Just to the point of breaking...

Banzai and Cleo

The other day I thought my ears were going to fall off of my head. If I stopped what I was doing long enough I was convinced I'd feel the slow drip of blood actually coming out of them. 

You see. 

My children. 

My amazing, courageous, fearless children.

My beautiful, kind, perfect children. 

Somewhere, in between learning how to ride a horse and how to scoop poop out of a barn they've learned how to whine. 

And not just whine. 


Matthew and I have, like most people I'm sure, no patience for whining. We have a strict, "We do not negotiate with terrorists" rule and, likewise, "Mommy can't hear you when you're whining." 

I was shocked at how long it could go on knowing that NO ONE is going to listen to you until you stop whining. I cooked an entire meal for my perfect little family while two of its members writhed around on the floor protesting their less than ideal conditions, not enough chocolate milk and not enough breast milk (I'm still breastfeeding Banzai but not on demand). 

That night in the shower, when they had finally calmed down and were playing nicely, Gizmo asked me to pick her up and cuddle her. 

Giz and I have showered together almost every night of her life, since she was born. Holding her little four year old body against mine as the water poured down over us my memory bank was flooded with all the memories of holding her previously tiny self in that same shower.

In that moment all of the tension and frustration I felt with the whining literally melted away. I was renewed and invigorated. My children were perfect again. 

In so many ways the farm is just like raising tiny humans. 

Matthew and I sold our pasteurizer and chart recorder. This is the incredibly expensive piece of equipment ($15,000 new) that allows us to turn our raw milk into Grade A Certified fresh cheese. The plan was to upgrade from the 30 gallon vat we used all season to a 99 gallon vat.

Upgrading is the same thing as expanding. This last season we made cheese every single day because our vat wasn't big enough to handle two days worth of milk. As you can imagine, this is incredibly tedious and doesn't allow for much time outside of the cheese room. With the 99 gallon vat we can make cheese every three days (which is legally what you're allowed to wait in between batches, per the FDA). This seemed like a no brainer.

If we want to stay a dairy we have to change things for our quality of life. A phrase we return to often is, “If it doesn’t work for the farmer, it doesn’t work for the farm.”

But then there was also the pause that we took, in between putting the money in the bank from our sold pasteurizer and placing the order for the new. The new pasteurizer purchase required us to add $12,000 to the tab (on top of what we sold our old pasteurizer for). It was a big decision.

Right before making the call to order I put the phone down and looked at Matthew.

"Is this what we want to do? Do you love making cheese?"

Matthew looked at me, and didn't even skip a beat.

"I love being a cheesemaker."

"That's that then," I said, "Let's spend some money."

And just like that all the money we had saved from the year prior we dumped right back into the business. Will it be worth it? I don't know yet.

But here's what I do know.

Farming, like parenting, is an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows. One day everything seems perfect and pure and you can't imagine any other way of life and the next day all your barns are flooding and all your animals are dying (okay, it hasn't gotten that bad yet).

One day your children are using their manners and picking up after themselves and the next day (who am I kidding, the next minute) they're screaming bloody murder and their limbs have lost all ability to support their own weight.

At the end of every day though, you're still a parent, and for us, we're still farmers. We're shaping the next generation of people and we're carving out a little ecosystem that not only heals the land it also feeds our community. We're part of something bigger than ourselves. It's painful at times, but somehow, without fail, just when we feel that our ears are actually going to fall off, the universe course corrects and we realize, there's nothing else we'd rather be doing.

Which of course, makes us, the lucky ones.

Gizmo and Ice Cream