Marilyn Hershey

It does not matter where I go — the farm is always in the back of my mind. At any given moment, I will see something in my travels and instantly the cows push their way to the front of my mind.

Most times it is when I am talking to fellow farmers or visiting a dairy, but sometimes I am in the middle of nowhere and I randomly see something that reminds me of the farm.

Nearly 10 years ago, our third son, Robert, attended college in Montana. After living in that beautiful state for a time, he and his wife, Hilary, moved to Oregon, an equally beautiful state. Oregon is a gorgeous place to visit, and it is always a treat to see the family.

My last trip to this Western state was extra special in that I was holding a new grandson for the first time. There are not enough words to describe that overwhelming joy. Being just 2 months old, Shiloh Mast Hershey is still at the cuddling, snuggling, rocking stage, which is a perfect setting for us Grammys.

Shiloh’s older sister, Juniper, keeps us moving with her vibrant personality. Dull and boring moments are not present in that household.

One of Juniper’s most beloved adventures is to visit a nearby alpaca farm. They have hundreds of alpacas of all shapes, colors, and sizes. There is no charge to walk around the farm and pet the fascinating creatures, and only a small fee for a bag of alfalfa pellets that lures the animals to the fence.

I found some interesting similarities to my cloven animals at home. They love to graze, they are curious, and every once and a while, they cough. That is exactly what happened to Juniper and I as we were christened with alpaca slobber that smelled and felt a lot like cow cud.

I was amused that the alpaca slobber was gross to me and had me looking for sanitation wipes. When I am coughed on at home by the cows, the gunk is simply flung away.

In the handful of times that I have visited our Oregon family, I find it rewarding to cook dinner for them. It gives Hilary and Robert a break from the kitchen, and it is also a chance for me to go to the grocery store.

Visiting grocery stores when traveling is always a treat and one that I find valuable as a dairy farmer. Each part of the country has a unique way of displaying their available dairy foods. Flavors that are on the shelf in Oregon are not always on the shelf in Pennsylvania. Consumer likes and dislikes are different, and the variety of flavors profiled makes me pause, take notice, and put a few extras in the cart.

Traveling to the upper Northwest is not an invitation to sit on a couch, and I appreciate that Robert and Hilary enjoy seeing the sights as much as I do. Walking up a mountain is always a must when visiting them.

The first time I was in Bend, we took a hike up a butte that overlooked the city. This time, since a newborn and a toddler were in tow, we drove to a national park to view Crater Lake, a beautiful and magnificent lake that was created by a volcanic eruption many years ago.

The overlook of the massive lake was breathtaking. Crater Lake is an absolute must if you ever find yourself close by.

After lots of pictures, a packed lunch, and enough time for Juniper to run her legs, we headed home. The drive back was as interesting as the national park. Driving through high desert, hills decorated with high-reaching pines, and small mountain towns was a treat.

At one point, we drove past mounds of black stuff. It looked like dirt. I was pretty certain I was asking a naïve question, but nonetheless I asked, “Is that fill?” Piles upon piles stretched across the terrain.

Robert chuckled, “No, that is volcanic rock from a very long time ago.” The eruption happened centuries before my time, but it looked like someone just dumped a lot of landfill in the field. You know us farmers always keep our eyes out for fill to use on the farm. Granted, hauling costs would be a bear, but I might learn how to shift gears in a truck if it got me closer to those grand babies a few more times a year.

I had a lot of questions about the volcanic material, but in my mind, I always came back to the fact that farmers love to find fill, and this is a really big pile. It would be useful fill for the farm.

As my time came to an end, the farm started tugging at me and as always, I was anxious to head to home. Goodbye was a tiny bit easier this time as they will head toward us for the fall holiday.

Coming home from the airport, I noticed a dump truck driving down the road. Immediately, my mind went to Oregon, my precious family, and the huge piles of volcanic rock on their hills. I might consider getting my commercial driver’s license (CDL) and becoming a cross country fill-hauler because my Oregon family is always in the back of my mind.

The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.