Ask my friends the swallows, they will tell you | Bestyet A.I Sires | Grazing Genetics from Dutch Belted and Milking Shorthorns

This column appeared in the local newspaper a number of years ago. Reprinted with permission from The Times. Photo credit: Mike Kit via Pexels.

How joyful is the dipping and diving of the barn swallows as they swoop around my tractor while I’m cutting hay on a summer day.  While the other meadow critters (ground squirrels, cottontails, bobolinks and other birds) scurry away from the loud machinery, my friends the barn swallows actually seek me out, for I’m stirring up bugs for them to catch in mid-flight.

They fly back and forth in great arcs just downwind of the haybine as the insects rush away from the turning reel.  When I drive into the wind, and am enjoying a refreshing breeze (no air-conditioned cab on the vintage tractors we farm with), I don’t see my birdie friends, but when I turn around at the end and come back with the wind behind me, watching their happy fluttering makes the heat less uncomfortable.

They are real precision flyers, these swallows.  I’ve seen them zip into a small barn window to light on their ingeniously crafted mud-pack nests brimming with open-mouthed babies.

They are so neat and dapper with their nifty orange breasts, iridescent blue topcoats and forked tails.

Their flight actually reminds me of dolphins swimming.  They are so graceful as they flow through the ocean of air we live in.

My late husband before me, and now my children and I, are so blessed by these cheerful birds.  Their migration brings them back to our farm every late April, almost to the day.  They announce their return with their chittery songs, which almost sound like giggling, while they sit on the wires in the barnyard.  They get busy refurbishing old nests or building new ones, glued with mud and bird-spit onto the edges of rafters, up high and safe from barn cats.  Soon there are little ones beginning to peer over the edge.

So as summer advances, their numbers increase.  Late summer evenings there is a veritable chorus of them on the wires, making me smile as they bubble over in thankful joy.  In September they disappear, unannounced, leaving the yard quiet and empty without them.  So we look forward to their return when the bugs appear again. 

I can’t help thinking about these verses from the book of Job:


“But ask the animals, now, and they shall teach you;

 The birds of the sky, and they shall tell you.

 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you;

 The fish of the sea shall declare to you.

 Who doesn’t know that in all these,

 The hand of the LORD has done this,

 In whose hand is the life of every living thing,

 The breath of all mankind?


The resourceful barn swallows are just one of so many awe-inspiring life forms that surround us on the farm.  From the big cows whose complex ruminations give us milk and meat from grass, all the way down to the lowly earthworms and even tinier soil microorganisms that are so necessary for plant growth, they all have something to teach us about the greatness of our Maker.