Thursday, 19 May 2011
We raised what we could for the store and also purchased wholesale from Bill's Produce. Around the time we were getting ready to open this, Dave fell 13 ft. through a barn floor at a construction site. He hit his head, needed stitches, had a concussion, broke some ribs and twisted his knee. We also learned that I was pregnant with #4.
He was off work for about 3 months, which allowed him time to do what he could in the store. We LOVED having him home and it was during this time that we decided to seriously pursue a career that would enable us to work together as a family. The day he returned to construction there was not a dry eye in our family. The store thrived all summer and we were loving it, but we reached a point where we either had to get bigger and hire help (our children were not old enough to run it), or quit. It did not have the income for Dave to quit construction. I became very restricted with my pregnancy and eventually had to be on bedrest. Taking all things into consideration, we decided to sell the store. Sad, but a necessary thing. However, our goal remained to look for another family opportunity. We heard of a local farmer who was looking for tenants to rent a farm he just purchased. Our goal was met and in January 1999, we started milking 98 cows in a palor.
We could write a book about the adjustments to dairy life! Ben was 10, Kelsey 8, Solomon 5, and George 3 months. We were not able to move into the house on the farm yet, so we had to travel about 1 1/2 miles back and forth to the cows. Oh my, did we learn alot! We still talk about the time when we learned that we were going to be dairy farmers and we would be able to work together as a family. Dave's comment still rings in our ears "this is going to be great!". That "great" soon, and very soon, became harsh reality! To some people, dairy farming looks like this gravy occupation where we leisurely milk cows and have part of the day off. Not true! Those cows needed to eat and they eat LOTS, which mean they also produce alot of manure, which needed to be cleaned up. We had heifers and calves that needed care and milking took about 2 1/2 hrs. every AM & PM. We had to have hired help. Our days became a blur and we realized that our idea of farming was not farming like this. We didn't want this many cows, nor hired help, nor someone else in control of the feed (we had a deal with the farm owner - he raised the feed for part of the milk check - don't let anyone do that!). We started looking for a smaller farm, with tie stalls, and one day we saw an ad in the Lancaster Farming that a farm was for rent in a neighboring county. The barn had not been milked in for years, but could be set up again for dairy. We took the plunge. Our family and friends came along side of us and helped to get the place ready for us to move in.
That is it! The picture was taken at the door, so that is how small the barn was. It was only 28 stalls, so we sold 1/2 the herd. We would milk all the cows in the barn and then let 1/2 of them out and bring more in. It was still alot of hard work, but after 2 years of adjusting to the new place, we loved it! We loved our neighbors, the community, and the farm! We got to the point where we did not need a hire hand. Dave had to work away a few days a week, though, but it was still good. We have many fond memories of the place on Schwartz Valley Rd.. We had signed a 5 year lease and had a very good relationship with the landlord (no, he did not raise our feed). However, about 1 year before our lease ran out, he hired someone else to oversee his properties, and things started to go downhill. Our rent was to go up at the end of our lease and we felt it was not worth it for how small the barn was. So, once again, we started searching for another place. It is one thing to move your family, but another thing to move your family, a herd of cows and equipment. We searched state wide, and in surrounding states, for a farm. None seemed to be the place for us. By March/April 2004, we had much of our belongings packed away in a tractor trailer, but nowhere to go. We were considering selling the cows and even had a cow dealer scheduled to come look at them. Then one of our feedmen brought a flyer of a farm for sale back in the area we came from. God had His hand in it, some deals were offered and we decided to buy it. However, it would not be ready to move into by the time we had to move out of our farm. A wonderful friend of ours had a barn that we could use, so he fixed it up for us to move the cows there. Ok, the cows now had a place to move to, but where do we go? In June, we moved into my mom's basement. We thought is would only be for about 3-4 weeks. It turned into 3 months! During that 3 months, we were able to move the cows onto our farm, but the house needed much attention and we could not live there while working on it. Let me tell you, it was the most difficult 3 months for our family. Oh, we were very thankful to my mom for putting up with us, for friends who came and helped us each week, but traveling back and forth, spending all summer working our heads off trying to get the house ready to live in took it's toll on our family. Uriah and Oliver were just small and I remember Uriah wondering where his home was. In September, we moved into the house, although it was not finished, it was a necessary thing to do. This year marks the 7th year that we will be here. Wow! That long already? Alot has happened since we moved here, but for some reason whenever May and June rolls around, memories of those uncertain times in 2004 flood back. One obvious thing sticks out to us and that is how God knew where we were going to move to, but He choose to surprise us with the answer at the last minute. We see His hand in all our farming days. It has been a test of faith. It has been a journey, a journey with a lot of trials, but a journey necessary for character building and our spiritual growth. The journey will continue and I am sure it will hold it's share of trials and lessons, for you see, that is what life is all about - trials, triumphs, lessons, learning and growing, always learning and growing. It will end with the grave and meeting the One who has traveled the journey with us.
Until next time...........