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Saturday, March 26, 2011

We're on a Mission From God...

It's finally spring break at our house.
(Finally? What am I saying? How did it get to be spring break already?!? Seems like we were taking the Christmas tree down about two days ago... but I digress...)

Anyway, the daughters and I are packing up today for a little spring break adventure.

The girls' school (which, in full disclosure, is part of our church) is doing a mission trip to two of the most economically depressed counties in the United States. We're going to an area in the Cumberland Mountain region to serve some folks who have little economic opportunity. We know we're going to be doing some painting and some yard work and minor repairs for some of the residents there.

This should be really interesting. I've never been on a service-type trip before, domestic or international. This trip was originally planned for Mexico, but was changed because of security issues that some of the border towns have been having lately. And, for those of us chaperoning middle school girls (for some reason no boys signed up!), I can appreciate that.

We're excited to go. I've always wanted to do a mission trip as a family. This is sort of a test run for us. (The Husband is staying behind to fix a leaking shower knob--kind of glad I don't have to be here!) I really think my girls need to experience how other people live, and gain a better understanding of just how much God has blessed our lives. And find out that, yes, there IS something they can eat for a snack in our kitchen. And, yes, they surely have something to wear today. Not that my girls are particularly bad about those attitudes. But I certainly think we can all lack gratitude for what we we have.

We're praying for a good trip right now. (After all, we're taking a group of TEEN GIRLS who may be using power tools!) That we can be a blessing to these people, and demonstrate God's love in a tangible way.

Happy Spring, everyone! And I'll see you in a week (or so, after I tackle all that laundry when we get back!)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring: Part of the Cycle of Life

All of my Real Farm Wives of America bloggy pals are celebrating spring today with posts themed "Cycle of Life." After all, who understands the cycle of life more than those who live and work in agriculture. Tending to life's beginnings (plowing, planting, birthing, hatching) and endings (harvesting, milking, butchering, processing) are the essential components of life on a farm.

Before I tell you about how I learned about the realities of the Cycle of Life when I was a kid, I want to share with you the first signs of spring at our house: The inaugural flower of the season. Seemed appropriate to share this today, since I missed out on Wordless Wednesday this week.

As I've mentioned before, I grew up on a small farm. While my parents both worked full-time in town to make ends meet, they both obviously appreciated life on the farm--or at least faked it pretty well. They both grew up with parents who farmed, and wanted the four of us kids to grow up understanding and appreciating where our food came from. And participating in the process.

Even when we were little, we'd help gather eggs, which we'd wipe off with rags in the kitchen, and package up in bulk cartons to deliver to the local grocery store. (PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT as old as this makes me sound. I want to point out how much agriculture has changed in a very short amount of time. This was not uncommon practice in small towns in the 1970s!)

I learned even more about chickens when time came for butchering some of the birds for meat. Now, I don't think my parents did this themselves, in the side yard by the house, because they particularly enjoyed it. They did it out of economic necessity.

Let me just say: Take a moment to be thankful that Modern Agriculture has made poultry neatly wrapped in cellophane available in our grocery stores or farmers markets at an affordable price. Because that was when I learned that food production can be ugly and is not for the faint-of-heart. Wringing necks and plucking chickens is, fortunately, something most of us do not have to do ourselves any more. But it was part of life.

I guess that early exposure helped me understand that this had to happen for our family to eat--not much different from the time spent in the garden planting corn and cucumbers and greenbeans, which later needed to harvested and canned or frozen. Similar story for when it was pig-processing day at my grandparents' house. This was the cycle of life.

The fact that we spent time feeding and caring for the pigs and chickens, and later cows and goats, on our farm helped us understand the value of life. These animals had to be cared for as best we could. They were to be fed and watered every day before we, the people, ate. Caring for the animals came first--even before homework after school. They weren't pets, we had those. These creatures were valued even more for what they provided to our family in the form of food and income.

My dad felt strongly that we understand this was serious business. While the chicks were cute when they were little and yellow (hatched in the corner of my parents' bedroom in an incubator), they had purpose. He reinforced that message when I started raising rabbits. They weren't pets. They were a source of food, or a few bucks if we sold some at the sale barn.

That's why dad made me butcher my own rabbits. Yeah, those cute little furry creatures I had cared for myself. I still remember Dad telling me, "This is circle of life. If you're going to work in agriculture, you have to know how it works." He wanted to raise strong daughters, who could provide for themselves and who respected their resources.

I think he succeeded. Not sure I realized it at the time, but I do now.
Thanks to my dad, I have perspective that I think a lot of folks today are missing. Not that I think everyone needs to butcher their own food to appreciate it. I do think finding a way to be involved in this cycle of life can make a person more aware of--and grateful for--the food we eat.

Happy spring, everyone!
Be sure to stop by and visit the other Farmwives!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Man Vs. Tree

You might recall how we lost a really big, old tree in an ice storm a few weeks ago.

Well, a warm, sunny weekend day meant it was time to start tackling that beast.

Round 1 of Man Vs. Tree: Tree 1; The Husband 0

This big ol' maple left quite the mess in our front yard.

The standard chain saw just wasn't cutting it (pun intended).

As you can see, the real mass of the trunk is several feet off the ground, and cutting it without the risk of the log rolling over or falling on top of the cutter was quite real. As the Family Safety Officer (aka, woman with a sense of fear), I suggested The Husband loop the log chain around the trunk and pull it with Sulley, the Big Blue Suburban.

Round 2 of Man Vs. Tree: Tree 2; The Husband 0

Surprisingly, that didn't work so well.

That Bad Boy didn't even budge on the first go-round.

We did quite a few wheel ruts in the yard.

Good thing we don't have a neighborhood association for the homestead!

That's when we shifted the attack. We moved the chain to the upper trunk section that made up the Y in the trunk of the tree. The Husband had already cut into a portion of it, to weaken the branch so it would fall. The wood made all sorts of cool popping and creaking sounds.

What was even cooler--and more unusual--is The Husband shared his Man Toy and let ME drive the truck to pull the branch over. I felt so manly, I had to pause for a moment to grunt and scratch myself when I climbed out of the truck. And hike up my pants.

It didn't totally work, though, as we only succeeded in pulling it partially over to where the top piece lodged on the lower section. But, the tension of the chain on the truck did provide a measure of safety for cutting up that section of the tree without it falling on anybody.

Round 3 of Man Vs. Tree: Tree 2; The Husband 1

The Husband succeeded in making a little progress before giving it up for suppertime. Sunday afternoon was devoted to more chopping. This time, I left it to the boys. The World's Best Neighbor Ever brought his Man Toy (the John Deere with the front end loader) over to help, and they had a lot of it cleared away before dark. But the main trunk is still there--three feet off the ground.

That's why I saved the card of the tree service guy who stopped by last week to ask if we wanted to hire him to cut up the tree. It just might be worth the money to have a professional shoulder the risk of dicing up that heap.

Meanwhile, I've suggested we consider making it into really big yard art. Maybe carve it into a dolphin or something.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today's Beef? Daylight Savings Time

Who the heck thought of Daylight Savings Time?
I know who thought it was a good idea for Indiana to start observing it... and I still don't get it.

I think the name alone is a big, giant fraud... what daylight are we saving?
It's the same amount---it's just shifted later, so I get to drive to work in total darkness all but two days a year!!!

That's not saving anything.
That is called annoying me. And making the headlights on my car burn out sooner.

Yeah, I'm crabbing about it again. It's become an annual tradition now.
Honestly, I think making us Morning People live in a total state of darkness is cruel and discouraging.
I also think shifting the daylight to a later time encourages sloth and laziness. Not to mention the hassle of making kids go to bed when it's still broad daylight at 10 o'clock at night.

Got it out of my system.
Thought I'd share with you folks out there in the blog-o-sphere, since my family is good 'n tired of hearing me bemoan this stupid practice.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How Hard Is It, Really, to Eat a Baked Potato?

So, something really, really rare happened in our house this week.

Like a total lunar eclipse or the birth of a white buffalo, I rarely ever get home before The Husband on a week night. And, to add to the notable rareness of this occasion: He actually called me and asked if he could start dinner.
I almost turned my car into the nearest gas station to buy a lottery ticket.
How did this happen??

Actually, I had called him earlier in the day and asked him if he could manage to leave work at a normal-human time and pick up the girls, so I could get through the grocery store a pace that would not rival Indy 500 drivers. Ever since my office moved the far side of the city, my commute has nearly doubled each way. Gone are the days of hitting the Meijer on my way to pick up the girls in after school supervision.

There's not way I can do that now--unless I want to risk turning over my entire 401K to the school because of the dollar-per-minute-per-kid late pickup fee. Or--worse yet--I pick them up and we stop at the Kroger on the way home.
Eek! Nothing says hell-on-earth to me like grocery shopping with two kids!
Well, maybe grocery shopping with two kids on a Saturday morning in Walmart. But I digress...

After I regained control of my speeding Acadia, I was able to respond to his question.
Since I was running so late (as it turned out, I even left work 30 minutes late of a meeting!) and I was in the grocery, I pickup up one of those roasted chickens they sell by in the warmer by the checkout.

Yeah, it's loaded with sodium. Yeah, it's been sitting there for 2.5 hours. Yeah, I was taking the easy way out. But, heck, it was on sale and we were facing a 7 pm dinner time, anyway.

I told The Husband a chicken was on the way (see how I still make life easy on him, even when I'm working late?), so maybe he could scrub up some spuds and throw them in the microwave, then heat up a vegetable of his choice. You know what his response was?

"Do we have to have baked potatoes?"
"What's wrong with baked potatoes?"
"They take too much effort to eat. How about mashed [out of the box, I might add]?"
"Too much effort? What do you mean?"
"Well, you have to cut them up to eat them."
"Yeah, so..."
"I'm too tired to eat a baked potato. Why don't I make mashed?"
Did I hear that right? Too tired to eat a potato?? How did he have the strength to dial the phone??
That's when I offered to stop at the store and pick up a jar of baby food chicken dinner, so he could have a complete meal he didn't have to bother to chew.

What really befuddled me was the fact that this came from a perfectly healthy grown man with all his natural teeth. And, he was talking to me, Miss "Suffering-from-26-consecutive-months-of-adult-orthodontia." Now, really, who has the right to talk about food taking too much effort to eat? I have to cut up everything I eat in to little bitty pieces and chew-pick-chew. And, that's if I haven't had an adjustment in the last 48 hours, which means I'm relegated to mushy foods like spaghetti or soup.
So, The Husband whipped up some homemade boxed spuds for supper.
The upside: They were warm and ready to eat when I walked in the door with my three gallons of milk and a week's worth of fruit and yogurt. In less than 5 minutes after walking in the door: Dinner was served.