Tag Archives: lifestyle

Illnesses and Injuries

I don’t feel good today and I am battling through some sinus infection, sore ears and just a general overall feeling of blah. Being sick gets me thinking though about 40-hour per week jobs, calling in sick and being able to lay in bed all day. Something that farmers don’t have the luxury of doing. Who should I call when I don’t feel like braving the elements with a pounding head, ringing ears and snot running out of my nose? I don’t think the calves, cows or chickens are going to care. They want their food!

Living the farm life isn’t for everyone. We farm through broken ribs, flu season, broken toes, dislocated bones and everything in between. I’ve cared for animals in casts and splints. I’ve cared for animals through pounding heads and aching backs. Farmers who deal with livestock are care givers. When you get sick, you still have kids who need caring for or a dog that needs to go for a walk…it’s really not that much different for us. It would be much more convenient if the cattle were in the house so I wouldn’t have so far to go…but it doesn’t work that way.

Being a farmer takes grit. I’m sure you’ve heard that before but it’s true. We have to push ourselves to work through an illness or injury to get the job done. We don’t get sick days, we don’t get days off. It doesn’t matter, 365 days a year you will find me in the barn caring for calves and feeding the animals.

I’ve learned a lot about pushing myself to get the job done since I have been diagnosed with MS. You need to push but not overdue things. Even if a chore takes you ten times long than it normally would, do it anyway. When it gets done, you can sit down with satisfaction knowing that you  accomplished the job. Besides, if your dealing with livestock they will find a way to make you smile.

Now, since it’s raining outside and more extreme cold weather is coming…I think I’ll tackle some paperwork and housework! Wish me luck in finalizing my plans for 2014 and getting my entire life better organized!

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New Bridges

Let the day dawn bright and new, full of passion for what I do. Cock-a-doodle-do!
Let the day dawn bright and new, full of passion for what I do. Cock-a-doodle-do!

I post a lot of farm photos over on our Facebook page and lately I have gotten a ton of requests to build a photo book. After doing some digging into some options, I’m now working on building one through MixBook. I’m hoping to have it all set by the end of the month to use as a fundraiser!  I will work on a calendar after that like I did for last year.  Sometimes, I feel like there is so much to do and so much to get done. I’m slowly working on getting all this stuff figured out and still managing to keep up.

The research is the worst by far because it’s so time-consuming. It’s all worth it in the long run through. Without new knowledge, we never expand our horizons. My horizons keep going and maybe I will never be able to fully attain my goal on what I build for years down the road, I hope that my dreams can inspire another generation. A generation that makes it to my horizons and their own beyond. Maybe it will be family and maybe it will be a random stranger, I don’t know but the possibilities are endless!

It’s still kind of hard for me to grasp that I am a farming photographer. Five years ago, if you had asked me where I would be in the future and what I would be doing neither choice would have been considered. I wish I could pass on half the feelings I get now when it comes to both. I feel so entirely blessed to be able to photograph and share my life in transition. I have photographed so many people along the way, so many different events and through it all I have come out of it all with a true dedication and passion for all things agriculture.

I love that I can photograph my everyday world of cattle and country. I love that I can create artistic images that capture the “feeling” within those moments that inspire me. I am truly blessed with talent through my passions. To those that say it’s all a hobby, I have this to say. It still takes time to care for each animal. I would bet my camera that I spend more time per cow in a week than most farmers do in a year. I may operate something closer to a petting zoo but, for all those kids who are here experiencing a hands on thing with cattle that give them kisses, it means more than a stroll through a barn to watch cattle eat. Maybe it’s all those years I worked in sales and marketing that make me see and do things differently. I honestly don’t know.

Maybe it’s all those years of cruel people who’ve been involved in my life that makes me more compassionate to the animals. And to clarify, I’m  not saying the “standard farmer”, whatever that may be, doesn’t care for their animals. I’m saying that I feel. I’m passionate about each cow, calf or bull. I touch them many times a day and not just during a milking chore. I touch them like we humans do when we gentle touch someone’s hand in comfort or their arm when we are talking to them. Being the photographer has made me observe. I’ve observed countless farmers who will scratch a head as they walk by or talking to an animal when they need them to move. I’m just different. It’s difficult to explain.

My herd is my family. I love them all for different reasons. I still have a favorite or two and spoil them with extra attention. I know that some will go on and others will become food for my belly. It doesn’t matter to me, they are still something I get rather passionate about. They provide me a counselor when I need to talk my way through a problem. They are my friends who are always happy to see me (usually because I give attention or have treats). They share affection when I need it the most.  The greatest thing about them is that they make me happy. If you’ve ever watched calves playing, you know that warm fuzzy feeling that comes over me when I get around my cattle.

Each one is individual yet part of a whole, kind of like us. Each one with unique personality difference, yet all part of the same community. To me, cattle are inspiring. To them, it doesn’t really matter if it rains or is sunny. As long as they have food to eat and a dry place to lay (unless they are idiots and go lay in a mud puddle), they are happy. Nothing sparks an inner peace like cattle grazing on the top of a knoll with green grass under their feet and nothing but a cloudy sky of blue above. You can imagine it, can’t you? That’s my life. That’s the moments I live for. That’s my bridge to a better me. That’s the bridge that inspires photographs.

I’m working hard to expand those bridges. A bridge of knowledge for the younger generations to hopefully find the same inspiration I have managed to find in farming. That bridge that leads to that moment when all in the world feels right inside your soul. Maybe that bridge can be built on the farm through physical contact with the cattle or maybe through the visions I create through a photography book or calendar. Maybe that bridge will be through a video or seminar. I honestly don’t know what’s going to bridge the gap for the next generation to feel the same passion for the cattle, animals and the land like I do. I was fortunate to have grandparent’s when I was young but so many don’t have that privilege. It’s something I want to share…or as the title says, building a new bridge to.

Lots of News

So much has been going on that I’m not really sure even where to begin. A year or so again, everything that has been happening was just a dream. A pipe dream of wishes written out on a scrap piece of paper and internet page links stored in favorites full of useful information. Twitter conversations about plants, seasons, materials and lots of questions were happening then too.

I have made so many great friends in the past two to three years of my life. Some of which I haven’t met YET but share the same kindred spirits. This is a group of people who have inspired, encouraged and guided. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that can attest to the power of the internet, in good ways and bad. What I’m discussing today is the power of knowledge, prayer and positive thinking.

As many of you that read this blog know, I’ve had some big transitions in mind for the farm I live on. Earlier this year, I thought those dreams were shattered. I’m not going into gory details but I will tell you that the whole ordeal took it’s emotional, financial and health tolls on me. It wasn’t the worst situation I had ever been through but I will admit that it ranks right up there in the top 5 fearful months of my life.

I opened up to a few of my friends about concerns I had. I talked to advisors about what to do about myself in the role I was holding to in a death grasp. It’s when I truly learned who to REALLY listen too and whose opinions to dismiss. I do have this word of advice….NEVER LET ANYONE DISCOURAGE YOU FROM LIVING THROUGH WITH A DREAM THAT YOU ARE SO PASSIONATE ABOUT THAT YOU WOULD NOT BE YOURSELF WITHOUT IT!

I had an advisor that told me that I wasn’t the one to make difficult decisions about the farm I have managed and that the animals are a business only. He proceeded to inform me that what I did do with the animals here didn’t have much worth in the “big” picture of things either. He never asked me about what type of protocols or plans I had set into place. All he seemed concerned about what my overall dollar value. It was rather insulting to tell you the truth. Okay, I admit that I am a pauper working toward a bigger dream. I struggle to pay my bills. I work hard and go without to work toward a bigger goal. But seriously, is that all I am viewed for? Nothing more than my “worth” on paper or my bank account? Well, to make a long story short, it was determined that my “real worth” was $675 a month. How about them apples?

I struggled for weeks with this new information. I doubted myself and what my long-term goals were. Then it suddenly hit me. I may only be worth $675 a month now but what about next month or even next year or better yet three years down the road? I started thinking about that kid going through college, building up debt, and working part-time at McDonald’s. I am at a stepping stone. The first step into a new life with a new future. Everything for the past three years has led me to here, worth zero when I started and look, I’ve increased my “worth” by what percentage rate? Just imagine how much I can change that worth in the next three years with proper planning, some of my awesome marketing skills, my photography and my networking!

I decided to take a risk and file an application to a Holistic Beginning Women’s Farm Management Program. I GOT ACCEPTED! Classes start in TWO WEEKS! Whoa, I’m doing what? Oh yeah, I’m not letting some or anyone for that matter tell me my SELF WORTH and I’m sure not letting anyone tell me to let go of what really makes me WHO I AM. You know that passion for nature, animals and the environment? You know that dedication and love I have for the cattle? Well, those are all something that God has given me that don’t have a dollar value! Just ask that rescued cow who lived another 5 years under my watchful eye and who know how it felt to be well cared for! Go ahead, look up into the sky and just ask yourself…is that something you could have done with tenderness and compassion when she first came here? Would you have taken the chance to get to know a scrawny cow who looked like she stood on the edge of starvation? In the end, that same cow you would have made into hamburger provided me with beautiful calves, LOTS of milk, butter and cheese but most of all, she provided a vision of what MY future may hold.

So again, I ask you to not let anyone judge you by what they see in paper or in bank accounts! Only you know what passions are held in your heart and soul. For me, it’s farming and photography combined. For you, it may not be. Look to people who are going to POSITIVELY encourage your own personal growth, NOT what society says it should be. Find what you love to do and NEVER let go of that internal drive that ultimately makes YOU happy!

After months of fighting my “worth” internally, I want to report that my “hobby farm” as this kind man put it, is now up to 21 cows, around 75 chickens and a handful of turkeys. I have 110 acres surrounded by beautiful high-tensile five strand fence. I have a full fledge water system for the fields going into the ground in the spring of 2014. I have increased our sales of meat products by 100%. We supplied chicken and beef for our first catering event this year. We have more and more people coming for visits. I am preordered on beef for next year. Demand is blooming for the rose veal. Contracts are in the works for some direct marketing for poultry. Eggs aren’t building up in the refrigerator. AND contracts are in the works to rotational graze additional animals for around $2200 per month until I can build my own herd. To say the least, my next worth has increased double since those fateful words back in June of this year! Just imagine what that worth will do next year as I am raising more chickens, selling more eggs, beef, rose veal, rabbits and pork.

Sometimes we all just need to take a step back and evaluate what our future is really “worth” to ourselves! I can’t even begin to tell you the changes that have happened since I told myself I’m worth more than just a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper. My passion has proven enough that maybe just maybe I can inspire another generation with the help and encouragement of someone like me. In the meantime, I’m going to keep on trudging….and getting better at this blogging thing. After all, I want to share all this new and exciting information I am going to learn!

For now, take a look at this picture.

Not my camera but that is my cattle on the farm!
Not my camera but that is my cattle on the farm!

I look forward to comments on speculation of what’s going on around the farm! This image holds a bunch of clues…can you figure it out?

Who Inspires You?

I know my answer, right off the top of my head with every beat of my heart. I know I have talked about this before and shared with you but I have to do it again. It’s that important to me.

You would be amazed at how something as simple as a grainy, blurry old scanned photograph can bring up so many emotions and memories. Yesterday, my cousin Corina shared an old photo of my Grandmother Liddington. I think it was probably taken from around the time I was born because her hair is still dark, not grayed like the later years of my youth.

My very special Grandma Liddington. Love you and miss you every day!

There are no singular words to describe her. She was the community cook, rural doctor of sorts, farmer’s wife and so much more. She was a tough women who raised six kids and never, ever took any back lip from anyone but she would give you her last loaf of bread if you needed it. She was the type of person I have always been inspired to be.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the things she did for so many people. And OHHHH the food that lady could make on her wood fired cook stove!

She has been gone from us since the early 1990’s but her memories live and breath every day through those of us left behind. There aren’t many photos of her to share but the imprint she left on us was without a doubt a legacy for years to come. To best sum up her legacy, I will make a list of impressions and words to that I live by handed down through her actions.

Take no lip. You know what’s right, so do it.
Never cook a meal without extra, you never know who may need the extra plate.
Never waste food. It’s valuable and expensive.
Provide for yourself. Don’t rely on others but don’t hesitate to give.
Pass on what you know to your children and grandchildren.
Work hard, expect nothing.
Treat everyone as family. Trust no one, love everyone.
Stand your ground and let know one push you around.
You don’t need a whole lot of nothing to be special, lead with your heart. No one cares about your clothes, car or bank account. It’s the love in your heart that really counts.
No one is going to hold your hand forever and treat you like a child. You need to dry your tears, get off your butt and learn to be better.

Yup, that about sums up my Grandma. Treated everyone as equal. Money and status never mattered. There was always extra food and a place at the table in her house. If you need mending from a cut, scrape or sickness, you saw my Gran.

In closing, I hope that somehow my words get to Heaven because I know that’s where she’s at:
Gran, I still love you with all my heart! Thank you for taking a child with a broken wing under yours and teaching me so much. I never knew just how much you would impact my life as an adult. With every meal, every trip to the barn, every second spent weeding the garden, at nearly every point in my life…you are still here with me. You were a special lady, unique and one of a kind. No one will ever be able to take your place to so many people but thank you for everything, every moment that impacted so many more lives that just mine. I pray that someday when people look back on my life…they can easily say, “yup, that was Martha’s granddaughter!” I will forever keep this place in my heart and I hope that someday, we can sit under the lilac trees in Heaven together. My one request…please don’t make me pick a switch! I promise to live my life from this day and every day so you won’t have to.

Stigmas

After viewing a recommended video about the Ward Brothers from a small town called Munnsville, NY not far from us, I have decided I need to write something about the stigmas that are associated with country and farming people.

The name of the documentary is called “Brother’s Keeper”. Brother’s Keeper is a 1992 documentary directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. The film is about an alleged 1990 murder in the village of Munnsville, New York.

The film contrasts two groups of society; people from rural areas and those from larger cities.

This whole documentary has sparked a whole train of thought and conversation about the perceptions people have from one group to another, one location over another, one way of life over another and how differently people are treated based on some of these differences.

I have almost always lived in the country, mainly in dairy-farming areas. I have seen the sense of community shown within this documentary. It’s amazing how different small towns are. People stay around their own homes more often than not but, when it comes to someone within their community needing help, it’s all hands on deck. People whom you have rarely seen come to assist if someone loses a home to something like fire. People pull together as a community over tragedies like accidental death.

Seeing as how I lived for a short couple of years within a small college community, I will express what I have seen as a major difference. Neighbors have no idea who lives next door to them. They pass each other on the street without so much as a passing glance and if you do make eye contact and smile in someone’s direction people get suspicious of you. This is coming from a female. It takes a very long time to establish relationships, if ever, with the people who live within the same block. People are distrusting and suspect every movement, look or word.

In my more recent years, I have moved back into a rural, dairy-farming community. It isn’t as closely knit for me, being an immigrant to the area, but I still know my neighbors and most of the residents within the town by first name. Communities are not the same as they once were, but for the most part it’s still a close-knit area. Since we have established the farm again, we have been seeing more and more people come from the city areas to visit. They come to see the animals, maybe do some fishing in our pond or to just come out and see the scenery.

One group of men, who are contractors from New York City and Long Island, came this last fall. During their visits, some of the stigmas they had placed on country people came into conversation. One in particular came out and told us that he didn’t think country people even had access to the internet and didn’t know how to use computers. He also felt that we weren’t up to date on current events because we didn’t have cable television. As we sat discussing when we joined the technology age, he was shocked that we had computers before he did and that we had joined the smart phone age when he had yet to do so himself.

Furthering the conversation, one of the other men came out and expressed his shock over the intelligence expressed in our house. Not only were we up to date with current events but we had massive knowledge on things he never considered. Some of those examples were crops, yields, soil improvements, and typical farm things that most farm families know and put into working knowledge. Other things that baffled his mind was that I, a female, know how to work on four wheelers, tractors and automobiles.

I admit, I may be a little rare in my tomboy ways but I know lots of women who do these types of things out of necessity. We, and I am saying this loosely as a country girl, have to know how to do many things. Many of us shoot guns, go hunting and fishing, work on difference mechanical things and we also know the basics of construction, plumbing and electrical “stuff”.

The question is…Am I treated differently? You bet I am. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told to act for like a lady, that I should “dress up” more often and that I should find a nice desk job all because I was born with a vagina and breasts. Do I do things differently? You bet I do. I am an independent women who can raise my own food, hunt or fish for it if need be and can fix my own vehicle. Am I intelligent? I don’t know but I can tell you this…I can sit in meetings, talk with college professors about things that 99% of the population has no clue about when it comes to renewable energy through agricultural biomass. I can research, learn and take class after class to create what I call a more education person. Do I do dumb things? All the time. I am not perfect, I don’t want to be perfect.

Do I think that people who reside in the city areas are more intelligent? On some things, I have no doubt. But, I also don’t live within a closed mind of stigmas and discrimination either. I take each person as they are. I learn about them from them, not through what society says they should be.

So what’s the moral to this blog post?
As the old saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover”. Just because someone lives rural doesn’t mean they are any different from you are. Don’t discriminate against the individual.  Country people are no different. City people are no different. People are people, no matter where they were born, what color, what sex, what religion they follow, or how old they are.

I was raised to treat people all the same. After all, don’t we all get up and put our pants on the same? We all have the same chances in life, IF we work hard enough to make our dreams come true. Don’t make someone feel inferior because of a stigma handed down through society.

Important definitions:
Discrimination is the prejudicial or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, such as their racegendersexual orientationgender identitynational originreligionagedisabilityskin colorethnicity, or other characteristics.

Racism is usually defined as views, practices and actions reflecting the belief that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups called races and that members of a certain race share certain attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable, inferior or superior.