Sunday Dinner with Marlene Grandinetti — Part 2

Family, Sunday Dinner, Writing Spot

Welcome to part two of our Sunday Dinner conversation with my mom. If you missed part one of our conversation, you can find it here. This week, my mom continues the stories of life growing up on her family’s dairy farm.

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, how old were you when you left your family’s farm?

I left the farm at 16 I think. My parents had decided to sell our farm and move to a new state. I was in my last year of high school with that move.

A Dairy Farm

Was it an independently owned farm?

Yes, my mother and father obtained the farm from my dad’s parents when they married. It was independently owned and operated by our father.

What type of personality do you feel is ideal for owning a dairy farm?

I think the most ideal personality for owning a farm would be a responsible self-starter who takes the initiative to get things done. This person would be flexible, comfortable with the ever-shifting ramifications of a life as a dairy farmer.

How important is it for dairy owners to stay abreast of new knowledge and information about the industry? Why?

This is an important quality because today, farming has much different parameters than it did when I was growing up. Many farms are corporate businesses today, who seek to obtain the most from their land and animals. Is this a good thing? That’s debatable and depends on whom you ask. I recommend a much more natural approach to farming, but this is inconceivable based on the world’s demands for goods and services.

What can make life difficult for a dairy owner?

I can only remember the difficulty of the weather. It seemed to impact everything pertaining to life as a farmer. If it rained too much, a farmer might not get his crops in the field or might lose his/her crops to flooding. If there isn’t enough rain, s/he might lose the crops to drought. Likewise, if the farmer’s cattle or livestock were struck by lightning, which did occur, that was a huge loss; or if a cow somehow had difficulty with the birth of its calf, that could, likewise, be difficult. I also recall the need for equipment upkeep; if it wasn’t a tractor my dad was fixing, some other piece of equipment needed attention.

What was the most difficult part of growing up on a dairy farm?

My mom in her family’s dairy barn.

I think farming life is a difficult career choice since the animals are at the mercy of their owners. They must be fed and cared for morning, noon, and night, leaving little room for freedom to get away. Our parents depended on their children’s help, which developed in all of us a strong work ethic. Farm work required our constant involvement, leaving little room for us to have relationships outside of our family. What developed as a result were close family relationships and one heck of a great baseball team; we were sisters and brothers, but also one another’s friends. Today we remain a close family.

Can you recall a bad experience from your time on the farm?

Yes, I have a couple memories of things not going so well.

One was where my dad relied on me to turn the water on and off at the well to fill the large inhouse water tank that fed the water cups for the cows. After being in the field all day, the cows would return with an amazing thirst. On this particular day, my mistake was that I had forgotten to turn off the water at the well and, having had dinner and upon entering the barn to milk the cows, we found water pouring out of this huge water tank high in the ceiling of the barn, spilling out all over the cows, filling the gutters with water. It was frightening to see the carnage of all that water. 

Another memory involved letting the cows out of the barn to head out to pasture for the night. It was a windy evening and the half door to the barn area had blown closed. If I had been more experienced, I think I would have known to prop that door open to prevent its closing, given the wind. Our family dog was helping move the cows along so they did not dawdle in the walk way. The cows were afraid of our dog and hurried right along. Unfortunately, with the door blown closed at the end of the walkway, one cow was so incensed by the dog that she tried to jump over the half door that had closed. If that was not bad enough, this poor cow was expecting and had a belly and full udder she could not get up over the door, of course, and she just hung there helplessly. My dad ended up lifting this mother cow over that half door and I’m not sure if the baby or the cow was harmed. It was a terrifying experience that reflected my inexperience as a farmhand to my dad.

After those scary stories, what is your fondest memory of growing up on the dairy farm?

I remember at 12 or 13 yrs old, striking a path through a large field across the road from our home during a winter snowstorm. The snow had a layer of ice over it which would at times hold my weight, but often not. This made the walk I took very grueling. But I loved it!! The snow was falling, the wind blowing and the evergreen trees at my destination were gloriously covered with new fallen snow. It was a beautiful sight!! Time alone was a premium with a house full of people, which made the time away during this walk very precious.

I also loved riding the cows!

The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. I’m so glad my mom could join us for my first two Sunday Dinners.

After hearing those scary stories of life on the farm, it makes me grateful for knowledgeable farmers and Large Animal Veterinarians. In To Stand in the Breach, the prequel to A Strike to the Heart, Lily’s best friend, veterinarian Dr. Katy Wells aims to stand between striking farmers and her patients. The e-book is on sale, this week only, for $0.99! You can order your copy here. Don’t miss a Valentine’s Day excerpt here.

Over Sunday Dinner next week, author Toni Shiloh will join us to talk about her royal romance novel, In Search of a Prince, which takes place in a country off the continent of Africa. See you then!

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2 thoughts on “Sunday Dinner with Marlene Grandinetti — Part 2

  1. Loved the picture of your Mom in her family’s dairy barn, Danielle! What a great idea to present information and insight into the core of your book’s story in this way – so informative and interesting!

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