Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What I Learned Yesterday

Yesterday I felt snippy. My low level of patience was even lower and the little burr under the saddle or the pea under the mattress felt like a boulder or watermelon.

Coming home from a great work vacation I was filled up and had plans to improve our dairy operation and change a few things.

Then it happened.

I had to go into the office and take care of business. I had a week’s worth of bills to enter and a sad, pathetic milk check to add to the balance.

While checking off the vendors that had to be paid I had a quarterly land payment and then the farm property taxes. Ughhhh. Double Ughhhh!

For those who don’t know or realize the dairy farmers have been surviving – some just barely with 1/3 of their income cut for over a year. Our milk prices suck!

While our income has been slashed the rest of our costs stay the same. The cows have to eat we use the tractors everyday which needs fuel and maintenance – funny how things continue to break. All of our wonderful employees count on us to provide for their families.  The list could continue.

So, sitting there with the massive amount we need to come up with this pay period sunk in. And, it’s not just us. It’s every dairy farmer. Plus some have lost everything due to weather. And, it’s not from bad choices we’ve made.

Then, add to it the frustrations of the media, special groups and celebrities that sway the general public with their mistruths and blatant lies.

Farmer and I discussed the situation and talked about how or what to do.

I had to leave to run some errands and the whole ball of “crap” we’re dealing with came with me.

Am I lying awake at night worried about this? Losing sleep? No – and solely because God has seen us through hard times and he will continue to. This low spot of the roller coasters is just lower and is lasting longer than usual and I’m basically sick of it. I felt irritated, tired and downright angry.

As I had to interact with others – at the bank, even some email, etc. I just wanted to bite their heads off. Little things said or tone of voice ratcheted up my annoyance.

This morning as I was doing my devotions the revelation came.

I was the person I didn’t want to be. I was reminded that the rude person waiting for me may have dire problems they were dealing with. When all I saw was the shortness and rudeness I didn’t see what was behind it.

So, I am purposing to not allow their rudeness to effect the way I think about a person. In fact, I will try to find a way to encourage that person.

I’m sharing my ugly side in hopes we all see our ugly sides and make room for others to work through their ugliness.

Even if we are the ones in the line of fire.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Farm Mom - Tough Job

There is this romantic view of what it’s like to be a farm wife and farm mom. We make huge luscious breakfasts and send our husband and sons out the door to work the land. Meanwhile we stay behind and can tomatoes, make jam and sew those curtains for the kitchen windows.

Not so much anymore.

Many of us farm women are just as much farmers as the men are – imagine that!

We jump into the combine, tractors, choppers and travel over the fields just like the men do. We milk the cows, haul the poop, deliver calves and fix machinery.

On top of all those “farm like” jobs we generally are the ones who cook the meals, clean the house, wash the clothes and cart the kids.

All that is manageable and we sort of expect that, deal with it and move on.

The part that gets tough is when we get stuck. We get stuck between the sons and fathers - between the daughters and fathers - between the sons and sons – between daughters and sons and so on and so on. When you love every player on the board and one comes up against another for whatever reason it’s difficult to be the calm voice. It’s extremely hard when you disagree with the dad and he’s the boss. You then are accused of being a mom and not a rational player. I’m just going to say it here and now. Some men are just plain clueless. They have no idea how their words, tone of voice or reasoning (or lack of) comes across. Part of the problem is this is a whole new generation and the sons don’t view things the way their father does. And, the father forgets the tug and pull they had with their own father years ago.

Also in the dance to keep harmony we are usually blamed by both sides. We are accused of taking sides when all we are trying to do is blend the lines so there are no sides. At times we feel like we can never win and we are a casualty left lying alongside the road. We can’t please anyone and we disappoint everyone.

I also think it is harder for a mother to separate family and work. We have a habit of blending it all together where some of the guys can make a distinct division. Us women – not so much.

We are concerned the fall-out from a blow up at the farm will carry enough weight that it will damage the core of the family. And for most of us there is nothing more important than the family staying a family.

So while there are times that farming together as a family is a divinely, cohesive, lovely, wonderful experience it can also be hell on earth trying to keep the peace and people loving each other. As the mother on a family farm I have been on the roller coaster way too long and would love to figure out a way to jump off.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from A Farm Wife - Repost

Merry Christmas from West Michigan.

A day makes no difference to the farm.

Cows still need to be milked, fed and bedded.

Calves will be born.

Barns will be scraped.

If necessary, snow will be plowed to get the milk truck and employees in and out.

And it goes without saying - frozen pipes will be thawed, the broken will be fixed and whatever goes wrong will be righted.

The cows have no clue that today should be a day with family and friends.

As a farmer, we don't "do" holidays. We don't always get to punch out on Christmas Eve day and think "It's so nice to be off for a couple of days." 

There will be some parties, concerts and gatherings we will have to miss because the cows don't milk, feed or take care of themselves.

On the flip side – we get to watch God at work.

Watching a calf being born is nothing short of a miracle.

Seeing him decorate the barnyard and trees with the beautiful snow is awe inspiring.

When I walk through the farm I am calmed and a feeling of content floods over me.

And, at this time of year I sit a moment in the maternity pen. A new calf is “toasting” under the heat lamp, still wet and her hair is curled and swirled. It’s quiet with muffled sounds of the cows moving about, the sounds of a tractor dumping off feed in another barn, a chicken struts by. 

There’s a group of barn cats huddled together waiting for something exciting to lure them away from the warmth of each other. I can see my breath as I breathe but I am warm all the way through to my soul.

As I am contemplating life I let my imagination take me back to that first Christmas and what it might have been like.

For Mary, no smiling nurses, bright lights, or reassuring words were spoken. A manger would be her son’s bed. It wasn't a glittered covered manger. It was smelly, full of animals. Mary shared the straw with mice and spiders. Lantern light, the sound of animals shuffling in the manure filled bedding was the ambiance.

No running water to clean up, no heated blankets to comfort a worn out body. No baby blue hand knitted cap was placed on the child's head.

Even though - the hand of God was there. Sacrifice was there. Mercy was there. Grace was there. Salvation was there. 

And I believe Mary was filled with joy.

We, here on the farm, feel blessed to be the caretakers of the land and critters that God gave us.

I would not trade my spot in this world for anything.

At this time of year I want to wish every single person a very Merry Christmas filled with joy, family, love, peace and goodness.

My hope is that we spread our blessings as this New Year begins.

Farmer made this Star of David for me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

10 Signs Your Bad Back is Improving

My view this summer while trying to preserve my back in between loads of hay.

Back issues – blgghhhh.

I’ve spent the last several weeks traveling to the east side of the state to help my parents. Multiple trips covering 24 days – 2 hours one way and days of sitting in the hospital and doctors’ offices gained me a messed up back.
The chiropractor said “I really shouldn’t say this but you’re a mess. Your tailbone is rotated, tight knotty muscles and ribs on this side is blah blah blah. You’ve been sitting way too much.” If any of you know me, my sitter button is on a short timer and I don’t sit long very well.

Bottom line. I was messed up and in a fair amount of pain for several days. Muscle spasms that seems to be synced to music caused me to put on easy listening on my Pandora.  And then I ended up being in the prone position way to long.

But there is a light coming and it’s getting closer every day. I thought I’d just share with you the 10 signs that your back is getting better.

     1.      You can stop the shallow breathing and start taking some normal breaths – be careful about deep breathing. One of two things could happen. It could throw you into a full muscle spasm or you may pass out due to the rush of foreign oxygen to your brain.

     2.      You can squat down to unload your dishwasher instead of being on your knees and unloading the dishes onto the counter and then from the counter to the cupboards. The on the knees thing did make me think about what it’s like to be in a Little Person’s body – sort of.

     3.      You can also squat easier when picking up a dropped item. Last week I dropped a handful of clean forks that scattered on the floor. I had to squat then get onto all fours. I couldn’t hold the squat position for fear of those evil spasms. Once I was down there I crawled around to pick up whatever else there was down there. Funny what you find when you can’t vacuum for a few days. One time when I was in the office I dropped an invoice I was working on. I really needed it and normally when I’m back there I wait until I have dropped several things and then crawl around and get them all. This time since I needed it I just threw a few more items on the floor to make my squat, drop and crawl worth it.

     4.      When walking you’re losing that robotic gait. When a spasm is just at the edge screaming to be felt you walk with your breath held, and only move the smallest amount of muscles to get your legs to work. You don’t have to shuffle as much – saves on getting your shoes wet in the mud puddles.

     5.      You can just about pick your foot up to put it into a pant leg or shoe. Before the improvement there were all sorts of tricks to get jeans on. Sit on the floor and put your feet in the legs. Pull then up as far as you could. Roll, up to your hands and knees, grab the door post to stand up. But stop at the kneeing position to make sure your waist band is at arm’s length. Stand up and pull your pants up. This gets tricky because sometimes the pants fall back down and then you have to start the whole process again. When putting on shoes you can now sit on the bed, grab your pant leg and pull your foot up to your other knee and cram a shoe on it there.

     6.      When I sit down in a chair I don’t feel like I am copying Ellen’s branded drop into a chair move anymore. You know, grab the arms of the chair, lower yourself to that magic spot and then sort of fall into the last few inches while holding your breath. Reverse the process when leaving the chair. Hoist yourself up, hold your breath and push the rest of the way out of the chair. I just wish I could be paid to sit down like that like Ellen does.
     7.      You can sit still now. Before every 30 seconds or so you were squirmy wormy right – just could find the sweet spot to sit.
     8.      Getting in and out of the car doesn’t require a hoist anymore.

     9.      You don’t have to use as much Icy Blue whatever or the heat wraps on your back and smell like a walking Ben Gay factory.

     10.   This is the most noticeable and gratifying sign of all. You can wipe your hiney after a bathroom session without falling off the toilet and doing the whole crawling on all fours to get up.

Whether or not you have had a bad back or you may get a bad back streak, here are some signs to watch for to know the end is near.

By the way, I have several used bottles of icy blue, hotter than heck for your back lotion if you’re in need.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Great Farm Related Christmas Gift for the Littles in your Life

Available Now!

With 8 Wigglies I have read many books with joy. I enjoy reading and encouraging the kids to love books. The one thing I noticed is that there aren't many story books with photographs. So, I decided that there were many possible stories attached to the farm.

Where's Charlie is a fun story with real life farm photos that tell a story. You can look for Charlie with the kids as you turn the pages. If you have visited the farm you may recognize places on the farm.

Keep your eye out for Charlie.

Here are a couple of pages to peak your interest.

You can order a copy by clicking on the "Buy Now" button under the picture of the book over on the right hand side of this page.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Add Another Fluke to the List - Repost

"This has never happened before."

"Tell me again, how did you do this"?

"Um. . . I'm not sure what to do about this."

These are comments I get way too often.

The latest installment in "How in the World did that Happen?" occurred Wednesday.

I left my personal office in my house with a handful of envelopes and a check that had to go to the bank and went into the farm office, which is in my house also. I laid it all on the counter and proceeded to finish up some computer work.

As I was in a hurry to leave, I grabbed a new stack of envelopes that I just produced and the stack from my office and headed out the door. I piled everything on the kitchen counter and went to find my shoes.

When I came back I picked up the pile and sorted through it looking for the check to place on top since it was my first stop. No check. I retraced my steps back in the farm office, back in my personal office, back in my bedroom - where I never had the check. I looked high, low and in between. I knew I had it in the farm office. How in the heck can I loose a check in 10 feet?

After a 15 minute search I had to leave. I wrote another check and took off.

I called Farmer and asked him to keep his eyes out for the check that was MIA.

This is where Farmer found it.

It must have floated off the pile as I rushed out the door and parachuted into the wood base board. I have no idea how he saw this considering he can't find his glasses when he's wearing them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Less Stress for Thanksgiving

The best reason for Thanksgiving. Spending time with family. My four sons listening to my dad's stories.

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful day, yet it can be overwhelming if you are the hostess.

I have hosted Thanksgiving most every year except the year we were in Florida as a family. I guess my house is the biggest so that's just how it is. We’ve had as many as 43 and as few as a dozen. This year we are expecting 23.

There is so much stress and busyness with the approaching holidays that I thought I'd post a few suggestions on how to create a wonderful Thanksgiving without additional stress.

I've thrown in a few recipes - always, always bake with real butter and fresh dairy products. It really makes a big difference.

* The best way to cut down on work is to bake your turkey ahead of time. I usually bake my turkey on Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I bake the turkey in an oven bag. Let it cool off to touch. Being careful to save the juice, take all the meat off the bones and put it back into a throw away aluminum baking pan. Pour the juices back over the turkey. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Then all you have to do is put it in the oven and warm thoroughly. It is so moist and tasty from sitting in all that juice. AND, the mess of carving is done. You can use the juices to make gravy. Then your house smells like you’ve been cooking all morning.

* We sort of started a tradition of having cinnamon rolls in the morning while preparing dinner. These are made weeks ahead and put in the freezer. Also, if you’re going to bake do it on Tuesday while you’re baking your turkey. No need to wait until the night before or that morning. It will taste delicious.

* Normally I make real mashed potatoes, but when I am feeding that many people I go for the potato buds. They are so good you can't tell that you cheated. But it saves a bunch of time. But if you have a smaller group or you want to make your own, peel the potatoes the night before and cut them in small pieces. Leave them in a bowl of water. Make sure the water covers all the potatoes. If you cut the potatoes into smaller pieces it will take less time to cook them. And always use real butter and milk.

* Set the table the night before. For me since we do buffet I use a table cloth (you can use the fun paper ones – easy to clean up) and set the glasses, silverware and napkins. No plates.

* If possible serve buffet style. We gather everyone around our island which is heavy with enough food to feed a small village. Once everyone is around we pray and thank the good Lord for putting up with us another year and for all the amazing blessings we have. Then we file past the food and load up the plates. When it is buffet style anyone can get up and get whatever seconds they want without disturbing someone to pass the food.

* Use heavy duty paper plates, nicer plastic silverware and cups. There will be enough dishes to do without using your plates, silverware and cups. It is so nice to throw away the biggest portion of work. You have a lot more time to sit around the table with that second cup of coffee and visit.

* I used to make several batches of punch to serve with dinner. It’s just one more job and more expense. Serving water is perfect. It’s inexpensive; easy and with all the great tasting food why waste calories on what you’re going to drink?
* Don't waste your time cleaning house before everyone comes. I noticed my kitchen floor really could use a good mopping. But, knowing there will be all those people walking around dishing up food it is ridiculous to waste time cleaning a floor that no one will see and that is guaranteed to have food dropped.

* Thanksgiving is a great time to try new dishes. We always have a few new ones. If they are a hit you're the star of the day. If they bomb then most of it has been tasted so you have less to throw away. 

* Don't worry about having enough food. There is always enough. Even if there isn't, no one is going to starve.

* Have plenty of Ziploc bags to send leftovers home if you have anything left after the tribe swarms the tables.

*Sometime during the day take a moment to sit back, be quiet and take in the blessings of your family. Pay attention to the laughter, the hugging, the little ones fussing. It's music straight from God.

* Last but not least, look for someone who needs to join your family and invite them to join you. Holidays spent alone are painful.

I pray you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day and some great family time together.

Celebrate the ordinary

Today is the only day you have. Don't wish it away, worry it away or plan it away. Your ordinary days add up to life.

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