After College:The Real Challenge Begins

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After graduating from a Big Ten University, I thought I’d hit the ground of the real world running. I mean, I thought I could find the perfect job doing what I love and still live where I wanted. It was supposed to be a piece of cake. At least, that’s how I had pictured it. And I’m almost as sure as the sky is blue, that I’m not the only 22-year-old that thought this.

Here’s my biggest problem, I have a past. I have 22 years of living on this perfect little dairy and grain farm in the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I’ve spent hours upon hours working show calves, hauling straw bales, and doing anything else that needed done while surrounded by family. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. I fell in love with this simple way of life. There’s so much blood, sweat, and tears that go into it. But that’s part of the reason I love it. You can’t replace the feeling of getting an offer on your home raised show heifer. Or jumping in the pool after a long day of riding the wagon while putting up straw. There’s such a reward to be reaped after tackling these massive tasks.

So, I’ve done the best to compromise. I took a job just 30 minutes from my home, not my dream job by any means.  But hey, I’m not against working my way up the totem pole. The best part? I’m home every night to do what I so deeply love. I get home right in time to do chores. Which sounds crazy to 4 out of every 5 people that have heard this. “You mean, you go right home after work so you can work even more?” Why yes, yes I do. Here’s a little secret, this “extra work” that they are referring to doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s more like family bonding to me. I get to work alongside my Mom and Dad and uphold a family legacy.

Where I’m from, it’s not that uncommon. Yes, some go off and take the “big league” jobs, yet every planting, harvesting, and calving season you know where they spend all their extra time? They make the long drives back home to do what they know the best, what they lay in bed and long for every night. Deep down, they too want to find the way to come back home. Because you grow up wanting to carry on the family profession.

As Paul Harvey said, “Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does. So God made a farmer.”

It’s 200 times harder than I ever imagined to juggle a job and still keep tabs on the farm, but it is well worth it. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be if I couldn’t look out the window every morning to see the bluest sky, cows meandering around, and corn fields as far as my eyes can see. And I know that I’ll never have to call any other life mine.

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3 Girls and a Dairy Farm

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HolsteinWorld Blog

It just finally hit me. All these years I’ve wished I had a brother; someone that could be of more help to Dad. That could throw those top bales without having to try, or back the trailer up on the first try, not the second. Heck, he would probably have enough sense to wear pants while baling instead of shorts and ending up with cut-up legs the next day. Someone that would be the legacy of our family farm.

Then I had an epiphany of sorts. It all makes sense! I’m glad we don’t have a brother. I wouldn’t be the girl I am today if I had been given a brother. I’ve had to fill those shoes. I’ve been the one to work alongside my Dad and feel pride every day, every hour, every minute of it. Would I feel the passion, pain, or puzzlement that comes with farming and dairying? I’ve learned so many things that a lot of girls don’t. I’ve never once heard that I couldn’t do a task on the farm because I was a girl. They simply told me how to do it, and it was known I would get it done. I’m so lucky to have a father and grandfather that didn’t hire extra outside help to do the chores because there were only daughters or granddaughters. They simply believed that I was as good as any boy could be, and the fact is now I am.

The great drought of 2012 was photographed July 26-27, 2012.

Photo Credit: Crain’s Chicago Business

Yes, it takes me a little longer to back the trailer up, and three tries to throw the bale on the top row of the rack wagon, but you can bet I’ll try until I get it done. I’ll never be told that I can’t do that; it’s a man’s job. It makes my heart burst with joy from being this farmer’s daughter. For me, my parents are living the dream. To be your own boss and bring your family together through your job; well, to me that’s worth more than any amount of zeros on a paycheck. For me, farming is the ultimate profession, it’s not about easy work or making millions, but about growing families, feeding the world, and making each child understand responsibility and planting the seed of agricultural passion inside them.

Day 30: Grammy

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Today is about a very special woman, my Grammy. She has spent many hours at our house, watching us, helping with homework, and teaching us all about cooking. Grammy was our taxi service all throughout childhood. Since all school practices and events seemed to take place right during milking hours, mom and dad couldn’t get us there. She came out every night to help us with homework and make sure we didn’t kill each other while alone in the house. Whenever it was nice out, she would play countless games of Annie Annie over with us, and catch. She always comes to video tape us loading up the cows and heifers for our club’s black and white show. She also comes out every year when we put up sweet corn. She helps mom cut the corn off the cob and get it into freezer bags. She’s always willing to whip up something for us to eat, and is an extremely good cook! She hosts all of our family holidays and makes almost all the food. She helped PawPaw with the farming and milking, and anything else that needed done. She can garden like no other, and spends countless hours hoeing and weeding her garden, and is always willing to come work on ours too! She grows the best coxcomb I’ve ever seen, and I’m excited to grow my own one day, thanks to her.

She is the best Grammy we could ever have, and we are blessed to have her around. Without her, us girls wouldn’t have gotten such good grades, and mom and dad would have had a lot more struggles of hauling us girls all over.

Day 29: sisters

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I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with two partners in crime. Two people to play with, to make up games with, and to spend all our time together. God blessed me with two best friends that lived in the same house, and understand all your problems. Living on a dairy farm, having all girls, isn’t exactly like hitting the jackpot. All of our lives we have heard other people tell dad, that the boys will come.

Having two sisters is great, usually! We get to share clothes, shoes, and jewelry. There’s always someone to listen to your problems and understand because they’ve been through it before. We’ve really become best friends the older we get, and we will continue to get closer.

Having two sisters at fairs, has had it’s ups and downs. At times it would have been nice to have a brother to carry the heavy stuff and tell us he would protect us during the long dark nights in an unfamiliar barn. But, we learned what each person did best and made it work. Allies is still in charge of washing, because Livy and I don’t have the patience, and I have to scatter straw since Livy is allergic. We’ve learned to work together to accomplish whatever needs done. We’ve had our good times and our bad, but we always stick together.

Some things we still need the others approval for are what we are wearing before we go somewhere important, baby calf names, and boys. We always want the others approval and aren’t happy until we have it. I’m truly blessed that my patents have me these two, and that I’ll always have them in my life.

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Day 28: miracle cows

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Over the years we have had some miracle cows. One of the most recent would be Dizzy. Dad and I went to a dispersal sale last spring in Indiana. We were running a little late due to the time change, and he had about three heifers marked down to look at. Dizzy was one of them. She sold pretty late in the sale and after a big bidding war I ended up with her. Since we took a car instead of the truck and trailer, we had a neighboring farmer bring her to our farm. After her first day at our house, we noticed she wasn’t eating enough, and she didn’t seem to be feeling good. We called our vet the next day and he determined that she had a dislocated abomasum, which is one of the four stomach competently cows have. She had surgery to untwist her stomach, and her health seemed to decline even more. The vet came back to look at her, and told us he didn’t think she would make it to the next morning. Dad and I took her up to the university of Illinois vet clinic. The vet asked us about her situation and we explained all that had happened. She asked how much we were willing to do, and dad said whatever it takes. We headed home to do evening chores, and received a phone call asking if we gave them permission to operate. The next morning we received a phone call that she had made it through, and seemed to be in good health! After hearing they gave her a twenty precent chance to live, and a twenty percent chance to make it through surgery. They said they really didn’t find anything in the surgery, but she finally was going to the bathroom regularly! We were all so excited! When a cow gets sick, it’s the same as a member of our family being sick. After another day or two, they called and told us we could come and pick her up. She came home and got babied, she also showed all summer. She’s now getting a little chubby, but that’s okay, because she’s pregnant!

We’re blessed to have her still in our lives, as well as such awesome vets at the university that we can count on to help us keep our black and white beauties alive.

Day 20: Home is where the heart is, home is where the cows are

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Tomorrow I get to go home. I haven’t been there in two whole weeks. Which to most college students probably doesn’t seem like much time away, but to me it seems like a century. You see, living only an hour and fifteen minutes away makes it pretty easy to go home every weekend. At this point the drive doesn’t really even seem that long.

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The cow lot

Going home means so many things to me, of course it means getting to see my family, and my boyfriend. But it also means I get to see all the progress that has happened since I’ve been away, like the fields freshly harvested and the black dirt turned over. Or the newest baby calves, and what their mammas look like after losing all that baby weight. To me going home lets me be a part of my family’s lifestyle, and our family business. Going home means helping and laughing and being a team, that’s the only way anything gets accomplished on a farm anyway.

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For years I’ve heard Mom or Dad telling people on the phone how to get to our house, “bedford stone house with two stave silos, you can’t miss it.” And that really does describe it, but to me it’s so much more.

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The Parlor

Grammy and PawPaw built the house when my Aunts and Dad were little. We moved into the house when PawPaw took a step back from the farm and Dad began to take more responsibility. I’m sure that my Aunts have their fair share of memories that come running back whenever they are over. I know that our family has our own. From the time that I played with hot peppers from the garden on the big well block, and couldn’t see straight for a couple of hours. When Santa brought us girls a swimming pool for Christmas and all the summers we’ve spent in it with each other and our friends. The three of us girls and Dad will never be able to forget the rat invasion out at the heifer shed, and I think we all secretly hope that we can try that again.

There are also some bad memories that I associate with home, like watching my cow Butter-finger pass away out on the dirt pasture. The countless baby calves that are stillborn, or the cows that die while giving birth. These setbacks make it hard to want to finish chores, yet we do every time.

Dairy farming isn’t easy, and I think that’s why the farm means so much to me. It’s more than a house a shed and some barns, it’s where the Telgmann family established a legacy. Where the Char-La-Don prefix was first started, where dairy-farming was etched into each one of us. It’s a true blessing to have grown up on the farm, I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

Day 18: From Citygirl to Farmgirl

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If you would have asked her when she was twenty, if she would ever end up on a dairy farm milking cows, I bet her answer would have been NO! Our mom, grew up in Effingham, the biggest city near us. She went to college and became a beautician. After her and dad got married she worked at a bank in town, until after I was born. Then her world changed, some days it may seem for the better, yet other days it may seem for the worst.

Our mom began milking full-time after I was born, and she still does it everyday, twice a day. She must enjoy the time dancing and singing with the cows somewhat, because she doesn’t complain about it very much.

When the three of us girls were little, she would manage to milk and still get us to church every Sunday and on holidays with curled hair pulled back with bows, not to mention she had to get herself ready too. Many times, she would spend hours making us all matching dresses or outfits, because back then that was “cool.”

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With all the time she puts into milking, helping dad outside with the other odds and ends, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and cooking all the meals, she always found the time to hand make us the absolute best Halloween costumes. We were always excited to wear them at school or at the Halloween parade in town.

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Mom is the best listener. Whenever, or maybe it is easier to say whichever, one of us girls has a problem, she will always think up solutions and try to help us in any way that she can. She has done so much for us girls, and we appreciate her so much for it.

At times it seems that we totally underestimate what she does. She no longer seems to be a “city girl” like she used to be. She can drive graintrucks and tractors like the best of them, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep our family going.

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Our family wouldn’t be the same without “Mama Kim.” We are so blessed to have a mom and role model like you. I know the three of us can’t wait to have you help us make adorable costumes for our kids, or learn how to make your delicious meatballs. The farm wouldn’t run as “smoothly” as it does without you, Mom.