I pulled up to the dairy and parked in my usual spot. I got out and fumbled around as I put my 7-week-old into the stroller. My husband was combining soybeans in the field next to the barn, so we began to stroll around as we watched the cloud of dust rolling behind the machine with the most beautiful orange sky in the background.
I sighed a bit as I let go of all the pressure I had put on myself to “do” something today. Let me just say for the record that I was totally naïve in my view of how much I would be able to accomplish with a newborn. I also realized for the first time in my dairy career how much I had lost my ability to relax. So here we were, just taking a walk. Something I hadn’t done much of until lately. When I broke my gaze from the combine in the distance, I looked down to see a big pair of blue eyes looking right at me. Though our sweet girl had been on a lot of farm walks already, this was the first time she was awake.
As we slowly meandered our way around the outside of the barn, I happened to notice a crowd was gathering inside. There was my pet cow, 1971, who had probably been wondering where the heck I had been lately. Then there came another, and another. The driveway circles the barn, and as we kept going, they kept following. As we bumped along the gravel road, I kept thinking I saw a smirk making its way across little one’s face. I had been waiting a few weeks for that elusive first smile but had never received one yet. I stopped a few times to take a picture or two, laughing under my breath as I watched how curious the cows seemed to be about the tiny person with me.
When we finally arrived at the door of the feed lane and walked in the barn, I was a bit taken aback. Every cow in that barn had stopped what they were doing and had shifted their gaze to me. Not to mention that little pair of blue eyes looking up so curiously. So there we all stood. I saw a few new faces of fresh heifers that had calved, along with lots of familiar ones. I wondered how much milk 2003 was giving now. I wondered if 1614 was bred back. I wondered if I would ever be able to do all the things I used to do. But my wandering thoughts came to an abrupt halt when I looked down only to be met by the most radiant smile I have ever seen, and it was across the face of my daughter. A little tear hit the feed lane that evening, because finally I realized why I had been working so hard all this time.
In 2014, we built a new facility with robots because we felt it was the best future for our family and our cows. So here we stood, in this barn that our family had poured its heart and soul and sweat into. In front of these cows that I had cared for day in and day out, many of them since the very day they were born. And here was my child, smiling her first with an audience of hundreds of cows and her mama to see. It will forever be one of my favorite moments, like I had the chance to witness one season of my life changing to the next.
On our own farms and in our own families, I’m sure we are all in different seasons of life. Some of us might be driving hard as we start our careers; others are figuring out farm life with young families; some might have an empty nest; and yet others are entering a season of handing over the reins. Even though we’re not all in the same season, I bet we all find ourselves wishing we could do it all somedays. I needed that little smile to remind me why I hadn’t been doing all the things I used to do. I needed to remember that even when there isn’t time for everything, there is a time for everything. A time to embrace a season and live it fully. So whether you are milking cows, changing diapers, fixing equipment or enjoying the fruits of your labor, may your season be filled with a love for what you do and the people you love to share it with.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” —Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
- Dairy Producer
- Hillside Farm
- Dublin, Virginia
- Email Laura Flory
PHOTO: Laura Flory’s daughter smiled her first smile while on a walk to see the cows. Photo by Laura Flory.