Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Date Day at the Farm Bureau Meeting

I know. You're at the edge of your seat with the excitement that this title brings.

Joe and I really know how to live it up! The funny thing is, we DID have an actual date night...but it started at a design center for our new bathroom and ended at Target.

Again, we know how to live it up.

Anyway, Joe is a board member for our county Farm Bureau. It's my home county, Knox County, and I have written about how I have come to terms, and have come to enjoy my home county (more than I thought I EVER would!). So, when I walked into the banquet facility, I was not only greeted by happy, familiar faces of the staff and neighbors, but dads of friends from elementary school, life long friends, and even folks who were good friends with my grandparents.

It's a good feeling.

Having Joe on the board has meant a few more evenings that he's gone, which can get tricky, but this past annual meeting was particularly eye opening for me as a Farm Bureau member. Maybe I was paying better attention because I was just there, sans any kids. Maybe I was more in-tune because now I understand a little more, or maybe I was just more engaged in the speaker because I was the speaker with my good friend Holly two years ago, so I know how it felt to be paid attention to (or ignored).

Who knows?

Regardless, I actually took notes! The speaker, Mark Gebhards who is the Executive Director for Governmental Affairs and Commodities, was eloquent, and with the changing of the guard in our state (we now have a Republican governor, and in a room full of farmers, you can imagine the excitement level!) and the changing role of government in a farmer's operations, it was an interesting talk.

I won't bore you with the details (although I was not bored...just hungry by the's a lunch meeting...and we're on a weight loss challenge...and I'm nursing...and was within eyesight of the CAKE) of the talk, but Mr. Gebhards challenged our already very active county. Farm Bureau, for those of you who may just think its name is indicative of yee haw and drive your tractor to the meeting, is quite the opposite. The level of professionalism by not only just the state, county and volunteer staff is astounding, but also the impact its programs have is pretty impressive. Sure, there's some flaws, every organization has them, and there's a lot of patting each other on the back with awards within the system, but who doesn't like to be recognized?

I'm digressing.

Back to the challenge.

In his position, Gebhards walks with the politicians, talks with them, gives them insight to how producers are being impacted by various regulations, rules, etc. He challenged us to stay involved, at a very basic level. Calling legislators, writing letters, staying involved with programs like Illinois Farm Families, and Ag in the Classroom (to name a few local programs). By being active, we ACT like we CARE.

Who would have thought?

Well, me, in starting this blog, but that should be the tip of my iceberg. He cited an instance where he was sitting in Senator Durbin's office, addressing a bill or something that would impact farmers. Durbin asked Gebhards if the farming community would be impacted negatively by this particular issue. Gebhards answered, "Yes," emphatically (and if I were paying really great attention, I could tell you what it was...sorry, my blood sugar was plummeting by this point of the talk). Durbin then shared that he had received over 10,000 phone calls from the other side of the coin, and only one hand and two fingers SEVEN...from the ag people.

That's ridiculous.

I am on my phone all the time... why not add Senator Dickie Durbin to my list of contacts, and instead of whining to him through the TV, TALK TO HIM.

So that was interesting.

Our date concluded with a lovely meal, and at the risk of sounding 75 years old, I'll spare you the menu, but at an ag function, you tend to eat good beef.

I will challenge you, friends, that if you're at all interested in agriculture, if you're not a member, or if you even are a member, do a little research on the Farm Bureau. You may be surprised how active your area may be, and you don't even realize it. You may notice programs that are happening that are sponsored by your county's Farm Bureau. You may want to join because you get a great deal on a rental car, who knows. I have decided to find out more because they just had their annual national meeting in SAN can I become more involved and go THERE???

Our unconventional date day was a success, I'd say, even if we traded in the more traditional movie theater/dinner date with politics and beef. Either way, I was fed, and was happy.

Friday, January 9, 2015

When Three Months Feels Like Three Seconds or Three Years

In an amazing feat of grace and sleeplessness, and through massive piles of laundry, doctor's appointments, and kid shuttling, Joe and I have emerged and made it through the first quarter of our twins' first year.

Did you read that?

They have already lived a quarter of the year.


These past three months have felt like three seconds: Caroline and Mary are both smiling, and are so close to rolling over, as they hate tummy time. Albeit important for development, why must I torture my babes this way??? And didn't we just sell our cows? The past week has made us feel happy, sympathetic and especially warm in our house as we think of our dear friends and all of you livestock men and women out there. However, it feels like three seconds ago that Joe was dressing as a Northern Ninja in his face mask and heavy Carhartts to assist in birthing calves on what seemed to always be the coldest day of the year.

Along the same lines, these three months have felt like three years. It seems like a long time ago that we were up in the air with our house project, and although we have insulation and the words, "drywallers arriving soon" have been whispered, it seems like we will NEVER have our space, that our office will always look like a disaster of storage totes and demo-dust, and that I will constantly be covering up for fear that a plumber/electrician/contractor will walk through as I am feeding babies. Yikes.

Such a strange feeling.

While I know that this year has been and will continue to be a blur in many ways, I find myself wanting to make time stand still. The twins suck the life out of me, and yet are so cute and pleasant, and AREN'T mobile, so I'd like to keep it that way as long as I can.

Then there are my big kids.

We are in such a sweet age spot for the big kids. I know it sounds cliche, but they are growing up so fast: becoming more and more independent because of our circumstances; able to put their own laundry away, entertain themselves and have good conversations with....that's a sweet spot. Enjoying the holidays with them was happy, and yet I found myself wistful as we have just a few more years where the magic of the holidays will still be the majority.

Anyway, before I start singing, "If I could have time in a bottle," I'll leave you with this question, how do you make time stand still? No, I'm not asking for something magical, I'm asking how do you preserve your memories? Are you just a rememberer (because I think I'm using that as an excuse for not filming/photographing actuality, I'm just tired and forgetful...not just "enjoying the moment)? Are you a scrapbooker? Instagrammer in the hopes it will never crash? Baby book writer?

Help me enjoy these next three months without waxing too much poetic. Otherwise, you'll be the readers of some pretty sappy blog posts!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes

Remember this one: When Is It Too Cold To Shut the Farm Down?

How about this oldie, but a goodie from 2013: Diary of a Snow Day

The gist of both is that a snow day for a farmer is not really a day off, but more work.

However, what a difference a couple of years it's currently nearly 11:00, and Joe's chores this morning consisted of answering the phone when school was cancelled, letting the dog out of the basement, and taking my car to town for an oil change. Granted, our show calves needed tending to, but our lovely friends where they are being housed...just a few miles north and south of here, have graciously fed, bedded, and checked in with them. My uncle was in need of a tractor to get the drifts off the hog chutes at his building (hogs are being hauled out tomorrow...won't that be fun?), and Joe jumped at the chance to use his tractor and blade to scoop him out.

My dude needs his farm chops brushed off once in a while.

Yesterday, I heard the hum of our loader tractor at 5:00 AM, plowing out the six inches of snow in our driveway so the bus could come through. I'm thankful we have that tractor still...a snowblower or a scoop couldn't even make a dent without at least five hours of shoveling in our huge driveway, and our resident teacher/farmer loves to jump on equipment now and again.

I laughed to myself, however, as I reminisced of my days as a town kid. My dad would rise early on snowy days, snow blowing and scraping and scooping so that our driveway, all 20 feet of it (give or take) would be perfectly clear, as in immaculately clear on the iciest of days. My Type A personality is from my lovely father, whose driveway in January would NEVER warrant a law suit, and resembles a mid-June driveway.

Out on the farm, it's a different story. There's no WAY our drive can be as perfect as a town one, the scope is too massive. Our driveway for our car is one entity that must be cleared, and then there's the lot. It's where tractors and combines and semis have to be able to turn around, load, unfold, and dump, and so a snow blower is no match, and it's not worth the hassle, or heart attack to scoop it. Instead, the loader tractor is enlisted with the blade on, and from the cozy tractor cab, we're scooped to freedom!

So today, I have Farmer Joe/Teacher Joe/ Daddy in the house for most of the day...right now he's talking to insulators and our carpenter (isn't that perfect timing to get basement insulation on the COLDEST day of the year???). We're trying this new normal of snow days as a teacher, and so far, so good...

It's early, though...I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Against the Resolution Grain

I've been up for a while, sipping coffee amidst Batman and baby toys, watching the Today Show, where Al Roker is sitting at the table with the other anchors in New York, and yet, he's in Pasedena at the Rose Parade as we speak.

The miracle of pre-recorded segments was lost in my fog of sleepiness.

I'm digressing.

Anyway, all the segments in the 15 minutes I was able to catch uninterrupted were about New Year's resolutions, keeping them, trying new things, and basically giving all aspects of your life a makeover. While I'm a proponent of a goal, this year, I'm going against the grain in my resolution.

I have room for MUCH improvement, don't get me wrong, but I tend to be a person in fast forward. My life has been a series of getting somewhere, and fast. While I consider myself a happy person, I'm not necessarily content with everything. Start running? Run a marathon...or several. Buy a new outfit? Want a new pair of shoes. Get a new job? Look for a way to expand on it. Have a baby...HAVE TWINS.

Just kidding on the last one.

I'm the type of person who would have benefited from a Genie in a magic lamp. My timelines for projects are generally unrealistic. I apologize to guests for our lack of a nice entryway. No one expects our entryway to be completed in a finger snap...I do, however. That's a problem.

So, my resolution this year is to be content with where I am, what I have, what I'm doing.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Might sound like a cop-out, but for me, this is as real as losing weight, meditating more, and getting out of debt (all the top resolutions, according to Natalie Morales). I have to figure out a way to just enjoy the moment, not be hard on myself or my family if the house is a mess, my job is on hold, my pants aren't fitting as well as I want. I need to be happy with the fact that we are expanding our house, and not freak out about dust and carpenters and the in-the-process projects that will be finished. Remind me my kids are little for just a bit, and that diapers and toys that impale feet are just a part of a phase. My boy won't wear a cape forever, so I should embrace his creativity. My girls will not always wake up early on January 1st to see who the new American Girl doll of the year is, so I should rejoice that they are excited about these little things (and by little I mean expensive, Ha!). My oldest won't whisper in my ear plans of surprises and dreams she has for long because in 9 more years (as long as we've had her in our life), she'll be gone.

Anyone else weepy?

Maybe contentment isn't the greatest for my fragile, rather hormonal emotional state, but isn't that the point of a resolution? A change? It's hard. It's tricky. It's challenging. Get uncomfortable, and it will be worth it.

Keep me accountable. Should I start to make plans and just invite you to the party instead of looking around and enjoying what is in front of me, let me know. Should I start to wallow, smack me in the side of the head. Should I start to worry more about baseboard dust, and less about who's in the room with the disgusting baseboards, drop me a note.

I'll need it. I assure you.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Dear readers,

This quite possibly could be the most crazy time of our lives, and yet, and YET, it truly is still the most wonderful time of the year. We have kicked off the Christmas season with gifts and gathering with my parents last night, where Jack (upon opening a Batman digital watch) proclaimed, "Best Christmas, EVER!" Bless him...he's just three. We'll continue our holiday celebrations with a grown up party (and the twins) tonight, and off to Joe's family for Christmas Eve.

Then, Santa.

Yes, Santa.

While Jesus IS the true reason of the season, and we try to keep that all in the forefront, but WHO DOESN'T LOVE SANTA?

Don't answer that if you're anti-Santa...

So, while the footprints of demo-dust are tracked all through my house, there's a desk in my living room, our only Christmas tree up is our baby "fake" tree, not our fresh cut real one (we have no room...this year), and my Type A personality is rearing it's ugly head proclaiming today is a "pick up day" (the kids are EXCITED, and I'm still using Santa as a threat...what will I do on the 26th?), I have hit pause to enjoy today.

And you're part of it! Aren't you so lucky??

Thank you for bearing with my hormones, harried mom posts, transitions, twins, mess of a life, and construction dust during this year. 2014 was truly one for the record books, and while last year at this time, I figured I would be lighting the fire that was my career and training for a marathon, I have traded it in for populating the world with two more amazing people, and training for a marathon...just not the running kind.

Enjoy your family in these next few days. We all have busy-ness, stress, strange relationships, and heightened expectations that get squelched, but this is truly the most wonderful time of the year thanks to the birth of our Savior, coupled with seeing the magic of the season through the eyes of those who believe in the magic of Christmas.

I am blessed to have this platform and to have you as loyal readers, even though I get opinionated and smarty about 99% of the time.

Thanks so much for reading, sharing, and believing in us. We feel your encouragement, welcome your commentary, and wish you a blessed Christmas season and a happy, happy new year.

Here's to a less eventful 2015!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Maybe You Are, Maybe You're Not

Maybe you've been wondering how we're faring after all of our changes during the past 8 weeks.

And maybe you're not, and I guess that's why I have struggled to write as of late. There's a lot, and I mean A LOT, more hectic, exhausting, happy, sad, interesting life stories out there, so please excuse me as I add to that pile.

First and foremost, we are adjusting.

And by adjusting, I mean, after selling our cows about a month ago, in the past week, we (and by we, I mean Joe), have purchased three new show animals: two heifers and a steer. They are currently being housed at their vacation homes until we get our more permanent set up, well, set up. Now, while three animals seems very, very small potatoes considering we (and again, I mean Joe) were dealing with 150 cows, calves, and all the chores that go along, having these three new friends gives Joe just a taste of the life of a cattleman.

Adjusting is the best word I can use to describe the past month. On Thanksgiving, we leisurely traveled to my father in law's, and spent the night, not worrying about any animal or crop or anything nearly 100 miles away. While that was heavenly to me, as I wasn't forced to pack up six kids for just a short day trip, but rather enjoy time spent on my father-in-law's farm, for Joe, it was strange. Thankfully, a few of our purebred cows are wintering on this farm, so Joe was able to get a little "fix" while we were there.

While there's much to do around here...a closet to demo to make room for a new basement staircase, papers to grade, babies to feed, kids to run around and chase after, the adjustment from farmer to non-farmer is hard. As I have written about many, many times, agriculture, especially when you're a producer, with your hands deep in the dirt and choring every day, it becomes a part of your soul.

It's not just a job, it's your whole life, so when that piece of your life's puzzle is removed, there's a lot of adjusting.

The kids have fared well, it's not like we've moved or anything. Our show animals will require daily chores, just in a different venue. And while my dad and my uncle still pull equipment out of the shed, just feet from our front door, there's a little piece of me that is slightly off, knowing that Joe really doesn't have to go out there and mess around in the shed, or take the Ranger across the road to check cows.

It's strange.

And we're adjusting.

Like I said before, it's not like we don't have plenty to do...our babies are growing and becoming a little more demanding. Our big kids are still filling our lives and calendars with their joyous activities, and Jack...well, he's three and is wearing. me. out. Joe is thriving as the community's new ag instructor, and I'm just trying to hold it all together and appear to have it all rolling along.

Notice I used the word, "appear," because six days out of seven, I'm NOT together, I just made it to the shower, before noon preschool pick up and had regular (although NOT the right size...ugh) clothes on.

We're all plugging away, trying to navigate our new roles, and when the first snow falls, we'll get over this weirdness and enjoy coffee and cocoa, knowing no cows of ours will be calving in a drift.

That's a good adjustment.

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.