Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time for the Circus

Spring break is upon us. Anna has two more days, and then she's off for over a week.

So we'll be sleeping in, packing our bags to go on a trip and spending hours upon hours enjoying the company of each other, right?

Not really.

At dinner last night, Joe and Anna were discussing all the fun things they were going to do together during the week she has off of school.

Now, by fun things, I mean, work related activities, such as driving the four-wheeler, tending to the calves, and working on her baseball fundamentals. Those are fun, especially to those non-licensed drivers, however, no trips to someplace sunny and warm (thankfully it's 75 degrees here, so who's complaining?), no sleeping in, as chores still must be completed. The time spent together is obvious, which is the whole point, right?

Anyway, Anna has one request for Spring Break, and that involves a circus ticket she received as some sort of incentive award at school. Bounding up the deck steps, she presented the ticket with great pride to me, announcing that she has never been to a circus, we needed to take her there, and, by the way, it was free.

She knows how to guilt her mother, and already speaks her father's financial language.

However, do we have time for the circus? In a season that is busy and full and has snafus like last night when Joe had to run a bull to the vet at 7:30 for a bloat case (Thankfully, he is alright after basically a big dose of cattle-type Pepto Bismal and a rubber tubing thing...not in that order.). Do we have time to take our kids to a noisy, crazy, kind of scary (anyone else weirded out by clowns?) event such as the circus?

Isn't our life already a circus?

The answer to all of these hypotheticals is well as no.

Yes, we do have time to take the kids to the circus, but not without great planning around naps and meals and chores and feedings and calves. Yes, we do have time to expose them to weird contortionists and crazy clowns, but no we don't probably need to go, desperately, but isn't a circus event something every kid needs to experience.

While I know that all of our events here on the farm are worthwhile and meaningful and life lesson-filled and important for our livelihood, there are times that we have to step back and breathe, plan and program, and just go.

Depart from our circus to go see an actual circus.

So, will Anna get her wish of seeing the circus, I'm not sure. My hope is, however, that no matter how busy we are, whatever season we're in, we'll try to step away once in a while and enjoy something that isn't agriculturally related.

However, maybe something a little less crazy as a circus should be in order...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Threat of a Goat

The past few weeks have been lovely here. We have had such a great run of awesome weather, it's almost scary. Spring fever has hit, and although I know we have a few more cold days ahead, and I'm already used to wearing flip flops and running in shorts.

Anyway, with good weather comes the potential and dread and love and accomplishment and chore of yard work. I love (read: hate) seeing Facebook posts about raised beds that have been installed and flowers that have been planted. Always makes me feel guilty for just pushing the kids on the swings and dreaming of a lawn boy.

Which brings me to the title of today's post. . . so this yard work gig includes mowing, which, yet again unlike most farm wives, I am not in charge of. I have never even turned on our mower. I know, I's not 1952, but aren't there some jobs that just scream "GUY???" In my book, mowing the lawn does. Amen?


So, as one lovely day followed another and one little rain shower followed another, our yard started to green up and grow.

And grow.

And grow.

So much that I thought I might lose a kid in it.

I didn't, but I did begin a string of hints to my already swamped husband. Such hints began with, "Oh look! My cousin must have mowed their yard." as we drove by their house. And, "Doesn't that fresh cut grass smell nice?" and finally, "Seriously? Are we going to bale this business?"

Answer from Farmer Joe, "Yes, or we could just get a goat. You have always wanted a fence...we could fence it in and never mow again."

Joe's idea and my idea of a lawn boy are two completely different things, but neither of us want to take care of the yard mowing. We just want it to look nice and call it a day. Anybody else out there with me?

Maybe our operation would be more diversified (read: trendy) if we were to get a goat and start looking more like Ma and Pa Kettle. However, I'll stick with nagging and maybe learn how to at least turn on the mower.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Everyone's Big Deal Is a Big Deal

This past week, I have been a mess. Literally and figuratively. I have been contemplating going back to work and the implications that might have on my life, both good and bad (cleaning lady and regular, adult conversation being the good, getting up and leaving my two littlest ones each and every day, the bad). I have listed pros and cons of everything and left laundry and dusting go to the wayside (thus the literal mess).

It's been a big deal, a big topic of conversation, a can of worms opened and now put back on the shelf for a bit. It made me, however, realize how everyone's big deals are a big deal to them, at that moment. Looking back on my reaction, just a few short days ago at this big deal makes me realize how lucky I am. Now that I have made somewhat of a decision, my big deal is currently getting the clean sheets back on the beds and the little ones on top of them for naps.

And, let me tell you, when you are in the midst of Mockingjay, with just days until the first Hunger Games movie comes out, naptime is a big deal.

My reaction to both of these big deals was the same: panic, hyper-evaluation, and then peace.

I reacted to a bed sheet the way I was reacting to the possibility of employment...isn't that weird?

Answer, yes, but we as humans, or so I think, react this way to everything around us. All things are big deals, to us, of course.

This early spring weather is a big deal currently. It is warm (so warm that we've broken a few records...ones that have stood since the years of the Dust Bowl. We're hoping it's not an omen.). It is windy. It hasn't rained a bunch, but enough to make the grass greener. Flowers are blooming; kids are playing outside, and I have busted out some shorts...and white legs.

These early warm temps, consistently warm temps are making some farmers ansty. We've heard that someone saw somebody working ground somewhere south of here. Sounds like reliable information, doesn't it? So should we be playing around in the dirt?

While we as cattle farmers who calve in the spring are looking like geniuses currently, does this early spring mean it will snow in April?

The weather is a big deal around here, as it usually is.

However, there's so much more in the world that is going on that I should reconsider my big deals to become small deals. While I'm obsessing over keeping the dust from my road from coming into my house, which is futile, I should remember that in some places, there are no roads. I should remember that when I'm considering returning to the workforce, I should be happy that I have an occupation that is hiring, and some folks just can't find a job. While the farmers around here are jittery about the weather, we should be happy about the warm temperatures, as it is doing wonders for a lot of their moods, the health and well being of our calves, and should allow a little more time to get the planter ready during this nice weather...and not in the sleet.

Our big deals are a big deal, don't get me wrong, but I feel like my big deals often times look pretty small when I step away from them.

Maybe I should get a job in philosophy...or maybe just writing those stupid inspirational quotes I see everywhere!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Khakis or Cow Poop

Joe's out of town tonight, judging FFA record books. He is happy to do so, as he used to be an officer in his "section" back in the day, and then did a lot with FFA as a part of his job as both a teacher and a state supervisor in agriculture education. He'll see some of his ol' buddies, talk to other professional agricultural people, and get away from the farm for an afternoon/evening.

(I'm on my own, however, so if the post is short and has some errors...forgive me. I have a baby infatuated with a small basketball that is biding me some time.)

Anyway, he had to do a lot of work before leaving this afternoon, because of our busy calving schedule. Chores that usually are completed in the evening had to be done early, on top of having a couple of new calves this morning, and one getting ready to calve as he was getting ready to leave.

Just as Joe put on his neatly pressed shirt and sparkling clean khakis, he took one last look at the pasture across the road.

The one where the four calves had gotten mixed up and gone the wrong way, thus ending up on the wrong side of the fence, separated from their mamas.

Now these are not the newest calves, but are ones that I would equate to a toddler. An "Amelia" aged calf...and if you have ever met our girl, she's a dandy. She marches to the beat of her own drum, and would, if given the chance, bust out of our yard to go conquer and explore the world.

Anyway, Joe decided he could probably just get in the truck and in his good clothes, get the calves back in the right spot, as it wasn't that far to go.

So, off he went, and we went on with our merry afternoon of playing and laundry.

A mere ten minutes later, a splattered Joe came marching back to the house, splattered with cow poop on his dress clothes. Just poor timing, he encountered the wrong end of a ripe calf, and there you go.

So, he knew he would be a few minutes late, but in his words,

"It is either clean khakis or cow poop, and these folks will understand."

I'm certain they will, and I have completed that load immediately, as who wants to have cow poop khakis?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't Mess with Texas

...or a farm wife.

So today, I was stopping at my house in between visiting my grandma (who is 97, by the out, Farmer Joe...I am going to live FOREVER!) and picking up Josie from preschool. I had to do a quick laundry switch. I hopped out of my vehicle, sleeping little ones in the back and ran in to put towels in the dryer.

I know, I lead a very stressful life.

Deadlines, I tell ya.

Anyway, as I hopped out of my house, I noticed an unfamiliar white van down at our lake. "Our lake," is really my grandpa's, but it's supposedly a good place to fish, according to my outdoorsy cousins (I wouldn't know, and Anna would LOVE to find out!). We frequently see friends and my cousins riding the Gator down to this lake.

No big deal.

However, today is Friday. It was about 11:30 in the morning, and this was not a Gator. In fact, it was pulling into the entrance, kind of funny, and folks were getting out.

So, feeling gutsy (thanks to the fact that I was on the phone with my buddy Kath, and I knew that if I was taken down, she could call the authorities!!), I hopped back into my car and headed down to see what these dudes were doing.

This is the glory of country living...all this space, all this wonderful outdoorsy-ness, and a lot of unfamiliar folks who are mere steps from your sleeping babies.

The van was full of dudes, and when I stopped and asked if I could help, they countered that my dad had said they could fish here.

Now, if you know my dad...he doesn't necessarily enjoy the company of strangers, especially when it's someone, somewhere they shouldn't be.

So, I told them maybe a small fib ...that we had just bought the property and weren't allowing any folks to fish anymore.

So the rest of the conversation was something like this:

The dude: "No one?"
Me: "No one."
The dude: "Not anymore?"
Me: "Not anymore."
The dude: "No passes? No guests?"
Me: (thinking to my self...what the heck is this? a country club?) "No."
The dude: "No?"
Me: (in my firmest, I used to be a teacher voice) "No."

Thankfully, no more begging, pleading, etc., and the men were on their way, but as I left to pick up Josie from preschool, my heart was racing.

So this is what it's like to feel like a bad a$%!!! Don't mess with Texas, there, city slickers, there's a new sheriff in town.

Now, mind you, I am not a bad a$%, because I kept Kathleen on the phone, the car in drive, and promptly called my husband, mom, and dad to brag on myself. However, I have come to an interesting observation about this country living. Although I crave the proximity of neighbors at times, sidewalks always, and friends nearby, I am no longer used to not knowing who is near my house.

I crane my neck when someone is going by "too slowly."
I take note of a car that drives by "too fast."
I wave at my neighbors and gawk and unfamiliar drivers when they're on our road.

How welcoming is that?

Not really, I realize that, but my point is, because I know who's coming and going, I feel safe, and when I don't, I don't. My kids, my husband, my house, they are all in my care, and I am territorial of them, for sure. While my friends in the city have home alarms, I have a barky dog, and an eagle eye. I want to be gracious to guests, but just because it seems out in the open doesn't mean it's free for the taking.

Thus me becoming a bad a$%!!

So, if you want to come fish, fine, but please come up and ask me at the door, and don't try to beg me.

You don't want to mess with Texas!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Right Reaction

I got to hit the road again with my buddy, Holly Spangler. We headed to Chicago (i.e., the land of milk, honey, and Nordstrom), where we were in attendance at another event for Illinois Farm Families. Holly recapped the event nicely, and you can read it here.

Anyway, the event was really interesting. While it was all for a good cause, supporting the Be Bold, Go Red campaign for the American Heart Association, the networking we did while we were there was fascinating. I met other women who blog, stay at home, work PR, produce television shows, and also enjoy a cocktail, getting their eyebrows threaded (yes, honestly, I did this, and I highly recommend it) and discussing their lives, children, husbands, etc.

I tried desperately to fit in.

I tried.

I tried to not poke around too much at the food, which was not the average Farmington party fare. There was discussion that the baba ganoush  was not really good baba ganoush (which Holly and I laughed at later, and I claimed I thought it was just a nickname Owen Wilson used for Vince Vaughan in Wedding Crashers...which, ironically, Vince Vaughan's mother was there and her book, which had her in a pair of stretchy pants on the cover and discussed meditation, was part of our swag bag...weird). Anyway, except for a few topics (traffic and Greek food, mainly), Holly and I fit in great. We had a great time.

However, it wasn't the topics that I worried about discussion, it was my reaction to one. Our hostess for the evening was Sara. She is fabulous, great networker, excellent blogger, really interesting. Anyway, we got on the subject of hair or skin or something (there were lots of spa treatments available that night), and she mentioned that she had gone Vegan.


This topic came up a few times during the course of the evening, and each time, women around Holly and I proclaimed to her,  "Oh, good for you!"

Good for you!

 Really? Good for you?

It's not like she said she finished a marathon, or her kids had gotten into a really good college or she had received a promotion.

She went Vegan.

Good for you?

Now, please don't take this as a knock at being Vegan. Sara explained that dairy and meat and the like were making her feel weird, her skin acted funny, etc. I get that. I'm all for not having crazy skin and not feeling gassy. However, the reaction was interesting to me. Why is it good for you? Why is going Vegan, not purchasing, not eating, not utilizing the very product in which we produce, the product's profits we use to pay for insurance and gas and preschool and jeans (the ones I got for a STEAL at Nordstrom that very day!) good for her?

Why it is good for her? Why didn't I step up and say that I had gone anti-Vegan...eating meat and/or drinking milk at nearly every meal? Why didn't I pipe up and ask more questions, other than, "So, your skin is better, huh?"

Duh.That's just what she said!!

Why didn't I have the right reaction?

Because, it's still not socially acceptable to be pro-beef in the presence of trendy women, I think. I was there as an ambassador of the agricultural world, and I just responded, "Oh!" I was the girl in the half marathon two springs ago wearing a stinking steak on my shirt for TEAM BEEF, and I said, "OH!"


Why didn't I have the right reaction? Why didn't I ask her if she had tried switching make up as I had a few years ago, which did wonders for my skin (thank you, Bare Minerals!). Why didn't I defend the beef industry by using that anecdotal evidence?

Because I was afraid of not fitting in.

Welcome to high school again.


Anyway, I'm doing better through writing this as an afterthought I guess, but I need to step it up a bit. That's why I'm put in places like this event. I should have been less concerned about the right reaction, and just been at peace with my reaction.

So, my hope is that the next time I'm faced with a "I went Vegan, so good for you" conversation, I will continue to be respectful, but respectfully explain to them that not all that crazy anti everything bit works all the time.

Not to mention...what the heck and where in the heck do you EAT?

Unfinished Business in an Unfinished Basement

It's March, and it's snowy.

Honestly, this weather.

Anyway, we're still calving (only 70ish more to go!), and thanks to the change in weather, Joe has had to be extra careful, checking the whereabouts of mamas so the calves can be easily checked, tagged, and brought in somewhere if necessary, out of the elements.

That somewhere, currently, is my unfinished basement.



As in, underneath my house.

Don't worry. Our basement is basically a cellar, one where we store things like paint and Christmas decorations in plastic bins. One where there may or may not be the potential for moisture or mice. Our basement will be handy to go to if a bad storm comes, but unlike my life in town as a kid, we won't ever have an air hockey table, TV, and laundry room down there. There's no option for a "finished" basement here.

Anyway, back to the calf.

This little guy (or girl...I forgot to ask) is warming up in our dog pen (even though our dog is too much of a freako to enjoy this basement condo) underneath my floorboards, awaiting Joe to give it a shot of really warm milk. Cold temperatures in the night coupled with snow has made for not prime conditions for this little calf, but he's going to do all he can to give it a good start. I'm to purchase some whole milk today while I'm in town at the gym, just in case it needs some extra help.

Meanwhile, my girls are fascinated by the fact that there's a calf in our basement. Even though they see calves out their windows and with their dad nearly every day, having one in the basement is truly novel, truly exciting, and kind of weird. They want to go down to the basement, hoping to pet it, cuddle it, and possibly give it a bottle.

Joe's just hoping for it to warm up.

I'm hoping that a basement calf isn't a gateway to a bathtub calf.