At the Farm GateSmall stuff softens Stressful Summer
Spots nibbles contently off the top of his feed pile. Hunter likes to burrow his face in the twice-daily ration, And Shadow attacks his feed trough like an alligator; the white pig with a shadow of red on his back swoops the length of the trough for a mouthful, lifts his head to swallow, and rapidly returns for more like a competitive eater.
We learned a lot of little quirks about the kids’ 4-H pigs after four months of individualized care. My brother’s observation of their eating styles grounded me. I hadn’t noticed. Rather, my pace plowed through the routine chore list without fully appreciating God’s graces in my day, as our church’s new pastor just preached. I think she wrote her first sermon for me.
The stressful, off-kilter growing season easily overshadowed the little things that make life great. The most challenging spring planting season of our farm’s recollection merged into an intense summer of too much to do at once. Haying, spraying, side-dressing nitrogen, mowing and catch-up gardening collided. The guys also squeezed in hauling soybeans when lowering river levels allowed barge traffic to resume. All the while, the full schedule worked around pop-up summer storms, planned vacations, make-up ball games and deadlines to report planted and unplanted acreage to the government and insurance companies.
Thankfully, our kids give us a different set of eyes to appreciate the world. They monitor and announce use of the new hummingbird swing. Tadpoles attract them to the water’s edge at the farm “Frog Pond,” where they point out a frog’s life cycle. Our daughter’s fresh bouquets of ditch lilies, wild chicory and Queen Anne’s lace grace the dinner table and kitchen counter.
Special treats make the menu, like a cake the kids dyed, layered and assembled to resemble an American flag when sliced for the Fourth of July. They excitedly show off their 4-H chickens’ first eggs and take equal delight in cracking them to reveal the double-yolkers and tiny single-yolkers for scrambled eggs. Pool-side birthday parties interrupt this summer’s stresses, as do lightning bugs, fireworks, ice cream, rainbows and amazing sunsets.
Soon enough, the corn will appear as walls along the roadside, hiding the crop’s uneven emergence and drowned spots from plain sight. Perhaps the change in scenery will help us temporarily forget about the exceptionally wet and stressful spring. If not, the kids will find something to reroute our thoughts. I see they still have some water balloons left.
About the author: Joanie Stiers, a wife and mother of two farm kids, writes from west-central Illinois, where her family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle.