My mother often tells the story of when she was a young child and went on a trip with her sister, mother, aunt, and two cousins. This was a rare trip, and it was even more special because they were taking the trip by train.
My grandfather took the anxious crew to the nearby train station in his small car. This was before seat belts and car seats were required, and as the story goes, the car was packed tightly. My mother was sitting on the edge of the back seat, leaning toward the front.
She happened to be right behind my grandfather, and the few miles seemed like an eternity to her. Her anxiousness got the better of her, and she chimed in his ear, “Can’t this thing go any faster?” He promptly told her if she could get there faster by walking, she could get out and walk. She decided to finish the ride in the car.
Having patience is not always easy, but as a dairy farmer, I feel like there are many instances that help me fine-tune my waiting skills. Even though I want life to go faster, I must wait it out.
Much of what we do on our farms takes patience. This lesson is especially true for farm kids who are involved in 4-H. The breeding is discussed, the sire is selected, the cow is bred, and the waiting begins. Nine long months later, the 4-H calf is born. That is a long time to wait for that special day.
One time our son’s exciting day arrived and his beloved 4-H cow Bessy had a heifer calf. He had waited so long and was so excited, only to have the new calf die moments after birth. Wow, that was another tough lesson – a lot of anticipation followed by tons of letdown.
There is a saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” and in Robert’s case, the endurance paid off. Over his tenure in 4-H, he developed quite the herd and even had a cow give him twin heifers after that rough year. But all that goodness did not happen instantly. It took years of patience, planning, and work in between waiting.
Animals are not the only area that our farms give us a good dose of self-control. Crops also cause us to wait for the right time.
Our dairy is in the Northeast region of the country, and we plant corn in the spring and harvest in the late summer or early fall. There are a lot of days to wait between planting and chopping, and there is not anything we can do to make that corn grow faster.
Scientists will argue that the days have shortened between the time the seed hits the soil to the time it lands in the trench; however, it is not an instant process. The seed needs to germinate, push through the soil, receive water and sunlight, and take time to develop into a healthy stalk. That is a lot of waiting.
Each stage of growth is rewarding and exciting. We watch the corn seed pop out of the ground and grow a little taller, a little stronger through days of rain and sunshine, until the timing is exactly right to harvest.
The perfect time to harvest is also a decision that takes restraint. I am usually the one saying, “We need to get moving on this, and maybe we should start tomorrow.” Duane is the one who is ready to give it another day and not rush into the process.
Wisely, farmers succumb to the waiting game because no one has figured out how to speed up the time of day. That certainly is in the hands of someone greater. But each new day starts and ends on a particular minute that is consistent year after year. Thankfully, we are not commanding that task.
Farmers are dependent on the consistency of the revolving sun; not faster and not slower, just the steady and constant pace of time. Maybe that is why we submit to the patient side more times than not.
Today, the norm is that we speed through our moments and try to do everything faster; we do not have to look far outside the farm gate before we see and understand that this is the normal mentality. There is a strong demand for “instant” and an unwillingness to wait on things. I admit, I am just as guilty as the next person. When I order things online, I want it fast. I do not want to wait weeks and months.
If we are honest, all of us probably have moments when we would rather make life happen faster. That is not reality on farms.
While farming helps us with patience, we all know that farmers are not sitting on our backsides as we wait for cows to calve and corn to grow. There are enough chores to keep us busy in-between that make the days go faster.
Farms balance out our days and remind us that good things need time. I am sure that I will continue to have moments when I follow in my mother’s footsteps and lean over the front seat, trying to convince life to move faster. As always, life will remind me to enjoy the anticipation and thank God for my farm that keeps me on a steady pace.
The author and her husband, Duane, own and operate a 550-cow dairy in Cochranville, Pa.