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Where did your footsteps take you today and what kind of footprints did you leave behind?

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This past Sunday Matt and I got to attend a special church service. The little church (very near where we farm and ranch in Kansas) celebrated 125 years! His grandparents were pastors there at the time they were killed in a car accident in the 1960’s. The message of the sermon was about footprints. My mind immediately began racing about the steps we take and footprints we leave in our farming and ranching choices. The bulletin for the service was titled “Celebrating Northbranch Heritage”; every farmer’s heritage is determined by his choice of footsteps.

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(I didn’t have a picture from when the kids were little of boots – but this one is darn cute!)

I can’t help but think of how BIG some guys feet are and how ADORABLE toddlers are when they try to stand in the boots of those big men! Those young people are shaping their hopes and dreams based on the footprints we leave. Are we constantly stumbling? Are we walking proudly? Are we taking scary paths? Are we taking time to let them follow closely?

Just to lighten this up a bit…I guarantee, several times a week, we step in a pile of poop. When you have cattle in pens, there is bound to be a footprint in a cow pie. There are various ways to then clean those boots or shoes – just make sure you do before heading in the house! And I know I have attempted to step over an electric fence, only to lose my balance and get a zap on my inner thigh – yep, go ahead, laugh along with me! It’s all one can do when that happens! I hope our kids see when, in life, we figuratively “step in the poop” and learn from our mistakes! I also hope they notice that younger kids are already looking to them as an example and they REALLY need to carefully select their path!

Matt and I have been blessed with some pretty amazing footsteps to follow & we have blazed our own path a few times & all we can hope is that our “heritage” is meaningful in some way decades from now. Regardless, those who know us, are not a bit surprised by the spot in our path where there are tons of prints all in one area…those are the times we are dancing!

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The amazing, delicious donuts my Mom made for all of us on Sunday.

Now that I have your attention… LOL!!! I really have nothing to write about the donuts – I shared their story of Facebook. I just had to post the picture one more time. 🙂

As I write this, people, especially young people, are arriving in Indianapolis from all 50 of the United States, as well as Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some 55,000 FFA members and sponsors will be here this week for the 2012 National FFA Convention. Some will arrive by plane, some by bus, and may God bless our drivers, our kids came by van. 3 loads of them.

I have the distinct pleasure of helping sponsor the Sandy Creek chapter – all 20 (ish) of them. The nerd in me just did the math; that is .0363% of the attendees. Not 3%, .03%. Wow!

What an encouraging site to see – kids that are excited about agriculture and leadership! I will fill by blog this week with pictures and stories of what’s going on. For now – here is a picture I took Sunday afternoon – offering up a little serenity to my fellow sponsors. 🙂

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As you can easily see, it has been far too long since I last blogged! When I first started, I had all kinds of excited things to write about – mostly because I hadn’t already used them as topics. I see and hear things throughout the day and think, “Hmm, wonder if I can make that interesting for any of my readers?” Well – I should have, but summer has consumed me!

So, since Mother’s Day when I last wrote…We have done normal family summer things (or at least normal for OUR family). We enjoyed the Nebraska Junior Beef Expo where seven different breeds of cattle are represented & everyone has a great time competing in contests and showing their cattle!

Kaydee did VERY well in every speaking-related event & on sire-summary quiz. Lots of first place garden hoses and gift certificates!

We also got to celebrate turning the big 4-0 with some cousins who did the same this year, visited lots of family at a family reunion the next day & saw my mom with a cast on her arm. My mom had never broken any part of her body before….it has been made certain – as amazing as she is, she is not invincible!

One of my favorite people to visit with at that family reunion is Uncle Pip. He has made his way into his 90’s and is as sharp and witty as ever! Pip is my Grandma Emma’s brother & I hope I am as fun as him when I get up in years! He was super excited to tell me all about his Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. He was in total amazement of everything he got to see. He showed me this picture of him at the WWII Memorial.

Our big trip for the summer was all the way to Hutchinson, KS where Kaydee and Emmet got to participate in the North American Junior Red Angus Event. I am SO proud of ALL of the kids who were there from all across the U.S. Families showed up from as far away as Pennsylvania and Oregon! All of the kids have a really great time working together, competing against one another, showing, and just hanging out. Lifelong friendships are definitely made at events like the NAJRAE!

 

Friends….Iowa, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Kansas.

 

Finally, we have done all of our standards. Matt and his crew of young people have built miles of barbed wire fence. I have been super busy at my job. We have enjoyed a few strawberries from the patch we started. We have done a LOT of praying for rain. We have been breaking feeder calves to lead. The lawn has needed mowed a few times. We regularly check the cattle in the pastures. We put embryos in cows. We continue to try to control musk thistles in the pastures. I have kept some really pretty flowers watered and alive. And, we absolutely love summer & everything that goes with it!

County fair starts later this week…can’t wait!

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First and foremost, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mama’s out there! That goes for those of you who are wonderful influences on kids even if they are not your own, too! I love hearing my kids and their friends refer to different moms…Mama Shawna, Mama Caldwell, Mama Linda, and on and on. We all know, it takes a community to raise a child, right? That is especially true in farming and ranching communities. We all know and look out for one another.

A good mama cow nursing the embryo transfer calf she is raising.

Hopefully all mom’s out there get treated to either going out to eat or having their family cook for them. And hopefully, they appreciate the wonderful food grown by America’s farmers as they enjoy their special day. I know that my kids, my husband, and myself will spend a portion of Mother’s Day in some good, quality, cattle working, family time, which I LOVE! We will also take supper to my Mom’s to enjoy with my brothers and their families. My sis is a new mom for the third time, so she is going to enjoy her Mother’s Day at her own place with her 3 little ones…if she is really lucky, her husband will take the kids out for a few hours and she will get treated to a MUCH needed nap!

Me & my kids.

Kaydee recently worked with a gal at CommonGround to put together a Mother’s Day letter to me. I have nothing funny to say here. In fact, after she did this, she immediately called me and told me the things she said were sure to make me cry…darn her!  She was very kind to me and I am so thankful to have been raised by an amazing Mom who was the best example I could have ever asked for in how to be a strong and gracious woman & how to be a good mama. And, it appears, at least as of now, Kaydee thinks I am an o.k. mama, too…coming from a teenage girl, all I can say is, “WHEW!”

 

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Oh the anticipation of summer approaching! And in our area, that last day of school seems like it should be ever closer, as our daily temps have been really warm and joyful and oh, how the spring fever has set in! I think every young person, and at least in our house, parents too, LOVE summer vacation from school!

So, here is a picture of what Kaydee and Emmet get to look forward to over the next couple of months:

Yes, that is a whole load of upper body workout, right there! Besides raising cattle and farming, we have a fence building business and Kaydee and Emmet are the summer crew. Each and every one of the nearly 700 posts on this load will get set in a hole and tamped in place. And of course, they love it! (I am saying that because I know they read my blog and I really want to implant that thought into their heads regularly…they love it….they love it! Heehee)

Actually, they have told me in way too many conversations that they really like working with Matt. He is WAY more fun than me when it comes to hard work! And, he pays better! Well, I know this: they do have alot of fun on the job site. But, more importantly, they learn not only how to correctly build a fence, but how to work with a customer to meet their expectations, how to start and complete a job, and how to set a fair price for the work and materials. In the end, they are rewarded financially for the hours they put in and they get a little shopping trip with me. 🙂

Nearly every kid I know in rural America is no different from Kaydee and Emmet when it comes to work. They learn from a young age how to respect equipment and animals and what it means to earn a dollar. And believe it or not, many, many of those kids wish to return to rural life upon completion of college. HHHMMM….I think we might be doing something right out here in rural America!

I am concerned as a Mom. I am VERY concerned as a Mom! Why you ask? Because the United States Department of Labor is considering regulation that will prevent kids like Kaydee and Emmet from working like they do before they are 16. I know I did all kinds of work from the time I was old enough to know what was going on – as do most farm kids. I am terrified of that opportunity being taken away and snuffing out that fire that burns in the gut of any young person who truly yearns to return to production agriculture. Comments have been made and representatives have been working hard to allow kids in the future to do what has brought so many of us to the point we are. Now, we wait…

And the last posts have come off the truck:

The coolest thing happened with this load of posts…we acquired a new cat! There was a pregnant mama cat burrowed in the pile of posts. She had ridden nearly 5 hours on the truck. Of course, we need a few good mousers around the place & just our luck, the driver assured us that this cat is quite well fed & we should not plan on her putting much of a dent in any mouse population. Darn! Oh well, she’s cute. 🙂

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Why would anyone call their self gumbo? Because it fits, that’s why! This is me with Audrey:

I told Audrey her story would make it to my blog sometime early last week after our plane ride together on Monday evening. Well, my schedule was pretty full at the 2012 Cattle Industry Convention and my attention span was not conducive to sitting down and writing. Finally, Audrey, here it is…

So, why, do you ask, is Audrey’s story worth sharing? Well, first of all, I think EVERYONE has something worth telling. Audrey is one of those ladies who absolutely loves life and glows with joy! I don’t even know how to describe my first impression of her – I was on my second very tiny plane of the day and really didn’t care if anyone sat beside me because the seats were so small. Down the aisle comes this beautiful woman, dressed in a gorgeous coat and business suit with a dress hat, and right beside me, she sits. Well, here we go…cordial greetings are exchanged and I can tell right away, I knew the flight from Chicago to Nashville is going to go by quickly. 🙂

Audrey grew up in New Orleans, one of 14 children (I hope I remember that correctly). She was more than familiar with farm  life from when she was a kid. Her dad was a postman and her mother ran a tavern, which they lived behind or above or someplace very nearby. Audrey learned to cook at a young age and loves all kinds of good food! Alright, I know that isn’t all that special – everyone loves some kind of food. Now, Audrey has raised 10 children of her own and it’s one of her sons who has become the favored cook in her family. I heard all about their Thanksgiving dinner of ham, chicken, turkey, grits, salads, desserts, and her favorite, black-eyed peas! Now, you have to read that imagining a beautiful, passionate southern voice to make it resonate. I have to admit, I was a little sad they didn’t have prime rib, me being the beef person…

Audrey has lived in Chicago now for many years and her family completely surrounds her – in the townhouse building that she owns. To hear her describe it, her children and grandchildren have made it a wonderful place and her favorite spot to hang out – at the bar that one of them built-in! 🙂 Just because one is 77 years old does not mean they should stop enjoying a Heineken or nice glass of Crown Royal – That piece of advice from her is one I will certainly take to heart! That family celebrates birthdays to the extreme – plated dinners, decorations, the whole works!

Audrey has worked all of her life, retiring only 5 years ago. She has raised her own children, all of whom have college degrees, many of them, Masters Degrees, and now the grandchildren are well on their way to being highly educated. Besides her own brood, Audrey has helped along all kinds of children from their neighborhood and the school where she worked. In her words, “Everyone remembers me and how I helped them.” She took all of her kids on vacations (usually in two shifts/place because of age & quantity, LOL!) and visited every place in the world where her daughter was stationed while in the military. She is so fortunate!

I discovered that sisters over the age of 62 (that is the minimum age for attendance at an annual gathering, as their children are not allowed to know what they do) can have a very, let’s say, risque, party – ANNUALLY! A number of years ago, the sisters started having a pajama party the last weekend in October – four years ago, the lovely ladies started adding some paid entertainment to their party & they all continue to look forward to that weekend every year! Now how is that for motivation to keep going in your golden years?!

So, to wrap this up, getting back to the whole “gumbo” comment. Audrey told me that she is part Native American, part French, part Jamaican (I think) and part Black. Those are all her words. So I said, “Oh, you’re just like me, a mutt!” She says, “being from Louisiana, I like to call myself gumbo.” Gumbo couldn’t be more fitting, and I couldn’t have been more inspired by her sweet southern voice and passion for everything in her life.

Audrey, I hope you get to read this and I hope you enjoy many more years with your wonderful family! Thank you for your family’s service to our great nation and thank you for being a wonderful, charming example to so many people!

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As a person who was raised to love God and family, in that order, I especially cherish Christmas time. Do you remember as a kid searching for where your parents might have hidden your gifts? Oh, I do! My brothers and I waited for the day we knew our parents had a tax appointment and wouldn’t be home when we got off the bus from school. Yes – we thought we were pretty much the next closest thing to Magnum P.I. (only us products of the 80’s are going to get that one, heehee) in solving our own little mysteries! And, what an anticlimactic experience to know what I was opening on Christmas morning…I only made that mistake of actually peeking at the unwrapped gifts one time! Gosh – I did enough speech and drama in school, that acting shouldn’t have been totally difficult, but the element of surprise is pretty challenging to show if it isn’t genuine!

I got a chance on Sunday to wrap gifts for our family and friends while Matt and the Kids were deer hunting and checking cows. It’s good to have that task done, but more importantly, I got to have what I wanted going on TV, not to mention eating crazy combinations of food for my meals, like having wine with nachos for lunch. Yum! Being a girl with time alone (every once-in-a-while)…gotta love it!

As much as everyone loves a fun surprise as a Christmas gift, no one wants surprises when it comes to their food. More and more, it seems, people want to know how their food was grown, where it came from, who grew it, and on and on. This year, more than ever, farmers have been making a concerted effort to explain farming and food production. As 2011  comes to a close, I am in awe as I think of all of the blogs, tours, town hall meetings, videos, TV and radio interviews and dozens of other efforts that have taken place between farmers and consumers throughout the year. I can’t help but be excited for opportunities to arise in 2012. As more people leave the farm to pursue other interests and fewer of us are left to grow the food, we need to work hard to explain our work more often and more thoroughly.

I am so thankful I have the opportunity to participate in programs like CommonGround where I feel I am truly helping bridge that gap between farmers and consumers. Plus, I get to meet all kinds of awesome people from all over the country – you know who you are! 😉

So, my Christmas present to anyone reading this???? (Sorry if I’m ruining your Christmas morning surprise from me)…  My continued dedication to do things right as a caretaker of the land and livestock, resulting in the safest, most delicious, food you can get from South Central Nebraska and North Central Kansas. And…more blog posts to tell you what we are up to on and off the farm. 🙂  Thank you so much for reading!

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