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January 21, 2016

5 First Snow Victories

It was a pretty mild winter till a couple of weeks ago, I get lulled into the easiness of it and then the snow hits and I'm like those crazy people running to the store for bread, eggs and milk only I'm over here digging through the cubby closet for Carhartts, Mucks and stocking caps.

It's 2016, we will get to the store, we live in central Indiana not Antartica!  And do people really crave French Toast that bad when it snows??  But when there is livestock to care for we need our winter gear!

Now that we are in somewhat of a stable winter snow grove I sat down for a minute and realized we should really give ourselves some credit - we aren't organized people but we made it through and no one was injured, maimed or froze to death!

If only this were true, my Carhartts would fit so much better!

So my top 5 victories are:

1.  All Carhartts were found, enough stocking caps to go around, a pair of muck boots for all and thanks to Christmas everyone had insulated work gloves!  VICTORY

2.  All Carhartts fit!  It doesn't really matter that I made the boy buy a pair last year that was a size too big.  With 3 kids and livestock farming actually getting a year where no one needs new ones is huge!  A sweet moment in my Mom world is I now have the smallest feet in the house......that means I can wear anyone's boots but they can't wear mine!!! VICTORY!

3.  My ice scraper was where it was supposed to be!  Even I was shocked - I climbed in my pickup truck that first snowy morning to head to the hog barns, reached down beside the seat in the door pocket to grab it and was actually stunned it was there!  I wasn't going to be that crazy lady driving down the road with an icy windshield except for the 5 inch circle I had scrapped with my fingernail so I could see! VICTORY

4.  The extension cord for Chris' diesel truck wasn't buried in the snow!  That hole in the barn door that initially caused a lot of cussing came in pretty handy as a holder for the plug.  Now it doesn't get dropped on the ground and snow covered!  VICTORY

5.  Nothing has gelled up and the electricity has stayed on!  We've put hay out for the cattle, ground feed for the hogs, cleaned manure off lots and hauled hogs - not one tractor or truck has gelled up and we haven't had to use the generator! VICTORY

Bonus:  I'm resigned early this year to the piles of frozen, organic covered winter gear littering my kitchen floor!  But if I turn up missing check those piles first, I swear they will be the death of me!

Now I'm going to go knock on wood, cross my fingers & toes and say a little prayer because I probably just jinxed us!  And much to Chris' dismay now that we have had snow I'm loving my icicle lights on the house and am leaving them on for just a while longer!

November 29, 2015

Just Thankful For Food

Facebook Memories gets me every time!  That app that lists your posts from that day from previous years.  An article I wrote for Indiana Prairie Farmer popped up on my memories as I was still full and recovering from a huge Thanksgiving meal the other day.
As I was sitting there with my laptop on my comfy couch, full from so much food there would be leftovers for days I was once again reminded not everyone was as fortunate a me.  While my house was a disaster, laundry knee deep and evening feeding of the livestock still had to be done these were all fortunate problems to have and I would be doing them with a full stomach.
I have listened to my oldest talk about packing meals in Washington, D.C., with FFA. She said it made her feel good inside and appreciate what she had.
"Putting together those meals was actually putting in my time and effort, seeing the process and the end product," she said.
I take food for granted every single day!  I've said often "I'm starving", sometimes even after I say it I chastise myself because it's truly not a phrase that should be uttered lightly.
When the opportunity came for me to help pack meals, I signed up. What was supposed to be a day of me giving back ended in me taking some things away from the experience.
As a Mom and a person who has never wanted for food, it made me think. I was going to go home, take my shoes off, sit in a comfortable chair after a long day and then contemplate what we were having for supper.  
It was that easy.
I would pull some cut of pork or beef out of my fully stocked freezer. I would open a cabinet and grab something for a side and honestly, I might even feel a bit inconvenienced that I had to cook at all that evening. To be even more honest, if I didn't feel like cooking at all, it would have been no big deal to head in town to a restaurant.
Not everyone has those choices or those conveniences. Eating a meal is a no-brainer for me. That isn't true for everyone – what an eye-opening experience. Some people think non-stop about how to properly feed their children; others wonder if they can feed their children at all that day.
People want to go on and on about food – eating local, organic, non-GMO, gluten free, cage-free, free-range, grass fed – it's all a luxury we take for granted. All of the 'buzz words' and marketing labels are a luxury! 
The people getting these meals just want food.
They don't care if it was raised within a five-mile radius of their home, if it's organic, if it's labeled non-GMO or if it contains only dairy products from happy cows.
We, most of us reading this, are lucky – this probably isn't an issue for you. But even for those of us who hunger is not an issue, we need to stop and think about it.
Science and technology have to be a part of food. It may not have to be a part of your food but to feed everyone in this growing world, it has to play a role.
Choose what you want for your family but be sure you are allowing other that same choice and one that they can afford with their food dollars.

If you ever get the opportunity to work with Kids Against Hunger I highly encourage it.  Two of my 3 kids have packed meals for them and my youngest will have his turn as soon as the opportunity is available.  Kids Against Hunger is a nonprofit food aid organization with the goal to reduce the number of starving children in the U.S. and throughout the world. Millions of highly nutritious, life-saving meals for hungry children and their families in the U.S. and developing countries are packaged and distributed annually.
While Kids Against Hunger is a global program, the day that I participated the meals stayed in Indiana.  In 2013 this program fed enough Indiana children to fill Lucas Oil Stadium. Sixty-five thousand Indiana children received a nutritious meal they might not have received otherwise.

November 7, 2015

Farmer Directions

With harvest wrapped up and my share of the hog work somewhat under control I decided to hit the road!  I wanted to see my oldest at Iowa State so I loaded up the boy, left Chris in charge of the homestead and pointed the truck west!
In our road trips I have learned we aren't your normal tourists and what we designate as landmarks during our journey sometimes makes people Google it to figure out exactly where we are. Who knew that not everyone uses Kinze Manufacturing as landmark?
Here's how we find our way to the middle of Iowa:
Jump on 74 West and put the hammer down. Once you see the first billboard for The Beef House you get a craving for a good steak. Now you know you are close to the Illinois-Indiana state line. The fields start to open up, and you better have your radio tuned to 99.1 FM WIXY classic country. This combination lets you know you are on the right track.
Once you hit the Illinois state line you take a deep sigh. At this point, things start out positive with comments like, "isn't it pretty?" or "can you imagine working in fields this big?"
This remark - and being about half way across the state of Illinois - will turn to the realization, "the grass (or corn in this case) is always greener on the other side of the fence (or state line in this case)."
If you hear the ever-popular remark, "If my ancestors' wagon wheels would have just lasted a week longer we might be farming here instead of in Indiana," that signifies that you are almost three-quarters of the way across Illinois.
You know you are really on the right track when every mile or so someone in the truck points out a new piece of John Deere equipment being hauled the opposite direction. As long you are catching glimpses of large John Deere dealerships, Pioneer and Dekalb seed plants, you're good to go!
We take note of the Illinois-Iowa border but our true landmark is the world's largest truck stop. It doesn't matter who you are – it piques your interest. Admit it!
Keep your truck pointed west and when you see the stack of grain carts and the folding planter you will know you have reached the next landmark – Kinze Manufacturing. Watching the planter fold fascinates kids and farmers of all ages!
Just east of Des Moines be sure to look off to your right for the combine graveyard, now on my bucket list to visit! Des Moines and the turn off onto 30N lets you know you are only miles from ISU!
It was a great trip and one of my favorites to drive - I love a good road trip!

PS We attended ISU's Homecoming game against the Texas Longhorns and ISU WON - now trying to convince Chris I need to be at every home game!!

October 16, 2015

Yes, they let me operate equipment........

This morning I had serious trouble operating the blender while making my smoothie!  I jumped in Chris’ truck (a diesel manual) to meet him at the hog barns to load hogs, backed out of the drive and killed it in the middle of the road!  After loading hogs I went to get in my truck hooked to the trailer and completely walked into the gooseneck of the trailer with my head…….it hurt, I cussed.

As I headed down 44 pulling the trailer with 30 head of fat hogs on it I wondered if that was the smartest thing for those on the road with me.  I couldn’t run the blender this morning and I bumped my head after that!

You ever get a prescription filled and read the ‘warnings’?  I do, sometimes - my favorite is “Do not operate heavy machinery while taking this medication” - I always giggle and think when would I ever run heavy machinery!   It honestly didn’t occur to me until today as I sit in the 8220 on grain cart duty…….tractors are probably considered heavy machinery!

I tend to get tired and slap happy about this point in harvest but slap happy sure beats crying on my dirty kitchen floor......cause I've done that too!!

I went from running the 8220 with the grain cart to the 4640 when Chris asked me to disc the ground he was getting ready to plant wheat on!  You can stomp on the differential lock all you want in the 4640, that steering wheel ain’t going no where!!  I can also verify that you can stomp on the steering wheel pedal in the 8220 when your sinking in soft ground and it won’t help……it really will only frustrate you farther because not only are you sinking but the steering wheel has just flown out of your hands and you're briefly baffled!

Chris said “jump in the 9200 and chisel plow the wheat stubble”.  I jump in the tractor take off pause at the end of the drive to check for traffic and as cool as I can give the little orange knob on the arm rest a flick.  And then was seriously curious as to why the tractor wasn’t moving all while I had my foot engaging the clutch……but apparently simply moving the high low knob forward does nothing to make that tractor move! 

And don’t get me started on ‘here’s the clutch but DON’T use it’……..on this tractor or in that semi but you will need it in that tractor and this semi!  We will save that for another time!

Happy Harvesting and Be Safe

P.S. The little round clicker button on the floor of the 8220 don't make the lights brighter.........no matter how many times you tap it with your foot!

September 25, 2015

Farmers Log Harvest 2015

Farmers Log...........I've been binge watching the original Star Trek, can you tell!

I currently have the desire to say 'Jent Out' instead of 10-4 on the 2 way radios, when I emerge from the tractor after several hours I wonder what the atmosphere outside of my 'ship' is like and when things happen I often say out loud to myself "Grain Cart Operators Log, Harvest 2015, Day 4........."

Yes, people a tractor is a lonely place sometimes, I must find ways to entertain myself!  Because constantly staring at the phone surfing social media causes you to completely miss the combine passing and the operator to have to call and tell you he really needs you right away - or so I have heard.

This is day 5 of harvest for us and this here is a sample of what my log might look like:

Harvest 2015: Day 1, Morning.  The sun is shining bright, equipment lined up, shiny and pointed towards the field.  Sky is blue, the corn and beans are ready, everyone is smiling.  Not sure what to expect in terms of yield but let's bring this crop home.

Harvest 2015: Day 1, Mid-Afternoon.  Down to 2 trucks, but under control.  Sun is still shining, most people still smiling.

Harvest 2015: Day 2, Early Afternoon.  Panic set in when I realized meal planning didn't pan out this week-family would insist on something for supper, had to send my Mom to the grocery store.  Thanks to her my family will live to see another day.

Harvest 2015: Day 3, Morning.  So many raido stations and so much good music.  I really should move to Nashville,  dang I can sing, sounding really good in this tractor cab right now!

Harvest 2015: Day 3, Afternoon.  Switching to beans.  What a beautiful color brown they are, sunset will be beautiful tonight.

Harvest 2015: Day 4, Early Evening, trip to Tractor Supply for wormer for cows and pigs allowed for a quick stop at grocery store for supper supplies.  Hoping that by 9pm supper time I don't accidentally worm the family and feed the chicken alfredo to the cows. Stay posted.

Harvest 2015: Day 5, Early Morning.  No clean jeans, but does it really matter?  Have to feed hogs and cows anyway, if someone notices I will tell them it was from feeding - that's true it just wasn't today!

Harvest 2015: Day 5, Afternoon.  Running beans in a smaller field, don't need the grain cart.  Asked to disc ground in front of manure spreader because knives won't go in the hard ground.  Jumped in the 4640 stomped between the pedals......and nothing happened.  I quickly realized that would not lower the steering wheel, quick glance around to make sure no one noticed and went about my business.

Pretty sure I can guess what the last few days of entries might be:

Harvest 2015: Day 13.  I can still sing like nobody's business but the radio stations must only have access to about 5 songs.  Still think I should move to Nashville!

Harvest 2015: Feels like Day 3792.  Lost in a black hole of time, drank from a measuring cup this morning and fed in my pajamas.  My jeans now stand up in corner by themselves and I fear the children have forgotten how to eat at a decent hour and at the table.......the children - where are the children????

In all reality I love the busy seasons on the farm but it does make for long days!  Be careful!

September 6, 2015

Is it really a promotion?

I consider myself low man on the totem pole around here, I still am there just aren’t as many people above me now!  Our full time guy moved on to greener pastures and by that I mean a better job-not the great beyond!  He had been with us for 15 years, started when he was in high school, I already miss him!

So here we are right before harvest and I’m trying to convince Chris we can do this!  Hogs and crop work - we got this!  And so far I have only burnt up one belt…….it’s been a whole week!

I tend to jump into things feet first ready to go, most of the time without planning or forethought.  Sometimes those unplanned things hit me at the oddest times, like this morning for instance.  

Farrowing is upon us this week.  Cleaning up afterbirth makes me quesy-there I admitted it.  Quesy as in I need to step outside, throwing up quesy.  It’s stringy!!!!  I have sleeved cows, been up in sows to pull pigs, I don’t know why that doesn’t make me sick but it doesn’t!  But cleaning up afterbirth.........even the thought, excuse me while I step outside!

And working piglets!  I know how, I have told Chris for 23 years if the need arises I can do it………I can’t, I was wrong.  I’m not opposed to it, I know the need and value but once again that feeling in my stomach hits me.

I can vaccinate any size hog, I can move hogs of any size, I can drive the truck and trailer to sell hogs, I will gladly haul manure with a smile and I will pressure wash barns all day but please don't make me clean up afterbirth or work piglets!  Eventually I will get grinding feed down as well, and it won’t involve burning up a belt I swear, but I’m trying to figure out how to get passed that feeling in my stomach for those two particular jobs!

Now if I could just convince him doing laundry and dishes makes my stomach quesy!!!

July 27, 2015

A Bizarre To Do List

This week is an interesting one!  I don't normally make a 'to do' list per say because at the end of the day it's just depressing to look over it and see nothing crossed off.  I seem to spend all my time putting out other peoples fires while mine burn out of control.

But this week it seemed like a fun idea, only because I knew exactly what I had to accomplish and how bizarre it would look written down!

The beginning of the week had me still dragging from our county fair with the desire to not move fast and sit down often but the list looming in my head kept me trudging forward.

I hate school shopping, of course I hate shopping!  Chris has been asking me for weeks to fly some corn fields with the UAV so I knew I needed to get that done!  And vaccinations on hogs are timely, this was a priority!

It's not often, or really ever, I get to write 'pack for China' on a to-do list!  When I was a kid I never dug a deep hole because I once heard someone say 'you could dig a hole to China if it was deep enough' - no thanks, I was happy right where I was!

Going to China and Vietnam were no where near my bucket list but when a once in lifetime opportunity presents itself especially to learn more about agriculture, well China here I come!

I'm not gonna lie, I'm not the checkoff's biggest fan!  Every 5 years when the referendum comes up for vote, you will probably find me at the beginning of the line.  So an opportunity to see how those funds are being utilized seemed like a learning experience I couldn't pass up!

In all honestly I also don't know much about how checkoff funds work other than it is funds taken out of our checks.  I know that with soybean half go to National and half stay in the state, I know that it seems like a small share: half of one percent of the price received per bushel of soybeans.

I know what you are thinking "half of a percent? Come on Jent" but add it up, on any farm its a fair amount of money!  Especially when the program isn't fully understood by those paying in - but then I figure maybe that's my fault and this is an excellent opportunity to learn more!

So half way around the world I will go - scared and excited all at the same time!  Well as soon as I finish my 'to do' list!