The Watchers

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In the last few days I’ve spoken with three different women from three different states and the stress level is high. 

We normally hear about the stress farmers are under and those farmers are female too, but I’m referring to the female farmer that is also the mother or wife.

As a woman I think we are naturally nurturers (not saying guys aren’t) and in that role we seem to feel like we need to be the one who holds everyone together.

We watch our husbands worry over not getting the crops in. Or when the machinery breaks down and tensions are rising we women have an overwhelming desire to fix things or to at least help our guys feel better.

“Fixing things” is not attainable yet we strive to the point of dismay.

We see relationships between husband and son, husband and wife, sons and sons  . . . the list could go on – deteriorate with each passing day that field work is stalled.

We watch as tensions rise and words are quick and sharp when normally they aren’t present.

We see the body language change. The hand running through the hair, the rubbing of the back of the neck, the tiredness in their eyes.

We try unsuccessfully to be the buffer between our farmer and bad news.

This year with so much going against us it seems worse. We should be finishing corn planting yet we have not a single kernel in the ground. Too wet. Then yesterday we had a few hours where we could have started before the rain came again but the corn planter was down. It was a holiday and with all the high tech going on farmers are at the mercy of their dealers. So, today the planter will be fixed while the rain comes back.

Simple questions about a field between father and son, mother and son etc. becomes accusatory without effort.

Conversations begin and end with negativity.

Sleep comes but rest doesn’t always accompany it.

Whether we women are side by side working, in a supporting role such as bookwork, runner, cooking for the guys or whatever, we watch.

We watch and then we try to fix.

When we come to one and try to get them to see the other person’s perspective we usually get caught in the cross fire.

Sometimes we watchers just listen. A husband or son will slip in the sit at the table and let their frustrations with others go. It’s a good dumping place. A place where the tension can spill out and give them some room to breathe for a while. But, the spill is usually soaked up by the watcher/listener. You can’t let the spill sit on the floor.

There’s a lot of attention on farmers and their emotional stability as there should be. This is a tough time.

I just want to turn the attention to the watchers.

For you farmers, sons, husbands please consider the watchers in your life. Be careful not to dump too much. Take some time to be the listener. Ask her how she’s doing. Find something positive to say. Even if you have to state the obvious – “Well, another rainy day. We’ll just have to figure it out.” Instead of “I can’t believe it. Another rainy day. When will it ever stop? How in the world will get out crops in and with milk prices so low how will. . . . ”

Watchers are strong and sturdy. Yet even the strongest trees will fall when the winds of adversity last too long.

To all the watchers out there – you are seen and cared for by the greatest Watcher of all. God stands beside you as you try to make peace and find an answer. He hears your frustration and sees your tears. He knows your heart and how divided it can be with the relationships you have. He watches as your mind spins and spins for answers. He knows. He sees. And he has one thing for you to know. You are not God. You are not responsible for everyone and everything. He watches and waits for us to take all our troubles and lay them down. He works better when we aren’t trying to “help’.

As a watcher, it’s a daily task for me to “lay it down”. We want fast, quick fixes but it doesn’t work that way.

As we daily practice to “lay it down” it does become easier at times.

Bottom line – watchers can’t fix. Give it all to the Head Watcher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farming for Flowers. It's a Beautiful Thing

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When you think of farming, do you think flowers?

Here in West MI we have all variants of farming. We are fortunate to have a gem within our boundaries.

Veldheer Tulip Gardens
12755 Quincy St
Holland, Michigan 49424

Farmer and I have the blessing of being able to call the Veldheers friends. They are some of the nicest, most “down to earth” folks you will meet.

We had a cookout there the other night after hours and we got the scoop! Jodi took us on a tour and I blasted her with question after question. And, I just got to the surface. The more I asked, the more I didn’t know.

I’m going to give you a quick tour with a few facts in order to convince you to make the trip. Especially in the spring when it’s in its full regal.

They are over 6 million now.

They are over 6 million now.

I could have you scroll for hours looking at the tulips but I’ll resist. There are more than tulips here at the garden that I want to show you too.

Here are some you can see - hopefully this will whet your appetite and visit yourself.

You know how they say pictures don’t do justice. I agree.

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This is a peony tulip. Full and fluffy - looks like the peony flower.

This is a peony tulip. Full and fluffy - looks like the peony flower.

Notice the speckling on the leaves?

Notice the speckling on the leaves?

I will post more pictures of tulips at the bottom of this blog. For now, you need to see what else is at the farm.

They have a gift shop where you can purchase any and all bulbs. Some of these tulip bulbs can be obtained from Veldheers or you have to travel to Holland - the country to get them. Yes, they have exclusive tulips. Any ya’ll know you don’t want a tulip like your neighbors - come here and get the elite ones!

One of the artists that were choosen in the past for Tulip Time has her art work on display. Also, she bringing artists into the fields to paint.

One of the artists that were choosen in the past for Tulip Time has her art work on display. Also, she bringing artists into the fields to paint.

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If you need to cleanse your sight pallete, you can check out the buffalo on the farm.

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There is also a gift shop with traditional Holland gifts. Some are imported but many are hand made and hand painted. You can watch and visit with the painters as they work.

You can be fitted and purchase wooden shoes from Holland.

You can be fitted and purchase wooden shoes from Holland.

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Or you can purchase hand made shoes from Veldheer’s. You can watch as the shoe is formed from a chunk of poplar wood.

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You can have them customed painted.

You can have them customed painted.

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Now, back to the tulips.

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See that spec on the thumbnail? That is a tulip SEED. Yes, a seed. That little seed will grow into a bulb. That’s how we aquire tulips - as a bulb. And, we should be grateful. Why? Because the only way that little seed will become a bulb is with total perfect conditions and it will take a few years - 21. Yes! It takes 21 years for a seed to form into the bulb that we purchase.

There is so much more to learn. And, I’m going to go back and camp at Veldheer Tulip Farm and bug Jim and Jodi to find out more information - at least until they kick me out.

You can follow them on face book - https://www.facebook.com/veldheertulipgardens/ or on-line - www.veldheer.com

I will leave you with more of the gorgeous tulips.

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Nebraska Bound – Revelations, Ruminations and Reflections - One Precious Drop

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Even though we traveled with 16 trucks and semis full of supplies I told Farmer I felt like we were just a drop in a bucket. 

Consider this though.

 One single drop in an empty bucket is a start.

Add more drops.

If you can make it to the halfway point of filling the bucket you should be encouraged to keep adding a drop at a time. The full bucket is in sight.

With each precious drop you come closer to being the last drop that pushes a previous drop out of the bucket.

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Our convoy was one of those drops.

Preparations –

After going through this I can’t imagine the hours of preparation that it took to pull this all together. Kerry Tucker along with others (too many to mention and fearful to leave someone out) are amazing. We delivered to many producers many different items. The trucks were loaded in an attempt to have the right supplies for each producer together. Contacting companies for donations, contacting farmers and ranchers to find out their needs. Contacting locals for their assistance.  It isn’t easy finding accommodations for 17 trucks.

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This is what Michigan brought to Nebraska.

Approximately:

170 round hay bales

50 round straw bales

400 square straw bales

100 square hay bales

6 tons Purina cattle cubes

80 mineral blocks

25 hog panels

100+ t posts

200 Easter baskets

75 50 lb. bags of horse feed

20 bags of shavings

500 lbs. pig feed

1000 lbs. cow feed

60+ rolls wire

740 wood posts

Another 3 skids of cow feed – over 1000 lbs.

Miscellaneous fencing tools

Veterinary medicines

And a whole lot of love, prayers, encouragement and well wishes.

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People -

West MI community is amazing. All the donations for personal care and the awesome Easter Baskets made and given were over the top.

The farmers who donated straw, hay and other feed. Those who lended trucks and trailers. Those who gave money for fuel and food.

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The drivers and all that went along were good, good people. The best. Their kindness and unselfishness has challenged me to be better.

Family and friends that stayed back at home so others could go. Doing chores, milking cows, taking care of kids and other business.

All of you on face book and the internet that read the posts and blogs. Your encouragement was beneficial for all. Sharing and spreading the news was wonderful. It brought more attention to where it was needed – the farmers and ranchers.

Father and son hog farmers that lost 700 hogs.

Father and son hog farmers that lost 700 hogs.

I heard it said more than once to reporters or others “It’s not about us. We’re bringing help. The focus must stay on those farmers and ranchers that were affected by this.”

Many along the way would hand off money at gas stations, rest stops, parking lots. “We love what you are doing. I want to help.”

Producers -

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The farmers and ranchers we went to help are strong people. They truly are what’s right with America. They stand strong and firm, facing the future of rebuilding and restoring. Even when all is lost they carry a flicker of hope within. We all need to fan those tiny glimmers of fire with prayer and any help we can provide.

Some issues they are faced with are insurance problems. One farmer can’t get insurance money unless he shows them the dead cow. Many of his cows were washed away. Some are still buried in the sand and there are some on his property that aren’t his.

The hog producer that we helped had to pay $5000 for 2 semi-trucks to haul away the dead pigs. His insurance refuses to pay. There will be time spent trying to fight that.

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Another was told it would take $8300 an acre to scrape off the sand and silt from his land. Who can afford that?

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There are miles and miles of missing fencing.

Feed bins split and collapsed spilling the feed in the flooding waters. Those that didn’t spill over are ruined from the feed sitting in the water.

Those that lost the cattle had spent years growing their herd through genetics. Most animal replacement will be a long-term process.

As a farm wife and mother, it is hard to watch my husband and son when hardships come. I am only able to help so much. These mothers, wives, daughters, sons and other family members feel so inadequate. The toll this is taking on the health of these families is physical and emotionally painful.

People again -

Father and son producers

Father and son producers

The glimmer of sunshine in all this darkness is the younger generation. The sons and daughters of the producers affected are standing with their parents and are choosing to stay, not throw up their hands, walk away and work at another profession. They are committed to be the next generation to work the soil, to inhabit the farmstead.

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I must, I have to and I cannot say it strong enough – the kids that came with us are the best!! Farm kids are a different breed from non-farm kids. These kids worked their hineys off. They pitched in. They saw a need and went into action before anyone asked. There was no whining, no complaining.

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And they managed to have fun all along the way.

I’m going to stray down another path a moment. I try not to be judgmental. I try to be sensitive and caring. But, I just have to say. I think we are growing a weak, spineless bunch of kids when we don’t insist our kids work for the things they want. The bubble wrap we are using when a kid is bullied isn’t going to help them when they get into the real world where the bubble wrap has been used up. We need to let our kids get tough with real world experiences. Electronics are great. Life experiences are greater. Most farm kids grow backbones through the “have tos” on the farm. When life depends on your actions you learn perseverance and tenacity.

Perspective –

This event was horrible. This was life altering. It looks and feels overwhelming. There are mountains for these producers to climb. Standing on the mountain top of their needs this weekend gives us a clear view of how small our issues are.

Two of my favorite farmers - it’s the people not the things.

Two of my favorite farmers - it’s the people not the things.

The stuff we have here shrinks. The “things” we need to deal with need to remain things. Relationships hold the value of life.

Relationships created on this trip will last a long time. Memories of their stories will invade our thoughts. Blessings will be returned to us – that’s the cool thing God designed. When you bless it comes back.

There are still needs to be met. There will be for a long time.

You can help by praying. You can help financially. If you have a desire to help, send a message on the Facebook page – Farm and Ranchers Aid from West Mi and you will be directed.

We are all drops in this thing called life. I’m grateful we could be a drop that helped to start to refill those farmers’ and ranchers’ buckets.

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Nebraska Bound - Installation 4

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We spent several hours in Schuyler dispersing items. Many grateful people were there to pick up and we enjoyed meeting and hearing their experiences. 

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We unloaded and loaded back up Easter baskets, family tub of supplies, saddles, halters, fencing, salt blocks, wire, horse feed etc. One thing I learned – a weird phenonium. As you transfer 50# bags of horse feed from the back of one pick up to the other, the bags increase in weight as you go along. There’s been a study from the University of BS that documents this.

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From there we headed to Columbus where the convoy became a logistical moving puzzle. Kerry Tucker did an amazing job shuffling semis and trucks to their perspective producer. Many came to the location where we circled the wagons to pick up their supplies.

Then Kerry sent us off indifferent directions to deliver our items.

The water carried corn stalks and whatever it could pick up from the fields and caught on fences - tearing fencing out and damaging what was left standing.

The water carried corn stalks and whatever it could pick up from the fields and caught on fences - tearing fencing out and damaging what was left standing.

We had round straw bales that we delivered to a farm that had beef cattle. The river is approximately 1.5 miles from where we unloaded the straw. Their property covers the area up to the river. They lost most of their fencing and a few calves that drowned.

We were one of three trucks to unload there. Once we were unloaded we split apart again.

One truck headed north to spend the night at a friend’s house and then on to MI the next day.

The other semi left to head to Iowa for the evening and then back to Michigan.

We went back to Schuyler to meet up with the remaining drivers that were spending the night there. We arrived before some of the others so we dropped the trailer – thanks Craig for guarding it – and we drove to the river to see the damage. 

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After we went through four Closed Road signs we could see the effects of the flooding more there than anywhere else.

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There is feet and feet of sand and silt on top of the land. We were told it will take about $8300.00 an acre to scrape and remove the sand so farmers can replant.

While the damage isn’t as visible as when the fires broke out there will be long lasting issues. There are miles and miles of fencing that needs to be replaced – many of those pastures we won’t see driving through the towns.

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There is feed in storage bins that are rotting or washed away that needs to be replace. Animals in all stages of growth are lost. It takes time to build up a herd – especially with the genetics coming into play.

The clean-up, repair, rebuild and carry on will be a long-time process. The $$ will be costly.

Others left from where they had delivered their last load.

We all were hot, tired and dirty and hungry. We went to supper with one of our recipients. It was nice to sit and relax with each other a little. And we were treated to supper by the rancher who joined us.

We said our good-byes before heading to our rooms and falling into bed.

It was a long, tiring, hot, emotional day. There was great pleasure in doing this and many grateful hearts on the receiving and giving side of the equations.

This morning we were blessed to find out that someone had covered out hotel expenses.

So many blessings to come from this – some we will not know of for a long time coming and maybe never at all.

Check out Farm and Rancher Aid from West Michigan facebook page to see more pictures and read more experiences.

Stay tuned for my final - Nebraska Bound Observations and Reflections. 

Nebraska Bound - Installation 3

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We all arrived at the same time to our hotel last night. We rolled in about 12:15am Nebraska time. We had a good chunk of time that we waited for all the stragglers (there were a few issues amongst the vehicles) but we arrived together. 

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It was a quick sleep. We were treated to breakfast from someone who donated money to go towards a meal for us all. So, we got off this morning with full bellies.

Now onto the full hearts.

This whole effort is a continuous moving machine.

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Our first recipients met us at the hotel because the trucks couldn’t get to their farm because of road conditions. We loaded pig fencing and posts. Then part of our group went with a semi load of straw to another location where the straw was stacked for later dispersal from the farmers.

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This family lost 700 hogs. Within 30 minutes the water went from ankle deep to above knee level. Previously the highest the water ever reached was about 4 inches. Their farm is about 1.5 miles from the river. The land flooded past 2 miles from the river.

By the time it was said and done the water level was above 7 feet. They attempted getting pigs out but only were able to save about 15. Thankfully, the day before they moved their cattle to another farm.

Once the water receded they had a rendering company come in and they loaded 2 semis full of dead pigs.

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We had a couple of women come and take Easter baskets that would be handed out. They were extensions of us.

Eventually, we headed to Schuyler. This small town was hard hit.

We had a police escort . . .

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and a celebrity.

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We could see some lasting effects from the flood. The railroads are being rebuilt or repaired.

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We met in a parking lot and some of the farmers and ranchers brought vehicles to transport things home. Some farms couldn’t be accessed.

There were more tears and more grateful hearts.

Over and over we hear “We never thought anything like this would happen here.”

There have been some that don’t want to take cash that was designated. One young man was just about forced to take the money. He was in tears. Farmers are really good at giving. Receiving, not so much.

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When we were in Schuyler we were treated  like kings. There was enough pizza, cookies, desserts and water for an army. They were so kind.

It is now around 2:00 PM and we are still unloading supplies. Once this is done, then on to some individual farms and then to Columbus.

There are a few consistencies here.

1.     Farmers and Ranchers are tough.

2.     Farmers and Ranchers are full of hope.

3.     These Farmers and Ranchers will carry on.

Life will be different. Life will go on.

Anyone who eats, wears clothing, has furniture, medication, etc. should be grateful.

Stay tuned for future installations.

Also, check out https://www.facebook.com/groups/894013340738541/ for more detailed information.

Nebraska Bound - Installation 2

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To drink or not to drink? That is the question. 

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I’m sitting here at the World’s largest truck stop with my Taco Bell and a Coke. I purchased the Coke for the caffeine – trying to ward off a migraine.

But, my dilemma is – drinking Coke might kill the headache but the intake of a liquid beverage will result in dispersal later. And, once again, I’m not convinced I’m on the same schedule has the head dispersaler.

We have just entered Iowa. We’ve snacked ourselves through three states and we are now waiting for some of the others to catch up.

We’ve had a few issues – flat tire, straps coming undone, had to transfer some of the load of one to another and something about a wheel stud (please realize I know nothing about this and for those on the trip if you’re reading, feel free to correct in the comments.)

But like a flock of startled birds that fly off in every direction they all swoop back around and land together. Thus, we are in the swooping mode.

What better place than this. So many food choices and so many “items we don’t need” choices.

All in all, I think we’ve been doing pretty well, but this is my first and hopefully all of ours’s last time doing this.

I think the Coke is going to win out and I’m going undercover to discover who the head dispersaler is and buy them lots to drink.

Stay tuned for future adventures.  

Nebraska Bound - Installment 1

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 We are off and on our way.

I think we have 16 trucks with 2 or 3 semis meeting us tonight in Freemont.

Each driver has been given “goodie bags” from three different people/organizations – I have yet to find out.

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When we arrived this morning, we pulled in line behind several other trucks. We all mingled in the cold and mud. Introductions were made (most will be forgotten – by me). Even though I might not remember names yet I do know I am in the company of some very good people.

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John Decker from Farmers Co-op in Hudsonville read scripture and sent us off with exhortation, prayer and a blessing.

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Wrangling everyone together for a group photo happened and then we left with police escorting us and many people along the way to the expressway waving us good-bye.

There’s been a lot of preparation for this trip and I really have no clue but I can only imagine.

For me I’ve been preparing by not drinking liquids – I have an idea bladder control will come in handy when traveling with this many. I hope the “determining” driver has a small bladder.

We will be meeting farmers at drop off places because many roads accessing their farms and ranches are still unpassable – especially for heavy equipment.

Stay tuned for future installments.

I'm Anticipating a Wonderful Trip I Hope I Never Take Again.

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I am beyond excited “for” but not “why”. 

So far I’m guessing none of this makes sense but stick with me I will convince you I am smarter than I sound – I keep telling my family that all the time.

I was going to say “unless you’ve been living under a rock” you know about the flooding and disastrous weather our farmers and ranchers out west have had. Sadly, there are still people who haven’t seen or heard a news clip about it.

There are convoys going to Nebraska bringing supplies from all over the country. The Farmer and Rancher Aid from West MI convoy is leaving Friday, April 19 for Nebraska and Farmer and I are planning on going along! I am beyond excited.

We will be hauling round straw bales on our goose neck flat bed. Destinations are Freemont, Schuler and Columbus. Right now, we are one of 17 vehicles going.

This same group went a couple of years ago when the horrendous fires were burning. I wanted to go then, but it didn’t work out. I am excited to spend time with these people – being with good people rub off. I need all the good people I can get.

I am anticipating this to be an emotional trip. I get emotional just thinking about it.

While we will be bringing bales of straw and hay, fence posts, wire, feed pellets and more what I’m hoping to be bringing with everyone else is love, hope and courage to our fellow farmers and ranchers.

I’m praying our material goods will make a difference and that all the feelings we are bringing with us starts to fill a void they must have. Farmers are tough. They battle through many trials. And like a blood transfusion I pray we fill them with renewed hope, courage and strength to clean things up and carry on. Life will never ever be the same for them, but there will be recovery, there will be rebuilding and there will be a future for many.

I especially pray for those who will not recover and go back to the life they loved. There will be some who will need to change course – not because they want to but because the circumstances directed them. Yet, because they are part of a tribe they will be supported, cared for and loved into their new way of life.

So, yes, I am looking forward to this more than I have anything in a long time but I hope to never have to do it again.

I pray that these farmers and ranchers never face a tragedy like this. I pray for farmers and ranchers around the world to be safe, to be able to make a living off the land and critters they love that God gave them to oversee. I pray the spirit within farmers find a resting place where they can be renewed. I pray this is a springtime for farmers and ranchers everywhere. A time where things are fresh and new. A time where hope is planted and a future harvest is tangible.

Please pray for all the convoys heading out. Pray for those ranchers and farmers that are still digging out of mud and ice. For those who are still collecting dead cows and calves. For those who are working to restore roads, bridges and railways.

The list is long and the problems are big. Yet, we serve a BIG God and none of this is hard for him. None of this was a surprise to him. Why did this happen? Have no clue. Did God cause it? Nope, never. He is a Good God. He is right here beside us.

If you feel led to help out with our fellow farmers and ranchers the easiest way would be to message at Farm and Rancher aid from West Michigan on face book.

Thanks for your prayers while we are on this most wonderful trip we hope to never take again.

America Strong Because of Farmers and Ranchers

Dear Government,
The Mueller report found no collusion. Can we stop wasting money and send it to the farmers and ranchers who desperatly need it? Politics is a machine with no heart and doesn't care for the people it's supposed to serve. It doesn't matter whether you are red or blue. Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado and other "non-important fly over states" are dying and have no color left.

Turn your eyes around from looking at yourselves and see those who put you there to begin with and start serving with a purpose. A purpose of helping and healing. You may be surprised how it might actually create a place of unity and harmony that will bring us all together again.

Until then we farmers and ranchers with God's help will show you the true spirit of America and will reach out and help each other. We will take what we have, what we personally need and share it with those who happen to need it worse right now. Because, that's what we do. That's what we've been taught and seen in the past. That is what makes America the best place in the world to live.

So please, elected officials quit mucking up the system.

Who Is A Farm Wife and Why Does She Blog?

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With all my (notice I’ve claimed you as mine) newer followers/peeps, I thought I’d take a minute and introduce myself. Some of you probably have no clue about who I am, where I came from and why I am here. So, if you’re at all interested, continue, otherwise … 

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I’m a wife of 47+ years, mother to 4 wonderful sons, with 3 of the best daughters-in-law (yes, still have one amazingly handsome son available in case you’re interested) and 8 of the craziest, beautiful grandkids.

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We have a dairy farm in the West MI area where we employ about 15 great partners in ag. We milk around 750 Holsteins three times a day in a double 12 herringbone. We farm around 1200 acres. We have been rooted here for over 120 years. We still have those big tall blue silos which are great to look at but time and work intensive compared to other ways to store feed.

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Farmer, myself, Son #2, his wife and kids are the family members who now run the farm.

Those are the bare bone facts of the farm.

Some back story of myself -since I know ya’ll are on the edge of your seat.

I was raised on the east side of MI. My dad was a tool and die maker for General Motors. My life there was the complete opposite of what it is now. My dad was home every day by 4:00. We had supper every night. He was home on the weekends and we took summer vacations.

I graduated at 17 in June, turned 18 in July and got married in September. So, I walked down the city church aisle into the barnyard. OMGosh. What a culture change to say the least.

I was not prepared – probably because I was so in lust um I mean love with this dashing handsome hunk of a farmer I paid no attention to any other details of my life to come.

The first year or so of our marriage was getting used to doing things differently (me, not him). While it was just the two of us it was fine, I could work with late nights, no suppers around the table, no vacations etc. I helped with calf feeding and rode along in any and all farm machinery.

The hard part came when the kids came and I was a single mom with a husband somewhere within a 10-mile radius. Remember there were no cell phones, no texting. Not having the core family, I wanted was difficult. Farmer left before everyone was up and came home later in the evening after we had supper. Sunday dinner was the only dinner we had together as a family.

The farm became my enemy. I hated it. I hated everything about it.

For several years I was buried in taking care of the kids. School, sports, feeding them, cleaning them, clothing them, everything. Farmer was around but not always within if you know what I mean.

As the kids got older we all got more involved and that’s when the love affair began. I would take supper out to the fields and the kids would ride along falling asleep behind the seat – before buddy seats.

We learned the dance and at times it was as easy and as graceful as a waltz. Other times it was like a herky jerky.

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Other than my God, and my family there is nothing I am more passionate about than our farm. We are so blessed to take care of these critters and creation.

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What do I do for/on the farm? I take care of the books – and now will be transitioning that to my daughter-in-law. I help take care of the grounds – a whole lot of mowing, weed whacking and flowering over there. I also deliver – food and folks from field to field. I merge hay – my one and only field job (I’ve realized it’s best not to learn anything else). I cook for our guys, I run for parts, I help with vet events at the farm. I feed calves; I chase cows I do whatever I can when I can. I listen to farmer complain; I listen to son complain. I try to mediate and be the peacemaker at times.

While it is all hard work, I do love it. I enjoy having the ability to physically continue to work until it hurts (which comes faster and easier).

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My back porch and the barnyard are my islands of sanity. In the summer I migrate to the porch whenever I can. It’s a great place to quiet myself, listen to God, and connect with the quietness I desperately need at times. Walking through the barns with my BEBs (Brown Eyed Bossies) the shuffling, mooing, clanking all those small noises become a melody that calms my soul.

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I pray over my cows, I cry over my cows, and I dance with my calves. God knew what he was doing when he connected me with that cute farmer boy.

Next: Part #2 – Why do I do social media?

When Competition is Unhealthy

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When farmers compete against each other – everyone loses. 

We produce milk. Therefore, we are dairy producers and we choose to be conventional farmers.

Other farmers that produce milk could be organic farmers. I have friends that are organic farmers.

The marketing world will do whatever they can to pit us against each other. There will be exaggerated and false facts pushed to show that one is better than the other. And, I personally think it goes back to your own preference for some things. But, as a conventional farmer I lean towards that way of farming and promote conventional.

What I won’t do (anymore) is speak against organic other than stating facts. For instance, if you want organic – great. But, make sure you are purchasing it for the right reasons. Some think organic is healthier, yet that has not been proven. https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/are-organic-foods-healthier-than-conventional-foods/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwg73kBRDVARIsAF-kEH9lBQJo9ZbyjHrh8YNB3U7RSWmEIvbUPGdGzlrTi-qTCM6dIPzTzMgaAqhoEALw_wcB

Some people think organic is grown without pesticides. That is false - https://foodinsight.org/pesticides-food-what-you-need-to-know/

So, as you see organic and conventional are different. The advertising suggests that one is better than the other depending on where you pitch your tent.

Another area is “milk”. While I believe it is easier to show that dairy is better than “nut juice” I try not to be too aggressive because there is a farmer that stands behind the other “milk” products.

If you want to use a nut juice instead of dairy – fine. If you don’t want to drink real dairy then great. Please don’t bash dairy products, just pick your alternative and move on. I will try to point out the differences and yes, once again I will heavily promote real dairy over the alternatives.

My beef is the false advertising on the packaging (which seems to be changing due to some legal activity). When it proclaims to be milk when there is no dairy in it, then that product is riding on the coat tails of my industry and confusing consumers.

Once again, I try to be careful because there are farmers working to produce the products used in those products.

The last area is my hot button. It is the non-GMO campaign.

I don’t want to take time to explain what a GMO is but here is a link: https://gmoanswers.com/what-gmo?gclid=Cj0KCQjwg73kBRDVARIsAF-kEH_AX2vKL32GzmbbeVguM_9VtyBx0BLWJKVldhK6yJVlbkErlZp2BucaAo8yEALw_wcB

And, I believe for the most part there is just a small slice of the farmer pie that pushes this. And, it is quite often tied in with the organic farming industry which makes it hard to discuss and explain in a way that doesn’t shed a dark light on them.

First of all. There are only 10 products on the market that can possibly be GMO.

            Alfalfa, Apples, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Papaya, Potatoes, Soybeans, Squash, Sugar Beets

There is no danger in GMO products. https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/are-gmos-safe/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwg73kBRDVARIsAF-kEH82XCprFH8yYGuhE_1HDZV936fgOV_nAqp530S7-oVYQ6Cp13ACQ34aAgPaEALw_wcB

I could spend a lot of time here, but bottom line – fear-based propaganda. If any company or group can influence you to purchase more of their product using fear, chances are they will.

Many food items are labeled non-GMO when there isn’t even the possibility for it to be a GMO. Why? Well, it makes sense to the average shopper that if it is labeled as not having it, then having it must be bad. Therefore, I’ll purchase the one that is non-GMO.

As each of us farmers purpose to promote our product and way of farming we must be careful not to run over and trample a fellow farmer.

The marketing companies are busy coming up with clever ways to sell with no regard to who or what other farmer will be hurt.

So, as farmers we need to be respectful when commenting on things that are not within our boundaries of farming because we are all in the food raising business.

The world right now is so divisive and every time you turn around someone is shoving a wedge between two entities. It’s time to show that while we are different we can be kind and work together.

I may farm conventionally; I will still respect organic farmers.

            I will not allow false statements about my way of farming.

I produce dairy; I will respect farmers who supply alternative.

            I will not allow false statements about my product.

I use GMO products; I will respect farmers who want to grow non-GMO.

            I will not allow false statements about safe farming.

To all my fellow farmers I wish you great success and ask for harmony amongst each other. This ball of mud is large enough for all of us to exist. Let’s just do it peaceably.

 

Farm Woman to Woman Connection

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Within the past 2 weeks I’ve attended 3 farm related meetings or conference type events.

They all delivered great information and I’ve attended them all before. But, this year, one was different.

Every year there is a Farm Women’s Symposium that’s open to all women to attend. I think this was my 6th year. They are always packed full of great information, great food, great tours – all things great. The best part of the whole symposium is the connections and relationships made.

The reason these relationships are so great is that we get each other. Unless you live the life on the farm with all the ups, downs, blessings, challenges, tears of joy and sadness, you cannot know the corners of our hearts. And, it’s in the corners where friends are needed the most.

Sadly, this year, I was only able to make the last day. And, this year the numbers were down compared to others. Due in part to the farming economy.

The past 4 years have been extremely hard on farmers – especially dairy farms. We are going into the 5th year of losing money and that has changed the farming scenery in so many ways.

The difference this year at the symposium was the quietness. Don’t get me wrong there was a lot of noise and laughter but there is always a segment of quietness between us.

I stood face to face with women who are tough, tough people. Yet, there were tears in their eyes that welled up while sharing our hearts. Many are dealing with anxiety issues that are foreign to them.

One woman and I spoke about how we are still actively involved in the farm to help keep it alive for our kids. We asked each other if that was a good thing or not? Our kids, live, breathe and are the farm 100% and want nothing different. Having said that, the last five years have had little joy, and nothing left over – time, money or energy. Do we want that for our kids?

Another dear friend was sharing about family issues – extended family relationships that is taking a huge toll on her. Being the mom is a tough place to be when it comes to family stuff. Everyone comes to mom. Mom hears everything. Yet, mom has no magic wand to “fix” all those involved. But mom is the one bent over from carrying the load. She is one of the toughest women I know – does every single thing on the farm any man does, yet she stood there with tears in her eyes feeling totally helpless.

A precious woman who should be retired and enjoying her sunset years lost a barn to a fire a while back and now has to sell her cows because the milk hauler cannot pick up her milk anymore because surrounding dairy farms have gone under. So, she is forced out. Now is the worst time to “get out”. Prices are at rock bottom.

There was one encouraging encounter. A young vibrant woman who loved, breathed, lived for her cows had to sell out this past year. She sold her animals, then the equipment then her property. That last sentence sounds so simple when put on paper. Each cow, each item auctioned off was like drawing another vial of blood from her soul. Saying it was hard is so trite. When I spoke to her I asked her how she was doing and if she was in a good place.

Her response - At the time it was horrible. Now that I’m past it and can look back it was the best thing I could do. Don’t get me wrong. I miss my girls – everyday. But I just couldn’t do it anymore and life is good now. Different, yet good. I really believe if she could get back in and it could be like it was before these last 5 years, she would be right back at it.

Another one just had one of her barns collapse with the weight of the snow. The barn contained machinery but no animals inside. They brought in a crane and got their mixer wagon (something they need daily) out and thankfully it was not damaged too much. The rest will have to wait until the weather gets better. Will insurance cover all the expenses? My guess is no.

These women are not just fluffy watch out the window gals. They are there working side by side and sometimes alone.

Many of us stay in contact through face book, texting and phone calls. Once in awhile a few can physically get together. For me my closest friends are scattered – Rhode Island, Indiana, Kansas, upper Michigan – so we count on, long for and live for the next Farm Women’s Symposium.

While we all have many dear friends in our daily life that we cherish, these women are treasures. They are like hidden gems in rocks – no one can see the sparkle that is there or knows the value unless you are trained to see what others can’t. The average person doesn’t understand the value.

I’m praying for all my farm sisters and am counting the days until next year when we meet together again. My prayer is that when we all come together then, that there will be more sparkle to see.

 

Sunday Morning on the Farm

This is Brian. He said to tell you “Good Morning.”

This is Brian. He said to tell you “Good Morning.”

This is what’s happening on the farm this morning.

For us, Sundays are necessary chores only. It’s our personal belief.

Cinderella sleeping in the driveway.

Cinderella sleeping in the driveway.

Sunday morning donuts for our guys. We have the BEST team!

Sunday morning donuts for our guys. We have the BEST team!

The cows they are a milking.

The cows they are a milking.

This one is just hanging out after she was milked.

This one is just hanging out after she was milked.

Thankfully she can’t fit through the opening.

Thankfully she can’t fit through the opening.

Bulk tank.

Bulk tank.

We are proud to be verified. It’s important to take the steps to be pro-active.

We are proud to be verified. It’s important to take the steps to be pro-active.

My BEBs - Brown Eyed Bossies eating their breakfast.

My BEBs - Brown Eyed Bossies eating their breakfast.

No hauling manure on Sunday.

No hauling manure on Sunday.

Mixing feed rations for the girls.

Mixing feed rations for the girls.

Some newbies this morning.

Some newbies this morning.

There you go - a brief cold Sunday morning walk through.

What's Right About Farming

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Normally, when I post I write about what’s wrong and how hard things are.

 Today I purpose to write and show what’s good and right about farming.

 Time to look at what we have and not what we are lacking.

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 A beautiful sunny day just begging you outside. The smell of dirt – even in the winter is heavenly. Yes, it is chilly and muddy but oh the smell of dirt.

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As I walked through the barns, I was mindful of the fact that I get to take care of these critters. They are gentle giants in a way that God gave us for many reasons and the one I pursue is for food.

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What’s right with farming? Open fields that your eyes can scan for wildlife. Coyotes, woodchucks, birds, all flit and run by.

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Helping new life survive and thrive is another thing right with farming. These calves are our future. Not a one is born that we don’t labor over to help grow. Nothing teaches you patience like trying to teach a calf to drink from a pail.

 The people we have working with us is a huge positive. We have the best working with us. We feel like they are part of our extended family and we couldn’t do this life without them.

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 One of the most eye-opening parts of farming for me is when we invite others into our world. When we have farm tours, we see the farm in other eyes. Daily we do our best to keep our farm clean and inviting for both critters and caretakers. When you invite others into your home, you notice the corners that need cleaning and the windows that should be washed. Same here on the farm. If company is coming, we try to get to those cobwebs and do a little extra.

 How much fun is it to ride in the tractor on the buddy seat with your husband, son or grandson and talk about life?

 Knowing that we are walking in the exact same footprints that our relatives have for over 100 years make this place special. It also adds a little more pressure to keep it going.

My family is part of what’s right with farming. Working side by side and being part of each other’s daily life is a blessing.

This farm is a sacred place for many of us. I’ve laughed until I’ve wet my pants, cried until it felt like my guts were going to fall out, worked to the point of wanting to lay down in the middle of the driveway for a nap and watched in awe the cycle of life.

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The quietness of early morning or late at night walking through the barns is the best time and place to meet God. Every single time I am at the farm I see God in a new light, a different setting, a unique reminder.

So, while there are plenty of things that are wrong and need fixing with farming, those are a few things right.

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Just A Thought

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I had to run to the barn for something this afternoon and I couldn’t pass by the nursery without checking in. The maternity pen is in one of our oldest barns and I love the feel of walking into the pens with the block walls on one side. The sun was shining through the only window showing all the dust floating in the air. An old headlock off to one side and more pens on the other side. Everything is boarded up with plywood to keep the cold out.

I think I must be hormonally unbalanced because it doesn’t take much these days for tears to flow. Maybe I’m just tired and worn down a bit from the “fun” side of farming.

Walking in through the old milk house today I was flooded with memories. I walked past where the old bulk tank stood. I think about 10 of those or more could fit inside the bulk tanks we have now. I remember sitting on top of it painting the ceiling. A lifetime ago.

The pen where the calves are was the milking parlor. There were 4 stalls on one side when I entered the family. It expanded to 8 and then many years after moved to another location. We turned that part into the maternity/hospital pens so to speak.

I remember my sister-in-law and her husband milking. My mother-in-law would be there once in a while too. I helped my father-in-law feed calves. One year we fed 130 calves. We feed over a thousand now.

I’ve helped pull many calves there, helped with minor surgeries, C-sections and more. I’ve held cows’ heads in my laps as I sat in the manure – praying over them while waiting for a vet.

I’ve come to that spot and sat alone in the silence to gather my thoughts, to pray and listen to God.

It has become a sacred place to me.

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 As I left, I drove around to see my big girls. They were eating and enjoying the sunshine.

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  I came back around to head home and looked out at the alfalfa field.

The thoughts I’d been trying to stifle came to the surface.

 Will we be making hay on this field this year? Will the barns hold our girls this year? How many more calves will pass through the “nursery”?

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 I drove past the flag we have hanging over our mailboxes thinking about how many we’ve hung there over the years. I wondered how many more years we can do that?

It’s been a tough, tough few years and everyday another farmer calls it quits. The stress of farming would bring down most people much quicker than the farmers that left. The outlook is not promising. There are no guarantees.

By the time I was down the driveway I was in full blown melt down.

I think it’s good to allow the tears to wash away your hurt every once in a while.

God reminds me – “You’re still here. You’re doing OK. You’re not alone.”

I’ve purposed to always include something positive in every post.

My positive for this post.

We’re still here.

We’re doing OK.

We’re not alone.