Farm Wives and Daughters

Farm living from the girls' perspectives

Sweet Summertime

Oh Summer! I wasn’t sure you would ever get here! My oldest didn’t get out of school until June 24th. You read that right, the twenty-fourth!  I was out only a few days before her. Needless to say, summer feels like it has just begun! I really hope getting out of school this late is a once in a lifetime event.  I hope we say, “remember the winter of 2014…” and it never happens again.

We started the summer celebrating our wedding anniversary and then two birthdays. Birthdays are low-key affairs around here. We usually plan the birthday dinner around what is going on with farming, so often times we don’t celebrate on the exact date.  I remember one year we celebrated Sophie’s birthday at breakfast time because that was the only time Joe could join us. The kids thought that eating cake for breakfast was pretty awesome. Lane celebrated his first birthday this year. It only made sense that since his first word after “mama” and “dada” was “moo,” that he had a farm theme. He got his first John Deere tractor, a 4640, and a grain wagon to pull behind. Anyone who says there aren’t differences between boys and girls is crazy. We had tractors for our girls to play with when they were little, but they paid absolutely no attention to them, so we put them away. Now our little guy loves to push anything with wheels and make the “rrrrr” sound as he drives.

Moo, Baa, Oink, Neigh...all of the important sounds a farm boy must learn.

Moo, Baa, Oink, Neigh…all of the important sounds a farm boy must learn.

 

lane in corn

 

On July 4th I got to help castrate and vaccinate calves.  Oh lucky me! My mom came up to visit and since she was there to watch the kids, I could help. I’m sure many of you had cookouts or pool parties to celebrate Independence Day, but I was whooping it up near a cattle chute handing over syringes and holding poopy tails. Truth be told, I actually like the time I get to spend with Joe. I give him a hard time about helping, but in reality, it’s just him and I and 50 or so bovine friends for a few hours. I know you are disappointed I don’t have a picture of this.

The kids have enjoyed playing outside every day. Thank goodness we don’t live in a subdivision. My kids voices are so loud.  Oh so loud. We do have neighbors, but I’m hoping they aren’t close enough to hear the squeals (or tantrums) of my kids. One of their favorite things to do is to climb trees. In this picture you can see the girls climbing while Lane hurries to catch up with them.

Climbing trees is so much fun! You can see the slackline Grandma Stanger has attached. This is the second summer for it and the girls still love it. The cows are content in the pasture.

Climbing trees is so much fun! You can see the blue slackline Grandma Stanger has attached to the tree. This is the second summer for it and the girls still love it. The cows are content in the pasture.

Wheat harvest is half over. Next they will bale the straw from the wheat harvest.

girls watching combine

The girls are watching the combine harvest.

 

I hope you are enjoying your summer! I’ll check back in later this summer after we have experienced our first family vacation as a family of five.

Dear Farm Wife,

Dear farm wife,

Congratulations! You are surviving another planting season. You have been juggling the kids, making meals, doing laundry, paying bills, grocery shopping, refereeing the kids’ fights, mowing the grass, doing yard work, overseeing homework and school paperwork, doing dishes, cleaning the house and so much more all by yourself.

Maybe this morning you went to the greenhouse to buy some flowers. You saw some families there shopping. Families as in wife, husband and kids walking the greenhouse together. What the heck?  If you were like me, you had a baby strapped on front in a carrier and the two older kids were playing on the swing set at the greenhouse. You just couldn’t imagine doing something frivolous as a family like shopping for plants with your husband, when he has acres upon acres of corn and beans to get planted.  His time is precious and he has to work when the weather allows it. But still, you are a little jealous of the wives who have husbands that get Saturdays off.

Maybe later in the day you wondered if you should pack a lunch for your husband or if there was a small chance he may be home to eat. You don’t want to bother him with a phone call to ask if he will be home because you know how busy he is and how he is already on his phone all day long solving problems, so you go ahead and make a lunch for you and the kids and wonder, “Hmmmm, do I put the leftovers away or wait for him to maybe show up?”  Then he shows up (like a knight in shining armor) and devours grilled hamburgers and oven fries and thanks me for cooking. He holds the baby even though he is filthy with dirt and jokes with his daughters.

Then later in the day you try to get some household chores done. Maybe you did laundry, or mowed the grass or paid bills? If you were lucky enough like me, you had a mother-in-law next door to watch the kids while you mowed the grass.  Thank God for mother-in-laws.  I’m not sure how I would survive without her help. If you are like me, you are so grateful that you have grandparents who love their grandchildren and will pitch in when needed. If you aren’t blessed with a parent or in-law close to you, I pray you have made connections in your community or church to help fill the void.

Bedtime. If you survive bedtime alone you are a queen. There is the teeth brushing, book reading and prayer saying roles. Doing this alone can feel like running a gauntlet. I am a much happier person when my husband joins me on the bedtime routine.  But, more times than not, he’s outside working. So I make the best of bedtime and pray sleep comes quickly to my littles.

Depending on where you live in the country, planting may be over or only half over. But, you and I both know that filling the single mom role will go on long after planting is over. I’m praying for kids who choose to listen to you, simple meals, houses that clean themselves, and enough love and patience to last this season we call: farming!

Love,

A Michigan Farm Wife

Let it go, Let it go

Now that you have the theme song from “Frozen” in your head, I can start my post. My brother, his wife and their two sons visited this weekend. Our kids have a great time playing (aka getting into trouble) together. My brother is a dairy farmer and his wife grew up on a hog farm, so they are no strangers to farm life.  We had a conversation this weekend about how to let our kids explore the farm without mom and dad looking over their shoulder.  In other words, letting go, letting go…there, the song is in your head again! My husband, myself and my brother and sister-in-law all have great memories of playing on the farm, especially with cousins. We would build hay forts, make hideouts from straw bales, explore the woods…oh we had so much fun!

Now as parents, however, everything seems more dangerous. We talked about how amazing it was that our parents trusted us enough to let us test our limits.  My dad is especially known for being a safety-man. (Once when my younger brother wanted to spend the night in the barn just for fun, my dad sent him out to the barn with a smoke detector!  For real.  And he always made sure I had a flashlight when I spent the night in a hotel just in case there was a fire.) How did my dad ever survive us exploring the farm as kids?

When I became a parent I suddenly saw everything on the farm as dangerous! I’m not being overly-cautious. I truly not a worry-wart, but farming is ranked as one of the most hazardous industries. I unfortunately know of too many people who have been injured or killed due to farming accidents. We try to teach our kids things such as “never approach a moving tractor, never go into the cow pen alone, stay away from cows that just had calves, never play in grain wagons filled with corn….”

So this weekend when the kids asked if they could go, on their own, to see the cows, we said yes. But I was still nervous. Kids make bad choices. They are kids. So after some time my sister-in-law and I went to check on them. They were fine. Shocker. They were just throwing rocks on a dead rat they found. No big deal.  No big deal until my daughter wanted to pick up the rat and bring it home.  No!

Every parent has to experience this “letting go” phase. Whether it is the first day of kindergarten, or when they start driving on their own, or when they move off to college, letting go can be tough. We are trying to let go the best we can, but be smart about it at the same time. This parenting thing is the best thing I have ever done, but the most difficult too.

Here are some pictures from our weekend.  I know you will be disappointed to know I didn’t get a picture of that dead rat.

Coloring Easter eggs with my kids, brother Charlie and his sons

Coloring Easter eggs with my kids, brother Charlie and his sons

Lane is in love with Uncle Charlie!  Numerous times this weekend Lane crawled to his uncle and wanted to be picked up.  He would look at Uncle Charlie with such joy!

Lane is in love with Uncle Charlie! Numerous times this weekend Lane crawled to his uncle and wanted to be picked up. He would look at Uncle Charlie with such joy!

Birthday dinner

So you want to go out for your birthday? And you are married to a farmer? I have some advice for you. Leave town. Yep, get oughta there!  Go somewhere far, far away from home. We went out to celebrate my birthday tonight.  The girls were invited to spend the night at grandma’s next door, so it was just my big boy (heehee) and little boy and I. I didn’t feel like driving far. Joe’s idea was to go out to eat in Toledo and see a movie, but there was no movie I wanted to see.  (FYI:  Our school is on what feels like snow day number 58 and I have been spending most snow days doing spring-cleaning-like tasks so that when warm weather hits, I have no reason to be in the house. So today I was tired from assembling new shelving units and organizing a walk in closet and I just wanted to go somewhere close that I didn’t have to cook or do dishes.) We hit up our local Mexican restaurant, LaFiesta. We sat down and turned to our left only to be greeted by a local cattle/grain farmer and his family. The tables are so close together if would feel rude not to talk. It felt almost like we had planned to go to dinner together we were so close. Then, not five minutes later, another farmer walks in with his wife and is seated to our right. Here are the topics that were discussed with these dining neighbors during my birthday dinner:  wheat, cattle prices, corn, snow, tiling fields, showing cows, tractors, tractor repairs, green vs. red, cold….repeat. The people who say women can talk have never met a farmer.

I love my husband and I love our lifestyle. But next year I will be eating my birthday dinner in another town.

10 questions

As an FFA member I was introduced me to some amazing people.  One of those people is Janice Wolfinger.  Janice was a State FFA Officer the year before me and was at Ohio State while I was there.  Janice and her husband now own a feedlot operation in Nebraska.  She blogs about her experiences as a farmer, former agriculture education teacher, wife and mother of two girls at http://fortheloveofbeef.blogspot.com.  I have always admired her sense of humor and work ethic.  Janice recently asked a few of her blogger friends, including myself, to answer some questions about our lifestyles.  She gave me ten questions:

1. Describe your Agriculture Operation

Joe and his dad work together to raise corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, a cow-calf herd, and feedlot cattle.  They also sell Pioneer seed.

2. What Agriculture Operation would you never do and why?

Well, since I’m a high school teacher and not involved in the day to day physical work, I guess this question doesn’t really apply to me!   I did say growing up I would never marry a dairy farmer because they are so tied down.  Little did I realize beef cattle still need fed every day so I’m just as tied down!  Joe is doing exactly what he loves and can’t imagine doing anything else.

3. When was the last time you vacationed (agriculture events do not count)?

In the summer of 2012 I rented a house on Lake Michigan with my parents.  The girls and my parents and I had a great time relaxing and experience Lake Michigan for the first time.  I felt like since I lived in Michigan I should experience the Great Lakes.  Joe was able to get away for 24 hours.  Yep, that’s what happens when you are married to a farmer.  It was the height of breeding season and Joe simply couldn’t get away.  He artificially inseminates his cattle (I guess that’s another blog post) so he had to be on the farm to take care of business.

4. What is your least favorite food?

Hmmm, this is a difficult question.  I’d like to think that if I was at your house I would eat whatever you served.  My mom once made liver but didn’t tell us what it was while we were eating it.  I simply thought it was a strange cut of meat.  When no amount of ketchup could make it taste better, my mom told my brothers and I we didn’t have to finish it.  Thank goodness!   So other than liver, I can’t think of a food I don’t really enjoy.  Food makes me happy.

5. If you could make a t-shirt today – what would it say?

Family and Consumer Sciences.  Don’t leave school without it.

6. What is the last thing you pinned on pinterest?

Slow cooker Korean Beef

7. What are you cooking for supper?

We had honey-lime shrimp with rice and vegetables and a fruit salad for dessert.  My girls love peel and eat shrimp. (They actually get bummed if a restaurant only offers breaded and fried shrimp on the kids menu.  They don’t like the breading.)   I’ve set a goal this year to make more seafood because we all like it and a little variety from beef is okay.  It’s surprising it was shrimp because I feel like we eat beef every day!

8. Who are you following in Basketball right now?

Well, I’d like to say the Buckeyes, but they are doing horrible!!!  I’m married to a Michigan State grad, so I can cling to him and follow the Spartans!

9. When was the last time you ate beef?

We eat beef all.the.time.  Seriously.  Our freezer is full of beef which is a good thing because we all like it, it’s so versatile, and it’s a nutritionally sound protein choice.  Some our favorite beef dishes are meatloaf, chili, steak, stir fry, tacos, taco salad, BBQ beef, vegetable beef stew, sloppy joe’s, spaghetti…you get the point.  We love beef.

10. What is your most motivational Bible verse?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

40 years!

My farmer turns 40 this week.  Forty.  He is five years older than me, although Sophie likes to tell me that I’m only 25.  Yes, Sophie darling, I am a young pup.  So what do you get a farmer who has no other interests other than farming?  Hmmm, that’s a tough one.  But since this was a BIG year, turning 40 and all, I wanted to get him more than just his usual chocolate and Michigan State apparel.  The answer:  John Deere stock!  I thought I was so clever!  I called my youngest brother to ask his opinion about buying John Deere stock.  I thought he would be a good sounding board since he’s a farmer and all, but he thought a John Deere CLOCK sounded better.  Yes, he suggested a clock for the shop.  I chose to ignore him after I talked to my dad and he re-assured me that owning a piece of the company we invest so.much.money in would be a fun idea.  So tonight we celebrated Joe’s birthday a few days early.  And what did he do when he opened his John Deere stock certificate?  He laughed and laughed and laughed.  Mission accomplished.  He was surprised and delighted I knew him so well.  Happy Birthday, Joe.

joe girls birthday

Joe with his favorite girls. Each year I make him a Boston Cream Pie, but it hasn’t been the same recipe since we’ve been married. This year I tried a Boston Cream Pie Poke Cake. Yum, yum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

great grandma lane joes birthday

Joe’s grandma joined us for his celebration.

 

Simple Christmas gift

Do you need a simple gift for your farm friends?  Do you have trophies from your 4-H and FFA showing days gathering dust?  I have the solution for you!  Make a wine stopper!   All you need are cork stoppers you can get at any craft supplystopper parts store.  I bought a bag of six stoppers for a few bucks.  Then find a top of a trophy and unscrew it.

I screwed the trophy top into the cork and it was really secure.  I thought I may have to put glue in the hole, but I don’t think that is necessary.

Voila!  You have a quirky, fun wine stopper.  Your friends will either think this is really cool, or think you are a little strange.  I think this is a great way to use those trophies no one has looked at in years and create a gift in a matter of minutes!

wine stopper

Merry Christmas!

 

The next season

Ahhh, corn harvest is over.  And how does Joe feel about that?

joe sleeping

I can’t remember the last time Joe has been in the house just hanging out on a Sunday afternoon, let alone having the luxury to take a nap.  It is SOOOO nice.  We have about a month’s worth of conversation to catch up on.

It seems like just when you get in a routine as a family things change.  Now our routine will change again as my maternity leave ends this week and I head back to school.  I have absolutely loved my time at home loving on my baby boy and getting some quality time with Sophie.  Joe’s goal was to have corn harvest completed before I went back to school and thankfully that was accomplished.  That doesn’t mean I get him home at 6pm, but things will feel less “rush, rush, rush, there isn’t time to spare.”

I am going to miss the time I’ve had at home to leisurely prepare meals and catch up on some house projects and I will miss holding my baby whenever I want to.  However, I am looking forward to a routine that includes students who are fun, immersing myself in a subject matter I love, being creative planning lessons, and talking to adults in the middle of the day.

Our farm’s harvest season is ending and our new season as a family of five is beginning.  We thank God for a safe harvest and pray for our adjustment to the new routine.

Traditional tractor shot

Must have pictures in our family include the yearly birthday cake shot, kids in front of the Christmas tree, and each of our children’s first tractor rides.  It’s like a rite of passage for farm kids to get their first tractor ride. Today Lane got to experience his inaugural trip in the field.  Joe was driving the grain cart in a bean field.  Lane contentedly looked around in his footie pajamas and snuggled in close to me to nurse once during his hour long ride.  Part of the fun in taking pictures in tractors is knowing years from now we will look at those pictures and notice how tractors have changed.   If Lane is anything like his dad, he’ll know more about tractors at a young age than I could even care to know.   ;-)

lane driving tractor

 

lane sophie tractor

 

One man’s weed is another’s wildflower

mullein (800x601)Each of the last few Sunday mornings as we drove past this plant just inside the pasture fence halfway down our drive, John has said “Why don’t you cut off that weed?” Well, for the same reasons he didn’t: I never thought of it when it was convenient. But truthfully, I have a few more reasons. Not only doesn’t it bother me the way it does him, flaunting its huge velvety rosette of leaves above the closely grazed grass, I think it is beautiful! It’s more felty and inviting than ornamental “Lamb’s ears” and next year’s 3-4 ft. tall flowering stem would be quite stately. Very few of its yellow one-inch flowers open at one time but it blooms over a long period and contrasts nicely with other roadside and ditchbank wildflowers. Then, like other biennials, it goes to seed and dies.

Besides, it has a long history of usefulness and many interesting common names across the world, from “lungwort” due to centuries of use as a cough remedy, to “flannel” and “cowboy’s toilet paper”. Search for common mullein on Wikipedia for more medical and practical uses.

One of its neatest qualities, I think, is that its hundreds of tiny seeds are amazingly long-lived. It is not an abundant, competitive weed but the seeds wait in the soil for just the right growing conditions…full sun and well-drained, disturbed soil. Killed by tillage, plants don’t survive in gardens or plowed fields. The seeds can wait over 100 years and still germinate! This was proven in an experiment at MSU where many different weed seeds were buried in bottles near the turn of the last century, dug up every 10 years and a sample planted out to check if they were still alive and capable of growing. Then the remaining seeds were reburied. A few generations of botanists later, after 100 years, the only weed seeds still viable were common mullein and a closely related, more delicate appearing weed called moth mullein. They are both in the genus Verbascum, and a few attractive cultivated varieties can be found under that name in garden seed catalogs and nurseries.

The only situation I know of where it became a problem weed was in a sod field where the large rosettes each shaded out a foot or so of grass by this time of year. They are so furry that weed killers just rolled off without damaging them, and mowing prevented blooming but didn’t kill the plants. Sod growers must use herbicide with spreader-stickers like soap or emulsifying oil to wet the fur for effective control, or dig them one at a time.

This “cool” plant doesn’t belong in our pasture because the cattle won’t eat it, so after taking this photo I yielded to my husband’s repeated suggestions and dug it out.