HarvestHER- A Weekend to Remember

I’m not a social person. I never have been. In a situation where I feel like I am at the mercy of others and not in control I get awkward, quiet- or even worse, way too chatty. I laugh a bit too loud and sometimes at the wrong time. The lead up to events where I know I’m going to have to “hold my own” so to speak- my anxiety goes through the roof.

So- when I (aka: my husband) signed up for this Lifted and Uplifted HarvestHER retreat in January, it was a little surprising. To begin with I was really excited. I had met Kylee at another harvester association’s convention and we just clicked. She invited me- at that convention- to join her at a retreat in March. I had made a friend, AND been invited to a weekend women’s retreat with her. GO ME!

But the closer the weekend drew for me to head to Nebraska, the more nervous I became. I almost backed out several times. I prayed for a good excuse not to go. I had myself all worked up. “these women all already know each other. these women have all been doing this for so long- they’re experienced and I’ve only been an active “harvest participant” for one season (and know next to nothing about most of it). There’s no way I will fit in. No. Way.” I’m feeling that anxiety creep up just typing this paragraph.

I guess by now, everyone has figured out- God didn’t let me off the hook. I packed my bags- met Kylee in Woodward and headed north. The longer the ride with her, the more at ease I felt. We picked Amanda up in Kansas and I found that I really enjoyed her company and conversation just flowed with the two of them so easily. (Not really normal for me.) Before I knew it we were pulling up the drive to this beautiful “Mansion on a Hill.” Queue the nerves again. My heart felt like it was in my throat. It took me a while to settle in- but each new person I met treated me with so much kindness. By the end of the evening, I knew this weekend was going to be okay.

I won’t go over the details of the entire weekend. That would be a lot. I will say, though, I learned so much. I learned about myself, I learned about the industry, and I learned about the women in the industry. I shared a ton of laughs and a few tears and built relationships with women who “get” it- women who have been where I am at one point, women eager to share a laugh, a smile, or an encouraging word. I’m glad God didn’t let me off the hook. I’m glad He guided me into and through the weekend. As I’ve been saying for the last few years- and even more so this last few months, Where God guides, He provides. How he provides.

Last, but not least, Thank you, Tracy, for planning and putting on an amazing weekend. YOU- you are a rock star. You have the most beautiful servant’s heart and I’m so happy to have met you. And thank you, Kylee, for taking the chance on me back in January and inviting me- for driving to and from the event, and, whether you know it or not, being my “home base” during the weekend. Thank you to each lady this weekend for accepting this newbie, for the laughs, the tears, the hugs, and the encouragement. I went in scared and feeling a bit alone- I came out of the weekend empowered and with a community. I look forward to seeing each of you and following your harvest journeys. Because- like it or not, I think I’m in this for the long haul, guys.  

 

(Featured photo credits to Laura Haffner)

HarvestHER1
“Mindful Morning”
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I’m Back. -With a Little Humor

I’ve been MIA from here for a while, so I thought I’d welcome myself back with a little humorous story.

(Did I mention I started raising sheep? Hah. Well, yea, I have.)

During lambing season everyone is sleep deprived, grumpy, cold probably, did I mention tired?

So it’s no surprise that Saturday night I was trudging to the barn for my 2:00 am baby check. As I approach the barn I hear a bit of a ruckus, my initial thought in my sleep deprived trudge is “ope, ole girl I’ve been watching is finally doing it.”

The closer I get, the more it sounds less like birth being given and more like the barn trying to implode on itself.

I open the door to a scene that is best described as a bar(n) room brawl. 11 heavily pregnant ewes beating the ever living crap out of each other. I rub my eyes trying to wake myself up, because surely, SURELY this is a dream.

But alas, I’m not dreaming.

The closest Scenario I can come up with is this- they were all laying around gossiping about whatever sheep nonsense they gossip about at 2:00 am when Stephanie the sheep casually mentions how dearly she misses Dorset Don and the grand few weeks they had together, which fires Patricia up, because SHE and Dorset Don also had a grand time that EXACT SAME few weeks. How dare these hussies be messing with HER man.

Now the old gals, they’ve been around the block a time or two and know the drill.

They all share the same few men once a year. So they watch on in amusement at Patricia and Stephanie beat the hell out of each other.

Well things start getting out of hand and one ewe hops up and in an attempt to get out of the way of the original brawl, steps on Francis, who pretty much already hates everyone and everything… and so would begin a chain of events. Now all but 2 ewes are fighting.

Peacekeeper Pam is in the middle yelling “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Please stop, love your neighbor! This really is silly!”

When all of a sudden that glutton Gertrude who’s passed out in the corner (presumably grain drunk) the entire time wakes up, sees the action and wants to join.

She comes barreling through the crowd right into peacekeeper Pam.

This light’s Pam’s fire and she’s out to shank every black headed, black footed, gnarly, heavily impregnated fluffball in the building. Literal fire comes from her nostrils as she takes aim for any soul who dare come near her.

The two in the lambing room can only hear the commotion, their pawing the fence and chanting “fight! Fight! Fight! While secretly thankful they’re in those tiny lambing crates one more night.

Enter me. Standing there in amazement. Praying to the Lord above this is not an omen for the rest of my day (by the way, it was, but that’s a story for another day) and trying to develop a plan to stop this madness I have walked in on. After I separate everyone into 4 pens, I trudge back to the house still halfway thinking my real alarm is going to go off and I’m going to come back out to a completely normal, quiet, sleeping barn of ewes.

It didn’t.

While I’m not sure what caused those girls to go into such a frenzy, I did walk into a barn full of 11 angry ewes… and that was just the beginning of my Saturday morning.

I’ve never been so happy for a Monday in all my life.

He Ordered Pizza

Weird title, I know, but hear me out.

December, so far has been insanely busy for me this year. I’ve been out of town at meetings or trainings at least once a week since December 1 rolled around. During the weeks I’ve only been out of town one day- I’ve had to stay late for one reason or another at least two or three nights. On top of all that -training someone new to take care of my office’s financials, preparing everything I can possibly think of, down to the smallest details for a new secretary coming to take my place, and trying to transition to my new position in my office. At 7.5 months pregnant I’m beginning to feel the exhaustion (and slight panic) set in.

This past Monday was… well… a Monday. From start to finish. We won’t get into those details, but after work was over I needed to run and buy groceries. I called Nick to see if he had any special requests. While I was in the store he shot a text letting me know he ordered pizza and to stop by and pick it up before I headed home.

He probably has no idea how elated I was that he did that. I did thank him multiple times… but the relief I felt that I wasn’t going to have to get home late, put away groceries, and find something to cook for supper was the biggest relief in that moment. whether he did it to be thoughtful or if he did it because Pizza Hut pizza sounded good, I don’t know- I don’t care. I am appreciative.

Guys, it’s the little things that make a marriage. Show appreciation for the small things. Pick up on the cues and do those small things for your spouse when you can. It’s the small things that make up your life. It’s the small things that, combined, make the big things. Don’t let those small moments pass too often, you never know when you’re going to make that person’s whole entire week with just a tiny little gesture.

Fall Harvest-A Time for Joy

It’s fall harvest time.

A time of year that I personally love.

Something about the crisp fall air and the hustle and bustle of farmers to get their crops out of the fields before winter hits… I just can’t help but feel happy. Maybe it’s just the season- the time of year that thankfulness is on everyone’s mind or the excitement of winding down one year and beginning a whole new year. Whatever it is, the past five years I have grown to adore fall harvest.

Yesterday, what should have been a great day of celebrating my son’s second birthday-was a rough day. Between news of the Las Vegas shooting, my grandfather in law having had his arm crushed working on some of our equipment and yet more sad news coming from my hometown. Days like yesterday- where nothing seems to be going right, all the news is bad, and so many people around are hurting it’s easy to lose the joy. It’s so easy to lose the focus of the good only see the bad.

Yesterday evening, however- standing in the hospital room with my family I was reminded once again to find the joy. At the news of Bob’s accident we had friends who had gone to the field after Nick and Bob headed to the hospital to make sure that everything was shut down and taken care of then came to the hospital to check on us. We had neighbors dropping by and making sure we didn’t need anything. We had people on the phone in an instant wanting to know what they could do to help us keep harvest going and get wheat planted. We were all inundated with calls, texts, snapchats, facebook messages, and drop ins- a show of support. Despite the sadness that was in the air all day and the chatter, not just amongst us, but all over the hospitals and on the T.V.s  I remembered that there is far more good. There is more love than there is hate. There is more care and concern than there is selfishness. There are more heroes than villains. Sometimes our vision just gets clouded.

This morning I woke up and kissed my husband goodbye as he left. I drove past him as he was back in the field planting wheat. If weather permits I will haul supper to the field this evening as harvest has resumed. We will stand around the vehicles and laugh and eat- we may even talk about yesterday’s events. We will wave at the other trucks hauling their grain to town. Harvest will go on. Life will go on. We will not let the blinders of bitterness creep over us- we will not let darkness steal our light… and we will not let hate steal our love.

Happy Harvest, ya’ll.

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