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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Actual Working Farm

I've recently been trying to appreciate many things in my life and take 
time for myself which is why I haven't written in awhile.  I've also been lacking 
inspiration on what to write and how to organize my thoughts until recently.

I was at a reception last week when someone asked what I did and where I was from.
I told this young woman that I grew up on a farm and my husband and I live on our family farm now where we grow corn, soybeans and wheat, raise cattle, have a family-owned seed company and now mill grain for distilleries who make spirits.

She let me ramble and talk, shaking her head like she somewhat got what I was talking about.
Until a few minutes in she stopped me and said, 
"wait, an actual working farm?  You live on an actual working farm?"

Pause for deep breath.
"Yes" I replied, "and my husband is a farmer, as his full-time job, on our actual working farm."

I drove home that night mind boggled, but yet feeling blessed that I know 
what an actual working farm is and that they actually still exist and 
that there are farmers working full-time on the farm. 

I grew-up not knowing anything different.  
We lived on the farm.  Town was far away.  My dad and grandpa and great-grandpa were farmers.

The farmers, my farmers, taught me about our actual working farm where we raised crops and cared for animals because other people couldn't, wouldn't or shouldn't.  
We were blessed with love for the land and the work ethic to live and work on the farm.

Even though many of my friends growing up and even today don't understand my farm lingo or what happens on our actual working farm, I feel blessed that I do.
I feel blessed that I know where my food comes from and 
the sacrifice the farmers made growing and raising our food.

It will be 6 years ago this Friday that we lost a farmer, our farmer.

He lived and worked on our actual working farm.
He loved his wife and raised his children on that farm and that land.
And he died on that same farm.

While we miss him dearly, he taught us not to sulk and the tough stuff 
in life is "just part of it".

Mom still lives and now works on our family farm.
My sister lives there too and is now dating a farmer of her own.
And I married a farmer and moved to his actual working farm.

The farmer remains in our hearts and so does our love for the land and our farm
because that's "just part of it".

I am grateful every day for our farmers and their farms.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have loved more than one farmer in my life--
my husband who loves to check his fields,

and my dad who loved to check his and walk the land where he lived, worked and died.

This Thanksgiving, appreciate the actual working farms and the farmers 
who sacrificed to provide food for your table.
Give thanks for the heaven below you, the heaven above you 
and those watching over you.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Unspoken Lesson from the Farmer: Take 'Er Easy & Give Thanks

  He’s been gone for six years this November, but his witty comments and advice pop into my head at random times.  It makes him seem closer, and it makes me so thankful.  Each year as this month approaches, it hits me—that cold air and that cold feeling that I have been running around so fast that I forgot to stop and appreciate it all, to “take ‘er easy”.

Farmers have a lot of lingo that some of us don’t understand, and “take ‘er easy” is one of them.  When I was little, I used to think he was saying “take her greasy” and thought he was such a weirdo.  Once I grew up I realized that he was saying “take ‘er easy”, “take it easy”.  
What he was really saying is “slow down, Katie.” 

 I never fully understood my dad until he was gone after that November night on the farm.  While I always appreciated him and his occupation, I never really slowed down enough to stop and give thanks as much as I should have. 

Just like many of you, I am usually rushing to get to work or home to a million other things to do.  It’s hard to think about others in the hustle and bustle of life and to be thankful for the people that help make our lives a little easier.  Do we stop to slow down to be thankful for the people that pick-up our trash or mow the grass along our roads so we can see?  Do we ever stop and realize we have the safest, most abundant food supply in the world?  We can get bananas and tomatoes any time of year, but most people don’t understand how they got to our grocery stores or kitchen tables.  

As a farmer’s daughter, I always give thanks for the food on our table.  But sometimes I forget to give thanks for the people that brought it to us and the safety God gave them to do so.  We sometimes are so concentrated on the “what” that we forget about the “who”.  It takes more than a tractor to farm.  It takes hard work, determination, patience with the weather, and knowledge of seed varieties, insects, diseases, soils, crop protection options, weed control and more.  And this doesn’t include the animals that farmers may be caring for in their pastures.  Farmers from around the world are the “who” we need to thank for that food on our table and the variety of options we have for our families.  

Fall is in full swing and the holidays are just around the corner.
This November, take a minute to slow down and be thankful.  Tell someone you are thankful for not only what they do, but for who they are because your life is better, safer or more productive and blessed because of them.  I’m really hoping to “take ‘er easy” as I give thanks for my dad and all that farmer lingo that teaches me to slow down. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dodging Cow Pies

 I drive to and from the city each day and hear lots of sounds.  
But nothing is like the sound of a combine humming behind our house.
Yesterday, I came home to the hum of 3 different combines coming from three different directions, and I embraced the sounds while they lasted.

While there is so much to embrace during the harvest, there is a lot to dodge.

I dodge a lot of cow pies on our lane while I take walks.
They seem to not care if you step in them, but they do care that I am in their way.

I dodge my inner caregiver by making countless sandwiches.

I dodge my anxiety about safety for my husband and the other farmers while drinking lots of wine.

I dodge the fact that this is not the time of  year to make "honey do" lists.

I try, really try, to dodge long conversations and updates about my day while I deliver dinner and when he comes home really late.

I dodge the fact that this has been the only place I have seen my husband in a week.
But I embrace the beautiful sunsets we can watch together even if it's for 30 seconds.

When you're married to a farmer, you have to embrace the chores that you usually try to dodge. 
For me, that would be taking the trash to the farm, feeding the dog, and mowing the grass.

I have to dodge the tall grass that is finally growing around my new walkway, finally.  Because really I am still trying to dodge not getting on the lawn mower.

But I get to embrace 10 minutes here and there when the farmer calls and says, "get your camera, we're headed to the pasture."  We took a few moments this harvest to feed the cows some buckets full of immature soybean pods that weren't ready for harvest.

I try to dodge laundry by going to fancy parties at our Indiana State Museum and celebrating our Indiana history.  What's great about our history, is that it always includes farmers and agriculture.

When I arrive home I try to dodge the boys from seeing me taking photos.

When I am in the city, I don't dodge from telling our story about the farm, agriculture and harvest.
In fact last week as I sat in the city at a dinner while my farmer sat in a tractor, I embraced conversations about GMOs, antibiotics in livestock and the fluctuating grain market.

While I don't get to ride along in the tractors and trucks often, I never dodge opportunities to embrace our farm life and from educating people about agriculture.

And while the cow pies on my walks are getting harder to see as the sun sets earlier, 
I have embraced the fact that I might step in one.  

It's "just part of it" as dad would say.  
So I just go along and step in them so I can embrace the sounds of the farm as I watch the beautiful sunsets.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Harvest Widow

Last night I sat down after making 7 brown bag dinners, drank some wine and prayed that he would come home safe.  And I was thinking about all the other women who are in the fields or at home waiting on their farmers too--
The Harvest Widows.

I'm also thinking of my mom, the farm widow.

Harvest is the most difficult time for many of us on the farm.
I wrote this article in Farm Indiana in honor of them and said many prayers this fall for them, 
The Harvest Widows.


My favorite season is fall with the crisp air, crackle of a campfire and crunch of the leaves beneath my feet.  Every year the trees surprise me with their bright, vibrant colors and they remind me to enjoy the moment and breathe that fresh, crisp air while it lasts.

October is the month when fall becomes real, when the favorite fall things become part of our daily lives.  For some of us, the anxiety, rush of emotions and longing to see our significant other are more prevalent and real during this fall month more than other times of the year.  The some of us would be 
The Harvest Widows.

As you read this, there are probably farm wives out there preparing themselves for a long day, night or week ahead without seeing their farmer husbands very much.  There are some of us that make what seems like endless meals to take to the field.  Some of us haul our farmers from one field to the next and others help in the fields right alongside their husbands.  We always make sure there is enough coffee or energy drinks around this time of year and plenty of wine for ourselves.  Our endless loads of laundry and washers fullof farm treasures don’t deter us from supporting our farmers.  And we won’t truly sleep until we know they are home safe, sleeping beside us while we watch them lying awake with our anxiety about what the next day may bring. 

I take pride in my role as a Harvest Widow because I married a man who is working the land to produce food for others and to sustain a family farm for generations to come.  Working the land is a privilege not many of us have and the farmer takes care of it for his family and yours. 

While I talk about being a Harvest Widow to try and explain to people what real life entails being married to a farmer during the fall months, I forget that my mother is a widow who actually lost her farmer during harvest. 

 The air was crisp that night and I was on my way to a campfire when the call came about my dad.  I don’t remember the leaves beneath my feet cracking as I raced across the barn lot and yards that night, but I know they were there.  For some reason, the leaves every fall since that day have been more beautiful and colorful than the last, probably a sign from my dad to slow down and take a moment to enjoy them. 

Each year when fall harvest approaches, I say a pray for all of the farmers and their safety.  I even say a prayer for those that don’t work in agriculture but drive alongside tractors and combines on the road because it can be dangerous so please, be careful out there.  But my thoughts and prayers always include the harvest widows, the women that support and care for the farmers, and the women who have lost their farmers.  I’ll be thinking about them a lot this month as I sit outside drinking my wine listening to the combine’s hum in the distance and taking a moment to watch the leaves turn colors.   

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Soybeans, Safety & Sandwiches

I came home one day, actually many days, to these beautiful, ready to harvest soybeans behind our house on the farm.  I was home alone while the farmer was busy harvesting another field.
I decided to be still for a moment and enjoy the view while it lasted.

And when you are still for a moment, you notice the littlest of things like this bug on the barbed wire fence.  
When you are still, you appreciate the small blessings in life.

I'm glad I stood still for those few moments because the next day, this view was gone.  I came home late the next evening to the hum of a tractor and the sight of a moving beam of light in the field.  The soybeans had been harvested and rye was being planted as a cover crop for my new neighbors, the cows.

While I was upset about the beans being gone, my farmer reminded me I need to chill out, it's harvest.  He also told me about how much I loved having the cows so close last spring.  
I do love cows in the backyard especially because the farmer is never home during harvest and they provide for entertainment and comfort.

Some aren't exactly thrilled that I take my walks up and down their "lane" and act like their BFF.
I think they'll get over it though.

All cows and kidding aside, the first few days of harvest are pretty stressful.  Actually, all of harvest is stressful at some level.  But the first few days you realize, and are reminded, of the dangers of farming and the safety protocols and awareness needed during this time of year.  

Farmers need to be safe while working, but the every day person on the road needs to be aware of the risks of the large tractors, trucks and combines on the road.  And they need to slow down a bit, to appreciate the farmer and the food being harvested.

I was visiting grandpa this weekend when we decided to watch my farmer and make sure he was being safe.  He thought we were annoying, I thought we were being supportive.

When we stopped for a moment, I realized what a blessing it was to see one generation watching another harvest a crop on the family farm.

We decided to leave him alone and stay off the road so he could get from the farm to field safely. 

Grandpa and I then headed out to the garden to pick the last of our crop this season.  After picking beets and carrots, we left for the field to check beans.

He picked some, told me some old seed company stories and the progress on the farm and then made me eat a few.

They'll be ready to harvest this week.
Grandpa's hands, and experience, told me so.

We are in our second week of Harvest 2015 and I feel like it's been a little longer.  A 4:00 a.m. wake-up call one week thanks to the calves in our yard, and a 1:00 a.m. bedtime on a Monday the next week.  

  I've made 10 sandwiches within 24 hours and I am already planning ways to diversify the brown bag lunches.  It's harder than you think!

I'm not the one doing any physical labor on the farm, but am trying to be a supportive farm wife and partner.  I'm slowing down to appreciate the harvest and the soybeans.  I'm so excited to have the cows back as my neighbors and I'm becoming efficient at making sandwiches!

My harvest wish is always for our farmers to stay safe.
This year I hope you slow down to stay safe and appreciate the harvest too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Class on the Farm

My niece will celebrate her 8th birthday in a few weeks and I'm pretty excited about her gift. 
I recently learned she loves "playing school" just like I did when I was her age!  
So she will be getting a bell, hall passes, workbooks, a grade book and more!  

Obviously I am thrilled because I love back to school shopping!
And I recently wrote an article about how farmers need to "teach" more and 
open their "classrooms", their farms, more to consumers.  

You will see my recent Farm Indiana article below.
If you are a farmer, I hope you teach someone about your farm and
 what you are doing in the fields this fall.

If you are a consumer, I hope you ask a farmer about what he/she does on his/her family farm, in the fields and in the pastures with the animals.  Don't assume, ASK!

I'll be ready to teach you from the field in my backyard or with the cows in the pasture next door.
Ask me if you have questions, I'll have my bell and grade book in hand!


When I was younger, I had a school classroom set-up in my parents’ basement and acted like I was a teacher, day in and day out.  Before getting on the bus each morning I would visit my class and tell them that they would have a substitute for the day.  I never grew up to become a teacher, but I find myself “teaching” people about agriculture day in and day out.


I was at a reception lately, enjoying my wine when I encountered a woman who had been given so many myths about agriculture.  I spoke with her briefly and gave her some straight facts when she said, “I feel like we as consumers are so targeted and given so much information, I don’t know what to think anymore.”  I handed her my card and said, “Email me, I really have so much that could help you understand where your food comes from and why we do what we do on our family farms.  I want safe, healthy and affordable food just like you and I live on a farm, so let’s talk.”  I received an email from her first thing the next morning. 

Then I recently had to defend the 4-H program and bacon.  “How can those kids show those animals and become close to them, then sell them and go eat a hamburger or bacon?  I think it’s cruel.”  After taking a deep breath, I explained the 4-H program, hard work, our understanding of the circle of life and providing for others.  I didn’t get through to this person but it made me realize, yet again, that there are many people in this world that don’t understand our way of life and the lifelong lessons that 4-H teaches our children.  Nor do they understand that cruelty isn’t a part of agriculture and that farmers want to provide bacon for everyone’s table, if they want it. 

Most students will go back to school this fall and not have one lesson about agriculture even though much of what they learn is related to ag such as science, chemistry, math and even history.   I have visited classrooms and taught an agriculture lesson to inner city students who had no idea about how to grow a plant or what cows really looked like.  Cows are in my backyard, but these kids don’t even have a backyard to see something grow let alone hear cows each morning. 

We in agriculture have taken our wonderful way of life and our jobs to provide food to the world for granted too long.  We forget that many kids think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows and that brown eggs are better for you.  They think the food at the grocery or Wal-Mart comes from “the back” instead of our families’ fields, barns and pastures of the countryside. 

There is no substitute for our lives as farmers and advocates for agriculture.  And there is no bigger classroom than the one we live in, work in and dedicate our lives to—that of agriculture and our farms that touch every single person.

 So for those of you who are farmers, I urge you to teach.  Educate someone about what you do day in and day out and find some way to apply it to their lives as the everyday consumer who doesn’t live on a farm.  For those of you that don’t farm, I ask that you learn.  Be open to learning about what farmers do and how they care for their animals and their farm.  If you have questions let me know, I’m not leaving my classroom between the corn and the cattle anytime soon.   

Thursday, September 10, 2015

It's a Partnership, Not a Sponsorship

I was traveling for work and play recently and was gone for almost two weeks straight.

When I departed home for my long weeks of work meetings, time with friends and many miles in the air and on the road, I left a lot of sliced peppers.  

And when I returned, the floors were clean and his laundry was done.  

It wasn't a miracle, it's part of the partnership.  
Brett likes fresh sliced peppers to snack or just eat for dinner after a long, hot day.
I hate doing his 10 loads of laundry a week and seeing cow manure in my washer.
I also like clean floors. 

We both know what each other hates and what we like, so we try help each other out a bit in our 
busy lives, and we drink plenty of cocktails along the way.

My husband has always said, 
"Marriage is a partnership, not a sponsorship."

He knows who he married so he has to say that a lot.....but it works!

In order for this partnership to work, he knows to leave his dirty, dusty clothes on the back porch.
And I have learned that they will have to enter my washer.

This partnership works because I have finally realized I may have too many clothes and try to limit my shopping excursions.  But he has learned to just compliment, take a deep breath and shake his head.

We have really learned to embrace our heritage together and that dressing up 
with your partner is better than going at it alone.

We challenge each other to try new things and step out of our comfort zone.

I never would have kayaked.....

....or owned a dog without my husband, my partner.  

My mom always tells me that we are good together because we have our own hobbies and interests, but we also have found many things we can do together like bird hunting. 

Even though this is a good "partnership" activity, somehow he tricked me by buying me a new hunting vest with pockets.  I have pockets, he doesn't which means I have to carry the birds.  

I told him if I have a new vest, I will have to buy other new hunting accessories.
He just shook his head....

As I have just returned from traveling and wrapped up a busy summer, 
he is preparing for a busy fall and harvest.  
Sometimes we have to sponsor each other at different times of the year to make the partnership work.

And as partners, we support each other through thick and thin, the clean and the dirty.

So as I plan to "sponsor" my husband during harvest by making countless sandwiches and cutting lots of peppers, I may shop a little while he is in the field.  And when I return home, I won't mind if the floors are dirty.  Our partnership depends on it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hay There!

It was Sunday morning, a day we are supposed to spend with the Lord and rest,
when the farmer texted me, "I'm off to rake hay."

"Okay, love you." I responded knowing he wouldn't be home for several hours.

'I'll go nap for the both of us' is what I was really thinking but didn't say.

Later that day he came home right as I was waking up from my Sunday nap.
"There are over 100 bales if you want to take some photos," as he walked in the door.
I instantly perked up and ran for my camera and boots!

Some people like the smell of fresh cut grass. 
I prefer the smell of fresh cut hay.
And I appreciate my husband for knowing my love and obsession with the beauty of the bales.

There are lots of pretty sites in the country.
One of my personal favorites is the big, round hay bale.
It evokes childhood memories of jumping from one to the other in the barn yard.
It reminds me of watching the cattle run towards the tractor as I rode with my dad to feed them a new, round bale.

While I do love the round bale, I sometimes hate the hay.
It gets stuck on clothes pretty easily so it ends up in my house and on the floors.
It's in the the laundry basket and my washer and in the lint trap.
It's on the floorboards of every vehicle on the farm.
I have found it in my purse, in my hair, in my shoes and stuck to the bottom of my feet.

But hey, that's just part of making hay.

And the reason we make hay and these round bales is to feed the cattle in the winter time.  
This particular field ended up producing 100.5 round bales of hay.
Our cattle herd will go through all 100 of these bales in just one month.

"When you get up to 75 head that weigh around 1100-1200 pounds, 
you have to make a lot of hay," the farmer told me.

And remember, they love when I take pictures of them eating their hay in the winter.

Farmers usually rush to get to the field to cut, rake and bale hay.

You have to make it while the sun still shines because the next day it may rain, 
just like it did the day after these bales were made.

As I was asking the farmer about his hay, he reminded me of a few fun cow facts.

Cows can eat low quality food because of their complex digestive system which includes 
4 compartments in one stomach.

Their digestive system is more efficient in extracting all the nutrients out of the food unlike other farm animals like pigs and chickens which have a simpler digestive system.

They do not bite grass but rather wrap their tongue around it.
Cows are social animals, maybe that's why I love hanging out with them!
And they can only walk up stairs, not down!  

After a hard day's work of makin' hay, the farmer was kind enough to take me to the field to photograph the bales that will feed our cattle in the coming months.  Sitting on top of one of these really makes me feel like I'm on top of the world, again, something I used to think as I child.

And some have asked what they do in the summer. 

Well in the summer, they think about the winter and prepare the food for their cows among other things.  And in the winter, they get anxious about planting their fields and feed their cows that food they prepped and stored in the barn during the summer.

While many of you don't cut, rake or make round bales of hay to feed your cattle in the winter, surely you do something productive before the rain comes.  I hope you finish it and feel good about your work just like the farmer.  And when the rain starts to fall, make sure to enjoy your nap.