Last week we returned from a glorious nine day vacation to Lake Cumberland, Kentucky.
Yes, we are one of those that traveled during COVID-19. Don't worry, we spent eight days on a boat with just the four of us, so we were more social distanced than we would have been at home.
It can be difficult for farmers to take vacations, but if you haven't been able to tell, it is sometimes harder for us to stay home than it is to get up and go.
When we leave the farm, we don't just leave the dog behind, we leave a whole bunch of animals that need to be cared for.
This week Isaac turns the Big 1-8.
I know...he will officially be an adult. The good news is...he has one more year of high school so I don't have to give him up just yet.
2020 has changed us all. Isaac has lost out on a lot of opportunities, but doors have also been opened for him to do things he wouldn't have been able to do if this year had been normal.
One big change is that he is now a working man. Isaac has always been a hard worker,,,he just gets an actual paycheck now.
His eighteenth year will be one with lots of changes. He has one foot in his childhood and one foot inching toward his adult life.
As I do each year, I sat down with Isaac to get some insight into what is going on in that head of his.
If you missed previous years
I can't believe my baby turns 15 this week!
Time keeps flying by and he is making me feel older and older.
I asked Walker if he wanted to do his birthday interview this year, and he said yes. He is definitely a teenager and had trouble getting past the one word answers, but I will take all the teenage conversations I can get. He may not let me do this next year...
The last few years we have had to deal with a lot of mud here in Ohio. When working on the farm or trying to bale hay, mud is not any fun.
However, there are times that mud can be fun...like when you get to play in it.
Being cooped up inside with working and schooling from home was getting to all of us, so we decided to take advantage of the warmer weather and get outside to soak up some much needed Vitamin D.
Honesty can be defined as the quality of being truthful.
It may be a given that we should always be honest and truthful, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Honesty is so important to God that He made it one of the 10 commandments.
We have always told our kids that it is better to be honest and risk getting in trouble than to lie and be sure they are going to get in trouble.
You would think the stay-at-home orders would give me plenty of time to spend outside and enjoy the farm.
Well,,,working from home, more hours than I ever did at work, actually means I rarely leave my desk. Looking back at last week, I took the dog out Wednesday morning, I went out to the garage to get some paint supplies on Thursday night, and I finally walked back outside Friday night to visit with the neighbor over the fence.
So no...I am not really enjoying the occasional days of sunshine. I can actually go days on end without stepping outside my doors.
Which is why the absolutely picture perfect Saturday, was an outside every second I could kind of day.
Each year I like to look back at the show season to reflect on what we have accomplished, but most importantly to look at what we have learned.
We have been at this Miniature Hereford thing for a little over 10 years now, but we are still learning. Learning about cows, learning about showing, but most importantly, learning about ourselves.
1. Less is more
This year we went to a lot fewer shows that we normally do, and not because of COVID-19. It was an accidentally planned decision.
We had every intention of showing in the Ohio Cattlemen's Association BEST program again this year. Isaac even went to Iowa to buy a heifer specifically to show this season. However, our plans quickly changed in November...just a few weeks before the season started.
The BEST season usually begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends in March with the Ohio Beef Expo. This year, there were some schedule changes with two shows being eliminated, including the one on Black Friday. To be honest, we were really excited about the change. It meant that we could spend Thanksgiving with family that we don't normal get to spend the holiday with. We enjoyed it so much, that we think we will keep this holiday tradition going, even if they do bring back the show the day after Thanksgiving.
When Wesson won Reserve Champion Bull in Louisville, we had to really rethink our plans. With Denver being on our bucket list, we decided this was the perfect year to attend the National Western Stock Show.
But then we looked at the BEST season schedule. The first show was on gun deer hunting weekend. The boys really, really wanted to go hunting. You can see why here and here. Then they saw that we would miss another show if we went to Denver. It was then that we decided to not make the BEST season a priority this year. We would probably go to one or two shows, and of course we would be there for the Ohio Beef Expo, but we wouldn't put pressure on ourselves for the other shows.
You might think this was a hard pill to swallow for ultra competitive Isaac, but he was really the biggest advocate for not showing in the BEST. We are all tired. We love showing, but after over five years of a very busy winter show season, we are getting a little burnt out. We knew it would be really hard to give our all for the National Western and still give our all to the BEST. It took some time, but it was a decision that we were all comfortable with.
As the season progressed, we really enjoyed some extra time at home. Time to get caught up and just not be so rushed and spread so thin. As friends would call us from the show, we would always hang up the phone and say "I am glad we are not going to the show this weekend." As the dates came around for the few shows we had intended to attend, the boys just didn't feel like going, so we didn't push them.
The end of the season was taken out our of control, and we really did want to attend the Ohio Beef Expo, but we are content with the shows that we went to this year.
We only attended two shows all season (Louisville and Denver), but they were bigger shows that took a lot of effort and work. We did well, had fun and were able to come home to rest, recover and enjoy the experiences we had.
This doesn't mean we won't show the BEST next year. My guess is that they will be itching to show by next November.
2. Denver is a long way away
It took us 23 hours to drive to Denver, Colorado over two days. It was a loooooong trip.
We were very fortunate to not have much bad weather and the trip was pretty uneventful. However, I never thought we would get there...and I am sure the cows thought the same thing.
We were gone from home for 11 days. It was an awesome trip...but we were all very ready to be home.
I am not saying we will never go back...but it certainly won't be a trip we take very often. It takes a lot of time, planning, work, money and vacation time. It is a trip we will never forget. I can't say it's a once in a lifetime trip...just maybe a once every five years trip.
3. Tackle that bucket list...even if it doesn't make sense
When we made the decision to go to Denver, it really didn't make any sense. We made the decision to go about 3 days after registrations were due. Part of that was because it was Thanksgiving weekend and I was too busy cooking for family to look into travel arrangements and decide if we could afford the trip.
We got home from Thanksgiving and I started looking into the costs and what all we needed to do in the next six weeks in order to get ourselves to the show. It was all very overwhelming. The kids were in bed and we hadn't given them a definite answer on whether we were going to go. I was getting ready to hit confirm on our show registrations and I looked over at Daniel and said "how are we going to pay for this?" He said "I don't know...we'll figure it out."
So I entered the show.
We started to make phone calls to figure out what we needed to do, where we could stay along the way, where we would park the trailer and all those other little details. Every time we got off the phone with someone, we just shook our heads with that deer in the headlights look.
There were just so many details. But, we are planners and all that planning paid off. We had some hiccups along the way...like driving into an ice storm...but everything worked out. We had plans and contingency plans for those plans.
As we look back at that trip, we have no regrets. It may have cost us about double what we thought it would, but we will treasure the memories for a lifetime. We have videos, memories, laughs, good times and bad times that no one can ever take away from us. We are watching our kids grow...especially Isaac...and know that our time with them, and the opportunities to take trips like these are quickly slipping away. From the moment I hit confirm on that registration, we knew this was the perfect time to take the perfect trip.
4. Everything is different on another farm
While we were in Denver, we had the opportunity to board our cows at another farm for a few days. We have been out West several times and know that things are different out there, but I don't know that it all really sank in.
We live in a perpetual mud hole called Ohio. We were kicking up dust clouds in Colorado in January. We were very confused. But, it prompted us to ask lots of questions.
The ground is so different out there. We squish around in mud and struggle with places to keep our cows because we destroy all the grass if we leave the cows out on pasture in the winter. They struggle with growing grass at all and buy hay from out of state by the semi load. They can only graze their cows one time on a pasture because the moisture levels and species of grass are just different and do not replenish throughout the year.
We also learned that feeds are different. The grains and feeds that are available out west are completely different than in Ohio. So, we can ask someone in Colorado what they feed their cows, but it probably won't work for us here in Ohio. Their hay is different than ours, which in turn provides different nutritional values, which in turn means they have different grain needs than we do.
We also learned that the VitaCharge Stress Tubs that we can find at any feed store can't be found anywhere near Denver, Colorado.
We can ask all the questions we want, learn all we can, but that doesn't mean it is going to work for us here in Ohio. And what works for someone in Colorado, probably won't work for someone in Texas.
5. There is always a silver lining
Just when we thought we had all our plans made...COVID-19 happened. We were a week away from our first show in two months...our last hoorah of the season...and the Governor changed all our plans.
I will be the first to admit that I was angry. So much time, effort and money down the drain. Not to mention, we have some pretty awesome bulls that we were excited to get back in the show ring.
But...it was all out of our control.
If you know me, you know that I am a home body. I wasn't all that disappointed at the slower show season this year because it meant I got to stay home more. But, we were all devastated when the news came down.
Right now, we don't know when we will be back in the show ring. Our county fair hasn't been cancelled...yet...but we aren't allowed any face to face 4-H activities until two weeks before the fair starts.
We have all lost a lot, and we can moan and groan about it....I have already done a lot of that...but it isn't going to change anything. We have to find the silver lining...and there always is one.
We will look back at this time in history and say "I wish we could have done...", but we will also be able to look back and say "because of, I was able to do..."
For us, we have been home. We have been home far more than some have liked...but we have been home. That means we are accomplishing great things right here on our farm.
For now, the focus has been fixing up this old farm house we come home to (or never leave) every night. The boys are learning to stain and paint...and Isaac has determined he will never buy a fixer-upper. But...their rooms might finally get finished...for the first time in their lives.
We have been able to focus on the health of our herd. Again, that is always a challenge in the never ending Ohio mud season. Being home all day has given us a chance to really examine our cows...to fine tune our program...to make things better.
Why isn't she chewing her cud?
How did that bull get in that field...oh, we need to fix the fence.
Barbie is in labor!
And last night, Isaac and Walker got to see kittens born for the first time.
As my mom always says...
This too shall pass.
Six months from now, I hope we are all looking at a different future. A future bright with possibilities and another show season on the horizon.
Our show season was very different this year, but we still learned valuable lessons..and most importantly...a lot about ourselves.
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The past two weeks have been life changing for the entire country. With the COVID-19 pandemic confining us all to our homes, our lives have come to a screeching halt.
But I am not complaining. I am a home body, so someone forcing me to stay home is not at all a problem.
I am still working full time remotely. I have mixed feelings about it because while I haven't done my hair in over a week, I am working more hours than I ever was at the office. I am still working on a balance and trying to force myself to get out of my chair on a more regular basis.
The below picture is the desk where I now live. This is our office/laundry room, so between work and laundry, I rarely leave this room.
As a whole, we are enjoying our time together and the rare opportunity to stay at home. We are far from bored and have accomplished more in the last two weeks that we probably have in five years.
Last weekend, Walker was consumed with the Ohio Beef Expo auction that had to be moved to an online only format due to cancellations.
We couldn't keep him away from the computer. He had his eye on his heifer that was for sale. We couldn't even pull him away from the computer long enough to eat his dinner.
This past week was technically spring break, so Isaac didn't have any remote school work. Walker on the other hand was busy every day with online school work.
Isaac used the extra time to work for a neighboring farmer taking care of the herd and building fence. He is used to sitting in a school desk all day, not working eight hours. One afternoon I left my desk long enough to find him passed out on the floor. Still not sure why he chose the dog bed, but it must have been comfortable because he was out for an hour and a half.
One by one we are checking items off the long list of home improvement projects that have needed to be completed for years.
This is not one of them. Daniel was down trying to clean the basement and noticed a stream of water coming from the ceiling. The washing machine was leaking and had been for some time. The washing machine was about 15 years old and needed some other repairs, so we decided to bite the bullet and buy a new one.
We visited a local appliance store and bought a new washer. The only problem was it wasn't going to be available to pick up until Tuesday. Daniel was really nervous that we were going to get the stay at home order, so he asked if we could buy the floor model. Thankfully, they agreed. We brought the washer home on Saturday and we received the stay at home order on Sunday afternoon.
Then they had to wrangle the old washer out and the new one in. That is no easy task when it has to go through four doors and be lifted over the bathroom sink as it is being pivoted. Thank goodness for teenagers.
Once he was able to get back to cleaning the basement, he installed a new coat rack.
If you remember, this was what I wanted for Mother's Day. Better late than never.
This is for all the hunting/winter/water gear that has been taking up precious closet space. None of us had any idea how much stuff we had!
My closets are very thankful and I wish we had done this years ago.
The next big project is tearing up the carpet at the top of the stairs to refinish the original plank boards underneath.
Our house is 115 years old, but almost all the original character has been replaced. Several years ago we tore up the carpet in our bedroom to reveal a beautiful floor underneath. We have been dreading the mess for years, so have just put it on the back burner.
But I can't stand that nasty pink carpet any more.
Under the carpet was a layer of old linoleum and then a layer of newspaper.
Look at the date...seventy-three years and one day to the date of that paper. When we refinished our bedroom floor, we found newspapers from exactly 70 years to the day of when we tore up the floor.
The wood floor had been painted with a brown paint.
These were rough cut board that have a lot of character...including some knot holes. You can see they used an old tin can lid to cover up one of the holes.
Then the sanding began.
It wasn't nearly as bad as the last time...because this time we rented the vacuum that attaches to the sander. I didn't have to clean every floor, wall and ceiling in the house.
The floor is all sanded and a few repairs made.
I have started the polyurethane process, but have to time it so that the floor is dry when we need to go to bed.
Next up is painting, trim in the entire second floor and finishing the floor in the master bath that was supposed to be done seven years ago.
I never said we were fast.
The boys have been enjoying the warmer weather and spent some time having fun.
None of us know how long we will be at home, but we are certainly enjoying our time together and the opportunity to get some things checked off the list. Pretty soon it will be time to get out in the garden and fields, so we are trying to get the inside stuff done while we still can.
The 2020 pandemic will go down in the history books and we are trying to create some memories as a family to remember the good times together.
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We have had some extra time on our hands lately. We may not be staying home because we want to, but it has actually been a blessing in disguise.
As you know, we tend to run ourselves ragged with jobs, school, showing and life in general. This kind of schedule isn't very conducive to the farm life. Many times, our busy life means the maintenance of our farm and herd gets put on the back burner. The thing that screams the loudest is what gets done, and the cows don't do a whole lot of screaming.
This hectic schedule is O.K. for a while, but at some point we have to stop and take care of the daily maintenance items before everything is broken and sick.
I'll have to admit, more times than we like, we are reacting to the emergency instead of working to get ahead of the problems.
This past week has been interesting...
To say the least.
As the Coronavirus has spread, so have the cancellations of schools, mass gatherings, and life as we know it.
Included in the cancellations is the Ohio Beef Expo.
But the sale will go on!
Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.