he knew. When a person who is so well liked and respected does something like that, it affects the whole community, whether they realize it or not.

Another thing that I have been thinking about lately is my cows. Specifically my older ones, and during this time of year I’m always thinking about one in particular, and one night in particular. October 30, 2013. I was fourteen years old. I was a child, still learning how to be a decent person and how to speak up and defend myself. I had just recently gotten my cows, around a year before to be exact, and they were teaching me things that I could never have noticed at the time. Well that night was the night that I always say I grew up, and I became an adult before I needed to or was expected to.

No one expected it to happen. Hazelnut was my first Jersey. She was nine months old, she was meant to live for many years later. Until suddenly she wasn’t.

The one thing I’ve learned from farming is to always be ready for anything. Expect the unexpected. Except sometimes there’s no way to expect or prepare for something like this.

The last time I saw Hazelnut she was a bloated mess laying on the floor. That sounds disgusting, but that’s the only way I can describe it. And even now I can still picture her so clearly in my mind on that last day that it’s even caused me to have a panic attack in the middle of a college classroom one time last year. Even now I find myself thinking about it and shaking a little bit.

I never know how to explain myself to my friends here at college. They all know how much I love my cows, and what they mean to me. But every year I find myself saying how much I hate Halloween, and having to just say it’s for personal reasons because I don’t know how to explain it, and because honestly sometimes I think I might start sobbing still when I try to explain it.

I’ve been thinking about this, because as it is September Halloween is on it’s way. A lot of my friends are all excited for “spooky season” but I can’t get on that boat anymore. It might’ve happened on the 30th, but she died the next morning, Halloween morning. And so I hate Halloween, and probably will for the rest of my life.

This year it’ll have been six years since that terrible night. If it hadn’t happened, and it really shouldn’t have happened, she would’ve been six years old this upcoming February. I can’t even imagine that. In my head she will always be the little nine month old Jersey, taken way too soon.

I can’t help but think of this and everything else I’ve been through when I hear people saying that dairy farming is wrong or bad in any way. It’s accidents like this that make people more likely to think that, but what a lot of people don’t get is how dangerous this job actually is. They don’t get that there are some things that just can’t be prepared for. Farmers are not around their cows every single moment, and sometimes things happen in those moments. And then people say well it’s just for profit, and farmers don’t give a crap if a cow dies, except that they’re sad that they lost money. This has never been about money. And if you don’t believe me, well you must not have been reading this blog post very carefully.

Things happen, and sometimes those things serve to define who you are as a person. Life is hard, and sometimes it’s extremely hard. Sometimes you’re left to question how you move on, and what could possibly come next. But those things that happen, I fully believe it is God sending a message, or making you stronger. The hardest moments in life are the things that you come out of on the other side as a stronger, wiser, and more beautiful person than you were before.

I don’t know who I would be today if I didn’t farm and I didn’t write. Those are the two things that I feel that I was always meant to do, no matter how many people tried to tell me not to. I say this all the time, but I mean it. If it wasn’t for my cows I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And if I didn’t write, I don’t know if I actually would’ve made it through some of the things that I’ve been through. If it wasn’t for those two things, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I might not even be in college, or if I was, it wouldn’t be studying creative writing.

But after everything, the number one thing I’ve learned is that time ticks on. And sometimes things just hurt, and they hurt so much that at the time you can’t help but think that there’s absolutely no way you could ever get through this. And yet time ticks on. And sometimes the best and only thing you can do is to tick on right along with it.

Shame on you

You would think by now I would learn not to comment on posts on Facebook where people are just going to respond and say what I do for a living is terrible, but it seems I haven’t learned. Well today someone said shame on you to me for doing nothing but loving and treating my cows right. And for some reason it’s sticking with me. Because I am not and never will be ashamed of what I do. Nothing will ever convince me the last seven years of my life were wrong and shameful. But if love is shameful then fine, shame on me. If meeting my first cow and having an instant connection so much that she has been my best friend for the last seven years is shameful, then fine, shame on me. If sitting next to a dying nine month old cow that should still have been alive today except for the accident that no one could control, at fourteen years old, and realizing that I was never going to see her again after that night, and therefore having to grow up and become an adult at fourteen years old is shameful, then yeah shame on me. If being told I’m much more mature than any other kid my age, and having the only reason for it being because I learned to be responsible and take care of something other than myself because I had my cows is shameful, then fine shame on me. If having my first panic attack of my life because I thought one of my cows was going to run into the road is shameful, then yup shame on me. If seeing a calf be born dead and see the mother get worse and worse and then get better a bit only to get worse again and then we lose her, and because of this watching and needing updates and watching and checking on my cows every single time they’re pregnant because I can’t let it happen again is shameful, then shame on me. If having one of my cows do a backflip and fall over her head and not be able to breathe until I know whether or not she’s going to be ok, and then going to hide and cry in the bathroom in both relief and horror after what just happened is shameful, then shame on me. If having a heifer slip and fall on my ankle and almost break it, if not breaking it a little and going back into the barn after knowing I could walk on it and feeding the heifers because they needed it and it was time to feed them and never actually getting it checked out, resulting in me walking with a heavier foot fall and having my ankle hurt every time it’s humid, but not really caring because I’m used to it now is shameful, then shame on me. If losing a calf after only nine days, or after one day and having to go somewhere and pretend like everything is normal when it’s really not but it’s a feeling that can’t be put into words is shameful then shame on me. If losing a cow after five and a half years and months later still walking into the barn and feeling like there’s a hole in the world where she should be is shameful, then shame on me. If time and time again I found myself worrying about one or another of my cows for a different reason or another no matter what the results end up being is shameful, then shame on me. If you’ve never felt the love of a cow, if you’ve never had the experience of sitting down next to a cow and having them turn and their head and fall asleep on you, with both of you feeling absolutely safe and at peace and can sit there for hours, then you don’t know what you’re missing. If anything mentioned above seems shameful to you, then you will not understand ever and I’m sorry for you. You may say shame on me, but I will never be ashamed to love a cow.

2018

As we have arrived at the last day of 2018, we have reached the day where people take time to reflect back on the year they had. My year has been a mix of good and bad; a lot more bad then I would’ve liked. The bad go something like this: my dog died, Flopsy the barn cat died, Eclipse died (see previous blog posts), my cat died, the events of September happened that everyone in my town and surrounding communities know about (once again see previous post), both of my grandmas fell and ended up in the hospital, and a friend of mine that I made last semester died of cancer.

Now the good things; my new dog, Dickens came, then our new cat, Mannix came. Our other cat got really depressed but she stayed around and got happier when the two new kids came. I finished my second semester of my freshman year, and my first semester of sophomore year. I joined my college newspaper, I started this blog, I met so many great new people and made many new friends. I published my first (and second) book. My grandmas recovered. Lunar Eclipse was born. I have two Jersey calves coming any day now.

Altogether the good definitely outnumber the bad, even though there were times in these last few months that it felt like the bad would never end. And of course there were some things that don’t fit in either category and are more nostalgic, my last year at the fair and two of my friends from the last five or six years moved to Michigan and onto a new future.

So here we are at the end of what was probably the weirdest year of my life. Things are looking up all the time and I feel more ready to move into the new year and the next semester of my college experience than I have in a long time. I probably felt the same at the beginning of this last year. It’s typical for one to say something like bring it on when going into a new year, and I probably did around this time last year. All I’m gonna say to 2019 is please be nice to me, and don’t be so weird. Into the next year we go.

A Letter to the One I Lost

Dear you, you the one I no longer see every day. The one I lost, the one that was found in the field with no explanation. The one I thought maybe I was finally starting to miss less, but who was I kidding it hasn’t even been a month yet. I miss you so much I can’t even make myself write your name in this post. I don’t know what brought this on really, just that I realized in a week it’ll have already been a month, and I swear it was only like a week ago. Or just when I can finally make myself look at the empty stall where you used to stand, and I can laugh at the cats sleeping in a pile in the hay that is all that is left. Did you know for a while I couldn’t even take the milker off of your neighbor when she was done because I couldn’t make myself stand up in there, let alone look at it. Did you ever get the feeling that something wasn’t right behind you, or like something was empty when it hasn’t been in a long time and it shouldn’t be? That’s what it was like for weeks. I sometimes like to imagine you running around in the field with Hazelnut who I don’t really know if you remember or not, but seeing as you’re with her now I’m sure you do. You’re up there with her, and with Cas who I know you remember seeing as she was your calf and she’s barely been gone over a year. Acorn is there with you too, though you never got to meet her. And I thought all of these names I listed would have been the worst, the ones that would hurt the most, but none of them have ever hurt as much as losing you did. I don’t know if it’s just that it’s more recent or what but there are days where it’s some small thing that has me on the verge of bawling my eyes out once again. And I don’t know if you went to heaven, because I don’t know where animals go when they die. I tell myself you do though, because I know that God put you on this earth for me for a reason, and he wouldn’t have done that if I was never going to see you again. It might not be for eighty or ninety years or so, but someday we will be together again. But right now, with this pain I still feel at random times during some random hour of some random day, well it sucks. And it sucks that some people still can’t see it, and they can’t see what dairy farmers go through and that they think of their animals as nothing more than objects, and that we are inhumane and don’t care when you die. Well I care. I care a lot, and it hurts and when I got up this morning and thought about what to say today I wasn’t planning on this but it seems to have happened. Eclipse, there I did it, I got your name in here, not that anyone reading this who knows me doesn’t know who I’m talking about, I miss you so much and it’s not fair that you got taken away, but eventually I’ll learn to accept it, even though this pain will never fully go away.

Until we meet again in eighty or ninety years, I will always and forever be your Sara.

Chautauqua County Fair 2018 Day 8: Sunday Again, The Final Day

“So here we are. You and me, on the last page.” -Doctor Who

Obviously this isn’t actually the last page, but today was the last day of the fair and my last day ever. So of course after seven years this was gut wrenching if not heartbreaking. I told myself I wouldn’t cry today, but it came out more than once. And even though I’m sitting here cleaner than I’ve been all week and super relieved to be home I’m gonna miss it terribly.

It probably didn’t help that I’m still currently running on two and a half hours of sleep and have been all day not counting the small nap I had. Now you’re all probably wondering why I only had two and a half hours of sleep. Well there’s this little annual last fair night thing known as prank night. It was my first time ever participating, and even though I’m tired I’m super glad I did. We didn’t do anything terrible, just fun, stupid stuff like stacking garbage cans. I’ll always be able to say that prank night is and forever will be my last night adventure of the fair and it’s a night I will never forget and will tell my children about in the future. It was a great night, and a great week, and an amazing last fair. It was probably the perfect fair week of the seven I’ve had, and I will always be glad that though my last week is super sad it was amazing and full of only good and great things and people. So now it is time to put to rest and say rest in peace to the Chautauqua County Fair 2018 and my 4-H Dairy Program career.

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” -Andy Bernard, The Office