Summer

First, play this song – it all ties in, I promise!

May. I always find this time of year so frustrating. All I want to do is go home and forget about school, but I have to stay and take finals. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment – for a farm kid, this is torture. I know that right now the ducks are running around the yard eating bugs, the goats are taking their afternoon naps, and Dad is probably tinkering in the garden. The air will be thick with the smell of cut grass this weekend, as some of our neighbors are already taking the first cuttings of hay and winter wheat. This is the best time in Cassville because it hasn’t been hot yet. In late July, however, the air will be heavy with humidity and no amount of hairspray will come to my rescue. Over the summer, my kids will transform from scrawny, clumsy babies into fat, shiny bucks and does. Hopefully, the corn will be “knee high by the fourth of July” as the old saying goes, and the worms won’t fall in love with the tomatoes, as they seem to do every year. Days will be spent stretching barbed wire fences and baling hay, but it will seem like nothing when you step back and see a straight pasture and a barn full of square bales (even if you have the worst sunburn you can remember and your shirt is full of red clover!). My cousins from Virginia will come to visit, and the holler will sound like Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan hill for a few days as we engage in friendly-but-not-friendly bottle rocket fights. Late nights will be spent catfishing and frog gigging, and sweet tea will be the beverage of choice. My hands have grown a little soft since I only work on the weekends, but by August they will be full of calluses and scars once again, and the bottoms of my feet will be tough from going barefoot every day. There will be family drives through the holler to Roaring River, nights camping out with cousins, and evenings spent listening to the relatives tell stories. I always go through a sort of rebirth in the summer (sounds a little cliche doesn’t it?). Once all the hay has been cut and hauled, the grass has grown dry and sharp, and the pond is almost dry from the lack of rain, I know summer is almost over. I’m never ready to go back to classes, but I slowly ease back into the groove and look forward to summer once again. As this semester comes to a close, this is my last post for class credit. I do, however, intend to continue blogging and telling about my experiences. Thank you so much for following along with me this semester and reading my thoughts. I appreciate it!

Babies on the Farm!

With the arrival of spring (though it seems to be a little late this year) comes the arrival of baby animals.  For most farm kids, myself included, this is an exciting time.  Although it was my goats that were having the babies, I was always proud when I finally had kids.  I had waited so long, and in some cases, prayed so hard for my babies to be hearty and healthy.  I have witnessed the miracle of life many times.  Sometimes that life is snuffed out after only a few minutes, and sometimes, a life doesn’t even get a chance to begin.  When there is a life, though, I get shivers when I see that baby take its first breath and wobble to its feet that first time.  Many long nights have been spent out in the cold barn, flashlight in hand, trying to stay awake, waiting for a doe to finally decide to have her babies.  Many hours have been spent trying to teach a hard-headed baby to take a bottle, and helping to dry off brand new kids when the momma couldn’t do everything herself.  Sometimes I think that this is the most rewarding part of being an agriculturalist – preserving a life for the next generation to learn from and care for.  If this is my duty, I know that I have done it well, and I will continue to do my duty in the future.

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April, the first and biggest baby.

 

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This is the second baby, a nanny, who we haven’t named yet.

 

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This is May, April’s little sister. Her momma wouldn’t take her, so we are raising her on a bottle. She was still pretty weak in this picture, but she is strong and healthy today.

 

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Meet Bess and Betty, who were the last babies born. They are twin nannies, and are Boer-Nubian cross. We had them on supplemental bottles for a couple of weeks, but they are totally with their momma now.

 

Spring Out Here

I guess I never noticed before, but spring kind of creeps up on you out in the country.  One day everything is brown and covered in snow, and the next, there’s green grass almost an inch high.  The buds on trees burst overnight, and baby animals just seem to appear out of nowhere.  Being home for Easter was kind of a bummer since the new season is just now getting a good start at home.  I had no sooner got out of my first class this morning when my mom sent me pictures of the only kids I’ll get this year.  Leave it to temperamental, spoiled nanny goats to withhold their children until after I leave!  On top of missing my kids, my duck eggs are due to hatch tomorrow. There are few things in life more adorable than tiny new duck feet, even if ducklings are louder than a tornado siren!  At night, the spring peepers keep up a commotion in the pond, and I so enjoy seeing the mist rise off of the fields in the morning.  As you may be able to tell, I really love spring!  Yes, summer is lovely, fall is a huge  relief after the heat, and winter is beautiful, but all life is renewed in the spring.  The air is not yet muggy, and you can still smell the dirt in the air.  In a few weeks the garden will be ready to plant, and there will be no end to weeding, tilling, watering, and rock picking.  When the hay is tall, it will be cut, raked, baled, and hauled in a matter of days, only to be repeated again when the grass grows back.  When the heat of the day is gone, there will be fishing trips and barbeques, swimming in the creek and catching lightning bugs.  For now though, the nights are cool and quiet, and we still just flip through the seed catalogs.  Balers and air conditioning are far from our minds as we sit in the living room with all the doors and windows open.  We’ll enjoy these few brief weeks of spring before the Missouri heat moves in, and then we’ll pick okra and green beans, and dream of next spring.

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A new little doe just born this morning!

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Also a little doe, trying out her new legs!

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These aren’t babies from this year, but they are the same breed that will be hatching this week. You can’t see them very well, but they have afros on top of their heads!

National Ag Day

Happy National Agriculture Day! Since agriculture is so important in our daily lives, I think it is completely appropriate to have a day dedicated to those who do so much for America and the world. According to the National Ag Day website, this is a day to “recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.” We have a lot to celebrate! Agriculture is more than an industry to me, it’s my way of life. Not a hobby, but a passion. Generations of my family have passed on this passion to the next generation, and I believe that it is my duty to pass on the agriculture tradition as well.
I can honestly say that I would not be who or where I am today if not for agriculture. Agriculturalists are a different kind of people, and we learn from an early age that we only get what we work for. Agriculture taught me so many lessons; patience by waiting for my pumpkins to sprout, hope by praying that that puny kid billy would make it through the night. Agriculture taught me about the miracle of life, the reality of death, and the joy in the life found between. I got sunburns, bruises, cuts, and scrapes by working on the farm. Most of those faded, but the lessons that I learned from those bruises are still with me today. Agriculture is important not only because it feeds and clothes the world, but because it represents an entire way of life. Agriculture encompasses not only our past, but our future as well, and I will carry the message of agriculture to future generations.
Here’s the link to the National Ag Day website: http://www.agday.org/

I Finally Have my Sweet Tea

Spring break is in full swing! I came home Friday afternoon, and I am loving my days away from school! It is so nice to have real bacon for breakfast and good sweet tea with every meal! More importantly, I am getting to spend so much time with my family. The late nights watching Duck Dynasty with my brother, the mid-mornings watching Swamp People with my dad, and the evenings spent cooking with my mom have been a blessing. I am truly thankful that I have these days to spend with the people who have had the greatest impact on my life. Hopefully these next few days will go by slowly, and break won’t end too soon!

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New boots and sweet tea! Best spring break I could ask for!

 

P.S. Here is the blog of Alex Morris, one of my classmates. Go visit and hopefully you’ll like what you find! http://countrybootsandfarmgirlroots.wordpress.com/

Hurry up, Spring Break!

As I have told you before, I grew up in the country. Seven months ago, I crawled out of the hills I call home to come to Missouri State. At first, the homesickness was terrible, because I could only go home every two weeks since my car was not fixed. When that problem was resolved, I began going home every weekend. As of now, however, I have not been home in over two weeks (16 days, to be exact), and I am going insane! Don’t get me wrong, I love Missouri State, and I am having a wonderful time, but those of you who know about the transition from the small farm to the city life have some idea about what I’m talking about. As of now, I am relatively well adjusted to the life of a college student. However, with the coming of spring, I find myself wanting to go home more and more. One of the most beautiful sounds in the world is a soft spring rain falling on the baby grass as the spring peepers sing their hearts out. In a few weeks, the air will be filled with new baby goats calling to their mothers, and the ducklings will be frantically calling to the hen who is right beside them. Spring in the country is a wonderful time, and I am looking forward to Friday, when I get to go home for the first time in almost three weeks. The goat barn is coming together nicely, the nannies are fat and will be kidding soon, and the baby rabbits have opened their eyes. Spring, you have no idea how welcome you are! All I can say is that I will not be happy until my car is going over the rise on farm road 1135 and I see my home sitting on the hill. Friday cannot come soon enough!
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The new goat barn. One whole side and half of another is finished, and next comes the roof!

My FFA Journey: A Family Tradition

As some of you may know, the last full week in February is FFA week. Which is this week. In my chapter, and in many others across the nation, we coordinate different activities each day that will help to highlight the importance of agricultural education. This is the first year I have not participated in these activities, as I am in college. However, I can still celebrate the ways in which FFA has touched my life. So, as a tribute to this organization, I thought I would share with you my FFA journey.

My FFA story started long before I put on the corduroy jacket. My grandfather was a member of the Cassville FFA Chapter from about 1960 to 1962. He was a member of the meat judging team and his group went to nationals in the meats contest. He can quote all of the opening and closing ceremonies still today, as well as the FFA Creed.

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My Papa (second from left) and the meats judging team with their adviser.

 

Later, my parents were both members of the FFA, as well as most of my aunts and uncles, and many of my cousins. My older sister joined the Cassville FFA in 2001, my brother in 2005, and I joined in 2008.

When I became a Greenhand in 2008, I was a shy, quiet high school freshman. I was terrified to speak in front of a group of my peers, and I had absolutely no plans of ever making a habit of it. However, I was chosen to be the Creed speaker for my chapter, and I soon found myself standing alone at the front of a room before two judges, with my hands shaking so badly I probably couldn’t have held a thing. I only made alternate to districts in Creed Speaking, but I learned something incredibly important about myself: I have the power to become better. At the end of that year, I interviewed in front of 5 people (including my older brother!) for a chapter office and became the historian.

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The first time I wore the blue. This picture appeared in a local newspaper, and I am showing off my newly painted green hand.

Sophomore year brought many more incredible experiences. I went to National Convention in Indianapolis for the first time, attended Washington Leadership Conference, and began exploring my leadership potential. I competed on the floriculture contest and found an odd love for all things plant-like. At the end of that year, I interviewed for office again. At that chapter banquet, I was installed as the 2010-2011 Cassville FFA President.

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A picture I took in Indy. We literally flood the city each year with blue corduroy.

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This feeling is actually pretty amazing. Having so much leadership potential in one city is phenomenal, and the fact that we are all connected through the blue absolutely blows your mind. I’m pretty sure I cried the first time I saw so much blue!

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Washington Leadership Conference in D.C.

I loved my junior year. As president, I got to see every aspect of being part of the FFA. I remembered being the freshman terrified of my peers, so I could coordinate activities around that, and I had an active voice in the chapter’s activities. That year I sang with the State FFA Chorus for the last time (I had done this the previous two years) and again competed on the floriculture team. At the end of that year I became chapter vice president.

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I’m pretty much in the middle!

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Handing over my gavel

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Our annual end of the year reward trip to Tulsa, OK.

Senior year was pretty emotional right from the start. I had grown so much in my three years as an FFA member, but I still had some growing to do. I had to learn to say goodbye and be thankful for the memories I had made. I went to National Convention a final time, had a blast with friends, and expanded my SAE. I had the first place area proficiency award in goat production, and I received my state FFA degree. All of this built up to the final evening that I knew would change my life.

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Amazing times with friends at Ag Olympics

 

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My final trip to Indy. We got to meet the national adviser, who is my adviser’s father-in-law.

 

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My last FFA Sunday with Papa.

 

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State Convention 2012, after receiving my proficiency award.

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Receiving my proficiency award.

 

At the end of my senior year came the annual chapter banquet. This was when we handed out awards earned throughout the year and installed new officers. This one was different though: it was my last one. I have sat through so many chapter FFA banquets. I went to my sister’s, brother’s, and finally my own. I knew that this one would have the same ceremonies and the same customs, but I wanted to remember everything that happened. The opening ceremonies were performed, and I said the vice president part for the last time. After the meal was the slideshow, then we started handing out awards. All the time I can remember thinking “This is it. This is my last FFA banquet.” Finally, all the awards were handed out and the president handed the microphone over to me. It is tradition for senior FFA members to officially retire their FFA jacket and present it to someone who had influenced them in their FFA journey. I had written a ceremony, complete with a few jokes about my advisers and other members, and I delivered it pretty well. However, when I said “Fellow FFA seniors, please join me in retiring your jackets,” I started to cry. Hard. I was not at all prepared to leave this part of my life behind, nor was I ready to say goodbye to the only organization in which I had literally engulfed myself in. As I read those last words, I left the front of the banquet hall, walked up to my big sister, and handed her my jacket.

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Taking off my jacket for the final time. Pretty emotional stuff!

 

At this point, I was bawling my eyes out, and I wasn’t feeling like the capable leader I knew that I was. At the end of the banquet, after the new officers had been installed, closing ceremonies had been spoken, and we had saluted the American flag, I took pictures with my friends and gave my advisers the gifts I had gotten them. The entire time, all I could think about was that I was done; there is no more. It took me a few months to realize that all was not lost and that I had exerted an influence in my world that others had felt. My experience in the Cassville FFA chapter has influenced my in so many ways, including my future career as an Ag Ed instructor and FFA adviser. There truly is nothing to equal all that I discovered about myself in the FFA.

My experience in the FFA took me farther than I could have ever imagined. I walked the streets of our nation’s capitol, where I helped to make an impression on the world about the importance of agriculture. I have volunteered countless hours in community service, giving my time and effort to help improve the lives of others. I developed a valuable set of leadership and communication skills, and built a profitable SAE from the bottom up. I learned that I have infinite potential, and that I hold the key to unlocking that potential. I gained friends from all over the nation and I am a part of an international network. But most of all, I made a difference. Not a huge difference, like Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr., but a difference nonetheless. I inspired others to follow in my footsteps and discover the leader within, and I gave them a person to look up to. I grew myself, while helping others to step out of their comfort zones and announce their potential to the world. I am still the same freshman I was four years ago, but I am no longer afraid to share my potential with the world, and all the credit goes to FFA.

My mom likes to joke that she was in the FFA for eleven years. In that time, our calendar was always full and we were always staying after school or going early for an FFA event. These days, the calendar is strangely empty and I don’t have to be at school hours early or late. However, the aftershocks of my time in the FFA still affect me today. I constantly find myself referring to my FFA years, and my public speaking class is literally a breeze (don’t tell my professor that!). I will forever cherish the memories I made in the Cassville FFA chapter, and I will never forget how much I learned about myself. I wore the blue, and I made a difference. Thank you, FFA.

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Two generations of FFA members.

 

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And another two generations.

 

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One of my advisers, Ms. Epperly. She was my adviser all four years in the FFA, and she was my inspiration and a major reason I want to go into Ag Ed. Ms. Epperly (Hall!) you truly are forever my owl.

 

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We gathered most of the family’s FFA jackets to display at my graduation party. Although this is the majority, there were still a few missing. It really is a family tradition.

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