"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain."
~Psalm 127:1

February 28, 2011

Late nights and break-downs

Farming can be incredibly rewarding, but other times it can be intensely frustrating.  Problems on a farm never seem to come one at a time, always in groups.  Cows can get in situations that they cannot get out of and need human intervention.  Robots, like parlors or any other type of milking system, can break down and need immediate attention, especially since our cows milk 24/7.

When there is a problem with the robots, an alarm is sent out by an electronic dispatcher, which will call Josiah.  It's an automated message that tells him which robot needs attention, what the general problem is, and which cow was most recently in the robot.  So there have been nights when Josiah or someone else is called out to fix a minor problem, it only happens at the most once per week. 

Regular maintenance on the robots is very important to keep the alarms to a minimum.  But cows are cows and sometimes they are steppy (I've learned that the weather affects their moods, and they are more jumpy when it is cloudy and muggy outside).  Putting a hose on is an easy fix, I can even do it.  But there can be more major problems, with any system, not just a robot.  But eventually we get things fixed and back to normal.

It reminds me of a while back when I had a stomach bug.  I was up most of the night sitting with a bucket next to me.  I was definitely dispatching some calls for help.  I was begging God not to let me throw up.  That time, I did, but that helped get the bug out of my body faster.  So the answer to our problems may not always be the easiest, fastest, or what we would desire the most. 

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12, says,
"Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.'  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me... For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Paul was also asking God to take away something that was tormenting him.  But what I get from this is that when we have problems and feel helpless and weak, that is when our guard is down and we feel like we can't help ourselves.  But if we turn toward God and ask for his strength, His strength is so much more than we could ever imagine.  Man at his strongest is immensely weaker than God at his weakest.  And God isn't weak at all.

February 26, 2011


Thinking about my last post, I realized that there was more that I could have talked about.  First of all, if you haven't read that post yet, it was about cow comfort and cows resting.  A lot of things can help contribute to cow comfort, like a swinging cow brush.  But that's not what I wanted to say.

A man at our church often says that, when we are at rest in our spirit, that is when God can use us the best.  I think that being at rest does not mean that we are never in a tough situation, it means that we are trusting God in that situation and resting on Him.

I also think that resting and being comfortable are not the same thing at all.  So many people in churches all over the place become comfortable with their routine of working and having fun all throughout the week and then going to church on Sunday because it's what they're "supposed" to do, and not even taking joy from being there.  I think that when we become comfortable Christians, we expect everything to go our way, and when it doesn't we feel like we have to rely on ourselves to "save" us from the situation. 

That's been a struggle throughout these first years of our marriage.  We live on a dairy farm and that is our source of income.  But the dairy industry has been in a slump, and finances are tough.  But God has been providing for us.  And I have been learning that I need to rely on God, his timing is perfect. 

In Mark 4, Jesus and his disciples are in a tough spot.  They are out in a boat on the middle of a lake.  Jesus is asleep and a big storm comes up and the disciples, even though a lot of them are experienced fishermen, can't do anything to save themselves.  They are terrified, so they wake Jesus up, demanding that he does something.  It's like they knew he could save them but they had to have it right NOW.  So Jesus calms the storm, and asks them, "why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?"  Personally, I don't think they really understood that Jesus had power over all things, they had just seen him heal people up to this point, they didn't know he could control the weather too.

Maybe God is trying to teach us something by not "saving" us right now.  I don't know what that lesson is yet, but I am trying to be at rest, trusting that God knows what he's doing, and not panic about everything.  When we are at rest, that is when God can use us the most.

Spring Lawn Inn and Suites

It is so impressive to go into the barn and see almost every cow laying down.  They just look so comfortable on the new composted solid bedding. 

Our cows make their own decisions.  They decide when they want to eat, sleep and get milked.  That is their routine, and when they have comfortable beds they sleep and rest a whole lot more.

The bedding material that we use is actually pasteurized manure.  Now you may be saying something like, "that is so gross," but here's how it works. 

  A cow eats about 105lbs. of feed and drinks 50 gallons of water per day.  The feed consists of chopped up corn, grass, and crushed soybeans.  Manure is the undigested fibers left from what she eats.  The manure is scraped to the ends of the barn where it flows into a holding tank.  From there, the manure is sent to a screw-press separator, where the liquid is squeezed out.  What is left is the solid fibers.  The fibers are sent by a conveyor to a large drum.

In the drum, the fibers heat up to 140F.  The heating process kills any bacteria that might be living in the fibers.  As the drum fills up, the older material get pushed to the front where it falls out a little door and is carried away to a pile.  And from there it is scooped up and distributed onto the cows beds.

The composted solids are very soft and comfortable for the cow to lay on, making her happy and in return making all our hard work worth the effort.

Me and Jamster

February 25, 2011

Pain and muscles?

I was told once that pain is the body getting rid of weakness.  Personally, I think the person who said that didn't work on a farm.  I can experience a whole lot of pain and not feel any stronger.  Like that time I got kicked in the arm or a cow stepped on my toe.  But there is no doubt that you can get a workout from working on a farm, and I like that... most of the time.

Grandpa was away for a few days and I was helping out doing most of his work, scraping the cows' beds and pulling extra bedding back for the cows to lay more comfortably on.  My shoulders, legs, and back all hurt from that, and I really don't feel stronger, but maybe there might be a tiny bit more muscle in my arms than before.  I still am not even close to being able to even be brave enough to arm wrestle Grandpa, he is way too strong.  But maybe if he went on vacation for a month...  or probably more like a year...

Beautiful sunset over the barn

February 24, 2011

Early mornings and my girls

One thing that I am not a big fan of is getting up early.  I am a night person, not a morning person, so when I have to roll out of bed around 5am, I am not a happy camper. 

But we don't have it as bad as some other farmers.  Josiah used to get up at 2am to milk the cows, which is one of the reasons he wanted to look into robotic milking.  Now since our cows are basically milking themselves, we get up anywhere from 5-7 in the morning.

So every morning that I have to get up earlier than I would like, I try to remind myself that I am really not working as hard or as long as Josiah, or his dad, uncle, or the hired man.  And really, I don't mind doing the work, I feel like I'm actually doing something important, because what we do ultimately helps feed the world.

I like to interact with the cows and the baby calves. 
I have a favorite cow in particular.  Her name is Jamster.  I think she likes it when I see her and wave or come over and pet her nose or even give her a hug.  I know that all sounds crazy, but she's my favorite.  She's also pretty crazy sometimes.  I have many pictures on my phone of her sticking her foot up her nose.  I have no idea why she does it, but it seems that when she is laying down and she sees me, she likes to stick her foot in her nose.  It's very humorous. 

I like to take pictures of the calves also because they are really curious and want a lot of attention.  And they are just so cute!!

They are just so adorable!

February 23, 2011

Getting Started

Welcome to my brand new blog.  I don't know how this all works yet, but I would love to show you pictures of life on the farm, especially of my favorite cows, the cute calves, and anything else that doesn't necessarily have to do with farm life that I happen to feel like writing.  My goal of this blog is to give you a small snapshot into what our life on the farm is like. 

My husband, Josiah, and I work on a dairy farm in PA with Josiah's dad, uncle, and grandfather.  We have 4 DeLaval VMS to milk 240 cows.  We like to call the cows "laser cows," because that is how the robot finds the cow's teats for milking, with a laser.  It's a really cool technology.

But even new technology does not make life on a farm easy.  The cows need a lot of care and surveillance to make sure that they are healthy and comfortable.  And all of the cows, from the youngest heifer or bull to the oldest milking cow need to be fed each day.  Cows eat and drink a surprising amount, but then again, they are quite large creatures.

We love life here on the farm.  And we especially like to eat and drink the tasty products that we help to create: milk, chocolate milk, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, butter, chocolate, and the list goes on and on.

Most importantly, our lives here on the farm are not about making money or becoming powerful.  We farm because we want to be good stewards of the land and resources that God has blessed us with. 

 "Unless the LORD builds the house,
   the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
   the guards stand watch in vain."
 Psalm 127:1