Another Farm Death

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I just shared another post on face book about a family farm going under.

My first thought – “Oh, no, another one. Lord please surround these people with your love.”

And then this emotion that I can’t name (I think it is sadness, anger, despair, grief all mixed together) rose up and my mind screamed “What are we going to do about this? What is going to happen?”

That thought was followed by – “How would/did this play out for other professions?”

I wonder if the medical field, the entertainment field, the sports field professions were falling like flies – what would be the reaction?

I’ve noticed a few times lately with the entertainment industry that has had a canceled program will be revived if enough fans speak up.

The sports industry seems to thrive no matter what – although I really have no clue what’s going on on the inside. And, it’s on the inside that the truth lives.

So, how is it the main profession that keeps America, the world alive is so infected and diseased that farm after farm is dying. Farms are being amputated and there are miscarriages and terminally ill farms all over America.

Who do we blame? Who can help? What can be done?

All questions I have that are void of answers.

The intriguing part of this is that the people who survive because of this profession either have no clue or couldn’t care less.

Week after week they walk in to the grocery store, fill up their cart, take it home and place it in the fridge or cupboards. Many times, the fridge will need to be cleaned out and wasted food thrown away before the “new” food can be stored.

Food is such an easy, cheap commodity in America.

Meanwhile, back on the farm we are working more hours with no pay just trying to keep our life intact. There are no vacations, no sick days, no holidays no bonuses. The life that was once a joyful fulfillment is heavy with worry, fear and uncertainty for many.

Once again, who can we blame – and what good will that do?

A better question is who can help?

No farmer I know wants a hand-out. A hand-up for a period of time would be wonderful. To be able to make a living using our passion filled abilities is really all most of us want.

And, this isn’t just affecting the “little guys”.  There may be some mega farms that have figured out how to survive. But it’s all relative. What’s large for one person is not so for another. Farmers pointing fingers at other farmers won’t help a thing.

I’m not really sure there is an expectation for this post other than trying to dump my feelings onto paper (e-paper?) to try to relieve the heaviness of carrying it around.

There are a couple things I would like to ask though.

Please pray. Pray for farmers everywhere. Farmers are now the number one group of people committing suicide.

Pay attention to what you eat and wear. You can’t go very far without eating, wearing or running into something that came from a farmer.

Show your appreciation when you can. A thank you on social media, a note in the mail would be an easy encouragement.

If you have a question, please just ask us. Don’t believe what you read. There are so many mistruths and flat out lies (which would be a whole ‘nother blog post) being pushed on us.

As a dairy farmer with 4th and 5th generation coming behind we are committed to hang on and continue as long as possible with the hope that the clouds will part and the sun will once again shine.

 

 

What Does “Whack A Mole” and the movie “Groundhog Day” Have to do with Farming?

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Wondering about that title?

Farming is hard. Not just hard it’s more than hard. Great families are losing their farms daily. And it has nothing to do with business choices, bad management, lack of work ethic or any other issue the farmer could control.

As farmers we are a resilient bunch yet there comes a time when it’s over.

Right now, as a farmer still hanging on by our fingernails I couldn’t help but see the resemblance to the “Whack a Mole” game.

I feel like every morning we get up, go out with expectations that the day will be better than yesterday and things will start turning around. While we are pushing ourselves upwards and towards that evasive light at the end of the tunnel, life happens and we get smacked back down.

A hit from low prices. A hit from bad weather. A hit from machinery breakdowns. A hit from insects. A hit from false news about farming. A hit from social media spreading mistruths. A hit from accident or injury. A hit from __________ fill in the blank – this could go on for a long time.

Day after day we continue to rise up, work hard, pray more only to be whacked down again.

How many times can you get hit before you are done? That’s the question all farmers are asking and too many, way too many have reached that point.

While I don’t remember all the details from the movie “Groundhog Day” the part I remember is that each day is a repeat of the day before.

Farmers would be key characters in “Groundhog Day”. Each morning you start out thinking it’s a new day only to find yourself repeating the thoughts of “maybe tomorrow”, “how long can we do this”, “what can I do to change this”. As the hours wear on through the day the load feels heavier and heavier. Going to bed each night you try to talk yourself into thinking tomorrow will be different. Then, each morning you’re right at it again, day after day after day.

Farmers are tough. Some of the toughest people – physically, mentally and emotionally are farmers. The average person could never work this hard for this long for so little if there wasn’t a little bit of Superman inside.

All superheroes can only be super so long. Farmers are over burdened with depression and are committing suicide at a heart-breaking, record setting rate.

This isn’t going away. As long as there are people on the earth and as long as people need to eat, be clothed, have medicine and more, there will be a need for farmers.

Yet, how many of these food eating, crop wearing people ever give a thought to those who worked to provide it?

If you are a consumer there are a few things you can do to show your support for farmers.

1.     Please pray.

2.     Don’t listen to every person who slams farmers for their horrible practices. Find the source of your information and make sure they are credible. Search behind the source to see if they are connected with another group that would benefit from slamming farmers.

3.     If you have a question of concern – go to the source. Ask a farmer. There are tons of us on social media that would LOVE to help you understand.

4.     Don’t stand in judgement and think or speak that a farmer could have/should have done better.

5.     Thank a Farmer – speak some encouragement into their lives.

Lastly, for most of you reading this your food is less costly than just about anywhere else on the planet. Appreciate your spot on this ball of dirt and be grateful.

Little Traverse Lake . . . A Little Slice of Heaven

To some this is just a body of water, that holds seaweed, snails and fish.

To me it is that and so much more.

This is my childhood’s most precious memories. This is where we would spend our summer vacation. It was heaven on earth. Swimming, fishing, playing in the woods and to make it even more spectacular we would do all this with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

We would swim until our arms hung like wet noodles and our lips would be purple and slap together from shivering so hard.

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This lake holds hours of fishing in an overloaded boat where we were directed to be quiet or we would scare the fish. I remember fishing in wooden boats.

The campfires near the lake ate many a marshmallow and lulled us asleep.

Saturday night baths were a bar of soap and the lake.

Waking up at 6:00AM to slip “quietly” into the freezing cold lake was thwarted with the amphitheater sound system the water produced. You just can’t swim without splashing, squealing and giggling.

Snakes, turtles, crabs, minnows and blood suckers were fished from the lake.

Every summer one of the unknowns were – who will be in the cottage next to ours this year? Year after year we would meet new families spending their summer vacation at the neighbor’s cottages. Some of the families we saw more than once. A summer “boyfriend” was always a bonus.

One summer my brother and I were baptized in this water. Our Grandfather waded out into the lake with us and while the rest of the family watched from the dock, baptized us which added preciousness to our memories.

We found salamanders under logs, clams holding the world’s next largest pearls, chipmunks and other critters sharing the property.

The outhouse was a bonus of sorts. The stories, the bees, the smells!

I can’t eat fish today without my mind picturing my grandfather, father or uncles scaling and fileting fish under the tree on the blood and gut stained table they made for that purpose.

Whenever a cool breeze blows through cedar trees I am transported to that little cottage on the lake.

Upstairs in the cottage was one big room with 4 double beds. We would fight over who got what bed. Just getting up the steep narrow steps was a victory. And who needs anything besides heavy curtains hanging between the beds for privacy anyway?

Memories wouldn’t be complete without beestings, bug bites, pickers and a fishhook embedded in someone’s anatomy.

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Everything tasted better, smelled stronger and felt more intensely at the lake.

To some, this is a body of water. To me, this is a slice of what awaits us in heaven.

 

 

 

Shout Out to United Dairy Industry of Michigan - Use Them

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Here in Michigan we have and excellent source of help in promoting dairy. UDIM - United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

I get all my swag for our farm tours from them.

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They have been nothing but helpful and encouraging to us over the years and have afforded us great experiences.

Being highlighted as a Dairy Family at the Whitecaps game has been our favorite thus far.

 Throwing out one of the first pitches.

Throwing out one of the first pitches.

Our latest adventure was a photo, video shoot. Take a look.

 Don the photographer. First shot of the day. Son #2 and family.

Don the photographer. First shot of the day. Son #2 and family.

 Dan the video and drone guy.

Dan the video and drone guy.

 Getting set up for the "Milk Toast".

Getting set up for the "Milk Toast".

 The guys doing the "Milk Toast". Abby watching over it all.

The guys doing the "Milk Toast". Abby watching over it all.

 Then we added some puppy cuteness.

Then we added some puppy cuteness.

 Watch for this on August 26 - National Dog Day. Join UDIM on facebook.

Watch for this on August 26 - National Dog Day. Join UDIM on facebook.

 Then there was an interview. I do great on radio and behind the scenes so I passed this off to Son#2 and Daughter-in-law. Jolene was the expert at prying information out of him. Jane looking on while Dan is getting the camera ready.

Then there was an interview. I do great on radio and behind the scenes so I passed this off to Son#2 and Daughter-in-law. Jolene was the expert at prying information out of him. Jane looking on while Dan is getting the camera ready.

 I think the blooper reel will be better than the actual footage. All in all they did a great job.

I think the blooper reel will be better than the actual footage. All in all they did a great job.

 This was the best part. Watching and harassing during the interview.

This was the best part. Watching and harassing during the interview.

If you are a dairy in Michigan, please contact this great organization for help in promoting our product. They are so cooperative and have great ideas. Check them out:

 https://www.milkmeansmore.org

What the World Needs Now

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I just watched another dairy farm sell their cows and turn off the lights in their milk house for the last time.

While I know some people genuinely feel bad for them and fewer yet really get it, the majority of the world has no clue. And, to add to that, they couldn’t care less.

They don’t connect the loss of a dairy with any consequences in their life.

Let me “clue” you in.

Every time the bulk tank is emptied for the last time we don’t just lose a business. We lose a participant in a valuable lifestyle.

We lose someone who is willing to work long hard hours for little to nothing in return.

We lose someone who doesn’t stop until the job is done.

We lose someone who puts the needs of an animal over himself.

We lose someone who can withstand being covered in slime and poop.

We lose someone who learned from the previous generation and is teaching the next.

We lose someone who will pull a calf from its mother and do mouth to mouth to save its life.

We lose someone who soldiers through blown disks in their backs, broken bones and sore muscles.

We lose someone who can fix just about anything with duct tape, binder twine and wire.

We lose someone who sings off key as they lug full pails of warm milk so heavy it feels like your arms will be pulled out of their sockets.

We lose someone who tucks their kids in the corner of the cab on a pile of coats to take a nap.

We lose someone who walks through a cornfield that is curled and burned from too much sun and no rain while promising next year will be better.

We lose someone whose hands are knarled, cut and stained with grease and oil.

We lose someone who wrestles critters ten times their weight and cradles a fragile calf in their lap.

We lose someone whose word is as good as a legal document.

We lose someone whose character, integrity and reputation are natural daily activities.

The world doesn’t have enough souls with these qualities.

The world is thirsty for what we are losing.

The world will suffer a little more with each farm that dies.

The world needs to pay attention and be concerned.

 

 

 

Light in the Darkness

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Right now, it’s so easy to write about what’s wrong with farming.

Never ever have I felt so much distress and dismay about my life I live.

Never ever have we been working so physically hard with no light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel gets longer and darker as the days go by. And, the tunnel is getting crowded.

Work hard and success will follow is what I’ve been taught. Well, if that’s the case then Farmer would be a multi-millionaire.

Just about every time I open face book to any of my farm pages there is one more dairy farmer selling out. Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms in 2017, and about 150 have quit milking cows so far this year according to USA Today.

Some will read this and think that’s too bad and never give it another thought. It’s not just losing a job. Losing your dairy farm that has been in the family for 100+ years is losing part of who you are. You feel like you are disappointing those who worked so hard to build it to this point and totally failing those coming after you who want nothing more than to continue the legacy.

When I first came to the farm I watched Farmer work alongside his father. Our sons have worked with Farmer and now a Grandson is working with his dad. There are times when we have three generations in the fields together.

 4th and 5th generation

4th and 5th generation

When people glibly suggest just sell out and take all that money and start something else they don’t have a clue. First of all there won’t be all that money. Some will be lucky to break even. Secondly, you can’t change the DNA of your dreams that easily or quickly.

Others have suggested building a bottling plant so we can have more control over the finished product. Well, I’d like to suggest that if the money was available to build a plant then we wouldn’t be in this position.

Everything in dairy farming takes time. It takes at least 9 months for a cow to be able to give milk once she has reached the age of breeding. You can’t turn on and off your milk productions quickly. There is no quick fix.

Part of the problem is some farmers are increasing their herd size to have a better cash flow. That is doing nothing but making things worse for the whole. Yet, I can’t fault someone for doing what they think is best for themselves.

The hopelessness for farmers has become deadly. According to Kansas Wheat, from 2014 to 2015, farm income dropped 95% and farm debt levels have increased by 25%. The farmers’ rate of suicide is 84.5 suicide deaths out of 100,000.

In an article in Civil Eats - Over the past year, media reports in Newsweek, the New York Times, and an in-depth piece in The Guardian have called attention to alarming rates of suicide among farmers and farmworkers, from grain growers in the Midwest to dairy farmers in the Northeast.

Basically, right now doing what we feel we were created to do is exhausting, depressing and is wrapped in hopelessness. So, it is really easy to write about what is wrong with being a dairy farmer.

I am challenging myself to find some light in all the darkness and share what is good about farming.

Here we go:

            Every day we get to enjoy the fresh air. We aren’t cooped up inside a building in front of a computer screen or repetitively doing the same thing.

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            Animals! There is something special about walking through the barns with cattle on both sides. It’s a calming effect. And, to help bring a new calf into the world is nothing short of miraculous.

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            The smells are heavenly – for the most part. The smell of fresh earth turned over in the spring and of course newly mown alfalfa is God’s perfume. Even the smell of manure is comforting at times.

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            Working side by side with your husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandkids is wonderful – especially when everyone is in a good place.

            Having employees that work with you and being able to pass blessings back and forth between each other is rewarding.

            Bringing guests to the farm to show and tell how God works is gratifying.

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I have been told more times than I can count that “God is in control”. I believe that. It’s just hard at times to trust that. Oh my, did I actually admit that? Yep, at times my trust muscle isn’t as strong as I wish.

How long will this last? How long will we be able to continue? Only God knows. I just wish he’d let me know.

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Transparently Tired

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Transparent. That’s what I keep saying – we need to be transparent. How can we help each other if we are living behind a façade?

So, here we go.

I’m real close to losing it. Not quite sure what it is, but it’s about ready to frazzle.

There has been stressful stress happening in the world I live in. Financial struggles due to horrible milk prices, concerns about the crops because of weather, short-handed at the farm and just plain normal wear and tear of life.

Then you add to that my inerrant desire to help and fix. I see my husband working way too hard and long hours. I’m concerned for his health. My son who is on the farm has back issues and he and his family are spent from doing “whatever” needs to be done. I move from feeding people, delivering people and parts, to merging hay, all the office work and now we are refurbishing one of our houses for a new employee. I’m taking care of most of that too. The list of things needing to be done is endless.

Then there are peripheral things. We had to tear out our old gas grill because it was 30+ years and crumbling. In order to get a new one and put it in, the brick around the old one had to be removed and new brick put down, etc. And, of course, only Farmer could do this. There is a mess on the back porch, a hole in the brick and a new gas grill perched on a table. Cement dust, tools and mortar bags litter my back-porch oasis.

The yard has more moles than a “whack a mole” factory. I finally called a service – even though Farmer said no. The service is great – should be for the price. We’re killing moles left and right.

Trimming bushes, weed whacking, mowing lawn, any landscaping, getting the oil changed in the car is on my to do list. There are so many other little issues that need fixing. I just can’t ask Farmer when he is so over burdened with everything at the farm right now. So, things get left undone. Undone “stuff” is noise to me. I need some quiet.

I have four sons – very busy and limited due to back issues. That’s something else I can’t fix. I pray for their healing and it hasn’t quite arrived yet. It’s not easy being a mama when your kids are hurting. If I ask, they will help but I know every time they help me I am pulling them away from their family and their things that need to be take care of.

I’m volunteering my time to help people discover Dr. Jim Hines – he is running for governor and I think he’s the best choice.

I could list other things but you get the idea.

And, I’ve always been the one to help others. I’m the answer to struggles. Need something? I’ll be right there.

I am tired.

I was feeling sorry for myself and was watching something on TV and the character was so happy and joyful. I found myself “wishing” I had a normal life that I could relax and enjoy. Right now, everything feels like work. Now, I know that my life is far superior in blessings than most people, so I really have absolutely nothing to legitimately complain about.

Why am I writing this? Trying to garner sympathy? Nope. Not at all.

Two reasons.

One reason I’m writing this is to show someone who doubts God’s participation in your life that he is there.

I sat down and grabbed my “Jesus Calling” devotional and this is what I read.

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“Striving for a predictable, safe lifestyle” – exactly what I long for.

The second reason for baring my faults here is to encourage someone else to know you’re not the only one who feels like life is spinning out of control. I want to encourage you to see there is no “wonder woman” or “super hero” in the flesh.

I think we are ALL over worked and tired. We are ALL busy. And, I really think we ALL “pretend” a little. After all, if you ask someone “How are you”? Do you really want to hear “I’m pooped, close to tears, can’t sleep and anxious”?

I know my exhaustion is self-imposed and can only be fixed by self-regulation. And, I’m working on it – once I get this list of to dos finished – HA!!!

Take heart, take a break and know that God cares and wants you to trust in Him and expectantly wait for what he has for you.

Now, go take a nap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Blinker, No Problem

 Don't be jealous of my wooden bumper.

Don't be jealous of my wooden bumper.

After merging for over an hour looking through dirty windows I drove the tractor up to the shop to wash them. While I was hanging off the steps and draped over the hood of the tractor Farmer called me.

Farmer: “Hey, I need you to bring me some fuel. Check the tank and make sure there is enough. Just call me back when you get to the truck.”

Me: “Where is the truck?”

F: "Halfway down the driveway."

M: I dropped everything and dismounted the tractor hood with nary a broken bone and walked over to the truck. And then called Farmer.

F: “Can you see how full the tank is?”

M: “Yep, ¾ full.”

F: “K Bring it out to the field for me. Drive careful. There are no blinkers.”

M: “OK, but I have to run home and go pee first.”

F: “Can’t you just pee behind the truck?”

M: This is where I would have slammed the phone down if the option was available. With the cell phones it’s so unrewarding to hang up on someone.

After the bladder was emptied and I was on the way with the truck I was concentrating on staying below the speed limit. I’ve watched enough Live PD to know that you can be pulled over for any small thing and going 10 miles over the speed limit would probably qualify. Having no working blinkers, a wooden bumper and no driver’s license I was trying to be the perfect citizen.

I made it to the other farm with no problem.

 

 Farmer's best side.

Farmer's best side.

Once I parked it and Farmer was fueling the tractor I realized the plate on the truck was missing.

M: “No license plate?”

F: “Yes, there are 2 up on the dash. If you get stopped show them one and if they don’t like it, you have another one to try.”

M: Blank stare

F: “Be careful going home, I was already stopped once, so they may be looking for you.”

 You can see the silos on the main farm 2 miles north.

You can see the silos on the main farm 2 miles north.

Farm Life Preservation 101

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What part of farm life am I referring too?

Anyone who comes in contact with the farmer this time of year.

For us with late April snow and never-ending May showers started us off behind. Now, add a broken-down hay mower and the chopper which has been in the dealership shop since April and no delivery back to the farm date and you have created the perfect storm for needing to know about farm life protection. This is what we call the “Angry Bear” stage of farming.

Here are the 10 guidelines of Farm Life Preservation 101.

1.     When approaching the farmer during this stressful time give him wide berth. Stay at least 10 feet away. That way you’ll have a better chance to duck flying tools.

2.     When approaching the farmer, make no quick movements and avoid eye contact.

3.     When leaving the farmer, back away slowly.

4.     While in the presence of the farmer, only speak when spoken to and speak in soft hushed tones unless machinery is running and then you must be able to lip read and shout louder than a jet engine revving up. Always agree with what they are saying.

5.     Never ask any questions.

6.     When feeding time comes push the food under the equipment with a long stick.

7.     Unless bellowed to enter, only go into the shop if it is necessary and when doing so, be stealthy and quiet so as not to rile the farmer.

8.     If he asks you to help him for just a minute, quietly text your doctor and let him know you can’t make it in for your liver transplant scheduled for later in the day.

9.     Always be on guard and ready to jump. The expectancy level is high, and you never know what will trigger it.

10.  If for any reason the farmer has fallen asleep, NEVER EVER wake him up unless you have had training.

All nonsense aside, it is a very stressful time of the year and all prayers for all farmers would be welcomed.

But, hey, I can’t fix any of the problems so why not have a little fun. The good thing is Farmer is so busy he won’t read this for several weeks and by then hopefully the “Angry Bear” syndrome will have past.

Multiply Your Greatness

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I hung the phone up on the kitchen wall, looked around me and wondered if I would ever find myself again. Would I ever be in a position to create a difference? The yellow fruit and flowered wall paper stared back at me. Out the kitchen window I could see Son #1 and #2 playing in the yard. Son #3 was watching cartoons and Son #4 was crawling on the floor by my feet.

I must have been extremely tired that day because normally my thoughts didn’t wander there.

I had the privilege of being a stay at home mom. I was a semi-single stay at home mom. I never want to insinuate my singleness of raising my sons is compared in the least to a true single mom. But, Farmer was rarely home. Most of the daily operations of the home and parenting was my responsibility.

In the midst of wiping noses, butts and dirty mouths, I, at times, wondered if there would be anything left in me when the time came to give me a whirl.

At this point in my life I was Farmer’s wife, or someone’s mom. And that continued for many years. My identity was always combined.

And, consider there was no face book back then to garner support, chatting with others or surfing the web. Our means of connection was church gatherings and phone calls when we weren’t chasing one of the kids or putting food on the table. There was no pre-school, mom’s groups or gyms to attend.

For the most part, I loved my life. I gained much satisfaction and was thrilled to take care of my family. I enjoyed just about every aspect.

Once, in a while, and it must have hit that day, I would think about “successful women in the work force.” They did a job, got thanked and even was paid for their time and effort.

And therefore, once in a while I would wander with my wonderings.

I’m writing this to encourage any moms who are in the middle of their best years – especially if you are staying home and get overwhelmed at times. While I wasn’t distressed over not having a career or felt trapped at home, the desire to make a difference was there.

While I may not have wrote a best seller, argued a high-profile court case, or did open heart surgery saving lives, I have made a huge difference.

By staying home, I made a difference times four.

I have raised four amazing men that daily touch lives, create opportunities for others, and contribute greatly to this world. These four men are good, quality, excellent driven men who are now raising their sons and daughters to change the world.

Never under estimate where you are in life and the reason God designated this special spot for you.

Anyone can become a doctor, lawyer, clerk, teacher or whatever profession.

No one can be your child’s mother.

Enjoy your best years with your kids. Realize the amazing responsibility God has entrusted to you.

Multiply your greatness through your kids.

 

 

 

 

A Man Who Changed the World

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There is a man who changed the world.

Most of you won’t know him.

He built a house for his family with his own hands.

He’s been faithful to his one and only wife for 66 years.

He put food on the table for them year after year.

He taught them to plant a garden – to till, plant and harvest.

He taught his family to hunt wisely and respectfully of the prey and the weapon.

He built a building where people learned about Jesus.

He brought all of his kids to the place where they wanted Jesus as their own.

He has read his Bible daily for years.

He prays daily for his kids, grand-kids, great-grandkids and great-great-grandkids.

He gives freely when a need arises.

He instilled a great work ethic into each of his kids.

He is revered in his circle of influence.

He has changed the world.

Maybe not your world.

But he has changed my world daily for the better.

My dad.

 

Happy 88th Birthday Daddy!

 

 

Somewhere Along the Way . . .

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When you go to the hardware store to purchase a drill you really don’t want the drill, you want the hole that the drill will create.

When you go to the grocery store to purchase a gallon of milk you don’t really want a gallon of milk, you want your thirst satisfied.

When you go to the pharmacy you don’t want the drug, you want your illness/pain relieved.

With all and the latest school shootings we say we want to keep the violence out of our schools. What we really want is responsible kids that value life; co-exist together with respect, kindness and compassion.

Somewhere in the past, along the way in life we learned about the drill, milk and medicine.

Somewhere along the way the value of life has been left behind – lost on life’s journey.

Somewhere along the way we have determined that respect must be earned. It seems the effort to receive respect has gotten harder and more arduous through the years.

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Somewhere along the way kindness has been forgotten. It was laid down when our hands were full and busy and forgotten to be picked back up.

Somewhere along the way compassion was passed to organizations that went overseas or fed the local homeless.

If our hands are full and busy showing value, respect, kindness and compassion to others there will be no room for devices that kill. Let’s start filling hearts and hands.

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To Whom It May Concern

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To Whom It Concerns,

There’s a crisis going on right under our noses and many people have no idea.

Farms are selling out; farmer’s dreams are being auctioned off and livelihoods are washing away with the tears of generational farmers.

I’m not sure who will be reading this or what I really expect to happen but I need to pour out my heart so I can see straight.

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We are dairy farmers. My husband is 3rd generation and one of our four sons is hoping to continue. Hoping is the key word here.

The price we receive for our milk has been cut drastically over the last few years. It has come back a bit but well under the amount we need to break even let alone make a profit. The experts are predicting at least one more year of these farm-breaking prices.

As dairy farmers, we are used to the roller coaster prices but this dip has been deeper and longer than ever before with no relief in sight.

While our income has been slashed our production, costs are the same or more. We’ve trimmed down and cut back on everything possible.

Some reading this think “oh, that’s too bad” and never give it another thought. Some think “sell out and find another job, no big deal”.

That is comparable to telling a pro-golfer he can never pick up a golf club again, or a race car driver that he will never sit in a car seat again or a mother that she isn’t allowed to care for her children ever again.

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I truly believe a farmer is created. There is a seed dropped into the heart of a farmer at the time of conception that God puts there. We were created to care for his critters and tend his land.

Who else will work from before sunup to well past sundown? How many would be willing to work in a cloud of dust and dirt all day? How many professions require being covered in manure, silage juice and cow slime?

Farmers put their animals and farm first. Vacations are what we read about and hear from others. A half day’s work is done before church on Sundays. Ball games, drives in the country, leisurely strolls in the park are foreign to farmers. Oh, there may be a rare event that just happens to fall in between making hay and harvesting corn that can be attended.

Get togethers are always worked around milking times, planting and harvest. And many a supper out has been canceled due to something breaking down at the farm.

Knuckles are bloodied from slipping wrenches, shins are bruised from a well-placed cow hoof, and stitches are the norm when working on that one dang piece of machinery that you are trying to hold together because there just isn’t enough money to replace it.

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Add freezing cold temperatures and blowing snow that clogs the road before you can even get one pass done to the mix to make taking care of the farm even harder.

Everything waits for chores – Christmas morning, birthday celebrations are a couple that are put on hold until the last cow is fed or milked.

I have seen three of my four sons eat dirt, clean pieces of hay out of their eyes, cough up dust, and have disks in their backs blown. I have jumped in tractors and choppers to help keep them awake so the field can be done before the rain hits.

Months and months of work and money can be put in the ground only to not receive enough rain or too much rain and lose the whole thing.

Why are prices so low and farming so tough? What’s causing it? Personally, I’m not sure. I’ve heard that the European nations lifting their quota system and too much milk on the market are a couple.

Then let’s add in the fear mongering companies that try to scare the consumer into purchasing their high-priced products. A certain company is slapping their non-GMO sticker on everything that is placed in the grocery store whether or not it could possibly be a GMO product. And there is absolutely no scientific or medical proof that there is anything wrong with GMO foods.

Here we farmers have learned to grow food on less ground, with a smaller footprint, with higher yields and we are getting punished because someone is creating a false premise just to forward their own agenda.

Milk alternatives are slickly packaged and placed side by side with dairy. Some consumers have no idea there is no dairy in these products. I have NO problem with using other food sources for another drink but please don’t piggy back on our dairy. Don’t market that the alternative to dairy is healthier. It’s different.

We are coming from a place of discouragement, exhaustion, and depression. There is a thought that if you are honest and work hard you will be rewarded for your efforts. This is not and has not been happening for farmers in a long time.

We’re tired, sore and quite frankly some of us are scared spit less because we have no answer to the problem. We aren’t even sure what caused the problem and have no idea how to fix it.

We are praying for wisdom and guidance and some feel their prayers are falling on deaf ears.

At a time in our lives when we should be pulling back and slowing down we are working as hard as ever to fill the void that unaffordable employees could fill.

Part of me wants to do everything possible for my son to succeed as the fourth generation. Part of me wants to tell him to run – as fast and as far as he can from the farm.

But then, I realize that seed that started in his great grandfather and before has sprouted and is growing inside him.

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Trusting God, seeking wisdom is our first and last hope.

If you eat, wear clothing, sit on furniture, take medicine then you have farmers to thank for that. Considering life without farmers would be non-existent, please take some time to pray for us.

If anyone reading this has any constructive, credible suggestions, please share.

While I have gotten this off my chest it is still in my heart.

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Life is Like Uncle Ted

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My Uncle Ted. What a guy!

Growing up as kids, us cousins, would spend a few weeks of our summers up north at the cottage. There was nor will be anything better than those summer weeks.

One of our treats was to visit the sand dunes. Back then it was much less commercial and easier to do what we wanted where we wanted.

The wheels of the car could barely stop turning before the doors flung open and we leaped out (no seat belts to hinder us then) and started our crab scramble up the hill. We all knew we had a short window to get a start before Uncle Ted released his torture.

We didn’t enjoy the climb, take in the scenery and never looked back. We knew at any minute Uncle Ted would strike.

We could be 10 feet up the hill or one third up the hill when “Got cha!” he would yell as he grabbed our ankles and pulled us down.

We would holler, complain and laugh all at the same time.

Then we would start again. We hoped he would be distracted by something else and not notice our movement forwarded.

Again, out of nowhere the ankle grab and his laughter pulled us back down. Sometimes all the way back, sometimes not too far.

Again, and again this happened until he either got tired, or our laughter started to subside or it was getting closer to leaving.

Eventually, finally, after all the torture and travails of Uncle Ted we cleared the top.

We knew every year it would be the same, yet we looked forward to it and would never want it any other way.

As, I was assessing a negative turn in my life I thought “life is just like Uncle Ted. We are climbing up and moving forward and at any given time something will grab our ankle and pull us down.” It could be conflict, sickness, economics, stress, family issues, strife, you name it. There is plenty out there to pull us down.

We can sit in the spot where life pulled us down and not try to move forward because it’s too hard, too sad, too tough, too alone or we can move up, dig in and climb again.

Each time we get pulled down we know we have a choice. Each time we get pulled down we see we’ve survived the last set back – as long as we chose to move forward.

I don’t know what your Uncle Ted is. We all have them. I’m dealing with a whole family of Uncle Ted’s right now but the problems will not define me nor change my course.

I choose to scramble ahead keeping just ahead of Uncle Ted. If he grabs me I know I will sit a minute, pray a bit, catch my breath and then I can choose. Sit there while the rest of the world climbs ahead or I can dig in, crab crawl and enjoy the time I’m ahead of Uncle Ted.

One day when we get to the top we will look back at Uncle Ted and laugh about the fact that we gave him so much power over our lives.

Who’s your Uncle Ted?

An Island in the Swamp

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They say, “Drain the swamp”. I agree.

Even in the swamp there is an island. And island of wonderful, beautiful, caring, Godly people.

My niece was killed in an auto accident in Virginia just outside of Washington DC. We made the long 10+ hour trip down there. Our concern was for our nephew being so far from his childhood home of Michigan. “How will he do alone without his Leah? Who will help him through this?”

Our concerns were pointless as we soon found out – even before we left to travel south.

My brother and sister-in-law made the all-night trip immediately after hearing of the accident. They were brought into a home of one of the families that attended church with my nephew and niece. He called to let us know there were many families offering their home for others to stay if wanted.

Another family hosted eight other family members for a few days.

When you think about bringing in a grieving family to take care of them, there is a lot of work. And these people did it with so much love. There’s food to prepare, beds to be changed, beds to set up, towels to wash, extra work in the kitchen. Add to that being cordial and inter acting. And there were small children to entertain too.

Others came along side and walked through the funeral arrangements. They put together the photos, videos, helped plan the service. And, what a service we had.

When we arrived for the visitation the evening before the funeral, my brother brought us around to introduce us to those who had been and was still helping my nephew. Over and over we were introduced to loving, caring, grieving friends.

And they all were there due to the love of Leah. She was a special woman who planted seeds of love. Hearing everyone share their life they had with her encourages us to be better. That’s what she did when she was there – she made life better.

We have no doubt that there will be many who will keep their promise of “Keeping charge over Michael” for us as the family travels back to Michigan.

Our hearts were lightened by the outreach of love by our new extended family members.

When God is in the midst he is able to create islands in any kind of swamps.

As you travel through this life, look for the islands. Better yet, be the island.