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!