Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Life as a Christmas Card

I love receiving Christmas cards.

However, Joe ADORES receiving Christmas cards, and there's an unwritten law in our house that he is the ONLY one to open Christmas cards.

At all.

Period.

Each Christmas season, we wait for the mail to come, ripping open the letters to catch up up with long lost friends and relatives through their picture cards and sweet letters, chronicling sports team success, musical prowess, and overall awesomeness. We used to send out a letter, and Joe's really good at crafting it, but this year, just a picture will be in our envelopes, and as I was stuffing them last night, I almost had to laugh.

Our picture is not us.
Well, it is us...just not us most of the time.

In the picture, we're relaxed.

We're on a beach.

We're sunkissed from the San Diego sun.

I'm wearing white pants that don't have any spills or dust or dirt on them.

Our Christmas card picture was taken this summer as we were on vacation, and who wouldn't want to highlight the fact that we went on a really nice vacation?

I feel like a phony, however. This is just part of our year's story. We don't have it in us to write a letter this year, and would rather remember this time of sun and smiling.

But, even though that's only part of our story of the year, isn't that what a Christmas card is all about? Shouldn't I want to show how I rocked white pants and a tan? Shouldn't we want to share that we were at one time, sunkissed? While we all want to be real with each other, no one wants to air out dirty laundry in a holiday greeting, right?

However, after recording another podcast with Holly and DeAnna (listen here) and discussing how we like to only share our highlight reels, and then reading the blog post, Killing Off Supermom, I had to take a step back. My card is too nice. We're all smiling so sweetly. We're not even in the right state, let alone state of normalcy that accompanies our family.

Am I part of the problem? Am I only sharing my highlight reel as I stuff envelope after envelope with our beachy vacation picture...which, by the way is lovely, but it's not really where we spend day after day.

See?


Isn't it lovely? 

It's not who we were the other 357 days of the year 2013. While I'd love to wear white pants nearly every day, the dust of our road and my adorable children (pictured above) cause me to wear them only when necessary.

Or when I'm alone.

Our life in a Christmas card looks picture perfect, and while part of me wants to keep it real at all times and portray my life as the mess that it is, the other part of me wants and strives to have it all together. While I never want to come across as someone who has it all together, because then you're just a jerk or lying, I love to at least portray to have it together for a few minutes to get a nice picture for a card. Isn't it perfectly acceptable to stuff 115 envelopes full of beach vacation pictures, because that was a good time. That was a good memory, and we'd like to share it with our loved ones at this time of year. I don't think I'm faking it, just sharing that once in a while, we do it all right and have it together. 

In Christmas Card Land, we can pretend that all memories are made in soft light and are lovely. Let's pretend that our life on the farm allows us the freedom and flexibility to jet off to exotic places. Let's pretend that the lack of rain or calves or cancer were not really the thoughts at forefront of our mind. Let's pretend that our children sit and smile (or at least look pleasant...note Jack's expression) for a moment to snap a beautiful memory.

There's nothing wrong with keeping it real, but there's also nothing wrong with portraying and highlighting the beautiful. There's a delicate balance one should maintain, in my opinion, and thankfully, most of my friends seem to think the same, as my mailbox is full of beautiful pictures of perfectly coordinating children who I know were probably just driving each other bonkers as their mom tried to squeeze them into a sweater vest and sit on a nice leafy path. 

I guess life in Christmas Card Land is easy, but life out here on our farm and anywhere for that matter is hard. The joy of the season should be highlighted in happy memories and smiling faces, and if that takes place on a beach or in a field of corn, I'll snap that picture and send it, because I choose happy.

Dang it.

Merry Christmas, friends.




Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I'm BACK!!!

Well, kind of.

Truthfully, Holly wrote this blog, and DeAnna worked her editing and recording magic on this, so I can only take credit for some of the talking on this podcast and ALL of the background noises, as my sweet boy was around while we were recording.

Have I mentioned he's TWO...

And that he may need some attention once in a while.

And he may have been bribed with candy.

What the heck, it's Christmas, right?

Anyway, listen here, folks...it's the second installment of the Confessions of a Farm Wife (Wives?) podcast!

Merry Christmas!!!

Left to right: DeAnna Thomas, Emily Webel and me. And yes, thats a white squirrel on my shirt because OLNEY, Illinois.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day 30: Thirty

Oh friends...

I'm so thankful that it's November 30th.

We made it, didn't we? Well, kind of made it, but considering all that my family has been through, missing a day here and there comes with the territory.

Like last year, I am thankful to have been a part of the 30 day blog challenge, and then thankful again when it's over. Something like this is necessary to jump start my commitment to blogging as well as allow me to write about nothing and everything at the same time.

Blogs are a funny beast, really. We're all considered writers in the blogosphere, even though some are more journals than hard hitting journalism. I'm a member of the pseudo-writers on the Internet, and proud of it. Every now and again, I get a post that gets some "heat" (to use a "business" word...according to my brother...who's a real writer), but generally, I try to write to just entertain, educate and inform.

So I leave you with some blogs you should eventually check out. I tried to list off 30, but decided to just do my top 10. My number theme seemed to work, but now that I'm in my 30s (ha! there we go), I realized that going with the flow is more appealing than being neurotic and OCD!

I'm not suggesting that you should sit down and read them all at once, but in different stages of my life, I have received precious nuggets from these writers that, if not allowed a voice on this big, crazy thing called the Internet, I wouldn't have had the courage to find my own out here.

Thanks for reading this blog, first and foremost. I adore all of you and your comments, even if you don't agree with me. I find myself striving to make a post that warrants more commentary from my mom and relatives. Posts that make you want to tell me something is why I do this. I thrive on feedback...as my poor husband.

I look forward to another 30 day challenge...just not for another year...and without the loss of a loved one...and maybe with more posts like my Dr. Oz one.

1. Holly Spangler's My Generation Blog- agricultural, funny, amazing. She's my dear friend who has helped me navigate your comments, figure out how to blog well, and how to just be a great person.
2. Big Mama Blog- she's hilarious, and she loves college football...and boots. She's written the book, Green Sparkly Earrings that had me laughing out loud. And she's endorsed by none other than...#3:
3. The Pioneer Woman- need I say more? Okay, I will...butter.
4. Emily A. Clark-mother of 5 who decorates with spray paint and Goodwill finds
5. The Pleated Poppy-will make you feel like a loser because you don't sew or homeschool your kids, but she's the brains behind What I Wore Wednesday
6. Phillip Mottaz Town- This is my brother, and he's awesome.
7. I Heart Organizing- Because I do, and again, I want to be depressed about all that I haven't organized.
8. The Pinke Post- Katie Pinke is my blogging friend who makes me think and consider moving to North Dakota, thanks to her beautiful sunset pictures.
9. Beyer Beware- Have you tried the ham and cheese Hawaiian roll sandwiches on Pinterest...yeah, that's her. She's not all sandwiches and hunk of meat Mondays...she's smart and knows ag.
10. The Foodie Farmer- This is a good resource for those wanting to know more about their food. She's technical in a non-scary way.

So there you go.

Hopefully you'll enjoy a new blog or two or ten, and still enjoy mine, when I get around to posting again.

Linking up with Holly ONE MORE TIME.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day Twenty-Seven: 27

Today is the day.

THE day.

It's Josie's birthday.

Our sweet girl has been counting down on our kitchen chalkboard since November 1st, bless her heart. She has been plotting and planning and making lists and hinting and wishing for this day.

When you're turning seven, THE day of your birthday is a big deal.

We are especially thankful for her birthday this year. It doesn't just signify another beautiful year in our sweet Josie's life, but signifies that life goes on. Birthdays are meant to be celebrated and fun, even if some times during the birthday celebration, we start to feel sad. Josie has a caring heart and tends to be the most emotional of our kids, so this emotional birthday celebration is appropriate, in my mind.

Josie is one-of-a-kind, as all kids tend to be. Girly and fluffy, and a cheerleader in training, she's as smart as a whip with a smarty side that gets her in trouble some times (I wonder where she gets THAT from). She has a personality that is infectious, and knows everyone in her school. EVERYONE. This may not bode well during the dating years, according to her dad, but is awesome now.

In this time where we are to give thanks, I am especially thankful for my Josephine. She has blessed us, challenged us, made us better and more flexible parents. She is the perfect ying to Anna's yang, and a little mother to her younger siblings. I cannot wait to see what she'll be like in 7 more years, and 7 after that, and so on and so on.

Josie, you are my girl for sure. You have been called a mini-me, and for that, I am thankful. I need a partner in crime...and shopping! You are fiesty and joyful and full of life.

We are truly thankful for you today.

Happy birthday, Sweet Josie!











Is it over yet??? Linking up with Holly for just a few more days here.




Monday, November 25, 2013

Day Twenty-Five: 25

25 Things I have learned since becoming more "agricultural."

1. Never plan an event during planting...or harvest...or haying...or calving.

2. Never plan an event.

3. Dust and dirt are inevitable.

4. The weather is your best friend and your worst enemy.

5. While we are at the mercy of the weather, all decisions are made methodically, scientifically, and with precise execution.

6. Little Debbie Nutty Bars are a must-have cupboard item.

7. White work gloves are white for only one day...which is good, because Joe looks pretty girly in them!

8. Rubber boots are seasonal, like flip flops and Uggs. Lightweight waterproof boots for the summer, heavier, insulated waterproof boots for the winter.

9. Rain is a necessary evil (see item #4, and this spring...and the fall of 2009).

10. Farm kids can easily talk about sex, life and death, and manure at the dinner table.

11. Farmers WILL talk about sex, life and death, and manure at the dinner table.

12. People are crazy about food, and hungry for knowledge, so shut up and listen and then respond in an intelligent manner

13. People are crazy about food, and will not listen even if you try to shut up and respond in an intelligent manner.

14. Legacies are left, and lived out in the work ethic of a farmer.

15. Bib overalls have not stayed in the vault of 90s fashion. They are alive and well, and currently in my dryer.

16. Cattle will get out, and you will be on vacation, or at a ball game or 30 miles away at a dinner party.

17. Neighbors are not next door, yet invaluable friends and helpers in time of need.

18. The slower you drive after a car wash, the less dust you'll kick up and keep your car dust free for about 30 seconds.

19. You'll never have a clean car.

20. When in doubt, pray for guidance and ask for wisdom. Nothing is in our control.

21. When in doubt, bake a pie. That always makes a bad day better. Who doesn't like pie?

22. Don't call your husband while he's on the top of the bin, just to check in.

23. Finding a friend who "gets it" is worth driving 45 minutes to meet them at a Starbucks.

24. Living on the farm makes you appreciate the quiet of a summer night and the bustle of a city.

25. Nothing could happen on this operation without faith in God. Nothing (see #4, #20, #14...)

Linking up with Holly for one more week right here

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day Twenty-One: 21

Thanks for all of your kind words in the past few days. It's been a hard time for us, and our family appreciates all the gestures and thoughts and prayers, and, lord help us, the food. I think I may have to run for a week straight, non-stop after this week.

Joe's family is primarily all in one area. We joke about how we're the only one who doesn't live close to the "compound." However, in times like these, having a compound means having a support group right there. Babysitters for the times when the kids need to just be kids. Receiving a big hug from the funeral director's wife, as she was a dance mom of my sister-in-law's studio. Having a place to land when you just need to be away, lie down, and process.

I'm hopeful to keep up on this blog challenge, but not certain.

However, I'm happy to report that amidst our traveling and sadness and family time and processing, our harvest was completed yesterday. Joe's last patch of corn was taken to town, thanks to my dad, uncle, Boyd and his wife (when he had to call in for back up due to impending rain and lines at the elevator). What a relief.

There's no theme for today, other than I have 21 other things I should be doing other than writing, but it just feels better to get it out there. Everyone has his or her own way of processing, and mine seems to be by sharing. Thanks for your continued support of my blog endeavor, and for giving me grace as we deal with our grief.

Linking up with Holly's Blog Challenge here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day Nineteen: 19

In my quest to stick to my 30 Days of Blogging, By the Numbers, I have found myself searching for numbers everywhere. Counting cars parked in our driveway, noticing numbers of cattle in the pasture...that type of thing.

However, today, as I was trying to get my kids hats and gloves and scarves for their potential outside, potentially chilly recess, I looked up.

There are tons hats, ball caps, in the top of my coat closet.

See?


So then I moved to the back mud room area, where I believed most of the hats to be...and I counted. 

There are 19 hats in the top of the closet, and another group of them in the back.



Where do these things come from? They're like Gremlins...or rabbits or something else that multiplies without even really trying (and don't say the Webels).

The crazy thing about these hats, is that most of the time, they just appear. Almost out of thin air. Almost always with some sort of brand emblazoned upon them, and lately almost always camo with some sort of phrase on it.

Why must that be? Why must things that are marketed towards those living in the country reinforce the stereotype? And what's with the phrases on hats? I hate it when people don't look at me in the eye when they're talking to me, do I really want them to be reading the top of my head? (not that I wear hats...I have big hair and an even bigger head, but that's a post for another day...perhaps I'll measure its circumference...)

Anyway, moving on. We have lots of hats. And that's kind of weird. But, what can you do?

I'll just continue to try to contain the hat madness...one basket and bin and shelf at a time.

Linking up with the 30 Days of Blogging here.




Monday, November 18, 2013

Day Seventeen: 17

I know it's technically Day 18, but I cannot go through without a) writing a blog every single day (remember, I'm weird like that) and b) addressing what has happened in our area.

This:

This happened. In a town about 40 minutes from here, but a town where I just visited for a meeting, and left thinking what a beautiful place to live. So close to Peoria, so lovely, wonderful park district, community pride. It had it all.

Until this.

Yesterday, November 17th, a devastating tornado hit Washington, Pekin, East Peoria, marching on across the state to Gifford, hitting homestead after homestead, house after house. Destroying homes and businesses.

My best college friend lives in Washington. She is my dear friend who took this picture.

and this one...

 and this one...
and this one (it's one of my favorites)
 and then this Christmas card:
Look at these babies!!


and this baby...

Anyway, this post is not about pictures of my beautiful babies, but, then again, it kind of is. Kara Kamienski is my dear friend, and she lives in one of the communities devastated by the tornado. Her house was spared, but hundreds of her fellow Washington folks homes were not. 400-500, according to my boss, another Washington resident. 

These folks don't have these pictures in a frame on their walls any more. They don't have walls. They don't have homes. Kara took pictures just like these that hung in beautiful homes that are now gone. The pictures of the rubble are astounding. My boss said this morning it sounded like a war zone with all the helicopters.

As an employee of the United Way, we don't give direct services, but we fund programs through groups such as the Red Cross. We needed to react, to support, to address the situation, regardless of if we're the people distributing blankets, or writing the checks to buy them. Seeing my boss, our CEO, and all the VPs sitting at a table, an impromptu meeting...one member knowing first hand how scary this situation really is, was amazing.

If you feel so inclined, I recommend donating. Go to the Red Cross website and donate. Bring water to a drop center if you're in central Illinois. Pray.

November 17th warrants a blog. Although we've been dealing with our own family crisis of sorts, one must respond to the needs of nearby communities. 
We need to react in times of crisis. 

Life is too precious.

Linking up with Holly's 30 Day Blog Challenge here.

Day Eighteen: 18

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog theme...

So it's day 18, and I'm thinking about the age 18. The magic age of "adulthood." The birthday when my brother had luggage so lovingly placed in front of his bedroom door, my dad quoting, over and over from The Simpsons, "When you're 18, you're out the door!"


At 18, I enjoyed my first taste of true independence: first year of college, sorority rush, football games and fraternity parties, late nights, and really, really hard classes, weird roommates and lifetime friends. It was a glorious time. Ahhh...to be 18.

18 is when you're considered an adult, right?

18 is when you gain financial responsibility, receive more duties that are "adult like," and try to navigate new situations on your own.

However, on a farm, things happen a little faster than in town. 16 may be the driving age, but my daughter has taken the truck for a (well monitored) spin in the hay field. 18 is the year for adult things like jobs and checkbooks and responsibilities. But on a farm, there's no specific age.

Even before his licensed driving days, Joe was backing a livestock trailer into a tight spot for his mom at a county fair. Even before her first "real" job, Anna will receive a pay check well before many of her friends receive an allowance. My kids will have adult like responsibilities long before the magic age of 18.

That to me is good and bad. I enjoyed being a kid. I hate to even admit that I was well into adulthood when I finally began to pay my own car insurance. I know, I know...I was a "kept kid." Walk in Joe's shoes before age 18, and if he wanted something, he'd work for it, save for it, and then, after he had enough money, he'd buy it.

These are lessons that will make my kids more adult before many of their friends. Is that fair? Are we making them grow up too fast? Possibly. However, if making our kids responsible, respectful and hard working adults before the magic age of 18 dawns upon them is wrong, then I don't want to be right.


Linking up with Holly here.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day Sixteen:16

Well friends, we're into Day 16. I feel like I am on the downward slide, and yet there's a lot to go.

Thank you for your good thoughts and prayers last night. Life is a bit complicated right now, and your prayers are still welcome.

This has nothing to do with the number 16, so please pardon the interruption from my theme.

We are a family dealing with the reality of the awful disease: cancer.

A year ago, Joe's mom was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Devastating news for the family, but Karma, my mother-in-law, is a fighter. Right after Christmas, she started chemo. Months of chemo, hair loss, sickness, and some backslides never seemed to dampen her positive outlook or her fighting spirit. In April, we were even able to celebrate with her and my father-in-law their 40 years of marriage. It was an amazing day.

This summer, Karma took a break from chemo and took a vacation, made it to grandkids' ball games, enjoyed our family. Such a blessed summer.

However, cancer doesn't take a vacation.

Karma is sick.

Sicker than before.

In the hospital, there's a lot of beeps and buzzers and nurses and doctors. The kids want to hug their Grammy, but can't even come up to the room. The nurses are so nice, but our smiles back are forced.

We are dealing with some scary scenarios, facing reality, coming to grips with decisions that need to be made. Even though we don't want it to be, life is going to be different. Whatever that different is, though, we will try to keep the positive attitude Karma has always modeled.

As I sit in the back of the hospital room, I can't help but want to will this to be different. The control freak in me wants to make this better, and for heaven's sake, quit crying. However, sometimes we have to endure the ugly to see the good.

Thanks for being my readers, even if I can't spell fifteen, even if this post may be disjointed thanks to typing on an iPad, and even after this very hard day.

We covet your prayers, appreciate your thoughts and hope that I can get back on track with something witty for tomorrow.

Thank you all.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day Fifteen: 15

Friends, my best laid plans of having a post that was worth reading have been foiled, but in the spirit of my OCD and the love I receive from the Internet, here's what I need you to do:

Take 15 minutes.

Please pray for someone you love; pray for someone who is ill; and pray for a family who needs to feel the unconditional love that comes only from a Heavenly Father.

We need it around here, and when it's time, I'll share more, but for now, please pray.

Thank you.

Linking up with Holly today, and every day for 30 days... so read her Day 15 here. It's good.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day Fourteen: 14

There are roughly 14 pairs of shoes on the loose on our "little porch." The range in style from running shoes to work boots to rain boots to snow boots.

See?


This is just the tip of the iceberg...I didn't count the shoes in the baskets, nor did I take a picture of the other side of the little porch. It's Joe's side, so, naturally, it's a mess.

I say that with love, my dearest, darling, toobusytocareaboutputtinghisshoesaway husband.

Anyway, this is not a post about 14 pairs of shoes. It's a post about the 14 degree temperature swing that constitutes this crazy amount of footwear. 

I have experienced this temperature swing first hand. Schizophrenic weather that has caused us all to be confused.

You see, I get up early to run. Have I mentioned that? (Sorry, I know I have. I have a thing about people mentioning working out on Facebook, or what they're eating, or if they're sick, I detest it. Everyone should work out, eat, and probably will get sick, so enough already...however, if I'm annoying on this blog about running, I apologize.) 

Regardless, I run. 

Early. 

And yesterday morning, it was cold. I'm talking freeze your giblets off cold. In fact, my car thermometer said 17 degrees. As in, brrrrrrr. It was cold and still snowy, most of the day even. The guys thought for sure the snow would eventually melt off, and by yesterday afternoon it had, but not before everyone got a little bit nervous and itchy.

This is what we were dealing with yesterday instead of trying to get closer to done on harvesting corn:


Yikes.

Today, however, it was 31 degrees when I met my running partner, and if you're a math genius, much not like myself, that's a 14 degree temperature change. It may still seem cold to some of you wusses (or smart people) who don't get up at 5:15 AM to run, outside, rain or shine or cold or snow (am I the post office?), but to me and my running partner, Amy, it was like a stinking heat wave.

Oh glorious day! It's 31 degrees!

Not only did 31 degrees means that was I excited to not freeze my face off, it meant that the snow was going to melt off before too long, and the guys can plug away at the fields that need to be finished.

Because you know what's going to happen this weekend? It's going to warm up, probably 14 more degrees each morning, and then rain.

Because, why not go from snow boots to rain boots within a 7 day span? Makes for an interesting shoe bunch, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day Thirteen: November 13th

Anyone else have a lot of friends who are having birthdays today? Is it not a shock that the gestation period for a baby born on November 13th starts around Valentine's Day.

Awwwwwwww...

Anyway, my ever loyal (poor guy) Cubs fan brother-in-law, Jeremy, uber-efficient church secretary, Kris, our good friend and new blogger, Julie, and my fancy and fabulous friend, Rachel are amongst the birthday guys and gals today.

However, November 13th has been a celebrated day for as long as Joe can remember, as it is his grandpa's birthday. Today, he turns 88, and to look at him, you'd never know it.

Honestly.

Until last year, he was everywhere. During planting season, he'd run the planter or the tillage tool. During harvest, just a few years ago, I rode in the combine with him, although now he's primarily the grain truck driver. A lifetime hog man, even after Rick (his son and Joe's dad) took over the ownership of the hogs, he could still be found out working at the wee hours of the morning side-by-side with Joe's dad. As Joe puts it, if there is ever anything going on at the farm, Grandpa isn't that far away.

What strikes me about Richard (aka Grandpa Webel, Papa Dick), is his youthfulness. Even today, I had to ask Joe how old he is, as I can't believe he's 88. At a recent birthday party, he was found playing basketball with the kids...even though that ended with an injury, it didn't keep him down for long. He's spry and, although sometimes more than a little blunt, I enjoy his company. He always asks about how I'm doing, if I'm running, what's new with the kids. He adores all of his grandchildren, and wants to be a part of their life. When you're 88 years old, that's a big deal. He doesn't seem to miss many recitals, ball games, etc., and was generally one of the first visitors after I had each of my kids, not waiting too long to come and see the newest Webel.

I have enjoyed watching our relationship with Richard evolve. As a youngster, Joe spent hours with his grandpa and grandma, riding his bike to the hog buildings after school, working side-by-side as a teenager, and then calling nearly every week during the college and young professional years, just to see, "Whatsa going on..."

When we were first dating, I had to go meet Dick and D'lo (Grandma Dolores...who was D'lo before there was J-Lo), and once I got the thumbs up from them, I knew I was in.

Whew.

Joe's grandpa's approval means the world to him, and now to me and our kids as well. While he's done silly things like teach all the kids to do the "Saaaalute" from Hee-Haw, he is sweet to them as well, always wants to pick them up to see how big they've gotten. Jack will even sometimes spend a minute on the play cell phone, just to chat with Papa Dick. The relationship lives on.

So, here's to you, Dick. Happy birthday, and we pray for many, many more.

Saaaaalute!

Linking up with Holly's challenge here.




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day Twelve: 12

Get up (skip run because it's 12 degrees).
Get everyone ready for the day, and to the right school/babysitter.
Get to work.
Have a meeting.
Pick up little kids.
Get big kids off the bus.
Homework completed.
Kids dressed to play in the snow.
Finish Bible study lesson.
Make dinner.
Go to Bible Study.
Kids bathed and to bed.

And that's 12...so the blog for today isn't happening, because it would be a list of 20 things if I added in all the other stuff that should be done and/or could be done.

But stay tuned...because this is such a silly one, tomorrow's will be AWESOME.

i hope.

Linking up with Holly's Blog Challenge here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day Eleven: 11

Happy Veteran's Day!

I'm hopeful that you didn't plan your week, thinking that you'd be thanking your veterans with your kids in their jammies...all the while, they, in, fact DO have school, so your best laid plans of making Tuesday become Monday were foiled.

Oh well...girls are on the bus, not in their jammies, but we'll still thank a veteran.

I'm so blessed to have a family that has been willing to serve our country. As I'm sure lots of you have countless relatives who have served in one way or the other, our families are well represented in the Armed Forces. Both sets of our grandpas served, great uncles and uncles on both sides of the family served, some not coming home, some serving until retirement, and both of our dads represented our country by protecting it.

My dad, specifically, is a Vietnam Vet. Not the Harley driving, ponytail wearing stereotypical Vietnam vet, but a proud infantry man nonetheless. He went back to where he served a few years ago, and since then I've heard more about his time spent overseas. He's pretty quiet about it, but very proud of his time serving the country. One of the most touching moments I experienced with him as a vet was at Disneyland, of all places. At the end of the day, the flag is lowered on Main Street, and vets are welcomed to participate. I still get kind of choked up thinking about him saluting there in the California sun. He's proud to have served, and I'm proud of him, too.

Dad carried the radio...and had a moustache!
Joe's dad was in the reserves. He spent his time prepping soldiers as a drill sergeant. To know Joe's dad and to consider that he was a drill sergeant is hilarious. Rick is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, quick witted and ever so humble. Drill sergeants, in my mind, are hard nosed, arrogant jerks. Rick spent time all over the country training soldiers for battle, which is good since he had four kids to train up as responsible adults.

We're a proud family on a day like today. Thanks to all of you who are veterans or are currently serving. In a world such as ours, we need brave folks to protect our basic rights. Thank you.

Linking up with the 30 Day blogging challenge here.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day Ten: 10

I have come to realize I must be getting used to this farm wife life when it took me more than a few minutes to come up with my list of "unusual things on the farm."

Because they're not weird to me anymore. We just do things differently around here.

So, in the spirit of the number 10, I give you the Top Ten Unusual Things Found on Our Farm.

#1 This:
Twenty points for the friend who knows what this contraption is...and don't say "something dusty," it's a losing battle my friend.

Anyone?

It's a Boot Warmer!!

For several winters, Joe has had to deal with cold, wet boots. We have what we call "the little porch" where you first come in off our deck. It's where we keep shoes, umbrellas and whatever lands on the benches I so carefully chose to look neat and they don't. Sigh. Anyway, finally, Joe decided to bite the bullet, fork out the 40 bucks and enjoy toasty tootsies this fall and winter.

Don't you own a boot warmer?
Now don't you want one?
I'm going to try it out this winter, after a snowy run for sure.

On to #2
Pick ups without tailgates.

It's no surprise that I am a freak about my car. It's a losing battle because of our road, but I like a clean car, a non-scratched car, even a bumper stickerless car. I had two clings on my windows in college, one for my sorority and one for the Illini, and after they left a barely visible square on my back window, I swore off of those things.

So when we bought our farm pick up truck, I was startled. It came without a tailgate. Like, not even a place to discuss a cling on the back. Sans tailgate. Nada. Nothing.

Joe was not phased. I was completely baffled. Aren't we missing a part?

Well, there's a method to this madness. Although Joe's pick up bed is generally filled with stuff, the reasoning is livestock and all the stuff it entails to heave up into the bed of the truck. Joe's reasoning to my chagrin at our seemingly "trashy truck," was that it's ease of use, makes sense, and is less obnoxious than having to lift and lower the tailgate 9000 times a day.

huh.
I still think it's strange.

#3
Dogs in the bed of pick up trucks.
This is not super unusual around here. Our late dog Sadie loved to have her hind legs on the bed of the truck and her front legs up on the toolbox right behind the cab. She loved the wind in her fur, but I was for certain she would fly out the back...because we didn't have a TAILGATE!!

However in #4, there's different school of thought:
Farm dogs who appear to be passengers in the truck. This was also disconcerting to me. I know, I know, I'm not a dog person, so I never saw the lure of having a loose animal in the car at all, but there's a lot of loyal breeds who sit alongside their farmer as if they're the partner. And, really, in many cases, they are. That's what's hilarious. Duffy, our neighbor/landlord's dog is their third child. He sits in the truck stately, like he's the copilot. It's hilarious.

#5
Moving onto the crop side of things...
"Dead" corn in the field.

Now, people, we are not gardeners. We are not harvesting sweet corn. We are grain farmers. This entails an entirely different set of harvesting properties than harvesting lettuce, broccoli or sweet corn. I was reading a Facebook conversation about this question, and thought it probably is confusing to the non-farmer eye. Our corn in the field appears to be dead, brown, and long past its prime. But, fear not! It's perfect! We need it good and dry and dead looking for the basic reason that it needs to be stored for a lengthy period. If it's good and dry, it won't get black and moldy, and thus be "unservable" to our animals, let alone put in people's food. So, dead corn for field corn = good.

#6
Piles of "white stuff" in the field in the fall.
Nope it's not yet another conspiracy to make my life dustier than it already is. This is not an accident either, nor is it applied haphazardly. This is lime, and while those of you who are more aggie than me can come up with a more scientific explanation than me will probably be horrified at this layman's term, it's a pile of good stuff that's applied at a "variable rate." This is usually, for us, anyway, applied by an expert, and applied only where needed. They do soil tests and pH tests and all that to ensure they're not just spreading lime where the wind blows it. Once again, if you were just a casual observer who jumps to conclusion, it may look haphazard, but once again, before you consult a non-agriculturalist, believe me, it's not hurting us. We're trying to be good stewards of the soil and take care of it.

#7
Now onto stuff that I know more about...Farm Fashion
Bibs.
For real.
Joe has several pairs, and while I did too in the 90s...oh Lord never look at my Senior Barn Dance photos. Yikes..he wears them, for real. Often.
This horrified me at first, as I was trying to fight the hillbilly aspect of farming, but in the summer and the winter, they do serve a purpose, and cut down on my laundry load. In the summer, Joe wears them, especially holy ones (not on Sunday, even...har, har), because of the coolness factor. No restricting waistbands. However, he does always wear a shirt underneath. We're not Moonshiners, people, we're farmers.
Winter wear: Bib overalls are typically purchased a few sizes larger than the normal size. Like myself, gearing up in the winter months for a snowy run, it's all about layering. Joe layers a pair of bibs over a hooded sweatshirt and lined jeans, and he's toasty warm, with good pockets, and the clothes underneath could potentially be worn again. Score one for my laundry load!

#8
The Bandit Look
This was a look that got a less horrified reaction from me, rather a big laugh. In the winter months, Joe uses a handkerchief, you know, the red or blue bandanna type, and ties it over his face and stocking cap in order to work outside without losing his nose skin or freezing his face off. I would prefer to offer him a nice scarf, but when he starts explaining what could potentially splash in his face during calving season, I put away my leopard print infinity scarf and call it a fashion loss.

#9
Speaking of calves. Number 9 is something I'll never get used to. I like a finished basement. I had one as a child, crave one as a mother of four, but will never probably have one thanks to my 1871 house and #9: calves in the basement.
Yes, calves in the basement has happened more than once.  Joe doesn't want this to happen, as it means that the calf is not nursing well or lost its mama or needs to be warmed because it's sick, etc. However, it's a necessary aspect of our farm. I won't ever be used to it, but it does create a sweet photo op and a great memory for my kids.

#10 Blurred Property Lines (less Robin Thicke, but just as annoying)
This is a little odd, because it's common sense to me. However, living out here for seven years, I have come to realize people tend to think the country is no-man's land..and tend to do strange things out here.
Case in point, last night. Our dog, Walter, was barking, which is not a surprise, as he hates nighttime critters. However, it was a weird bark, and a loud car had just passed by, so Joe got up to investigate. Not wanting to leave my Modern Family rerun, I stayed at home. When he came back, Joe was fired up. There were two kids, just walking down our road in the dark of night, having been left by their friends to find their way back to town. One was in a t-shirt, and both were seemingly stupid. Seriously? Don't these kids know that it's dangerous out here? There are hunters and farmers and, unfortunately, probably drunks traveling down our road on a Saturday night to get to take the back roads to the bars. Plus, PUT A COAT ON! 
We've had our own case of CSI: Yates City, where a car, with just rims, no tires, had been drug out to our road. Joe found it early that morning, nervously checking it out before calling the cops to tell them he had come across it, and that his boot prints were ones of investigation. One case of domestic dispute later, and the car was hauled away. 
This list goes on and on: dumped dogs, thrown out trash, cars making donuts in newly worked ground, stolen tools, hunting where you shouldn't be...the country seems vast. It seems like maybe it's not owned property, but as a county resident, I know who owns what and where. It's all someone's, and not everyone's, and while we tend to be nice and let folks fish and hunt and drive around and criticize and analyze our life, it's still ours. My family's. Someone else's family's. Like a piece of property with a house in it in town, our ground may be hundreds of acres long and wide, but the guys know it. The farmers check it, care for it, and don't want anyone to mess with it, and heaven forbid get hurt on it. May seem territorial, but if you invested as much time and money in a piece of land, you'd be irritated with punk kids doing stupid things on your property. 

So, with that, here's the list...as of today. Fortunately, it's ever-evolving, thanks to my increased knowledge of farm life and jaded view of "normal." Here's to day 10!

Linking up with Holly's challenge here.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day Nine: 9

I just traveled 9 miles to deliver a brownie.

These were, however, the best 9 miles of the day, as I was able to not only produce a combine/carts/ and semis sighting, but also the two littlest ones fell asleep on the way home! Score! Jack is still asleep, so these 9 miles may have been the most precious I have driven all weekend.

Peace.

Wouldn't you travel 9 miles round trip to deliver a brownie, if you needed peace?

You would on days like today! I needed a moment to be amongst people over four feet tall, so I put 9 miles on your precious minivan to deliver a not-so-great, but thoughtful brownie. We met Joe at the elevator, after failing to meet him in the actual field. He was in line, waiting to dump his load, but it was well worth the trip (all 9 miles of it) just for the kids to see Daddy.

The kids are craving their dad's presence, and it's usually about this time in November that I notice it. Harvest isn't just hard on me, but it wears on the kids, too. There's a football game we had to miss today because Dad was working. We'll be flying solo at church again, because weather is coming, and we're getting close to finishing up, but far enough to be getting a touch nervous about impending weather. Life is sticky and tricky right now, and 9 miles seems like no big deal when you may/may not see your dad before you go to bed at night.

And, realistically, I'm not ashamed to admit that I needed those 9 miles today, too.

Linking up with Holly's 30 Days of Blogging challenge here



Friday, November 8, 2013

Day Eight: 8

My attempt at being artsy.

It's a frosty day 8 on our farm, so instead of fighting my kids about why they shouldn't write on the frosted windows, I figured I'd join them!

Today is one of those days that you want to just bottle, if you're like me. I'm a fall girl, which is ironic because at the bitter end of harvest time, I begin to hate fall, but if I were just a city gal enjoying wearing boots over jeans and a puffer vest at a football game, I'd be all over it and in my happy place.

But, alas, I am not a city gal. I'm here, in the country, writing on frosted glass, searching for inspiration on the number 8.

Here's a quick "8" story...

8 years ago, Joe and I had a baby, a house in a cul-de-sac, and a big conversation. We were two hours from each set of grandparents and with Joe traveling quite a bit for his job, I needed help if we were going to continue to have kids. And by help, I mean, grandparents

We sat on the floor of Anna's room, on the yucky carpet that needed to be replaced if we were going to stay much longer, and finally got it all out.

While we loved our friends and our life and our church and our home, we needed to be closer to family. We longed to have more space, and Joe longed to have cattle. 

On the floor of our baby girl's room, we decided to move. 

8 years ago, in the fall of 2005, we changed our life plan.

Looking back, there are days. Oh there are days...when I wonder if we made the right choice. We miss our friends, although love our new ones. I miss running on the Lake of the Woods Trail, marked and safe and less than a mile from my house (even though I love my running partner). Being so close to our alma mater, we enjoyed college life as alumni, enjoying ball games and hosting friends during homecoming weekends. Heck, Anna even went to the Psychology department as a toddler, watching puppet shows performed by grad students who were observing her every expression! 

Although our location seemed ideal...Target was less than 10 minutes away, people...8 years ago, it just didn't feel right to be there. We felt moved to, well, move.

So, we did.

And, again, there are days that I wonder, I know that we did the right thing for us at the right time. We are challenged every day, mentally, physically, emotionally, but it has made us evaluate what's important (you tend to do that when you're on a budget), and consider what could have been, but we're here right now, living this life, and although I daydream about what it would have been like had we stayed in Champaign, I know that for us, right now, this is what we needed to do, when we made that choice 8 years ago.

So with that...I bid you a happy day 8 of this quest! Go write on a window or wear some boots or something today!

Linking up with Holly here for her 30 Days of Blogging challenge!



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Day Seven: 7

No pressure today.

My husband and I were talking about the wonderful amount of clicks and likes on yesterday's post, and he, in his generally chipper and supportive way remarked, "Tomorrow's better be a good one."

Sheesh.

So, I'm just letting you now right away. Yesterday was my good one for the week! Ha! Today, I'm working, but taking a break to let my mind wander...and my lunch settle.

I'm lucky, though. I work outside the home two days a week.
TWO.
I can shut my laptop, answer my emails when I want, and get my work done whenever and wherever.

A farmer, particularly a livestock farmer...

not so much.

So that's why today's number is 7 my friends, as in 7 days a week. Whether it's Monday or Sunday, Tuesday or Saturday, Joe's working. There's no weekend. There's no part time. There's not a lot of "leave it for tomorrow." He's on, 7 days a week.

That's hard, people.

That can wear on a person, dear reader.

It can rattle your nerves and suck the life out of you if you're not careful.

Last summer, in early July, we were able to finally take a vacation. A whole week away...on a plane, to another state.

That was HUGE.

There's no weekend get-a-ways, because our cows need to be fed and cared for 7 days a week (I'm not mentioning 24 hours a day, because that's another number for another day!). What is interesting and ultimately frustrating in a livestock operation- I'm coming to understand- is that each day is like the other.

However, I can relate. I was a stay at home mom, full time, for 7 years (hey! look at that!!). Every day was the same. Every. Single. Day.

That can make a person feel like a robot at times.
If that robot was wearing yoga pants or coveralls and dealt in lots of poo (baby or cattle).

This feeling of 7 days a week, on and on and on is difficult on one's psyche. With a week day job, there's an end in sight. Vacation days, sick days, holidays...those are all fun things to look forward to. However, like a parent, Joe is caring for a living, breathing, eating creature. He has to make sure they are where they should be, doing what they should be, and are safe. Like a baby, the cattle don't care that it's Christmas or a Sunday morning that I have to be church early. They want their schedule to be the same. They want their life to look the same every single day.

There are days that I wonder what it would be like to have a husband who didn't have to work every day, 7 days a week. I find myself wistful at times at the families who take outings or long weekends or moms who run races on the weekends without having to worry about getting home in time for chores to be done before fieldwork is completed.

What's that like?

I guess I may have to wait for 7 more years...Jack will be 9, and Anna 15, so I'd have a built-in babysitter for an early run, early church service, Saturday outing.

But, until then, I'll admire my husband's work ethic, and appreciate it 7 days a week.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day Six: 6

So I have a sweet friend. Her name is Katie (Hi, Katie!). She has three lovely children...super cute, and,  coincidentally two of the three are exactly three months older than my two youngest.  When she was three months along with her third, and I was NOT pregnant, she thought it would be great for us to do it all over again...and we'd have another child together...NO WAY, Jose! I've enjoyed her most recent baby without having one of my own.

Anyway, this is not about babies...it's about our interesting conversations over the years. Katie is smart. She is a great mom. She asks lots of questions, and she listens to all sides. So, yesterday, when I received a text from her in regards to the Dr. Oz show yesterday, I listened. I did my research. I watched online, and I have 6 words to say to "Dr." Oz.

"Hey Oz! Where's the farmer?"

Dr. Oz is not my favorite. He's a sensationalizer. He strikes the fear of God in our hearts when we bite into anything that isn't made entirely of flax seed and red pepper. He is of the Oprah persuasion, and while I was able to tolerate Oprah at times (hello! Favorite THINGS??? Love that!), he is just trying to basically scare the bejeezus out of us all.

When I began to watch the trailer for yesterday's episode, I was nervous. The music alone was nerve wracking. Then, the picture of a combine in a wheat field showed up, dissolving into a corn field waving in the breeze, and then a crop duster (cue even scarier music), followed by ripe fruits and vegetables. All the while, the intense voice over guy was spewing details in regards to the "best kept secret in the food industry."

I watched as Dr. Oz then illustrated the use of pesticides using people spraying small spraying devices on a bucket of corn. Woman after woman joined this illustration, all the while, Dr. Oz was explaining how the use of pesticides since the 90s has increased, and how also we can blame all the miscarriages, learning disabilities and birth defects on us, the evil farmer.

But, suprisingly missing during this time was...A FARMER.

He had experts. He had doctors. He is a doctor. He had the women in the audience so freaked out you could read it on their faces as the camera panned the audience. Audible gasps were heard during the discussion.

BUT WHERE WAS THE AGRICULTURAL REPRESENTATIVE????

Honestly "agvocates," I think we are to blame here to some extent. Why am I going to libraries and coffee shops to meet with urban folks, when what these women and men are generally getting information from Dr. Oz?

Dr. Oz isn't reading this blog, however, I would love to welcome him to do so and come to our farm, while he's at it, so am I just preaching to the wrong choir? Why aren't agricultural people asked to be on a show like this to add our two cents about how our crops require LESS pesticides than before because of the technology we use in the tractor and applicator itself as well as the engineered seed? I don't want a dude in a suit from a corporate company. I want a farmer. An educated, well intentioned farmer to sit on a panel on Dr. Oz.

But where's our invitation?

Well, here's 6 reasons:

1) Money: People like Dr. Oz don't want to be refuted. They want to be retweeted, shared on Facebook, watched on TV to become more famous and ultimately make more money.

2) Spin: Even if Dr. Oz invited someone level headed like my husband to the show to refute his argument, Dr. Oz doesn't want to hear that. He wants you to believe everything he's telling you is true, and that we as farmers are just out to make a buck and harm the earth.

3) Pop Culture: We can't get in. Honestly. There's a disconnect between our advocacy efforts and pop culture. While groups that I participate in are doing a good job in getting our stories out, unless we infiltrate shows like Dr. Oz, we will continually bang our heads against a computer screen trying to refute old arguments such as pesticides.

4) Fear: We are driven by fear. I am signing the kids up for flu shots, because I read that this year's flu strand is deadly, and there was a four year old who died...and on and on. However, isn't this said every year? While I'm not advocating for you to not vaccinate your kid, I tend to freak out about issues like this because it sounds like me, looks like me, applies to me. That's exactly what Dr. Oz is trying to do. He is advocating for health through fear, not facts on all sides. That's not hard-hitting journalism, and pardon the word, that's crap.

5) Justification and a Reason: Obviously, we want a reason for the allergies, the birth defects, the learning disabilities. Unfortunately, we need a scapegoat, and Dr. Oz is using agriculture as such. Lucky us. So, while I agree that I don't want to hang out underneath a crop duster, nor do I dance in the spray as it's applied in the spring on our fields, I will tell you that thanks to technology, we are able to pinpoint exactly where it's needed, and apply it only in that specified location. It's amazing, and I would love to invite Dr. Oz on a round during the application of such.

6) Pride: On both ends, we think we're right. Dr. Oz, I surely hope, has your best interests in mind, as do we, and we're not coming together because of the big, nasty human trait of pride. If we'd all put this aside, and realize that we're all humans, who need to eat and survive together on this earth, maybe we'd make a dent in this argument.

I'm not the person to sit on the panel. I am not an expert. I cannot tell you the complete technical explanation why everything's safe around here, other than in general terms. However, I implore you to be like Katie. Text your farmer friends. Watch shows like this with a critical eye, and ask questions. Ask me questions...fortunately, I'm well connected with experts who are in the industry, not just on the production end, but in the seed, chemical, and animal industry.

Don't freak out thanks to Oz.

Hey! That's six words again!

Linking up with Holly here.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day Five: 5

I had planned my "5" entry to be 5 pieces of equipment caught in the act of harvesting.

Can you see it?

A huge, green combine (that's 1, for those of you hard of counting), a track-tractor (green of course, and number 2) hooked onto a green (duh) grain cart (that's three). Two semis (teal and red...yes, those ARE the colors of the 80s, but also our fleet of semis) round out the count at 5.

However, it's a misty, gross day, so nothing is getting accomplished even though we only have 17 acres left in one field to finish up.

SHOOT!! I wish today was the 17th!!

Anyway, it's not. It's day 5, and bless Holly's heart for challenging me to blog every day. My hairstylist asked me if I ever want to just blog about something other than agriculture...she suggested shoes, and I concur.

But this is an agriculture themed blog, so while I do love shoes, and will refer to them, I'm going to defer to Holly today.

Because her theme of this whole series is the NUMBER 5!!!

So, why wouldn't I just send you all over to enjoy her post from yesterday, Five Things an Honest Farmwife Admits. While I obviously didn't write it, it speaks so much truth that I deal with on a very, very regular basis, except #1, because...what's a grain leg???

Enjoy this guest post, friends...and I'll catch you tomorrow on 6!

Linking up with Holly here.

The rest of my days:
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day Four: 4

So it's late into Day Four, I know, but I'm still at it.
I will not quit, wuss out, and enjoy my freshly baked chocolate oatmeal cookies until I get. this. blog. done.

My 4 is easy...well, not really easy, the topic itself was an easy choice, but the actual 4 is an exercise in every cliche parenting buzz word one could possibly think of.

My 4 is my four...kids, that is.

I will spare you a long, sappy, life is one big warm chocolate chip oatmeal cookie (that I will be eating soon, so that's why this one is short), parenting is a breeze, or parenting is hard blog.

My 4 kids are unreal.

Honestly. When Joe and I embarked upon this "let's have a family journey," I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would have a kid like Anna.

Or Josie.

Or Amelia.

Or Jack.

While I may have ingested more Diet Coke with each subsequent pregnancy, all these children have been raised in the same house, with the same parents, eating the same food, yet they are all vastly different.

While Amelia tries desperately to be Josie, she's not. Anna tries hard to be the perfect child, but she can't be, especially and when you have three younger siblings, and when there's a missing iPod, there's bound to be some yelling. Jack is Jack Webel, complete with a superhero pose, even though we really don't talk a lot of superhero talk...until now. Josie desperately wants to be a big girl, but still tells me every night that she's a little bit scared and wants me to stay in her room with her for company, allthe while, Anna is snoozing away in the bed next to her.

All 4 are different, yet something these 4 will share will always be the same: this farm life.

Our rural route address will define these 4, no matter where they go in life. I see it in my friends in the agricultural world who have left the farm and live in cities like Phoenix and Dallas and Chicago. All those farm kids still have a little piece of them that my 4 will have. An understanding of a life one can only "get" if you live it out here. A club of country kids.

I can't tell you what that is, because I'm not one of them. My 4 will share that with their dad, with each other and with all those farm kids out there, whether they're in a city or on a dusty road.

My 4 are blessed to be farm kids, and I'm so blessed to be their mom out here.

Linking up with Holly's 30 Day Blog Challenge here.

Rest of my quest:
Day One
Day Two
Day Three


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day Three: 3

The third day is always the hardest.


That's a direct quote from my wise mother.
She is never short of advice, but this one has been used in about every stage of my life. From the basics like head colds (ever notice that the third day is the worst because you think you're better and you're really not?), to big life events like having a child (sorry, guys, but this is the day you're generally at home, thinking you can Swiffer the kitchen floor, do the laundry, tend to your other children, and you end up feeling worse than the actual birth), attending college (by the third class session, gloves were off, syllabus was out, and you're beginning to freak out), and starting to teach school (teaching sixth grade on the third day was FOR REAL, people).

Thus is the same with blogging for 30 days...I had an okay first day, my second one was well received, and now we're on Day 3.

So, what's going on?

Watching Three's Company?
How about The Three Stooges?
What about that cult classic, The Three Amigos?
I just came from church...how about that Holy Trinity, huh? Now, that's an impressive 3!

So 3s are everywhere. It's Biblical. 3 is a good design number for a furniture grouping or a group of candles. 3 seemed like a great number of kids to have...until we had 4.

However, an easy "3" in our operation is the number of farmers. Our farm operation is mainly a 3-man gig. My dad, my uncle and Joe are the main worker bees during this busy time. We have a lot of behind the scenes workers:  my grandpa, our landlord, and our seasonal truck driver, Boyd, a cousin or two now and again, but mainly there's just the 3 guys making the big decisions on the operation.

At harvest, my dad does the grain cart, my uncle drives the combine, and Joe drives the semi.

Seems simple, right?

Yes, and no. That's the kicker with the number 3, and livestock.

You see, when you have livestock, it's tricky, and the difference in our operation than others is that my dad and uncle are not a part of the livestock business. Cattle are Joe's big thing (along with our landlord, of course).

But Dad and my uncle aren't a part of our livestock operation. My uncle has pigs, but he deals with them himself. Same as Joe. They are separate operations.

Sure, there's time that they help when Joe's working calves or needs a hand here and there, but this 3-some is only a true 3-some when it's harvest or spring planting.

That's different from a lot of other operations I have observed. And that's okay, it is just interesting how they can work separately for several months of the year and then be side-by-side (in huge pieces of equipment, mind you) for weeks and months at a time. The shed door shutting on the combine doesn't mean that they don't talk or plan or whatever, but for the most part, each of our farmers have very separate, very specific jobs that they do very much alone.

Isn't that interesting?

It helps with defining who does what, and there's never any argument about who is going to drive what and when, but it does make for a lonely time, I'm sure, while they each do their own thing in the "off months."

But for now, the 3 farmers in our operation press on. They work long hours, eat weird foods at odd times of the day, and survive this time knowing that when the combine is in the shed (whenever that is...don't ask), these three can go on their separate ways and meet up again in the spring, each with their own specific roles to play.


Linking up with Prairie Farmer's 30 Days blog challenge here.

And here's the rest of my blog quest:
Day One
Day Two




Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day Two: 2

We work in pairs a lot around here.

Just now, Anna and Joe left in the farm truck, just 2 peas in a pod. It's chilly and damp this morning, so Anna decided to don 2 sweatshirts, in lieu of her bulky work coat, so she could move easily as she works side-by-side with her dad this morning. They'll spend the first few hours feeding and checking the cows, making sure those who are enjoying snacking on stalks in a newly harvested cornfield adjacent to the pasture are where they should be, thanks to 2 nicely strung lines of electric fence.

2 is a necessary number on a farm, specifically a livestock farm.

There are the obvious tasks that are easier with a partner: closing gates behind the truck or tractor, moving cattle, working calves...those are all better when you have a buddy. However,  it's the side-by-side working relationship I see that makes this "2" the best part of living here.

Often times, I curse the dirt road, dirty clothes, late nights, unpredictable income and lack of flexibility that comes with farm life. However, as Anna left with her dad this morning, chatting away as she skipped down the steps of the deck about next week's 4H meeting, working with her show heifer, and what it would be like to go goose hunting (we have a lot of hunting traffic today), I thought how lucky Anna-- and all my kids are for that matter-- are to spend this precious morning with her dad. It's different than being coached on a team by your dad; different than having your dad just play with you as a kid. In our time as a livestock family, and this short time Anna has become more and more involved, I see a tight bond being formed. One that is forged by using her 2 hands side-by-side with her dad.

Working with someone bonds you together, but it's not just the sweet, tight bond that's formed. Socially speaking, it's an exercise in get over it. You don't have time to hold a grudge, continue to be grouchy with each other. It amazes me, as someone who gets irritated easily, to see Joe and Anna in action. They can holler at each other and get aggravated, but then have to quickly get over it, because there's a lot more work to do than to just sit around and be irritated at each other. It's truly a good lesson in social skills. Get over it. Move on.

Working in a 2-some makes you appreciate that person when he or she is not there. When Anna started back to school in the fall, Joe lost his buddy, his sidekick. She didn't just open gates and help load feed, she added sunshine and companionship to a rather lonely occupation. Joe and Anna have a bond as a father-daughter team that only those who worked with their kids can understand. I don't fully understand it, still, but I can see it in action.

Anna is only 8, but her work ethic rivals those double, or even triple her age. That kid spends days off of school, Saturdays, evenings, whenever, working. She's never been a "player," always wanting to DO something useful, help, be productive. Her sisters and their silliness drive her crazy at times. She's my worker bee, and I attribute that to working with her 2 hands from the time she could peer over the dash of the farm truck.

Pairs, partners, buddies, whatever you call it, groups of 2 just work better. We're all better when we have a partner, right? I'm hopeful that this 2-some will eventually turn into a 5-some with all my kids learning the ropes of livestock, but until then, the peas in a pod will continue on, one cattle pasture at a time.


Linking up with Holly's 30 Days series here.

And here's the rest of my 30 Day quest:
Day 1




Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days, By the Numbers

And so it begins...

My dear friend Holly is a for-real writer, and when I say "for real," I mean, she's not only excellent, extensively trained, has been recognized and received accolades for her excellence in journalism, but she also is creative enough to think of this 30 Day Blog Challenge.

However, being an untrained, hardly recognized and rarely accoladed writer, it is a very intimidating challenge to not only write one blog entry per day for 30 days, but to come up with a catchy theme.

Last year, my theme was "Life on Our Farm."

Pretty catchy, huh?

Don't answer that.

Anyway, after realizing that my theme was due to her, and it was late October, which meant November was quickly approaching so I should probably come up with something maybe a little more catchy that just "Life on Our Farm," I remembered a really creative Christmas card we received one year. My friend Andrea---who not only taught with me, sang at our wedding, and was my roommate for a short time my first year of teaching (when she may or may not have had to live with me while I trained for marathons, dated a series of LAME dudes, and had to listen to my woes of the first year of teaching)--had a year in review, by the numbers Christmas Card. It kept her information concise, meaningful, and in her good math-teacher way, showed that NUMBERS ARE EVERYWHERE.

So here we are, Blog Challenge 2013-By the Numbers.

Number 1 is obvious, and that this challenge is 1 Lofty Goal for me as of late.

I have been struggling to find the time-gumption-creativity-balance lately. Not that there's nothing to write about in agriculture, I am just in the process of redefining my life as a part-time employee (who hasn't been to work in four days because of sick kids and Halloween parties), mother of children who demand my attention in different ways (Jack is currently winging toys at the TV while playing the harmonica, while Anna is reading a Percy Jackson book and asking what some words mean by shouting them from the other room, Josie is writing her birthday party guest list (Guess what the 27th topic will be??) and Amelia is begging to paint her fingernails, and it's before 7:30 in the morning...see why complete thoughts and grammar are not my forte today??), and the wife of someone who thinks I'm conspiring against him by organizing his office and mud room...when all I want to do is be able to Swiffer off the dead fly bodies and chaff from the flat surfaces without losing grain tickets and my sanity.

So, this couldn't have come a better time, right?

So Day Number 1 is 1 Lofty Goal.
I'm up for the challenge.
I can do this.
We always find things to talk about, don't we, friends?

So here's to 30 Days, By the Numbers. I ask for your grace during this time of creative muscle straining, and please check out Holly's blog for the rest of us suckers who are trying to keep up!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why Wouldn't It Rain?

Remember when it rained and rained.

Remember when it didn't?

Well, it's decided to be wet and soggy and foggy NOW, when we're in the midst of harvest, and don't ask me how much we have left (I was told it's still a lot, and we're not to discuss it). And, it's nearly Halloween, and my kids have colds, and they still want to trick-or-treat...

SO WHY WOULDN'T IT RAIN?

I'm coming to you today with the mind of someone who has had sick children, little sleep, and can't remember when I rescheduled today's orthodontist appointment for next week, but is too embarrassed to call the office AGAIN...so don't expect great things from this streamofconsciousness post.

However, I'm just giving you, dear readers, a tease...you see, Holly, my dear friend, has challenged us once again to make November a 30 Days of Blogging month.

And I , like a good blogger, agreed to join her.

but now...

WHAT WAS I THINKING????

however..

I'll be okay, but I figured I should warn you that your Confessions of a Farm Wife feed will be so active, you'll think I had a resurgence of creative juices. You'll think I was getting paid for this gig.

While Holly has already mapped out her blogs, I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. However, I needed a theme, so stay tuned. I'll be starting on November 1st, possibly suffering from a sugar induced coma and feeling pretty grouchy after my night of chasing kids while trick-or-treating...which, by the way, Josie wants me to dress up as a fashion designer (because she thinks I'm fancy), but I told her I was a single mom (sorry, Joe...just a funny)...

But, I just thought of something...if it's raining, Joe can help CHASE!! OH THE JOYS!!

Let's hope for just a little more drizzle, and a quick dry...then maybe I can pull off the fashion designer costume...

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Don't Go at It Alone

Harvest is a very busy time for our family.

Duh.

That is the understatement of the week. I woke up this morning, well before dawn, making a mental list of all the places I had to take people, food to prepare, appointments to make and keep, and I was tired.

And it was only 5:15 in the morning.

Anyway, it's now the precious afternoon time, when my big girls are still at school, my little ones are resting (although Jack is yelling from upstairs...I still call it "resting"), and I have had a really interesting morning so far.

You see, a while ago, I used to be a radio personality. Really? A radio personality? Well, maybe not so much a regular radio personality, but I was on the radio, and I do have quite a bit of personality. So my friend DeAnna, who was my meal ticket into the radio world, decided to switch her job to one with regular hours, unfortunately, off the air.

My career as a radio personality came to a screeching halt, and my two listeners wept.

Well, maybe not wept, but they did ask me what happened.

However, the farmwives still wanted to talk. DeAnna not only used me as a token farm wife, but the sparkly, smart Holly Spangler, of Farm Progress and Fulton County.

So we got to thinking...shouldn't we still talk? Wouldn't people want to hear (actually hear) what was going on in our operations?

I knew I had two listeners already, so why the heck not.

And here's the situation: we don't want to go through this alone. Holly has three busy kids, I have four, DeAnna doesn't have any yet, but we're all flying solo from our spouses during this busy time, and being women, we all need to process what it's like to be alone and work through what this harvest time does to our lives.

So that's what we're doing. We're processing through podcasts.

Yup. Podcasts.

What's a podcast?

Well, I am not for sure in technical terms, but I truly enjoyed the chatting aspect of it, and kind of forgot that we were recording our musings. DeAnna and Holly are two women who get where I am. They understand dinners that are late. Husbands that can't commit to anything until the last tractor has been pulled into the shed. They understand my shopping woes, and don't mind that my little guy was farming our carpet while we talked.

It was great, and we're lucky. You see, farming lends itself to bonds. That's why there's trucks lined up at the coffee shops in every small town, nearly every morning. That's why there's 4H Clubs, Farm Bureau Boards, FFA Alumni Chapters, etc. Farming is lonely, but that loneliness lends itself well to ties that bind us together in agriculture.

That's why there's stories like this, and this, and that's why the AgChat Foundation, among other groups, is banding together to help those in need during the aftermath of Winter Storm Atlas (read about that here). Entire herds of cattle were wiped out. People need help, whether it's financial, or just an ear to lend to work through losing most of their livelihoods. Imagine having to tend to a herd day in and day out, 365 days a year, in wind, wet, snow, and heat. Imagine pulling calves to save their lives and their mothers', and keeping them year after year, healthy, well fed, and grazing happily. Then imagine, in the span of hours, losing that entire stock. Not just the financial ramifications come to my mind, but the change in lifestyle would be enough to make someone who is "on call" 24 hours a day need to talk to someone.

Don't go at it alone.

Whether you're a young mom seeking comfort of other moms navigating toddler years, find a mom's group (believe me...been there, done that, needed it desperately). If you're a guy, it's harder to not be so touchy feely about needing to talk some things out, but try. Please, please try. Find a church group, a basketball league, a group of dudes to watch a baseball game (did you know the Cardinals are NEARLY TO THE WORLD SERIES??).

Don't go at it alone.

That's what today was about. In my dark, early morning thoughts, I was dreading my day. Now, I'm halfway through, and looking forward to hearing how we sound. I needed my talk today. I needed to hear that it's okay that I stink at gardening, am not the only one who online shops because where in the HECK ELSE DO WE GO (??), and struggles to find good meals that stay warm hours after the dinner hour has past.

We're lucky out here. Even though our address does not show up on GPS (Believe me, I just got off the phone with UPS), even though we are miles from neighbors, streetlights and stop signs, we're tighter than you would think with those in our same situation.

No one wants to go at it alone, and I'm so thankful to have found a place where I can unpack the vast lifestyle and information overload that is agriculture.