Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dual Citizenship

"Mom, what town are we closer to? Yates City or Farmington?"

This is a question that I get roughly four times a week, as we travel from our house to our various activities in town.

My answer is always lengthy, and maybe the kids are tuning me out, and that's why I get the question a lot, but it includes an explanation of where our mail comes from, where our school is, etc. Then, continues on about how even though Grandpa and Uncle Jeff lived in this house, they claim to be from one town, and we say we're from another...


Summer is a time that I truly feel as if I am living a dual of country and one of town. I wake up in the early morning to drive to meet my running partner in one town. We head to yet another town for softball practice, another town for library time, back to the first town for church, and yet another town for the community pool. Anna does cheers in the dugout for her softball team about Farmington, and she cheers along, without a lot of hesitation. However, as I sit in the bleachers with the other purple-clad parents, I feel out of place. All these folks are either all born and bred in the town in which they reside, or live in town, in neighborhoods where they are able to waltz out and enjoy their neighbors and get to know them better than at a random ball game here and there.

Josie's best friend lives in a neighboring town, a mere five miles from our house, and will go to a different school...thus devastating Josie to no end. We've had conversations about how she'll see her bud a lot, thanks to tumbling in one town and dance in another (and the fact that our families are good it's not like we'll part ways and be done), but my kids are starting to feel the dual citizenship now and again.

While we love our country livin', and enjoy the privacy, the surroundings and all that, once in a while, it would be good for my kids to walk out, like they do at Grandma's, and immediately be surrounded by kids their age, able to ride bikes to each other's houses and to school. I did that, and part of me craves it for my kids.

However, there's always the Utopian view of country life, and that is the lovely family we farm near. They are the types that have a crazy huge garden, and get together (all generations) to put up sweet corn and can tomatoes and sell their wares on a road side stand. Talk about the Waltons! We aren't that either...

So who the heck am I? What's our family picture? Town country folk or full fledged country livers?

I don't know, but I do know that Joe and I are trying to blend the best of both worlds, thanks to our truly different upbringings. He's used to the working, the solitary-ness, and the quiet of the country, while I crave runs to the pool, walks on sidewalks after dinner and neighbors.

Our kids are fortunate to be able to enjoy a bit of both, but will continue to get a lengthy answer about where they're from, thanks to the fact that I'm still trying to figure that out.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 10 and Attitude Adjustments

Another week, another picture, right? More documentation of this fun project, right?

Rrriiiiiggggghhhttt (think Lumberg in Office Space when you read that).

Well, kind of. We know that we are blessed to have had a little rain. We know we are lucky this year to have corn that has ears (yes, I said that right, some corn out there in the countryside has no ears, as in, no corn kernels to harvest.). We know that we are lucky.

We know, we know, we know...

But this drought is bad. It is not only affecting the corn crop, the beans and their potential, the cattle and their pasture to graze upon, but it's affecting our psyche.

Thus, I am calling for an attitude adjustment.

I am turning off the radar.
I am ignoring the clouds as they bank and then wither.

I am thankful we are okay. I am thankful our corn is still standing and has an ear, even though it might not be as big as the one last year.

Our various mantras for the past few years has included the phrase, "Make it until October," and this year is no exception. If we make it to October without losing our minds, it will be a great harvest. Thus, my attitude adjustment will include looking past the plants, looking past the brown grass, and pressing onward. Joe is a good herdsman, and thus is working longer and harder hours to now move cows around to better sources of water and grass, supplementing with hay when necessary. Our prayers will continue to include rain, but not exclusively, because God knows. He knows what we need and what we can handle, and, evidently, the Midwest farmers are superhero-like in what they can handle.

I have learned in the brief time we have been farming, that, like life, even if you "do everything right," it's all a shot in the dark. The farmers planned and purchased, planted and prayed, and it's all one big card game. There's literally nothing we can do except hope, and some times you just get exhausted of hoping, watching the radar and the clouds and the markets. While you know there's nothing to do, it's hard to see all that your husband has done as far as pasture management and planting burn up in front of your eyes.

So, instead of fretting and worrying and giving myself high blood pressure, I have decided to play the hand we have been dealt, and perfect my poker face.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Staring at the Fridge

So every day, around noon and every evening around six, my family gets this crazy idea that they're hungry. They need food. They need sustenance. They need...big gasp...a meal!

If you're like me, this always comes as a surprise, even though it's every day, twice a day, so I find myself standing in front of the fridge, staring at its contents, praying that something will jump out and become a gourmet meal.

Lunch especially is the bane of my existence. My kids have been home for the most part of my time as a stay at home mom and farm wife, so I usually have multiple palates cater to, as well as trying to figure out how to make lunch appear on the table when I have been at the gym, running errands, taking kids to and picking up from preschool in town, etc.

Anyway, we are super fortunate around here to have a freezer full of beef  (our own) and pork (from my in-laws), so main courses or at least the main component of a meal is rarely an's just how to make a "hunk of meat" turn into a well balanced meal.

Plus, when you have a time in our season of farming when the guys are really busy and need something quick, a roast and potatoes or spaghetti and meat balls are not necessarily something Joe can eat in the semi or in the tractor or amidst a calving mama cow.

On top of this, we are in the midst of a drought, which means that everyone is on edge, and I have been trying to medicate these nerves with food.

However, when you live out in the middle of nowhere, at least 10 minutes from town, with four kids who all nap at random times or need to get from here to there, etc., running out to get eggs is not necessarily the easiest chore.

So, it brings me back to staring at the fridge.

I think a lot of us suffer from this feeling. We know our families need to eat, and eat well. We know what our moms and grandmas and other family members cooked for us, but it appeared so effortless. My sister in law just had a Facebook plea for recipe ideas. She lives in the Los Angeles area...where people...gasp...deliver food, and she still struggles. It's everywhere. Fridge staring should be considered an epidemic.

However, I feel as if I have a little bit of a different challenge than my dear sister in law, considering not only geography, but food expectations. As a livestock man's wife, my husband has worked hard all morning, and doesn't consider peanut butter and jelly a sandwich of choice when you have been busting your buns corralling cows or putting up fence or hay or whatever. Not that he ever complains if we have "randoms" once in a while, but everyone needs a good meal.

Thankfully, I have discovered the Pioneer Woman and her cookbooks, which have revolutionized my cooking....I once wrote a snarky post about her, and now, like always, regret my snap judgement. Her first cook book is my staple. She is a beef lady, who lives deeper in the country than me, so she does a lot with what is easy to keep on hand. I also have found that both of my grandmas have left me with recipes that are good comfort food, and have cards written in their hand that have guided me as a cook. I am a fan of googling my ingredients that I have on hand, and seeing what comes up. Some times it works, some times its a bust.

Anyway, I beg you, folks, give me some new ideas to infuse in my recipe box. Help me figure out ways to use hamburger, steaks, ground pork and the always present and too plentiful ham steaks (ugh...I am sorry Rick and Karma...those kill me).

Suggestions please! My fridge staring is at an all time high!

Sunday, July 15, 2012


...but for those of you who know us, this is not a post about my mother-in-law, however, Karma, I love you and should write one about you.

This is about my weekend.

This is stuff you cannot make up.

So, here we go...
I was asked, way back in March to speak to 1st Farm Credit Services at their corporate conference. It was a big honor, a big deal, and even a paid, expenses paid, mileage paid thing...which, for me, was an even bigger deal! I was so excited. I bought a new dress (big shock); I worked on what I wanted to say...I even practiced behind closed doors so it would seem as if I was just talking about agriculture advocacy.

This event, however, was in suburban Chicago...wayyyyy Northern Suburban Chicago, so it was going to be a haul, but I was okay because my dearest college friend lives only miles away from the event. Win-win. As the event neared, I realized that with the drought, getting Joe off the farm would be a trick, as the cattle do not have much grass, so he is having to put out hay to supplement. On top of that, Joe has been helping our eldest daughter's softball team all season, and they were playing for the championship in their tournament at exactly the same time I was speaking.


And, like any mom who doesn't work, getting away for any period of time is a trick, so I had my week planned to the minute, and when Friday rolled around, I knew exactly when I could run, vacuum (because,  I'm a nut job who wants a clean house before I leave), fold laundry, make dinner for my Mom and Dad (who took care of my kids...and having only had 2 kids, have their hands full with my litter). So, as I sat down at the computer for my allotted blog/respond to email time, I was hustling...I was in a zone...the kids were content, and I was just about finished.

When Josie, my dear, sweet five year old, walked in, announced her tummy hurt, and promptly puked on the hardwood floor.

Ugh, again.

If you remember, Anna did this the last time I spoke, so I took it in stride, gave her a bath, and went on my day, puke bucket and Lysol always only a few steps away (side note: Josie only threw up one time...we think it was a milk chug puke. Whew.).

So, Joe and I hit the road, the first time, sans any kid  for an overnight in a llloooonnnnggg time. We had a lovely lunch in East Peoria (I now sound like I'm 80), and I happily collected my receipt to turn in for reimbursement.

The rest of the trip up was uneventful, except for the occasional call home for a rain report (we didn't get any), and some traffic (we hit a lot), and when we finally arrived at the hotel, it was lovely, and I was ready to get geared up for my talk. So, when I got out my wallet to hand over my credit card for incidentals, I was shocked, horrified and freaked out when I had NO credit card.

As in, none.



Ugh, thrice.

Thankfully, we had only stopped in East Peoria, and making one phone call uncovered that my card was about four hours south.

Okay, no big deal.

I readied myself for my event, had a lovely dinner and met up with some of our dear friends, as well as other acquaintances from college (who happened to be one dude I took to a pledge dance thousands of years ago...awkward.), and was introduced with great grandeur by the CEO of the company.

My talk couldn't have gone any better. Seriously. I felt really great about it, and enjoyed the dessert buffet and a glass of wine afterward, as well as a great night's sleep only to be awoken by the rain!! Whoo-hoo!

Joe and I then got ready for our morning, which was going to include meeting up with my sweet friend Lori. I texted her, called her, and called her again, only to have no response.


When I finally got in touch with her, she said she was in communication with her doctor as her 18 month old had swallowed part of a plastic fork, and had a weird rash on his leg...and, by the way, her husband was literally up a tree in the neighbor's yard cutting it down, so she couldn't steal away for awhile.

No biggie.

Joe and I found heaven...I mean a shopping center with a Panera, Starbucks, Pottery Barn (grown up and kids) and a JCrew, and we waited for Lori there.

Only, I had no credit check, and four dollars in cash.


Thank you Karma.

There were linen pants at JCrew dying to be worn by me. Pillows at Pottery Barn that should be in my house, and shoes, glorious shoes that needed a nice home.

However, I had no money, my loving and frugal husband, and hardly any time to think about how I would pair those linen pants with some nude pumps that I also saw.


Thankfully, Lori showed up, rescuing me from my retail meltdown, and as I crossed the street to hug her, I was so excited! As we helped heft her stroller out, she mentioned she had her little guy with her, and closing the trunk, let out a big gasp. She had set her keys in the trunk, and they were now shut in. No biggie, her little man was in the back, and she hadn't locked the doors, right?


She has a rental. Her car is in the shop, and this car is a keyless job. Her son was in the car, doors locked, windows up, and happy as a clam shoveling Goldfish crackers in his sweet face.

So, we ran to Harry and David (Moose Munch....), had them call 911, and in just a few minutes, the Deer Park Deputies were there with their wedges and their long sticks to try to unlock the doors, which they couldn't because the keys were not in the ignition. Thankfully, the door handle worked, baby was extracted, and all was well...


This is what happens when Lori and I get together. She had her purse stolen at the John Hancock building when we were all just first starting out. We have tried to get together a few times since I have had Amelia, and there's always a freak snow or ice storm.

This is what happens when I get out.


The good news is...we're back, safely, and home to an inch (ish) of rain, a mowed and trimmed yard, warm brownies, and happy kids. My parents are exhausted, and I have spent most of the day deprogramming my children (thanks, Mom...the kids now want to use my cell phone at all times), but we are thrilled to have been able to spend time in the suburbs, both as a part of the corporate conference and with my dear friend.

My hope is that I can continue to do fun things like this. I have had a taste of what it's like to be a part of something big, and to speak about something I believe in...

and I have whetted my appetite for JCrew.

So, when's the next gig????

Friday, July 13, 2012


PhotoOh all powerful, all knowing machine! You're the place where I can be considered an "expert," on nearly everything. You're the place where I can diagnose my rash as cancer, thanks to WebMD, can post way too many pictures of my family vacation, and spew information such as this picture and, once again, cause opinions to be formed based on misinformation and heresay.

Have I mentioned I love being a blogger?? Really, I do. The Internet is a great place for me...a good fit, but I find myself lately walking away from different posts, blogs, statuses, etc. shaking my head. I admit, I am truly opinionated...borderline judgemental at times (even though I know it's wrong, and I shouldn't be), but dang it, it's hard not to be when so much information is being spewed by folks who don't know a thing about the topic in which they are spewing.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, I have been having a comment contest on my Facebook page in regards to this picture, and let me tell you, it's interesting reading all of your comments. While we do utilize a lot of Monsanto products, and have friends in the business whom we adore, I know that not all Monsanto does is great. I know that there was a time when we were able to plant things and live off the land. However, the comments rolling in about how we as producers have to go big or go home because of the more, more, more society we live in.

So here's my opinion on this photo: Regardless of whether you like Monsanto or not, quit blaming folks who are succeeding. Quit placing the blame of obesity and other health issues on big corporations such as this, and take a look at the world we live in. How many of you have full refrigerators and pantries? How many of you have been to McDonald's in the past month? How many of you will enjoy a weekend of carefree fun, possibly swimming in a pool, enjoying your time off until Monday? I don't have a first hand experience of living hungry, in poverty in India, but I will tell you, I don't want to know. However, if groups like Occupy Monsanto and HSUS continue to gain steam, you may have to pay a lot more for groceries and won't be able to blog about your lovely meal at your favorite restaurant without taking out a loan. Folks like us, my in laws, and other livestock producers will be out of business, and good luck trying to find a steak dinner to enjoy or that lovely bacon you have on Saturday mornings during brunch without folks like us.

Not only do we have to contend with groups like these, we have to fight with the weather. We are in the midst of a terrible drought. Folks, seriously, this is bad, bad stuff. Young farmers are a mess, more seasoned farmers who have lived through the droughts of '83 and '88 are concerned, but know that we'll pull through. However, not without a lot of nail biting, careful budgeting, and sleepless nights spent staring at a blank weather radar. Help us make it through this tough year by understanding and trusting that we as farmers are trying our best under the circumstances. I know a lot of you readers out there are believers in our cause, but help the rest of the country see that we're doing what we know is right, and having to fight for it every day.

I know this is just one picture, but it's a reoccurring theme. Thus, I will continue to comment on this issue until I truly become an expert on this subject!

And, by the way, while you're thinking about us, pray for rain. We really need it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Little Rabbits Have Big Ears

Have you ever heard that phrase?

We use it a lot, considering we have four little rabbits, three of them who tend to repeat nearly everything they say. If I ever want a barometer read of my parenting style, I just listen to how Amelia and Josie speak to their dolls. If they are being loving and sweet to their dollies, I feel like I have had a good day...however, some times their dolls spend time on the steps and are told, "Mom's done."

Nice, huh?

Anyway, today, as we were rushing to get ready for a run to drop off someone, somewhere, Anna was instructed to dress herself. This is not something unusual, as she is seven and dresses herself every day.

However, when my darling, almost second grader came down the stairs, she was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a flannel shirt over it. We were in a hurry, so I didn't ask her to change, I just asked her why the flannel shirt? I mean, it has cooled off, but the high today is still going to be in the mid-80s.

She answered, "I'm a super hero."

When I paused, amidst the chaos and hurry of the morning, she went on to explain, "I'm a crop hero, Mom. You see, when I hear a farmer who is worried about his crops because of the rain or the bugs, then I just take off my first shirt (read: the flannel one), and hop into my magic truck. The magic truck then will either spray water or bug stuff to make the crops well again."

Little rabbits have big ears.

When we think our children are just tuning us out, paying attention to their iPods or playing in the sandbox, or looking out the window of the car, they're not.

This little rabbit has heard everything. She knows. She senses that we are worried. She hangs out with her dad enough to understand that he's scouting fields for Asian beetles that will decimate a bean crop with their little, gross bug chewing. She knows that Saturday night, as we ate dinner, Dad was watching the bank of clouds from the south, hoping that we would get some of the impending rain.

We didn't.

So, she noticed on Sunday that even though it was cooler, Dad was still worried. Mom is concerned. Grandpa and Grandma talked about it at dinner on Sunday night. Grammy and Pappy talked about it on the 4th of July. She's surrounded, and can't help but pay attention.

However, her reaction is something adults can learn from. She has a helper spirit, albeit a superhero perspective. Anna wants to do something, and all her little seven year old mind can hand out as a suggestion is a magic rain and insecticide truck.

If only it were that easy.

My hope is that our conversations will just keep fueling her creative problem solving skills, and not cause her to go into therapy as an adult because of an anxious childhood.

Here's hoping.

Week Nine...I Think

It's been hot, like H.O.T., hot.

And dry.

However, as you can see from our pictures after a week of 90-100 degree temps, and still no rain, our corn still looks pretty good...considering it could look like this, which makes me sick to even look at, and even sicker when I think how whiney I have been about our dry conditions.

So, here are the weekly Kid vs. Corn Competition pictures!

The girls had to be drug out of the sandbox to get the picture this week.

Seven feet, seven inches!

Tassels, tassels everywhere.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Go Big, or Go Home

We have cabbage overload.

Our neighbor (read: the couple that lives nearly two miles down the road) gave us the world's largest cabbage the other day. Per my friend's request, I nearly cut it open and put Jack in to make a life-sized Cabbage Patch Kid, but didn't.

Instead, I doubled my cousin's Asian Cabbage Salad recipe, using still only 1/2 of the world's biggest cabbage, and we're on meal #2 of it as a side dish.

And it still looks like we haven't touched it.


It is "in" to garden, even though, obviously folks have been doing it for centuries. It's trendy to post a picture on Facebook of your harvest. Chubby cheeked toddlers with a big zucchini is pretty cute, but I would like to see these folks' gardens, because my husband has a theory on gardening:

You either go big, or go home.

Seriously. We planted sweet corn with our little planter. Joe cornered off a portion of the field last year for our was nearly 3/4ths of an acre.

And I had a newborn.

And three other kids.

Thus, no garden...just a lot of weeds.

Sigh, again.

Thus, this year, our "garden" consists of Anna's garden in a glove project from 1st grade, which has been eaten alive by Asian beetles, and has given us one tiny radish.

Yay, us!

What's wrong with me? Shouldn't I be better at this? I have been a farm wife, scratch that, a country living wife for six years, shouldn't I have figured out how to keep carrots alive, grow lovely tomatoes and dig up potatoes? I enjoy eating my mother-in-law's vegetables. We love the cabbage...thankfully, since we'll be eating it until September. So why can't I figure this out?

I'm still hearing the words of the mother of one of my good friends...who happened to be slightly tipsy, but was a former farm wife, nonetheless, "You're not a real farmwife if you don't garden."

Gah. Really? I'm not? Again with the barriers I have to break down!

I'm keeping kids alive and a few flowers...isn't that enough?

I'm trendy in a lot of ways. Currently, I am sporting a running skirt (laugh if you want to, but girls, try's awesome). I love skinny, colored jeans and big bold prints. I scour home, fashion, and pop culture blogs, pin to my boards on Pinterest, and follow different folks on Facebook for the latest why I am unable to go with the gardening trend?

We're going to try next year. We really are. I can make a mean homemade pico de gallo/guacamole, so it would be nice to have some of our own tomatoes to use in it.

However, I am NOT going to go big or go home...I'm going to go with the trend of the family I saw in town the other day...a cute little painted box (somewhat resembling a sandbox) filled with a few (A FEW) plants.

Then, maybe I'll feel like a farm wife.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Who is singing that classic 80s song with me? I happen to be married to an 80s music aficionado, but that's another post, another day.

Anyway, it has come to my attention that out here in the country, even though directions are given by landmarks (turn left at the taxidermy, look for the big grain you can find my house!), signs are plentiful along the road side.

Just this morning, I noticed not only multiple traffic signs, including a "pass with care" one and then a "do not pass" sign just a few feet from it...make up your mind, people!!...but also nearly a dozen seed company signs. This was just on one road!

Signs at this time are out and about, brandishing names of seed dealers, brands of seed, as well as the seed's variety number. Plot fields are marked with multiple signs, featuring multiple varieties which will be the topic of conversation...along with the lack of rain and hot plot days in a few weeks. These days are basically a "show and tell" for the seed dealer and his bigger, parent company. Usually accompanied by a lovely lunch of steak or burgers and some sort of pie (I love a good plot cooking!), agronomists, experts, dealers, district managers, and the farmers all gather to hear about the innovations and advancements made in the industry, and to see the different varieties planted side-by-side.

However, I'm digressing, back to signs.

Signs not only show what is planted in a field, but also mark who's farm is where. There are signs for farms that have been in one family for over 150 years, there are signs showcasing a certain type of cattle that are raised on this particular farm. Signs are not limited to just placards on sticks or landscaped, bricked fancy signs. Out here, everything can hold a message. I have some cousins who lived on a farm where "Just a Mere Farm" was plastered on a barn's roof. There's a grain bin near where I grew up brandishing the phrase, "Agriculture, America's Heartbeat." This is not graffiti, this is how we know who does what and where he or she lives...I guess.

So, I guess we need a sign. I spent a better part of my run considering what our sign should say, and haven't come up with much. What comes to mind is "Crazy House Farm" or "Rain Dance Row," but those aren't quite right.

Any suggestions??

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Never Gets Old

It sounds like we are currently under attack.

The crop dusters are back.

As I sit here on this devilishly hot day, my girls and now little guy are running from one side of the house to the next, watching the crop duster as he (or she...but I'm assuming he) dive bombs our house in order to dust the field across the road. The girls are giddy, saying thinks like, "The pilot has to see me! I'm waving!!!" and "Remember last year when they came, they were awesome."

Jack is loving this, as his new trick is making a motor sound for anything that is mechanical and moves, i.e., cars, semis, pickups, tractors, lawnmowers, earth movers, bikes, motorcycles, and now planes.

While I thought that by my sixth year of living amongst the corn and soybeans I would become desensitized to this method of applying fungicide, but I'm not. I still jump. I still run to the windows like the kids. Even though I know that I should be snapping pictures of the plane and its proximity to my rooftop, I find myself just standing in the window or on the deck in awe of the precision these pilots must execute to get just the right distance to apply just the right stuff to the field.

It is fascinating.

And, for those of you who are wondering, it's necessary. This is our livelihood. This is our bankroll. This is our preschool tuition and shoes and groceries next year. While I know that some folks out there are still questioning the application of anything, be it fungicide, herbicide, fertilizer, nitrogen or manure, please know that a lot of thought, time, effort, and in a crop duster's case, training, goes into the planning of the health of  our crop. We're helping to keep the plants as healthy and happy as they can be.

We're fighting an uphill battle currently, as we have missed many of the good rains. There's a lot of sighing going on from the office in the morning as Joe checks the radar and its lack of water. Worried, furrowed brows crease many faces in our community. We're better off than some, but we're no
It never ceases to amaze me that the question, "How much rain did you get?" is one of the first ones farmers ask each other, whether the year is wet or dry. This year the answer is generally, "Not enough."

While you can control decisions from whether or not to utilize crop dusting (a.k.a. aerial application) and what brand of seed you can buy, when it doesn't rain, your controlled decisions go out the window. This is something about our livelihood that could drive a control freak like me to insanity. I don't fight uphill battles without a fight, and my rain dance currently is not working.


However, tonight, we'll put the thoughts and what ifs about the drought out of our mind, and try to enjoy the novelty of the crop duster, because that never seems to get old.
t out of the woods yet, and it shows in my husband's conversations with friends and relatives.