“Sand, sand, everywhere. It’s even in our underwear!” This could be my little tribes motto lately. Most small kids have a sandbox. This is where our children, being raised on a dairy farm, differ from your other average pre-school aged child. Believe me, I had to explain one morning at school when Emma was making it sound like we had a large sandbox. We literally have a mountain of sand behind our one barn, just beckoning for the children to come scale it in its monstrosity.
You may be wondering why we have the Mt Everest of sand behind our barn. On our dairy, the cows are housed in a free stall barn. This helps keep them clean and comfortable. Below is a picture of what free stall housing looks like.
Each cow has here own stall to lounge in during the day. You can bed stalls with a wide array of things. These include but are not limited to: sand, straw, sawdust, pine shavings, etc. We have chosen sand, it is a very comfortable material for them to lay on. Cows are very large animals, with the majority of our Holsteins (the black and white ones) being over 1200 pounds. Now when you’re this large you not only WANT a large, comfy bed, but you NEED a large, comfy bed. The happier we keep our girls the more milk they want to give for us. Cow comfort is a huge part of dairy farming and is always a topic discussed at industry meetings and in dairy magazines. Not only California gets to have happy cows!
While sand is the preferred bedding of many dairy farmers and their ladies, it does not come with out its own challenges. While straw or shavings that will break down and decompose in manuare pit, sand does not. Some farms have sand lanes, which slowly filter out the sand as it heads to the farms manuare storage. Ours doesn’t, it has to have the excess sand cleaned out with a backhoe from time to time.
Our ladies get fresh sand in their stalls on a weekly basis. These helps keep them clean and mastitis free. If you’ve ever been a nursing mother you can appreciate this. I know after having 3 babies I have a whole new appreciation for our girls! We normally have one or two semi loads of sand stored at a time. This brings us to two weeks ago.
The person who hauls the sand to our farm needed to have his trailer worked on. Being worried how long it was going to take to have it fixed and not want us to run out, he brought us twice as much as what we normally get. We had 4 semi loads of sand, for a rough visual in your mind this is approximately 80ish tons of sand. In one pile. This is why I referred to it as the Mt Everest of sand, it was a good comparison.
So if you are 3 and 4 years old and are accustomed to playing in a large sand pile (20-40 tons), when you walk behind the free stall barn and see 80+ tons of the pearly stuff, you may believe you have died and gone to sand heaven. Being the little thinkers they are, they realized the normal shovels, pails and assorted sand toys were not going to meet the needs they suddenly had. Don’t get me wrong, they were sufficient for a certain amount of time while they pondered what would truly maximize the pile’s potential.
A simple discovery was made, a saucer sled innocently forgotten about from last winter. When it was dug out from storage, you would have thought the two eldest tribe members had unearthed the holy grail! Such glee on little faces! In to the milking parlor they walked with their new discovery, sheepish little grins on their cherubic faces. Suddenly they exclaimed “We’re headed back to the sand pile!” and off they marched.
This appeared to have all the makings of an amazing pre-school stunt. One thing the tribesmen forgot to account for is that sand cause friction. Sadly, what took hours of devious thinking and probably 5 minutes of trekking thru the mud with a saucer as big as they were, was a fail. However, it may have been in the best interest of our medical bills that this did not pan out. The following are pictures after a sand pile adventure. Yes, there were clothes that did not return to their original state after these photos were taken. Mainly Taylors jeans….
Now, when your kids come home and are this disgusting you must go about the act of attempting to get them clean. Clothes were stripped off and sent thru two aggressive cycles on the wash machine. Upon completing their cycle thru the dryer I realized that my lint trap was filled to the brim with sand. But the worst was yet to come.
While the clothes were washing so were the children. I had to wash their hair 3 times to remove all the sand! Feet and hands were stained brown. Until this little experience I was unaware sand could stain things. Boy was I naïve. After thirty minutes (it seemed like anyways) of non-stop scrubbing, they were deemed clean enough and hopped out of the tub. The elders of the tribe were toweled off, pajama-d and bounding off to go about their mischief til dinner time. Nothing else interesting occurred that evening.
The next evening Tom and I were getting ready to go away for the evening. The bath tub just didn’t seem to be draining like it should. I busted out the trusty plunger and set to work trying to free the drain. I achieved little success. After a few heartier plunges from Tom, there was a gurgling that sounded like it came from the bowels of our basement. Next was truly a disgusting thing. It looked as though our bathtub drain was slowly vomiting sand, in copious amounts, on to the floor of our tub…. Removing sand from a tub is about as fun as it sounds. I’m pretty sure sand is about the only inorganic thing that can multiply on its own.
The lesson I took away from this: not only does sand require special needs in it’s handling and removal on a dairy farm, farm mothers should beware, it can also cause havoc in the home as well!