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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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Don’t Let Your Tears Hit the Ground

I woke up to lightening on Sunday night and had a flashback 
of the rain and storms from earlier this summer.  

After not hearing any rain fall to the ground, I fell back asleep.

Yesterday morning, I asked the farmer if it had rained and if it was going to.
"It just missed us," he said.
"Do we need it?" I replied.
"I wouldn't turn it down."

There you have it, a month ago we were praying it would stop and I was tearing up every time it rained.  Now it's been just hot enough that we need a little rain for our crops.  
It's always one or the other it seems.  
But as dad always said, "it's just part of it."

Below is my most recent article in Farm Indiana about the rain, my tears and what is just part of this so called farm life that we are so blessed to have.


It has stopped, for now.  I’m sure there will be more but maybe the next hour will go by without any and hopefully another hour after that.  I’m talking about the rain, and as I write this I am becoming more anxious each day for our farm, my family’s farm where I grew up, my farmer and all the Indiana farmers I work for. 

Most of the time, rain makes me peaceful and want to wrap-up in a blanket and read a good book.  It makes my flowers grow so I don’t have to water them and puts me to sleep, a nice sleep.  These days, I can’t fall asleep when it’s raining.  And when I fall asleep to rain and wake up to more rain it brings back memories I don’t really like to think about too often.

The rain this year has reminded me of the flood of 2008 which was not only a nightmare but a disaster.  The rain put me to sleep that night, but I woke up to my sister barreling down the stairs yelling “we’re stuck! It’s been raining all night, we are stuck on the hill!”  At that moment, I knew it was bad.  The ground had been saturated from several days of rain before the all night downpour.  Before I opened my eyes, I said a little pray and then headed for the kitchen where I knew my farmer dad would be watching the weather forecast.  He was leaning on the kitchen counter, trying not to sulk in the reality of what was happening.  We made eye contact and he said, 
“Get your boots and jackets, we are going to check the river.” 

As we piled into his truck, rain still hitting the windshield, I was praying it wasn’t that bad.  Surely the river was just out a little, like it usually is and it would be fine.  It was still early June, still time to replant the crops.  But no, the worst had happened.  The creek had turned into the river and the river had turned into the Mississippi.  At no other time in my life had I seen my father’s face look so shocked, sad, upset and angry all at once.  I think it was mostly shock as he said, “Girls, I have never seen it this way.  Not in my lifetime.  I bet some of the old timers haven’t even seen this.”  And he was right, they hadn’t.  We headed back to the farm and stopped at Grandma’s house to tell her.  
She hugged us all and tried to hold back her tears.

That’s what I tried to do then and have been trying to do this summer, hold back my tears for my farmer and my family.  Most people don’t understand though.  I moved from our farm to the city the day after the big flood in 2008.  It was hard for me to leave home during such a disaster, but I closely monitored the damage and recovery from afar that summer while working and living in the city.  When the flood happened and my hometown of Martinsville, along with many others like Columbus, were covered in water, all I wanted to do was return home to help.  I wanted to help my grandma clean up her flooded basement and help families in town that lost their homes to the river.  No one in the city really understood, let alone understood why I wanted to just go “home”.  Well my home was the ground that was flooded and covered in Mother Nature’s tears.

I sent my girlfriends a text recently about how emotional I have been about the weather.  A few of them had no clue, they live in the city.  Memories of 2008 came to mind and tears started to fill my eyes, but I held them back.

What I have learned about farmers in my 29 years of life is that they are resilient, in so many ways.  A flooded field, horrible drought, fluctuating markets, sick animals and accidents on the farm may knock us down but we do get back up.  As my farmer says, 
“we are going to get through it and it’s going to be okay.” 

Our home is the ground we live, work and die on and where our blood and sweat saturate the dirt under our feet. Some tears may fall from our eyes but we don’t let them hit the ground, especially these days when Mother Nature is doing plenty of that on her own.  Those of us that have dirt in our blood understand what my dad used to always say to me, “It’s just part of it”.  
Next year, rain or shine, flood or drought we will get back up.