4-H, Where You Work Your Ass Off for “Nothing”

That title got your attention, didn’t it?  Now before you come at me with pitchforks and torches, hear me out.

If you have read  my bio you will know that I work in Extension and even if I didn’t, I would still have a deep passion for 4-H in my heart. I love all of the opportunities that present themselves through 4-H. I love spending time with kids teaching them life skills and sharing passions that have been and still are very, very much a part of my life. I love seeing youth grow into productive, responsible, hardworking, caring, and community minded adults.

The title of this blog post is an actually paraphrased from a quote from a 4-H mother made to me as we were walking out of our trophy auction and donor’s lunch where several companies and individuals had literally just spent thousands of dollars supporting our organization. “That’s what 4-H is all about, working your ass off and getting nothing in return, huh, Amber.” The anger came instantly. How dare someone make comments like that as we are walking out of especially that event. How dare someone say something like that to people who spend countless hours both paid and unpaid making sure programs are organized, newsletters set, putting on project meetings, buying supplies for those meetings-often out of pocket, spending countless unpaid hours away from family. How. Dare. You.  But as the evening went on I began to feel sadness for the individual who said that and her kids participating in our organization. Somewhere along the way for them 4-H became about the money being made rather than the experiences, lessons, and memories.

All I can say is that- If in 4-H you are “working your ass off” and getting nothing in return… you’re doing it wrong.

You will never “get rich” in 4-H

Sure that extra premium money you get from the livestock sale or the little extra ribbon money you get for a job well done is nice. Who wouldn’t agree. But that’s not the point of anything that you’re doing. The money you get for livestock is intended to help with cost associated with showing them, to help you to be able to continue your project- not give you a free ride. That’s part of the lessons you learn in 4-H. Life costs money.

You have options

4-H is a youth organization focused on providing participants with skills to last for a lifetime. Opportunities for classes in food and nutrition, woodworking, sewing, photography, entomology, rocketry, electricity, arts and crafts, livestock, and so, so much more which volunteers spend their time and money to put on for the youth is just the tip of the iceberg. Through each project offered a certain set of skills is obtained, you may choose to participate in everything offered or just a few that interest you.

Life skills are obtained

be it the actual skills you are learning in the different project, the tips, tricks and ideas you take home from leadership camps and events, or the subconscious things like being on time, speaking to adults, networking with others, respect, “practice makes perfect” etc. You learn things like dressing appropriately for certain occasions, volunteerism, speaking to people you don’t know, community development, interview skills, the impact of a good, strong handshake… I could go on and on.

Lifetime friends are made

Honestly, if you had told me when I was younger that I would have gone to college and knew a ton of people once I got there I would have told you that you were lying. My freshman year when I got to school I was honestly so surprised at how many people I knew because of 4-H and FFA events that I had been to. For a rather shy person who generally wouldn’t take initiative to go meet people, it was such a help to have people I was already at least a little familiar with. Even as we have all grown and gone on to our careers, families, and new places, we still keep up via social media. They are people with whom I share memories- not just in college, but youthful memories from 4-H and FFA with and people who I will always enjoy keeping up with and being friends with.

Memories

The memories made with family, schoolmates, and friends from across my county and state are memories that I will cherish for as long as I live. From late nights spent in the barn the night before the show washing, clipping, feeding, and honestly just horsing around. To show day shenanigans and sale night primping. From trips 5 miles out of town, across the state, or across the country for camps, conventions, retreats, or trainings. The laughs, the tears, the jokes, the heart to hearts and the obnoxious roadtrip karaoke sessions.  In the moment I never would have guessed how all of those little snapshots of time were forming me into the person that I am today. Be it with my family or with the various groups I would have traveled with- they helped me grow into the woman I am today.

I credit 4-H (and FFA) to my successes to date. I can walk into an interview with confidence, I can look a potential employer in the eye and give a firm handshake. I am comfortable with speaking to groups. I learned how to manage money, how to pay bills, how and when to jump in and help where it is needed, I learned how to volunteer and the importance of volunteerism. I am more community minded. I have networking resources. I can participate in an organized meeting.

Sure, 4-H is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun too (If you’re taking full advantage of it)… and if “nothing” is what you are getting in return… you’re doing it all wrong.

 

love and peace,
Amber

Ice Storms, Fires, Blizzards, and Hail- Heartbreak in the Heartland

This first 5 months of 2017 has taken its toll on the 5-State area surrounding the Oklahoma Panhandle. With a devastating ice storm hitting right in the thick of calving season. “Dark Monday” and it’s 1 million (+ or -) acres burned across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, Southwestern Kansas, and Eastern New Mexico and Colorado- which destroyed thousands of acres of grazing lands, scorched hundreds of miles of fence, multiple homes, stole 6 human’s lives and burned thousands of head of cattle and wildlife alive. A crippling April 30th blizzard which left hundreds more cattle dead in Eastern Colorado, Western Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. The most recent a hail storm which carried with it baseball-softball sized hail that tore through the Oklahoma Panhandle and Northwestern Oklahoma killing calves, destroying crops which were only a few weeks shy of being harvested, as well as countless homes, vehicles, and other buildings.

But you won’t hear much about this on the news. 

The recovery process is still taking place- and will continue to take place for months. Our hearts are so full for the help and love we have received from so many agriculturist across the nation. But I would be lying if I said that each day isn’t still a challenge to keep our heads up. It’s hard to watch your life’s work go up in smoke-literally. Or watch the wheat that you have tended to and prayed would come out of damages caused by ice and and snow coupled with 60 mph winds survive just to be pounded into the ground by hail just before harvest. It’s so hard not knowing how you are going to make the equipment payment. It’s hard to have to walk through your pastures and see and even have to put down suffering animals who couldn’t escape the flames, or to pull up to your pasture ground to find your cows and calves had looked for shelter in a draw which is now covered in snow- and those mamas and babies have all suffocated- or the babies who couldn’t weather the baseball sized hail who had been literally beat to death in the night. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking- loss of profits aside.

So today, while you go about your life- while you go to your 8-5 job with a guaranteed paycheck and little risk to your livelihood, when you go to the grocery store and notice the price of food slightly higher, remember, the places where your food comes from has been ravaged this past year. There will be a shortage- not in the “oh my gosh we can’t feed everyone and we have to ration” sense, but as compared to years past. The ranchers and farmers will struggle harder than usual to make their payments this year.

We are strong, we will rebuild, we will continue to raise our cattle, we will continue to plant our crops. We will wake up every day and continue to go to work- just like you. But our hearts and our land will take some time to heal. Remember us in your day to day activities too. 



“A farmer has to be an optimist- or he wouldn’t still be a farmer” 

Will Rogers

 

It’s “That Time” of Year Again…

This morning as I was getting ready for work, my husband says to me “I’m probably going to be late tonight… and tomorrow night… probably the next night too.” I knew it was coming. It’s “that time of year.” But it never fails- I always get just a slight sense of disappointment- and annoyance.

I know- and knew coming in to this marriage that there would be a lot of late nights and early mornings. A lot of times he would go to work before I was out of bed for the day and wouldn’t be home until long after I had gone to sleep. Deep down I know that’s just part of it- part of this glorious life we live as farmer’s and rancher’s wives. It’s hard sometimes.

As a farmer’s wife with a town job, it’s easy for me to forget just how hard my husband works to make everything work. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to feel like I’m doing more or that my workload is somehow unfair. It’s not. When I’m running late in the morning because I had to get myself and my child clothed and fed and out the door by 7:30 (that rarely happens) to be to work by 8 it’s so easy for me to complain in my head about how if someone would just help like put clothes on the tiny human or something, how I wouldn’t be running this late. Or when I get home from work and there are piles of laundry to be done, a floor that needs swept, mopped, or vacuumed, supper to be cooked, dishes to be cleaned, trash that needs taken out, pets that need fed, a kid that needs bathed, teeth brushed, and put to bed. And not always willingly- do any one year olds actually purposefully fall asleep?  And a million other things that really need to be done- my “poor me” attitude always shows itself. When I fall into bed and shoot him a quick goodnight text and he doesn’t respond before I am ready to go to sleep, it’s so easy for me to take on my bratty self and think to myself “well if I’m not important enough…”

It’s easy for me to forget he’s busy too. While there are days he spends the morning getting the coffee shop gossip- he makes up for it with the days he’s out on the sprayer long before dawn or on the tractor long after sunset. He spends days running here, there, and everywhere because- let’s be honest- if ever a day comes that everything goes exactly as planned on the farm…what witchcraft are you doing, and can you share? He’s planting, or spraying, or checking fields, or working on equipment, or making sales calls, or delivering product, or hauling water, or tending to cattle, or building fence, the list could go forever. It’s easy to picture a farmer as some old guy who just sits on the tractor all day going back and forth, back and forth across the fields or just sitting in their pickup gawking at their cow. It’s easy to forget that as much as farming is something they (usually) enjoy, it’s also their job.

“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful, and most noble employment of man”

-George Washington

So, while I may slip from time to time more often than I’d like to admit I’m doing my best to remember- and be grateful for just how hard my farmer works

Mama’s, It’s Time to Get it Together.

Since the moment I found out I was pregnant I have realized how fierce and downright hateful mothers can be to each other based solely the differences in decisions and lifestyles chosen. By differences, I don’t mean neglectful- I mean the decisions each mother is faced with from the point of conception. To have an all natural birth or to be medicated, between vaccinating or not, breastfeeding or formula feeding, to be a working mom or a stay at home mom, – the decisions that each of us has a fundamental and almost moral feeling either for or against, the decisions that divide us.

Personally, I was induced and had an epidural, my little Gage has been in daycare since he was 2 months old, has been (and will continue to be) vaccinated on the CDC’s recommended schedule, and was formula fed. I personally know people who have done everything from the get go exactly the opposite of me- natural births, no vaccines, breastfed, and have never spent a minute in a full time child care facility. I know others who are somewhere in between those two extremes. Our children are all beautiful, wonderfully smart little beings who are developing right on schedule.

The point is, While I may adamantly disagree with people who do not vaccinate their babies, others will adamantly disagree with my choice to formula feed or send my child to daycare from the get go- and we each will defend our decisions with passion. We each made every decision (I assume) based on hours upon hours of on our own research- be it by parenting books, Pinterest or internet searches, etc. –  advice from families and friends, questions to our doctors or midwives, financial reasons, or based off of personal experiences. We toiled for months on how we were going to make every aspect of our baby’s life the healthiest and safest we possibly could. And when it comes right down to it, each of us made the decisions we felt in our heart was the absolute best for our child as well as our family.

By all means, advocate for what you believe to be true and right, share the information you have and the experiences you’ve had. Just, do so with the understanding that we’re all doing our best- we’re all in this together. As long as your child is well fed, appropriately clothed, and most importantly well loved- everything else can be worried about later. We are raising our future together. Lift each other up, love each other, encourage each other. 

Small Talk- Weather in the ‘Handle

I had a lot of things that came to mind to write about today, but I decided to stick to my original plan and talk about the weather. I was just a little too stirred up to be able to write my feelings on the other subjects that came up today in a tactful way. You’ll hear about those soon enough though, don’t you worry!

I thought in order for me to really be able to share my life, you would have to understand weather patterns (or lack there of) in the Panhandle. So, if you’ve made it far enough to read this part, thank you! I will do my best to make it worth your time!

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The picture above is from a little over a month ago. We were headed towards a drought so bad we weren’t sure if we were going to even have wheat to cut or enough grass to graze our cattle. On March 3 the winds came a howling- with approximately 40 mph sustained winds and well over 50 mph gusts that day. we watched as dust turned the sky brown. and listened intently as wildfires ravaged a 4-state area burning just over 1 million acres in total. I could write a whole blog on just these fires, but I will leave that for another day. Now back to the sky being brown with dirt. That happens often here, in fact, a day that the winds are less than 25 mph is generally considered  fairly “calm.”

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You see, people in my little region are praying people. Even if we don’t attend a church service every Sunday or even really know if we believe- everyone seems to pray. After those fires, everyone prayed- not only for comfort and healing for the families, but for rain. We pray for rain out here almost every mealtime and bedtime prayer anyways, but after those fires- we prayed hard, even those who don’t pray often- and, I truly believe God heard. In the past 2 weeks we have received nice, soaking, slow rains a couple times a week. So far my house has received just over 4 inches of much needed rain. Our Wheat is finally popping up from the dirt, our pastures are finally starting to get a little hint of green to them. The spirits of everyone, not just the farm and ranch families are much more jolly- but we all know and understand, that we are just one windy day, one month of little to no moisture from being back in the same boat we were a few weeks ago. It’s our life- and strangely enough, I’ve grown to love it.

 

Now to the fun part. While a month ago we were fighting a losing battle against the elements, 90 degree weather, 40 mph wind, blowing dirt, and terrible fires- and now we’ve been blessed with rain and snow… yes, you read that right. Snow. I know it’s not uncommon for it to snow in April, but where you live is it ever 84 degrees on Monday, snow an inch and a half on Tuesday, be warm enough in the night that all the snow melts before 7:00 am Wednesday morning and be back to almost 70 degrees by Thursday? Well here things like that happen almost all the time.  Living in the Oklahoma Panhandle is kind of similar to living with a pregnant lady (or at least me as a pregnant lady). One second she’s happy and farting rainbows and when she sings the little forest animals gather around and all is perfect- the next second she’s literally the Devil’s wife out to destroy you, your dog, and steal the leftovers you were saving for yourself (If you don’t think that is the work of Satan, I don’t know if you should be on this blog), then the next second she’s crying happy, beautiful gentle tears. Living in the Panhandle is an adventure- because each day you have no idea what you’re going to wake up to (and don’t even rely on the meteorologists- they’re as bad at guessing the weather as the rest of us, they just get to do it on regional TV.) Pictured below are photos of our Tuesday snow and screenshot of today’s temperature.

Continue reading “Small Talk- Weather in the ‘Handle”

A Little Bit about Me

Hey guys!

I thought my first blog would just be a little “get to know me,” a little look into my life.

I am a full time “Jack of all Trades.” I am a housemaid, changer of diapers and official boo-boo kisser, an amateur chef, and a master of sarcasm. I’m also an employee at a local Extension Office, a 4-H volunteer, and a lover of animals, and a proud inhabitant of the Oklahoma Panhandle. I have a passion for agriculture and educating others about the industry that sustains not only my livelihood, but also the lives of the entire world. I grew up loving all things princess- aspiring to be a princess, (what little girl hasn’t at some point in her life) hence the name of my blog.

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My fairytale begins long before this point, but for the sake of time (and honestly, this isn’t an obituary) we will start where I met my “Prince” so to speak. (We never speak to each other that way- I almost cringe calling him that.) I met my husband, Nick as a freshman in college. He would tell you that I was a hard one to catch; but I would counter that there was an equal amount of cat and mouse games for both parties there for a while. Eventually fate would take its course and I would become the wife of a farmer on August 3, 2013. Before you get any ideas, I am not a city to country transplant. While my family did not farm, we were what I would consider a rural family. The town I grew up had around 300 inhabitants, with the only businesses being a gas station, a co-op, and a CPA Office. I grew up in FFA and the “Friday night lights” of the school’s basketball gym. I showed sheep, was active in all of my school’s extracurricular activities at one point or another (what few they had), and took great pride in being a “country kid” like small town kids generally do. I had a rather basic understanding of farming and what it took for those guys to make a living, but being married into a true “farming family”has opened my eyes to so many realities today’s farm and ranch families are facing that many people not directly involved in the industry will never fully know. This blog will give you a first hand account of our daily lives. Struggles, successes, and everything in between. Stay tuned!

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Aside from being married to my farmer, we introduced our sweet, ornery boy in the world on October 2nd, 2015, (14 days past his due date, I might add.) He was late arriving, and I have been late to literally everything since. Gage is the light to our lives, and already growing to love the “tombine,” ‘tratee,” “doney,” “tows,” “seeps,” and “boppies” (combine, tractor, donkey, cows, sheep, and puppies). Mama and Daddy couldn’t be more proud.

As a college student I worked as a scale operator, grain inspector (It’s really not as cool as it sounds), paper filer, basement cleaner, and “anything else that needs done person” at a local coop. While that was not my first job, that was the first job that I can say I really started to get a real glance into everything it takes to make a farm work. I watched farmers stand there in awe and frustration as they found out fertilizer or chemical prices had risen so high or as they watched the grain markets plummet. I took phone calls from landowners in California wanting to sell their grain- to find out they had about half as much to sell as they did last year due to crippling drought. I even watched as some farmers had to sell out. The cost of production was just far more than what they were making at the end. It was the first job I had that gave me an education to go along with the education I was paying for. Although it wasn’t always  rainbows, and I wasn’t always a fan of all my co-workers, I built some great bonds with some great people, and learned so, so much.

From there I took a job with a local extension office. Working with an office of only women was a little intimidating to me at first, I know how women can be, ya know. But this job has been a whole new education. I am the secretary- by no means a specialist or an agent, but I love my job. In the past two years I’ve learned even more about agriculture research, everything extension has to offer, as well as 4-H- which I have developed an even deeper passion for than I had before- who knew that could happen?!  Hopefully through some of my posts, you will get an idea of just how great Extension and 4-H truly are.

My blog will be a direct view through my eyes of life in the ‘handle. Some days will be just a run-down of our day-good or bad, sometimes it’ll be a recipe, other days it will be an opinion or something I feel strongly about. This blog will be a way for you to get to know me- and to live my “Rural Life Fairytale” right along with me.

love and joy,

Amber