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. 

Gah. 

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? 

World Milk Day


I still remember, standing in the middle of our gravel lane as a little girl, hearing a friend of mine say in awe, "You mean bacon comes from those!?" as she pointed a little finger at a pen full of hogs. "I thought it came from the grocery store!"

 

Fast forward 25 years down the road, and she's as interested in where her food comes from as she's always been . . . but even farther removed from it than ever.


That might be you too!

So on World Milk Day, (1) please know how grateful I am that you buy and drink and love milk. As the wife of a dairy farmer, I'm grateful. (2) Can I also encourage you to think beyond your grocery store when it comes to food? 


Wonder where the spices came from.


Google how romaine lettuce is grown.


See if someone in your area raises chickens and will show you how it's done.


You may not live on a farm.

 

You may have never seen a hog, or thought much about where bacon came from; never gotten close to a cow, or considered that milk doesn't spontaneously create itself in the grocery store freezer.

 

But milk doesn't care. Milk's just glad you love its delicious, creamy self.

And we are too. 

So here's to milk: the best partner available when it comes cookie dipping, Cheerio soaking, rhubarb crisp dousing, and post-workout gulping.

Milk, it's your day!














springtime hope

Jane Austen once wrote that a couple with a 15-month-old who brings a newborn home and then proceeds to survive two weeks of planting season will be able to withstand any trial that may befall their marriage.

She didn't actually say that, but if she had been a dairy farmer she definitely would have used it as an opening line to a book.


I've been MIA lately because of said newborn -- sleep being a vastly overrated commodity in his world -- but we're doing well here.

The corn is planted. The beans are going in the ground. The heifers have been worked. The rain has finally let up.

And while coffee is in high demand in our house these days, we are giving thanks for all those things.

For instance, Chris was still up planting at 1:30 in the morning a few weeks ago. I was up feeding the baby. I was texting him jokes to keep him awake. He was sending me good Vince Gill and George Straight songs he was listening to in the planter. It was practically like a date -- just minus the restaurant, babysitter and, you know, being together.

Our little boy also has silent reflux -- the variety that you can't see but you can definitely hear, the kind that causes him to cry for hours a day -- and we are getting that under control too. Or at least making progress in that regard.


Has it been the smoothest month of our lives? Not by a long shot.

But, as a recent Wall Street Journal article suggests, we have chosen a mantra to repeat for these days when the hours are long, the crying seems incessant and the sun refuses to shine.

It's not actually a mantra. It's a verse, and one that my dad has brought up several times recently, perhaps because he knew more than I did that I needed to hear it.

"Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts" (Romans 5).

That is what we repeat to ourselves at 1:30 in the morning or when a piece of machinery breaks down or the baby is feeling criddly. Trials aren't bad. Hard things are worth it. Suffering. Endurance. Character. Hope.

(Besides, when we are feeling tired or sorry for ourselves, we talk about the Little House on the Prairie. Do you know who doesn't have it bad? Us. Do you know who did? Ma. Ma Ingalls did. She had it ROUGH, people. Pa is wearing through the soles in his boots and Ma is having to deal with him moving all the time while taking care of her soddy and saving meat for the winter and making sure wolves don't run off with the children. I mean, a few newborn tears are nothing in comparison when you get right down to it. Some people say to man up. I remind myself to Ma Ingalls up.)

So we are planting. And we are taking care of babies. And thanks to our heavenly Father, who gives us warm spring nights, two chubby children, four lazy dogs, rolling hills, a programmable coffee maker, and each other, we are doing just fine . . .with lots and lots of hope.




Agriculture Grows Families





A couple of months ago, Chris had the opportunity to speak at the Missouri Governor's Conference as a representative of the dairy industry. In honor of National Ag Week, I'm sharing his comments here, as one dairy farmer just telling his story. 

 Hi, I’m Chris. I'm a dairy farmer in Missouri.  My wife and I farm together with my parents.  We milk Holstein cows, farm acres of row crops, in addition to raising about  replacement heifers on local pastures.   Now, my wife, she grew up on a hog farm in northwest Iowa.  So, naturally we never, ever argue about which animal is better…about which animal smells better, looks better, tastes better…
As I was thinking about what I wanted to say here today, my thoughts were drawn to my little 11 month old daughter crawling around and to my wife who is carrying our next child due in March.  And I thought about my great grandfather who lost everything in the Great Depression and about my grandpa who started all over again with nothing.  I thought about the five generations before me who have dairy-ed in Missouri; about the challenges they faced, the opportunities they made, the families they built.  

By nature, agriculture draws families; or better put, agriculture grows families.  As a result, many of us in agriculture have been here in Missouri for generations; perhaps one generation, or three generations or six or more.  And each of those generations have seen their fair share of challenges.  They’ve seen droughts and floods; humid, oppressive summers and icy, bone-chilling winters; blights and insects; weeds and failed crops; and a financial or farm crisis or too.  And yet somehow, here we are today.  
Imagine the challenges that those early settlers of Missouri saw as they came up the river or through the forests.  And yet, they saw the potential, the rough forms, the uncut gems that could be someday.  And in the fields, in the forests, in the pastures, in the barns, they sweated and they bled and they dreamed and they seized the opportunities they were given.  Heck, sometimes they made their own opportunities where there were none and built a rich heritage of agriculture in the process.
 

Those are the stories I think about when I think the challenges and opportunities that face my farm and my family and my dairy.  Are there challenges in the dairy industry?  You bet.  Missouri summers are tough, prices have been low, few members of the workforce have dairy experience, and we don’t have the extent of infrastructure that we used to.   
 But we are not without opportunities.  We have plentiful, high quality feed that’s readily available and affordable:  corn silage, soybean-meal, soybean hulls, distiller’s grains, brewer’s grains, corn gluten, cottonseed, alfalfa, and plentiful pasture land.  We have micro-creameries popping up across the state, reintroducing people to specialty dairy products.   We have a good water supply supported by plentiful rainfall.  In the end, though, it’s not about those physical challenges and opportunities; it’s about how we react to them.  
 

The opportunities afforded us go beyond the physical necessities of dairying.  I find that we have a tremendous opportunity to connect with consumers and to help build consumer confidence.  We have the opportunity to strengthen our social license to operate.  People love dairy cows; they love seeing a calf running through a pasture; they love seeing the care and concern that we have for our animals.  People love the story we have to tell, and they love the way our families are interwoven with our farms.  I strongly believe that this is one opportunity that will have a  positive impact upon our industry for decades to come.
Similarly, we have the opportunity to impact our communities through those employees who work on our farms.  Not only does capital flow back into the local community, but so does character.  I strongly believe dairy farming is character-building work…trust me, I grew up scraping manure and chasing calves.  The character that our employees develop…well, they carry that character and work ethic back into their communities, into their churches, into their families.  As I said before, at its core, agriculture grows families.
 

So both opportunities and real challenges are present.  But if our forebears who settled this state could overcome the mammoth challenges, we can too.  I believe the future can be very bright for Missouri dairy, for those who have the eyes to see the opportunities and the fortitude to capitalize on them.  To quote President-Elect Trump: “If you’re going to think, you might as well start thinking big.”
Each of us up here represents a different industry with different opportunities and different challenges. It’s a pleasure to be a part of that agricultural community here in Missouri, and a pleasure to be with all of you here today. 

thankful for farmers -- and especially mine

 

Pregnancy teaches you a lot about your husband. (It also teaches you a lot about donuts and why women hate scales, but that's neither here nor there.)

  

My husband is a busy farmer. He manages employees and cows and crops and machinery. He works at his desk at home before he goes to his desk at work. He works at his desk at night after he gets home from working at work. He tracks data and runs reports. He does research and recon. He works with nutritionists and dairy science professors and seed salesmen. He buys hay and heifers.  

 

And in the midst of it all, he takes care of me and our little girl and never, ever complains. He chases her while I put the supper dishes away and reads her books and helps her pick up her toys before she goes to bed. And she -- and I -- love every minute. 


I mean, on Valentine's Day, this guy bought me flowers . . . AND CHOCOLATE MILK . . . AND ICE CREAM because he is just that thoughtful. 


He tells me to put my feet up at night, and when I'm editing articles in the evenings and whining about contractions, he grabs his computer and sits next to me and keep refilling my water. 

He even sends me off to get pedicures and insists I get Panera mango smoothies and mac and cheese while I'm there. (Sir, yes, sir. No arguments from me!) 

 

I just keep his clothes clean, dinner on the table, his favorite book next to his chair, the toys picked up and a bottle of wine ready after an especially long day. 

It seems like a very small thank you in return for all he does for us. 


(But I did sneak him some chocolate in the form of his F-150 on Valentine's Day. That seemed like a farmer-appropriate gift. And this truck didn't even have two dogs in the back or manure on the tires!)

I try to tell him this on a routine basis, but I really, truly am thankful for all he does. From cows to chicken coops, from black and white Labs to black and white Holsteins, from soybeans to oats to corn, from planting to harvest, from Cat wheel loaders to Deere silage choppers, to taking care of my large pregnant self to reading to our daughter, he packs a lot of life into each day and he does it selflessly for us.

As wonderful as flowers are, my farmer's care for us -- at his own expense -- is at the top of my thank-you list. 

And I suspect at the top of the cows' list too. :) 



Cheesecake-Stuffed Peaches | Dairy

 

I went to the doctor last week, and the nurse was all like, "You gained five pounds in the last two weeks. Here's your exam room. Now wait an hour to see the doctor."

Ok, it didn't happen exactly like that, but the nurse did say with an absolutely straight, emotionless face that I had gained FIVE POUNDS IN TWO WEEKS. 


I'm pretty sure in your third trimester you're supposed to be gaining right around a pound a week. So in this case, I'm an overachiever in the worst way possible.

Valentine's Day

The most excitement I can remember on a Valentine's Day happened when my mom made our family heart-shaped pizzas. 

Also when I broke up with a boyfriend a couple days before Valentine's Day because he was being a louse. 

I prefer to focus on the pizzas. Pizzas never let you down. Pizzas love you no matter what. 


This year for Valentine's Day, I made a handful of little gifts for a handful of people I like, made a handful of little cards for a handful of little cousins who live far away, and called it a day . . . and then sat down to determine what kind of heart-shaped pizza we'll be eating on the 14th. 

I'm nothing if not consistent. 

 

I was also trying to use up things in my craft closet: nine million tea towels, extra Pyrex coffee cups, the 47th roll of red baker's twine . . .  

It doesn't take a $200 trip to Target to let people know you care.

 

Besides, who needs Target when you have a gabillion Pinterest printables at your fingertips? 

Granted, there are some pretty lame ones out there, but then again, there's "I'm cocoa for you!" and "I like you a latte!" And who doesn't feel like a million bucks after that? (Don't answer that.)


Let's just say . . . I'm all for reminding people that they matter, especially when they're worn out from work, spent from chasing after kiddos and everything in between. 

I may not be able to bake you all a heart-shaped pizza, but I do think "You're tea-rrific!" and that counts for something, right? 

Happy Valentine's Day!









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