We are at a crossroads as a family. All these years of preparation will soon either bring us success, or failure.
As of next year, we will have 20 milking cows. That doesn’t sound like much, but this next year will require many upgrades and decisions. We need our building erected that is in parts at the end of the lane. We need a place to milk cows, a tank in which to put the milk, a market for the milk. Our local inseminator now has terminated our service since we have low volume and I am going to train this summer for that…another added responsibility to my growing list. Feeding calves lunch (after heating the milk), cleaning the milker, taking blood for pregnancy checks, synchronization of hormones for cycling, record keeping for registrations and taxes, and now it looks like breeding is in my immediate future.
Our family is exhausted trying to work in conditions that are not even close to workable. Instead of investing in stocks and the bank, our savings is in cows. Our equipment needs rebuilt every spring before and during planting, and haymaking and harvest. Our stanchions are falling apart and do not confine the cows well for either milking or health procedures. So dodging kicks is the standard.
Ray’s dream has always been to be a farmer. From the time he could push around a play tractor and ride with his dad on an old Ford B, he wanted it. His dad always told him farmers were “tetched in the head”.
His dad had tried to have milk cows once. They had a small herd, glass milk bottles that were washed every day by hand, and door to door delivery. It didn’t last long as he fell through the barn and got a concussion, then got his leg run over by a runaway truck that made him too injured to do much more than a little mechanic work and field work. He had a part-time job then on the township plowing snow, heavy equipment work and mechanic work.
Ray has always had a job and another job or two. At first, he worked in the mines and had a small excavating business. Then he had a job in the mines, excavating work and farm work (he began to travel back and forth to his homestead). At his busiest, he had a job, excavating side jobs, farming and two rental properties, one was a house and the other a three-unit apt building. I helped as I could, but unlike him, I enjoy down time and sleep!! As time went on, everything became very focused on his job and farm work. As the focus came mostly to the farm, the income investment and loss in farming became very plain.
As I said before, we are at the crossroads, either we will begin to break even, or the whole house of cards will fall. Not bankruptcy, but failure as a family effort. We have not gone into major debt to attempt this: only a small tractor payment and the cost of the building waiting to be erected. The cows we have grown or bought as we could. As they calf, our herd grows. But, if money was work, we would be millionaires. The kids have helped with so many things; fixing fences, herding cows, fieldwork, milking, carrying the load after load of manure out of our outdated barn.