Blessings in the Form of Employees

This beautiful basket was dropped off by one of our employees today.

This beautiful basket was dropped off by one of our employees today.

I walked over to the farm the other day and passed by a few of our barns. In the two I passed there were employees – they waved. Someone was hauling manure and drove past and waved. When I got to the parlor I was greeted with smiles and nods. I realized how I take their kindness, courtesy and hard work for granted.

We are very fortunate that several of our employees have been with us long term – 15, 12, 10, years. Our success belongs to them too. In fact, due to them. We could never do this without our team.

I’ve heard other farmers complain for lack of good help. Crazy amounts of turnover. We did go through a spell of that ourselves but have landed on some great people.

I began to ponder how this has all come about. And, I think I might have a few reasons for our loyal employees and if you’re so inclined I’ll share them with you.

1.     Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. Respectfully and kindly. We don’t put up with anything less and we practice what we preach.

2.     We go out of our way to help if we can. We’ve given loans, found housing, helped with school, took care of kids and any other thing we could do.

3.     We don’t ask anything from our guys that we won’t or don’t do ourselves. We work side by side many days.

4.     As a Christian, we share our faith – by our daily activities. I have had a small library of Christian literature and DVDs for their kids. We post activities happening at our church. But it is never demanded that anyone follow us nor are they preached to. We think a relationship with Jesus Christ is of the utmost importance – but it is their choice. We try to share and show. We took kids to church with us for a time until they chose to attend a church of their choice.

5.     I’ve taught some of the wives how to can tomatoes, bake pies, etc. In turn I’ve watched how to make Mexican rice and learned of some amazing home remedies.

6.     We pray daily for our help. We pray health, protection and prosperity over each one.

7.     I bring crock pots full of food, drop off pizzas, leave cookies and other baked goods.

8.     We love on them as much as we can.

In turn we are greeted with smiles, waves and have treasures dropped off. Garden produce, specialty foods, are a few.

We are invited and attend birthday parties, anniversary parties, and quinceanera. We are honored to be included.

When out of town family visit, they stop by to introduce us to them. We love bragging to moms, sisters and whoever we can about their son or brother.

 

We are blessed tremendously and I just wanted to share and brag on our guys a bit.

 

I hope any of you who have employees that are reading this share in this joy and blessing. And, we all need to take a moment now and then and pay attention to the goodness we have.

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday so I’m a little contemplative.

I took this picture a few days ago thinking I feel like that barn.

This barn is old, worn and stood the test of time. It’s a bit haggard yet still does the job. It’s still dependable and has been through many storms and has great stories to tell.

In its heyday, this barn was beautiful. Pristine white with dark shingles to contrast. The doors slid easily and the lofts were full of valuable commodities.

I too am old, worn out yet I’m still standing. And at times I feel haggard but I am blessed with strength and ability to work hard. I would like to think I’m dependable and let me tell you – the stories I have – Oyyyyy!

I wouldn’t say I was ever beautiful but I was less wrinkled and saggy in my heyday. And it took a whole lot less paint to spruce up my boards. My joints moved easier and didn’t complain as much as they do now.

There is beauty in age. As the paint peels off this barn and the boards sag and warp there is still a magnificent building. Many will look upon this barn and go back in time in their mind imagining what has taken place here and who housed their animals here over the years. What was it like living in those days? The stories they would love to hear are deep within the beams that hold the barn up. No one thinks this barn is worthless because of age.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could look at each other and not fault find what we see? Instead of seeing our wrinkles as a detriment let’s see them as lines in our book of life waiting to be shared. Instead of seeing gray hair as something that needs to be changed (which I will probably do until the day I die), let’s see it as advertisement that we’d come a long way and have survived many a storm. Instead of seeing old age as something to avoid, how about with each passing year we celebrate. Let’s have a “we’ve made it through another year” celebration instead of “ughhh another year older” dirge.

So, Happy Birthday to me and everyone else who shares this day of birth.

And, to practice what I preach – I’m 64 today and if you have a minute, I’ve got tales to tell . . .

 

 

Stop, Look, Listen and Pray

The other day Farmer was out merging hay across the road from us. I went out to hang sheets on the line and I could see the merger on the far side of the hill – just the top of the tractor. And it wasn’t moving.

So, I stopped and listened to see if I could hear anything. Watching for movement and listening to the machinery have become second nature. I couldn’t hear the tractor running because it was too far away, but then I saw the chopper come over the rise so I knew he wasn’t alone in the field.

It brought me back many years ago before cell phones when Farmer would be out – especially late at night in the dark.

I would go to bed and wake up every 20-30 minutes or so, walk to the window where I could see him and wait to make sure the tractor was moving. My greatest fear was that something would happen to him while he was out there alone.

Through the years, I’ve done this many times. Step outside and listen if I couldn’t see the lights. You soon learn to hear the “correct” sound of the machinery.

One time he was in a field about a mile away, around midnight and I just had to know if he was OK. Then I had another dilemma. Do I wake a sleeping baby to drive over and check or can I risk leaving the baby in bed while I quick run?

The second option won out. It was a record breaking mile run to see the lights moving back and forth in the field.

Now, with technology, it is so simple to just give a call.

Back then I think there was a lot more praying happening. Now, sadly, we depend on the phone for our answers – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when our first thoughts of help are a phone, google or Facebook I think our faith legs are weakening.

I recall hearing someone say, “I wish there was an app to help find lost things.”

I can’t count the times I’ve misplaced something and asked God to help me find it. Usually in a short period of time the item shows up.

We google every ache and pain and self-diagnose. Then we look for an alternative remedy when God is standing there watching (and probably having a laugh or two) and available to help and heal if we would just ask.

Waiting for someone to “like” or comment has become a measure of self-worth for some. There “ain’t no nothing” you can do raise your self worth. Your worth is found in the blood of Jesus. You are valuable because of him, his love of you and his death for you.

Am I suggesting we toss the phones and pack up technology?

By no means. Farming has improved leaps and bounds because of technology. We are feeding more people with less.

How about taking a break now and then? Instead of checking your social media of choice or email, check in with Jesus.

Transparent and Vulnerable

Transparent.

That’s what I set out to be when I started blogging.

Being transparent is risky. It’s hard to be transparent without dragging someone else into the fray with you.

So, having said that, I’m wading into murky waters here.

The last few years have been hard. I’m not one to air dirty laundry, point fingers, call out people – especially family and friends.

Things are rough enough that I look at other people’s lives and wonder if they are really that happy. Do they have any problems? Other’s activities look picture perfect at times. I drive by cars and see people laughing, others outside playing in the yard, shopping together or whatever and I wonder what it would be like to be them.

Is my life horrible – by no means, it’s just been tough the last few years.

Am I more fortunate than others – absolutely. Compared to 99.9% of the rest of the world my life is a cake walk.

Am I writing this to garner sympathy – no way. I don’t want sympathy or words of “praying for you”, “sorry” or anything like that.

I am hoping to put into words something that will help someone else that feels the way I do. That no matter the degree of your sadness, disappointment, lack of joy – it’s not just you. You are not alone on your island of unhappiness.

Maybe it’s the stage of life I’m in. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s just the devil screwing around with my emotions. Whatever the cause it’s real to me.

A few years ago, my youngest son decided to leave the farm to pursue a different job. While I supported and still support his decision 100% it was extremely hard. One of the joys I had was being able to walk across the road and see three of my sons daily. I could jump into a tractor or other vehicle, ride along and chat. At any time of the day they would stop in for leftovers, cookies or a quick “I gotta lay down a minute”. His kids would ride with him and sometimes be part of the drop-in crowd.

Basically, my “dream” life, my personal picture perfect life was starting to unravel.

Myself and my siblings spent close to a year taking care of our father. Three of us live 2 hours away which was a problem for us. Take time off work, travel – bad weather conditions, etc. My other brother who lived nearby had the burden of living close. I felt guilty that he had to handle the things that would come up – while the rest of us took turns helping. It was exhausting yet a privilege to care for him. We wouldn’t do it any different and he is doing great now. Never the less the exhaustion, unknown outcome, never ending frustrations and circumstances all took a toll we felt.

If anyone reads my blog or follows me on face book knows about Charlie. You can read about him in previous blogs. He was more than a special dog. There was something that can’t be described about Charlie and how much I loved that dog. He and I had a special connection – hard to describe. Holding his head in my hands, looking into his eyes for the last time, saying good-bye to him and then looking for him in his usual places for weeks after he was gone was physically painful. Yes, I know he was a dog, and yes, I know people lose other people – I’m not trying to lessen other’s pain or elevate mine – it just is.

In the middle of all this for a few years we’ve been trying to transition the farm to our son(s).  How do you take what you’ve worked the last 45 years (for me, longer for Farmer) and figure out how to divide things in a way that keeps the farm running while blessing other family members? The attorney would suggest this – and the accountants would say “tax consequences) and back and forth we went. It’s tricky business trying to leave an inheritance that still produces a livelihood and isn’t eaten up by the government.

And, will my kid(s) be able to continue in the future? Have we prepared them sufficiently? What more can we do? Can they handle the stress? How do you do all of this without making them feel like you don’t trust them or feel they are inadequate? Is there a better life with less problems for them? Sticky business.

Then, this year another son decided to leave the farm to pursue other interests. One less son to drop in, visit, run down the road to see. Once again, we all supported his decision and know he will do fine, it’s just another piece of my “dream” drifting away.

Oh, and why not add in horrible milk prices so it makes it next to impossible to survive financially. Lack of money causes more disagreements – where to spend the little we have, what do you live with, what can we change to make this work. No money = no cushion for wrong decisions. This could be a whole blog in itself.

Just differences between employees, father and son, son and mother, husband and wife can suck the life right out of you. Being the mother I constantly feel like I'm in the middle and make no one happy.

On the outside looking in I wanted to show the good, the fun, the pleasant part of farm life. I also wrote about the hardships of farming but kept the personal out. Not that I wanted to portray a lie, I just didn’t want to give credence to any of the hard stuff.

But there lies the rub for me. By keeping this hard stuff in the closet, how does that help anyone – other than me or perhaps Farmer who is extremely private about things.

I find I get more help or encouragement by hearing the hard stuff people get through. I want to know of struggles and rough stuff – not that I enjoy other people’s pain, just that it sort of helps me knowing someone else is in the crap too. It helps quiet the condemning voice that says, “you should have, you could have, why didn’t you” that comes straight from hell.

The physicality of farming is life altering. Three sons have ruptures, herniated or bulging disks in their backs. Some days are pretty good and other days can be crippling.

Many hours are taken away from family time in this profession. We fight the weather constantly. When we aren’t fighting it we are in a glorious spot working like crazy to use up every last drop of opportunity.

Then there’s the “fake news”. We farmers have been dealing with fake news way before Mr. Trump came on the scene. It sickens and angers me with the number of lies being spread about our profession. Specialty groups with their own hidden agenda (hidden to most who follow the piped piper), celebrities that want one more soapbox to get attention all spout lies that consumers believe. The picture painted is that farmers slide by using poisonous products that will line their pockets while killing those who eat their product. And for a couple of the groups that’s exactly their agenda – don’t eat animals.

Restaurants cave, food companies cave and advertise in any language the puppet public deems good. I can’t blame the public – they hear the loudest voices. We try but while the liars stand on podiums with mega phones we’re speaking out while our heads are down working the soil growing their food. So, the loudest voice is heard. Loudest isn’t always the best nor truthful.

So, everything smiley, shiny and pretty looking isn’t necessarily so. I have a core group of other farmers (women) who can totally relate to this. Some of their issues are greater than mine.

There’s one of my farm sisters who has suffered extreme family loss through death. Another who has major health issues, another who has hard issues with depression. Many of us are isolated in our profession and even logistically. More than one is over paying a non-farming family member for the farm that the parents wanted (but never put in writing) those who stayed on the farm with them to continue. Funny how after the dust settles siblings will want to invest in the farm – just enough to get a chunk of money, create hard ship for those who are left and then leave.

While we can or at least we could try to leave the farm behind and try another profession, we usually don’t. I really doubt some of us could. It would be like cutting off an arm or leg and expecting to run an obstacle course. This position in life is understood by a very slim number of people.

I’m not sure if any of this has resonated or helped anyone understand where they may be personally, or where a friend may be at this moment in their life or not. Once again, no sympathy comments -  my intent was to show that while there are blessings untold on the farm that everything that looks green and growing may actually be slowly dying inside hoping to be resurrected before it’s too late.

 

 

 

 

 

To Non-Farm Friends, Neighbors and Strangers

Just a few things that I thought I’d go over to make co-habitation easier for all of us. After all we’re in this, together right?

1.      Please don’t drop off your stray pets you no longer want or can keep. Just because we “professionally” have animals doesn’t mean we are a drop off location for unwanted critters. The local critters don’t take kindly to new arrivals and there can be a showdown at the corral that doesn’t end pretty for the newbies.

2.      Just because there is a field on a back road doesn’t mean it’s open for recreational use – whether it be driving, dirt biking, making whoopy, or sleeping off a drunken stupor. And while we’re at it – it isn’t a free garbage dump either. We don’t want your tree trimmings, old furniture, TVs or any other manner of junk.

3.    Those big open fields that you like to look at are food for our animals. Animals eat, then they poop and then the flies come. So, there will probably be more flies out here than in the city. We don’t like them either but it comes with the territory. Also, we have become pretty good at recycling and respecting the earth. We spread that poop as fertilizer so there will be times it smells pretty bad. We don’t like that either but once again, it comes with the territory. 

4.     We really want to get along and enjoy each other’s company so if you’re having a special picnic, birthday party or gathering please let us know ahead of time and if we possible can we will change our course of spreading, planting or harvesting – if we can. There will be times when we just can’t. But, we really want a good relationship and we will definitely try hard to make it work for all of us.

5.     We are not a temporary hiring business. So many will ask if their kid can help during the summer. And, there have been a few who did and stuck with us. At this farm, we don’t shovel out a few pens, ride on a wagon collecting some bales of hay, gather eggs, throw grain out to chickens or any other easily learned jobs. And, we have a few busy times of the year where we need help – but it usually involves heavy machinery or other abilities a 13-year-old can’t handle. At best, we can occasionally offer a random few weeks sporadically depending on the weather. We always feel bad saying no.

6.  No, we are not rich because we have all those silos, tractors, cows (insert your own item) land or whatever. All those things are tools for us to do our job. They are expensive and necessary. Many times, they breakdown causing more expense. And the weather is either our best friend or worst enemy when it comes to our crops. Our purchasing prices of materials is set for us – not by us. And then our selling price is set by others, not by us. So, things can be and right now are pretty dicey.

7.  Farming is not “what’s left” in the occupational bowl you draw from. New technologies and new advancements are helping us feed more people with less. And, we must continue to expand our knowledge and ability to do better. My son plants corn using 4 display screens connected to GPS. And there are many other advancements in the industry. Continuing education is part of farming like any other business.

8.  For the most part, we farmers prefer you would get your information from us instead of celebrities or non-farmers who have no clue. We would rather show and tell than correct and fix false information spread by specialty groups. If you want to know how, why or what for, ask us.

9.  Dairy specific – cows are not hooked to milking machines 24 hours a day and they do not die when they give milk. It takes about 2 years to raise a cow to have a calf. Once the calf is born the cow gives milk. The two years prior the cow is being cared for daily – inputting feed, water, nutrients and care. Once the cow has the calf she is milked. She is bred again after about two months and we will stop milking her the last two months of her pregnancy so all her energy goes into her well-being and the calf’s.

10. On a fun note we bathe or shower more often than Saturday night. We can even get the dirt out from under our fingernails – grease stains, not so much. But we know how to “pretty up” and smell good. And, there is no better person to receive help from than a farmer who isn’t afraid of hard things and knows how to stick with it until the job is done.

Where Has All the Kindness Gone, Long Time Passing?

There seems to be a lot of conversations about bullying these days. We are telling our kids we must be aware of other’s feelings. We tell them it isn’t acceptable to be mean and hurtful. There are also some well-known celebrities that are spokes persons for this – which is great.

But, you don’t have to look or listen too far to hear and see total disrespect and verbal bashing from adults about our President or other government officials. Let’s not stop there though. I can listen to some awful commentary on gays, Christians, immigrants and just about any other group of people.

Why is it so hard for people to be decent?

What happened to kindness?

When did having a different opinion become permission to annihilate another human being?

A well-known vulgar comedian – whom I will not give space to here has stooped to an all-time low by using her creativity to bash the President by holding up a likeness of his head covered in blood. Tell me how this can be funny on any level.

Back to the “rules” at school. My grandson had to remove a T-shirt that had Michigan on it with a likeness of a gun. It offended a teacher.

A nearby township was fighting to keep a Christmas crèche because of a complaint from one person.

We teach it at schools and preach it at church to be kind and respectful. Why in the world are we not living it as adults?

Hypocrisy at its finest. Any kid can turn on the television to any station and hear someone bashing someone within a very short period of time.

Elementary children are reciting dialogue heard at home that would never ever come into their thoughts let alone out of their mouths.

It’s time to grow up, stand up, clean up and follow the expectations we put on children. There are school aged kids who are more courteous and civil in their conversations than well-educated adults in high places.

One small act of kindness could be the first step on a bridge to bringing two opposing ideas together. We can co-exist with various opinions. Kindness can thrive in differences.

Different isn’t bad, it’s . . . just different. Are we so fearful of new avenues of thinking that we have to defend our view to the point of massacring the views of others?

If you peel back the layer of skin on every person you will find a likeness.  We all pump blood from our hearts. We all feel pain. We all have a brain to use.

Let’s purpose to use our brain to create a space that opens our hearts to stop the pain.

Let’s make our kids proud of us.

 

Some See Dirt, I See Promise

To some this is a piece of dirt. A field. A view of the country side while driving along.

When I look at this I see so much more.

I see:

Hours and hours of picking up rocks, cleaning up saplings, roots and everything not soil. Days and days of eating dirt while clearing this piece of land.

I see the grandkids covered in dust from picking up rocks, eating pizza off the back of the pick-up, drinking gator aide to wash the dust and pizza down.

I see the tractor going around one more time to disk the soil into submission for the corn to be planted.

I see my son at 2:00am bouncing in the tractor while using his touch pad computers to keep things running smoothly.

I see the promise of new, green sprouts soon to appear that will tower over us all in a short few months.

I see fall leaves and the combine chewing through the fields spilling the river of corn into the waiting trucks.

I see breakfast, lunch and dinner for our BEBs (Brown Eyed Bossies) that will eventually produce our final product that doesn’t pay us enough to barely break even right now.

Some see dirt.

I see faith, hope and a future that is sustained unbelievably by God alone.

 

No Dairy Deception*

I have decided to champion a new cause.

There are a lot of people out there that are confused about dairy products. So, I am going to help by displaying some dairy free products that you can use.

We all know that dairy was never intended to be consumed by humans. I mean after all, what kind of idiot decided for the first time to pull on a cow’s teat and then have the nerve to drink it?

I mean it has to be bad, right. That poor cow shouldn’t be relieved of her milk and then have the milk put to good use as a nutritious drink. Bull ____.

We must protect that cow and do our best to help consumers choose only products that don’t have milk.

We will free all the dairy cows to go out into nature the way God intended them. I could use some help here – gotta load them up and find a place to free them. I’m thinking we should start in Los Angeles since there are so many cow lovers there.

Clarity is what the consumers need to be able to stop the horrendous use of quality food products.

I have the solution!

I will start small by voicing the false dangers of consuming milk there by starting the confusion.  I can feed the movement by adding these stickers to products that might confuse consumers, that way they can make an informed choice.

Oh, and to help inform them I need to get a high-profile celebrity – someone who has never been on a farm, someone who hates milk, someone who wants a just cause to parade.  And, we’ll be sure to pay them a lot of money to have them join us. Just have to figure out how to make some money to pay them, but I got an idea brewing.

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I think I should be extremely clear to the consumers so they will make the best no-dairy choice. I will add these stickers to EVERYTHING that isn’t dairy. I mean they should know kitty litter has no dairy, hair spray has no dairy, eggs have no dairy and 44 inch televisions are dairy free. Let’s give the consumers many options of spending their money on dairy free items.

We will become so popular companies will be lining up to get permission to use our logo. And we will gladly supply it for $$$ - lots of $$$$. (There you go - celebrity endorsement on the way.) You know if we can get the right companies to join us we can become rich! What mother wouldn’t choose the no-dairy diaper for their child when looking at a row of diapers and only one has the no-dairy seal?

Our no-dairy seal will become known far and wide and we will spread the BS of no-dairy items. Just think we don’t need to stop in the food aisles. We can spread to clothing, cleaning supplies, hardware and more!

Won’t you please join me?

Get in on the bottom floor of deception. 

We can join and bring about more fear and trepidation for consumers. Oh, wait a minute, you might be a consumer. I was thinking I was speaking to fellow farmers. You know those of us who are trying to pull the BS wool over your eyes.

Well, it matters not.

Coming soon – No-Dairy Deception campaign. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

*Read with tongue in cheek, with a sarcastic tone of voice and over the top enthusiasm.