Friday, July 18, 2014

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

It was ridiculously fitting that I blogged about being a muddy superhero on Wednesday. You remember that one? All about how farm life gets you out of your comfort zone, and stretches you as a person?

Yeah. I need to shut up about that because I must have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of being nose deep in margarita night with the girls, I had to disassemble the rear end of a lawn mower. Joy.  I was supposed to get to be all girly and pretty and wear something NOT a t-shirt for an evening, but no.

My gal pal C is helping me out by mowing on my grandfather’s place since I am being pulled in so many other directions. She called while I was pouring out the last bucket of feed with a conundrum. The Grasshopper was stuck. She had a four wheel drive that could pull it out, but no chain. Could I stop by with a chain on my way to margarita night?

Well, of course. That’s a no brainer. These things happen. Logging chains also tend to twist when pulled and the danged thing wedged around the back wheel bar.

So, C and I banged on it ineffectually for a while with a hammer and then diligently started to scavenge wrenches until we found ones the right size and proceeded to take bolts and covers off until we could beat the chain with a hammer more effectively.

Also, Grandpa, I know that you’re in Heaven and they probably don’t have a hardware store there; but could you PLEASE send me a 9/16 ratchet next time? PLEASE!? In related news, the case for this Earthly experience being “hell on Earth” is actually strengthened by the fact that no matter what I am fixing I never have the right tool for the job. Eternal punishment I tell ya!

But we did it. We overcame. And I am 90% sure we got the mower put back together correctly. If it doesn’t run I think I may pretend that we did not take it apart and have the good Captain or my dad take a look. Hey, I didn’t say that farm induced problem solving made me a good mechanic, just that it made me a mechanic.

Mechanical stuff still is not my strong suit, but celebrating a night out with the girls after? Yeah. Playing to my wheel house baby! Who rocks at drinking margaritas in a dirty t-shirt? This girl!

Happy Friday all!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Squash Boats

Ah, summer. 'Tis the season to be so overwhelmed with happy little squash plants that you wind up eating so much zucchini and pattypan squash that you can't even stand to look at it anymore; that is until the seed catalogs come out and you forget that you don't actually need to plant twelve squash plants of each variety because one of each would probably be enough.

And this is how you wind up getting ten precious little pattypan squashes a day. Not to mention the zucchini. Oh sweet Lord in heaven, the zucchini. Don't even get me started on the zucchini. Spoiler alert: everyone I know is gonna get zucchini bread for Christmas. 

But at least the zucchini I can just throw in the food processor, chop it up, and freeze it into what feels like sixty million gallons of ready to go zucchini puree. The pattypan squash though? While squash bread is probably a thing I decided to change it up a little and stuff some awesome squash boats. Hopefully by freezing these little suckers I won't have to eat so much squash that I can't stand to look at it anymore!

Without further ado I give you Lauren's Awesome Squash Boat Recipe (but you can call it your own - no judgement here!):

It's hard to eat just one!

1lb hamburger
1 can corn
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce (I like hunts)
1 cup brown or wild rice
1 yellow onion, chopped
Four cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
Six to nine pattypan squashes (generally pick them when they are roughly 5 inches across or the skins get tough), or several large zucchini’s (halved)
1 bag shredded sharp cheddar cheese, if desired

Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil each pattypan for three to five minutes. They will be done when they can be easily pierced with a fork. (If you are using zucchini you can skip the boiling.) 

Scoop out a hollow in your squash to put the filling in, much like carving a pumpkin. You can save some flesh and small seeds to add to the filling if you like, but I throw mine into the food processor to use for squash bread later on down the line. Hey, waste not, want not. Right?

Meanwhile brown the hamburger with the onion and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain.

Also, meanwhile boil the rice according to package directions. Drain.

Mix the hamburger, rice, corn (drained), stewed tomato (not drained), and tomato sauce together. Let simmer until reduced. I chopped at the tomato chunks with the spoon to make them bite sized.

Fill your hollowed squashes to the brim with the meat mixture and cover with cheese if desired. At this point you can either freeze them for later use or bake them at 400 degrees until the cheese is bubbly and the squash cuts easily with a fork. **Baking time varies greatly depending on the size of your squash, and also how long you boiled it initially. Mine usually take about half an hour.**


FACT: farm women are like muddy superheroes

A few of my friends have been posting about the “So God Made a Farmer” speech again. It got me thinking, while it is true that the majority of farmers are men where is the love for the women farmers and the farmer’s wives, and daughters? We are out there toiling away in the mud and muck too, ya know.

Seriously ladies. Farm women rock, and anyone that can have patience enough to keep dinner warm until an hour after dark o’clock deserves some accolades. I am convinced that Job has nothing on a farmer’s wife. My own father was late to his wedding because the cows got out, and mom had to wander around the pasture looking for him when her water broke because he was out fixing fence. True story. I was not almost born in a barn. It was definitely the back forty.

A rural life breeds a level of independence, self-reliance, patience, and empowerment that many of my feminist college professors would applaud.

There is just something about those times when you are left alone with all those animals or other responsibilities and Murphy’s law starts rearing its ugly head that makes for empowering moments. Is there a horse stuck under a hay feeder and no one else around? Yes, yes, you can grab two hooves and flip that sucker over so he can stand up before he dies. You've got this. Is the automatic waterer not working? Well, grab a tool kit because no one else is home this weekend and you are gonna find out how intuitive plumbing is whether you want to or not. Scared to death of driving a piece of large machinery? Tough luck buttercup. You’d better buck up, because it is nine o’clock at night and there is hay down and a storm on the way. Learn to drive that tractor on the fly. You are needed. You must rise to the occasion and freakin’ overcome lady.

And when you do? Well, you realize that there literally is no such thing as I can’t. You can do anything. Some things you may not like doing (ahem, mechanical maintenance), and some stuff that is easier with help from others (hello, fence building), but there is NOTHING that you can’t do when you put your mind to it.

That, that, is why farm women are awesome. We may bend to, or break from traditional gender roles; but when push comes to shove we know how to buckle down and just make things happen. I can roll out a made from scratch pie crust and cook a roast whilst washing dishes, and then step outside and perform “guy” jobs like mowing, or operating heavy machinery, or tend the livestock without missing a beat. Because I have had to stretch myself past my comfort zone, and because now I know that I can stretch that way I can't go back. And every farm woman I know can too, because we are amazing strong women and because we aren’t confined to a stereotype. We are, and can be what we want to be, who we are, and we are pushed to become even greater than we thought possible.

So while “God made a farmer”, he also made us. He did a pretty amazing job too, might I add. Pat yourself on the back. Even if you don’t see how awesome you are, someone else does and chances are they are either too intimidated to tell you, or think that you are so mind blowingly on top of this that you don’t need to hear it. But I know better, because I need to hear it too sometimes. For once don’t think of your failings, think of your successes, and feel free to be impressed!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Oh what a beautiful morning!

Good morning all! How are you on this most gorgeous day in the history of summer?

Okay, maybe not the most gorgeous day, but it has to be close. After the past weekend of working outside in above 90 degree temperatures with enough humidity to ensure thrice daily bra changes I am in love with this morning. Sixty degrees and low humidity? Not a cloud in the crystal blue sky? Yes please! Now if only it had happened over a weekend so that I could enjoy it. Oh well, it still made for a fantastic run this morning!

The birds were chirping, the world smelled green, the deer were marauding through the cornfields sounding like Farm-zilla (How creatures that delicate can be that destructive and  LOUD I do not know. Run, run for your lives!), and the wild berries alongside the road were starting to ripen! I can't wait to eat so many that I make myself sick, I mean, pick them for jelly later.

One of my favorite bloggers was making berry puree yesterday. That might be enough inspiration to keep my hands out of the berry bucket. Maybe.

I spent a lot of time last night prepping, filling, and freezing some patty pan squash boats because I have been inundated with pattypan squash and super sized zucchini. (Okay that one is on me. It was hot and I ignored a few of them. My bad. Also, zucchini bread for EVERYONE!) You can expect a lovely recipe post on it tomorrow after I get some good pictures of the finished products. I meant to last night, but it was late and it slipped my mind. It is also almost time for the great tomato canning extravaganza of 2014. Are you ready? Because I'm not, but as the plants begin to ripen and my freezer begins to over flow I am afraid I won't have much of a choice before too long! In related news, if anyone has a kicking marinara sauce recipe I am officially on the hunt.

Take care all! Enjoy the sunshine or the rain!

Monday, July 7, 2014


You know that phrase, “make hay while the sun is shining?” With all of the pop up thunderstorms that we have been having lately this past weekend was one of the first good stretches of haying weather that we have had around here. 

Mother Nature does not seem to care that it was the yearly antique tractor show, or that maybe I would have liked to have not hayed on the holiday, but oh well. Part of the freedom that our founder’s fought for was the ability to own and work this land, and I am immensely grateful for that. Well, and I get to hang out with Captain America for hours at a time (at least until he wises up and makes me rake the dried grass or something!), and bring him lunch and do all those other farm support tasks that I so enjoyed watching my grandma do for my grandpa when I was young. 

Oh, you're going to be mowing all day? Here have a whole roast chicken and a peach pie. Do not argue. That is just how things are done, son.

Despite spending the morning of the fourth in a tractor cab it was a great weekend. I think CA is doing a great job starting his custom haying business. He is probably the only person I have ever met who can look out over a freshly baled field being ruined by a pop up rainstorm and just sigh, shrug, and shake the bales out to dry the next day. Resilience I tell ya. He has it. 

I however have a wide variety of very creative curse words and the sneaking suspicion that Mother Nature is gunning for me, but that is part of the fun. Right? Right? Where would I be without some sort of movie plot in my head?

Anyway, I hope ya’ll had a great fourth! I really can't complain, theatrics aside! It was a fantastic weekend. Well, let’s just say that I’m living in my hayday! ;)

hay·day                /ˈhāˌdā/               noun
noun: hayday; plural noun: haydays
A day dedicated to any of the aspects associated with haying 
(mowing, raking, baling, inevitably fixing the mower-rake-baler, or spent 
crying over the sudden storm cell that just ruined your hay). 
See also, any damn day that it isn’t raining from June until September.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What makes a farmer?

I was talking with one of my friends about a fantasy land where we would run away with our boyfriends and live in a cottage somewhere. In the course of the conversation she started talking about farming and how she wouldn't know what to do with herself, so Captain America and I would have to be in charge of it. I tried to tell her that it was easy, but something must have gotten lost in the translation.

How do you sum up the love, the angst, the freedom, and the responsibility in a few sentences? How do you explain the pure exultant joy that you can feel from successfully doing something that felt insurmountable: mowing and baling a field of hay on your own, helping birth a calf, falling in instant love with a baby chick, making food from dirt? Or the heart wrenching despair and loss that you feel when Murphey's law hits and everything that can possibly go wrong does: all the equipment breaks - repeatedly, it rains on your hay, animals die, gardens wither? 

Surely this is what she must feel like when she tells me about music, or other friends try to explain what moves them. It is so frustrating to have something that you love so much, and be unable to verbalize that love to share it with your loved ones. To explain how easy and wonderful your passion is to someone who doesn't share it is exceedingly difficult.

Being a farmer isn't about mechanical skill, ability to build fence, knowledge of livestock medicine, or any of the hundred other chores that pop in my head - though those things do help. But being a farmer is so much less, and so much more than that. It is heart. It is love. It is fortitude.

Being a farmer is cow paths that wind through the woods as a child's Yellow Brick Road. It is climbing atop a pile of round bales and serenading a herd of cows like you're a pop star. It is watching a thousand loved ones slowly age and die, or be swiftly executed in their prime. It is holding newborn kittens and helping bird's to their nests. It is standing in a hayfield during a surprise thunderstorm surrounded by 200 freshly made square bales that are going to have to be shaken out and dried again so they can be rebaled without molding, and finding the ability to cry, curse and laugh your way through it again and again. It is being aware and entangled with both the highs and the lows of life; and having so much love for that life, plant or animal, that you get up and keep going even when it feels pointless, overwhelming, and you question your sanity.

I don't know. Maybe it is genetic. Somewhere in our DNA is code for red or green tractors next to the one that determines our eye color. Maybe it is environmental. How could I ever leave my adoring herd of fans? After all they are the only ones who like my singing, and most of my songs were about them and the horses anyway. 

Maybe it is a combination of both that gives anyone the determination to pursue their passion. Heart and fortitude, baby. That's what makes me a farmer.