Monday, May 27, 2013

Corn Growth Journal, Week Two

These pictures are deceiving.

First of all, there’s no kids.

Second of all, it’s sunny.

Don’t worry, the kids are still around. They will be around A LOT more, as school wrapped up this last week. The girls all had a great year, and I’m looking forward to not having to pack lunches or rush around in the morning.

But, I digress…back to the corn.

We’ve had a lot of rain since Saturday, not as much as our neighbors in the northern part of our county, who have reported via Facebook four inches…but in Iowa, there are folks who have had up to TEN.


Anyway, these pictures were snapped on Thursday, as the sun was setting, and while the kids were around, they were bathed…all of them, and, let’s be honest, I didn’t have the energy to get them out there and potentially rebathe them. So, Joe’s the measurement tool this week. We thought we’d get out there this weekend, but thanks to crazy rain, we haven’t ventured across the road.


Joe has a more detailed caption of this picture, but since he’s out of the house, you’ll have to settle for my layman’s terms. The corn on this day had just “spiked.” Its leaves had not unfurled, even though as of today, they have. The color is a little more lime green than the deep green most readily associated with corn plants. This is because photosynthesis has not yet occurred. It will, don’t you worry, and I’ll snap a picture when it does, and you’ll walk around, telling your friends all about the wonders of science, right?

You’re welcome.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Corn Growth Journal 2013

And...we're back!!

We're going to try this again, hopefully with more success and more rain this year. Last year at this time (well, Joe will tell you it was a little earlier, but details, details...), we decided to document the growth of our corn in relationship with our sweet, also ever growing kids. This year, we're going to try it again, and we'll hope to not be so darned depressed by the end of the summer. I am getting nauseous just thinking about the drought...

So, on to happier things: pictures of CUTE KIDS!!

The birthday boy!
Week #1

Each week we'll be sharing pictures of this particular field, south of our house (last year's was north, so here's to a new location, friends!). Joe just finished planting this field yesterday afternoon. So today is that day that we all feel relief. We're all happy that this is in the ground. Corn is a time sensitive plant, it needs a certain amount of growing degree (heat) units in order for it to achieve maturity. If you miss that window, you're out of luck, and by the grace of God, we finished under the wire. 


So, as I posted before, we were able to breath a sigh of relief because of the corn being planted and enjoyed cake and ice cream and goofy tractor pictures with the kids today.

Here's to another year of ups and downs, I'm sure, but here's to the promise of more ups.
Stairsteps on the steps...

Posing in front of the "biiiiiig one," according to Jack.

Batteries Not Included

A little over two years ago, we found out we were expecting a bouncing baby boy. I figured I was somewhat prepared. I already had three other kids, one of them quite a tomboy, so how different could a boy really be?

Two years later, I’m eating my words. 

I now am a sweaty mess, as I chase our boy through our friend’s yard. I’m constantly dodging thrown balls, swung bats, and have nearly lost toenails from the wheels of tractors that seem to constantly be planting, harvesting, mowing, checking cows, etc. as I am making dinner.

So why wouldn’t we purchase him an enormous battery powered John Deere tractor with a loader and a backhoe? Why wouldn’t I want to give my already quite speedy toddler wheels to ride and most likely steer poorly?

Because, for the past week, whenever Jack was asked about his birthday, whether it was the cake or the presents or anything, the answer always included tractors.

“Tractors on it” (the cake).
“Tractors in it” (the presents).
“Big tractors” (in a pleading tone….).

So, off to Farm King I went, alone because Joe was planting, and purchased this piece of equipment. Thankfully, it was one of the last ones, so it was fully assembled. When I brought it home, I told Joe that bit of good news and reminded him to plug in the new battery.

That was Wednesday.

This morning, Sunday, with great pomp and circumstance, the tractor was unveiled, and boy was Jack thrilled! As he climbed on and grabbed the steering wheel, he asked, “I go on grass?”
Well, it was 6:30 in the morning, so no, but as he pushed the pedal, I realized it was a BIG FAT NO, as we (and when I say we, I mean JOE) had forgotten to charge the battery.


However, our kids are parented by the belief that  disappointment breeds character, and also makes for a good story, right? So, Jack has enjoyed the new tractor, the big tractor, in our living room, pushing the buttons that take double A batteries, and have heard us talk up how fun it will be to ride this piece of equipment…


Thankfully, Jack just rolls with it. Although it may seem he has received the short end of the birthday stick, he had a great day. This crazy spring has caused us great issues, planning issues, stress issues, when to buy groceries and what to buy issues. We have had no birthday party planned because no corn had been planted, by either side of the family, until just a few days ago. Until yesterday, when we finished (and when I say we, I mean JOE), I didn’t even have a cake baked. 

That’s the story of this spring.  Forgotten details thanks to late nights and lack of sleep. Details skipped because of lack of planning time and definite answers. Last minute everything.

No matter, though. Today ended up being a special day, nonetheless, and not because of a crazy fun impromptu birthday carnival we put on. It was because we made a conscious effort to make this birthday more about time together, and remembering this day, this stage, and this sweet little chubby cheeked boy in all his tractor glory. Although we kept busy, we spent time squirting each other with squirt guns. We had a gourmet dinner of Casey’s pizza and cake, and that couldn’t have been more perfect.

Our baby is two. He’s a big guy, soon to be on motorized wheels (just a few more hours of charging left!), and we couldn’t be happier.

We love you, Jack, and we know that there are so many more fun things to come your way, and next time, we’ll try to remember the batteries!

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Morning in the Country

Birds chirping happily in the early morning sun.
Leaves rustling in the gentle breeze.
Calves playing on the hillside as their mamas watch, grazing in the green grass.
Seems like what a country morning should be, right?

Then, one catches a whiff of diesel fuel...
The VRRRROOOOOMM start up sound of a tractor.
Farmer Joe's laugh as he greets the man delivering fertilizer at 6:00 in the morning.
The sound of Jack's agonizing cry as I drag him in for the third time, peel off his rubber boots and explain to him that it is 6:15 in the morning, and NO we are not going outside yet.
Dust settles on all my dark furniture as yet another tractor drives by our house.

My brain nearly explodes as I realize Anna's homework was not completed thanks to our unreliable country internet service.

These are the true sights and sounds of a country morning, people.

We're hopping early this morning, thankfully, as not only has the weather cooperated for corn planting to be going great guns, but my cousin graduates from college tomorrow, so plans have been made for mandatory ceremony attendance from her father (the primary planter driver, and my uncle), and Jack will be two on Sunday, so there's the potential of a small-ish party for him in celebration of his special day. Plus, I think I need to mention again that THE WEATHER HAS COOPERATED!!!

There's a frantic pace behind the sights and sounds of the country morning, because, although THE WEATHER HAS COOPERATED (I feel like that has to be in all capitals), there's always the potential that it won't. Behind the loud start up of the tractor is Joe, hustling to finish chores so he can plant his corn. The guys began today way before dawn, disrupting the break of dawn light with headlights as they began to plant in the wee hours. They're trying. There's a timeline. There's Mother Nature. And then there's just the will to get this stupid crop in the ground so we can quit worrying about it.

My hope is that our country morning tomorrow will be a bit more peaceful. I'm hoping to enjoy the birds singing, the dawn breaking, and the fresh air like we country folks should.

I'm also hoping Joe will be around to help me spread mulch, but that's maybe stretching it!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Finding a New Normal...For Now

Yesterday was an exciting day for the farmers. On one of our farms, the rain amount was far less than what was received here closer to our house. That meant...


Oh happy day! The machinery was actually PUT to use. The guys were hustling from the morning hours until deep after Dancing with the Stars had finished.

It was a good day.

However, upon heading to bed, Joe reminded me that he'd need to leave early in the morning to either help get started or finish his cattle chores before more planting commenced.


In my sleepy state, I reminded Joe that I have a standing running date with a very reliable running partner.

Then he mentioned softball, which he is the head coach.

Uhh...oh boy. Here we go.

All in stride, Emily...all in stride...

My smartiness changed to sadness and then shifted to reality as I came to the realization that nothing in farming is constant, much to my control-freak scheduled, Type A personality's dismay. I have had to shift nearly everything in my life once I have become a farmer's wife: from PTO activities at school, not singing at church because of calving season, declining offers to vacation with friends because of harvest, so I'm kind of used to it, but when it begins to upset my "everyday" things...

I tend to get agitated.

However, this is the new normal. This is what is going to be the schedule, but only for a little bit, thanks to the ebb and flow of busy-ness in the agricultural field (literally and figuratively). I will survive...I guess, skipping my early morning adult conversation and run for a jog stroller run with a stop at the park (because the kids want to, and not because I'm pushing nearly sixty pounds, right???). The softball team is fortunate to have an understanding assistant coach, and they are ages 8 and under, so it's not like the Olympics. I can tailor my meals to those that still taste okay after being reheated. The kids miss their dad when he works long days, but I will relish the scene played out when he comes home and they come running. That's worth it.

I feel like I have to pep myself up every spring and fall, but I have always come through, unscathed, and get back to my usual routine...

until the next season.

Friday, May 10, 2013

In Honor of Mother's Day- Guest Post

*Blogger's note: Farmer Joe is in the house today...literally. It's raining again, and again, and again, and while that is not good for our unplanted crops, for his mother, Karma, it means a thoughtful tribute to a loving mom. Happy Mother's Day, early, to all you moms out there.

Here’s to you, Mom

Mother’s Day is nearly upon us again.  For a farm family, the timing of Mother’s Day (likely right in the middle of planting/spraying/sidedressing/haying/you-name-it) is wildly appropriate, because we treat the holiday just as we’ve treated our farm moms their whole life.  If it’s handy, and we’re not busy doing any of the aforementioned activities, and we thought about it ahead of time, we’ll stop for an hour and half and give mom half of our attention before we rush back to what we were doing before.  If we are too busy, we’ll celebrate it another time, maybe- woefully inadequate efforts in which Mom probably has to do much of the work herself to get it together.

I grew up as the oldest of four kids, all two years apart.  Dad and Grandpa were the real-deal livestock farmers- up and going at 5:30 am and working until dark or after much of the year.  I grew up wanting to go with Dad and Grandpa as soon as I was able to help out with whatever I could on the farm.  Mom was the person who made sure I had all of my schoolwork done, and made me go to things I didn’t want to go to when I could be doing “farm things”.  I had to go help with the grocery shopping because it was my job to push the grocery cart (at 6 or 7 years old) when she was the pushing the cart full of three other kids.  She always managed to have a meal on the table, kept our small house together, and was involved in all of the school, church, and 4-H activities: that was our family life.

Looking back now, this was in the mid-70’s to mid-80’s.  A young family of six trying to make a living on a small farm, in a small house, for little money and a lot of work.  Mom and Dad sacrificed a lot to get where they wanted to be for our family.  When we were little, I don’t remember hardly ever going anywhere- out to eat, out on the town, etc.  I remember one night being in Quincy after dark with all the streetlights and store signs.  One of the kids said, “This must be what Las Vegas looks like!”  Talk about na├»ve!  We didn’t “get out much,” but we appreciated what we had, even if we didn’t have what some others did- I never seemed to notice too much.  I especially didn’t notice the fact that Mom and Dad were working their tails off to earn and save to raise a family of four kids.  

Funny how you start to notice things about your own childhood when you have kids of your own.  Looking back, I see that throughout my childhood “Hero Worship” of my Dad and Grandpa and the life on the farm, I grossly under-appreciated my wonderful Mom for all that she did for not only us, but everyone around her.
Mom always made sure all of her kids felt special.  If one of us got a compliment for some achievement, she’d be sure to pipe up with how one of the other kids was good at some other thing.  This was annoying at the time if you were the one getting complimented, but now with four of my own, I can understand the whole “I’ve got three others that are pretty awesome, too!” pride mentality.

Mom always made sure that you treated everyone with respect- adults, other kids, pretty much anyone.  You didn’t have to like everyone, but you would treat them with the same respect you would expect yourself.  You were expected to behave yourself better than everyone else, but never to think you were “better than anyone else.”

Mom has always been a caretaker.  She has been one of God’s Angels for so many people of that community when they’ve gone through some illness, or don’t have any family close by.  She visits those in the nursing home, stops by to visit an elderly person living alone, or drives someone to their doctor appointment- All this while helping out my sisters and their tribes of four kids as well!   

Always so giving.

In October of last year, Mom started to not feel well.  She couldn’t eat anything, felt sick, and just wasn’t herself.  In December we got our cozy little perfect world rocked with the news that she has stomach cancer.  As usual, Mom was the strongest voice of courage, faith in God, positivity and confidence that she could be.  As my sisters and brother talked amongst ourselves over that next few days, I noticed all of Mom’s wonderful qualities in my brother, sisters, and myself.  We were encouraging and strong because that’s what Mom would be for someone else.  Throughout the treatments, my sisters have been absolute rocks for the entire family- going to treatments and Dr. appointments with Mom, taking care of our older relatives, which Mom was doing before, and generally just getting things done, all while taking care of their own families.  Just like their Momma taught ‘em.  

My brother has worked to pick up as much of the farm load that he can while Dad helps take care of Mom, and has a caring, giving heart like no other.   As the only member of the family “outside the compound” I’ve felt pretty helpless throughout the ordeal so far, but just like Mom, I’ll tell you how proud I am of the rest of my family for all of the things they are doing so well!

So this Mother’s Day, I’ve realized that a card or flowers or some trinket just doesn’t do justice to what my mom means to me.  The real gift to Mom is reflecting on to others what she has given to all of us- in our character, our giftedness, and our strength in the face of adversity.  So here’s to you, Mom!  We know that we make you proud (you tell everyone!)- it’s because you’ve taught us well!  Love you!