Lord, get this man out of my house...
He’s home for dinner, again. It’s not that I don’t love him home, but it’s the wrong time of year for him to be home.
Normally by now I would be starting to forget what he looks like in the daylight, but this year he has yet to have a late night. We have exactly zero acres of our crop planted. (With the exception of 1/3 acre of sweet corn.)
So what’s the hold up?
Well, it’s been raining. Every few days for quite a while we’ve been getting rain. The obvious problem with wet ground is that machinery will get stuck and tear up the ground while trying to plant.
The less obvious problem with wet ground is the low quality planting conditions. When seed is planted into cold, wet soils the seed can actually rot right in the ground, and never come up.
Corn seeds will sprout at 52 degrees soil temperature, but we’d prefer closer to 60 degrees. Our temps have been bouncing back to the 40s, which makes it less than ideal planting conditions even if it hadn’t been so wet.
Even if we could have planted, the wet and cold conditions would have likely created an uneven stand. Stand is a farming word used to describe all the plants in the field. A healthy stand is where the plants all emerges from the ground within 24 hours. Uniformity in the crop, or an even stand, is important for management, pollination and harvest.
An uneven stand is harder to manage, more likely to have pollination trouble and more challenging to combine, almost always resulting in lower yields.
OK. So why not just plant late?
A late start means the timing on everything is off.
The spring rains we count on to get things going will be gone. The summer drought we can nearly always count on will hit at a time when our crops need rain the most.
An early frost will be deadly to a late planted crop.
Luckily, seed technology in the last decade has come a long way to help us deal with some of the perils thrown our way. This is even more true when conditions are less than ideal, like this year.
So now what?
We wait. As soon as it dries out enough they will start running and running hard.
Spraying first, followed by corn planting and finally beans will go in.
May 25 is the last day we can plant corn and still have full coverage insurance on it.
So say a prayer for us and all the farm families running behind this year. Pray not only that we get the crop in, but that we can do so safely as the days ahead will bring long hours.
Finally, we have to acknowledge that we are still the lucky ones, as many families who were in the destructive paths of floods will not have any fields at all to plant for 2019.
Check back with us soon - hopefully we will have progress to report.
I woke up in Atlanta this morning.
Normally that would be fine. But today it’s hard. Today is my youngest son’s birthday.
He’s at home. And I’m in Atlanta.
Working mom shame.
I’m doing this wrong.
He’s probably going to be on a therapist’s couch at age 32 because of abandonment issues stemming from his Mom’s business trip on his 5th birthday.
But given I am here, and he is there, I did what I normally do on Tuesdays and went for a run. At first I was sad. And then I got irritated. Just hang on one second here...
What exactly was I beating myself up about?
I called him first thing to tell him how much I love him. I sang him Happy Birthday, and sent him off to have a great day - all the things I would have done if I was there, minus actually being there.
He hung up the phone happy as a horse. (Not Maximum Security.)
No, I couldn’t physically be there because life happens. Real life. And real life happens all the time.
And maybe that’s OK.
Maybe it’s OK that my 5 year old realizes that even on his birthday life doesn’t stop for him.
In a world where culture tells parents to cater to every need of a child, maybe its OK that he realizes the world doesn’t actually revolve around him.
Maybe it’s actually a good thing that he learns that I still love him more than life itself, even if life has me 800 miles away on his birthday?
Reality is that moms can’t have it all, all the time and that work and life rarely actually balance. Real life is give and take - and some days even the 5 year old has to give.
Maybe it’s a good thing that he sees that and feels that and realizes it’s all going to be just fine despite that.
I might actually be making him a better husband and father in the years to come - flexible, willing and supportive. Just like his father.
So maybe I haven’t messed it all up... yet anyway.
My farmer doesn’t write. In fact, he rarely shares his thoughts unless prompted. Below is a collaboration we worked on, written from him.
She didn’t understand. And I didn’t get that she didn’t understand.
When I came back to the farm, I was just continuing on what had been done for six generations in my family. I didn’t know we were so different - the hours, the seasons, the lifestyle.
Farming was completely normal to me. For a long time, I missed just how not normal it was for her. I missed how hard it was.
I’m not saying I’m perfect now, but going into our eleventh planting season, I can guarantee I’m better today than I was before.
I’ve figured out a few things about balancing a love affair between my wife and farming - and because my wife runs a somewhat successful blog, I’m being forced to talk about them.
We discussed this for a few hours, but here’s my top advice for being married to a woman when you’re also married to the farm.
1. Give her a time.
She’s going to call - each night - she’s going to call. And she will say something like, “Will you be home tonight?”
She will probably tip toe around the question because she’s used to getting a jerk response from you. If you’ve given her one too many this week, she might not even call tonight (call her if she doesn’t.)
I used to get irritated with the call because first, of course I was coming home. I always come home. Where else would I go?
But second, I don’t know when I’ll be there. I never know and just when I think I do know something breaks down or breaks out.
At some point, maybe after reading one of her blog posts, I started to realize how strange my hours were for her. I knew she grew up in a house where her Dad came home the same time most nights, I just didn’t respect how challenging that made this new life for her.
At some point, I realized she wasn’t asking for an exact time when she called. And by then, she knew well enough that things happen. She was only asking for a rough idea. Most nights, the question was really more about if they should eat without me or wait, if she should wait up, or go to bed.
I finally figured out it’s a simple thing - stop the tractor man, and tell her when you’re coming home. And when something breaks - cause it will - send her a text and tell her you’ll be late.
2. Respect her time.
I spent a few years thinking I needed to leave as early as I wanted and come home as late as I needed. Before kids, this wasn’t a huge thing. But after kids, it was. A major shift for us was when I started to respect her time. Five to 6:00 a.m. is reserved for her running. And if I can respect that most mornings, she’s much more understanding the mornings I do have to take off before she can get her run in.
I do what I can to give her time for her friends and family and her career. Usually I can’t go along, and I know that was weird for her, but I do what I can so she can be where she needs, or wants, to be. Family and friends are important - she needs those people when I’m stuck in the tractor and combine for weeks on end.
3. Give her time.
This farming thing isn’t normal for most people - it took me a while to realize that. Even once she’s living it, most of her friends still won’t be. Give her time to get used to it, listen to her when she’s upset, and finally, most importantly, give her your time.
Invite her into your buddy seat - don’t wait for her to ask. Take her along to check cows. You can’t always leave your world, but you can invite her into yours and when she’s with you, she’ll understand a whole lot more about what you’re doing.
And if she spends enough time in your world, she’s likely to fall in love with it too.
Finally - take your boots off. She just cleaned the floor and she has no idea how it’s possible for all this dirt to come into one house. (I’m still working on that one.)
The night before our ten year wedding anniversary, I asked my farmer, “Did you ever think you’d made a mistake?”
Without missing a beat he replied, “No.” Then looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, “Did you?”
I looked sideways,looked backed at him and said, “Yes. I did.”
But let me explain.
The first growing season.
I remember being a new farm wife, and landing abruptly in the midst of those seasons - planting and harvest - and being so completely overwhelmed. Completely. Overwhelmed.
I didn’t grow up on a farm. I didn’t understand the cost of farming - time and sweat and money. And I hadn’t been around long enough to witness any of the rewards.
All I felt was the heavy, unrelenting costs of this crazy lifestyle sitting on my shoulders. I wasn’t alone in carrying the costs, I just seemed to be the only one in our world being shoved into the ground from the weight.
The other farm women around me were so strong. They laughed about the hours and joked about the costs. They went on with daily life - driving tractors or working their off-farm jobs, changing light bulbs and carrying out garbage- without a hint of the weight they were carrying.
I would look at them and think, “I am not the right woman. I am not strong enough for farming.”
I thought farm life would be romantic, he thought his new farm wife would be strong. It wasn’t and I wasn’t either.
I had fooled him, he had fallen for it, and now it would sink us both.
I don’t remember why I waited. Maybe the pull of a farmer is just that strong. Maybe the stubborn gene God knitted into me. Maybe it was because all around us, on both sides of the family, people didn’t give up on marriage.
Likely it was because each time I was at a breaking point the heavens opened up and it rained. Literally. And rain sent my farmer home to me.
Whatever it was, I stuck it out. I waited. And what now feels like overnight even though I know it wasn’t, something changed. I woke up one morning, harvest was over and we had made it through the entire planting and harvest season without missing a beat. Then all the sudden we had made it through another. Prices were up, prices were down, droughts dried us up, floods soaked us, but we just kept on - together.
When we said “I do”, ten years ago, I wasn’t strong enough to be a farmer’s wife. I had no idea what I was signing up for and I wasn’t anywhere near the woman I would need to be.
But I waited. He waited. And eventually, like it always does with time, this farm turned me into what I needed to be. What God had really destined me to be - a farmer’s wife.
After saying “I do” to a farmer I was dropped into a farmer’s world. In a farmer’s world, people work. And I mean work. From age 3 until age 93, they work, sunup to sundown, often seven days a week.
Conventional thought would tell you this would make a person miserable, drive them crazy even. People need a good work/life balance, heavy on the life, to be happy and healthy.
Yet, with my own eyes, I was witnessing the complete opposite.
Farmers, especially the old ones who had been around to see it all and still kept working, were genuinely happy people. Not “LOL” happy, but content. Farmers are people who work everyday and never really talk about quitting.
The more years I spend in their world, the more I’ve come to realize - work makes us happy. We need work.
While some of my generation is screaming for work/life balance - which is often slang for less work and more life- I am silently thinking, “You don’t need more life. You need more work.”
Work gives us purpose. It gives us meaning. It allows us to experience frustrations, accomplishments, joys and angers - all things that are uniquely human. Work forces us out of bed and out the door. Work keeps our minds fresh and bodies fit.
Now I’m still a millennial. So don’t hear me wrong. I don’t mean we need to spend 70 hours a week in a dark basement pushing papers for suits upstairs who don’t know our first names.
What I mean is that we need to find work worth pursuing. Work that matter to us, and to others. Work where we can draw a straight line between what we do and why it matters.
For some of us that might be our day jobs. For others, it might be the work we do before and after our day jobs - at home, in our communities.
Maybe it is a career with mission so powerful it lights a fire inside you. Maybe that work is volunteering for a cause that’s changing the world. Maybe that work is right in your home, raising babies that will someday move their own mountains.
Whatever it is, what we are all chasing isn’t a break. It isn’t a vacation (although the occasional one is good). It isn’t more time to sit or sleep or scroll Facebook.
What we are after, what our maker designed us to pursue, is work that matters. And when we find it, we should chase it like crazy. And then, when we are called home, we can look at God and say, “Father, I did the work you created me for. I did it well and I did for as long as you allowed.”
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23
On a farm, there’s ALWAYS work.
I try not to lose sight of the blessing that is for our family. Today, a snow day, it meant we could say yes when our oldest asked if he could go to work instead of going to daycare.
He’s had his eye on an expensive LEGO set and he’s looking for ways to earn a few more dollars for it.
So today, like a lot of farm kids, he will go to work. He will sweat a little. He’ll freeze a little. He will probably get hollered at a little and likely goof some things up.
More importantly, he will experience how good lunch tastes when you’ve been working longer than the sun. He will experience some pride in completing a job or two, and he will experience some frustration at failed tasks.
He will very likely learn a few things he shouldn’t, and hopefully a few things he should, from working side by side with Dad, Papa and Great-Grandpa all day. (Great Grandpa is really the one we have to watch.😉)
At the end of the day, he will walk away tired and dirty, but with a few more bucks towards a lego set that I’ll undoubtedly step on in the middle of the night.
And at the end of his childhood, built around days like this, he will walk into the world with a true grasp on the importance of showing up, working hard, and providing for himself and others.
“A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs 13:4
You’ve made the decision, you’ve found your pup, and you’re bringing a Great Pyrenees livestock guardian home! Now what...
The following are steps we recommend to our clients that are bringing a pup to their farm to serve as a livestock guardian.
These steps assume that your Great Pyrenees was bred as a working dog, comes from working parents and was imprinted and lived with livestock for his first 8 weeks of life.
Home base is our term for where the dog will eat, rest and consider his home. For a successful bonding, home base should be as close to the livestock as possible, preferably with direct access to the animals (with the exception of poultry).
We recommend setting up a small crate that the pup can be housed in at night for the first few evenings at home. The crate will provide additional security as well as direction on where home base is. Working pups will take great comfort being with their livestock - it’s where they were made to be.
The most common mistake people make when bringing home their pup is thinking the puppy is too small to be left at his home base. Instead, they bring the pup to the house or garage. This makes it difficult to transition the pup to where he belongs and impedes the bonding process.
A working dog must always have access to food and water away from where the livestock can get to it. If stock smell dog food, they will try to eat it. Once a puppy thinks he has to protect his food from the livestock, he will no longer view them as part of his flock and instead will view them as a threat. A timid pup can be scared off by this and never bond correctly. An aggressive pup can start down the road of aggression towards livestock and also will not bond correctly.
We have self feeders in the walkways of our barns. Our dogs have access to dog food 24 hours a day, but never where sheep can get to it.
Working dogs will have spent their entire lives up to this point with livestock. They will have been imprinted from birth with the scents and sounds of their animals. Once your pup arrives home, an important process is starting - the critical bonding period. The pup, having been pulled from his litter mates, is now searching for his flock to bond with. The first weeks at his farm are the most crucial to establishing his bond.
If you expect your pup to be a working dog and truly bond to the livestock, he needs to be placed in his home base and spend nearly all of his time in the first few weeks with the animals. His human social time should always happen at home base but kept to a minimal during the first five days or so.
A dog who spends his time with his human family will bond with them, and view his humans as his flock. This is a great way to create a loyal family guardian and pet - but it is not a great way to create an loyal livestock dog.
A Pyrenees who bonds to his human family first will be less likely to engage in evening guarding of stock and more likely to wander during the day. Wandering often starts when a dog bonded to his human family goes off looking for them when they have left for the day.
This step will be done to different degrees at each farm, depending on expectations of the dog. At a minimum, most of us want to be able to catch our working dogs for health checks and routine vet care, although some of the best working dogs in the country are near impossible to catch.
After a week or so of minimal contact, it’s time to start introducing human interaction to your pup. You should have already been socializing some, but now you can increase the time spent and even have some play time. If your farm needs dogs to stay strictly with livestock, your human socialization will be minimal. If you’re wanting to enjoy companionship with your dog as well, you can gradually increase the time you spend with him.
Socialization time should still always occur at or near home base.
Some other quick tips to think about:
Good luck and enjoy your new security system! A good LGD is quite literally worth their weight in gold.
How was your Christmas?
It was amazing. It was wonderful. We are so blessed, beyond what we deserved. My heart is full. Or at least, that’s what I am supposed to say. And I take my role seriously, so of course, that's what I say.
But how was Christmas, really?
It was exhausting.
Since the turkey from Thanksgiving cooled, I’ve been in my excel spreadsheets making lists. Making budgets. Checking them all twice. And twice more.
I’ve been browsing, ordering and sending back. I’ve been answering the never-ending requests of, “Do you have any ideas for...”
I’ve been cussing at missed deadlines for the custom things and praying for delivery of the late-things.
I’ve been cooking. And baking. And shopping. And searching. And wrapping.
No really, tell us how Christmas was.
It was a little disappointing. The reactions to those “perfect” gifts I found was nonchalant.
The dip I found on Pinterest that promised to make this the #BestChristmasEver was just OK.
The Christmas trip I planned for weeks that was sure to make this the most unforgettable Christmas ever? At times it felt more like a visit to an overcrowded nuthouse run by small children.
And then, on December 25, it was all over by 8:00 a.m. and left me in desperate need of a nap.
As a mom, I wanted everyone’s Christmas to be perfect. I wanted everyone to get just what they had hoped for. I wanted the meals to be amazing, the games to be fun, the company to be perfect.
Because, growing up, that’s how Christmas always felt to me – it felt perfect.
So the day after, when my oldest woke up and said, “Yesterday was the best Christmas ever,” I was confused.
When I quizzed him about it, he replayed Christmas from his eyes. “Mommy, remember the water slide I went down with Daddy and I wasn’t even scared? And then remember at church I got to sit with baby Beau? And when our friends were here and Papa won that game and it was so funny? And we both got new boots which was exactly what we told Santa we needed! And we played games all day and even Daddy got to stay home with us?”
My youngest, also wanting in on the recap added, “And it was Jesus’ birthday. And we had fun for Jesus’ birthday. And we watched that movie when Aunt Bethany says the pledge instead of praying!”
Their little voices carried on over breakfast, remembering all the fun they had over the last few days. In their eyes, maybe it was perfect.
Even though, we didn’t get the family picture. Even if they opened gifts in their underwear instead of Christmas pajamas. In spite of the fact the jeans I picked out myself, as a gift from my family, still somehow didn't fit.
I know in my heart, that Christmas is perfect with or without my help. Because Christmas is the celebration of Jesus coming here, to save me. And you, when none of us will ever be good enough to deserve saving.
Even knowing that truth, part of me, the mom part, still wants the experience of Christmas to be unforgettable. To be perfect. Like it was when I was a kid.
But maybe now, looking back, I can see that behind those perfect Christmases, there just might have been an exhausted Mom, in desperate need of a nap.
It was nearing 4:00 p.m. He’d been in his singlet since before 7:00 that morning. He walked back across the mat to his line, bent down to take off his ankle band.
As he straightened up, he glanced over at the scoreboard, to confirm what he already knew. From my stance on the side of the gym, I could see his shoulders shudder, a breath drawn into his chest and held tightly. He quickly shook his opponent’s hand, the one who would leave with the medal he himself had been working for all day.
He walked towards the other coach, and his shoulders shook again. This time though, he couldn’t hold his breath in his chest and it shook his body when it came out.
Before he even turned to come back to his coach, I could tell he was crying. His whole body was silently crying. He went to his coach. He listened. He nodded. But he couldn’t stop the free flow of tears down his face.
I had a flashback to a few years prior, when I overheard a Dad kindly, and lovingly tell his son, “You can lose. You can be frustrated, even mad. But you cannot cry.”
My heart felt clenched by a fist. My mind raced. He would come to me next. He would leave his coach and come to me. I had to do this right. I wanted to hug him,hold him, tell him we would go home and watch movies and it would be OK. I wanted to take away his hurt.
But I wanted to do this right. His Dad, always measured, said over my shoulder, “He’ll be fine.”
He started across the mat, and in a moment of clarity I realized, he was experiencing something he needed to.
He wasn’t having a meltdown. He wasn’t crying tears in a fit. He wasn’t “being a baby”.
He was experiencing loss. And in a world where many will live their entire lives, never putting enough on the line to cry if they lose it, I was proud of him.
After weeks of hard work, focus, and determination, his 60 pound, seven year old body was feeling loss, hard and brutal.
And on that Sunday, in that gym, we let him cry.
I don’t know if it was right. That’s the thing about parenting, we don’t ever really know if we are doing it right.
But in a time when kids are given trophies for losing, told “good job” for barely showing up, and insulated from facing hurt and disappointment, he had stepped up to a line where he knew he risked losing it all and went after it anyway.
And he failed. And it sucked. And he was crying. And we were proud.
And next week he’ll step up again.
The following essay was selected as the 3rd grade winning essay in a contest sponsored by Uptown Farms. Third and fourth grade students that attend Brookfield, MO schools are allowed to write an essay answering the question, “Why is agriculture important to Brookfield and Linn County?”. A student from each grade is selected as the winner and awarded breakfast at the farm and a ride to school in a tractor.
Why is Agriculture Important to Brookfield? By: Holly
I am a fifth generation daughter of hard working farmers. My family has lived and farmed in Linn County since the late, late 1800’s. During the Great Depression, my great-grandmother along with her family proved what it meant to keep the family farm.
Without agriculture in Brookfield we wouldn’t have the businesses like MFA, Ag-Land, Orscheln’s, and Brookfield Tractor. Farmers work hard every day to care for the land and animals. The semi drivers, grocery stores, factory workers, railroads and restaurants depend on farmers to help them have work. Without agriculture in Brookfield we wouldn’t have the history and strong families of our town.
I am proud to be a farmer’s daughter and I watch my dad and grandfather hard work and dedication to make their farms successful. My favorite job on the farm is to open gates when we feed cows. I have also bottle fed calves and warmed them up in my grandma’s kitchen with hair dryers and heating pads. I watch my dad do his farm work in all types of weather and when he is sick. As you can see, I am one of the luckiest girls to grow up on a farm in Brookfield, Missouri and get to see what it takes for a farm to be successful.
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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