Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Who puts beef in her facebook post?

I do, that's who! Without pause, today, this small victory was accomplished by advertising beef in my status update! Let me back up, for those of you "non-Facebookers," posting your status means that you're letting all of your friends online know what you're doing. I'm generally not a huge fan of the status report. Usually it winds up sounding like either too much information, too vague or just too mundane.

Regardless, Joe and I are social media users. We email, Facebook (Joe is new, please "friend" him), instant message, text, and the like. So we decided to use this venue to sell some of our steers that are being fed for beef. There was a time that this farm wife would have never even dreamt about putting anything about beef for sale in her Facebook status, but today was not that day! I gladly and proudly posted that we were selling halves and quarters to the first few customers, and we have some takers! As my brother would say, we're using the Internet for "good!"

Social media and farming seem to be colliding a lot more around these parts. My quest for more information on farming led me to "become a fan" on Facebook of Beef Today which led me to read a really great article by Amanda Nolz (the editor for the Beef Today website) in regards to running and eating beef as a part of your training meals, which then led me to join Team ZIP (Team Zinc, Iron, and Protein), and order a running jersey to wear to my upcoming half marathon, which will allow me to proudly wear my passion for our livelihood. . . and steak.

Gone are the days that I simply mention in passing that we raise cattle, and eat them. I am wearing a picture of a piece of meat on my shirt in a few weeks. Who does that? This farm wife does. Gone are the days that I would shy away from mentioning selling beef in a public forum, fearing that I might offend some vegetarian friends. The use of social media to promote our way of life is good, regardless of whether some one agrees with our practices or not. My hope is that through using outlets such as Facebook, farming can get a better, and more hip reputation, and possibly some new shoes from the sale of these animals!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Across the Street

Growing up, I lived in town. Well, sort of. Our town was very small, and we did have a cornfield in our backyard, but it was a town, nevertheless. My brother and I were able to ride our bikes to school, walk to the convenience store (the ONE convenience store) and get a pop, and could go to the park without much trouble. We even had friends in our neighborhood that lived across the street, or down the street, or just a few blocks away.

Fast forward 10 years. . . we had just moved into our newly remodeled home in the country, and our "neighbor" (who actually lives about 2 miles away) was beginning to wean calves. Now, if you've never experienced the weaning experience, let me tell you, it isn't quiet. So, one morning, during this said time period, I noted to Joe that the calves "across the street" were really noisy.

Joe, pointedly, corrected me, "It's not a street, Emily, it's a road."

Excuse me? There's a difference? I was very offended at first by this correction. I mean, come on, I was an English teacher (albeit sixth grade, but still. . . ). I know words. I understand phrases, semantics, grammar. I'm annoyed by the taxidermist sign at the corner of the highway that reads "Taxidermist's" not "Taxidermists." Is it hurting anyone? No. Is their business suffering. Probably not. Am I still annoyed by incorrect grammar? YES!

However, now that I have lived out here on this road for nearly four years, I now realize that there is a definite difference between the words, road and street. As a town kid, you looked both ways before you crossed the street to head to a friend's house. We checked behind ourselves to make sure that the car coming saw us, but we still pedaled down the street. We were allowed to be near it, to cross it, and to use it.

Different story out here. A road is a far more dangerous place in farm country. My girls are not allowed to be even close to the road. Dangerous, huge pieces of farm equipment, semis full of grain, augers being moved, livestock trailers pulled by three quarter ton pick-ups, even the fast drivers of those headed the "back way" somewhere make for very, very dangerous conditions on our road. Even the dust itself on a hot, dry summer day poses concern. Seriously, it would blind a small elephant when a car passes during these dusty times. Did I mention our road is gravel? Ugh.

Regardless of what is passing by, the road is more than just a street used for passing traffic. It is more of a dividing line between the safety of the homestead and rest of the farm. The cows across the road are NOT to come over here by any means. However, we have had one or two trot by on occasion, generally with Joe following, hollering words that should not be repeated.

The road is a presence, announcing its annoying self with a cloud of dust. However, because of that cloud, we know some one's coming. Anna even says, "I know some one's coming! I see the dust!" I guess you could call our dusty road our country security system! It's because of this road and the way it's traveled that we typically know who is driving by and when. We know if some one's driven by when it's snowed. We see headlights coming from nearly a mile away on nights when the corn isn't at its tallest, and that makes me feel safe, even if I don't live on a street.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Misconceptions of Farming

Although I am not an expert in agriculture, I am an expert on kid-friendly TV. This has given me the opportunity to view many an episode where Elmo, Calliou, or the Imagination Movers have visited "farms." We even have a pretty cute "Farm Park" near us. Even though these said "farms" are overflowing with beautiful, exotic produce, are staffed by super sweet, although "hillbilly-ish" farmers, and house calm, pet-able animals, there is a bit of a difference between these places and our operation.

"Wouldn't it be so fun to have a few goats/chickens/rabbits/sheep/anything fuzzy and on an Easter commercial on your place, Emily? Wouldn't the girls just love them?"

Answer: Yes, the girls would love it. And, NO, their mom and dad would not. Joe doesn't even like to landscape my yard, and his job is to GROW crops. . . he would NEVER go for a Noah's Ark type of farm! It pretty much goes without saying how I would feel about something new and fuzzy in our midst. . . yikes! I'm still getting used to the cattle that are safely gated across the road from me!

"Shouldn't you start growing _________________ (fill in the blank of any sort of herb, vegetable, fruit of your choice, regardless of the necessary temperature needed for these lovely and tasty treats to survive)? Don't you already live on a farm?"

Although many of the "farms," strike that, a majority of the "farms" showcased in the media house flourishing vegetable gardens and sweet yellow chickens, this is not a farm that is, well, realistic as a livelihood. These would be considered more hobby farms. In fact, Joe got a "Hobby Farm" magazine in the mail the other day (he promptly threw it away, proclaiming he didn't have time for a hobby. . . I beg to differ, but that's another post!). There's a niche for these farms, but our world could not eat without producers such as my family. I'm not saying that having multiple species of animals on your farm does not make you a farmer, I'm just saying that production agriculture is more than chickens, strawberries, and herbs.

The farms in my girls' books and those on the shows they watch are farms of old: farms of the time when everyone ate their own chickens, after plucking them, grew their own vegetables, canned them for the winter, and took their horse and buggy into town to trade for flour for baking bread and cloth to make their three dresses they owned.

Why is this the case? Why aren't there "modern" farms in the media? Aren't we cute enough????

Even when considering adult media, why is there a picture of a "farm" in the cracker aisle at the grocery store that is merely pot after pot of herbs? Because the world will eventually live on chives and oregano, I guess.

Seriously, I get really frustrated with these misconceptions of farming. I believe that we all should try to eat a little more "locally," and that there should be those farmers who want to putter around with many different, lovely animals and huge gardens brimming with the ingredients for a delicious, homemade salsa. However, we must be realistic. We've "gotta eat," and in order to continue to enjoy your chicken that you did not have to pluck, tomatoes that you didn't have to can, and milk from a gallon jug, thank a farmer.

We're famous. . .

. . . well, not really, but we have received some publicity!

Thanks to my cousin, a Farm Bureau manager, who inspired me to start blogging, I received a call from the FarmWeek Newspaper, the publication of the Illinois Farm Bureau. This blog has been featured in this week's newspaper! How exciting! Even better is the picture featured in the article, it is absolutely indicative of my attempt to blog when the girls are awake!

An abridged version of the article is located here.

We're so lucky to have interest in what we're doing out here! Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Is Here!

Many of my Facebook friends have posted something along the lines of "Spring is here. . .going to go out and enjoy the weather!" or "It's flip flop season!" Although the girls and I have enjoyed the early signs of spring with jumps in mud puddles, bike rides around the concrete, and the monthly cleaning of the garage, the spring season before planting season brings a lot of interesting sights and sounds on the Webel Farm.

Sights: the glorious sight of melting snow and brownish grass that will soon be green. . . and the sight of a dead possum, frozen in time from a fateful cold night. Did I mention that this possum is in plain sight from my bedroom window. Gotta get those curtains up!

Another glorious sight is the forecast for the week: 50 degrees with a few showers. Hallelujah! We can be outside and get out and about. However mother nature's glory has caused our "gravel" road to become so rutted and muddy, my lovely, freshly washed SUV (because that's what you do when the weather warms up, town folks, right? You wash your car!) is now covered, and I mean covered, in khaki colored muck. Which leads to the sound of me yelling, "Don't touch the car!" as we load up to take Anna to preschool.

Finally, Mama Cow across the road and her cute white faced calf, the very calf she didn't want anything to do with in the first stages of his life, are frolicking in the pasture. Such a glorious sight to see, however, as I enjoy this sight, my husband, on his way to a gig for his "other" job, calls to see if I could check something. He asks me if I can see any feet or a head coming out of a mama on the east part of the pasture. As my former self, I would have proclaimed to my loving husband that I didn't even want to see myself give birth, let alone an animal. However, upon receiving this phone call, I promptly ran upstairs to our bedroom (different set of windows from the possum window) and excitedly reported that there is a head coming!

I just realized something: spring may have begun to show its glorious face, but something, some one, rather, is showing up. A real life farm wife! She's showing her face through this town girl's facade! I might just be out there one day, checking cows. . .

. . .or not, it looks pretty muddy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Art of Backing Up

Picture this:
A perfect fall day. . . a field of corn, nearly 100 acres of it, perfectly ready and being harvested. . . a husband, calling his beloved wife to come and bring him a lunch, and that wife, perfectly poised and ready with the hearty lunch of a ham sandwich and Pringles, meets said husband at this particular field.

Then, picture the wife's horror as she tries to back out and gets off the lane's track and into the ditch, popping a tire on a culvert at the field entrance. There she is, stuck, with three children in car seats and having to admit, again, that, "no, I wasn't taught how to back up properly," and "yes, it's probably because I grew up in town not needing to know how to back up with or without a livestock trailer."

This is one of my fears as a farm wife: backing up, as in "the truck, Chuck." Backing up is a skill that I do not possess. I am terrible at it. Sure, I can back out of my own garage, who can't? But back up down a lane? Back up with my uncle, dad, and husband watching? NO WAY! It is something I just do not do well at all. However, in my short time as a farm wife, I see the absolute necessity of backing up in every day farm life. As I post today, I am watching my dad out in our lot, backing up the semi to the auger to load up another load of corn on his truck. How he backs up underneath that Q-tip looking piece of machinery is beyond me, and don't even get me started about my husband backing up the loaded livestock trailer. That is just miraculous.

However, I think this is a skill set that farmers are blessed with, and this farm wife is not. Joe was born with the back up skill. There's a story he shares of when he and his mom were at a county fair for a livestock show he was attending. He wasn't even of legal driving age, but when my mother in law couldn't get the trailer backed out of the lane, she moved aside and little Joey took over.

When backing up- whether it's tractors, combines, semis, pickup trucks, or 4-wheelers- folks in farm world usually are doing it on a lane, that is narrow, potentially on dirt or gravel with no place to turn around and look forward. This, I guess, could be comparable to decisions that have to be made as a farmer. There is no backing up or out of marketing decisions. Once you say, "sell it!" it's sold, whether the price is better tomorrow or worse. Once you make the decision to pull the trigger and bid on that piece of ground at a land auction, there's no retraction if you get it, just a big bank appointment to be made. When Joe decides which "fat girls" (cows needing to calve) to shut in and watch before their due dates, he can't back up and try again when three more mama cows are calving out in the muddy field, just moments after pulling the loaded trailer out of the lot.

I guess a feeling of losing control is why I am not good at backing up my SUV. I am frustrated when I have to back up and realize how little I can see. I need control, need guidance, need HELP! At times, farming makes me feel the same way. We struggle to make good decisions, when really there's not a lot guiding us but our instincts. My hope is that we can keep following our intuition, making good decisions based on basically educated guesses. That, and Joe will come to the house for his lunch!