Lifestyle

An ode to dairy farms and life's little things | Nandell Palmer

For a few years now, I’ve been coming up with ways on how to be more grateful to people and the simpler things of life ‚ often things we take for granted daily.

After spending a week in Manhattan with the hustle and bustle of big city life, I was too happy to get back to tranquil Federal Way.

I was elated to see my youngest son waiting for me at the baggage carousel, while his mom waited inside the car. I was even happier when he relieved me of my oversized hand luggage.

Wow, for some reason he seemed a tad taller than when I left. At 12, he’s on a quest to be the tallest male in the family.

Lately, the three boys have been competing against one another to see who could pile on more inches and bulk on their lanky frames. As a result, we cannot buy milk fast enough to keep up with their growth spurts. They would be ideal candidates for the “Got milk?” campaign.

I can understand why. For quite some time now, people have been mistaking the two younger ones as twins, to their chagrin. And the older one felt that it is about time he did something about it. Thus, milk and more milk.

Being cognizant of how simple gratitudes can make people feel, I wanted to extend this feeling to my sons, too. So last Saturday, two of the “milk boys” and I decided to drive out to the east: Auburn, Black Diamond, Enumclaw and anywhere else in between.

Our express purpose was to visit a farm and personally thank the farmer(s) for producing and taking care of our food before it gets to the supermarket shelves. Enough about writing "attitude of gratitude" journals, I said.

How nice it would be to tell those people how we feel about them in person. Plus, I felt that the boys could gain valuable life lessons from these cursory drop-ins, a true empirical source of learning indeed.

Midway through Auburn, we stopped to look at two donkeys grazing face to face. No Valentine’s Day photo could compete with this image. They paused to look at us, but hurriedly went back to doing what they do best.

About three miles away, we drove up to a dairy farm. The boys were eager to get up close to the cows. It was sundown, but I knocked at the door — the farmer’s official home. His wife asked cheerily how could she be of help to us. We made known our request, and straightaway she went to get her husband.

I felt so guilt-ridden seeing the man coming to the door with sleep still caked in his eyes. I apologized for his wife’s waking him, but he just shrugged, “Not a problem!”

With cows numbering 400, the farmer gave us a tour of the day-to-day operation of a dairy farm. I had one of the best lessons ever, and I will forever be super grateful to farmers the world over for their hard work and dedication.

One of the first things he pointed out to us was that it was extremely important that a young calf gets its mother’s first milk: Colostrum. I knew how vital colostrum was for humans, as I have written about it at length in my book, "Blessings at Your Fingertips." But I had no idea that it plays such a pivotal role in the development of animals.

In fact, he said that if a calf does not get colostrum within a 12-hour period, it would not live past three days. That was a big wow for me: All it takes is just a few ounces of milk to create a healthy life for a future one-ton cow?

He went on to show us the cows’ diet of crushed corn, alfalfa and hay, among other nutrient-rich chows.

The boys got to see tubes attached to the cows’ teats where milk was pumped by the gallons into the stainless steel tank within minutes. They saw the relentless sanitation employed to safeguard our milk source before it is trucked away to be pasteurized. They were awed!

Before departing, I took his hand, looked him straight into his eyes, and said, “I want to tell you a heartfelt thank you for the wonderful job you are doing on your farm to allow us, the consumers, to buy milk rain or shine at our supermarkets.”

His eyes a little misty and robust frame somewhat fidgety, he said that in the 37 years he’s been dairy farming, nobody has ever thanked him for what he does, not that he’s looking for thanks from the public.

As a matter of fact, the opposite is true, he said. Often times, he observed, people tend to complain about the foul smell of his farm, saying the land could be put to better use, like housing development. But what would we do without our farmers?

Two days later, while picking up a few gallons of that treasured “growing liquid” for the boys at the store, I went out of my way to say thank you to the gentleman who was stacking those neat rows of milk.

He was shocked at first when I told him thanks, as if to say, “Thanks for what?” But after relating the story to him, he nodded in assent. It turned out that he, too, has three boys the same age as my sons, and he promised that he would do the same thing with his boys very soon.

Folks, if you are beset by big issues like finances, broken relationships, unemployment and major loss, among other distractions, I would implore you to get out and find beauty in the commonplace. Spring is almost here, so take a closer look at the budding on those winter-ravaged trees. Trade anxiety and chaos for peace and happiness.

Walk down by Redondo Beach and just steal away by the waves’ ebb and flow. Be inspired by a baby’s gummy smile. Say thank you to your librarian. Garbage collector. Caregiver. Mail carrier. Police officers. Firemen.

If you’re having a hard time being convinced about the power of the little things, take advice from one of history’s foremost authorities: “When the solution is simple, God is answering.” — Albert Einstein.

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