The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.


Farm Family Insights: by Natalie Dowell Schmitt

Everyone Needs Rest

God has a funny sense of humor, and his timing is perfect. As the priest started to deliver his Sunday homily, I closed my eyes to focus on the words. Mark thought I was asleep and elbowed me with glee. He couldn't believe that I fell asleep first. Because I wasn't going back to a deep mediation after that jolt, I started to hear the words being preached. "Everyone needs rest."

It was all I could do to restrain myself from elbowing Mark to make sure he was hearing the same words. The priest talked about his favorite place to go where he could rest and recharge. Again, he said we all need rest even when we feel we are too busy. We all need to find our place where we can rest. If I didn't hear the message on Sunday, I heard it loud and clear when I was watching a movie trailer.

"You're working too hard, and rest isn't about not being busy. Rest is knowing why you breathe." Where is the space you can breathe deeply and exhale all the stress stored up in your body?

Most people think they need to be on a vacation in order to rest and relax. A girlfriend told me you have to travel out of state for a trip to be called a vacation. I say we have to venture more than 30 miles from our driveway to call a getaway a vacation. Still, we can find those peaceful, restful places as close as home.

When we started back up with milking in March, the regular routine of how things had always been done was finally broken. Now we could start a new routine, and move in a different direction because we were starting with a clean slate. Because we could do things differently, I suggested to Mark that I would need to take a day or two off every month to recharge. (I wanted both of us to take time off, but I had to take baby steps with my request.) He looked at me like I said I would only work one or two days a month.

    Now I grew up with my dad preaching, "Work hard, then you can play hard." So, working hard isn't an issue. Getting to play sometimes is. I needed to have a carrot dangling in front of me with the promise of time off to get through the daily routine. Most normal years that wouldn't be a problem. This year, it is.

Driving down our road to town is deceiving. The lush full rows of edible beans and potato fields, the tasseling corn and the regrowth of alfalfa fields give the impression we are having a year with timely rains. We are not. Irrigation pivots have been running non-stop since the beginning of June. Where the water from the pivots misses the corners of the fields, the reality of how dry it is slaps us in the face. The corn is twisted as tight as a calf's switch. There is only a tinge of faded green left in the plants as the bottom leaves start to fire. I'm afraid the plants will crumble beneath the slightest touch. The lack of rain weighs heavily on the farmers in our area.

*Mark has been kept busy switching pivots and starting traveling guns to provide enough feed for our growing herd. The barn is half full with 42 milking heifers. We could be up to 70 head by the end of the year. The pressure to keep things moving forward is constantly on Mark's radar, blocking his chance to rest and breathe for any extended period of time.

Mark says once it rains, then we can think about getting away for a vacation. Well, it hasn't rained, and we haven't had any time to get away. Michael had vacation days he had to use or lose this month, so he offered to use them by working on the farm. He works from home in front of computer screens, so physical work on the farm would be a great vacation from his routine. He knew we could use a break from our routine as well. I said go as fast as Mark said no. Mark knew he couldn't leave for a couple of days without any rain in sight.

My next career is going to be negotiations. I suggested we take day trips to visit friends or explore new areas, allowing Mark the chance to keep things wet, Michael the chance to milk cows, and me the chance to get some play time in with Mark. Now to find those places to breath and rest. On these hot, dry days, I dream about being in the middle of a lake with a lifejacket on, floating with the fish. Being on or near the water is where I find rest and peace. Even without getting away, we can find those moments around home. For us, it is riding the four-wheeler after a hot night in the barn to cool off. Parked up on the hill, we can surround ourself with a view of lush fields that takes our breath away as the sunset washes the sky in colors found on an artist's pallet. The tree row silhouette dividing heaven and earth. The sound of silence and peace releases the stress and tensions of the day as we start to rest and breathe. The sweet smell of fresh water and corn tasseling fills our senses. A vacation doesn't need to be long to be helpful. You just have to take the time to rest, enjoy and breathe.

May you find your place to rest where you can breath and recharge. It may be an exotic trip for several days or a few steps to a cool spot under an old maple tree for a few minutes. The point is, everybody needs rest.


As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.