"Beep, beep, beep," blasted the alarm clock next to my head.
6:00a.m. already?! Time to get up and go take care of the cows. I groaned as I dragged myself halfway out of bed so I could turn off the alarm. Then I immediately fell back into bed--exhausted. "Why do I have to always get up first?" I complained to myself bitterly, "Why can't Laura take the initiative once in awhile?" (Laura is my 12-year-old sister; we are very close even though I am four years older than her.) After a few more complaining thoughts to myself, I took a deep breath and hoisted my tired body completely out of the bed. I immediately felt better.
I walked over to the window and looked outside at the cows. Our brown Jersey cows looked so beautiful laying in the green grass with the early morning sun shining softly on them. My tiredness forgotten in the anticipation of going to see the cows, I turned from the window, saying "Come on, Laura, get out of bed." The bed was empty. Laura was gone, already dressed and into the bathroom first. "Why does she always do that to me?" I grumbled, as I got dressed. Laura was back in a few minutes. "Come on Sarah, let's make the bed." "Oh well," I thought, as I began to arrange the covers, "I'll get in the bathroom first next time."
Laura and I went downstairs, laced up our boots and went outside. I could hear Dad coming down the stairs as we went out the door. That is our schedule--Laura and I go out at 6 o'clock one day, then my 15 year old twin sisters Andrea and Erika go with him the next day. My eight-year-old sister, Mary, joins Laura and me at 7:30 and my nine-year-old sister, Rachel, does the same with Andrea and Erika the next day. Sometimes Mom comes out to help at 6:30 and goes in around 8:00 to get breakfast started.
"Here bossy, bossy," I called to the cows as we went over the hill to get them. "Come boss, co' boss, come on girls." The cows hoisted themselves up, groaning and stretching. I grinned and said to Laura, "They don't like getting out of bed either."
Laura protested, "We wait on them hand and foot, or hoof, rather. We are their slaves!" she cried dramatically. She walked up to an old cow named Susan and bowed low with a flourish. "I apologize, Your Majesty Queen Susan, but it is time to wake up and have your royal breakfast." Susan just lay there looking at her.
"She has no idea what you're saying," I laughed. "Come on girl, get up." Susan sighed and got up.
As Laura and I walked the cows to the barn, I soaked in the morning sights and sounds; the door to the house slamming shut as Dad came out with the milk pitcher, the sound of the cow's hooves in the dusty cow paths, the ducks' excited quacking as they climbed into their swimming pool for their morning swim and the rooster's haughty crowing as he daintily led his chickens out of their small shed to find some bugs. As we came up over the hill, I heard a wild male pheasant honking down by the gravel pit and felt the same thrill I always get whenever I hear it. I saw the barn swallows teaching their chubby little babies how to fly, and the starlings sitting on the fence singing their bubbly song of pride and contentment. I looked over our land and a feeling of love welled up inside of me and stuck in my throat. I felt so grateful for my land, my life and my family. "This is our land, nobody can take it from us," I thought fiercely, unknowingly clenching my fists. I thought of all the people who had nothing and of all the people who have everything and yet are not happy and I felt truly blessed. "We are so blessed." I thought, blushing over how I had grumbled at getting out of bed. A killdeer shrieked, startling me out of my dreams. I realized I had stopped, and saw that Laura was ahead waiting for me, respecting my solemn moment. The cows were already far ahead. The lights were on in the barn and I could hear Dad setting things up for the milking.
"Hey! Want a piggy-back ride?" I called to Laura as I jogged toward her. Laura's solemn face lit up as she ran to me and leaped onto my back. "Oof," I grunted as her weight knocked the breath out of me. I pretended to stagger forward a few steps then I groaned, "Man, Laura, you are heavy."
"I am not!" She protested laughing, "I'm as light as a feather." Then she kicked her heels into my sides and pleaded, "Come on Sarah, run!" I laughed and jogged down the hill to the barn with Laura's comforting weight pressing into my back. I felt alive and strong. I couldn't wait to stretch my muscles moving the milking machines and to smell the sweet smell of cow and grass as I washed the cow's udders. I sped up and my boots pounded the path, chanting, "So blessed, so blessed, so blessed."
Sarah Holm lives on an Organic Valley dairy farm in Wisconsin with her parents and five younger sisters. Click here to hear another story from Sarah and meet her family in "Heart of Farming" (audio slideshow).