Jan. 8 2021 08:00 AM

Alone time while doing chores is a great opportunity to recharge, ponder ideas, and make plans.

Dear farmers/caretakers/blood, sweat and tear givers,

I see you at the wee hours of the morning thawing waterers of ice.
I see you pushing snow for hours, both day and night.
I see you drying off that newborn calf, willing it to live.
I see you warming up at dinnertime, after giving all that you can give.

I hear you calling for your pastured cattle until you see something coming.
I hear you listing everything that needs done to keep your operation running.
I hear you wishing for a break, or a helping hand amid the snowy landscape.
I hear you apologize yet again for being home late.

I feel you pushing your limits for the noble cause of putting food on consumers’ tables.
I feel you questioning again if you’re truly able.
I feel for you striving to keep today’s problems at bay.
I feel for you each and every day.

I see you. I hear you. I feel for you. I believe in you.

Short winter days can show us some of Mother Nature’s most breathtaking views. Right now, in Iowa, we’re living in a frost and fog-filled wonderland.

However, winter can be hard and add even more challenge to an already trying job. This season we’re in can leave us feeling more alone than usual. Winter chores — like checking waterers, putting new bedding down for animals, or warming up machinery — are often one-person tasks. And, when everything is cold, frosty, and lacking the uplifting sun we’re used to throughout the rest of the year, tasks can feel more daunting and a sense of isolation can grow stronger.

I spend most of my mornings doing chores at a different location than the rest of my family, while my boyfriend is working his off-farm job. That’s hours of sweating, freezing, crying, or grumbling in frustration (take your pick) that I do by my lonesome. I promise most days aren’t like that, but we all have low days, and the characteristics of a Midwest winter and the unknowns of the farming lifestyle tend to intensify those feelings.

I like to think most farmers have at least some introvert in them. I know I’m an introverted extrovert, which means I love spending time with people, but I sure savor alone time to recharge and collect my thoughts.

I do my best to utilize and make the most of my alone time, whether it’s working in the barn, feeding cattle, or driving between our different farm locations. Alone time can be a gift if we choose to see it and use it. As a creative person, I often ponder design projects or writing ideas when I’m doing mindless physical labor. Some of the best solutions or new ideas come from alone time. Whether it’s a new barn layout, a way to make chores more efficient, or a different housing configuration for young stock, farmers can benefit greatly by embracing the alone time we often find ourselves with during these winter months.

Molly Schmitt

The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and two robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.