Fall Harvest

There is so much to learn about farming. As my mother-in-law always says, farming is his love, not mine. This is true. I will listen to him, but no, hunny I really don’t care about feed rations or exciting equipment featured on http://www.tractorhouse.com.

When it comes to fall harvest, I can tell the difference between a field that has been chopped versus combined. I know the corn has to dry out and it gets kind of droopy looking. They started testing the moisture for a week or two to get ready for combining. But somehow the sudden absence of my husband still caught me by surprise. Seriously, Jake sent a text one afternoon saying “I’m going to get the combine.” In man terms that should have been ample communication. But I totally did not process that as being “See you in a week from now!” I really don’t know why, I mean what did I think they were going to do with the combine? I just always forget how long it takes and how late it gets when they are trying to get fields done and bins full.

When Jake pulled in the yard with the huge combine, another one of his job’s duties was waiting- the feed reps. from AgVenture were waiting for him to touch base. So Jake parked the combine and was talking to them. Well, I was outside with my 3 kids along with a friend’s 5 year old son that I watch part time. I’ve got Ellorie in the baby carrier and two excited toddlers, one running around each side of the combine. The 5 year old waited patiently off to the side. But Joey & Caleb split in opposite directions running around both sides of the combine that was still running. Jake eventually helped me rally them up but not before I gave the feed reps quite the show. There I was running around with a baby strapped to her chest jetting to the left after one toddler and then looping to the right after the other. Much like a cutting horse.. (If you’ve never seen a horse cut cattle, you need to you tube that!)

I feel like I could write a post focusing simply on Miss Ellorie in the baby carrier. She sure gets taken on a ride almost every day out seeing the world with her curious, energetic, and busy big brothers. I have a lot of anxiety trying to keep an eye on those two. Things happen so quickly, like the sound of clanking metal one afternoon and you turn and half yell, half laugh at what you are about to deal with “Joey, no!! Don’t let that calf out!”. But oh, no, here we go. It sure is awkward wrestling a calf with a baby in between you and the calf. The calf is secured, and Joey’s on to the big gate next. There is a lot of jogging after them with one hand supporting Ellorie to limit the impact of my running. Phew, we didn’t let the herd of milk cows out this time.

That first night that the combine was there, Jake couldn’t wait to drive it. My father-in-law was supposed to be gone that night driving for another farmer that our family works closely with, until plans changed and he came home that night with intentions to drive the combine himself. Jake told me “I guess I won’t be combining tonight.” I silently rejoiced but then he pouted, “Dad’s coming home. I don’t get to drive tonight.” Sometimes I forget how much he loves this job. This life. That’s something I love about Jake. When someone is passionate about something you can see it in their smile, in their step, in their demeanor and he has all of that.

Jake took our boys, age 3 & 2 in the combine for THREE hours for me one day during harvest. It was such a helpful gesture and I should have been able to move mountains inside our cluttered, sticky-handprints-everywhere home. Oh wait, I have a third child. She has really been a blessing to us. And she is an amazing sleeper at night, goes down around 8 pm and sleeps soundly until wake her around 7 am. So because of that blessing, she just takes random little cat naps during the day not sleeping for longer than 30 minutes usually and she wants to eat, often! And likes to be held and talked to. So of course she did not sleep during my three hours of freedom. That’s been an adjustment, I can rarely finish a task these days. Even this post is a draft that I am revisiting from a few weeks ago.

Jake came in beaming one night this October, telling me he had the best day ever.  He said it’s the most corn he’s ever seen this year. “Let the corn roll in, baby!” With a little “cha-Ching” arm motion. “I just thank God for this farm and for you and the kids”.  During harvest he sure does have to lift me up though. I have struggled with the weights and balances of positive and negative. I have everything I’ve ever wanted in life, but when someone is licking your feet while you’re cooking supper (yes, my kids are strange), and the other is drawing on the floor with your eyeliner, while you reinsert pacifier for 15th time for the baby- It is hard to hang on to the joy you find in your 3 year old’s hilarious outlook on life; your 2 year old’s out of the blue bear hug & “I love you Mom”, or your 4 month old babies newly found belly laugh. That’s why it’s hard to write sometimes. Because I want to lift others up but I first have to find my grace, and my peace.

And now I am almost there. To sweet, sweet winter. In a lot of ways I hate winter. I don’t have thick Minnesota skin. I start shivering in 30 degree weather from a simple walk to a building from a vehicle. And I hate that feeling. But in my role as farm wife, I absolutely love winter. My husband is about to be home. Like inside of our house, home (outside of milking & routine animal care) There will be more quality time as a family, and sorry babe, a honey do list. I know it’s my hair, but I can’t do it. I can’t use that snake contraption to unclog the shower drain, it makes me gag. I will hold the plastic bag for you though.

Until next time. Thanks for reading the dairy wife’s diary.

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The Way It Used To Be

My husband, Jake, and I have been together for over 7 years now. I am used to his schedule, he milks cows morning & night- 5 AM. & 5 PM 365 days a year. That means most of our plans involve either being home before 4:30 PM or so, and/or not going out until after 7:30 PM when he’s done milking cows. You get pretty used to it, and honestly it’s not that big of a deal. I actually loved it when I was working, I would casually run my errands or meet up with friends after work & still have plenty of time to make supper by 7:30. It was some nice me time to wind down after work before spending time with Jake.

I was not prepared for how things would change when we started a family. Really, I think all parents find this out real quickly, things are a little overwhelming. But specifically for me, with a husband on the farm, I was a bit shell shocked. I was lucky enough when our first son was born that my husband was able to spend most of his days with me in between chores. So he helped me get adjusted and we were happy as can be with our new little guy. It was an adjustment going back to work because all of a sudden I had to pick up Joey right after work and at that time we lived about 10 minutes away from the farm so when he was working late during harvest or what not it got a little lonely. But even with Joey, he was pretty portable in his little carrier car seat, I would just take him with and get back into my routine of errands or meeting up with friends. This wasn’t so bad, doing this whole Mom thing!

Then when our second son was born, Caleb, things really changed. I had an extremely active 15 month old and a newborn that was not colicky by any means, but if he was awake, he wanted to be held! All the time. And I did not have the baby wearing thing figured out at that time. It was chaos for a long time. And basically I would get the kids fed & bathed, and just as I was zipping those footie pajamas up, the garage door would open and my husband would be home. Or if God was really testing me, the noise presumed to be the garage door was actually the sump pump. Jake would usually arrive home right after I finished scrubbing poop out of the bath tub or scrubbing rice or noodles off the floor or what have you. Perfect timing for you, my dear! (Blood boiling…) But it wasn’t his fault.

Being a farm wife means a lot of independence. Living off the farm is an incredible challenge. Because one of a farmer’s greatest perks is making your own schedule and having random breaks in your day sometimes between waiting for parts or in between hoof trimming and herd check or what have you. But when you live off the farm, your husband is less likely to pop home for lunch, or take the time to mow the lawn or fix the wobbly shelf or spend an hour with you on a Saturday afternoon. This creates a whole new tension and I remember feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. During the summer, Jake would only be home close to dark most days so the back yard looked terrible!! I mowed it twice.. Once when I got both kids to sleep at the same time, and once when I had Caleb asleep in his car seat in the garage, and Joey strapped in the stroller. I would mow a row or two, check on them, and repeat. That was too stressful! Poor, Dean, our amazing neighbor came to the rescue countless times (maybe he was just mortified to live next to our yard!). Then there was the old guy who moved in behind us, yes he was definitely mortified because his rider demolished our beautiful weed infested, once-was-a-garden. He drove right over the rubber edging. And proceeded to mow the entire back yard. I guess he didn’t like the view.

Anyway, you get the point. It can be incredibly lonely & challenging living away from the farm. So we knew it had to change. But all of the houses near the farm were way out of our price range. They were either lakeshore or came with expensive acreage. So we knew we had to build. After looking at all the possibilities on the farm there was no where the county would allow us to build due to setbacks and watershed district or without cutting into an existing field. So we requested a variance and interim use permit to build right in the yard, 20-some feet away from his parents house. And by the grace of God they approved it! I will continue next post about how I’m adjusting to life ON the farm & after welcoming a third baby to the mix. Thanks for reading! After I tell my story I will start to share all the things I’ve learned from activities to keep little ones busy to creative DIY’s to quick and easy recipes. Stay posted 🙂

He’s Home!

Life on the farm is complete bliss. Most of the time. My husband can make his own hours and living on the farm means he is rarely more than a four wheeler ride away. Probably my favorite part about my husbands job is the fact that even though he’s working, we are still always able to see him. We can ride along in the tractor or disc bine (my personal favorite), or tag along on the Ranger to check crops or livestock. Or we can spend as much time in the barn during milking as we want.

When I say, we, I mean myself & our three beautiful children age 3, 2 & “new” (now 2 months). I’ve been considering starting a “mom blog” for about 2 years now. Partially because my oldest son, Joey, is so unbelievably busy & smart & he creates such entertaining stories as he explores & tests cause & effect on this world. But the other reason, is because of the unique lifestyle I live and how several years ago, I myself went googling for farm wife blogs to find support & encouragement from other farm wife’s out there. And while I did find a few good ones, I still felt the urge to start my own. I have always loved writing, because it feels good to get it all out there. And I’m kind of awkward with verbal communication 🙂 More importantly this is such a special time in my life with small children and a blossoming marriage (4 years going strong) that it will be such a gift to have the best stories of my life written and saved forever. But most of all, I hope another new farm wife will stumble across this and be lifted up. After all, how many farm wifes do you really know now a days?

What pushed me to write this post tonight is the sense of excitement I felt hearing the disc bine start heading home & finally seeing the lights roll into the yard and feeling the relief of “he’s home”. I just wanted to share a cocktail and some lame reality TV with my husband who I hadn’t seen much today but then he came in and just looked beat and said he needed to go to bed. Some days the farm sucks the life right out of him. My heart sank. But I have to remind myself he hasn’t had more than 4-5 hours of sleep for at least a week. And the thing is, he would stay up all night every night just to talk to me. I know, because I’ve made him do it before. That was before I understood farm life.

I found it strange how many times in the first few months of dating that Jake would keep drilling me about the farm and if I could handle it. It’s because, no matter what, the farm does come first. Not in a “talk to the hand”, “gotta go”, “you don’t matter” way, but in a “this is our livelihood, our bread & butter”, “need to take care of business” kind of way. He has countless of times set aside farm work to take a load off of me and help with the kids, or delay “hauling shit” to take care of me when I’m sick. He has put me & the kids first every day that we need him to. But the rest of our daily life revolves around the farm. One year, I remember only just leaving at 11 pm, with our 4 month old son, to go for a 3 hour trip up north for Labor Day weekend because Jake had to help finish chopping corn. That’s the other thing about farming, you work together.

My husband farms alongside his Dad, Allan, who has ran the farm for over 30 years. My mother-in-law, Lorie, a now veteran farm wife & best in the county cookie baker, also helps milk during morning shift & as needed. Last but not least, my husband also has 3 younger siblings, Clayton, 16, Jenny, (almost) 15 & Sami 12 1/2, that are the most hard working and respectful kids you will ever meet. I could write a book about everything I’ve learned about farm life, beginning with my first lesson on tractor driving, from Jake’s then 8 year old sister, Jenny. She covered her face with her palm and raised her voice to me as I took a corner too sharp with a tractor & trailer and knocked down a few rows of corn. Whoops.

I can say with certainty that even still, I have a lot to learn about farm life. Thanks for reading, and I’d love it if you continued to follow my journey through the Dairy Wife’s Diary.