Monday, November 23, 2015

Let's Go To the Movies

So Joe and I went to the movies yesterday.

No, it wasn't to see Mockingjay, Part Two (which we are both hoping to see. I know, nerds.)

No, it wasn't The Peanuts Movie with the kids (which we are both hoping to also see. Yes, nerds again.).

It was Farmland.

Yes, Farmland. For those of you who did not give birth to twins or have a major home renovation, I'm sure you're rolling your eyes that I, a self-proclaimed advocate for agriculture, had not actually seen this award winning movie yet.

I'm sorry. 2014 was not a year in which I saw movies.

Unless you count movies I listen to as my kids watch them in the car.


I finally sat down to watch Farmland, thanks to the good folks at our county Farm Bureau. You see, this was an outreach event. Joe was to emcee the whole shebang, leading the farmer panel afterward. We headed to Galesburg and the beautiful Orpheum Theater, the one where I graced the stage as a hairlip sister in the musical, Big River, and tap danced (poorly) in Crazy for You.


The Orpheum Theater is a restored theater in the heart of Galesburg, the biggest town in our county. The most urban area our county Farm Bureau could reach. After the Santa Clause parade, the doors to the theater opened up for a free showing of this movie.

Nice, huh?

That's not my point. We are nice people here, but the movie, friends, it is something to behold.

I'm not going to give you a whole review of it, as it just needs to be seen. It is award winning for a reason, and it's not because of its one-sided view on agriculture. Represented in this cast are conventional, production farmers, organic producers, small CSA/Farmer's Market growers, and livestock producers. The verbage is easy for those of us who don't speak "ag," without being insulting. The story follows a growing season, thus makes it a logical conclusion when harvest hits.

What really struck me, and got me misty-eyed was the story. As advocates, we are told to tell our story, tell our story, tell our story. However, telling your story in a "I grow blah, blah, and we do it this way because blah, blah." is, in fact, BLAH, BLAH.

There are few folks who want to hear the nuts and bolts of farming before they know that you have a heart, a soul, and a story. You can feel the heartbeat in this movie. It shows the brothers disagreeing, the son missing his recently deceased father, the rancher welcoming twins (not calves, kids). There's the only child who's mom still makes him a sandwich, and the daughter who set out on her own to farm who's mom thought she was crazy. These are real people with real stories who were given the opportunity to really share.

Friends, if you have questions about ag, this is a good place to start.

To start.

After this, however, I implore you to ask more questions. I loved the farmer panel aspect of the movie viewing we had last night. This is a movie that has no agenda. There's no scare tactic used to lead you to believe that what you're eating is terrible. There's no hidden camera footage, other than the snippets that have been floating around the Internet that we all have seen. For lack of a better term, this movie felt organic, real, truthful.

I urge you to see it, if you haven't already, since it HAS been out for over a year.

Ask questions, seek truths, and enjoy some popcorn while you're at it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

World Prematurity Day

Well, this is not exactly agricultural, but in light of all that has been happening in the world, and all that has happened in our little world in the past year, I thought I should recognize this day.

Facebook has told me of this holiday via my sweet sister in law. Joe's sister, Jessica, and her husband Jeremy are parents of four beautiful children: three girls and a boy. Their middle two, the twins, were born at 27 weeks. I was barely pregnant with our first at the time, and visiting Jessica in the hospital that August afternoon was about the scariest thing I ever saw as I was beginning to embrace being pregnant.

Fast forward eleven years, and her twins are perfectly perfect. Willowy and wonderfully smart and athletic, they defied all odds that were shared with them in the NICU for the three months they were there. We experienced just a taste of this family's journey during their first few months: monitors, check ups, missed holidays thanks to colds and flu that would send these tender babes back into the hospital.

After having four healthy, term babies, I figured I was only going to be an aunt of preemies.


So when I found out I was having the twins, I was told I would probably go a little early. Twins are most likely to not go the full 40 weeks, and I was more of a higher risk because I was considered "maternally advanced," aka, old.

However, the NICU was for tiny babies.
The NICU was where my friend Julie worked.
I wasn't high risk. Sure, I was old, but not THAT old. I was in great shape pre-babies, never have had high blood pressure, blah, blah, blah.

Ha, again.

Our babies were born at 35 weeks and 4 days, just three days shy of the "out of the woods" area. Mary came out as pink and screaming as a normal baby. She was small, but doing okay, considering her early birth. Caroline, however, was a different story. I'll spare you the gory details, but I will never forget Joe's facial expression or the doctor's tone of voice as they began to work on getting little Caroline out.

She wasn't crying.

That's all I remember.

She wasn't crying.

I asked Joe why she wasn't crying and if something was wrong, and he said words that I will never forget.

"I don't know."

That's all I remember, as I was pretty drugged up and going into shock.

Luckily, my sweet friend, my talented friend, my amazingly gifted friend Julie worked on our girl. Born in respiratory distress, gray and struggling for life, Julie got her breathing. As they wheeled me from recovery to the NICU, she hovered over my face and told me that Caroline had a hard time coming into this world, but that she was going to be taken care of by the best, and would be okay.

And while she and Mary both were taken care of and are fine, Joe's words that completely freaked me out are quite prophetic and appropriate for a NICU parent.

You just don't know.

You don't know what can happen, and you don't want to leave, but you need to. You just don't know, even though you begin to speak the language, listening during rounds for words or tones that are encouraging. You are in a constant state of awareness, despite mental and physical fatigue.

Our nieces were there for three months. There are babies there for longer. We were there for nine days, and while I know we are very fortunate for this short stay, once you've been a NICU parent, you know.

I have read all the post with the National Prematurity Day hashtag. I saw faces of parents in the NICU during our time with the expression of guilt for being exhausted and confused and fear for their child's life. I think that's what has struck me today, seeing all the photos of my friends and folks around who are part of this club. The look on all of our faces in our first pictures is roughly the same: a mix of exhaustion and elation. You just don't know what's really happening, but you're holding it together because it's your kid.

Time spent in the NICU is time that has stood still. Lights are dimmed, so you have a sort-of sense of day and night, until just before dusk and just before dawn. The temperature is so warm, I was wearing tanks and t shirts at times, even though it was October. It's confusing, but you begin to speak the language, Bradys, PICC Lines, catheters, etc. fall into your conversation very easily. A NICU parent deals in feedings and changings, timing each and measuring all. And, in the back of all of our minds, is the dread that news won't be good. Babies will stay sick, or worse. Our family was lucky, and tonight, we should also pray for those who weren't.

Fellow NICU parents, we are a strong group.

We should be celebrated, even if it is just a hashtag and a picture on Facebook. Being in the NICU, even though for a short time, changed me as a mother. I had taken my other four easy births for granted, bringing home each baby with me as I left, not leaving my little ones, driving home with empty car seat bases in the backseat. That's tough. I can still smell the soap and feel the bristles of the brushy sponge we had to use before entering the NICU. However, whenever I drive by our hospital, I can't help but lift up a prayer of thanks to all the people who worked on and with my girls, who are back there saving precious lives every single day, around the clock. How they work 24 hour shifts is beyond me.

Friends, I don't have to tell you that we live in a hard world. Life is difficult. Life is confusing, but life is precious. I am so lucky to have given life to six souls who will hopefully make a mark on this world that will give back to those who helped make their life happen.

Happy World Prematurity Day, fellow preemie moms and dads. You are a part of a special, select group. A club membership given to you without being asked, but you are a part of it nonetheless. Whether you tuck your baby in tonight or pray to her to see her some other day, today is a day to remember, and I celebrate you.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Big Announcement with John Deere


There has been much chatter in the world of John Deere this week.

Mainly because Deere and Company has purchased Precision Planting LLC from Monsanto, which also means they are discussing details about "digital ag" with the Climate Corp, according to this Farm Futures article. My ag Facebook groups were quite abuzz with this information. However,the big announcement we have been excited about is this one:
Yes, my beloved readers. While Precision Planting and The Climate Corp do affect our farming operation, nothing makes a bigger impact at my house than a new toy, especially one that comes IN THE MAIL!!

Oh happy day, my friends, a new toy has arrived. Our little guy was the lucky enough to test out this John Deere Mega Force Tractor with articulating scoops and Jackson the operator, among other fun accessories, thanks to the good folks at Tomy and Deere.

When first removed from the package, after having to have what seems to be a masters in engineering to remove it (why is this??), Jack was ecstatic!

Before we even had all of the accessories out of the package, Jack was using his imagination with this product. That's what initially struck me. Joe was very skeptical, as it didn't seem as "real" as Jack's other John Deere toys (have I mentioned we deal exclusively and obsessively with John Deere around here? Sheesh.). While the double articulating scoops do make it less realistic, our boy loved that aspect. 


He's a KID. 

With an imagination!
Working the scoops.

The tracks are actually mounted on very smooth moving little wheels. It's pretty slick.

"Please Jack? Can I play?" Mary, age one

I could hardly get him to be still for some pictures. It was very exciting at our house, and all the kids from our one year old twins to our 11 year old (who wanted to blog about it too! Ha!) wanted to get in on the action. 

While the double scooper makes for an interesting option, our son especially loved the fact that the cab popped up and down, while making a satisfying relatively real start up sound. Lights add to the fun, but neither the bells nor the whistles such as lights and sound take away from the fact that this toy offered imaginative play.

That's my biggest factor that determines success in a toy. Does it offer free, open ended play? 

In this case: YES.

While many farm boys are content to set up their farm scenes and mimic what they see their dads and grandpas and uncles do on the farm every day, our little guy is a slightly different. Jack is our make believe dude. He loves to act, set up scenes, pretend to be someone else, particularly super heroes. Farm toys are generally filled with Batman, Robin and villains as a part of make believe play. This toy falls into line with imagination expanding play. As a former educator and mother, I believe this line of toys allows for kids like Jack to use it in many different scenarios: farm and fantasy.

Age difference: Age four and age eleven. No fights, just playing for about 15 solid minutes. That's a win, my friends.

Sweet success! Mary finally got a turn! She didn't tear it up, either? Durability is a plus!

The articulating scoops even can play the piano! It's the toy that does EVERYTHING!

We were thrilled to be chosen to review this product. Thank you so much to the good folks at Tomy and Deere and Company for the fun toy. From a mother's basic toy needs, it had a lot of great qualities: opportunity for imagination, durability, and age appropriate for many different kids. From a kids' perspective, well, this should be enough of a plug:

Jack tested and approved!
While this is not a sponsored post, this is a review of a toy we received c/o Tomy toys, and all opinions are mine and my four year old's. Just a disclaimer. However, if you're interested in having me reviewing any of your products, I had a lot of fun receiving and reviewing, and would love to do more! Please contact me at should you have something for me to look at and try out. Joe will tell you that I'm never short on opinions!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

News Flash: We All May Die...Someday

Have you seen this?

It's the World Health Organizations latest news flash about cancer and its relationship with eating meat, processed meats, specifically.

So it got me thinking. Do you know what processed meats are, specifically? If you don't, let me make you a list. If you do, skip this list.

Processed meats are things like hot dogs, brats, sausages, bacon.

Yes, friends, bacon has been forsaken by the WHO.

Now, while I know some of you are obsessed with bacon (I've seen your posts. I've read your t-shirts. I'm looking at you, Ted Mottaz...that's my dad), I would like to remind you about good things.

Good things are sometimes not that good for you, in large doses.

Have you seen things like this:

Okay, this is not just having bacon with your eggs now and again. This is ridiculous. 

There's a reason Homer Simpson has been portrayed as a glutton. It's pictures like this pizza.

However, I am not a huge fan of the processed meats. I enjoy a good wiener roast, but mainly because of the weather and the scarf I'm wearing and a s'more, not the hot dog. Foods like hot dogs make my stomach turn into knots, and while I do enjoy bacon occasionally, it too makes me feel a little, well, greasy and gross, so I try to exercise moderation.

But friends, and those of you who are experts, here's a newsflash: WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE SOME DAY.

Yes, I would love my life to be of good quality, and yes, I believe that eating a pound of bacon is probably bad for you, and yes these meats may be linked to cancer. 

But do you know what else is linked to cancer at about the same rate:




And guess what I did just the other day? Ran in the sun, wearing my plastic sunglasses, only to come home and later that evening enjoy a bag of microwave popcorn. 

I guess I'll be dead by tomorrow.

Seriously, friends, cancer sucks. Believe me, I know. Our family lost Joe's mom nearly two years ago, and it hurts still every day. 

Do I believe that bacon or sausage or hot dogs or plastics or the sun had anything to do with her cancer? Maybe a little. 

Do I wish that she could have lived to see the twins, celebrated not just her 60th birthday, but her 70th, 80th, and 90th birthdays? Yes, yes, and OH YES.

However, I am taking a page from her book. She wasn't ready to leave this earth, but she knew that one day we all would depart. 

The end.

She was at peace with that, and that had nothing to do with bacon, and everything to do with finding peace and having an understanding of eternity in a bigger sense.

I never claim to be an expert. I am not a scientist, but I will leave you today with a few nuggets of my "expertise," and the rest, sweet friends who love the internet and its spoils, you're going to have to make some judgements yourself. 

  • We're all going to die some day, so live with that in the back of your mind, not the front. Exercise more, eat less, but enjoy all of it, bacon and hot dogs and ribeyes and running and fruit and water included. Have a lovely meal, but don't be shocked if you feel bad or are unhealthy, should you choose to eat crappy every single day. This is not rocket science. This is common sense. 
  • Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Yes, another common sense aspect. So yes, World Health Organization, I get it. Processed meats are bad. They're full of salt and junk that is not that great for you. But, instead of freaking everyone out, please don't use words like WILL CAUSE CANCER, instead, remind folks to be moderate. Enjoy a hot dog, but not every day, every meal. To that, I end this with the oh so effective, yet oh so uneducated word, "DUH."
  • Stop with the bacon. The Baconater. The Bacon 5K Runs. The hot dog eating contests. Stop. Can we all quit being so danged obsessive, and then shocked that something we overuse or overeat may cause our bodies harm? This goes for the uber-healthy, too. Knock off the obsession over crazy new diet fads that some person thought of to peddle on Facebook. I'm done.
In closing, yes, this probably is not good PR for my Team Beef. However, I'm not worried about it. Pretty soon they'll move on to dairy or broccoli or something else new. 

That's because we're human. We're fickle, and we're all going to take a long dirt nap some day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Subway: Eat Fresh, Stay Politically Correct

Oh Subway.


You've joined the ranks of Chipotle and Panera, and I'm not just disappointed, I'm confused.

You see, you dot the town streets of nearly every rural community I drive through. More than a McDonalds, Subway restaurants are found everywhere. While I prefer a Jimmy Johns (I know, he hunts big game, but he bakes one heck of a loaf of bread), and would rather not pay $5 for my intake of carbs for the week, I appreciate your commitment to rural communities. Your sandwich wrappers most likely are found in nearly every tractor or semi cab during the busy times. Lines are long after football games. We supposedly support you to eat fresh.

Your commitment to small communities is to be admired.

However, it is overshadowed by your blind politically correctness.

I forgave you when you listened to that crazy, the Food Babe, and made the proclamation that you removed whatever chemical you had that was also in yoga mats. Although sickened, I still have patronized your restaurant after learning of the Jared pornography scandal, citing that because you're locally owned and operated, it wasn't the franchiser's fault.

However, this statement, this proclamation to ditch all meat treated with antibiotics is ridiculous.

This is just politically correctness at it's finest, and I'm done.

I am trying to take a chapter from the book of my 101 year old grandmother's life. Never in her life has she taken a huge stand on something. She's very moderate. However, she has not lived in moderate times. She has endured the Depression. She's lived through polio, the mumps and measles. She believes in science and vaccines thanks to those times, and yet she is the greenest cook, although living in the "innovative" food time of SPAM. She and my grandpa raised their own beef, "put up" sweet corn, and enjoyed cherry pies from her tree. While she's the ultimate in living off the land, she balances it out with a flair for nice things and getting her hair done. She would find this ridiculous, would I even share it with her. But, it's not worth her time, or mine.

I'm sorry Subway. You're missing the point. You're making claims especially about beef or pork that are not supported by those in the industry. The beef you're eating on your roast beef does not have any antibiotics in it when it comes to your Subway. Period. It may have had some to keep the animal alive to keep the farmer in business to keep your costs down (hello? Supply and demand? Consumer Ec 101), but once it is sent to market, it has to be tested and cleared. Have you ever met a beef inspector? We have a connection. I can introduce you, should you have questions.

I'm done. This is another bang my head on the desk, don't feed the crazies moment. I hate this. I hate that because of "wellness" and "health," we're trying to "wreck" and "demonize" livestock farmers. I welcome you, Subway, to come to my father-in-law's hog confinement to see the care and time and careful management he takes in raising his pork. I invite you to see the care we put into our beef cattle, the few we have. Put them up ones who don't receive the necessary care in a blind test, and I guarantee you'll choose the ones that receive help when they're sick (which, I might add, is not as often as you probably think).

Subway, you're just another sheep in the flock of food fear. You're just trying to keep up, keep ahead of the trendy spots, and that is disappointing.

When is it a farmer's turn to reap the benefits of being politically correct?

I bet I'll have to live until I'm 101 to see that.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Refreshing Perspective, Soda and Super Bugs

If you've been paying any attention to health, fitness, wellness or your Facebook friends or bloggers who are now lifestyle experts (ahem), you'll know that if you even admit that you may drink an occasional Diet Coke, or regular Coke, or whatever soda (or pop) you prefer, you will be shamed.

Damned even.

But here's my question: When did we all become experts at health and wellness? What works for you may work for you, but doesn't work for me, but it's not because of my ignorance. It's not because I'm ignoring "facts." Maybe I have my own set. Maybe I like being healthy and well in a different way that includes science, exercise and an occasional cheeseburger and Diet Coke.

I'm not trying to be mean or nasty about this phenomenon of wellness. I love wellness. I get up at 4:30 three mornings a week so my wellness level can skyrocket. I run. A lot. However, I refuse to be extreme. I have posted about this before, so I'm not going to waste your eye energy on rehashing my feelings on moderation.

However, I have been refreshed. In a virtual world that reeks of quick fixes, extreme challenges and before and after pics, I have read two different articles this week. Only two, so I'm not claiming to be an expert, my interest just piqued. One is online, and one in my Runner's World, and they are as refreshing as my fountain Diet Coke I let myself have when I have had a hard day, and have been up since 4:30 AM.

These writers contend that maybe we should knock off the food shaming.


And, I would LOVE to add, these folks are both very healthy people, AND, they lead very normal lives. Normal to me, that is: lives that include barbecues with hamburgers, a life that wants to be fit and trim, but also likes chocolate ice cream. These folks contend that maybe, just maybe, we should listen to the experts and exercise and eat all in moderation.


Isn't that something?

So refreshing.  Like the sweet, sweet nectar of Diet Coke.

Don't shame me for loving me some DC on after a long day.

I admit it, food discussions have become such interesting platforms for us folks in agriculture, blogs are full of great discussions, and I have been able to meet some great people and hear some good, differing perspectives because of it. However, I believe that all this information, discussion, and available products to buy and sell have allowed us (me included) to feel as if we're all wellness experts. It has allowed us the power to feel like we can shame those who are doing things differently, eating differently and working out differently.

Friends, that's wrong.

Can't we all just get along?

I would like to go back to a place reminiscent of Mad Men (which is my new Netflix show to watch when all are sleeping, and beware, you may want to start wearing suits and ties for men and dresses for women, and you may feel like you don't drink or smoke enough. ha!). When can we just go back to having meatloaf without judgement? Why can't I want to work out to feel good, but also be able to wear my skinny jeans? When can I just have a meal and not have to make a stand about it? Why are TV shows even weighing in on GMOs and super bugs? Can't we just get back to episodes like where Ross can't get out of his leather pants and there are close talkers?


My perspective may make people upset. I'm very sorry about that. Truly, I am, but we are living in a world where the belief is if you don't believe what I do, you're wrong. If you don't believe me, watch any talk show or even our presidential debates. My friend Holly wrote about it here, and friends, people who may disagree with you may will also be mean. And potentially psycho. Read the commentary.

Anyway, I'm not insinuating that what some folks may be doing is wrong, I'm just all for the refreshing "I'm okay, you're okay; we're different, and that's okay" perspective I have read about this week.

I'm so certain that you do what's best for your family. My perspective is just different than the extremists. I like sustainability (whatever that means), and these crazy perspectives of don't do that, you'll die in a minute just don't shake out. Life happens. I'm trying my best, but that will always include a cheeseburger, a set of vaccinations, and a good sweaty run.

And even, GASP, a refreshing Diet Coke.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

All Is Quiet, Sort Of

The irony of this title is that I now currently have a baby talking upstairs. Thought I could post really fast before the awakening of the twins.

Oh well.

Anyway, it's relatively quiet right now, which is odd, because it's harvest, we're the site of the big bins, the gas tank and the machine shed, and we're evidently a thoroughfare for the neighbors as they cruise past our house in their grain truck at about 60 miles per hour. Have I ever discussed the ramifications of going too quickly on a gravel road? No? Well...that's a post for another day.

Anyway, my point is, it's weirdly quiet. Dad and my uncle are harvesting at a farm not near us, hauling grain (I'm assuming) to town. Our house project is at a bit of a standstill, as the exterior of our mudroom/porch is done, but the electricians have yet to show up. Some day, my friends...some day, I'll give you a house tour. Maybe in 2016. The wind is even calm.


The quiet has caused my mind to ponder harvest.

Harvest was a time in our farming life when the hustle and bustle kept our mind busy. When Joe's mom was gravely ill, we were kept busy with the necessary tasks at hand. Joe could lose himself watching grain pour into the cart or semi trailer. While harvest is the end of the growing season, it keeps a farmer's psyche alive.

As a wife, this was always a lonely season. Other farm wives have blogged about this. On Facebook, friends have shared their sunset pictures as they share meals on tailgates and in combines. Parents kiss their kids goodnight long after the kiddos have fallen asleep. But harvest is a time when that loneliness signifies the end of hard work. You're happy to get there, get started, and get done. It's a strange pairing.

I'm hopeful that it starts to get noisy around here again soon. I love seeing the guys "catch on the go," love the potential of my little guy hopping in with grandpa for a round or two. This is our first harvest without a clear set of duties, but since we're here, we're still in the thick of it. I'd like to consider myself an active participant, but on days when it's just quiet, it's a little strange. Heck, I even talked to my dad the other day about learning to drive a truck! Who AM I??? If only we had a sleeper cab. I don't think I can stuff two car seats beside me.

Oh well.

My hope is that the crew will roll back in here soon, so I can keep tabs on this harvest, reporting my findings to you, my friends. Just call me the rural route Mrs. Kravitz.

Except when it's quiet, then I'll just wax poetic.