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.

 

 

These Boys . . . These Men

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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.

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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.

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We're a Farm, Not a Responsiblity Training Camp

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“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.

 

 

 

 

Two Scores and Six Years . . .

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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!!!!

 

 

 

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.