Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Work Calls from the Farm

The world of virtual learning and meetings have exploded in the time our children have grown from infants to early school aged children. I cannot count the threats made, bribery conducted, or clinched jaw instruction given during that time. It’s been a joy. Our children don’t remember a world where Mom couldn’t visit face-to-face with someone in California at the click of a button.

The children were recently home on spring break and I was spending my days in a delicate balance between providing them with a fun spring break and keeping up with work deadlines.

“OK kiddos! Day Two of Spring Break at Sankey Angus! Yesterday you got all the stalls cleaned out. What would you like to do today?”

“Go to grandma’s.” 

Having them home meant I took a lot of video calls uncertain of what might bust through the door at any moment. That is an unnerving feeling. I appreciate it when they agree to be quiet little soldiers for me, but then worry what they’re getting into that has them so fascinated. Play dough in the carpet? Glue sticks on the new white walls? Teaching the dog to drink out of the toilet - with demonstrations?

Recently I was on a Teams video call with folks from our corporate office in Indianapolis. I had my door shut but could hear excited conversation on the other side of the house. Then I heard the door to the mudroom open, then screaming, then running across the house in my direction, then the footsteps getting closer.

Like the professional I am, I instantly shut off my camera and muted my microphone. Whatever was about to bust through the door did not need to be seen or heard by anyone but Mommy.


“Cyrus! Quiet, buddy! I’m on a call.”

“PUPPIES, MOMMY!” he continued oblivious to my instruction.

“Cyrus, Sadie is not having puppies. She IS a puppy. She’s not even bred,” I tried to explain to him. Sadie, our Australian Shepherd puppy, had just turned one days prior.

“YES! She’s having puppies and I need to pull them out with a show stick!” and with that, he turned around and rushed out of the room.

“Would that work for you, Lindsay?” a coworker on the computer asked me. I had no idea what she was referencing, I could only think about Cyrus, unsupervised, using a show stick (long, metal stick with a hook on the end to place cattle’s feet in a show ring) to extract Lord knows what out of our dog.

“Repeat the question, please. I got off track,” I requested. They kindly did.

We made a few quick decisions and set a date and time to visit again about the upcoming event. I was in the mudroom with the kids in a matter of seconds once the call concluded.

Caroline appeared mortified, while Cyrus couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for the mess on the concreate floor.

Sadie was not having puppies. She had, however, gotten into a pile of afterbirth from the pasture and was now sick.

I explained the situation and began clean up, we all gagged, Caroline patiently put the dog outside while Cyrus took photos on my phone to show Dad, smacking his knee at the fun.

On this family farm, we all have a job. Some just do theirs better than others.




Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Calf Hut Conversations

Every so often I find an Amish man at our door in the wee morning hours.

While his early morning knocks are startling, I’m always more concerned about his intentions. When a craftsman such as Ben arrives, it always costs money.

“Cody!” I yell across the house. “Ben is here!” I continue packing lunches, thinking for a second. Why is Ben here?

A construction project was about to begin.

“Remind me why Ben is here?” I asked Cody as he entered the kitchen and threw on a jacket.

“The calf shed. The one me and you and the kids built. He’s going to take it apart and rebuild it….better. The thing is falling apart, and we really need that space.”

He was right. We are outgrowing the huts we have along the windbreak in the far west pasture. More calves, less room. During these cold, winter months vulnerable calves need a place to safely rest. 

I drove to work that morning thinking about that shed. That simple scrap tin shed. I became a bit emotional driving across the interstate.

The kids were so small while we built it. Cody and I had to crouch down to drill in the screws, while toddlers ran wild inside. I remember being thankful for a new playpen, if only for an afternoon.

Then the shed was moved to the pasture to take care of 70-pound, Angus and Shorthorn babies.

It became a sanctuary. 

Place of prayer. 

My breakroom.

I remember the shorthorn bull calf. I found him 8 hours later than I probably should have; I worked in the city that day. He was tucked away in a corner, cold, hungry but without the gumption to find his momma. I worked to warm his sides, checked his eyes and nose. Checked his mother’s udders to see if he’d nursed. After no positive signs, I called the vet. I prayed over that calf until she arrived.

I remember the Angus heifer calf. We really looked forward to the arrival of this one because of her genetics. It was quite cold when she was born but it warmed up shortly thereafter. She developed a respiratory issue. I remember a presentation I’d help develop during my time at Elanco about the cost of one dead calf. It was real money. Money that isn’t thrown around on a farm. I prayed over that heifer.

As a farm wife, I prayed so many prayers inside that tiny metal hut. 

There was weight on my shoulders not even realized then. I remember many times resting along the solid tin, warming up a calf, and wondering if it was the first time I’d sat down that day. I remember bedding it with fresh straw and wondering about the last time I changed our own bed sheets. I remember returning to the Kubota to find a crying toddler and a sleeping baby and feeling like the worst mother, ever.

Then Cyrus got sick.

And we spent six days at the children’s hospital, three days at home, then five more days at the children's hospital, and finally 18 days at home with a PICC line in his tiny arm. Talk about perspective.

Calf hut conversations changed.

It certainly isn’t that I didn’t care about the cattle we were left to tend to on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) – that would never be the case. It was that human health became so much more relevant. We could go on if we lost a calf over a respiratory issue. It no longer compared to a sick child.

Calf hut sessions focused on God’s will, not mine. Calf hut sessions focused on everything outside the tin hut, not within. What a simple, quiet place to reflect. Calf hut sessions focused on taking a break, if even just to gather myself.

Mom once told me about a lady that lived on mom and dad’s farm many years before they bought it. This woman would walk out to the pasture and sit on the same large rock daily to read her devotionals.That rock still sits on the farm today, more than 60 years later. What a place to connect.

Our calf hut came down and has now been reconstructed into a sturdier building that houses more and is more functional. We had a sick heifer two weeks ago and we found her in the calf hut. Cody held her while I gave her three boluses then we turned her loose. I was encouraged by her effort to run from us. I thanked God for her energy. I thanked God for healthy kids watching us from the Ranger.

I guess we all find God in different places.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Reunion in Washington, DC

The summer between my junior and senior year of college was spent interning in Washington, DC through Purdue’s College of Agriculture. My role served as the liaison between ConAgra Foods (at the time) and the USDA, though not limited to food science. At one particular event I was tasked with visiting with a congressman regarding the fuel tax on corporate air travel.

That summer I got to know the three other Purdue College of Ag interns so well. The four of us, three coming from Indiana farms, one raised closely to Indiana agriculture, defined “when country comes to town”.

We lived on the Georgetown Law Campus in the heart of DC.  

We tried everything and went everywhere. 

Asked all the questions. 

Got ourselves in really odd situations and engaging conversations.  

We drove the wrong way down one way streets, ended up on the wrong side of the city when the metro shut down for the night, and learned how to prepare meals on a dime. 

We navigated without GPS, sent postcards home to our parents (because we were trying to conserve our cell phone minutes) and attended every political fundraiser to which we were invited to ensure we’d have supper that night.

We took photos with a camera because we were still operating off flip phones. 

On Saturday night we’d visit bars where we couldn’t speak the language and on Sunday morning we attended churches that none of us were affiliated with. 

We grew tremendously. 

All four of us went broke that summer, but the good news is that August came back around (much too quickly) and we had jobs waiting for us back home – all including livestock and farm machinery. By September we were back on Purdue’s campus studying agriculture.

It was one of the best experiences of my life.

Sixteen years later, I was texting with one of the four who spent that summer together. Today, she spends her time travelling the world as a manager of digital aftermarket deployment for John Deere. My life of babies, blogging and beef is about as opposite of hers as one can get.  It was high time we reconnected to visit the city again.

You can probably imagine what it was like telling our children that Mommy was leaving for a couple days – 48 hours to be precise.

“Why are taking a dress?” Caroline asked while I packed.

“Because Chrissie and I are eating at a restaurant where sports coats are required.”

“So….why aren’t you packing a ports coat? ….What even is a ports coat?”

Cyrus was less curious about my suitcase and more concerned about my intentions.

“When will you be home?”

“In two days. When you get home from church on Sunday, I’ll be here,” I assured him.

“Is that before Christmas? Will you be home for Christmas?” he asked.

Give me a break! I was leaving for 48 hours!

A trip of such brevity required an agenda. So in August we began planning the excursion: what to eat, what to see, where to sleep. You must know my friend Chrissie to understand the necessity of an agenda. She travels internationally quarterly, drives to the Moline, Illinois headquarters on a whim if she thinks she wants to discuss something with a coworker face-to-face. She does not let the grass grow under her feet. She also walks incredibly fast.

By 8:15 AM on our first morning in Washington DC my Apple watch asked if I wanted to begin tracking my workout. I declined the offer as I was not working out; I was simply trying to keep up with Chrissie while on vacation.

We ate breakfast at a hole-in-the-wall diner just off Pennsylvania Avenue. The syrup bottle on our table was labeled “non-fat”. Chrissie called over to the waiter and asked for full-fat maple syrup (this is why we’re friends). The gentleman proceeded dump the contents of the non-fat bottle into a bottle labeled “Original” from the adjacent table. He slammed it on the table and mumbled something about marketing.

The diner, the building where Chrissie once interned, The Georgetown Law campus to see our old apartment, The United States Postal Museum, Union Station, The Capitol Building, The Ronald Reagan International Building food court with approximately 800 field trippers, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (my first place of employment following graduation), Freedom Plaza, The World War 1 Memorial, The White House, Hotel Washington and CVS: All places we visited before 2:30 PM on day one. We walked over nine miles and spent $7.36 on Band-Aids for our feet at the final stop. We were in bed by 9:30 PM.

The next day we knew our limits, mostly because our body was quickly revealing them. We took it a little slower, enjoying brunch then shopping in Georgetown, a city with magnificent architecture. While there we stopped in a quaint cupcake shop. A man held up the line because he wanted to ensure his carrot cake cupcake had vegan carrots in it. Chrissie and I exchanged “GET ME BACK TO INDIANA” glances.

Our old apartment building on the Georgetown Law campus

Out where the ports coat was required

By 6:00 AM on day three we were on an airplane headed home.

Cody welcomed me home with a nearly spotless house, Caroline welcomed me with open arms, and Cyrus greeted me with, “That wasn’t long. What’s for supper?”

Turns out, mom can leave the farm occasionally, after all and no one freaks out. 

Except for mom. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Phone Storage Space

Every so often my phone alerts me I’m out of storage space. I find this rather annoying because I’ve downloaded apps to aid me in these efforts, where I can upload my photos to the cloud (don’t ask me the details on the cloud, it sounds dark) and then delete them off my device.

In theory, this should work. I should have plenty of space. But I also have a six-year-old.

Receiving the alert that I’m out of space triggers to me to check out my media album to see what kind of gems I may discover:

Exhibit A: Cat breeding video, Total time: 8 min. 12 sec.

At some point, the children got ahold of my phone and discovered some interesting action out the south windows. The shaky video camera finally focused long enough to spot two cats in a predicament.

The scene pans around the backyard, stopping sharply out by the cattle corral system.

“Cyrus! Come look at this!” Caroline yells. You can hear the patter of his feet come to the window.

“What they doing?” Cyrus asks, perplexed.

“Piggyback rides,” she matter-of-factly explained. “Cats play too.”

The scene keeps rolling and the cat racket can be heard on the film. Both kids giggle.


“Gary Gray Tail (probably should have named her Greta) does not like that!” After a few minutes, the children lost interest and left my phone on the dining room floor.

Minutes later you can hear me asking where my phone is. Both children deny knowing. Recorder shuts off.

Exhibit B: Teeth Brushing Tutorial, Total Time: 9 min. 2 sec.

At some point, Caroline got ahold of my phone and decided to put on a tooth brushing tutorial which included a whole lot of spit. She covered basic principles such as getting the tops and the bottoms, counting to one hundred while brushing (she got distracted at 24), and how – if you’ve made too much of a mess – it’s best to use 400 Kleenexes to clean up the counter rather than the washcloth mom has provided for such events. That tutorial was followed by an abbreviated synopsis of her morning routine, which included brief, but not rare, footage of Cyrus eating breakfast without using any silverware. The video was only brought to a screeching halt when you hear me yell “KIDS. FOR THE THIRD TIME. GET YOUR BOOTS ON, NOW!”

Not my finest work.

Exhibit C: Walk Through Home Demolition, Total Time: 6 min. 48 sec.

This Academy-worthy piece took place last summer, when we were in the trenches of the home renovation. I, again, set my phone down somewhere and tiny hands with the swift ability to get to the video function found it before I did. Caroline recorded a walk-through of the current progress of the home. It was a disaster zone, full of insulation, tarps, plastic wraps, lumber, sawhorses and wiring. Every so often Cyrus would move across the screen, hauling plaster and lath on a trailer across the wooden floors. He’d dump it down the in cracks within walls, which had been exposed by the demolition. Caroline talked of what used to be where.

“So…this is a bedroom. Or, it was. Grampie and Grammie used to sleep in this room when they come stay. But now it’s just this bad area….so……...,” she’d find herself questioning just what kind of dusty, disorderly mess we’d found ourselves in.

Weren’t we all?

Today, I sit on the couch and delete photos and videos off my phone, in awe of how our home turned out, keeping us warm on this February day with a wind advisory. Not too long ago we’d feel a draft move through the living room on days like this!

I’m also in awe of the number of cats running around this farm. 

But now we know the rest of the story.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Home Renovation: Time Capsule

I always wanted a black front door. 
And wouldn't you know? I came home one day 
and Uncle Rex had finally made that dream come true. 

My parents did a complete remodel of the house I grew up in during the late 80s, early 90s. Some of my best childhood memories smell like saw dust and stain. Within the walls torn down, they found a lace-up buckskin child’s boot, a calendar from 1919 and a bottle of homemade wine. They still have these three artifacts today.

You can imagine my delight when our contractor began finding things in the walls during our total home renovation in 2021-2022. Weekly he’d set aside treasures that had fallen between the cracks of a floor or along walls: Ornate glass bottles, hair barrettes, playing cards, and handwritten recipes for Washington Pie and Orange Cake. 

He even found a multipage booklet from the Eighth Annual Wayne, Henry and Randolph Counties Agriculture Association event, held in Dalton Township, Wayne County, Indiana on September 6 – 9, 1887. And we were told our house was built in 1920!

I value history, stories, and junk, so naturally, when it was our turn to replace walls I was ready to create our own time capsule of sorts. The way this house was reconstructed, I expect it to stand at least another 150 years, but when someone finally decides this space isn’t suitable for their family, there are a few things we strategically placed for the next occupants to find.

When the internal walls were not yet drywalled we wrote many scriptures along the studs. Just think: if someone does tear down these walls in 150 years, the message within the scriptures we left will not have changed; they’re everlasting. In the dining room I wrote out the words to Surely Goodness And Mercy, a hymn sung before every meal when our large Bowman family gathers.

The contractor's notes at the top of this photo reveal 
where this reminder in scripture was written. 

In a small Rubbermaid tote we collected small pieces that tell the story of our family and the renovation: A current family picture where Caroline was pretty as a doll and Cyrus was scowling at the camera. A 2022 Bell Contracting wall calendar to identify our builder and the current year. I placed copies of Western Wayne News in the box, and these particular issues had my writing in them. We included a sale catalog that provided insight into the breed and type of cattle we raise. I wrote a 3-page letter describing the modifications made to the home, our family, our farm, the current state of the world and the price of gas, groceries and oddities.

I asked each child to put a tiny toy in the box and you would have thought I asked them to donate an arm. It took 6 days for each to decide on what they could part with, which is disturbing considering the number of toys they have. Cyrus committed a tiny tractor with no rear tire and Caroline gave up a tiny foal that was the victim of the lawn mower in 2021. I’m sure the kids who find such “gifts” will be startled by such generosity.

We sealed the tote and the contractor placed it under the landing of the stairway before enclosing it.

Of course, my hope is that this house never comes down and it remains well-loved forever, as it is today. I hope the walls remain strong and white (Who am I kidding? There are already handprints on the door frames as the kids use them to stabilize themselves during high-speed chases), displaying family photos and children’s artwork.

But if they do come down and another family with big dreams decides to renovate this home, at least they’ll have a broken tractor and a three-legged foal to get them through the chaos.