Saturday, August 28, 2010

Best of the Best

There's a canned Facebook status that keeps rolling through my news feed, and it reads something along the lines of "being happy isn't having the best of the best, it's being happy with what you have." Or something like that.

Now, while I totally agree that we shouldn't lust after things or covet others (isn't that one of the BIG TEN to abide by?), shouldn't we want the best of the best for our lives? Shouldn't we always strive for greatness and truly be happy when we have achieved both?

In agriculture, farmers are constantly striving for the best of the best. The best seed for their field's particular soil types, the best application practices for chemicals (gasp. . . yes, we do use chemicals, but note that neither me nor my children have a third eye, eleventh toe, or second belly button!), as well as the best equipment (no question at this operation. . .John Deere). Currently, the talk around here is the best time to start harvesting, which field will be the best to start with, as well as which variety of corn/beans we planted will yield the best.

The farmers are ready to be at their best, to reap what they have sown. They are fired up and getting jittery, however, I am struggling. Yes, I know, again, but the end of August and beginning of September is going to be a time, I am figuring out, that I start to feel hysterical. School has started, and while I am in LOVE with the fact that I have a kindergartner, I used to be a teacher. And now I'm not. And, upon entering the school the first day, holding my daughter's hand, I felt the tug that this is where I belong. I used to be good. I used to use school to create my identity. I used to GET PAID. I'm left feeling as if I am not at my best of the best.

Farm wives, the ones that do not drive the tractors, haul the grain, or work (so I guess the three of us that are left) are to hold down the fort while the farmers go great guns and run all hours of the night, livin' the life. While I know that Joe will be completely and totally in his element, and loves to keep busy, I will be busy, too, exhausted and disappointed that I won't be getting what I need to accomplish done in the small window of time I have when I'm not needed to play Barbies or basketball with my kids.

Why do I want to constantly put on my best of the best, when at the busy times, when I am basically a single mom, survival should be the goal? And now that I am this farm wife and stay at home mom, what is my best of the best, really? I know in my heart that it is to be a wife and a mother first, but some times isn't it easier to point to what you accomplished during a day that makes you feel as if you truly did the best of the best?

I am excited for the start of harvest, don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to seeing my husband's face when he reports a good yield, calculating the bushels per acre, and his excited report when the acres harvested are more than the acres left standing. Although this defines our livelihood, and I understand that, should I be considering this as my best of the best? When I am still learning the ins and outs of farming, how can I determine what is great and what's not-so-great? And, if I'm not using our livelihood as a barometer for success, are completed laundry loads accomplishments worth accolades? No one in my family really cares that the windows are washed, so why do I equate this to success these days?

What's wrong with me?

Nothing, I'm just me.

Thus, I'm putting my Sad Sally attitude up this harvest season. If the guys point to the land and think that's their best of the best, I am going to point to my girls and say the same. While I don't get a paycheck for what I'm doing (well, a teeny tiny one from BlogHer), what I will reap are three children who will remember that Mom used coupons to buy Nutty Bars, because that's what Daddy loves, and we ate them all together on the tailgate one late harvest night as a family. They won't remember whether or not my windows were washed by the end of the week, but will remember that I took time to finish Ramona and Beezus that night. Joe just wants me to be happy and supportive, and to try not to sigh when he works late. I will try my best.

The relationships I cultivate this season will be my best of the best.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Et tu, Elmwood?

There are certain stereotypes that all people who don't live in an urban area must fight against. Farmers especially have to constantly work on their images, fighting common misconceptions such as the thoughts that we are uneducated, un-worldly, or out of touch with the rest of the country.

However, when a rural community puts on an event that works against all of this, trying not to reinforce these stereotypes becomes an uphill battle.

Case in point: hog wrestling at Elmwood's Fall Festival.

Seriously. There's going to be hog wrestling. In the mud. And, I believe shirts are optional.


I am working on trying to place farming and rural living and agriculture in a positive, educated, exciting, albeit some times dirty light. Thanks for the setback.

Regardless, we will not be participating in the hog wrestling events, and neither will my hog producer uncle, nor will my hog farmer father-in-law. They don't have to wrestle hogs on a regular basis, as their operations are tightly run ships that don't require gettin' down and dirty.

I guess I should take in this competition and see who's participating. Maybe there is good exercise to be had by rolling around in the mud, trying to gain one's footing while chasing after a greased pig. Maybe I should get a team of six together and try it out; then I wouldn't have so many judgemental thoughts, per se, and instead make some concrete and real observations on this rural past time. . .

Maybe not.

I think, instead, I'll hope that those participating will have hit the "First Annual Beer Tent" prior to the competition, and not be aware enough of ones surroundings to realize how a competition like this is so ridiculous and embarrassing to an otherwise beautiful and interesting rural community.

Here's hoping.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Emily, Your Childhood Wish Has Been Granted

What town kid, or any kid for that matter, doesn't wish for a puppy with a red bow around its neck at Christmas? I know that as a kid, I hoped for a pet to love, any pet for that matter, and was certain that a dog would be a wonderful fit for our family. We killed goldfish (not murdered, just killed), disliked cats because they walked all over my dad's pristine vehicles, and detested rodents, as they were too close to the mice that Mom declared war upon once a year. So, I knew that a dog would be perfect.

Well, my parents, both farm-kids-turned-town-folks, never granted this childhood wish of mine. They believed a dog belonged on a farm, where he or she could run free. Thus, I was left to enjoy the neighborhood dogs, if you could call chasing after a neighbor's dog as he "walked" me while I "dog sat." I was also able to listen to the neighborhood "barky" dogs who always seemed to bark at night, right when I was trying to get to sleep. I guess the lack of experience with dogs as well as the neat freak, perfectionist that I became made me less and less of a pet person of any kind as I grew older.

Fast forward twenty five years, and my childhood wish has been granted, three times. . . sort of. Joe is an animal lover, and grew up with loyal farm dogs that went with his dad everywhere. And, when he began full time farming, we (well, mainly he and Anna) decided that now all our farmstead needed to make it picturesque was a dog. With the promise that all other parties would take care of said dog, I begrudgingly agreed to get one. We lost Mabel, tragically, and even though I desperately wanted her to quit jumping, chewing, and getting my white pants dirty, I could hardly talk to the babysitter who came the night after she died. I was so sad.

Next came Pepper, and she was truly a gift. My father-in-law found a breeder with the exact same kind of dog that our first one was, and surprised the girls with her on a visit to their farm. She was so cute, and we tied a red ribbon around her neck for our Christmas picture that year. However, she met the same fate that our dreadful, dirty gravel road provided for Mabel. Again, I was so upset, I could hardly explain to the preschool teacher that day why Anna might be upset. Ironic, huh?

I swore off dogs after that. My childhood wish was not to have to bury two dogs and explain to my little girls about death. My childhood wish was to have a puppy forever: one that didn't jump, bite, run out in front of cars, or chew up my lawn furniture. Seriously, was this too much to ask?

Like I said, I swore off dogs, and when the utterance of the "d" word started this spring, I ignored it. When Joe started talking about adopting one that would be a herding dog, one that would go with him everywhere, I still ignored it. Then the kids got in on the deal. I couldn't ignore that. I would find Joe and Anna looking at potential adoptees on the Internet and even though they were both excited, I was not. My childhood wish was twice not fulfilled. My heart was twice broken, and I wasn't about to shoot myself in the foot again.

However, I was overruled, and Sadie, our rescued Australian Cattle Dog was brought home this summer. She was the epitome of man's best friend. She loved Joe, adored Anna, allowed Josie to rub her belly, didn't bark, didn't chew, didn't jump. I was in doggie love. Childhood wish: GRANTED!! Third time was the charm!

Until this week. . .

My farm dog that was supposed to be with Joe at all times has been hanging around the house, and has wreaked havoc on my outside decor. Items affected are: one landscaping light, one glider seat board, one watering can, and a few deck boards, not to mention her dog bed, a towel, Anna's Cardinals hat, and some random seed corn hat.

Seriously, what happened to my childhood dream? Why isn't she being the perfect dog she once was? Why the DECK???

Regardless, Sadie is a part of our family, whether she chews, jumps, barks or whatever. She's part of the family farm package. It's some unwritten rule that in order to be a farm family, one must have a dog.

All I'm saying is be careful for what you wish for as a child, it just might come back and chew up your landscape lights.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just When I Think I'm Starting to Get This. . .

. . . I really still have no idea.

I started this post yesterday. It was to be the feel good blog post of the year. Something along the lines of "Harvest is nearly here! The crops look great!" I even had a catchy, and also kitschy, title: As the Beans Turn. Cute, huh?? You know, like As the World Turns? However, like a real soap opera plot line, my happy, oblivious ramblings have a taken a tragic turn, and now are cyberspace garbage.

While today did give me a glimpse of fall weather. . .thank you for allowing me to wear JEANS. . . it is not necessarily all systems go for harvest as of yet. The beans are changing color out my kitchen window, which should be a sign of the times. However, Joe mentioned that it might not necessarily be the glory of bean maturation that is causing this tinge .. . maybe sudden death.

Sudden WHAT????

Yes, sudden death. According to North Carolina State University's website (sorry, Illinois. . .yours was not the first site on Google), "sudden death syndrome (SDS) is the common name for a root-rot of soybean caused by the fungus Fusarium solani f.sp. glycine." Holy smokes! That does not sound good. Here's hoping that this will not hit us.

And I thought that all I really had to worry about was the weather.

Seriously, this farming gig is really starting to work at my nerves. Just when I think I have some things figured out, I don't. What farm wife wouldn't think that a beautiful field of beans with a tinge of yellow would signify the upcoming harvest season? Wouldn't mums in the grocery store parking lot signal life is good, go make yourself a s'more?

Not necessarily. Another red flag that my happy harvest posting would be met with furrowed farmer brows was an article in Farmweek. While my girls and I were enjoying the extreme heat in July and August at the pool, the corn plants were experiencing tip-back, which is where kernel development ended at the tip of the ear. Seriously? I thought summer was supposed to be hot, and that was good for crops, in moderate amounts. I know from our power bill that we have used our air conditioning a lot, but didn't realize that this heat would affect the way the corn kernels developed. Huh.

I guess I have a lot to learn still.

My hope is that even though the outlook is rather pessimistic, harvest will come and things will be good. Crop yields will be surprisingly great. The combine will be in the field for weeks at a time before a rain out, and Joe will be able to come with us as we trick-or-treat.

Yeah, right.

I may not know a lot about sudden death or tip back, but I do know that in this farming business, life is not that predictable.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Corn, Cattle, and Le Cordon Bleu

Bad press strikes again.

When one hears the word, Texas, what does one think about? Big open spaces? Big football stadiums? Cattle operations? Cowboy hats? Any more stereotypes? I have some Texans out there, so please do not be offended by my generalizations.

How about fancy Texas cooking? Colleges such as Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts College? Well, in Dallas, there's a branch of Le Cordon Bleu, and I have a cousin who is a new teacher on staff. This Midwestern-Home-Ec-teacher-turned-pastry-chef-turned-college-instructor has just started teaching there, and during her lesson, hit the jackpot on bad agricultural press. Luckily, she turned to us to set the record straight.

The short version of this story is that in her curriculum, farming was cast is a rather evil light. In her lecture materials, it was reporting that farming today is evil towards animals, citing cases where cattle were kept in cages until their sale dates, as well as citing Monsanto as the Devil in the Corporate Flesh. To my cousin's horror, the resources provided by this prestigious school were telling the teachers to lecture that farming was horrible and the cause of the collapse of not only modern society, but was a direct cause to the ruination of our environment. She stopped, mid-lecture, to express her horror, and began a dialogue with her students.

Here's where I came in. . . I was happy to have Joe over my shoulder as I was messaging her back(usually I tell him to get lost when I'm checking Facebook. .. not that there's anything to hide, but seriously, we have basically the same friends). Anyway, Joe and I gave my cousin concise, honest answers about our operation. The questions she had weren't tricky, but ones that housed buzz words that are all over the press. From pesticide use to whom we sell our cattle and how and to whom we sell our grain, my cousin asked questions that were pretty basic, but left to the wrong person, the answers could have been skewed to make farmers out to be the bad guys.

I implore all of you, whether you're in agriculture, or not, to ask questions about your food and the affect agriculture has on your life, but don't just ask anybody. Don't just google your questions away, go to a source that you trust. Don't just ask one side, either. I would love to sit down with a farmer with many different types of produce growing and different animals roaming free to know how their operation works. I would love to ask what are their struggles, and how is it that chickens stay put, and just mingle around the yard? Don't they ever get lost?

My hope through this conversation with my cousin thousands of miles away, she can direct her students away from the bad press that tends to swarm around agriculture. While I do believe that there are some farmers out there who are not doing what they should be, there are a lot more like us who are trying to make a living at doing what they love to do.

Now let's all hold hands and sing "Kum-Bye-Ya!"

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Littlest Farm Girl

We have had a big day so far, and it's not even 10AM!! Anna headed to Kindergarten today, just for a half day, but off to the big school nonetheless. We are all excited about this new endeavor for her, all except Josie.

Josie is three. She is a lot like me, not just in her physical appearance (curly hair she'll despise as a teenager, big toothy grin), but she is extremely emotional. While Anna took today in stride, having only a little bit of nervous energy as we got closer to school, Josie was a mess from last night on. She cried this morning at breakfast, cried when I left to take Anna on this special day, and cried when her little sister accidentally bonked her head with the door. Emotions are high today.

However, a new chapter for my middle child begins today, all thanks to the farm. Josie is the one riding with Dad in the farm truck with the dog, headed over to my uncle's to check the cows. She put on her big girl work jeans ("not the fashion ones, Mom"), asked if maybe she could get a new pair of rubber boots, and headed out in the crisp morning air with Daddy. Jos is the big cheese at our house. . .until the end of the school day!

I believe with every fiber of my being, that even though the farm is unpredictable, both financially and scheduling-wise, dirty as all get-out (check out the inside of my SUV's door frames. . .YIKES!), and sometimes frustrating, being a farm kid is completely worth all the stuff that just makes my life a little inconvenient. What a blessing this opportunity is for our middle child, who some times is too little to do what her big sister is doing, but too big to be the baby. She is lucky that nearly every day is "Take Your Daughter to Work Day!"

We are anxious to hear about Anna's day. I am excited to hear about the schedule, what she did, how many new friends she made. But before that, I will have a full report from my littlest farm girl. Unlike Anna, who is her father and will report matter of fact-ly about the basics, and offer little details, Josie, my girl, will give great detail in regards to not only the happenings on the farm, but the state of the interior of Daddy's truck, the conversations they had, and the dirt collected on her pink running shoes.

That's my girl!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

By the Sign

Things are going to get noisy here in a few days. Joe is getting ready to wean calves, and both parties (mama and calves) will not be excited. The bawling, constant and loud, will commence once these little guys and gals realize what's going on. I could not be more excited, considering I have a sleeping toddler whose bedroom is directly across from this noisy pasture. However, I have no choice, because the sign said to start, and that's all there is to it.

Seriously, we go by the elusive "sign." Joe is very cutting edge in other aspects of both the cattle and grain operations of our farm. We use GPS systems to navigate both the planting and harvesting processes; Joe receives grain market updates via text message, and there's something about a micro chip in our purebred cattle, I think. . . either we have that going, or it's coming (need to research that more!), among other things. However, when it comes to processes such as weaning, Joe heads to the good ol' Farmer's Almanac.

Unlike my father-in-law, we don't have the paperback edition. Instead, to make this old-timey farming tradition more Generation-X, Joe heads to the online version. Just by clicking, you can not only find out what days are the best day to wean, cut hair to retard growth, etc., but you can also take a Smartphone Survey and get a "free almanac collection of charts and guides."

Honestly? Does this seem for real? You're basing a decision off the sign of the moon, but you're getting it sent to your smartphone? To me, it seems a little off, but that's farming: mixing the old timey with the cutting edge.

I guess that's what makes farming appealing to all walks of life. We still do some chore work and unloading of grain with my dad's old John Deere 4020 he bought in the 60s and then re-bought (something my dad tends to do . . . ask him about my college car that he bought twice.). However, our combine and most of the other new tractors can drive themselves with the help of Autotrack steering. This allowed me to make a huge farm wife mistake in my first season of this gig. . . thinking that Autotrack would allow Joe to eat shrimp pasta for supper while he cut beans. Just because the tractor drives itself doesn't mean the farmer is up there playing solitaire on his laptop or watching a DVD. The guys still have to pay attention.

Regardless, the juxtaposition of old and new makes farming something that has and will stand the test of time. New farmers will come and embrace the technology, teaching the older ones. . .much like teaching my grandparents how to run their satellite TV remote. However, the more mature farmers will know that trends come and go, but going back to what has withstood all the trendy technology is some times the best.

For now, I'll wait for that blessed day when the sun, moon, and stars all align and shut my windows, as to not hear the bawling calves.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Hey readers!
I harp on my girls to use good manners, and here I am, writing post after post, and not thanking you all for reading my ramblings. So, here it goes.

Thank you, so much.

Thanks for reading what some times may come across as way too opinionated, way off base, or possibly not applicable to your lives. I am thankful to have found an outlet to get this out, and that people actually want to read and follow it. That is a true act of something divine, I think.

Thanks for "following" me, whether on Facebook or on the blog itself. It is amazing to me that since January, I have reached readers I know, as well as those who have stumbled across me from a friend of a friend, a nice plug from the Farm Bureau, or maybe just by mistake. It is so exciting to log onto my fan page or blog itself and see new fans, read their profiles (which are usually protected, but I still try to eek out a little bit of information from what I can read), and read your comments. I do read them all, but don't want to sound like a freak-show by commenting on all of your comments! My goal is 10,000 hits and 300 Facebook fans by September 1st, and we're getting close. Thanks for spreading the word.

Thanks to BlogHer for accepting my application, featuring my writing on their website and other blogs, and helping me place my ads. I might be able to write on the computer, but this whole java script stuff is new to me. . . guess I should have talked more to those Computer Science guys in my Music Theory class in college. . . that story is awesome. If I were to blog it, the title would be Twenty Nerdy Guys and One Girl.

I'm digressing, again.

Thanks to my mom for spell checking, grammar checking, and calling me with, "Maybe this would work better. . ." suggestions. We have come a long way since my hatred of constructive criticism as a young piano student! Thanks to Dad for passing out my cards to anyone who seems to mention anything in regards to blogging, agriculture, or anything in general! And thanks for letting me have your old laptop. . . your trash is my treasure, Dad!! Thanks to Sarah for getting my rear in gear and telling me to do this. . . and making the cards for Teddy to pass out! You're a great agent! Thanks to my in-laws for spreading the word about this blog. Karma, you're a great "fan," and Rick, you're good for material to write about!! Thanks to Kara for taking beautiful pictures and helping to design (well, really doing all the work) on my blogspot. Thanks to DeAnna for talking to me, linking me up with your radio world, and taking me with you when you get famous!

Thanks to the girls for putting up with Mommy when I just need a minute to think. I have learned to write when it comes to me, and some times that's while we're playing. I love you three!

And, finally, thanks to Joe for all the general things: being supportive, being excited for me, being a critique and fact checker, but most of all for appreciating the fact that I now psychotically ask questions about your every move, and not just so I can go for a run by myself and know when you'll be home for dinner! I love you.

Thanks so much for reading, everyone. It is truly humbling to believe that someone out there thinks what I have to say is interesting.

Keep reading, and spread the word! Be an ag-vocate!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Seasoned vs. Young Farmers

We just spent a night at the local minor league ball park with some of our county Farm Bureau friends. We have a really active county, and one of the most active aspects of it is the Young Farmer Committee. While Joe and I feel like this is something we would like to be a part of, we can't seem to make it to the monthly meetings. Call me crazy, but I'd rather get a babysitter to see a movie, rather than go to a meeting! Plus, Joe, in all of his 35 years, is nearing the end of his "eligibility" as a young leader participant.

Even Joe is considered by the Young Farmer Standards as "seasoned," I did some research on this. Thanks to some simple googling, I found that the average age of the American farmer is OVER 60 YEARS OLD!!!!! This average shocked me at first, but then after doing some inventory of the farmers that surround us, it seems to be right on the money.

Why is that?

Why is our county's young farmer committee so active and quite large, but I can count on one hand how many of these young men and young women actually make their main income from production agriculture (meaning, animals and/or grain). Instead, most of the members have their connection to agriculture through agribusiness, which is great, but isn't it misleading? Although I think Joe would have a lot to talk about with these young people, if they're receiving a check from Monsanto or Pioneer or whatever, they don't have to worry too much about the impending heat and its affect on the hay that is left on the ground.

So, again, where are the real young farmers?

Well, there aren't many, according to the national average numbers. Although I have always liked being a stand out, I'm not sure if this is something I'm so jazzed about. Seasoned farmers around here are good and bad for Joe and me. We look to them for guidance and wisdom, but there has to be a peer group that can fill the "I work with you, so we can talk about work and potentially gripe about it" gap. I enjoyed (and still enjoy) my work friends. Joe liked his colleagues when he was working. Now, however, it's almost as if we are too young for the seasoned farmers and have too little time to hang out, or even seek out, the younger ones.

From my little knowledge on this topic, I know that there are organizations we could join. I get that. But, there has to be a way for farmers to network, besides spending a precious evening discussing policy, or, the more "old school" approach: coffee shop talk. Seasoned farmers have their routines, and there are two distinct categories, in my limited research. The "over 60 crowd" around here are either meeting- or coffee shop-goers. With kids and calves and corn, Joe hardly has time for our nightly meeting, and I think I might go crazy if he were to announce that he was going to be gone multiple nights or days for such things.

However, I realize that we have to be open and go seek out younger farmers, but unlike when my grandpa started farming this land, there's no "up the road" neighbors in our peer group. They are wonderful neighbors, don't get me wrong, but they aren't ones that are of our same age bracket.

I'm not pleading for friends. . .however, there was a time when we first moved up here, being lonely and the mother of two children under two that I nearly stood up in church during joys and concerns, voicing that I was a normal human being who needed friends. . .but I digress. . .What I am hoping for is a company picnic once in awhile that doesn't involve a plot tour. When is Dekalb hosting a family outing? Where are the trips to the Bahamas for the farmer who buys the most seed, rather than for the person who sells the most?? When is a seed corn cap going to be a thing of the past, and a gift card to a pizza joint be the norm? If production agriculture wants to up its average age, it should start by thinking about its marketing strategies.

But then again, who's in charge of this marketing??? Maybe it's some one like me!! That's it! There's my calling. . . now how to do this???

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Bus

There is no way to cutesy up this title. There's no way to sugar coat Anna's inevitable. The BUS is coming, early, in one week, and I could not be less excited about putting her on it.

I am not talking about the sad, "I'm sending my baby to kindergarten" lamenting. I'm talking about me being a "town kid" and dreading having to take the bus when I was in school if ever I had to ride it out to a friend's house or piano lessons. I can smell the vinyl seats, feel the hot breeze in my face, and sense the nausea coming on.

And I'm putting my FIRST BORN, the child we (seriously, I) labored for 36 hours, on a hot, stinky, crowded BUS???

I need to get over this, because although inside and to some close friends, I am freaking out about the bus, Anna could not be more excited! Thank to some bad acting on my part, her easygoing, former-bus-rider himself dad, and the way we have spun this situation, she doesn't know any different. Anna doesn't know that upon telling the head of the bus drivers where we lived, he loudly announced, "Oh, that pick up will be early!", I died inside. Anna never flinched when I discussed with this man an alternate pick up spot. Instead, she got really excited when she found out she would be boarding with her cousin, just up on the "hard road." Anna isn't worried about whether or not she'll know where and when to get off (even though our district is housed in all one location). She's just ecstatic.

Thankfully, Joe's job allows him to be able to put in taking our sweet little kindergartner up the road into his "chore route." Instead of having to load up my two other children on cold mornings, Joe and our dog can take Anna to my aunt and uncle's house to catch the bus. Thank heaven for my farmer husband (how many times have I said that??).

As much as my anxiety and nervousness is eeking through every pore of my body as we approach this milestone, Anna will know no different, and, consequently, her little sisters will ride the bus without fear as well. They will know nothing else, and being driven to school by someone other than the bus driver will be the exception, not the rule. Country kids are resilient, and in my researching on this topic, I have found that there are a lot more funny bus stories than the horrid ones broadcasted on the Today Show.

I need to remember that my attitude toward this needs to mirror the way I want Anna to view this experience. I need to remember that she is a big girl, and the if the state of Illinois deems her ready for kindergarten, the transportation said district provides should be adequate and age appropriate.


Yes, Emily, right. . . keep telling yourself that.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Working for the Weekend

I have noticed an influx of status updates on Fridays, proclaiming, "TGIF!" or "Hooray for the weekend!". I wasn't sure if it was because I myself do not have a 9 to 5 job (or a job at all, anyone want to hire me?), or if it's because I have small children, or if I can blame this one on the farming lifestyle, but weekends around here are kind of like Tuesdays without the convenience of bank hours.

Case in point, this morning: it's 8:30, the girls and Joe have already had their breakfast of homemade waffles (just call me Betty Crocker); I have already troubleshot the dishwasher that is acting funny (I may be Betty Crocker today, but I am NOT Laura Ingalls Wilder!!), started some laundry, refereed a fight (or three), put Amelia down for a nap, and Joe is now long gone.

Sound like a restful Saturday?

The restful Saturdays of long ago, when Joe and I were living in town with our careers in place, have given way to early mornings, single parenthood (during busy seasons), and sporadic grouchiness. Today is one of those mornings. Joe has hay on the ground (which means, mowed off, left to dry, still needing to be baled). Joe will run the square baler, while our hired man will run the round baler. As far as the hay goes, the difference between square and round bales, this time, is just in the packaging, for all of you newbies, like me. However, my focus isn't on the actual baling, it's the fact that it's Saturday, and Joe will still work a full day.

I am trying to come to grips with the fact that, despite the perfect weather, we will not be that family that hangs out at the pool on a Saturday afternoon. We won't be doing our grocery or Target shopping together. Saturdays are just another day when Joe has to work and I have to wrestle.

So, this poses my farm question of the minute: When do farmers get to write "TGIF!" as their Facebook status? Will there ever be a week that I will anticipate Joe home at 5PM on a Friday and know that he will enjoy our company all weekend long, uninterrupted? When will I get some help, real help. . . not Anna trying to push the cart full of goods and kids. . .at TARGET????

I assume the answer to this is never, and this morning, I'm not okay with it, but I know that in time, I will get used to it (notice I wrote "get used to," not "be at peace with" or "embrace!"). But for now, I will continue to growl every time I read a "TGIF!" or "Thank goodness it's Friday" post on Facebook.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tearing Down

My hands kind of smell like a penny. No, I haven't been counting the pennies that I have saved (if anyone knows me, saving money is not my forte). I have been trying to scrub off years of tarnish on a nearly 100 year old apple butter copper pot. Don't call me wanting apple butter this fall! I'm trying to be a little bit Antiques Roadshow. This pot has been housed for years (thus the tarnish) in my Grandma Mary's barn, and in just a few days, that barn is coming down. So, like those on HGTV, Discovery and the DIY network would all advise, we're digging around in the barn for treasures.

The barn is a fixture on my grandma's farm. As a kid, I would watch out the car window as my approached our beloved grandma's house, watching for its stately white facade to come into view. Only when I saw it would I know that we were close to fresh "Grandma Rolls," a comfy hammock to try to flip over my brother or myself, and kittens, wild ones, to chase.

This barn, however, has not been used in years, and thus, is in disrepair. Although one could drive all around the countryside and see barns in desperate need of repair just left to become more dilapidated, this one is not going to be one of those. My grandma is the antithesis of a hoarder (at 96, she has empty drawers and stark closets in the home she has lived in nearly all her life!), and knows that it's time for the barn to come down. A barn like this one was once used to house horses, but now is a safety concern.

And now the scramble to rescue some of the handhewn boards, an actual washtub on legs, and the aforementioned copper pot begins. As of late, my mom and I have had many conversations about what we could do with wagon wheels, barn siding, and beams. However, both of us have no idea with what do with them. . .any suggestions??? There was talk of possibly preserving this relic, but the cost was crazy expensive, so that was ruled out. Regardless of the historical or sentimental views of this barn, it now has potential to fall upon those who come close to it, and the clearing out of valuable or semi-valuable pieces has begun.

Before I moved out to the middle of nowhere, as I would drive to my grandparents' or inlaws' farmsteads and would be so critical (as I tend to be) of the dilapidated houses, barns, and buildings that were around. I was super judgemental, before I actually understood the process, wondering how hard could this process of removing buildings be? How expensive is lighting a match or taking a sledgehammer to the side of a building?

Answer: strangely difficult.

From a financial perspective, if you want to do the demolition "right," the process is either extremely pricey. The cost to have somebody come in, take it down piece by piece and then remove it is a lot more than one would think. A lot of equipment is around the farm, but there are some pieces missing that would make this job a lot better.

From a labor perspective, tearing down anything is pretty intense. My father in law just took down a building that my mother in law would gently remind him was obstructing her view from her front porch. For the demolition part, it was a day of heavy labor to remove. However, the cleaning out of the building and pulling the tin off the roof took a good two or three days to complete. For farmers, a day of good weather used for something not crop or livestock related is a precious commodity.

And then there's the whole dangerous-ness of the process. Buildings that need to come down are generally not in the best shape, and therefore someone with expertise needs to come out to execute the "coming-down" process, as it could become deadly.

In my short time as a farm wife, I am realizing how my family views dilapidated buildings. . . they want them gone and fast. Regardless of the sentimentality or age or whatever, if a building is dangerous, simply not in use, or taking land out of production, it's a matter of weeks and some one has been contacted to at least take a look at the existing structure. While I am all for keeping our farmstead looking nice, I am a little sad that Grandma's barn has to come down, just because the picture in my mind of her house includes it. However, I am realistic and understand that if a piece of this history comes crashing down, causing somebody bodily injury, no one will care that I used to use it as a landmark for fun times.

Until it comes down, I'll continue to look for treasures to make my house look more "farmhouse chic," and try to be more understanding when folks have falling down buildings around their farmsteads. Maybe they're just not as unsentimental as we are!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Guest Post- Husband of the Farm Wife

By Joe Webel, Husband of the Farm Wife!

Seven years ago yesterday Emily and I were married! Our anniversary was a nice day for reminiscing about our big day, our friends who were there, those who pranked us, and how long its been since we've seen some of our dear friends.

As time has passed, it is interesting to see what has changed in our lives- 7 years doesn't seem like that much time, but it has brought a lot of changes- we've been through a few cars (we laughed yesterday as we wondered if the current owners of that red Grand Prix were still finding sparkly red hearts coming out of the vents- those were placed there 7 years ago yesterday- thank you Kristin D.- and we were still finding them before we traded it!)

Other changes include the passing of family members and loved ones, as well as the baby boom that happened in our family as with our dear friends! The circle of life keeps on chuggin' along!

One of the biggest changes, however, was the change in lifestyle as we moved from Double Income, No Kids to the farm supplying our sole source of income while Emily focuses on our three adorable daughters and taking care of me and my many requests- daily feeding, clean laundry, a dish of ice cream in the evening- important stuff!

The biggest surprise to me in all of this has been the way Emily has fully embraced our responsibilities and opportunities as farmers. Not everyone does- it is completely excuseable for a lovely farmer's wife to go about their business taking care of EVERYTHING to keep the household going without worrying about the how and why things happen the way that they do.

But not Emily. Emily saw that while we who grew up everyday in a farm environment understood what we were doing and why, she did not have that experience, and knew that about 98.5% of our population were in the same boat as she. Thus, the start of this blog!

Emily knew that we in agriculture have a pretty interesting story to tell, and that for the most part, the story that comes from storybooks, the media, and activist groups isn't the whole story (or real story) at all. We have an opportunity to show everyone who eats where their food comes from and help them understand why we do the things we do to make their food nutritious and affordable. She does such a wonderful job of painting a visual picture of what life on the farm is like, and soaks up the whole experience and puts it out there for you.

I guess that's one of the many things I love about my wife- what a wonderful honor that she believes that what we're doing with the life we've created together for us and our children is worth telling other people about! She has become a wonderful advocate for the lifestyle and industry that I love so much, and I look forward in great anticipation to what the future holds as we travel through the rest of our lives together! Happy Anniversary, Em!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sorry Ulysses, Yours is Not a Farm

I guess I should add in "anymore" to my title.

We have enjoyed a few days away, as mentioned in a previous post. St. Louis was our destination, because we needed a place potentially hotter than home! Not really, we love St. Louis for its Cardinal baseball, so many great (and free) things for the kids to enjoy, and its shopping! We tried a few new attractions this time, one being Grant's Farm, the once farmstead of President Ulysses S. Grant and now home of the Budweiser Clydesdales.

However, as we began our ride on the tram through the grounds, Anna's childlike innocence and its ability to pop into her head and out of her mouth got me thinking. She announced as we rode through the 80 sprawling acres with animals from nearly all continents, "This isn't a farm! Where are the crops?"

Anna's picture of a farm is her house, complete with out-buildings, our family dog, cattle in the pasture across the road, all being bordered on four sides by corn and soybean fields. However, to the city folks on the train, who were snickering at her "country" comment, this is a farm: animals (without caring whether they are producing anything for the farmer) and open space.

That made me feel strange. Sad, in a way, but not because these poor city people had no experience with the farming lifestyle (they are close to a Crate and Barrel and a Nordstrom, I can't feel too sorry for them!), but that the perceived farm in the greater, urban society is not a true picture. Just like in advertising, Americans today only experience what is placed, and also marketed, right in front of them. Offering a snow cone and a promise of seeing long horned cattle, a camel and an elephant is as farm-y as these people have ever gotten.

This is no one's fault but us in agriculture. We don't have any signage on our road promoting farm tours, offering tractor rides in the fall. We offer farm tours to those who purchase our beef, so that our buyers may see how we raise our cattle. As of today, we haven't had any takers. Why is that? Should I be offering snow cones and the opportunity to pet a calf while they are around? Are we not cutesy enough?

Like Grant's Farm, there are many kid friendly, sweet little farm parks around here, where kids can pet goats, feed chicks, and crawl around on an antique tractor. But again, they are not painting a realistic picture of production agriculture. These parks are more like the Disney World of the farming industry, catering to visitors as tourist traps, rather than educating them in all things agricultural.

So where do I go from here? I kept my trap shut when Anna proclaimed that the farm she was visiting was a sham. Why didn't I educate the public by loudly proclaiming that she was correct and all visitors on the tram were invited to our home to see a real farm? Why don't we open our doors to all those curious about production agriculture, instead of feeling a little defensive when the topic of conversation turns to organics at a girls' night dinner? Why is it hard to get our message out?

I guess I should start with a sign and snow cones, and hope that some day, Anna will be guiding tours of our farm and will explain why ours is a real farm.