For this first Sunday Dinner, I invited my mom to join us. I grew up on some of the stories she’s about to tell you, so I’m excited for her tell you about life on a dairy farm. Especially since those stories helped inspire A Strike to the Heart, the story of a dairy farmer’s daughter who must decide whether to trust her family or the man who saves her life.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado … Mom, please introduce yourself. What’s your name and something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you?
Hi, I’m Marlene Grandinetti, a follower of Jesus Christ. I met my husband and married shortly after graduating from high school. Being so young at the time, we chose not to have children for five years after marrying. Danielle is our firstborn daughter and Sarah was born almost 7 years later – our second child. Between children, my husband and I both invited Christ into our lives as Savior and Lord and continue today to live to serve him.
I understand you grew up on a dairy farm … can you give us a little of your background?
I grew up on a dairy farm as the 8th child among 12 children. My parents had eight girls and four boys (and one set of twins). While people often think of farm life as idyllic, it often requires a great deal from the family caring for the animals. For example, I began my chore duties at or around 4 or 5 (maybe earlier!) by taking leftover food to the chickens. Eventually, feeding the chickens became one of my responsibilities as a young child. A child contributes to the family farm work at a very early age because farming requires the ‘all’ of the whole family. In fact, I don’t believe our parents took a vacation until I was 16 yrs old and that, as the eighth child in the family.
How many cows did your family’s farm have? What breed were they?
I believe the number of cows varied on our farm anywhere from 42 to 56 cows. They were primarily Holstein cows with a few Brown Swiss and Guernsey cows. I have very fond memories of bringing the cows home each afternoon for milking from their pasture during the summer months, a mile or two from home. We would often jump up on their back to have a relaxing ride home. That was not a problem because the cows knew their way home and did not need a guide.
What responsibilities did you have on the farm?
Of course, responsibilities varied as one matured. My younger sisters helped my dad with the farming chores by preparing the cows for milking, which required washing the cows’ teats to enable their milk to ‘come down’ and placing a strap on the cow to hold the milk bucket. Then, my dad moved from cow to cow in the milking process. Of course, the milk buckets had to be cleaned before and after each milking. I remember the responsibility each day after school of cleaning the teat cups and bucket covers, then, assembling them to ready them for the milking process.
Eventually, I contributed to farm chores when I was 15-16 yrs. At that point my father trusted me with the tractor and taught me to rake and crimp fields of cut grass in preparation for baling hay and other activities. It all went well until I had a full wagon of baled hay propelling me downhill at a pace that almost tipped over the whole wagon and tractor as I made a valiant effort to take the turn into my driveway. Phew!
Prior to that though, I helped my mother and sisters with garden and house chores. This meant cooking and cleaning the house each day before and after school, along with garden and lawn care during summer months. I eventually followed as the cook in a long line of sisters before me.
What did a day in the life of a farmer’s kid look like?
I believe the answer to this question varies with the number of farming families and each individual child!! For us, when I was helping my dad with farm chores, I arose at 5 a.m. each morning with a call from dad that it was time to get up. We would slowly ready ourselves to head to the barn together. In the winter, we walked by the light of our yard light, hurrying to get inside a warm cozy barn of farm animals.
During summer months, I would head down the pasture to gather the cows at the break of dawn and bring them home for feeding and milking. Inevitably, my shoes and pants were soaked from the morning dew. Once settled, my dad prepared the milking apparatus while I fed the cows their grain. This was always a challenge, being that the cows were hungry. They always tried to tip the large wheelbarrow carrying the grain into their mangers and it required a great deal of finesse and strength to keep the wheelbarrow centered and upright.
In the winter, I would climb up into the hay mow a full story and throw down the hay chute enough hay bales to feed the cows, dispersing the right amount for each cow. It made me very strong. And after school, during winter months, I would fill and walk a wheelbarrow full of sileage to each of the cows. It was the best work out. I know because the swim coach at school wanted me to be part of the diving team because I had the strength to perform.
The afternoon is slipping away, so I’ve invited my mom to join us again. Over Sunday Dinner next week, my mom has more stories to tell, including a couple scary farm incidents and her fondest memory from growing up on a dairy farm.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m grateful my Mom was able to join us for Sunday Dinner to share her experiences about what it was like to grow up as a dairy farmer’s daughter, because in my upcoming historical romantic suspense, A Strike to the Heart Lily is a dairy farmer’s daughter who left her family’s farm—only to get pulled back in!
You can find out more about A Strike to the Heart here.
Thank you for joining us for this week’s Sunday Dinner! Be sure to stop back next week to hear more farm stories.