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From the Back Paddock

From the Back Paddock

I am a man who is rich in daughters … The Iowa Waltz, 1981, Greg Brown

It was March 1997 – another calving season on our dairy farm. I’d like to give the impression that things were always care-free and idyllic on our farm but that wouldn’t be true. Beginning the production cycle after winter layoffs on our spring seasonal-grazing-based farm was always physically and emotionally challenging. That spring was no exception.

I was at a breaking point. I’ll spare the details other than to say that – as was often the case during calving season – the stress was affecting me. I sat upstairs on the edge of my bed with my chore clothes on. Beyond the frost-covered bedroom window a fresh cow bellowed for her calf.

Early spring looked and felt more like January. My 12-year-old daughter came in and stood before me. We talked a bit and I didn’t hold back that I was having a difficult time. In a moment of incredible maturity she said something I’ll never forget.

She took my hands, looked me in the eye and said, “I know it might sound crazy but I totally understand how you feel.”

In that moment it was like our roles were reversed.

I am a man who is rich in daughters. And because of that I’m rich in many ways. I have a perspective on life I never would have had otherwise. In my daughters I’ve come to reconsider that which is truly strong and wise. In my daughters I’ve witnessed true nurturing. With daughters I’ve learned to stop, think, listen and think again before letting some nonsensical foolishness roll off my tongue … well, almost always. Because of daughters I’m wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

That isn’t to minimize the impact my son has had on me. For in a son a father sees who he once was. In my son I see the broad shoulders and defined musculature I once possessed. In my son I see myself as a young man dismayed by hatred, war and violence. In my son I begin to understand the person I’ve become.

This past February life’s twists and turns were at it again. I was faced with the decision of relocating closer to Minneapolis where my two daughters live. That meant selling my ancestral property, the source of my identity since childhood. I went for a sub-zero walk on a gravel road formerly known as Hilldale – a road my grandfather claimed he named.

I was in my woodlot driveway finishing my walk when my daughter called. My breath had fogged my glasses but I could see her name on my caller ID.

“Daddy, I’m pregnant,” she said.

Tears froze to my cheeks. It was miraculous.

Friend, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve revealed I’ve been known to look for affirming signs from nature when faced with momentous personal events. That announcement, which seemed to tell me to “head west” in the direction of my growing family, had me looking for nature’s affirming call. Perhaps a hawk might swoop down before me and land on one of my woodcarvings. Better yet, maybe a chickadee would land on the bill of my hat. But I saw nothing.

And then it hit me like a wave. What more an affirmation from nature could I ask for than an embryo?

Ayla Jacqueline Saverda didn’t come easy into this world Oct. 29, but she’s here. And every sunrise I witness and every sunset that precedes my sleep is nature’s affirmation of the hope she gives me that the world can be a better place. I’d like to think it started with her. Congratulations to her rock-steady parents, Kerry and Jon Saverda.

I am a man who is rich in daughters. And for that I’m forever thankful.

Until next time, friend.

This is an original article written for Agri-View, a Lee Enterprises agricultural publication based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit for more information.

Greg Galbraith owned and operated for 30 years a grazing-based dairy farm in central Wisconsin, until selling it to another couple who continues to operate an organic grass-based dairy. He’s an agrarian writer who’s involved in projects promoting the environmental and social benefits of an agricultural landscape dedicated to the functional permanent cover that managed pasture provides.

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