What’s Happening on the Farm, Spring 2020

Journal April 18, 2020

Currently we are not having visitors to the farm because of the Covid 19 crisis. Hopefully that will change and we can have people out to share life on the farm as it changes through the seasons. We still have eggs for sale. Just call, text or email with your order and I will place them in the Welcome Center for you to pick up. Just leave money ($3 a dozen) on the fridge. We are always in need of egg cartons and appreciate your saving them for us to recycle.

Spring emerges from winter in tiny increments. Watching for signs of spring is one of the joys of living on a farm. Winter is a time to hunker down, to brave the cold, to endure the snow, to get acclimated to the darkness. Spring is a time of hope, renewed energy and birth. The first sign is the sun, feeling its warmth as it dawns earlier and climbs higher in the sky. The snow is the first thing to feel the warmth. It settles, water seeps away from the edge of the bank, fluff turns to ice crystals. White turns to brown and shades of gray. As it recedes it leaves behind bits of mold and moss-like figurines. Look closely and you will see evidence of life, little mice and mole tunnels, tuffs of grass and occasionally a nest where a litter of babies had been born and raised during dark winter.

The first sign of spring in the meadows is the pussy willows. A warm day or two above freezing awakens the tips of the bushes with their fuzzy buds emerging overnight. “Look, a sign of spring”, observed on a frigid sleigh ride through the swamp brings hope that warm weather is not far off.

Then there is mud. Wet, slimy, sticky, dirty mud. It sticks to your boots and clings to the bottom for your coveralls. It fills the treads on the tractor wheels and splashes up from the horses feet. Tiny rivers of water from the melting snow add to the mixture and depth. The intensity increases until the frost, which has sealed the earth, begins give way to the sun’s rays. Mud season seems to last forever until it is suddenly gone by a dramatic act of Mother Nature.

Last week the puddles seemed to be everywhere, low waterlogged ground greatly exceeding the high dry ground. Walking around the yard consisted of puddle jumping and, in some cases wading right through, hoping my boots didn’t leak. Then, as if by some miracle of nature , I was awakened at 3 am by distant thunder and flashes of lightning . I sat on the edge of the bed and watch as the storm approached from the west. I was startled as the lightning hit nearby and the thunder shook the house.

Hearing me stirring in the house, Rosie, my faithful border collie, scratched at the door. She is deathly afraid of thunder. Then came a down pouring of cold soaking rain as we made our way to the lambing barn for a barn check. It beat on the roof and made a strange swishing sound as the wind drove it in sheets. I sat on a bale, Rosie snuggled against my leg, watching a new set of twin lambs struggle to get up and find their mother’s udder and get their first drink of colostrum ( mothers first milk, rich in nutrients and antibodies). Without getting this in their first few hours, the lambs will die. It wasn’t long, maybe 10-15 minutes they had managed to get their heads under the ewe and find a teat. I could tell they had connected when their little tails wiggled excitedly. Mom turned from one side to the other nuzzling the babies, making soft grunting sounds as if to say good job. Occasionally she would look over at Rosie and I, stomping her front foot as if to warn Rosie to keep her distance.

Gradually, as we sat there, the storm moved off to the south. The lightning flashes continued but the thunder faded. The wind subsided and the rain gave way to an erie silence both inside and outside the barn. The air had a fresh spring like smell to it and stars began to appear as Rosie and I made our way back to the house. She settled into her pad on the porch as I made my way back into the house. It felt good to climb back into bed and drift back to sleep having witnessed firsthand a true sign of spring.

Morning came with the sun streaming through the east window into the living room. Coffee cup in hand, I looked out on the yard. The puddles, in spite of the heavy downpour, miraculously disappeared. I knew the frost was gone. SPRING HAD SPRUNG!

To be continued

Birthday Parties

We strive to make a child’s birthday special with a barn tour to visit the animals, a horse drawn hay ride and full use of the Welcome Center. Bring your own food, beverage and party decorations.

Cost is $5 per person with a $75 minimium.

Call or text 218-966-1354 or email mredsfarmllc@gmail.com with your preferred date and time.


Farm Tours


Mr. Ed’s is a working farm with many animals to see, learn about and interact with. This includes draft horses, ponies, sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas, rabbits and a border collie.

Learn what the animals eat and how they are cared for. Helping with the chores includes feeding the animals and shelling corn for the chickens.    


School Field trips

We welcome school field trips. Students tour a working farm to learn about many different kinds of farm animals, what they eat and how farmers take care of them. The experience also includes a horse drawn ride and play time in the MooTel corn box. The Welcome Center is available for a picnic. Other activities added for groupd with more time on site.

Field trips generally last from 1.5-3 hours. The itinerary is customized to fit the age of the students and to the time available. Special emphasis on hands on activities.

Groups are generally divided by classroom.  Chaperones welcome.

Cost is $5 per person including teachers and chaperones.

Call or text 218-966-1354 or email mredsfarmllc@gmail.com 

Horse drawn ride to the field

MooTell play area

Welcome Center

Directions to the Farm

It’s pretty easy to get to Mr. Ed’s Farm. From Hibbing. Take Highway 37 east to Highway 5 South. Go South on 5 three miles and turn right (West) on Foss Road. For GPS enter 10796 Foss Road Hibbing 55746

Some thoughts on being a shepherd

Farming is a waiting game. Time is calibrated with the seasons. There is a time for everything and patience is a necessary virtue. On Mr Ed’s farm, it is lambing season. The first lambs, a nice set of twins, came last Thursday, sometime during the night, without incident. Just the way I like it. Actually, for the first time in several years, the first lambs were two weeks later than expected. Usually the first ewe gives birth a week early just to catch me by surprise. This year, factoring in the usual, I was on alert by February 7. Nothing. And a good thing too, because we had a couple of cold spells. I do at least two barn checks a night, especially when it goes below zero. It is very invigorating to take a stroll to the lambing barn when the wind chill is minus something in double digits.

I say my lambing season started last week but it really began last fall. Sheep are seasonal breeders with a five month gestation period. Breeding is triggered by length of daylight and cool nights. My rule of thumb is to lock up the ram no later than July 15th. I found out the hard way that August 1st is too late unless you want a Christmas surprise.

I generally turn the ram in about September 12. Prior to that date, I follow a ritual called “flushing the ewes”. Nature provides for it’s creatures. If the food source is plentiful at breeding time, the ewes are more likely to have twins. I set aside a section of pasture for a few weeks to let it grow up before turning the ewes on it, usually about two weeks before exposing them to the ram. I also worm them at this time. Intestinal worms like to live inside the sheep, sucking their blood and sapping their energy. A little shot of worm medicine sends them down the line and out into the sunshine, which they don’t like.

Most sheep will get bred in the first three weeks. Week two is generally the busiest time. I have had as many as five sheep give birth on the same day. Try sorting that out! Mothers and babies bond in the first few minutes. If too many are in the same area at once, some mothers try to claim more than their own, confusing the babies and the shepherd.

My sheep are shorn at least two weeks before I anticipate lambing to commence. This allows me to monitor their condition and udder size. I can usually tell if a ewe is going to lamb within 24 hours. The area around their tail begins to sag. About two hours before delivery they will stake out an area, pushing other ewes away. They will paw the straw, turning around in a circular motion. They usually will start making baaing sounds within the hour and act like they are looking for the lamb.i found it is important to stay out of sight during this time. Some ewes will delay delivery if they think there is a “predator” nearby.

Normal delivery happens pretty quickly. Normal birth is front feet first. The front feet appear followed by the nose. The ewe lays on her side and “pushes” forcing the lamb out. Once the head clears, the lamb slides out. I have seen ewes jump up at this point, swing around so the lamb drops. They will immediately clean the mucus off the lamb’s nose so it can get its first breath. The lamb will gasp for air. If I am present, I will run my finger through its mouth. If the lamb does not try to breath, I’ll insert a piece of straw into it’s nostril. This tickles the nasal area and usually triggers a gasping reaction. I have even saved lambs by blowing into their noses, holding them upside down and even swinging them in a circle to get liquid out of their lungs.

Ewes that have twins usually deliver their lambs about twenty minutes apart. This gives them time to clean off and dry the first one before the second one is born.

In cold weather the lambs will start shivering when their mothers commence the licking process. This elevates their body temperature, which in turn, speeds the drying process. Healthy lambs will try to stand up almost immediately. Usually by the time the second lamb arrives, the first one is wobbling around under the ewe looking for its first milk. Somehow it knows where to look and to tilt it’s nose upward. Once it makes the connection, it wiggles it’s tail.

Lambs need the first milk called colostrum to survive. It is thick and gooy and full of antibodies. Sometimes the teat has a plug in it. I make sure the milk is flowing. If I am not sure the lamb has nursed, I “tube” it. This involves hand milking the mother, squirting it into a syringe with a long plastic tube on it. I gently slide the tube down the baby’s throat, to it’s stomach, being very careful not to get the milk in the lungs. Usually if a lamb is weak, a good shot of mom’s milk will perk him right up.

Another thing I check are the lamb’s eyes. Some lambs are born with inverted eye lids. The lashes are turned in and irritate the eye. If left untreated, the lamb will lose interest in eating and in some cases go blind.

I also watch for signs of white muscle disease. This is from a lack of vitamin E. Soon after they are born, I give them an oral dose of Baby Lamb Strength, followed by 3 cc of vitamin E injectable. This is a frustrating disease because not all lambs get it and it comes on gradually. Deficient lambs start to get weaker when they get about three weeks old. With twins, especially with older ewes, it is easy to mistake this for not enough milk. Sometimes the ewe is not able to produce enough milk for the growing lambs. Older ewes, seven and older, will give birth to twins but just don’t have the body reserves to meet their needs. If I have a good ewe that I want to get one more lambing, I may pull one lamb off when it is born. If there is another ewe lambing at the same time that only has a single, I’ll try to graft the lamb onto that one.

I try to keep colostrum and milk replacer on hand for the occasional orphan or bum lamb. Unfortunately sometimes the mother dies from complications or the mother rejects the lamb for what ever reason. The chances for survival are pretty good if the lamb gets colostrum during its first twelve hours of life. Bottle lambs, for the first two weeks or so, need to be fed every few hours. They quickly become attached to the person with the bottle. It’s a good thing they are so cute because you lose some sleep in the process. Usually the cuteness wears off when they hit 50 pounds and follow you everywhere including trying to climb in your car.

Lambs begin nibbling early on. They will chew on hay and grain fed to their mothers. I set up a creep feed area, a pen with a lamb size opening, so the lambs have access to high protein feed. I hang a light bulb over it which seems to entice the lambs to the special area. Lambs like to jump, climb and play so I put a hay bale in the area too.

Shepherds have been looking after their flocks for thousands of years. Each season has it’s rhythm. Everything happens for a reason. Effort is rewarded by the products the sheep give us. Watching lambs playing is food for the soul.

“Hi Mr. Ed. Bet you can’t catch me”

Sometimes you have to be smarter than a pig

Transporting animals can be tricky business. Anyone who has ever loaded a horse in a trailer for the first time probably has an interesting story to tell. I heard a story the other day about a belligerent horse that refused to be loaded. The horse was owned by a women. Men were trying to get the animal into the trailer. It put up quite a fight, hauling back on the rope in a halter stretching maneuver, throwing itself and even lying down. By the time the owner arrived the men were at their wits end having discussed many options including some involving pain. Their last resort before getting rough was to get a piece of plywood and press it against the horse’s backside and push it in. Two men on the board, one man on each front leg and a fifth on the halter rope. The animal braced it’s legs and refused to budge. The owner, seeing the situation was getting out of hand, motioned for the red faced men to stop their futile efforts. They backed off to catch their breath. The owner walked up to the horse and whispered in it’s ear. The animal lifted it’s head and hopped into the trailer. The men were amazed. “How did you get that darn horse to jump into the trailer? one of them asked. The woman replied “Did you ever think of asking her?”

On the farm where I grew up, mom and dad would sell an animal when they needed some cash. It might be an old cow or some pigs. Dad would go to Pohlcamp’s feed store In Pierz. On his way home he would stop to see Johnny Walz, the man with the truck who hauled livestock to South St. Paul. Mr Walz had certain days when he would drive to various farms to pick up a load. He had one of those big trucks with a high stock rack on the back. His was red on the bottom with white slatted boards on the top. When the truck rumbled into the yard us kids would run out to see what he had in the truck. There might be a big menacing looking holstein bull, or a huge old boar pig with its tusks protruding from the sides of his mouth. Mr Walz would back the truck up to the door where the animal was being held. Cows and bulls were loaded out through the milk house door. He’d pull out this huge ramp from the bed of the truck and drop it with a bang to the ground. Then he would go to the side of the truck and hoist down the sides of the chute, dropping the legs into holes on the side of the ramp. Once he had these secured he’d walk up the chute and peer into the rack. He had more than one compartment in there and would often have to secure a gate before he could load the next animal. We held our breath as he’d shout at and poke whatever was in there to move so he could shut the gate.

Usually Dad was home when the truck came. I remember one time when Johnny Walz came early to pick up some old sows. For those unfamiliar with sows, they are female pigs that get bigger and meaner with age. When they get about 500 or 600 pounds they are too big and too mean to raise piglets. There were four sows, a big red one, two black and white ones and a spotted Poland China confined to the pig house that day. “Here comes the truck” I remember Mom saying “Eddie, your going to have to help load those pigs”.

I am sure I swallowed hard. Pigs were never my favorite farm animal. The babies emitted ear splitting squeals when you gave them shots, causing the mothers to roar and snap at you. The feeder pigs were even worse when you caught them to put rings in their noses before turning them out on pasture. Old sows were the worst because they were always in a bad mood and probably didn’t care who they ate.

I ran out to the pig house in time to direct Mr. Walz as he backed his truck up to the door. “What you got today” he asked. “Four old sows” I said. “Where’s your dad?” he asked. About that time mom had arrived at the scene. “Eddie will help you get them loaded” she assured him, sensing that he was looking for some assistance.

While he pulled out the ramp and fastened the side panels to make the chute, I summoned my courage. The old sows, sensing my trepidation, began making a low rumble and stared at me with their beady eyes. Saliva dripped from their gaping jaws. “Are you ready, young fella” ? Mr. Walz hollered at me. I nodded. “Open the gate”. I did and slipped in behind the beasts. Mom handed me a stick. I waved it at them in the menacing way I had seen Dad do it. They were not amused. They made strange pig sounds as if they were talking amongst themselves. I imagined the big red one said she had dibs on my arms. The Poland China was eying my rear. “Come on, git!” I hollered. They all turned to face me. Mr Walz poked Red. She turned to face him and the chute. I seized the moment, ran up and gave her a push. Startled, she jumped and landed about halfway up the chute. “Push”! I did. Red pushed back, and down the chute we came. With an air of smugness, she rejoined her cohorts. It was obvious this was not going to work.

I looked to Mr. Walz for ideas. “Do you have a bushel basket”? He asked. “Yes, in the granary” “Go get it” He said, without offering any explanation. It didn’t take me long to climb out of the pen and retrieve the metal basket we used to haul ear corn from the corn crib. Reluctantly, I climbed back into the pen. By this time those sows were really getting irritated. I waited for his instructions.

“Pigs get confused when they can’t see,” He explained”. “If they can’t see, they will try to back away so they can see. I want you to put the basket over the pig’s head and push. Get her butt lined up with the chute first.”

I swallowed hard. “He must know what he is doing” I thought to myself, “He still has all his fingers.”
I moved. Red followed me with her beady eyes. When her butt lined up with the chute Johnny shouted “Now!” I slammed that basket over that old pig’s head and sent her reeling backwards. Backwards, and right up the chute and into the trailer. Johnny slammed the door shut. “Only three more to go” he smiled.. I repeated the process three more times, staring the beast in the eye, moving into position, pouncing with the bushel basket and pushing with all my might. Up the chute and into the truck. A feeling of relief and a little pride settled over me as the truck disappeared down the driveway.

That night I heard Dad ask Mom how Johnny Walz got those pigs loaded. Mom told the story.
He smiled. “Good job Eddie”.

This is Gladys. “Mr Ed, I want my feed and I want it now!”

Why I never pursued a career in waste management

We often ask children what they want to do when they grow up. They have to answer this from limited life experience. Perhaps we should ask “What are you sure you don’t want to do?” Asked this at an early age, I would have had a good start on a list.

In hindsight, life on the dairy farm where I grew up involved a lot of hard work. No regrets. As they say, hard work builds character. It provided me with a foundation for decision making and problem solving. One particular task I remember doing definitely steered me away from a career in waste management.

Winter on our farm, which Dad called the “Nelson Ranchero” (spelled out on a sign he made with Copenhagen snuff covers mounted over the garage door), was a mixture of chores and fun stuff. One of the hardest jobs involved the dairy cows. Our barn cleaner consisted of a scoop shovel, a pitch fork, a wheel barrow and a kid. Each cow produced at least a half wheel barrow daily. The oozy brown stuff needed to be removed every day. It was scooped into a wheel barrow and loaded into a manure spreader parked at the end of a ramp and a platform. Cleaning barn was serious stuff and required a certain level of competence, ingenuity and agility.

The secret to wheeling a barrow of the stuff was to get up a little bit of speed, hit the planks straight on, then drastically reduce your speed when you hit the flat spot and flip the handles at exactly the right moment before the wheel dropped into the spreader. It was always a good idea to sprinkle some hay on the planks if they were frosty or icy. Foot slippage halfway up the plank abruptly changed the momentum of the load. The consequences stunk. Either the load veered off the plank and dumped prematurely, or you went in face first.

The second peril of barn cleaning was missing the end of the runway and dropping the single wheel barrow wheel over the edge, into the spreader. Once again it’s a matter of momentum and knowing when to let go. Instinct told you to hang on if at all possible because getting the wheel barrow back up on the platform meant getting down in the spreader and lifting it out. Deciding what to do at this instant required quick decisive thinking. You had to instantaneously calculate the rate of speed, the weight and balance of the load and your own weight as leverage applied to the handles. If you miscalculated, an underweighted barrow operator could easily be flipped through the air into the spreader or, in cases of manure overload, flipped clear over to the other side. Pretty funny stuff if it happened to your brother.

When the snow became too deep for the tractor and spreader, you began building a manure pile. A non-farm person may say “What’s so hard about that?” Trust me, it took some long-range planning and guesstimating. You had to factor in how many cows you had, how much they pooped and how many days until the snow melted before you even dumped the first wheel barrow load. If you dropped the first load too close, you would run out of room and be forced to higher elevations later in the season. You also had to guess how wide to make the pile. Once you got the base down, you ran your plank and dumped off the edges. Here is where you had to factor in temperature and consistency of the material. Cold weather helped the pile set up. One could push clear to the edges as long as she stayed frozen. Pushing to the limits on a seemingly frozen crust built on top of mushy stuff could result in edge failure and a tumble down a slippery slope. That stunk too.

Saturday mornings meant cleaning the heifer barn. That job was done with pitch forks. Dad modified the barn door to allow him to back the spreader in. Us kids pitched in from the sides. It wasn’t bad when straw was used for bedding. Quite often however, he used wild hay, cut from the meadow. The reason we cleaned it every Saturday was because if you didn’t, and it became even more packed by the cattle, you would never be able to tear it loose.

When the snow got too deep, we got to use the horses and the bob sled. Dad would drive the team into the barn and we kids would pitch the sled full, haul it outside and pitch it into a pile. The best part of that was we got to hook our little sleds behind and get a ride. Looking back, I guess it was hard work with a twist of fun. At the end of the day you didn’t say you were tired, just all pooped out.

Chub and Tony our horses pulling a sled load of farmers gold.

The story of Agnes, the angry bovine

Memories are funny things. You never know when one will come flooding back to you. Things that happened a long time ago suddenly vividly reappear, triggered by a smell, sound or sight.
Middle age is filled with memory triggers. Walking out of a warm house on a cold winter morning just as the sun is starting to lighten the eastern sky is a memory trigger for me.

Growing up on a dairy farm meant getting up in the dark to go to the barn to get the milking done before the school bus came. Our house had a cold upstairs where the kids over three years old slept. We shared a bed with a sibling and lots of blankets. I remember pulling the covers completely over my head, with just a little opening to breath. Sometimes it helped to wear a stocking cap to bed. Maybe that’s why winter camping never appealed to me.

Dad would call up the stairwell. “Come on, get up”. It was really hard to roll out on the first call. His voice changed a little on the second call and you rolled out and pulled on your barn pants really quick. By the time you got downstairs, he was already heading down the hill to the barn. You put on your overcoat and followed him. To this day the sound of crunching snow, bright stars in the sky reminds me of early morning chores.

The only heat in the barn was from the cows. There were about 34 stanchions and a couple of box stalls for calves. If there were not enough milk cows we would fill the rest of the stanchions with young stock to have enough heat to keep the drinking cups from freezing. On the coldest mornings flakes of frost would flutter down around you when you opened the milk house door. The smell of moist cow breath filled your nostrils. You had to walk in the dark about 20 steps to find the light switch. During that brief moment you felt the barn wake up. Stanchions rattled as the cows lurched forward and stretched. While one person got the milking machines ready, the second person washed the teats. If you weren’t quite awake, you were when a cow whose tail had been soaking in the gutter moments before, gave you a soggy slap across the face. I suppose some cows are not devious enough to do it on purpose but, I think there were some who were.

Back then we named the cows. During my time we had Ornery, Stubby, Pokey, Toots, Buleah, Leana, Lulabell, Big Monkey and Little Monkey to name a few. Sometimes we would discover a newborn calf in the morning. It had been born sometime during the night. By the time were got there it had been wandering around trying to nurse whoever was available and willing much to the mother’s consternation. We wrestled the messy little beast to the box stall where soon it would be time to teach it to drink from a pail. Some calves took to it quickly, some not so fast. The hardest part was keeping the other calves from sucking and butting you when you were holding the pail in one hand and putting your fingers in the milk for the newborn to suck on.

Newly freshend cows were usually no problem to milk. First time heifers, especially the wild ones recently introduced to life in a stanchion, were another matter. It took two people, one holding the Surge bucket, the other the cow’s tail to get them to cooperate. Usually by day two or three, most normal cows would settle into the routine. Not Agnes.

Agnes was a mostly white Holstein. Not particularly big by Holstein standards, she made up for her size in meanness. She gave us a preview of her dark side the first time we brought her into the barn. Getting heifers into a stanchion for the first time was always a challenge. The usual method was to scare them into an open stall between two other cows. Two people would walk up on the wary heifer until the pressure forced her to look for a way out. The space between the two already secured animals became the escape route. The frightened critter would bolt into the open space and unwittingly put its head in the open stanchion. The trick was to slam the stanchion shut before they put it in reverse. Most of the time it worked. But not with Agnes.

You see Agnes had perfected the fine art of cow kicking. To the inexperienced person who has never been cow kicked, it’s hard to imagine a sweet old bovine could or would want to inflict such pain on a human shin or backside. Agnes took special pleasure in such feats of athleticism. The louder one cussed from the pain, the harder she tried. She relished the sound of dismembering a Surge bucket as she simultaneously sent the lid flying in one direction, the bucket in another and the vacuum hose hissing. All the time snapping you across the face with her tail.

Getting this beast into the stanchion for the first time was an adventure. Dad had a rope he called the lasso. “Go get the lasso” he’d say. “Throw it over her head”. When things got going good after being dragged around the barn and through the gutters a few times he’d holler “Snub her down”.
“Snubbing her down” meant wrapping the rope around something solid like a post and hanging on. With Agnes, you needed to go around the post twice and be wearing gloves.

Agnes had a calf, a little bull calf, that looked a lot like her. He was feisty from the very beginning, bouncing around the barn, scrambling between the other cows, taking a slurp here and there and moving on. It was apparent from the beginning he wanted his milk the natural way. No bucket feeding for that one.

Needless to say the first attempt at milking Agnes with the milking machine was a disaster. She was the clear winner by 3 shin bruises, a black and blue knee and a couple of hip shots. By the second attempt she had learned how to put a hoof in your ear. The stubborn calf wasn’t faring much better. Feeding him in the pen with the other calves sucking and butting on you made us resort to bringing him out to the alleyway where he would immediately break away, dash around the barn to annoy all the other cows.

Finally Dad gave in. We guided the annoying youngster to his mother. We watched carefully, fully expecting her to flatten the little guy. Nope. That calf backed himself in alongside mom and commenced having a milk feast. Mom gave us a sanctimonious look and her calf a comforting moo and went about eating her ration of grain and silage.

The problem with Holsteins as brood cows is the volume of milk is way more than one calf can consume. We solved that by adding a second calf to the family. Surprisingly, Agnes took to the addition without incident. As the calves grew they became more aggressive nursers. I almost felt sorry for Agnes when the two calves almost lifted her off the ground when they bumped her with their heads. I said, almost. I figured “what goes around, comes around ” can apply to ornery cows too.

Dad in the barn. Mom and Dad raised 8 kids on a dairy farm