Tuesday, July 28, 2015

War of Words

Since leaving the part time work force, I have realized that I have become obsessed with words.

In particular, I have become increasingly aware that my good vocabulary, minor in English in college, and my writing have become somewhat stifled. Although placed a lovingly second to my family, my need for communication in a professional manner has come to an almost complete standstill.

Thus, the use of really big and fancy words in the past few sentences.

However, since heading back to the stay at home mom field, I have been able to catch bits and pieces of news reels, magazine articles, and I have even read quite a few books this summer. Yay, me! I have noticed, however, that our world is increasingly obsessed with labels, words, knowing what something is called, and being able to point out and name where it originated.

With this information, I have also come to the conclusion that Americans today are really, really, really, really big on current words. The word adorbs adorns my daughter's Justice t-shirt. Selfie was announced as a new addition to the Webster's Dictionary. These words, however, are fake. They should not be in a college paper, published work in a journal, nor should they adorn any t-shirt other than someone under the age of ten.

I'm looking at you, Wal Mart patrons.

In terms of food and farming, words are toxic. Words can be scary. We were trained, early in my advocacy in agriculture, to rarely use the word production. Fertilizer, insecticide, fungicide....also kind of scary.


And livestock farmers? Forget about using words like feedlot and antibiotics.

So here's my question, since when did we become so hypersensitive about words? Why in the commentary of different columns, blogs, articles, and the like are people deemed shills? I had to google (another new verb) the word shill to even know what the heck I was called. Evidently, I'm a Monsanto minion.

And it's not limited to just commentary. Labels on food that are trying to be more information are just placing old words into new concepts. Just today, I saw a commercial for the "all natural" burger at Hardees. Really? All natural? First of all, you're eating at Hardees. Secondly, what does that really mean? What it really does is confuse the rest of the menu, labeling this burger as better than the other, even though all are probably crazy high in sodium, and, might I mention again, you're eating at Hardee's. 

My list could go on and on, but my point is this: choose your words wisely, and don't believe all words are created evil. Just because we use antibiotics in our beef cattle doesn't mean that we are trying to juice them up and sicken the world. Ask questions before you use words like shill or minion, or claim that my family's farm is not sustainable.

Words are powerful, meaningful and can be misinterpreted. So, when you're reading an article and are ready to respond, choose your words carefully.

And when you're posting a selfie, make sure it's adorbs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Flipping a Switch

Did you know that we show cattle?

My friends and family are saying, "duh," as this is all Joe and Anna have done for most of the summer. Chores, brushing, washing, walking, then loading, packing, washing (clothes and cattle), braiding (this is my job), unloading, waiting, walking. I have joked that if I would put a show calf in the basement by the unpacked boxes, maybe we could finally get the last steps of our project finished.


Now, I know very little about showing cattle. Anna has now showed for two seasons. I was a 4Her, but the cattle barns and those kids who showed animals were just strange to me. I didn't get the ribbons in the back pocket. I didn't understand the dirty jeans. Who would want to stand in the heat and scratch a calf's belly? My dad was the livestock superintendent for our county fair, but I only went to see if Uncle Dean had a gold card to get on rides for free and check out some of the cute boys. I know, pretty sad, huh?

Then I starting dating Joe, and let's just say that early on in our dating history, I thought we were going to the State Fair for a corn dog and a few rides. We went to the Simmental show, and I wore flip flops.

Bless my heart, it was a long, dirty day.

We left without a corn dog, but gained a big omen to my future self.

Fast forward to this year, and I'm in year two as a show mom. What I have learned to appreciate and understand as a mom of a cattle shower is that this experience itself is invaluable. Sure the obvious is great: the friendships made in the stalls, the effort, time management, dedication, etc., all that is pretty amazing for especially a 10 year old. This summer, though, the light bulb that has gone off in Anna's mind as a show-woman (girl who shows...I don't want to say exhibitionist! What's the word?).

This is fun to watch. She had success in the showmanship division last year, but this year, she gets all of it. She has taken responsibility for her animals care, and while she and her dad have had their share of "discussions" in regards to how things need to be done, her show year has been a fun one. We have an especially good steer this year, but Anna and Joe have taken extra care with his nutrition and fitness, and it has paid off. We have had some opportunities to be in the Championship Drive and have even taken home some hardware in reward for the hard work.

The switch has been flipped. The taste of victory is on her tongue, and my girl, although not obnoxious about it (she gets her normal sense of competitive spirit from her dad, not her CRAZY MOM), is enjoying the fruits of her labor. It's fun to see her look a judge square in the eye and talk about Clyde, her steer. It's awesome to watch ages of kids from 9-19 lead these huge animals around and then genuinely congratulate each other on their successes.

This is a side of the cattle business I never knew existed.

I know! Every day, something new, friends.

While I'm the snack packer, blingy jeans buyer and hair braider, my switch has been flipped as well. I am getting past the basics, and am now seeing (somewhat) what a judge looks for in a winner. Plus, I figure I should learn more, as we did some forward thinking and at one point, we will have (if all want to participate) a 19, 17, 15, 13, and 10 year old twins potentially in the ring.

I think we need a bigger trailer.

And a barn.

And stock in blingy jeans.

Either way, as the summer showing season begins to wind down, I am happy to report that we are experiencing a healthy dose of success and have enjoyed the time spent in the barn.

So, let's move to the basement and have some success there. Ha!

Anna, too sick to show Clyde, in the winner's circle with our new friend, Grace.

It takes a village. Here are Joe's sisters "fitting" Anna, as I didn't make the trip to this show.

That's a good lookin' steer! Walking and washing Clyde.

It was H.O.T. yesterday, but Clyde and Anna did great at the 4H Fair! Grand Champ Reserve!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Am I Eating Clean and Local, But Just Not Making A Big Deal About It?

As I sat down to dinner at my parents' house, I realized something. Were I a person who took pictures of her food, I would have taken a pic of my mom's lovely meal. It could have been hashtagged something crazy, because on my plate was something Instagram dreams were made of.

Homegrown asparagus from my sweet Aunt Nancy's garden (she's 80), Webel beef or pork ( I can't remember...I ate it, didn't document it!), potatoes from a local grower, bib lettuce from Arthur, Illinois (thank you Amish folks who market to Hy Vee), and Illinois peaches.

Now, here's my deal. I ate it. It was delicious. The end.

Don't get me wrong. I am an advocate for local farmers. I am a person who likes to consider herself quite healthy. I am the food nazi when it comes to my kids and excess and treats and all that stuff.

However, am I the only one who feels like we're all becoming a little nutty about this catch phrase driven time in our nutritional lives? I feel like that meal, one that had limited added sugar and salt and was fresh was pretty darn clean, and couldn't get any more local than when my kid asked which animal we were eating, by name (that's a little ewww). While I have not done very much research on clean eating, I can't help but think that locally raised meat and produce couldn't NOT be on the clean eating list.

Clean eating, local eating, eat, eat, eat, food, food, food is EVERYWHERE. Do you wonder why we're a fat nation? All we see, hear and talk about is food. Regardless of whether it's bad or good for you, food is everywhere.

And there's a war going on of words about food.

I opened my Runner's World last week, and this is what I saw:

Now. While there's nothing technically offensive in the language of this ad for eatclean.com, it's the tone I don't like. It's the extremist attitude towards food. It's the "do you give a damn about it?" attitude. I don't like that. I like food because it keeps me going, but do I need to make a stand about what I eat? 

Maybe it's because I am not a foodie. I do like to cook and bake and enjoy a good meal, but I just don't get it. Why so extreme? Why can't I enjoy a meal like I did at my mom and dad's without proclaiming that I am a clean eater, and shun all those who enjoy a Wheat Thin that came from a box and not a recipe on Pinterest? Why can't I enjoy a Wheat Thin or an Oreo once in a while without extreme amounts of guilt and shame. 

Again, I make my own granola; we eat our own beef, but there are days that I want my kids to just eat quick and have a dang corn dog! I know their nutritional needs were not met by this corn dog, but does that make me a bad mom? 

Probably not, because a kid cannot live on corn dogs alone. Sorry Bible, I couldn't help it. 

It probably makes me not a true clean eater, but I guess I would rather be known as a balanced eater. 

My point of today's rant is that I would like to know more about clean eating, because I really do feel like for the most part, we're pretty good at keeping food "real," I just don't make a big deal about it. For those of you who are more clean eaters, enlighten me. I would love to know what makes a clean eater. I know it doesn't include corn dogs, that's for sure.

Regardless, happy eating. Just don't expect me to take a picture or a stand on my food!

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Struggle Is Real


Earlier this week, this happened in my life:

Cue your heart melting, right? This is Caroline, and she is our "true" preemie. So small in stature, and a little later in hitting her milestones, yet her fiesty spirit is going to help her go a long way. Plus, having another person exactly the same age (and I think a little competitiveness and scrapiness in her blood) seems to help. I died when I heard this. I have played it so much that my husband reminded me we have the actual show, so why must I hear it via video? Ha!

And then this happened:

Holy cow.

So, I ordered this:

Don't judge. I have to survive. And shower.

So the struggle is real around here. The struggle to contain, complete a thought, head anywhere without wondering where the twins, namely Mary at this point, will end up! C'mon Amazon!!! Get it here NOW!!

Anyway, the struggle is also real around here to deal with the weather. My uncle said the other day it probably couldn't get any wetter. Now, while he didn't mean it couldn't rain any more, because it obviously could, I think what he meant was that any more basic damage could be done. The plants that are in the ground on this farm (namely corn and soybeans) are doing okay. Our soil is good. Good black dirt worked not too little and not too much helps. Our ground's slope and location also helps. 

Here's your geography lesson for the day...get excited! 

Where we are is not too hilly, yet not so flat that water just stands. There are wet holes, even despite our ground's rise and fall, and field tile has been placed as much as it can, but there's still lots of standing water and wet spots. I'm sure, if you were to fly above our fields, you'd catch stunted growth, corn of a yellow tinge, dying basically of drowning. But we're okay for the most part. However, the struggle is real amongst farmers in the Midwest because ENOUGH is ENOUGH with the rain and the cool. As a pool enjoyer, I concur. Where's the hot and steamy that we know, love, and ultimately complain about in Illinois? Corn needs good warm, sticky temps to truly mature, and the beans need hot weather not cool and wet to alleviate disease and fungus.

So there's that.

There's also the fact that I STILL have a side entrance, with an obvious sidewalk from the driveway, that looks like someone may or may not replace it. We are, it's just too wet. It's starting to wear on me. I pulled weeds and had my dad trim around our "landscaping" (that includes a cement mixer for the footings, a few random boards and concrete embedded in the dirt (can you say ghetto fabulous?), just because my OCD was on overload.

The struggle is real.

I leave you with this, pray for normal. This is what we all are going for. Farmers around here need a summer. Western farmers need a rain, like desperately, and I need to figure out what normal is.

That may or may not include a sweatshirt on the Fourth of July and children in a multicolored pen.

Friday, June 26, 2015

So I Guess June Was My Blogging Vacation?

Sorry friends.

I have done a lot of sharing on Facebook (if you haven't followed me there, search Confessions of a Farm Wife, and there you go).

I have put pictures on Instagram (again, follow me @emilywebel...evidently I need more friends?).

But blogging has come in a very, very, very distant third.


I would love to have an exotic tale of how Joe and I were whisked away on some summer getaway, or that we all went as a family on some well planned, family friendly vacation.

Unless you consider trips to the pool, grocery store, softball games and endless hours spent refereeing twins who are evidently training to be baby WWE wrestlers vacations, then we've just been here, trying to figure out how to do summer with six kids.

So far, so good...I guess. I have to laugh at myself, however. When we first had the twins, folks asked how in the world we were able to get anywhere. The babies were on heart monitors, learning to nurse, etc., etc., but they were NOT MOBILE and OPINIONATED. Mary and Caroline were complacent, compliant, portable newborns.


Not so much.

Mary is working on mastering crawling, and Caroline has been the queen of rolling and rolling and rolling, so when they are in lock down (i.e., their car seats or a stroller), they are miserable.

It's super fun.

So, getting places is an act of sheer will. Getting out the door is insane (plus, we are currently in the outdoor phase of our construction, so our usual door, with the sidewalk directly to the garage is no longer usable, and if it WOULD STOP RAINING, we could actually start on the final phase of our project. And quit looking like someone who doesn't care lives in the house...I'm digressing.), and with all the big kids' activities and their want to go and do, blogging or completing a thought that doesn't involve logistics of some sort is very low on my totem pole.

However, today, you're in luck! A whiny post about how I can't post!!

Anyway, here's just some basic "what's going on" on the farm updates to tide you over until I have another stretch of quiet (see you in 2025).

1) Josie and I got to get away for an afternoon and do what we do best: shop! We ended up choosing new Wayfarers. Not until we snapped the pic did I realize we chose the same style. She is definitely a mini-me!!
 2) Anna has had a few cattle shows, and this one was particularly special to me: my home fair grounds, sponsored by my old high school. Thanks Jen Beard for this beautiful picture, and for confirming the fact that I need a "big girl" camera.
 3) As a part of Joe's job as Ag Teacher, he helps facilitate a lot of community activities. In the summer, there's a festival per week it seems, and around here, one must have a pedal pull! One of his students constructed a new sled for the pedal pull, and Jack went to test it out. Please excuse the red tractor he is sitting on...we needed something *ahem* not as fancy to pull the sled! Ha!

3) Amelia turned 6, and needed a spa party...because, well, of course! She and two little friends were pampered at Spa Webel.
 4) Finally, LOOK!!! We finally got it together to have the babies' six months pictures, two months late. Amy Davis, at Amy Davis Photography, took this beauty (and I'm sure many many more) yesterday. Amy and I run together (well, not so consistently thanks to these girlies), hang at the pool together, and she just so happens to take amazing pictures. She also sympathizes with me about our construction, as her house is under a big remodel. Her husband is crafting an unbelievable space for her family, and when it's done, I hope to steal ideas from her!! Anyway, how CUTE are babies in baskets??? To answer very common questions: Yes, they do NOT look alike, but are starting to resemble each other. Yes, Caroline is smaller than Mary. Yes, Mary is sitting up better than Caroline, and YES, I am certain they are twins. Seriously, the last question is truly asked more than you would think.

Thank you for being patient with me this summer. I promise, I'll have opinions on various ag related issues, the weather, and a host of other earth shattering topics as they come about. I promise.

I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath.

Happy summer!

Friday, June 12, 2015

You Thought the Internet Was Big? Well...

What about electricity?

This was a conversation my grandmother had with one of my cousins as they were discussing the amazing capabilities of the Internet. She listened intently with great interest, as she always does. When he finished explaining how life changing, amazing and innovative the virtual world was, she replied, in her quietly calm voice,

"So was electricity."


This is my grandma, though. It's been a big week for her, for Amelia, for all of us. We have celebrated my Grandma Mary's 101st year this week. I am so thankful for her, and what makes her birthday even more special, is that she shares it with our precious third child, Amelia. Birthdays on June 10th are celebrated at Grandma's house with a big dinner around her table, stretched in her dining room, covered with the same perfectly pressed white cloth that has been covering that table since I can remember. Now we celebrate with two cakes: one big one for Grandma, and a little one for Amelia. In Amelia's six years, this has become the tradition, and while some six year olds may complain about having a joint celebration, Amelia is the type of kid who loves to have her birthday shared with her beloved great grandma. While Amelia is too young to completely understand how truly remarkable this celebration is (she just loves the little cake, and singing "Happy Birthday" twice), I am nearly brought to tears every year we have had this celebration. Not very many people can say they have their grandparents at age 37, let alone one in triple digits who willingly orders a special cake for your little girl.

It's a great day.

It's bigger than the Internet being invented.

It's bigger than the presents we give.

It's bigger than anything I can put into words on this dreary day.

My Grandma Mary and my Amelia are lights in my world. While I know that 101 years is a number that is hard to keep one-upping, much like the invention of electricity, I have truly learned to cherish my sweet grandma. Sharp minded, she still plays games with my kids, asks them detailed questions about school, calls Joe about his cattle he keeps on my uncle's (her son's) pasture.

I feel this same unbridled happiness towards our sweet Millie. She is one of those kids that exudes life. Like her birthday buddy, she's a listener. Maybe that's because she's the third kid. She always has a story or a funny joke or just some sort of funny expression. We are so lucky to have her personality in our mix. She makes the other kids laugh, helps with our babies, and is Jack's best buddy. While being the third kid out of six has its challenges, she has tried to adapt and figure out how to be the best Amelia she can be. As cheesy as that sounds, she has perfected it.

It's been a great week. While I am a few days late on this birthday post thanks to the busy-ness of it all, I am so lucky to have had a week like this.

Happy birthday, Grandma Mary and Amelia. June 10th is the best day, thanks to you two.

Monday, June 1, 2015

It's Summer? Really?

I'm only saying this because I'm sitting here in a closed up house with a jacket on over my running gear. It's cold here!

It's summer?



It's summer in that we've already had ballgames and a sleepover and swimming. It's summer because there's been daily calf washing, groaning about Mean Mom's screen time rules.

It's summer because 50% of the kids are still sleeping, and it's a quarter to eight.

I'm typing fast. Time's ticking!

This summer is an adjustment for us. Joe is home (sans a few FFA/Ag teacher conferences). There are two babies (who enjoyed crying for a majority of the early evening hours last night. Thank you, teeth.). There are four other kids who are used to picking up and going. Now, it takes a plan, an army of snacks and diapers and the correct time to get anywhere.

So, because my time is ticking and my table for eight is being delivered soon (whoohoo!!), and my rock chip will be fixed today (it's a big day here!), I'll give you some highlights since last we met.

1) Planting and side-dressing is complete. There's a lot of jockeying of equipment around here. It's like a big game of Tetris to get our equipment in the machine shed. I think all of those years my dad spent as the "Master Packer" when we went anywhere on a trip or back to college has prepped him for these days.

2) Speaking of my dad, he'll be in Cuba (as in the country...if you're in Illinois where we are, there needs to be a distinction thanks to a tiny town nearby!), starting Sunday. He's one of few commodity representatives amongst other government officials going, and we're excited to hear what Castro has been doing all these years.

3) Cattle shows. My girl has a slate full this summer. While, again, that means planning and prepping and hard work, this kid has committed to working on her animal with love and care. She's also adopted the "cut off sleeves" look for this time in the barn. When she asked me to cut off the sleeves on her shirt, I referred her to her dad, as I froze. Do you cut off above the seam, or at it? I'm too preppy for this endeavor. Luckily, Dad to the rescue, and as I folded her shirt, I remarked to Joe about how she's now a sleeveless shirt wearing girl, and he said, and I quote, "This just reaffirms her awesomeness." End quote.

4) Team Beef Illinois. Had the best time last Tuesday. I got to pretend I was working again, in heels and everything, and traveled to Bloomington for a Team Beef Illinois advocacy training with Daren Williams, Executive Director of Communications for the National Cattelmen's Beef Association.
Wow. My advocacy for beef has been upped a notch, thanks to his information, and I would like to work for them. The end.

(If you're in Illinois, or any cattle producing state for that matter, and you run, I encourage you to find your Team Beef group. Check out our group on Facebook, Team Beef Illinois.)

5) Babies. They are now crying, and so I'll end with this. Watching all the tragedy in the world, flooding in Texas and Oklahoma, and now the Northeast, families killed for money, cancer, terrorism, etc., I'm so hopeful that you will spend the summer finding joy in your every day. This is my goal for the summer. Joy in the everyday. My babies are screaming. I have laundry in the dryer that needs to be folded. There are papers that must be filed in an office that is partially put together. These are not things of stress. These are happy times. Please help me remember this as summer wanes on, and I get my pity party on.

Stay warm today, Midwestern friends, and remember, it is really summer out there!