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HERd management: Hey, that’s my shovel!

Karma Metzler Fitzgerald Published on 28 June 2013


You know it’s happened to you.



A trip to the home improvement store has yielded a shiny new green hose.

You know the one. It’s not cracked. There’s no duct tape on it. No knots.

It easily coils itself into the perfect circle near the spigot. It’s perfection in green. It’s ready to serve its purpose all summer long.

You go to bed that night feeling in control of your destiny.

The next day, you return from work to find it gone.



Oh, you do locate it. Although it’s barely recognizable – split in half, taped together and draped rather haphazardly over the sink in the barn.

“What happened to my new hose?” you ask, but in the pit of your stomach you already know.

“We needed a hose.”

“Did you really need to cut it?”

“We needed two.”


Mourning the loss, you write “new hose” on your shopping list.

On a family farm, pretty much everything is fair game. Things that might stay near the house in a suburban home don’t have any obligation to stay there on a dairy. Sometimes we try, don’t we? Sometimes we try to find a boundary between the house and the barn.

I don’t think it ever works. Last month I chatted with five friends, all dairy wives involved in the day-to-day operations at varying degrees.

I’ve changed their names here to protect the innocent and, frankly, the guilty. I wanted to know how they handle the blending of possessions at their operations.

“My husband tried to take my 400-count cotton sheets out to pack a cow with postpartum hemorrhage,” my friend “Becky” said. “A jury of my peers would not have found me guilty of murder; his peers might have.”

“I painted my Leatherman with pink nail polish to keep the guys from taking it,” “Julie” reported.

“Did it work?” I asked.

“It helped me know which one was mine right away.”

I bought a bright orange-handled and rather expensive shovel to keep at the house. Within a couple of weeks I saw it out digging thistle. I thought about throwing a fit, but just waited. I took it back eventually and have still managed to hang onto it.

My friend “Paula” says she seems to lose a lot of dishes and kitchen utensils to her family’s dairy.

Becky agreed.

“Try explaining iodine stains on your Tupperware to your mother.”

“My immersion blender is in the barn and my Pampered Chef whisk with the calf supplies,” Julie said.

“But that was me,” she quickly admitted. “I was sick of the cheap ones.”

While I find it tempting to be irritated, when I’m truly honest I have to admit the “thefts” work both ways.

The filters we use in the dairy barn can be cut apart and run through a printer. Those cute little pictures can then be used on flannel boards for preschool story time at the library. They’re also fun to paint with watercolors.

I have found the mechanics on staff will do just about anything for food. A homemade cherry pie can get my shovel sharpened and an oil change in my pickup.

I use a 30-cc syringe as a baster.

So does Julie.

“I may have a calcium IV needle in my kitchen for injecting marinade,” she said.

Both Julie and I have been known to hijack udder creams to rub on sore body parts.

There are still those things my friends and I prefer not end up on the dairy: Good towels, expensive cookware, lawn tools.

Toilet paper.

“I keep our toilet paper in a locked cabinet,” “Susan” said. “I take it out one roll at a time as it’s needed. If I don’t, it’s gone.”

As I was discussing this issue with Susan and another friend, “Judy,” at a 4-H meeting a few weeks ago, I asked if there was really any way to keep household items out of the barn. Without skipping a beat, they answered me in unison.

“Hide it.” PD

What household items always seem to end up in your dairy’s barn? Post your anecdotes in the comments section online.

  • Karma Metzler Fitzgerald

  • Dairywoman
  • Shoshone, ID