This Christmas I found myself being more reflective than I have been in the past. I think so often, especially on livestock farms, we get so caught up in the tasks of farming and getting stuff done just to spend a little time with family during the holidays that we neglect to stop and take it all in. I found myself noticing my nieces’ smiles, laughing with my goddaughter as she played hide and seek with Nana, and smiling when I watched my 93 year old great grandfather just watch his family around him. I also took some time in the barn to take it all in. I was asked by my brother to milk cows and do chores so that he could visit his in laws for Christmas. Since I have a more flexible schedule I decided to help him out. For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I was at my family’s farm working with my parents and sisters. This year, more than ever before I needed to stop and take it in. This is the last Christmas Eve and Christmas morning that I will ever milk in my great grandfather’s original barn, as in the coming months my family’s herd will be moving into a new parlor that my brother is building. I am overjoyed at the farm’s progress but I can’t help my smile and tear up a little bit thinking about the memories in that old barn.
My favorite mornings and nights to milk are during Christmas. I love the calm in the barn, the calm in the moonlight and star light at winter time, the calm in the morning at sunrise just as the sun shine hits the frozen Earth. I love the gentleness of the cows as they pass into the barn, a soft nudge while I lock them into their milking stalls, and a wet kiss with their scratchy tongues as I pet their heads. I love the smell of cows, their feed, the fresh bedding, and I even think freshly fallen Christmas snow smells. I will always remember the years we put Christmas lights on the pasture fences, the silo pipes and the milk room, and how they made the whole farm glow in the snow. I love the memories of working as a family to get chores done in time to make it to Grandpa’s house and the stories told by my father and mother of Christmas’s past. I can’t help but feel connected to my past when I’m in that old barn. I bet those walls have some amazing stories from Christmas when my dad was a little boy, or even when my grandfather was a boy! I bet there was lots of laughter, as my dad’s family is filled with pranksters and story tellers. I can’t even begin to imagine how much wisdom and lessons learned happened inside those walls! The good news is that my family doesn’t plan on tearing that old barn down. It will remain a pillar of the farm for the future. The barn will be used for calving in fresh cows and taking care of newborns, but it won’t be the same life it had as a milking barn with a vacuum pump firing up in the morning and lights on late at night. So as I reflect on my last Christmas milking in that barn, I can’t help but feel blessed to have an experience that only a few are blessed to have.