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

Marilyn Hershey

By the time you read this article, I will be sitting under a shade tree with my feet propped up, sipping on a large chocolate milkshake. Life is intense right now with every minute planned out to maximize our ability to get the farm and family ready for this summer’s amazing activities.

Our son is getting married and his new bride, Magdalena, is from Poland. That alone is exciting, but equally as exciting is that her family is traveling to Pennsylvania for a celebration. After a few days celebrating on this continent, our family will be boarding a plane and traveling to Krakow, Poland, for festivities in Magdalena’s home country.

We feel so blessed to add her to our family; she is truly a gem and fits perfectly into our world. One of the most unusual and exciting surprises to us was to find out that her parents are also dairy farmers. It was a small world moment when we realized that our occupations align.

Shortly after the engagement announcement from Kelby and Magdalena, plans started buzzing with the anticipation of a ceremony at a nearby farm that our friends Walt and Ellen made available.

Aside from the special day, we will also host our new friends for a week of fun and fellowship at our home. Everyone is excited for this special time and for the amazing opportunity to visit each other’s dairy farms.

The nice part about hosting parties and tours from time to time is the fact that the place gets cleaned with a little extra effort. It is good to look around the farm and recognize the corners and spaces that we do not always take time for.

As I started preparing for the week, it did not take long until I noticed all the upgrades that I wanted to happen in order for our farm and old farmhouse to accommodate a visiting family — especially a family that will have as much interest in our farming practices and style as we will when the tables turn and we visit them in Poland.

We have hosted tours before — big events that make us look around and clean up the accumulating piles — but this is different. The Durak family will stay with us for the good part of a week, and I am sure if the farm family from Poland is as inquisitive as we are, there will be a lot of questions and curious investigating.

I will be the first to admit that perfection is not worth the worry and that there will be many things beyond our control. However, that doesn’t stop us from trying to make sure the farm is ready for visitors.

One of the most memorable events we hosted occurred when Duane was on the Land O’Lakes board of directors and there was a board meeting being held in nearby Philadelphia. It was decided that as part of the board meeting, there would be a tour and a dinner at our farm.

We spent weeks prior to the event making sure every corner on the farm was touched, hills and banks were mowed, and weed whacking was done at the right time. A fresh layer of stone went on the driveway, flowers were planted in every possible location, and stacks of stuff disappeared.

One of the pluses of the preparation was happenstance. The winter prior to the tour was when we had a roof collapse in a snow storm. Aside from the dairy barn falling in, we also had a storage barn that partially collapsed. As we rebuilt that portion of the barn, the completion lined up perfectly with the event, and we knew this would be a nice place to host the meal. Because it was newly built, everything in the barn was clean, and it did not take much to get that specific area ready.

The evening was a hit. It was topped off when one of our employees and his Mariachi band entertained the group.

Reality hit a few years later when Duane’s parents were celebrating a big anniversary and asked to have their party on the farm. We gladly said yes, but the difference was noticeable as cobwebs, dust, critters, and supplies had taken over the barn.

It took a lot more cleaning and recognition that we were not going to reach all the spider webs in the high rafters or have all the dust vacuumed off of the barn floor. That party was still a success, and no one seemed to mind the fact that hay bales were stacked in the corner, birds had nests in the eaves, and cats were hovering in the corners. Perfection does not equal success.

That thought is my main focus on our son’s upcoming wedding. Hard as we try, the farm will not be perfect. There are going to be things that happen that week that show our real, normal, and vulnerable side.

The bottom line is that family is a priority. We will take time for conversation, appreciate our similarities, and respect our differences. In spite of the language barrier, we look forward to enjoying each moment and will focus more on making memories instead of cleaning cobwebs. If we stick to that plan, maybe we can even prop our feet up under the shade tree and enjoy milkshakes.