The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Natalie Schmitt: Thinking Out Loud-"When is a Question a Question?"


As a mom, I am required to know where my children are at all times. At least that is what it feels like sometimes. When they were little, the kids swore that I had “eyes in the back of my head”. I knew exactly who jumped off of the couch and smashed the Lincoln Log cabin another one was building. What amazed the kids is that I could do it when I wasn’t even in the same room! I would be standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes with my back to the living room, yet I “knew” what was going on.

The kids didn’t realize that I actually could see what they were doing. A strategically placed mirror facing the couch offered me a view into the room the kids were playing in. The mirror would reflect the image to the kitchen window and I could “watch” what they were doing. Of course it was generally the same kid creating the entire racket in the living room.

Now that the kids are helping on the farm and have their own responsibilities, I have less knowledge of where they are at all times, especially when I’ve been in the barn milking for the past 45 minutes. As I’m squatting in between two cows, Mark will inevitably ask me where someone is. For the past 45 minutes the only view of the world I have is boxed in with white walls and the back side of Holstein cows. How am I suppose to know where everyone is. The “eyes in the back of my head” have gone dim as the kids have gotten older. Now the view is sharpest in front of me.

Learning when a question requires an answer or just a supportive nod is difficult to decipher. I haven’t quite figured out all of the cues as to my response. My naturally reaction is to give an answer to any question posed to me. That is my “first child” syndrome to please the teachers with my “knowledge”.?

This reaction generally gets me in trouble. Not all questions require answers. Sometimes questions are a way for others to sort out and solve their own dilemma. But when I don’t have an answer and one was expected, I behind again!

When is a question a question and when is it a “polite command”? I’ll ask the kids..”can you please bring up the straw?” The kids will look at me and depending upon their mood do it, or ask me a similar question. “do I have a choice?” No, it is a polite way of telling them what to get done instead of always ordering them around. I’m trying to give them the sense of making the decision to do something. Build up their self-esteem.

“Is that a question with options or a command?”

Creatures of Habit

We have often described cattle as creatures of habit, but are they really? Or is it us?

As we were switching cattle the other morning, Mark was chasing the group out as he led Chant by a halter. At the back of the barn, he tied her up to the pens and closed the doors behind the other cattle. We started this processing several months ago when Chant got “in trouble”. She likes to “boss” the other cattle around when she is out in the lot. It was a rainy day, and we were afraid that she would get hurt, or hurt another cow as she shoved her weight around in the yard. Therefore we started tying her up to the pens at the back of the barn.

A cow milks out slow in a quarter for a milking or two and all of the sudden we find our selves “helping” her finish up before we remove the milking unit.

I was picking up parts for the milking system a while back. As Ed was finding the parts I needed he was telling me about a couple of brothers who returned an automatic take-off system because it didn’t save them any time. It was taking just as long to milk the cows with the new system as it did with the old. Ed asked them a couple of questions and discovered their problem. They didn’t trust the machine to milk the cows out completely because it didn’t know which quarters the cows were slow in, so they always had it on a manual setting. I’m just as guilty.

As their 4 children pursue dairy careers off the farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their Minnesota farm. (Natalie grew up in Stronghurst, the daughter of Becky and the late Larry Dowell.)