Thank you!

I know everybody has to post something about the Holidays this time of year. Well, guess what? I’m going to be talking about Thanksgiving just like thousands of other people. Is my post going to be paradigm shifting? Am I going to inspire world changing  actions? That is not necessarily my goal. Sure, I’d love it if my words changed someone’s life for the better by inspiring them to get out there and love the many, many people so desperately in need this time of year.6397845509_1f1a4e14f4_o

My main goal today is just to make people think. I want people to actually take some time and THINK about their lives and the things that have and haven’t happened. Believe me! Making people think is not an easy thing to do. Many of us, and I include myself in “US”, go through our day putting out the next fire or going through the rote activities of daily life. We take all day trying to either catch up or not get caught up. Please, sit down for just a minute and take stock.

Thanksgiving is just another day on the farm. Farmers don’t get paid days off work. Livestock don’t take the day off from needing to eat or drink.  Cows need to be milked every day. They need to be milked two or three times a day, every day. Routine farm jobs that have to be done, have to be done whether the day is a Holiday or not. Critical machinery like water lines or feed augers break down and have to be fixed, now. The job is only made harder because all the stores are closed. The job is made harder because you are supposed to be at your Mother’s house by noon. The job is made harder because the weather is cold and frozen outside. The job still has to be done because livestock don’t care that you have places to be. They only know that they are hungry and needy and you are responsible to take care of them.

Thanksgiving is, however, not just another day on the farm. Thanksgiving’s very roots are as a harvest festival celebrating the probability of actually having a chance to live throughout the coming winter. This was a big deal. The first settlements of Europeans in the Americas either starved to death or starved almost to death many times before establishing an Agricultural base that could reliably support life over winter. This is a fact. I am not talking about a harvest making the difference between eating well or eating poorly. This harvest meant the difference between life and death for many of these settlers.

“Yeah, yeah, I know all that” you say. Stop and think. Many of my neighbors (i.e. people living within several miles of my house) do not have enough to eat this winter. Hopefully, they won’t starve like the first Jamestown colony but not enough food is not enough food. Food banks are doing booming business and that business “booms” more pretty well every year. People still worry about having enough resources to last through the winter just like they did 300 to 400 years ago.

Where does that food come from? “Captain Obvious” says that the food this country eats is produced by America’s farmers. Each farmer out there is proud of her or his part in the food chain that supplies this country with a reliable supply of turkey’s, potatoes, pumpkins and cranberries. Each farmer out there is proud that the milk, lettuce, tomatoes, wheat, or pecans that they produce ends up celebrated on this most Agricultural of America’s Holidays.

I am very thankful this year. I have been blessed in my family. I have a job to go to every day. I have a roof over my head. I recently had a co-worker who was involved in a serious accident that could easily have been fatal and she walked away with a few scratches. Thank You, God!DSC01670 Eating time!

I know that many other people live hard lives. Many people around me are struggling and I realize that I can always do more to help them in this season of Holiday and throughout the year. We can all be thankful that we live in a country that produces enough food. Our economic system may struggle to get that food where it is needed most. That is not the fault of the Farmers who struggle every day, even on Thanksgiving day, to produce safe and nutritious food in reliable ways for the world to eat. Take a few minutes, or a minute, even a few seconds next Thursday and give some thanks to everybody who has labored to give you the opportunity to be Thankful in the first place. I will be including America’s Farmers.

Advertisements

A Typical Wisconsin Dairy Farmer

I’m going to introduce you to someone today. A typical Wisconsin Dairy Farmer; not to be confused with an “atypical” Wisconsin Dairy Farmer. This typical farmer is “Dairy Carrie”.

Dairy Carrie is a dairy farmer on a family owned farm in Wisconsin. She didn’t start out that way. Carrie started out just like the overwhelming majority of people start out. She started as a non-farmer. Then, she became the first young woman to take an Ag class at her High School! I think that is a great part of her story. Apparently, she had a great experience because she eventually married into a multi-generational farm family. I am not going to go on at length about family working together but I will say that it is great when it works. It doesn’t always work. That is a topic for another day.

Carrie blogs about her experience as a dairy farmer at “The Adventures of Dairy Carrie…I think I Need a Drink!“. She farms with her husband and his parents on a typical Wisconsin dairy of about 300 acres and about 100 cows. She has been posting a lot of new-born calf pictures lately because it is calving season. I was raised on a dairy so I personally think calves are very appealing.Image (I’d call them cute and adorable but that is not a very manly thing to say.) She covers a lot of different topics on her blog about life in Wisconsin but she became Nationally recognized through her Agvocacy. “Agvocacy” means that when Carrie sees an issue relating to Agriculture that needs to be addressed, she takes action!

Her first big action was in response to the historic drought conditions a few years ago. She started an on-line hay drive to donate hay from farmers in Wisconsin to farmers trying to feed their cattle in the extreme dry areas of Texas and Oklahoma. She originally intended to get one semi-trailer of hay. The drive achieved “viral” status on-line and she ended up sending 7 truck loads of hay! That is making a difference!

Carrie attended an AgChat conference a couple of years ago and that just spurred her interest in Agvocacy to a higher level.  Panera Bread Company put out an Ad campaign in-accurately portraying Poultry producers using antibiotics in a lazy attempt to raise un-healthy chicken a few years ago and Carrie spoke out. Her promotion of the truth about Poultry producers caught Panera’s attention and they ended up retracting their whole Ad campaign!

Carrie speaks genuinely and from the heart. She blogs. She uses Twitter. She has a Facebook page. She was picked up by the Huffington Post when she talked about being a Farmer and not a “Farm Wife”. She tells the story of her family and her farm and her life in Wisconsin and her Agvocacy in a transparent fashion that reaches people. All kinds of people are following Carrie. That is the way to tell the story of Agriculture. A thousand farmers may read her but that is “singing to the choir”. The “overwhelming majority of people” who are just like Carrie before she took that first Ag class in High School are hearing and experiencing parts of her life. They are becoming engaged in farming and experiencing the truth about farming as told by someone living the life, not a Restaurant chain bashing modern Agriculture practices to sell burritos. People are being inspired out there right now to start something like a hay drive because they now know it can be done and it has been done. I recommend taking a look at Dairy Carrie and trying some of her brand of inspiration on for size. It might change your life!

Denial

Today’s post is a hard one. That is actually a large part of what this post is about. I am going to be talking about loss; very personal loss. I’m talking worse than your alma mater losing a football game or losing your wallet. I want to talk about death loss. This is something EVERY farmer knows personally.

I just watched an episode of “The Blacklist” on NBC. There was a scene where the main character is talking to her father on the phone. She has just found out her father is in the hospital having some tests because he has a history of cancer and is concerned about relapse. She tells her father “I know you will be OK!”. That phrase is the point. Sometimes, your loved ones will NOT be ok.

Before you get upset with me, take a deep breath and read on. I fully understand that saying “I know you will be OK!” is what everyone does. That phrase is a statement of hope and love and faith. That phrase is often the best possible encouragement in times when people are desperately in need of just ANY kind of moral and emotional boost. It can be the prayer that brings emotional support right when and where it is needed. The problem is blind, un-reasoning, and un-ending belief in that statement in total denial of facts. That only leads to a train wreck where the express train of denial runs headlong into the road block of reality.

Farmers, all farmers, have personal knowledge of loss and death. I have mentioned the biological nature of Agriculture in other posts. “Biologic” literally means LIFE science. “Life” implies death in it’s very essence. What lives, eventually dies. Crops must be harvested before they die in whatever length of growth cycle they may have. The “harvesting” of live animals eventually requires death for the most part. Live animals can be productive without dying by laying eggs or giving milk among other things. Trees and some other plants can produce fruit and nuts for years without dying. Eventually those egg layers, milk givers, and perennial crops will die out. If they can be productive by supplying meat, or leather, or lumber, that death is also productive and a part of the production cycle. But sometimes crops die out of season. Sometimes livestock die from natural disaster or disease or lightning strikes or just plain stupidity.

THIS IS A FACT OF FARMING! Death happens! It happens all the time. We are generally pretty much isolated from the reality of death in our culture. Funeral homes take care of the messy part of the death of loved ones. It often, though certainly not always, occurs at a ripe old age in the antiseptic environment of a hospital or other type of care facility. We can often, but certainly not always, distance ourselves from some of the harsh reality of the ugliness of death. This can allow us to use phrases like “I know you will be OK!” without having to be slapped in the face with the reality that it will not be ok. Again, I want to be VERY clear here. I am NOT comparing the death of a loved one to the death of livestock. I am just saying that farmers have a more frequent and closer relationship to death and loss than many others in our culture.

Farmers see death and loss right up close and personal. ANY farmer that raises livestock of any type will have death loss. “You can only lose ’em if you have ’em.” is a phrase that farmers have to live with. I am going to spell out what that phrase means because it is a vital point. The only way to lose assets like livestock to death is if you have that asset in the first place. Owning livestock carries an implicit understanding that death loss is possible and very probable but the only way to make a living farming is to have that asset in the first place! Farmers CANNOT be in denial of this because IT IS A FACT. Farmers can and do utilize every management technique possible to minimize that loss but it will happen. Livestock get hit by lightning all the time. Stormy WeatherThere is NO AVOIDING THIS. Animals get sick and die whether or not they have received all of the appropriate anti-biotics. My dad had a steer wedge it’s head in a fork in a tree and strangle itself. My wife’s Uncles had a BEAUTIFUL field of river bottom corn that got flooded and totally ruined. That field was a total loss and there was nothing they could do about it. Crops get ruined somewhere every year due to drought or disease or insects. Some of this can be avoided but some of it cannot! Death loss of livestock and ruined crops is a huge financial, personal, and emotional loss that farmers face as a fact of daily life. Farmers are no less prone to trying to deny this fact than anyone else but they are directly faced by it.

“I know you will be ok” is a beautiful phrase. I believe personally in God and I believe that death is not neccessarily a terrible thing. I have worked in health care for over twenty years. Death can be a blessing. Death happens.  My prayers go out to anyone out there experiencing the pain of death and loss. Denying death and the pain and loss that goes with it is pointless. Sometimes you have to be a grown-up and just Farm on. It doesn’t make the pain less. But the only way through is forward.

LOVE!

Seasonality

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Evening light

Evening light

All you have to do is look out the window in the evening and you can tell that this season’s change is coming faster every day. The sun is setting much earlier than it was a month ago. The work is no less hard and, with harvest upon us, it may be harder for a while. Farm life is very affected by seasonality. Cows and sheep calve in the spring (generally, this is not a given), crops are planted in the spring, hay is cut in the summer, harvesting can occur at various time based on the type of crop in mind, and winter is the time to catch up on other things.

The biological nature of Farming leads to great seasonality. I work in a hospital. I see a little bit of seasonality in my work because people are more active in the summer and allergies are more active in spring and fall but for the most part illness is  an “equal opportunity employer”.  My work varies day to day but I do the same type of things regardless of the time of year. Farmers don’t cut the ice on the pond for the cattle to drink in the summer because the water isn’t frozen! (Captain Obvious.) They don’t plant corn in the fall but they may plant cover crops like winter wheat or rye. Livestock have to be milked year round but they generally get fed a lot more and a lot differently in the winter due to no available pasture. I could go on and on.

I know these things are very obvious to people who grew up with them. Not everybody has. Most people these days get up and go to work Monday through Friday exactly the same way all year long. A lot of people get in the car in the garage and get out of it in a parking garage and never get out in the rain, sleet, or snow. They don’t even necessarily put on a coat or hat. Try feeding the cows for an hour and a half in a minus 20 degree wind chill without a coat. Farmers are much more tied to these biological life factors then most people.

Fall is a great time for cookie baking and football games, feeding wildlife and enjoying the last rose of summer. Fall trips to check out the foliage and visit the relatives are a great idea. Enjoy it while you can. Winter is coming. Spring will be on the way in a few months after that.IMG_0433IMG_0276IMG_0108IMG_0485IMG_0416IMG_0808

See – N – Say

One of my previous posts referred to the sounds that you can hear out in the country when you are a little farther from the hubbub of modern cities. Today, I am going to go more in-depth on that topic. Listen up.

The last information I have states that the “Farm sector” of the economy is responsible for 16% of American GDP (Gross Domestic Product). That means that Ag is responsible for 16% of the market value of all goods produced in the US in one year. Here is a link to more than you ever wanted to know about the US GDP. Agriculture is important to our economy. It is MORE important to our collective Psyche. What is Thanksgiving all about? THINK about that question!

“Play” is vastly important to the mental and physical growth of children. Playtime helps children to develop their imagination and learn about the world around them. Most of us grew up playing with toys of some type. We made them out of our imagination if we didn’t have actual toys. A number of my toys were farm animals, farm models like barns, fences, and equipment.  I made fences and corrals out of blocks and Lincoln Logs (a great toy). I am sure that kids who did not grow up on farms probably did not have as

Lincoln Logs!

Lincoln Logs!

many of these types of toys as I did but I am also sure that they either had a few of them or they had access to them at other places like daycare or Grandparents houses. They have been basic to childplay  since kids have had toys. Some electronic toys and games are also farm related. You can find farm related games all over the “APP Store”. There are 2,566 farm games on the Apple App Store this morning.

“Farm Play” has been essential to the American ethos. Children learn at an early age about farm animals. They learn that basic livestock are cows, pigs, and chickens. They learn about dogs and cats and horses, too. They learn that these animals are on farms. They probably DON”T all learn the difference between meat animals and pets. This is a huge difference!

The first Christmas toy I bought for my beautiful granddaughter last year was a See-N-Say by Fisher-Price. She loves it according to her Mom and Dad. My Granddaughter is starting to talk and the process of that is imitation. She is also learning to imitate farm animals.

See n Say

See n Say!

“What does a cow say?” is a question little kids get early in my family. (Christmas Spoiler for my family, here. My second granddaughter is getting the same thing for her first Christmas.) I will, eventually, make sure they learn the REAL sounds that cows and pigs and chickens make.

I want my family to learn at an early age about the importance of farm animals. I want them to learn about the difference between production animals and pets. There is an ENORMOUS difference! I want them to know where their milk and their meat and their vegetables come from. I want my grandkids to mentally connect farm life and the animals they find there to positive feelings and FUN! I want them to connect farm Work and Production with positive thoughts and feelings.  “MOOOOOOOOOO!”

Existential stuff. Who am I?

On the back deck

On the back deck

Hi! I grew up on a small dairy farm in Southwest Missouri back when you could throw a rock and hit a small dairy farm in Southwest Missouri. You would have to have a much better arm now than 40 years ago. That is part of the reason I am blogging.

My parents came from farm families. My wife worked on her grandparent’s farm. My two children spent time on their grandparent’s farm. My grandchildren may not have that opportunity. There are many life enriching lessons that can be learned from contact with the realities of farm living. These are lessons we all can benefit from. I want anyone who is looking for a richer life to, at least vicariously, enjoy some of these experiences.

I don’t live in the country at the moment, but I have in the past. I work in Healthcare and have for over 20 years. I feel a great connection with my patients partly because I have experienced the realities of life and death on a farm. Farm life involves highs and lows and a close connection to the Real World of seasons, natural cycles, and their effects on animal and crop vitality.

I love God, my wife, my family, singing, gardening, fishing, and reading Science Fiction among other things. I love living in Southwest Missouri. I love expressing myself. Hopefully, in ways that can influence others.02-14-09 copies 004