I have a confession to make - I'm pale. I know, I know - I don't actually hide it all that well. Or at all really.
I was born this way and have tried everything under the sun to deal with it.
When I was younger, adult women used to encourage me to get outside more, skip the sunscreen, use a tanning bed. I was often told, "it's OK, that burn will fade to tan".
(Mine doesn't by the way. It goes from lobster-burnt to bubbled blisters to peeling skin right back to pale).
By the time I was in high school, the girls around me were already talking about how "disgusting" they felt when they weren't tan, making me even more self aware. Of course I was less tan than anyone of them.
Women are great at this - tearing themselves down around each other, inadvertently making every other woman in the room feel self conscious and applying pressure for every other woman to also publicly confess her own shortcomings. We do it with weight, we do it with hair, we do it mothering ability, we do it with skin color.
So back in high school, I started using my lunch breaks to visit the tanning beds but to little avail. I could tan every day for a week to build up a barely noticeable bronze, and it would be gone the day I didn't use the tanning bed.
I remember friends encouraging me to get memberships at multiple tanning salons so I could tan more than once a day. Luckily, I lived in Illinois, a state that regulated the frequency a person could use the tanning beds or its hard telling what permanent damage I may have done.
Of course this was before we knew the real dangers.
Five years ago, my mom, dad and I were all in the truck with my brand new baby boy heading to meet with the lactation consultant. Mace was 4 days old.
My mom's phone rang, it was her doctor. She was quiet, then I heard her voice, shaky and barely able to talk, ask, "But will I be alright?"
The spots they had removed from her skin a week ago had tested positive for melanoma.
She would indeed be alright. She would get by far better than many of the 76,000+ people diagnosed with melanoma each year - 10,000 of whom will die from the cancer.
Another 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer will be treated each year.
But it would not be easy. For the last five years I have watched her continuously nurse wounds on her legs, face, neck and back as they cut chunks of cancerous skin away from her body.
I have watched her change dressings on open wounds from chemo cream she had to apply to nearly her entire body.
She's offered little complaint about it, silently dealing with the aftermath of trying to achieve society's idea of "healthy skin" for decades.
So that of course changed her mind, our minds, about tanning and sunscreen. So we switched course to the "healthier" alternatives of sunless tanning - from lotions to spray.
A few weekends ago at a family wedding, a friend made a comment on my tanned skin. I heard myself replying, "Oh I have to get a spray tan if I am going to wear a dress or its gross!" And then I grabbed my youngest child off the door he was trying to climb up.
And when I looked at him, my stomach knotted. Both my boys seem to have inherited my pale skin.
And I just told someone the skin I was born with was "gross" if I didn't do something to fix it. The skin they were born with.
Granted, the stigma for boys to be tan isn't nearly comparable to that of girls. But I've already heard people comment to them things like, "Boy, you need to get some sun on those legs!"
Additionally, the reality that I am raising someone's boyfriend, someone's husband, someone's father, never leaves me.
Do I want my boys growing up thinking a woman must hide her skin color? That the only way for a woman to feel or be beautiful is to get a coat of stain applied before a night out? That in order for a women to wear a bikini or a dress she must find a way, regardless of long term impact, to get tan?
Do I want my boys skipping out on sunscreen to try and achieve a more "acceptable" skin tone for themselves?
Of course not. No mother wants that.
I'm not really sure why I find myself - my body- so much more acceptable if I have tan skin. It's a fleeting thing for me. Regardless of how I achieve it, it never lasts more than a day or two. So a majority of my life I have spent ghostly pale, and here I am almost 30 and still struggling with that?
When I look at my boys I think they are perfect just the way they are.
When I see another woman with pale skin I'm jealous at how well she wears it, how comfortable she looks.
I'm not really sure why I feel like I can't be happy in my own skin, or why I feel the need to change it in order to wear a dress to a wedding or a swimsuit to the beach.
I imagine it's from years of having it engrained that "tan is beautiful". And even though most days I probably appear more concerned with my boys, my livestock, and my job - I'm still a woman. I still want to feel beautiful.
What I'm recognizing now, is that I don't want that insecurity, regardless of where it came from, to shape my boys view on themselves, or on women. Specifically on their girlfriend or their wife.
So I'm going to try one final thing to deal with my pale skin. The only thing I haven't tried yet.
I'm going to try just leaving it be. I'm going to try not just living in, but embracing, the pale skin that God gave me.
Wish me luck!
Over the last few years I've had the privilege of speaking to women from all aspects of our industry. One question keeps coming up.
Other farm moms always ask, "How do you have time to stay in shape?"
Every time it's asked, I have a lousy answer. I just smile and shrug, or reply "I don't know!"
For moms on the farm, life is so different. Our mornings already start earlier than most with morning chores. For moms
who farm full time, there isn't a break between sun up and sun down. Many of us leave the farm for a career during the day, only to return to more chores in the evening. We often eat meals on the go, in the tractor or in the barn.
Add in all the normal, non-farm things we do - getting kids to and from practices, cooking dinner, cleaning, helping with homework - and the mere thought of working out seems exhausting.
Many of us have thought about joining diet plans or workout challenges. But those things just don't fit our lifestyles. Starting the morning off with a 150 calorie shake won't get us through morning calf checks and working out twice a day, six days a week? Not going to happen, there's no time!
So why do other farm moms ask me about exercising? Is it because I'm the perfect size and weight? Hardly. Is it because I eat six small perfectly portioned meals a day? Not even close. Is it because I have some kind of education or expertise in diet or exercise? Not unless reading Runners World counts.
The reason I believe women ask me about working out is because of two things - I light up with passion when I talk about running and I've managed to stay relatively stable in my running even after having kids and taking on new challenges in my career and on the farm.
So for the first time I really thought about it, and the answers came relatively easily.
How do I find the time??
1. Support from the Family
My mother-in-law is a three time Boston Marathoner. My husband grew up in a household where Saturday mornings his mother got to run and during the week his dad waited to head to the tractor until his Mom finished her morning runs. There have even been mornings that my husband had to leave early and my father-in-law volunteered to come sit with the boys until I got home from a run!
I take pride knowing that my boys understand it's important for Mommy to have her time and they see their dad support that each morning.
Remind your family of the benefits of having this time, a few days a week. You'll be a better mom, a better spouse and a better farm hand because of it.
2. Wear a Fitbit (or other device)
About a year ago my company did an employee challenge for six weeks and along with it we were given a discount on Fitbits. I purchased one and was shocked to see how little I actually moved during the day, or on my off days. I immediately made it a point to find more ways to move when I was not specifically exercising and it's still rare to see me without my Fitbit on. Having the feedback each day allows me to adjust accordingly. I'll park further away when I go pick up feed. I'll walk lambs an extra lap with the boys at night. I'll take the long way around to do chicken chores or walk to the mailbox instead of grabbing the mail on my way by.
3. Park the tractor... Walk... Lift
Farm life is labor intense but some days we avoid being physical at all costs. I started challenging myself to do more physical work. At least once a day I try to find something I can do more physically. I can walk to check on cows or corn instead of drive. I carry water by buckets to the chickens. I can carry those bales a short distance instead of hauling them in my truck.
Having my Fitbit on all day helps me to know where I am at when I get home from work and helps me know how many more steps I need to get in. And finding ways around the farm, or even in the house, to get those steps is usually pretty easy!
4. Fall in love with running!
I can't tell you how many times I hear women say, "I hate running!". (Half the time that's what I hear from my running friends!)
If you have never tried, or haven't tried recently, give running a chance. There is no cheaper, more effective stress relieving, calorie burning, sweat inducing joy than running.
It can literally be done anywhere for any amount of time and a small investment in a decent pair of shoes is all you need. I travel for work, and often have an irregular schedule. Being a runner means I can work out whether I'm at home or on the road, at the farm or at a stock show, whether I have twenty minutes or two hours.
Start small - focus on being able to run for 10 minutes at a time. Then 15. Make yourself stick to a walk/ run plan for a month and then see how you feel.
Listen - I was the girl in school who would literally do ANYTHING to avoid running the mile. Now I'm a 5 time marathon finisher. If I can run, ANYONE can run!
5. Always remember, tomorrow is another day.
How have I stayed committed all these years? I give myself a break. Too frequently actually.
I take days off, I eat cupcakes (I actually ate three on Sunday after my kids went to bed. But in my defense they really didn't need any more sugar.)
I keep myself in love with running and exercising by not beating myself up over it.
I actually tried one of those online 30 day challenges a few months back. I found myself so obsessive over working out more, eating less that I couldn't think of anything else. I became a hungry, tired, mean lady! After about two weeks I knew there was no way I could continue anything that extreme plus I gained two pounds! When I looked back I realized I hadn't enjoyed anything about the challenge. And so I stopped it right then. It's not sustaible
if you don't enjoy it.
When I have a bad day, or bad week, I don't dwell on it. But I also don't wait for the first of the year, first of the month or first of the week to start again. I get my butt back to it as quickly as possible, and if it takes me too long I can always count on my running friends to drag me back onto the streets.
Farm moms, like all moms, are busy. The real key is making this time for you a priority. In the same way you would never skip morning feeding, don't skip out on this time for YOU!
Two weeks ago, April 23, was the day I had been waiting for since I successfully coerced my farmer husband into letting me take over sixty acres!
To read about #my60Acres from the start, go here and scroll down to the bottom!
It was finally planting day! Picking the right time to plant involves a little bit of planning, some major guessing and hopefully some good luck!
Long before planting however I worked with Matt to figure out exactly what type of corn seed we would use.
There's a lot of Internet myth surrounding seed selection - especially corn seed. The truth is that as farmers, the decision on what seeds to buy, from what companies, is completely up to us!
There are multiple companies - some rather larger, some pretty small, that develop and sell seed.
Each company has numerous varieties - each with different traits, different growing seasons, different soil preferences.
For #My60Acres, I knew I would be using Pfister Seeds. Pfister is a smaller seed company that is owned by Dow Agriscience.
We like doing business with Pfister because we have access to the latest technology while also having benefit of doing business with a smaller company. Everyone we work with is truly engaged in our success as growers - enough so that Matt decided to start selling Pfister seed two years ago.
From there we still had to select what hybrid we would use.
Nearly all corn planted in this country is a hybrid. This means they take two parent lines and cross them for the seed production. The resulting offspring of those crosses is a more effective seed than either parent line. This is a breeding technique done on nearly all corn - conventional, non GMO and organic.
We also knew that we would need "Roundup Ready" corn, which is a GMO developed trait. Because we use no till practices and cover crops to reduce soil erosion, increase soil health and the health of the organisms living within our soils , we rely on glyphosate (Roundup) to control weeds and kill our cover crops.
If we left the cover crop standing and allowed weeds to take over, our corn would have to fight for resources and wouldn't produce a profitable yield. And the reality is we have to be profitable to be sustainable!
We also have a choice on how many days we want the corn to mature in. Most field corn grown in the US ranges from 80+ days to 118+.
We typically grow 108-116 day corn. Because we have a longer growing season in Missouri we can plant corn with longer growing season but this also comes with risk of not drying down quickly enough in the fall - we need the corn to be dry before the first frost.
Corn that hasn't dried down soon enough runs the potential of being damaged in the field or in storage and will not be a quality product.
I also wanted a trait called BT - this is another GMO developed trait. The BT trait (which was taken from a soil bacterium) is deadly to European corn boer - a nasty pest that can reduce a corn field to nothing. The trait eliminates the need for us to use any routine spray insecticide!
BT is actually a very selective trait - it's only deadly to pests within the caterpillar family. Chemical sprays we had to use before BT traits were deadly to nearly all insects, something we now recognize as being harmful to the ecosystem surrounding our farms. The BT trait very much compliments the ecological plan on our farm!
With all that in mind, I selected a popular Pfister Hybrid for our growing area - Pfister 2770.
Selecting the time to plant is a gamble each year. Getting corn in the ground as early as possible allows a farmer to take advantage of early spring rains. But getting in too early can mean corn is washed away from hard rains, flooded out, or it turns off cold and the corn simply doesn't come up.
We have to wait for the soil to reach certain temperatures and also want to do our best to ensure the corn will have adequate moisture during pollination.
With all that in mind, we pulled the trigger and decided to start planting. Matt actually started planting corn a few weeks ago but my 60 acres was the last up.
Matt helped me to navigate the John Deere 8200 with John Deere 1780 split row planter. We have a smaller planter by modern standards - 12 rows at a time. Some farmers today plant with 48 row planters!
Our tractor has several monitors in the cab that help us to make sure the right number of seeds are being planted in the right spot. We also have "automatic row shut off" which uses GPS technology to make sure we do not plant over anywhere we have already planted. When we get to end rows the planter boxes can shut off a single row at a time to ensure we do not use any more seed than necessary!
This was a pretty exciting day for me! Matt is putting a rain gauge up right next to #My60Acres so I can monitor rain fall the rest of the growing season!
Stay tuned to see my corn come out of the ground!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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