Monday, November 24, 2014

Ticking Things Off the List

It snowed a little last night. Nothing like upstate New York (which is now flooding...and I think I have problems. Sheesh.), but it snowed nonetheless. So, this morning, after kids were loaded on the bus, I spent time (read:money) ordering snow boots for my kids (Land's End is 40% off today!)...and a pair for me (thank you, Athleta gift card!).

One thing off the list.

Are you a list maker?

I'm psychotic about it. In college, my roommate would tease me about my overabundance of post it notes, many of them planning my day, hour-by-hour, including time slots to eat and shower. I was a little crazed, but I rarely forgot to shower, because my list told me to!

Anyway, I still make lists.

Yesterday, our list included such fun things as organizing the craft closet and, while I don't make a note to shower, laundry is always on my list. My girls were able to make a "fun" list, too, once they got their chores done.

Our life is like a list right now. Since finding out about the babies, Joe switching jobs, and our house project, our list seems to be never ending. However, there are things that have been ticked off the list:

1) Babies born (check)
2) School started
3) House jacked up (check)
4) Cattle sold (check)
5) Harvest completed
6) House set back down (check)

Did you catch #4?
Cattle sold?
What the?
Aren't we a "working grain and livestock farm?" Isn't that what this blog is all about.

Well, here's the deal: Sometimes, life doesn't work out the way you plan, no matter what's on your list.

What a prophetic statement, huh? I'm so deep.

But seriously, there are times when you have this plan, and you think that you have all your ducks in a row, and then...

Not so much.

This is us and our farming agreement. While Joe had an excellent herd and a good working relationship with our landlord, sometimes, plans change. People change, and life gets in the way.

Farming is hard, friends. For those of you in agriculture already, you know this. You know the feeling of being a slave to the weather, following markets as they rise and fall, the feeling of pride as you look out at your crops or animals, and the feeling of fear as you watch a storm roll in. You know the exhaustion from a long night of calving in the cold, the tug when you're working and want to be home. The rewards are great, and the risk is even greater.

Joe felt this. All of this. We first started when he was working his corporate job. We had a hired man. We had flexibility. In time, this flexibility waned; the corporate job thinned and farming took over our life. While that's not all bad, for some, it's too much. Joe likes to be in control, and in farming, there's little one can control.

So we persevered. We tried. Joe built his herd into a great one, but it felt like the list could never be completed. There was always so much to do, so little time, never enough money, and when you can't ever feel "done," you can't ever get away. It can wear on one's psyche.

When the ag teaching position opened up, Joe carefully considered all his options. He made a list. He decided to make a go of it, and try to keep up with the farm as well.

That's a list not even worth making, as it's impossible to tick anything off of it, especially with a wife, twins on the way (at the time) and four other active kids who love their daddy and his time.

So, he made another list.

One that included walking away.

That was hard to swallow.

However, from my short time of blogging and being a part of agriculture, I have come to realize that to be involved in ag, one doesn't have to just have a list that includes checking calves and buying seed. Agriculture is a career genre that encompasses so much more, and is more of a lifestyle than just a "job." I have blogged otherwise, but have become wise thanks to my interaction with other non-farmer ag people.

So, a few weeks ago, Joe ticked off list item #4: selling the cattle. His half of the herd. Two nights at the sale barn, a great financial reward for the hours and days and years spent on these animals,

and a big lump in our throat.

It's weird.

Our list has changed.
Our life has changed.

Yesterday, we didn't go to church (again), but Joe and Jack played Batman and watched Sesame Street together.

They've never done that.

While I know that Joe likes his list to be full, this time to just breathe and enjoy the children we have and the job that he has from Monday to Friday is precious.

We'll be back in the cattle business, however. The kids will still show, as arrangements have been made with a neighbor for Anna's show animals until our space has been built. And, like many careers, cattle farming is something that's in your blood, and you can't get out.


Joe's list may have changed a bit, but our goal here to keep you all abreast of what life on the gravel road is like won't change. I'm grateful that while we may be stepping out of the production side of agriculture, we are still invested in the ag community, and that's what's awesome about it. There's no list of requirements to be welcome as a member of the agriculture community. Once you're in, you're in. No items to tick off to enter.

And I'm so grateful for that.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

One Year, Two Babies, and a LOT of Change

One year ago, we were in a place that we knew was inevitable, but still were not prepared for.
One year ago, we were experiencing emotions, navigating the pain through our children's reaction, trying to be strong for them and for each other.
One year ago, we were driving to be with Joe's family, sifting through pictures, choosing things that weren't fun to choose, and accepting food. Lots and lots of food.
One year ago, we lost Karma, Joe's mom. It almost seems like it happened a week ago, for me, as I can remember weird details. What I was wearing, the look on my sister-in-law's face when she found certain pictures that made her laugh, and cry, the smell of the house with food and family and Karma's cleaning products mixed together. It's strange.
However, it also seems like ten years ago. Babies born, job changes, house remodels, and some insignificant changes make this day seem like an eternity away.
Nevertheless, today is similar to the feeling I had one year ago. Joe's family is amazing. They are strong. They are close, and they are loving. So today, like one year ago on November 20th, I don't know how to be supportive. When a family is strong and tough and loving and close, when you're a puddle and (this year) horribly hormonal, how do you show your support without seeming like a mess, still? She wasn't my mother, but she was like my mother. Joe and I are so busy right now, I hardly know what to talk to him about that doesn't involve carting kids around, appointments, plumbers, drop or non-drop ceilings...etc.
So here I am, writing, because although I generally have no problem talking to anyone about anything, this is hard.
Maybe it's because so much good has happened, and she hasn't seen it. Maybe because she's still here, in little things and big (like Caroline's bald head...her mother said so! ). Maybe because I still don't know what to say when Josie shares that she misses her Grammy and asked last night at choir practice for the Christmas concert for the choir to pray for us today.
Oh the heart strings. Pulled taut already, proud and sad.
Anyway, before I become more of a puddle, here's some cuteness and progress to share in honor of my sweet mother in law. She loved babies, and loved HGTV, and I feel like we're a great representation of both right now!
photo credit: Amy Davis Photography
We had a photo shoot with my sweet running partner (I've been given the go ahead to go on a run, and I CAN'T WAIT...but it's now 2 degrees to I will wait!) and friend, Amy Davis. We had so much fun trying to keep the girls asleep, then awake, bows on, then was a hoot, and aren't they adorable?
Oh friends...sweet, sweet friends. Do you know what these stairs mean? They mean that PROGRESS IS A-COMIN'!! We are now in the phase of our basement remodel that means we will have water and heat because the plumbers and HVAC dudes won't fall to their death from the utility entrance when starting to re-install our water and heat! Can I get a WHOOOOOHOOOOOOO????????

Small changes and big, this year has been one for the books, for sure. While we rejoice babies and steps, we also remember Joe's mom, and honor her today.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Survival, Harvest, and Working Toilets

There is a need for a big poignant post, explaining truly what's going on here on the farm.
But today is not that post.
Today is fluff, because I do not have the mental capacity for a statement post, because all I really want is a toilet that flushes, someone to not walk in while I'm nursing, and heat. Oh, glorious heat!
So, here's some fluff:
First of all, harvest. Remember that? Remember that this blog is agricultural?
Oh, yes.
Harvest 2014 should be wrapped up today. With a big bow. And a cherry on top. Joe has not had a big role in harvest this year, as he is at school all day, but my dad, uncle and cousins have been going great guns. Typically, we head to our local elevator a mere five miles from roughly anywhere we farm. However, this elevator has received a major facelift, and wasn't operational until last week. Big sigh to the stupid wet summer and its influence on all things construction (GAH). Anywhoo, Dad had to haul all over God's country to get the bumper crop somewhere that wasn't our full bins. However, I hope that alongside a big explanatory post, we'll have a collective hallelujah from our corner of the country that we're done TONIGHT.
How's that for a cliffhanger?
Secondly, our house. We are no longer "floating," as Jack says, but are set back down on the new foundation, and if everything goes as planned, should be back in the HVAC and soft water business in just a few days/weeks. All of you who are either in construction or who have built anything are laughing.
That's why I am typing from the comfort of my mom and dad's house. I had had enough on Saturday. When the plumber never came back to turn on the valve for my hot water to the kitchen and laundry, and I was washing breast pump parts in my bathroom sink, only having the dude come in and mention they had hit our phone/internet line while digging the absolutely necessary new septic system, and I had to drag my son back inside, as there were 53 ways to die in our yard. I HAD HAD ENOUGH. So, an hour and a half of packing later, the kids and I headed to Mom and Dad's where we have enjoyed the comforts of home (like heat and hot water), and I have been sleeping on my Mickey Mouse pillow ca. 1980.
I do have to toot my own horn for a bit. I feel like I have done well, despite the craziness. I have held it together despite giving birth to preemie twins who had to stay in the NICU for nine days. I have held my craziness in despite the four kids who need me to run them to their various activities. I have a great support team, don't get me wrong. I can't do this alone. Between Joe and Grandma and babysitters...we were doing fine. However, when your job becomes solely to feed, clothe and bathe children, and you have a house where you cannot do those without baling water in an ice cream bucket from one sink to the other, and your floor is cold enough you wonder if socks and slippers and shoes would be a good option, you may have had enough...for the time being. My husband is rolling his eyes at my lack of ability to rough it, but considering there's never been a time that I haven't lived without cable TV, I'm not known to be able to rough it. At all.
So, here we are.
In other news...The babies are doing well. Growing, gurgling, sleepingeatingpooping...the kids are taking this all with good, age appropriate responses. Jack is ornery as all get out, and is happy to be with his people...Grandma and Grandpa. The girls like pretending to be town kids, and I am enjoying having a break once in a while when Grandma whisks kids here and there.
And Joe? How's Joe, you ask? Joe, if you're reading this, I'd love to see you. He's been holding down the fort, keeping our pipes from freezing and being the ultimate multitasker, and teaching America's youth and trucking grain when he's not on the clock. We'll look back at this and laugh, right? In the meantime, happy 12 years of being together, as we marked that date yesterday...only I remembered it by a Facebook post that the girl I used to babysit wrote about her birthday, which made me remember we got engaged on her birthday.
So, I sent Joe a text.
This is where we are, friends.
Survival mode. No frills. Just survival.
So, bear with me...and enjoy blogs from other excellent writers, such as Holly and her 30 Days Campaign, which includes my friend Katie. They are highlighting some pretty amazing people.
I am not one of those, as I cannot even keep it together to remember to make my bed, and it's 11:30 in the afternoon.
Either way, happy's to a new week and working toilets!