Sunday, August 21, 2011

Issue 11: A Few "Farm Notes Worthy" Notes

Our last family photo before Baby #2 arrives 3 days later!
As the past months have gone by, I have found myself experiencing many things that I call “Farm Notes Worthy," yet, I haven’t had the time or energy to update my Farm Notes. Instead, I’ve been keeping an ongoing list of things that I want to write about when I have the time. Unfortunately, time has not been on my side this past year, as I found myself back to work after my maternity leave this past fall and pregnant with Baby Strom #2 around Christmas! Yes, Farm Notes readers, in case you aren’t a family member or close friend, I am pregnant and due in two weeks! But Baby #2 will be born by c-section, so that’s scheduled for Tues, Aug 30th...unless he or she decides to join us earlier. So, you can see why I haven’t had much time to write. When I had a few moments to myself these past months and felt the inspiration to write, I did complete a few Notes but failed to post them on my Farm Notes Blog. You’ll see them here with the dates I wrote them.

I also knew I had to add “Update Farm Notes” to my ongoing “List of Things To Do Before Baby #2” that I’ve kept on my kitchen table all summer after a high school friend asked me at a wedding a few weekends ago, “What happened to your Farm Notes?” Embarrassed, I admitted that my Blog was still there, it just wasn’t updated. I didn’t have to tell him this since he knew that my last post was way back from Christmas time. So, Matt, thank you for the motivation to get new Notes posted before I’m busy with Baby Strom #2 and chasing Gavin around the house now that he’s 13 months old and almost walking. My hope is to eventually get through my list of “Farm Notes Worthy” experiences and gather them into a bestselling book....that may take a few years, but at least it’s a goal! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading a few Farm Notes!!!

Mouse in the House- Saturday, August 20, 2011

I was woken up this morning at 2:35am to the sounds of a mouse crawling in our air vents. This isn’t the first time it has happened. It was a regular occurrence this past fall and spring to wake up to the mice partying in our vents. I would sit nursing Gavin late at night to the sound of mice making their way from room to room. Or, I’d be suddenly awakened by the vents making noise right by our bed. What peacefulness (insert sarcasm here)! Grant doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, but for me, it’s pretty unnerving.

In the past year, we have caught a record number of mice in our house. Every time I walk into a room with a mouse trap in it, it’s habit to check the trap. It’s not unusual to find the same traps with a job well done every few weeks. The most traveled route our mice take is along our family room wall and along the wall in our master bedroom (again, how lovely). We have tried to seal as many holes as we can find, but they still find their way into our cozy home. As I cleaned out our basement closets this summer to organize and get ready for Baby Strom #2, I discovered where the mice had been hiding out all winter. As I went through my Christmas Decorations box, I found pieces of chewed tissue paper among ornaments. There were also pieces of corn (I had a corn cob in the garage this fall to hang on our front door and a few days later all the kernels were I know where they went), pieces of a hanging basket liner (also from our garage) , and stuffing from blankets (we had a moving blanket on the top shelf of a storage unit in our basement that had holes eaten through it). These mice were surely kept warm all winter.

As usual, I prayed that the mouse I heard this morning would not make its way into our bedroom and tried to drift back to sleep, but at 3:15, I heard the “snap” of the mouse trap behind our dresser. My prayers were not answered. Of course this had to happen this morning, because Grant is out of town for a few nights at the Indiana State Fair. This also happened twice this past fall when Grant wasn’t home. The first morning we caught a mouse in our bedroom was the morning I went back to work after my maternity leave. I was woken up at 4:30am by the trap going off. What a wonderful way to start my first day back to school! Anyways, after the trap went off this morning, I then hoped that it was a clean kill, otherwise I knew, from experience, that the mouse would try to drag the trap around for a few minutes as it died. Again, my hopes were not fulfilled. For 30 minutes, I listened to the mouse drag the trap along our wood floor. But, this was different. The trap seemed to be moving more than just a foot or two behind our dresser. Then, I really started praying that it just wasn’t caught by its tail. Sure enough, when I turned on the light, the mouse and the trap were in the middle of our floor with the mouse caught by its tail trying to get away. You’ve got to be kidding me!!! It scurried behind the dresser, and I ran to get a flashlight from the kitchen. After a few choice words running through my head, here was my thought process as I looked for a working flashlight: What am I supposed to do now? I can’t call Doug or Marsha, can I? If I call them this early in the morning to wake them up, they’ll think I’m going into labor, but all I need is for them to come over at 3:45am and kill a mouse in my bedroom. Or, I can just find a bucket and put it over it until a decent time when I can call Doug to come over and take care of it and I can just go sleep on the couch. Or, I can do what my mom always said my grandma told her to do, hit it over the head with a way!!! Hmmm...I had so many great choices!!

After I retrieved a flashlight from the basement (the only one that was working), I ran back into my room, jumped onto my bed, and tried my best to lean over the mattress and look under the dresser with the light. (In your head, picture me doing this all the while with a huge belly and being only 2 weeks until my due date!) To my surprise, the mouse was gone, with only the trap left behind. Even though the mouse was still lose in my house, I was thankful I no longer had to deal with the problem of trying to kill a mouse on my own. Phew! I carefully got off my bed, not to step on the mouse that may run across the floor at any time, made some noise to try to scare it out of my room in case it was still in there, shut off the light, and jumped back into bed. I no longer heard a mouse in my room, so I was really hoping it had scurried back from where it came from. Needless to say, I didn’t fall asleep for another hour or so. Oh, the joys of living in the country!!!

First Walk of Spring- Wed, March 16th, 2011

Gavin and I went on our first spring walk after I got home from work. As I was taking in the fresh spring air and looking at the wide open country, I could think of no better inspiration to write a Farm Note. My mom took Gavin for a walk down our road earlier this week when she was in town babysitting. Having never taken Gavin on a walk on our road before, I figured it was the perfect day to brave the elements. I knew the weather wouldn’t be a problem today, it’s the road that scares me when I think of pushing a stroller down it. But, if my mom could do it, I could too! So, I strapped Gavin into the garage sale stroller my mom bought for the purpose of using on our dusty road and headed down towards Marsha and Doug’s.

Late February, there were two days where it was just gorgeous out, but the roads were all mud and slush from the road thawing out. Even though I wanted to take Gavin out for a walk, I knew there was no way I wanted to try to brave the elements of our thawing road. What is a thawing road like, you ask...Well, let me tell you: it’s when all the wetness and moisture in the dirt road begins to thaw after winter and the solid, frozen road turns to absolute mud. Driving a vehicle through it is even rough going because the wheels just sink into the mud and get taken for a ride wherever the slush decides to go. On those days, I show up to work in my mud-covered Tahoe as if I had just enjoyed a morning of mudding, a popular hobby of teenagers with old pickups. I have to literally jump out of the drivers seat in hopes of not getting my work pants covered in a layer of mud. Now with a car seat to get in and out of the car on the way to and from work, it’s a bit harder to avoid the mess, but I do the best that a city-gone-country girl can. If I wear heels, there’s really no hiding from the mud, so I avoid those outfits at all costs. Funny, how I now pick my outfits and shoes based on road conditions!

So today, with it being over 60 degrees out this afternoon and having a dry gravel road to walk on, I figured that I’d get some fresh air with the babe. Now I know I haven’t worked out in a while or even gone for a walk, but man, walking on a gravel road four months pregnant pushing a stroller with a 20 pound baby in it is a lot of work. Almost too much work! I only made it 15 minutes before I had to turn around. We stopped at the half way point, a half way point much closer than I’m used to, took some pictures and video of Gavin to document the moment with the rolling fields behind him, and started our walk back. Once we hit the final curve and incline back up to our house, I didn’t think I’d make it. Gavin was enjoying himself bouncing with the rocks beneath him as I struggled to push him through the sandy, rocky dirt. As I pulled into the driveway and stopped outside of the garage, I took my pulse. Whoa, 120 beats per minute! That’s the highest I’m “allowed” to get my heart rate being pregnant. I guess I don’t need to go to the gym and jump on the elliptical to get my heart rate up; all I need to do is walk outside my door and push 30 pounds of stroller and baby on our gravel road.

Sunset Walk- Sunday, March 20, 2011

While walking Dudley outside tonight, I realized one of the reasons I love living in the country. As I listened to the complete silence and stillness of the passing day, I was reminded of the beauty of where we live, especially this time of year when spring is in the air. I haven’t taken Dudley on a sunset walk since last fall when I went with Gavin in his carrier, but the weather tonight was just too perfect to pass up. I left Grant on daddy duty, so I could enjoy a few minutes of the passing day alone with my thoughts...and the dog. Dudley and I only walked half way up our hill, but watching the sun set against the clouds was just incredible. It’s amazing every time. The view at the top is my favorite, but my four month pregnant belly wouldn’t allow me to go that far. That walk has been special to me ever since I moved here. It’s my favorite part of the day...the colors in the sky change every couple of minutes as the sun goes down, the air is completely still (even on windy nights like tonight), and there are no other sounds other than my shoes against the gravel road, Dudley’s paws brushing through the grass, the occasionally train passing through or a bird on its way home to dinner. With each step I take on that walk, I get to experience watching God’s canvas change colors as another day ends.

Fire Trucks- Sunday, March 20th, 2011

I always knew Williamsfield had a fire station that serviced both Williamsfield and Dahinda areas, but I had never seen a firetruck in action around here. In the suburbs, it’s nothing new to pull over for a firetruck on it’s way to save the day. While living in the city of Chicago down the street from a hospital and fire station, my roommates and I heard the sirens almost every day and night in our apartment. Yet, in almost four years, I had yet to see the Williamsfield firetrucks until this past weekend. As I was getting ready to turn onto our road, I heard and saw the sirens of a big, red antique looking fire engine behind me in my mirror. I say fire engine because that’s what it was; not a mega truck that you see nowadays throughout the suburbs and cities, but an engine that looked that it was out of a movie from the 50’s. I swear my brothers had a toy one that looked just like it over 20 years ago!

As I pulled down our road, it followed. I pulled over onto the grass to let it pass, and that’s when my mind started racing. You need to understand that country roads aren’t home to more than maybe five houses. Ours has six along with Happy Hollow, a lake community, that has maybe around 20 homes. I assumed it would turn into Happy Hollow after it made it’s way down and up the steep hill under the viaduct, but it kept on going, faster than before, gaining speed towards our house and our farm. That’s when I felt my heart beat through my shirt, and I tried to think of all the ways our house could have caught on fire: Did I leave a candle burning? When was the last time I used the stove? Did I leave a light on somewhere that could have caught fire? What’s in the barn that could have caught fire? Then, I started thinking of Doug and Marsha’s house: Oh, no, they aren’t there, could it be their house or farm? Their barn fire that took place years ago on Doug and Marsha’s farmstead popped into my head. It killed countless pigs and destroyed their barn.

I sped up and gained on the fire engine in anticipation of the worst news possible. God really got an earful in those two minutes because I just prayed it was not a house that was on fire...or anything that was ours. As I neared the second to last house before ours, I saw the fire engine slow and more lights up ahead. There was smoke coming from the prairie grass around the house, but nothing coming out of the house- thank you God! It seemed as if our neighbors had tried to burn their prairie grass off for it to regrow, but it got out of control and took over their entire yard. The family was standing outside of their house, watching the first fire engine on site do it’s job by spraying down the flames.

This time of year, many farmers and property owners light fire to their fields or grassy areas to burn it all off so vegetation will regenerate faster. It’s common to smell and see black smoke throughout the countryside this time of year on still days when the wind isn’t blowing too hard. As my heart slowed down, I also slowed down the car, took a picture to document the moment for my Farm Notes (you’re welcome), and continued towards our house praying words of thanks. Our house, the farm, and we were safe. Now that I’ve seen the fire engine once around here, that’s enough. I’m fine with never seeing it again.


Trouble in the Country

I woke up one fall morning to Grant asking me, “You didn’t go out stealing mailboxes last night, did you?!” A funny image of me driving around late at night with Gavin asleep in his car seat stealing neighbors’ mailboxes made me laugh. “Ummm, no,” I giggled. Grant had been up late harvesting corn, and apparently when he woke up, he found a neighbor’s mailbox in our driveway. Some teenagers must have been out causing trouble and thought it was funny to ditch a stolen mailbox in our yard. Grant also saw the town cop driving down our road probably looking for any damage that was caused by the troublemakers. I’m glad he didn’t stop at our house to ask me if I was the one who stole the mailbox.

That same evening, I was home alone since Grant was out of town for the night, and I heard four wheelers coming down our road. With Gavin asleep in my arms, I looked out our front window but didn’t see any lights. The sounds got closer and closer and it almost seemed as if the four wheelers were in our driveway. Extremely nervous, I checked the doors to make sure they were locked and tried to hide behind a window to peek out. Again, there were no lights, yet I felt incredibly vulnerable all by myself with a sleeping baby in my arms and no one here to protect me. I thought it could be the mailbox stealers, but no matter who it was, I didn’t want them coming into our yard or close to our home. Thankfully, the sounds eventually passed by our house and continued down our road, not disturbing me, the baby, our our home.

That got me thinking: what would I do, if late at night strangers pulled into our driveway? The city girl that I am, I have an escape plan if anyone breaks into our house while I’m asleep and alone at night: I’d grab the baby, push the screen out our bedroom window, jump out, and run barefoot in my pj’s the 200 yards to Doug and Marsha’s house. What a sight that would be! However, I didn’t have a plan if strangers came to our house when I was awake and all the lights were on and they could see me through our front windows. A phone call to 911 wouldn’t get the town cop here on time, but I could call Doug and Marsha and have them drive over here with their sturdy pick up truck and a hunting gun to scare them away. Now I know this is my city mind racing when I think of these scenarios, but living in the suburbs and the city conditioned me to think of dangerous situations in order to be prepared and safe. Living in the country changes the game plan. I’m assured by Grant that these things will never happen, but after living 24 years in a suburban or urban area, it happened way too often to not think it can’t happen everywhere. For now, when I’m home alone, I guess I have to rely on escaping to my in-laws barefoot or having them come rescue me.


This Thanksgiving, we stayed here in Dahinda and celebrated with my in-laws. The day after the holiday, I was driving home from running an errand up in Williamsfield and saw ten wild turkeys on the side of the road running into a field (yes, I counted them). I had seen one or two wild turkeys off our road before, but I had no idea that we had so many living close by. Mr. and Mrs. Turkey seem to have added eight more to their flock, or whatever a group of traveling turkeys are called, because it looked like it was a whole family of them. At least they got to roam free while the rest of us enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner the night before.


Doug and Marsha were over at our house watching a movie, and all of a sudden it smelled like a skunk was loose in the house. The smell was so strong that we had to stop the movie and look for it. I knew it wasn’t actually in our house, but it sure smelled like it. We thought maybe it was right outside our front window on the porch, but when we turned on the light, we didn’t see it. I thought maybe it was in the garage and had come in on Grant’s truck, so we went out there to look around, but all we found was the awful smell. Dudley got skunked this winter out in the barn, but our house had never gotten sprayed before. It was just awful! I can now add “skunk” to my list of things that have invaded my country house these past four years of living here.

Bring Your Tractor to School Day

As I was ready to pull into Gavin’s babysitter’s house to drop him off one morning, I was held up by a group of high school girls peddling small kid-sized tractors. As I let them pass in front of me, I became very confused until I glanced at the student parking lot and saw a row of actual farming tractors in an assortment of colors and sizes. It was Bring Your Tractor to School Day, a popular “spirit day” during FFA Week (FFA is a student agriculture organization). The girls also wanted to be included in the spirit day, so they must have borrowed their siblings toy tractors to take to school as their mode of transportation.

I didn’t take Grant’s tractor to Dunlap on our Bring Your Your Tractor to School Day, but I did participate in FFA Week on Camo Day. I borrowed one of Grant’s camouflage hunting outfits and wore it all day to show kids that I had spirit. Actually that’s a lie, I only wore the whole outfit for the first class period because I started to sweat in it. The camo jacket stayed on all day, so at least I get credit for that. That’s not something I would have done living in the suburbs!