Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Talkin' About Field Meals

Yesterday, before heading to teach class at ISU, I stopped by the grocery store on my way into campus to pick up a few last minute ingredients for the field meal I planned to make later in the day. I had twenty minutes to grab the things I needed and head to class. While I was in the dairy section, an older gentleman re-stocking the shelves talked to me about the beautiful weather we were having and how it was going to be short lived because of the harsh winter we are predicted to have according to the Farmer’s Almanac. “I always follow that Farmer’s Almanac because every year it seems to be right,” he said. Then he added, “I just heard on the radio that someone said this warm fall weather we are having is a prediction that it’s going to be a mild winter this year. But I don’t know. I think I still believe that Farmer’s Almanac!” I proceeded to tell him that my husband is a farmer and says it’s going to be a harsh winter again this year, and that actually I was picking up food to make dinner for the farmers tonight. And yes, the weather yesterday was just beautiful and I hope we got more of it this week. He asked me if they were picking beans, I told them that this week was a big bean week and that tonight I’d be finding them in one of their bean fields. I wished him a nice day and went off to finish shopping. 

At check-out, I asked the ladies to keep the cold items together since I’d be putting them into a cooler in my car. They seemed a bit confused, but I didn’t want to explain. The same gentleman saw me as I checked out, and announced, “This lady is headed straight to the bean field with a delivery.” 

I added, “Actually, tonight I’m making our farmers dinner and bringing it to the field later. That’s why I need some of the food to stay cold since I won’t be home for a while before I start cooking.” They seemed amused, asked me a few questions about bringing them dinner, and made more small talk about the tractors they’ve seen harvesting recently.

I went on my way, packed my cold items in the cooler I brought with me, and drove to class. As I walked into my building, a graduate organization was having a bake sale in the entry. Knowing that I should probably deliver my field meal with dessert, I scoped out the selection on the table. I asked if they had a bag because I wanted eight of the peanut butter rice krispies treats. “Whoa,” someone said, “that’s a lot of dessert! Make sure you don’t eat them all at once!” I then explained that I was going to be feeding some hungry farmers dinner tonight, and of course, I needed to bring them dessert. 

A classmate working the bake sale added, “Gotcha! One less thing you need to make tonight!” 

“Exactly my thoughts!” I said smiling. “I just hope they are yummy!”

I took my bag of desserts to class and proceeded to make my students a bit jealous (and hungry) when they saw my bag. One student asked hopefully, “What are you doing with all those treats? Are they for us?!” I then explained that no, I they weren’t for them, but that I was making dinner for our farmers tonight and that this was going to be their dessert. 

Within a hour, I explained making field meals to over three groups people, totaling over 30 individuals. Even though we may see farmers harvesting this time of year, many of us don’t think just how those farmers eat throughout the day and into the late hours. It wasn’t something I ever considered when I would drive on the interstate through Illinois on my way to/from college when I’d see the bright tractor lights in the fields. 

Growing up, I always heard that farmers work from sun-up to sun-down. However, many work until the very late hours of the night if the conditions are right. When do they stop? There are a number of reasons: 1) If the dew comes in, the crop and soil gets wet, so farming becomes much more difficult, 2) They finish a field and are at a good stopping point for the night, 3) Equipment breaks down and requires either new parts and/or a lot of work, and/or 4) They are just plain tired. So, our farmers need to eat to keep their minds and body alert and awake while many of us are tucked into our beds at night. 

Last night, the kids and I brought our famers a field meal that was warm and right out of the oven. (I even made a bit extra to drop at my neighbor’s house who is due to have a baby next week and proceeded to tell her that I was headed out to the field to bring our farmers dinner. Her family of four, soon-to-be five, enjoyed my field meal in their own home.) A few weeks ago, I stopped at Subway and delivered a field meal consisting of sub sandwiches, chips, and brownies because that’s all I could manage with the time I had. Most nights, my mother-in-law with the help of my sister-in-law take turns feeding our farmers. My field meal last night was a success, the rice krispies treats were delicious (thanks to the ISU classmate who made them), and we got to spend a little bit of time with Grant while he sat in our car to eat with us. There were no tractor or combine rides last night, which disappointed Gavin, but we assured him that tonight when Grandma takes him to the farm while I’m at a night class, he would get a ride while bringing our farmers another dinner. What a lucky kid, and what well-fed farmers we have!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Field Visit

We are a month into harvest and have taken many trips to the field to visit Daddy. A few rainy nights have brought Grant home early to see the kids to bed, however, most days/nights we have to take trips to the field to be able to see him. Each visit to the field is a different experience. It all depends on where they are farming, what the weather and crop conditions are like, if the equipment is up and running properly, and the kids temperaments. 

Today, we spent about four hours visiting. Here’s what that meant for our field visit today:

-We pulled up to the field and immediately jumped into Grant’s tractor with both kids. We had to meet up with a combine (driven by Jeff, our brother-in-law) on the far side of the field that was full and waiting for us unload soybeans into the grain cart attached to the back of our tractor. Grant drove us through rough bumps in the field to catch up to the combine. 

-After the combine emptied soybeans into our cart, we moved to the other side of the field to catch the other combine (driven by Grant’s dad, “Papa”). The second combine emptied the soybeans into our cart and we waited for him to come back with more (and I grabbed a few pictures of it in the distance against the changing trees). 

-Gavin said he wanted to ride with Papa in the combine, so after unloading soybeans into our cart a 2nd time, both Grant and Papa stopped machines so that Grant could lift Gavin into the combine for some Papa-Gavin bonding time.

-Grant drove our tractor back to the side of the field where a semi-truck was hooked up to an auger that was loading beans up into a grain bin. 

-Grant, Layla, and I jumped out of the tractor and back into my car to drive to the farm to  pick up some equipment for the combine.

-At the farm, Grant searched the tool shed for what he needed, and Layla and I took advantage of the bathroom.

-We then headed back to the field so Grant could continue farming and Layla and I sat in the car. Layla ate lunch and watched Wreck It Ralph on our DVD system while I read Dracula for class this week (and I was reminded how much I LOVE that book). The windows were cracked, the sun was shinning, and the breeze felt amazing. We were blessed with a perfect fall day today! 

-For two hours, we hung out in the car, and Gavin rode with Papa in the combine and then again with Grant in the tractor.

-Grant came up to the car a few times to say hi when he made his rounds back to the semi-truck to unload. One time, while I was involved with the suspense of Dracula, I saw a shadow outside my window and jumped as he approached. (The first time I read the book in college I had nightmares for a month. I was hoping this time would be different since it’s my second time reading it, but so far today, I’ve been a bit jumpy. Not the book I need to be reading while I’m a farmer’s widow for two months!!! I actually considered asking my professor to modify my reading assignment, but I didn’t think that was a reasonable excuse. However, now I’m reconsidering. Hopefully, his Count will allow me pleasant dreams this time around.)

-After the guys finished up the field, Grant brought Gavin back to the car. As Gavin ran up to me, I asked him, “Did you have fun?” and he smiled saying, “Yeah, that was awesome!” I loaded him in his carseat and we took off for home. 

Tomorrow night, we plan to do another visit as we deliver field meals. It’ll be my first home-made field meal of the season. We’ll see how it turns out! 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Harvest Happenings- Fall 2014

Hello, Farm Notes Readers! It’s been a while (like last harvest) since I posted. So sorry. Life has been, well, life: busy, fun, crazy, enjoyable, can name it all with two little people running around. And yes, they are now little people. Gavin and Layla have both grown up so much since last harvest. As I look back at pictures from last year’s Farm Notes, I can’t believe how much they’ve grown. This year’s harvest is well underway, and I wanted to write about some “Farm Notes worthy” happenings.

On September 14th, a few days before the official start to harvest on our farm, our family of four went out to the farm to gather fall decorations for our house. For last year’s pumpkin picking (Farm Notes titled “Pumpkin Picking”), Grant was harvesting and told me over the phone where I could find his friend’s pumpkin patch. Being completely unprepared, I found the field, attempted to pull pumpkins off their prickly stalks, and brought them home for our fall decorations. This year, however, his friend picked some really nice looking pumpkins to share with his friends and placed them in his shed in town. We first stopped at the shed to take our pick, and then headed to the pumpkin patch to see what else he had out there (and because Grant wanted to see what his buddy was up to planting so many pumpkins!). After, we headed to one of our fields to chop down corn stalks. Actually, Grant chopped them down with a big knife, Gavin and Layla attempted to pull the stalks out of the ground, and I took pictures. We now have beautiful straight-from-the-field pumpkins and corn stalks adorning our front steps, and I must say, we are the best “dressed” house in the neighborhood once again this fall.

We’ve taken numerous tractor, combine, and truck rides this harvest, all thanks to my new “life schedule” of being home more often during the day while I pursue my PhD and am on sabbatical from my full-time teaching job. (Oh yeah, that’s also been happening. Most friends and family know this, but if you don’t, now you do!) Gavin absolutely loves riding with Daddy, Papa, Gramps, and/or Uncle Jeff. Grant has even been taking him on Sundays to farm with him all day and do “farm kid” stuff. And when Gavin’s not farming with the guys, he’s farming at home ALL THE TIME in our family room and kitchen. And when he’s not farming at home, he’s drawing pictures of tractors, trucks, and combines while he’s at pre-school. I think we are safe to say that he wants to be a farmer when he grows up.

So if Gavin is farming all the time, what is Layla up to?!?! Miss Layla and I have been getting some quality time doing “Mommy-Layla stuff”. We go to the park and library, take bike rides, run errands, "ride Gators" (small motorized vehicles) at the farm, hang out in the car signing songs and watching movies, take our own tractor and truck rides, etc. One of the last times Gavin was in the truck with Grant, and Layla and I were just hanging out in the car, Grant called us to go get the Polaris from the farm and to drive it down to the middle of the field to meet him and Gavin. Once we met them, Grant took ahold of the steering wheel, drove us further into the field, and we met the combine and tractors. The kids and I jumped into the combine with Papa, while Grant had to do some other stuff in the field. I also got some awesome pictures...
Combine ride with Papa!
Waving to Papa and Gramps from the Polaris
Following Daddy into the corn
Farm Kids- Just hangin' in a field!
Here’s to a safe and enjoyable fall to all my readers...and hopefully, here’s to more Farm Notes this harvest season!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Field Meal #2

Last night, I tried my hand again at cooking a second field meal for the farmers. I went with fajitas, my idea from last week’s post. Fajitas, chips and salsa, and mexican cheese bread was on the menu. I now know why I should have stuck with not cooking on a weeknight because by the time I drove out to the farm to prepare the meals at my mother-in-law’s house, I was exhausted! While farmers may be tired of late nights and longs days of harvest, now that we’re over a month into the season, I’m tired from the demands of my full-time job outside the house AND being a single-parent when I’m home. I say it every planting and harvest season, and I’m saying it once again, I don’t know how single-parents do it (or anyone that finds themselves as a single-parent due to their spouse being away from home for an extended amount of time).

Since I knew I’d be on a time crunch, I made sure to prepare for the meal starting on Wednesday night so that last night, as soon as I got home from work, I could put everything together in my “magic pot” (a Pampered Chef famous stone pot), and put it in the microwave for 15 minutes. At the same time, I made mexican cheese bread (using PC’s Beer Bread mix (so yummy!) and my new PC stone loaf pan) so that it would be fresh and warm when it got to the field. After cooking two pots of fajitas and getting the warm bread out of the oven, I loaded the car up with the food and kids, and headed to the farm.  When I arrived, my mother- and sister-in-law helped to put everything together in the Styrofoam boxes, and then we headed out to the field for dinner.

Last night, our dinner in the field was spent differently with every farmer: 
  • Alex (hired-man) was waiting in the semi-truck at a corner for us so he could grab his meal to go (total break time= 30 seconds). 
  • Kent (hired-man) got out of the other semi that was in the field waiting to be filled, sat down on a chair (that my sister-in-law conveniently keeps in the back of her van), and enjoyed his meal (total break time= 15 minutes)
  • Jeff (brother-in-law) got out of the combine and also sat down for a few minutes to eat and spend time with his wife and kids before jumping back into the combine to continue to pick beans (total break time= 10 minutes)
  • Grant (my hubby) jumped out of a tractor, gave us each a hug (since we haven’t seen him for a few days), grabbed his meal and his dad’s meal (who was in the other combine on the other side of the field), and hopped back in the tractor (total break time= less than 5 minutes).
  • Doug (father-in-law) was farming on the other side of the field and would eventually get his meal from Grant to eat as he drove the combine (total break time= no time)

The meal was once again tasty but a bit too messy to call it a perfect field meal (the fajitas were a bit too drippy to make it an easy meal for guys-on-the-go to eat without a mess). But hey, at least it tasted good, my mother-in-law got the night off from cooking, and we got to spend a few minutes with the guys. My sis-in-law and I ate our meals standing alongside the van as our kiddos played in the van with Grandma. After getting antsy, the kids got out to run around the van and watch the tractors fill the semi with beans in the dark, which is always a cool sight. (Total time for us in the field = 1 hour). 
Oh, and don’t worry, I didn’t forget to bring dessert. A club fundraiser at school was selling white chocolate covered popcorn, so I bought 10 baggies of it (the student’s looked at me like I was crazy). It’s one of my favorite fundraisers at school because the popcorn is delicious. However, I didn’t think that since there is now a popcorn machine in the grain bin facility for the guys to snack on throughout the day, that they’d be sick of popcorn by dinner time. Our kids loved it, but the guys, not so much. (Total assessment of last night’s field meal = acceptable, but not perfect.) Here’s to trying again sometime soon, but definitely not on a weeknight. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Visiting Daddy

This time of year, I consider myself lucky when my husband comes home during waking hours or is still around when our house wakes up. Rain, breakdowns, or extremely tired farmers that need a few hours extra sleep are the causes of such visits at home with my farmer husband. In order to catch an hour, thirty minutes, a couple minutes, or just a few seconds with my husband, we have to go visit him in the field. 

Sometimes our intended visits are shorter than planned: a field could be too difficult to have passengers riding along, the farmers may be too hard to get to, equipment may be broken down and all the men are busy working on it, the weather may not permit it, or curious toddlers can cut a tractor ride short. On the other hand, a visit can last the entire evening with tractor and combine rides along with the farmers stopping to enjoy dinner with the entire farm family and crew. 

Tonight we were able to visit with Daddy, but for just a few short minutes (or in my case, seconds). On our way home from having dinner with Granny and Gramps (my kids’ great-grandparents), we stopped at the grain bin facility where we waited for farmer Daddy to come by with a semi-truck to dump corn. He didn’t know we were going to be there, so I knew it would be a surprise. As he pulled up in the semi-truck, he waved and the kids both smiled and yelled, “Daddy! Daddy! It’s Daddy!” Gavin got out of the car to take a quick ride with him to dump the corn and Layla and I stayed in the car.

These days and night, farm women and children take what we can get when it comes to seeing our husbands and fathers. I make sure that I keep a stack of papers to grade and magazines I haven’t had the time to read in months in the passenger seat and plenty of DVD’s and snacks to keep the kids happy in the back seat. 

The twenty seconds I got to see my husband tonight was worth it. Gavin’s five minute ride with Daddy was worth it (he talked about it all night). Layla smiling and waving at him through the car window was worth it. And the sunset to end the beautiful fall night was definitely worth it!

Here we are waiting (you can see my vehicle to the far right)
 The kids stay occupied watching The Lorax in the backseat (what a great movie, by the way)
The last 30 of 90 papers I've graded in the car this past week
Daddy arrives!!! And he takes Gavin for a quick trip to dump the corn 
Farmer Daddy and Gavin

 Our visit with Daddy was complete with this awesome sunset

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Playing with Tractors

For the past few days and nights, Gavin has been farming. He takes his combine and tractor and moves them along side one another, imitating what takes place during harvest. I’ve even heard him say things like, “I’m coming to get the corn,” “I’m all full,” “Gotta go get the beans.” I’m proud of his imagination and his ability to take what he sees when he visits Daddy and Papa in the field and apply it to his playtime at home. 

Earlier this week, we went to eat dinner in the field with Grant and we all crowded in the tractor with him. Our tractor ride didn’t last long because Layla likes to touch every button, honk the horn, and try to manipulate the steering wheel. Layla and I got out to wait in the car so Gavin could continue his ride in the tractor while they harvested soy beans.

That same night, Gavin refused to go to sleep because he wanted to farm. I let him stay up a bit so he could farm in the house. I took a picture and text it to Grant with the caption, “Farmin’ before bed!” I can only assume he had a proud Daddy moment upon receiving that picture. That night, he brought home an ear of corn for Gavin. I had been careful to keep it up high, for fear that Gavin would discover that the corn kernels actually come off the ear. While I knew the corn kernels would complete his tractor playing, I knew it would be a mess (and choking hazard). 

I should have known that it was only time until he discovered it himself. This morning, I walked into the kitchen and he had the corn cob in his hand and corn kernels in the back of his tractor. He looked up at me with the biggest smile, and said, “Mommy, look! It’s corn!” I knew I couldn’t keep him from this treat any longer, so I showed him how he could use the kernels to go on the ground, drive over them like he’s harvesting corn, pick up the kernels and put them in the back of the combine, and then drive the tractor alongside the combine to then put the corn into the tractor wagon. (If you aren’t familiar with farming, you may now be confused, but that’s okay.)

Gavin is two hours into his morning of harvest and only about half way down the ear of corn as he continues to pick off the kernels to use for his own farming operation. Layla is also enjoying the corn kernels, but for different purposes: throwing them around the house, finding toys to put the kernels in, trying to eat them, etc. What fun it is to play with tractors with real corn to harvest!