Our Rural Roots

When Christmas Comes Early

Image by Meredith Bernard

Seasons have a way of changing on our farm as quickly as another piece of equipment has a way of breaking down around here. Spring weaning slips into summer haying, and before we know it, leaves are falling on the snow-white ground of the first fall frost.

By the time Christmas rolls around, the temps are likely cool, and the ground is likely muddy. Before we make our way to family gatherings and other holiday traditions, though, Christmas has a way of coming early for us.

Starting the first of October, our cows are moved into smaller lots closer to home, and the best season of the year officially begins--calving season.

There is nothing I love more than piling on the Gator as a family (Bonnie the Blue Heeler included) to make rounds to check for new calves. From the time our children were born, it’s something we’ve always done together and something we all look forward to doing. The kids may not fit in our arms and laps anymore, but where there’s a will and some used feed sacks to make a pallet in the back of the vehicle, there’s still a way.

No other experience in the world could compete with those we’ve spent as a family watching new calves with steam rising off their slick black fur stretch their wobbly legs and find their footing to take the first drink of life-sustaining milk from mama. Nor would I trade the times we’ve watched a cow bawling over her dead calf or had to load up a twin calf its mama wouldn’t take and start the process of bottle-feeding it through the winter in the barn. Because life is also about death and adapting to circumstances, and even though it’s not always fun or easy, it’s important.

It is these memories and life lessons I hope my kids remember and learn from. These are the days--the beautiful, fleeting, life-giving days--that make this life we live and this one season we get every year like an early Christmas.

When she’s not cuddling calves and kids, Meredith Bernard writes from North Carolina about farm life on her website (thisfarmwife.com) and is also active on Twitter (@thisfarmwife).