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.


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.
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?


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.


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).


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'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 you will not need either the ice cream or the Lean'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.


"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'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.


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


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.