To Give A Dame A Piece of Cake

Sometimes when life speeds up around you it’s hard to slow down and take time for yourself.

September has been a prime example of that for me. I look forward to the autumn. It signals a time of slowing down. A time when the kids are back in school and life seems to “settle.”

But this September, life didn’t settle like it usually does. It twisted and turned and at one point turned me upside down. That was the day when I drove across the state so I could sit in a hospital waiting room while my dad was having surgery.

It was the day I stepped into a recovery room and saw my dad, not as the invincible dad of my childhood, but a man who could be hurt.

To some of us, I guess you could say that farmers are super heroes, too.

It takes stamina and dedication to start your day at 4 am and sometimes not end your day until after everyone else has gone to bed.

A farmer always watches over his herd and his family. He provides food for on the table, tends to his sick cows, and mends broken fences.

There are no days off.

There are no vacations.

A farmer’s work is never done and for that I’m grateful. My dad has gone from that recovery room, to a hospital room, and returned back home in September. Slowly, he is gaining his strength back and healing. Soon I know he will be back to checking on things in the barn.

It doesn’t feel like it is happening soon enough. Perhaps that is because the fast pace of life is starting to take it’s lull. It just took a few extra weeks of being October for it to happen.

And even though schedules are slowing down, routines are falling back into place, and Dad is healing. I am happy to wait, and watch, and even wonder if the invincible don’t sometimes need extra time to recharge their super powers.

In my family, we like to celebrate things by eating cake.

When my oldest child was around four years old, she was a handful. We used to celebrate her being a good listener and having a good week by baking a cake every Sunday. She got to choose the cake flavor and icing. She would help bake it and decorate it, then we’d have it after supper that evening.

Other than birthdays, we don’t have cake very often.  Then I saw a new cake mix at the local grocery store – orange and chocolate velvet. Beside it was a maple and bacon icing.

When my kids saw the cake they wanted to know whose birthday we were celebrating. Then I explained: It’s no one’s birthday. Sometimes we just need to take a moment out of our hectic and the unexpected events in our lives and celebrate the small things.

So we did.

ddfallcake2

And so to you my friends, I say, “Let there be cake.”

It is so easy to become wrapped up in the drama of life that we miss the small things happening around us at the same time. Those small things are what turns the upside down days right side up again.

Cherish them. Celebrate them.

Bake a cake and invite friends and family over for a piece, because the little slice of life we are given deserves to be savored and shared.

In Memory of Ruby

The goats are still on the farm.

Over the summer, our three became five.

Lavender had a little billy, and Dad brought home a little orphan the kids named Buttons from the auction. You can read about Buttons coming to the farm here.

But sadly, where we once had five, there are only now four on the farm.

With having sold the cows and the sadness of their departure I didn’t want to have to post additional sadness for you all.

As you can imagine, the children are grieving and we’ve all taken this very hard.

And yes, it’s a goat.

But she was not just a goat, she was that one of a kind goat that will never be replaced in personality or in our hearts.

rip rubyIf you didn’t have a chance to hear the stories or meet our dear Ruby, please check out these posts. You’ll see why she was totally one of a kind.

Ruby in the Morning

Ruby having fun. 

We bottle fed this little goat with a Pepsi bottle and a goat nipple. Every morning she greeted us at the milk house door and came in to get her morning head pat and back message.

goat milk in Pepsi bottle

She played with the kids. Her flying jumps across the flat bed trailer are legendary, and the happiness she brought the children of my brother and my own kiddo’s is priceless.

Ruby was a special little goat. She thought she was “just one of the kids.”

She raced them down the farm lane on their bikes and laid in the grass beside them as they rested in the shade. She picked up after them as they carried chucks of hay to the other animals and dropped some along the way.

When she saw you coming, she always had to come say hello. And while some would complain she got under foot, more now her closeness is missed even more.

The first thing I look forward to when I get out my vehicle at the farm is seeing Ruby.

Oh, how we will miss that little goat!!!

So much that I can’t get her or her daring and playful personality from my mind. Each morning I sit down to work on finishing a current manuscript, I find myself writing about Ruby instead.

For a little goat like Ruby, I don’t think there is better way to celebrate her presence on the farm with us than writing a children’s book, do you?

Rest in Peace, Ruby.

IMG-20150403-01557

We were so blessed to have you for the short time you graced us here on the farm.

 

 

A Farm Girl’s 401 on Farming

Life doesn’t always take us in the direction we want to go.

If you would have asked me twenty years ago what I wanted to do with my life I would have shared with you my dream of farming. I was young, but I had it all figured out.

Because it’s tradition for the first son (or only son) to inherit the trade or legacy of a father, I knew my brother would inherit all the farm stuff from our father. And, that was okay. I went to school and got my degree in accounting. I’ve been keeping the farm books since I was seventeen.

My plan was to work alongside my brother on the farm, I’d do the bookkeeping and care for the young cattle and he’d do the milking and we’d both raise our families.

Sounded like a great plan right?

Maybe you’ve seen those commercials lately for the farmer match maker dating site: Farmersonly.com (note: I have no affiliation with this site, I’ve just watched their commercial on Television one night.)

That’s how I saw my life. Living on or close to the farm, working the land, tending the animals, and marring a handsome farmer.

As the daughter of a dairy farmer , naturally, I assumed I’d become a farmer’s wife.

Then I fell in love with a mathematician.

IM000378.JPG
              My other half

Do you hear life laughing at me?

Not only did I marry that mathematician, he was also allergic to animals, including my beloved horse and the cows.

Can you hear the laughter now?

Yep, the joke was on me.

For years, I followed my husband from new jobs to other states so he can teach and get his teaching certifications and degrees. Yet, all the while I kept telling myself I could live without the farm.

Who was I kidding?

Not me.

Not anymore.

While you can tie down and try to pen up the farm girl inside me, it can’t be contained for long.

Because no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop being who you are or yearning for what it is you’ve always wanted.

Deep down– farmer’s daughter,  farmer’s wife, — it makes no difference. Being a farm girl is who I am. Farming is in my blood. I might have been born in a hospital, but  my parents brought me home and raised me on the farm.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: you can take the girl from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the girl. Go ahead share tweet this to your friends. 

Sometimes we all need to return to our roots.

Sometimes we need to stop asking, “What if” and instead formulate the “How.”

It’s like falling in love and courting your future other half. The answers will come as you need them. Just rely on your heart and the faith you hold inside you to be your guide.

A Quick Dame DIY: Lunch Note Napkins

Not every child has the same experience when they go to school. Some like it. Some don’t. And especially for the younger ones, many have trouble adjusting to leaving their mother’s for that long of period of time.

Kiddo #1 was the later. The first few years of going to public school were the hardest on her… and for me. As a mom, it pains you more sometimes than your child in learning to manage the period of time each day of separation.

There were too many days to count that I carried my child into the school kicking and screaming because she didn’t want to go, and I walked out, got into my car, and sounded worse than one of the cows in the barn bawling.

Not all of us dames have the same circumstances that would able us to solve this scenario easily. I wanted nothing more to take my child back home. My husband and I discussed the possibility of home schooling, but with this child and at this time in our lives, this was what we felt best.

Then the wife of our pastor heard my distress and gave me one of the best ideas I’ve ever been given. Our pastor’s wife did this for her children, and so I tried it for mine.

Each day I packed my little one’s lunch I added something special. Not a snack or piece of candy, but a note of encouragement… on a napkin.

lunchnapkinsblog

I can’t say it solved the problem, but kiddo#1 and our other children as they became school aged have no come to look forward to Mom’s silly drawing and little notes written on their paper napkins in their lunch boxes.

Some day, I plan to figure out how I can get these printed and share with other kids at school who get free lunches and don’t necessarily have a parent that is able be the shining light to give them a little ray of encouragement in their life right now.

I’ve even done this for my husband when I pack his lunch, too.

For now, I just take a napkin and a pen or marker and try to come up with something witty and encouraging. By the time my kids are starting to feel the toll of the school day pulling at them, they can open their lunches and get a reminder of how special and loved they are this day.

I try to write and draw something different for each of my kiddos, and something that works with their different personalities. One of these days, kiddo #1 has promised me drawing lessons. Apparently, I’m better with words than drawing on napkins.

Go ahead, try it. What is your herd packing for lunch today?

 

Emptying The Milk Parlor and Draining The Tank

The milk cows are gone.

The parlor is empty. I miss the sound of the metal gates clinking, and the loud rumble of the milk compressor kicking on in the evening.

Inside the milk house is an empty tank, cleaned and ready— for a period of bareness.

It’s happened before, only this time I fear it is the last.

As I watch the trucks and trailers pull out of the farm lane, I fought to hold back the tears. I’m bad at not crying. I wanted so badly to be strong like the men in my life.

There are not enough deep breaths or attempts to squeeze my eyes shut to prevent the tears from rolling free.

So I turn my back, look upon those last remaining cows standing in the shed and cried.

DairyDameHolsteins

They are just cows.

They come and they go.

Or at least I tried to remind myself.

Silly girl. Crying over cows!

They’re not pets. They’re farm assets.

Yet I couldn’t convince myself enough to stop crying.

Even though I didn’t hold any official ownership over these dairy cows, I knew them by name – not numbers. I knew which ones preferred to be milked on the left side or the right side of the milk parlor. I knew which ones kicked and the one that liked to bluff. I know which calves belong to them.

And then there was Jenny. The Holstein last summer that I refused to allow anyone to give up on. You saw the video here of the day she first walked through the parlor after recovering from pinching nerve in her back after delivering a Hereford cross bull calf.

DocHerford

That same Hereford stared back at me from inside the shed. Now a year old, no longer a bull, but a steer. Maybe I’m just crazy, but by the look of his large dark eyes, he knew his mother was on that last trailer.

Here in the summer, Jenny had another calf. A heifer that frolics in the calf pen on the other side of the shed. She’s pure Holstein and she’ll stay here to be raised for next year or so at least.

JennyCalf2

Before the trucks pulled out, the new owner offered if I was ever in the area for me to stop in and visit his farm and see the cows again. It was a kind offer. One I feel was made only because the chance he felt of me actually showing up at his farm one day are slim.

If only the new owner knew that for three years I lived in the small town on the West Virginia border beside where his farm is located while my husband was student teaching and working on his PH.D. at the West Virginia University. I loved that little town and the people in it. I still do, and keep in touch with many of them thanks to social media. But now I’m heading down a cow path and need to get back to the cows.

I wipe my eyes and turn back on the cows to look ahead at the rest of the farm, and to my dad. I can’t speculate the future–not for the cows — not for our family—not what lies ahead for the farm.

While this is sometimes the way of life. It’s a business.

As I mentioned, we’ve had to do this once before during a time when my dad was in the hospital, had surgery, and was off his feet for some time. With all other options assessed, there was no other choice. The milk cows had to go.

Once more my dad’s headed back to the hospital for surgery. My brother can’t run the farm alone, and as God has it at this moment I’m too far away to pull the extra weight from anyone’s shoulders.

Farming takes more than one man or one woman to operate. Tweet This

That’s just how most businesses operate in the dairy industry. Perhaps one day when children are older or other halves don’t have to travel so far for work outside the farm, things will change. I don’t know. It’s in God’s hands now.

To the new owner of our cows. 

Dear fellow dairyman, 

Nothing personal, but just wanted to let you know that one day I will be stopping in to check on the cows. If I’m not able, please know I have friends who don’t live far from your dairy that will happy to do so for me. I wish you all the best as you enter this new way of living and pray that these cows bring a blessing to you and your family. 

So without the milk cows, where does that leave the family farm?

That my friends is a bunch of ideas still developing and I promise you’ll be the first to know.

 

Feature photo credit: Jess Johnson via Flickr CC

35 Acre Horse Farm Essay Contest

A friend sent this to me on face book as it made her immediately think of me.

It’s an essay contest where you pay $200 to submit a 1,000 word essay and the prize is a 35 acre Virginia horse farm. It has a 5 stall barn and a cottage.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I was tempted to enter. I’ve written the essay about a hundred times in my head.

Each time, it starts like this:

“There’s a saddle that sits in the corner of my living room….”

$200 is two weeks of groceries for us.

Entries are being accepted up until October 1, 2015. They’re hoping for 5,000 entries.

At 200 x 5,000 that’s $1m. I’d say that pays for the farm.

Winning is like pulling a needle from a haystack. Even if my essay would get selected, then the farm still isn’t free and still cost more than $200 entry fee. Thanks to the government, you still have to pay taxes on the value of the farm. I’m guessing those taxes probably exceed the value of our house.

But a loan for the fraction of having a farm like that… is it worth it? Is it worth pouring one’s heart out into words on a paper and hoping beyond all hope to win? Is $200 worth playing the farm lottery?

Because that’s basically what it is, a gamble.

Check out the contest for yourself.

What are your thoughts?

 

Crowd Funding For Farmers

It’s time for this farm girl to get out of town.

I’ve been a backyard farmer for way to long now.

And I know I’m not the only one. There are many of you out there dreaming of both small and large farms of your own.

If only buying a farm were as easy as crowding funding is to filmmakers or authors for movies or books.

It’s so much cheaper to live in the city. It’s also so much nosier and so much more intrusive.

For the past seven years, this is has been my little backyard farm. The only thing I truly love about our house in town is our backyard.

backyard farmI wish it I could take anything about our home with us when we leave here, it would be this piece of our backyard. My dad and brother made the white gate into the garden, and I hate to leave it behind. I remind myself that it’s just a gate and the memory of making it is worth so much more.

As a senior in high school, I wrote up a business plan for our dairy farm. As a member of DECA – Distributive Education Clubs of America – my farm business plan landed me a trip to the national competitions that were held in Orlando, Florida that year. I know for a fact, no one else had a farm plan that year. I spent more of my time explaining the functions of farming then I had to explain and defend my business plan.

I guess it just goes to show that you really can make money in farming, or at least on paper.

Somewhere, I know I still have that business plan. OR at least I hope I do or that my brother kept his copy.

I always thought my brother and I would be running the farm together. How life has a way of veering us from the places we thought we would go, or not go. Yet, I have always carried the farm along in my heart.

Farming isn’t something you just do, it’s a way of life that gets into your blood and stays in your heart. Tweet This.

Our house went on the market at the beginning of this month. I don’t know where we are going. God love my husband, as I do, for going along on this journey. Our fifteen year anniversary is fast approaching, and when we got married he promised me I’d have horses again. I’m still waiting, dreaming, holding onto that promise.

I know there is no place for us on the family farm. Thanks to the new Amish neighbors there is no place for us to buy land or a home. Even if we could afford a farm.

Most large farms cost about $500,000 to $1million. That doesn’t include the equipment or the cows. Horse farms can range around $300,000 and up. Even if I worked full-time and with my husband working to raise our family, reality is we could never afford a farm. I would need to sell more books than I could count, and even though that can happen, (because I do believe in miracles) I also know my husband is allergic to animals. I also know that by the time I could afford a farm I would be too old to enjoy the labor and efforts to see it grow. By then my children would be on their own and have no ties to this kind of life.

Even with a business plan, a bank would never grant that kind of a loan while raising a family and living off a teacher’s and writer’s salary.

Reality bites.

Practacalty kicks in, so for now I’m praying for a 3-4 bedroom house, on an acre or two of land – just big enough for a horse, maybe a potbellied pig, and space to grow a garden that is outside of town where there are no cars flying past the house every minute, or people yelling across the street to one another or throwing trash in my front yard. Just peace and quiet and a little bit of a farm that I can call my own.

Perhaps one day there will be crowd funding for farmers. Instead of offering a signed copy of a book or naming a character it could be like naming the calves, or claiming a cow on the farm (like adopting them but the always stay on the farm.) Or perhaps getting names recorded down the side of the barn to show the support of a community helping one farmer’s dream turn to reality. Or the dream of a farmer’s daughter.

What do you think, will crowd funding farms work or ever exist?

Until then, there are other farmers in other countries trying to expand and feed their families on Kiva.org. This is a place where you can loan like $25 toward the money needed by the individuals there to give them the funds to take the next step in providing for their dreams and way of life.

This story, a woman named Gulshaiyr  caught my attention recently. She’s trying to raise money to buy a bull and cultivate her land so she may continue to provide for her family and see that her children are educated.

It makes my own longing for a farm small in comparison to her simple need of one bull to rise her up another step toward her goals for her family.

So for now, I will live my dreams of farming through those I can help.