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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Heaven Is Under Our Feet.....

......As Well As Over Our Heads.  

I would say most farmers agree with Henry David Thoreau's quote.

And maybe that's why my mom bought that rustic sign that she hung above her farmer's chair years ago.  I have always known that there was something special about that ground under my feet.  And growing up on a farm and now working for farmers and married to a farmer I cannot fully express my love for the land under my feet just as I love the big blue sky over my head.  

And this is my heaven.  An evening jeep ride with my farmer to check on the wheat under us with that big blue sky watching over us from above.

Wheat is just beautiful.  It is so green in the winter and spring and then so golden in the summer before harvest.

And then there is the corn.....

Farmers love to plant their corn.....it's a thing. 

"You can see it march through it's life cycle," my farmer says.   

And we have done that this year.  We planted our field together in early May.

And now the heaven below is supporting her roots so the corn can grow nice and tall.  

So tall at this point that our corn is almost 6 foot tall, way past the goal of "knee high by the 4th of July!"

And the field is so green and so heavenly under the blue sky. 

The soybeans are growing too.  They are green for miles and at least you can see around the corner of a bean field, not so much corn.....

So where is your heaven?  Is it under your feet or over your head or all around you at times?  Do you need to visit your heaven more?

I am lucky enough to have heaven supporting me from below and watching out for me from above.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A "Normal" Summer Day in the Life Of....

I am NOT a morning person.  NOT.  Can't do it and I'll be the first to admit to it.  

But I married a farmer and sometimes "that's just part of it".  And I knew I was going to have a #GreatAmerican Day so....I woke up before my early morning riser husband to "take on the day" as he says.

Even though I stayed up too late watching the news and a CNN special on The Sixties, I was still motivated to get up the next morning to celebrate my husband's hard work and to relax after a full week.  

Saturday we did things that we normally would do on Saturdays in the summer, but this particular Saturday we combined it all into one and it was fabulous. 

We did as many farm couples do on each morning and "got up with the daylight".  We headed east to Batesville, Indiana where our meat locker is located.  The boys had taken some cows there the week before to be butchered for some of our grass-fed beef customers.  I was pretty excited because we no longer had enough ground beef for ourselves and I had been craving tacos!  

(As a side note I do not buy beef at the grocery store, I find it in my freezer or one of our many deep freezers.)

After a routine stop for our only-made-on-Saturday blueberry cake doughnuts from Schmidt's Bakery, we headed across the town square to our butcher, French's Locker.

Our family has used the same, local butcher for a number of years.  They provide great service to us and to our customers who order the beef directly from us and provide their beef requests to them, the butcher.

And they meet us before the store opens on Saturday mornings......that is saying something after a long week and knowing a bustling Saturday is coming in the butcher shop for those customers that want a successful and tasty afternoon cookout or BBQ. 

We had delivered 4 cows to French's that week and picking them up for our customers who buy the meat directly and for our customers that we sell to at the farmer's market filled up the bed of the truck.  

This is one cow that is custom ordered in various cuts that a customer has ordered or that we sell at the farmer's market for those that may be interested in grass-fed beef.  

After unloading the boxes at the farm and meeting a customer for his delivery, we headed downtown to the Columbus Farmer's Market.  When we arrived to the market it was busy with purchases from loyal customers and questions from potential new customers.  The market is always a great way to educate people about our beef, the agriculture industry and our farm life.

After the market we headed west this time to our favorite date night location, The Brick.  There are a few things to know about this place before you arrive.  

1.  No cursing.
2.  You should be respectful and drink your beer out of a glass.
3.  There are no plates, only parchment paper for your greasy burgers.

Don't go there expecting to smell like roses and sunshine upon your exit.  But do know that you will experience a #GreatAmerican establishment where a date costs 20 bucks and you don't have to talk, just listen to the old-timer stories and the classic country in the background.  

After leaving the Brick, Brett and I headed to the lake where it was peaceful, and I napped as soon as we arrived (remember, I don't do mornings and when I do I need a nap).  

After a nap, two magazines and a 3 mile walk around the lake, I found a summery tray to fit our sort of planned meat and cheese tray that my farmer husband had suggested for our evening, lake-side meal.

It was perfect and delicious with 3 different meats, 4 different kinds of cheese, fresh bread from the market, nuts, some stuffed peppers, fig ham, horseradish sauce and some good 'ole German stone ground mustard.  It wasn't that difficult to put together and the presentation didn't take long.  After our doughnuts, butcher pick-up, the farmer's market, The Brick, our walk and our nap, we were ready for this....for our fancy meal in the country with the mosquitoes biting our ankles.  A perfect Indiana summer night in the life of this farmer's wife and her farmer.  

Oh and just in case you were concerned, I slept in the next morning.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why Everyone Needs a Polka Dot Binder

"Hey honey, have you seen my wallet?"

Me, "have you looked in the pocket of your jeans from yesterday in the hamper?"

"Found it!!"  

Yeah, I know you did.....I know you.

Don't you hate it when you can't find that something you really need?  Or when you're in a rush and it's missing?  Or when something happens to someone you love and you just don't know
where they put that stuff you really need?

Brett and I know all too well what it is like to lose someone and need that stuff.  Those important documents.  I mean sometimes there is one person in the house who takes care of all the important things for the home and the family.  But what if that person is called upon somewhere else?  Somewhere up above?

I am pretty OCD and organized.  So when I got married I had a little freak out moment because I knew I would have to combine all of our "stuff", and I soon realized we each had our own way of organizing.  Oh crap....what to do now with the important documents?!?  What will I do if he is gone and what will he do if I go?

Hmmmm....solution!  Get a polka dot binder! 

Well it doesn't have to be a polka dot binder but mine is.  It's cuter that way and stands out from the rest.  

It took me about a month or so to put her together but it happened.  It has all the important documents that both of us need or would need, and we have told 2 family members on each side where it is.  Call me morbid, but I am actually prepared.  And I hate wasting time searching for things or reprinting or standing in a room scratching my head wondering where that document is!

She is split into sections:  Katie, Brett, Marriage, Land, Passports.  The "Land" section may not be for everyone but you could have other categories.  Marrying a farmer, you have "Land" in your polka dot binder.  

We have our:
Birth Certificates
Insurance Information 
Voter Registrations
Investment Information
List of land & farm stuff 
(This is so I don't forget!)
Copies of our Marriage License 
Immunization vaccination history 
(Weird but if you travel a lot this is helpful and you can keep track of what you 
have and what you need--contact your local or state health department.)

 It has been really helpful multiple times and has saved us time and stress!  
Well except the time when Brett was getting a little nervous because he couldn't find his passport.  

"Hey honey, do you know where my passport is?"

Me, "have you looked in the polka dot binder?"

"Found it!!  I knew where it was......yeah I knew."  

Sure you did.........

So now instead of standing in a room, scratching our heads and freaking out because we can't find our important documents, we try to spend more of our time together, enjoying each moment so we can get to know each other better each day.  It helps me to figure out where his lost wallet will be next time.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Coons, Cows, Corn & a Good Cry: Tales from a Farmer's Wife

"We caught the cat," 
he said in a relaxed voice while he sipped on his coffee in the early morning hours.

"What did you say?" as I turned off my blow dryer.
"We caught the cat instead of the coon."

"Don't worry," he said, "he is just chillin' in the cage watchin' me eat my breakfast."

I had no words but to run to the window and see it for myself.  When I did and walked back to the bathroom to finish my hair for the day, he laughed at me.  Like he usually does.  

We have been having raccoon issues so we decided to take action and set some traps, but our other friendly visitors got trapped instead.  This is pretty typical, well the unfriendly creature visits to your porch, when you live in the country.  And that early morning conversation?  Pretty typical with my farmer.....random, strange, he--calm and relaxed and 
me--running around and stressed.  

Speaking of the porch, I come home to some lovely things on my porch (like my shopping packages that I hide from my farmer) and some not so lovely things.

My farmer works with and cares for our cows every day.  And when he gets home, sometimes he has to strip on the porch.  So as a farmer's wife, sometimes you come home to clothes and boots covered in cow manure.

And guess what?  I am always okay with this.  First, he stripped outside and not on my somewhat clean floor that is never really clean (farm life fact).  I told you in "My Story" that I love the smell of cow manure.  It reminds me of childhood and hard work.  

As a farm wife, you have to learn that your life and your parties may be interrupted by something on the farm. Sometimes your cattle get out in the middle of your wedding reception that you are hosting on the farm, and all the "boys" hop in their trucks to wrangle them up.

Farm Wife Fact:  Learn and remember, the animals come before the party.  

My farmer, like most, love their corn.  They love to plant it, watch it grow, see it turn from bright green to that beautiful fall, golden brown. 

My farmer loves it so much that he decided he should probably go and check on it in the middle of that same wedding reception and in that new suit I bought him.  But we all know what he was really doing in there....what all boys at that party did.  

Dad used to say, "If you can't piss in your own backyard, your neighbors are too close."  Apparently, the neighbors or guests of the party that night were a little too close so my farmer had to go to the corn field where I am sure he felt more at home anyway.  

As a farm wife there are so many things that you have to learn, and learn quickly.  Including that your life revolves around the weather.  I always knew this as a farmer's daughter and was reminded during the times when I didn't see my dad for a week or so because of planting or harvest, or when he didn't see me off to two of my proms because he was in the field.  

Brett and I were together during the 2012 drought, the historic drought.  It was rough, really rough for a lot of people.  We lost crops and had to liquidate some of our grass-fed cattle herd.  One night we were laying there and I heard thunder.  I shot up in bed, grabbed the snoring, exhausted guy beside me and whisper-yelled (you know what I mean), "BRETT, I hear thunder!  It's going to rain!"

"Sssshhhh......", he said.  We sat there like anxious, little kids waiting to open our birthday gifts.  The next thunder roll boomed and shook the windows.  We jumped from bed and ran to the kitchen window.  It started sprinkling which was the most we had seen in months.

Me, "should we go outside and do a rain dance?!?!"
Brett, "no, just let it be.  Let's not get in the way of letting it hit the ground."

We headed back to bed and then it stopped.  It stopped raining that night and for a long time after that.

And then I cried, I cried a lot that year because of the drought and the stress.  But as a farmer's wife, I know that "that's just part of it".  The crazy weather and the coons, the cows, the farmers' love for his corn crop and that good cry every so often.  That good cry knowing that you just need to let it out because you have learned "that's just part of it" and there will be days ahead with blue skies and beautiful crops.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Mom is the Champagne of Beers

Wait....no she isn't.  First, she doesn't even like beer that much, that was dad.
She likes fun cocktails that her and her best friend Kimberly can make people.  It's their excuse for hosting soiree parties.

She is better than that.  Better than beer.
She is the champagne of our soiree called life. 

When mom was a little girl, her family that lived in town would pile in their car and every time they drove through the country, she would turn to her two sisters and say, "I want to own a plowed field someday."   
And each time they would look at her like she was crazy.....like they still do.  

Tim taught me to be country, Mary Lou taught me how to be fancy.  
She brings the sparkle even though she loves the dirt.

My mother is the one who took her girls to the big city of Chicago to shop with that best friend of hers.  They were both married to farmers, and we conveniently trekked up north during Fall Break to roam Michigan Avenue so the dad's couldn't go with us because they were harvesting.

My mother is the one who taught me to leave the shopping bags in the car until "later".  Later as in when your dad is asleep or has gone to work.  "There really is no need for him to see all this.  He already thinks we have too many clothes."  Well.....I might be practicing this little tip nowadays with my own farmer who thinks I have too many clothes when I don't think I have enough!  Mom would understand.....

My mother, an IU grad, suffered through Purdue football games with her Boilermaker husband, Boilermaker daughter and all their friends.  However, she always made fancy food for the tailgates, served it on nice platters, might have snuck some of those infamous cocktails in her secret purse into the football game (she had to get through it somehow)
 and ALWAYS wore red.  

My mother is the one who got mad at my dad when he and his brothers planned our annual hog roast the same Saturday night that Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and Sully were getting married.  Who does that!?!?  So.....she made a cake shaped like a heart, bought some nuts and mints and made punch.  When it was time for the wedding she gathered the women in the little office to watch and told the men they weren't invited.

My mother taught us about "presentation. presentation. presentation."  And at a young age when asked to get her something in the kitchen to place her delicious food on, we quickly learned to ask 
"what kind of platter would you like, mom?" 

Photo courtesy of my best friend, Lindsay at Jean's Boots Blog

For my friends wedding shower and Bachelorette party, I basically wanted to have a one day event where we could be fancy but get country.  That party is a whole other blog post in itself.  However when I told mom, "I think I want to have a shower here early afternoon with cute, nice food, shoot guns afterwards and then have a slumber party, how's that?"  She looked at me like I was crazy, like her sisters looked at her about that plowed field, and then she agreed to let 40 girls take over her home and clay pigeons shatter in her front yard.

My mother is a fantastic baker and makes these famous sugar cookies.  She made sure we had cookies shaped like cows and others shaped like my Clinique lipstick.  And remember, it's all about the presentation!  

Photo courtesy of my best friend, Lindsay at Jean's Boots Blog

My mother worked full time at the bank and did all the cooking and most the cleaning and all the laundry.  However, sometimes we would get home and there would be baby calves in our yard and she would help with that too.  Dad would be in the field or at the shop and what is one to do?  Well, take your heels and panty hose off and run around with the kids to get them back in the pasture.  

I vividly remember her in a red suit once running around the yard chasing those calves.  
Remember, she always has sparkle even in the dirt.  And to this day, she still chases those 
calves out of her yard and back into that pasture.

My mother also bought Miller High Life once, the champagne of beers, for her Miller Lite loving husband, daughter and extended network of children.  Dad had called mom to pick up a case of Miller Lite on her way home.  She brought it down to us in the basement and when we saw what she was carrying we said, "um...what is that?!" 

 She said, "it's your beer you asked me to get!"  
Mary (as dad so fondly called her, "That ain't Miller Lite."  
"We can't drink that!"
My mother, "isn't it better than Miller Lite?  It's the champagne of beers!"

Sometimes, she didn't get it.  That Miller Lite was our chosen one and we would have it no other way.  We just laughed at her, accepted it and then never drank it.  

I mean we hold Miller Lite in such high regard that my girlfriend and I once covered a whole case of it with bows to give as a gift to one of our best guy friends.  It somehow ended up at a party, then back in my parents' basement.  And every time we would come home we would sit it on top of the big screen to signify, and tell the world, that we were home and we were ruling the roost that weekend.  

Well, it's still there.  Still at home in the basement covered in what's left of the bows.  And my mother, well she wants to get rid of it sooo bad.  But I think she understands it's significance plus it has some sparkle to it with the bows.  Now she gets it, it's our champagne, and she has it at all of our fancy soirees. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Unspoken Lesson from the Farmer: Live.Your.Life.

As I continue to daydream about what this blog might entail and what I want to share with you, I remind myself that I need continue to introduce you to my #FancyintheCountry world.  As I mentioned in my first post, Why Fancy in the Country, this blog is dedicated to my mom and my dad. Yesterday, as I made my way to work in the big city, I thought of a thousand things to share about my dad and how his influence has shaped my life.    Many of them are lessons, spoken and unspoken, that he taught me during his time here on earth.  

Lesson #1
"That's just part of it."

Lesson #2 is 
"Live Your Life."

What a lot of people don't understand about farmer's is that they are also people.  Just regular people who like to have fun and live their life just like the rest of us.  Even though their choice of fun half the time is sitting in a tractor alone for several hours planting or harvesting their crop in the fields or scouting their fields.  
It's their "little piece of heaven".

But farmers do like to have a good time and my farmer dad sure did.  He taught his farmer daughter 
and many of her friends how to do just that.  

Sometimes it consisted of packing a bunch of girls in his truck, grabbin' a bag of peanuts from Rural King and hittin' the road for the hog roast the boys were hosting down that country road.  Now I wouldn't say he necessarily thought it was fun to wait for his daughter and her friends (his other daughters) to change their clothes a million times, do their hair and make-up and then decide to do it all over again.  I would say he got in the habit of doing that, but the real fun came when he showed up at the hog roast to see those boys and share that bag of peanuts.  I could barely get him away from the roasting pig or the fire for a good picture.  

Sometimes fun consisted of getting home from a long day's work on the farm to find his girls on the back porch chattin' away and deciding to have a beer with them before hittin' the hay.  But then that turned into more than one beer and the idea that getting the gun out for target practice off the back deck was a good idea.....  So we lined those empty beer cans up to practice.  "You girls need to know how to use a gun.  Let's practice."  

And even though my farmer dad could barely sit still, he did like to have fun and relax in the water at times.  That was after the cannon bombs off the boat to purposely splash people, pushing people off the boat and annoying my mom by dunking her under the water.  He would then swim off by himself, relax and offer his peace.....

Dad was an avid sports fan and always an athlete ready to rough and tumble with that good Thomas defense and pushy elbows on the basketball court.  He loved to watch football, but I think he grew to love the tailgates with his friends and family even more.  He would always remind you, "even if the football team sucks, we can still have a good time."  
And we always did.

Every time I get sad about him being gone or those flashbacks return of that night on the farm when he died, I then hear him yelling in my ear, "Stop it.  'That's just part of it.'  I died but I'll see ya later.  Take 'er easy."

So then I remember, oh that's what I learned from him.  The saying that I always say to people.....


He sure did, and I think that's the second lesson he taught my mom, my sister, my friends, our family and myself.  Work hard to play hard, quit worrying so much, stop thinking so much and just let it be, go and "live.your.life.".....because "that's just part of it".

 And now that I am older and somewhat wiser, I realize that "Take 'er easy" is NOT "Take her greasy" but actually "Take her easy".  And that's what I am trying to do in this life.....remembering to "take 'er easy" and "live.my.life."  To find that "little piece of heaven" here on earth before joining him up above.

Photo by family friend, Rusty Kirk

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jewels & Bacon.....A Girl's Best Friends

BACON, extra bacon, crispy, extra crispy!!  EXTRA crispy......!!!!!!!!!!  

That's all I remember the morning after our "Jeans & Jewels"  night.  One of my best friends, Jodi, and I somehow snatched some free tickets to the hottest party in the city during the Month of May 
(for those Hoosiers out there, you know why that is capitalized).  

We had our first red carpet experience and you had to wear "jeans" and lots of "jewels"!  There were race car drivers galore, fashion we had never heard of and martinis served through an ice sculpture.  We scheduled a special shopping trip and even booked a room downtown because we knew it would be a fun night......

 We were living on top of the world at 23.  And since then we have called each other "Blessed Jewel".

But then it was the next morning, and as I stood at the hotel bedside to order the room service that we couldn't afford, but needed, all I kept hearing was her bacon order.  And rightfully so because who doesn't love bacon, extra crispy or not?!?  

These days, even though we still eat it a lot, bacon has turned into these every day gimmicks and jokes. And rightfully so, it's delicious and everyone should have the pleasure of eating it.  I mean, I take the opportunity as much as I can to eat it and buy the gimmicks.....

And yes, we still wear jeans often and lots of jewels.  And yes, we still eat bacon as much as possible.  However, sometimes we eat bacon, and do other things, to keep our minds off of our stress.  That includes Jodi and another friend of ours that love some good 'ole crispy bacon and all the relief it gives us from life's beautiful, crazy ways.

Just last month, my mom, sister and I visited the new Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms in northern Indiana.  As we were watching the momma pigs (or sows as they are called) have their piglets (baby pigs), my sister and I reminisced about our days on the farm when we raised pigs.  And then my mom started asking questions.....

"Your father let you do what....?!?"  
"Is this one of those times you went to the farm and he told you 'don't tell your mother 
what you did today' type of things?"

Well, I won't go into the details of scooping pig manure (or poop) and etc., nor do I remember my dad 
ever telling us to not tell mom anything (actually that may be a lie...).  But I do know that I loved raising pigs and showing them for 10 years in 4-H AND being proud that I was a part of helping to raise those pigs to produce bacon.

Not only was I wearing my jeans, I never left the house without my sticky jewel earrings even if I was scooping that pig manure.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Are you a #GreatAmerican?

I often wonder what life would be like if I didn't have freedoms.  The freedom to buy what I want, eat what I want, work and live where I want and drive and travel where I want.  What would that truly be like?  What would it be like if I couldn't buy and wear red, white and blue whenever I wanted?  (Don't forget the denim!)

And then I think, I don't want to know.  And how can I prevent that while still living my life as a citizen who enjoys all of these freedoms.  Well, if you know me, you know that I have worked in politics and am still politically active.  I love history and have the utmost respect for our military.  Sometimes I coin a person as a #GreatAmerican because they have exhibited some type of patriotism or give back to their communities and to their country.  And don't forget those who just love an ice cold beer on their front porch while their American Flag blows in the wind.  

However, I have a love-hate relationship with government and politics.  Somedays I am 
astounded by things that are done in our government or in the political sphere.  But then when I get frustrated about those things, I ask myself, "Did you do enough today?  Were you involved or did you educate yourself enough to know what is truly going on in your country and in your world?"

Sometimes I say "yes" and sometimes the answer is "no".  All I know is that I don't do enough and I know a lot of other people who don't do enough either.  That makes me challenge myself to do more.  And because I love sharing things with people and educating them about things, this blog is an attempt at helping people to become more involved or to at least know what is going on in our country and our world.  

I hope as Americans most people know that their voice DOES matter even when you think it doesn't.  
The United States of America is different for a reason and people still flock to this place for a reason because.....

I also wonder what it would be like if I didn't grow up on a farm, live on a farm or even work in agriculture.  And what would my life be like if I didn't have passion.  Passion for where I come from and what I do and where I live?  

In a letter to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” 

When I read that quote I am not only proud to be a farm girl but to be an American farm girl.  Seeing the passion and contributions that farmers make, not just in the growing of our food and caring of animals but in their involvement in their communities, makes me proud and grateful. 

The men during the Revolutionary War didn't leave their farms to go and die in their own fields so we wouldn't be involved in government and politics.  They did it so that we COULD be involved in government and politics.  

I do not believe that every citizen has to be running for an office or giving to a political campaign.  I believe we have the right to do that and the freedom to choose how we want to be involved, that was given to us.  But we do have the responsibility to learn about our freedoms and to be aware of what is going on in our country.  

So as I conclude your first "Great American Class", I ask that you at least learn something about your government or read about what is going on in your town, state, country and our world.  And I want to help you, that's why we will do this series on the first Tuesday of every month (you'll have to come back next month to learn, "Why Tuesday?).   Send me your questions, topics you want to learn about or how you want to be involved. 
I'll even take it back to the "Schoolhouse Rock!" days if you want!

 So for you and those that came before you and for those that will come after you, always remember.....

And we need to care for it, not just farmers, but all of us.