We built what we consider our dream house on our family dairy farm five years ago, and we have settled in quite well. I always dreamed of living on the farm, but my dream was not what my home looked like, but a livelihood that would allow more time as a family unit.
Farmhouses are the new trend; everyone wants one. Turn on the television and you see all those fixer upper shows, starring the lovely Joanna Gaines. Go to Hobby Lobby and "Fresh on the Farm" signs and cow memorabilia are all over. I wonder if my late mother ever thought farm life would become a nostalgia that others crave.
What qualifies as a farmhouse? For me, it is not what's in the house, but what I can see outside — corn rows (that quickly have disappeared from harvest), Jersey cows, and generations of family caring for both.
A farmhouse includes an endless task of laundry, sometimes so dirty that the clothes are stripped off in the garage. It is hearing a loud clunk coming from the dryer and realizing you have yet again found more nuts and bolts that were forgotten in the pants pockets of your farmer. It is the plethora of ear tags, syringes, and milking gloves that have piled up in the mud room. And the boots, so many boots. Where is Joanna Gaines now with her advice on how to organize barn boots?
I grew up in a farmhouse that has since been sold, but it holds many memories deep in my heart. Tending to sick lambs in the mudroom that my mother tried to nurse back to health, along with the newborn calf that broke its leg. My father splinted it and allowed it to stay inside until it could get all fours underneath it again.
It is hopping off the bus and coming inside to the aroma of homemade cookies after school. It is the sewing machine at the end of the dining room table, as my mother would mend my father's bib overalls until they were beyond repair. At other times, it was the piles of bills my mom and dad were sorting, as they played "checkbook," getting ready for year-end taxes. Pinterest does not highlight this. Moms wants organization, and for many of us farm moms, our houses are organized chaos, or at least that is how I describe mine.
Step inside my farmhouse, and you'll hear laughter and arguing; yes, we are a loud house. You'll see the farmhouse table covered in homework, dairy magazines, and genomic hair samples. We are a work in progress, but on a good day, I try to mimic my late mother and bake chocolate chip cookies. And, as my kids will tell you, there is always something in a Crockpot. You'll hear the grain dryer and diesel tractors, reminding you what season we are in. My house is always open — for a meal, a cookie, or simply a hug. I hope over the years, those close to my heart stop in for all three.
Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.