Friday, December 21, 2007

Issue 2- Happy Holidays!

It’s almost Christmas and it hasn’t even hit me yet. I think it’s because teaching up until the last Friday before Christmas doesn’t really give me a chance to get in the “Christmas spirit”. (My teacher friends know exactly what I mean!) Instead, I’ve been thinking about writing two finals, one that was 200 questions long, getting grades finalized before leaving for break, and planning for our return in January since it’ll be a new semester. This is the first time as a teacher that my students took final exams before the break, so it’s taken some getting used to with all the preparation that needed to take place while I was still finishing up my regular units. But, I can’t complain…it’s the last day of finals, and I’m almost set free. Yes, I am at school right now typing this. My students are in my class in a “review session” that the school builds into the exam week. The review session consists of some of my students showing up to “study” and “review” but it’s really just them quizzing each other and chatting about their winter break plans. I can’t blame them. I can hardly focus and I’m their teacher!

This holiday season will be my first one as a married woman. We are heading up to the suburbs on Christmas Eve and staying there for a few days. No more wishing that Grant and I could be together on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Before we were married we always wanted to be with our own families and said we would save that experience for when we were married. Our first Christmas two years ago, I surprised Grant on Christmas Day night when he was at his grandparent’s house. Instead of leaving the next morning, I decided I couldn’t stand being away from him on Christmas day, so I drove from my dad’s house to my apartment in the city, packed up my bags and gathered gifts, and took the three hour drive down to see him. While I truly did try to surprise him, he figured something was going on when I called him from my car and he asked to talk to my dad to wish him a Merry Christmas. I can’t remember the excuse I gave him, but I tried my hardest to pretend that I was still at home instead of an hour away from surprising him. No more surprises now that we’re married though. That went out the window once we got married! We joke about that all the time! And the extravagant gift buying for each other no longer takes place…funny how that happens! This Christmas, I bought him exactly what he picked out from Eddie Bauer and he’s doing the same for me. A bit more thought went into the gifts he’s buying me, but with basketball season this year, I have had little time for creativity!

Oh the joys of coaching basketball! I forgot how long the season actually is. Actually, that’s a lie, no one can forget the 3.5 months of coaching when it gets dark by 4:30pm, the cold buses that we sit on for way too long, the lack of Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, and how the snow makes the drive home double what it normally takes. I am coaching the sophomore girls team, and it’s been pretty fun, just exhausting. We have one more game tonight before Winter Break officially begins, and then I’m free from basketball for at least a week. That’s just enough time to get reenergized for another long month and a half before the season ends in February.

Because of basketball season, I have not had the “time” that did before to continue to write my Farm Notes. I anticipated writing one every month, but right now, it’s looking like these issues will be written quarterly. My 2008 Resolution will be to really try my hardest to write my Farm Notes once a month to keep my loyal readers informed about what’s going on down here in little Dahinda, IL.

Here’s an update of what has happened in the last three months:

After my first issue in September, I received rave reviews! Then, as the months past, friends would say, “I loved your Farm Notes, but I haven’t gotten once since the first one.” The gilt slipped in and I would have to reply, “Yes, I’m sorry, I need to get one out sometime soon!” Well, soon is three months later. Don’t get me wrong, I have wanted to write another issue, but the time factor, or lack there of, has been the problem.

In October, I filled Grant’s pick up truck to the brim and out the back with corn stalks and straw bails. Why, you may ask?! Well, I thought it would be a new business venture to sell the corn stalks that grow right outside my house to my parents’ neighbors in the suburbs. So, my mother-in-law, Marsha, and I went outside of my house to the river bottom one afternoon and cut over 100 stalks of corn with corn knives that I swear are from the 1920’s! My sister-in-law, Joanie, and her daughter, Sidney, tried to help, but after Sidney got stung by a bee it was a bit hard. Grant and Marsha then loaded up the pickup truck with the corn and straw, and I headed up on I-80 and I-55 with a loaded down pick up truck with corn sticking out the back. I can’t tell you how many strange looks I got from the Friday night commuters. On Saturday, my step-mom, Amy, and I spent over two hours delivering the corn and straw to the neighbors that had put in orders through Amy. For the first year, it was a decent and “fun” business adventure. However, next year, to make it worth the gas, time, and effort, I’ll need to take more orders. Keep that in mind if you want corn and straw bails when next fall comes around! (I never thought I’d say this, but that experience kinda shows that I’m turning into a farm girl! Who would have thought?!)

The weekend after the corn and straw adventure, my mom, aunt, and grandma came down to the farm on Friday night. It was the first family visit since the wedding. It so happened that it was the Scenic Drive Weekend in our area, so we spent our Saturday shopping the craft shows in the small towns that were on the Scenic Drive. We also tried out a fancy restaurant on the river in Peoria and had a wine tasting at the neighboring vineyard 15 miles from our house. Thank you Grandma Rosemary for treating each of us to a bottle of wine from the vineyard! Grant and I drank it that Sunday night with our dinner, and it was delicious!!! Anytime anyone wants to visit me on the farm, I’ll make sure to take you to the winery!

By Thanksgiving, Grant completed another successful and bountiful harvest season! We did it!!! I survived my first season as a “farmer’s widow” (as the ladies around here call us women married to farmers during the harvest/planting seasons). Grant had many late nights for a few months, but I made sure to visit him in the tractor a few nights a week. There’s nothing like the bonding time you get when you’re with someone in a small space from anywhere from a few minutes to six hours. The harvest season flew by, since I was also spending my time helping out the Varsity Volleyball team at school. With Grant gone most nights, I had lots of time to watch tv and read before going to bed. It was very relaxing! But then basketball season started in November and that time no longer existed. Now, Grant is the one that gets home by 5pm, and I’m the one with the late nights. Hopefully, next school year we will have our schedules figured out where we both can be home at the same time!

My new home in little Dahinda is really starting to feel like home with the beautiful Christmas tree in our living room and a wonderful husband to come home to. I hope this second issue of Farm Notes finds you all healthy, happy, and in anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Christ and the joys of being with family and friends. Until my next Farm Notes, Merry Christmas and Happy 2008!

-Kristen Strom

I attached three pictures of our home. One is of a beautiful sunset the evening my grandmother, Caroline McGivern past away, and the other two are of our home and farm!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Issue 1- My First Farm Notes

Country living is not what I thought it would be. I had my doubts about moving out to the middle of corn and soybean fields after living the complete opposite lifestyle in the city and suburbs, but these past three months have proven me wrong. I do not see country living as “boring” or uneventful as I once thought. Instead, I associate living “out in the country” as a way to be at peace with oneself, life, God, and nature. There is time to think. What a thought… time to actually sit and think! I never knew that to be possible. In my previous life, that of the Kristen who was the city girl, I would say that I was “bored” if I had ten minutes to kill before heading off to my next scheduled event just after crossing the last one of my list. (Oh, that list that just went on and on. Even if I had crossed off half of the things I needed to do, a few more bullet points would appear out of nowhere. Now, I do not have a list. Instead, I have a few things that need to get done once a week when I head into town before heading home after work, but it’s the basics: go buy groceries....umm...did I say “few”...that’s really it.) I now am no longer “bored” but just content. Content with having time to read a good book before I go to bed, content with chatting on a phone with a friend while doing nothing else but paying full attention to the conversation, content with looking out my window and seeing maybe one car drive by at night, content with driving to and from work watching the sun rise and set over the fields without the worry of traffic, content with having my bowl of cereal for breakfast just as I watch the morning fog lift off the tops of the corn stalks, content with life, content with love, and content with myself.

Those first few weeks after the wedding stress/bliss/excitement calmed down, I found myself, guess what, bored. I was miserable sitting in my new house trying to find things to do to keep me busy. I would go for walks by myself through the corn-lined roads only to get really lonely because I didn’t have anything but corn to look at. I woke up every morning before opening my eyes with the thought, ‘Please, please, please let me be in my apartment in the city so I can just walk downstairs and out the door to go do something besides being bored.’ But every morning I would wake up to my new room, in my new house, with a husband already hard at work, to a house waiting for my boredom. You could say I was bored before I even woke up…how lame is that?!

But now I am not bored. I am relaxed and at peace with my new life and lifestyle. I have school to keep me busy during the day (which by the way, I love my job and my new students), but at night I can go home and relax without being stressed about having lots of school work to get done. Let’s just say, this weekend was the first weekend I’ve brought work home (for all my teacher friends, you know how big of a deal that is)!!! I have the opportunity to really develop my relationship with my best friend, my husband, even if that means sitting in a tractor with him when he is busy at work during this harvest season. And I have a peace in my heart that I’ve never experienced before. A peace that tells me that this is where God wants me to be right now.

So yes, country living isn’t what I thought it would be. I went through detox of my once hectic lifestyle and the period of desperately missing my friends and family. But now, I am happy with the opportunity to really get to know myself. I was scared to be alone without the people who I always counted on to make me happy, but now I find my happiness and company in the little things. The corn surrounding my house and my life is my constant reminder that you reap what you sow. I would like to think that I am sowing my new life into the heart of what it means to be alive, and I think that I have already started to reap the happiness of getting to know myself and what life is really all about.

…I’ll let you know how it goes!