Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Picture Pen Day

I had somehow avoided the event for four years.
For four solid years I had the foresight to plan something important at work, avoid my brother's phone calls or conveniently travel out of town.
But this year was different. 
Different circumstances.
Other outside obligations belonging to someone else.
My naivety showed when answering brother Luke's question: "Do you have any meetings Friday?"
I quickly revealed that I didn't. 
Rookie mistake.
After four years of avoidance, I had just agreed to helping in the picture pen.

Picturing sale cattle is not for the faint of heart. 
Or those who get easily offended by swear words.
Picture day is my least favorite farm event, so to those who make a living doing this:
I salute you.

1. Friends who show up on picture day are the truest of friends, especially if they understand what it entails.
My friend Cheyanne showed up after a last minute request for help, bless her heart.
No really, bless her heart. 
I sincerely told her that I wasn't sure I could return the favor. She grabbed her sunglasses out of the truck console anyway.
Friends who help on picture day sign an invisible contract that they'll never judge you or your family based on the escapade they're about to be a part of. That contract also requests that they clear their memory of any recollection of the day as soon as their truck pulls off the farm. Friendship is more sustainable that way. As is reputation. 

2. Don't invite your significant other to picture day unless you want to end said relationship.
This is the best way to end a relationship softly. Simply invite the significant other to the worst day to observe your family dynamics and they'll suggest "a break" before you get to LOT 50. There is stress, tension, foul language and fifteen years of built up frustrations vocalized in just 8 short hours. Who in their right mind would want to marry into that? If you want to keep them around, simply forget mentioning when picture day is.....until it's over. 
You're welcome.

3. Sometimes the least appreciated folks are the best resources. 
Momma had the job of moving cattle from the chute - down the lane - to the picture pen. She would then stick around and take the heifers back once pictured and videoed. Sometimes, her position outside the pen (not running around like the lunatics inside the pen) made her a focal point for the cattle. It was in these instances that photographer Laramie would yell to Momma to get the ears - or get the heifers attention so she is poised for the photo. In her defense, Momma had watched us in the pen, armed with streamers and party horns, make a scene. She had nothing to use but herself, so she resorted to:
Give me an E,
Give me an A!
Give me a G!
Momma was an Eaton Eagle, after all. 
Certainly not conventional, but the sixty-something cheerleader got the job done.
Good help is hard to find. Luckily, we had Linda on our team. 

4. Keep the stress carriers in the barn. 
I'm speaking of people.
Those who are exceedingly nervous about the day will go, how the photos will turn out, how the cattle will cooperate and how the 2:00 clouds will move through should be kept chute side, working alone with the cattle and a stereo - and no other individuals. They can find their way blowing out heifers, cutting out fly tags, applying fly spray and staying unusually anxious alone. This arrangement is better for everyone, cattle included. Our family stress carrier arrived to the picture pen on the last two lots. He was dismissed 78 seconds later. Simply put: his passion made him crazy. 

5. The family that pictures cattle together is hopefully speaking to one another come Christmas. 
This is a very real concern. The things muttered, screamed and thrown would be worthy of a restraining order in any other circumstance. But picture day is different. Its like everyone involved comes with this heavy coat of armor over them: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. 
That mantra lasts for about fifteen minutes. As soon as the first head enters the pen, you're throwing stones and dodging sticks with the rest of them. It's personal. You have favorite lots. You have a vision for the herd, the farm, the breed. Cattle folks are the most passionate. 
The goal on picture day is remembering that you're all on the same team with the same goal: To show these sale lots in their best light to promote your program. 
And, to still be invited to Christmas. 

Picturing sale cattle is not for the faint of heart. 
Or those who get easily offended by swear words.
To those who make a living doing this:
I salute you.

Only you can wait on dozens of animals - in the sweltering heat - to perfectly position their feet, head and ears simultaneously, in an effort to meet someone else's expectations....and still have the patience to deal with the people behind the cattle at the end of the day. 

BSG cattle will be sold in the 2015 Leveldale sale, the Great Shorthorn Revival and The Ohio Fall Showcase.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Stockman's Wife: Year Two

When I was about twelve-years-old -- after a long, stressful day of working cattle -- Momma made me shake her hand (she's not much for hugging) and promise her I'd never marry a farmer. 

I made that promise. 
With my toes crossed. 
Instead, I married a stockman.

Well, didn't that turn out well?

A Tribute to the Stockman 
by H. W. Mumford

Behold the Stockman!
Artist and Artisan.
He may be polished, or a diamond in the rough – but always a gem.
Whose devotion to his animals is second only to his love of God and family.
Whose gripping affection is tempered only by his inborn sense of the true proportion of things.
Who cheerfully braves personal discomfort to make sure his livestock suffer not.
To him there is a rhythm in the clatter of the horse's hoof, music in the bleating of the sheep and in the lowing of the herd.
His approaching footsteps call forth the affectionate whinny of recognition.
His calm, well-modulated voice inspires confidence and wins affection.
His coming is greeted with demonstrations of pleasure, and his going with evident disappointment.
Who sees something more in cows than the drudgery of milking, more in swine than the grunt and squeal, more in the horse than the patient servant, and more in sheep than the golden hoof.
Herdsman, shepherd, groom – yes, and more. Broad-minded, big-hearted, and whole-souled: whose life and character linger long after the cordial greeting is stilled and the hearty handshake is but a memory; whose silent influence forever lives. May his kind multiply and replenish the earth.

Let's just skip right to the chase: 

1. Your time is no longer your own. We don't even have children, but on August 10, 2013 I gave up any right to hide in a closet, read Cowboys & Indians and pretend to be busy. 

He busts through the mud room door. 
"Can you throw on some boots and come help? It will only take ten minutes."

This is a trap. 
There is no such thing as ten minute tasks when you're a  Stockman's Wife. 
And unless you have two hours to commit to a "ten minute" favor, don't do it. 
Make something up. Say you're marinating steaks, or something. Say you're on the phone with Direct TV to renew his ESPN subscription so he can watch the Royals. 
Avoid "throwing on some boots" at all costs if you want to get any of your to-do list done. Trust me. 

2. Dinner may be served anytime between 4:00 PM and 11:00 PM. There is no prediction for this. While you're thawing meat, there is no indication of when it will actually be consumed. Now is a really good time to forget anything you remember the quack Dr. Oz saying about timely protein consumption. He's as backwards Bruce Jenner. As you plan a week ahead like your fancy pants Facebook friend does - and publicizes - regularly, just know that your menu will not transpire as her's does. All you can do is invest in great storage containers and a self-sufficient husband who is able to operate a microwave. And for goodness sake: don't resort to the crockpot daily. No one wants to live life on a 6-hour boiled piece of mediocre meat. 

Hey Pinterest. I don't need to know how to recycle my old volleyball t-shirts into a glamping tent.  Show me a way to make a nutritious meal that can be re-presented perfectly 3 hours after it's been first served. You know, right after we get the cows back in. 

3. There is a difference in being lonely and being alone. Stockmen travel. They drive. They sort. They move. They're not much more than cowboys with a far-better connection with cattle than horses. But my goodness, they don't let the grass grow under their boots. This is an important lesson: There is a difference in being lonely and being alone. Being alone is part of the deal. Stockmen travel. They discuss and deal. They promote. They gain miles. Alone time is awesome.
It's during this alone time that the Stockman's wife gets stuff done. Rocking babies or mopping floors or pre-treating jeans or digging out an old hobby or reading a book or - frankly - sleeping. But probably worrying about the Stockman in a peacefully, quiet home. With wine? No question mark needed. 

4. No feed plan is ever set in stone. Right about the time you memorize the chore list, ol' nutritionist decides to switch things up a bit. Half rations become full rations and full rations get mixed with some magic dust. This circus has the likeness of the frustration felt when you get a recipe perfect every third try. Is it worth it? You ask yourself at 5:47 on a Tuesday morning, wearing basketball shorts and a wifebeater with wet hair. Then you remember: If these deals bloat's your fault. Dry erase boards with good instruction become a dear friend of the Stockman's wife. 

5. Functional gifts are the best gifts. This becomes very real, very quickly. So long, diamonds and massages. On our second Christmas the Stockman gave me four pairs of work gloves: one for every season. I could not have loved it more. It made me think of the half-truth promise I made Momma years ago; I think I ended up right where I hoped to be. It was an invitation to work side-by-side daily. And an invitation to get a load of work done while he was on the road.   I've learned that a Stockman will note gift ideas  year-around. Things I need. I tend to purchase gifts the week (3 days) before the occasion. 
I happily work at the local co-op.  What would I have done with a diamond pendant, anyhow?..................

6. You will learn to run. And no, not for fitness. You and I both know I only run if I'm being chased. You will learn to run to the parts store. To the dry cleaners. To the vet to pick up something you need after running all over God's green earth to get the unruliest heifer on the farm in, alone. You'll run buckets to thaw frozen pipes and run bailing wire where it's needed most: a gate. 

Forget the sunshine and rainbows when you marry a Stockman. You're more likely to encounter rain clouds over hayfields, pink eye in your favorite cow and poison ivy in the most inconvenient places. Plus many mornings to see the sky before the rest of the world, late nights working as the crickets sing and sun burnt skin with a story to tell. 

And that tacky little burn line will lead me right in to next week's blog. 
Stay tuned. 
And pass the aloe. 

To Read about the original Stockman's Wife, go here. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Buying A Farm

Two years ago today CS and I closed on our farm. 
(Have you read about the incredible way we found this old homestead?)
It was a Monday. 
I worked through an Answer Plot practice all morning. My boots were drenched with dew. 
We went to the title company to sign our lives away....kind of. 
We went to the church five days later to sign our lives away....for real. 
We bought a farm on a Monday and married on that Saturday. 
Started married life owing someone. 
Life isn't for the faint of heart. 

Between the wedding and reception we took one photo at the new farm. 

So on this day - exactly two years after closing - let's reflect on 

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day
Well, this would have been great advice to receive two years ago. 
We had ambition as big as the world. 
We had a balance the size of Maryland. 
We got creative. 
The key to success is paying in full. Trust me. 
The key to success is frustration. Trust me. 
The key to success patience. Trust me. 
Or, trust Cody. I'm not really good at patience. 

Remember, things of quality have no fear of time. 

How poor newlyweds wash the house. 

That old corncrib in back moved into our home. 

 Pay no mind to the semen shipper. 
And, that rusty chair belonged to my great-great Granddad, Oscar. 
Happy Trails (to you)

Good Neighbors Make Great Neighbors
We have neighbors who have brought us homemade jam, 
made our hay under dark clouds, 
helped me tend to a broken leg in the barn when CS was out of town, 
and showed us their samurai swords - - - in case the government overstepped their boundary (even more)
Good, dependable neighbors are sure hard to come by. 
We lucked out. 
Good fences are also really, really important. 

It's OK To Take Two
Why do you feel so obligated to take one lunch tote when Farm Credit offers them at their "customer appreciation day"?
If they really appreciated us, they'd knock out the interest rate.
An insulated lunch tote - that cost $1.18 when you order 300 - probably won't be missed. It would have cost $7.99 had I bought it at Meijer.
The lender asked for everything short of a blood sample. 
You can ask for two totes. 
Don't you remember my Dad's advice?

Save Your Money
I'm serious. 
Your pennies.
Your change. 
Your five dollar bills. 
From your first steer to your first job. 
Save your money. 
It all adds up. 
Saving pennies buys flowers in the spring and mums in the fall. 
Saving pennies buys seeds for the garden.
Saving pennies buys fence insulators and diesel fuel tanks. 
Saving pennies buys new windows. New windows lower electric bills. 
Saving pennies buys food when guests are on their way. 
Saving pennies buys gravel when the rain has changed things. 
Saving pennies buys paint. Lots and lots of white paint. 
Saving pennies buys pasture mix and fertilizer from Harvest Land
Saving pennies buys tractors, 4-wheelers, feed bunks and cows. 
Saving your pennies can buy cows. 

Every farm has a trash pile
This is real. We're all in denial of it. Listen to me. 
Take it from Blake & Miranda: No family is perfect. 
(I  am still not over this. 
And Reba and Narvel. My boss is lucky I'm getting out of bed this week)
Every farm has a trash pile. Be grateful that you even have a "farm".
No farm is functional without some dirt. 
Operational and successful doesn't come without a little pain and work. 
Everyone has weeds. 
Every home needs a place to discard their garbage. 
Every farm has a trash pile. 

This is just the beginning. 
I asked Cody what he's learned from buying this old farm and he has a list at his desk.
I have yet to review it. 

Rome wasn't built in a day. 
Good neighbors make great neighbors. 
It's OK to take two. 
Save your money. 
Every farm has a trash pile. 

Come see us sometime. 
We've been here two years and you've never even stopped. 
But give me an hour notice. 
You and I both know I have "cleaning" to do in this old house.