Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Color Coded Holiday

I think I'm going to start putting little dots on holidays on the calendar. I'm extremely freakish about color coding things...if I had my way, our world would be color-coded. So, in celebration of this obsession, I am going to start to decorate my calendar with red, green or yellow dots. Red for holidays we will NOT be celebrating, green for definites, and yellow for maybes.

There used to be a time when I pictured myself planning family outings on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, a time when I thought we would raise our family in a subdivision, taking the kids trick or treating around their neighbor's houses, I never imagined that I would have to take the kids by myself or say, reschedule Mother's Day for a later date. There was never a picture in my city-raised family that I thought I would have to plan a holiday in the summer by considering the weather, not for the picnic tables I would be setting, but whether or not Joe would be "haying." I now consider whether or not we can have guests over based upon the proximity to a major farming event. Summer events and lack thereof are planned solely around Joe's availability thanks to the tasks at hand.


So, as of right now, we're maybe planning an outing on the second, with another farm family...if it doesn't rain, but only if our friend isn't replanting beans (so, again, if it has rained, but is dry enough to get in the you see my frustration as a planner???), and possibly seeing some fireworks, that is, if Joe is not too exhausted (or me, for that matter...we can hardly make it to the 10 o'clock news) from mowing and baling hay.


Will I ever have lovely printed invitations for our yearly, "Let's Celebrate Some Holiday, Any Holiday?"

Answer: Yes...only if the invitations read, If it's raining, or has recently rained, please come and enjoy your time with us.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Confessions...Hit the Airwaves!

I am benefiting from the phrase, it's not what you know, it's who you know, and thankfully, who I know wants to know what I know!

You know??

Anyway, I not only like to write, I also like to talk (see my cell phone bill). Fortunately, I was able to pair my two loves by getting hooked up with DeAnna Schertz. She was a fledgling radio personality; I was a newbie farm wife and writer, and we just clicked! She found me, followed the blog, and started her radio career and helped launch my life as a "personality" on RANDY radio.

Well, it was a good run, but DeAnna had to go and get another job, and so my life on the radio came to a screeching, actually, silent halt.

Fast forward nearly a year, add a wedding, a move closer to my part of the world and a new job, and DeAnna Schertz-Thomas wants to hear me talk again!! Anyway, we had a great first interview, pre-recorded (thankfully...since I always get my own web address wrong) as I sat in the library parking lot waiting for Anna to complete summer reading. I'm excited and nervous to hear my very nasal voice on the radio tomorrow. Don't you hate how you sound when you actually hear yourself talk?

Maybe this will help me shut up a little more.

So, if you're in the Peoria, IL area, tune into 1290 AM at noon tomorrow, and you'll hear a little bit of my blog's background as well as some agricultural-ish chat.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Running Up the Road

I had a few moments of panic this afternoon.

Picture this: two sweet little angel girls playing, nah...frolicking in their beautifully mowed and expertly landscaped yard (okay, so I'm creating a word picture...we are not that fancy, but we do have some nice looking mulched landscape). Anyway, picture their mother, trying to get the two smallest children down for afternoon naps, and some laundry put away, and some lunch dishes cleaned up, and some floors swept.

Then, picture this mother when her second daughter, the one who tattles, comes in and announces that her big sister is running up the road.

Her exact words were, "She didn't get hit, Mom. But, she's running up the road to Dad."


So, I throw the baby back in his crib (well, I didn't throw him...but I didn't finish the song I was singing to him), run outside, with no shoes on, and chase after Anna. The whole time, all I could think of was the walk Anna and I took together, down the same road, just a few days ago.

It's all my fault.

She's going to be squished.

Why is Joe just STANDING there?

Thankfully, I can report that Anna is fine, not in too much trouble, and Joe isn't either. He was riding the 4 wheeler next to her, telling her to come along. (that makes it sound worse, doesn't it?) Miscommunication, too much trust and too little information were the main culprits here.

Joe has a great working relationship with Anna, and, I believe, trusts her a lot more to let her do things that I think a 6 year old should probably do. I am not a neurotic mother (I know, big shock). Actually, motherhood has relaxed me a bit. However, she is still my baby. She is the little one for whom I quit my career; the girl who spent every day at the park with me when she was just one year old; the girl who I drove to her first day of kindergarten. Which, I might add, was only LAST FALL.

Should I let her go and run down the road to her dad, who did call on her to come with him? It has taken me most of June to realize that she is big enough to be outside in our really safe yard by herself for quite some time. She is old enough to know her boundaries, but I know from all the scary Parents magazine articles and Datelines I have watched that it only takes a second for something to go wrong. Thus, I continue to be a spaz.

I need to let go, I know. Part of the charm of our rural life is that we can let go a little bit sooner, and let our kids be a little more independent because of the lifestyle we lead. Joe needs Anna to shut gates, help get cows in, hold tools and the like. I need her to be a big girl because I have other babies to tend to, but I'm not ready. She's still little in my eyes.

My little farm girl...strike big farm girl is ready to be on her own. Thanks to her dad, she is confident to take on big kid tasks. I should be grateful for that...and should try to get her to make her own bed while I'm at it!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Farm Fathers- Guest Post

I should be writing a tribute to my dad and husband and father-in-law, but, instead, my husband, Farmer Joe himself has penned (or keyed) a guest post. I'm so lucky to have a husband who is not only a great match for me, but an excellent provider, educator, horse-player, and silly guy for my kids. We are so blessed.

Happy Father's Day, to all of you fathers out there, especially to my dad, father-in-law and all grandpas of ours. But a special thanks to our resident father. Thanks, Joe, from all of us for being a great dad.

Farm Fathers- For My Dad

Today is Father's Day, which is a perfectly fine Hallmark Holiday- low key and probably involving a cookout or other fine meal, which is a wonderful thing in my book! I asked my wife for there to be no purchased gift for me as we are working really diligently to "be lean" in our budget right now. But today, I was presented with the first of what I think will be several homemade cards and notes from my girls- They include prose such as:

Fathers Day Notes

Nok Nok, Hoos ther, Dad, Dad Hoo, Dad I Love you

Hoo Hoo luvs you, Anna dus, Anna dus

Kindergarten spelling is a hoot! And there is nothing that could have been purchased that would have made me any happier!

When we get older, we have a little more trouble expressing how much we love our family. Sure we can buy a $3.99 card at the store about how Dad likes to burp, take naps or play golf (my dad only does one of those three things- you guess!) but it doesn't capture the culmination of 36 years worth of experience, advice, guidance and example that he's provided to you.

Growing up on a livestock farm gave me an experience with my Dad and Grandpa that can't possibly be matched by any other lifestyle. From the time I was old enough to ride in the truck, I was with them every day. All summer. From the time I got home off of the bus until dinner (or after). Learning, watching, helping, doing. I've thought about them a lot this week. We just finished baling some hay, and I thought about how long it would be before I taught my daughter to drive a truck out in the middle of a hayfield, like my grandpa did for me when I was eight. Just yesterday, when we were at the Webel Farm, Anna wanted to ride up to the shed to see "Fluffy" the cat. She wanted to ride with my grandpa, and he told her "Hurry up, get in" in the exact tone and voice that I have heard him use a million times with me since I was her age. I chuckled under my breath and smiled. At 86, he's still hurrying everyone along.

Dad and I have always worked very well together, though even to this day, I probably can't keep up with him. I think I was pretty willing to do whatever job he assigned me to and tried to do the best I could to do it right. There was no shortage of instruction available from he or grandpa if something wasn't quite right, which led me to try to do things right the first time. To this day, I quote from Dad and Grandpa all the time to my employee and my kids about how it takes a lot less time to get out and close a gate than it does to get the cows back in if they get out...... While that advice was meant as specific to the job of closing a cattle gate, the lesson applies in a lot of areas of our life.

Working livestock together as a family also has always had a certain artistry about it. We've worked together so much that we can read exactly what the animals are doing and what each other are doing to know where to go, whether to push the cattle or fall back and give them space. In emergency situations, such as delivering a calf, after the first year or two of helping dad, it was almost like we could do it without even talking- both knowing what the other was doing next, knowing that we both knew what to do to save the calf and mother. Those situations taught character, responsibility and dedication to the animal.

Now that I'm a Dad of four little ones and living on my own farm operation, I look for opportunities to teach my kids the lessons I learned at their age. Lessons about life, and death. About doing your work first and playing later. About caring for the animal's needs and comfort even when it means sacrificing your own. I watch my 6 year old, and now even my 2 year old who wants to "check cows, Daddy?" and wonder if they believe, like I did, that their Daddy knows everything that there is to know (at least until they get about 16- then Dads get really smart again about the time you get to be about 22). And I believe that even at their age, they have the stockman's knack- Dad thinks it is hereditary- he's probably right again. And I wonder that if someday they will be able to work beside me with the same ease and satisfaction that we are doing it together. I miss that about not working with my Dad everyday.

But I guess I learned most from my Dad and Grandpa by watching them every day. Learning by what he did- how they handled animals, how they dealt with people, how they valued family and how they expected us to expect the most out of ourselves. So I guess what I've learned about being a father so far is that someone is watching all the time, and the way they feel about the world will be largely influenced by how I've handled the situations that come my way, and how involved they've been in that life. I believe that our family was blessed beyond belief by the Dad we have the privilege to grow up learning from, and who we still learn from everyday. And 30 years from now, if my kids feel the way about me that my brother, sisters, and I feel about our dad, I will be awfully proud to have carried on that legacy.

Nok Nok, Hoos ther, Dad, Dad Hoo, Dad I Love you

Happy Father's Day, to my Dad and all of the Dads who work so hard to do it the right way-

Grandpa, Dad, Jon, Joe

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gravel Expert

Thanks to some tough love advice from my truly loving mother: "there will always be some one better, smarter, and prettier than you-" I have never considered myself an expert on anything. This sentiment is truly ingrained in my personality. Opinionated, yes. Expert, no.

Until now.

Five years living here, countless filthy cars, dusty shelves, and days when windows should be opened, but are closed thanks to the fast traffic kicking up dust, I have begun to consider dust the bane of my obsessively clean existence.

Therefore, dust and its properties have become a case study for me. I'm going to become an expert in it and do what all slightly-OCD people do, become educated and obsessive (thus the "O" in OCD) about aforementioned issue.

So far, I can tell you how many minutes a car can remain clean after traveling only 15 MPH down our road on a typically dusty day. Answer: less than 1 minute. I can tell you that your shoes will turn from black to gray and your toes may look a little tan from the dust clinging to the grass as you walk to get the mail from the mailbox. I can also tell you how long to turn your head when running down this lovely, secluded and equally infuriating road, and a car passes you. Answer: at least 45 seconds, and hold your breath.

These are the simple things I have studied thus far. Yesterday, however, I went from a normal, dust hating woman to a crazy woman. As we were traveling down the gravel road to where Joe's grandparents' live, I found myself checking out the lovely white rock, spread so thick and lovely. I watched as we kicked up just a little bit of dust on my newly cleaned SUV, marveling at the possibilities that could occur if our township got their hands on some of these lovely white rocks. I began to envy this nice rock, wishing our road commissioner would come out and see how to spread these large pieces of gravel, thick and white, like a blanket over the dirt road underneath.

I then found myself horrified with what I was thinking! What in the world was with me? When did I become envious of gravel? When did my simple study of how to keep my tabletops clean turn into a crazy woman with gravel daydreams? Where was the girl who analyzed outfits, spotting designer brands as well as fake Coach purses at 20 paces? I realized that I have instead become the woman who now considers whether white pants would be a good decision based upon the grime on my car. Where's the girl who worried more about the rain situation for the sake of my shoes or hair? I'm now the girl who considers the state of the road, and if it's mucky and gross, I'll change my plans. Who is this person, and why do I have GRAVEL ENVY??


However, I refuse to be horrified with my "rural" self. Again, I have to pull myself up by my bootstraps and embrace my craziness. I will become a gravel expert. I will fight for the application of my dust deterrent (the substance spread in front of our house that does help with the dust...for about a milli-second.), and fight for it to be applied sooner, rather than later. I will study the way the road is after it is grated, and note with great certainty whether or not that was a wise practice by our road commissioner. I will continue to fight the battle by keeping my windows down and my Swiffer Duster handy, fighting the dust on my dark furniture and white woodwork.

I will prove my mom wrong on her point: no one will be smarter than this gravel expert!

Friday, June 17, 2011

That's It, I'm Old

Well, my phone, the fancy one with the touch screen, video capabilities, etc., bit the dust this week. Joe thinks it's because I'm deadly to all technology (see my computer difficulties and how all the crazy things with the TV, Wii, etc. happen to me). I think it's because it's God's way of telling me I need to get fancy and get a new phone.

So, with the big girls at Grammy's this week, and the two little ones in tow, I headed to our cell phone store to get myself something smart. Upon entering the store, I realized something. . .


I'm NOT a candidate for a SmartPhone.

And, I'm OLD.

You know when you were a kid, and your parents couldn't run the VCR? Or, your grandparents didn't understand why all the kids had CD players, Walkmans, and the like?

Well, I walked into the phone store and nearly had a heart attack. $300 dollars for a phone? One that I don't think I could figure out how to turn on? One that does essentially what my computer and digital camera already do. The devices I already own, have paid for, and know how to use.

Oh crud.

Seriously, I'm old.

I wish I needed one. I wish I could afford one. However, I swallowed my pride, made a joke about how I was just a mom at home and would only update my Facebook status way too much, and bought the cheapest phone that could call, text, and take pictures.


Some day, I'll be fancy again. Some day, I'll know why I need an Ipad. Some day, I'll be smart enough for a SmartPhone.

However, for now, because of my lack of fanciness, I'll continue to blog from my computer, take pictures with my digital camera, and just call or text you to talk.

Please forgive me for using multiple devices. It does have it's benefits...

a new and bigger purse.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Weather Radio

It's official.

I'm married to a closet meteorologist.

Thanks to the purchase of a new, fancy-schmancy weather radio- which sits oh-so-gloriously (ha, ha) on my kitchen counter, resembling an old-timey answering machine- Joe has become even more obsessed with the weather. I do not blame him, only tease him, because we are dependent upon the weather, but SERIOUSLY! Lucky for us, it only goes off if there are storms in THREE counties, instead of just one, since we live just a few miles from two other county lines. Note the sarcasm?

Anyway, because of last year's truly close tornado call and all the recent devestating weather in Joplin, MO, Joe has become more and more obsessed with the weather. So much that the radar on his phone was lighting up our bedroom as I got up to feed Jack at 2AM. A rain was coming, so we needed to know to shut our windows, so I guess that's okay, but I'm beginning to wonder if I need to have a weather-related intervention with him.

I understand completely the affects of the weather conditions on farmer's bottom lines, general disposition, and psyche. I understand that we need to know the breadth of a storm, to know whether or not we need to duck and cover. However, what can we do about it? As a control freak, it is very bizarre that I am of this opinion, I know, but we cannot control the weather. We cannot go out and hover over our corn plants to protect them from hail. We can go to the basement to save our skins, and from a crop production standpoint, we can buy crop-hail insurance, which, if you're in need, I know a good agent (Ha, ha, again), but that's about it. So, why the obsession?

Why the need to worry, stand in the window, observe the clouds, comment enough to make the kids nervous and report on the weather themselves. In a kindergarten setting, I am sure that Anna answered more specifically the question of "is it sunny or cloudy," as she reported today, from Joe's parents' house, "There was a lot of rain, Daddy. Pappy needs a hug."

I tease Joe out of love, but completely understand the frustration the weather brings. We are solely dependent upon it during these vital weeks of growth. If our corn gets a good start and the beans are able to poke through and be sprayed at the right time, and there's no wind, hail, excessive rain, heat or cold, we should be okay to pay for the spray, seed, equipment, and kids we have on our operation.

So, I will put up with the excessive beeping of our weather radio, and the "shush" I receive when the weather report comes on the evening news.

Here's hoping the 2AM radar checks stop soon...that seems a bit crazy, right?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cowboy Boots and Cake

It's our youngest daughter's second birthday today, and just two short years ago we were in a truly frustrating portion of our brief time as farmers. June 10, 2009 was the culmination of a truly bizarre and utterly unpredictable spring season for us, punctuated by the birth of Amelia.

Like an insanely wet and cold spring-- one where a guy gets his biggest tractor stuck in the field and needs a bulldozer to pull it out type of spring-- needs any more punctuation, but we Webels live large, I guess.

Anyway, fast forward two years, add another kid, make the baby a two year old, and here we are. This year, our June 10th has not been a frustrating day. Instead, we have been celebrating all day, with cowboy boots, real ones, and cake.

Even though she's just two, Amelia has the personality to fill a room and the vocabulary to match, which, if you know us, is not surprising...we do not lack in conversation or pizazz! Anyway, she is turning into a farm girl, through and through, requesting cowboy boots for her one and only gift. The funny thing about this, is that I purchased her some fashion farm boots on a recent Target run, but on a trip to Farm King for work jeans, a coffee mug, and some hoses, Joe got to looking and found her some "real" cowboy boots: pink and brown in color and a true cowboy brand. It made me laugh, as we have purchased many cowboy-ish boots at Target for our little ones, but since Amelia's new phrase is "Check cows, Daddy?" he figured it wasn't too much to get her some real boots.

She was ecstatic, and pulling them on, she announced, "Chores, Daddy?"

Should we record this for when she's 16 and not wanting to help out on a Saturday morning?

Anyway, even though the trucks were running, hauling grain to the river, the mulch was being delivered and dumped on my driveway, the internet man was on the roof fixing our connection, and the girls played in the mud multiple times this morning, we were able to stop whatever we were doing this afternoon, after naps, and enjoy our big girl's cake altogether. That's the joy of having a dad who's just a few steps away, filling up his semi from the "big bin." He can stop in and sing happy birthday to his baby girl. That's joy.

Life on the farm can be unpredictable and frustrating, but fortunately, years go by and we are able to put the weird years behind us, telling the stories with a smile and a groan, and focus on the good stuff that's going on, like enjoying cowboy boots and cake.

Happy birthday, my sweet Amelia.

Excitement and Exhaustion

My hair stylist asked me if Joe ever didn’t have a busy time. I had to think about it. After pausing for a moment, my question was answered by Anna.
“Birthdays,” she said, with great confidence.

She’s right. There isn’t a definite time that Joe isn’t busy with something. Right now, there’s hay being baled and also chopped. Men in tractors pulling wagons that resemble freight train cars have been running up and down our road between the hay fields and the bright blue Harvestor, where the chopped hay will be stored. It couldn’t be a busier day.

After explaining to our stylist that Amelia’s birthday was coming up and Daddy promised to be home with us that evening, I got to thinking about times when Joe’s not busy. I guess mid-December, and possibly August are times when there isn’t a lot of pressing, weather dependant, labor and delivery-ish chores to be completed. I don’t know. We’ve never taken the time to truly get away from the farm for me to know whether or when we could actually get away for a week or two.

I think our stylist’s question stemmed from the fact that I was two and a half weeks out from delivering Jack, but still showed up for our appointment with all four kids in tow, three of them in desperate need of hair cuts. Fortunately, Jack just slept peacefully in his car seat. I see his plans for the summer…and a lot of them include sleeping in a car seat or a baby sling while we tend to our activities. My grandma and Joe’s grandma are horrified that we have already had Jack out and about, but like a working livestock farm, mothering has no off-season. Life marches on, and the little dude has to march along with us.

Whether it’s farming or parenting, it’s exciting and exhausting. In fact, I have written that quite a bit in thank you notes for the meals and generous gifts I have received in honor of our new addition. While it’s exhausting to get up at four a.m. with a newborn who has no interest in sleeping, it’s exciting to me to have this little time with him, alone, in a quiet house. I have taken to just getting up for the day at this time, enjoying the quiet solitude and coffee that doesn’t have to be microwaved at least three times. Joe is the same way. Take today, for example, as exhausting as it will be to have been going since six a.m., running up and down the road, working to beat the impending rain and out in the 90 plus degree heat, he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s miserable when there’s not something beating down on him. He was a “get-it-done at crunch time” deadline guy in his corporate world, and was a procrastinator and then crammer during his college studying days. Why would farming be any different? He’s exhausted, but excited at the same time.

My hope during this time and phase of our lives that we maybe figure out a time when there’s not hay to be put up, a cattle sale to attend, or a baby being born (we’re done with that, by the way), and we could potentially stop the exhaustion part and get to the excitement…maybe in 20 years, right? My youngest will be in college.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memories of Memorial Day

Okay, so I'm a week late, but between a newborn, a nearly two year old, two very busy older children, and NO INTERNET for the past few days, I need some grace.

Anyway, life on the farm is at a bit of a frustrating stand still, as the heat, humidity and rain are great for the corn crop, but frustratingly terrible for some one trying to make hay...i.e., Joe.

So, we've spent a lot of time together as a family, which is great, and one of those times together was Memorial Day. Joe and I have shared many Memorial Day memories, from his childhood memories of picnicking with his family, mowing hay, and subsequently baling it. My memories include watching my dad shoot his gun in the honor guard with the American Legion, tumbling in the Memorial Day parade...either freezing or sweating, and watching Dad frantically try to mow his roadsides before Memorial Day, because "that's just what you do," but my most memorable Memorial Day was the day we lost my Grandpa Mac.

It has been seven years, but my grandpa is a topic of conversation often, as he was a cattleman. He loved Joe, was proud of me for picking someone who was "worth something" (he never minced words), and loved that Joe shared his love for livestock. Unfortunately, we lost Grandpa right before we found out we were expecting Anna, and he never got to see Joe in action as a cattle farmer.

Grandpa was a World War II vet, and the irony of the date of his death was that it occurred on the "true" Memorial Day, and although I was truly miserable and happy to deliver Jack early, he was due on this date as well, May 29th. I figured if I made it to my actual due date, it would be a fitting tribute to my grandpa.

He would have loved my kids. Anna and her quirks, her tomboyish attitude, and her love for animals; Josie and her sass would have gotten a harsh look, but her spunk would have made him proud. And, just this week, Amelia's new phrase is "Check cows, Daddy?" Grandpa would have loved this, and would have especially been touched by the picture Joe took of the two girls looking over a pasture, where Grandpa kept his cows.

Grandpa would have loved that we didn't name Jack something "weird" that we would regret, and would have probably given us a lot of advice raising this boy! Again, not a "word mincer!"

In farming, we're not out to be rich or famous. We're not out to be anything but good stewards of the land. This path that has been laid by not only my Grandpa Mac, but Joe's grandpas, my other grandfather, my dad, Joe's dad, countless uncles, aunts, grandmas, mothers, etc. We are walking along the same road, along the same fence line, in the same fields as generations before us. I am new to this world, but it is not new to my family line. I need to remember that.

A day like Memorial Day is one of those times that I am reminded of how lucky we are to be in this profession.