Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Thankful For...

I'm sure that bloggers all over the country are using their spot for exactly this. It's probably a good thing... our pastor was talking about this on Sunday that part of the reason we are discontent with our lives is because we don't spend enough time being thankful for what we do have. So, while I was bustling around the house, cleaning, cooking and caring for kiddos today, I went through my list of top 10 things that I'm thankful for.... Drumroll please:

10. My computer. Yeah, I know. That's maybe a little shallow. But I love my computer because it enables me to keep in touch with people I haven't talked to in years, it gives me a place to be creative via my blog, and my Photoshop program, it is an endless source of information for things like finding the perfect chocolate cheesecake recipe, determining who won the game I was too tired to stay up for, who wrote that one book... stuff like that. It makes living in the country easier to be in touch with the world around me.

9. My house. I know it's just wood and nails, glass and fiberglass. But I like my house. It's warm, comfortable, big enough that I never run out of things to clean. It expresses my family's personality. It's a place where we have had a lot of good food with a lot of fun people.

8. My Books. I kind of stole that one from my dear friend the wife of the farmer (Farmer's Wife). I love being able to pick up a book on any subject and either relax, learn or be entertained.... Currently I'm reading "The Smart Step-Mom", and "The Bottom of the Sky".

7. My Music. Love it... pretty much any kind, any place. I love to turn on whatever music I'm in the mood for and reading, cleaning, visiitng, cooking etc. while the music plays. Also love to sing it! I'm thankful for the opportunity I have to sing on the worship team at church. Nothing like singing together praising God.

6. My health. January will be 4 years of being cancer free. I still get tired sometimes, but for the most part I'm feeling more and more like my old self, pre-kids and pre-pregnancy. Thank you Lord!

5. My friends. I have quite a little group of friends out here in no-mans land. I can always count on one of my country girls to totally relate to my day or my week, or make me feel better, because I know their week has been busier or more stressful than mine. I always have someone who stays home with her kids like me who can commiserate or celebrate depending on the situation. They pray with me and for me. They are quite the ladies!

4. My life. I mean it.... I love being married to a farmer/rancher and living in the country helping him grow crops, care for cattle and keep the books. It's rewarding and fulfilling. It's stressful and busy. I can't think of a better place to live or a better place to raise a family.

3. My kiddos... all four of them. I love to watch them grow up, laugh together, learn things, give hugs and kisses. I love to hear the way they think and some of the ways they express themselves. I love the way they look at the world through 4 unique perspectives and act in 4 unique ways. They are challenging and rewarding and big-time blessings.

2. My husband. He's great. Without getting too sappy, I just have to say that I am blessed. He cares about me and encourages me in the talents and abilities I have. He provides for us financially, but more than that he provides great leadership for our family in a spiritual sense. He's a great dad who does a great job with our kiddos. He's my best friend who knows all my secrets.

1. My Lord. He sent His Son to save because He loved me that much. He provides wisdom, strength, and power. He blesses us with so much that we forget all good things come from Him. He listens when I'm excited, nervous, tired or angry. He continually surprises me with how much He cares about the details in my life. Without Him, there would be no 2-10. There would be no meaning or hope to this life. And I just can't imagine it.

What do you think? Do we need to be more thankful, more of the time? I know I do.
Happy Thanksgiving friends!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm the woman I was sure I'd never be....

This a quick one, because I have quite a few projects to do today while my kiddos are out of the house.

It occured to me last night, as I was sitting at the country school board meeting, that I'm in a place I would never have guessed. I was sure I'd never live in the country when I was growing up. I used to count the hours when I was at the ranch until I got to go back to town and be with all my friends. I'm quite a social person normally, which is no surprise to those of you who know me. I was also pretty sure I'd never have kids. I didn't 'love' little kids, like many of my friends, I didn't enjoy baby-sitting when I was younger, and plus when I wasn't married by 30, I was pretty sure that wouldn't happen. Heck, I didn't even think I'd get married! I was a teacher, and never in my wildest imagination would I ever have thought I'd be on the other side of the table of a contract negotiation as a sitting board member! And as I looked at my black coat last night, I saw evidence of cat hair.

So now, here I sit, a happily married, stay-at-home mom with four kids who make me laugh, pull my hair out, and make me feel essential. Our place is 40 miles from the nearest town, (30+from my nearest friend). I'm on the Cohagen School board. I live with a black cat named Sweetie who has made me quite fond of him!

And the best part is that I like it! I crave being able to stay home for an entire day and evening, away from the hustle and bustle of "town", with my husband and kids, having a big evening meal around the old supper table as we hash over the events of the kids' days.

I've even come to terms with picking a few stray cat hairs off of my clothing. Life is good at the place I never thought I'd be, even better than I ever thought!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Allison Lee turns Three

She came as a bit of a surprise. We had planned to have another child after Benjamin, but due to a few health issues, figured we could wait a little while. And then, out of the blue, we found out we were expecting another child after Thanksgiving, close to the first part of December. We had a few stressful months as we took care of all the health issues, and then got to have some down-time from September to November.

I remember going in to my appointment at the end of October, and my doc told me that he would be gone for three weeks, and that I could see his partner in two weeks. When he got back we'd talk about the time frame, and whether we'd need to induce or just wait for things to happen. He assured me he'd be back in plenty of time, with time to spare even.  No sweat. Scott's hernia surgery was scheduled for the week of the 7th, on Tuesday so he'd have plenty of time to get healed up before the baby came. Right.

Well sure enough, two weeks came and so did my trip to see the other doctor. She casually asked how far along I had been in October.

Oh. Umm, I don't know. We didn't really check things out. I'm not due until after Thanksgiving.

As it turned out, I had already been making some significant progress in the process. She looked at me and said, "Traci, it's not a matter of if you have a baby this weekend, it's when you'll have this baby this weekend. How far from town do you live?"

Only 40 miles. It takes like, a half an hour. Tops.

She looked at me like I'd lost my mind. "You really shouldn't be that far from a hospital."

Did I mention my husband had hernia surgery on Tuesday? He can't really drive, let alone lift the 2 year old. I haven't even felt any contractions. I'll be fine. I'm not due until after Thanksgiving.

"You shouldn't be lifing the 2 year old in your condition. You should probably stay in town."

I finally convinced her that I could go home, but a trip to Jordan that evening for book club was out of the question. That really bummed me out! That's like the highlight of the month! I promised her I'd walk around Wal-Mart (it's the closest thing to a mall we have around here, and it was chilly that night) for an hour before I went home, promising I'd call the minute things started happening.

About 12 hours later, we determined we'd better head to town. Scott drove us to town, quickly but gingerly. We dropped Ben off at Aunt Vonnie's and a mere 8 hours, later Allison Lee arrived. She weighed 6 lbs. 12 oz. and was 20.25 inches long. And she was perfect. We were all relieved and ecstatic! And the best part is that Scott got to stay at the hospital with me and recuperate right along with both of us
And now, we can't really imagine life without her. She brings frou-frou and sparklies, babies and hair-ties. She's a girlie girl who can hold her own with her two brothers. She's going to be one mean girl under the basket someday. She loves to sing, play with her "People" princesses, and mother her babies. She can fry a mean plastic egg and serve it with the best-tasting "tea" I've ever tasted. She already wants to wear lipstick and fix her hair. She loves frosting and says "Thank-you Mama" for anything I give her, even if it's just a bowl of cereal. She named her male kittie "Sweetie" and she thinks a skunk is a "stunk". She's unique an unexpected but wonderful addition to our family.

Happy 3rd Birthday Allison Lee!

Mom's version of a Princess Cake

Taking of the floral jewels (couldn't eat them)

6 Layer Raspberry Vanilla Lace Cake

Tu Tu, courtesy the Farmer's Wife and family

Opening Gifts with the Tu Tu on

The Cinderella Ensemble complete with

Wand and Earrings

Necklace and Crown

And the Glass (well, plastic) slippers

Daddy kissing his princess

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guest Blogger: Dryland Corn

I know this is my wife's blog, but I asked her if I could write about our new experiment on the ranch, dryland corn.  Corn has been grown for many years out here, most of it was just grazed and never got harvested.  I decided to try corn because I am a believer in the power of a good crop rotation.  I think a good crop rotation will benefit your soil with organic matter which makes better water holding capacity. 

We all know how precious water is out in Eastern Montana.  Rain and snow is our irragation system.  This first picture is yellow peas planted into last year's standing corn stubble.  When it came time to harvest the peas this field out yielded the other fields by 7-13  bushels to the acre.  Next spring we will plant spring wheat into this field and see what it does.  Typically in Eastern Montana people fallow one year and plant wheat the next, 50-50 rotation.  We are currently planting wheat, peas, wheat, fallow.  So a little more intense.  Seven out of ten years the wheat the third year will yield as good as summerfallow wheat.  At the most 7 bushels to the acre less in those other three years.  Peas are good for nitrogen fixation, this is where the corn comes in.  It will break up that hardpan in the soil which limits how much moisture our soil can hold.  I think corn following peas, then going back to spring wheat will do very well.  We noticed how wet the soil is near the surface while the corn is growing in the field.  There should ample moisture near the top of the surface to get a good start on our spring wheat.  We planted some spring wheat into our corn stubble this last year and it came up very quick and looked good until yours truly accidently sprayed it with some roundup.  So we will have to wait until next year to see how the wheat responds following corn.  I still believe that wheat is the most profitable crop in Eastern Montana, but if you can add some rotational crops like peas, corn, or whatever.  I think your wheat will even be more profitable.
           Back to the corn.  We planted it May 20-May 23.  A little later than I would have liked, but it was very wet this spring.  We first spread 100 lbs of urea, then planted at a population of 13,000 seeds/acre with a John Deere 8 row 7100 planter.  We sprayed it with 24 ounces of roundup two times and also mixed in some liquid zinc and phosphate.  Next year I would like to put down some phosphate with the planter.  I think it will help the pop up.  The corn grew very well, started to tassle the first week in August.  We got nearly three inches of rain in August.  Not good for wheat harvest, but great for corn.  The grasshopppers got into it a little bit and trimmed the leaves on the edges, so we lost some yield there.  Of course the deer took their share on one field down by the creek.  Neat to see all the wildlife that corn attracts.
 The corn started denting the first part of September, and by October 15 it was 20-24 moisture.  I decided we would start harvesting it to get it done and we would stick it in some dryer bins.  One field of corn was following peas and yielded 51 bushel to the acre.  Not bad considering it had 5.5" of rain on it during the growing season.  It was very consistent all throughout the field.  This field was the fastest emerging one. The next two fields were following wheat and they only made 30 bushel to the acre.  We didn't get a good stand on those fields.  The last field averaged 54 bushel to the acre, and it followed chemfallow.  It was very inconsistent, as most of the corn came from half the field.  I think that ground was so wet and cold when we planted it, that the emergence was erratic.  To think that the corn came from half the field is scary, because that would mean some of that corn was making 100 bushels to the acre.  I think we can raise that kind of corn out here with some help from mother nature and tweaking of the planting and fertilization.
          We also baled up the stalks on 3 of the 4 fields.  We left the last field for winter grazing for some cows.  Not only did we cut some good corn, but we also made two tons to the acre of corn stalks.  There is still some stuff left for cows on, even after we baled those 3 fields.  We used a flail mower on the stalks, then raked it and baled it.  Kind of labor intense, but well worth the time when you are getting two tons to the acre. 
           I think corn has great potential out here.  One negative is harvesting with the high moisture and dealing with weather in late October.  By the way the corn dried to 15-18%.  The neighbors came in by the droves and got some for their calves.  We are feeding it to our calves as well.  No problem with getting rid of it though.  This kind of stuff keeps me excited about farming and ranching.  I like trying things to see if they are ecomically feasible.

peas following corn

                                            Corn in mid-July                                           Corn tassling in August

Corn standing ready to be cut

Combine in the field

Agronomists, checking out the stand

Corn feeding into the  header

Corn in the Grain tank

Out of the Auger

Into the truck

Neighbor Chuck watching the corn

Stubble standing after the combine

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Playing in Leaves

In our part of the world, trees are kind of like calm days: few and far between. For some reason, the country north of the Yellowstone River is pretty sparsely populated with both people and trees. When we decided where to place our new house, my husband and father-in-law decided that the area where the most trees are located was the best spot. And I have to say, that 11 out of 12 months of the year I agree. But when it comes time to rake all the leaves off of our beautiful trees, I think I would trade yards with any body else who lives in our neighborhood! This year because of all the fall moisture, our trees stayed green and then the cold frost is what encouraged the leaves to turn brown and fall. this morning, we decided we should do some work on the leaf lawn the trees created. I think the kids and I hauled about 14 wheel barrows full over to the compost pile, and then the wind picked up, so we decided we'd wait for the rest of them to fall before we finished the job. I did get some great pictures of the kids in the pile though! Looks like there will be plenty of leaves to work on another day.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

They're Outta Here

Every year, after the winter wheat is in the ground and the weather starts to cool off, the time comes to ship the calves. We usually contract the sale sometime in the summer, and it's usually anyone's guess whether June, July, August, or September will be the top of the market or the bottom. Most people in the general population don't understand the commodities markets that determine the prices for things like beef, wheat, and corn. But unfortunately, a rancher doesn't get to put his top dollar on his cattle and wait for the buyer to come to him. Many times, a rancher will have built a relationship with a buyer over a period of time and can usually count on the buyer to find a good price, but occasionally the buyer can't find any interested feeders and the rancher has to resort to other means to market his product.
We contracted our cattle in July, preconditioned and sex-sorted in September, so all that was left was to gather and trail the steers and their moms to the house, and then gather and trail the heifers and their moms to the "on-deck" pasture.

Last Saturday, we bundled up all the kids (after quite a few protests and insistence that pants and underarmour with a long-sleeved shirt was plenty warm enough in 20 degree weather) and headed up to the pasture on 4-wheelers, in the ranger, and in the feed pick-up. It was a COLD ride up there for everyone but Mom and Alli, who got to be in the pick-up with the heater. Once we arrived, the kids jumped in the pick-up to warm up, so I got on Haley's four-wheeler and helped with some of the gathering. Let me just say that riding a 4-wheeler in the snow is pretty fun, and man can a person spin a cookie with ease!! I think Adam was a little surprised when he arrived and saw me doing a 360 degree turn, just for fun. We got about 3/4 of the herd gathered with little effort as they were all clustered together in the bottom of the creek to ward of the cold wind, so the kids and I trailed them to the next pasture while Scott and Alex scoured the corners for the remaining cows. Once the kids were just trailing along the cows, they warmed up and seemed to enjoy the day.

Morning came pretty early on Shipping Day, Monday. We were up at 4:45 in time to get some coffee brewing, the cinnamon rolls into the oven and the kitchen ready for Karen to make her famous biscuits and gravy (at least famous in Scott's eyes). We added some eggs and juice and had a great-tasting hearty breakfast after the crew arrived between 6 and 6:30. They were out gathering by a little after 7 and had the cows sorted from the calves and everything weighed and loaded by 10:30.  The calves were all settled in the cattle pods for a trip out to a feeder in a town near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Talk about a long road trip!

Everyone enjoyed coffee and cinnamon rolls before they jumped back on the four-wheelers to gather and trail the heifer calves to the house to sort and wean. We were completely finished by 2 p.m. and finished the day with lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and peach pie. All in all a good day. The calves weighed up pretty well, the crew worked together seamlessly and we didn't have any major wrecks. Now we just have to wait another day or two for the cows to stop their complaining (although, I can see why they get a little irritated since their calves have just been weaned and their bags are getting pretty tight!) Nothing like the soothing sound of a couple hundred cows to lull a person to sleep.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Adventures in Babysitting

Last week, our family had the dubious honor of "watching" our friends little girl, the recently-turned-one, Baby Gwennie (that's what the kids at our house call her anyway). Anne had a doctor appointment in Miles City, and Eric had work to do since he was going to be taking over child care duties later in the week, so Anne called to see if we were free. It worked pretty well, since Anne lives about hour from here, and we live about 45 minutes from MC, so leaving Gwen here where Anne could drop her off and pick her up en route, made it a little shorter day for both the sitters and the sittee.

Ben and Alli were both pretty excited about the fact that they got to "help" watch Baby Gwennie. They were so excited in fact, that they ferreted through their closets (under Ben's direction) to find the "baby" toys, you know, the ones they were just way too big to play with. Ben found a couple of tractors and some blocks; Alli found some rings and a pig that never quite made it into Gwennie's hands and didn't find it's way back to the toy box either, remaining in a place of honor on the living room window sill.

Gwen came right in and was pretty excited to see all the different toys all over the floor in the living room. She was so interested in the big kids that she didn't even fuss when it was time for her mom to leave. You know, sometimes there are jobs and sometimes there are JOBS, but having Baby Gwennie here didn't really qualify in either category. The only time she even fussed was when I laid her down for a nap, and she finished her bottle and realized she was in a strange place. She didn't seem too tired, so I got her up and she played with Benjamin while Alli was napping. she finally starting rubbing her ear about an hour before I expected Anne's return, so I laid her back down and after emptying her bottle all over her hair and clothing, she slept for about 45 minutes. When she woke up, we changed her duds, entertained her with the kittens, and she was a smiling, happy kid when Mommy arrived.

I don't remember either of my kids being quite that amiable and easy to get along with. I can guarantee they're not that way now! Thanks Anne and Eric, for entrusting your girl to us for an afternoon. We'd love to have her back again for a visit sometime (and I guess you guys can come too....)