Friday, September 24, 2010

How did I get here?

Do you ever feel like you ought to be a part of something bigger than yourself and your own little blog?

Thanks to my friend, Heather, over at 3 kids and lots of pigs for coming up with the idea and hosting it, I get to be part of a series of posts titled Real Farmwives of America (get it? like Real Housewives of New Jersey/Atlanta/Orange County/ New York/ and any other city that wants to be portrayed as housing uppity 'housewives'?)

The RFOA is a part of Heather's regular Farmer Friday feature.

Except this group of gals is really real... not like those TV shows.  And for the beginning of the series, all of us 'housewives' are doing a post on "how did I get here?"

(Sometimes, I pull in the drive at home after work and think that to myself... you know how you zone out when you make the same drive over and over and over again... yeah, it's like that)

If you're new to my blog, (Welcome!) my short story goes like this (with lots of pictures thrown in for good measure!)

*Farmer for a father as is his father and his father's father and so on and so forth... fell in love with agriculture from the beginning, even before I had any clue of the important role it plays in the world.

This is me at about 3 or 4 during the annual family trip to pick out pumpkins with my grandparents. (My shirt says, "my uncle is a paratrooper." It was one of my favorites as a kid.)

*Heavily involved in 4-H and FFA through my formative years

(Yeah, that's right, pink glasses, braids, high-waisted jeans, the whole bit!)

(This is right after I won county showmanship my last year of 4-H.  You can tell how boyfriend (now Hubs) was pretty excited about how hot and sweaty I was... see all that slobber all over my arm, yeah, good times!)

Receiving my American Degree in National Convention in Louisville with my parents. (My brother and future Hubs was there too!)
 *Wanted to "come home to the farm" but realized about my junior year of high school that the farm wasn't big enough to support that (my dad works full time off the farm).  After a defining conversation with my county extension ag agent, he proposed the idea of going into ag communications and hooked me up with a Purdue ag comm grad to chat with about it.  I had no idea of what else to do with myself so I went to Purdue for ag comm.

 *Graduated from Purdue with a degree in ag comm and a minor in entomology.

Graduation Day with my Grandma

My dad asked me if my degree had my name on it or his since he'd written so many checks to the university!

*Worked for Purdue Ag Comm for a bit. 

*Fell deeper in love and got engaged to this guy - this is certainly one of our finer moments!
Who wouldn't want to marry a guy that is willing to take you in a mud fight?!

*Interviewed and got job at AgriNews/ Married the man of my dreams  (both happened within the span of about two months!)

Heading out to interview at AgriNews!
Our Christmas wedding
 * I've been at AgriNews for almost five years now and spend my days listening, learning and writing the stories of Indiana agriculture.  I don't directly produce an ag commodity, but I get to travel to a lot of farms and meet a lot of people and I love it.
Interviewing a hardwoods buyer from Turkey
 *Hubs and I help out around the farm when we can and enjoy being able to help keep the little farm churning.

And there you have it... that's the story of this Real Housewife of America!

Wanna read about other Real Farmwives of America?  Check out some of these gals who are also participating!

o   Heather at 3 Kids and Lots of Pigs
o   Amy & Liz at 2 Maids A Milking
o   Amy at A Latte with Ott, A.
o   Marybeth at Alarm Clock Wars
o   Leah at Beyer Beware
o   Jennifer at Farmgirl Follies
o   Jeanette at Fence Row to Fence Row
o   Lauren at Four Ransoms and a Farm
o   Jane at Going Jane
o   Cris at GOODEness Gracious
o   Meggie at Hoosier Farm Babe
o   Jent at My Front Porch
o   Denise at Who is the Grown Up?

Until next time...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mary Jo and the soldiers at the National Drive

Remember me telling you about my new friends from the National Drive?

Let’s move on now to Mary Jo’s story.  (complete with photos of soldiers!)

If you want to know a whole lot more about Mary Jo, Google her.  I am not kidding.  She’s a pretty cool chick.  Her last name is Beckman.  (I don’t hesitate at all for putting that out there because, as you see once you Google her, plenty of other people are as impressed by her work as I was.)

So Mary Jo is a retired Navy commander and a certified NARHA therapeutic riding instructor and a driving instructor.

She volunteers for the Army and has helped set up a therapeutic riding program through the Army for all branches of armed services to help “wounded warriors,” as she calls them, and veterans.

She was at the 2010 National Drive with four of the soldiers who help her with the program.  They are members of the Caisson Platoon in The Old Guard, technically known at the Army’s 3rd Infantry.

These active duty soldiers were at the National Drive to become certified drivers of this special carriage that was designed to be wheelchair accessible to help wounded warriors who want to learn to drive the carriage as opposed to -- or possibly because they are unable to -- ride a horse.  The carriage was handmade in Holland and paid for (at a $20,000 price tag) by donations.  (No tax dollars were spent in the making of this carriage... but even if my tax dollars were spent in the making of this carriage, I'd be totally good with that because it's just that awesome!)

Okay, that’s all really cool.  You’ll have to read the story in AgriNews when it comes out.  I’ll link it up here as soon as it’s live.

BUT… in meeting these studly…. hot….buffyoung…polite soldiers, I also got to talk with them about what the Caisson Platoon is best known for - pulling the caisson with flag-draped caskets through Arlington National Cemetery for their fallen brothers.

It’s got to be a heavy job, but these guys do it with such class, I was impressed with each of them.

Then, Friday, I got down to doing more research on the Caisson.  The detail, the history, the passion these guys have for this job just blows me away.  I’m not going to attempt to rewrite it all, but here are a few tidbits.

* The soldiers in the Caisson Platoon (I think something said there were 51 of them now) care for the horses used in the funerals, parades and festivals.  They also ride in the funerals, parades and festivals. (I think that same something mentioned that there were 52 horses)

*The stable, where these guys start every day at 4 AM, is ½ mile from Arlington.

*The Caisson horses are adopted out after they’ve served.

*The Caisson horses are all either part of a black team or a white (grey) team.

*The Caisson horses are also (I think) all donated to the Army.

*In training for the Caisson, the guys all have to hand make their own tack using sepcs from an 1890-something-ish manual to preserve authenticity.

*There are two tack rooms.  Every horse on the grounds has two sets of tack.  One is in use one week and the other set is being cleaned and polished.  The tack is rotated weekly.

*The Caisson Platoon performs on average over 1,000 funerals each year.

*The soldiers in the Caisson Platoon have to meet height and weight requirements and are trained on how to be a horseman.  One of the articles I read said the Army prefers to have soldiers with no horse experience when they join the unit so they can learn the Caisson way easier.

*There is a civilian farrier on duty all the time in the barns and one Caisson platoon member as an assistant. (Rick, the guy in the cowboy hat in my photo, is training to be a farrier for the Army through Caisson.)

*The Caisson barns -- built in the 1800s -- are open for tours daily from noon to 4 PM.

Forget the White House, if I ever get to Ft. Myer in Virginia, I was to go tour those barns and meet more of these guys.  I think you all should, too!

Again, I was so impressed with these guys and how seriously they take their job, it really did make me proud to meet them.

Until the next adventure…

Monday, September 20, 2010

Whoa, Nelly… er… Patrick!

Brace yourself -- you’re about to learn something*

Ok loyal readers, (may I call you my loyal reader?  regular readers?  semi-annual readers?) I’m throwing my professionalism right out the window for this post because I am just so excited about it!  Not excited in the same giddy way that teenage girls get over the Jonas Brothers (at least I don’t think so), but excited in an incredibly humbling way.

Here’s the scoop (that’s a newspaper term, “the scoop”).  Yesterday, I went down to the Johnson County Horse Park in Edinburgh.

My plan was to go and do a story on the National Drive, a gathering for equine drivers of carriages and carts and buggies (or for an all-encompassing term, vehicles), and then also do some sort of profile story on someone who was heavily involved in the sport in order to kill to birds with one stone… or in order to hitch two horses to one cart!  (ha ha ha!  I am too funny sometimes!)

But instead, what I got was quit a surprise.  

First of all, I had NO idea what I was in for.  Frankly, the name “National Drive” didn’t mean much to me and I had only decided it had something to do with horses because it was at the HORSE park -- I know, I’m pretty smart, right?!

So here’s the lowdown: these folks who drive carriages, carts, buggies, wagons…er… vehicles get together and practice, learn from each other, listen to professionals, teach each other and just spend some quality time together with other people who enjoy driving as much as they do.

Laura and Charley at National Drive 2009 (stole this off the ND Facebook page)

 Upon arrival at the horse park, I was greeted by Laura Nuessle, a new director on the board of the National Drive, Mary Jo Beckman, a certified therapeutic riding and driving instructor, Mike Lyon, president of the National Drive and Charley Lee, another director.

Lemme tell you, these folks treated me like a queen!  

Not only did they give me the lowdown on the National Drive (you’ll have to read AgriNews to get all those details), but Laura and Mary Jo took me on a carriage ride!  

Ok, now hold your horses (ha!), this wasn’t a carriage ride like you see newlyweds taking downtown at dusk in pristine white carriages.  No sirreeee!  

This is Charley hooking up his own team with his wife, Sherry.

(notice their dog in the back, along for the ride)  :)

This is Laura and Charley

 Driving is a SPORT! I do not use that term lightly.  These horses are trained athletes like nothing else I’ve ever seen.  Laura drove the carriage -- she was the whip, as the driver is called -- and was a trainer of Patrick’s (the horse we took).

She told me that this horse could easily go 15 miles on trails or roads at a trot as exercise multiple times per week!  That’s just EXERCISE, my friends!  Shoot -- I can’t hardly go 15 minutes without breaking a sweat and this big guy was hoofing it right along like we three grown women (Mary Jo was with us as our navigator) and a carriage weren’t hooked to him.  I had no idea that 1 horsepower could be so strong! Or so beautiful looking from the backside of him!

I didn’t take my camera along on the trail ride because #1. I didn’t know what I was in for, and #2. I didn’t want to break it or do something dumb that would spook the horse and tip the carriage over because of something goofy, like this particular horse couldn’t handle the sound of a shutter ‘click’ or something dorky like that.  I didn’t want to take the chance.  I didn’t want to look like a reporter, I guess.  (Sometimes I make dumb decisions, what can I say?)

Anywhoo, Laura, Mary Jo, Patrick and I went out for our casual little ride, or so I thought.  It was casual, sure, until Laura started showing me a glimpse of what it was like to do a driving competition.

Whoa, Buddy!  (That’s what I was thinking, but again, didn’t want to look like a total fool and start screaming)  We went a ripping and bouncing through the woods, over bridges, THROUGH A POND, through a makeshift house-obstacle-thing and all over the place.

Stole this one off the ND Facebook page, too. (Is it still stealing if you admit to it?)
And Patrick the horse was the coolest critter I’ve ever seen (don’t tell my dogs).  He and Laura had such a strong relationship that anytime he would start to get concerned about where the trails were leading or if the path got narrow, all she had to do was use her “trainer voice” and remind him he was a good boy and he’d perk up and not hesitate.

It was incredible to be so close to these two as they worked together.  It really was a testament to the trust he has in her and the numerous hours she had spent with him.

Don’t be fooled though - this sport is dangerous!  A quaint wedding carriage this is not! This vehicle didn’t even have any seatbelts… intentionally!  The seat of the carriages are designed so your body weight wedges you into it.  (Which made me breath a sigh of relief because when I walked up to that carriage and saw that tiny seat my butt was supposed to fit in, I was more than a little concerned!  But luckily, it was supposed to be that way.)

There aren’t any seatbelts because, according to my new friend Mary Jo (who was kind enough to give me a lesson on how to be a proper carriage passenger while my new friend Laura was harnessing up the horse) you need to not be strapped into the seat in the event the carriage loses control and I had to dismount quickly, i.e JUMP OUT OF A MOVING CARRIAGE BEING PULLED BY AN OUT OF CONTROL HORSE!  (told you this wasn’t a leisurely ride)

It was a great time… I mean GREAT!  My experience with horses is pretty limited, but once again, my awesome job gave me a chance to try something completely different that I NEVER would have any other way, I’m sure.

Stay tuned to read my next blog about Mary Jo and what the heck she was doing at the National Drive.  It’s a pretty cool story in itself.

Until the next time....

*disclaimer: if you read this and feel you learned nothing, bummer for you and sorry if I got your hopes up!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Random Thursday Thoughts...

Seriously, you're about to read randomness at its finest.

* I really need to do my blog post about Going Local Week.  I have all the photos and everything.

* I really need to do the post I have saved about gluing things together.  I have all the photos and everything.

* I need to learn to not procrastinate!  I'll work on that tomorrow.

* I'm helping to decorate my next niece's nursery (say that three times fast -- next niece's nursery) and I am really having fun throwing around ideas with my sister-in-law.  

* Hubs and I moved out of our house a couple weeks ago.  We're living with his brother, sister-in-law and one of our nephews.  He's almost two (the nephew, not Hub's brother).  This sister-in-law is preggo, too.  They have a dog.  We moved in and brought our three dogs.  It's a mad house but everyone seems to be holding together well.  

* It's kind of ridiculous how much fun Hubs is having living with his brother.  It's like their 10 years old all over again. 

* It's also REALLY nice to not come home to an empty house (hubs was working outta town for a while and I was running the household on my own.  I didn't notice it at the time, but isn't fun to be alone with only three dogs each night). 

* It's amazing how the second you have a tiny bit of *extra* money, things start going wrong. We had to put two new batteries in my truck on Sunday.  (That was also the day I learned that diesel pick-ups have two batteries!) 

* I'm either in a seriously crafty mood lately or I'm nesting in my new two-room abode in the upstairs of the B-I-L's house. 

* That dumb bruise I got when one of those dumb pigs stepped on me is still there - 3 weeks later!  And my ankle still hurts.

* Maybe I'm just a pansy. 

* I should read a book.

* I should do laundry.

* I should wash the truck.

* I need to get diesel fuel.

* What does it say about me when I think some of the stuff at Goodwill is overpriced?

* this is getting to be a long post for random thoughts...

And because no post is complete without a photo, here's one of the monkey I live with now.  He's eating corn on the cob that I froze and then thawed and cooked the other night for my Going Local post.  I really ought to do my Going Local post. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor Day Reflections

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

By my understanding, this holiday was created to honor the workingmen and workingwomen around this country.  It’s supposed to be a day off from work in order to rest, relax and recoup. 

Labor day is the unofficial end of summer, when cool mornings and brisk days begin to usher in the fall season.  And in the world I live in, fall equals harvest time. 

While I was enjoying my time off and driving through the countryside to meet up with some of my family, there they were – the farmers – in the fields, having no idea they were supposed to be relaxing and enjoying a long weekend. 

Farmers know nothing about planned time off as laid out by a calendar or the summer/winter solstice.  They work on their own schedules, which are often determined by the weather, and can be all switched up by a few drops of rain. 

But as I took full advantage of my three-day weekend with beautiful weather by sleeping in and accomplishing only menial tasks, the farmers and producers were out in the fields and barns, as usual, carrying on their daily tasks of growing food for all of us. 

So to all of the farmers, thank you.  Thank you for working hard when the rest of us are resting our brains and bodies.  Thank you for growing my food.  Thank you for having the heart to do so and for choosing the life you have. 

Thank you for raising your families on your farms and teaching your children what no education system can – a love for the environment, a respect for the animals and deep-seeded urgency to get the job done to the best of their abilities.

Much like another group of unsung heroes, the men and women of the armed forces, thank you for doing your jobs so that I can continue to do mine and go home each night to my family.  Thank you for honoring your God-given gift of serving the land or the people so that I am free to continue to do the job and live the life I love.

To everyone out there who didn’t have to work today because of the holiday, I hope you’ll take the time to thank a farmer or a person in the service or at least send a quick word up to the Heavens for them. 

Much like the great folks in the Army, Navy, Military, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, etc., farmers need your prayers for safety, too.  While far from a war zone, the fields, the barnyards and around the heavy equipment can all be dangerous places. 

You’ll all be in my prayers today as we celebrate Labor Day as well as every other day that I have the chance to get up and go to work.

Thank you for feeding me, protecting me and trusting me to write the articles that tell your stories. 

Happy Labor Day and until the next adventure...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...

It's been a week since my B-I-L and I hauled the three remaining Daves to the processor.

Long (and embarrassing) story short, I got stepped on in the unloading process.  It was not a fun adventure and here's a picture of all the pretty colors my leg still is today a week later!

It's a pretty hot look if you ask me!

Until the next (hopefully more fun) adventure...
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