We are headed into a long Labor Day weekend and have no idea what to do with this extra free time. Anyone else get like this when busy schedules and farming seem to consume your life? We keep throwing out ideas and none of them seem to stick. Do we do the State Fair, Duluth, a lake getaway, or a staycation? We sat in the living room for over an hour last night listing pros and cons of each. You are proably thinking its not that hard people get your poop in a group and go, go have fun as a family. Sounds simple until we start looking at hotel availablity, the cost of hotels, tickets to attend certain events and all I see are dollar signs, BIG dollar signs. Oh and one other thing Mr. Farmer and I are celebrating 5 years of marriage on the 3rd so that sparks one other thought, do we ditch the kids instead and have a weekend to ourselves? More or less I STINK at making decisions on things like this. I should just flip a coin, but then I might just end up reflipping it. So here is to a weekend full of last minute decsions spent with those closest to my heart.
Everyone at the farm is preparing for our sugar beet pre lift that starts next week. Trucks need to be serviced, the lifter and the topper need to be tuned up and drivers need to be lined up. Sugar beet harvest is high time for us as it is a time of high employment on our farm and possibly long hours. Luckily pre lift is short lived and is a time for the processing plant to get the kinks worked out of their system before main harvest in October.
In pre-lift growers throughout the region are given a set of dates to haul in x amounts of beets based on the number of shares and acres they have. This takes much man power as we typically have 5 or 6 trucks running, the topper tractor and the lifter tractor. The topper is a defoliator that removes the tops/foliage from the beets preparing them for lifting.
The tractor pulling the lifter also known as a harvester soon follows. The typical lifter picks the beets out of the ground and sends them through a series of rollers that remove excess dirt and trash from the beets. Roller chain then moves them to the top of the machine where they are conveyed into a truck. After the truck is loaded the beets are delivered to a piler or the plant depending on each producer’s agreement with the coop. I'll be sure to share more on sugar beet harvest as we get into the thick of things!
It’s been a tough few weeks in our rural farming community as tragedy and grief unexpectedly hit and touched many people. These are the times when I think about how blessed we are to live a life on the farm with close knit communities, but it also reminds me how fragile life is. I do not know the grief that these families and friends carry but I have learned something from it.
Love life and be kind.
Believe that there is good in the world.
Be the good in the world.
Hold loved ones close.
Pay it forward.
Love your career.
Have passion and share it.
Wake up with a smile on your face.
Go to bed with a smile on your face.
Trust in God’s plan.
The other night I had to catch myself before nasty words came spewing out of my mouth. This isn’t the first almost assault that has happened and I guarantee it won’t be the last. After a long day at the office there are days that I need five minutes to discombobulate. A time where I can shut my brain off and not think about the supper that needs to be made, the tomatoes that are getting put in the dogs kennel by our one year old, the clothes that need to be folded or the garden that needs to be weeded. I hope I’m not alone when I say it is hard to parent without your spouse at times. It just seems that with each busy season (planting, spraying, harvesting) I have to retrain myself into handling many things on my own and when things don’t go my way to not spew those thoughts/emotions out on my spouse.
So how do I do it? I’m not really sure, but I guess there are some things that I do on a nightly or weekly basis to ensure a happy farm family! So here it goes:
1. Rest – this isn’t so much my rule as a family farm rule. This is one that has been passed down through generations so that we may attend church and have a day of rest with the Lord and our family. It is crazy that one day can reenergize all of us and prepare us for the week ahead. Plus who doesn’t love an extra board game or a swing in the hammock?
2. Meal Planning – this comes and goes with the seasons. When it is “go” time I like to have meals prepped on Sunday so the weeknights are a little easier on the whole family. This way I don’t let Mr. Farmer have it for things he or I cannot control…like a screaming toddler at your feet because he hasn’t ate in the last 5 minutes.
3. One-on-One time – this does not only apply to the kids but to Mr. Farmer as well. Our daughter goes to bed about a half later than our son, we use this time to play an extra board game, read a book or share an extra scoop of ice cream. This is a little tougher with our son as he is a one year old, but he loves to rock and is just starting to get into books. When Mr. Farmer gets in late and I’m ready to crash I know even if we get fifteen minutes before I hit the hay to snuggle on the couch and hash out the day, things are much better in our world.
4. Housework – don’t let it pile up. Now my house is not white glove approved by any means and I don’t expect it to be, but when the house gets filthy Momma about loses it. I’ve found that if I do the dishes right after supper and spread laundry throughout the week I am a much calmer mom and wife. Tasks such as vacuuming should be done more often, because I know stale cheerios could be found in the couch cushions and a week old sippy of milk is stashed in the lazy susan , but dangit the kids are happy. So I guess I clean what needs to be cleaned and leave the rest until I’ve gone crazy ;)
5. Keep calm and farm mom on
It seems as though life keeps whizzing by and if I am lucky I catch a glimpse of it in the rearview mirror. Wheat has been off for two plus weeks and we are preparing to start pre-lift on sugar beets. Our garden continues to be a weedy mess, but man does the sweet corn taste good! I can’t quite figure out the growing difference this year as some of the vegetables in the garden are doing phenomenal while others quite frankly suck! The kale came, but not the lettuce. Half a row of carrots grew, but not the other half (even after I replanted, insert eye roll). Half of the tomatoes have blight the other half does not. The one that has blown me out of the water this year has been the cabbage. We could have cabbage for every meal…
Cabbage slaw sautéed with over easy eggs
Grilled cabbage with pork chops
Cabbage in our lettuce salad
Coleslaw on pulled pork sandwiches
Cabbage fermented into sauerkraut
Cabbage topped ice cream
Oh crap not the last one, but seriously we could if we wanted too. I spent one Sunday a couple of weeks ago shredding three heads of cabbage into about 5 gallons of sauerkraut that will ferment for about six weeks. Not sure why we need FIVE gallons of sauerkraut, but I will attribute it to my German heritage. You might think the cabbage is gone after that…absolutely not. We still have three heads in the garden, so I am taking suggestions as to what we should make with this cabbage so 1) It does not go to waste and 2) My family does not have to put cabbage on their ice cream ;)
I have reached the busy season as an off the farm working mom. The months of May-July get pretty hectic and I can tell it by the piles of laundry, heaps of dirty dishes and not knowing what our own crop looks like. Mr. Farmer knows that during these busy months he is better off giving me a few minutes of alone time to collect myself from the day so I can better serve the Lord and my family. Funny what a little bit of alone time can do for a lady. Can I get an Amen?
So the other night I decided to go out on my own little crop tour. I didn't see all of the fields, but got a pretty good idea of where our crops were at. One might think that as a farm wife I should know how the crop is doing. I somewhat do, but there are nights when Mr. Farmer and I don't want to talk about farming or how the crop is. So we don't. We enjoy each other's company and that's that.
The last month or so has been plenty dry in the southern Red River Valley. We couldn't seem to catch a break. The storms would build to the west, they would reach us and break apart. The crops were crying in desperation as hard as we were praying. Last night our prayers were answered and we caught about 3 inches during the middle of the night. Lots of thunder and lightning kept the littles up, but what a blessing that rain was! Here's to hoping we all have timely rains and enough growing degree days to produce crops that feed the world.
Most nights the littles and I play outside and try to keep the garden weeds at bay as we anticipate Mr. Farmer’s arrival home. Mr. J has stealthy ears and can hear the gator or lawn mower approach from what seems like miles away. He will point and let out his little one year old grunt in anticipation. An added bonus he doesn’t have to be scolded by Mommy anymore for testing the limits. Miss A is happy she has her Daddy home. She continues to be my little side kick and helper, but she lights up and her heart pitter patters a little faster for her Daddy. Want a little proof?
This past weekend I was working on Mr. J’s belated birthday present (does anything really get done on time as a mom?) and I asked Miss A “are you going to sew like Mommy when you get older?” What do you think her response was? Her response made my heart jump and sink a little all at the same moment.
“No, I am going to farm like Daddy!”
Well, ok then. Go get ‘em girl! Show ‘em how it’s done! Can you tell she is turning into a pretty darn independent three year old. This is what it means to be passing on our farming lifestyle to the next generation. At this age she doesn’t truly know the responsibility we hold, but the twinkle in her eyes lets us know she well rock whatever lies ahead of her, farming or sewing.
In my last post I mentioned missed suppers and bedtimes as a result of our full time, all the time lifestyle: farming. Farming isn’t a job where you work 8-5, it isn’t the same tasks day in a day out, it’s being a mechanic, a welder, a crop consultant, a heavy machinery operator, a market analyst, a bookkeeper, an estate planner and the list goes on. The hats of a farmer are many and don’t end when the sun goes down or the sun comes up. Farming is a lifestyle; we literally eat, sleep and breathe it. Long nights in the dryer shack are proof of it. Join us in fall when sugar beet harvest runs 24/7. We don’t clock in and we don’t clock out. Farming is all of the time.
So when Mr. Farmer misses another supper due to our lifestyle I remind myself how fortunate we are to be providing a safe food supply for millions around the world. One look at my littles keeps my grounded as I know we have much to be grateful for even if Daddy is missing supper and bedtime on occasion. This is a lifestyle that we have been somewhat grandfathered into. It has been passed down from generations who knew nothing else but this farming lifestyle. My hope is that we can continue to live this lifestyle while inspiring our children to do the same so that people around the world can be provided the nourishment to live.
If my garden is any indication of how life is going it could be summed up in two words, not good. Thank goodness the garden is the only thing in life that is not good. The weeds have overtaken most of it, but by golly the roundup ready sweet corn looks pretty dandy! I have been trying to manage the kids while weeding as Mr. Farmer is doing farmer things like spraying. One row of vegetables takes me about an hour to weed between the “don’t touch that, don’t eat that, NO don’t climb on that” antics of a fully mobile one year old. Last year he was contained to a stroller, this year there is no containment or limit!
Fast forward 12 months: mobile and owning it! :)
Leaves are missing from the cabbage, the carrots have been walked on, but boy is he happy. His older sister isn’t far away making sure he doesn’t do any of the things that mom told him not to. These summer days are my favorite. I love getting my hands dirty after a day in the office and having to wash little feet off with the garden hose. I keep telling myself these are the years. Even if Mr. Farmer is missing supper and bedtime some nights, could we really be more blessed? Not much, weeds and all.
Spring has definitely sprung in Minnesota and we are in our transition into S-U-M-M-E-R! I just love this time of year and who doesn't love being able to take the kids outside after supper to run off some extra energy!?! I am beginning to wonder how we survived all winter? So, Mother Nature I thank you for finally returning us to our regular warm sunshiny programming.
All of our crops (wheat, sugar beets, corn and soybeans) are up at this point and some of them were nipped by frost a week and a half ago. We lucked out and everything of ours came out of it. Some of our neighbors to the north weren't as lucky as they will be replanting portions of their fields. A late frost is not unusual, it's more of a matter of when, not if. In the pictures below you can see the effects the frost had on the corn, by the browning of the leaves.
Our garden is also planted and what we didn't have enough blankets to cover from the frost I had to replant, luckily it was only 4 cucumber plants. I actually can't believe how well everything is doing! It makes me so excited for all of our yummy produce to come, but makes me less than excited to weed (thank goodness my hubby mixed me up some roundup to spot spray weeds)! Each year I say I need to not have the "go big or go home" mentality when it comes to the size and scope of the family garden and each year I somehow manage to capitalize on the "go BIG" part. I might learn my lesson one year, maybe, nah probably not...
So cheers to a growing season filled with timely rains and the perfect number of growing degree days.
I'm Lisa, a farm wife, mom and old lady at heart (or my husband tells me so). Agriculture, quilting, and baking were my first loves and now I get to enjoy them with my family!