Sunday, January 29, 2012

Conditions for Contentment

I am up and at 'em this morning, thanks to my little guy who must have missed me, and I have had moments alone...thus, complete thoughts.

We were able to go to dinner with a lot of good friends last night, and although were invited to continue our evening at a friends' house, were unable to attend thanks to calving.

For a minute or two as our invitation was declined, I started to feel sorry for myself.

Why can't we go?
Why can't we just stop by for a minute?
Would our friends quit inviting us because we are so weather/calf/the way the wind blows dependent on our social invitations?

However, on the way home, Joe and I stopped at the calving barn to do his evening check. He asked if I wanted to step into the barn and see what it was like. Considering my footwear, and the fact that it was cold, I started to say no, but stopped myself.

Why shouldn't I go in?
Who cares if my fancy "town" shoes get a little mud and/or poop on them?
Why shouldn't I be interested in Joe's livelihood (don't I want him to be interested in mundane as it may seem at times?)?

So, taking careful steps, I waded through snow, straw, and something else into the calving barn.

What happened next was cathartic.

My snarliness of the quick ending of our evening subsided. The barn was so quiet, softly lit, smelling sweet like fresh straw, and the mama cows were all huddled together, as if they were seeking support from other mothers during the end of their pregnancies.

Joe quietly opened gates, counting the herd, making note of tail position and other things, making these sounds to soothe the anxious girls.

It was so serene, I can see why he doesn't mind checking all the time. As I looked up at the roof of the barn, I imagined the scene in the movie Witness when the Amish were putting together the barn. Each beam was perfectly cut, positioned, and designed for the correct acoustics, light, and warmth for prime animal husbandry conditions. I am embarrassed to say that in the almost five years we have been farming, I have never been in that barn, but now that I know what it's like, I might need to step in once in a while when I need a moment.

So, what could have turned out to be another time when I was frustrated to be a farmer's wife, I'm not. I just need to find conditions where I can feel so content. I need to remember that this is Joe's job. He's not checking the conditions for fishing or hunting or golfing. He's checking our assets, making sure they're content.

Don't we all need to check our assets for contentment?
Shouldn't we all have a place where it's quiet, calm and smelling faintly of cow poop?

Well, maybe not, but I might start surrounding myself in straw and old beams...then I will remember that feeling of contentment on those not-so-content days!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting to Be Hysterical

Just a little over a week ago we had our first calf, and I thought of a country song's lyrics that say, "There goes my life." While Kenny Chesney is actually talking about his kid, in our busy seasons, I use this song as my mantra in the beginning phases of the craziness.

However, we're still waiting on calf #2.

Joe checks and checks and checks and checks and talks and stews and wonders and frets and is listless and is restless and...

Well, you get the point.

But, we're still waiting.

Waiting for that beloved second calf to come, waiting for the third and fourth and fifth to "drop," waiting for the hysteria to commence.

I'm experiencing deja-vu here, as I was crazily impatient with the births of all of my little ones. Joe, however, refused to panic, and kept telling me in a slightly condescending but always loving tone, "Just be patient. Babies come when they want."

Oh how the tables have turned.

I am the one who's telling him to knock off the craziness and just get in for dinner already. On the mornings when I work out at the crack of dawn, I'm generally greeted with silence and darkness when I ease into the house after my 5AM run or class. Now, I'm met with my guy in Carhartts, ready to bound out the door to do his first check of the day, but not the first in the dark. Joe is a great herdsman, and although he came in just a minute ago defending that he's not just waiting, he is working (well, duh) all the time in preparation for the calves, but while he's working hard outside, readying, checking, hauling grain in the free time, I know he is holding his breath, nervous about the pending births.

Like childbirth, in a blink of an eye, something could go horribly wrong. These lives are not just helping our bottom line and our deep freeze. We consider these beings, well, beings, living, breathing creatures. While there are a lot of folks who will tell you that beef producers and other folks who have livestock as a livelihood are just using these animals as commodities, but I will tell you Joe is a great dad and that translates into an excellent herdsman. There are a lot of things I would do when I was working as a teacher, but getting up in the middle of the night, multiple times, to check on something (anything) for work was never anything I had or desired to do. There is no question what Joe's doing at 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM and then again at 6:00 AM. He's out there, doing what a good cattleman does.

So, we wait. We have plans for this and that, but everything is always pending during this time. There's no tarrying when we do go time for chatting at coffee time at church when there's calves, or the impending birth of said calves to check.

So, I'll drink my coffee at home and wait to be hysterical.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh, and By the Way...

Did you know that having an agriculture major is one of the most "useless" majors one could have?

According to this yahoo article, the writer cites an agriculture major as one who gets "up with the sun and working till it sets as an agricultural manager." Now, I'm not a College of Agriculture Career Services expert, but I do know that most of my friends, and Joe's friends who are ag majors did not walk out of college, degree in hand and purchase land (because as a new grad, could you fork out close to 10,000 dollars an acre? I couldn't buy a tshirt at Target, and I had an education that was considered "useful!). However, those who are actively farming and those who are employed in the agricultural sector are mostly very successful. I also know that most of them are not agricultural managers, because WHAT THE HECK IS AN AGRICULTURAL MANAGER?

Now, while I spew information about my life and all that without being censored or edited, so I understand the freedom of the press, however, this dude is PAID, on YAHOO, and now has a TON of ag people ticked off.

And if there's one thing I have noted in my time married to an ag dude, don't mess with's one big fraternity of people who stand upon their convictions, so you should see the reaction to this! (read the poor soul's Facebook page, covered with ag majors citing their success here, and then see the Facebook page, I Studied Agriculture, and I Have a Job for more ticked off aggies!).

Anyway, this just proves again all that you read, see and hear through the media is never exactly correct.

Except, of course, when you're reading what I write!! Ha!

The Art of Being Real

I have some gigs in the next few weeks.
No, this post is not a shameless self-promotion...but if you're a member of either the Knox County Farm Bureau or McLean County Chamber of Commerce, look out!!

Anyway, my focus is a little different this time. I've gained a lot of confidence in my ability to speak about agriculture, and it's not because I have been out choring in the snow with Joe. It's because I have decided to keep my focus on being real, being who I am, talking about what I live.

I am trying to master the Art of Being Real.

I know, funny concept, huh?

Anyway, in the next few weeks, I'm hopeful that my openness about my life as a farm wife, experiences as a "rep" for farm moms out there, and my limited knowledge about agriculture will come across as real, as I will be speaking to folks who are already in the biz, farming the land, have studied ag econ and held positions in agricultural organizations.

I'm not super nervous about this, surprisingly, and that is thanks to the transparency I hope to convey about our life.

In the first segment of my life as a farm wife, I worried about fitting in, figuring out where or with whom I should align myself. After all, I wasn't a "real" farm kid, "real" farm wife, or anything like that. However, how can one pinpoint what is "real?" What is the definition of a "real" farm wife? Is it one that drives and operates machinery? Is it one that keeps the house together and everyone fed? Is it one that works off the farm and keeps her nose out of the business? There are so many definitions, so I refuse to worry about which one I fall under.

Instead, in my (again) limited training in being a small-time spokesperson, as well as through my ramblings (which this post is a doosey of a rambler, have I mentioned I'm home alone with a sick kid and three others who have been cooped up in the house for a week? Bear with me.), I have found that by just spouting off what is going on and how I have reacted to it, I have found my voice. I have seen my kids become farm kids, but even within our family, each child has her (and soon to be his) own relationship with the farm. Anna is our doer (so far), Josie is cautiously interested, and Amelia is two...she just goes along with whatever she's told. Jack will hopefully be a doer, as that is the knee-jerk reaction I have about having a boy around here, but if he's not, oh well. We have to let him call the shots.

My parents did.

Joe's parents did.

And one farm kid and one non-farm kid have combined to become a family who just wants to do right to the land and put food on the table and kids through college.

So, in my next few weeks, my quest will be to perfect  my different presentations with the hope that I can convey my message in a way that I can be interpreted as real.

That, and finding the perfect pair of black platform pumps to wear with my dress.

Monday, January 16, 2012

And So It Begins

I have been hearing the rumblings that calving season is upon us, but have been trying to ignore them. Well, not trying to ignore them, just choosing to ignore them. I mean, it's not February, when calving should begin, so I have time to continue on my merry way, right?


Today is no school, thanks to MLK day, and in honor of this day, my school aged kiddo was up at dawn and dressed for chores. The morning chores began as usual, but as the rest of the kid clan and I were still pajama-clad and enjoying waffles, my farm girl and Farmer Joe were pulling the first calf.

We really know how to start a season, don't we? One cannot just walk out to the calving barn, or check the heifer that Joe thought would calve first and have an easy delivery. Nah. We out here like to do things the hard way from the get-go.


However, Anna was unphazed by the calf pulling, rather, was super excited because this heifer calf is hers. This is an exciting time, no doubt, but the feelings of ownership, responsibility and excitement that accompany just the sheer miracle of life that will be occurring at a high rate around here trumps the difficult first delivery.

Anna is in heaven.

She has her calving record book safely tucked in her purple chore coat pocket, recording the number of her new charge in the first line. She has already been down to check to see if the little calf had nursed, explaining to me at lunch today how Dad taught the little girl how to suck using his finger, and even correctly used the noun, "teat."

(My hope is that she continues to be no-nonsense about the word teat, and doesn't become "that kid" on the playground!)

Anyway, life is exciting around here. Joe will now join me in the up-all-night club, as he will need to step out and check mamas and babies every couple of hours, regardless of the time of day. Even though this is a labor intensive (literally and figuratively) time, this is the culmination of carefully calculated breeding matches. This is harvest, beef cattle style.

I just hope that we have knocked out the difficult births with this first one, and the rest are smooth sailing!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Late to the Party

I'm going to have to claim "Mom of Small Children, and Therefore, Watching Dora Over the News and Reading Madeline Instead of the Paper" on this issue, but from the my husband's grumblings, a handful of shared articles on Facebook, and a comment on a picture I posted of my kids on hay bales, I am somewhat opinionated, although somewhat uninformed.

I'm talking about the new Child Labor Regulations that are in the works for kids specifically in the agricultural world.

I have been blissfully unaware (do you notice a pattern in my life...blissful ignorance???) of the affects and the postings I have skimmed over the Christmas holidays. However, upon completing Christmas break, one where Anna spent nearly every day, all day with her dad, outside, having a ball (translation: working on age-appropriate chores), our first grader, who loves and thrives at school, cried the night before she had to go back, because she wondered who would help her dad and do her jobs. Now, the little bits of cash she is receiving for completing some of her chores helped along the tears, I'm sure, but how in the WORLD would someone, specifically a cabinet member from LOS ANGELES know the valuable lessons my daughter is learning working alongside her dad.

I will embarrassingly admit this, my husband has a better relationship with money, thanks to his days working on the farm...I, on the other hand...well, you know my resolutions.

Anyway, I am completely late to this party, and need to do some more digging. I am, however, present on my farm, and know that I rarely see a government official on it, and thus, wonder how these regulations will be enforced for us. However, I would love to see the citation and how it would be worded. Would it go something like this:

"Six year old and 36 year old cited for spending time together, outside, exerting energy and breathing in fresh air, all while using muscles and brain power to climb up and down off of equipment, through fences and over green pastures."

Yeah, that sounds pretty bad (note the sarcasm). I think we all should just continue to "fight the battle against childhood obesity" by promoting such activities as exer-gaming and running on treadmills. That would be great, Washington (please note smartiness, again).

I implore you to help me out here, give me your opinions, your actions, and your experiences with this. I am interested in how this will all play out, and hopeful that my lateness to this topic doesn't mean I'm too late to give folks in Washington a piece of my mind!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

We Need It To Freeze

So I know I'm being cursed by most of you, and judging from most of the Facebook status updates, we all have been enjoying the warmer (read: freaky) Illinois weather (I had three kids sleeping at once yesterday...can I get a high five??), however, right now, Joe kind of needs it to freeze up a bit.

I'm wincing just writing that.

I heard your groans. I felt your confused looks.

So, here's why:
Joe is in the midst of getting ready for calving season. Just a few more weeks and we'll have babies, babies, babies all over the place. That requires a lot of work...big shock. It requires him to move cattle around, prepping areas for them that will be out of the elements in case someone goes early (Elements, what elements? It was 60 degrees and sunny yesterday!). And, if you were ever an expectant mother, you will remember that towards the end, you require a little more sustenance for you and your unborn child. No, he's not delivering ice cream and pickles, or in my case, Peanut M&Ms and Diet Coke (it's amazing my kids came out without M&M stamped on their foreheads), he's feeding hay he baled this summer, along with a little feed, carefully measured and mixed to the cows out on stalks. Both of these tasks require using the chore tractor, and if it's frozen, when one needs to get out onto the rough corn stalk ground, it's a little bumpy, but there's no damage of sinking into the ground.

However, if it's 60 degrees during the day, and then frosty and not frozen the next morning, things can get a little sticky.

So, as much as I have loved having warmer weather, and have even browsed through the new spring arrivals (but not purchased...remember, I'm SAVING) on, we kind of need it to freeze.

I'll eat my words and be complaining about the 75 feet of snow we'll get because of this post.

Regardless of whether you need it to freeze, or if this lovely weather is helping your January mood, know that there is always some one who needs something different than what is currently on the literal radar screen. Ahhh...fickle farming!!

Happy Saturday!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

When a Resolution Really Takes

Okay, so it’s New Year’s Day, and instead of working out, clipping coupons, cleaning out my closet and donating all the unwanteds to the needy, we spent our day with another family Christmas, eating gluttonously (thanks to my mom and southern cookin’ aunt), and putting up shelves to house our embarrassing amount of toys received this Christmas.


So, there’s always tomorrow to start my resolutions, right? Well, not really. You see, I’m not a big resolution kind of gal. I’m already an exerciser, already an organizer, already a pretty decent eater…sounds like I’m pretty awesome, huh? Well, I’m not…I stink at saving money, lose my patience way too much, and worry about what other people are doing more than the average Joe…or my Farmer Joe.

I’m digressing.

Anyway, one year, ten years ago, I made a resolution. I was no where near where I am today: geographically, emotionally, spiritually. I was exhausted, frustrated, emotionally spent and basically unhappy with my decisions. I had a good job, but was unsettled. I felt like I needed something bigger, and had already sent resumes and applications to schools in Chicago, hoping that a move to the city would make me feel bigger in a place where I felt really small.

In short, I was grasping at straws.

So, in one last effort to figure out who I was as Emily the Adult, I made a resolution: to go to a church, because, that’s what you do when you’re feeling lost, right?  I was babysitting on New Year’s Day (see how pathetic my social life was?) and picked a church out of the phone book that had a later in the morning Sunday service (really high criteria, huh?).

That next Sunday, I took a deep breath, got in my car and went to this place that was billed as a contemporary, comfortable environment. I didn’t care if they charmed snakes at that point, I needed to be fed through my heart and needed to hear some good music and a message that made me think.

The Resolution Stars must have aligned that day, because I really did hear good music and a great message, but ironically walked in directly behind Joe and his friend, who invited me to sit with them (even though I had already gone out with Joe a few times and had not done a really great job of calling him back…oops.). The guys even invited me to the church’s Newcomer’s Lunch that day, and sitting at that table, I could feel myself loosening up, relaxing, trusting that this was a place where I could fit in. Joe and I hit it off and from then on, the rest is history, our history: we found our faith strengthened there, and consequently were married in that church, baptized our first baby there, and cried when we left to move here. I miss it every New Year’s Day.

Talk about a resolution that took!

Resolutions are chances, however, and I despise the way that our culture places so much emphasis on how you should make a resolution based on what our culture deems important at that second. Nobody in the marketing world will tell you that what you’re making is the wrong one. I believe that resolutions are all about timing, and because I haven’t made one in ten years, I think I’m about due for a good one. That, and I have ridden the success train of 2002’s resolution a little bit too long.


My point of this post is to wish you all a happy new year, in a roundabout way, but to let you know that I have gotten back on the resolution bandwagon, and would like kept accountable for them by you, my dear stalkers…I mean, readers. Like my one 10 years ago, I was held accountable, by the guy whom I eventually married, and to God…so those are big shoes to fill.

So, friends, please hold me to these. I resolve in 2012 to coupon….I know, I know… GROAN!!!! But, I have to. I have to learn to value our dollar, as we come closer to our financial goals, as well as closer every year to a kid in college (no, Anna is not some freaky kid genius, but it’s coming, I need to get more interested in saving for Anna than Ann Taylor). I am the shopper of the family, and I might as well be a good one, a saving one, one that can be savvy as well as sophisticated.

Secondly, I resolve to make this blog more user friendly, prettier, and more interactive. I’m not sure how…but that’s why I have a year, right? That, and a new iPad!!! I realize I’m late to that iParty, but that’s okay…I’m a country folk, right? Aren’t we supposed to pull out Polaroids from our bib overall pockets instead of Instagram photos on our iPads??

Anyway, thanks. Thanks for reading. Thanks for responding, and thanks in advance for keeping me on track.

Happy 2012.