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'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.


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 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 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 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 ...


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 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 what should I wear?

Maybe I should go shopping...

Now, where's Joe??