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Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Generous and Giving Breed

My sister Sarah and I write quarterly for our hometown newspaper, The Reporter-Times in Martinsville, Indiana.  

We write about agriculture and share our stories and experiences from our Farm Life.  
We share about passion for agriculture as we honor our dad and all our fellow farmers.   

Below is our most recent article.
Enjoy and remember to, Thank A Farmer. 


It was a chilly December Saturday on the farm. The barn lot was covered with snow and filled with several semis, but our family didn’t own all of them.  So, why were there so many semis parked in the snow covered barn lot? While many of you were listening to Christmas music and finishing up your shopping, our family was trying to finish harvest.  Yes, just because the seasons according to the weather change does not mean they have changed for the farmer.  Only a few of those semis belonged to our family, the others belonged to different farmers. Farmers who were so generous to give up their time and help our family.  This year was a bountiful harvest (the largest in our state’s history), but it was a wet harvest. We needed more space to store the corn and soybeans we grow in our grain bins. These farmers came with their semis to load and haul away grain so our family could have room to store our grain in the bins.  

That day was also a familiar scene. The barn lot was full of other farmers’ semis over five years ago, the day after our father’s funeral. Some of our farmer friends came out to the farm with their semis to help take loads to a grain elevator and give a beautiful tribute to our father. It was amazing to see our farming community come together when one of their own needed help. That’s what farmers do.  They give help when it’s needed. They are a generous breed.

Farmers are also dreamers and gamblers.  They dream for a perfect year that brings perfect weather that will help yield the perfect crop.  But they know that the perfect year will never come, and yet they still take that gamble.  Farmers know that there can never be a perfect year because there is always different types of circumstances that get in the way.  Whether those circumstances are the weather, a death of a local farmer or the fluctuating markets, they will continue to make that gamble and strive for the perfect harvest.  And when these circumstances begin to slow them down, others from their breed come with helping hands, and in our case, a semi too.

They give so much of their time to their farm and their lives to the land while every season brings new challenges but new opportunities.

Farmers live and die by seasons, and they learn to appreciate each one of them.   All four bring their positives and negatives.  Spring brings warm weather to melt the snow and warm up the ground where the farmers plant their seeds and begin again.  They pray that a late frost doesn’t coat their crops and that rain doesn’t flood and wash them away.  Farmers’ prayers in the summer include timely rain in June and July for the corn and in August for the soybeans.  And it shouldn’t include heat and dry weather that lasts weeks on end.  The harvest prayer is for safety in the fields, on the roads and at the farm.  Winter is a time to plan for the spring planting season, rest up a little and spend time with fellow farmers at meetings learning about new farm practices or how to make our farms better for our families and all those we feed.

We aren’t saying that farmers work harder or give back more than other professions.  Well, we might be a little biased especially during some of God’s seasons like spring and fall.  What we are saying is that they appreciate the seasons and care for the earth they are given and the people they provide for.  We were fortunate to learn that lesson on our family farm and hope to share it with others.

The year our father passed was also a late harvest.  At times we watched snowflakes coat the corncobs that were left standing in the field.  But they weren’t there long thanks to the farmers who came to help with our harvest.  We are forever grateful for your friendship, commitment to agriculture and your hard working, caring hands. You are a generous and giving breed.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

For the Love of Cows

You grew up with cows?
You have cows?
Do you name your cows?
I bet they are so cute!

Well, yes and yes and sometimes we name them and they can be cute occasionally but not really.  
And especially not when they stick their tongues out at you when you are trying to visit and feed them.

I have so many childhood memories involving the cows.  
Their bawling noises in the early morning hours that signaled it was time to get up.

Walks through the woods and along the cow paths to each of our forts was a staple of our childhood.  
We would talk to the cows, drink from their water troughs and use the dried up cow pies they left behind as frisbees (gross but true).

And now my farmer husband works with the cattle daily especially during this time of year.
And I am usually just a bystander, asking questions, giving directions and yes, wanting to name a few of them too.

Our family has a cattle business and yes, most times we see it as a business and part of our farm operation.  
The cattle provide us with diversification on our family farm.  

But it's also a way of life for us and for most cattle farmers.  

We do it for the tradition of raising cattle in this country and on our family farms.
And we appreciate the freedom to raise the breed of cattle we want to and how we want to raise them.

We do it to teach the next generation about how to care for another living being 
and the art of hard work.

We do it in the cold and in the rain and to care for the cattle each day, no matter the circumstance.

And sometimes we love the cows so much that we put on strange hats and 
wear t-shirts in the heat of the summer to educate consumers about cattle and where their beef and milk come from.
(For those that know me, I usually don't wear t-shirts.)

And some of us go to the extreme and bring cow cakes to the party!

I can't imagine my life without cows.

I can't imagine this country without cattle or beef that is prepped in so many of our kitchens
 for a delicious and nutrious meal for our families.

I do so many things for the love of cows

What are you so passionate about that you would do anything for?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Walk the Miles You Are Given

After the fire alarm went off, I realized I grabbed my purse and computer instead of my coat. 
Then while outside in the freezing weather, I was reminded that life is pretty funny sometimes and you just have to walk the miles you are given.

I was in Denver this past weekend with my best friend Lindsay for the National Western Livestock Show.  

For several years now, we have been those Indiana farm girls grounded in our roots that love to take our wings west.  And we embrace the adventures along the way, even if it's not in our plan at the moment.

During one trip from Denver through Wyoming and into Montana we stopped along dirt roads to photograph the beautiful western scenery.  We looked like strange tourists in dresses and boots with a crappy rental and fancy cameras.  But we were in heaven, and took a moment to appreciate our surroundings.

As girls that grew up with cattle, we were amused by this sign and stopped to take a picture.  
While on top of this mountain along the Beartooth Highway, we thought it would be a good idea to call our moms while we had phone service.  Well.....we got to the top of the hill here and as we were talking to our moms, a truck pulled behind our car.  We were instantly scared and I realized that I even left the keys in the car so we could have been stranded if they were to take our crappy rental.

But turns out, it was a friendly old man who was making his way through the pass and wanted to make sure we were okay.  Unexpected surprises on the road aren't always scary.

But then there was the time we were stalked by mountain men (and we thought they were chasing us).  Or the time we got the last room at a Motel 8 with nothing but construction workers and truckers.  
And we must not forget the time that we almost slept in our car because there was no vacancy in a small Wyoming town due to a Quarter Horse Show.

But when in Denver, a mile high, we somehow seem comfortable as we find our roots in every corner.  It may be in the old stockyards or talking to an old man who is a descendant of Laura Ingalls Wilder (no joke).

And we never forget the wings that brought us west.  
I find it funny at times, we both are so grounded in Indiana and rooted in our history, 
but yet we love the miles our wings take us on.  

And we always remind each other, as we all should,
 to not blink when on your adventures or you will miss the beauty of it all.

When my flight was cancelled late on Monday, I kind of forgot about the beauty.  After long lines, hours on the phone, booking my flight in my maiden name, rounding up college kids to share a cab with and the fire alarm at 7:30 a.m. in the always lovely Quality Inn well.....I forgot about the beauty of the adventure.

It wasn't until I helped a couple get home, realized I helped the poor college kids and had great conversations with people at the airport that I felt better.  That maybe the miles I was given for this trip were not only meant to enjoy Denver but to slow down and appreciate the adventure.

We are only given so many miles in our lives. 

I understand everyone has somewhere to be, but can't we slow down and it enjoy it all for a minute.

So while we may be a mile high on our next adventure or see many miles of the road ahead, 
slow down, walk the miles you are given, appreciate the people and places around you and enjoy.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter "To Do List" on the Farm

"What exactly do farmers do in the winter time?" a friend recently asked.

Well, that's funny you ask, because I was just thinking about sharing the 
"Winter To Do List on the Farm".

When most people think of farmers, they usually think of the spring and the fall.
But there is a lot to do when they are planting or harvesting their crops.

Every season has it's own "to do list" and every farmer has their own "to do list".
Some farmers are more diversified than others (they have more than just crops).

For example, a lot of farmers have crops and livestock.  Some farmers have just livestock.
And in the winter, you have to check on your livestock just like every other season.

Even if they don't really like it and give you dirty looks. 

 They need to be fed, have water and a warm barn just like you and I need to be fed,
have fresh water and a warm home.

Farmers and livestock producers have to not only get out in the cold to put the hay or feed out for the animals, but they also have to check their water supply.

So, here we were checking the creek.  It is the main source of water for this herd of cattle.

When it freezes, it has to be chopped or water has to be given to the animals in another way.
On our farm, they would construct a heated water fountain for the cattle.

In the barns or the farm, just like in homes, they have to make sure pipes don't freeze as well.

Animals are not the only thing to care for on the "winter to do list". 
Here are a few others:

*Fix and prepare machinery 
*Review last year's financial and agronomic data
*Clean barns and shops
*Create a plan for next year's planting season 
*Buy seed for next year (happens throughout the year)
*Review financial planning and future growth or diversification
*Work on year-end financials
*Monitor markets
*Sell grain
*Haul grain
*Visit with landlords, partners, customers, consultants, 
equipment dealers, machinery dealers, etc. 
*Review insurance
*Attend meetings to learn about new production practices, 
new farm policies and new developments in the agriculture industry
*Review insurance and legal documents
*Catch up on a lot of farm magazines that got piled up in the fall!
*And random jobs you just didn't have time for while planting or harvesting.

And much, much more!  

Our farm includes a family owned seed company.  My husband and his brother are the fourth generation to run the company.  So on their "to do list" we can add customer calls, deliveries, processing and bagging the seed, meeting with folks that work in agronomy and genetics, and all the paperwork that comes along with it.

Basically, there is no real "off season" for farmers.  
Even though some farmers may not have as many things to do as others, 
there is still work to be done and still a long "winter to do list".  

Oh, I forgot, we also teach the next generation on our farm.  
Something that's always on the "to do list".

So now you know what farmers do in the winter.  
You are welcome to come and check the cattle with us if you want, 
but you have to wear a hat like little Ethan's if you do! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Hike in the Woods, It's Good for the Soul

My Sunday started with church like many Sundays.  
Then I wanted to go check the cattle and walk fence with my farmer to take pictures.

The next thing I knew, we were in the barn with 5 kids, our nieces and nephews, and my husband was talking to them about taking a hike in the woods.

Now when I hear "the woods" all of these memories from my childhood flood my mind. 
As children on the farm, we lived on a small piece of land 
which was surrounded by pasture full of cattle and "the woods".

I think of the time when I fell 3 times in the creek and soaked my pants with mossy creek water.  After trekking to the house after the third time to change my pants, my mother opened up the door and said, "I'm sorry, go back into 'the woods'".  Then slammed the door in my face.  

My sister and I had 3 forts in our woods, and a valley called "The Sound of Music Valley".  To this day, I could walk you to each fort and sing you those songs in that valley.

So....while I had 8 things on my "to do" list on Sunday, I thought maybe it might be good to take a walk into "the woods" for old times sake.

Before we left though, they had to jump around on the hay bales....and pose for Aunt Katie.

We left the farm and headed for our adventure in "the woods" together.  The kids talked and talked about what they would find, where Uncle Brett was taking them and how excited they were.

Their wonder and excitement made my heart melt.
And they had no idea that someday these memories will be so special.

Come to find out, Uncle Brett really wanted to check his game cameras for his hunting purposes.
But it worked, the kids love to look at pictures and the fact that they 
came from a camera on the tree was even cooler.

The girls quickly found an ice patch to skate around on, but I soon pointed out Uncle Brett's tree stand.  They said, "wait....can we climb that?!"  I said, "no, that's Uncle Brett's private tree house.  No kids allowed."  And then they were back to skating and acting out scenes from Frozen.

We walked through the woods, with arms spread out in front of us to avoid the twigs and brush.  When we approached the creek I heard, "Water!  More Ice!  Oh my gosh, how cool!"  So we stopped and played some games in the creek, watched the minnows swim under the ice and made Uncle Brett get chunks of ice for us to throw.

Little Eli wanted a chunk of ice to throw, but first, he had to taste it.  Nothing like some good creek water to make you a stronger young farmer.

 Of course I noticed the girls' bright and fancy outerwear before our adventure began.  But I was truly proud when I saw them getting their hands and boots dirty wearing that pink and leopard print.  
My little Fancy in the Country girls. 

When we turned away from the creek, they were on to their next adventure.  
"I found more ice!  Come on!"  

So they ran to the next ice patch....this happened about 4 times until we reached the end of the adventure.

The girls skated on each patch and the boys jumped up and down to try to break them and create a disaster.  
Pretty typical with this crew. 

 At one point, Brett found some deer tracks and pointed them out to the kids.  As we continued to walk through the woods we heard little Eli mumbling something.

"I am going to go deer hunting with you Uncky Brett," he said as he made his way through the rugged corn field with the stalks left from last fall taller than his little knees.  
He said it in a way that was as if they were going to do it tomorrow.

But then he got tired and Uncky Brett had to carry him.  Eli then became the binoculars that could spot the pink jackets from afar.  "I found them!  I found them!" he proclaimed.  

We had such a great time with the kids.  We got home and I said, "that was good for my soul, I needed that."

And as we continued to talk about our adventures the farmer said, "I wish I could be purely excited about the small things like them."  

Each section of the woods and at each turn there was a new adventure.  

We should probably remember that life is kind of like that too--new adventures at every turn.  And we should try to be purely excited about them because it's good for the soul.  

Now go take a hike!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Art of Hunting & A Good Wife

I have always been interested in hunting; the hunt and the meat that comes from the hunt. 

But back in high school the boys wouldn't take me with them into the woods. 
"You smell."  (As in good, too much perfume.)
"You can't sit still."
"Katie, you would want to talk too much and you use your hands too much when you talk."

I totally didn't get it.  I thought they were just being mean but....they were right.  
I needed to grow-up and find a type of hunting that would allow me to talk!  
Oh and I found my husband who lets me talk a lot too.

He took me shed hunting recently.
When I told him I was wearing Carhartt and my new, orange scarf from Paris, 
he almost didn't take me into the woods either!

Shed hunting is basically the search for antlers in the woods that the deer shed after mating season.  
And this Fancy in the Country gal likes to decorate with antlers so....shed hunting is great!  There is no sitting still and you can talk all you want (even if your husband just acts like he is listening).

He did listen when I told him that I wanted to go bird hunting sometime and I needed some "cute" hunting clothing.  So for Christmas I got a new hunting vest and last weekend we went upland bird hunting!  
(Yes, that is my shotgun.)

It was fun to walk around the fields and woods especially with our new friend, Katie the dog.

Watching the dog hunt the birds, stand still until we got close to the bird and then retrieving the bird was so fascnitating to watch.  Hunting is a sport and in many ways, its own art.

It started raining, and then it poured.  We were soaked, but we got some new pheasants, quail and chukars (Hungarian partridges). 

Despite the rain, Katie wasn't ready to quit and wanted the birds even after they had gone to bird heaven.....

Several years ago, the boys said I wouldn't be able to do it.

And now some say I am a "good wife" and it's nice that I sacrifice and do activities my husband likes.
While I find those comments very complimentary, the "good wife" thing just isn't how I see it though 

I like hunting too--the art and the sport of it.  The fact that I can talk and use my hands and wear my scarf from Paris makes it even better!  

And I can hunt the food that I will later cook along with my husband and try new things he prepares for us.  That's the art of a good wife in our house and this fancy in the country life.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Keep Your Spirit Alive

It's a New Year and I'm Back!

I lost my energy and blogging spirit at the end of 2014--overwhelmed with driving too much for work and events, holiday preparations and the sickness.  Yes, I had that awful 24 hour sickness on Christmas Eve and I think some of my holiday spirit left me then.  

However, I never lost my true spirit but felt the need to rejuvenate over the holidays.  I caught up on my stack of magazines, organized my gazillion notebooks with life and career and advice and tried to just "be still" for a few more moments than I usually am.

With all the rest and relaxation, my spirit feels pretty good. I think it's because I was home on my family farm for a few days and felt my dad's spirit.  I learned to never really lose my spirit but that sometimes I should just "slow down", as he would say

My dad had lots of spirit and even more energy.  He loved to work hard to play hard.  
That is the motto my parents subtly taught us as they lived their lives and raised my sister and I to be strong, passionate young women.  

This Christmas someone asked me something about my dad that no one had ever really blatantly asked before.  
"How do you keep his spirit alive?" 

It kind of shocked me for a second and then I realized, we just do.  There is not a real conscious effort to do so, we just keep his spirit alive because "that's just part of it".

We live our lives.  That's how we do it.
And make him proud along the way.  

No, Sarah and I don't dress alike and try to sit close to each other and have the same birthday parties anymore.  

But we do live our lives to the fullest and work to educate people about where and how we grew up.  
We definitely work hard and play hard and it's our hope that our passionate spirits rub off on others.

Tim's girls have always lived with a burning passion and spirit that keeps us and him alive. 

This saying sits on a sign in my home, 
"When You Get There, Remember Where You Came From."

I think we have to remember where we came and the spirits that brought us to where we are today.  
Some may be good, others bad, but it's how we embrace them to make us better that counts.

Even though dad and I were very different from each other (he never understood the polka dots and fancy purses), we both knew where we came from and were proud of it.  

I may be a farmer's daughter and have dirt in my blood, but that doesn't me I can't grab that purse and polka dots to get where I am going. 

Your spirit is what you make of it.  And if you aren't willing to live a life full of spirit and passion, why would others want to continue to be a part of your life and share it when you are gone.

Just remember, to keep your resolutions, your word, your passion and your love for others even when you are overwhelmed and rushed in the new year.

In 2015, let's keep our spirits alive and remember where they came from.