Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Questionable Mud

So I have a question:

Do you ever wonder what's on the seam of your husband's jeans? Do you ever ponder what you're putting into the washing machine? Do you ever tell your daughter not to walk on the carpet for fear that cow manure will come off of her coveralls?

I do.

I know, I know...I'm one of the lucky ones!

Seriously, though, I have a lot of questionable dirt that comes through my house. A LOT. From the front entryway floor, where various sizes of Northerners are housed with various amounts of mucky, muddy stuff on them, to the to top of the entryway's benches (the ones I bought because Better Homes and Gardens said so) where there are random yellow chore gloves, the flannel ones with red cuffs, which are lying in the sun, baking because this entryway is mostly glass, and emitting a lovely, warm, poop-ish smell.

Nice, huh?

Then there's the back entryway, the "mudroom" as the Bible...I mean BHG would call it. Atop an antique dresser (read: found in a shed, used as a changing table 21 years ago for my cousin, and now in my back entryway and the dog chewed the legs...I call it "distressed."), you will find various clothing covered, smeared, speckled, or just splattered with what looks like mud, but could be something else. Joe believes that work clothes have multiple wears, regardless of where he's been (that's not true...sometimes they do from his back directly to the washing machine), because he'll just get them dirty anyway.

True, and those preaching to conserve the earth's water are applauding Joe's conservation efforts. However, they smell.

The great thing about my questionable mud is that 1) I do not ever question it, and always consider it dirty and throw it in the laundry and 2) it truly makes my mud room a mud room. In this month's issue of Better Homes and Gardens, there are several glossy pictures of different family's mudrooms. They are complete with white built-in cabinetry, farmhouse style sinks, cubbies and nooks and hooks and baskets for all the gear you could think of. Folding stations house glass urns of laundry soap. Hampers are pieces of art, woven baskets that match the trim color to perfection. Words like "Laundry" and "Wash" are sculpted out of wood and hung atop the drying station. Even Fido the dog has a built-in doggie dish and pull out bed.

This is awesome.

However, this is completely ridiculous for me to even ever consider having in my house,with my life, and my family's occupation.

While I would love to have a larger, spacious, cubbie-fied mud room, for now, I would love to send in a picture of a true mud room, sans the doggie dish and sculpted words, but with the mud and the dog hair and soiled jeans. Words like "Wash" and "Laundry" need not be hung atop my washing machine. Duh. The clothes and their smell, piled usually not in the hamper tell me just by their looks that they need to be laundered.

I do have a hard working back porch, the problem...well, not the problem, the good thing, is that I have a hardworking family that helps put the mud room on the map. The mud isn't a source of annoyance, but a badge of honor. Anna earned her mud today by working all day, complete with aiding during a cattle emergency while she worked alongside her dad. Joe's chore gloves are dirty from feeding the heifers that will soon give birth, giving them strength during the last weeks of their pregnancy. The dog hair is from the dog that, although she barks all night, is a loyal companion and will scare away any UPS man who tries to deliver ANYTHING to us. Ugh.

So, BHG, come out to my house if you want a "before," or just a picture of a real mud room...and while you're at it, could you take a look at my questionable mud on Joe's pants? You probably have a remedy for that stain in your archives.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Power of Marketing

Well, it's been awhile, my friends.

Gotta love the Christmas Craziness that has been ensuing and sucking up all my free minutes. Is anyone else out there  momentarily hysterical here and there? I have moments when I think I have it all together, and then I start to freak out.

I'm digressing.

So, here's the deal for today: marketing. Now, we are a society of information overload, over-stimulation, instant gratification and excess...and I fall into those traps a lot, but I try to be somewhat savvy when I'm being marketed a product that I am going to consume into my body, read: food.

So, on our last trip to Chicago, Joe and I were out to lunch for a high dollar hamburger. We enjoy a high dollar hamburger. I love that something I whip up for a quick meal is deemed fancy. I love that ketchup at these joints comes in a little pot...it's so cute.

I'm digressing again.

Here's the deal with the high dollar hamburger, while it's delicious and on a fancy bun, the marketing is what makes it "the meal of the minute." Our burgers were supposedly from beef that was locally grown. I like that phrase, but I was in downtown Chicago. Where is beef locally grown on State Street? Where are the steers grazing in a lovely pasture on the Eisenhower Expressway?

So, this almost seemed like false marketing. Well, not false, but the wording was incorrect. While it was promoting a great thing, and something I believe in, the phrase, "locally grown," was not necessarily correct. I consider locally grown as something like the salsa I received from our church's Christian Education Coordinator. The only thing in there that wasn't from her garden was the salt.

That's locally grown as well as impressive.

So, I guess I'm being picky, and that's okay, because I'm entitled. Anyway, my suggestion to this bistro as well as the world is to be careful with what they word and market. Locally grown is going to become a white noise phrase, just as sustainable has become. Do we really, really know what sustainable means, and why is it truly important, again?  I guess my beef (pardon the pun) with this is that, yet again, folks are relying on buzz words, rather than the truth. Maybe there's a beef farm just minutes from the Palmer House Hilton, and I will apologize profusely for this rant, but I just wish that restaurants, grocery stores, and the like would focus more on putting a face and a name to a product rather than just a buzz word.

So, when you're out having a high dollar hamburger, and they are bragging about their beef, please ask another question. Ask from WHOM the beef was acquired. Ask if those farmers ever come in and enjoy the fruits of their labor at this restaurant, because if the Palmer House Bistro (or whatever it's called) wants to use some Webel Beef for its fancy schmancy hamburger, I will 1) remember the name of the establishment and 2) will gladly put our picture on the menu.

I do have cute kids.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hiccups in Plans

So it's Saturday, and we've got an action packed few days ahead of us.  Birthday parties near and far, church duties, basketball games, and the regular chores to always be completed. Like non-farm families, we have to plan and plan again, and some times there are hiccups to deal with.

However, unlike non-farm families, not only did the rescheduling of the first grade basketball game cause a snafu in our timing of birthday party appearances, it also created timing issues for chores.

I realize other families have parents that work during the weekends, so I'm not asking for sympathy, however, because farming, like parenting, is a 24/7, 365 day-a-year gig, we can't just be willy-nilly with our plans. Thankfully, I'm a planner, so this works, but it becomes a source of frustration, as we cannot just show up at events with a moment's notice. There are plans to be made, chores to be completed for the survival of animals and, in the planting and harvesting seasons, positive outcome of the life of our crops.

Thus, our participation in extra-curricular activities is limited. Joe is not around to help shuttle kids here and there, and I hardly have the energy to make dinner at night, let alone four kids in the car to go to a basketball practice in town. Did I mention this practice is for SIX YEAR OLDS??? It's not that important to us, I guess, to make sure that our kids are in everything, all the time.


Don't get me wrong, I, of course, want my daughters and son to be talented, well-rounded kids, but participation in an extensive program at the age of six is not necessary to their survival or future careers. This parenting philosophy is backed up by the fact that our life is one big extra-curricular activity. Rarely are my kids left with nothing to do around here. Joe's job provides them chores, learning opportunities, fresh air, and exercise. That is awesome.

However, we like our kids to be involved (at an age appropriate rate) and deem it important to fulfill our commitments when we're in an activity.

But, we're not able to shuffle around when the game is cancelled and rescheduled...we have too many kids, cattle and crops to make our life as flexible as a 9 to 5er family.

Sigh.

So, we're here, on a Saturday morning, with a tearful child who is unable to participate in her basketball game, as it overlaps with a more important activity, a husband who could have stayed out and completed his chores, instead of just completing the necessary ones, and three other kids who are blissfully oblivious to how life on the farm complicates their future participation in activities.

But, really, who cares? What's more important? A first grade basketball time or bonus time spent together, all in the house, together on a cold Saturday morning?

In my Norman Rockwell picture, I would say the latter of the two, but by hearing the current bickering between the kids, I vote for the activity! Oh well...maybe next Saturday!!



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Picture Perfect

Tis the season for Christmas cards! Joe and I love to get them, and even some times argue over who gets to open the cards that day.

Anyway, since having the kids, we have tried to have a picture of them every year. Joe is the master of Christmas letters (even sending one when he was a single dude!), but I always loved picture Christmas cards. So, if you're one of the lucky ones on our list...you get BOTH!!

Lucky you.

Anyway, I am so fortunate to have a very dear friend who also happens to be a photographer and who my kids also happen to LOVE! Kara (of Kara Kamienski Photography) and I go way back...she knows stories from sorority functions that shouldn't be uttered and together went on to a road trip to a bowl game in Florida that included lost luggage, laryngitis, and lots and lots of ...fun? If you call not finding a hotel for hours and nearly dying in a plane crash fun. Anyway, she takes our pictures...she is the genius behind my blog's photography...she is my SAVIOR. However, upon having four children and a farmer husband, getting a picture perfect Christmas card picture is like expecting an uneventful, low-stress harvest.

Doesn't happen.

So, when I told her I needed a picture of us for the blog (since a lot of you have requested Jack to be on the mast head now...sheesh...details, details.) as well as a Christmas picture, she was happy to oblige. She lugs her kids and her stuff 35 minutes to my house after school and squeezes us in between bridal consultations and dinner. I love her.

It is a trick to get us all in a frame...let alone look good. It's even more of a trick to get us outside on a "farmy" scene for the blog.

So, we don't have a new blog picture yet, because while all of you fancy folks are out frolicking in the fall foliage, my husband is nowhere to be found, and unless I want to photoshop Joe into the picture, I don't get my fall background.

Kara came to us...God bless her, and we got a few really good ones.
Don't we look rested, un-stressed, and happy???









Anna, the farm girl
Amelia, our ham






















Josie, our princess
Sweet Jack...not feeling so sweet.







 And some funny ones.

She does a mean "sprinkler."



And some that were just pathetic.
He's done.

So, during this season of writing your best letters to talk about your amazing lives and showcasing your beautiful families through the magic of modern photography (and photoshop), remember my family's wacky photo shoot...in our living room, at 5:00 at night, with four kids under six.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Harvest Is Over, So Where ARE YOU???

I find myself asking this question at least twice a day.

Weeks ago, we made the announcement that Joe and the guys have finished harvest. I did a small dance, enjoyed nights with my guy helping out with homework and baths and running around, and then ...

poof.


Where is he?

Honestly, I thought I would be footloose and fancy free to traipse around, picking up kids when I could, spending hours at the gym or getting manicures or shopping or lunching with friends because my partner was back.

What world was I living in?

When have I ever traipsed?

When have I ever lunched with friends sans kids, since I had kids?

When did I get manicures?

Answer: NEVER.

However, like the hormones that allow you to forget the pain of childbirth, the excitement of uttering the words, "We're done!" makes you forget what life is truly like once the combine is in the shed. Yes, we did make our pilgrimage to Bass Pro Shop, which lead me to make a lot of smarty comments about "those" people who shop there(you know, the ones that actually wear shirts that say "General Lee 01" on them and really are looking for rods and reels), but find a plethora of North Face fleeces that I would love for someone else to buy me. Yes, we are having more meals together as a family, around a real table, while they're still hot. And yes, Joe helped me out today as I ran around in town, picking up Josie from preschool  ( I am trying to keep him from being aggravated with this post...it is the holiday season, and did I mention North Face?). However, why is it we're still falling asleep in a pair of heaps by 8:30? Why is it that he's still hustling and bustling, despite the colder temps and crops that are out?

Well, because there's colder temps and the crops are out, that's why. Because of these two factors, the cows are now out "on stalks" which means they're no longer on the pasture, rather tromping and eating around on the corn stalks. This also means that fence must be checked, and checked often because there's just a thin, "hot" wire between them and the neighbor's house. The change in season and flip of the calendar to December means we have about two months of honeymoon time until our calving season starts (oh joy). The mamas, new and old, have been preg-checked, which means checked if they are on track for the correct due dates or if they're "open," which means not pregnant, and off to the sale barn they go. Anyway, this checking has happened in three shifts with the vet, the vet tech, Joe, and a helper. So there goes my helper during nap time so I can sneak off to do x, y, or z...which are really not usually that important, but would be more fun/easy/convenient to do alone.

Anyway, harvest is done, so where is Farmer Joe? Thankfully, he's home at decent times, and is able this weekend to accompany me to another Field Mom event in Chicago. We might even have a dinner alone, since my mother in law and mom have come into help with babysitting...so what should I wear?

Maybe I should go shopping...

Now, where's Joe??

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Get Over It, Already


I used to be that girl.
I used to never miss a workout. Never.
Used to always wear the latest and greatest trends.
I used to be up and with it, technologically speaking.
I used to spend Saturday mornings, after my long run- obviously- cleaning and organizing to oblivion. You could have eaten off of my floor, and all closets were straightened. Always.

All that has changed. 

And that's okay, I just have to once in a while get over it, and quit being a freak about who I was and start being great at who I am.

Becoming a mother definitely changed a lot of my priorities, and becoming a mother of more than one child certainly changed what I considered to be acceptable. When we just had Anna, we were living in town. That in itself created a completely different atmosphere and set of expectations. When we had Josie (who is five today, by the way), we had moved to the country, but Joe wasn't farming. Life was still pretty similar to our life in town, just with one more kid and less sidewalks. 

However, add two more kids and become a farmer's wife, and my life of a so-clean-you-could-eat-off-it floor and my never missed workouts completely changed. 

But who cares, really?

Who's keeping tabs on my weekly mileage for running? Who is going to not ask for a plate at Josie's birthday party tonight and instead eat his/her cake off the floor? Do my kids care if I'm trendy and technologically savvy and showered and exercised?

No.

They want our life. They are pleased with the simplicity of it. They are excited about princess bikes, newly purchased gum, and watching Christmas movies on TV. They are excited to spend time with Joe and me. 

Isn't that what we should all be focusing more upon?

I guess since today is the start of the Advent season, I have started to truly reflect on how I am viewing the holidays, which really shows how I view myself and my life as Emily the Mom and Farmwife. I need to get my picture of myself, and who I am, in clear focus, because my children are truly mirrors of me, from the good parts to all of my insecurities. They can sense when I start to lose sight of it. They know when I'm anxious about company coming, as they start to react to my tension. 

However, they don't care how the stockings are hung and whether the bathroom is cleaned and the house is in order. They would rather just be with me even if I haven't done all that I need to do today because I'm their mom.

I need to remember that. 

I used to be a closet freak show, hiding behind layers of perfection. I created an image of being together, which was really just a facade.

However, as of only recently, I have started to embrace Emily the Mom and Farmwife. I have tried to say, "oh well," to a lot of things, and tried to shut up about stuff in my life that isn't how it should be, because, how do I know how it should be? Emily the Mom and Farmwife is happy to fit in when I can long runs, whether it's by myself on a gravel road or pushing a double stroller full of kids. Emily the Farmwife is happy to see muddy Northerners leaving puddles on the porch floor because that means quality time spent with Daddy. Emily the Mom is happy to look nice, even if it's in an outfit I wore when I was still teaching ( guess I shouldn't worry too much about exercising, if it still fits, right? ). 

Emily of today is still a  freak show, just more willing to shed my layers and be okay with my imperfections, as they are a sign of who I truly am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Can You Hear It?

I can't either...and that's a GREAT thing!

The sound of silence: no grain carts rumbling, no semis revving, and no combines combining, means--dadadadaaaaaa!!! Harvest is over!!!

Whoo-hoo!

And you know what that means, right? It means that Farmer Joe and friends are booking their flights to Bermuda today as they sip cocktails in recliners.

No, on all accounts, and to Joe's dismay especially on the last one, as we do not own a recliner (although did own two at one time...one orange velour and one pink corduroy...don't ask).

Anyway, it means that I am currently watching Joe install and test an electric fenceline in the field across the road, the one that was just picked last night, the final one, for cows to go out on stalks in the next few days. It means that there was a red pickup truck convention at my house this morning, as Joe, Dad and my uncle were together, putting the combine into the shed, unhooking the big tractor from a grain cart only to rehook it onto the Turbo Chopper to start the fall tillage work. It means that even though I have a helper to run kids here and there, I still have to find my helper somewhere on the farm, as he needs to catch up on the cattle and pasture and other work that he's had to forgo because of harvest.

However, most importantly, it means a trip to the newly opened Bass Pro Shops for my kids, which is what they were dancing and singing about last night as their dad came in and made the "Harvest is over!" announcement.

Harvest has been long. It has been mentally and physically draining for all of us. We have had to endure downed corn that we knew was there as well as surprise downed corn in the middle of fields. The guys had to deal with breakdowns at inopportune times and even a root canal in the midst, but we made it. We did it. We all survived.

While a trip to Bass Pro and a hot fenceline does punctuate the end of a harvest season well, I would like to take this moment, when my little folks are sleeping and playing quietly, my husband is buzzing around the farm happily busy with his self-initiated to-do list, and my dad and uncle are off somewhere relishing in the "doneness," to just sit in silence.

Because as thankful as I am that we're done with harvest, I am especially thankful in this moment for silence.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Find It Friday

ewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
Gross.
Ick.

I realize I live on a farm. I understand my house was built in 1871. I am aware that there is a field outside that is now just corn stalks. I am completely in the know that it is now cold.

However....

I am NOT OKAY with my Find It Friday find...as it was a MOUSE. Well, not really a mouse, more like the little droppings of a mouse, in my corner cabinet where I keep my small kitchen appliances.

Back to the shuddering.

I HATE mice. Not just hate: loathe, despise, detest, am completely and utterly freaked out by them and all they stand for. I hate the mice in Cinderella. Why would she welcome them in, even if they can sew? EW.

We (well, not really me, but my dad, Joe and the dudes who helped us tighten up our house when it was down to the studs) really did a great job making my house, which once rattled and whined and let in cold air, a really efficient old farmhouse. New windows, walls, insulation, the works make my old house seem new. I have taken the proper precautions by employing a quarterly exterminator, who happens to be a cousin, in order to keep all bugs and critters at bay. I love that. I will gladly pay for that service, and if Joe ever asks me to get rid of it...the Find It Friday that week would be his little buns on the couch!

Anyway, it's Veteran's Day, and by the way...thanks Dad, Rick, Grandpas, for your service...and all kiddos are home. We've had a lot of fun, cleaning out closets, breaking up fights, and explaining to Amelia why her big sister can go in the tractor first and not her, despite her boots which were on the wrong feet and her stocking cap. Find It Friday was going to be me, running down the road like a mad woman if Joe hadn't stepped in!

So, as I was packing lunches for two of my farmers, I FOUND THE EVIDENCE. Amelia and Anna were extremely interested, and Anna asked if we could keep it for a pet.

No.

Josie was nowhere to be found, as she is like me and would rather DIE than see a mouse. Jack, thankfully, was sleeping...however woke up to my scream!

Anyway, life out here on the farm is as glamorous as always, thanks to our little friend, whom I'm hopeful has met his or her maker or has found another family a little more like Cinderella and a little less like Billy the Exterminator.

Happy Friday!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Never Ignore an Omen

Omens, people, omens. They are around us, all the time. I just haven't been that great at paying attention to them.

Nah, I'm not that crazy, nor am I taking up a new religion. However, because of watching the  movie Troy last night, and then spending the wee hours of the morning thinking about the Greeks and the Trojans and all their "beware of the gods" business, I'm laughing at myself and my naivete nine years ago.

You see, nine years ago, today, I was following my boyfriend- at the time- up and down some hills, deep in a pasture on his parents' farm. I was in a foul mood that day, tired from a week of parent/teacher conferences only to then spend my precious day off chasing my babysitting kids around the Indianapolis Children's Museum(ironic, isn't it...I went on to have four kids. Sheesh.), plus I was slogging around a pasture in my new jeans. Why were we so dressed up to wade around cow poop?

Anyway, Joe and I were checking cows, and I was following him, annoyed again as I saw sweat beads on his brow. I was thinking the whole trek, "I have to get Joe running with me. He's sweating bullets!"

We made it to the spot where the cattle needed to be checked, only to see just a few cattle. That's it? Just a few cows? I had to admit, it was a really pretty view, but when Joe started talking about the cattle, I kind of tuned out. Then, he started in on the future, and then...

Will you marry me?

Screeching record sound inserted here.

Wait, WHAT???

And, HOLY MOLY...IS THAT THE RING I PICKED OUT...THE ONE THAT HE SAID WAS TOO EXPENSIVE?? (another omen to my saving, loving husband)

I said yes, obviously, and spent the rest of the weekend flashing around my ring to all who would see, blissfully unaware of the alignment of the stars that day that would ultimately make that pasture walk not just symbolic, but a reality.

So, here we are, nine years later, only I don't go on many pasture walks, but I have three little girls who do, and one little guy who will. I still flash my ring for all to see, and am still laughing at the "love is in the pasture" cards my students made me when I told them the story of our engagement location.

I guess I should pay closer attention to the omens around me, and should be thankful for the alignment of the stars that day. What a great adventure we have had so far, Farmer Joe!



Monday, November 7, 2011

More Opinions? Sure Thing!

I was able to get away for a day this weekend with some girlfriends. The talk on the ride up to where we were going (to shop, of course) spanned a wide range of topics. All four of us are moms to young-ish children (early elementary to babies), and we all needed the time away.

While most of the topics centered around our kids, their schooling, their needs, their Christmas presents,  it was the topic of food that made me want to sit down and get my thoughts on (cyber) paper.

"I need more opinions, Emily!" my friend advised me. Now that's something you don't hear every day, especially to some one like me!! Anyway, my friend Katie wanted to know my take on her baby food she was spooning into her sweet baby boy's mouth on our trek to IKEA. Baby food? My take? Ummm...give it to a baby?

No, she wasn't needing that basic of information, but she wanted to know my opinion on baby food that was 1) not organic and 2) not something she made herself. Now, as opinionated as I am about those who want to cram the organic is the best and only food you should feed your family nonsense down your throat, I am not opposed to organic food, per se. If I were to make a statement that all organic food or farmers are bad and not necessary in our world, that would be like me saying that the Catholic church is less Christian than a Methodist church. We're all on the same team, we just have a different way of getting there. I don't think Katie is less of a mother because she 1) does not feed her kids 100% organic food all the time and 2) doesn't make her own baby food. She's doing what she deems the best for her kids, and who am I to tell her how to do it?

That being said, I do believe that your choices for your food should be based on something bigger than pretty packaging or what Dr. Oz says (have I mentioned I like to roll my eyes at him now???). I myself succumb to prices, but, take today for example. Amelia and Jack and I were grocery shopping. Amelia wanted strawberries, which are absolutely not in season, therefore are pricey and probably from Mexico. However, when she's choosing strawberries over doughnuts or chips or ice cream...wouldn't you pay $6.00 for a pint? I did. I would rather err on the side of fruit that comes from somewhere else, that I will wash, than a processed snack any day.

Organic vs. nonorganic, fortunately, is not a fight I have to be prepared for very often, other than in casual conversation, but it is certainly a buzz in more urban areas. We around here have to hunt for grocery stores with a big organic food section. Selection is limited, and restaurants are not necessarily deeming themselves better because of their use of cage free chicken, grass fed beef, and/or organic produce. However, my friend Rachel's brother-in-law (is that right, Rach?) is opening a bar and grill in Chicago, and will be marketing himself as a granola cruncher, I mean, organic, cage free type of place.

Sigh.

Rachel, being the Midwestern farm girl she is, asked him if that was necessary, all that crazy organic marketing stuff. He answered yes, that it would help his business.

Seriously? Just putting those words in your menu or on your restaurant website or whatever would help you get more customers.

City folks, listen up...it is not IMPERATIVE that all of your chickens are cage free for you to survive or just enjoy a chicken sandwich. Folks, grass fed beef is stringy and not as flavorful as our corn and grass and some times feed-fed beef, but I know I'm biased. My point is, just because you have a cage free bar and grill, doesn't mean that it's food is better and more nutritious. It's just marketing, and if you eat it with fries and a beer, you're not going to be healthy anyway, so who cares if it's cage free?

I am going to form a more distinct opinion on this, thanks to Katie. I am going to do some researching on why my beef tastes better. Tonight, in fact, I'll get started by enjoying my chili soup, corn bread made with eggs that are not cage free, and my expensive strawberries.



Zen Farming

It's raining.
We've had a breakdown.
We're not finished.
The combine head isn't even at our house...

You'd think we'd have a lot of stomping, sighing, and freaking out around my house, since it is November, and it seems as if we're the only ones with crops still standing. However, everyone seems to be looking at the bright side.

What's wrong with this picture?

Well, thankfully, nothing. Although there seems to have been a lightswitch flipped when the calendar turned to November, and the words, wintry mix, have been uttered by the weatherman (gasp), all the farmers around here are taking yesterday's snafu in stride.

Again, what's wrong with this picture? Since when did I live around a bunch of guys who are so calm, cool, collected, zen, if you will?

I guess since yesterday, and with that, I'll try to quit freaking out. Everyone seems to be looking at the bright side. It is raining, so there's no need to panic about the wasted "good day." The combine head has a major malfunction, but fortunately, it happened on a Sunday evening, and first thing today, the mechanics will get to it. And, we're one of a few operations still going around here, so the line at the shop is not too deep.

I should be taking this zen attitude and applying it to my own fears, but I tend to lean to the side of competitive, not calm, and seeing other farmer's combines in the shed and fields finished, and have them not be ours is driving me batty. Don't get me wrong, the guys aren't out in the driveway right now, legs crossed, meditating. There's a lot of hustle still in Joe's steps, even though it seems to just be a regular chore/cattle day, not a crop day. My dad and uncle, I'm certain, are still nervous, but no one is pacing on my front porch. Last night, after the breakdown, everyone got in their red pick up trucks, said good night out the window, and went home for dinner.

Huh...

Am I on the right farm? Is this the family I grew up a part of?

Why isn't anyone else FREAKING OUT???

Well, I think they're all mentally spent from this crazy, downed, slow, long, bountiful harvest. And, along those same lines, the guys need a break before this last push to finish. I should be happy for these blessings in disguise, right? I should try to be more zen and look on the bright side, right?

Sure...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guest Blog

Houston, we have a husband!! It's a lovely, crummy rain day here in Farmington, and the kids and I are happy to have Joe around for a day! He's nervous, as every day we're in the field means one day closer to done, but it's nice to have him in the house.

Anyway, there is a neat idea around the blogosphere, and that is "theming" blogs about family, thankfulness, etc. We're happy to have been a part of Prairie Farmer's 30 Days of Farms and Families series, as well as a guest blog post for Illinois Corn Growers blog, Corn Corps, in their Thankful for Farm Families series. It's fun to link up with these folks, as we have a lot to share, and some of the folks involved are good friends of ours!

So, on this dreary day, curl up and read up, and pray that it does STOP raining some time, so we can write the Thankful for Our Strong Finish post!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lists

If you ask any of my college roommates, they would attest to my list making issues. I would cover my desk, usually tucked underneath our lofted beds, with color coded Post-Its, which listed the hour-by-hour details of my day, allotting a time for even a shower.

I know, I'm dorky.

Fast forward about 15 years, and I'm still making lists. However, they are more of the grocery-getting, who to call, and remember to pick up the extra child from preschool kind. It seems silly that I would have to make a list for these things, but I err on the side of organized, I guess.

Thus, it's only appropriate that I should just get it out in the open and list the reasons harvest is making me a crazy-woman. We are nearly finished, about 8 to 10 days, Joe says. However, he's said that for the past 8 to 10 days, and I am starting to think he's becoming the contractor on the 80s movie, The Money Pit ("two weeks..."). These 8 to 10 days are going to be over and done with soon, and I know I can make it, but in the meantime, while I'm in the public, I have lately looked like I'm about ready to crack.

So, here it is: the great list of Why I Am Becoming a Crazy Woman, Thanks to Harvest
Reason #1: I'm constantly thinking about food. Like constantly, all the time, obsessively.
Does Joe need a lunch? Does he want something hot? cold? sweet? salty? Would he be upset if I ate the last of the brownies? Would my dad need something, too? Should we wait? Should we not wait? Should I stop obsessing about this???
Answer: YES!!!
Joe is happy to have something to eat with someone at some time, and I need to quit worrying about it, and just feed the poor dude a sandwich.

Reason #2: I'm with my kids, constantly.
At the hair salon, at the PTO meeting (which is named Parent/Teacher Organization and not Parent/Kid/Teacher Organization for a reason...and I have four of them), at the grocery store, at the gym, at the church, at home...we're all together, all the time. Now, this probably doesn't seem too strange, as I am a stay-at-home mom, but seriously, a gal needs to get her eyebrows waxed without having a four year old ask later, "Mom, remember when LeAnne put that hot stuff on your face...that was gross." Thank you, and I'll meet you at the waxing chair in 10 years. Anyway, I love my kids, and love to be with them, but when Joe is around, there are precious few hours that I can take, all by myself, and just breathe, complete a sentence, and not listen to Get Your Sparkle On on the Barbie CD for the 100th time.

Reason #3: I can't complete a thought, and thus, cannot finish emails, phone calls or blogs without wanting to hang up, delete or cry. I have been suffering from serious writer's block this fall, which is okay as I know that there's a time for all writers to do so, but I think the fact that the time that I do my most "alone" writing is from 4:30 to 5:00 in the morning before my workouts could be part of the problem, as well as the fact that I don't want to sound like a whiny, crazy farm wife all the time. There are a lot worse situations. I don't have much to cry about, but when you're by yourself, it's easy to invite yourself to a pity-party, for yourself.

And finally, Reason #4: Joe's my bud. I married the dude for a reason, and it wasn't just that he could reach things that are too high for me to get, I like him. I like to have him around. I like how we parent our kids together. I like that he balances out my craziness with his lack thereof. I need to be reminded to not spend too much money, to keep the ice cream situation at full capacity, and I need to be reminded that I cannot do this alone, and, thus, in February, when I want him to get out of the house, I should read this post and remember.

Please bear with me in these next eight to ten days, I am trying to look on the bright side of the end of harvest. Perhaps I should make a list....

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Harvest, Hurrying and Home Runs


Are you close to done?
Are you done yet?
When do you think you’ll be done?

These are questions I have been fielding from friends and neighbors as well as asked myself. However, it’s still harvest around here. The guys are still rolling, putting in long days and nights to finish strong.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, and even in the brief moments of conversation my husband and I have at the beginning and the end of the day, I can hear the glimmer of hope for a good finish in his voice.

It is interesting to me, and maybe it’s not just with farmers, but harvest and its progress is a barometer to Joe’s mood. When the going is good, busy, no break downs, etc., his mood is awesome.

Life is grand.

Couple this with the hope that the Cardinals, my husband’s beloved team, are in the World Series, and you’ve got the mood of the century.

Hustling around here is not only harvest related, but game-time determined. I am the runner of the family, but I saw Joe literally sprint from the truck to the shed the other day. Sprint. Joe. Yes, you read that right. However, you have never seen how much hustling around a guy can do in the dark when the satellite wires needed to be jiggled. Joe can leave a lightbulb that has burnt out for weeks, but when our DirecTV was out the other night, just minutes before the first pitch, Joe was out on our roof, wearing his headlamp, cursing the Satellite Gods.

Don’t worry, the wiggling helped, and the game was on…only to be lost in the end.

Sigh.

However, as of today, the series is tied, and like the end of harvest, we can taste a victory. We have had “end of harvest” talks: “When harvest is finished we’ll (fill the blank)  get away, get a recliner, get a haircut. I have a feeling that if (when) the Cardinals win the series, I can ask for roughly anything, and at least have it considered…don’t worry, my Pottery Barn couch is circled like the girls have circled the entire Toys R Us catalog.

They guys are demonstrating end of harvest superstitions as well. Just as the red Cardinal ball cap is worn now on game days by Joe, the word break down is not to be uttered, even in jest. Rain is welcome, but only to give the guys a little rest, and possibly fall enough so that the game can be watched. We are not to talk about frost or snow or the possibility of such until the last load has been brought in. I’m also not allowed to joke about Albert Pujols being injured, traded or whatever until the end of the series.

No wonder why I’m stressed out…

Anyway, we’re nearing the end, and that is great. I’m hopeful that the return of my husband will equal the return of my alone trips to the grocery store. With each Redbird home run, win, whatever and a bountiful harvest, nothing can stop us, right?

That is, until next season.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Find It Friday!

Well, it's Friday again...Whoo-hoo!! And it's time for another edition of Find It Friday! I feel like I should subtitle this post, "What dis?" as that is a question I am asked on a constant basis, and have been asked for about six years.

Anywhoo...here's today's find it:


Another fun find on my counter as I was cleaning up for Papa Dick and Grandma D'lo's visit this afternoon (Joe always gets after me for cleaning before his family comes, but I like to appear to be together.).

Do you know what it is?

Ignore the dust on the counter...I hadn't cleaned that part yet.

Is it an orange construction cone for an ant farm?

No.

Guess again...

Think monster truck rallies, nagging wives, and noise...

Give up?
Do you care?
Are you still reading?

It's....

Earplugs!!!!

Why? Have we been to a monster truck rally recently? Has Joe heard enough of my constant nagging about putting his stuff away?

Answer: A surprising no!

Another subtitle for this find it could be Farm Safety: Hearing Edition.

Ask around...but speak up, because a lot of farmers have hearing loss due to many hours spent on noisy tractors, near unloading augers and possibly nagging wives...but we won't go there. Joe is trying to prevent this by using these ear plugs as he unloads grain carts. My hope is that he's preventing this so he can hear me say clearly, "Put these away so Amelia does not EAT THEM!!"

Anyway, I hope this Friday finds you enjoying life, taking in the nice weather (at least nice, crisp weather around here) by wearing a fun sweater or watching football, and hearing well.

And if you're around a farmer and he/she is unloading grain and not answering...don't blame it on aloofness, hopefully you can blame it on ear plugs!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Laundry Detail

As a mom of four young children, wife of a farmer, and sweaty runner myself, laundry is an issue that needs to be addressed at my house, and often.

So, as a writer on the BlogHer's Life Well Lived panel, I have been asked to answer the following questions:

What are the biggest issues you face in doing the laundry? 

and

Do you have help from the family (why or why not)? 

and

What are the best time saving tips you have for getting the laundry done and put away with ease?

I'm laughing at my weirdness right now. Laundry is something that is a stress in my life, and when I step away and watch how it overwhelms, upsets and irritates me, that makes me laugh. I was even talking to a friend today, a fellow at-home mom, about the funny side of laundry. This mundane, necessary chore is something that causes me great strife at this moment in my life.

This is funny and sad simultaneously.

Laundry makes me stressed. That's funny. In a world where there's hunger and poverty and death and strife, I'm stressed about whites and darks and folding and putting away. That's sad.

What a life I lead.

Back to the questions: as I go about my life, ignoring the world around me and its problems altogether,  the biggest issue I have is trying to do this necessary chore without worrying too much about it. Once I start, I start worrying, fretting, fussing.

Will I be able to fold it all before it gets too wrinkly?
Will I switch loads in time for the wet stuff to not have to sit in the washer for too long?
Will I EVER have an empty basket?

I know, these are deep issues.

However, I must press on! While I do get a little help from my loving husband when he has icky farmy clothes (that is, only if the washer is empty, and if it's not...well, that's another source of stress and strife, but that's for the marriage portion of Live Well Lived), my girls and little guy are not as helpful as I should have them to be. They are good at wanting to sit down and fluff stuff out for me, but I'm Type A. I'm a freak. I like things folded my way, and I totally blame my parents for this. You see, my dad was in the military and was/is also completely a neatnik, so he had a certain way of folding his underwear and undershirts. Seriously. They fit a certain way in his upper drawer of his dresser, and I'm sure if I look in it today, the folding will be the same (right, Mom?).

Anyway, I should have the girls sort their clothes, and I should do a better job of having them not put things that are just sort-of dirty in the hamper, but I'm lazy, I guess. I just hamper it all up, sort it all out, and start my daily laundry pilgrimage. So, I guess my answer to the time saving tips is that I try to do it, switch it, fold it and put it away immediately. That is a trick, but it's something that has to be done. So, in my comment on BlogHer, I'm probably going to be fired because although I love to be organized, I have more time to be smarty...read my comment here, and feel free to rebut my weirdness!

Sigh.

However, I know that this is a season in my life, and one day, I'll be 65 and wondering when the last time I did a full load, right? So, in the meantime, I'll continue to stress about this daily chore because I'm lucky. My life is pretty charmed, and if laundry is the biggest issue I face today, then it's been a pretty great day.

Tell me, world hunger and poverty aside, what are your big laundry snafus? Leave me a comment, and I'll love you forever!

And...just for fun and money...click here to enter to win $250 in the Life Well Lived Moments contest!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beans, Beans...

They're good for your heart...

Okay, so don't finish that phrase.

We're currently in beans, meaning the guys are able to work at a reasonable pace. It also means that the tractor rides are more educational for Anna, as my dad (the former ag teacher) is manning the grain cart. She announced yesterday after riding with Papa Ted that she got to try one of the soybeans.

"You what?" I asked.
"I got to eat one of them, Mom." she explained.
"Huh." I didn't know how to respond. I guess I have been living under the assumption that all of our stuff is inedible in its raw form. I mean, that's what field corn is, right? But soybeans...duh, Emily...don't I eat roasted and salted soybeans because Women's Running Magazine tells me it will help build muscle? Isn't that what we're growing?

Answer: yes.

However, I have never been one to just mosey out to the field and chew on a soybean. I like them roasted, salted, and from our good friends at Good Sense Snacks.

So this got me to thinking...am I missing out on a Farmer's Market opportunity? Should I be picking a load of soybeans, roasting them in my oven, salting them and packaging them up as Emily's Salty Soy Snacks?

Um, no. I don't have time to even make our regular dinner.

I know what you're probably thinking, "But Emily, don't you preach how your family helps feed and fuel our country?" Yes...I guess, however, I thought that our food and fuel had to go some where first and then be a food and fuel product. I hate to use the word processed because it has such a bad reputation in our society right now, but I guess I thought we had to take our crop out, have a little (gasp) processing, and then there you go.

However, after a conversation with my mom about "do we really feed the world?" I guess we do! How exciting! I know to all you farmers out there who read this are either sighing at my lack of knowledge or shaking your heads at my use of the "p" word, but, hey, my learning curve is still steep.

I guess I should be the one in the tractor with Papa Ted...maybe I'd learn something.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Find It Friday...Saturday Morning Edition

Okay, so I had really good intentions of having a picture to go with this post, but it didn't happen.

You won't believe what I found yesterday during my Find It Friday hunt: MY HUSBAND!!!

Yes, that's right, Farmer Joe is my Find It Friday subject.

Thankfully, we have slowed down for a spell, as the guys are harvesting beans, and that's a two(ish) man job. So, we were able to get away last night for dinner and a show (that show being Wicked, and although I know I'm truly behind the times this being my first time seeing it, I now see why everyone who does see it says how amazing it is. If you haven't seen it, GO!).

Anyway, I found my husband, despite still being busy and despite his beloved Cardinals playing in their hunt for the World Series bid while we were in the theater, in khakis and a good humor, sitting beside me, only checking the score during intermission.

My hope was to document this with a picture, however, I didn't, so take my word for it...we cleaned up nice for our night on the town. It's few and far between ( I just wrote "farm" for "far," is that Freudian or what?) with our life right now to be found alone, not asleep, out for the evening. However, tonight solidified that I married the right guy. I truly enjoy my husband, just as the person who he is, not just the provider, father, and butt of many of my jokes on this blog. I need to remember that when I wish he would put his stupid coffee cup in the sink instead of on the front porch.

I am hopeful that we continue to have a busy, bountiful, and not so hectic harvest that I will allow me to enjoy my husband, and not just his laundry at night.

Here's hoping!


Friday, October 7, 2011

A Better Home, With No Garden

So I have been a fan of Better Homes and Gardens magazine ever since we remodeled our home. I loved to pore through the pages, dog-earing ones that I loved, laughing at the ones I didn't. I have even gone as far as written in to their "Save My Room" columns, entered to win a landscaping re-do, and even sent in our house  story, as I tire of reading the "we bought this random house and demolished it, uncovered hardwoods, exposed beams, etc." We did that...and wouldn't people want to read about how this is my grandparents' house, too? Well...not so much, as I got a lovely, "no thank you" email from them.

Sigh.

Anyway, I still read it quite religiously, however, find myself during this season doing a lot of eyerolling as their harvest themed rooms and decor are quite un-harvesty. Harvest around BHG is lovely, white, crisp and apple-y. Harvest around here is dusty, dirty, cobwebby, and corny (not har, har corny, but actual corn-y). Their white slipcovered furniture would not withstand the grain dust that is currently blowing into my house as I type. The guys are rolling now, in the field behind my house, and as the corn is harvested, the little red bits of the plant are sprinkled everywhere...including through the screens of my windows and onto my dark furniture.


Better Homes and Gardens would suggest that harvest is a time for enjoying the fall foliage, and this year is truly spectacular, but as any mid-level botanist would know, the dry conditions have caused the abundance of lovely colors. Which, for me, means a nervous husband during the month of August, and a completely and utterly obnoxiously dusty gravel road (again, see my dark furniture...what was I thinking??).

Life during harvest for BHG folks is leisurely, spent by their spectacular fire pits, roasting organic s'mores and fresh pressed cider. We are lucky to get a sandwich around here on the go, as meal planning has revolved around questions such as "will this heat up well?" and "could I stand to make this again at 9:00?"

Apples and pumpkins adorn tables and Better Homes and Gardens families frolic in the orchards showcased in the glossy pages of the magazine. My harvest attempts, not harvest activities, have included heading to the apple orchard with the four kids to only sweat through my clothes as I chased them down the U-Pick aisles. And then there's playing in the yard for us...which is nearly life threatening thanks to the grain carts and combine just feet from the girls' swingset.

You're probably noticing a theme...just as Virginia is for Lovers, Harvest is for Whining, and if you're a farm kid or a farm wife or a farmer, you'll know that this is a truly beautiful and bountiful time, full of worry, stress and sleep deprivation.

Don't let BHG fool you!







Monday, October 3, 2011

Harvest Realizations

I have had the pleasure of staying at home with all of my children for the past six years. I quit a job that I loved to care for little people whom I love even more. I am not saying that there are days...nor am I belittling those who have chosen to stay at work (there are times I want to be you), however, I have had a little bit of an easy road as a SAHM.

You see, Joe has been around. He worked from his office at home when we first had Anna and lived in town. He would travel a few days here and there, but that was do-able. Then, we moved to the farm, he quit that job, and became a farmer. His office is still on the first floor of our house (makes it sound like we live in a Taj Mahal, but really, just an old 2-story), and his "workplace" surrounds us. He's in and out through the day, allowing me to traipse around, grocery shopping alone on days when it's slow around here, as well as helping me get kids from here to there. I am lucky; I realize this. However, I am not saying that raising four kids under the age of six is cushy, it's just that we're a team.

However, harvest makes me realize how much I need my other teammate. I can't do this alone, all the time. I am not a good mom, and especially not a great wife during this busy season. My husband, after working all day, is greeted every evening by my exhausted heap of a self on the couch. I know, romantic, huh? I'm surviving, not thriving during this time, and to those of you who do this on a regular basis...KUDOS. This stinks.

The first few nights, even a week, are fun. The kids and I eat pancakes with chocolate chips, like Daddy hates, snuggle for stories on my bed, and I get to watch my fill of primetime HGTV. However, once reality sets in and I am the one who is giving all the baths, doing all the homework, and refereeing all the fights do I wish I would have gotten my truck driver's license. I wish I could escape to watch the combine do its thing, bringing in the crop that will pay for the online shopping I do because I can't take all four kids to the Old Navy Baby Sale (heaven forbid I miss it!!).

Anyway, I sound whiny, and I don't intend to, but harvest is wearing on me, and we are still in the same field we've been in since Friday. Yes, Friday. It's not that big, it's that down.

We are blessed with a bountiful yield average, even though the corn is going to be tricky to get out, so I need to keep that in mind as I grumble giving the fourth bath of the night. I need to remember how lucky I am, in February, when I don't have to wake everyone up, bundle everyone up, and go meet the bus. I'm not alone, I'm just lonely at the moment.

However, everything is temporary. This feeling of loneliness is as temporary as the pumpkin display I have on my front porch and the Illini's 5 and 0 record. Just as the pumpkins will be eaten by my dog and the Illini will soon lose, my loneliness will wane, giving way to wanting Joe to just get out of the house for an hour so I can watch HGTV without commentary.

This is all temporary. I can do this.










Friday, September 30, 2011

Find It Friday!

Okay, it's that time of the week again! Find it Friday!!

We had a crazy wind yesterday and into the night, so strong that it took down a toddler or two as we were trying to play outside! Not really, but the wind was strong enough that as we played, I watched the still standing corn sway and fight its way to stay still standing. Luckily, it's upright still. Here's hoping it stays.

Anyway, as I was readying my first grader for the bus this morning, I looked out the window to see my latest Friday Find! Can you tell what it is?


It's a feed sack. These lovely little ditties are here and there after a wind storm, as I think they are emptied and then put in the back of Joe's farm truck until there are so many they have to be removed for more feed sacks. I'm not sure.

Either way, it was blowing around in my yard, beyond the electric fence for our dog, and driving her NUTS because she couldn't get to it...and she loves to bark at inanimate objects.

There was another find this morning, and I couldn't resist posting. Here's what I found right after I took a picture of my feed sack find:



And yes, if you were wondering...he is a Major Cutie!

 So, there you have it...another chapter in the Find It Friday book.

Happy Friday!






Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Farm King Fabulous

Joe and I lead a rather parallel farmer to farm wife relationship. Because of my lack of experience and knowledge, there are very few things that I have to do that are farm related. Don't get me wrong, I am directly affected by what is going on at our farm, but I am not a combine driver, or a cattle woman, and rarely am I entrusted to be a part getter. We have enough people and vehicles to get what needs to be gotten by the getter who actually knows what he or she should be getting. Do you get?

Anyway, there are times that I do have to run to the Farm King for little things. No, they do not carry the fabulous purple Hunter rubber boots that I am thinking I need to get...not to go wading out in the muck to sort calves, but to have the potential to do so, and still look awesome.

I'm digressing.

Back to Farm King.
 
Now, it is no secret that I am comfortable shopping. I can waltz into Neiman Marcus or Saks on Michigan Avenue and browse the racks without skipping a beat. However, why is it that when I am requested to make a stop at the Canton, IL Farm King, I get a little uneasy? Is it the store's layout that makes me nervous:  having to wade through the camouflage recliners, past the cake decorating and greeting cards to get to the snow tires? Not really. I love the hunt. Is it the fact that my 6 year old could tell me where to find chore gloves amidst the Columbia fleecewear and dog toys? Maybe a little. But really, it's mostly because, yet again, I stick out like a pair of white pants on a gravel road. My walk has no purposeful stride when I get to Farm King because this is foreign ground to me.

However, I have decided to make myself Farm King Fabulous. I will not be intimidated by the seven kinds of yellow flannel chore gloves, all with red elastic wrist bands. I will not be scared off by Carhartts and Dickies and Berne (Verne? I can't remember.) outerwear. It will all become a second language to me.

I will conquer you, Farm King.

I will navigate your crazy store layout, no longer meandering aimlessly through the Vespa scooters (yes, they sell those there), paint and greeting cards. I will walk with a purpose to my correct section of the store, and I will get what I need to get for Joe and have it be the correct thing.

Maybe.

And if not, I'll know where to return said item, and do so with ease.

Maybe then, the guys will trust me to go to get parts...




Friday, September 23, 2011

Find It Friday!

Just a quicky today...

I have friends out in the blogosphere who write really cute, quick posts for "Work It Wednesday," or "What I Wore Wednesday," etc.

So, in honor of this trend in blogging...I would like to start up, "Find It Friday."

Today's edition is what I found in the washer and dryer today.

This is from the washer:

That's right. It's an Exacto Knife. I heard a lot of excessive banging around while my washing machine was going, but I figured it was the buttons on the bibs I was washing or something.

Only to be greeted with a KNIFE as I unloaded these work clothes.

Then, there's the ever present bits of harvested corn in my dryer vent, but I didn't figure that warranted a picture.

 So, when you're extracting change from the dryer, remember me, and my farmer husband, with no need for change in his pocket, the one who wields a knife!

Happy Friday!


















Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fourth Meal

No, I'm not talking Taco Bell here. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately, I haven't eaten that since a bad run-in with a taco salad after the ACT exam Junior year of high school.

 I'm talking harvest dining.

I'm talking making breakfast, lunch, dinner for the kids and myself and then dinner again for my loving, hardworking husband, the one who doesn't think that Peanut M&Ms and Diet Coke make a good evening meal.
Sigh.
I wish I were more like my 97 year old grandma, who, until about last year, cooked herself silly during harvest, wrapping meals and sides and drinks with fresh ice in foil and drove them to the field. I wish I had the gumption. I wish I had the drive. I wish I had TIN FOIL! Joe is lucky if I wave at him as he comes into the drive, dropping off his load of grain or just getting a drink of water.

I have failed in this department of farm-wifery. Recently, this failure has slapped me dead in the face as I have read on Facebook status updates and seen pictures of cute little farm kids delivering hot meals to dads on the tailgate of a truck. I have sighed as I realized what I cooked that day might not reheat well, and cringed at the thought of frying up a hamburger or some bacon at nine o'clock, and then cringed at the thought that I am not excited about providing a meal for my husband.

I realize that this is indeed 2011, and this meal preparation/delivery may sound a bit June Cleaver-ish, but Joe appreciates a hot meal when he comes home. It is 2011, I realize this. The microwave has been invented, and cardboard pizzas are actually pretty good. However, shouldn't I at least have something available for my hardworking husband when he comes home? Shouldn't I know something that either warms up well or whips up easy when Joe is late coming home? Shouldn't I be better at this, considering it's my fourth harvest season?

Answer: No.

I'm terrible at this. I would throw the kid card out, because it's easy and true, but that's not the whole story. I am organized. I love to sort and schedule. However, I hate to organize meals. I know it's better for my psyche and better for my budget to be more organized, but I can't seem to get it together. If I'm not good at prepping for three meals a day, how am I supposed to be organized enough to prepare an extra meal at this time of the year. Isn't popcorn a grain? Throw some peanut butter on crackers and call it a day, right?

Wrong.

However, I'm trying. I'm hoping that with the help of my mom (thank you for the meatloaf), the Pioneer Woman (have you tried her potato skins...they are AMAZING), I can overcoming this shortcoming as a farm wife. I'm hoping that when more than 50% of my kids can buckle themselves in their car seats, I will be more willing to set out at the hairy hour of 6:00, armed with a fresh meal for my guy.

But, for the time being, I emplore all you seasoned farm wives, wives of husbands who work late, or just people who know anything to make that is easy, please, please, please send your ideas my way!

My marriage and husband's nutritional balance depends on it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Combines and Control Freaks

I hear it.

I can smell it.

I can see the grain dust.

The control freak in me wants to run around my house and shut all the windows to keep the dust out from the field to the south of us, but I am not going to. I am going to listen. I am going to rejoice.

Harvest has begun...

...and it couldn't have come soon enough. The guys have been chomping at the bit for about a week now, as they have had a few moments that have tested their patience.

You see, we had some downed corn. If you can recall, we had a wind storm that I so poetically and gratefully posted about, stating that we were fine, our corn was fine, only to be greeted one hour later with rather grim details. It really turned out to not be so bad, but bad enough that we knew once we started harvesting it, we would be in for a long, long haul.

Thus, a new piece of equipment was purchased. Retail therapy-farmer style.

Anyway, this new part of our corn head is to help pick up the downed corn. It's pretty fancy looking, not so scary as the reel we have that you have to take on and off (I think), and looks like a spider. This is more sleek, spikey looking, and stays on the whole time the corn head is on, whether the corn we're harvesting is up or down. Pretty neat, huh?

However, with this new piece of shiny stuff comes a whole package of technology, all of which must work perfectly in harmony for the new attachment to work properly.

However, we were missing a piece of said technology.

And, as of yesterday, a day that followed a rain--a rain that was nice, and not too much to keep everyone out of the field--, it was en route fro Minneapolis to Peoria to the dealership in Brimfield, and, if we were lucky, would be hand delivered by the mechanic in the morning.

Thus, out of the farmer's control.

Thus, a lot of sighing.

Thus, the combine is running a field where there isn't much downed corn because they cannot stand it anymore!!!

I am a control freak, so I feel like I can completely relate. The guys are excited, they're ready, it's the Big Dance of farming, and they're left on a beautiful September day to sit and wait on the UPS truck. They cannot stand it, and so they found other things that they could control to work on to keep their minds and hands busy. The mower was used around the buildings yesterday, as my dad couldn't stand to not be on something mechanical. Bookwork was completed by Joe, and he hates to do that on a nice day. My uncle, unfortunately, took the day to take his son to the doctor's for a football related injury, thankfully having the day to do so, but I know that he would have rather been in a combine cab...for obvious reasons.

They have spent the past week waiting on this part, trying to be patient, telling themselves that things needed to be greased (which they did), and that it's still pretty early in the season (which it is), but all the while, I know that all this tinkering and fidgeting is because the real thing they want to do, to harvest, is out of their control until that lovely white Kliene's truck comes up the road.

Well, I think the starting in the field across the road is a "take that, stupid part!" reaction. They are not starting where they would like to, but a control freak can only take so much. Kind of like me dusting when it's a dry day and my windows are open. You have to feel that sense of accomplishment some where, some time.

I'm excited that they're starting. It means a shift in my lifestyle at the moment, but Joe is always in a better mood when he's using heavy equipment. My dad is always in a better humor when he's busy, and my uncle is always happy when he's in the combine's cab.

Life is how it should be.

For now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Real Simple's Got Nothin' on Freezer Beef

I love the magazine, Real Simple. It has generally do-able ideas to make my life seemingly more organized, has fun fashion tips, and lots of well written, tug-at-your-heartstrings articles.

However, I always seem to skip the "meals in minutes" segments. Once, as a young, naive, newlywed, I scoured my magazine, trying to find easy recipes for two lovebirds, one being a tried and true red-meat lover. However, I tried a chicken dish with shredded yams and arugula, and was kindly asked to never make it again.

Sigh.

I'm not saying that the recipes are not good, nor are they not simple, but Real Simple, you've got nothing on my freezer full of beef. Take tonight's meal, for example. At 5:00, I assumed my family would want to eat, as they tend to do every night. So, as we were playing outside, I sauntered over to our freezer, pulled out a package of ribeyes and set them in the microwave to defrost (I know this is not ideal, and Real Simple folks would have had me defrost them sooner, but I forgot about dinner.). Anyway, after we had come in from playing, Joe took to the grill, I took to the stove and in 15 minutes, we had steak, garlic mashed potatoes, Texas toast, broccoli, and homemade applesauce (from my mom).

Seriously.

15 minutes.

Take that, Rachael Ray!

Now, I know that some of you do not have the luxury of a) a freezer full of beef or b) a husband who will grill happily all the time and/or c) stay at home and can saunter around defrosting meat at 5:00. However, I urge you to try to stock your freezer with beef. Pounds of hamburger. Packages of ribeyes, sirloin, and round steak. Roasts of the Chuck and Arm varieties.

These will get you a lot more praise and a lot more longevity than a recipe calling for a bunch of freshly shredded yams and arugula.

Not that I don't like either...it's just that when you have a good base, like really good meat, you can go a looooooong way with just a potato.

So, for those of you who are saying, "I don't know where to get good beef!! How do I get this wonderful time saving, nutritious and happy meat?"

Ask around.

Someone has a cousin, dad, cousin's husband's dad, mother-in-law's neighbor or whatever who is a beef producer. Ask if they sell beef in quarters or halves. If you have limited freezer space, ask a friend to share a quarter with you. You will curse the fact that you won't be able to wedge in ice cream and Lean Cuisine, but you will thank me later...as you will not need either the ice cream or the Lean Cuisine....you'll be skinny from not eating the ice cream and ugh...who wouldn't choose a lean hamburger over a cardboard Thai dish by our friends at Stouffers?

If all else fails, go back to Real Simple and buy your groceries for the week from their list, make their fancy multi-step meals.

I'll be at my house...dining on a ribeye.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remington, My Running Buddy

I started running this morning, and, as usual, started making a list of all the reasons I hated running in the country: the skunk that met me at the edge of our yard, the deer that made me turn into Russell from the Disney movie Up, clapping three times to get them out of my way, the garbage truck that kicked up dust as it passed.

However, once I hit the hard road, I was back to liking being out here, running alone in the early morning light.

Alone, until I passed my cousins' house and their beloved chocolate lab joined me.

Sigh.

"Go HOME, Remington."

Remington is part of the pair of labs my cousins got around the time we had our first dog. They were a pair. They would disappear for days, spending one Christmas in Doggie Jail (i.e., the pound). They were often trucked home by friends as far as five miles away, and were always frolicking with each other...just not in their own yard. They're friendly, not jumpy, not barky, but not homebodies.

Unfortunately, Gunnar, the yellow lab of the pair, was killed on one of their adventures. Remington can be found out and about, but not as adventurous as when she had her buddy.

However, this morning, she was up for a run. So, she trotted alongside me up to the next neighbor's house, and when I turned around and she didn't, I thought I was safe to go on my way.

Not so fast.

She sprinted ahead of me, blazing past, stopping just long enough to poop, and then started again. We passed her house, and even though I called for her to go home, she kept going with me.

As we neared the corner where our road meets the hard road, I knew she would go home, as this was the corner where she can sometimes be found hanging out with the other neighbor's dogs. I thought now I was free to trudge back. I went a little farther and a little faster today, and was hurting. Remington turned the corner with me, and by my side, she kept me going, all the way to my yard, where she promptly set up shop on our deck and snacked on Sadie's (our dog) dog food.

As Joe hauled Remington back to my cousin's house, I realized how nice it was to have a canine companion this morning. I wasn't as skittish as I neared the corner where I sighted the skunk, and when the corn rustled, obviously not from the wind, Remington headed towards it and scared whatever it was away. I just kept going.

Maybe I could make this running with Remington a new thing.

Maybe it would keep her out of doggie jail!

Friday, September 9, 2011

One With Nature

Do you ever feel one with the world? One with nature? At peace with all that surrounds you, almost as if you could step out onto the porch, reach your arms out, have a few little birds perch on them, squirrels nuzzle at your ankles and maybe even understand what the rabbits are saying?

Nah, me either. That's only in Disney movies, right?

However, today, I felt sympathetic with our mama cows. Joe is weaning the calves, as they are big enough to be solely fed by pasture and hay. Just as a mother weans her baby, these calves need to be on their own, will be fine, but the mamas, I'm not so sure about.

The weaning process is a little different from what I read when I was expecting our first child. In the Breastfeeding Resource Handbook (otherwise known as a book to make you feel inadequate if you a) didn't nurse your children or b)wanted to ever wean ever), the authors suggested a joint decision with your child about weaning. No date, no age, no time line...just let it happen. Well, if you've ever nursed a one-year old...it's kind of hard to have an honest, open discussion about nursing.

I'm digressing.

Anyway, so weaning calves is a little bit science and a lot of just separation, from the way I see it...rather, hear it from my window. Joe notes the size, age, etc. of the calves, and by the sign of the moon and the Farmer's Almanac, he then decides which days each set of calves will be weaned.

Seems easy enough, right?

Except for the fact that you have to move the cows, separating them from the calves, or vice versa, to a completely separate pasture, and then keep each set of cattle from looking for one another.

And what does a mom do when she can't see her child?

She yells.

She hollers.

She BELLOWS.

So, this is what we have been listening to since last night. Our mama cows across the road are looking for their babies, feeling the pain of sore udders, and wondering what the heck is going on.

I feel so sorry for them. I'm so lame, I know, but I can't help but wonder what those mamas are thinking. They can't find their babies. They are in pain. I want to go over there and tell them the calves are just a little ways away, but, unlike my Disney-fied nature girl version of myself, I don't speak cow.

The beauty of cattle, however, is that after a day or so, they'll all be fine. The calves will continue to frolic in the pasture, now growing bigger and stronger on grass and hay. The mamas will be reunited, sort of, with the babies in a while, but will not have reuniting like a movie, running through the pasture to their long lost babies...more like a "Hey! Where you been?" moment, and then move on to their next patch of grass.

For now, I'll listen to the mamas and feel sorry for them. I wonder when I will get used to and quit feeling sorry for the cattle at this time of year. Maybe never. However, in a few days, like the cattle, I'll note the silence and shoo away the birds, squirrels and rabbits on my way out the door!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Overwhelmed?

I can see the eyes rolling...I'm a stay-at-home mom, why in the world should I be overwhelmed? Why should I feel any type of stress when my big daily decisions consist of snack and wardrobe choices and whether or not the beds are made?

Well, I know my deadlines are generally self-imposed, I'm not working on curing cancer with my decisions, but a girl is allowed to feel stressed, right?

Last week was rough around here, and I couldn't put my finger on it until this morning as I was driving (yes, I get up at 5:00 AM to exercise. Yes, I know that's crazy, but that's the only time I have to myself!). As I drove down the blacktop, the sun was starting to rise, peeking up over the tassels of the maturing corn. It gave off an almost strobe light effect, and was pretty cool, but when I reached the corner where our field with the downed corn is, it stopped. The light was no longer a rhythmic shadow and shine on my windows, but had a choppy discorded rhythm. Upon realizing that it wasn't the clouds, but the up and down and all around of the corn that was causing this effect, all I could think of was dread. Fear. Nervousness. Anxiety.

Harvest is coming, and it's going to be a bumpy road.

Talk about foreshadowing.

The guys have been working on installing the reel, an attachment to the corn head of the combine that will help pick up the twisted and downed corn in our fields. While we do not have a lot that is on the ground, a little can go a long way. My hope is that we'll get to those fields first, get it done, be pleasantly surprised with the results, and have smooth sailing from there.

Yeah, right.

This is already a stressful time in our family, even though Joe is a good pre-marketer of his grain. Meaning, he works with a trading advisor to sell his grain at a price that is hopefully the best, but also the safest bet for our family. Many farmers sit on bins of grain and wait for the markets to go up and up, waiting to sell when the price is at its highest. They can spread out their grain checks throughout the year as the market waxes and wanes. Need some cash? Sell a little gain. This is a gamble, and while it works for some farmers, for us, a family of six depending upon this income for the entire year, we cannot make that bet. So, we sell our grain with the safe bet, spread out our income with careful budgeting until the fall when our loads of grain are sent to the elevator. Now, we don't go out the next day and book a trip to Disney or buy a new vehicle or whatever. I would love to do that...don't get me wrong, but there are operating costs and bills and that little guy who we welcomed in May (but cancelled our maternity coverage the year before...oops) that we need to pay for!

So I guess my stress about the house and the kids and whether or not I'll be able to put the laundry away is really a substituted stress. I am substituting the stress of harvest and being a single parent for a few weeks for the stress of daily life. I am displacing my worries about finances and bills and instead focusing on why my curly hair is now back to the "white trash wave," as I fondly call it when my hormones are off. I'm stressing about the state of the front porch and our shoe system that isn't being utilized because I don't want to have to worry about whether or not the grain will yield its maximum.

I can't process that, because, I don't fully understand the process still, but I do understand the implications a difficult harvest will have upon my family and my life.

So, I sit here this morning, worrying about taking all the kids to my haircut (Hopefully the white trash wave will be remedied with a fresh cut...because that's important! Note the sarcasm.), because I would rather worry about things that I can control, and talk about that to Joe, and sweep the downed corn and dry August under the rug.

Hopefully my weird overwhelmed feeling with subside when that combine fires up and the results won't be as dire as I am making them out to be. My hope is that I am just adopting the pessimistic attitude that most farmers get right before big farming events.

Hopefully.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Breath of City Air

Oh I am a city girl at heart.

I have accepted, enjoyed, and (as of today) love my life as a country mouse, but plunk me down in the heart of Chicago, and I suddenly become Emily, the city girl.

Give me your traffic! Give me the El! Give me the SHOPPING!!!

I'll take it.

However, I was in the city for another event as a part of the Illinois Farm Families campaign, so it wasn't all Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie, and Nordstrom shoes...even though there was A LOT of that!!

Anyway, on Thursday, I rolled out of my posh, downtown hotel room, coffee in hand and headed to the Daley Plaza Farmer's Market (for you movie folks...it's the plaza where The Blues Brothers ended). I met up with my other farmer allies and was briefed on what to do.

"Emily, go out in the market, pass out some literature, and talk to some folks."

Easy enough.

Or so I thought.

I started my endeavor to educate the business class of Chicago with, "Would you like to win free groceries for a year?"

I was met with a lot of ignoring, texting, and looks of, "Are you a scam artist?"

Seriously.

Plan B: Change my pitch to start with, "Interested in recipes?" (thank you Pork Producers for the free cookbooks) or "Are you interested in learning more about the farmers in your state?"

Answer to most questions: "No..."

Sigh.

However, I did have a few folks who were really friendly, and once again, were shocked to hear that I was a farmer's wife. Honestly people...it's the most bizarre compliment. Yes, I was wearing a cute dress (a casual one, but a dress that was trendy-ish nonetheless), and yes, I do speak in complete sentences, but I WILL NOT show up to an event in the plaza in the heart of the Loop in Chicago wearing bib overalls or an embroidered, collared sweatshirt (sorry, Grandma Mary).

Maybe if I would have, they would have trusted me more?

Hmmm...

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll leave that outfit to the goofy looking grower from Michigan who had awesome peaches by the bushel.

Anyway, again, what I have learned from this opportunity is this was not the best way to connect with consumers.

I was comfortable there, and that made me strange in the eyes of the city folks. From the body language and distrustful and wary glances, these folks wanted me to probably be in muddy boots and coveralls. When I was happy to talk and explain our operation, they didn't have time to listen. These folks wanted to get their corn-syrupless truffles (note the eye rolling), gladiolas, and Amish made bread and be on their way. They weren't interested in talking to this Citified Emily...the one in fabulous shoes and big sunglasses...I was obviously pretending to be a farm wife. The other farm wives, the ones in the Amish tent, were the ones that they were questioning, not me. They had little bonnets. I had Ann Taylor.

Ugh.

So, I guess I was the one who was not necessarily discriminated against, but not trusted. I am just a frustrated city-girl-wannabe who desperately wants good PR for my husband's line of work. I'm not a scam artist who wants your social security number or your email address to send you some spam messages by the thousands!

This will not phaze me, however. I will press on! I will continue my pursuit to break through the stereotypical persona that precedes me. I will not wear a bonnet, however, will maybe not work so hard to fit in with the crowd in an event like this. I am a city-lover, but a country-liver, so I need to personify a balance in my style for times such as these.

But don't worry...no bonnets are in my future.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Guest Blog

Hey! This week has been an active one! We're back from another adventure in Chicago as a part of Illinois Farm Families, and in the meantime, I got to guest blog at the Illinois Farm Families site! You can read my post here, and I promise to catch up with my writing when my laundry's done!!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There's Always a Chance

We've been watching the weather with great interest. Every night, our lovely weatherman predicts the weather with intense emotion and excellent description, "Great day for being outside! Sun, sun, sun! Low humidity! There's a chance of maybe a shower or two popping up, but for the most part...a great day!"

Always a chance.

Never definite.

If you're wanting to run outside, get a tan, swim, or wash your car, this weather is awesome. If you're a farmer where we are, as well as a great deal of the state of Texas and into the Plains, you're dying for a rain.

There was a chance today. The sky has blued up three times today, complete with lightning, thunder, the whole works.

Not even the pavement got wet.

Joe is trying to keep optimistic, but whenever there's a chance, he'll say, "Do you know what a tenth, two-tenths, half inch (whatever) could do for our crop? Do you know how much we're losing every time it doesn't rain."

Sigh.

There goes my dreams of the denim couch in the Pottery Barn catalogue...not that I would ever really go and buy it after the fall, but with cash in hand, a girl can dream, right?

We're starting to worry around here, and that is never fun. Decisions are second guessed, dirt is kicked without conversation when the farmers gather, and worried faces scan the radar for just a sliver of green to pass our way.

We could be worse off, I know, but this month of August is already rough with summer ending, school starting, and with harvest just a breath away, and if we could just get a good soak, we'd be ready for the crop to finish its maturing process.

It's sunny now, and when Anna gets off the bus and the girls (and boy...even though he just sits in the stroller), and some friends will go outside and enjoy this lovely day, complete with low humidity, a light breeze and sun, sun, sun. I'm going to stay hopeful that a rain will come, so we'll go out and enjoy this nice afternoon because tomorrow, there is always a chance.