Monday, September 28, 2015

Wild Kingdom- A Weekend Recap

Have I ever mentioned that I am not necessarily of the animal loving persuasion?

Don't get me wrong, fuzzy kittens are cute. Puppies are fun, too. Baby calves, showing cattle, pigs all piled up on their mamas, baby chicks, all those sweet country images inspire me to say, "Awwww. How sweet." just like the rest of you people.

However, getting up close and personal with the wild kingdom isn't what I like to do. I have been given the opportunity to have many pets since living out here, and by the grace of God, have not had to be the primary care giver, per se, although I do seem to be the prime pooper scooper, water giver, move-out-of-the-wayer, etc.

I'm digressing.

Anyway, our dog barks. A lot. He's a beagle, and I think a bit neurotic and afraid of the dark, so after hours, if you're tooling around our road, you may hear Joe hollering, "Walter...SHUT UP!" Walter loves animals in our yard at night (note the sarcasm), and now that we have these two kittens (Bolt and Joy...guess which one is the boy and which is the girl based on the names, and you'll be WRONG!), he feels a sense of purpose up on our porch at night.

Thus the treed raccoons we woke up to on Saturday morning.

Not just one, mind you, but THREE.

Is a weekend's mood predicted by the presence of three raccoons in your front tree?

For this weekend, the answer was yes.

So, Walter had done his job, treeing these furry rascals (my kids were convinced they would attack anyone who went out there, thanks to the movie, Elf.).

So, no one would venture outside in the early hours until our furry visitors exited the tree. 

Which they did, eventually. After a lot of yelling to Walter from the safety of inside the house. 

But our luck with the four legged didn't end there.

Joe, who was going to be headed to the field later in the day, and Amelia were loading up to go to a soccer game. Waving good bye, I sauntered out to the front porch to see if the kittens needed water (see? my job.). It was then that I saw one of the kittens very, very close to the wheel of our Yukon. Now, these kittens are sweet. They are frisky and cute and the kids have loved having them. But, you'd think after seeing car after car, truck after truck, and now semi after semi come through our driveway, you'd think that they'd learn to steer clear. 

Evidently, we have kittens who are either daredevils or not very bright.

Back to the kitten. As Joe pulled away with me yelling, "STOP!" I heard a loud yelp. 


I was sure the kitten was a goner. 

She ran to the cinder blocks stacked by our nearly completed front porch and laid down.

Oh. My.

Now, while I am not ever going to go to veterinary school, I do have a heart. Poor kitten. 

I went to check on her. Joe jumped out of the car. Dad came to see her. She looked like a goner.

So, I went inside and broke the news to the kids. We were sad, but as reported in previous posts, are quite jaded to the Circle of Life.

As I came out to assess the damage again, I was greeted by our obviously bionic kitten.

What, you say?

Yes, the CAT CAME BACK! 

She's fine. 

Honestly. We have stared at her, checked her, and made sure she was out of the way of the vehicles every time we have left since then.

This is all within an hour of my Saturday beginning, friends.

So, the weekend went on pretty smoothly considering how it began. Our church had a great party where our girls sang and played the guitar. The kids and I headed to the local racket...I orchard and overpaid for some country fun. But got some good doughnuts out of the deal, so I guess that's considered a wash.

And harvest. Oh glorious harvest. We continue to roll. Joe went and helped out his dad two hours south of us, hauling beans. Meanwhile, the farmers here rolled on, and evidently over a large sharp something, as my dad is currently outside with the mobile tire people repairing a HUGE flat on one of the semis. 

Maybe a flat tire is an omen for a week's events.

Kind of like a treed raccoon. 

Or three.

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Ironic Twist to Farm Safety Week

So this week was/is Farm Safety Week, and like Daughter's Day, I forgot to post about it (Sorry five daughters I have...I DO love you!). While it's imperative to be safe at all times on the farm, especially with children and PTO shafts and augers and combines and all that, I think it's also good to be protected from a political level as well.

With our new governor in place, we in Illinois thought we were being heard, safe even. Our new governor, who shall remain nameless, as I don't even want to utter his name, appointed great Director of Agriculture. The former Illinois Farm Bureau President and farmer, Philip Nelson was asked to join the staff, and the agricultural world in Illinois shouted, AMEN! My family is familiar and friendly with Mr. Nelson, as my dad has a working relationship with him. He's a great guy. A true class act. A farmer with a passion for policy and a working understanding of what it is truly like in the trenches of farm life.

Great, huh?

Well, not so much.

Because I live in Illinois, I am jaded to sketchy politics, so this should come to no surprise.

Phillip Nelson was forced to resign yesterday. Not a lot of details are coming out- shocker, I know-but I guess what hits me the most is that agriculture had a voice. It was being heard. Action was being taken.

We were safe.


Obviously farming is dangerous to life and limb thanks to big equipment, chemicals (gasp) that are used, and animals that do in fact outweigh folks by at least 1000 pounds. That's the easy definition of the dangers of farming and the importance of farm safety. However, the dangers of policy and bureaucracy and regulations and interest groups are becoming more and more of a threat to farmers.

So we need a voice.

We had a voice.

And that voice is silent.

I am so disheartened. I feel like the rug has been once again pulled out from beneath us as producers, and that in a state that is filled with combines and corn fields and cattle, we as agriculturalists are unheard. Silenced in the political realm thanks to our shady politicians and connection to that big city to the north (which I do love, sweet home Chicago, but there ARE families south of I-80).

Shouldn't Illinois try to not be a joke politically? Shouldn't we quit playing the game? Shouldn't we try to get the right people in and keep them there until the mess of our budget and state is complete?

Shouldn't we feel safe in our profession, the very profession that surrounds all of our big cities and creates jobs and livelihoods that are amazing and lucrative and last generations?

I have been an Illinoisan for my whole life, and embarrassed by it for my entire adulthood. We should feel safe and represented and want people to move here.

Not looking for a way to move out.

Share your thoughts. I feel like our voice is loud, but is not being heard, almost like we're yelling behind a Plexiglas wall. But those walls can be broken, and I urge you to use your voice, however you can, and bring our safe feeling, our feeling of being heard, back to the forefront.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Looking from the Outside, Technically on the Inside

Harvest has started. Have you noticed that? Followed any slow moving vehicles lately? Brushed any red dog off your car? If you're a city person, have you felt that nip in the air? That dry afternoon heat? That's good stuff, people.

Fall is here.

Harvest is here.

Yet, it's a whole new season, literally and figuratively, for us. Jack spent a wonderful afternoon in the combine after preschool with my dad and uncle. However, when he reported on his ride to Joe last night, he ended the commentary with, "but you weren't there."


This space where we are is still unfamiliar and strange.

What makes it the hardest is our location. We live in the heart of the farm, my family's farm. The combine comes to rest at night in our driveway. The big bin is filled, and fills my windowsills with red dog. There is not a time I should feel lonely out here during harvest. Yet, it's weird, because this year, I do.

We live out here, and yet we're watching from outside the lines.

That strange pang from spring of last year has come back to my stomach. The reminder that while our heart is in agriculture,--Joe teaches it, for heaven's sake--- we are now just country livers.


If I were to have told this to myself four years ago during my yearly harvest heart attack, I would have laughed, scoffing at the waxing poetic thoughts. Suck it up, Emily, you can have a date night during October now.

Regardless, we are still a farm family, just in a different role. While different is not necessarily always good or always bad, different is just different.

Here's the good: we will be back. I have this strange feeling, behind the weirdness, there's a sense of calm. I look back at the time we were in a magazine, singing the praises of being a farm family, and know that while our role is different, farming and farm life is something you can't run away from. My kids identify themselves as country kids. Jack has had a light bulb moment of all the coolness that is large farm equipment. Anna and Josie now are both working with show calves. I have a feeling that while our income may not come from the semi loads that are rolling in, there will be another chance to define ourselves as true farmers.

For now, we'll watch. We'll ride. We'll enjoy a date night in October, and we'll wait.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Beef in the 'Burbs

Team Beef Illinois was at it again this weekend.

My good running and cattle women friends, Christy, Jodi and Jill and I hit the road for a lovely half marathon along the Fox River. Along with our favorite Illinois Beef Association Staffer, Shelia, and friends with the Kane County Cattleman's Association, we were well represented.

So happy at the start line! From the right: Christy, Jill, Jodi and me.

All in the name of beef.

While it wasn't my greatest half marathon time, it was one of my most fun. Training in itself was a feat: I squeezed runs in between practices and performances. I ran while pushing my twins. I would often head out before dawn for long runs before church, and when I was desperate this summer, I would head out down our road, phone in hand while Anna would babysit (don't report me. Mama needs a break.). I focused on miles, not necessarily speed, and gauged my success by whether or not my skinny jeans fit. Here's my big win for this half: THEY DO.

Anyway, the purpose of this run was fun and advocacy. What was interesting about this, is that St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, all the towns we ran through are technically suburbs (and BEAUTIFUL ones, at that. Wow. Very enjoyable house watching as I ran shady streets with big yards and even bigger houses.). Sure, these towns were settled way before urban sprawl met them with a Starbucks influx and the Noodles and Company invasion on every corner. While folks who live in Kane County consider them suburbanites, I do too--any place within less than 20 minutes from a Pottery Barn is suburban to me. However, these towns have a big agricultural presence.

I'm digressing.

My point is, Team Beef was not just represented by myself and my three friends. Passing out top sirloin, fresh off a charcoal grill at the finish line was the Kane County Cattleman's Association.

The crowd was primarily suburban. These friends are true Chicago-suburbanites, stereotypes who gauge distance from anywhere in the suburbs and city in minutes. These folks cheered on the dude wearing a Bears jersey in front of me the whole time with great gusto. These people take the Metra downtown from the Park and Ride. Amongst all these folks was a large group of farmers, cattlemen, specifically. These friends gave up their Sunday morning, to serve real beef. They gave their name and money from their group to be a sponsor, so says my long sleeved tech t-shirt!

That's awesome.

Beef is in the 'Burbs, baby!

It's funny. Running for Team Beef the first few times, just in Champaign and in my home town, made me more nervous than running in this venue. Sure, this time I knew I was running with friends, for starters, but also the presence of farm life in this area was palpable. Old barns dotted the landscape amongst strip malls and cul-de-sacs. Farmsteads were converted to nurseries, using old barns as places to pick your fall mums and straw bales. Nothing says suburban like a straw bale. The young cattlemen representing Kane county were young, active advocates for beef, their corn fields mere minutes from a Crate and Barrel. These western suburbs have roots in farming, and the advocates and farmers in this area, specifically in this venue, beef is getting good press.

I was hollered at on the race route, not heckled. "We love it! Team Beef!"

One group of men runners teased me about packing steak flavored GUs at mile 10.


At the finish line, I was grabbed by a few runners, congratulating me on a good run, thanking me for pacing them in my red shirt.

That's pretty awesome.

I highly recommend finding something you love to do and pair it with a cause. It doesn't hurt that pairing my cause with a baked potato also makes it delicious.

Go Team Beef!
Done! And in just under 2 hours (unofficially...)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Don't Cry in Your Ribeye

Well, whew. Cattle showing season is done for us. Anna's run with her nice steer has come to an end, with the punctuation of a Reserve Grand Champion
(which is second overall)
(second to a really, really, really good one.)
(like, really, really, really good).

She was satisfied, and when he went to auction off, I watched her face.

My girl is made of steel evidently.

For those of you who were like me who thought show steers became pets and hung out happily living out their lives in a green pasture, ala the Psalms, you're living a LIE.
For those of you who are also like me who love their ribeyes cooked medium with some sauteed mushrooms and a side of garlic bread, you have to sell steers at their prime (no pun intended...I dislike prime beef).

So, Clyde was sold, generously purchased by a local bank with whom my grandmother has done business with for nearly a century (seriously...she's 101) (lots of parenthesis today), so we were happy.

But last night, as all the kids were tucked in bed, and I finally sat down to process the day, alone as Joe and Anna hopped back into the truck and trailer to buy another set of show calves in Indiana this morning, I got a little sad.

There's no secret that I am not a big animal person. Never in my life have I wanted to pet something unless it was laid out at Von Maur saying "please touch the merchandise." God's creatures are great and all, but it's just not in me.

However, when your kid is interested in something with all her heart, investing time and money and sweat and energy, you seem to take on this similar perspective. Anna loves her show animals, but is a realist. This is where she's more Joe than me. She led Clyde into the ring to be auctioned off with confidence and realism. She knew going into this process that he would be sold and led to the locker to be made into beef for our freezer or someone else's.


How many ten year olds have that in their life skill set?

I didn't.

I still don't, really.

But, you won't find me crying in my ribeye in a few weeks. While Clyde gave us a good run this summer and fall, he will add  to both Anna's checking account and our freezer. We'll look at the pictures and ribbons and trophies from a fun summer. I'll remember her face at Fairview, first taste of winning, and her face when he was misbehaving, hurt from being rammed into the gates, willing herself not to cry.

Life is a cycle, friends. Animal rights activists may beg to differ, citing this as cruelty, but there's not a lot of arguing to be had about this. There are times to reap and times to sow, and that applies to animals, too.

Especially when they are served with a butter cream sauce and baked potato on the side.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The End of the Line

So. We're into September. Can you believe that? Last week, I completely felt it. I was ready. The weather was perfect. Jeans, flats, running in crisp morning air. Lovely.


94 as the high and 1000% humidity. This weather mocks me. Reminding me that, "Hey, remember you live in Illinois? Sweet, fickle weathered Illinois? September is still summer, sucker!"

It's been hard these past few days, as the kids are not excited to be outside, cue the fighting after school, and our poor carpenter is putting house wrap on our porch project in the middle of the day, trying not to succumb to heatstroke. With the crazy weather comes the ever present threats of storms. But today, there was a little knock was on my door, and I realized who it was, I was so excited!!


Yes friends, nothing says you have arrived in your late thirties when you're excited for your hard wired, continuous, you'll-never-know-the-power-has-gone-off GENERATOR!!!

Yes, I'm that excited, and here's why. We are the end of the line. The power lines from town (which is just a mere 5 miles away) finish up about 10 feet from my driveway. So, when a power outage comes, guess who is the last to see the sweet, sweet folks from Ameren?

The Webels.

Lucky us, huh?

I'm not knocking the power company. They do a job that I could never do, and one that I could also never do without. Case in point: one week after Amelia (our third) was born. Here's the short version: straight line winds, tree into lines, power out. Power out for nearly a week. Country house with three kids under four, one being a one-week old with NO WATER OR POWER OR AIR CONDITIONING = one crazy mama. Did I mention my parents also had no power, and some sort of stomach bug that resembled the plague?

So, we contemplated a generator.

For a long time, evidently, as Amelia is now in first grade. However, a finished basement and all that has been invested into that (plus, we don't want our kids to float away, thank you sump pumps!), so the finishing touch to our house (besides grass and landscaping...minor details) is a generator.

The good folks from RKE came out today, and as I was planning my day yesterday, Joe proclaimed they would have the power off for maybe 15 minutes, 30 minutes tops.


The electrician said two to three hours, maybe.


As excited as I was to have this generator placed lovingly in a rather conspicuous location (again, we need bushes), I was NOT excited to have no power on a hot day with three kids, one of whom just threw up on the carpet and needed a bath (Thanks for that, sweet Caroline). Have I mentioned we have no water when we have no power. Those country folk readers are nodding their heads, but this town girl had no idea one couldn't flush during a power outage. Who knew?

So, after begging the men for five more minutes, running frantically shutting off lights and ceiling fans, checking to make sure the laundry wasn't running or the dishwasher, I was packed up and ready to head out of here to enjoy the cool of the Discovery Depot Children's Museum as my Generac was being set up.

Lo and behold, we are still the end of the line, but I will laugh at you, power outage! I will scoff in the face of a storm. I will watch my TV (unless the satellite runs out), charge my phone, and even do laundry as other less fortunate folks curse the good folks of Ameren, because, we now have a big ol' generator.

Life at the end of the line is good!

***this post was not affiliated with Generac, however, if Generac would like to give us our generator for free, I'll sing a little song I made up about how much I love power and water and generators!***