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December 10, 2016

I ask stupid questions!

Yes, that may not be surprising to some……or most, but I do.  I’m not afraid to admit it - If I’m not asking stupid questions I’m Googling to find the answer while you think I am tweeting something!

I had the opportunity to spend the last few days in Kansas City at The Ag Chat Conference.  I am overly blessed with amazing opportunities in ag and so thankful.  Getting to not only work on our farm but be able to travel to learn more about agriculture is a dream come true!

But, because let’s be honest there’s always a but……. the majority of the time I learn more from the attendees of a conference than from the speakers - there I said it!

Sitting through a panel session I met the most wonderful lady completely by accident during AgChat.  She was quiet and reserved and I wonder, if just like me she had to summon all her courage just to talk to a stranger.  If I know you and am comfortable, I’m most likely obnoxious but until then I’m not a huge fan of peopling, especially in large crowds.

This lady struck up a conversation with me at our table because I got embarrassed and was attempting to crawl under the table…..she said you shouldn't be embarrassed and then informed me I was her first tweet ever!

WOW just WOW

We had a super conversation where she told me that while her grandparents had farmed she herself had not grown up on a farm.  But after many years in corporate America in downtown Chicago she had had enough and wanted to farm - so she found a farmer husband and became a farmer!  That is some serious goal setting and accomplishing!!

During the conversation she said “I still ask a lot of stupid questions even after six years!”  I laughed and said I ask a ton of stupid questions daily!

She was shocked, she said haven’t you been around agriculture your whole life.  Well yes, one of my favorite things to say is that I have been in the middle of production agriculture my entire life but that by no means makes me think even slightly I know everything.  Matter of fact I am positive there is more I don’t know about agriculture than I do know!

It made me wonder if we get to caught up in the way ‘we’ do things on our farm and think it is the best way!  And by all means we are doing it the best way, the best way for our farm.  If we all did everything exactly the same and all thought exactly the same we would eliminate what we hear in America cherish the most, our freedom of choice!  Not only to live the way we want but to farm the way we feel best and feed our family the way we see best.

I guess my point is there really is no such thing as a stupid question, We say that to consumers but are we open to others ways of thinking within agriculture.  Are we in ag coming across as open to discussion, open to not only answering questions from consumers but asking questions of each other and learning.

If you're interested in what others learned at AgChat this year check out #agchat on Twitter or AgChat Foundation on Facebook!

I'm truly fortunate to be a Bayer Blogger, so all my expenses were paid for by Bayer Crop Sciences but what I learned was totally all mine!!!

November 19, 2016

Rotting Pumpkins On The Porch

It feels like its been years since I've taken any time to write......a million things run through my head but to sit down and let them come out my fingertips just hasn't been happening.

The weather finally turned last night - from a beautiful 70 degree Indian summer day into the low 30's, rain, snow flurries and howling wind.

I had to actually move my desktop computer down to the kitchen table because I thought there was a desk upstairs but it seems to have turned into a pile of miscellaneous crap-yes crap-that I don't have the energy to sort through right now!

I am attempting to write a children's book about Pete, the bottle calf we are raising.  I'm attempting to make it a fun book to read as well as educational about real farm life.  However, talking about contracted flexor tendons in 4th grader speak is currently leaving me at a loss for words-which is something most people would not accuse me of very often!

While words might not be coming can I say the friend I have doing the illustrations is amazing!!!

Thanksgiving is this week and pictures of Christmas trees are popping up on my Facebook feed........I'm still just thankful harvest is over before Thanksgiving, we had no major breakdowns, and no one was hurt.

People are all 'Christmas trees and clean houses' and I'm all over here shitty boots in the kitchen and rotting pumpkins on the porches - it's life, it's our life.

As for my Christmas decorations I have no clue where any of them are right now, well except for my Nativity Scene!  It's been up all year - I couldn't find the box last January and was afraid to put it away without it so I just left it up!  In all honesty this family needs Jesus' presence all year around, a physical reminder - that's what I tell myself anyway to justify still having Christmas decorations sitting around!

As for the rotting pumpkins, won't it be a nice surprise next Spring when pumpkin vines pop up and I can be all 'lookie there, I'm ahead of the game decorating for fall' - being all sustainable with my pumpkins and making them work for me year after year!  And when I sweep my kitchen floor I just scatter it in my flower beds as fertilizer, that is however what it actually is!

I did get my chili recipe up on Farmwife Feeds yesterday, no small feat!  This cold snap calls for good chili!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!!

July 8, 2016

Don't Judge Me

We are headed into our, geez I don't even know, maybe 13th maybe 14th, year as a 4-H family and we still don't have all the kinks worked out. Sometimes I think 4-H is a lot like childbirth – you forget between each child how much work, and yes pain, the labor of preparing for a child/week at the fair is.
If you had a better memory, there's a chance you wouldn't sign up for it again.
I am fully aware that not every 4-H family is like ours. As a matter of fact, most are probably nothing like ours.  Projects look so exciting and fun in January, but on July 1? Not so much.  In January, projects like recycled crafts seem easy and exciting after browsing Pinterest. Do you have any idea how many 'recycled' ideas are on that website?  Quite frankly, a shit load!
Regardless, I have tried to teach my kids that you not only win graciously, but that you have to lose graciously as well.  Like most things in life, a lot of fair decisions come down to opinions – and while you are standing in front of a 4-H judge with your calf or your recycled craft, what the judge says that day goes. While it may just be his or her opinion, he is the judge.  You either do it for the fun and experience or you miss out.
With the right attitude, you win experiences and memories and lots of good stories to tell later in life – even when you lose.
Let's visit that for a second. I once turned in Polaroid prints on a photography poster. Back in the day, there was no one-hour printing in the camera world. Film took a good week to process.  My Mom had been on me to take my pictures, but I am a professional procrastinator now and obviously started training at a young age.
Finally, a few days before the project was due, she handed me the Polaroid camera loaded with one clip of film, which was exactly 10 pictures. "You better not mess any up," she told me. "That is all the film I have."
I ended up with 10 Polaroid pictures of my sister posing around the yard of our house. Needless to say I didn't win!
As you read this we are on the verge/in the midst of judging. While I am trying to keep a positive attitude, it is so much harder to watch your kids' hard work be judged.  But I will be repeating to myself a lot next week: "It was my idea for the kids to participate in 4-H and show cattle, It was my idea for the kids to participate in 4-H and show cattle…"
Now that is not to say there isn't some venting going on in the pick-up truck on the way home from the fairgrounds late at night, but ultimately the bigger picture will prevail.
We don't plan to walk away with any banners or pretty purple ribbons; if we do, it is simply a bonus to the friends, memories and lessons of the week at the Johnson County Fair.

May 6, 2016

Lava Soap and A Bottle of Coke

Sunday afternoon at Rural King is one of our favorite things to do!  There is always something needed from there and once you're there, well, you find a million things you didn't know you needed but are now convinced you can't live without!

A couple of Sunday's ago we were there, cart loaded down, attempting to round everyone up when I decided to peruse the 'grocery' aisles.  Now in all honesty I have never shopped those aisles but I had a few minutes to kill!  That's when I saw it.......a glass bottle of coke!

I was taken back to Sunday afternoons as a kid watching TV - usually an old movie or sitting in the same room as Dad watched a sporting event eating popcorn and drinking Coke poured out of glass bottles.

And then I immediately thought of Angel Food Cake, I'm not even kidding!  Inside my head is not a fun place but my Mom always made Angel Food Cakes when I was a kid and always hung them upside down on a coke bottle!

I knew I had to buy a bottle and I knew I had to learn to make my own angel food cake!  I immediately texted my Mom and asked for her recipe!

I simply got back the text:

"I use a box mix"

And my world started crumbling around me........I had no clue, what else in my childhood had been an illusion, I was gasping for breath.

But she assured me that her use of a box mix was in no way a secret maybe I just wasn't observant.......which is totally probably the case!  So I put the bottle of Coke in the cart and made Chris stop on the way home for a box mix of angel food cake - and can I say WOW that was so much easier and less mess and hassle than homemade!  And was just as delicious!!

As we were standing in line to check out at Rural Kind there in the 'impulse buy' section was Lava soap.  I hadn't seen that stuff in years, more years than I will admit to you.  My Dad loved Lava soap, as a child I hated it.  It hurt when you washed your hands with it - I didn't know what pumice was but it was evil stuff when I was a kid!

But of course I threw a bar in the cart.......you know for nostalgia's sake.

It's amazing what can spur your memories, little trivial things that can make your heart smile!  Now my goal is to find soapstone......my Dad always had a piece of soapstone in his work pants pocket.

April 22, 2016

I found the missing head of lettuce!

After hauling hogs the other day I pulled into the shop, the sun shining and decided my truck needed cleaned out and washed!  I like to do that at least once a year, wether it needs it or not!  I realized how much of a pig I am and that my truck smelled like one as well!!

I uncovered many things but I believe the missing head of lettuce was truly the most unique!  I knew I had bought it the other day but when I went to the fridge to get it for my Southwest Fajita Steak Salad it wasn't there, luckily I had bought 2 while I was at the store!

You really have to try this salad and that beer, that beer is so good.......but I digress!!

There are many things in my pick up truck........quite honestly one might be able to wait out a 5 day blizzard in my truck!  There are always too many coats and clothes, usually toilet paper stashed under the seat or at least a blue shop towel and random food!

But there are 5 things that I absolutely require be in my truck at all times!

1. Scrub cap- it might be on the dash, the floorboard or fallen between the seats but there is always one in here!  I am in and out of hog barns and it is a lifesaver for the hair! I don't know how or why but it keeps the hog smell out of my hair.

2. Butane Straightner...... I kid you not! I found it on Amazon and I love it. Where a scrub cap for an hour and my hair around my face turns into a frizzy mess-fire that thing up, straighten what's around my face throw the rest up in a bun and good to go!  And can I just say I want to hug the first girl who walked out in public with a messy bun and dared to set a trend-God Love Her!  It's about the greatest thing since sliced bread!  You literally just pretty much wad your hair up and you've got a messy bun that is a legit 'hair style' - the messier the better, strands sticking out here and there, random curls right along side straight pieces just hanging there.  It's sheer brilliance!

3. Sunglasses - there better be at least one pair of sunglasses on my dash, multiples make me smile though!

4. Fe breeze-it's Magic in a can!! Scrub cap saves my hair, Febreeze takes care of my clothes. I never know what the next thing on my list is going to be-I can leave a hog barn and have to head straight somewhere else and hog barn smell stays with you-so I shower spritz with Febreeze A LOT!

5. Hitch Pin & Pressure Washer Handle Clamp- there is always or better be a hitch pin in the drivers side door pocket!!!!  And my plastic cheap clamp - I'm a wimp I admit it but as much pressure washing as I do I love my cheap clamp to put on the handle to hold the wand on - don't mess with it or Chris is forced to go to town to get me a new one!

BONUS-a bottle of water, because in all honesty you aren't going to survive that blizzard in my truck on the McDonalds fries under the seat alone, those salty fries are gonna make you thirsty!!!!

April 15, 2016

Graphite, Seed Meter Brushes and Aspirin

I put new seed plates on the the Kinze planter today and was so relieved to see brand new seed meter brushes.  Those beautiful shiny new blue brushes are beautiful to me, they mean it's one less thing that could give me a headache this year!

It was the spring of 2013..........Chris came to me and said, "I'll need you to plant beans today."

Now I had done my fair share of field work, but I prefer to leave the planting to someone else. I mean, if I missed a spot Turbo-tilling or cultivating, we would still have a crop. But you leave a pie shape planting and there is no crop – plus we would have to look at it all summer!

Chris convinced me I was up to the challenge when he said, "It's only beans, there's really nothing to it. Put the planter down, drive, pick the planter up, turn, put the planter back down."  There was nothing like that stellar vote of confidence to make you feel needed.....'It's only beans'.......

He said he would have someone help me fill, but "just keep that planter moving!"

So off to the field I went in the John Deere 4640 dragging the 8/15 split row Kinze behind me – ready to plant some beans. While planting beans doesn't require as many monitors and buzzers screaming at me as corn, Chris' theory of "just put the planter down and drive" was a little on the simplified side.

We didn't have auto-steer in the JD 4640, so there was the whole steering straight thing, along with making sure the right marker was down for the next round to be straight.

Immediately the row unit monitor chirped at me! Yes, the row unit monitor chirped at me – oh, row three. How you and I went round and round! Really, it was me going round and round – in and out of the tractor – to see what your problem was. Two days we fought together.

Every time I would call Chris he would say, "just add more graphite." I added graphite and then more graphite and still more graphite.

Turns out, lack of graphite wasn't the problem. I plugged the meter with it! Eventually, we took the unit apart. Of course it was full of seed, seeing as it wasn't working properly, and we had hardly planted anything when we looked at it. We eventually took it to the dealer and they suggested we change the brushes in the seed meter.

It seemed too simple but it worked. The brush in row three was the same age as the other rows but something was different. The seed we were planting was really large, 2400 seeds per pound, apparently the seed and brush just weren't working together.

The moral of the story: a $6 part can save a gallon of graphite, a bottle of aspirin, a bar of soap and two days of hardly any planting.

Jennifer - 0     Graphite - 1

Last year we bought a new to us John Deere corn planter and now we plant beans with our Kinze 16/31 split.  I started using it last year, it still scares and confuses me......just saying' - but I keep it moving, it's only beans!!

February 26, 2016

My bath towels lead a double life!

Calving is one of my all time favorite times of the year, this year we are expecting 10!  I am so giddy, it will be pretty spread out but they should start any time now and I'm about to bust at the seams!

I have so many memories and stories about calving but this one that happened last year with our first ever set of twins is one of my favorites!

That morning as the kids were headed out the front door to get on the bus I slipped on a pair of boots and headed out the back door to check the ‘herd’!  Our cattle ‘herd’ has names not numbers and we were in the midst of calving season.  And by calving season I mean a sixth of our expecting cow herd has calved……1 of 6 pregnant cows has had her calf.

As I step outside I look to make sure the bus is gone, as the kids on the bus make fun of me for my boots and pajamas, then head to the barn.  A calf catches my eye, it’s wet, shivering and stuck in the mud and not a momma cow paying a bit of attention to him.

Back into the house quickly I holler for Chris and grab some bath towels out of the laundry room, race back out to rescue him.  I dry him off while Chris hunts down the Momma, who come to find out is on the back side of the barn giving birth to this one’s twin.

As I sat there in my pajamas, probably on a cowpie, with a newborn calf wrapped in my bath towels that were not in the rag pile I laughed, cried and prayed.

I laughed because it didn’t even phase me that I was probably sitting in a cowpie with a towel wrapped around a newborn calf that I would probably be using as soon as I washed it.

I cried because it didn’t even phase me that I was probably sitting in a cowpie with a towel wrapped around a newborn calf that I would probably be using as soon as I washed it.

I prayed that that little calf would make it and that when the momma cow rounded the corner of the barn and saw me with her calf she didn’t take me out!

I always swore my bathroom towels would match my decor and each other.  Yes, I realize that of all the goals I could have set in life, having matching bath towels is not reaching for the stars, but it was a legitimate goal in my mind!

I can remember registering for towels. I was so excited.  The towels were all so fluffy, like being surrounded by clouds of color all organized in puffy stacks.  How could a marriage ever have trouble if all your towels were fluffy and matched?

I also remember, at one of my wedding showers, opening a gift with a throw rug and some bath towels in it.  I distinctly remember opening the box and being thoroughly confused, as they were a sage green and peach color.  My fluffy clouds of happiness were to be deep burgundy, matching my new homes bathroom decor.

These were not the colors I registered for!

I thought I was polite, as my Mom tried to raise me with manners. I said “Thank You”.  But the giver must of seen the look of confusion on my face because she announced to everyone “I know these aren’t the colors you registered for but what you chose seemed so dark and dreary I didn’t really like them, so I thought I would brighten them up a bit with these prettier colors”

Twenty three years and three kids later even a peach towel wouldn’t be frowned upon.  I mainly shoot now for mostly dry and hopefully having been washed in the past week when I choose a towel for my daily shower!

Who knew that they would be used like a shop rag sometimes, used to clean up kids’ puke, to warm baby pigs, dry off a newborn calf, used to get the mud off rubber boots, help save abandoned wild bunnies………..

Maybe it’s the threadbare towels that actually make a happy home, because they have been used to make memories.

February 19, 2016

Hug Your People!

When you find your soul sisters you no longer feel the need to weep silently in the school drop off line wearing pajama’s and Uggs driving a pickup truck that reeks of hog manure.

Mornings aren’t pretty around here!  I am a full on Team Morning person who is surrounded by Team Night people.  Team Night people are very unpleasant at 6am to Team Morning people!

I’m ever grateful on those mornings for a group text that I am lucky enough to be a part of!  They get me, I get them, we are soul sisters, kindred spirits, deal with the same shit  lead similar lives.  And even what we don’t have in complete common we can sympathize with.

The other morning was a perfect example, it had been rough.  There was bickering, yelling, possibly cussing and I was over it!  I decided to just up and take the youngest to school myself instead of waiting for the phone call from the sheriff telling me of the double homicide that had occurred in the middle’s Jeep on the way to school!

I was in my pajama’s, I put on my Uggs, I put on somebody’s dirty work coat, I drove my very ripe smelling hog farmer truck……….I was not happy and then this text came through:

A: “That day that your youngest daughter leaves her lunch in the car but you can’t stop and take it in the school because you  wore pajama pants and flip-flops to take the kids to school.  That’s the day I’m having”

And you smile because you are not alone!  And I confessed:

Me: “I’m in pj’s and Uggs!”
A: "Thanks for being my kindred spirit." 
B: “One of my kids asked if I was putting on a bra to take them this morning………”
C: “IDK what you ladies are talking about…..I’m over here in my heels and pearls!”

And you know she is kidding but that middle finger emoji is perfect and you know that she will laugh!

I unequivocally thank social media for my tribe, my people, my soul sisters, my kindred spirits!  I’m blessed with them in multiples - some close to home, some 2 hours away and many spread across the United States.  

I had to stop by the hog barns on the way home that morning to tell Chris something, he was hauling manure. 

Every single one of them would feel my pain and get me if I had sent them this picture of a manure spreader praying I don’t get asked to help....... because Uggs and manure just aren't a good combination!

When you find your tribe, hold them tight, laugh with them, be honest with them, love them for who they are, because have no doubt that they love you for who you are and remember that with them you can make it through anything!

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!