The Same Season Never Comes Back

“Mom? Dad? Come get me!” Rhett calls from his bedroom. 

I reluctantly open his door, easing myself into his room (and this conversation). “Hey buddy, Dad went to the field already. He had to leave really early.” 

He falls back onto his pillow and yells out, “He forgot to take me with him!”

Rich’s work can be busy or slow, but if I’m honest it feels like there are more busy seasons than slow. Life on a farm is dictated by the seasons. Spring means planting, summer brings haying and harvest, in the fall there is more planting, followed by snowy, cold winters full of feeding cows, and calving. Slow, downtime is scattered throughout the year. During harvest, the kids go to bed before he’s home, and wake up after he is gone. 

“Dad said he’ll pick you up in the combine after you’ve gotten dressed and finished breakfast,” I say, rubbing his back. 

Even though he’s almost too big now, I carry him from his room and set him down at the kitchen table. I pour his favorite cereal (Rice Krispies) into a bowl and make sure to give him the blue spoon I know he likes, in an effort to avoid a meltdown.

After breakfast, Allie wanders out of the living room and back into the kitchen, bringing me the remote. She wants to watch her favorite show, Pinkalicious. I sigh as I oblige. Somehow this has become our daily routine … one I’m not sure is the best. But, in this season of harvest and solo parenting, I find myself pushing the “easy” button more than I should. 

I start the water in the sink to wash the dishes from breakfast, watching bubbles form under the stream of hot water. One meal down, two more to go (including one meal that I will have to load in the pickup and deliver to the field). Then another bedtime by myself. I glance back at the calendar on the wall as I slip on my rubber gloves. It’s only the beginning of August; harvest has just begun. I sigh, feeling exhausted about the looming day ahead. I know this is the life I signed up for when I married a farmer, but sometimes the reality of long days and endless work is lonelier than I ever imagined. 

As I rinse off the last bowl and place it in the drying rack I hear, “Mom, mom, mommy!” I turn around to face the living room, “Yes?” I snap, irritated already by their constant demands. Immediately I regret my tone. I know it’s not the kids’ fault I feel so overwhelmed and alone. But how can two small people need so much? I stare down the hallway to the front door and wonder what it would be like to be able to leave without taking a kid or two with me or making childcare arrangements.

I envy Rich for walking out the front door before breakfast, unknowing to the kids’ schedule, but confident they will be taken care of. His day isn’t full of snacks requests, “play with me” demands or never-ending laundry. Although I know Rich’s days are anything but easy, when I’m feeling down, I imagine that his life is easier (and quieter) than mine. 

As I finish up the dishes I remember something an acquaintance said a couple of nights ago. The kids and I were waiting on the side of the gravel road to ride with Rich in the swather. As we were standing there in the 90-degree sun, a neighboring farm wife pulled up and got out of her pickup. She walked over to me, holding out two ring pops. 

“I’m sure this is just what your kids need.” She laughed. “I know the long days of harvest are hard for mom too.” 

I smiled and added them to the cooler I brought. “Thank you. The kids get all excited about riding with dad, but then get bored shortly after.” We both laughed as we watched the kids climbing the ladder into the swather.

“My kids did the same when they were that age. But it goes so fast, they will be grown up and gone before you know it.” She said as she held her hand up above her eyes to shield them from the sun. 

I looked over at her, the bright sun nearly blocking out her face. “I want to complain to Rich about how long my days are, but then I feel guilty—it’s not like he’s out on vacation. He didn’t get home until 2:30 this morning, after spending nearly 24 hours straight in the swather.” 

She nodded and touched my arm. “Oh, I know it. Sometimes it’s better to not say anything. You’ll get through.” 

“Dad’s here!” Rhett calls from the living room, bringing me back to the present. I hear the low rumble of the combine pulling up in front of our house. Glancing out the front window, I watch Rich climb down the ladder and make his way toward the house. “Grab your boots and hat!” I say. The front door opens and he kneels down in front of Rhett, who is sitting on the floor pulling on his well worn John Deere boots. As Rich starts helping Rhett with his boots he looks up at me as I pass him his cooler, “Thanks for lunch.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll see you around 5 for dinner.” I say as I hand Rhett his own cooler. 

“For me?” Rhett beams up at me as he takes the small cooler from my hand. He points to the writing on the side and says, “Does that say Rhett Bronc?” I smile, as he is still unable to pronounce our last name. 

“No, it was Papa’s lunch box, remember Grammy gave it to you?” I say as I put his baseball cap on his head. 

Allie and I spend the rest of the day at home, while Rhett spends the afternoon with the harvest crew in the field. When I think back to last summer, Rhett could only stay a couple hours in the field before he went stir crazy in the combine and Rich was ready for him to come home. I keep an eye on the clock, trying to make sure I get dinner to the field on time. Around 4 o’clock, I (somewhat reluctantly) head for the kitchen. By this time of day, all the cool air from the night before has left the house, coupled with the heat of the oven, I find myself sweating—wishing we had air conditioning.

“It’s almost time to go! We need to get the food out to the crew. Get your boots on, Allie!” I call out to her. She runs down the hall and grabs her pink boots. “I go see Rhett!” she yells. 

Back home, with the meal delivered to the field, the kids and I start our bedtime routine, and I miss Rich to shoulder half of the work. I hear the tiny patter of small feet on the floor and see Allie tiptoeing naked down the hall in front of me. She looks back at me with a half-smile and keeps running. I can’t help but smile. I imagine in her mind when she is tiptoeing, she thinks I cannot see her naked bottom. Even at this moment when I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and lonely, I’m reminded of their littleness, and how much they have changed since last year’s harvest. Just like my neighbor said, “It goes so fast.” I feel an unexpected pit in my stomach, thinking one day the kids won’t be underfoot while I’m making dinner for the crew. There won’t be little shoes cluttering the doorway, or little bottoms running down the hall. Likely sooner than later, Rhett will be driving a combine or a tractor and will spend all day in the field.

After baths as I’m settling Rhett into bed, he starts to cry, “I miss Daddy.” I remind him that he spent half of the day with him, and he can probably spend the day with him again tomorrow. But I know he really misses him at bedtime. At this moment I’m reminded that this season isn’t just hard on me; it’s hard on them too.

Harvest will come again next summer, but I’ll never get this same season with them back. Even when the days feel really hard, as I give final hugs and kisses at bedtime, I’m grateful for the chance to do that each day.

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Some Days I Feel Like a Terrible Mother, But He Loves Me Anyway

I start putting a load of laundry in the washing machine when I hear the kids begin to argue in another room, no doubt over one of the many tractors that line the halls. “No, you need a time out! You go to your room!” my son yells. As soon as I hear it, a familiar sense of shame builds up in my stomach. I walk down the hall and calmly say, “Please don’t talk to your sister that way.”

Why wouldn’t he? He had obviously heard those very words before in this house.

 

To read the rest of my story, click over to my latest on Her View From Home.

 

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10 Reasons Farming is More Than You Might Think

In honor of National Farmer’s Day (October 12th), I thought I would share my essay that was published this past spring for National Ag Day (March 20th).
Five years ago I didn’t even know National Ag Week was a thing. Now that I’m a farmer’s wife, Ag Week is every week around here—it’s our livelihood. I think it’s telling to how important Ag is that it was given a whole week, not just one day. March 20th is National Ag Day, but the whole week is considered National Ag Week to recognize those who put food on the table, clothes on your back and much more.
Since it is National Ag Week, I thought this was a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned so far about Agriculture.
  1. Agriculture is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. The lines are blurred between work and family. When you work where you also live, it can be hard to separate yourselves from work. When you can look out your window and see all that needs to be done, it’s hard to take a day off.
  2. The weather dictates many parts of your lives. Before I married a farmer, my idea of checking the weather was looking out the window and seeing if it was raining, sunny, cloudy or snowing. Then I knew what the weather was. My husband is constantly checking the weather and knows what the forecast is for next week. Granted the forecast isn’t 100 percent accurate, but it gives you a good indication of what’s to come. It can also be devastating when the forecast shows a big rainstorm which then passes you by, not giving your crops the much-needed rain. Or the storm can stop right over your farm and pound you with hail, ruining all of your work in just a few minutes.
  3. Farmers and ranchers are intelligent people. There’s more to just planting a crop and hoping for the best. While a lot of farming is out of your control, (see #2) there are a lot of roles a farmer and rancher has: CEO, HR Director, agronomist, accountant, equipment operator and much more. Equipment and technology are always changing, which means a farmer must always be willing to learn and change, too.
  4. A farm and ranch might be the greatest place for kids to grow up. My son gets to ride in tractors on an almost daily basis and loves to go feed the cows with his papa. “Take your child to work” is a daily event and not just once a year. They learn about life and death from an early age and to not take life for granted.
  5. There’s an amazing community to be found in agriculture. Not only have I found an amazing community of women in my area, but also online. I had no idea how many blogs and Facebook pages there were that are dedicated to farming and ranching. I feel like I know a lot of these women, but we’ve never actually met. It makes the world feel a little smaller and more connected.
  6. We spend time together. Sometimes I complain about the long hours my husband is working, but there are days that I get to ride with him in a tractor or that he comes home for lunch. I know these are times I take for granted. If we were in the corporate world I would rarely, if ever, get to just hang out in his office while he was on the clock. And I definitely wouldn’t bring the kids along to climb all over his desk.
  7. Date night gets creative. When your farmer asks you to go with him, offer to drive unless you want to be the gate opener. Even if you feel like you have so much else you should be doing, go with him when you get the chance. Driving around is sometimes the only date you’ll get! Just make sure you wear the right footwear and don’t leave anything cooking on the stove. You’ll likely be gone longer than you plan.
  8. Things aren’t always what they seem. When you are out for a drive and you think your farmer is looking lovingly at you across the pickup, like he just can’t help but stare—he’s most likely looking past you and into the fields to check his crops. I actually learned this while we were dating, but it’s still true to this day.
  9. Your future labors and deliveries will be compared to calving and being a cow. Don’t be offended; your husband is amazed at how strong you are. And most likely he has a pretty strong stomach and you won’t have to worry about him passing out in the delivery room.
  10. Working from sunup to sundown isn’t just a phrase. In the summer months the work day is dictated by the sun. Your farmer will be up before dawn and likely won’t shut down the equipment until the last bit of sunlight leaves the sky. In the peak of summer this will be after 10 o’clock.
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My hope this week is that all consumers will take a few minutes to recognize where their food comes from. And when you’re picturing that farmer or rancher, know that there is likely a whole family working behind the scenes to bring the food to your table. Many of them are working on a second, third or fourth generation farm or ranch. They don’t take what they do for granted; it’s a passion and a calling. And less than two percent of the population are lucky enough to be here.

This essay was originally published on Her View From Home.

Out of the Mouths of (Farm) Babes

“What’s that sound?” my son asks. I put my hand above my eyes to block the sun on this already too hot May day. Looking toward where the sound is coming from, I don’t see the farm equipment that is in question. I give a quick reply thinking it will suffice, “It’s just a tractor.” My three and a half year old promptly says, “No, it’s not. It’s the wheel loader.” Within a few seconds, the wheel loader drives around the shop into sight. And yes, there is a difference between a wheel loader and a tractor. Just ask my son. I then wondered why he asked me the question, when he already knew the answer.

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Rhett wearing his dad’s jean jacket from when he was a kid.

I truly have learned that “kids say the darndest things.” And Rhett just might top the list. Now that the weather has finally turned to summer, we have been spending more time outside. One day Rhett was trying to get his Gator into the shed and he said, “Mom, where’s my hooker?” I paused for a moment, wondering if he had been watching some TV show that I would not approve of. I started looking around the yard, trying to envision the world from his point of view. I soon saw what I assumed was his hooker. His blue tow strap was lying on the ground, just waiting to be hooked up to his Gator. I smiled and felt a sense of relief that he hadn’t learned a new word that I would hope he would never say at church. Although there is still the risk he will be looking for his hooker at church. We will have to have a conversation that hookers are only for the farm and not at church.

There are some moments in parenting when you immediately feel a rush of pride and feel that you are doing something right. Starting at a fairly young age, Rhett would fold his hands and pray with us before meal times. He started doing it without any prompting, he merely was copying us by folding his hands at his highchair. As he has gotten older, he occasionally recites the prayers along with us. Due to my Lutheran background, I have always felt more comfortable reciting common prayers rather than praying “off the cuff.” This night was no different and we were saying the common table prayer. Rhett interrupted us and said he wanted to do it. I looked over at him in anticipation of what he was going to say. He bowed his head and said, “Come Lord Jesus, thanks for fixing the truck. Amen.” It was clear that he had spent the day at the shop with his dad and indeed they had been working on a truck.  

Rhett is already learning a strong work ethic, which can be a challenge when trying to get him to go to bed. There are many evenings when he doesn’t want to park his farm equipment and just wants to keep “working.” When I tell him it’s time to stop playing and go to bed he firmly tells me, “It’s my job!” I think his dad would agree that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. For Rhett playing is his job, and it’s hard to convince him it’s time to call it day.

I started journals for each of my kids to write down funny things they say or do, and milestones along the way. I quickly realized that even though I think I’ll remember all the funny sayings, I don’t. Each year on their birthdays I write them a letter in their journal. I anticipate I will give them their journals on their 18th birthdays or when they graduate from high school.

What funny things do your kids do or say? Do you keep a journal for them?