More Big Changes

So months ago I teased about more big changes to come for our farm. I finally made the time to sit down and write about them!

First of all, (and of course I don’t have pictures!) is the hay operation. My husband has contemplated for years about setting up a hay rotation with local farmers. Hay is very beneficial to the ground because the roots of the plant work deep into the ground and break up the hard soil. Hay is generally planted, and then left for 3-4 years to be cut and baled.  After the hay is killed off and another crop is planted, that first crop will often yield better than any previous crops have on that ground. For this reason, many farmers are interested in having hay on some of their ground. My husband’s goal had been to rent ground from various farmers and sell the hay produced. He discussed this with his father, and next thing I knew we were purchasing the current hay operation!
My husband has always helped with the hay, but this is the first year that it has been our risk and reward. It is a completely different experience going through hay harvest knowing that we have to pay the bills and we get the paycheck at the end of it all! We’re hoping to expand in the next year  which will mean more long days in the field, but more reward as well! I keep bugging my husband to get pictures of the different equipment used in hay so I can show what each one does, but that will be for a future post.

Another big change at our house is this:

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We had solar panels installed! It’s a huge investment, but I’m excited for the long-term payoff, along with energy production of course!
It’s been the first time that we’ve been able to invest in something other than our home, and that’s an exciting thing!

I’ll get some more recent pictures of our calves for next time, too!

Thanks for being patient with the updates on our farm; summer is a busy time around here!

Anything new around your neck of the woods? Anything you’d like to know about us? Comment below!

~Leslie

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Changes on the Homestead

One of the things my husband did when he worked for the custom harvesting crew in Kansas was take care of the cattle. He loved that part of his job as much as any of it, and more than a lot of it. His favorite part of taking care of the cattle was helping when they are calving (having babies). At our old house he had a small cow/calf operation started, but we moved before he was able to really get it where he wanted it. He’s been dreaming for years about getting back into something like this but didn’t imagine his dad would ever let us use the property around our yard for it. A simple act of asking his dad answered that, and my husband came home with a gleam in his eye last weekend.
“I’ve been looking at some cows on craigslist, wanna build a pen for them this weekend?”
I didn’t think in my wildest dreams that we could actually accomplish something of that magnitude, but agreed. This was Saturday evening, and by Monday this is what it looked like:

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(Clearly my husband has dreamed about this for a while, as he made this gate panel years ago and knew exactly where he wanted to use it here!)

Late Monday morning we headed to the livestock auction with his dad’s livestock trailer in tow. We stopped on our way there and looked at the bred cow. She was a nice looking animal for a great price, so we agreed that we’d pick her up on our way home. We ended up with 2 young heifers and steer from the auction along with the cow from craigslist.
Our kids were ecstatic when they saw the animals, and even more thrilled when they heard that we get to bottle feed our heifers for a month or so. (As if they do the work- bottle feeding is hard work, especially when two calves both want the one bottle you have!)

It is awesome to see the joy on my husband’s face when he looks at our cattle. It is even more exciting to know that it is OUR cattle. Even at our old house, the cattle have always been owned by my father-in-law. This the first of two relatively large endeavors that we are taking on for ourselves this year. It is nerve-wracking and  exciting at the same time!
And without further ado, time to meet our new animals:

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This is Bossy. She came to us named Horny, but we thought it would be better if the kids didn’t take that name to school and share with their classmates! She is a mix of Hereford, Angus, and Simmental. She is a bred cow, which means that she is/should be pregnant. She is 3 years old, and has had one calf so far. We’re hoping to tame her down a little bit. She hasn’t been aggressive, but is very skittish around people.

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This is Eddie. He is a Brown Swiss. He is a steer, which means he is a male that can’t breed (he was castrated, which is done to keep him from getting too aggressive). He was about 220lbs when we bought him, which means he is a couple of months old and will hopefully be done growing in 2-2 1/2 years.

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This is Hero. We thought it looked like the Superman outline on her forehead, but couldn’t give her a boy name! She is a Holstein, which is generally a dairy breed. She will be very lean, and being grass fed will make her very lean beef. She is under 2 weeks old, and will be bottle fed until at least the beginning of July. We could possibly keep her for breeding, but as she isn’t a typical beef breed we likely won’t.

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And last but not least is Brownie. She is our other bottle baby. She is a Jersey, which is breed used for dairy or beef. We hope to raise her to be a cow that we keep and breed. She is feisty and playful and loves attention!

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Here she is sucking on my boot and headbutting me because he bottle was gone!

They are so fun, and we are excited to teach our kids about caring for animals.
I can’t waif to see how this new endeavor unfolds for us, and I’ll share details about out other new adventure later in the summer!

~Leslie

Reasons I Love the Rain

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There are lots of reasons I love the rain. Clearly there’s the whole “it makes the crops grow” thing, but that’s not the top of my list. I put my faith in God for an abundant harvest and the weather that we need to grow our crops. And I love the smell of the rain. There’s something magical about how everything gets quiet before a storm. But still, these are not the reasons I love the rain. I am FAR more selfish than that.

I love the rain because my husband is home for the evening!

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What’s your favorite weather, and why? ūüôā

~Leslie

Ag Pride

Driving home from work today (finally with GOREGEOUS weather!) I looked the green fields of wheat waking up after the long winter. I was overcome with pride and admiration for the farmers that still choose to devote their lives to their farms. I was also struck by the feeling of belonging. It is awesome to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and the community of those in agriculture is something I am proud to be included in. It doesn’t matter if the field I am driving past is organic, GMO (which wheat IS NOT), or otherwise. Agriculture should be a community supporting each other. We should be proud to devote our time, energy, and money to producing products we care deeply about. I clearly can’t speak for all farmers, but every farmer that I’ve known has a deep passion for what they do. It is not just a job to any of them. Very few people wake up before dawn and can’t wait to watch the sun rise in the field, knowing they will be out long after it goes down. To see that passion in my husband is inspiring and humbling. To know that I helped create what will likely be another generation with that passion is beyond words.

Let’s try loving those around us. Let’s try supporting those that produce an abundance of healthy food for our country. And when you have concerns about that food- ask someone who lives it. Let’s stop being scared by people who are trying to profit on the misinformation. Farmers love what they do. And they would love to talk to you about it!

I hope the weather is lovely wherever you are! And I hope your spirits are as high as mine. God is great, and we live in a beautiful world!

~Leslie

How Kindergarten has changed our family (and our farm)

I never thought I would be THAT¬†mom. The mom that makes decisions based on what is best for her kids, even when it is miserable for me. Not that I didn’t plan on putting my kids first, or making them a priority in my life, but I always thought that I would make sure that they knew I have my own life without them. I wanted to make them fit into my life, and learned very quickly when that works and when it doesn’t. Preschool wasn’t a huge adjustment. 3 days a week, 2 hours a day, and my little guy was getting some good exposure to other kids without a major change in our overall lives.

Then came Kindergarten.

I was surprised to find out that Kindergarten would be all day long, 5 days a week. I was expecting a 1/2 day like I had at age 5, but, as they say, times have changed. Lucky for us, our son was ecstatic to be able to ride the bus to and from school every day. Little did we know his bus goes by our house between 6:45 and 7:00 a.m. That’s around the time I get out of bed, and close to an hour earlier than he was used to getting up. (Of course my husband is that crazy farmer that is up before the dawn every day. Occasionally he’ll hit snooze until 5:15. Seriously.) This means that- toilet time included- little man has to be out of bed a little bit before 6:00. In short, this means big changes for our mornings. (And I can hear my husband now, “It didn’t change¬†YOUR mornings much.” It’s true, I am often/usually still in bed when he takes our son out to get on the bus. But still, the household’s mornings are drastically different than before.)

This is how dark it was on his first day:
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This meant big enough changes for our schedule, but we had no idea the homework that we would be helping with.¬†HOMEWORK. IN KINDERGARTEN. DAILY.¬†I don’t know if this is normal, or if it is part of being in an academically superior school. My coworker’s son is in 2nd grade and is writing research papers. It’s a great school, but I was not prepared for the expectations they have of their students.We are blessed that our son is crazy smart (and I say that objectively, of course! ūüėČ ). He has been reading well for over a year which makes homework much easier. Regardless, he is expected to be reading 15 minutes every night- or be read to- and also has some writing assignments every night. On top of this he has weekend homework that is due on Mondays. We are also fortunate to have a fantastic teacher, who recognized our son’s ability and gives him work that is above what the rest of the students are doing. This means that his weekend homework is a higher level than what the other kids are doing. He is doing well and learning a lot, but it adds up to a lot of time commitment.

So let’s recap:
Up before 6:00 a.m. every morning, and 20-30 minutes of homework every night. Guess what that means? NO EXTRA TIME. My son is not good on too little sleep. Which might be the understatement of the year. At 6 years old he would still nap daily for 2 hours if able. He is clearly not able to nap like that anymore, so he has to go to bed early to ensure he is getting enough sleep. He has to be in bed by 7:30 each evening, or he quickly turns into this:0814141835

Simple math will show that when I get home from work at 5:30-6:00 and we have to have dinner, homework, baths, stories, brush teeth, and prayers by 7:30, time runs out quick! This is probably nothing different than most families are dealing with, but it is new for us. Let’s bring it full-circle, shall we?

I have to make decisions based on what is best for my son. I can do basically nothing when I get out of work other than take care of him. Gone are leisurely evenings, walks down to the farm, and about anything fun! And how does this affect the farm? There is no more time to deliver food to the field. There are no tractor rides before bed. If my husband is not home at some point before 7:30 p.m., he doesn’t get to see the kids that evening. It is hard on all of us. I can’t imagine how our schedule would be if we had any extracurricular activities on top of this. We’re thinking about baseball/t-ball next spring, but I’m not sure we will be able to commit to anything else! And in another 2 years we’ll be going through it again with little sister!

I couldn’t imagine how much kindergarten would change our family! Has anything ever been different than you expected? Tell me about it! ūüôā

~Leslie

Scoliosis

Disclaimer first: If you have issues with stretch marks, love handles, or any other ‘unattractive’ body issues, I have those. And I’m showing them to you. So unless you want to see what carrying 2 children combined with not being as active as I should (and of course scoliosis) does to my body, you should stop reading now. I have no claims of being a model, and I am constantly working on strengthening my body, but it is mine and it does what I ask of it. Consider yourself warned if you continue to read beyond this point!

Alright, let’s start of with some basics about scoliosis. It is defined by the Mayo Clinic as¬†a sideways curvature of the spine. I was first “diagnosed” in middle school, 7th or 8th grade. They had each student go one at a time during gym class to a private room and bend over to touch their toes. We had no idea why, and joked about scoliosis being somehow related to your brain (skull). Little did I know I would be called to office later that day and told to take a letter home to my mom explaining that they found scoliosis and they recommended me follow up with my doctor. My memory is not great, but I think we went to the doctor but decided not to pursue any form of treatment at that time. Bracing is often recommended, but I didn’t go through that (which I am immensely grateful). Later in my adolescence, probably when I was 15 or 16 we went to a specialist and had xrays taken. I was told at that point that studies had shown that bracing was not effective for curves as severe as mine. They also said that I was definitely a candidate for surgery. At that point the surgery would have consisted of making an incision along the length of my spine and across my back (forming a letter L). They would insert a metal rod next to my spine and fuse the vertebrae together and connect them to the metal rod. Once the the bones had healed, approximately 6 months or so, they would go back in and remove the rod. I WANTED THIS SURGERY SO BADLY. I was a self-conscious teenager, and I was crooked. I was different. I hated that my ribs were uneven. I hated that my shoulders didn’t line up. But looking back I don’t think that it would have helped me. If I hadn’t been crooked I would have been ‘too fat.’ Or focused on my acne. I was a self-conscious teenager. My mom made the decision to wait for surgery.

Let’s jump ahead to today. I had two great pregnancies without complications. I can lift weights (when the urge arises, and I wish that were more often!). I can do yoga. I have a fantastic marriage, great job, and amazing family and friends. And I don’t have back pain.¬†I’d like to interject here and say that pain is subjective. I do get kinks and knots in my back that are beyond irritating. If I sleep on a hotel pillow my neck and shoulders are sore for days. But considering what my body deals with every day I have no more pain than the average person. Although maybe my aches and pains would be¬†excruciating to someone else and I have just learned to deal with it. I guess we’ll never know!¬†¬†I made the decision last year to see a back specialist because it had been 10-15 years since my last xray and I wanted to make sure that not pursuing treatment was still okay. This is the xray that I had taken:

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The radiologist’s interpretation was this: There is no visible block vertebra. There is a severe S-shaped scoliotic curve of the thoracolumbar spine. The upper thoracic spine has a scoliosis convex left and the lower thoracic spine has a severe scoliosis convex right, while the upper lumbar spine has a moderate scoliosis convex left. Scoliosis in the thoracic spine is estimated at at least 50 degrees. The scoliosis of the lumbar spine is estimated at approximately 15 degrees.
What does that mean? I always tell someone to think of a straight line up and down. A normal spine is 0 degrees. Think of a right angle/90 degrees (capital L, for those a few years out of math class). My spine falls in between those, but closer to the 90 than 0. And the funny part is when I had xrays done in high school I know for a fact I was told the upper curve was in the 60 degrees range. According to that (and the vague wording on this xray) my spine has possibly improved! I don’t actually think it has, but it very much decreased my worries that it was still progressing at a substantial rate. When I went and had an appointment with the back specialist it was one of the best times I’ve ever had in a doctor’s office. Not going to lie, I cried when I left- I was that happy. It went something like this:
Dcotor- So you had two pregnancies. No back pain or complications?
Me- No. I do get short of breath very easily while exercising; could that be related to my scoliosis?
Doctor- It is possible. Because your rib-cage is twisted it may be putting a little bit of pressure on your lungs. Does this bother you all of the time or just with certain activities? 
Me- Only with exertion, typically running. Not otherwise. 
Doctor-¬†I would say try to avoid anything that causes the shortness of breath. If it is not all of the time it is less concerning. And you’ve never worn a brace?¬†Or had any treatment of any kind?
MeРNo. 
Doctor-¬†If you’re looking to pursue surgery you would have absolutely no problem finding a doctor willing to perform it. I haven’t dealt with scoliosis enough to feel comfortable myself, but I can send you somewhere.¬†
Me-¬†I don’t really want to. I just want to make sure that I am monitoring it and following whatever you think is best.¬†
Doctor- There are generally 3 reasons to pursue surgery for scoliosis. One would be pain. You are incredibly blessed to not have pain with this severity of scoliosis. The next would be functionality. Because of the risk of the rib-cage putting pressure on the heart and lungs as it twists surgery can be done.¬†You are near the range where this could be a major issue, but it doesn’t seem to be a serious concern for you at this point. The last reason to get surgery would be for appearances. And I don’t say it last because it is the least important. It is a very real problem because scoliosis is by definition a deformity. People have a hard time feeling deformed because of it and it can greatly improve their quality of life to fix it if they are feeling this way.¬†
Me-¬†I felt like that a lot when I was younger, but I’ve come to terms with it.¬†
Doctor- Well, seeing that you seem to be very healthy, and have no concerns along with having 2 young children there is no way I could see surgery being the best option for you. As with every surgery there is the possible complication of death, but aside from that scoliosis surgery carries the risk of paralysis. You don’t seem to be limited in any way and if it were me or someone that I loved I would advise them not to have surgery. Continue to stay active and keep the back muscles and abdominal muscles as strong as you can and you shouldn’t have any major issues. I’d recommend having another xray in a year or two to make sure that it measures the same, but otherwise I would say that you are very lucky and should continue to enjoy your life.

I was so nervous as I waited to speak with the doctor. I was sweating all over, palms clammy, heart racing, seriously near panicking. When I left I feel like I floated. I didn’t realize how scared I was and how much it weighed me down until the stress was lifted. I AM blessed with the life I was given, crooked or not!

Now for the awesome photos. I never asked anyone to take a picture of my back for me before. It was a little shocking for me to see it. (And motivating for me to get back to my weights, but that’s a different issue!) Without further ado…

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You can see how from one side the top of my back sticks out a lot farther than from the other. (And please ignore my gross hair, I just woke up. And don’t you love my boxers? :))

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This is the ‘bend over’ test. You can see how my back doesn’t sit flat like most do.

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Notice how my Left shoulder (your right) is higher than the other? I always have to tighten one bra strap tighter than the other, and sometimes have to pin or shorten tank top straps on the Right side.

Well, now that I’ve pretty much gotten in my underwear for you… ūüėČ
This has become such a normal part of my life. And generally speaking people don’t even notice that I’m crooked. My hair dresser did have a hard time cutting my hair shoulder-length, which was entertaining to see her confusion for a minute! I am not hindered by this, other than not being able to run- and let’s be honest, I hate running! My scoliosis was a difficult thing to overcome, but I have come to terms with it. God made me exactly how he wanted me to be. All I can do it nourish and exercise the body that he has given me, and appreciate all that it can do for me!

I would love to answer any questions you might have for me, and I would love to hear something that you have overcome- physical or otherwise! Please share below!

~Leslie

Ask a Farmer- Relationships

Periodically I’ll be asking my husband questions about farming. Any and all topics are on the table! If there’s ever been anything that you’ve wanted to know about farming he will do his best to answer it for you.

Because of a lack of questions being submitted lately, I get to try and stump him myself!¬†There have been a lot of posts lately (inspired by ‘Prince Farming’s’ recent season on the Bachelor) about what it takes to date or marry a farmer. I thought I’d switch things up and get the farmer’s point of view on things! And to mix it up even more I’m going to ask one question and let him elaborate to his heart’s desire.

1.    What are important qualities that a person needs to have to be in a relationship with a farmer, and what are some pieces of advice you would give to someone considering marrying a farmer?
Oh, Boy! I feel like this is a loaded question. Maybe I need to start with a disclaimer. This is not a wish list. I know that Leslie loves me and that¬†she supports my¬†ambitions, that is probably the most important thing to me in our relationship when it comes to the farm.¬†Leslie and I have definitely struggled, and will continue to do so, because of the strain of farming. This is no fault of hers or of mine. Farming is a difficult endeavor. There are a lot of early mornings and very late nights. Couple that with sometimes backward budgets, the stress of bad weather, and trying to fulfill other obligations and things can get pretty rough, even for the strongest couples. I suppose that all couples struggle¬†at balancing career with marriage and parenthood, but I often feel that no one can understand the true strain of farming unless they have lived it. There are not many careers where your entire family is so entwined with your livelihood. I guess I would have to answer the question of what are important qualities with, patience, forgiveness, strong will, and FAITH (both in your spouse and in God).¬† I can tell you from my own heart that a farmer may occasionally get carried away on his own dreams, but he will never forget how what he is doing affects his family. Farming can be a long uphill battle for a young person and couple¬†starting out. I have talked to many older farmers who spent a decade thinking that they had made the biggest mistake of their lives, but with their spouse by their side, they pushed on and now are reaping the benefits of their labors. We are a very small farm and it is difficult to pull an income for two families, but we are trying and I know that my dad worries about the future¬†still. Some advice for the farmer’s wife to be is this: Just be ready. It is a great lifestyle, and a difficult one. The joy in your husband’s heart after a successful crop is enough to renew his spirit and keep him pushing on. Try to recognize that joy and let it fill your own heart. And know that your children will be as honest and true to their family¬†as he is.

Is there anything you’d like to ask a farmer? Please message me or post your questions below!

~Leslie