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Calves in the House and Kids in the Barn

Calves in the House and Kids in the Barn
Friendship leads to blog which leads to radio interview, which leads to a reminder: farm kids love their livestock, come rain, snow or polar vortex.

It's funny the things that will catch people's attention.

Farm kids know: no matter the temperatures, the animals need care.

Last week, I did an interview with John Cody, a Chicago broadcaster with WBBM radio. He had read this blog post by Betsie Estes, a former Field Mom with the Illinois Farm Families program. Betsie blogs at Super Suburbs and is a fabulous young suburban mother I've gotten to know after meeting at Larson Farms a couple years ago. We've become social media friends, and after seeing one of my posts about caring for livestock during the polar vortex of earlier in January, sent a set of questions for my husband and me to answer. From there, she put together a very well-written post for her blog readers about what Illinois livestock farmers were doing.

Mr. Cody's questions mostly rehashed Betsie's: what did we do to prepare for the storms and the cold, what is this business with frozen waterers and pumps and light bulbs, and most interestingly, why would we bring a calf in the house?

He was intrigued by that one. Really. John and I have said, for the past several weeks, we are just fortunate to not be calving yet and we have every hope temperatures will moderate a bit before we start in a couple weeks. But as any livestock farmer knows, when a calf/lamb/goat/etc. is newborn and cold and not doing well, it comes in the house. Mr. Cody was fascinated by the idea that we might bring a calf into the basement or the bathtub, or even the garage. And I think he was quite disappointed that we didn't have one in the house on that exact day, but fortunately he was able to talk with Michael Prescott, a central Illinois cattleman and Illinois Farm Families volunteer, who did. Score one for the farm team.

He also asked a lot of questions about our kids – their ages and whether they helped with the animals in the cold. And of course, I answered that they did. The older kids have heifers and steers, and the youngest has a rabbit, and they all go out to care for them.

"Caroline? The five year old?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered. "She has a rabbit, and we have it bundled up in its hutch but it still needs feed and unfrozen water every day."

And that is, apparently, what made the airwaves. A couple of my co-workers heard the broadcast on their way into work the next day and confirmed: "All of Chicagoland now knows Caroline, age 5, is out taking care of her rabbit, Penny, every day in the cold!"

For the record, my older two were aghast that Caroline got all the credit. "Seriously?! I feed Penny about half the time!" Jenna said. Which is true; Caroline, age 5, is also good at asking her sister to do her quick chore while she's out there. And Jenna and Nathan are endlessly faithful to head out and do their chores. Oh, the irony.

But of course, like bringing a calf in the house, this is all just normal to farm people. Melissa Rhode shared last week that in her husband's absence, her sons Garrett, 12, and Preston, 9, were out doing chores for their dad.

Good kids, just doing what needs to be done. And taking care of the animals they love. No matter the temperature.

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