Oct 13, 2017

The Rules of #Real


Social media is here.

I don't know if you've noticed or not. I hope you sense my sarcasm.

In fact, it's been here. 

I was thinking the other day, that I've been on social media for roughly two thirds of my life. It dates back to the MSN messenger, AOL messenger, Xanga and Myspace days and then onto Facebook when my college was one of the first networks created. Before Facebook came along, my friends and I were already using instant messenger statuses as a way to share what we were up to or the latest group of song lyrics that applied to our current life situation at the time. I remember always crafting an 'Away Message' before leaving my dorm room.

Social media has become a way of life especially as it now fits into the palm of our hands 24/7. Whether you're on a blog, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, Pinterest and many other channels, it's how we search for information on a business or person, look for today's headlines, discover new products and communicate with our loved ones and... not-so-loved ones. Whether we like it or not, we have all become influencers. Unbeknownst to us, we are crafting our own personal brand by what what we share and how we share.

However, in a world where some are still reading print newspapers and watching local TV stations, we still look at social media as this realm of entertainment or information resource and communication tool hat doesn't count.

But it does count. Oh, how it does.

Much like fashion, photography, design, the food industry, automobiles, farm machinery and technology, social media hones trends that are constantly changing. From what channels are popular to use to how we should share things whether it's through photographs, writing, video or memes, if you don't stay up with the latest trends, your voice will get lost. If you go to a Facebook or other social media workshop, the content of that workshop is relevant for the month, if that. That's how often trends are changing. It has become standard for companies to hire outside contractors to consult with on social media trends and many even have in-house staff members whose job is to run the company social media channels. That's yesterday's news but so many people to this day still roll their eyes at the mention of careers in social media.

People are constantly preaching about what kind of content should be shared and not shared. With social media, we've become extremely personal. Complete strangers may know more about us than our best friends or family members. Social media has given literally everyone a platform if they so choose to use it; politically or not.

However, as we've become personal, we've also become unreal. We hold off sharing good news and large purchases as we don't want to appear as boasting. We bite our lips as we erase an emotional post about a hardship or struggle we may be going through because we don't want to come across as an emotional basket case. We are afraid that our struggle or blessing may be menial to someone else. 

Jul 20, 2017

A Break from the Norm


As of Monday, our first wheat harvest is in the books!

Many of you have driven across some of the "I" states and see a lot of corn and soybeans growing everywhere. That's what we are known for. We grow corn and soybeans. We are good at it.

Occasionally, you'll drive past a field of wheat. I hope it leaves you as breathless as it does me.

I instantly want to stop and start singing, "Oh beautiful.... for spacious skies... for amber waves of grain...." But I don't. Because, well, my singing is bad enough that my cats will bite me if I start.

Wheat is a beautiful grain. It dries out to a beautiful golden color that creates a gorgeous contrast across the horizon.

It's a grain that has changed society to the way we know it. It's the foundation of our history.

I'm amazed at how such a small kernel can come together with others to feed such a large amount of people all across the world. It's a grain we truly take for granted.


Jun 22, 2017

Because Corn

IMG_6288.JPG

For almost twenty years and my entire childhood, my dad sold Kubota tractors. Every night, he’d pull just past the driveway and then back in with a piece of equipment on his trailer ready to deliver or demo to customers in the morning.

There wasn’t a day, even on weekends, you wouldn’t see my dad in his orange Kubota hat. Owning an entire fleet himself, he loved the product that he sold. If you want to see my dad light up, just ask him about Kubota tractors. He always said if you sold and promoted an honest product you loved, it sold itself. Even in a tough market where everyone was use to red, blue and green paint, dad loved selling his products and was successful at it.

Now, I get to grow and market an honest product that I absolutely love.

Corn.

Corn.

I get giddy just thinking about it.

A good friend once asked me why we grow so much corn and what it was used for.

I didn’t know where to begin. When it comes to corn and other crops that we grow, there are endless possibilities ranging from food, animal feed and fiber to fuel and everything in between.

May 10, 2017

Necklace Give Away





Much like the things I have to decorate my home, I really enjoy clothing and jewelry that tell a story. Especially jewelry.

I recently came across a new line of beautiful beaded and whitetail antler necklaces created by Emily at OnTheWildeSideDesigns. I explored her Etsy shop a few times. I found myself admiring her work even more every time I visited. I swooned over all the different designs and colors.

May 1, 2017

Rainy Days and Mondays



Growing up, my mom use to listen to the Carpenters and right now, I have the song, Rainy Days and Mondays in my head.

Getting into a groove here at our farm has been difficult this past week spring.

We witnessed a really mild winter which left us pretty anxious to get in the fields and work ground for #plant17. However, if you get into the fields in February and March, you risk those temperatures cooling down again as well as a late snowfall. Working ground too early is oftentimes wasteful because your soil will get re compacted over time and you'll lose that nice fluffy soil bed. We spent our time slowly working on equipment maintenance and getting things ready to go. I enjoyed some of the early nice weather as I worked in my landscaping and mowed the yard. 

Last week, we finally made the decision to get into the fields. Just a day later than last year according to my Facebook timeline. Things went well for a few days. We had two of last year's soybean fields worked for corn and even got just a little bit of seed in the ground! Morale was up and life was good. We were looking forward to the weekend and getting a lot done.

However.

Everything came to a screeching halt on Friday afternoon. It's been raining off and on since then. We have been pretty fortunate as we've only had a few inches of water compared to some other parts of the state and county who have witnessed 6-11 inches over the weekend causing a lot of flooding which may result in a replant. Some major storms passed through over the weekend and we are also fortunate they did not hit us as hard. We did not have any damage online our neighbors out west and up north. 

Feb 18, 2017

These Boots





It was May 2008.

My now husband had invited me down to his farm for our second date. I had never been to his house before. I slowly pulled in the drive and walked anxiously up the sidewalk to the front door taking it all in. He greeted me at the door with a huge grin wearing a Hollister t-shirt, a crisp pair of bootcut Levis and a pair of sneakers.

I walked into his old farmhouse and I took off my shoes. I placed them on the floor of the mudroom next to a pair of worn out Red Wings. The leather was rough and the toe was worn out where you could see the steel toe peeking through. I noticed a tin of Red Wing mink oil sitting on top of the upright freezer above. I smiled, wondering if these boots ever saw a drop.

But that didn’t matter.

You see, I learned very quickly.

These boots, they’re special. They’re a rare breed.

They’re the boots of a 4th generation farmer.

They’re purchased once every two years and when a hole starts wearing in the sole, it’s time for another.

He never tells me when it’s time for a new pair.

They just show up. Right next to the door, like that loyal old friend. Like clockwork. Same size. Same style. I really don’t even know what happens to the old pair. I suppose they go to old farm boot heaven.

They’re like family, these boots.

In fact, I’ve gotten so use to them that I forgot how special they were.

Until tonight.

I had just walked up from our backyard. My husband had recently came home from working and was sitting on the tailgate of his truck in the shop. It was a nice, unusually warm day for February. He was covered in dirt. The dog was covered in mud. He looked tired. But happy.

He climbed off the truck and went in to clean up for the evening. I put a few things away outside. As I rounded the corner back into the shop, I walked in and stopped.

The sun was shining in on the tailgate where he once sat.

And in his place sat those boots. 

Jan 5, 2017

Sacrifice for Solution



This past year, whether you watch the news or not, you've heard a lot about politics especially with the presidential election. It's been everywhere. It still is. As time goes on, eventually people will go back to what I like to call their regularly scheduled programs. Who was elected will eventually be forgotten and most will go back to living a life we all take for granted. We'll forget that there are real people giving up so much to work endless hours for us.

My sister in law who lives on a ranch in Western Kansas with her husband and three kids, however, will not be going back to her regular scheduled program anytime soon. This year's election has effected their lives in a way most of us will never understand. Sometimes sacrifices must be made so our voices could be heard. 

From the moment I met Christine and my brother in law Adam, I knew they were people I would look up to. They are hard working, very active in their community and do an amazing job parenting my nieces and nephews. They'v been great role models for us.

After taking their photos when we were out visiting for Thanksgiving in November, I couldn't help shed a few tears while editing.  I was inspired by their humility and wanted to write a post about the changes and sacrifices my sister in law and her family are about to go through but I thought it would be more impactful coming directly from the source.

I invite you to enjoy a very special guest post on living in the moment, sacrifice, servant leadership and what it means for our rural voices to be heard. 

---

LIVING IN THE MOMENT has taken on an entirely different meaning, as our family heads into our last week of normal here on Willow Creek. Many of you may be unfamiliar with our story, so I’d like to share glimpse of our life with you. My husband, Adam and I own and operate our family’s ranch in Western Kansas. Along with raising cattle, wheat and sorghum hay, we are also raising our three children, Austin (8), Kaitlyn (6) and Allison (4). As any parent also realizes, that also includes attending activities, teaching Sundayschool, and doing a lot of the “everyday” things that most parents do. In addition to all that our crazy family life has to offer, my husband and I are both politically involved in our community. I serve both as our county treasurer and as a school board member, while my husband just wrapped up 8 years of service as one of our county commissioners.

As I mentioned above, life as we know it will change on January 9th, as we begin a new adventure. We have taken each opportunity these past few months to soak up as much family time as we possibly can, playing games, snuggling, and providing opportunities for memories to be made. I am proud to say that on January 9th, my husband will be sworn in as our district’s State Representative in Topeka, Kansas. For any of you familiar with Kansas geography, you will note that Topeka is just about as far east as one can get from the small, rural Kansas community of Weskan. Because of the distance, many of our friends, neighbors, and other curious individuals have asked me what life will look like for our family once the legislative session commences. Others have just bluntly stated, “So, I supposed you are all moving to Topeka?” While we aren’t moving, we have found ourselves making many preparations to help lessen the 365 miles between the state’s capital – and our home.

Our experience will begin in early January, with Adam [temporarily] moving to Topeka until the end of March. The legislature takes a recess for the month of April, giving legislators the chance to travel their districts and speak to constituents. Adam will return to Topeka in May for a (hopefully short) wrap up session. We are very fortunate that our children only attend school Monday through Thursday (as our district operates on a four day week). This incredible schedule will grant us some flexibility to travel to Adam, spending longer weekends in Topeka when “Dad Time” is needed. Although not the same, Face-time and phone calls will provide our children opportunities to share the stories of the day with their dad. The same will be true for our conversations. Weekends will offer opportunities for Adam to come home, as schedules and weather permits. As goes with ranching and farming, there is always something that needs attention. In our case – and as normal, time will be prioritized between family and the ranch.

Jan 2, 2017

New Year, New Planner: EC versus Heart of the Farm


Sometimes we have to live a little out of our comfort zone.

This may mean we have to give up something we love to try something else... which is why trying new things is so hard.

I have been using Erin Condren planners for the last three years. I absolutely love them and would recommend EC to anyone wanting to organize their life down to the months, weeks and days. I love the customizable colors, the layout and the extra pockets. The only downside is the cover starts to get a little loose and fall off towards the end of the year. You can easily put it back on, but after a while, it becomes a pain.

I don't spend a lot of time browsing Instagram but every time I do, I always discover a new product or something to try. This is probably why I don't get on Instagram very often... A few months back, I was on Instagram and came across a thread giving away a Heart of the Farm planner. Being that we live on and run a farm, I was instantly intrigued. As I furthered my research, I discovered that this planner was designed and sold by a fellow farm wife and entrepreneur. I loved her story and instantly wanted to give this planner a shot but I was afraid to give up my EC planner.

After sitting on it for a few weeks, I took the plunge and not only ordered myself one, but my mother in law as well. She's really involved in many organizations, helps out her parents and grand kids with appointments and works a different schedule each week. Not to mention she keeps us fed during the busy seasons on the farm. Normally, she keeps her schedule on a wall calendar at home and I thought it was time she try using a planner she can carry with her.

My planner arrived beautifully packaged like a gift. I wish I would have taken a picture of it! It was so beautifully packaged that I didn't have to wrap my mother in law's for her birthday. I just tucked a card underneath the ribbon.

Much like the EC planner, there are many features and list-making functions. Heart of the Farm caters toward the farm life with some unique features such as field meal planning, freezer inventory and a new farm scene photograph and quotes at the beginning of each month to remind us how lucky we are to live the lives that we do.

Nov 10, 2016

Rural America





Rural America.

My home. 

My passion.

We face some crippling issues. Drugs, jobs, safety, education, infrastructure, agriculture, health care, poverty and small business are among many of the issues I had in mind when I voted for my elected officials on Tuesday.
We are going to talk politics for one second. This is my blog and this is my voice

My educated husband and I both work full time. In our spare time, we advocate for and grow the food and energy our world consumes. It's our passion and our calling. We do it on ground that's been in the family for four generations. 
We voted for the right people who will protect Rural America. The place we call home. We voted for the people that will keep it possible for those who want to farm or own a small business here. For those who want to raise and educate their families. 

We voted for those who will give the military the resources they need to protect us and provide for our veterans.

I'm sorry for those who call that hate

Instead of wasting days protesting against so-called 'hate' and burning our American flag, tutor a child. Help an old farmer bring in his crops. Coach a little league team. Get a part time job and save for your dreams. Visit a nursing home. Bake a pie for your neighbor. Detail your grandma's car. Mow someone's lawn. Babysit for a busy mom. Serve on a board of directors. Adopt a family for Christmas. Pick up the trash along the roadsides. Buy a coffee for a lonely man with your last dollar. Help a widow pick up sticks.

That's what we do here. In rural America. That is how you show love. 

You won't see us protesting in the streets. You won't see us skipping class or work because we didn't get our way. We have work to do, people to love and a community to save.

You can learn a lot from rural America.

Oct 17, 2016

New Venture



PCSarah Straeter Photography

Ever since I was a young kid, I had a passion for art, design and writing. When it comes to art, writing and design, I've experimented with just about every medium possible. Well, besides welding. And ice.

During the long winters in Indiana, between going to basketball games, sledding and riding the snowmobile through cornfields, you would find me holed up in my room at my parent's farmhouse coding websites, journaling and creating digital illustrations in Microsoft Paint.

After finishing college with a degree in General Studies with an emphasis on Graphic Design, I graduated from college during a horrible job economy. I had two choices. Take what I could find in the area or move away.

This Hoosier girl wasn't moving away.

In fact, I ended up 10 minutes from my parents on 120 acres in a barn house I designed, married to a farmer in a little river town without a zip code.

I always struggled with what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Job-wise, I took what I could get for the next several years as I did some free-lance design and writing work on the side. I've sold fasteners, worked in a retail, loaded trucks, wrote service tickets at an ag dealership, supervised a diesel shop and assisted at our county Chamber office.

One weekend I was going through my office at home and found some boxes from my old room at my parent's I hadn't touched in 12 years. Inside was a book called, The Meaning of Life, I was going to toss into the Goodwill pile.

But I hesitated.


Oct 8, 2016

New seasons. New support.



When one thinks of the seasons, they think of  Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The seasons that dictate whether or not we wear a jacket or plant flowers.

Most of us don't realize that our lives also have seasons.

Our lives are made up of a series of seasons.

We may not have fun names for them like Spring or Summer and they may not appear on the exact same months on a calendar every year. The seasons of our lives are very tricky.

There is not a calendar for life. We don't know when our current season will change.

As human beings, we are impatient. We want things to happen now. We want what our neighbor wants. We get discouraged when we are not seeing results. Sometimes we are enjoying the season we are in, but annoying leaves start falling in our yard. Or it starts snowing.

When we become impatient, we start acting and thinking with our emotions. We take our emotions and we use them to beat ourselves up and sometimes we beat up others in the process. While we are busy beating ourselves up, we are missing the beauty of the season. In the fall, it might be getting chilly, but I sure do love the beautiful colors and I cherish every second. We do the same things with our lives.

In order to be happy with what we have and who we are, we need to come to terms with the current season of our lives. Your current season may not allow time for you to get to that home improvement project, your boss may not have the funds to give you that raise or it just may not be the right time for you to go back to school or there may be a person who just doesn't fit into your current season. As we wait for that next season, we have to adapt in our current environment - much like we must put on a coat in the winter to face the cooler weather or plant flowers in the spring when it's warm.

I think one of the hardest parts about facing a new season is realizing there may be some people in our lives who aren't experiencing the same weather you are. It's hard for us in Indiana to understand what those are going through in Florida with Hurricane Matthew as we bring in our corn and soybean harvest in the crisp, cool, gentle air.

Sep 19, 2016

Images become Words



Stories begin when an image translates into words.

This is one of my favorite images from a recent wedding I attended. The couple had gotten up to go get their food. I turned around and saw Mike’s jacket and Tana’s veil resting on their chairs in the back of the barn.

I snapped a picture of this moment because it was the beautiful beginning of the new chapter in this young couple’s lives. Even though they were not present at the table, their belongings they left behind reminded me of why we were all gathered together to celebrate the love these two had for each other.

Images cannot be heard and sounds cannot be seen. Think about that; and how our senses work together in telling the stories of our lives.

How are you telling your story?

Are the words, sounds and objects you leave behind delivered the way we would like others to perceive them?

Jul 30, 2016

Broken



Former President George W. Bush gave a speech at the Dallas police memorial.

A statement he made really stood out to me and resonates with something I've been struggling with internally for several months. Even years. More so now, than ever.


Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.


I've had this struggle of judging broken people when they're at the worse. When they've hit rock bottom. When they need me [you] the most. 


We also do that as a country here in the United States of America. We judge people when they are completely broken.

The last two weeks, I watched the Republican National Conventional aka the 'RNC' and the Democratic National Convention aka the 'DNC'. 

In my 30ish years of living, this is the first political convention coverage I have watched in full. I don't have any to compare it to. I was never into politics but my interest has increased in the last few years. However, now, as a young adult with a home, a business, a community, a State and a country I love so dearly, I want to be more involved and informed.

After Hillary gave her speech Thursday evening and many late nights staying up to watch the keynote speakers, I woke up yesterday morning after the DNC was over with and thought to myself, okay, now it's time to get back to my regular scheduled programming

But what's regular scheduled programming? The time between Memorial Day, the 4th of July and political conventions? A time where we forget our Patriotism and our civic duties as a United States citizen? Is regular scheduled programming when we temporarily stop caring until we need to again? Is regular scheduled programming the day after the 4th of July when most people take their American flags back down?

Needless to say, like most of the country, I am disappointed in the way both parties turned these conventions into a contest. However, if you talk to someone who has been following politics forever, supposedly it's always been like this. Things just seem exceptionally bad. The name calling. The finger pointing. There are so many issues going on in the world right now and no one is going to be able to fix them over night. I know more about Donald Trump's and Hillary Clinton's skeletons than know about my best friend's or husband's. We dig way too deep into a politician's closet of the past.

The thing is, I don't care about Donald Trump's or Hillary Clinton's skeletons.

We put far too much pressure on our politicians to carry a perfect life.

We put far too much pressure on our politicians to be the one to fix things

Some think our political parties are broken and that they have hit rock bottom. BECAUSE we put so much emphasis on those skeletons.

However, the answer is not to abandon them during a time we are needed the most.

What would you do if your best friend or loved one was putting themselves through something so awful that no matter what you say, you can't get through to them? Do their actions make you feel guilty by association?

Do you just give up?

The answer should be no. We don't give up on people or groups because they're broken.

We must live our lives by example so we can provide a manual to help fix the broken.

My presidential candidate is not perfect. I don't expect them to be. They were once broken as we all have been. I know that if elected, they will continue to learn by example.

My beliefs are not perfect. At one time I thought they were, but as I continue to listen and learn from others, I realize we must meet in the middle. We must compromise.

We all come from many different walks of life. Of course we are going to have opposing views.

But how do we compromise on beliefs that are polar opposite?

[ w e   s i m p l y   c a n 't ]

That question leads me to believe that as a country, we may always be broken. We will never be perfect.

And that's okay.

That means we have 

freedom of speech.

But.

Those on the right have lost their freedom of speech because our beliefs are not always politically correct.

The fact that our nation was founded as 

one nation under GOD

is now considered to not be politically correct. 

What?

So now I have to worry about offending someone with the my American Flag and Christian values.

That, my friends, is what's broken.

"It is from this engagement and deliberation of opinions regarding our political processes that our democracy and freedoms are upheld. While we may not always agree, it is through a healthy exchange of perspectives and experiences that we strengthen our service to the principles that founded our great country." --Mayor Blair Milo, La Porte, Indiana 

Now it's time to go back to our regularly scheduled program. You know, the one scheduled on July 4, 1776.

Jul 6, 2016

Skinny Moscow Mule

Almost a month ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to North Dakota to visit friends Jenny at Prairie California and her husband Mark (Also known as @sunflowerfarmer on Twitter!). I took away so much from our trip to North Dakota. Jenny is as fabulous cook and always on top of the latest trends. North Dakota was beautiful and we enjoyed learning about the agriculture, the German Russian heritage and the way of life on the prairie. However, one of my favorite memories is sitting in Jenny's kitchen for hours chatting away. 

As we were chatting, she whips out a copper mug and asks if I ever had a 'Moscow Mule' before. I had heard of them but never actually have one. Before I could answer, she's already whipping one up!  

Jenny slides the copper mug across the counter and I take a sip of one of the most light, refreshing drinks I've ever had.

That's when I fell in love.


Jun 29, 2016

Life Unfiltered


A lot of people wonder what farmers do while their crops are growing. With today's technologies like GE seed (otherwise known as GMOs), the herbicide Round Up and crop monitoring apps, we are able to leave the farm, share our stories and engage with the rest of the world.

After work last night, I traveled to our state's capitol and spent today serving Indiana Corn and making decisions that impact all of us farmers and the industry we love. I love it but this introvert is exhausted. My husband spent the day helping a customer with his combine. No lunch. No dinner. And a smashed thumb. He's exhausted.

No matter what our days are like, we always get to come home to our 4th generation farm to carry on a legacy.

And that's our ‪#‎unfiltered‬ story.

I may not always have time to write a blog post but with tools like my iPhone, I can take a minute to share a little bit of my world on various Social Media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Sometimes people need just that. A quick glimpse into someone else's world to better understand a situation.

Farmers, ranchers and other rural dwellers need to share their story. We may never completely understand what goes on in the city and those who live in the city may never fully understand what goes on in the rural areas. However, I have dreams that with social media, we will do better at connecting and understanding each other. We will someday work together and build a better place for us all to co-exist.

The generations of folks removed from the farm increases as our communication barrier decreases. We have everyone literally at our fingertips now.

We must all come together to share in each other's needs.

That was the point of starting this blog, Old Blue Silo back in 2011.

I wanted to share a little piece of life on a small 4th generation Indiana farm with those who have been removed. I wanted my readers to understand that things are just not done the way they used to be. I don't stay at home and can, quilt and hang my clothes out to dry while my husband drives an open cab ractor in overalls and a straw hat.

I wanted to connect with other farmers across the country like myself.

I have done just that.

I've made connections off and on the farm. I've built a small community. A safe place where readers who come back time after time know they can ask questions about agriculture or the rural lifestyle.

It didn't happen over night.

Advocating for the rural lifestyle and agriculture has not always been easy and it's still not. There have been many late nights and early mornings. Lots of traveling. Many tears. There's been more sacrifices than I can count. I've had to give up many things but at the end of the day, I know I'm doing exactly what I am meant to be doing.

I know that attending a Farm Bureau board meeting after work, reading a CNN article, listening to a podcast on leadership, or writing a blog post here at Old Blue Silo is far more important than that next episode of the Voice or whatever people are watching these days. 

Do you know how many of my 951 friends on Facebook posted about the Brexit and the situation over in Europe? 

One.

One, you guys.

We are already spending time online. We are already watching something or reading something. We are already visiting with people. Why not make the things we do high impact? Does what you do have meaning? Do you share your passion with others? Do you talk to the same people all the time or do you network with someone who is different than you?

Don't just let the days and a filtered world pass you by. 

I once thought ignorance was bliss.

However, I quickly learned that ignorance is lonely.