Some days with cows are pure joy. Seeing them bask in warm spring sunshine on fresh green pastures or watching them lie down on a cool evening as a glorious sunset blazes across the sky are some of the highlights of life with cattle. There’s nothing like seeing a curious newborn calf explore the world or stroking a soft, friendly cow nose.
Days like today, with a nasty north wind stinging my face and snow flurries blurring my vision, are not quite so rosy. I trudge to the barn in full winter coveralls to the awaiting herd, leaving behind the warm farm house to face the miserable day. The cows line up at the hay rack as I pitch them hay, put fresh straw down, and make sure they have water.
It’s times like this that I tend to remember the comments people have made to me over the years. Things like “It must be so nice to live on a farm!” and “You’re so lucky to have cows!” to name a few.
For some reason, humorous as it is, those comments primarily come to mind in the more uncomfortable parts of keeping cattle. On one hand, those comments are spot on — farm life on the whole is a beautiful thing, and as you have likely picked up, I love cows a lot.
Still, the beautiful days, cooperative cows, and smooth chores don’t tell the full story. The cows have been the cause of physical and emotional pain, deep frustration, and a large number of missed events and scheduling challenges.
Thanks to the dear cows I know and love, I’ve endured hot, stuffy hay mows, inky midnight calving checks, pouring rain, and bitter cold that takes your breath away. While the cows don’t (most of the time) mean to cause problems, they’ve given me bruises, planned calving at some very inconvenient times, and set in motion a good number of other challenges.
My farm admirers don’t usually get to see these less-than-idyllic moments, but the harder times are part of the story too. Looking in from the outside, it’s hard to know the full breadth of the ups and downs that accompany any part of a real life, including farming. I try to remember that as I look at other people who have seemingly perfect lives when I’m tempted to feel jealous of what they have that I perceive I don’t.
In my more philosophical moments, I start to make connections. Life with cattle means good times along with difficulty, and that translates far beyond the barn door into the rest of life.
Most often, life’s greatest blessings are tied to life’s greatest challenges. Relationships, careers, and hobbies all come with different sets of hardships alongside meaningful rewards. Sometimes, even, the adversity sweetens the good things, and the effort of persevering adds to the accomplishment of making it through hard times.
Today in the barn as I keep moving in order to stay warm against the creeping chill, I can ponder all the wrinkles of this good life. There’s joy even in the hard parts, and there’s confidence that better days will come, too. I’m thankful for the blessing of sweet fuzzy cows in the depth of winter, even though they make my life ever so much more complicated. It’s all worth it.
- Martha Hoffman Kerestes is a farmer and freelance writer in rural Streator. Comments can be shared at email@example.com