Thursday, December 30, 2010

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Hey everyone! It's that time of year...time to reflect, remember, and return thanks to all who have followed, read, commented, shared, and given me the confidence to continue on this journey of writing about a life I lead, and yet still am trying to understand!

Obviously, my family deserves A LOT of credit, Joe especially. Thanks for being the butt of my jokes and for giving me awesome material. Thanks for allowing me to poke fun at your profession, when I truly believe what you're doing is amazing. Thanks for making a life for our family that is something bigger than what we can see in material things. And thanks for that gift this Christmas of fixing my treadmill (hint, hint) and putting down my rubber floor mats in my car. Har, har!

To my girls, thanks for allowing Mommy "just two more minutes" when I'm trying to finish a blog post when you really need help getting the markers down so you could potentially draw on my walls while I'm concentrating. Thanks for making my life interesting and exciting, albeit exhausting. I am your dad's wife and your mom first, and a writer way down the list, even though at times it seems like I put this first. I'm just trying to complete a sentence with correct grammar.

Which leads me to my parents. Thanks Mom for checking my grammar and giving me material, and allowing many, many phone calls to allow me to vent. Thanks Dad for also providing material, all while handing out my cards to all those who may (or may not) be interested in reading what I have to say.

Thanks to my in-laws, as well, for providing great feedback (as well as material, Rick!), and for Karma, my super sharer and potential publicity director when I hit it big! You're a great PR rep for me already!

Thanks to my "manager," Sarah for being my number one fan, and even putting me in print!! Thanks Kara for being my personal paparazzi and helping me make this blog beautiful (with the help of some ADORABLE children!). Thanks also to Illinois Farm Bureau for thinking I have enough to say (do I ever lack, really?) about agriculture to be a part of something that allowed me to stay in a hotel, talk to adults and dress fancy for a day!

Thanks to Holly Spangler at Prairie Farmer, The Farmer's Trophy Wife, and Crystal Cattle for sharing my posts and making me truly believe that people other than my friends and family are reading my posts!! Thanks to the BlogHer network for sharing my posts with a greater audience, and even paying me a little...well, hardly enough to cover a Papa John's Pizza in celebration, but that's okay...I'm not the Pioneer Woman (see an earlier post) YET.

Finally, thanks to all you readers, writers, followers, and otherwise just plain awesome people who think what I have to say is worth your time to sit down and enjoy. I know this next year will bring more mayhem to write about from this farm, but I'm also so hopeful that I can continue to strive to learn more about agriculture and share it with you all in a way that is readable and relevant.

Blessings to you all in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A White Christmas

I love white Christmases. Since I have only lived in Illinois, most Christmases during my lifetime have had some sort of white, thus my intense desire for at least a dusting of snow on or near Christmas. The only one that needed not to be white was the Christmas I got my hot pink Schwinn mountain bike (that I swore to my dad I would ride forever...see it now, since high school, in their basement).

Anyway, as we drove home, carefully, from my in-laws on Christmas Eve night, I was so excited! A perfectly heavy, white snow! As we made our way north and east, it kept coming, and had accumulated to nearly six inches! Whoo-hoo! The snow boots I got the girls would be perfect (Take that, Northerners!!)!

I noticed, however, the driver next to me (aka, Farmer Joe) was not as excited. Granted, he was driving on the sketchy roads, and Josie had been car sick earlier that day, and he did have many Christmas presents to set up when we got home, and it was 10:30 pm, but, still, I asked him what was wrong.


Snow? On Christmas Eve? That's the problem? Seriously...what a grinch.

No, he's a realist. Snow in the Midwest in December is inevitable, so Joe isn't a complainer about that, but snow and ice and cold, coupled with cattle make for a labor intensive next day.


And here I was happily humming Bing Crosby.

Anyway, Joe then explained that he and our hired man had winterized things, and although there would be extra work in the morning, it wouldn't be so bad. You see, livestock farmers have to prepare for all seasons. Winter is tricky, thus, one must be prepared. He has purebred cattle (they're more like pets) that are going to be calving soon, so he has had to prepare to move them to the calving barn (kind of like where Jesus was born). Then there's the issue of snow over grass or stalks. Although the cattle can root around and find some for sustenance, feeding the cattle hay (with a tractor, to multiple pastures), and some times multiple times a day, is a must. It's a busy time. I'm learning that on a working livestock farm, there is rarely a season that is NOT busy!

However, Joe had pre-fed some heifers, cut out water from ice, and readied the farm for snow after studying the weather for days on end.

He didn't prepare for Santa to bring him a flat tire on his chore tractor...the one that has a cab.

So, we switched our tune from White Christmas to Jingle Bells, and he went to work on his one horse open sleigh...aka, the tractor without a cab.

Oh what fun...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas is ALMOST Here!

Holy smokes! I just realized what date was on the calendar! YIKES!!!!!!!!!!

With Christmas being less than a week away, and with some big shot duties I have at the Kindergarten Christmas Party (har, har...get excited for Christmas BINGO!!), along with family dinner after family dinner after family dinner, I am fearful my postings this week and next will be few and far between. Thanks to the longevity of our family, as well as some out of state visitors, we'll be in and out and in and out and north and south and all around!

During this time of the year, however, I am constantly under self-imposed deadlines. I create unnecessary stress, worrying about rather ridiculous things, like making sure my house is "just right" for Santa (does he really care if the bathroom floor is mopped?), all the while trying to keep up with the craziness that is Christmas programs, Christmas parties, wrapping, refereeing, protecting the tree from a toddler, and maintaining our schedule and life on the farm.

Just recently, when I was starting to freak out, I realized I had plastered on my mom's signature "Christmas Smile." Your mom probably had one too. Our mom would be seen around the holidays with this crazy, wild-eyed smile before any family gathering, and then could be found sneaking in her yearly sip of Bartles and James before many a family Christmas (sorry, Mom). Does anyone else do this?

I know this "faking it" smile is ridiculous. No life is like a Pottery Barn catalogue, nor is it a TV show. This is a wondrous time of year, and should come without worrying about unnecessary details. I love, love, love Christmas, especially now that I see it through the eyes of my young kids. Thanks to my kids and the daily workings of the farm, I am constantly reminded that the details of Christmas should be considered just details. Because we have livestock and little kids (who are a lot more similar than you would think), each day is essentially the same. Chores, feedings, and the like have to be completed for our farm and our family to operate smoothly, regardless of how many wreaths I put out or presents I have wrapped. Cows and kids don't care. The big picture is to keep the big picture in mind. Therefore, a lot of my details that I freak out about need to remain just details.

I have to constantly step back and force myself to keep this bigger picture in mind. We are blessed to have been blessed by a baby born to save us, and we are surrounded by the miracle of the sacrifice He made on the cross.

I know, I know, I went from sassy and smarty to spiritual in one single post, but my hope is that this season, while you are enjoying (or pretending to enjoy) your family, doing your life--whether its mundane or exciting that day--, remember that we are blessed to be here. We are blessed with health and family and choices and freedoms, and, most importantly, a life that is and can continue to be amazing.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and know that I pray for you all to be healthy and safe during this season, and that you are able to grit your teeth and plaster on your Christmas Smile during this most wonderful time of the year.

photography by Kara Kamienski Photography, Washington, IL. Hire her, she's amazing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Snow Boot Debate

Okay, so my blog has been dubbed Farming in Fashion Boots because I admit whole heartedly that I am a fashionista. In turn, because I have been blessed with not one, not two, but three girls, whether they like it or not, they too must learn to at least appreciate having some sort of fashion sense.

Now, I'm not so psychotic that I don't make them wear their hood or hats when it's cold outside because of the potential of messing up their hair, nor do I care what they wear when we're at our house (you should see the camo and John Deere get ups Anna puts on when we have "do nothing days!!"). However, since Anna has started kindergarten, we made a pact that I would pick out her clothes and shoes for the school days.

Today, however, was a trick. There are a mere nine days until Christmas is here, and a present I got the girls (note that it was just ME who bought these) is a pair of snow boots. I'm talking cute, pink and black with sparkle detail little girl boots that they'll wear out in the snow, or Anna will wear to school on snowy days. I have had a few questionable weather days that I have considered breaking these boots out early, but thankfully, our snow measurements haven't yielded enough to warrant any boot wearing. Plus, as Joe pointed out again today, she has her Northerners. Okay, for those of you like me who don't frequent Tractor Supply Company or Farm King, Northerner boots are these green rubber-ish boots that are insulated, warm, expensive and, most importantly UGLY. They are worn primarily for choring, as they can be hosed off with great ease. These are great for Joe, Anna and even Josie to have, as they are no big deal to go tromping around in the muck, mud and who knows what else. However, to wear to school? I shuddered to think of it, and started walking towards the hiding point of the fancy boots.

Joe was horrified. How could I even consider giving the girls a Christmas present early? Who cares if she wears her chore boots to school, when all she's going to do is take them off once she gets there? Is there truly a kindergarten fashion cop?

Well, in my book, there probably is a little cute, but slightly mean girl who will comment on Anna's army green chore boots this morning, and I'm hopeful that she will not have her mother's insecurities of wanting to always be on the cusp of high style, just to basically fit in. My hope is that Anna will continue to think that her dad's occupation is the greatest one out there, and that green rubber boots, although not the most flattering, are exactly what they are: green rubber boots. They are just boots that will keep her feet dry, and that are worn to help feed and check the cattle that we care for.

I'm the one who has to get over the Northerners. Either that, or design a line of cute chore footwear!

That's IT!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Excitement and Anticipation in a Small Town

Tis the season to be jolly, and to have at least three different opportunities per Saturday morning to see Santa. Although big city conveniences are limited living in a rural community (have I ever mentioned I live nearly 30 minutes from the nearest Target??), the opportunities to participate in cute community focused events are plentiful, especially during the holiday season.

My girls are very excited for the arrival of the dude in the big red suit, and this anticipation is only intensified by the nine thousand (okay, well three) potential Breakfast with Santas they could have attended this past weekend. Thankfully, they are just still mystified by the fact that Santa can be in Yates City, Hanna City, and at Josie's preschool on the same Saturday. They aren't to the questioning phase yet, but rather devised a plan as we drove from visiting Santa to Anna's YMCA basketball game about some magical, invisible car that transported Santa between the different locales. Anna nearly stumped the preschool Santa by saying that she had seen him at school that week. Thankfully, our preschool Santa was a good actor, and just went with it.

We are so blessed to live in a small community where the Santas are as plentiful as syrup flowing at a pancake breakfast. When I get frustrated reading the different Facebook statuses of city friends talking about their trips "downtown" to see a show, or just running out to IKEA (our nearest one is THREE HOURS away....makes my trip a yearly pilgrimage), or enjoying the after Christmas sales at Nordstrom truly after Christmas, not in February, I have to remember how my girls are making memories here. They are making friends that they will have for their entire school life (which can be good and bad, I know!), as they will attend the same school, in the same building for the rest of their school days. We are so lucky to have a community that knows where we live based upon who our neighbors are or who rented our house after my grandparents moved into town. Life is good here, even if we are far away from what some consider "civilization."

Fortunately, Santa sees no place too small or too far off the beaten path to show up at a pancake breakfast, or three, on a Saturday morning.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Joys of a Winter's Morn

Waking up in the country on a snowy morning is picturesque. The freshly fallen snow on the road is pristine, as no cars have marred its fresh blanket. The wind is howling, but blowing small drifts against our out buildings, giving the appearance of a painting that should be on the front of a Christmas card.

However, looks can be deceiving. As Joe bundled up for this morning's chores, I know he was thinking about the difficulties that lie ahead. Thankfully, our cattle are in good spots to get out of the wind, but the hope, with these sub-zero temperatures, is that water will be available, or at least easy to extract from beneath a crust of ice. Chores this morning will be more difficult, not just because of the slick road covered in ice and dusted with snow, but for the simple fact that the basic needs of all living things on a day like today: food, shelter, and water, will have to be checked, double checked and secured.

I take for granted that Joe just does his job without any complaining, regardless of the extreme heat or cold. While I get to choose today whether or not to step foot outside today, Joe has to go out. He has to not only sit in a cold truck, slip and slide to his different pasture ground to check cattle, but has to get out of the warm truck, brave the 50 MPH winds and make sure that our livelihood--read, our cattle--are faring this awful weather.

Weather is merely an inconvenience to me, loading up kids in car seats with coats is not fun. Dragging all the kids to our unattached garage without anyone being knocked over by the wind or falling on the slick sidewalk is a true Christmas miracle. However, while weather is inconvenient for Joe as a livestock farmer, it could be potentially deadly for our animals, and, therefore, detrimental for our business.

But, because Joe comes from a long line of hardy folks, hard workers, and people who always prepare for the worst, he's out there, with a good attitude, making sure that everything and every being is safe, fed, and has water.

Meanwhile...I'm in my jammies, enjoying my coffee and watching cable TV, debating on whether or not currently I should walk on the treadmill or wait until this afternoon. Decisions, decisions.

Thank goodness, for the sake of our operation, that I'm not the farmer!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Secret to Weight Loss-Farmer Style

Did I reel you in? Are you intrigued? Am I the next Dr. Mehmet Oz?


I am just opinionated, if you haven't noticed, and since becoming a full time farm wife, I have been listening to my fellow moms, friends, and media with new ears. I have been reading my running and parenting magazines with new eyes, and have been trying to keep my mouth shut when some one comes out with a new "trick" of eating right.

High fructose corn syrup (aka sugar made from corn), red meat, flour, and the like have become bad words in our eating conversations. Why is that? Why are foods such as a pot roast and flour used to bake bread, staples such as flour and hamburger, which are in most of the recipes my 96 year old grandmother uses (she is the lady who has no allergies, no major health issues, and no lengthy hospital stays, sans a hip replacement when she was 92) considered bad?

Since the bulk of our operation consists of corn and cows, I truly take offense when some one proclaims that they are giving up all corn products and red meat. Seriously? You're going to spend hours upon hours in the grocery stores reading labels to cut out something that generates a bulk of your economy, if you're a Midwesterner? I’m all for being educated in regards to what you eat, but who has the time to do that? I’m just trying to figure out how to keep the kids from jumping out of the cart! I know there are extenuating circumstances. I have two sweet nieces and a dear friend's daughter who have terrible food-related allergies, and their moms had to become really educated on what their children could and could not eat because of their own health and safety. I'm not talking about these cases. I'm talking about women who have had babies, gained a few pounds and want a quick fix. I’m talking about dudes who love pizza and watching football, but not playing it. I'm talking about a huge percentage of Americans who want to eat, but not move.

I am no fitness expert, nor am I nutritionist, but I enjoyed college and its pizza and beer. I have had three children, gained weight, and subsequently lost it, and then some, but there's no secret. I ate a variety of food, enjoyed a cocktail and dessert, but I MOVED. I'm not suggesting that all of you become runners, but if you want your cake and eat it to, it's as simple as this: eat a little and move a lot.

That is truly the farmer style of weight loss. My loving husband is case in point: he loses the "Harvest 15," as we call it, because during that time, he's focusing less on snacking, eating for survival (and what his slightly bossy, health conscious wife makes him), and constantly moving. He's not a gym rat or a runner, but just his constant getting in and out of the tractor, running between the bin and the semi that's unloading, and never being still during that time allows him to eat what he wants, when he has time, and lose weight.

There's a professor who proved this point by his steady diet of Twinkies and Nutty Bars and powdered donuts, losing 27 pounds on this diet that would leave Dr. Oz aghast. This is not what I'm suggesting you do if you want to shed holiday pounds, but I am asking you to consider your sources before you go and cut out foods that are grown locally, even though may be processed or finished out a ways away.

As for me, I'm currently "enjoying" (not really, I HATE that part, despise not running, and know that no one cares but me, but STILL!) gaining weight for the sake of our new addition. However, come the birth of the child, I'll be back on my track of trying to eat a wide variety of foods, all while moving constantly. Which won't be too hard when I have four little ones to chase!