Feb. 27 2020 08:00 AM

    A small calf shed behind our home is creating memories and teaching lessons that will launch our Jersey kids far in this life.

    A few years ago, I purchased a cattle shed for my kids. We call it "Grandpa Bob's shed," as I used some of my inheritance money to purchase it. My thought process was that Grandpa Bob would love to see his grandkids working with their 4-H projects in a shed like this, right behind our house.

    However, I'll be honest, many days I hear the kids bellyache about the shed. Silly enough, they'd rather go down to the dairy to feed calves and help their dad versus walk outside the house and feed some calves. I always tell them, “I can't make this any easier for you, you literally have to walk 100 feet to do a chore.” I even recently told Scott I shouldn't have purchased this shed.

    Then, this past weekend, I witnessed a small miracle — all three kids were helping their father clean the supply pen and load up their Angus/Jersey cross calves to sell. The foursome worked together, walking calves to the trailer and cleaning up the pens.

    And, as the sun beamed down on us that warm Sunday afternoon, I felt Grandpa Bob's presence. My eyes glossed over and my heart grew big. My late father would have loved the cattle shed behind our house, and over the weekend, he gently reminded me of the purpose of it — it was a character-building shed. One that, yes, causes kids to complain, but also one that teaches lessons.

    When I was growing up and my sisters and I had "attitude," we would go out to the back 40 acres and pick rocks from the fields, a lesson that my father said "built character and improved attitudes." And, his shed here in East Moline, Ill., also builds character. It’s teaching the kids that life can be unfair, but when we work together with a common goal in mind, life can seamlessly work well, even if it's just for one Sunday afternoon.

    The next set of calves have made their way into the shed, a few days shy of what would have been Grandpa Bob's 80th birthday. The kids bottle-fed calves, while our farm pup ran laps around the shed. The sun shined brightly, as did my heart, because we all felt like Grandpa Bob was working alongside with us, smiling big.


    Karen Bohnert

    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 Univer-sity. 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.