No fun to be inside on a May day


Friends seem puzzled by the fact that I know very little about television hit shows from my childhood era.
The explanation is simple: I always found the barns on our farm to be much more interesting than anything that went on in the house.
The house activity paled in comparison, especially during springtime.
Chief calf feeder. My job title of chief calf feeder at the ripe old age of 8 seemed to become more and more demanding in the springtime.
I felt a sense of defeat if I had to ask for help in feeding them all, as I took tremendous pride in my job.
I remember one crisp spring morning, milking the cows very early.
Just as the sun started to rise, Dad motioned to me to look toward the pond. We saw a doe and her fawn dipping their noses down in to the pond for a morning drink.
No matter how many times it happened, it was always sort of a thrill to find a new litter of kittens tucked away in the upper loft of the barn.
Nesting. We watched barn swallows working at building a nest one spring. Dad pointed out how hard those birds worked, and what a good job they did after they set up shop in a barn.
Watching them swooping for bugs, I understood why he welcomed them in our dairy barn.
The next May, we watched as two of those industrious swallows returned to the nest they had made of mud and tiny sticks, a pocket built against a sturdy barn rafter.
Spring for Bill. Our good old farm dog, Bill, an intelligent, hard-working English shepherd, seemed to have a new bounce in his step when the warmer days of May came along.
He set off on adventures of his own, hunting down groundhogs, chasing them around in circles, trying to head them away from the security of their holes.
He was a determined dog, and in his younger day, he often came back to the barn with a bloodied nose but a triumphant swagger.
Bill was the type of dog who knew, instinctively, when milking time rolled around.
He might be resting under a shade tree or on the porch when suddenly his herding dog alarm clock would awaken him and send him toward the pasture.
But the most amazing place to watch Bill at work was in the hog barns on our farm.
Each time Cliff Fulk’s livestock truck came rumbling in, Bill knew it was time to sort hogs, and he was anxious to be part of the action.
Great stories. All of my life, I had heard great English shepherd stories that had been part of our family heritage since my grandparents were well-known across the U.S. for raising them.
I have to say, though, if I hadn’t witnessed Bill at work sorting hogs, I might have had a hard time believing some of those stories.
His herding instincts kicked in to some psychic-level phenomenon when hog sorting day came.
He would swiftly divide the chaotic hogs, sending the fat ones up the chute to the livestock truck, diving toward the smaller ones, sending them back to the troughs to fatten up until another month or two had rolled by.
After such drama and excitement in the barns, it’s understandable that it seemed mighty boring to hang out in the house!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.