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

Marilyn Hershey
I do not think it is ironic that the first Christmas celebrated was surrounded by animals. That is a perfect picture of peace to ponder. What a gift this is, to live on a farm and understand the peace that comes from a stable and the animals within.

But wow, how the speed of life has changed. You don’t have to look very far past the end of the farm lane to see a rapidly spinning world. It seems to me that the pace speeds up every year. Honestly, I do not enjoy this season nearly as much if I set pace with the reeling world. I feel better if I step off of the merry-go-round and let it go on without me.

It is not easy to ignore the hustle and bustle. There are family events that need our time, special gifts to buy for our friends and family, and expectations of good food that we save for this special time of year.

At times I have jumped on the busy wagon, going after that perfect gift for the kids, making every variety of cookie, and trying to fit too many events on my calendar. I am sure we all have done this, but too much stuff elevates my stress level and drains the peace right out of me. I have learned that the sun still rises the next day if I do not get all the decorations put in place or if I run out of days to do our Christmas cards and I send New Year’s cards instead.

Thankfully, the farm always brings me back to center and gives me an opportunity for peace in this season.

If you have ever been to our farm on any given day, you might argue that things are happening pretty fast and peace isn’t always visible. Yes, I agree, we do have a lot of moving parts on our dairy, and the pace in which we get things done is not always methodical. I do not claim to have a constant calm on our farm, but I will say that the animals provide many calming moments that allow us the opportunity to reflect.

Peace on earth is a term we hear quite often around Christmas. I do not have trouble envisioning that feeling because I see this quality of life in action, and our farm brings peace in my day. There are a couple visuals that come to mind when I hear the phrase peace on earth.

The first one is the time that our barn roof collapsed. Devastating as it was, the next evening, the debris was cleared out of the barn and the cows were standing at the bunk area eating. There wasn’t a roof over their heads, but they didn’t seem to care or notice a difference. They stood at the bunk and ate with the same gusto that they had the day before. Night had fallen and there was a gentle snowfall coming down. The only sound we heard was the cows eating and meandering around the freestall area.

It was an amazing contrast to the chaos that occurred just hours before. It was beautiful, and the peace I experienced that night is a feeling that will never leave me.

Another time I sense peace on the farm is when I walk through the barn at nighttime. The cows are resting and the farm equipment is parked. The only noises are the milkers and the cows. Even when milking at nighttime, those hours are peaceful, and it gives us an opportunity to pause from the world that we feed and step back from the madness. Even though I will never imply that life on the farm is always peaceful and joyous, I know without a doubt that the dairy farm gives us a “silent night” to reflect and understand.

Cows are normally calm animals. They do not appreciate a lot of extra fuss around them, and they do not want loud and aggressive action in the barn. They want the same schedule every day, and they seem to thrive with a quiet and slow pace.

If you tell me you have a good herdsperson, someone who is great with the cows, there is no doubt that you will show me a person who is calm and no-nonsense. Cows thrive with quiet, calm, and consistent care. In turn, they give us the same.

Every once and a while, we have the opportunity to show the farm to a new neighbor, friend, or someone who wants a tour of a the dairy. One comment we often receive is how quiet the cows are as they are walking around the barn. The animals are usually eating, drinking, or lying down in their stalls chewing their cuds.

You and I both know that tranquility ebbs and flows on a farm. I remember that one particular year, our cows got into the hustle and bustle of December, and they did away with the feeling of peace on farm. Either that, or they all got together and decided they wanted to reenact the baby in a stable story because we had more calves on Christmas morning than I cared to deal with.

I recall standing in the calving area that morning with more newborn mouths to feed than I had patience for, and peace was not near the farm or in my heart that morning. The experience was a good reminder that sometimes there are chaotic moments to work through in the barn, the nights are not always silent, and at times, peace is exchanged for feeding calves.