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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

The night before Christmas, down on the farm....

ReinCalf.jpgWe were very busy on Christmas Eve getting the last few things ready for Christmas here at Howmars Farm. The wild, rainy weather lasted through the night of the 23rd, and everything was frozen back up again Christmas Eve morning. All the livestock were fine. We put some fresh sawdust in the freestalls for an early Christmas present for the cows.

I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed all the responses to The Bovine Bugle the past few months, and that I look forward to more of the same in the New Year. It is not very often the dairy farmers hear words of appreciation for what they do every day, and I certainly treasure your kind words and thoughts.

Happy holidays and all the best in the New Year!!

--Jonathan, Howmars Farm
Franklin, Vermont

At left: Noah and Justin try to convince the As-Yet-Unnamed newborn calf to take Rudolph's place on Christmas eve. [Stay turned for more discussion of what to name the new baby.]

Here is something I cut out from a local paper several years ago. Even though it's post-Christmas, I thought you might enjoy it:

The Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas back home on the farm
The cattle were chewing their cuds in the barn
The feed bags were hung by the mangers with care
In case Old St. Nicholas chanced to stop there.

The heifers were nestled all snug in their stalls
While visions of summertime danced 'cross the walls.

Well, me in my slippers, and Ma in her smock
Had just finished filling our little one's sock.

When out in the barnyard there rose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew in a fright,
Turned on the yardlight, and peered through the night.

The moon's mystic light on the snow-covered scene
Made the countryside look like a fog-shrouded dream;
When, what sailed right under some low hanging boughs
But a miniature sleigh, and eight undersized cows.

With a little old driver so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More strongly than tractors his little cows came,
And he whistled and 'so-bossed' and called them by name.

'Now Dolly! Now Debbie! Now Pammie and Flossie!
On Cora! On Countess! On Dinah and Bossie!
To the top of the barn, to the front of the stall
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

So on past the milkhouse those tiny cows flew
With a sleigh full of gifts, and St. Nicholas, too.
I saw them descend on the roof of the barn
So I dashed from the house, eyes wide with alarm.

As I fastened the door and was turning around,
Down the hay chute St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed in blue denim from collar to cuff,
And his clothes were all covered with hayseeds and stuff.

His pocket revealed a bright kerchief of red,
A farmer-type cap perched way back on his head.
It suddenly struck me, I think you'll agree,
He's a miniature version of you or of me.

He put down his bundle with lightning-like speed
And he looked like a dairyman opening some feed.
His eyes how they flashed when he opened his pack
And pulled out some gifts for the heifers out back.

Some glass for the window that lets in the breeze,
A coil for the pipes so the water won't freeze.
More grain for the milk cows, some straw for the stalls,
Lime for the alleys to stop those bad falls.

Semen from sires with a thousand plus---
Things that make cows as happy as us.
He spoke not a word but went straight to his work,
And filled all the feed bags, then turned with a jerk.

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the hay chute he rose.

I stood there a moment, my head hung in shame,
I'd forgotten my cows when this Christmastime came.
So, I patted Old Bessie as I turned out the light,
Happy Christmas, you cows, and to all a Good Night.

-Author Unknown-


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great a real delight

Who would have thought that I would look forward to reading about a dairy farm! I thoroughly enjoy your articles and always look forward to receiving The Bovine Bugle. It's interesting, educational, and a joy to read. Thanks.

We enjoy your letters and farm comments. It seems as if you enjoy farming. we just hope family farms can continue.

Just found your blog today. Fun to read and very inspiring! Enjoying the snow down in Burlington today ... best wishes for the New Year.

I'm enjoying your dairy farms journal. Much is familiar, having lived on a farm for nearly all of my eighty-four years. I am glad that family dairy farms still exist.

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