Not the answer you’re hoping for…

It’s been a bit. I’d give some grand excuse, but the truth is…I’ve been tired. Bone-weary exhausted, to be closer to the truth. And I have a little better reason as to why, which I’ll share in a minute.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my thoughts and ideas on a few things, but here’s my one and only request: listen. Take a moment to truly hear what I’m trying to say, and then let me know what you think.

This community has been built up over time, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you that checks in on George, the farm, the boys, me…all of us. George is now stronger than ever. His care is on-point and he’s blossoming. EJ is bound and determined to be the best young farmer he can be – and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He reminds his Dad of all the things that need to get done…hoping to be assigned a chore or two (preferably one that involves him sitting in a tractor). Scooter has sprouted up taller than either of his parents and all of his grandparents. He has one uncle left to surpass in height. And I don’t think that will be long in coming. And Big Bro and his gentle soul will be a freshman this fall – how did that ever happen?

Life – it moves so quickly. And sometimes we forget to take a second and take it all in. We forget to enjoy the moment.

As I said earlier, I haven’t been feeling the best for a while. I joke around a lot that my thyroid isn’t a “team player.” And it’s true. It’s not. It’s been a problem for quite a few years. And now it’s causing a bit of a bigger problem – and it seems to be getting bigger rather quickly.

On July 5, I found out from a specialist that my biopsy had come back positive for thyroid cancer. Not the answer I was hoping for – but an answer, nonetheless.

After the initial shock, I met with the doctor the next day and we developed a plan – one that I’m more than excited to implement. You see, I realize that as far as cancers go, I’m pretty darn lucky. Thyroid cancer is an “easy” one. We’ll remove my thyroid, and as long as my surrounding lymph nodes come back clear and the pathology doesn’t show anything alarming, I’m pretty much home free. A few years of scans and appointments, but no further treatment needed at this point.

research

I’ll be part of a thyroid-cancer research study. I’m excited for doctor’s to learn more about cases like mine…and maybe, just maybe, there’ll be more answers that we hope for in the future.

It could have been so much worse.

But it’s still the c-word. Cancer. Me. What???

I don’t have time for an illness, no matter how small. I’m busy. We had the county fair. I have things I need to do. I have games I want to watch. I have pool-dates to make up.

I have a chance to realize just how quickly it all can change.

And it’s all because it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for…but it was an answer that I could live with…and that’s the most important answer of all.

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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!

Why I put myself out there…

It was brought to my attention recently that perhaps I don’t spend nearly enough time explaining to people why it is that I’m involved so passionately about advocating for agriculture. It does seem to take a lot of time away from other things that I should be doing.

Yet, without someone willing to stand up and speak out about those issues that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart, where would we be? Could someone else do it? Sure. In fact, I know that there are people all over the area that could be doing what I’m doing. And I would love to see them become more active.

My question is: Will they? Will you?

And if not, then I need to keep moving forward, until those of us that are willing to show our operations, willing to answer those questions, willing to explain why we do what we do are much higher in numbers and much louder in volume.

It’s a simple case of mathematics. Those actively involved in agriculture are way lower in numbers than those that are not. Which means that laws that are passed, advertising that is created and articles that are written are disconnected from the one place that everyone should be connected to…our food.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there, to “open your barn doors,” so to speak. It’s not easy to let people in and open yourself to questions and observations. Yet it’s necessary. We are no longer in a society that is alright with the answer, “I know what I am doing.” They want to see, they want to understand, they want to know that what they are putting on the table is okay.

Let's celebrate food...and food choices. For the first step is being able to provide.

Let’s celebrate food…and food choices. For the first step is being able to provide.

 

And it is. No matter how you raise your crops, what type of operation you have. The United States has one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world. Yet those that are responsible for providing that staple are the ones quietest about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

We can’t sit back and watch as the world is shaped around us. We have to be actively involved. And it’s not for our benefit.

I have four young boys. And I have hopes and dreams that perhaps one day, if I am lucky, and if our world is lucky, one of them will want to be involved in agriculture. It’s up to me to make sure that their future is secure.

And I cannot do that by sitting quietly by while other people are out there trying to explain how I’m not doing my job right.

Farms are ever-changing operations. They are not the farms from yesterday, and we’re not yet a farm of tomorrow. But we’re doing the best that we can and we’re doing it, not for ourselves, but for the future.

I put myself out there for them.

The future of our farm...the future of your food...lies here.

The future of our farm…the future of your food…lies here.

 

But I’m here to answer questions from you.

There are no rules in farm ball

So tonight I switched up my workout a bit. The elliptical wasn’t going to cut it. It’s been one heck of a Monday, filled with unneeded drama, day-to-day stress and this issue I’m having with a recurring dream.

Have I mentioned taking a few college courses, the fact that rain has delayed harvest and that I missed my 11-year-old’s first ball game tonight?

The whole point? Not much, really. Just letting off steam, and since this is my blog, I certainly can do that. 😉 Who am I kidding, this blog has long since left the realm of a private rant! (Not complaining, not one bit.)

So instead of sitting on a machine in the warmth of my house, I braved the rain, ran out to the shop and played a little farm ball. Now that harvest is stalled because of the weather, and mostly because what farm shop isn’t stacked with machinery and what-not, playing ball in the shop isn’t like regular basketball.

Nope, you have to make up your own rules, call your own shots and award points and rewards accordingly…and you need to know when to call the game.

So, here’s my lesson for the night…let’s see if you can find the deeper meaning:

Sometimes you have to take an outside shot...sometimes from behind the Gehl cutter. Double points if you don't break out the glass in the tractor.

Sometimes you have to take an outside shot…sometimes from behind the Gehl cutter. Double points if you don’t break out the glass in the tractor.

Hitting a three is always a challenge in basketball. Now hit one from behind an air seeder. It's not just the distance you shoot from, but the obstacles in your way and whether or not you make the shot, no matter what you're facing.

Hitting a three is always a challenge in basketball. Now hit one from behind an air seeder. It’s not just the distance you shoot from, but the obstacles in your way and whether or not you make the shot, no matter what you’re facing.

The only triple in this shot was the tractor I was standing behind. Follow-through is a must in the game...basketball or otherwise.

The only triple in this shot was the tractor I was standing behind. Follow-through is a must in the game…basketball or otherwise.

Your obstacles don't have to be something new, and your answers don't have to reinvent the wheel...use what's in front of you. You won't be the first tackling that particular problem, and you most certainly are not the last. Even if your problem is the size of an old Massey Ferguson combine. Get the job done.

Your obstacles don’t have to be something new, and your answers don’t have to reinvent the wheel…use what’s in front of you. You won’t be the first tackling that particular problem, and you most certainly are not the last. Even if your problem is the size of an old Massey Ferguson combine. Get the job done. (Oh, and doesn’t everyone have an old fridge in their hay shed?)

Most importantly, know when to say when...and tonight it was losing the ball under the combine, and not wanting to go after it. Sometimes it's not worth getting dirty over...

Most importantly, know when to say when…and tonight it was losing the ball under the combine, and not wanting to go after it. Sometimes it’s not worth getting dirty over…

 

 

 

 

Val’s Farm-ous Lasagna

When I think about my hours spent in the kitchen on the farm, my first instinct is to grab my lasagna pan. Whenever we work cattle, have a crew out to help or need to work together on a project, I know that I can never go wrong with the cheesy, meaty greatness that is my “Farm-ous Lasagna.”

So here it is…AND I have a crew to feed it to today!

This is what we’re doing:

This is corn that has been chopped and will be used this winter to feed our cattle. We have a crew of 7 here today to help us get our feed ready!

This is corn that has been chopped and will be used this winter to feed our cattle. We have a crew of 7 here today to help us get our feed ready!

And I’ll be sure to explain it more later.

But for now, here’s the recipe:

Val’s Farm-ous Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • ground beef, browned (I use 1 1/2 pounds of meat, but not everyone likes their lasagna THAT meaty, use your discretion.)
  • 1 can pasta sauce
  • 4 cups shredded cheese of your choosing (I prefer the pizza mix, because it melts so yummy!)
  • 1 22 oz. container cottage cheese (I use low-fat…which is almost laughable because of the amount of cheese in my lasagna, but I didn’t ask your opinion, now did I? 🙂 )
  • lasagna noodles, about 12, depending on your pan size, cooked al dente’ and drained/rinsed

1) Add pasta sauce and browned hamburger together in a skillet. I make sure it’s all warmed together before layering my lasagna.

This is how I start my lasagna, with a layer of sauce.

This is how I start my lasagna, with a layer of sauce.

2) Layer your lasagna: I always start with a base of sauce/burger mixture at the bottom, then a layer of noodles, then a layer of sauce again, cottage cheese and shredded cheese. Continue layering, ending with shredded cheese that covers the whole pan. (I use one package of cheese in the layering, and one package just for the topping…I like cheese.) Like this:

3) Bake at 350* for about 30 minutes, or until you notice the sauce in the lasagna starts boiling.

Can we say, "YUM!"

Can we say, “YUM!”

4) Enjoy! And perhaps consider hitting the gym for a little extra time tonight. The beauty of this recipe? If possible, it tastes even better as leftovers. Unfortunately, it’s been a year or two since my boys left us any leftovers!

* I am participating in Indiana’s Family of Farmers Table Talk Series and received a gift in exchange for my participation.

Table Talk Contributor

Just a glimpse

After a post that I wrote two years ago went viral, I’ve had a slug of comments from people across the globe. Most are encouraging and supportive, some are people with genuine interest in learning more, and a few are down right hilarious!

But then there’s the detractors.

You know what I mean, right? They point out inadequacies and make you feel guilty for not including everything. So here goes nothing…

A few have chastised me for complaining about my farm life, and have encouraged me to spend more time outdoors, standing next to my hubby than at the keyboard, lamenting about my spot in life. To those people, I must apologize.

I didn’t mean for it to sound as if I’m ungrateful or bitter or pining away at my kitchen table, dreaming of a moment stolen with my spouse (although, that does sound a tad bit more romantic than real life). My post was merely a moments entertainment, that somehow struck a chord with a few hundred thousand people, give or take.

And my moments spent with Boss Man? Well, I don’t usually publicize them. You see, those are my special memories, that I keep close to my heart and they keep me going when our worlds seem so crazy. But just to give you proof, here’s a little glimpse:

I'm on the cutting edge of blizzard fashion, I know.

I check cows…usually at night, mostly in the winter. He must love me, when I go out looking like this, right???

My husband's comment when I asked him to take a picture of us working? "If I take the picture of you, won't they wonder why I'm not working too?"

My husband’s comment when I asked him to take a picture of us working? “If I take the picture of you, won’t they wonder why I’m not working too?”

Cleaned up and off the farm...hardly recognize us!

Cleaned up and off the farm…hardly recognize us!

Pitching fresh hay in calf shelters. It’s more fun when you work together!

teamwork, farmwork

Working together…these moments mean the most.

 

Animal care – it’s what we do…an update

Last spring I wrote about a little calf on our farm that we found had a broken jaw. In some cases, it may have been considered a lost cause, but our vets are pretty special, and most farmers that I know would do anything to alleviate pain and suffering in an animal.

This is what “Darrel” looked like when he was in the process of being fixed (read the original story here):

broken jaw fixed on calf

The calf is still sedated, but the jaw is now aligned and secured to heal. Notice the feeding tube, so that proper nutrition can be maintained.

And I’m happy to say that this is “Darrel” now:

And this is the calf a few months later!

And this is the calf a few months later!

Injured calf on the mend

Even with a broken jaw, this calf was able to continue to get the nutrition it needed.

So why share such a story? Well, it seems so many times we hear the evils of farms and ranches that raise animals for food…and most of the times those stories are exaggerated, fabricated or taken out of complete context. But it doesn’t change the fact that our farm and farms just like ours do the best that we can, for each and every animal that we raise.

Including a small calf with a broken jaw.

Sometimes it doesn’t turn out like the fairytale we wish, sometimes the cause is lost before you even begin the fight, but as we weigh the benefits and the risks, the pros and the cons, we all have one thing in common: we want to eliminate needless suffering.

Sometimes that takes a round or two of antibiotics, sometimes it takes a call to the veterinarian and a surgery…and sometimes it means letting go and making sure that the animal is put to rest as quickly as possible.

But I will admit, I like the happy endings a lot better.