Saturday, October 13, 2012

What Are You? WHO Are You?

Alida, my new little buddy. I found
her abandoned in my pasture.
The other day, after doing a small favor for a friend, in her gratitude she asked me,

"What planet are you from?"

That question has been on my mind ever since.

I am from this planet, of course, and to be honest it was a bit disconcerting to me that my small kindness was viewed as so rare and unusual.

It made me think a lot about some of my core beliefs, including "Life is what you make it", "Behave as the person you want to become", and especially "We all have a great purpose to fulfill".

I truly believe that as long as one's heart is still beating, we have not yet fulfilled our divine purpose for being put on this planet. Of all the verses in the Bible, the one which speaks to me the most is Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you', says the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

So how do we find out just who we are and what those plans might be?  Can we log into our divine account online to check our assignments on God's home page? 

My current art journal; working on it is
very meditative and inspiring.
No.  We find out in two ways.  First, by quieting ourselves.  By logging off, tuning out, finding some time alone to meditate/pray/commune with nature/create art/listen to music/ride a motorcycle... whatever it is that quiets and calms, restores and inspires you.  This opens up our minds to receive the inspiration we need to pursue our purpose. It is where we get our marching orders.

Sometimes I forget to do that, let the busy-ness of life get in the way, and fail to seek out that restoration which brings balance to my life and clarification to my vision.  When that happens, I get physically ill. It's my body's (and God's) way of saying, "Slow down, Amy.  You need to rest and chart your course for the next leg of the journey".

This happened to me recently, and it was a good reminder to step back, seek that peace, and remember just who I am and the purposes for which I was put here on earth; why I do what I do.

The second way we discover our purpose is to live life with a generous spirit, engaging and collaborating with others in an authentic way, so we are receptive to the cues given to us in regard to where our time, talent and energy is best utilized.

Some of my art, a page from my journal.
I'm a firm believer that the best ideas are not those which are forced, and the greatest contributions are not the ones other people expect.  The best ideas and the greatest contributions are those which are unexpected, come from the heart and are acted upon selflessly.  They are often the ones others deem  "crazy", "impossible", "impractical".

This does not mean that one must contribute your ideas and hard work to the world for free!  I believe we are granted inspiration and talent with every intent that we capitalize on it.  We must, of course, help others with it in a generous fashion.  The most successful people I know tend to also be the most generous with their time, talent and resources.  Funny how that works.

Before sharing that time and talent with the world, however, one must decide on what you are, WHO you are, what you stand for, what your special talents might be.  

These are decisions based upon what is divinely placed in your heart.  They cannot come from what other people think, want or expect.

This life of mine has been totally unconventional, my path circuitous, my choices often unexpected.  In school I played the trombone while most of the girls played flute or clarinet.  I took agriculture classes instead of typing (and it seems I now type just fine).  When everyone else rode Quarter Horses, I chose Arabians (and then Pintabians!). When others were partying, I worked, and when others worked, I stayed home with my babies.  My life is one that sometimes makes others look from the outside in, and say "Wow, you are so lucky!"

Yes, I am... I am very blessed.  But is is also because I decided to be.  I made the choice to follow my own path and not anyone else's, to actively seek my purpose in life.  I am a writer because I choose to write, an artist because I make art, a horsewoman because I choose to be.  No one else determines those things, that decision belongs to me alone.

It has come from listening to my heart more than my head, working hard at what I believe in, and not worrying about what other people think.  It was not always easy and was often isolating, until I found the courage to be who I am meant to be, believe in that person, throw myself out there and contribute my gifts to the world.

My purpose in this life is to inspire, encourage and support my friends and family, to help them see their own beauty, value and potential... to create things which didn't exist before, be it a blog post or article, a poem, a photo, a piece of art... to breed beautiful horses and share my passion for them with the world... to give sanctuary and comfort and friendship and food and love to people and animals who need it. Not necessarily in Africa or Haiti, I haven't been called to that.  My purpose is to start right here in my home, my community, and work outward.

I know these things because whenever my life has spun out of control, when my body has rebelled or my heart been broken, it has made me get quiet and seek these answers.  Those dark times have great purpose for me in that they result in my coming out stronger, more determined, more passionate and creative and generous than ever before. I know who I am, what I am, what my purpose is, at  least for right now. 

My question is, what are you? WHO are you?  Have you found your purpose, your passion?  

If you cannot answer those questions, it is time to get quiet, log off, tune out, put on some music or go for a ride, ask your heart those questions until you have an answer...

and then, LIVE that answer, with everything you've got.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Our family truly enjoys sharing the work of the garden and preserving the food we harvest.

Most of the activities we share are enjoyed more by some than others... Dad will go along with helping with the animals when he can, albeit somewhat begrudgingly; its just not his thing.  The girls will fish with us... for awhile.  But when it comes to the garden, everyone seems to take a genuine interest.

This, for us, is sweet corn season, and I planted quite a bit of the "Bodacious" hybrid.  So despite the drought and my intermittent watering, we now have corn to pick, husk, cook, slice from the cob, and freeze.  Or eat fresh.  Or make into fritters, salsas, salads, cornbread... you get the idea.

On Sunday, we harvested and put up about one quarter of what was planted.  As the saying goes, "many hands make quick work", and while it took up a good share of the afternoon, it was fun to work as a family.

Photos by Rebekka Dagen.

"Bodacious", husked, cooked, cooled and draining.

I slice it off the cob into a Bundt cake pan; works slick as a whistle!

The production line

We use a vacuum sealer to package in plastic, it really saves on freezer space.

Our little helper. She learned how to pick and husk the corn, and labeled all the bags.

We froze twenty-two bags of sweet corn that day; each was about three cups (or 1 1/2 pints).  The golden kernels are scrumptious, even cold, and run circles around the store-bought stuff.  I cannot wait to enjoy their golden goodness alongside a pork roast some wintery Sunday evening next winter; it will be a ray of summer sunshine on the coldest of days.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What the Magazines Won't Tell You

I just came in from plucking the first ripe tomatoes from my garden, and it occurred to me that the magazines have it all wrong.

It doesn't matter if its a glossy fashion magazine, or a recycled-paper tribute to green living.  They all are about three months (or more) ahead of reality.  Those mid-May "Recipes For Your Bountiful Garden!" issues are great, but my garden isn't "bountiful" until late August.  By then, the magazine has been long since recycled... and no, I'm not organized enough to clip the recipe and tuck it away for later.

The horse publications showcase their "Groom Your Horse to WIN!" articles in February.  Seriously?  No horse on this place will even consider a public event until late April.  I've never body-clipped a horse and don't intend to start; the idea of all that white hair flying up my nose and down my bra is less than appealing to me.

"Spring Fashion!" seems to bloom on the magazine racks as soon as the Valentine's candy is marked 50% off.  Awfully optimistic, considering we can't count on spring until June, around here.

And then, of course, my favorite: Christmas in October.  We've just spent a king's ransom on back-to-school clothes, and now they are marketing Christmas? When I've barely got my tomatoes canned?  Sheesh!  I don't want to even think about Christmas until Thanksgiving dinner is consumed and its leftovers properly refrigerated.  Then, I'm ready to settle my gluttonous self into the recliner and peruse the ads... not one moment sooner.

Yes, I do realize that magazines cater to dreams and optimism, and for that reason alone I'm a hard core addict.  Few things give me greater pleasure than twenty minutes of free time to enjoy a diet soda (yeah, yeah... I know) and a shiny new magazine, be it published by Martha or Oprah or Mother Earth.

Don't believe for one moment that the internet will ever totally replace paper magazines; so many are impulse buys ("Wow, a magazine about junk decor! Booyah!").

I do wish, however, that those who publish them would head out of the concrete jungle for awhile to see how the rest of us live... and when we harvest our tomatoes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our Summer, So Far...

Realization of the fact our summer is half over hit me yesterday; my girls go back to school in six weeks.  We were finally blessed with over two inches of rain last night, the first substantial rain in many weeks, giving me time away from moving the sprinkler around the garden to share a bit of our summer with you.

Like much of the country, summer has been a very hot and dry one here, and so I'm looking forward to the cooler days of autumn.  (Oh, and boots.  I happen to love fall fashion, and boots.)  I am genetically programmed to be making soup when the temps outside are -10F and the winds are howling. My wardrobe is designed around jeans, sweaters and... boots... while my 40-something hormones abhor humidity and my feet detest flip-flops.  So to say the heat is a challenge for me is the authentic truth, as is the fact my darling husband purchased a window air-conditioner unit for our bedroom despite the fact we already have central air, in hopes he could have his sweet-natured wife back to replace the cranky, sleep-deprived insomniac who arrived when the warm weather did.

Despite the heat, however, we've had a good summer so far.  On the last day of freedom (oops, I mean school), we hooked up the boat and went fishing.

I believe it was the last time this year we wore jackets.  It was a beautiful morning to be on the lake!

Our girls were overjoyed to welcome some baby kittens... in the summer kitchen, in the barn, under the porch... these are some of the porch kitties:

I don't watch any TV this time of year, except for the news and maybe a rerun of "Lonesome Dove" if its on while working in the kitchen.  For entertainment, there is so much more than television, here.  Porch kitties are great entertainment, and as a bonus, their industrious mother brings all her prey right to the front door.  Four to six times a day.  We no longer have a chipmunk problem.

But if the kitties get tired and decide to nap, we can always go watch the foals play.

They leap,

and prance,

and dance,

and live as we all should, simply enjoying the sunshine and good company.

With all this entertainment, I rarely leave the farm, but do occasionally go off-site for some fun. Our town has a great little rodeo every year, and so we made sure to attend.  At the gate, our older daughter disappeared with her FFA friends, though for a good cause... they sold popcorn and bandannas to raise money for a local boy who is fighting cancer (and raised $3000! How awsome is that?!) The younger one soon found her best friend and left Mom and Dad in the dust.  She's the one up front, in a pink shirt and cowgirl boots, flanked by her buddies and heckling the rodeo clown... 

My girls are so much fun, I'm really blessed to have the time with them!  And they are turning into equestrians, if not exactly cowgirls just yet...

They really have progressed in their riding, and it thrills me to watch them ride and enjoy it.  My baby has graduated to a bigger lesson pony, and the teenager is now learning to jump.  We can't wait to watch the equestrian events at the Olympics! 

Our 4th of July was more quiet than most, but we did head to the lake in the evening to watch some fireworks.  This is my treasure:

And, as we often do, while the sun went down we marveled at the fact that folks come from hundreds of miles around to spend time in this neck of the woods, year-round, and yet we get to live here all the time! We are so, so fortunate.

This past weekend, I was getting antsy and decided my family needed to experience the wonder that is the local flea market.  It was hot and crowded, so we didn't stay too long (though I WILL be back, sans children, in the near future! There are too many rusty, junky delights for me to stay away...).  We headed into town for some refreshment just in time to catch the Water Carnival Parade.  We waved at beauty queens, ducked the fire from water cannons, caught candy and clapped for the bagpipers.  My personal favorites are always the marching bands...

I felt great sympathy for everyone marching in the heat... and yet wished I were marching with them.  Marching band ROCKS.

ANY way, after reliving my youth a bit, it was time to head home and get back to work, as my loving husband had purchased fifty pounds of cucumbers a few days earlier.  He likes pickles, apparently.  Lots of them.  Oh, and chokecherry jelly...

This photo will be on the title page of my "What I Did Over Summer Vacation" report... okay, if I were accountable to someone and needed to write a report, that is.  But it does sum up how much of the rest of my summer will play out... I've got LOTS of canning to do.  More jelly, peaches, tomatoes, corn, raspberries, green beans...

I'd better get to work on that jelly!  Hope you are having a great summer, too. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Be Prepared

While working (and meditating) in my garden just now,  I uncovered a spider protecting her egg sack.

Now, I won't say that I "hate" spiders, as they do a very important job in keeping other crawlies at bay.  Lets just say I'm not their biggest fan, generally keep a distance whenever possible... and that my husband still laughs about the nightmares when I would leap from our bed in the middle of the night, beating the bedding and screeching "Spiders! Kill them! Kill them!!!........"...

... ahem.

So I'm not crazy about spiders.  But when I saw the one in my garden, protecting her unborn young, I had to stop a moment and appreciate her if for no other reason than admiration of her maternal instinct.  When I unwittingly disturbed her nest, she didn't just run for the hills, but picked up that egg sack and took it with her.  No small feat, considering it was as big as she.

Something made me want to get a photo, and so I retrieved my camera, focused... and nothing.  I'd forgotten the memory card in the computer, in the house.  And so, the moment and the shot were gone.

Not such a big deal, missing a shot of a spider... though I then felt the need to scroll through hundreds of spider photos in order to add one to this post and will now pray to avoid spider dreams tonight.

What is a big deal, however, is the reminder I took away from the little episode, and that is to "be prepared".

For me, being prepared is part of my job.  It means keeping the camera handy, its battery charged and memory card in place, in order to capture some of the myriad beautiful and wondrous sights I see on any given day.  Obviously, I've fallen short in that regard... and must accept the fact I'm a work in progress.

Being prepared means having my home in somewhat respectable shape and some goodies stashed in the freezer in case we receive unexpected visitors.  Its no fun to be so embarrassed over clumps of mud on the floor and a pile of dishes in the sink that visitors can't be enjoyed for the blessing of their company.  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.  Housekeeping is not a natural talent of mine, and so it is something I've had to work on (and still must).  FlyLady Marla Cilley's work has been a huge blessing to me in that regard.  One of her mantras is "Progress, not perfection", and thank goodness for that as I will never be perfect, but CAN (and do) make progress.

Prepared, in my world, means having not just a first aid kid for people... but one for animals as well.  I have antibiotics, vaccinations and medications in my refrigerator (right next to the leeches and night crawlers, because I'm also prepared to go fishing at a moment's notice!).  It means having tools... everything from hammers and wire cutters to computers and rifles... where I can find them and the knowledge to use them.

Most important for me, however, is being prepared to be flexible.  Kids get sick, sheep get loose, inspiration strikes or the opportunity to go fishing presents itself.  If I am not flexible with my time and thinking, it is too easy to miss fantastic opportunities.  Some of the most special moments with my girls happened when they were ill and I set my work aside to just sit with them.  My best photographs and articles are never planned, but inspired.... rarely when its convenient.  Loose sheep are always inconvenient... but a chance and a reminder to drop all else and saddle up a horse.

And fishing.... well, fishing is important.  It just is. If one isn't prepared and flexible enough to go fishing (or riding or reading a good book or making art or visiting a friend or watching baby kittens play) when the opportunity presents itself, we risk missing out entirely on why we were put on this planet to begin with.  I wonder how many times in the course of a day, we breeze right past beautiful opportunities to fill up our souls or connect with others, in the interest of being "productive"?

A chance meeting with a little spider was a good reminder to "be prepared" for those opportunities.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." ~Hebrews 13:2

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tools, April 30th 2012

Alarm clock, coffee pot, Bible

Check book, pen


Washer, dryer, dishwasher

Chore gloves and muck boots

Garden hose & reel

Bucket, feed scale

PC & iPad

Hammer, fence insulators, nails &

Lariat. Halter & lead rope.

Shower. Hair dryer. Garnier BB Cream.

Kitchen TV, to watch the weather.

Diet Coke.

Dish rag, paper towels, all-purpose
cleaner, Windex

Telephone, Blackberry


Thoughtful commentary, compassion

Chocolate, for encouragement.

TSP, scrub brush, Diet Mountain Dew

Masking tape, paint, paint stick, paint
tray, paint roller, newspaper...

soap and water

Microwave, dishwasher. Again.

Kitchen TV, to watch the evening news... but mostly for the weather

Washer, dryer, laundry basket


Bath tub, towels, tuck-in kisses
and bedtime prayers...

Yesterday at church, a nice white-haired lady asked me, "Do you work?"

I replied, with a smile...

"All day. Every day."


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kids and Kittens

My youngest daughter is all a-twitter with excitement.

Her cat Freckles (who is completely devoted and maternally protective toward my daughter), is expecting kittens... and so my girl spent Sunday's rainy afternoon fashioning a cardboard box into the most thoughtfully-constructed feline maternity suite of all time.  She and I now spend bedtimes speculating on when the kittens will arrive, what they will look like, how many there will be of each gender... its a conversation that would last well into the wee hours if she had her druthers.  In regard to numbers, I was recently informed there would be three kittens born.  Upon my asking how she came to that conclusion, her answer was, "Because I found three udders on her tummy..."

Ahh, nothing compares to the birds and bees and anatomy lessons when it comes to  conversation topics with a seven-year-old.  It does keep me on my toes.

Its also been taking me back in memory to when I was a little girl, and my beloved cat Midnight.  Midnight was a hardscrabble black barn cat who lived to ridiculously old age, birthed countless kittens (sometimes while I sat right next to her and watched in wonder and awe), and supplemented her diet of Meow Mix or Cat Chow with birds, squirrels, chipmunks, mice... and rabbits... and bats.  She was a skilled and savvy hunter, who learned to wait under the eaves of the barn for the bats to come out at night. They would swoop down as they leaped from those eaves, working to gain altitude... and sometimes find themselves in the clutches of the cat who had perfected her own graceful leap.

Occasionally I would find Midnight with still-breathing prey in her clutches, coax it away from her and valiantly attempt to save it... though I cannot remember ever succeeding.  The process usually resulted in a dead squirrel or meadowlark, an annoyed and indignant cat, and a teary pine-grove funeral over which I presided as if the prey's eternal soul depended on my reverent recitation of the Lord's Prayer.

I'm glad my daughters have the chance to make a few memories like that, too.  Its a fast-paced society we live in now, one that oftentimes seems to have little regard for life or understanding of its cycles... birth, growth, illness, aging, death... all of which are natural and normal, and yet feared by many and oftentimes hidden away out of sight.  My hope is that these daughters of mine will not live in fear of such things, but rather be familiar enough with them to embrace life in its entirety.

In constructing the Taj Mahal of feline maternity suites, my daughter made sure to include lots of paper towels.  I asked her why she did so, and was pleased with her response... "Because having babies can be kind of messy".

That's right, Kiddo.  An excruciatingly beautiful, wonderful sort of messy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

...So God Made A Farmer

This past week brought much discussion in regard to an article published by Yahoo!.  In it, the author listed his ideas of the most useless college degrees, with agriculture topping that list.  Every fact available refutes his claim, and so I will not elaborate other than to say many of the highly successful people I've met over the years have agriculture degrees hanging on their walls.

My friends at Agriculture Everyday shared this video on their Facebook page.  It rings true and touched me deeply; I hope you will enjoy it as well.  

Have a great day!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't Like Bullies?

So you say you don't like bullies?  That bullies ruin lives, hurt innocent people, are a pox on society?


According to Wikipedia, "Bullying is a "form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power. It can include verbal harassment (emphasis mine), physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality or ability. The "imbalance of power" may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "target"."

While we tend to think of a bully as some kid with crooked teeth handing out swirlies, these days the bully is usually far more anonymous (and sinister).

I've been surfing the internet since it was a series of grey pages littered with blue links.  Even after all these years, however, I cannot understand what it is about the internet which makes it okay to virtually tear people apart in the manner of a rabid dog, with language filthier than a used toilet brush.  

There is no longer a need to bully face-to-face; now one may do so from the comfort of your own home and destroy, with a few keystrokes, another human being.  I love free speech, but if the attack is intended to harm or intimidate another it is not free speech. Its bullying.

Far be it from me to suggest the government do something about it.  It is not the government's role... its OURS.  Your responsibility and mine.  

So how can we address the problem?  Here are some of my ideas:

·        Don’t participate. It is easy to fall into a pack mentality when discussing a subject about which we are passionate.  Passion is good.  So use that passion to fuel your own research, and write something thoughtful and articulate rather than vulgar and dismissive. People will take notice.

·        Don’t let your kids participate in it, either.  Period.  Pay attention to what they are doing online, and the attitudes they express about others.  If they seem headed in that direction, address it immediately

·        Call out the behavior when you see it.  This is the scary part, the one that takes the courage to stand for the truth.  You may be attacked in return, and it may be that no one will step up in your defense.  That’s okay.  Even if no one says it, you will (hopefully) have caused them to think about just what is happening.

I’m not really a “let’s all just get along” sort of person, and have been known to delight in a good debate from time to time.  What disturbs me, however, is that we seem to be confusing thoughtful, civil discussion with guerilla warfare. 

I would love to hear your own experiences in regard to this sort of bullying, and your ideas as to how to we all can work together to share ideas, rather than spew hatred.  Please comment and join the discussion!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Real Farmers

Recently, I read an article written by a woman who waxed eloquent about her dream to be a “farmer”. As I happen to be one (a farmer, that is... well, and a woman, too) and have been known to wax eloquent about it myself at times, my first thought was, "Awesome!  Another sister in agriculture with whom I can relate!"

That is, until I reached the second paragraph and was told exactly what she thinks it means to be a "real" farmer... a few acres of hay, a couple acres of vegetables, some chickens and goats, maybe a horse or two... and definitely NOT someone who might be "driving a combine over row after endless row of corn or managing a CAFO".

At that point, I could not decide whether to laugh... or be highly offended.

I come from a long line of farmers and married into another.  My definition of "farmer", when compared to that of the writer of said article, is vastly different.  While the fanciful dreamscape this author envisioned is truly admirable and, at times, attainable in certain snapshot-worthy moments, it is far removed from reality.

Why do farmers farm?  That question is akin to "Why do fish swim?"  Farming is in our blood. It is what we were born and bred and put on this Earth to do... and we will do nearly anything in our power to keep doing it.

In my life as a farmer, I've experienced days (weeks) on end of riding a potato harvester as it lumbers up and down the field through wind and rain, sleet and snow, with black dirt grinding its way onto every crevice of my body as my raw fingers bleed from hours of picking dirt clods from the conveyor.  I've spent sweltering days trucking grain from the field to the elevator, sweat running rivers down my body, chaff clinging opportunistically to every inch of exposed skin (and throwing a party in my bra).  I've sat in a banker's office and sold my soul to the devil across the desk, for the resources to farm just one more year.  

I spent my wedding anniversary, later that same year, waist deep in gumbo and floodwater after a seven-inch rain, attempting to save our crop from drowning.  We did save much of it; and my husband and I sat on the bin boards of the potato warehouse the night we finished bringing it in, crying tears of joy... only to have the bottom fall out of the market and to see most of those potatoes hauled back out of the bin, spread for cattle feed for the not-so-premium price of 25 cents per hundredweight.  There is a reason we now only raise potatoes in the garden, and it was not one of our choosing.

As a farmer, my life is one in which I am blessed with many beautiful, serene moments of bounty, joy, and new life... consistently (and sometimes unfairly) balanced by days of back-breaking work in heat and cold, mud and manure; devastating loss; gut-wrenching heartache. Sometimes bringing new life into the world means finding myself shoulder-deep in the back end of a laboring cow or mare... in the middle of the night... with a snowstorm raging outside... without benefit of an obstetrical glove or anyone around to hold a light or call the vet (or, God forbid, the ambulance, should I get kicked in the head).  

So why do I feel it… the heat, cold, mud, gore, hard work, monetary risk, chronic physical pain and grief… all worth the cost?  

Because I am a farmer.  Its what I do. 

I am totally, thoroughly, abundantly grateful for this life, all I am blessed with, and the ability to farm even though its on a much smaller scale than we had once hoped.  But those who look from the outside in, such as the woman who wrote the article in question, need to keep in mind it is not, nor will it ever be, Nirvana.  The scenario she imagined was one more akin to the retirement years of landed gentry rather than the life of one who is charged with the noble and daunting task of feeding the world. 

What concerns me is the fact that so many are now so far removed from any understanding of the realities of agriculture and the sacrifices of those who engage in it.  These same folks are passing harsh (and, in my opinion, uneducated) judgment, pushing legislation based on misguided assumption, pointing fingers and labeling as “good” and “evil”, aspects of farming which they do not understand nor have personally experienced. 

I’ve known many a farmer in my life, but cannot recall ever meeting one who did not love the land, appreciate nature, or care for his or her livestock to the best of his or her knowledge, resources and ability.  Most have, at some point, driven a combine "over row after endless row" of corn (or wheat, barley, oats, beans...), and know what an accomplishment it is to bring a crop from tiny seed to abundant harvest; nothing can compare with the high of bringing in a bin-(or corral-)busting crop. That feeling has little to do with money and a whole lot to do with fulfilling the very purpose for which you were placed on this Earth.

I have no issue whatsoever with those who dream of moving to a rural area to try their hand at a self-sustaining, organic, greens-and-grass-fed lifestyle.  My own is closer to that now than to one of highly technical and mechanized modern agriculture. To cultivate the land and dutifully tend to animals in any fashion is a noble pursuit and a lovely way to spend one's time.  

What I do take issue with, however?  Someone with little experience outside the ivy-clad halls of academia or the concrete jungle of the city, judging and deriding those who have succeeded in overcoming the elements, the cost of land rent and inputs, government red tape, public opinion and all the other obstacles to modern commercial farmers.  To call one of those folks anything but a "real" farmer is akin to saying a person cannot be a "real" corporate executive if they are any color but white, happen to be female, or perform their job in a less-than-conventional manner.  The trend of bashing farmers with the insinuation they rape the land and are Enemy Number One of Mother Nature and all that is good seems to be the last socially-acceptable form of discrimination.

When did being successful in one's chosen field become equated somehow with being anything less than real?  When did the use of knowledge, technology and resources to improve productivity and reduce cost become equated with something akin to evil?

I'll continue to ponder those questions as I don my boots and coveralls and venture out in the below zero windchill to tend to my animals.  The biting cold and frozen... everything... will invariably be balanced out by the cuddle of a friendly barn cat, the romp of a loyal dog, the friendly yearlings jostling for my attention. The sight of a pileated woodpecker flashing among the trees and sound of a blue jay scolding the dogs.  The smell of supper simmering in the slow-cooker when I walk back through the door and stomp the snow off my boots.  

These same sights and sounds, or similar ones, will greet countless farmers and ranchers all across the northern part of this nation as they go about their chores and come in for supper on this January evening... hugging their children, kissing their spouses, watching the weather forecast. 

I'm quite sure few, if any, will be plotting the demise of Mother Nature as they do so.  

I am also quite sure each and every one of them is "real".