The Evolution of a Modern-Day Farm Wife

Zero to Eighty

The weather in Kansas has been wacky. 

So, what’s new?!?

Seriously.

Yes, it is winter.

Yes, I expect snow.

Yes, I expect ice.

Yes, I expect nostril-freezing wind chills.

But, eighty degree temps?!?

EIGHTY DEGREES!

It is MARCH, right?!?

It is MARCH, right?!?

I’ll take it…I guess.

As I sadly stare out my window from my classroom after fielding requests from students all day long to have classes outside.

ALL. DAY. LONG.

The problem is we’ve had some really, really freezing temperatures lately followed by warm, crazy-like weather.

It’s confusing.

One week ago it was literally freezing.

Today, I’m overhearing kids say they should’ve worn shorts to school.

Zero to eighty in a week.

Goodness.

I don’t think the wheat likes it either.

The snow that came with the below-freezing temps has helped the wheat by insulating it.

Snow keeps the wheat insulated from the cold.

Snow keeps the wheat insulated from the cold.

The problem is that when the temps rise, the snow melts, and then another front blows in with freezing temperatures which leaves the wheat vulnerable.

The warm temperatures have melted the snow leaving the wheat vulnerable.

The warm temperatures have melted the snow leaving the wheat without any protection.

Adam and Dwight scouted fields on Friday.

All I can say is that we’re hoping the wheat bounces back after this last cold, freezing spell…

…And that the temperatures stay above freezing.

Although the wheat can’t seem to get away from the crazy, inconsistent weather, Adam and I were able to get away for a few days and go to Del Mar, California, for some meetings.

Getting his feet wet in the Pacific for the first time.

Getting his feet wet in the Pacific for the first time.

Dwight and Cindy were able to go as well.

For a farm family, getting everyone off the farm at the same time is a nearly impossible feat.

But we did it, and enjoyed our time in sunny Del Mar.

Breakfast in Del Mar.

Breakfast in Del Mar.  Look, Mom, no wool socks!!

The time change left us waking up long before the sunrises.

Surf's up, farmer dude!

Surf’s up, farmer dude!

I found it funny to see the birds, the surfers, and the Kansas farmers out on the beach every morning before the rest of the coast was awake.

Since we’ve been home, Banks and I have been anxiously awaiting calving season during the below freezing/freezing/above freezing temperatures.

Eat your food, cow, and then have your calf already!

Eat your food, Cow, and then have your calf already!

Today we hit above 80 degrees.

Look, girls, here comes more chow!

Look, girls, here comes more chow!  Look, girls, I’m not wearing a jacket!!

I suppose this warm-up has its positives.

We finally had our first calf of the 2014 calving season late last week.

Our first calf of 2014.

Our first calf of 2014.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

Two more calves have shown up in the last 24 hours and I’m guessing they’re going to keep on coming.

The first bull calf of 2014.

The first bull calf of 2014.

Hopefully the temperatures stay nice and warm for these little guys to keep showing up and to give the wheat a chance to break dormancy and begin to grow.

After all, drastic temperature changes can shock our plants and animals.

We don’t want sick calves and we don’t want dead wheat.

I say bring on spring!

And for heaven’s sake, let’s keep the temperatures consistent.

Snow Days & Sun Dogs

Although school is back in session for me today, I was home the last two days since school was closed due to the weather.

I must admit that the wife, mother, and teacher in me LOVES snow days because I get to help Adam around the farm while including Banks in all of the action.

On Tuesday it snowed all day long.

But just because the schools were closed didn’t mean we got to stay inside watching movies and sipping hot chocolate while staying wrapped in our blankets all day.

The cattle still needed checked and fed.

Snow?? You don't say!

Snow?? You don’t say!

The girls had been fed extra hay the evening before the storm blew in, but they were still happy to get their corn silage for breakfast.

Bellied up to the bunk and chowing down.

Bellied up to the bunk and chowing down.

They also got a little extra to top off their breakfast in the form of range cubes.

And if you know our cattle, you know they LOVE range cubes.

Some extra goodies for the girls in the form of range cubes.

Adding some extra goodies for the girls in the form of range cubes.

Once the girls were chowing down, Dwight did a walkthrough to check on everyone to make sure they were all healthy and not showing signs of calving.

Wellness check.

Wellness check.

After the cattle were fed we were able to go inside and Banks was able to show Dwight his latest favorite YouTube video called What Does the Farmer Say? by Kansas farmer Derek Klingenberg.

Let me show you how to do it, Grandpa.

Let me show you how to do it, Grandpa.

Seriously, if Klingenberg is making any money on his videos by the number of times played on Youtube, the Baldwin household is making major contributions.

We know the words.

ALL of the words.

On Wednesday, the snow had stopped falling, but it was cold and windy and the cattle still needed fed.

So we loaded up and busted through drifts to get to them.

The bunks needed shoveled out.

Adam shoveling snow.

Adam shoveling snow.

Once the girls saw Adam scooping out the snow, they knew what would be coming next.

Hey, you missed a spot.

Hey, you missed a spot.

The sun made it a bright morning, but the wind still made it very, very cold.

A really cool thing that we were able to see Wednesday morning was something called sun dogs.

Sun dogs in the Kansas sky.

Sun dogs in the Kansas sky.

It’s one of those things I’m thankful for snow days for…otherwise I would have probably missed it.

It lasted about an hour Wednesday morning.

According to the weatherman, these sun dogs come from ice crystals in the atmosphere that act as prisms and refract light.  Apparently it happens during very cold weather.

Scientific explanation or not, it was a sight I had never seen before.

Feeding cows wasn’t the only thing we did during my snow days.

We were also able to enjoy the snow.

Banks slid down our “hill” for the first time.

Weeeeeeee!

Weeeeeeee!

He loved it!

He also loved eating two bowls of snow.

And a side of snow to go with my snow.

And a side of snow to go with my snow.

I know farmers and ranchers would rather it not snow because it makes choring and calving a lot more pleasant, but I must confess that I sure do appreciate a good snow day or two.

Overshadowing Phil

Banks and I have been making our rounds everyday after school checking on the cows as we prepare for our calving season to get underway.

Just checking on the cows.

Just checking on the cows.

No babies on the ground yet, but we’re getting close.

Look, Mama, it's Bob!

Look, Mama, it’s Bob!

I was convinced we’d have at least one on Friday or Saturday since we had some weather moving in.

We had a mix of snow and ice early Saturday morning.

It was enough to make things pretty slick.

Add in the wind and it also feels pretty cold.

But still no calves.

No calves here, yo!

No calves here, yo!

This all made me wonder how much longer it’d be cold before it would start warming up.

With all of the Super Bowl hoopla, I had forgotten it was Groundhog Day, but when the game became a blow-out I started surfing the web.

According to news reports obviously overshadowed by The Game, Punxsutawney Phil–you know the furry weather “forecaster”– apparently saw his shadow this year.

That’s right, SAW his shadow.

That means there’s six more weeks of winter to look forward to in 2014.

We haven’t even started calving yet.

We haven’t even started calving yet!

Being the teacher, I like a good snow day (or two or three or four), but being the wife of a farmer I have to remember that it’s a lot easier for everyone around here when the cows calve in warmer weather.

That's a calf in the front seat of the truck in 2011.

That’s a calf in the front seat of the truck in 2011.

That's a calf in the office bathroom during a previous winter.

That’s a calf in the office bathroom a few winters ago.

My friend Kelly, a rancher in New Mexico, posted on her Facebook page, “Tomorrow is groundhog hunting day…”

I’m assuming she’s not done calving either.

Thanks, Phil.  

You better watch out, Phil.

You see, around these parts we go beyond just hunting groundhogs.

We actually have groundhog feeds.

One of the local churches in Inman hosts an annual “Groundhog Feed” every year–regardless of what Phil sees or doesn’t see.

This is St. Peter’s United Church of Christ’s 72nd annual Groundhog Feed.

Grilling Up Groundhog!

Grilling Up Groundhog!

It’s a great fundraiser for the church to support their local mission projects.

People come from all over and pay $10 a person to eat all the sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, rolls, pickles, apple sauce, pie, and German sausage they want.

Oh, that kind of ground hog.

Oh, that kind of ground hog.

There’s a lunch rush from 11am until 1pm and it starts up again at 4pm until they run out of food.

People line up out the door.

Once you pay you are sent to the church’s basement and wait until the seats are filled.

An escort gives a brief talk on the process of seating and eating and then everyone is escorted upstairs into the dining hall where long tables fill the room.

You stay in line until your group reaches its tables and then begin filling the seats in a nice, orderly fashion.

Filling in the seats at St. Peter's.

Filling in the seats at St. Peter’s.

The meal is served family style, which means you never know who you’ll sit next to or across from, but it’s guaranteed you’ll meet someone new and see old faces, too.

What type of pie would you like?

What type of pie would you like?

Besides, the meal is worth every penny.

Last year we sat with some teenagers from out of state.

Did they say we were eating groundhog tonight?!?

Did they say we were eating groundhog tonight?!?

They were visiting their grandparents in Inman.  Their grandfather was too ill to go to the feed, but they experienced the tradition for him.

This year we sat with some folks from around town.

Tradition:  It’s one of the beauties of small-town America.

Pass the sauerkraut, please.

Pass the sauerkraut, please.

Although eating ground hog won’t speed up winter or calving this year, it is always a nice way to spend a cold evening with folks.

Besides, we’ll be busy soon enough with calves.

Let’s just hope it’s nice and warm when they start arriving.

Makeshift Snow Shoes

It’s freezing outside today.

Literally.

It’s also blowing which makes it feel even colder.

Like -12 degrees cold.

Brrrr.

It also snowed last night.

Everything is covered in about 3 inches of snow.

It’s really pretty…until you go outside.

Even the birds are trying to stay warm today.

Angry Bird (Baldwin Farms Edition) Hand over the dog food and nobody gets hurt.

Angry Bird (Baldwin Farms Edition): Hand over the dog food and nobody gets hurt.

So with the below freezing temperatures plus the wind, we’ve decided to spend as much time indoors today.

I’ve been organizing a lot of photographs I’ve shot over the last 6 months or so.

Man, I take a lot of pictures.

Anyway, I was looking at some photos from two weeks ago when it snowed just before Christmas.

Banks does not have snow boots, but the temperatures were warm enough that we just had to get him in the snow.

So what do you do when your kid doesn’t have snow shoes?

If you’re me, you improvise and use plastic grocery bags from a recent shopping trip.

My name is Banks.  My parents didn't think I needed snow shoes this year.  Now look at me.

My parents didn’t think I needed snow shoes this year. Now look at me.

Banks didn’t seem to care much about what he had covering his feet.

He just thought the snow was pretty cool.

Luckily my daddy made a path for me with the tractor.

Luckily my daddy made a path for me with the tractor.

When we set him down on the snow he decided to take off and explore.

This is pretty cool stuff!

This is pretty cool stuff, man!

He’s a pretty independent little guy.

Banks, be careful!

WHOA!! This is pretty cold stuff, man!!

WHOA!! This is pretty cold stuff, man!!

A face full of snow didn’t seen to phase him though.

In fact, he went out past the tractor tracks–with the help of his daddy.

Let's do this more.

This is awesome!!  Let’s do this more often, man!

We didn’t stay outside for very long.

In fact, when we said it was time to go inside, Banks tried to get away.

I want to stay and play!

I want to stay and play!

I guess the kid thought that wearing two layers of socks, two layers of pants, two layers of shirts, mittens, beanie, jacket, shoes, and his double bags on each foot deemed him extra time outside.

Who would’ve thought a double layer of plastic grocery bags tied to a kid’s legs would make a little boy so happy?!?

And That’s a Wrap!

I know we were cutting corn and soybeans in September.

I know we were cutting soybeans and milo in October.

I know we were cutting milo in November…until yesterday.

I don’t exactly remember when our fall harvest started, but I’m happy to report that we are officially done!

Just a few more rows to go!

The final rows!

This has been a long, busy fall.

Between school starting, a little boy toddling, wheat sowing, and a husband traveling, I’m thankful to wrap up this fall’s harvest.

It was time to be done.

Get that milo unloaded and sent to the elevator!

Get that milo unloaded and sent to the elevator!

School has kept me very busy this fall, but Banks and I have still been able to get out into the fields to visit Adam.

The Baldwin boys taking a break from sowing wheat.

The Baldwin boys taking a break from sowing wheat.

We’ve kept him company in the combine.

Riding in the combine.

Riding in the combine.

We’ve kept him company in the tractor.

CAUTION: Driver in Training

CAUTION: Driver in Training

We’ve kept him company in the fields.

Three generations: Only two chose to wear pants.

Three generations: Only two chose to wear pants.

This little boy enjoys spending time with his daddy–especially if it involves buttons to push, levers to pull, horns to honk, and wheels to turn.

Banks taking over the steering in a soybean field.

Banks taking over the steering in a soybean field.

Let me take over, Daddy!

Let me take over, Daddy!

We’ve delivered meals to the fields.

Meals to the field.

Meals to the field.

We’ve shuttled people to the fields.

We’ve sat in the car, rolled down the windows and watched the machines go through the fields.

This little boy can watch the machines go for hours.

This little boy can watch the machines go for hours.

We’ve also listened to the guys radio each other while eating Cheerios half naked in our living room.

Little man sitting underneath the radio listening to what's going on in the field.

Little man sitting underneath the radio listening to what’s going on in the field.

And now things will begin to slow down.

Cattle will need to be moved and fed this winter.

Projects around the house and on the farm will get done.

Wheat will continue to grow.

And we can all get some much needed rest before the next busy season rolls around.

When you introduce your home and your family to a cute, furry ball of energy, you rarely think about that animal’s final days.

As that puppy grows and chews through everything, it’s lucky to be alive some days after destroying shoes, furniture, gardens and a variety of other items only a cute, little pup can get away with destroying.

As the puppy continues to grow and mature it becomes a faithful, trusted companion.

And it’s only when that old companion begins to slow down do you begin to think of what’s next.

In fact, you pray that you won’t have to see him suffer and have to make the decision of doing what’s best for him.

You hope that in his old age, when it is his time to go, that he’ll just go peacefully.

Die of old age after living a long, good life.

This is the story of Tucker.

Tucker the Wonder Dog

Tucker the Wonder Dog

I didn’t know Tucker when Dwight and Cindy brought him home.

I wasn’t even in the picture yet.

But from stories, I know Tucker was such a small ball of red and white fur that you could fit him in your hand.

By the time I came along Tucker had survived his youth on the farm–something not every pup can do.

He’d avoided getting run over by farm equipment, kicked by cattle, bitten by snakes, killed by coyotes, and running off to fall in love.

Tucker had made it to adulthood against all odds.

After all, he liked riding on the farm equipment, chasing and nipping cattle, torturing snakes, fighting coyotes, and crossing busy roads to make, Ahem, “love connections”–with a registered Bull Mastiff, none the less!

After a trip to the vet, Tucker decided to sever his ties with his female friend and stayed closer to home focussing his attention on his jobs.

We've got a job to do before the storm!

We’ve got a job to do before the storm!

Tucker loved his jobs.

He obsessed over his jobs.

Luckily for Tucker, his jobs and his obsessions were one in the same.

Tucker’s sole purpose in life was to keep the cattle in line and to irrigate fields.

Tucker felt it was always necessary to let the cattle know who was “The Boss” on Baldwin Farms.

He felt cattle needed to be constantly reminded of this fact.

Constantly.

Obsessively.

These are my cows and I tell them what to do.

Who’s the boss?  I’m The Boss!  Get it right, cows!

Whether cattle were being unloaded from trailers, being fed in the bunks, being chased back into their pastures, or being worked, Tucker’s job was to remind those cattle that he had supreme reign over them.

During certain times of the year Tucker would have to be put in the house so the calves could be worked peacefully without getting reprimanded by Tucker.

If Tucker was put inside and something was being done with his cows WITHOUT him, Tucker would whine and cry and mope and let everyone in the vicinity know that he was being denied his basic rights.

If the cattle weren’t needing to be ruled over, Tucker would switch his focus to irrigating the fields.

Tucker allowed Dwight to ride the four-wheeler with him to get to the irrigation.

After all, what lowly beast would actually walk to the irrigation?

Not Tucker!

Photo by Troy Wedel

Photo by Troy Wedel

Tucker would be faithfully by Dwight or Adam’s side as they would open and close gates allowing the water to flood the corn or beans.

Good job, boy!  You're doing it right!

Good job, boy! You’re doing it right!

Tucker oversaw the flow and control of the water.

I'm Tucker

I’m Tucker

Whether it was morning or night, he always insisted on testing the water by plopping his hairy body into a furrow or two and subsequently causing people like me to run far away from him when he emerged in order to avoid the inevitable showering of mud.

Come on in, the water's great!

Come on in, the water’s great!

It was also mostly during his times irrigating that Tucker also tried his hardest to control the wild toad population.  If it hopped, Tucker couldn’t resist torturing and eventually killing toads.

Even though the toads would make Tucker’s mouth froth, and he’d drool incessantly, Tucker just couldn’t resist them.

He was obsessed.

I think I see a toad!!

I think I see a toad!!

If you couldn’t find Tucker near the cattle or irrigation, you could usually find him napping near the air conditioner while gracing Cindy with his presence.  When Cindy worked in her office, Tucker would usually be at her feet waiting until the mailman or the  Schwan’s man stopped by the farm to gift him a treat.

Tucker was an absolute part of our family.  He was always nearby, if not underneath, the dinner table waiting for Dwight to toss him a sampling of the meal.

Tucker tolerated Rowan, Eli, and Banks.  The only time he’d intentionally approach the little boys was when they dropped food on the floor or when they had one of his chew toys.  Tucker’s response in both situations was to scoop it up quickly and then to get just out of their reach.

All of the boys--including Tucker.

All of the boys–including Tucker.

Tucker loved playing catch with anything that was thrown, but refused to let it go once he brought it back to his human.  He enjoyed a good game of tug, and would usually prevail.

Tucker didn’t live a life of luxury.  He slept where he wanted to sleep–usually on the wooden floor or the pebbles near where the cars are parked.

He never experienced a dog park, a gourmet doggie treat, or a Christmas sweater.

I doubt he ever made a trip to get his hair professionally done–even though he needed it at times.

He was a simple, hard working farm dog.

Safety first...and to avoid the truck from beeping.

Safety first…and to avoid the truck from beeping.

If he had Dwight to drive him around, Cindy to keep him fed, some water to lay in, some cattle to reprimand, and a snake or coyote to cross his path on occasion for added excitement, Tucker was happy.

Some people say animals don’t go to heaven after they die.

I’m not sure where I stand on that topic.

I just hope that one day we all find out for ourselves if they are there or not.

But one thing is for certain today:  Life on the farm for Tucker was heaven.

tuck and dwight in truck

Well done, Tuck.  Well done.

Are We There Yet?

You know the scenario:

Family is taking a long car ride.

Parents in the front.

Kids in the back.

Everyone is smiling and happily singing their songs.

Then the kids start getting restless.

And in a whining, nasal sounding, annoying tone from the back of the car the question is asked:

“Aarrreee weee there yeeettttt?!?”

That’s where I’m at.

We’ve been harvesting wheat since Thursday, June 20th.

Let's get this wheat moved.

Let’s get this wheat moved.

I’ve been told that wheat harvest on Baldwin Farms takes 10 days.

Ten days.

Ten days!

Ten days?!

It is now July.

July.

July!

July?!

Adam has always said that the first day and the final day of harvest are the best while the rest is just a grind.

I get it, man.

I get it.

Hang in there, man.

Hang in there, man.

We have been so close to finishing up harvest this week BUT it’s rained just enough to keep us from finishing up in the fields.

It’s strange how you pray for rain all year and then when it finally does rain you’d rather it show up a little later–in this case because you want to finish harvest.

Cindy and I delivered the last meal to the last full field of wheat (at least for this year’s wheat harvest) on Wednesday.

We are down to clean-up cutting in a couple parts of a couple fields that were too wet when the combines went through the first time.

Getting closer to the end.

Getting closer to the end.

The harvest crew that we had helping just a week ago has started thinning out.

We’re down to running one combine.

We’re down to running one semi truck.

We’re back in some fields planting milo.

Large straw bales are now dotting the landscape that was–just a week ago–fields of waving wheat.

The swathing and baling crews have come in to transform the leftover wheat stubble into giant square bales.

The end of harvest is so close.

It’s about time.

My car is an absolute mess.

My laundry has piled up to scary heights.

My kitchen needs a serious cleaning.

My son is getting tired of getting tired in his carseat.

I'm a happy boy BUT you're pushing my limits, lady!

I’m a happy boy BUT you’re pushing my limits, lady!

My summer break is half over.

The 4th of July has passed.

I’ve completed a week of Vacation Bible School.

I want to see my husband again…in our house…at “normal” hours.

I delivered Wendy’s hamburgers and fries to the field this week.

Wendy’s.

Wendy’s!

Wendy’s?!

Don’t judge!

Wheat harvest needs to be over.

Are we there yet?!?!?

Waaaaaah.

And then I have to remind myself that the wheat pays the bills…

…And that we’ve been blessed with a great harvest this year…

…And that if we lived a little further west we would have been done with harvest long before now simply because we wouldn’t have a lot of wheat due to the drought.

So I tell myself to suck it up and to count our blessings.

Yes.

Yes, we are ALMOST there.

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