Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Farm Girls


Digging farther into the depths of the spare computer today yielded this photo. I can't identify the subjects of the picture, but I can tell you two things.

1. At least one of them is a relative of my husband's.

2. This photo verifies my longstanding belief that a farm girl's work is never done. I bet these three finished their pitchfork duties and then hustled in the kitchen to serve up lunch to the rest of the crew.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Down Time

Three years ago, when I could best be described as "heavy with child," I had a ferocious bout of nesting and decided to paint the house. I didn't just pick a room or two. I decided to do the entire interior. All the walls. All the doors. The works.

Granted, we have a small house, but it was still a ridiculously large project for a mother of three small children and one spirited baby making her presence well known in the womb.

My mother-in-law exhibited her characteristic grace by offering to help and only questioning my insanity in subtle ways, saying, "Are you sure you want to paint the ceiling? It looks okay to me."

I vowed that I would cover the entire house, and it was done. I vowed I would not repeat the task until the children were old enough to help me.

Today, I broke that vow. I painted a wall, and I have plans to do a few more throughout the next few days. While this project is far from the frantic fit of nesting I experienced three years ago, it did cause me to dismantle my desk and disconnect my computer for a few days. While my computer is having some down time, I have hijacked my husband's computer. The downside to that is that all of my photos are on my computer that is laying in pieces on the floor.

The positive aspect of this situation is that my husband's computer just happens to have some scanned photos that I forgot about. So for the next few days, I will share with you some of my husband's farming heritage.

walter slivka truck

This is Shane's grandpa, Walter, who was responsible for my husband's romantic idea that milk cows would be a good addition to our farm. I think not.

walter slivka plow

Here is Walter in the field. It sure makes our way of farming seem like not such a tough job.

walter car

According to the file name, this photo is Walter and his car. Again, it makes me feel pretty spoiled.

Lastly, because I know he is too busy during hunting season to read my blog, I'm going to share a photo of my father-in-law.


At age three, he looks remarkably like our youngest son.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Library

My morning agenda included a stop at the local library for preschool story time. While I was there, I picked up a fascinating picture book. And I'm not referring to a child's story book.

Photographing Montana: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron by Donna Lucey is a compilation of the journal entries and the photographs of an English immigrant from 1894-1928. Cameron began taking photographs to supplement the family income after their dream of raising polo ponies didn't pan out.

Lucky for us.


The result of an agricultural venture gone bad is a collection of hundreds of photos that give us a glimpse into Montana life 100 years ago.


One observation that struck me was the contrast in the size of the barns


in comparison to the size of the houses.


So, for those of you who were wondering about life for the former inhabitants of this place


or this one,


or this one,


take a look at the photo gallery at

It's worth an afternoon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Too Busy To Take Good Pictures

I've been falling behind lately. The refrigerator needs cleaned out, the garden needs tilled, and the kids are complaining that their jeans need washed.

But I really realized that I've been busy when I noticed I haven't been taking any decent pictures. For example, when we shipped our calves last week, the photo opportunities were abundant. The morning was clear, the shadows were long, and I didn't take a single decent picture all day.

The reason is twofold. First, I was too busy dealing with cows and calves to frame up a photo and adjust the camera correctly. Second, I was working with a group of camera shy guys.

These guys just kept showing me their behinds.


These guys tried to act busy loading up the trailers to take the calves to the stockyards.

This guy is so tall that his head wouldn't properly fit in the frame.

At least I got the right end of this guy, although he was not exactly posing for the camera. He was getting ready to lunge as soon as the head catch swung open and released the calf.

Thanks to the loss of Montana's brucellosis free status, we had to catch each heifer calf that we were selling and place an electronic identification tag in her ear. Animal identification and brucellosis are two of the most contentious subjects in Montana agriculture right now.

That's why I'm not going to discuss them.

I'd rather show you another bad photo. This time, the calves are at the local stockyards waiting to be loaded onto the trailers that will take them to a feedlot. Don't they look excited about their trip?

Here's yet another camera shy guy loading the steers onto the trailer.

They travel up a ramp to the top tier of the stock rack.

I'm glad I didn't have to back that trailer up.

And, finally, the worst picture of the day: a straight shot into the sun. This is the truck that hauled our steers to Iowa. It might be a bad photo, but it's a symbol of the end of a year's work.

It's nice that some things, unlike my laundry, have a completion date.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Tale of Childhood Neglect

My latest column is a sad story indeed. You can read all about it at The Prairie Star.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Function: noun

a) "harsh or discordant sound"

b) "sound resonating throughout a three-mile radius when the calves board a truck headed for Iowa and their mothers are still trying to find them"

c) "the reason I'm not sleeping right now"


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You Know You're A Farm Wife If . . .

You call the implement dealer and he recognizes your voice.

The vet's number is on the speed dial of your phone.

Your second vehicle is still a pickup.

Your husband has ever used field equipment to maintain your lawn.

A night out involves the local 4-H club.

You've ever washed the kids or the dishes with a pressure washer.

Picking rock is considered a chance to get out of the house.

Taking lunch to the field is as close as you get to a picnic.

You can mend a pair of pants and the fence that ripped them.

The shopping list in your purse includes the sizes of filters, tires, overalls, chains, belts, lights, cables, spark plugs or shotgun shells.

The directions to your house include the words miles, silos, last, or gravel road.

Lacey or Frilly is a farm animal, but not your nightgown.

Your farm equipment has the latest global positioning technology and you still can't find your husband.

Quality time with your hubby means you'll have a flashlight in one hand and a wrench in the other.

Sharing a cab has nothing to do with a taxi and everything to do with getting across the field.
No one leaves your house without eating something.

You're equally adept at helping with your children's math homework or the complicated spreadsheets that detail every item bought, sold or misplaced on the farm for the past 10 years.

You can deliver a calf, drive a combine, cook dinner for a half-dozen hired hands, and still make time to pick the kids up from soccer practice.

You're equally at home at a PTA meeting or in session with a commodity association committee.
Your name is taped to the side of all your cakepans.

The "fresh ingredients" your recipe calls for reminds you to do the chores.

You have lots of machinery and each piece is worth more than your house.

Grass stains are the least of your laundry problems.

Your refrigerator contains LA-200.

Your wedding was planned for the end of November so as not to interfere with calving, lambing, seeding, summerfallowing, haying, harvest, or hunting season.

You automatically fall silent when the weather comes on.

You buy toilet paper 128 rolls at a time.

You can make a meal that can be ready in six minutes and will still be ready in two hours.

Your job in town is considered a farm subsidy.

Your son beat up another kid on the school bus arguing over the color of tractors.

You laughed at every one of the items on this list.

(Stolen from an email I received long, long ago.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wordless. . . Tuesday?


For some reason, I really liked this picture, so I'm posting it for no good reason.

I'll be back tomorrow with "Wordy Wednesday."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It Is Definitely

Time To Wean.




Friday, October 17, 2008

In Case You Missed This

If your eyes are still glazed over with boredom after watching the presidential candidates' debates in the past few weeks, watching these clips should provide the cure.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Can't Believe I Said That

Prior to having four children, I was a relatively normal person. I could conduct a conversation that included no analysis of the bathroom habits of preschoolers. I used sophisticated words and seldom said anything incoherent.

All that changed when I became a stay-at-home mother of four. My vocabulary has become so simplified that I seldom use multi-syllabic words. I often have earnest discussions with my friends about such pressing matters as the effectiveness of sticker charts in potty training.

Worst of all, I say things I never thought I would hear from my own mouth.

Not just those tidbits that are faithfully passed down through the generations, such as, “Stop crying before I give you something to cry about!” or “Don’t make me stop this car!”

But things that, if taken out of context, would be enough to commit me to a psychiatric ward.

Some of these gems are uttered while I am having a conversation with someone on the phone. While in mid-sentence, I will suddenly break off and shout, “I have told you a thousand times. You may NOT put the bubble wand up your nose.” Such exclamations sometimes leave the person on the other end of the phone line in a state of bewilderment.

Only other mothers understand. In fact, they are able to add their own shouts of reprimand while keeping the conversation going. A typical exchange might go something like this:
“So, are you going to make it to play group DON’T YOU DARE HIT YOUR BABY BROTHER WITH WINNIE THE POOH on Friday?”

“Oh, I know. It has been so frigid GET YOUR FINGER OUT OF YOUR NOSE AND DO NOT EAT THAT BOOGER these last couple of weeks. I wonder when spring will come?”

Conversations such as those have led me to conduct most of my business correspondence via e-mail. While I find it slightly annoying to type while my two-year-old struggles to jab at the keyboard, at least my message is not misconstrued if I happen to suddenly say, “Your underwear do not belong in the VCR.”

Taken out of context, these remarks might seem a bit odd to someone not familiar with the daily life of toddlers. And they definitely cause the caller to question both my professionalism and my sanity.

Since we are rearing our children in the country, we have the additional set of warnings to issue when our kids go outside. Instead of “Look both ways when you cross the street,” we proclaim statements like, “Please don’t play catch with the horse manure, remember to take the stick to beat off the rooster, and remember that it’s not funny to convince your little sister to touch the electric fence.”

Just as I reminisce about my mother’s admonitions such as, “If you don’t stop arguing, I’m gonna backhand you,” I figure my kids will someday look back on my bits of wisdom and smile.

And someday, maybe my grandchildren will hear the generations of love coming through a simple statement like, “For goodness’ sake, how many times do I have to tell you? You may not ride your bicycle with eggs in your pocket!”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Snow Day

We chose to play.

But first, we had some chores to do.

The table needed cleared off.

Then the slide needed a good cleaning.

Mission accomplished.

Some snow needed moved.

A puppy needed love.

And then it was time to go inside and warm up.

Now the snow is gone, and the wind has whipped the last of the leaves off the trees and into the mud puddles.

But that's okay, because mud puddles are almost as much fun as snowbanks.

Just ask the mud-caked kids and the puppy whose feet are not so snowy white anymore.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Question of the Day


Should I rake, shovel, or



Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Montana Fall


Montana's seasons have never quite followed the calendar.


This year, we went from summer to winter so quickly that the leaves didn't have a chance to fall before our first heavy snow.


The snow caught the flowers off guard, too.


I don't think I'll have to water the flower bed anymore this year.


The heaviest snow fell south of us, but we're thankful that we received some much needed moisture from this storm.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Happy Birthday, my boy.


Eleven years ago, I became a mother, despite the nurse's emphatic declaration that first babies never come early. You arrived with determination three and a half weeks early, and you continue to defy people's expectations on a daily basis.


We are so proud of you. Each day you face struggles that we cannot comprehend. Your achievements are amazing, but even more amazing is the person you are becoming. You have a bright mind, a gentle spirit, and a kind heart. You embrace the qualities that set you apart from others with a self assurance that is beyond your years.


I'm proud to be your mom, and I'll never forget the day you arrived and made us a family.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Well Child

Next month I'm scheduled to take my fourth child to her yearly well child visit.

The definition of a well child visit is to take a well child into a doctor’s office and expose the child to a variety of germs that will make the child unwell.

While that practice goes against every ounce of the common sense I possess, I tend to be a rule-abiding individual. The rules dictate that I take my child to such exams periodically until she goes to school, at which point she will be exposed to the hazardous germs on a daily basis.

I have been dragging well children to these little visits for 11 years now, and I have come to some conclusions.

The actual purpose of the well child visit is to ascertain that the child’s development is on course and that the parent is competent. In order to discern this information, the parent is required to fill out a questionnaire regarding the child’s accomplishments thus far.

In addition, the medical office personnel are able to discern the competence of the parent as she struggles to fill out the paperwork while holding a wriggling, drooling baby who is attempting quite successfully to grab the parent’s pen and shove it in her eye. The other children are playing with the same toys that were recently abandoned by the little boy with something green exiting his nose as he coughed so enthusiastically it nearly blew the magazines off the waiting room table.

The questions regarding infants include pertinent information about rolling over, sitting up, and moving limbs appropriately. They also include whether or not the child is able to rake a small object, such as a raisin, into her hand and grasp it. I find this question amusing since my job as a parent is supposed to be to keep such choking hazards away from the infant, not stand by and watch her grab them.

As I remembered completing the questionnaires for each of my four children, my mind wandered (as is often the case with my mind). I began to compose a developmental questionnaire for country kids, since their first experiences are sometimes a bit different than those of a typical baby.

When the baby sees a cow, does she point at it? When did she first taste the creep feed? Can she mimic the sound of the rooster?

Does the baby crawl directly for the pile of manure-laden snow in the porch? Does she giggle in response to the dog licking her face? Does her face light up at the sight of the tractor, and does she begin to babble “Dada, Dada” when it goes through the driveway?

These are all signs of a healthy, well country child. We can’t expect a country baby’s development to mirror that of a baby who is enrolled in Mommy and Me classes in the city. Later in babyhood, when those city babies are walking and socializing with others their age, we have to judge our babies by how well they can navigate in tiny mud boots and whether or not they make every effort to chase their siblings through the corral.

Their coordination is judged by how many eggs they break on the way back from the chicken house. Their vocabulary is judged by how many animals they can correctly identify and whether or not they can mimic each animal's sound.

My two-year-old is still working on the names of the colors, but she can tell the difference between a John Deere and a Case IH tractor.

As parents, we tend to use these questionnaires to compare our kids. We ask questions like, “Is she rolling over yet? Is she sleeping through the night?”

I remember eagerly awaiting these milestones with my first three children, anticipating being able to answer “yes” to some of those questions. Now that my oldest is almost 11, I realize how fleeting their babyhood is, and I’m not as eager to cross off those firsts on the developmental list.

As the fourth child, my little Emma Lou has met these milestones a little sooner than the other kids did. Come to think of it, maybe I don’t want to devise this new developmental questionnaire. Maybe if I don’t think so much about her accomplishments, I can savor her babyhood just a little longer and convince myself that she’s not growing up quite so fast.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Fairy Tale


Once upon a time, in a barren land far, far away (a three hour drive, as a matter of fact), lived a lonely little princess. She toiled day and night for years (four of them, to be exact) until she was finally granted her wish: a grand princess party. With tiaras. And presents. And cake with chocolate frosting.


The lonely little princess invited all the girl cousins in the kingdom. They arrived at the palace adorned in their finest gowns.


They were granted the privilege of wearing the royal tiaras only if they remembered the identity of the true princess.


After a quick wardrobe swap to satisfy Her Royal Highness,


the Court was reminded of the longevity of the princess' reign.


Making wishes is serious business at a princess party, and serious business requires concentration.


And contemplation.

What, exactly, is a princess to do when the cake is eaten, the presents are opened, and the excitement dwindles?


If you're a country girl princess, you ditch the tiara, head to the backyard, and get your hands dirty.


But you make sure to bring along your purple lip gloss in the plastic heart container tied to a necklace so that you can reapply it every three seconds all evening long.

Because you just never know when Prince Charming might show up and want to play Tonkas.

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