Friday, February 27, 2009

A Different Perspective

I feel I’ve been very fortunate to be able to grow up on a farm. While I was growing up, I never really understood the advantages of living on a farm, but now that I’m away from it I have a little different perspective.

Moving to a city-like atmosphere has given me the opportunity to live a different lifestyle and meet a wide variety of people. Throughout this experience I’ve been able to see that most people don’t know what it’s like to grow up on a farm.

When I tell people that I’ve grown up on a dairy farm, most people seem really surprised. I’ve found that once I start talking about my experiences, people actually have a lot of questions. The main point of my blog is to share my country experiences with anyone interested, but I’m not always sure what people want to know.

I feel in order to truly fulfill the purpose of my blog, I need to be able to answer questions or shine light on areas that people are interested in. Even though I’m now aware that I’ve seen some crazy things that not everyone gets to see, I’m still not sure which experiences will be interesting to readers.

If you have any questions or anything you’re interested in feel free to post a comment. I’ll try my best to answer it.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I loved living on a farm when I was growing up, but one of the things I loved the most was being able to participate in 4-H. One of the main reasons I enjoyed 4-H so much was because our county fair was by far the best. It may seem that all the county fairs in Indiana would be quite similar, but that is definitely not the case.

Our county fair seemed to stick to the basics of 4-H. The fair grounds included: the hog barn, the sheep/goat barn, the cattle barn, the horse barn, two show arenas, the camp area, the project barn, a play ground, and of course the famous cafeteria. Across the road there was also the antique tractor display. The only ride that could be found at our fair was the merry-go-round, and for most I’m sure that doesn’t qualify.

I'm sure everyone is partial to their own fair. It may seem silly to get so attached, but for many others and myself it was the highlight of the summer. It always seemed that the people in 4-H had a special bond. In my experience, I found that I had a whole other set of friends that I hung out with during the 4-H fair. It was the one week out of the year that it was ok to be friends with someone on the rival basketball team. It seemed as though school districts and county rivalry was thrown out the window during that week.

While I consider my county’s fair to be "traditional", us 4-Hers had a few traditions of our own. It was a well-known fact that everyone was thrown in the manure spreader at some point during their 10 years. I was fortunate enough to be one of the exceptions. I consider myself very lucky to have never been thrown in the spreader. It was also expected to have at least one water fight at some point during the week. Unfortunately I had more than my fair share of water fights. I usually got soaked about 3 times during the week. I did get smarter though, and I started keeping a change of clothes in my show box.

4-H was definitely a lot of fun, but there is a lot of work that goes in to preparing for that week. I showed cattle and I absolutely loved it. Sometimes people don’t always realize all the work behind the scenes. It takes many hours and a lot of sweat in order to get the animals broke and clean. Not to mention, leading around a 1500 pound animal can be very intimidating. With all the work I put in though, I never felt that it wasn’t worth it.

I will always hold my 4-H memories close to my heart. After all, I did participate in it for 10 years. 4-H was something I was able to look forward to all year long, and I always felt that during the week of the fair, nothing else in the world mattered. This may seem silly, but I’m sure the people that were in 4-H know exactly what I mean.

Friday, February 20, 2009


In my previous blog I talked about getting my first puppy. While I think it is a good story, I wasn’t able to give any of the details of my dog’s unique personality. My first dog was different from any other dog I’d ever seen. He was different in the way he looked and the way he acted.

One of the hardest things for me was naming my puppy. I could come up with plenty of names, but none of them every really seemed to fit him. Once my dog got a little older he sort of “grew into” a different name. I think his original name was Comet, and I think I only named him that because that was the name of the dog on the T.V. show Full House. So I called my dog Comet for maybe a month, but once he got a little older, I started calling him Chewie.

One reason I felt that name fit my dog was because of the way he looked. My dog looked exactly like Chewbacca. Now this may not mean anything to you if you haven’t seen any of the Star Wars movies, but if you have seen them, you know that Chewie is Chewbacca’s nickname. Most people actually thought my dog was really ugly (including my dad, sister, and brother), but I could never understand what they were talking about. I thought he looked awesome.

Another reason Chewie was a good name for my dog was because he had the same loyal personality as Chewbacca. The only two people my dog really liked was me and my mom. He tolerated my dad, sister, and brother, but he never seemed to really like them. I think it was because they made fun of him and he could sense it. My dog was big and he looked mean, so he intimidated a lot of people. He could usually sense if someone was afraid of him, and if they were he would take full advantage of it.

When certain people would come to our house, my dog would sit right outside their car door and growl at them. For some reason once my dog decided he didn’t like someone, he’d never let that person out of his or her car. This was very useful because most of the time he would scare sales people enough that they would just leave. Unfortunately, he didn’t like a few of my dad’s friends and the meter reader.

It was a little odd that my dog could be so mean to other people and yet so gentle towards me. He never once growled at me, and he never failed to be at my side. Unfortunately, Chewie isn’t around today. While I’ve loved all the dogs I’ve had since then, Chewie will always be a little more special to me because he was my first dog.

Love at First Sight

At a very early age I discovered my love for dogs. Luckily I grew up on a farm, so my parents could never use the excuse we don’t have room for one or it will have to be caged up all day. We had plenty of room and no need to own cage or a chain for that matter.

I always loved all our dogs, but once my sister got her own dog for her birthday, I wanted my own dog too. My parents were strict about getting an animal and taking care of it. No matter how many times I told them I would take care of my dog, they were afraid I would quickly lose interest leaving them to feed and water it. I on the other hand, knew that would definitely not happen.

My persistence and pleading didn’t work for quite some time. For my eighth birthday, I decided a puppy was the only thing I would ask for. I repeatedly told my parents that it was really the only thing I wanted. As my birthday approached, I started getting nervous. I had no idea if all my begging had worked or not.

My birthday was on a weekday, so I had to go to school. Before I left for school I made a deal with my mom. The deal was that if she got me a puppy, she would pick me up from school, and if she didn’t then I would ride the bus home. Looking back I honestly have no idea why I asked her to do that because I still had to wait until the end of the day to find out if she got me a puppy. Anyways, all day at school all I could think about was whether or not she was going to be waiting on me when the bell rang to release us.

Finally the bell rang and the day was over. I walked down the hall and at first there was no sign of my mom. When I turned the corner, I saw her waiting for me. I ran up and asked her if she got it about a thousand times, and all she would say to me is that I’d have to wait. So we walked out to the car. When I opened the door, my new puppy jumped into my arms.

I was so excited. I know a lot of people usually get to pick their first dog, but my mom picked my dog from a litter of puppies from the pound. The funny part is that my puppy had growled at her the entire ride home. She said that she was really worried she had picked the wrong dog for me, but when she saw how excited the puppy was to meet me, she knew everything would work out. I guess you could say it was love at first sight. If you’ve ever had a dog, I’m sure you know the feeling.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Playing in the Hay

Two of the most commonly confused farm materials are hay and straw. If you aren’t familiar with the two it may not seem like there is a big difference; however, to farmers, the two are as different as night and day. Hay is a green/brown color, and it is used mostly to feed animals. On the other hand, straw is used primarily as bedding for animals and it’s gold. The one thing hay and straw do have in common is that they are both extremely sharp and itchy. If skin rubs against hay and straw, the result is painful. There will be tiny cuts and bumps, which burn severely when you get in the shower and try to clean them.

Growing up I wasn’t affected by the numerous cuts and scrapes. All I cared about was getting to play on the bales that were put away in the barn. We had high stacks in the loft of our barns. My friends and I thought it was cool to climb around on the bales. We would create all sorts of crazy games to play up in the loft. For example, it was a great course for hide and seek. We also had a blast moving the bales around and making pretend houses.

When we got a little older, we also became braver. One time my friend and I wondered into the loft and found the straw was stacked very high as usual, but then instead of stair stepping down, it was a straight dropped off. So, we made a large pile of loose straw at the bottom to give us a soft landing. We climbed up to the top of stack of bales, and without thinking about how dangerous it was, we jumped off. Neither of us got hurt, so we went through the maneuver about 20 more times. Looking back I think about all the things that could have gone wrong, and I realize we were both very lucky to make it out alive.

Another fun activity we discovered was making hay tunnels. We would map out where we wanted the tunnels to go and how many we wanted. We would then have to drag the bales and stack them just right. Luckily we were fairly small so the tunnels didn’t have to be very big. Also, since we were pretty young we weren’t very strong. By the time we got all the tunnels made we were usually too worn out to actually use them. So, we’d wait until the next day to examine our work.

Playing in the hay made some of my best childhood memories. It didn’t matter how many times we went up there, we always seemed to find something new to do. Now looking back I’m not sure how I dealt with the itching and burning I suffered after I played in it, but at the time it was well worth it.


One of the recent hobbies I’ve picked up is fishing. Yes….Fishing! It may sound a little odd and boring to most, but it’s actually the exact opposite. I’ve found that fishing is a great escape from the real world and all it’s worries.

As I mentioned before, I’ve only recently started fishing. I think one of the reasons I became “hooked” on it is because of my first experience. You may be wondering why I actually started fishing in the first place. Well, it all started with my boyfriend. He’d been trying to get me to go fishing for a while, but I was reluctant. Honestly I was a little afraid fishing would be boring. However, after he went shopping with me, watched the movies I wanted to watch, and came to so many of my volleyball tournaments I lost count, I decided it was my turn to do something he wanted to do.

We went to a lake not far from his house. Now usually when someone is just beginning to fish, they start out with a spinning reel. This reel is great for beginners because it automatically stops the line when the bait hits the water. This means the line doesn’t keep spinning and get tangled up.

Unfortunately in my case, my boyfriend decided to skip this step and throw me right into using a baitcaster. With this reel the person fishing has to have good enough judgment to know when to start slowing the line down. It’s also important to know to stop the line right as the bait hits the water. If the line is stopped too soon, it will be too short, and the result is a wimpy cast that only goes a few feet. This type of cast usually ends with an embarrassing splash likely to scare most of the fish away. On the other hand, the line will keep going and get in a huge knot inside the reel if it isn’t stopped just at the right time.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about with a baitcaster, and that doesn’t even include trying to make a decent cast. Casting is all about timing, and it takes a lot of practice. It took me about an hour or so before I could get a cast off without getting the line in a knot. In the first hour I wasn’t even focused on catching a fish, I was just trying to not create a huge mess of the line.

I’m not trying to give you the wrong idea about fishing. While it is a little tricky to master, it is definitely worth it in the end. On my first trip out I fished for over an hour and didn’t get a single bite, but once I mastered the important skills, I started having some fun. I finally got a bite, but I had no idea what to do next. My boyfriend kept yelling, “Set the hook!”, but I had no idea what that meant. Consequently, that fish got away from me. I was then given a lesson on setting the hook, which means jerking the rod in order to lodge the hook in the mouth of the fish.

When the next fish came along, I knew exactly what to do. From that point on fishing became fun for me. Yes, it is still frustrating at times. Everyone gets their line in a knot and has bad casts, but I think the good outweighs the bad. I’ve found fishing on a quiet pond is very peaceful, and it helps me forget about all the things that stress me out. Even if I don’t always catch many fish, I’m still able to relax and enjoy it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cold Cold and More Cold

When the weather is dangerously cold, it's hard on people everywhere. This winter has definitely had its fair share of dangerously cold, snowy, and icy days. Walking to class in those types of conditions is definitely not my idea of fun; however, I would prefer walking to class over having to work on the farm in that weather.

Many times when the weather gets really dangerous cities and towns are able to shut down. Events, school, work, etc. can be canceled or postponed. Unfortunately, farmers don't have this luxury. If the weather gets bad, they don't get a snow day or a two hour delay. The animals still have to be taken care of, and harsh weather can create many obstacles that stand in the way of accomplishing this task.

When the temperature is extremely cold, it creates many additional problems for farmers. One of the major problems they are faced with is water freezing. On our farm we have about 250 head of cattle, and we have enough water tanks to accommodate all of them. Only a few of the water tanks are filled manually with a hose twice a day. Our other water tanks have devices called a float switch. "Maybe Link float switch" These devices allow water to automatically be added when the water reaches a certain level. When temperatures get very low, these devices freeze. This obviously creates a large problem. The only way to fix this problem is to carry numerous buckets of hot water and dump on the water tanks until they thaw out.

Another problem farmer's face is trying to get farm equipment, such as tractors, to run in cold temperatures. I'm sure you've experienced or heard stories of vehicles not starting in extreme temperatures. Tractors are no different, and without tractors, many of the chores on the farm would be impossible. There is one memory in particular that stands out in my mind.

One really cold day my dad was having a hard time starting one of our tractors, and once it did start it would only go a few feet before it died again. This tractor is really old so it wasn't too surprising this happened, but unfortunately this was the tractor hooked up to the mixer. So, in order for my dad to feed the cows, he needed to get this tractor up and running. The only way to get the tractor started was for me to stand at the front of the tractor and spray starter fluid on the engine. Even though I was spraying this starter fluid on the tractor and it was starting, it would only run for about 30-45 seconds. Then, we would have to repeat the process.

As you can see cold weather really slows farmer's down. The task of dumping feed to the cows only takes about 10 minutes regularly, but that night it took closer to 45 minutes. So when I'm walking to class in -30 degree weather, I'm always freezing and wishing I were inside. However, I usually start thinking about my dad working outside for hours, and then I feel very grateful I only have to walk to class.

Summer Swims

Summer is by far my favorite season. There are so many activities that can only truly be enjoyed in the summer. Some of these include fishing, golfing, putt-putt golfing, and swimming. There are many other activities to do in the summer, but these are my personal favorites. For this particular entry I’m going to focus on swimming.

Swimming is definitely my FAVORTIE thing to do in the summer. I believe this "addiction" started in my early childhood. Growing up, my favorite movie was The Little Mermaid, and for the longest time I wanted to be a mermaid more than anything. Fortunately I don’t want to be a mermaid anymore, but the swimming fascination stuck with me.

Until I was about 13, I didn’t have a swimming pool. There was a county swimming pool that I could have gone to, but it was always really crowded and I never had much fun there. However, my friends and I found many other fun ways to keep cool during the summer. One of my favorite things to do was to slip and slide. We had a small hill in our front yard where we placed a very large tarp. When I say small, I mean it wasn’t large enough to get hurt on, but it was still big enough to send us flying. We would drag a hose out to the tarp and keep water constantly running on it. We would take a running start and go flying down it. On the way down we would occasionally hit some bumps and rough spots, but the pain didn’t phase us at all.

Even though swimming wasn’t an option at that time, I was fortunate enough to have a trampoline, which leads me to my next way of staying cool. If you have a trampoline I’m sure you’re well aware that it gets extremely hot in the summer. So, our whole way of keeping cool started with just trying to keep the trampoline cool enough to jump on. We would use the hose to spray water on top of the trampoline to cool it, but after only a couple minutes the trampoline would dry out and be back to its scorching temperature agian. Instead of getting off the trampoline every 5 minutes to turn the hose on and cool it off, we decided to just let it run. As your aware I’m sure, kids can’t just leave a hose with running water alone. Before long we were spraying each other.

This technique was very popular and we used it often, but we were able to perfect it. Once we got a little older, and smarter, we decided to hook the hose up to a sprinkler and place it underneath the trampoline. This technique combined 2 great activities, running through a sprinkler and jumping on a wet trampoline, and made an awesome way to stay cool.

Even though I didn’t have a pool during those years, my friends always enjoyed coming over to my house. We were so desperate to stay cool that we would concoct something crazy to get the job done. Once I got a little older, and with some persuasion I might add, my parents agreed to a swimming pool. Luckily the fun adventures didn’t end when I got a pool, but that’s a whole other blog.