Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 27-- :-(

      Sorry!  I do not know if I am running out of things to say about the farm life touching this town girl or whether I am just having too many other things use up all my think time.  I will try to have something tomorrow.

      Any particular suggestions?

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Little Bit of Envy—Day 26 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

Why is it that people 
who live in town 
worry so much about landscaping 
and "get-away's" in their own backyard?  

They envy a life in the country.

Tweet—Day 25 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            A common urban misconception about rural life is that people in the country are "behind the times," especially when it comes to technology.  Those people living in homes with no yards have no idea how wrong they are.  In fact, yesterday while at my parents' home, a turkey hunting show was on. 
            (Just in case this sounds strange to you, numerous outdoorsmen shows exist, and a large number of those feature hunting specific types of animals.  Yes, this particular show is 30 minutes of watching men hunt turkeys—and the show has enough of a following to justify its existence.)
            Anyway, while these huntsmen were describing their strategy, a suggestion to follow them on Twitter—with their official Twitter account reference—popped up in the corner of the screen.  Apparently, during the lull of waiting for these elusive birds, these men are tweeting their progress.  Take that, doubtful city folk!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Touched by 4-H—Day 24 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            When I joined 4-H in about the 5th or 6th grade, I had no idea that most people believed this organization touched only families that farmed.  I did not live on a farm or have animals—well, no livestock animals.  Amusing to me now, but when I went to my first 4-H Fair, I thought it was strange for people to bring cattle, sheep, and hogs.  I thought it was all about sewing, cooking, and a few other things.  Obviously, my Gold Mound 4-H group was full of youth who lived in town.  I realized later that some lived in the country, but I thought that was a fluke.  Maybe my observation (or thinking) skills as a child were just underdeveloped.

            Despite my early misunderstanding of the relationship of 4-H and the farm lifestyle, my children learned about this relationship at the beginning of their 4-H careers.  Their 4-H club probably has more members that live on farms than live in town, but they blend well together as a group.  It was in this environment that Daughter S began her 4-H career, following in the footsteps of her older sisters. 

            However, I guess my observation (or thinking) skills have not improved much with age, at least not when it comes to 4-H, because it was not until last year that I realized the purpose of some of the paperwork the girls filled out at the end of each 4-H season.  That is when Daughter S  learned that a couple of friends, who were members of different 4-H clubs in different counties, had been awarded the 4-H National Congress award and had gone (or were going) to Atlanta, Georgia.  She then began talking to our county's extension 4-H leaders to get more information.  In short, the process was long and time consuming, and Daughter S wonders if she could have made it through the whole process without the encouragement and coaching from Tessa and Velynna.  Although I agree their advice was priceless, I also know their help was not a guarantee she would win this honor.  She truly earned this award/experience.  Thankfully, she has a better awareness and ethic work when it comes to 4-H than I had.

            That brings us to yesterday morning and our travels among the Black Friday shoppers on our way to the airport.  My husband, Daughter S, and I arrived at the airport lobby before anyone else from their traveling party.  In fact, only one person total was in our sight.  We watched several airport personnel file past us as they reported for work.  Then a couple of young ladies with the parents of one arrived.  They seemed like sweet girls, and one of them, we later learned, was to be our daughter's roommate.  Shortly after, the place started to come alive with employees behind counters and travelers gathering in lines.  We stayed until her group made it through security.  I could not help but smile, and maybe giggle a little, while I saw tub after tub with brown cowboy boots travel down the conveyor belt.  Well, actually, only 13 Illinois participants and 2 chaperons shipped out from this terminal (while 8 others left from O'Hare), and not all were wearing cowboy boots.  Even so, I doubt the airport TSA officers get that many sets of cowboy boots at one time very often, including Black Friday.

            Despite all those cowboy boots indicating that the 4-H organization has definitely touched the lives of numerous farming families, it also touches town families positively regarding character development as well as skill development.

"Misled" to the Right Item—Day 23 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            Black Friday.  This day touches every family, even those on remote farms, whether you venture out to do your Christmas shopping or not.  Ads are everywhere.  Questions fly, "Are you shopping on Friday? What are you getting?  How early are you getting up?  Why would you ever want to shop—or drive—in the craziness of Black Friday?  Are you going to stores or are you shopping online?"

            Yes, I did some shopping on Black Friday, but it was not necessarily for traditional reasons.  One of my daughters earned the privilege of attending 4-H National Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, and we left our home at 12:30 a.m. on Friday to head for the airport in Bloomington.  I will talk more about seeing her off on Day 24, but since we had to be out anyway and our routes took us past stores with sales, we, of course, had to shop a little—and discovered an unexpected, perfect item.

            Originally, our plans were to leave at 1:00 a.m., which would have given us ample time to get to the airport by the assigned time, allow for traffic, and maybe even allow for an unexpected minor delay.  However, we decided to go a half an hour earlier so I could stop at one store on the way to Bloomington to hopefully pick up a desired item on another daughter's Christmas list.  Since one of my adult daughters was home with the rest of the children who decided to sleep until a decent hour, my husband and I could easily shop without trying to hide what we were getting.  Yet, leaving at 12:30 a.m. could prove to be too late.

            Why?  The item I was seeking went on sale at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving.  I refused to shop on Thanksgiving, and if that meant that item would be gone, so be it.  At the same time, I was not too worried because I doubted it was a highly sought after item.  When we arrived at the store, several employees were visible but customers were nearly non-existent.  We were in that lovely lull between door buster sale times.  Even so, my husband asked a clerk if they were busy earlier.  We learned that they had been packed.  Lines had been from the check-out counters to the back of the large store.  She remarked, "We haven't seen that kind of madness in years."  Yes, we arrived at the perfect time.  However, was our item there?

            We easily found the rack for it.  (I cannot be more specific because she might read this, and no one wants to ruin the surprise.)  Two that would work for her were left.  Yes!  We just had to pick which color.  Wait a minute.  Something was not quite right.  Of course, I knew one small part would be different because her request had been based on a more expensive model from another store last year.  I knew they would not be exactly the same.  Even so, it was more than that.  This look-alike was just that.  It looked like what she wanted, but closer examination revealed the quality was substandard.  I especially found this troubling when I noticed that the non-sale price for it was nearly the same as the better version.  Thus, when it was not on sale, many people would assume it was the same quality and just a little cheaper than the other store's version.  Without an examination of both, a customer would not know that this look-alike was not really a good deal.  Slightly deflated with enthusiasm, we left it on the rack.

            All was not lost.  Daughter S, who we were taking to the airport, found an item she wanted.  I guess I could list it here since she helped pick it out and tried it on; but I know she usually reads my blog, and it would just not feel like a "surprise" for Christmas if I named it in print before the big day.  Anyway, she was happy, and I was thrilled!  Maybe relieved would be a better description.  Despite my efforts before Black Friday, I had not been able to find what she wanted and was afraid that, even if I did, I would not be able to pick out one that would fit her just right.  We had lost out on our original purpose, but won the prize when it came to something else.

            Isn't it like that with many aspects of life whether you live on a farm or in a town?  We guide our hopes and expectations in one direction, but we find that path either overgrown with obstacles or a dead end.  Sometimes we are just plain misled, like I was about the first item I wanted.  Both the ad and the initial appearance of the original item* suggested it was something it was not.  Sometimes people (or even our own ideas) make us to believe something to be true when it is not.  Fortunately, we also get those surprises or unexpected rewards.  Often, the very thing, that led us astray, ends up leading us to an opportunity that was almost missed.  If the ad for one item had not guided me to that store that day, I would have missed the exact gift (at the right price) for Daughter S.  Yes, I could have checked that store another time, but I would not have known if it would fit correctly or was the right color.  I may have found it somewhere else later, but I doubt it would have had a Black Friday price tag. 

            The next time an unplanned (and probably undesired) event touches your family remember my Black Friday experience and make a game out of finding something good in the disappointment.  In many situations, you might have to use a little imagination to discover something positive, but give it a try.

*If you are wondering about first daughter and what she wants for Christmas, I believe someone with an extra is going to sell it to me.  I just have to verify that on Saturday.  It will all work out.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving--Day 21 and Day 22 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

The beginnings of
green bean casserole
     I am cheating by combining Day 21 and Day 22.  Trying to avoid the Black Friday mob, I have been scouring pre-Friday sales (and making back-up plans for Friday).  In the process, I have nothing left to say--almost.  Instead, let's just say that I do not have as much to say.
     Yet, when I sit down to a wonderful Thanksgiving meal tomorrow with my husband, children (minus one and her family), my parents, and my local sibling and her family, I will be thankful that we will be touched by the hard work of farmers.  Everything we will enjoy eating will be the result of farmers.  I guess you could also that farmers will help us get to our destination because of the ethanol in our gas tank.  In addition, we can thank farmers for some of the clothing--due to cotton--we will be wearing.  
     So, to all of you farmers out there:  Thank you!  You have touched our families in more ways than we probably even realize.  Have a blessed day with your own families.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where You Spend Your Time of Thanksgiving—Day 20 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

Cousins eating snowflakes after
Thanksgiving lunch

            Where is home for the holidays for you?  The vast majority of families in America live in towns or cities and are not directly touched by having a farm homestead to visit for traditional family holidays.  Why is it then that many of us, including television and movie script writers, often envision a farm or country setting when picturing a home for the holidays that is not their own experience? 

            Maybe it goes back to the founding of our country when nearly every new settlement was essentially "a big farm."  Maybe it goes back to the expansion west that was accomplishment mainly by families risking everything to make a living on their own homesteads.  Maybe it goes back to creation, the very beginning when all was "right with the world."  Regardless of the reason why, a country setting can bring a sense of peace and comfort during the holidays, and there always seems to be room for "one more" so no one is left out. 

            Isn't that what most of us want at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter—to be somewhere we will be welcomed and be a part of the family?  Of course, I know that is not true of all holidays on every farm.  In some cases, it is quite the opposite.  Yet, I do not think families will ever give up hope of being touched by that kind of holiday "back on the farm."  As a result, many city people will do their best to try to duplicate that feeling in their apartments, condominiums, or houses amid rows of identical houses.  That is o.k., too, of course, because the best part is not where you spend your time of thanksgiving but with whom.

Check out others in this series

A town girl soaking in the country air
     When I began the 30 days of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life, I mentioned it was part of a challenge issued by Holly Spangler, and I gave a link to her web site.  However, I have failed to mention it again.  So, do a couple of things:

     1.  Visit Holly's blog today to see what she is talking about (antibiotics in animals--considering all the facts) and then scroll down to find links to her other topics.

     2.  Scroll down even farther to take a look at all the blogs participating in this challenge.  I have not had the time in the last couple of weeks to read any of them, but I want to get back to it soon.  I found some interesting--but not always agreeing with each other--perspectives, views, and lifestyles.  They are worth a look.  If you make a comment, tell that Gayla from Touching Families sent you.  :-)

     Come back later today for my entry for today.  As a warning, I have not been getting my blogs posted until 11:00 at night, but you can always read them the next day.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Love Your Enemies—Day 19 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            "You have heard that it was said 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."  Matthew 5:43-48

            Whenever I read the part in bold print, I think of farmers.  I know this passage is not talking just to farmers.  These are instructions for everyone, but who watches and tracks sunshine and rain more than a farmer?  The town girl in me says farming families are not touched by enemies.  They live in the country separated from others by large expanses of land doing their own thing.  How can farmers have enemies?

            Unfortunately, farmers can have many enemies.  It can be a neighbor who has a bull that has broken down the fence, but he has not take the responsibility of quickly repairing it before more of his cattle enter the other farmer's corn field and create excessive damage.  It can be the tractor repair guy who does not seem to get around to fixing an important piece of equipment on time because he is still holding a grudge against the farmer.  Maybe it's the grain elevator owner that never seems to pay a fair price by claiming the corn is too wet or has too much foreign debris to get top dollar.  The list of possible enemies for farmers can get quite long.

            Even so, God still gives these "enemies" another chance.  He still spreads His mercy and grace upon all—sometimes in the form of needed sunshine and rain.  Then He goes so far as telling us—farmers and townspeople alike—to love our enemies.  Fortunately, He does not expect us to do it all alone.  The ability to love our enemies can only come from the Heavenly Father who showers us with grace and mercy even though we, too, deserve to be treated like His enemies. 

            No matter how well your family members live their lives, every one of them will be touched by the resentment or hatred of enemies at one point or another.  The question then becomes:  Will they be able to follow your example to love their enemies or will they see the opposite in your life?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Eggs or Fried Chicken—Day 18 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            Did you know there is a different between egg-laying hens and meat hens?  Yes, in general, all hens lay eggs.  Yes, if you butcher a hen and cook it, you are eating "chicken."  Even so, the difference touched this family last year in our own backyard (or kitchen). 

            Let's start with what this town girl is doing with chickens in town anyway.  It started a few years ago my mother-in-law gave us fertilized eggs which my mother then hatched in her incubator.  The result was a hodge podge of hens and roosters of mixed breeds.  That did not matter.  My girls enjoyed their new pets, so much so they decided to use them for 4-H projects.  However, since the mixed breeds had a limited ribbon potential and since they had been a hit with the kids, we decided to order pure bred chickens from Murray McMurray.  This first batch of chickens was returned to their original home at my in-laws, and we made plans to share a minimum order of hens with another family.  That is how this town family got another batch of chickens.

            Our method up to this point included the chickens spending a lot of time in our basement with daily trips outside to a make-shift cage.  This was not pleasant for our noses, even with daily cleanings of their area.  That did not matter too much to the girls.  Who would have thought pets that actually gave back to the owner (eggs and/or a food source) could be so much fun?  To keep up the girls' chances at blue ribbons for the chickens at the 4-H Fair, we needed to get a fresh batch of chickens every other year or so.  When we wanted a new batch, we took these to a livestock auction barn about 40 miles from our home and got a good price for them.  Their overall healthy appearance played a big role in the price the girls got, but it also helped that the chickens were very tame from all the handling they got during play time.

            Before the last batch of chickens was grown, my husband built a great chicken house (with a little help from the kids) enclosed with a little yard space on all sides. Chicken wire protected them on all sides, including the top, which was helpful when a hawk discovered our treasured pets.  Now with the new batch, he made some adjustments and ran cords for heat lamps, so the new baby chicks could live outside beginning on day one.  Whew!  All of our noses thanked him.  This chicken pen proved to have another advantage for the girls during play time.  The chicken pen was right next to the swing, the slide, and the sand box with the plastic sand castle.  Yes, the chickens took turns on all of these.  Who would have thought a child could shove a chicken through the doors of a sand castle and have it appear out another opening unharmed?  Unbelievably, it can be done.  When these chickens had fulfilled their 4-H obligation once or twice, they, too, were taken to the auction barn.  About our third time of doing this, the auctioneer began recommending our chickens because he had bought some and was thrilled with both their tameness and egg productivity.

            That brings us to my original question.  When ordering chickens, the descriptions often referred to them something like egg-producers or meat chickens, we eventually settled for the high egg producing Black Australorps since we did not plan on butchering them.  Although the girls were not happy with even the thought of possibly butchering them, all my husband and I could think about was our individual home butchering experiences when growing up (which I talked about some yesterday).  Unfortunately, our chicken plans were foiled when government regulations demanded that every chicken at the auction house be tested for disease before they could be sold, even though they sit in open cages outside for a few minutes before they are sold.  To be expected, the testing process would not be worth the cost to the auction barn, considering their percentage of the sales.  Thus, they no longer allow chickens to be sold at their establishment.  After some discussion, we decided to hire an Amish family to take our chickens from fluffy to ready for the oven.  This is when the difference between egg-laying chickens and meat chickens did not just touch our family but knocked us in the face.  Underneath those bountiful, fluffy feathers stood naked, skinny, anorexic hens.  Actually, they were not really anorexic, but egg layers put all their extra calories (calories not directly needed for survival) into egg production.  Thus, there was not much "flesh" on the birds; in fact, on these high egg producers, there was barely enough meat to scrape off the bones. 

            So, what does that mean for our current chickens?  We are not going to bother butchering them when we need to rotate in new chickens—for a fresh appearance for the 4-H Fair.  Since they will still be good for producing eggs, we hope to sell them to someone wanting eggs.  We will just have to make sure the buyer knows not to expect to get good, fried chicken out of them.

It Might Just Be Chicken—Day 17 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            I have already given a couple of stories about the processing of "live food," yet I still have another one.  This one does not just taste like chicken; it is chicken.  Yes, my family was touched by domesticated birds as well as the wild variety when I was a child.

            Growing up, we did not raise chickens, but my mom managed to buy too many (in my young opinion) chickens a couple of times for the sole purpose of butchering and freezing them.  Of course, we lived in town and used our backyard for the primary location for the devastation.  I think we had the live birds in some gunny sacks, and Mom would pull them out one at a time.  They flopped and squawked while Mom tried to elicit my help.  I was not much help since those flapping wings and the occasional loose claw kept me at bay.  Eventually, she somehow got the head of each bird (one at a time) pinned to the ground with her foot.  She then put a broom handle over its neck, stepped on the broom handle on each side of the head, firmly grasped the legs, and then suddenly jerked.  As a result, I have a vivid understanding of the phrase, "Running around like a chicken with its head cut off."  It was my assigned duty to capture the apparently escaping bodies and return them to a central location.  Step one in the butchering process was completed.

            The other steps included dipping the deceased birds in nearly boiling water, pulling out feathers (which, of course, stuck to a person's hands, arms, and virtually everywhere to a certain point), singe-ing the pin feathers, gutting, cutting up, and lastly, wrapping and freezing the pieces.  The part that stands out the most in my memory is the horrible smell of hot, wet feathers (and the singe-ing).  I am sure the location of this part of the process had a major role in burning this detail into my brain. 

            At this time, we were living in the basement of the first house my parents built.  We lived in the basement for several years while they saved up money to then spend on different stages of construction to reach their blueprint goals.  In essence, it was easier to carry re-filled gunny sacks into the basement than to carry the very large metal tub filled with very hot water up the stairs and into the yard.  Did I mention the ventilation?  The best place for this huge wash tub was in our cinderblock shower.  The bathroom had no windows, and by the way, to get to this  bathroom (which was the only one at the time), one would have to travel through the kitchen.  The kitchen had no windows either.  Thus, the "stink" basically stayed completely in the bathroom with me while I plucked.  This experience in the basement in my childhood influenced a decision we made last year (or maybe it was two years ago), but I will talk about that tomorrow.

            In the meantime, consider yourself and your family lucky if you have not been touched by an odor-filled experience in a windowless bathroom with hot, water-logged chicken feathers, and if find yourself eating something that tastes a lot like chicken, then it might very well be that—chicken. 

***By the way, if you are looking for Day 16, stop.  There isn't one.  I apologize, but that is just how it is sometimes.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Remembering Who Is in Control—Day 15 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

Frank truly worked day after day for his family's daily bread.
            "Give us today our daily bread."  Matthew 6:11

            When I try to visualize this verse, I imagine a rural setting or farm scene.  It seems that families that work the ground and directly depend on what it produces are more closely touched by the truth that everything good we receive is a gift from God.  Yet, God does not give us any guarantees. 

            Farmers especially understand this, and they also realize that, despite their best efforts, only God can provide daily for their needs.  No one can make a seed sprout.  People can only provide the most optimal setting for that seed:  enriched soil, appropriate moisture, vital protection against dangers, such as disease and infestation, etc.  Some people would want to argue that they can force a seed (or bulb) to sprout and will site experiences with tulip bulbs in pots in the middle of winter.  However, that is only someone providing the right situation to allow the tulip to come to life, not truly someone making it come to life.  If this were possible, then I believe farming today would be very different.

            Unfortunately, the farther that members of the human race get away from the farm the less they believe they need to rely on God.  Self-centered, these city dwellers often tend to believe that it is by their own power and might or even intelligence that they get what they need (or want).  In truth, pride plagues people of both towns and country.  Then situations, such as Hurricane Sandy, come along and remind even the most proud that in reality people are basically powerless.  Then they remember who is truly responsible for providing them with their "daily bread."  It is too bad that it often takes a disaster or tragedy touching a family before mankind remembers who is truly in control.

*All verses quoted are from the New International Version:  THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

**Come back later to see the photo.   I cannot get it to work right now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Filling the Gap—Day 14 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            In the past, neighborly concern and helpfulness touched nearly every family; however, that is not the norm in many situations.  In contrast, I can think of two places where this type of concern for others is the norm.  One is our church; the other is the farming community surrounding my small town. 
A different meal gathering at church

            Just tonight our church had its annual, free Thanksgiving dinner for church members, family, and friends.  "Friends" is used loosely, because you can be the friend of a friend of a friend or even of, yet, another friend and be welcomed for the meal.  Preparation began at 8 a.m. with some volunteers, and different people followed through with other tasks as the day progressed.  In the end, a mouth-watering turkey dinner with all the fixings served about 100 people.  All of the food was donated by members of the church, and an offering was collected as a Christmas gift for our missionaries.  No one complained about their tasks.  No one tried to be the "big boss" and control everything.  Everyone who helped found something that needed to be done and did it—and they sought advice from those around them if they were not sure what they should do.  This Thanksgiving dinner happened because of a spirit of servanthood, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, and putting others before themselves. 

            Over the years, I have seen this same type of neighborly generosity in my farming community.  Although hired hands are used by some farmers either on a regular basis or an as-needed basis, farmers often help each other in exchange for getting some of the same help for themselves.  At first glance, this might not seem to be the same thing.  One could argue that the "help" was provided for a price (free labor in return) rather than for the sake of being thoughtful.  Yet, that does not explain farmers pitching in and helping a farmer who has become acutely ill (such as having a heart attack) or helping a farming widow who lost her husband before the crops were harvested.  In this situation, there is no payback or financial compensation.  It is purely a compassionate heart at work.  I have even witnessed farmers delaying the harvest of their own crops, so, as a community, local farmers could work fast and furious together to rescue the family that was in a desperate situation.  Sometimes they did not even accept compensation for the fuel used to run their personal machinery.  It became a part of the gift to go along with the time donated.  Does this happen very often?  Not that I have seen.  Thankfully, it is not needed very often either.  Fortunately, when help is needed, the good-old-boy (or woman) farmer is there ready to generously volunteer. 

            Alone, no one can fill a gap, but together many can accomplish what was at one time impossible to get done, just like our church's Thanksgiving dinner.  No one person could have easily provided such a wonderful meal, but together our church community completed the task joyfully.  The same goes with harvesting an extra field when the owner is unable to contribute any effort.  An American farmer fills the gap with his farming community just because it is the "right" thing to do—and he (or she) knows others would do the same thing for him (her) if needed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Going It Alone—Day 13 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            When most townspeople envision a farmer at work, they picture a solitary man traveling the fields alone atop his green and yellow tractor.  Farming can lead to a lonely, isolated life.  However, even farmers have found ways to socialize and interact with other men, hopefully for the betterment of all touched by this interaction.

            These guys like to portray themselves as the strong, independent John Wayne types, but you know they all cannot be so hungry at the same time every morning and unable to find enough to eat at home that they have to all be at a local restaurant at five in the morning.  Food may be their excuse, but fellowship and comradery is what brings them together.  Not all of them will hit the early morning restaurant. 

            Others will "go for a ride" instead.  These rough and tough men suggest they are out to see how the crops are coming along or checking on fences or getting some supplies of some sort.  Interestingly, however, their vehicles tend to find a way to pull into another farmer's barn lot or into a business that serves farmers but also seems to have employees (or owners) who take the time to "visit" with customers (or potential customers).  The motivation is the same:  fellowship and comradery.  Is this bad?  Far from it.  Actually, it is a good thing.

            At the college visit my daughters and I did this week, we happened to learn about some research the university had done.  Essentially, people who were desperate to lower their blood sugar level for health reasons had much greater success if they were part of a group learning environment rather than part of an individualized instruction situation only.  Now the patients who had both—individual and group learning—did best, yet when comparing those who only had one learning method, those in the group setting had the best success.  What is the difference?  Fellowship, comradery, support, encouragement, and understanding.    That truth is as evident with farmers as it is with city dwellers.  Both groups benefit from interaction with perceived peers.  Even the disciples of Jesus in their own little family-like relationship were touched by the direction to travel and work with a companion rather than going it alone.

Contemplating the Question of College —Day 12 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

Not college, but you get the idea.

            Too many times a farmer has his plans lined up for the day but is unable to complete them.  Sometimes it's the weather.  Sometimes it's uncooperative machinery.  Sometimes his own body halts the day's agenda.  The same type of day touches everyone, including this girl from town.  The title says it is Day 12 when in reality it is for Day 12, not made public on Day 12.

            What was I doing yesterday?  Taking two of my daughters on another college visit.  Sometimes I wonder why we bother since we do not have the money to send them, yet I do not know what God has planned.  I like to leave our options open to what He chooses to provide when and how He wants.  My older two daughters graduated from college.  Of course, their hard work regarding assignments and part-time jobs (and some college loans) contributed to their success, but without God's intervention with scholarships and grants, they would not have received a bachelor's degree—or at least not in four years.

            That brings me to the next daughter in line (and another one a year behind her).  Not only do we have questions of which college and which major, but also a little thought whispers, "Do they need to go to college?"  I think farming parents with their own land would find this "whisper" to be very loud as they consider college for their children.  "Why spends thousands of dollars to learn something that they could learn better by hands-on experience on the farm they will eventually take over?" 

            However, in this changing world, is that enough?  Even as a town girl, I can see how high tech farming is becoming, e.g. using satellites to guide the application of fertilizer in the right proportions over a field.  Can the farming family in the next generation survive only by what they learn from their parents?  Besides needing to know tractor mechanics, will future farmers also need to know computer science, environmental science, chemistry, how to write a business plan, etc.?  Still, it can be a tough call.  My daughters' options without college will be very limited, so it is much easier to be motivated to find a way for them to attend a college or technical school.  In contrast, if I was running a farm, I would have to wonder (1) if the payoff for a college degree would exceed the cost of that degree and (2) if I could spare the children as "hired hands" while they took turns going to college.  Our family is touched in a big way when contemplating the question of college, but I believe the farming community has an even bigger dilemma when considering college.  Good luck to you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nature Leads to the Creator—Day 11 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

"The heavens declare the glory of God"

            God's Country.  When you think about God's country, do you think of urban areas and large cities?  Do you think of a serene farm and wide open meadows?   How can any family not be touched by the presence of God when surrounded the wonder and peace that nature brings.  Just the smell of moist dirt can draw a person into walking through meadows, forests, or even tilled ground.  No wonder so many civilizations over the centuries have mistakenly worshiped the creation rather than the Creator.

            For example, many false religions have a sun god among its list of deities.  Not only are the heavenly bodies amazing to ponder, but also the necessity of the sun's life-giving rays for our survival is obvious.  Without question, power exists behind the sun, stars, and other bodies of space, but the power does not lie in these bodies but in the God who created them.

            Psalm 19:1—"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

            Not to be left out, the rest of creation also reveals God to all of mankind.

            Romans 1:19-20—"since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

            Unfortunately, scores of people would rather ignore the True Giver of Life and worship the frail and impotent items of creation.

            Romans 1:25—"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.  Amen." 

            Determined to show his love and give mankind a little longer to choose to worship him, God continues to bless mankind—blessings given through rain and the seasons that govern crops of the field and forests.

            Acts 14:15b-17—"…telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.  In the past, he let all nations go their own way.  Yet he has not left himself without testimony.  He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."

            Nature touches every family everyday in one way or another.  Do not miss a chance to let God's creation—whether it is a lush forest, the full moon, the goldfish in your fishbowl, or everything you see when you take a walk in the country—lead you to worship and follow the Creator.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Woman's Legacy—Day 10 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            "A man works from sun-up to sun down, but a woman's work is never done."  I do not believe that can be more true than on a farm—or with a family who has been touched by the farm lifestyle, which is definitely true the family in which I was raised. 

            Before my parents were married, my dad worked as a hired farm hand and worked a little a construction, and since he and my mom got married a week or so after her high school graduation, she quickly into the farm wife lifestyle.  Mom worked full-time at a factory but also did all the cooking, cleaning, and shopping as well as help Dad whatever way she could.  That habit never ended.  Although her factory work ended temporarily when I turned five and she was pregnant with my brother, she returned to the factory for only a year or two when I was in junior high.  She just did not have time to be in the factory.

            Being a full-time wife and mother kept her very busy.  When Dad helped his friend Bob clear land since Bob's health was not good enough to do it himself, Mom chopped and pulled multi-floral rose alongside him.  When Dad was building a house, Mom was by his side—or mixing mortar or carrying bricks or pulling nails out of used lumber, etc.  The two of them built two complete houses basically by themselves.  When Dad was going to go hunting, Mom had a hot meal ready for him when he got home from work and all his hunting gear ready, including a carbide lantern his hat/helmet in the early years or flashlights with fresh batteries in the latter years.  Later when Mom and Dad had their own farm and a construction business at the same time, you got it.  Mom was Dad's right hand man (while working full-time at Wal-Mart).  Dad figured the bids on construction jobs and did the purchasing for both the construction business and farming, but Mom was the one who kept tracked the expenses and income for tax time.

            What about traditional "woman's work"?  She did that, too.  We very rarely ate out for an evening meal.  That was reserved for Mom and Dad's anniversary.  They always took us kids out to eat to celebrate.  Occasionally Mom would take us to a fast food restaurant if we went out of town to shop.  Otherwise, Mom essentially cooked all of our other meals—and did laundry, cleaned the house, etc.  Of course, she rightly elicited help from her children, but she was the force behind getting it done.  Sprinkle in sewing for the family, taking care of aging parents and in-laws, volunteering at school, and helping at church.  Then a more complete picture of her busy life is revealed—and she is not done yet.  I do not know about you, but I am exhausted just listing some of the things she did!

            This is the legacy handed down to me.  Aaaah!  Yet, in a way, doesn't this seem to be the legacy touching all women, especially women living the farming way of life?

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Footstool of Memories—Day 9 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

This is how empowered I felt when my project was complete.

            A little boredom may touch a family by breeding discontent, yet a lot of boredom breeds adventure!  After many years of going places that children may originally view as a waste of time but then discovering those places could be wonderful to explore, I began asking to go with my parents even when I did not have to go.

            One such time began when Dad needed to line up tools and supplies for a work crew to start  a new construction job beginning on Monday.  We hopped in the four-wheel-drive truck (well, I climbed in) and headed for the equipment building, which sat about 45 minutes from our house one way.  When we got there, I looked around inside the building for a little while, but at that time Dad was still mostly in the paperwork stage.  He said I could explore outside.  Apparently the former renters threw large, unwanted items in the gully out back.  There was no nasty garbage, just stuff.  Regardless of their reason for making the discards, to me it was a treasure hunt.

            Delighted, I retrieved a small wooden box with "legs."  I thought it was a footstool with a missing "lid."  Hurriedly I raced back to Dad and explained my great plans.  He must have been able to appreciate great design when he heard it because he replied, "I don't care.  You can take it home if you want."  That triggered a team effort to get to the final product completed.

            At home, Dad cut me a strong board to become the top or seat, and he let me borrow his file or rasp to try to make the legs match better.  Mom found a durable brown paint and a paint brush for me to use to give it a good coating on all sides.  Grandma Susie had the perfect spare upholstery fabric for me to use on the sides and to cover the lid:  brightly colored with flowers and fruit.  Mom gave me some of the foam padding she used in her self-taught upholstery projects, so my lid could double as a handy dandy seat.  Graciously, Mom also showed me how to overlap the seam to avoid showing any raw edges or upholstery tacks. Finally, it was finished; I was thrilled.

            The farm-based attitude of doing it yourself and the lesson that even boring places can be exciting both led to this grand team effort.  I still have that footstool.  I took it to secretarial school and used it under the desk in my residence hall.  It traveled with me to my apartments in Bloomington where I worked for a few years, and after I was married with kids, it held some of my girls' take-home Sunday school papers, which they could pull out and color when they wanted them.  For the last several years, the growing crowded environment in my home relegated the footstool to a closet.  However, looking at my prized (in my eyes) footstool brings back memories of my grandparents, parents, and children.  I think it is time for it to reappear, so my other children can appreciate it and be touched by the history behind it as well. 

*When I am able, I will add a photo of it here.

Living our Lives Together—Day 8 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

Washing dishes with Mom
            In my mind, the one thing that touches the family on the farm the most is family. Traditionally, the demands of a family farm forced everyone to work as a team.  Slackers were not tolerated.  Absence was rarely excused.  Everyone contributed something, even a small child could hand another potato to mom to be peeled.  Children cannot often appreciate the beauty of this system, but hopefully later they appreciate the gifts of living and working daily with their family.

            My parents copied this pattern even though we did not live on a farm.  Well, my parents have lived and worked a farm for over 20 years now, but that was after I left home.  Even so, they copied many farm habits and attitudes, including this one.  Where my parents went, that is where the kids went.  No choice.  No catering to whines.  No alternatives. 

            To be honest, many times as a child, I would have given anything to have done something else.  Sometimes I would be absolutely bored.  I am tempted to say, "I was bored to tears," but I knew better than to actually shed tears of resistance.  Yet, this we-are-all-going method was an unexpected blessing.  First, I learned to find something interesting or noteworthy wherever I went.  One day it might have been following an ant trail.  On another, it might have been "nailing" six-penny nails into the mud.  Then it might also have been learning that I really was big enough to help mom and dad do that day's building task.

            Second, I learned it is "o.k." to be bored.  No one will really die from boredom, and in fact, if you are "bored" just long enough, your quiet thoughts begin speaking loud enough to hear.  Pondering relationships and plans will become enlightening.  Even little girls have ideas to ponder:  "What makes the cover of my Sleeping Beauty book so irresistibly breathtaking? " "I'm glad Kathy is not as shy as me.  If she hadn't made me talk to her, I would have never known she was going to be my best friend." or even "What do I want for Christmas this year?"  Even more fascinating is that some of these quiet thoughts are actually stories that come to life with fairies, talking animals, and trails through overgrown, yet beautiful, forests.  Mysteriously, these adventures hide behind busy days and only come out to play when nothing will cloud their existence.

            For the better or worse for my children, I learned these truths by the time I had children.  My children have also been cursed with going with my husband and me wherever we go.  Unlike my days with my parents, it is not truly everywhere all the time, but compared to some families, it sure seems like it.  They do not complain about it.  Of course, they know it would not do them any good to complain and could possibly make things worse.  On the other hand, that is how it has always been.  They expect to go with us just as much as they expect to buckle up in the van every time they get in or to go to church every Sunday.  That is just what life is like.  It's not only good for them but for us parents as well.  It makes me happy—even when they drive me crazy.  We are a family.  Even though we may not work like a team on a farm, our family has been touched by how we complement each other. This happens only because we live our lives together.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It Tastes Like Chicken—Day 7 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

Training another generation
            Not only do farm families often look to their own livestock as a food resource, but also they look to what God has provided with the four legged (and flying two legged) creatures that roam the forests and meadows. 

            When many families think about how they have been touched by "wildlife" meals, they often think of venison.  That is not the case with me.  First, my parents did not like the taste of deer meat.  Second, in his younger years, my dad thought standing or sitting in one place all day and hoping one of these large animals would pass by would drive him crazy.  For some reason, he also rarely went rabbit hunting.

            In contrast, I remember lots of squirrel, dove, and quail to eat. Some years, frog legs hopped their way to our dinner plates, too.  Although I can remember other critters he hunted for their fur, I cannot think of others that made it to our kitchen table as a meal.  I know I will think of something else later.  I guess there was a snapping turtle once—and the promise of snake soup; yet, I do not think the snake made it as far as the pot.

            Then again, the squirrels and birds stand out so well in my memories because of the process of dressing them out or skinning them.  I know this sounds rather gross for a town girl, but I loved watching my dad and Tom, one of Dad's most frequent hunting buddies, skin squirrels.  Sometimes I got to help.  It was so clean and smooth.  It was like you were taking pajamas off skinny, stretched-out bodies.  Dressing out many kinds of animals can be messy and time consuming, but squirrel skinning seemed to be just the opposite.  No, I have not tried it on my own and probably never will.  I'm too much of a town girl to go hunting on my own.  Besides, I could never spot animals camouflaged in the wild as well or shoot as well as my dad.

            With the birds—doves and quails—and sometimes the frogs, I spent more time with my mom when it came to removing their outer layers.  Dad would bring back gunny sacks full of the day's haul.  Then mom would spread newspapers over the table.  We would then get to work.  This process was nothing like the one described above.  This process was messy, time consuming, and rendered almost as much waste as it did usable meat.  Then there were the feathers.  They would stick to my fingers, occasionally take to the air, and flutter into the bowls with the "clean" breasts of the former birds.  On the bright side, the gizzards were fascinating!  I would ask mom to let me clean the gizzards from her birds as well as mine.  They were smooth and relatively clean; then, if I did it just right, I could gently peel off the stomach bag chock full of grit and foreign matter.  Once in awhile I would open one on another piece of newspaper just to investigate what was inside.  Mom was too busy trying to get through the huge pile on the table to take the time to investigate the inner contents of a quail's gizzard, especially since the overall activity was producing the evening meal's source of protein.  She knew we had to get done, clean up the mess, and then get the frying pan going.

            I believe more farm families than town families have been touched by the true source of their food, but with some changes I am seeing with friends that farm and with town friends that are trying to be natural, this may not always be true.  Yet, the "natural" trend has been around since before the 1970's.  As people try new foods, a frequent question is "What does it taste like?"  A very common answer is "It tastes like chicken."  Amazingly, that is sometimes true, but don't count on it or you might be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

And the winners are . . .

            For my 31 Day Challenge I offered two gift cards.  A person could get an entry into the drawing for each of these:
            1.  posting comments on one or more blog entries
            2.  referring someone who gave that person as a reference
            3.  following the Blog
            4.  posting comments regarding blog entries at the Facebook page for Touching Families
            5.  liking Touching Families on Facebook
            6.  referring someone to the Facebook page.

            The two winners are:

            1.  Wendy @E-1-A, who made a post on October 25 at 4:46 p.m.
            2.  Janet Hensley, who "likes" the Facebook page of Touching Families.

Congratulations and please contact me to receive your prize!

A True Difference—Day 6 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            Election Day.  For whom did you vote?  Why?  Are you looking for one candidate or one party to solve your problems?  To give you what you want?  No matter who wins, the results will touch every family on farms or in towns.  Maybe it was appropriate that part of my Bible reading today included the following:

            Psalm 135:15-21—The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of man.  They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear; nor is there breath in their mouths.  Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
            O house of Israel, praise the Lord; O house of Aaron, praise the Lord; O house of Levi, praise the Lord; you who fear him, praise the Lord.  Praise be to the Lord from Zion, to him who dwells in Jerusalem.  Praise the Lord.

            Unfortunately, today's American public has traded in most of their idols made of silver and gold (not abandoning idols completely) for another type of idol.  What kind of idol?  Consider our government.  What is the connection?  Hmmm.

            First, governments are made by the hands of man.  Although bureaucracy exudes power and control, it cannot truly speak or hear.  It appears to be a breathing, living entity, but that is only an illusion.  Just ask anyone who has tried to "fight city hall" or the "red tape" of government.  Not one lone person exists that can be petitioned to correct or solve all the problems, not even the president. 

            Second, many people are checking their televisions, radio, or computer screens for election results.  They are looking to the government—regardless which candidate they want to win—to be their "savior" in this unpredictable world when in actuality they should be looking to the true Savior.

            I am not saying I am above this flaw.  I have to constantly remind myself that no politician or legal entity can solve all my problems or give me the direction I need in my life.  The only who can do that is the Lord, the same Lord that is worthy of praise from Israel and everyone else. 

            So what does this have to do with the farming life?  About everything.  The ability to own land, to produce crops, or even to raise a family in a rural setting is not a guarantee.  We have been blessed to be in a country that allows these choices, but God never promised anyone would get to keep these choices and lifestyles.  At the same time, no matter what a politician promises, he cannot insure any way of living unless God allows him to do so. 

            Does that mean voting is a waste of time?  I do not think so.  I even took most of my kids with me when I voted and let them watch how it is done.  God has called us to be good stewards of what He has given us.  I think that includes our style of government directed by the people.  Yet, the moment I forget that, apart from God, my country cannot do any good then I begin turning this land into an idol.  Thus, whom should I try to please?  Politicians?  My vocal and politically oriented friends?  God himself?  I think you know the answer to this one.  When I live as if I really believed the answer, then I can make a true difference and not only touch my family but other families as well.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Following in Grandma's Footsteps—Day 5 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            I find a recurring theme from those who live on farms to be pretty basic:  Make do, or do without.  Another common farming lifestyle principal is similar:  Do it yourself.  These same principals have touched many families and have been very influential in my life, especially my growing up years.  As a result, I will probably use several of my blog entries this month for examples of this. 

            Now, some other city folk reading this may be exclaiming, "Hey, I have always lived like that."  That may be very true, but for me, the roots of these principals did not germinate in town.  Instead, they can be traced to my parents', or more so, my grandparents', country living.  Today, let us take the basic necessity of clothing.

            My mom's mom patched and patched the clothes of her family.  There was very little money for new clothes.  One of my mother's treasured Christmas memories was getting a pair of brand new pajamas—ones that had not been worn by anyone else.  It was her only Christmas present that year, but she felt very rich.  It was an extravagant gift.

            As she got older, she wanted more than just patched clothes—even though she appreciated what she had.  She took her 4-H book and began following the directions.  Fortunately, her Aunt Mary had an electric sewing machine, which was easier to use than the treadle machine at home.  Over time she took home economics in junior high and high school and her sister helped with a few projects.  Even so, trial and error became her best teachers. 

            If you jump to the years of my memory, mom sewed all the time.  We very rarely bought new clothes.  In general, if we couldn't find it at a yard sale in good shape, Mom made it, and she made it with a level of quality we were happy to wear.  Over the years her accomplishments include play clothes, dressy outfits, blue jeans, underwear, swimsuits, suit jackets, wool skirts, and home trimmings.

formal gown constructed by
my sophomore
formal designed by my junior
            Despite the fact I sewed many clothing articles while in high school and some more in the years after, I do not sew that often now.  However, my girls do.  I require them to take a sewing project every year in 4-H and sometimes clothing decisions on top of that.  Being able to sew what you might want or need is a necessity in my book.  Ironically, my older two complained so much about sewing when they were growing up that I half expected them to stop when they became adults.  They did not.  In fact, you can find some of their well-made purses and other items at http://hyenacart.com/stores/twiceisnice.  On top of that, the daughter who has started a family sews up a storm from curtains to bridesmaid clutches to waterproof cloth diaper covers with snaps.  Many times, the fabric she uses has been re-purposed from other projects of hers or items found at the thrift store.  You can see some of her projects at www.morelikehome.net.  I expect the "Make-do-or-do-without" or "Do-it-yourself" attitude will touch the rest of my family the same.  If they follow in the footsteps of their grandma and older sisters, then that will be fine with me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Not Sawdust But Seeds--Day 4 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            Jesus of Nazareth worked the occupation of carpentry for 30 years.  One of his sidekicks was a despised tax collector, and several companions were fishermen.  Yet, he did not tell parables using woodworking or collecting taxes as illustrations.  What was one of his favorite references?  Farming.

            Growing crops and/or raising animals touched every family in Jesus' audience.  If individuals did not participate daily in these tasks, they were well acquainted with these activities.  Unfortunately, some in our society today are too far removed from farming to understand the specific details of such illustrations.

            Yet, both farming and shepherding carry an aura of something basic, wholesome, and life giving.   I think this is one of the reasons why even townspeople are drawn to these types of parables.  We feel, if we can understand Jesus' farming illustrations, we can be closer to Him.  Of course, comprehending any passages of the Bible can strengthen our relationships with God, but there is something that stirs the soul just a little bit more with farming parables.

            I suppose it goes back to creation.  God created the land and plants before he created humans from the dust of the ground.  When He did create humans, He put them in charge of tending, overseeing, subduing, and caring for the world He had created, especially the plants and animals.  Pondering God's truths in the context of His creation can make us feel we have a more intimate relationship with Him.

            Sometime take your family outside—maybe even dig up a little dirt to feel and smell—as you read and discuss a parable involving farming.  Consider if your family is touched in a bigger way by being physically reminded of God's creation while trying to understand a related spiritual reality.  Remember, when Jesus was talking about spreading the gospel, He did not compare it to spreading sawdust; He instructed them to sow seeds, which is to be done by townspeople and country folk alike.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Yellow Submarine—Day 3 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

            What town family has not been touched by a little envy when it comes to the big yellow school bus?  Now, the farm kids are saying, "What?!"  Yep, that's right.  The big yellow school bus.  What is the fascination?  Everything.

Not a bus, but the kids thought riding public
transportation to get here was as
"exciting as riding a school bus"
            First, when the bus kids arrive at school, they come pouring off—jumping, hollering, and racing for the door.  To the unknowing town kid, this departure resembles patrons disembarking a Six Flags ride.

            Second, when it's time to go home, the bus kids enter a new realm of the privileged and mysterious.  Sometimes, the bus kids are released first.  What a privilege!  The town kids have to wait for what feels like an eternity.  Other times, the town kids are released first, maybe even hurried out the door.  As the town kids walk down the hall, they hear activity and maybe even playing back in the room.  What are those bus kids doing?  Did the teacher do something special for them?  It is all mysterious.

            Besides, when those bus kids get home, they can go out in the barn lot and play with animals or climb in the hayloft.  Even their dogs get to run around their yards without being tied up.  Boy, they have it all.

            On the other hand, the bus kids probably have their own little bouts of envy.  They know what it is really like to ride the bus every day.  They see the town kids leisurely walking home or being picked up by parents in the family car.  They envision town kids going back to neighborhoods where everyone is out playing ball together or having some grand adventure in their backyards with all lots of kids—and no chores to do.  Of course, this is not a necessarily realistic view either.

            Eventually, a truer picture touches every family.  Town kids realize that the big yellow bus is not so fun, and country kids realize that living in town has its disadvantages as well.  Hopefully, both come to realize (like this town girl did) that where you live does not really matter, but making the most of where you live and finding the blessings that come along with it does.  As for my kids, they, too, went through a stage that the sight of a yellow school bus triggered screams and wild finger pointing.  "Mom, look, look, it's a bus, a school bus."  By their reaction, you would think that they had just seen the Beatles' Yellow Submarine go cruising down the highway.

            If you were a town kid, did you envy something about farm kids?  If you were a farm kid, did you envy something about town kids?

Read more 30 Day blogs starting with My Generation.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Where's the Beef?—Day 2 of a Town Girl Touched by the Farming Life

Most town kids experience with livestock--in a museum

            Do you know where your beef comes from?  Surprisingly, too many "town people" seem oblivious that their thick steaks, juicy hamburgers, and tender roast beef used to walk around on four legs and say, "Moo."  I never had that luxury—thankfully. 

            For most of my years growing up, my family butchered a steer (or at least half of one) and a hog each year.  At that time, the only plot of land my parents owned was a spot big enough for a house in town a block or so from the golf course, but that did not stop my family.  A very good friend of my dad's named Bob that would sell one of his animals to my parents or would let them raise an animal for themselves among his herds.  Besides, my parents helped him farm his land and clear brush along his woods just because they were friends.  Their friendship was mutually beneficial in terms of companionship, trust, and reliability—and of course, when it came to butchering.

            My parents researched how to divide and conquer both a side of beef and pork.  Sometimes we even had diagrams hanging in our kitchen from one year to the next.  I never had to help with the slaughtering, skinning, or gutting of an animal, but sometimes I was near the farm lot when it was done.  After it hung in the barn (or our garage in town) to age in the cold, halves and quarters were wrapped in plastic sheeting and brought to our house in the back of a pickup truck.  Dad would carry (while Mom helped balance) each quarter one at a time as needed to our basement to be sawed, sliced, or ground to specifications and then wrapped.  The wrapping and labeling: that's where I came in.  Sometimes I helped in the trimming, too, when I got bigger.  Of all the things you could despise about this kind of operation, the only thing I really didn't like was the cold.  Of course, the room had to be cold to keep the meat from getting warm and spoiling, but that did not keep me from complaining.  Fortunately, I did not usually have to help if they were helping someone else, like Bob, butcher.  Even though friends may have been using our kitchen and my parents' knowledge, they were expected to be working alongside to get the job done.  That is one principal of dividing and conquering a job that I carried with me into my adulthood. 

            I knew most town kids did not help butcher their families' meat supply for the year, but I thought they at least knew how it was done.  They didn't.  I was really shocked to later learn that many farm kids had not helped do this either.  Either they did not raise animals or they took them to the locker plant to be butchered.  Although I was not pleased to admit it as a pre-teen, this whole butchering experience was good for me.  As an adult, I have seen too many people have a distorted view of our food supply and/or animals in general because they and their parents (and maybe even their grandparents) had been too far removed from the hands-on experience of processing their source of protein.  These days my parents do not have physical strength to manhandle hundreds of pounds of meat, and I do not have the means to continue this tradition with my family. 

            However, several years ago a friend of the family was raising hogs and was selling them at a bargain price to friends.  He would slaughter, prepare, and age the hog, and we would just have to go in and help butcher, trim, and wrap the meat.  My husband and I were thrilled--my girls, not so excited.  Unfortunately, most of our girls did not get an opportunity to help with this chore before our friends decided to get out of the pork business.  Processing our family's food was only one benefit of this family experience. 
            Other benefits included: 
                        (1) working together as a family,
                        (2) happily communicating and relating to each other through the tedious process,              (3) learning that an apparent unpleasant task is not always that unpleasant,
                        (4) developing the skill to be content and patient even if you are not being entertained or if the activity does not center around personal desires,
                        (6) understanding work, including hard work, is a normal part of life and should not be shunned,  
                        (7) realizing the whole effort that goes into getting a sumptuous meal, and
                        (8) taking time to be thankful for physical blessings and opportunities.

            The ones who did help have not forgotten the experience, but I am also mindful to remind all of my girls the truth of where their food comes from.  If you ask any one of them, she can tell you where the beef comes from.

Read more 30 Day blogs starting with My Generation.