Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When GMOs were Prize Winning, Not Picked On

I'm a day late. Yesterday was National Ag Day. Did you know that? I hope you did. Did you do anything to celebrate? Did you hear an ag story? Here's a funny one…Joe spent National Ag day scooping out his manure spreader by hand…not by choice.

We are so glamorous, right?

Anyway, in an interesting twist, yesterday was also Norman Borlaug's 100th birthday. Do you know who that guy is? I didn't until a few weeks ago, sadly (My dad, the former ag teacher is dying inside right now…sorry, Dad.). Well, among other things, he has been called the Father of the Green Revolution, agriculture's greatest spokesperson, and the man who saved a billion lives.

Pretty impressive, huh?

He also won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the Padma Vibhushan, which is India's highest civilian honor.

You know how and why he was so awesome?

Get ready to gasp:



While Cheerios, Whole Foods, and the like are anti-GMO, citing them as frankenfoods or "unnatural," Dr. Borlaug saved people from starvation with his wheat innovations, gave the gift of sight to thousands upon thousands of people with the Golden Rice he helped create, which included Vitamin A, which folks in the Far East were lacking, and thus going blind (you can read here for more of his story)

Sounds like a pretty amazing guy, huh?

I never took an ag class. I never got to know his story, other than what I have read recently, but I did have the pleasure of meeting his granddaughter, Julie Borlaug Larson at the Bayer Ag Issues Forum. She is continuing her grandfather's legacy at The Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M, continuing her grandfather's plight for innovation in agriculture to make the world a better place…

with GMOs.

I'm not a fan of blanket statements, but I feel like if you hate GMOs, but you like Norman Borlaug's ideals, you might have first world problems. Only. I guess if you hate blindness caused by the lack of Vitamin A, you may reconsider holding your anti-GMO sign at a protest at a supermarket.

When did GMOs go from being life saving, sight saving, innovative and prize winning to the picked on kid on the playground?

I would have loved to meet Norman Borlaug. Listening to the few excerpts from his speeches and interviews reveals that he was a man who didn't mince words, put up with guff, or, in a word, filter.

Kind of like me.

His granddaughter has a similar personality. She was an entertaining speaker, in that, I believe she was kind of ticked off that she had to continually defend GMOs. Her grandfather saved BILLIONS, granted the gift of sight, and revolutionized the fight on world hunger.

Shouldn't she be able to be proud of that, and not continually defend the cause?


Back to my question, "When did GMOs become picked on?"

When we received the gift of first world problems. My biggest issue today has been having to stir around my laundry on the "touch up cycle" because I was picking up my daughter from her preschool in my car that has a hands-free phone and a DVD player. I worried that our lunch wouldn't be hot enough for Joe who has spent the day prepping his pasture for spring in his comfy tractor.

Not once did I worry about whether I could see the road. Not once did I worry about whether or not I was going to be able to eat. Just whether or not my laundry would be fluffed, the DVD would come on at the "right spot" for my two year old, and whether the pocket sandwiches I made in my nice, convenient oven with all my ingredients from the grocery store, just miles away, would be as delicious as I hoped for, because I was hungry, but not really hungry (it was just lunch time).

Friends, we have to celebrate Norman Borlaug, but not in a party way. Honor him. Research his work. Understand WHY GMOs came into this world as major players and not pesky health compromisers. Please, consider your problems and then google world hunger, blindness, and disease.

You'll feel guilty about your first world problems at first, but will want to help others, and that makes you feel better in the end.

I guarantee it.

GMOs are not all bad. In fact, they aren't bad, and it's not because it helps us in our livelihood. GMOs, at their core, were developed to be LIFE SAVING.

Remember that.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Bawling in the Basement

Not so long ago, there was a birthday party. It was a warm spring day, and our little girl was turning four. We had about 30 people in our house, minus three at the time, as a calf was being born across the road, and not only was the calf struggling to keep his (or her…I can't remember) footing in the mucky spring ground, our truck was stuck. So, Joe, his dad, and his grandpa (who were both attending the party, but just "happened" to have muck boots in the trunks of their cars) were out there, pulling the truck out of the slime, and trying to warm up the calf.

As we watched this unfold, amidst kids playing with new presents and disposing of cake plates, my mother-in-law joked, "You know, Emily, you might have to have that calf in your bathtub."

What the WHAT?

No. Way.

You see, we have this house…one that we happen to live in, as people, and I am the type of person who struggles having a goldfish on my kitchen counter, let alone a calf.

In my pristine, white bathtub.

Fast forward five years, and our little girl is now nine, and we're still calving. However, this time, it's not muck we're fighting, but cold, and while our bathtub has never been christened by a calf (yet), our basement has.

Now, before you get all, "What the WHAT?" like I was, remember, we have this house…and although it's been remodeled, the basement of our 1871 farmhouse was NOT and will NEVER be a "fun basement" as my girls call their friends' basements. You know, the ones with pool tables, carpet and couches. Ours is one that before we remodeled, could only be reached through a trap door in my grandma's kitchen, which we promptly closed up and now can only access from the outside. It has a dirt floor, low ceiling, and smells kind of funny about 75% of the time. Think Silence of the Lambs, and you'll get the picture.

Despite the fact that this entity of our house will NEVER be inhabitable, I still am weirded out by the fact that as I type, there's the low, slow bawl of a calf in the basement.

However, not as weirded out as I used to be, so there's your personal victory for the day.

Regardless, it's not my comfort we're after here (I know. Shocker.). It's the calf's…because this is not the first little friend to be in our basement this week. We had a day earlier this week with FOUR calves rotating in the Hannibal Hotel (funny huh?). Each calf had a different story, but all were linked by the simple fact that even though we're in Illinois, it's ridiculously cold for March, and calves born in sub-zero temperatures need a warm place to get their life started out right.

This place just so happens to be around my Christmas decorations.

Fortunately, we watched the forecast, and there was a 50 degree day in the week's outlook, so I'm hopeful our hotel for cold calves will close up shop soon.

Until then, I will enjoy the sounds of our friend in the basement. That means he's still alive, thriving, and that's another personal victory for us.

That and keeping all animals out of my bathtub.

Small goals, people.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Halfway to College

Once upon a time, we had one child.

We lived in town.

We had an actual car, not a van to drive our little family around.

We were a family of three, starting nine years ago, March 2nd.

Anna Grace was born.

And now, here she is, nine years old, halfway to stepping out of here on her way to college.


Don't get me wrong, I am not sad that she's nine.
I guess.
I'm happy that she's growing up. Although she started in this world as the queen of the castle, lone grandchild on my side, singleton in our family, she didn't wear that title long. However, that never seemed to phase her, and instead, has helped her grow into a responsible, helpful, kind, loving and creative child. I have reflected upon this before.

This morning, however, when I heard Joe say that she's halfway to college, it made my heart stop. As I was getting ready for church this morning, I had to take a minute to get it together.

When did this happen?
How did she get so grown up?
Have I allowed her to be a kid?
In her nine years, have I made her grow up too fast, having baby after baby, expecting her to buckle her own seatbelt, hold the bag as I fumble with the little ones, walk alongside the stroller as I pushed the little ones?




However, before I begin to cry again, I feel like our decision to have more children, has not hindered our kids. In a kid ike Anna, who was already fiercely independent, our big family has given her the opportunity to be creative and independent, and this will serve her well, and already has (you should see her report cards!).

While she has had to grow up maybe more quickly than other nine year olds, her personality, determined independence and tender heart have been fostered by our big family.  She stands out in our family, and I credit her interesting personality to that. We have always allowed Anna to be who she wants to be, even though it seems to be the opposite of what I ever expected my first, sweet pink baby girl to be, and even opposite of even what her friends expect her to be (believe me…I heard the conversation on our way with three other girls to her birthday party!). But this doesn't bother her.

This is wisdom beyond her nine years.

I hope we can keep this part of her spirit for the next nine years. Wouldn't that make junior high glorious?

Anna makes me beam, puff up with pride, but, especially today, cry.. While those precious days with her in a stroller and us living in town seem like a lifetime ago, it also seems like just yesterday we were bringing her into our house in town. Will the next nine years blink by, too?

I'm afraid so, but I know that even though her birthday always makes me just a little teary, the days that she will make me smile and proud and excited will outnumber those that make me wistful.

Happy birthday, sweet Anna. May you never lose your spark (I'll call the yelling at your sisters in the background right now a spark…but just for today), your individuality (did I mention she received a stethoscope, bow and arrow and some Legos today??? Not your typical 9 year old girl gifts…), and your loving spirit. We are so, so proud.

Love you.
This morning, Legos and a bow, not for her hair!

My big girl, with her big girl hair do, the one she requested.

Upon completing the most annoying 300 piece puzzle. Success!

Junior Herdsman.

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.