Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Issue 9: Nine Months of Missing Farm Notes

I know, I know, how has nine months passed by and I haven’t written a new Farm Notes?! During the past few months, I’ve had multiple people email, text, and ask me, “Are you still writing your Farm Notes?” It’s so nice to know that my tales of farm life have been missed, and I apologize for not writing these past nine months. In addition to teaching, coaching two sports, and writing my thesis, I’ve been busy taking care of my pregnant self! Yes, I’m pregnant and due this weekend on Saturday, July 17th! Most of you already know this big news, but for some of you Farm Notes followers that I’ve never met, that is what has been keeping me busy the past nine months, among many other things. For the first five months of my pregnancy, I was just trying to survive the long, stressful nights of coaching. In addition, I was working on my thesis and trying to get it done to graduate this May. My “pregnancy brain” worked overtime this spring trying to think straight as I wrote my thesis making up for the time I didn’t work on it while I was coaching. It was a grueling processes of sitting at my computer typing away and revising over, and over, and over again. The long, late nights were hard on my pregnant back and brain, but eventually and thankfully, I completed it and passed my thesis defense with flying colors! It was the greatest feeling to get hooded at my graduation knowing that all my hard work paid off and that we (baby and I) were able to do it!

With some extra time on my hands before baby arrives, I’m finally getting around to write this issue of Farm Notes. I hope these stories of farm life are everything you’ve been eagerly waiting for. I know I’ve been anxious to share them!

10 Reasons to Marry a Country/Farm Boy
This past winter, Grant and I were talking and I enthusiastically responded, “Thank goodness I married a country boy!” to something he said. With that thought, this list was developed and is finally posted here for you all to enjoy.

Reason #10: When we got married, he already knew how to cook, clean, and take care of a house, so much so that he actually taught me a few things.

Reason #9: He knows what to do with a freezer full of meat.

Reason #8: He knows that when Dudley cuts himself on a nail on his dog house, there’s no reason for me to freak out and rush him to the vet at 9pm but rather just let him heal (and his scar looks pretty good).

Reason #7: An hour before company comes over and the toilet floods, he can remove the toilet, fix the problem, and clean up the mess before people show up.

Reason #6: While driving home in an ice storm and seeing a huge flash along the road, he knows that a power line has snapped close by and takes precautions to make sure we are safe as the lines whip through the wind.

Reason #5: When stuck in the house in an ice storm, he can hook up a generator to keep you warm.

Reason #4: When the barn is iced over and there’s no electricity, he’ll risk falling on his tailbone (again) in the pitch black of night to break out the dog to bring him inside.

Reason #3: If his parents live close by, you can be sure that his father has plowed you out of the house so you can get to work on time on very snowy days.

(As you can tell, this winter brought many ice storms and large snowfalls that threatened to keep us inside staying warm most days and nights.)

Reason #2 (Grant came up with this one): When marrying a farm boy, it also comes with a farm mom, which means if you don’t feel like cooking for him, she will (and she’s much better at it).

Reason #1: Having taken care of livestock most of his life, he’s familiar with taking care of living things, cleaning up after them, washing them, and staying up late nights to deliver baby pigs...a great foundation for fatherhood.

An Even Better Reason #1 (Grant also added this one): The opportunity to know that at least all your babies will be born over 9 lbs! (I’m not sure how excited I am about this one, but we’ll find out soon!)

4am Wake Up Call
This past fall, Grant was out of town and I heard a loud noise outside my house. My heart skipped a beat thinking someone was breaking in. I jumped out of bed to look out the window only to find my father-in-law, Doug, in the morning darkness unloading corn from our grain bins into a semi-truck. It’s true when you hear that farmers wake up with the sun, but it seems that Doug likes to get a head start most days.

Christmas Lights on Tractors
This past harvest season ended on January 5th for the Stroms during the snowy days of winter. To give you an idea of how late that is, harvest normally ends right before Thanksgiving. It was not unusual to be driving down the road and see tractors and combines in the snowy fields trying to pick the crop that was still standing. During those December and January days on my way to work, I found myself pumping my fist in the air in celebration for farmers that I saw in fields working to get their crops in. Knowing how frustrating it was for Grant and his family, I realized that every day farmers could get in the fields was precious time to get in the corn. It all depended on the right weather conditions to be able to pick the corn during this winter season.

Even though Grant and his family were able to harvest all their corn, that wasn’t the case for all farmers around here. Some corn fields were just left by farmers because the snow became too deep to be able to harvest. On the bus to basketball games in February, we’d see corn fields with an inch or two of snow on the stalks. Marsha even joked that we should have decorated the tractors with Christmas lights and wreaths to get us all in the Christmas spirit. For our farmers sake, let’s hope that’s the only time we see tractors and combines in the fields along with snow!

Church Lady Gathering
This winter, I started going to the small Catholic Church here in town instead of the one in the town over. When I say small, I mean small. The most the church can fit is about 50 people. Since I was pregnant and waking up so darn early, there was no more sleeping in for me on Sundays. I figured I might as well go to the earlier mass five minutes away here in town instead of driving twenty minutes to go to the later mass like I had been doing when I cherished my precious sleep.

One Sunday this winter, I was invited after church to join some ladies for donuts and coffee at one of their houses. Two of them are distant relatives of Grant’s and had noticed that I had been at the services recently. Flattered by their invitation, I hesitantly joined them not knowing what to expect or anyone else that would be there. For two hours, twelve of us huddled around a tiny kitchen table eating donuts, coffee cake, and fruit while sipping on our drinks as we listened to stories from the past week. There was no need to be nervous...they made me feel right at home as they asked me questions about my transition to country living, my job, and being pregnant. I laughed along with them as they told tales from grocery shopping escapades, family gatherings, and random people they bumped into. Thoroughly enjoying myself around these eleven other women from town (all at least thirty years years older than myself), I knew I had to make them part of my Farm Notes. I now wish that I had written down some of their stories to share with all of you since they were so amusing. While I haven’t been back to join them (my Sundays have been filled with many other things to do recently), I see their friendly faces at mass as we greet each other with a wave and they check in on how I’m feeling with my pregnancy. I’m sure in the future there will be more Church Lady gatherings that I’m a part of, and I will be sure to share some stories then.

Barn = Storage
Growing up, the storage in our home consisted of the attic, crawlspace, parts of the unfinished basement, and garage. Here on the farm, I find that a barn isn’t just used for livestock and farming equipment. In the past year, an queen sized bed frame, an unused desk, handed down pieces of wicker patio furniture, and a few other odds and ends have found their way into the barn for storage. Dudley’s kennel and dog house was even moved in there a year ago so the elements of nature couldn’t get to him like they did when he was outside.

Cat Disappearances
One week this spring, I noticed Grant was feeling a bit down. When I asked him what was going on, he said that some of their prized farm cats at Doug and Marsha’s had gone missing. Tip, the guys’ favorite cat for the past eight years, hadn’t shown up for over a week, and in the meantime, other cats had disappeared as well. Two of the other cats were tame ones I was going to hand over to a student who said he’d take them for his farm since Doug and Marsha had so many running around. The only reason they could think of for the disappearances was coyotes. This was starting to sound similar to Kitty’s disappearance last year around the same time.

Sure enough, a week later I was sitting on my couch eating breakfast before work, and I saw something that looked like a mangy, large dog slowly stroll across my front yard. Jumping to the window, I realized that it was a coyote, probably one that was stalking our yard for more victims. I immediately thought to wake up Grant so he could shoot it but realized that by the time he’d get his gun it would be too late. When I told Grant about it when he woke up, he assured me that it wouldn’t be too late the next time. However, we haven’t seen any coyotes that close to the house since then and no cats have returned.

Baby Owl Massacre
Walking Dudley one afternoon this summer, I saw a fluffy looking bird hopping along the road outside our house. It seemed as if it’s wings had been injured and it was having trouble flying. I didn’t think much of it, until I saw the same bird again the next day in our yard under a tree. As I walked Dudley a good distance away from it, I just hoped that it would stay out of the road so it wouldn’t get hit by a passing car. It was a sweltering, hot day, and a few hours later when I took Dudley out again, the bird was under the telephone pole standing in the shade. Feeling bad for it, I called Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria and asked them if they took injured birds. From the looks of this bird, I knew it was a rare breed since I had never seen one like it before. With news that I would have to catch it and bring it to the Park instead of them coming out to get it, I figured I would just leave it up to nature to take care of this injured bird.

Later that same afternoon, when I looked for the bird by the telephone pole, I noticed a bunch of random feathers and then two dead birds that looked just like it a few feet from where the injured bird was still standing in the shade. It also looked like the two dead birds had been partially eaten. I immediately assumed that the injured bird was mourning the loss of his family members by standing so close to them, until I realized that it was actually eating its family members! What?!?! After talking with Marsha and calling Grant, we came to the conclusion that the birds were baby owls (which are meat eaters) and the two dead birds had been electrocuted and the injured one had survived what the others hadn’t. Again, leaving it up to nature, I tried not to think about how to help the injured bird especially after seeing that it had eaten it’s relatives.

The next day, during our morning walk, Dudley and I not only noticed the injured baby owl under the tree that we had seen the past few days, but another one standing next to it. Now I was really confused! Maybe they had lived in the tree outside of our house and fallen out of their nest? Maybe they were learning to fly and had been electrocuted like their siblings? Maybe their mom hadn’t shown up for a few days to feed them? Maybe they were sick? With all these unanswered questions, I walked closer to the two birds and noticed they were standing by another dead one that was lying under the tree. What?!?!? Now we had three dead baby owls. And, within a few hours, one of the alive ones looked like it was dying under the tree, and it was dead soon after. The next day, when I looked under the tree the other baby owl was also dead. In total, we had five dead baby owls! What in the world?!?! We all have never seen anything like it, so it’s not like this is a usual occurrence on the farm. We will never know what happened to cause this baby owl massacre.

Rain Rain Go Away
This planting season started off with beautiful spring weather and farmers logging long hours in the fields. Then, the rain came, and it just kept on coming. I have never witnessed so many severe storms in a three week time period than I did this spring. We would have a huge storm and then two or three days of sunny weather, only for more storms to come along. This kept farmers out of the fields for a good month before they could finish planting because the fields couldn’t dry up. We gained lake front property once again down in the river bottom outside of our house which brought with it the sound of frogs and birds at night, beautiful sunsets off the water, and an occasional blue heron flying over our house. What seemed to be a surprisingly ideal start to planting, ended with not-so-ideal conditions.

Cozying Up in the Basement
The severe weather also brought along fierce winds and tornado like conditions on more than one occasion. Knowing Grant these past five years, I’ve also come to know how Marsha gets over cautious when severe weather threatens the farm. I didn’t experience this same fear until last spring when we had a few similar storms to the ones we had this year. One of my Farm Notes posts from last spring was about a hail storm that seemed as if the world was ending. We also had winds flatten corn fields and storms that would wake me up in the middle of the night with a fear that a tornado was coming towards our house. I have come to become as cautious as Marsha over the course of living on the farm, and this spring the storms were so severe that we would set up camp in the basement.

After returning from a beautiful Memorial Day weekend up at my mom’s lake house, and having left Grant behind to finish planting, I came home to the threat of a terrible storm headed our direction. As I was lying in my comfy bed reading a book and ready to fall asleep, Grant called me to tell me to light candles and set up the couches in the basement because the storm coming our way was going to be a big one. Following his directions, I made up the couches with an assortment of blankets and pillows, lit candles, and brought flashlights downstairs. As I plopped my 8 month pregnant self onto the larger couch, I realized that I didn’t fit! My pregnant belly did not fit comfortably while I laid on my side. Hmm... Looking over to the futon that was part of Grant’s college fraternity room furniture, I decided that the futon would have to do for this pregnant lady. I cleaned off the stuff the futon was holding, made up the bed, and cuddled under the covers waiting for Grant to get home. Within a half an hour, I heard the garage door open as thunder rolled overhead. For the next few hours, the storm plowed through the country and was severe enough that we actually heard it all the way in the basement, which usually is not the case. We stayed cozied up all night on the futon just in case another storm came our way.

Less than week after sleeping in the basement, I saw my first live tornado, and I hope I never see one again! We were at a family graduation party about five miles south of our house when another severe storm came our way. Grant pulled up the radar on his phone and had told me that when the storm hit he wanted me inside instead of out in the detached garage where most people were hanging out eating dinner and visiting. However, the storm came through so fast, I didn’t get a chance to run inside before the rain started to pour down and lightning and thunder rolled over us. I stayed in the garage with the others chatting and watching the lightening, as Grant’s aunt ran across the yard yelling, “Look over there, there’s a tornado!!!” We all stood up and gathered around as she pointed to a thin funnel cloud sweeping across the country about 10 miles from their house. We were in awe as we watched it pick up debris and move west. The rain became so heavy that we were no longer able to follow it with our eyes, and that’s when my awe turned to fear. We were no longer able to see the direction it was headed and I started to get scared that maybe it would turn towards us and come our way. Everyone stood there watching to get a glimpse of the funnel cloud again, but it never reappeared.

As soon as the rain subsided a few minutes later, I ran my preggo self into the house to make sure I was within distance of a basement. Within a half an hour, we got word that Elmwood, a beautiful neighboring town, had been hit and that the tornado went right down main street. Another storm swept through right after the first one, and as the electricity went off we all dispersed to go home not knowing the fate of Elmwood. On our drive home, the radio reported that Elmwood had in fact been hit, buildings were destroyed, and thankfully no one was reported dead. That same night, Elmwood had their Strawberry Festival so the town square was full of people until they saw the storm coming their way. The movie theatre was full as well and as people gathered around the walls to take cover, the roof was ripped off of. A few homes had some damage, but mostly the town was destroyed. Since then, buildings have been torn down and they are in the process of figuring out if they can rebuild the town.

After seeing the tornado, we all now realize the importance of taking cover in the basement during severe weather. I’ve since kept the futon made up with clean sheets in case we have to head to the basement in the middle of the night to keep safe. My aunt even passed on a battery powered radio that we can keep in the basement when severe weather strikes and we lose power. Now I really understand Marsha’s fear of severe weather in the country. (The picture above was taken of an image of that tornado on tv we saw on the news that night.)

My Very Own Landscapers

Grant has been motivated to do some landscaping around the house. He was a big help this spring when he planted flowers in the front of the house since bending down and digging up dirt was not going to work with my pregnant belly. Since then, he’s been wanting to get rid of two overgrown bushes and place landscaping blocks around the flower garden and create another flower garden in the back. One morning, he and Doug showed up in the front of the house with a small tractor and a bunch of tools to cut down some bushes. It was a project fit for two strong men! I didn’t even have to hire landscapers! If I could add another reason to marry a farm boy, it would be that they come with the skills and equipment necessary to do projects, no matter how large or small, around and outside the house.

Finally, I Have A Summer
This summer, I have had loads of free time and relaxation in the air conditioning to get things ready for baby. Having graduating this spring from Bradley after writing my thesis and giving up coaching to start a family, I’ve had my first real summer ever. And it feels SO good! After the first week in June, I had seen Grant more in one week than I had in past summers. It’s been so nice to not go to a hot gym every morning to coach summer camp, spend time before grad school class in my classroom typing a paper, go to class for hours at a time a few days a week, spending my nights coaching summer league basketball or volleyball, or sacrificing three summer weekends to take teams to overnight tournaments. I’ve found myself asking, ‘Why have I always deprived myself of this awesome summer vacation?!’

To keep myself busy, I started keeping lists of things I wanted to get done before baby joins our lives. My summer started Memorial Day weekend, and since then, I’ve gotten through all three lists of “Things To Do Before Baby”. My house is the cleanest and most organized it’s ever been since I moved in, the baby’s nursery is completely ready and organized, all baby clothes are cleaned and put away, thank you cards have been written from baby showers, I’ve found a pediatrician, I started and completed a pregnancy scrapbook, I bought a new Mac Laptop and figured out how to use it, Grant and I went on a Babymoon to Galena (the picture is from our trip), I got a pedicure, we had professional pregnancy pictures taken, I made and froze six meals to eat after baby arrives, and that’s just a start to things that have been crossed off my three lists.

However, after my weekly doctor appointment this Monday, I had to start another list to keep myself from going crazy. At my appointment this week, my doctor said she wouldn’t be surprised if I was pregnant another two weeks. Are you kidding me?! We purposely planned nothing three weeks before my due date just in case baby would arrive early. Well, baby is still not here, and all my things on my list are done. Leaving the appointment, I told Grant that if I’m going to be pregnant another two weeks in this sweltering heat he has to give me lots of kisses, spend lots of time with me, and help to keep me busy so I don’t go insane just waiting for baby. We’ve come up with another list of things for me to do, and Grant has done a great job of keeping me busy. Two days in a row, I joined him, his dad, and their hired man, Kent, for lunch in town. We’ve also spent a good amount of time at Grant’s sisters new house helping them move in this past weekend and a few days this week. Although I can’t do much moving, I’ve watched our niece and nephew, helped unpack some boxes, carried small items, and been the encourager for everyone else moving things. We’ve also made plans to get together with some friends this weekend. I’m hoping the saying “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” holds true in this case. Until then, I’ll continue to work on my new list of things to do. I’m getting one done right now as I write this issue of Farm Notes!

Trying All the Tricks
As I close in on my due date on Saturday, I’ve been trying all the tricks to get Baby Strom to show up. I’ve taken advice from pregnancy magazines, baby books, and personal stories to try to jump start labor. Here are a few things I’ve tried this past week or two that haven’t seemed to work:
-cleaned the entire house not just once but multiple times
-weeded my vegetable garden that seems to be more of a weed garden than a vegetable garden due to all the rain this spring
-chased around my niece and nephew outside in 90 degree heat for a few hours
-helped Grant’s sister move and unpack boxes
-walked around Walmart (a friend’s advice)
-went for three very bumpy pick-up truck rides (I thought the one today would do the trick)
-taken Dudley on longer walks than I normally do (Like an extra 5 minutes added to the short 5 minute walks he gets body can't take this heat!)

If you have any other advice, I’d love to hear it. You can post a comment to this blog and I’ll try it out! I just think Baby Strom is a little too comfy to want to join us right now. We’ll keep you updated! We can’t wait to share the news of his/her arrival with all our family and friends and to meet our newest addition. Pretty soon, my Farm Notes will become Farm Notes With Baby! Until my next post, I hope your summer is as relaxing and productive as mine has been!