These Boys . . . These Men

IMG_0178.JPG

 

I partially own them.

This group of good looking guys have a lot of my love.

This is a unique group because most of them have been together since school began. They have been in and out of my life and home for many years. There are three sets of brothers who are best friends with each other – two of those are my sons. My furniture has been draped by their clothes, the floor piled with shoes and their bodies strewn all over anywhere for a night or two at a time. I’ve had random pair of socks, stray pairs of underwear (makes you wonder how they missed that), and T-shirts that no one claims as theirs.

My kitchen table has been surrounded, my grocery bill has been pinned to the wall of fame at the grocery store for the longest running receipt, and there have been more chocolate chips cookies leave my home than butterflies heading to Florida.

And I loved every minute of it.

IMG_0175.JPG

When I look at this picture I see a pile of spaghetti all tangled together, covered in love. That is my favorite dish.

One of my boys (not son) got married last night and all the rest of the mangy crew arrived – most of them.

As I made my rounds hugging necks so many times I heard “Hi Mom!” I was superb at controlling my emotions because I couldn’t let my make-up be ruined. Music to my ears. Two words became a symphony for me.

This group of guys get together at least two times a year. They come from all corners like robins returning in the spring. They purpose to have this relationship.

There are many reasons why this group is so special. Over the years, they have held each other up, called each other out and were the best and worst for each other. They have survived themselves. Through the years there have been mothers and fathers who have passed. There have been good choices, bad choices and horrible choices made by this group, but the best choice was and is, is to be better. Be better together, be better as a person, husband, father, son, friend.

I’ve always known this group was extraordinary but got to see it in a different light last night – a brighter light.

My son brought a friend from Turkey to the wedding and he had been telling her all about the guys and their history.

She told me he had nothing but good to say about all of them and she thought “that’s nice.” It wasn’t until she saw them all together that she started to see the whole picture. And, to ad blessing onto blessing, the boys who are married have the most wonderful wives and they all seem to get along too. She felt very welcomed and included in the group. She categorized this group as a culture of their own.

I guess I’m blogging about this to show my love for them and appreciation that I get to have them in my life.

I also want to encourage parents who still have kids at home – open your doors and open your heart. Set another plate at the table and throw another pillow on the floor.

Cookies and milk around the kitchen table is excellent ground for sowing seeds – sowing seeds of love, grace, mercy, understanding and the reality of Jesus Christ and eternity. No Bible is necessary to share the love of God.

While I would never impose, I have no doubt that just about any of these would come to help me if called.

There are a lot of wonderful young people out there that just might turn into something wonderful if they have a landing place to be loved on. Not that home loving is bad or was lack in this group but there is something about someone who doesn’t “have to” love you that does.

This group is amazing. We have IT guys, designers for international companies, lawyers, occupational therapists, veterans, security, business owners – amazing young men.

I’m so proud of these men and the journey they’ve traveled thus far. I pray you all have a group in your lives – you may have to look for them but there are those guys out there.

IMG_0177.JPG

We're a Farm, Not a Responsiblity Training Camp

IMG_2989.JPG

“You’re so lucky you could raise your kids on the farm. What a blessing. They got to learn how to work and be responsible.”

“Is there anything my kids can do on the farm for you? I want them to become responsible and have good work ethics.”

“Can my kids live with you this summer? I think it would be good for them to see how to live and have to work.”

Seriously, all three have been spoken to me. While I appreciate people associate farming with hard work – which is an understatement, I just don’t get the disconnect with working and home life.

“If my kid is hanging around with whichever son they were referring to, then I know they will make good choices and be responsible.”

Heard that one a few times too. I consider it a complement and a blessing but my sons shouldn’t have to be the “good choice” meter.

Since I am running a dairy farm and not a responsibility training camp, I thought I might share a few ideas to help the “non-farm” population grow their kids into responsible, hard working, appreciative adults.

Do you eat?
            Kids can shop with you – carry in the groceries, put them away, set the table, clean the table, do the dishes, load the dishwasher, carry out the trash.

Do you wear clothing?
            Kids can do the laundry which includes sorting, folding and putting away.

Does your house self-clean?
            Kids can dust, vacuum, wash windows, re-arrange furniture, clean out the garage, clean out the basement.

Do you live on land?
            Kids can weed, plant flowers, mow lawn, plant, weed and harvest a garden. They can clean the driveway, front porch, etc.

Wigglie #2 helping his dad - Son#2.

Wigglie #2 helping his dad - Son#2.

Do you own pets?
            Kids can feed them, water them, brush them, check them for ticks, treat them for fleas, go to the vet with them, clean out their pens, litter boxes or cages.

Do you own a vehicle?
            Kids can wash it, and vacuum it. They can help change the oil, check the tires, etc.

I could continue. Everything listed here can be done in their own home. Bonus – they can do this for other people and make a little money or just be kind and bless others.

Grandkids and friends picking rocks with Farmer.

Grandkids and friends picking rocks with Farmer.

Farm kids do work hard. They are responsible – they must finish the job. There’s no quitting at 5:00. Holiday weekends aren’t on the farm calendar. Bad weather doesn’t stop the job for some things. There’s no time or space to lay the blame for something – just get the job done, do it well and move on to the next one.

I’m proud of my sons and their ability to work efficiently, honorably, responsibly and do a great job.

Also, we love having outside kids come work for us. Some have been with us for years, became full time and some have moved on to great opportunities.

We enjoy sharing our work with others when possible but I personally have a hard time knowing there are neighborhoods filled with kids sitting on couches injuring their neck muscles because of phones, and other devices.

I also see too many kids that need “intervention” from someone when things go wrong. They haven’t had enough real-world reality to deal with things. Learning that as a breathing member of this earth comes responsibilities, hard work, some hard times and there will be things that make you uncomfortable but you will survive. 

None of my kids liked hauling poop, missing an outing or smelling like spoiled silage. We didn’t take the hard or uncomfortable things away – which probably had a little to do with them becoming good, responsible adults. That and a lot of prayer.

 

 

 

 

'Ello Gov'na

IMG_9834.JPG

Out of the blue we received a call asking to use our farm for a commercial for Dr. Jim Hines. We had never heard of Dr. Hines before this. After speaking to him and checking out his website, his views and beliefs we eagerly and willingly jumped on board. Here is his website: https://hines4michigan.wordpress.com/

Following are pictures of how the day went.

Setting up to shoot our farm across the road.

Setting up to shoot our farm across the road.

02-IMG_4584.JPG
Trimming some leaves off the tree to get the best shot.

Trimming some leaves off the tree to get the best shot.

He has nothing to do with the commercial, but isn't he beautiful?

He has nothing to do with the commercial, but isn't he beautiful?

05-IMG_4589.JPG
Notice Son #2 on the chopper spout fixing the flag.

Notice Son #2 on the chopper spout fixing the flag.

This is why mama's have gray hairs.

This is why mama's have gray hairs.

09-IMG_4601.JPG
Meanwhile 110 feet up - this is why Grama's pray.

Meanwhile 110 feet up - this is why Grama's pray.

11-IMG_4604.JPG
Dr. Jim Hines, Son #2 and Chloe.

Dr. Jim Hines, Son #2 and Chloe.

Getting set up for a shot with Dr. Jim Hines and Farmer.

Getting set up for a shot with Dr. Jim Hines and Farmer.

14-IMG_4619.JPG
15-IMG_4621.JPG
Our over night guest's dwelling.

Our over night guest's dwelling.

I had the privilege of making supper for Dr. Jim Hines, his wife Martha and their driver Matt. After dinner the rest of the family came for dessert and a time of chatting with Dr. Hines - asking questions and sharing concerns.

I had the privilege of making supper for Dr. Jim Hines, his wife Martha and their driver Matt. After dinner the rest of the family came for dessert and a time of chatting with Dr. Hines - asking questions and sharing concerns.

16-IMG_4623.JPG
17-IMG_4626.JPG
18-IMG_4630.JPG
Martha and the girls chatting.

Martha and the girls chatting.

20-IMG_4635.JPG
Our new extended family - Dr. Jim and Martha are now part of our family!

Our new extended family - Dr. Jim and Martha are now part of our family!

Two Scores and Six Years . . .

11952045_960385234024337_2970724402257379171_n.jpg

Forty-six years ago, I married my best friend, no . . . soul mate, no . . . OK – I married Farmer.

Forty-six years ago, I married Farmer and we lived happily ever after, no. . . committedly and determinedly ever after.

Never, as a young girl, in a million years would I have thought I’d be sitting here at my dining room table looking out at a hayfield, surrounded on the other 3 sides by corn. And, loving it.

Has married life been all I thought? Nope, not by a long shot.

The dreamy eyed 18-year-old that got married had grand delusions. Then, reality happened.

Many disappointments and sorrows have been my traveling companion.

Happiness, joy and blessings have journeyed also.

There were too many times that I felt like giving up. There were too many times when we both had reasons to leave. Never from infidelity but other legitimate reasons as far as the world is concerned.

Yet, for me, those reasons were just trials to get through. And, honestly, I caused many of those problems myself – not all but many.

Would I do it again?

Yes, I would. My kids and grandkids are enough reason to pick this life again.

File0770.JPG

Would I do things differently?

Yes, I would. I think different choices definitely would have resulted in a better life in some areas.

I’m grateful Farmer didn’t quit. I also wish Farmer would change in a few areas but I doubt that will ever happen. And I know Farmer would give his left arm for me to change some things – that I doubt I will. See – it’s a two-way street marriage is.

It’s way too easy to quit. Not just marriage, but a lot of things. There is value in sticking with it and working things out. Sometimes what you feel is a hindrance becomes most valuable. When your spouse is as irritating as sand paper it may be because of you and the work needed to smooth out your rough edges.

Lest you think my life is unhappy and miserable, it’s not. My life is busy, joyful, loud, and messy at times. I am blessed more that 99% of the population I believe and thank God for my spot here on this ball of mud daily.

I pray my children have better lives and marriages – who doesn’t? My kids haven’t seen a perfect marriage, but they have seen commitment and determination to work through and make better.

Back to School Woes

IMG_3478.JPG

What do you think when you read the title Back to School Woes?

All the moans and groans of the kids who are trying to hang on to their summer like a dog with his bone?

Well, that’s one scenario.

What I’m referring to are the parents, especially moms, who are taking their babies to college. Or for the mom (I speak what I know, so you’re getting a mom’s point of view) who has no one left at home to send to school. Her youngest graduated last year and this is her first year without school.

It’s hard. It’s dang hard.

When my youngest left the nearby elementary school, I avoided driving by it for many months. And, it’s right on my way home from just about everywhere. Considering I had put in 18 continuous years there with all the boys it was emotionally hard.

IMG_8319.JPG

After raising four sons and sitting through countless basketball games, wrestling matches, track meets, and football games I was invested. I was at home on the bleachers as much as I was in my living room. In fact, I think if I sat on one of those spots on the bleachers now it would recognize my hiney!

And, football was my favorite. So, along with back to school in the fall comes football.

So, not only do I miss the whole school thing, I long to go back to the football field as one of the moms. There were a few of us football moms that coordinated Thursday night supper for the team. The years before we were in charge, it would be pizza or another type of take out. Not us! We had meals. And I mean meals! Steak on the grill, lasagna, spaghetti, and more. Many other moms helped with the desserts. We loved on those kids through their stomachs.

To say Friday nights were my favorite is an understatement.

It’s been 14 years and I still desire to go back. I have a hard time watching the sport’s highlights of the local school’s football games – yes, I need counseling.

But, I’m baring my soul here for a reason.

Especially for you moms who are having a hard time this fall. Whether or not it's football, cheerleading or just plain school.

It’s just plain going to be difficult. Your heart will ache and you will cry tears for a while. There is nothing to take it away. Time will chase away your sorrow.

And, when someone who is trying to help tells you “You’ll always be a mom”, please don’t smack them. They have no clue or they wouldn’t say that. We all know we will always be a mom but it will be different.

What you had cannot be repeated. You can’t go back. It’s done and finished.

So, feel bad, cry and be upset. It’s OK.

Eventually, you will find a new rhythm and dance a new step.

But in the meantime, I’m offering my shoulder.

 

 

Corn? Sweet!

IMG_9486.JPG

Summer cannot possibly be summer without sweet corn.

This year Son #2 had a wonderful idea and planted sweet corn several places on our properties. He planted in a field near our milking parlor for our employees. He planted several small plots in the fields we rent. He then went door to door to the neighbors of these fields and explained where the fields were and that the corn was for them and their families to enjoy. His idea blessed many people.

He also planted some directly behind our house that our families and friends enjoyed. And this is the story of that.

IMG_9390.JPG

He emptied the corn bins of field corn from the 12-row corn planter and then filled it with the sweet corn. He planted the sweet corn at a ratio of 26,115 kernels per acre. In field corn, you plant around 33,000 to 34,000 kernels per acre.

Behind our house, he planted .3 acres which would produce 7,834.5 plants at the sweet corn ratio. He made two passes with the planter so we had 24 rows of corn. The rows are 30” apart. It was a lot of corn. Especially, this year. The weather was perfect and the corn was beautiful. God did an outstanding job of growing it this year.

So, doing a little deciphering – each stalk of corn averages 1 & 1/4 ears. We figured one out of every four had 2 ears. Just by sight, there were a lot of stalks with two good ears.

IMG_9493.JPG

Each ear of corn averages 16 rows on the cob. Also, each ear of corn has an even number of rows – God’s rule.

Each ear of corn averages 800 kernels of corn.

So, if each of those 7,835 stalks produced 1 ear that would be 6,268,000 kernels of corn = 800% increase.

If each stalk produced 2 ears that would be an increase of 1600% and 12,536,000 kernels of corn.

As close as we can figure he spent about $130.00 for seed for our .3 acres. Add in his time which did add up a little – moving from field to field with a 12-row corn planter and the planting just a small swath and then moving on to another field was time consuming. So, figure his time, seed cost and fuel and yes, there was an investment on his part.

We had sweet corn coming out of our ears. Way more than we could take care of as a family so we decided to give it away. I daily put it on face book for friends to come and pick. Most wanted to pay but we said no. Many were reluctant to take too much until I battered them down with “take more, please, take more”.

IMG_9530.JPG

We’ve had 58 families come and pick corn. At least 2 of those have passed it on to another 8 families. Once I convinced our guests to take more I can confidently say most took at least 100 ears of corn – some more. And we were excited to see it go!

Someone mentioned how much money we could have got if we would have sold it. Personally, our reward from giving it away is far greater. Also, knowing that our good deeds are being store in heaven we have even more reward waiting for us.

IMG_9483.JPG

A few fun facts about corn:

            Each ear has an even number of rows
            Each silk hair is associated with a separate kernel of corn – I tell people the silk hair is                           like an umbilical cord.
           The tassels on top of the corn plant pollenates the silk hairs which make the corn.

This is just another example of how cool God is. He created a seed that gets buried in the dirt. You drown it with water and then the seed dies, comes back to life, fights to get through the crusty ground. It grows a few months and then the one seed becomes 800 – 1600. How cool is that. And, to top it off – it’s delicious!!!!

 

 

 

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 . . .