Out and About at the Dairy Farm was my first book. I wrote it as “Andy” Murphy for Picture Window Books’ Field Trip Series, and Anne McMullen illustrated it. I was pretty happy when I landed this assignment. I’d been writing kindergarten and preschool curriculum for Hogarth for years, but I wanted my work to reach more children. I wanted to write books.
The subject of my first book couldn’t have been more perfect. I grew up with Guernseys! My father was a lawyer who wished he was a farmer. When I was 5-years old, he bought a chunk of land in Maine with a big, old barn that became home to three horses and a Guernsey calf we named Kiffy. Kiffy was just the first of several cows we hauled up to Maine from Alfalfa Farm in Topsfield, Massachusetts.
We moved to Epping, New Hampshire at the start of my freshman year in high school. My father found he had yet another barn to fill and bought two Guernseys ― Clurichaun for me and Pooka for my brother Jimmy. Jimmy and I didn’t ask for cows, but we stepped up to the stanchion and started milking by hand. We did this morning and night, day after day. Milking cows and mucking stalls. It wasn’t every 14-year old girl’s dream, and it sure wasn’t mine. My 14-year old girl dreams involved undying love and Paul McCartney.
But we grow up and so do our dreams. One of my adult dreams was to be a published children’s book author. Who knew that my anti-dream (of any involvement with dairy cows) would meld with my heart’s desire-dream (of any involvement with children’s book publishing)?
Out and About at the Dairy Farm follows a group of young children on a field trip to Red Oak Dairy Farm. I did a lot of research for the book at Applehurst Farm on Red Oak Hill in Epping. The Harvey family has farmed on Red Oak Hill for more than 200 years and knows plenty about cows. Analesa, a student in my first kindergarten class back in 1980, was among the Harveys whose brains I picked.
There’s a world of difference between keeping a kitchen cow like Clurichaun, and managing a herd of milking cows. What I didn’t know could have filled a book, and I did just that.
Out and About at the Dairy Farm is included on the American Farm Bureau’s Recommended Publications List.
“This lively trip to the dairy farm introduces calves, heifers and milkers. Full-color illustrations and fact-filled text take us through meadows, barns and a milking parlor. (The) book features a topic-related activity, an index, a vocabulary list and fascinating fun facts. As with most books this one does include a few stereotypical images but the content is one of the best we’ve found. It also includes multi-cultural images of farmers and students and a female farmer, always a plus.”
OUT AND ABOUT AT THE DAIRY FARM: Growing Strong Bodies and Minds Literature based nutrition education for young children. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service/Oklahoma State Department of Health WIC Service
Chew It Twice: Oklahoma AG in the Classroom Resource Reading: Out and About at the Dairy Farm
Just for Fun
- Moo with Stew! An NPR Interview in which Sir Patrick Stewart moos in regional accents.
- There is only so much room in a picture book. You can’t include everything about a subject. If you’re reading my book, you’ll notice a boom box on page 17, but no reference to music anywhere in the text. That boom box isn’t there by accident. Cows produce more milk when listening to music, and the boom box helps illustrate that point. That point, however, was edited out of the text.
Read Out and About at the Dairy Farm to learn more about our bovine buddies.