Monday, September 29, 2008
We have been living with these creatures for too long.
They made lace out of the pumpkin leaves. They shredded the corn. They obliterated the carrots and onions.
Now that not much green remains, they are still hanging on.
They're attacking the newly emerged winter wheat.
Enough of the 80 degree temperatures.
It's time for snow.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
If farm wives from across the world were to gather in a central location and compare their experiences, I am sure they would find that their lives are in many ways the same.
They would probably have similar stories of stocking up on groceries, cleaning grease and manure on jeans, and shopping for clothes at farm supply stores.
They would also agree that there are some phrases that a farmer says to his wife that she dreads hearing.
“Oh, look! Here’s an auction sale bill!”
Auction sales are risky due to two factors. First, they place a group of males in a competitive environment, and no one likes to lose. Secondly, they offer a variety of items that sometimes sell for such low prices that a farmer can convince himself that he actually needs them. That’s why he will come home with a box of junk that will sit in his own shop until he accumulates so much that he will have to have an auction of his own.
“You got a minute?”
This question is dangerous because by affirming that she has a minute, the farm wife is actually committing to up to three hours of tackling an unpleasant task.
“Did you make something good for lunch?”
In my farmer’s language, this question means that he has invited someone else to eat. That someone is standing right next to him, and he is using a code to tell me to put away the peanut butter jar and whip up something else in the five minutes it will take them to arrive at the back door.
“Do you know how much money I just saved us?”
Much like the preferred card savings at the chain grocery store, this question is a ruse to disguise how much money he just spent.
“Are you busy?"
Farmers are blessed with selective vision that allows them to see past the baby on her hip, the boiling pot on the stove, the dish towel in her hand, and the toddler behind her who is emptying the soup cans out of the cupboard.
“Where is last year’s calf contract?”
The answer to this question could be “in the calf sales file in the file cabinet,” or it could be “I don’t know because you took it out last month and stashed it in your calving record book and then took it out to the barn.” One thing is certain: last year’s calf contract is always in the last place that you look.
“I need your help.”
This statement elicits dread because the situation must be bad for him to admit he needs help. The word “need” differentiates this request from the questions like “Are you busy?” and “You got a minute?” I have found that he only “needs” help when it’s a very hard calf pull, a piece of machinery stuck very badly, or a crop insurance policy that needs deciphered.
“Just lift me up in the tractor bucket.”
It is unfair to put a farm wife at the controls of a mechanism which could drop her beloved 20 feet to the ground with one wrong pull of the lever.
“How much money is in the checking account?”
Another unfair situation that a farm wife faces is choosing to either lie about the account balance or realize that by telling the truth, she has just given her blessing for him to buy another piece of machinery.
“Help me back this trailer in.”
One of the unofficial roles of a farm wife is trailer backer upper. She must position herself in the view of the rearview mirror while the farmer follows her hand signals to precisely place the trailer in the position in which he wants it parked. She ascertains that information after three attempts at parking the trailer which all end with his dissatisfaction. Only when she threatens to begin using a different hand signal altogether will he decide that the trailer is probably okay where it is.
“Don’t let her through the gate!”
This urgent command is always yelled across the corral as the farm wife faces down a mad cow with plenty of momentum who is headed in her direction. She can either choose the wrath of the cow or the wrath of the farmer. She usually chooses the wrath of the farmer because he has to forgive her before supper.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
By Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And make gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Several years ago, we acquired three cows whose destiny was to fill someone's freezer. I had the dubious honor of feeding them grain every day, and I began to form a bit of a bond with them. Since I was aware of their destiny, I decided I should name them so that I was reminded daily of their purpose in life.
The names I chose were Hamburger, T-Bone, and Sirloin.
When the kids were given a relative's bum calf in 2007, they fought for days over what his name should be. They finally agreed upon Miguel, but it sounded so silly when they called it across the pasture that the name was eventually retired. He became Calfie.
During the summer months, his name changed yet again.
Now we call him Steak.
The kids know his destiny. They are aware of the reality of the cattle business. They all like a good cheeseburger, and even the two-year-old knows that beef comes from cattle.
As their mom, I am happy to provide them with homegrown food.
And because this was their calf, they will split the profits. The experience has been a good lesson in stewardship. They were stewards of the animal, trudging out during spring's continual rains in their raincoats and mud boots to feed him. Now they will learn to be good stewards of the money they receive.
I'm pretty sure they won't be investing it in any market funds at this point.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The usual form of Q&A on this blog involves my answers to your questions.
I'm just not feeling that smart today, so I decided to do a backwards Q&A: I ask and you answer.
1. Seriously, what is going to happen with the economy? Will our dollar ever be worth anything again?
2. Why would someone google "big pile of manure?" Did he or she find it here?
3. Why did I allow this household to run out of chocolate syrup?
4. Which brand of coffee is really the best?
5. Should I self-publish a book or try to find an agent? Or should I just bake another loaf of bread and change the sheets?
6. What kind of salad should I take to the church potluck on Sunday?
7. What in the world is the wheat market going to do now?
That should keep you all busy until I post again.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
~ 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Here's a rundown of our family members' activities this week:
This one had a rough week involving visits to both the dentist and the ophthalmologist, the new toy helicopter getting lodged on the roof, and taking a football to the head during P.E. class. You have no idea how fervently we were saying TGIF today.
This child floated through the week on Cloud Nine while clutching the new stuffed kitty in the cheerleading outfit purchased for an inflated price at a certain
overpriced chain store build-your-own business that preys on gullible moms like me. But at least it's not a Barbie. For some reason, I find it much less objectionable to buy clothes for a furry friend than for a plastic figure with unattainable proportions.
The forgotten middle child learned all about the letter A this week. He also decided that Steiger tractors are a close second to John Deere because that's what his daddy bought him at the Farm Kid's Heaven store. The shiny red machine has already been put to the test pulling the grain cart in his harvesting operation in the backyard.
This child ate three frosted doughnuts at the crop insurance meeting, each bestowed upon her grimy little hands by men who pretended they hadn't heard me telling her "No more!"
The farmer (otherwise known as Tim) has been seeding winter wheat and listening to satellite radio to keep himself awake during the long days in the tractor seat.
My contribution to the operation is to do the chores around home and keep his lunchbox well stocked with these. I'm also stretching my culinary abilities to make meals that are edible by picky children at 6 and by a tired husband who doesn't like casseroles at 10.
I'm already missing my job a bit. As the substitute school secretary today, I was able to sit down for the longest consecutive block of time since 1997.
I'm pretty sure I won't be giving up my regular gig, though. The pay's not great, but the benefits are superb.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I'm going to work tomorrow.
This job has nothing to do with cows, horses, wheat, chickens, manure, gardening, diapers, or church.
I will actually have to shower before I do this work, not afterward.
As if that's not novel enough, this is the kind of job that comes with a paycheck.
Can anyone guess what it is?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
While browsing through pictures recently, I found a forgotten image taken from my in-laws' backyard during harvest.
I missed the best photo opportunity of that evening, which involved a rainbow streaking through the middle of the sunset. I was chasing kids and, if I remember correctly, eating a hamburger. I was distracted. I had my hands full. I missed the shot.
I did snap this one before the sun sank. It doesn't do the reality of the scene justice.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
My maternal grandmother is 83 years old.
She has been widowed twice.
When she was in her 70s, she fought cancer and won, without chemotherapy, thankyouverymuch.
She recently retired from her job as the cook for the local senior citizens group.
She wears cowboy boots with pointed toes and high heels because "they're comfortable."
My husband consults her for horse advice. I consult her for cooking advice. Her experience in both fields is extensive.
Not only am I jealous of her ability to make homemade noodles and mashed potatoes, but I also envy her social life.
Our visit with her this weekend was cut short because she had to scoot off to the city to a dance. She offered to take my husband with her.
"I'll show you a good time," she promised.
He was tempted, but in the end he chose to stay with his wife, who made no such promise to him.
I'm not sure whether I should be inspired by her youthfulness or embarrassed that I have no social life.
Maybe it's time to go dancing.
Friday, September 12, 2008
One of the realities of "reality shows" is that they aren't very real.
In real life, a guy doesn't get to fawn over 50 girls and pick one to marry after dating them all for a few weeks.
In real life, people don't get stranded on an island (with a camera crew) and eat bugs and wear bikinis.
My life, on the other hand, would definitely qualify as a reality show. In my world, which incidentally never involves bikinis or camera crews, children drop slices of watermelon on the newly washed kitchen floor. The toddler demonstrates her imitation of elephant noises the moment I answer the ringing phone. I forget to put the t-ball uniform in the dryer until 15 minutes before we need to leave for the game.
Sometimes the reality of country life can be harsh.
At the kids' request, we restocked the chicken coop this spring.
Everyone was excited for the arrival of the new chicks.
It didn't take long for the kids to become attached to the little fluff balls.
We babied them through their awkward stage, and we were looking forward to the first eggs this fall.
They were safely ensconced in the chicken coop until last Friday, when the gate latch was left undone and a predator pushed his way in.
By the time the crime was discovered, only two of the 24 chickens were left alive.
Sometimes reality is difficult to explain to children.
Sometimes it is difficult to explain to myself.
Wanted: a good, chicken-less home for a three-legged cow dog.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Cows are curious creatures. They like to sniff things: cats, rocks, dogs, and. . .
Luckily, the resident cow caretaker carries his pliers with him wherever he goes.
While she wasn't terribly keen on the idea,
she stood relatively still during the procedure.
In fact, toward the end of the ordeal, she was beginning to enjoy it.
I think she appreciated her own personal day at the spa, complete with a facial and a few moments away from the kids.
At the monthly gathering of moms with preschoolers at church yesterday, our devotional topic was finding joy in the everyday adventures with our children.
I've been putting that concept to the test.
For example, I found joy in the way that my toddler was singing "Skip To My Lou" as she streaked through the house with no clothes and dropped stuffed animals all along her path.
I found joy in the furrowed brow of my five-year-old as he launched into a lengthy discussion about the rubber wheels on his toy tractor when he was supposed to be putting on his pajamas.
I found joy in the muddy footprints that danced across my kitchen floor; we are thankful for the rain.
And as I joined the ranks of mothers who have listened to the fumblings of a fifth grade band student, I found joy.
Because it's not a clarinet.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
It seems like just yesterday he was a flutter in his mama's belly.
It was a cold jolt of reality to be born in the chilly March air.
Thank goodness for straw.
In the blink of an eye, he was racing his friends through the alley.
He ignored his mother's admonition to come back here right this instant, young man.
He just went ahead and grew up.
Who knew that calves and kids had so much in common?