Most of the time I have plenty to say and can't wait to say it. Thus, The Farm Side gets churned out week after week, with few profound words, but no shortage of the not-so-much sort.
However, with a wedding in the offing, cookies to be baked, fall work crowding in, cold weather that is always unexpected no matter what the calendar says, and wet, muddy, cows on a twice-daily basis, subject matter seemed in short supply this week.
However, I have an unfailing source of information and ideas close at hand. I ask the good people who read Northview Diary. Got a bug we can't identify? Post a photo. Mystery bird flitting through the box elders, frustrating all peering and pishing? Post a photo or description, then wait for smart folks to share their know-how.
So it was with topics for this week's effort. I asked. They answered (and I thank them).
They suggested a sort of collage of a pre-wedding week on a dairy farm. I know it's scary, but here goes.
Morning routine? Wake up already thinking, what has to be done today? Oh, no, more cookies. Stagger downstairs, let old dog out, feed cats on porches, make coffee, turn on computer. Compute. Go to barn, milk cows, let cows back outside, set aside milk for calves, clean in milk house, help clean in barn if other folks need to get to other jobs.
Begin chanting in the back of my mind, "As long as they're happy, as long as they're happy." Think about cookies while working and chanting.
Come back in the house. Obsess about cookies.
I'm going to make a lousy mother of the bride. While most women scurry happily around, visions of gowns and grooms and flowers and foolishness dancing in their heads, I am brought up short by cookies.
You can bake eight batches of cookies in a week, though, even with a plethora of farm-related challenges running your bakery ship aground. These may involve phone calls about missing milk weights at the USDA, for the MILC program, which expires in a few days thanks to the stalling of the Farm Bill. Or perhaps calls about a website fail at the insurance company, which results in late fees on a bill that was faithfully paid right on time, offering yet another reason to think about finding a company with a reliable payment system. There is never a shortage of phone calls on a farm.
And then there is that un-breachable law about cookie baking, which is particularly invoked with wedding cookies. Although stringent and challenging, this rule can never be ignored. The baker must test drive each and every batch to assure quality for the end customer. If said customer is one's beloved offspring, the test driving must be especially stringent.
I have always been reasonably law-abiding, so you can rest assured that each and every tray of butterscotch lusciousness and peanut butter perfection meets the most rigid of quality standards. (Good thing this is a country-casual-cowboy sort of wedding or nothing I own would fit any more.)
There are other little tribulations on the highway to marital harmony that pop up while farming. Take, for example, cell phone auto-correct. Of course everyone finds it aggravating (admit it, you know you hate being prevented from using the perfect word, and offered one that, while more benign, is much less satisfying.) Well, if you think your common everyday auto-correct that merely replaces your word of choice with something kinder and gentler is aggravating, wait until you experience the one on the farm.
It thinks it is a veterinarian and, despite practicing without a license, is more than a little didactic.
Thus when Liz needed to discuss, via text message, a favorite calf with a potential umbilical hernia, trouble ensued. We have had calves just about forever and were pretty sure about what was going on, but the arrogant guy in the auto-correct booth had other ideas. Every time she typed in "hernia" it stamped its little telephone foot and insisted, "harmonica." It was positive of its diagnosis and wouldn't take no (or hernia) for an answer. Just in case, we re-checked the calf, but there were no musical instruments in evidence. I am thinking of reporting it for malpractice.
The puppy has to get his 2 cents in too, and the kitchen is his domicile. He likes to "help" out with the baking and planning by grabbing hold of his tail, circling until he falls down and then barking at the tail for being so mean. Whatta mutt.
Finally, the cookies are done and frozen, with naught left by way of evidence but a couple of trays dotted with butterscotch crumbs, which are delicious, btw. It becomes impossible to ignore other signs of the fact that the people gettin' hitched are rednecks right to the bone.
I suppose the first clue was the cowboy boots. The monster barbecue cooker built by a favorite uncle. The fact that they worry that the day they chose is also McFadden's fall machinery auction day, offering farmer attendees an impossible conundrum. Go to the auction in the rain and fill their hearts with all that is dear to farmers. Mud, old machinery, neighbors to talk to, and a spirited auction sale to lend drama and a sense of competition? (A farm auction can be as engrossing as the Super Bowl to a farmer, and there are even "ring men" to fill in for recalcitrant referees in post game discussion.)
Or attend a John Deere-themed wedding complete with famous butterscotch cookies, tractors, and a pond? Decisions, decisions. (I thought about opting for the auction myself, but I'm not fond of either mud or machinery. Plus the whole fatality thing was off-putting. I guess the mother of the bride is expected at the wedding)
Some of us are hoping that the rain which is predicted will at least scotch the idea of hay rides.
I am left with only this to say: As long as they're happy.
Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS
is a regular columnist. She blogs