Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Calf Hut Conversations

Every so often I find an Amish man at our door in the wee morning hours.

While his early morning knocks are startling, I’m always more concerned about his intentions. When a craftsman such as Ben arrives, it always costs money.

“Cody!” I yell across the house. “Ben is here!” I continue packing lunches, thinking for a second. Why is Ben here?

A construction project was about to begin.

“Remind me why Ben is here?” I asked Cody as he entered the kitchen and threw on a jacket.

“The calf shed. The one me and you and the kids built. He’s going to take it apart and rebuild it….better. The thing is falling apart, and we really need that space.”

He was right. We are outgrowing the huts we have along the windbreak in the far west pasture. More calves, less room. During these cold, winter months vulnerable calves need a place to safely rest. 

I drove to work that morning thinking about that shed. That simple scrap tin shed. I became a bit emotional driving across the interstate.

The kids were so small while we built it. Cody and I had to crouch down to drill in the screws, while toddlers ran wild inside. I remember being thankful for a new playpen, if only for an afternoon.

Then the shed was moved to the pasture to take care of 70-pound, Angus and Shorthorn babies.

It became a sanctuary. 

Place of prayer. 

My breakroom.

I remember the shorthorn bull calf. I found him 8 hours later than I probably should have; I worked in the city that day. He was tucked away in a corner, cold, hungry but without the gumption to find his momma. I worked to warm his sides, checked his eyes and nose. Checked his mother’s udders to see if he’d nursed. After no positive signs, I called the vet. I prayed over that calf until she arrived.

I remember the Angus heifer calf. We really looked forward to the arrival of this one because of her genetics. It was quite cold when she was born but it warmed up shortly thereafter. She developed a respiratory issue. I remember a presentation I’d help develop during my time at Elanco about the cost of one dead calf. It was real money. Money that isn’t thrown around on a farm. I prayed over that heifer.

As a farm wife, I prayed so many prayers inside that tiny metal hut. 

There was weight on my shoulders not even realized then. I remember many times resting along the solid tin, warming up a calf, and wondering if it was the first time I’d sat down that day. I remember bedding it with fresh straw and wondering about the last time I changed our own bed sheets. I remember returning to the Kubota to find a crying toddler and a sleeping baby and feeling like the worst mother, ever.

Then Cyrus got sick.

And we spent six days at the children’s hospital, three days at home, then five more days at the children's hospital, and finally 18 days at home with a PICC line in his tiny arm. Talk about perspective.

Calf hut conversations changed.

It certainly isn’t that I didn’t care about the cattle we were left to tend to on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) – that would never be the case. It was that human health became so much more relevant. We could go on if we lost a calf over a respiratory issue. It no longer compared to a sick child.

Calf hut sessions focused on God’s will, not mine. Calf hut sessions focused on everything outside the tin hut, not within. What a simple, quiet place to reflect. Calf hut sessions focused on taking a break, if even just to gather myself.

Mom once told me about a lady that lived on mom and dad’s farm many years before they bought it. This woman would walk out to the pasture and sit on the same large rock daily to read her devotionals.That rock still sits on the farm today, more than 60 years later. What a place to connect.

Our calf hut came down and has now been reconstructed into a sturdier building that houses more and is more functional. We had a sick heifer two weeks ago and we found her in the calf hut. Cody held her while I gave her three boluses then we turned her loose. I was encouraged by her effort to run from us. I thanked God for her energy. I thanked God for healthy kids watching us from the Ranger.

I guess we all find God in different places.

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