That Bucket’s Not Going to Carry Itself

That Bucket's Not Going to Carry Itself

The farm has taught me many lessons. One lesson that will forever stick with me is the idea that a bucket can’t carry itself.

Why, you might ask, would a bucket’s inability to carry itself be a lesson of any value to anyone?

Well, it all started in a calf barn.

When I was 4 years old, the farmer my father worked for gave me a feed scoop. It was orange, plastic, and had a Purina logo embossed in the handle. The purpose of the scoop was to fill the stainless steel bowls that were mounted on the front of each calf’s stall. My purpose for having that scoop was so I could be the filler of those bowls.

I was elated. Those calves were the best part of the farm in my 4-year-old mind. I loved how they smelled like sour milk and straw. I giggled non-stop at the way they sucked on my fingers. I cried when they were sick or when it was time to move them out to pasture with the larger calves. I was proud to be their caregiver.

There was just one problem.

The bucket my father filled with feed weighted more than I did. The task of feeding those sweet, spotted calves was a tough one because I often spilled feed going from bucket to stall and back again. Spilled feed is almost worse than spilled milk, but I wasn’t supposed to cry about either.

I soon became discouraged when my father would lose patience over my slow progress and pick up that burdensome bucket to deftly pour just the right amount of feed into the remaining bowls without so much as spilling one kernel of corn.

Why couldn’t I carry that bucket that way?

Nothing frustrated me more than not being big enough to do a job. My father knew this.

One day I noticed the bucket wasn’t quite full. After a scoop or two, I tested my luck. With some effort I was able to pull it closer to my sweet calves and didn’t have to truck those precious scoops of feed quite so far. I was doing it! I was carrying the bucket! Continue reading “That Bucket’s Not Going to Carry Itself”

Whatever Field You’re In – Thoughts from “Farm, Family, and ME!” Summit for Women

As I waited for the opening session of the 2019 Farm, Family, and ME! Summit for Women, I enjoyed being a fly on the wall. I knew no one there. The room filled; the noise level rose, and various conversations began to flow. As with most conferences, the individual participants had their own motivations for being there, but each was there for one reason. They were there to grow in the field of agriculture.

With each introduction, I was pleased to learn my new acquaintance’s name and what branch of farming they represented. Many were there with backgrounds in cattle, hogs, and row cropping. Others represented agri-tourism, sustainable, organic farming, and accounting and farm investment firms. (I was the only turkey farmer.)

The pride each woman showed for her role in the world of agriculture added to my own joy in having grown up and now seeing my own family raised on a farm. The hard work, dirty jobs, and relentless demands of livestock and crops all seemed to be fodder for the flames that grew with each presentation and sharing of information.

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Me enjoying some Missouri-made wine

While this conference was intended to create networking and educational opportunities, it had a feel of an agricultural retreat. The breakout sessions, locally sourced meals,  Missouri-made wines, and positive ideas and options for female farmers were highly therapeutic and invigorating. I definitely left there with a renewed sense of purpose and a brighter view of what I wanted my role in our family farm to be.

Having Marji Guyler-Alaniz, host of FarmHer television, as the opening speaker elevated us to rural rock star status. But before Marji even took the stage, Missouri’s first lady Teresa Parson made a cameo appearance and took the opportunity to meet many of us, asking where we were from and about our farms, and then spoke on the importance of agriculture for our state. She was positive, professional, and approachable. A perfect tone-setter for the summit.

summit-3.jpgThe motivation and story about how FarmHer came to be was one that resonated because of its non-traditional roots and the earnest desire to give the female farmer a voice in our nation’s most necessary industry. With her statistics and experiences, it was impossible to ignore the message being shared by Marji. (I was already a fan of the show, but now my DVR is set to record every episode.) Continue reading “Whatever Field You’re In – Thoughts from “Farm, Family, and ME!” Summit for Women”

Overalls and a Pocket Watch

Overalls and a Pocket Watch

 

Grandpa Frank

Grandpa Frank in his overalls

I guess Father’s Day and this time of year make my memories of my grandpa’s overalls and pocket watch much more vivid.

My husband, father, and father-in-law do a terrific job of showing my children and myself what it is to be a father and a real man, but my Grandpa Frank had a very special way of filling both those jobs.

My Grandpa always wore overalls and a white t-shirt. It was his daily uniform, unless it was church or a special occasion. If it were a special occasion, you could count on him to be in a dress shirt, slacks, and a tie, and he always wore aftershave. Once is a great while, I will pass someone and smell that same aftershave. My heart does a little dance with the happy memory of him.

Grandpa was a farmer.

He was a successful farmer. He knew his land and his animals and he did his best to care for them. We all fought for turns to ride with Grandpa in the tractor or the dump truck. He always let us sneak sips of water from his watercooler. He filled it every morning with ice and water from the fridge so by midday it was the perfect temperature.

Grandpa used to joke that he, “worked harder farming after he retired than he ever did before he retired.” It took me a while to understand that the toll of farming was greater on him as he grew older and the farming  operation got larger.

Grandpa was a provider.

A huge garden was put out and tended by my grandpa each spring. We all helped with the harvesting and putting up the vegetables. We could count on having corn, green beans, beets, potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes through the fall and winter. He dutifully raised chickens, year after year, so that Grandma had eggs for baking cakes and we all had eggs for ourselves. Every winter, as a family, we would butcher hogs and beef together. Those hogs and steers were raised by my uncles and grandpa so that our family would never go without. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing with my cousins during butchering week at Grandma’s and finally being “big enough” to help with tenderizing or cutting up the meat (not just putting on the labels).

Grandpa was a believer.

He believed that God would get us through the tough times. He believed that every year, no matter how wet or how dry, that God would help him make a living off the land.

He believed in love. In my lifetime I have seen few couples who are as dedicated to one another as my grandparents were to each other. Grandpa almost lost Grandma in 1980. They were in a terrible car accident. My grandma was in the hospital for a year and since has spent most of her life walking with a walker or in a wheelchair. Grandpa believed that he had been blessed with love and the ability to care for her and their five children. He did so without complaint or questioning God’s plan.

He believed in the weather man. I know this because I rarely heard him cuss, except about the weather man and missed predictions or forecasts of rain or heat (depending on what Grandpa needed for the week).

He believed in putting all his food together on his plate. Grandpa would pile all of his vegetables, meat, and gravy or whatever he had in one pile and eat it all together. “It all goes to the same place,” he would say and laugh.

He believed in Massey Ferguson tractors. The first time he met my husband, Grandpa shook Greg’s hand and pulled a Massey Ferguson ink pen out of his breast pocket and said, “Do you have one of these?” Greg replied, “No, sir, I don’t.” Grandpa put the pen in his pocket and turned back around in his seat. It was pretty funny for me, not so much for Greg.

He believed we could all pull our weight. A good portion of the time spent at my grandparents’ house was dedicated to doing chores. Taking out trash, sweeping the floor, folding towels, carrying things upstairs or downstairs, gathering the eggs, helping with the garden, or picking up sticks in the yard were just a few of jobs we grandkids were asked to do. The one job that I always found interesting was the dishes. Grandpa would do the dishes for Grandma. He said he didn’t mind doing them. He would tell Grandma to leave them, he would get to them, and he always did. As a girl I didn’t know many men who did dishes. It was proof to me of how much he loved my grandma and that he knew everyone had to do their part.

He believed in his grandchildren. He and Grandma attended every event they could for the 10 of us grandchildren. Attending ball games, concerts, plays, awards ceremonies, masses, and graduations was their way of showing they believed in us. When I decided to go back to college for my teaching degree, Grandpa said, “That’s good. We always need teachers. You will always have a good job.” When I graduated, he and Grandma gave me an engraved bell. It said, “We are proud of you! Love, Grandma and Grandpa”. He told me I wouldn’t need to ring it because I was going to be a good teacher. Continue reading “Overalls and a Pocket Watch”