it's harvest time in the city -- errrrr --- country

When combines emerge and dust starts to fly, I basically start singing, "It's Christmastime in the city" because harvest means fall and fall is basically winter and winter is essentially Christmas, so I'm pretty much ready to start wrapping presents. 

While summer will always be my true love, I cautiously admit to not completely disliking fall and the sound of all the activity in the field, hearing the dryer on the grain bins running at night, sleeping with the windows open and watching the leaves change colors. 


But, oh summer, how our little family will miss you. Fall and winter bring their joys, but gone will be the days of playing in the kiddie pool, scratching around in the sand box, eating our snacks on the front porch, picking flowers from the garden and smelling freshly mowed grass. 


Farming, perhaps more than most livelihoods, reminds us of the seasons. It's not just switching from lemonade to pumpkin spice latte weather. It's switching from drinking gallons of water and trying not to get sunburned while welding on hot tin roofs to wading through the muddy slush of winter, chipping ice from ponds for cows to drink and warming hands around thermoses of coffee before heading back out into the cold. 

But it's not winter just yet. So for now, we will wave at the combine, cheer for truck drivers, disregard all the dust, slow down for tractors on the highways and light a fire in the fire pit when the evening gets cool. 

Summer may be on its way out, and winter may be on its way, but for now, it's simply harvest time in the country.

we grew pumpkins, people!

In case you've missed out on this week's installment of the Zucchini Wars: Forget Zombies, These Are Way Worse, we are losing. 

To quote Lieutenant General Chesty Puller of the United States Marine Corps, "They're on our left. They're on our right. They're in front of us. They're behind us. They can't get away this time!"

Loosely translated, THEY'RE TAKING OVER. 

But you didn't stop by to talk about zucchini. 


Can we instead talk about the fact that there are pumpkins on my porch that have not been eaten by dogs? 

This may not seem like a blog worthy post to you, but I stopped putting up any outdoor decorations after year 1 of marriage. The Christmas wreath got chewed up. A bunting on the deck was -- I don't know -- eaten presumably? Corn husks were dragged across the yard and dismantled. Pumpkins were gnawed apart. You name it and our dogs attempted their best to destroy it. 

So there our deck sat -- alone and sad and decorationless -- until this year. 

Thanks to my father-in-law and a couple of gates, no dogs are anywhere on the deck. And they're certainly nowhere near the pumpkins -- or "poppins" as the toddler calls them -- we somehow managed to grow ourselves.  


My sister gave my farmer some pumpkin seeds from a massive pumpkin patch near her house -- the kind that sells season passes because there's so much to see and do there -- and they didn't disappoint. 

Not bad considering I weeded them about three times, watered them about the same, and then watched them take over the garden. 

Well, the part of the garden that wasn't being ransacked by guerilla zucchini plants taking no prisoners. 


We grabbed some corn stalks from the field, a handful of mums from the 'Marts, and called it a day. 

A good day, because have I mentioned? NONE OF THE DOGS ARE EATING MY DECORATIONS. 

Next question: What's the verdict on spraypainting zucchini orange and pretending they're decorative squash?

Asking for a . . . friend.

what I'm eating and listening to

In case anyone is wondering -- after the Great Zucchini Pandemic of 2017 -- yes, we are still harvesting that Energizer Bunny of all squashes. The stuff just will -- not -- stop. Thankfully, kind people are taking it off my hands, because you can only grate so many gallons of it, puree so much for baby food, and make so many loaves of zucchini bread before you have to move on with life.

If I were more Ma Ingalls and less myself, I'm sure I'd come up with a way to do something amazing with it that will save us from starving when the first blizzard hits this winter. But in the meantime, I'm banking on Aldi's low prices and fresh zucchini bread when I remember to thaw some of the grated stuff.

On the flip side, the lovely thing about NOT being Ma Ingalls is that I can listen to podcasts while my toddler calls her grandma on her fake Blackberry and the baby rolls to his tummy and then gets angry when he can't flip onto his back and I grate roughly six metric ton of zucchini.

In case you're in the mood for some listening variety, here are some favorites in our house:
  • Issues, Etc. = Obviously. We're Lutheran. We love being Lutheran. We love learning Lutherany things. But Issues isn't just for Lutherans. It's for anyone seeking the truth in pretty much any realm: the media, politics, ethics, the home. I have some favorite guests, so on the days I'm feeling in a history mood or a liturgy mood or an "I'm sick of the media" mood, I pull up their name and go to town. (And yes, if you listen to Issues, we are the "Missouri dairy farmers love Issues, Etc." people whose cows are mooing in the background. Don't ask how I got them to moo. I actually looked both ways down the road to make sure the neighbors didn't see me trying to get the heifers to moo back.)
  • Hillsdale Dialogues. From North Korea to the Paris Accord, from the Constitution to the Declaration of Independence, from C. S. Lewis's Abolition of Man to Aristotle on tyranny, it's all here. If you have a half hour and want to be challenged in your thinking, this is for you. These podcasts are funny, historically grounded, timely and always food for thought. 
  • Your Morning Basket. I don't think it's a big shocker for anyone that we intend to homeschool our kiddos. And while that's a few years off yet, I'm starting now to read the books that make the case for doing so and listening to other veteran homeschoolers who have good suggestions on what to do and what not to as you begin teaching your children (what not to: get over-eager early on and try to do too much. what to do: read lots of good books with your kids and let them play. I'm in!). This podcast makes the case for time set aside each morning -- with all the kids -- to review or loop through a small group of hymns, poems, ideas, maps, etc. -- just enough books or journals to fit in a basket. This time allows all the kids to work together, regardless of age, to review a poem they're memorizing or a hymn they've working on singing before spreading out to start their day. Because it's based largely on memorization and building on what you know, the repetition not only gives some structure to your family's morning but also allows your kiddos to draw on what they've committed to memory throughout the year and beyond. 
 So if your garden is going gangbusters in the zucchini department, or if you're simply in the mood to listen to something new, if you're in the midst of baking these delish zucchini chocolate chip muffins (recipe courtesy of my sister-in-law) or if you're sitting on your deck soaking up the last of the summer heat, give one of those a listen.

Also, eat muffins. Or carbs of any kind really. Between history, theology, families and schedules, you can't go wrong.

Also also, chocolate chips.

Happy Labor Day!


2017 Here I Swap -- Fall Mug Swap update and FAQ

Hi, ladies. If you signed up before midnight on Friday, August 25, good news! You're in.

Also . . . 507 of you! We did it! We hit 500. Whew.

When will I get an email about who my mug buddy is? Between now and September 11, you'll receive an email outlining your mug buddy's style, fall loves and other information.

Any suggestions on how to put this package together? As a reminder, after reading up on your new friend (feel free secretly to check out her social media pages too!) and getting a feel for her style, head to Walmart or Home Goods or any place in between to put her fall swap package together. Please spend at least $10.00 but no more than $25.00.

When do I need to mail the package? Send the package -- along with a little note with your name and how she can connect up with you -- by September 25 so that she receives it in time for October and the Reformation.

Packaging tips? Be sure to wrap your mug well. Bubble wrap is your friend! One layer of tissue paper ensures that your buddy will receive a broken mug with only a handle to drink out of, which is virtually impossible.

What happens when I receive a package myself? Post a picture of your fall swap package when it arrives. Use the hashtag #hereiswap2017 on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. You can meet even MORE Reformation-lovin' ladies that way!

What if I don't get an email from you? If you gave me a fake email address or one you don't check often, chances are, it's gone forever. But if you gave me a real email address and haven't heard from me by the end of the day on September 11, feel free to shoot me an email so that we can see if my email ended up in your Spam box or waltzed off elsewhere in outer space.

when zucchinis fight back

People, I'm trying to like gardening. I am.

But I stink at it. I really do.

When I'm pulling weeds around 47 million watermelon plants that only produced 3 actual melons, I find myself thinking, "Is there a reason I'm spending a half an hour every day doing this when watermelons are $2.99 at Aldi?"

I haven't come up with a good reason yet.

But as a testament to the courage and fortitude of the zucchini plants, who survived regardless of my lack of weeding love, I'm now freezing gallons upon gallon bags of shredded zucchini, making zucchini boats every other day, and slicing zucchini into fries and baking them.

I was about to say that makes me like gardening, but the jury's still out.

Want to eat 12 loaves of zucchini bread and talk about it?

Actually, me neither. I've got weeding to do.

Here I Swap 2017 - - Registration Is Open! -- UPDATE: And now it's closed!


No, wait. It's the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and that's cause for celebration! Hopefully you're doing plenty of that already -- hymn sings, anyone? -- but when it comes to this kind of awesomeness, you can never have too much.

That's why it's time for Here I Swap 2017. Last year, we had about 150 ladies sign up. Don't you think we can make it to 500 this year?

I do.

This year, we're swapping coffee mugs along with a little something that says the season of fall/autumn. (Bonus points if you can work in Reformation swag.)

Here's how it works:

  1. You sign up here. 
  2. I find another gal with similar interests and then send you her contact info and other pertinent information. 
  3. You peruse that information, which will give you a glimpse into her style, theology and personality.
  4. You put together a little care package for her, based on that information. YOU MUST, AT THE VERY LEAST, SEND HER A MUG. Beyond that, does she love pumpkin spice lattes? Get her a drink mix! Does she adore fall-scented candles? Send her one! Is her favorite hymn "A Mighty Fortress"? Order her an LSB from CPH! This part is up to you. Once you've got a mug, you'll simply need to piece together a fall-themed care package that you think she'll love -- and it can be as simple or involved as you'd like. 
  5. Stick that package in the mail!
  6. Channel your inner Katie Luther, and wait patiently by the mailbox for YOUR care package to arrive. While you're busy finding a gorgeous mug and putting together a kind fall-themed gift for your new friend, another woman will be doing the same for you!
  7. You'll now have met two new friends -- one you've sent a package to and one who's sent a package to you -- and perhaps even recited your Small Catechism while doing so.

Are you game?

  • If you're 21 or older, sign up by clicking this link and filling out the (short -- I promise!) form. 

  • Sign-ups close August 25. You'll receive information on your swap friend by September 11. 

  • After reading up on your new friend (feel free secretly to check out her social media pages too!) and getting a feel for her style, head to Walmart or Home Goods or any place in between to put her fall swap package together. Please spend at least $10.00 but no more than $25.00.

  • Send the package -- along with a little note with your name and how she can connect up with you -- by September 25 so that she receives it in time for October and the Reformation. 

  • Post a picture of your fall swap package when it arrives. Use the hashtag #hereiswap2017 on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. You can meet even MORE Reformation-lovin' ladies that way!

  • Finally, I'm hoping this swap will be a fun way for Lutheran women to encourage each other . . . and enjoy a few fall-themed goodies along the way, but unfortunately, I can't be held responsible for your partner's actions. I'm hopeful people are signing up who will actually send their swap packages, but if you haven't received a package by October 15, please let me know at if your partner doesn't come through so I can check in with her. *If I find out someone didn't mail a mug, she's banned to swapping purgatory. But seriously, you'll be out of the running for a year, and it will take a papal bull to get you back in the swap. Or something along those lines.*

Ready? Let's get swapping! Sign up now! 

walking beans

I'm currently knee-deep in Ben Sasse's book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis, which I'd highly recommend by the way, and just read his observation that asking an adult about his first job usually kickstarts a fascinating conversation. 

That's providing, of course, that he's not a 20-year-old who's in college and hasn't yet worked a day in his life. 


My first job -- as a ten-year-old -- was very glamorous. Are you ready?

I walked beans for my uncle in the midst of the Iowa summer heat. 

For non-farmers, walking beans meant spreading out over a bean field to seek and destroy any weeds that would have otherwise been combined during harvest. 

Plus it made for an immaculate looking bean field. 

My mom and sister and a couple of her friends and I would meet at a certain field early in the morning before the sun got too hot. We'd drag along our hoes and water and lots of bug spray,  take 6-8 rows per person, and set out across the field to cut down any weeds that had cropped up. 

It was often wet work; the dew from the early morning made the leaves damp so before you were 50 feet into the field, you were soggy from the waist down. 

And it wasn't uncommon to step on a snake. Or a frog. We'd jump so high we'd land a row over while screaming like, well, girls. 

I walked beans every morning for several weeks. I was covered in mosquito bites. I had a solid sunburn. My shoes were soggy, and my jeans were muddy.

And I made $80.00 when it was all over. It was enough to open my first checking account. At the time, it could have been a million dollars as far as ten-year-old me was concerned. 

Most people don't walk beans anymore. I don't know if that's because of superior bean quality, better spray, or if kids are just lazy.  Maybe walking beans was never really necessary to begin with, and it was simply a good way to keep middle schoolers and teenagers busy in the summer. Hmm.

But I do know that walking over all those acres, cutting down all those weeds, stepping on all those snakes and collapsing into bed from being hot and tired earned me 80 glorious dollars and the reward of sweaty work well done. 

And I can't wait to see my children do the same. It may be working with cows or weeding in the garden or building fence. But I do want them to know what it's like to be sweaty and sunburned and bug-bitten. 

It was good for me. It will be good for them too. And you can take that to the bank. 

All $80.00 worth. 

What was your first job? 
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