Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Things That Go Bump in the Night

I hate Halloween. 

I said it. 
I mean it. 
I've always felt that way. 

Someone asked me last week, "How in the world can you hate the only time of the year that you can get all dressed up and completely act like someone you're not??" 

"Are you serious?" I replied. "I did that for a full 8 months once. It was called Freshman Year of College."

Trick-or-treating around our house was usually a hodge-podge situation. Costumes thrown together last minute, more years than not all three of us ended up going as hobos. We just threw on a bunch of Dad's work clothes and rubbed dirt on our face. Neighbors probably thought we'd just walked off the farm. I can promise you they never thought anything of it; they gave us candy anyway. 

Then there were those years when the costumes were so thrown together 
that Mom completely forgot about the third child. Again.... 

My favorite house to go to was Porter and Esther Davis'. They didn't skimp on candy; they gave full-size Mr. Goodbars. Even at the old age of (what seemed like to a 5-year-old) 183, Porter knew: There is nothing fun about fun-size candy. 

The morning after Halloween, half of the chocolate out of our plastic pumpkins had always mysteriously vanished. Mom called it "rationing"; I call it her "secret stash". 

While I don't like dressing up, seeing coffins in yards or paying the ridiculous price of fun-size I also don't like the creepiness that goes along with the whole month. 

I'm flat out scared of the dark and this "holiday" only fuels that fear. I was in high school when Mom got the clever idea to begin telling me there were two men living in the trees outside my bedroom window.

If the two men do in fact still live in that old tree, 
at least they have a pretty view in the fall...

I knew (OK, was pretty sure...) it wasn't true, but that myth sure taught me how to sprint from the garage to the house every single time I get home after dark. 

I remember very well a year ago, during this erie month, that I prayed to God daily to "open doors" for me in my own life. Those prayers were quickly re-phrased when I got exactly what I asked for...

I arrived home one evening after work to find my back door completely wide open - my house alarm not even going off. 

"Ok, God. When I asked for you to open doors, I didn't mean my back door when it's 48 degrees outside. I'm trying to save on my electric bill, you know!" Of course, I didn't clarify my request with Him until after I searched my entire house with a mace gun in one hand and meat tenderizer in the other. 

Oddly enough, it was just two days later that I came home to find my always-locked basement door wide open. For what ever reason, it freaked me out even more than the exterior door. I had flashbacks to every Halloween movie I'd ever seen. I was just convinced I had walked in on someone robbing my house and they had gone downstairs to hide from me. 

"Only one thing to do here," I (irrationally) thought to myself. I did what any sensible person would have done: I immediately shut the door. And locked it. And put a chair in front of it. And I didn't open that door for ten solid days. 

That's right, I figured the best way to teach that filthy robber a lesson was to lock him in my basement for as long as I could. My thought process: He has only two choices -  either knock on the door and ask to come out, or starve down there.

Every day after work I did a walk-around the exterior of my house making sure none of my basement windows had been busted out as an escape route; I tried to act like I was looking for something in my yard, in case any neighbors were watching. The only problem I had with holding this mystery person hostage in my basement for that amount of time was the fact that my washer and dryer are in the basement. The first week this wasn't much of an issue; come week two I was wearing clothes I hadn't seen in years. 

Fear: a fantastic way to clean out a closet. 

I know this is going to shock you, but there was never any one in my basement. But, I did use substantially less laundry detergent that October than ever before.

I don't know if it's actually Halloween or my strong imagination that makes everything just a little "off" in my world during the month of October. All I know is I'm thankful when I wake up every November 1. Not necessarily because I didn't know if I'd make it through the night, but because I that means I can put my skittish imagination aside and focus on more important things in this life. 

Like watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation every single day until Christmas. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Freeze Branding

A couple weeks ago, the crew at Bowman Superior Genetics spent a fall day freeze branding and weighing cattle. Freeze branding is different from hot branding in that it instantly numbs the skin and freezes the hair follicle momentarily, changing the pigment to white. As we move into an age where the consumer wants to know the age and source verification of the meat they eat, both types of branding allow them to have a better opportunity to learn more where their protein comes from.

Enjoy today's photo blog capturing images of that afternoon....

The brands in liquid nitrogen

Preparing to remove hair from the area to be branded

Rubbing alcohol is poured over the area, just after the hair is removed but before the brand is placed

Numbers ready?

Brands are placed back in liquid nitrogen immediately

As this animal grows, the brand will turn to white

Single file ensures stress-free handling

Shoddy help.

Happy 33rd Anniversary Mom and Dad! Just how she wanted to celebrate the day....

Getting weights on every animal

Refilling the brand tank with liquid nitrogen

This ensures everything stays extremely cold....

Branding black

The end result: a legible identification that can never be changed over time

Brands at the end of the day; their work is done

Friday, October 14, 2011

Moments of Harvest II

I rose early one morning to capture a few of these Moments of Harvest. I went back out after work to get the rest. Two benefits of working ten minutes from home: 

Sunrise and Sunset...

One of the oldest homesteads in the township, embracing a foggy dawn

Breakfast time

 A beautiful tree, A popular tank

 The moon has arrived; We'll start again tomorrow 

In Indiana, it's not an actual barn unless there is a basketball goal

"I know that if your barn doesn't have a basketball goal 
attached to it, you're not American." - Brian Watts 
Follow this funny guy on Twitter! @ballinbdubb

From one historic farmstead to another

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Moments of Harvest

I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but just outside this sleepy old town things are absolutely beautiful. Finally, the bold sky dances with timid clouds and the leaves are painting the edge of every field. 

What happens within those golden fields tends to make me smile and count my blessings a bit more often this season. I didn’t grow up in crop production. Dad  has always cash-rented all of our crop ground; we kept all rolling pastures for the cattle. But my memories of riding in a combine started early, back when I thought our neighbor Kevin was Garth Brooks. His shoulders were broad, and he knew every word to Garth’s The Dance, so he had to be the real deal. How he worked ground, sold seed corn, raised two boys plus Angus cattle and kept a marriage strong I never knew. But he was Garth, so I never questioned it. Ever.
Harvest harbors this certain stigma in my life. It’s beautiful, and it’s new; just this week I rode along in a combine and asked some pretty entry level (are you smarter than a 5th grader?) questions. I learned, he didn’t laugh and I loved it. And I lived
Last week a college friend sent me a link to a story coming out of southern Indiana, telling the story of a community pulling together to harvest a man’s crops as he recovered in the hospital from a farming accident. 
“We had 11 combines and probably 30 trucks hauling it,” friend and farmer Mike Sprinkle said afterward. “In just a little over six hours time, they harvested over 700 acres. Everything was all wrapped up by 3:30 today. It was a great effort.”
You can see the full story here.
There is something about stories like that one that make my throat tight and my eyes water. It takes me back to two harvests ago when my good friend had a community step in after she lost her Dad in late November in a farming accident. 
Today I rely only Tim’s daughters to tell the incredible story of how an entire community came together to Harvest a man’s legacy....
Katie says, “This is what I remember....Dad passed away during the best time of year (and busiest for a farmer), the fall harvest.  We still had lots to get in from the fields due to a late start to the harvest.  He had planned several loads to be hauled to a certain elevator as well.  The day of his funeral was sunny so we knew he was probably pissed that we were all sittin' around talking about him instead of working.  The day after his funeral was dreary and rainy.  There was a flat tire on one of the semis and one of the combines broke down too!  (Dad's way of telling us we should have worked the day before when it was nice, sunny and dry.)  The elevator agreed to take all the loads that were scheduled for the week during that one day.  So what happened?  Several farmers and friends showed up with their semis to drive loads.  Someone made black flags to put on each of them.


When they arrived in the morning, Mom, Sarah and I were not there.  But when they returned we saw them all drive into the farm and line up single file.  It was a real site and I forgot that it was raining and gloomy out.  I watched as each driver climbed out of their semis and thought, “Is this real life?  Are these people farmers or angels?”

 Mom wanted to thank all of them so we headed to the barn where she gave her thanks and gratitude for their time, effort and love.  She told them a story of when she was a little girl  riding in the backseat of her parents' car.  She said they passed an empty dirt field and she pointed at it, looked at her sister and said, "I want to own one of those one day."  
And now she does, several of them, as she took dad's place as a partner in the farming operation.  I watched, trying not to cry for her, and witnessed old men and young ones holding back tears because they had just lost one of their own, a farmer.  And he was a great one who meant so much to our entire farming community and other workers of the land.”

I don’t know why those things happen. I don’t know why daughters lose fathers, and fathers lose sons and wives lose husbands in farming accidents. I do know that there are lessons learned in every single one. I know that it’s in the moments of fear and sadness that small towns across America step in and put personal needs aside to aid someone else. I also know that stories like Katie’s have helped me appreciate rural communities even greater, and even made me look for, and appreciate, the “Moments of Harvest”.
In the month that follows, from Jean’s Boots look for photographs that tell the story of the local American Farmer, showcasing the profession I’m proud to be a part of. You'll see rural scenes and rural folks. Agree with our practices or not, you cannot help but appreciate the people that put in long, dangerous hours to put food on your own dinner table.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Live Your Life

“Linds,” she said with a heavy sigh,  “Just live your life.”
A friend told me this a few years ago when I was going through a particularly rough time. 
I was worried I’d made the wrong decision. 
I was starting to believe that I’d left something behind that I shouldn’t have.
I was fearful that, at some point, the whole entire world was going to figure me out. 
I was scared to death that every single person I knew was going to corner me in the refrigeration section of the grocery store and peel back the “I’ve got this” skin I had learned to live by and realize just how vulnerable I was. 
I was scared to death that the way the world saw me, and how I saw myself, would finally align - oh, to fear that day!
But then I listened to my friend. 
And I began buying plane tickets, to see the things I wanted to see, and to spend time with the people I wanted to. I also began to spend some time alone. To reflect, to begin writing again, to pray, to look through old pictures. Some of the most wonderful nights I’ve spent in this old house were spent alone on a Saturday night looking at old photographs. I learned how to bake bread. Really good bread, I might add. I began making my own greeting cards and stationary. I tied up a few loose ends when it came to old love, and I started a couple fires that were totally wrong. And I learned. 
But I lived. 
And I’ve been living since then. Just ask The Original Jean, who fears I’m secretly priming myself to join the carnival, with as much traveling as I do.
Two weeks ago I traveled out of state for a wedding. That entire weekend can be summed up in one phrase, "Live your life". From the last minute date, to the random Saturday road trip exploring unfamiliar towns, to the conversations and the open road. We lived life. 

When I got back into Indiana after the trip, I had to make one stop before home. I’ll be very honest when I say it was a stop I was looking forward to, but dreading just as much. 
It was a reunion for reminiscing. 
It was a reunion for good-bye. 
My dear Aunt Ginny, Dad’s sister, has been diagnosed with terminal liver and lung cancer. My cousin drove Ginny up from the Carolinas so that she could see the home place one last time, meet the hill she would make her final resting place and finally, to say good-bye. 
I won’t go into the details of the visit. The words exchanged, the tears cried and beautiful laughs shared go only into the Bowman vault. They’ll be relived a million times over as  our family grows and we talk of the many generations, present and past. 

It rained that evening of my visit with Aunt Ginny. Poured, in fact. Never in my life will I forget walking down the driveway, after just saying goodbye to the only Aunt who has called me on every single birthday. The tears were falling down my face just as hard as the rain fell on the soggy gravel. I had on a dress (it was 70 and sunny when I left Missouri, 53 and raining in Indiana) and my favorite boots. I remember how cold that rain was, and how it made everything bitterly real. I remember thinking a million different things in that long, slow walk in the rain to my car...
I’m going to be sick, physically ill. Was that really goodbye? My favorite boots are going to be ruined....I HATE these boots. What good are boots if you don’t have a life to live them in? I wonder if Aunt Ginny has any cowboy boots? Will Marlee remember Aunt Ginny? I cannot believe it’s raining this hard; of course, two months too late.  Where you were in July?? Besides this illness, is she living the life she wanted? Ginny, I mean. What did she fear that kept her back? Has she lived the way she wanted? I am so cold. Is she who she hoped to be? Is she afraid? Does she have a choice? Do any of us?
I sat in my car and sobbed for while before going anywhere. I just listened to the rain come down. I went back to a memory of sleeping in the south room at Grandma and Grandpa Bowman’s house as a very little girl and listening to the rain come down on the tin roof.  It’s been a while since I stopped and appreciated rain music. My hands were black with mascara. I grabbed a McDonald’s napkin and wiped my face off; it felt like sandpaper.  It burned. 

Five rural miles had passed before I realized I had even backed my car out of the driveway. I was so consumed by the questions in my head about living a life. 
Whether Aunt Ginny has or not, I continued to wonder about all the things that keep us from living the life that we had hoped for, the one we’ve dreamt of. The one we want. 
But is it the fear of being really terrible and failing that gets in our way of really living life? Is it money? Is it freedom?  Or is it the fear that we just may become this fantastic person, that we didn’t realize we could be, and our comfortable, safe life as we know it will end?
I’m serious. 
One of my favorite quotes: 
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson 
"Your playing small does not serve the world." - I absolutely love that. How true it is.  
I’ve been told to “live my life” by that same friend a time or two over in the last few years. OK, more like a thousand times. But don’t you know, there are certain days all it takes is to hear that. Next thing you know I’m considering art for my first tattoo and researching what it would take to start outsourcing retired circus clowns through BSG
Kind of. 
So live your life. Dream that dream, and have a plan behind it. Don’t hold back.  Ask him out, and have a best friend on the line if he tells you no. Take the trip you need to take. Say the words you’ve been meaning to. Send the letter. Take the leap. Pick up the phone. Buy the dress. Ask the questions. Start the business. Sing the song. Invest in the ring. Create the plan. Apply for the job. Speak the truth. Light the fire. 

Live your life.