Thursday, February 27, 2014

Back to Reality


When we left yesterday, south Texas was feeling "arctic air " (read: 40 degrees…after two days in the 80s), but when we got off the plane in Illinois, we Illinoisans felt the true "arctic air."

6 degrees.

Welcome back to Illinois.

As we taxied, Joe checked his phone to find a message from the landlord about a new calf born in these sub-zero temps who needed a bottle of colostrum the minute we got back to the farm.

Welcome back to reality.

So, Joe dumped me off at home to unpack and ready for the kids to come back, headed to the calving barn, took care of that little scamp, and then headed back home to greet the kids, eat dinner, and go back out.

This morning, as we were watching for the bus from the east windows, our farm truck pulled in, right next to my landscaping (and now since the snow has somewhat melted off and subsequently frozen, a deer leg bone is next to the landscaping as well…can I go back to when I was fancy, just yesterday?), and a calf was being hauled into the basement, warm milk mixed up in a bottle, and it's currently bellowing and trying to get out of the penned area.


There goes my dreams of ever finishing that part of the basement.

(Oh, who am I kidding…that basement will NEVER be finished. I just hope there's a tight lid on my Christmas decorations.)

My point is, we had a lovely time away, but, like all of you regulars who travel, reality is as cold and harsh as the wind this morning. Farm life, especially, is hard to return to, but you just have to do it, or things, living beings, will suffer.

I'm hopeful that Joe returns soon, as my current reality of a bellowing calf and a curious two year old is enough to make me want to hop a plane tonight!

More on San Antonio when I'm not so distracted…you try writing with piles of laundry, calves and my boy Jack around!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Whoo Hoo…or Should I Say, Yee Haw???

Joe and I are readying ourselves for our trip to San Antonio, Texas tomorrow morning!


Maybe that's being too stereotypical.

Sorry, Texas.

I'm just excited.

Right now, it's eerily quiet around here. The kids have been delivered to Grandma and Grandpa's, early enough to get them settled and fed and bathed, and time for me to do last minute things.

You know, like a small dance that we're actually leaving. The state. Alone.

This is not just a fun trip, although, having never been to San Antonio, I'm excited for the adventure, as everyone who has ever been there loves it. I'm going to be a panelist for the Ag Issues Forum, sponsored by Bayer Crop Science. I'm so honored, honestly, and very humbled, and thankful, and a little nervous. I'll be sitting with Brian Scott from Indiana (who writes this amazing ag blog, The Farmer's Life…check it out, he uses a drone.) and Annie Shultz from Kanas (who writes Mama Dweeb). They are both interesting people, from what I have read. Huge twitterers…so I'll have to learn their secrets. Brian is a true farmer blogger. He's written for Eatocracy on and has amazing biotechnology posts that have schooled me to no end. Annie is the non-ag blogger, writing a healthy living blog while she and her husband and three kids live out in the country in Kansas. 

Then, there's me.

So it will be interesting.

I have a few must-dos, but a lot of fun things. So, be forewarned: your news from Confessions of a Farm Wife will be a lot. If you want, you could even follow me on twitter: @emily_webel, or Instagram: @emilywebel. I'll have lots of fun things…Lonestar is giving a private concert for our group. Hello??!! Welcome to my life in the 90s when I was new to country music!! All I need is a flannel shirt and leggings, and we've got a 1996 Barndance picture!!

Either way, I would covet your good thoughts for safe travel, good thoughts and prayers for my little people as they are not used to us being gone. Good vibes and energy for my parents…because my kids are exhausting. And, especially, very, very positive thoughts for the farm. We are in the midst of calving (and by we, I mean, of course, Joe), and there's just one more heifer left to calve. Then the rest are ol' mamas, and they can figure it out…we hope! Prayers that life on the farm moves on as we move south.

To where it's going to be 80 degrees on TUESDAY!! 

Yee haw!

Sorry, again, Texas…I'm just excited!

Bon voyage!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Bully Holding a Burrito

Don't get me wrong, this is not a post against burritos. I love them. If I were to pick what style of food I'd eat mainly, it would be of the burrito/taco/guacamole genre.

This, however, is about the bully holding aforementioned burrito.

I'm tired of him.

I'm weary of having to read, watch, digest, respond, keep my mouth shut, open my mouth, boycott, etc., etc. It's exhausting to have to constantly explain what we do, why we do it, and how we do what we're doing.

That's even exhausting to write.

Chipotle is the bully. They have created the 2014 version of Food, Inc., this time, naming it, Farmed and Dangerous. Cute, huh? Kind of sounds like a catchy title some novice blogger/farm wife would come up with, right?

That's the point. It's catchy. It's supposed to be satirical. However, we all know that in our marketing driven world of crazy consumerism, this satire will be seen as truth.

And it's already happened.

I have been receiving links of blogs and articles in regards to Farmed and Dangerous, but honestly, I haven't had the energy to even get involved in the discussion, until this morning. I read Ryan Goodman's blog on Eatocracy on (thanks for sharing, Holly). It's a well written, not too defensive, come and see me farm blog. The blog itself is good. That's not what caught my eye. It was the comments.

Oh the comment section. Otherwise known as anonymous evil gone to seed. Misinformation fertilizing misinformation (without using chemicals, of course).

If you have a minute, read the comments. One after another, folks are commenting on "natural farming," "being vegan," "healthy eating," "unsafe food." They're even using agricultural terms that I have NEVER heard of…and these people ARE NOT IN AGRICULTURE. I know I'm still relatively new to the whole ag gig, but when folks are just spewing buzz word after buzz word, I have to assume that their research was done on, not my gravel road.

This is the thing. We're trying, Chipotle. We're trying to get our story out. We're combating the misconception that farming is mean and nasty. However, you're not coming to my house. You're not banging on my door to see what Joe does on a day that starts in the low 30s with winds gusting in the 40 mph range. You've never asked any of my ag friends to come and join you in a sit-down, knock down, drag out discussion in regards to farming, and while, again, I'm new to ag, I know some pretty powerful ag advocates.

So my charge to you, Chipotle executives, is: put down your camera. Put down your dang burrito and come to my farm. Have a steak dinner with us and then head out to do chores. Real chores. Not a farm tour. Wear your grubbiest clothes and help pull a calf. Help unfreeze waterers one day and then wade through muck and flooded roads the next.

But stop tearing us down to bring your cause up.

Because you just look like a bully to me. A bully holding a burrito.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

We'll Celebrate…Tomorrow

So it's past nine o'clock, and I'm almost too late to write my loving husband his birthday post.

But, I'm going to make it, because even though it's been one of those days, I now finally have a minute to gather my thoughts and really reflect on Joe and his 39th birthday.

Mainly because he's gone to a meeting and the kids are asleep, but that's no matter.

Today was a crazy day, and while we celebrated with many, many renditions of happy birthday , thanks to our sweet boy, presents and candle clad doughnuts in the morning, our day was filled with the usual, and some unexpected extras, so we haven't had a chance to sit down and celebrate Joe.

And I'm feeling like that's fitting.

Fitting as I reflect upon Joe's past year. Fitting and wondering if postponing today's festivities is a reaction to the year he's had. Losing Joe's mom this fall has surely made this birthday hard, it was for me, so I can only imagine what it feels like for my sweet farmer. While his dad did a great job finding a cute and funny card for him, keeping up Karma's tradition of cheery birthday greetings, this is just hard. And putting it off one more day may make it easier.

However, today is the day, and through the rough patches of this past year, losing Karma, dealing with droughts and floods and cold and snow, we celebrate.

We celebrate my sweet farmer. My guy who never seems to have any time for anything extra, falling in a heap at the end of the day. I celebrate the future that year 39 holds, as we can only get better, right? Joe's had to endure a lot during this past year, so I feel as if he's due for a good year.

So, we'll celebrate that thought tomorrow, with ribs and yellow cake with chocolate icing.

That I will bake tomorrow.

Happy birthday, sweet farmer. I love you.

Monday, February 17, 2014

When You've Reached the End

Oh I'm a treat to be around.

I'd love to say that I'm out taking pictures of the beautiful, bountiful drifts of snow.

But I'm not.

I'd love to report that this next round of weather on a day off of school when we were scheduled to do just a few odds and ends didn't get completely thwarted because of sleet, ice, and inches of more snow.

But I can't.

I'd love to tell you that even my four year old isn't crying right now because I said the dirty words, "it's cancelled" again.

Friends, we're at the end of everything: we're done with winter, bundling up, trudging through snow and ice, failed weather predictions, cancellations, and we're also nearly out of CHOCOLATE MILK! Oh the terror!

I really hardly have anything else to report because I can't get any details out of Joe other than, "it's cold" and "snow stinks."

However, calving has started…lucky us! Our (and by our, I mean Joe's) best laid plans of calving later in the winter seemed like a genius plan. Heck, last winter, we had a total of 4 inches of snow. TOTAL. FOR. THE. WINTER. We had that, and more, on Friday.

Yeah (in a very weak voice).

We did drive through the barn lot last night, and saw our cute Betty, who would now be considered a toddler calf, frolicking in the late afternoon sun, enjoying the upper 20s that seem like 70s around here. Oh, you'd like a picture of that? Well, my phone was dead thanks to having the kids listen to the Frozen soundtrack, which, as of this moment, I have decided to ban our family from listening to, and I implore all of you folks out there who enjoy Idina Menzel as much as the next guy to completely stop until the snow is gone (Spanglers, I'm looking at you.).

BREAKING NEWS!! Anna just came in from morning chores (they have no school…not weather related, thank you Presidents), and reported they pulled a calf, named it Little Joe, and that it, and I quote, "hurts" out there. Ice pellets and cold. Sounds like fun, huh?


I promise, this will not become a whiny weather blog. I promise.

If it would just quit being crummy weather, I would stop.

The End.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Power (and Anonymity) of the Virtual Pen

So about three months ago, I wrote a blog about Dr. Oz and my feelings towards him. I was responding to my friend Katie's questions and got on a bit of a roll. While I'm not apologizing for my opinions towards Dr. Oz, I have had some comments, shares, recognition, eye rolls (I'm sure), and now a letter to the editor of FarmWeek in response to this blog.

I can take criticism. I had a mom who while wasn't "tough" per se, but did offer good advice that has allowed me to walk through this world with confidence, even though I'm not the greatest, best or most awesome human being alive. She always stressed that I was never going to the prettiest, smartest or best at every step of my life, but I should get over that hurdle and be the best Emily I could be.

Good advice, looking back…hard to hear when you're 16 and trying to figure out who you are in the first place.

These words have allowed me to navigate the tricky high school and college years, into my professional career, as a new wife and mother, and now onto the virtual world. I approach the blogosphere and Facebook comments with the confidence that while I'm entitled to write what I want on this blog, not all of you are going to agree with me at all times, and I'm okay with that.

No biggie.

However, I received a "head's up" email from one of the nice folks at FarmWeek who reprinted my blog a few weeks ago. A gentleman had written a letter to the editor in response to my Dr. Oz claims. The FarmWeek editor had attached the letter, and we exchanged pleasantries about the power of free speech, the pen, and those who differ from us.

But while I put myself out here, opening my feelings, our life, and, ultimately my opinion, and yet when someone comes out disagreeing with me, I tend to recoil a bit. I feel icky. I don't like it.

I write with humor to soften my firm convictions. I stand by my opinions, and truly believe that you don't have to agree with it. However, I am human, darn it, and when I receive negative commentary on Facebook, this blog or in print, it stings.

I shared with a friend that while I share a lot of what's going on with the farm, I rarely share close family goings on or the true inner, deep, dark issues of my heart on here, because it's just too hard to have someone respond to it via the anonymity of the virtual pen. It's easy to hide behind a pretty Facebook profile picture and respond. I'm guilty of it, too. It's easy for me to respond on other blogs in a critical way because nine times out of ten, I won't run into that particular author at the grocery store, the YMCA, or church parking lot.

But, as a writer, especially a blogger, we're naked out here. As a blogger, we post for all to see and, ultimately, all to criticize, because it's easy to click, type and submit. Much harder to march up, knock on the door, and ask for explanation (I challenge you to first find my house to ask me a question. I'd welcome you in and congratulate you with a cookie or something.). While I love all comments and questions because it means you're truly reading and digesting what I write, I still struggle with responses that are negative. The 16 year old comes out and wants to be the best, have the best argument, the right answer, the best defense. I can generally shake it off, but once in a while, it gets me. When I go out and speak and engage, I'm not afraid of controversy, so why does it bother me when folks type it out when they don't agree with me?

But in Mama Janet's words, "you'll never be the best, smartest, etc., so be the best YOU you can be."

So I will.

I welcome your comments. Thrive on your questions. I adore (note the sarcasm) being called out in a Letter to the Editor in a statewide publication. But what I would especially love for you  to show up on my doorstep and ask me a question (I'd be uber impressed by your geographical knowledge!).

Just let me know a few minutes in advance…I'll turn on the oven and try to part the shoe sea like Moses in the front porch.

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Cup Runneth Over, and Injured My Tongue

Today as I was unloading the dishwasher, I noticed something. My last big, plastic cup with a straw that I received as a thank you for giving birth at OSF St. Francis upon having Jack has a huge crack in it. I tried to fill it up and take a sip, but the crack is in the straw, so I may have injured my tongue in trying to salvage the 32 ouncer.

It doesn't fit in a cup holder.

It has a purple lid.

It even has words of symptoms associated with the birth process scrawled across it that makes Joe cringe as he stares across the dinner table at it night after night.

But today, I'll have to throw it away. I can't have an injured tongue…how would I talk, and next to drinking out of this cup, talking is what I do.

So it got me thinking, this week has been a pretty big week for us. We've made the jump from having nine years of having a kid in diapers to being a family that all uses the facilities correctly. I'm not going to go on and on about the details of this endeavor, but I will tell you that my lovely friend Kathleen is smirking, because I bragged upon potty training three girls before age two, and pretty much considered myself a really smart and potentially an expert at the subject. She reminded me in her good friend way that all children are different, and to just wait until we tried with Jack.

She was right.

If you do the math, you'll see that he's over half way to three…way past before two.

So my "smart mom/expert" title has been relinquished, and I'm just one of those parents who won't have a $200 Target bill at the checkout thanks to the lovely folks and Huggies and Pampers.

I think I have made a big step in my parenting journey. I'm done with babies. My cup runneth over with toddlers and elementary schoolers, but my baby cup's straw has broken, injured my tongue, so we're onto the next step.

The farm is like that. We're moving into calving season, officially. Night time checks, chains in a small cup in the back sink (don't ask, I don't either…), and the stress of it all are setting in. While this is Joe's "game time," and it's exhausting and hard and intense, when he finishes up in the spring (that's coming, right?), he'll take a step back and reflect on the fruits of his hard work and make a mental note of his progress as a livestock farmer.

Much like my reflection over the trash can this morning as I placed my OSF cup lovingly to be hauled away to that big dishwasher in the sky.

Regardless of where we are in life, stages ending and starting are just part of it. If I sat around and thought about it too much, I'd cry, so for now, I'll just remember all stages come to an end, in a good way (such as diapers…praise GOD!) and in a silly way like the significance of the cup. Calving will end, too, and in the thick, we'll all be stressed and short with each other, but in the end, it's all good. Everything comes back full circle.

Even if it means a trash can.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

There's Just Not Enough Anything Today

First, the Cocoa Puffs ran out (yes, I let my kids have those…is that bad?).

Then the "c" clips for the Rainbow Loom ran out, and we just have to deal with the "s" clips, and that's a tragedy.

Throw in the potty training child, add in the fights with the Wii, unmade beds, a cancelled hair appointment for myself, and my patience has RUN OUT.

The novelty of the snow has even run out. In fact, the novelty of the snow DAY has run out…my girls are used to four day weeks as of late, so this is just par for their course.

But this is not a grouchy mom blog. My audience is not interested with the loss of my patience or the fact that I feel like I need to bake AND eat goodies when we're snowed in.

This is a blog about life on the farm.

However, right now, life on the farm is hard. And cold. And snowy.

The morning chores are still going, and it's nearly 1:00 in the afternoon. You don't need to be too close to agriculture to realize that morning chores should usually finish in the morning.

But we will power through. DIY Valentines have been crafted. Fights over the scissors are now over. Children are playing nicely, after doors were slammed. The feed wagon has just been driven in, so lunch can be cleaned up.

And the snow will melt.

It will be above freezing some day, and the grass will green up, flowers will bloom, and we'll enjoy time outside without worrying about whether or not I can get Jack's snow suit off in time to make it to the potty.

I'm thinking spring, but there are too many warm, sunny memories for me to share in one post, and I don't have enough emotional stamina to share them all without making myself truly depressed.

Happy snow day.