Thursday, September 27, 2012

Presence and Pizza

So yesterday, in an attempt to be a "true" farmer's wife, I came bearing dinner for the guys.

That dinner wasn't fried chicken, fried by me, nor was it peanut butter and jelly, it was pizza, from our local pizza joint, but it was hot, hand-held and handy, which are the three requirements for meals taken to the field, or so I am told.

If you've followed my plight at being a farm wife, you'll know, I'm not one to venture out to the field bearing a meal on a regular basis. I pack Joe a lunch if he wants one, and I'll warm something up (albeit not very gourmet) when he comes home, but our operation rarely stops until it's time to quit (which stopping and quitting are two very different words here), and I'm usually running one kid here, keeping one kid asleep in the car, or just trying not to sob as I am confronted with the fact that I don't even know what I'm going to make the little people who I am directly responsible for, and who are too little to use the stove/oven.

However, once in a while, I get it together, and last night was one of those nights.

I am happy to report that I:
1) found the right field where the guys were working,
2) showed up bearing hot pizza when all three of them were in the vicinity (i.e., not in a place where my car couldn't go, or in town unloading grain at the elevator),
3) I think I made my husband and kids happy just so they could see each other.

You see, with Joe's line of work, my little friends are used to a dad who waltzes in at lunch time, who is there to put them on the bus in the morning, and assists with teeth brushing, spelling words, and baths at night. They are used to his presence. They crave his attention, and that is important.

So, harvest is hard on them, too, because they need a break from me...heck, I need a break from myself now and again...and want their dad to tell them silly jokes and ask about their day.

So, for five minutes, Joe grabbed his pizza and my uncle's, but he made time to talk to each kid, and hug them all before he rushed off to catch a dump (I hate that phrase, too).

His presence was as good as the pizza.

So tonight, we might try it again. I have a roast for roast beef sandwiches going, but I don't know if I have it in me to try to get Jack to understand how to eat without being in the safe haven of a booster seat belt, or if I have the energy to chase after him as he chases after Joe on the tractor.

We'll see...I might become a food bringin' farm wife!

Friday, September 21, 2012

That's All, Folks

And, like that, the field where our corn journal began is gone.

We started on Monday, mentally, had a little tweaking to do with the equipment on Tuesday, had a great day on Wednesday, and even better one yesterday, and it's rained and is pretty damp today, so there's talk of a dinner out with the family tonight...whoohoo!

Life during harvest is hectic, as comparable to all those folks who are working regular jobs, chasing kids, and trying to attempt to feed/bathe/and nurture aforementioned children. I think I have been blessed with my life on the farm to try to simmer down the OCD, control freak that I tend to become.

Case in point, cleaning. I am a neat freak. I am anxious when our house is a mess, dirty, dusty, unkempt. I hate unfolded laundry. My closet is in that dreadful transition phase thanks to a change in the weather (which I am not complaining about...welcome back, boots!!). I am personally declaring war upon what we call "red dog," which is, in a nutshell the part of the corn cob where the kernels are attached. It's nasty and red and sticky and obnoxious...and everywhere!

This is the bane of my existence, currently...only followed by my dusty, now heavily trafficked by farm equipment road. Anyway, it's everywhere, and here are just a few examples of what it is, what it looks like, and if I was a little more open with my life, I would show you where it is INSIDE my house. Ugh.

Anyway, thanks for following, commenting and enjoying our corn growth journal project. Towards the end, I slacked, I know...I heard from some of you! Love accountability, don't get me wrong, but it was a tough year, and when it's not only 1000 degrees outside, and your corn looks like it's literally burning up, one doesn't really want to head outside and snap a picture of it.

So, I compiled a few of my faves, in chronological order of our documentation. I hope you enjoy them...and please, sing "Memories" while you look at the pictures...

Remember the first picture? Kind of ironic, as the girls were splashing in puddles that day

The plants have nothing on the size of the personality in this picture!

Little plant, big promise.

I love this one.
And this one, too...they should be a band or something.

Despite the dry weather, it's growing!
Amelia is not impressed by the growth...the plants are now taller than she is, and that upsets her...I guess.

Mid summer's growth

One of the last pictures I took.

There it goes.

And, we're taller than the plant...because it's gone!!

Catching on the go.

A change in our landscape.

My attempt at embracing harvest...isn't this a cool sign? It's an old ladder step. Don't be too impressed...someone else painted it!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvest Pep Talk

Okay, today is the day, we think.

I know a lot of farmers have already opened up fields, spent hours upon hours in combines, and have reported yields to friends, neighbors, etc., but we haven't started yet.

Until today.

It's a foggy, muggy morning, there's chance of showers this afternoon, but today is the day we're thinking about starting.

And today's the day I give myself a little pep talk.

I can do this. I can be a part of this harvest. I can prep my fridge and freezer with easy meals to prepare for lunch and/or dinner at weird times. I can be the sole childcare provider, bather, spelling words quizzer, piano and dance lessons taker, etc., etc. I can do this.

I can do this, right?

Well, I will do it, and there will be complaining and sighing and quiet times when I enjoy seeing the combine running and the guys literally running from place to place, but it's the season. It's time, and let's get this crummy year over with, right?

So today, I am giving myself a pep talk. Yesterday was a prelude to the harvest season, as Joe spent the entire Sunday haying. It was a test, and although some of the day was hairy, I did it, and like every fall for the past six years, I spent it just wondering. Wondering what it would be like to be a family that spent lazy Sunday afternoons cleaning out the garage or at the apple orchard or watching football on the couch. I spent it wishing Joe was home with us, but trying to steel myself against this wish, knowing that the busy-ness of our business is just starting and I should quit wondering and press onward. Kids need to be fed, beds need to be made, so just move on.

That's my pep talk for the harvest season...Move on, Emily. Move forward, press on, and quit whining.

Because this is the best part, right? This is when the harvest is reaped, and we get to see how we fared during this drought. We get to watch big equipment, the kind that makes Jack stop in his tracks and point and make a "Mmmm-mmmm" motor sound. This is the time that my girls run to Joe with open arms even more so than usual, because they miss him, and that is special, right?

Harvest is upon us, and as I wait with a nervous stomach and anticipation, I also realize how lucky we are to be in a profession that has this excitement around it. The first field to be opened up will be the one where we have documented its growth (don't worry, I'll get a few last pictures), right outside my door. While we watch today, I know that part of me will continue to struggle with the exhaustion and isolation harvest brings, but I will keep repeating my mantra as I watch the combine roll.

That, and I'll be chasing Jack to keep him out of the way, so who has time to worry, right?

Happy harvest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eye to the Sky

Today is September 11th, and like the same date, in 2001, it is a beautiful, warm, sunny, clear day.

A perfect fall day.

Is it just me, or ever since September 11, 2001, are all September 11ths super nice and pretty days? Maybe it's just me.

We all have a story of where we were on that day. I was teaching, and after my student (Ethan Johnson) came to my desk to tell me a plane had hit a building in New York City, that day became a blur, but a very clear blur still. I can remember wheeling a TV into my classroom, knowing that we were witnessing history, and our lessons could wait, as even 6th graders needed to experience and try to wrap their heads around this awful tragedy.  I remember clearly our principal coming over the PA system, explaining that all extra curricular activities were cancelled that day, but that our government was still in tact, we were safe, and would continue to press on as a strong nation.

It was perfectly clear that day. I was training for a marathon, and needed to get a run in that afternoon, but I was scared. Living in the Midwest, we were pretty sure we were safe, but who knew that day?

I skipped my run.

I wasn't even dating Joe at the time, and I am taking the liberty of telling his dad's story...or at least a piece of it, but Rick, my father-in-law, knew that day something was up. The way Joe tells his dad's story is indicative of who Rick is as a person, a farmer, a man of the land, if you will. He's a  noticer. He's one of those guys who pays attention to the details around him. Maybe it's just in his personality, or maybe it's because his work commute is the same, quiet mile and a half drive he's done for 20 some years, but he is aware of the natural surroundings. He's aware of the sights and sounds of the fields and hills and pastures around him, and on that day, he noticed the lack of plane traffic in the air.

Joe recounts that although my in-laws don't live super close to any large airport, the flight pattern of the different airports in the area do create flight traffic on a regular basis. Rick's hog buildings are on a very quiet, lightly trafficked road, so plane noise is noticeable.

That day, however, it wasn't, and Rick noticed.

Isn't that amazing?

To me, at first, when I heard that recount of September 11, 2001, I was amazed, baffled, and felt like I don't notice anything in that great detail.

But, now that I know Rick well, and also have been around farmers, they are noticers. They are so aware of their surroundings. Farmers are creatures of habit, and when something is off, they notice, whether it's weather, animal, crop, or, in this case, plane traffic related.

It's amazing.

Although a sad, scary, and memorable day in our history, all of our memories are clear of where we were that day, what we wore, where we were standing, etc. For farmers like Rick and those folks whose livelihoods depend on looking constantly skyward, my belief is their memory is as clear as that blue sky that day. Through memories and stories from these folks, we will never forget those who were affected that day.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Food Wars

Did you hear the news?

Stanford University conducted a study that sent the news shows Tuesday morning into a food tizzy. Based on research conducted, these lovely folks at Stanford found that organic food (produce, meat, milk, etc.) has no increased nutritional value as compared to food grown conventionally.


Sorry, you can't detect sarcasm through the written word.

I know I shouldn't be snarky or sarcastic here, but this is yet another demonstration of how difficult it seems for some folks to exercise common sense. For example, I need a snack, so I reach for carrots (well, some times, but for illustration purposes, humor me). I wash the lovely veggies, stick them in a bowl and enjoy. Are they organic? Not necessarily. I choose generally based on price, but in my opinion, choosing carrots rather than chips or Peanut M&Ms should be the focus, not whether or not they were organic or not. We served beef for dinner last night, and although we're not certified organic, we're pretty darn close, so because I gave my kids that, some strawberries from the conventional strawberry plant and steamed peas (which nobody ate...not because they weren't organic), was that considered a bad meal?

Absolutely not!

I think when it comes to the Food Wars, we're worried about the wrong thing.

Plunking breaded popcorn chicken on a plate, organic or not, is still serving processed, breaded chicken. Allowing kids to snack on pretzels made from organic wheat, covered in sea salt (can the sea be considered organic?) is still giving your kids salty snacks. It's not the how that we should be so super sensitive about, it's the what.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to pump my body full of chemicals, nor do I want my kids to be all juiced up on super charged foods. But isn't a carrot a carrot, nutritionally speaking? Shouldn't a parent be more focused upon offering healthy snacks and meals, rather than whether or not the skin they will ultimately peel off their apples for their kids (am I the only one who has to do that?) has been sprayed at some time by something that is not harmful to humans, but will ultimately help the crop survive?

As a person who's shoe habit has become increasingly dependent upon a plant's survival, or a shot of medicine to a calf who is sick so that calf can grow into a commodity that will help pay my power bill, I am super crazy about this debate.

I'm thankful for the good folks at Stanford to restate the obvious that we as food producers have tried to get out there for quite some time. I'm grateful for the Today Show of giving this story top billing the other day, and I'm hopeful that this won't fall upon deaf ears.

Eat a carrot. Have an apple. Cut up strawberries. Wash them first, obviously, but enjoy them, and enjoy the health benefits without pause.

End of sermon!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Silage Hangover

No, our cows haven't done anything they have regretted, nor has Joe been celebrating the end of silage chopping with anything but Papa John's pizza, but this morning, we slept in and lazed around like fraternity boys, enjoying the silage hangover.

In the past 24 hours, Joe has worked about 20 of them (well, maybe not that much, but close), loading hogs with my uncle early, then choring, then heading to the neighbor's to help chop and haul silage until late, then getting up early to chore and start early again to chop our own silage, only to head back to the neighbor's to help them finish. You know something is urgent and early when even my dad rolls onto the scene before seven!

Joe figured, via a Facebook post, that, "Silage harvest started on the farm today at 7:15 am, and finished at 10:45 am. In that time, we chopped and blew into the silo more tons of feed than I baled in hay all summer long- about 265 tons."

That's a lot, considering all he seemed to do this summer was fret and rake an bale and then fret some more about hay.

Thus, the collective "whew" from our side of the country.

Why the rush? Well, silage for us is custom chopped. Joe utilizes a friend and fraternity brother and his dad and their equipment. These guys roll around the countryside, chopping for days on end, trying to hit each farmer's field at its peak chopping time, but also trying to not interrupt harvest, and also trying to beat weather elements (thank you, Isaac...all summer we've prayed for rain, and the one weekend we needed it dry, it worries or other complaints, I promise!).

So, when they say they're coming, all hands on deck, and hours are long and hard, and thus, running and childcare duties and meals are all at the mercy of the silage chopper...see me on the treadmill at the Y, thankfully, with free childcare yesterday instead of with my running partner...ugh.

Today, however, we are calm. It's raining, a nice soaker, we all actually slept in, and now Joe and Anna are out doing chores in the rain. A trip to Farm King for cowgirl boots is on the docket for the three girls, as well as a night out for us. Kind of the calm before the harvest storm. Couple this with a greasy meal, and you've got the perfect cure for a silage hangover!

I'm hopeful that this weekend will help calm everyone before our harvest begins. I am hopeful that this feeling of relief will be similar to the one we'll feel in a couple of weeks when this year is over.

I'm hopeful...I'm hopeful...I'll just keep repeating that like a crazy woman!