Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Power Outage is Wednesday evening, and we have been out of power since Saturday noon. Over 100,000 Iowans lost electricity in last weekend's ice storm. Because we milk cows we must have a backup power source in order to operate the milking equipment and pump water for the livestock. We have a tractor-powered alternator which is generating electricity for us. It is running right now out in the middle of the farmyard, connected to the electric pole. Husband runs it during milking time, and for most of the morning each day. He shuts it off during the afternoon to conserve fuel, and then again before we go to sleep for the night. The first tractor he used quit working after the first day.....turns out it needed a new alternator. The tractor he's using now is bigger and noisier.

The evening news is just now reporting that power in our area should be restored by Friday. We've heard that the power companies are having trouble getting ahold of new poles to replace all the broken ones. Many electrical crews from other states have come to Iowa to help out. A crew from Akron, Ohio, stopped by here yesterday to check on our situation. I'm sure it's a huge job to try and coordinate repairs over such a large area.

Well, Daughter just got home from her after-school job and needs to use the computer, so this is all from me for now. Out into the windy cold I go to feed the calves.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ice Land

I've never had a chance to visit Iceland, so , Ice Land has come to visit me! Everything outdoors was coated with ice this morning when we awoke. All the windows on the east side of the house were covered......they looked like that frosted glass you can buy at Home Depot or Menards! Trying to walk to the barn was an adventure, slipping and sliding all the way. The worst thing is all the ice on the power lines and tree branches, especially since it is windy, too. Branches have been breaking off and crashing to the ground all day. We lost electrical power around noon, while we were eating pancakes. So Husband had to start a tractor and hook up the alternator to the electric pole in the center of the farmyard to generate power so the cows have water to drink and the bulk tank can run to keep the milk cool. And that way we have power in the house, too. It took him awhile to get the tractor out as the shed door was frozen shut. The house cooled down real fast during that time. I covered up under a quilt on the couch and tried to read a book.

I didn't get much reading done as the phone kept ringing. First the milk haulers called to see how bad our road and driveway were. They were having much difficulty getting to the farms to pick up milk. Then our neighbor called a couple times trying to figure out a way to roughen up the ice in their driveway so the milk truck wouldn't slide so bad on it. Then my daughter seemed in the mood for a heart-to-heart talk about the teenage dramas going on in her life. She can't wait to be done with high school this gets that way, especially, I think, in a small high school. The kids just need to move on and meet more people.

So, I, a lover of solitude, didn't get much alone time today. Except this morning right after I got in from chores. My high school son had gone out to help Husband, and Daughter was still asleep. As I made coffee I realized it was Saturday morning and that means there's a travel show on PBS-TV. So I snuggled on the couch with my coffee and enjoyed touring with Rick Steves in northern England. He went to Blackpool, and Durham, and the Lake District. One of the lakes was called Derwentwater. That made me remember a book I had read many years ago, a historical novel by Anya Seton, entitled Devil Water. One of the characters in the book was the Earl of Derwentwater in Northumberland, England. If I remember correctly, the word Derwentwater actually meant "Devil Water", hence the name of the book. Rick Steves also visited the ancient cathedral in Durham, built around 1100 in honor of St. Cuthbert. A lifelong fantasy I've had would be to somehow fall in step with someone who would take me on a cathedral tour of Europe. That would be fantastic!

Peace and blessings!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Winter Storm Warning

My, how quickly the weather can change! Bright and sunny yesterday, and today is overcast with a strong south wind which seems to go right through even the heaviest coat. The forecast includes a winter storm warning for the whole weekend. Fun. My daughter's band group is supposed to get back from Chicago tonight around midnight. I pray for safe travelling for them. Wow......I just saw a flash of lightning in the west! The first lightning of the spring. And the sleet has started.

Yesterday afternoon, Husband managed to get his silo unloader put back together up in the silo. He carried the 60 lb. drive wheel up the chute ladder 60 feet to the level of silage. He would go up 5 rungs at a time and then stop to rest. Needless to say, he is now complaining of a sore back.

The past couple of days, I have been putting pictures, etc., up on several walls that have been bare ever since we did some remodeling last year. We built on a family room and redid the kitchen. The whole thing is kind of like a "great room". We really like it. But, the bare walls have started to bug me lately, so last week I bought some nice decorative items on sale at Penneys and Gordman's. And I've been searching through things stored away here at home. In the process I found a little print I had purchased many years ago on a trip out west. It's entitled "The Prairie is My Garden", by Harvey Thomas Dunn, an artist from the Dakotas. I'm pretty sure I bought it at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. A paragraph on the back of the print says, "it portrays the Dakota pioneer woman's determination to cope with the harsh elements of the prairie, and her love for the beauty of the land." I love the is of a mother and her two children out gathering wildflowers on the prairie near their homestead. You can see it at . I may order a larger print sometime, or maybe one of the artist's other prairie scenes.

Well, I need to bundle up and head out into the sleet to feed the calves.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lenten Thoughts

Yesterday, my 14-year-old son asked, "Mom, what are you giving up for Lent?" It's not really traditional with us Lutherans to put emphasis on giving up anything for Lent. But, sometimes we try. Two years ago I successfully gave up soft drinks for all of Lent. No doubt it is good to do something like that, for health reasons, if not for spiritual.

In the newspaper last evening, there were some good Lenten thoughts from a local Catholic pastor. He said we should give up things like judging others, using bad language, or being selfish. "We are talking about attempting a real change of heart. A change of who we are---rather than just the discipline of trying to give up some thing.", he said.

Later in the article, an Episcopal pastor is quoted as saying, "The tradition of going without involves removing distractions and dependencies to make room for something better." That would fit well with the idea of fasting from bad habits like being judgmental and selfish. Make more room in our personalities for kindness and caring. I don't know if just giving up some material frill like soda pop is going to make much of a spiritual difference. Maybe it will if we have the right mindset about it. When I gave up pop, I should have made an effort to do something spiritually enhancing like reading a Bible passage, or saying a prayer, at the time I ordinarily would have had a can of pop to drink.

It is bright and sunny here in Iowa today, although with a nippy north wind. The sunshine beckoned me outside for an afternoon walk. It's fun to once again be on the lookout for the first robin of spring!


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ashes of Wednesday

What a sunnybright Ash Wednesday! Lent begins, and a hint of spring is in the air. Much snow has melted the last couple of days, leaving the farmyard full of slushy ruts and tire tracks. It's wet during the afternoon hours, and frozen slush at night and in the morning, making walking hazardous.

I was awake at an ungodly hour this morning, 3:00 a.m., in order to drive my daughter to school to embark on a band trip to Chicago. She has been very excited about the trip, but was not too keen on getting up so early in the morning. She just now phoned me from their hotel in downtown Chicago; they will soon be heading for the Art Institute. There's so much to see in Chicago! I'm excited for the kids.

Husband is having difficulties with the silo unloader again this morning. He was doing quite a bit of yelling during milking this morning.......just to let off steam. Our one dog must have thought Husband was yelling at him, for he kept trying to hide behind our oldest dog. It was if the old one would be able to offer any protection in the first place!

The drive wheel of the silo unloader is broken, that is the problem. The drive wheel is a starlike-shaped thick block of cement with metal casing. It is very heavy, so it is with alot of difficulty that Husband removes it from way up in the silo. He growled, "Who do they think I am.....Hercules Fix-it?!" It will probably take most of the day to gets the repairs done, throwing the normal cow and heifer feeding schedule out of wack for the entire day. The forecast for Husband's mood will definitely be cloudy and stormy on this Ash Wednesday!

Here is a helpful thought from the February 20 entry in Corrie ten Boom's book Each New Day:

"There is nothing anybody else can do that can stop God from using us;
the fault always lies in ourselves. We can turn everything into a
testimony. Even opposition can become an open door."

It's all about attitude. That is something I need to remember on a daily basis, and am trying to instill this mindset in my children. The other day I bought a little wall plaque which says, "Opportunity is often Found in the Middle of a Dilemma." I hung it here on the wall above the computer where the kids will be sure to see it. My daughter commented on it right away that first evening.

Look for the silver lining!

A blessed Ash Wednesday to all.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Miss Kitty in the Dryer

This morning a household tragedy was avoided. When I went to the basement to get my chore coat and boots on, I noticed the clothes dryer door was open. I figured Husband had opened it to retrieve his chore sweatshirt which I had thrown in with a load of towels last evening. Figuring the towels might still be a bit damp, I started to close the door so I could start the dryer. At the last second I happened to reach in to feel the towels, and felt something furry. It was our darling little housecat, Miss Kitty, asleep on the towels! Oh, my. How awful if I would have just shut the door, started the dryer, and headed out to the barn! Later, in the barn, I teasingly asked Husband if he had been hired by one of our dogs to bump off Miss Kitty, by staging a freak accident!

Until a few months ago, I had always been very much opposed to animals living in the house, so we had never had a housecat. But then one morning late last summer, there was a faint mewing sound in a shrub near the house. There I found a tiny, adorable, abandoned kitten; probably born to one of our wild barn cats. I couldn't bring myself to not take care of her, so she became a member of our household, and was given the very original name of "Miss Kitty". We all love her. A shallow plastic tote down in the basement is her litter box, which she figured out right away. Maybe all cats are that smart, I don't know. Miss Kitty is sitting on my lap right now, purring, as I type at the keyboard, and listen to James Taylor's CD "October Road".

Monday, February 19, 2007

Surviving "Senior Night"

Last Thursday evening I had to endure "Senior Night", a silly ritual supposedly meant to "honor" parents of senior basketball players and dance team members. My dance team daughter had phoned me from school that morning saying "Mom, if you don't come, I will look like an idiot!". Whatever. After rushing through evening calf chores and trying in vain to coax my hair to lift and look perky, off to the dreaded event I went. The gym bleachers were full of people on the home side, so I went over to the other side and sat down. I dislike trying to find a seat in a crowded's almost like a phobia for me; a feeling which stems from my childhood when I had to step onto a crowded schoolbus every morning. The bus seats would be full of kids, mostly older and snotty, who would just sit there and stare at if to say, "why are you here?". So, it's a discomfort that returns whenever I have to enter a crowded place and look for a seat.

Luckily, the place I chose to sit was next to one of Husband's cousin's kids, who now has kids of her own. It was fun to catch up on the news of that side of the family. Too soon, however, over the loudspeaker came instructions for the senior parents to line up out in the hall. Then, as our names were announced we parents had to walk out onto the gym floor to meet our senior child, hug them, and receive a wilty yellow rose. Oh, I know, it sounds like a wonderful parental experience, but I don't care for being in front of an audience, standing there in line with all the working moms who have perky hair! But, it satisfied my daughter. It should be encouraging and heartwarming that she wants to be seen with me, I guess!

On Friday, I ventured to town even though the temperatures were still below zero. While unloading the recycling items, I slipped on the ice and fell, dropping a pile of magazines which went blowing around in the wind. My arm caught on the corner of the recycling bin, giving me a sore shoulder for a few days. Nothing serious. Had fun shopping the rest of the day. I'm magnetically drawn to the word "CLEARANCE"; much time was spent at store shelves and clothes racks labelled as such. And, as always, there was a lengthy grocery list in my purse, so I couldn't head for home until that shopping task was done, too.

Over the weekend, the weather improved, with temperatures reaching into the 20's above zero. Felt like a heat wave!

I found another old book stuffed away in a cupboard. A tiny worn volume entitled God's Message: A Book of 365 Daily Meditations for Home Worship. A hand-written message inside the front cover indicates the book was given as a marriage gift to my great uncle and aunt by a pastor in 1942. I've been trying to read the messge for each day. The one for February 14 was well worth pondering for me:
"In playing upon a harp, it is said, it requires as much skill to know
upon which strings to place the fingers to stop their vibration as to
know which strings to strike to bring out their music. Life is infinitely
more musical than a harp and the heart is capable of greater
harmonies than all the instruments made by man.
What we need so deeply in our lives is the uplift and comfort of peace,
and that is to possess a singing soul. We need something to keep
our soul in tune and that is to know what to include and what to
exclude. Outward trouble and commotions there may be which sweep
across our lives but they are powerless to invade that inner
Just as the ocean may be wind-swept and storm-tossed, but the waves
sink no further below the level than they rise about it, while
underneath are the tranquil depths where the myriad life of the ocean
goes on. This our peace:........God's greatness flows 'round our
incompleteness, 'round our restlessness His rest."
(by Rev. Charles Woodcock, St. Matthews, Kentucky)
My goal would be to improve knowing what to include and exclude in my life. And to better recognize and appreciate the presence of the "tranquil depths".
Peace to you this day.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thoughts from Old Books

Wow, it is extra frigid outside this morning....10 degrees below zero! Weather report says tomorrow temps may reach 20 above, so I think I'll wait until then to go grocery shopping. The Schwan's truck stopped this morning......I should have asked the driver if he's able to shut off the refrigeration system in his truck in weather like this. There's no way that anything would thaw.

All yesterday afternoon Husband snored contentedly on the living room floor, so I had to find something quiet to do. I ended up digging into a cluttered corner of what we call the "computer room", AKA "toy room" when the kids were little. It's really just a catch-all room, home to many piles of items/junk that I have allowed to accumulate over the years. The corner I worked on contained things like old pads of paper, construction paper, sketch books, cardboard pieces.....things the kids would use to play "office", etc., and do artwork. I would save things like that for them. Maybe it had an influence, as my oldest child is now an art teacher. But there's no excuse for me to still have that stuff sitting around as dustcatchers. I rummaged through it, throwing quite a bit away, and keeping some of it in case I ever have little visitors, or future grandchildren. On a shelf I also found some old books, probably purchased at a rummage sales years ago.

One of the books is entitled The New Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Quotations, published in 1957. I remember now that I bought it from a pastor. Since yesterday was Valentine's Day, I looked up "Valentine" in the book. There were just two entries for it. One was a quote from Noah Webster:

"The fourteenth of February is a day sacred to St. Valentine! It was a very odd notion, alluded to by Shakespeare, that on this day birds begin to couple; hence, perhaps, arose the custom of sending on this day letters containing professions of love and affection."

So maybe our Valentine customs don't come so much from St. Valentine, as from some other natural tradition, which happened to coincide with the yearly remembrance of Bishop Valentine.

Another old book I found in the cluttered corner was 1000 Inspirational Things, compiled by Audrey Stone Morris, 1948. The foreword page stated:

"Here is a collection of great stories of the human spirit, of soul-searching essays, of beautiful, inspired poems and of stirring thoughts by outstanding thinkers and doers.
Surely every home has need for such a volume--a volume to give us a lift when a lift is needed and to bring forth in all of us "diviner feelings kindred with the skies."

What a great thought!

Here is part of the first entry in the book, a poem called "Hold Fast Your Dreams" by Louise Driscoll:

Hold fast your dreams!
Within your heart
Keep one still, secret spot
Where dreams may go,
And, sheltered so,
May thrive and grow
Where doubt and fear are not.

O keep a place apart,
Within your heart,
For little dreams to go!

Sounds like a nice description of what a journal, diary, or blog could be to its owner.

The next poem in the book is entitled "The Common Tasks" by Grace Noll Crowell. There's wisdom and encouragement in the lines, especially for any person who at times questions the worth of her/his tasks. As a stay-at-home wife and mom, I've definitely been there and done that......

The common tasks are beautiful if we
Have eyes to see their shining ministry.
The plowman with his share deep in the loam;
The carpenter whose skilled hands build a home;
The gardener working with reluctant sod,
Faithful to his partnership with God--

These are the artisans of life. And, oh,
A woman with her eyes and cheeks aglow,
Watching a kettle, tending a scarlet flame,
Guarding a little child---there is no name
For this great ministry. But eyes are dull
That do not see that it is beautiful;
That do not see within the common tasks
The simple answer to the thing God asks
Of any child, a pride within His breast:
That at our given work we do our best.

I confess my eyes were often dull when I was a mother of young children. Especially when it came to that task of "guarding" the little ones. Here on a busy farm full of dangerous machininery and corn fields to get lost in it was a constant responsibility, and hardly was the beauty apparent. It just seemed very tiring. Anyway, I found the poem to be moving and relevant to life.

Well, I must get away from this keyboard, for there is a kitchen to sweep, a dishwasher to fill, and laundry to fold. And my high school daughter just phoned to tell me I need to show up at school this evening for an event. That means I will need to hurry through evening chores, hurry to get cleaned up, and hurry to get to school on time. Hurrying is not one of my favorite activities.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Deepfreeze Valentine's Day

What a lovely, bright deepfreeze day! The bottle calves are doing well in this very cold weather. As long as they have enough straw for bedding and enough to eat, they seem to be fine. One heifer calf, Lily, had been acting a bit droopy, but this morning she stood up quickly for her bottle and drank enthusiasticly. All of the female calves get a name, because they will be raised to become milk cows in a couple years. The male calves are raised for beef.

The milk truck comes every other day to pick up our milk. This morning I visited with the driver for awhile. The same family of drivers has been picking up milk here for over 30 years, so we know them pretty well. He told me that he and his wife attended the ultrasound viewing of their first grandchild last week. The other grandparents were there, too. The baby is a girl, so now everyone can start shopping for pink items! It's obvious that he is very proud and excited to become a grandparent!

It is so sunny today, and yet so cold. Even knowing all the scientific reasons for such a contradictory situation, it is still amazing to me that the sun can pack such a warm punch in the summer, then appear just as bright on winter days, yet with little warmth. I spent quite a bit of time outdoors after chores this morning. Our old van, which sits outside all the time, needed to be started and moved. That old thing looks terrible, but runs great and always starts, no matter how cold it is. I loaded it with items for recycling; newspapers, magazines, glass, plastic, cans. Maybe tomorrow I will take that stuff to town and get groceries. I also hauled trash to the burnpile, and walked several laps around the bins. Lately, the cold weather has been my excuse for not taking a daily walk. Shame on me for being a wimp. A few years ago, I started taking a long walk outdoors everyday. I would recommend it to everyone who is able.

Finally, I got back into the house. Decided to wash and mousse my mousy hair, so maybe I will look halfway decent when Husband gets in for lunch. Like he will care. But, it makes me feel better, and it is Valentine's Day, by golly! Yesterday, a radio reporter stated that American men will spend an average of $120 on their "loved one", and women will spend $85. Wow. Husband and I clunk into the basement on that one. We never buy each other anything for Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

High School Basketball Games

Yesterday I mentioned going to a basketball game. One of my high-schoolers is a player on the freshman and JV teams. There were home games yesterday right after school, so I decided I'd better put in an appearance before the season is over. It's not that I don't want to watch my child play, but I simply do not overly enjoy attending sporting events. For one thing, I usually have to go by myself, because Husband has farm chores to do. Also, I find sitting for hours on bleachers to be very uncomfortable, physically and socially. Like yesterday.....when I got to the game, my father-in-law was there, so, to be nice, I went and sat by him. Soon, I regretted it, because he kept grumbling and complaining about the way the team played. And he would say players' names out loud, even when their parents were sitting nearby and could hear. It made me wish I had worn a sign saying "Even though he's family and I'm sitting by him.....that doesn't mean I agree with what he's saying!"

He's an example of what I feel is wrong with the middle school and high school sporting situations. Adults take it all way too seriously, and young people pick up on that and become the same way. Maybe there is something wrong with me......that could be it......I lack some sporting gene. I could care less most of the time who wins or loses or throws a bad pass or takes a lousy shot. I just don't care. Fortunately, last evening at the game, sitting on the other side of me was another "could care less" mother. Most of the time, I conversed with her and ignored my father-in-law.

Morning Chores

Brr! It's great to get back in the house on this blustery, snowy day. The wind howled all night and I almost expected a school cancellation, but there wasn't enough snow blowing for that to happen.

So I got unbundled from my heavy chore coat, soggy gloves, and boots. The mirror reflects my usual winter after-chore image......flattened hair with a few strands animated by static, face reddened by the wind. The coffeemaker is my next stop, and then here to the computer.

The E-Blogger info site states that some people blog to organize their thoughts, so maybe that is why I am blogging. That must be the reason, for I don't really expect many people to read this blog.

Anyway, here's what morning chores consists of for me......I go out to our barn where Husband is in the middle of milking 80 cows. With the scraper, I clear away whatever manure piles the cows have dropped behind themselves. I push the manure into the gutter behind the cows. Then I go to the milkhouse and fill bottles to take out to the calves. Calves drink milk from a bottle until they are 7 to 8 weeks old, and are in individual pens during that time. Right now there are 16 calves on bottles. A few days ago there were 22 on bottles, but we weaned 6 the other day. That means six calves were old enough to discontinue bottle feedings and be moved into a pen together where they will be fed grain and hay and drink water from the waterer. The newly weaned calves usually are not happy about the loss of their bottle and they beller loudly for days whenever they see me. I also make sure the bottle calves have enough straw in their pens for bedding, and grain to eat.

Husband just came into the house growling because he has to climb up inside our tallest silo to remove the unloader gear box which just quit working. In this very cold weather, working in the silo is no fun. Husband came in to don long underwear, insulated coveralls, a ski mask, and warm gloves. He will then climb up the ladder inside the silo chute, remove the gear box so he can take it to town to be expensively repaired by workers in a warm shop. After it is repaired, Husband will have to return the gear box to its place up in the freezing silo. This is the kind of fun that a dairy farmer has on a regular basis. After all these years of being with Husband, I have learned to tune out most of the resultant grouchiness and negativity. There is nothing else I can do since I have no control over machines breaking down or cows getting sick or low milk prices, etc. More on all of that another time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Initial Blog Post

This blog will contain thoughts from me, a lifelong farm girl, now experiencing the ups and downs of midlife. Husband is a dairy farmer. We have four children, one launched in a career, one in college, two in high school. The empty nest looms.

I don't know much about blogs. Maybe this one will be read by very few people. Which will pretty much reflect my life situation.......isolated and known by few. Most of the time, that is fine with me, as I tend to have hermit tendencies, anyway.

The name for this blog came to me about an hour ago when I was out helping Husband sort steers to sell. Whenever he announces, "We need to go sort steers", I cringe inside, for you never know how its going to go. Will the steers cooperate? Will one of them decide to run me over, finally. You just never know. So with a barn scraper as a weapon, I marched once again into the midst of steer sorting. As I waited for Husband to open and shut the maze of metal gates leading to the steer pen, I tried to think of a name for this blog. I happened to be standing under a light pole, and am also at midlife age, so the words "Midlife by Farmlight" came to mind.
The steer sorting went fine. Husband and I and our three dogs managed to guide three big guys through the snowy barnyard and into the stock trailer. Fortunately, the fresh snow was not too slippery, and all went well.

This above paragraph is an example of what this blog will contain. Just everyday occurences on our midwest dairy farm. As a farm wife and person in general, I am not very ambitious or motivated. Most days I do well to just get calves fed, laundry caught up, and some semblance of meals prepared. An off-the-farm career would be beyond my comprehension or energy level.

That's all for now, as I need to go to a basketball game.