Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Farmer Wave

Out here on our road, we notice who is driving by, whether it's because we have no window treatments in our main living areas or because we live on a road that is not too busy, I'm not sure. Nevertheless, we notice. However, I have noticed lately that we not only always look at the person driving by, but we also wave. In the summertime when we are practically living outside, Anna especially turns, looks and waves. She waves a big, hearty, preschool wave. Farmers around here, however, practice the "farmer wave."

In fact, just yesterday, I noticed Joe utilizing the "farmer wave" to a "neighbor" farmer who lives a few miles away (sorry for the excessive use of quotation marks. . . kind of feel like Chris Farley when he was a motivational speaker on SNL). Anyway, for those of you who either understand or have utilized the farmer wave, please forgive me, but the purpose of my musings is to educate. This wave is generally a flick of the first two fingers, and takes place while the hand is still potentially clasping the steering wheel. The hand never leaves the steering wheel, it merely acknowledges the other driver or person in the yard and then is gone. Poof.

Although it is a fleeting motion, the actual finger move of said wave is not what is interesting to me. It is the notion that the wave suggests. We have neighbors out here, but they are not the kind of neighbor I had growing up in town: one who you would play with or mow the lawn for or check up on. They are a mile, or in some cases miles away. However, what is fascinating to me about farm neighbors is while you may never take them a meal when their second child is born or you may not even really speak more than a few words to them at the grocery store, if there is something big happening on his or her farm, you are there.

Case in point: the neighbors up the road had a terrible hay fire this spring. Now, I was again, trying to keep the Webel Wheels turning, and this day, we had Anna's first parent/teacher conference at preschool, in town, and one o'clock--SHARP. I was dressed, ready to go, grossly pregnant with Amelia and, therefore, quite emotional. Joe, however, heard from the hired man about this fire, and soon saw the fire department trucks (all three of them or so) headed to the south. In just a minute, Joe was out the door with the tractor and loader helping these neighbors, because, "That's what you do."

Really? That's what you do for people who you really barely know and never really talk to? That's what you do? That's what you do when you're getting ready to go and attend your first parent/teacher conference? (thank heavens our preschool teacher is also a farmer's wife, so she completely understood why Joe smelled of smoke!) The answer is a vehement YES, and for this knowledge, I am truly grateful. We haven't had a disaster, yet (even though this spring and fall could be called disastrous, but that's for another post), but I am so thankful to know that if/when it happens to us, our neighbors, whom we merely flick our farmer wave to, will be there, tractors and loaders in tow.

Baby it's cold outside

A person knows its cold when the digital thermometer on our desk reads,
"- - -." However, Joe still "gets" to go out and do chores on this crisp Saturday morning. . . lucky him. I have always considered myself a "winter person," mainly because I love Christmas and sweaters, however, upon becoming a livestock wife, I have realized that winter is not fun on the farm.

Let me back up. My dad was/is a grain farmer and an ag instructor. Because of this, I never realized the implications of sub zero wind chills on the "other farmers." Once the harvest was complete, and the combine was put in the shed, for my grain farming dad and others, winter was a time to relax, catch up on bookkeeping, Illini basketball, and take a vacation on a beach (we never did, however, Dad HATES water. . . not that I'm resentful). However, for a livestock farmer, it means de-icing water, warming up tractors for at least 20 minutes, and making sure the calves born during this time are in a safe place. Everything takes longer, and for my "I need to know when you're going to be home so that dinner can be at least a glimmer and I can go to the bathroom alone" purposes, it wreaks havoc.

On these cold days, Joe is like a good parent to his herd, continually checking them, especially the heifers who are nearing their due dates. Even last night as we drove home from a failed attempt to hit Tractor Supply Co. before it closed, we stopped and checked the heifers. I felt myself getting annoyed, which I tend to do, because I just wanted to get the kids home and in bed. Amelia and Anna were already dead asleep, while Josie remained last kid standing. Once Joe stepped out with his flashlight to check his heifers, I found my mind racing toward the next steps when we got home- how to get Anna's PJs on when she had obviously fallen into deep sleep, other such "necessary" worries. My thoughts were broken, however, by a little cartoon-like voice in the back.

"Yes, Josie."
"Do you know that I am looking at the moon?"
"You are? That's nice."
"Did you know that I think the moon is soooooo magical?"
"Why do you think so?"
"Because Daddy says it will help the cows and their babies."

My little livestock girls will know so much about the life cycle of our animals, learning tidbits of "farming lore" like the magical moon from their dad as we drive home at night. Joe is just repeating what he heard as a kid from his dad: when the moon full, it will help the calves be born . . . or so "Pappy" says. However, sharing stories like this with the kids, even though it's freezing cold and chores take extra long to do, make Joe's job less of a "job," and more of a way to connect with each other. I guess that is what's "cool" (excuse the pun) about farming.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thank you Oprah

My husband would/will kill me when he sees this title.

He HATES Oprah. Now, I'm not talking about the he doesn't like Oprah in the way that I don't care for "cold cheese" (only melted, thank you very much). He DESPISES her in the most authentic way a person could despise something.

Thus, when I was watching- secretly -Oprah on Monday, I saw the ad for Wednesday's show, where Michael Pollen would be talking about grocery shopping and the American food supply. Great, the American farmer bashing could begin and Oprah could lead the charge. Ugh. It was not until my cousin, a Farm Bureau Manager, contacted me and urged me to visit Oprah's message board regarding this show that I realized how much I believed in defending our life out here. So I wrote on her message board. . . using my first and last name as my username- DUH- that's how new I am to online message boards! After I hit, "accept," I waited, and soon people responded to me, and after I got over the high school feelings I had when people disagreed with my perspective, I made a decision to blog.

And here we are. Thanks, Oprah. . .yet another way that my bathrooms will remain unclean.

Seriously, though, posting my soapbox statement on made me realize that many people do not understand what it is truly like to live out here. . . sure my suburban and city friends think it's cute that we have cows, love that we run big green tractors, and marvel that I am almost 30 minutes from a Target, but do they really know what it's like to have the thought cross our minds that the crop might be terrible and what that could mean to our family?

So, it is my quest now to be completely honest. I am confessing what it is truly like to be a "Farm Wife." What it is like to live on a gravel road: the good, the bad, and the dirty. . . it's all coming out.