Thankful Thursday – North Dakota

What? I’m thankful for the state I live in? Really? You betcha!

Yesterday North Dakota (and to be fair, South Dakota) celebrated their “birthdays,” or the day that they were signed into the union. And although I complain about the 40 below temps, 100 inches plus of snow and other wonderful issues that come with winter, I truly love my state.

First of all, we have a budget surplus. For those that don’t understand what that means, it means that we take in more money than we spend. Shocking. I know.

Second, we have more jobs than we have people to work. No, this doesn’t mean we have NO unemployed people, but there are definitely employment opportunities that are open, for many, many people. The key would be work ethic, responsibility and eagerness to actually work. It’s part of the reason that while much of the country is slipping backwards, we’re actually looking to the future and planning ahead. Another shocker. I know.

Third, I feel safe where I live. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t dangerous areas in ND, but right now, we’ve got it pretty good. And if you come in my yard, let me warn you that my two black labs will lick you to death if you’re friendly, but harass us, and they’re on their guard. And I hunt…if you get what I mean.

Our new puppy, Maggie, and our old foster-dog, Junior.

 

 

Fourth, I know my neighbors. Sometimes that’s not such a good thing, but for the most part, I feel blessed to know that if my kids are doing something they shouldn’t be, someone will tell me. It used to drive me nuts as a child, now I dig it.

Speaking of digging. Did I mention snow?

Now THAT's a snow bank!

 

 

Once upon a time, I tried to escape ND. I thought it was a mind-suck and a place that people came to die. I despised it, and everything it stood for. Thanks be to God that those times came and went quickly! I love my rural life, I love my prairie-dwelling companions and I wouldn’t trade it for the world…well, except for maybe a week or two.

Love sundogs and sunsets on the prairie!

 

 

Harvest 2011 in the Books

Yep, we’re done. What a relief! And can I tell you, this is the earliest we’ve been done with harvest in YEARS! Yay!

Yesterday I shot a few pictures…but I didn’t get there in time to get some of the shots I was dreaming of in my head. But this is my favorite from the day:

Waiting his turn.

 

 

I love seeing the excitement and joy in EJ’s eyes as he watches his dad and grandpa work. Out of all the boys, he has the most intense desire and connection to the farm…and he’s 4. He can tell you who owns what equipment, what it is and what his crops are (by the way, the little bales are his, and the big bales are his dad’s, just the same, the calves are all his, and the cows are dad’s). He knows how to get to each field, where he can and cannot go on the farm, and can sit in a tractor for a 12-hour day and not complain. Yet, he has no desire to write his numbers (I know he knows them, because he can read the numbers on a tractor), repeat the alphabet and switches colors at will (but will correct you with tractor colors). Yes, he will truly be a handful.

I’m hoping his stubborn streak changes by this spring…or else his kindergarten teacher will have to be creative in convincing him to share!

 

How NOT to Share Your Views

I had an opportunity to talk to some “urban” folk while on our trip to Hutchinson, KS, to speak at the #140Conf Small Town. It’s trips like this that make you realize just how many misconceptions are out there.

It was an eye-opening experience for me…but it’s one that I intend to relive and learn from, as often as possible.

First of all, the people at the conference weren’t necessarily “rural,” even if they were connected to a small town. And remember, the term “small town” is definitely relative. I would consider small anything less than 1,000, but that’s my experience. Some consider less than 100,000 small…I consider that a big chunk of our state! 🙂

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that I was in amongst a group of people that didn’t necessarily have farm connections. And some of my conversations made that very obvious.

For example, I was speaking to a wonderful woman from New York, who loved her local farmers and local farmer’s market, considered herself a vegetarian and enjoyed getting fish and organic eggs from happy, free chickens there. (Now, she did clarify that she probably actually qualified as a “pescetarian,” or someone who eats fish.)

When I tell people about my trip, their first response tends to be, “Well, did you tell her she’s wrong?”

No. No, I did not.

First of all, we were having a wonderful conversation, and I was telling her about my farm and our cows and how we raise things here. We were listening to each other and connecting, not debating.

Second, her reasoning wasn’t scientific, it was emotional. She didn’t say that her eggs were healthier, or that cattle were evil, or that I was destroying the world. Nope, she simply said she liked her farmer’s market and she liked happy, free chickens. How could I argue with that?

I guess I could have told her that chickens that are free, are rarely happy, unless they happen to be one of the leaders of the group. I could have explained how most birds, left to their own devices, will peck and claw and scratch at the weaker, smaller birds, until the bird dies. (You realize it’s called the “pecking order” for a reason, right?) I could have explained how some farms need to put little blinders on their birds when they’re all in one pen, so that they leave each other alone and don’t kill each other. I could have, but I didn’t.

Why?

Sometimes the soapbox isn’t the place to stand. Sometimes you make better connections, better relationships and better impressions by simply listening, learning and using the knowledge gained in the future. And it’s easier to hear down in the crowd, not up on a soapbox.

And maybe, just maybe, the next time she thinks about beef and farms and happy, free chickens, she’ll remember our conversation and remember another mother, just like her, that’s doing the best to raise her children the same as her. And maybe she’ll contact me through social media and ask the questions that she has about her food.

And that’s enough for me.

Why I Do It

Just moments ago, I finished speaking at the #140conf Small Town in Hutchinson, KS. I was terrified, but so grateful that I did it!

Here’s the gist of what I said…

There is a story to be told, but it’s YOUR story. If you don’t know it, no one else can share it. So many times, we look at our lives and say, “I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for that.”

Are you kidding me?

No one HAS time for anything. We must MAKE time. A minute here, a few minutes there…it’ll happen.

I just have to thank my good friend, Katie, for encouraging me to be here. I would like to thank all my rural friends and those that encourage my story…and I would ESPECIALLY like to thank all those that have made it possible for me to be here, by taking care of my family.

I’ll post more later, but I just had to make a shout out and thank some peeps!

Why Social Media?

A few weeks ago, I was reading a newspaper when I read a letter to the editor about the downfall of society occurring at the hands of social media. At first I dismissed it as a lash-out from someone who kept getting rejected from Facebook friends, but then I realized that even I have family members that question the importance of social media. They wonder, “Why?”

Let me explain why it’s important to ME.

1) As a stay-at-home mom, I find myself needing adult interaction. Yet, living on the farm and spending a lot of time at doctor’s appointments and what-not makes it difficult to have actual playdates, coffee breaks and other get-togethers. Through my blog, Facebook and/or Twitter, I can chat with a friend for a minute or two, and feel caught-up in the world.

2) I have met some AMAZING people through social media…and some of them I’ve never seen in person! In fact, one of my dearest friends I met through Twitter, and only met her in person a year ago (she only lives an hour away!). She’s one of my Prairie Mama companions and a true friend, a sounding board, a ball of energy and an amazing mother. She has taught me that quality can mean so much more than quantity…and when we get together with our other Prairie Mama Sarah, we can spend 30 minutes and cover every topic from labor and delivery, to breastfeeding in awkward places, to the role that social media can play in connecting agriculture to the consumer. We may not see each other often enough, but I’m grateful every day that I met her through social media!

Rural mothers...fast friends.

3) I can connect through social media. It’s amazing to see the connections in action. For example…imagine a busy mom in the city, hearing all this garbage about “industrial” ag and how our food isn’t produced in ways that will be sustainable for years to come and how it’s HER fault for not making wiser choices at the market. Since she’s only hearing the story from someone behind a desk a few hundred miles away, what else will she believe? But now, thanks to other means of communication, she can locate a farmer’s market, contact a local grower, or talk to someone who may be hundreds of miles away, but is actually INVOLVED in agriculture, and ask the questions that she has.

She can find out from farms, like ours, that our cattle spend the summer in their pastures, but winter where there’s better protection from the elements; she can talk to farmers that raise pigs, and find out how their barns can be climate-controlled; she can speak with a farmer that raises chickens, and find out how their facilities keep the birds healthy and safe. All of that, without ever having to leave her home. But better yet, she can leave her home knowing a farmer, and can put a face to the product…and she can find a local farm to visit.

She can research the different farming practices, talk to different types of farms, and decide for herself what types of products she wants to provide for her family. She can be an educated consumer…and a connected one.

4) I’m connecting to family members that I had lost touch with…and classmates as well. And in my opinion, anytime you connect with an old friend, it’s a good thing.

5) There is strength in numbers. When I type something, and I know that someone else agrees, or feels strongly enough to disagree, at least I’m able to have those conversations with as many people as I like. And sometimes it’s comforting to know that when you’re going through a tough situation, that others have your back.

I could go on and on about how thankful I am to have these opportunities today…how has social media made a difference in your life?

Thankful Thursday: One Year and Counting!

That’s right…I’ve been blogging for a whole year. I started this, after some encouragement from a dear friend, thinking that it would be a good way to let off steam, show my farm and talk about my boys. Ha! That didn’t quite work the way I planned, but oh well.

Future Farmer

EJ already knows he has big shoes to fill!

Boy, what a year it’s been! Last year, I talked about harvest, I talked about deer, I talked about school. I was frustrated that we didn’t know what was wrong with George, we traveled a LOT for his medical issues and we spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. And now, here we are…

We finally have a name, our days in the hospital will hopefully be fewer, but at least we now know what we’re dealing with and where to go from here. Our farm is still here, even when Mother Nature threw us some curveballs, and we have not be regulated out of existence…yet.

Life, as I know it, is pretty good. Even with as crazy as it gets. Plus, teaming up with my friends at The Real Farmwives of America and Friends has also been an AMAZING experience!

I never dreamed in a year’s time, that my blog would end up with almost 20,000 hits. That’s amazing to me. And I thank each and every one of you, for coming along for the ride.

I don’t know where the next year will take us, but we’re on our way!

And to celebrate the past year…I have a bit of a quiz and a giveaway for you! So here it goes:

Answer this question in the comment section below to enter: What is your favorite post on my blog? (Hint: There is no right answer!) Or why do you come back?

Want more entries? “Like” Wag’n Tales on Facebook. All Wag’n Tales friends on Facebook will be automatically entered!

Wondering what you’re winning? Well, it’ll be a really cool prize pack! Including a Fullerton Cookbook, an Ag Book of the Day or three, a Farmers Feed Families button down shirt and more! Winner will be drawn on September 9…so be sure to enter right away! (And pass it on to your friends!)

Blog post replay

George is having surgery today, so I’m setting up a few blog posts ahead of time. Any thoughts and prayers you can spare are gladly appreciated. He will have his tonsils and adenoids removed, as well as tubes put in his ears. We’re hoping this will help cut down on the number of strep infections and ear infectios that land him in the hospital.

My hope and prayer is that the surgery goes smoothly, without complication, and the recoery is quick. High hopes, right? But with the short stick that George has been dealt with, I think he deserves a run of good luck and complication-free life! 🙂 So keep those prayers coming!

So here’s a replay on a post I did back in December…it rings true today, just as much as it did then:

An open invitation

2 Dec

I think the activities of the last few weeks are kind of catching up to me. That’s the only way I can explain how I feel right now. I was going through some of my e-mails and other “office” type stuff when a tweet came across Tweetdeck that had a profound effect on me.

Normally, I don’t let these kind of things bother me too much, because if I did, I’d be crazy. But this was a link to the article that Time did on the high cost of cheap food. Basically it was a piece written by someone who sits behind a desk, has food at their fingertips and never again thinks about where his next meal will come from.

Here’s my challenge, or perhaps an open invitation, to these types of people:

Come, spend 24 hours fighting the wind, snow and ice of a driving blizzard, while trying to carry calves or herd cows into a barn, just so that they are safe and protected in the storm. Then sit at the computer when you get in, while wondering if you should lay down for a few minutes, or just head back out, and while at the computer, read an article that claims that you don’t do enough to provide safe food. Then you can complain about where your food comes from.

Now THAT’s a snow bank!

Spend countless hours, weeks, months preparing to put your crop in. Spend every dime you’ve made in the last year, in hopes that you will make that, or maybe even a little more, in the coming year. Plant your seeds, watch it start to grow, take care of it the best you know how. And then watch as Mother Nature decides that she wants your crop…and have it wiped out in the blink of an eye. Then read about someone who thinks you should be happy enough with the fact that you’ll get paid a portion of what your crop was worth. That even though you have nothing to show for all of your hard work, it doesn’t matter, because you chose that line of work. That if you really wanted to, you could always get a job in town, never worrying about where food comes from, because the grocery store never runs out. Watch that unfold before your eyes…then you can complain about where your food comes from.

Put in a 20 hour day, working from before sun-up to past sun-down, taking care of whatever comes up during the day. Spend countless hours outside, loading bales by hand, helping a cow deliver a calf, fixing fence, changing tires. Then listen as someone on the radio claims that the crops you raise are going to cause our children to die at a younger age. That our country is fatter because of the unhealthy food that is grown. All while the same people are sitting behind a desk for eight hours, children are in school longer and in activities less, homework consumes all available time after school, as opposed to activities outside, menial labor is seen as substandard employment and fast-food is the king of family meals. Listen to that all day…then you can complain about where your food comes from.

All safe and warm inside, no matter what’s going on outside.

Watch your son’s first ball game from a video tape, celebrate your wife’s birthday two months late, walk into church while the second hymn is being sung…all because a cow was calving and needed help, you had one more round to make before the storm let loose, or the crop needed to be planted, sprayed or harvested. Have your life played out around seasons, weather and all things that you have no control over. Work in those conditions…then you can complain about where your food comes from.

My family strives hard every day to make sure that our work ensures that the food we produce is the safest, healthiest and cheapest it can be for the consumer, as well as for ourselves. If we abuse our land, our animals or our crops in any way, then not only is our bottom line affected, but our whole lives are as well.

Fortunately, we live in a country where people don’t have to do any of the things I’ve wrote above, and still be able to complain…loudly and publicly. People attack an industry they don’t understand, because it’s easier to lay blame than to accept it. But the ag-community is responding. Perhaps someday soon there will be more articles in the national news thanking our farmers, ranchers and those that work hard so we can provide for all. Perhaps.

A girl can dream, right?