Around the end of July, the humidity becomes nearly unbearable here on the farm. The nights no longer cool to below 80°F, and it’s constantly humid. When we walk out of the house in the morning, our shirts are dry and clean. But within the first 15 to 20 minutes of work, they are wet with sweat from the constant wet blanket we are forced to wear this time of year. With the sun beating down between 90°F and 100°F day in and day out, finding a break from the heat is nearly impossible. The cows are panting and doing everything and anything they can think of to stay cool. The fans and sprinklers are no match for Mother Nature’s wrath as she continues to send harsh rays of scorching sunlight through the air. The only break we may receive is when the humidity comes together and great walls of gray and black clouds fill the sky.
The sound of thunder off in the distance and the lightning flashing through the clouds creates a musical in the sky. Watching the swirling of the wind and the rain as the trees sway provides an amazing, yet terrifying, view. The clouds are dark, black, and ominous as they slowly drift over the mountain. On the mountain side, white sheets of a torrential downpour slowly creep along the trees as they move from the top of the mountain down to the foot and into the holler and along the valley. The sound of rain on the tin roof of the old barn creates a melody similar to a sweet lullaby. Around us, the world seems to calm as the storm strikes down. The corn sighs from receiving a cool drink, the hay stretches to signify it’s almost time to harvest again, and the animals’ pants become quiet as their bodies cool.
The cows don’t seem to care about the storm. They don’t spook, fight, or try to get out. Most stick their heads up in the air and seem to relax. When the rain picks up, they put their heads down and droop their ears to avoid water entering them. They huddle in the corner, but they are not scared. They chew their cud and stay together through it all. They’ve been through hurricanes and summer storms before, and each time, they relax and breathe a sigh of relief for a break from the treacherous heat.
This country has been through a lot this year. From floods to drought to hurricanes to earthquakes, it’s been one adventure after another. We hold strong and we keep hanging on. We pray for those affected by the rain and for those affected by drought and other natural disasters. It may be hot as can be here, but we appreciate what we do have and what we do to help others and move forward. These cows get a break from the heat when it rains; why don’t we try to give a break to those in need?
The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.