Why being a farm mom rocks

I have four boys…four rambunctious, crazy, wild boys. I thank God every day that we live on a farm, because I’m not sure town could handle them. Or maybe it’s that I’m not sure I could handle them in town. Without frequent visits from officers. And maybe child protective services. And calls from neighbors. And…well, I digress.

So how does being a farm mom rock? Let me count the ways:

  1. I get to deep-clean often. Like when someone brings in a bucket of toads. And drops them. In the kitchen. Near the stove. And fridge. And I’m too slow.

    The Toad Catcher

    These are what we found right away…a few had escaped.

  2. I get new utensils and dishes often. Mostly because all of mine disappear throughout the winter and don’t reappear until it thaws outside and they’re found it what used to be a snow fort.
  3. I don’t have to talk to them about the birds and the bees. They learn about it every spring, usually with commentary from their uncle.
  4. I know when spring is upon us. Because it’s warm enough to pee outside. With pants ALL the way down.

    Warmer weather

    But the best sign of spring? Outdoor bathroom is open for business.

  5. My kids will be expert drivers by the time the state says it’s OK for them to drive…just don’t ask me how they got to know so much.
  6. They understand the weather, and what it means to the farm. Rain doesn’t mean an event is ruined…it means the whole family gets to join in!
  7. Math is no longer some mysterious language that will never be used. They understand the importance of measurements (such as acres), area (field size), volume (bin capacity), etc. Math and science are definitely living and breathing on the farm!
  8. We learn creative problem solving – like how to get the wild barn cat out of the house without breaking everything.
  9. They also learn about teamwork – so Mom doesn’t find out about #8.
  10. They also learn about trust – and that a 3-year-old isn’t so good at it. See #9.

    laughter, children

    That little one on bottom left? Yeah, he’s not so good at secrets.

No matter what, these boys are my world. And I’m glad I can raise them in the best environment possible – our farm. They learn so much, but even more so, they learn how to become better people. They respect the land, understand hard work, and know where their blessings come from – I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m sure I could add hundreds more, but I’d rather hear about your reasons why you love being a farm mom…or maybe why you’re glad you’re not!

Finding Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was never a holiday that my family celebrated all that much. The timing was usually off, coming at the end of deer season, and we would have other things to do – like cutting up deer, butchering pigs, mixing, stuffing and smoking sausage – whatever was needed to be done in preparation for winter. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we would always stop for a meal – it just wasn’t necessarily a holiday that brought together all of the family from the four corners of the Earth. Just those of us lucky enough to still be home.

So I have to admit that I’m a little distracted by the hubbub that’s being caused by the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday hours. Now, don’t get me wrong…I understand the importance of time with family. And I know how important it can be to have a reason to get together. But let’s take a little closer look at it.

Future Farmer

Thanksgiving isn’t just for one day…it’s for every day.

I’m now going to read to you every scripture that talks about God’s commandment for Thanksgiving:



That’s right…not once in the Bible does God say anything specifically about Thanksgiving, and yet our society is up in arms about the unfairness of businesses being open on that day in particular.

And yet…Exodus 20:8-11. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Oh, and then there’s Deuteronomy 5:12-14. 12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.”

So why is it that we are so willing to stand up for a holiday that celebrates an event that should be done every single day – and yet we are so willing to go against what God has specifically commanded us to do?

Now, don’t get me wrong – as a farmer’s daughter, a farmer’s wife, and a mother of four, I completely understand that life throws you curve balls on occasion. Animals need to be fed, people need to eat, crops need to be brought in, and sometimes the only day in which the weather cooperates is Sunday. Truthfully, the only reason I mention it at all is because we need to be aware of the convictions that we have and the reasons that we have them.

Perhaps, instead of criticizing those that make decisions that are different then our own, we should focus on what Thursday is supposed to be all about. Let THAT be our message to share with the world – instead of commercializing the holiday even more.

First of all, why is it that we need one day out of the year to get our families together and give thanks for the gifts we’ve been blessed with? Is this not something we should be doing at a minimum of at least once a day? If not almost every minute of the day? I don’t believe that there is a single person in this church that doesn’t tell God how grateful we are on a regular basis.

We see these gifts every where we look – we just have to be willing to open our eyes. Like we read in Hebrews 12:28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…”

I haven’t always been a thankful person. I didn’t grow up in the most prestigious manner. I didn’t have a church family that I felt I belonged to, and my upbringing was unconventional at best. Some may call it the school of hard knocks, I just call it a lesson in reality. You win some, you lose some – and most importantly, only you can decide what your future may bring.

But my outlook and heart had a pretty drastic change following the events that began in the spring of 2009. For those that may not know me that well, that was the year in which our youngest son, Eli, was born.

None of my pregnancies were easy – and I will openly admit that Eli was no different. I had problems with my kidney, as well as undergoing emergency surgery in my fourth month of pregnancy to have my gallbladder removed. I was grateful that there was a planned end in sight, with a c-section scheduled the day after my own birthday. Eli came into the world at 9 pounds, 10 ounces.

As with all of my boys, it was love at first sight. And even though I never once questioned my love for him – I did question his health. For weeks, and then months, I kept having a nagging suspicion that something wasn’t quite right. He developed jaundice late, and it hung on for weeks. He wasn’t gaining weight. I always joked that he looked like the saggy-baggy elephant.

Finally, I took him in to see the on-call doctor – and the events that unfolded from that moment on became a roller coaster for the next 18 months. I shudder to think what may have happened if my family hadn’t pushed for answers. If Eli would have been the oldest instead of the youngest. Would I have been so willing to keep pushing? Would I have listened to my instincts?

But the fact is, none of that matters. And after Eli was diagnosed with his condition, and I saw him finally starting to grow, and develop, and become the child you see before you, I realized that the path we took to get here may not have been the easiest, but I’m grateful for the experience.

You see, we can’t always change the events that happen around us. The diagnoses we receive. The actions of others. The hours that a business sets. But we can change our response to it. We can change our attitude. And with that, we can change the world.

Thursday is Thanksgiving. But true thanksgiving doesn’t happen every year at the end of November. It’s not marred by a business trying to improve their bottom line. It’s not determined by whether or not a family is sitting down for a meal together.

Thanksgiving happens in our hearts – every day. It’s in the gratefulness we feel towards doctors and the advances we’ve been blessed with in science. It’s in the wonder we feel when we watch our families gather. It’s in the strength of a person who faces adversity with tenacity and determination. It’s in the eyes of a 6-year-old who defies the odds that science has set.

Thanksgiving doesn’t happen once a year. And it doesn’t take place at Walmart at 6 p.m. on November 26.

And for that – I am thankful.

Where popcorn leads me…

Today was a rough day. It began pretty decent, work was a little stressful, some funny stuff regarding pork roasts on a sidewalk happened in between, then it was home for supper, a couple-mile run, canning salsa and getting my discussion ready for tomorrow night’s first “Led by the Spirit” meeting at our church…also led by me, funnily enough.

I decided to get going on George’s Cub Scout popcorn sales, because the deadline for signing up for the website is tomorrow. (Yeah, I plan ahead like that.)

I was perusing the site when I stumbled across a few cool things – like Cub Scouts that sell enough popcorn can earn a scholarship! And that popcorn sales online get shipped directly to the customer. And a large chunk of the money from the sales go to local programming. All very cool.

And then it hit me – scholarship. College. Life.

George, summer 2010...we've come a long way, baby!

George, summer 2010…we’ve come a long way, baby!

I’ve been so busy worrying about today, that I’ve somehow forgotten that I need to plan for George’s tomorrow. And then other thoughts started invading my head. Like do we give back the money if George doesn’t make it? Does it qualify for any further education? Even if it’s special needs? How do you even deal with that?

The point being that I used to get involved in these types of things and not even think twice about the meaning behind them. I would plan every day as if they were the same. Yet, nothing is further from the truth.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

George is here. He’s making a splash in first grade and we’ll have check-ups at Mayo in November. And I’m going to let him grow up, and make plans – and sell Cub Scout popcorn. And we’ll aim for the scholarship. And wait for the future. And plan. Including a plan for Christmas that will knock his socks off! (Can’t wait to share, but it’s a surprise!)

So I ended the night with a few tears – because my baby is growing up, even when they told me he probably wouldn’t.

What will his Eagle Scout project be? How about living?

If you’d like some Cub Scout popcorn, here’s George’s link – don’t worry if it says “Eli”…that’s his real name. George is just my nickname for him on here, and his dad’s nickname for him all the time. And if you do order, I’ll have George send you a real life thank-you. 

Dust yourself off…

I’ve been MIA, but the last few weeks have been like watching a video on fastforward while taking speed. Not that I really have a lot of experience with that, but I think I have a good idea as to what it may be like.

I’ve put an insane number of hours into my weeks, and have literally felt myself at the end of my rope several times – so I guess it’s time for a revamp.

It’s crazy to think about how life can work out. I think my biggest struggle lately has been coming to terms with who I am, and realizing when what I’m doing is just not enough – and maybe it never will be. I remember the first few times I thought I was in love, yet no matter what I did, I couldn’t make them love me back. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that it wasn’t anything I could do, you can’t force someone to love you any more than you can force someone to communicate with you.

As I get older, the same lessons occur, just in different themes. But maybe I’m finally making headway.

I can’t make people understand where I come from, but I can still do my best to communicate what I can, and take it from there. I just need a little brush up on that communication part. A work in progress, I guess.

But aren’t we all?

Tomorrow on the blog I have a few cool projects to share – they made our fall spectacular!

And a few cool stories, because that’s what this is all about.

Catch ya on the flip side.

When the picture starts to sharpen…

I would apologize for my lack of writing, but I’ll just chalk it up to life occurring – which is kind of a funny way to put it, with where my thoughts are right now.

Sometimes we think we have life figured out, and we’re going along at a pretty good clip, and then the rug gets pulled out from under us and we realize that everything that we were pretty sure wouldn’t matter…well, we find out deep inside that it does.

Sometimes it’s not that we’re looking for answers or some magic spell to make it all better. We’re just looking for reassurance that our efforts aren’t in vain. That there’s a reason for the madness and that one day it’ll all make sense.

Yeah, I’m being a bit vague and general. Because it’s very hard for me to be open – well, to most people.

It’s been a crazy summer already, and the Fourth is upon us. I haven’t been fishing with my boys, we have projects that haven’t been completed, we haven’t been to the camper yet, we’ve not roasted marshmallows – the list goes on and on. But as of right now, it doesn’t matter.

This week I have walked pigs with them, watched them play baseball, listened to them argue, and have taken what I can only imagine will be amazing photos. And I cannot wait for the morning, so we can do it all again.

Yes, sometimes the reminders that we’re getting wrapped up in the wrong details come pounding on your door, and other times they are as light a feeling a butterfly land on your cheek.

And as I rest my head tonight, I will remember those that don’t have that chance to share their thoughts with the ones they love, with the world, with their friends and family – and I will enjoy more, and take for granted less.

And I will write.

My beef: It’s worth a buck

Lately the beef checkoff has become a topic of heated debate. And I have to admit, I find the arguments surrounding it telling of our current society.

It seems to me that there is a loud group of a few people proclaiming that they want results, they want it free, they want someone else to do it…but not on their dime.

Sounds all too familiar.

Let me first of all explain a little bit about the checkoff. When we take our cattle to market, for every head of cattle we sell, the checkoff collects $1. Yes – $1 per cow, calf, bull, etc. that we sell. That dollar goes to the North Dakota Beef Commission, which half goes to a national organization, and half stays in state, where the commission determines where that dollar is best spent, including research, advertising, consumer surveys – just to name a few things that come to mind. (Imagine Sam Elliot reading that last bit…it’s more meaningful that way.)

It's time we get out of the mud and focus on the bigger picture.

It’s time we get out of the mud and focus on the bigger picture.

Recently, in the state of North Dakota, it was debated in the legislature whether or not that $1 per head should be raised – to a staggering $2 per head. The extra $1 per head is also refundable, if the rancher decides that he/she doesn’t want to participate.

The beef checkoff has been behind the scenes for some pretty remarkable advertising campaigns that has definitely hit home with those in the grocery store. (I seriously sometimes pretend that Sam Elliot is reading to me when I’m reading in bed.) As well as assisting in funding research that has added new cuts of meat for those looking for a great way to put beef on the table, while saving a few dollars in the marketplace.

It's easier to do our job in the barn, knowing that there's someone else behind a desk working for our herd.

It’s easier to do our job in the barn, knowing that there’s someone else behind a desk working for our herd.

An increase of $1 for advertising, research and education throughout a 30-year time frame? I wish more areas of my life grew at that rate.

Instead of muddying the waters and creating a bigger black-eye for a product trying to create positive energy and excitement around what we can offer the average grocery-buyer, why don’t those that don’t believe in the power of the $1 ask for their refund and stand back and let the rest of us get to work. If the ranchers of North Dakota truly don’t believe in the work that’s accomplished through the checkoff, then they will all request their extra $1 back per head and the fund will have no extra money. Simple enough.

But remember, those funds go to activities and opportunities that the average person doesn’t have at their disposal. Scientific research, research at the market, advertising campaigns – activities at the state and local level that are beyond a single rancher’s pocketbook. Which is why pooling money across the board is the easiest way to accomplish big things.

The world is made up of talkers and doers. Unfortunately, those working on accomplishing true gains are usually too busy to worry about defending their work.

As someone actively involved in promoting agriculture and championing a way of life that I love, I understand the amount of time and funds it can take to create, hone and share a successful message. If we want to be successful, we need to work together – not tear each other apart.

And that’s worth a buck in my book.

Disclaimer: My spouse currently serves on the North Dakota Beef Commission. But the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. Trust me, we don’t always agree. And I’m more than willing to tell him what I think…just ask him. :) 

When a calf is born in cold weather

After I came home from church today, Boss Man called and told me he had to be out of the yard for awhile. In Boss Man terms, that can mean anything from 30 minutes until sometime later in the week. What he was getting at was that I was going to be responsible for keeping an eye on our herd, which happens to be smack dab in the middle of having calves.

No biggie. I’ve watched the cows before. I can handle it. And then he gave me a little reminder, “Keep an eye on 176. She’s off by herself to the east.” In cattleman terms, a heifer off on her own is a sign that she’s probably getting ready to have her first calf.

So I watched our cow cameras diligently. And after an hour or two, decided I should walk down and check things out in person. (You see, much like most of technology, the cameras only work in the right circumstances…cows facing the right direction, right lighting, right angle, etc.)

I put my wraps on (long underwear, jeans, heavy socks, t-shirt, sweatshirt, coveralls, jacket, scarf, hat, gloves, Bogs), grabbed my phone and headed out. And quickly realized my mistake.

The cow I thought I was watching wasn’t the cow that needed watching. The cow on the west end of the straw, in the midst of all the other cows, was actually the one calving. And by calving, I mean the birth was imminent and I had no time to get her to the barn.

So I stood and watched the miracle of birth, and called Boss Man to let him know that I hadn’t exactly succeeded in my duties. (Ideally, all calves would be born in the warmth of the barn, not out in the cold…but you must make due with the cards you’re dealt. I can’t turn back time – yet.)

This heifer (which means this was her first calf) ended up having her calf outside. Not ideal with the temps below freezing.

This heifer (which means this was her first calf) ended up having her calf outside. Not ideal with the temps below freezing.

This meant I needed to get the new calf to the barn – and the quicker the better.

The trick is that sometimes cows don’t want you to take their calves to the barn. And since this was her first calf, I wasn’t sure how she was going to take the news I was about to break to her.

She's a good mama, which means that she's protective of her calf. Not always an easy task to get them to the barn.

She’s a good mama, which means that she’s protective of her calf. Not always an easy task to get them to the barn.

To begin with, she wasn’t too sure what this thing was on the ground next to her. But she figured it out pretty quickly. And then she was pretty certain that I wasn’t supposed to be there. And she let me know. (A cow can easily injure, or even kill, someone not paying attention and respecting the power of the animal.)

But when it’s only a few degrees outside, you don’t have luxury of time before the calf is at risk for frozen ears or worse.

So we compromised.

I finally got the calf in the sled. (Thank goodness I’ve dropped a few pounds.) And to the barn. Usually the cow would follow, but this new mama was a bit confused about all the action. So I brought her down once the calf was given a ride to the barn.

Thank goodness this little one cooperated...mostly. Imagine dragging a 100-pound child in a sled while they're trying to stand up. It's a workout, to say the least.

Thank goodness this little one cooperated…mostly. Imagine dragging a 100-pound child in a sled while they’re trying to stand up. It’s a workout, to say the least.

My next job was to bring the heifer down to the barn. Thankfully, she was pretty easy to bring in.

My next job was to bring the heifer down to the barn. Thankfully, she was pretty easy to bring in.

And the reunion was a sweet one.

Success. Both in the barn, no injuries, no cold calf, and everyone happy.

Success. Both in the barn, no injuries, no cold calf, and everyone happy.

Last week I was in DC in a suit, I’ll be dressed up tomorrow for work – but today was one of my favorite outfits of all.

Purple coveralls and blue polka-dot Bogs. I don't have to worry about one of my boys stealing my cold-weather gear.

Purple coveralls and blue polka-dot Bogs. I don’t have to worry about one of my boys stealing my cold-weather gear.