Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

What Am I Willing to Trade?

With all the news about data breaches and the latest revelations about the social media platform to rule them all – Facebook –  I’ve been doing a bit of soul searching. And the question I keep coming back to is: What am I willing to trade?

When it comes to trading actual dollars, hard cash money for things, I tend to stop, think, and ask questions like:

  • Is this of value to me?
  • Will this make my life or someone else’s life better?
  • Is what I am getting worth the dollars that I am trading?
  • Who is this business that I am supporting with my dollars?

But with the ease of interacting online, I must admit I often forget about the transacting part of the equation.  Make no mistake, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others, are not free. But rather than primarily transacting in your dollars, they are transacting in your data.  

You are making a trade – your information for the ability to connect, share, and tell your story in the digital world.  Every like, every follow, every photo, every connection, every comment – it’s all data. Their revenue models all depend on your willingness to trade your data, so that they can, in turn, sell companies advertising spots, which can then be targeted to you based on your interactions.  This is no big secret. It’s simply how it works.

The question then comes down to this: Is the trade you are making worth it to you, personally? Let’s also be clear, the social media platforms are heavily invested in making your experience relevant to you because, yes, the more time you spend interacting with their platform, the more ads that can reach you.

If you’re like me, you’ve whiled away more than one afternoon getting sucked into the vortex of social media, mindlessly scrolling away, clicking random emojis to show your approval or disapproval, reading articles that catch your eye, and generally just staring at your phone as if it holds the answers to the mysteries of the universe.  What’s worse, and I hate to admit this, but when I’ve posted, I’ve often become downright obsessed to see if someone has liked or commented on what I had to say or share.

So now not only am I trading my data, but I am trading my time.

Sadly, I’ve been to dinner with Cowboy or friends and found myself unable to leave my phone alone, or waiting at an appointment or riding in the car and neurotically scrolling and clicking.  It’s like a drug – a little adrenaline rush to see if someone has interacted online. Each time I’m rewarded with a brief little fix. But it doesn’t last, and ultimately I want more.

I justify my social media habit by saying things like, “But it’s a great way to keep up with friends, see pics of their cats and dogs.”  Or even better, “But I have to do it to gain followers for my blog.”

So now I’ve traded my data, my time, and real life experiences with actual humans in front of my face for online ones.  

And I just don’t know that the trade is truly worth it in the way I have been making it.  I’ve let the social media platforms make the rules. I’ve let myself be sucked in and lost.  But there is also something important to remember here – this is not about going backward. I’m not looking for some let’s-make-the-world-great-again-solution. Social media is here to stay, so the question is how do we make it work for us instead of us working for it?

And if we are being honest, social media does good things too. It’s great to see friends’ photos of their growing families. It’s inspiring to cheer people on as they strive for their fundraising goals.  It’s positively fun to watch small businesses and crafters and makers of all kinds flourish.

For me, I’ve had to dig deep and do some soul searching for what is and isn’t important to me.  Being present with Cowboy, friends, and family is tops. I’ve also gone through my social media profiles and removed a tremendous amount of data, like following a bazillion pages and made sure my privacy settings help me to connect when and how I want to.  I’ve removed apps from my phone so that when I interact on social media, it’s an active choice to sit down at my computer.

Are the social media giants going to stop trading in data?  No, and unless we are all willing to trade actual cold hard cash for their services, we shouldn’t expect it.  After all, despite their lofty vision statements about connection, they are businesses. and businesses have to stay afloat – which means they are about making money.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you know what you are willing to trade.

Can you still find me on social media? Yes, but more often than not you’ll find me on the farm living my real life.

P.S. – Yes, I’m well aware of the irony that this will be posted on social media.  I hope this is one of those times when it is for the greater good.

Farm Life · Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Sun, the Soil, and Springtime

This week, I noticed the tiniest little leaves of my mint plant poking their heads through the soil, the pastures brightening up with dotted patches of green, and the hint of warm air on southern breezes tickling my skin.  I absolutely love this time of year when new growth comes complete with vibrant colors, textures, and smells.  (Okay, it might also come with Flonase, Zirtec, and Claritin, but it’s oh so worth it.)

And it’s not just us humans who are soaking up the season.  Around the farm, the horses and donkeys are a little more playful, as they romp around in the hunt for all things green.  The cows are mooing and playing around the water troughs. The cats are seriously bird watching.  And the dogs, well they are napping, as always, but they love it best when they can nap on the porch with the sun warming their bellies.

It’s also the season for one of my favorite sounds of all time – the creaking of the screen door springs as the he pups push it open with their noses, and the fast recoil and slapping sound as it bangs against the door frame.  There is nothing better than fresh breezes flowing through that door, airing out the house from winter and inviting us to find a moment to soak it in, and maybe even play a little.  Do a jig around the kitchen floor.  Sip the perfect cup of tea.  Hum a tune.  

My Farmtastic Life - Our beloved old fashioned, creaky springs, doorframe slapping wooden screen door. Read about our door in the The Sun, the Soil, and Springtime at www.myfarmtasticlife.com.
Our beloved, old fashioned, creaky springs, doorframe slapping wooden screen door. Another one of Cowboy’s magnificent creations!

While I’ve always loved springtime, I don’t remember appreciating it quite so much when we lived in the big city suburbs.  Oh sure, it was time to head to the nearest home improvement big box store to load up on bright and showy annuals to tuck into the landscaping.  And yes, we maybe lingered outside a bit here and there.  But we weren’t connected to the seasons like we are on the farm.

With spring comes the much needed rains that turn the grasses green and allow the farmers to grow the hay we’ll buy later in the summer to feed our equine crew.  Wildflowers will pop up all over the farm in a kaleidoscope of colors and the bees will buzz from plant to plant to work their magic.  

I’ll try my hand, yet again, at a few raised garden beds and learn new things, like that mint I planted last year, oh my stars, it’s now everywhere.  (Experienced gardeners feel free to chuckle about this one.  When I asked one gardening friend of mine if it would come back, he just looked at me with amusement and said, “Oh my god, yes.  You won’t be able to get rid of it.”)

And while Cowboy and I still operate in the real world with day jobs, trips to giant grocery stores, the occasional fast food meal, this farm life has connected us to the soil and to the land in unexpected ways.  It has made us stop and think about what you put in the ground, what you take out of it, and how you care for it.  That the soil is in all of us, it connects us.  That this life with all of its bumps and bruises, seasons of lack and seasons of abundance, is truly a gift.

So as you go about soaking up the sunshine and the breezes and reveling in the deep down soulful joy as the earth literally springs to life, take a moment to breathe it all in. To find your connections – to your neighbors, to your garden, to critters.  And maybe just maybe, find a patch of grass to stand in, feet bare, toes wiggling.

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Hermit and the Butterfly

This year is a big one for Cowboy and me.   We are celebrating 20 years of marriage.   A big milestone for sure, but we also tip our hats to both sets of our parents who are celebrating 44 and 50 years. Marriage runs deep around these parts.

All those years ago, our wedding invitations were emblazoned with the phrase, “Today, I marry my best friend.”  

We had dated for several years before tying the knot, but to be honest, I developed a bonafide, heart stopping crush on him the first time I saw his denim blue eyes and slightly crooked smile.  Too shy to talk to him, I’d find reasons to pass him in the hall at school just so I could see him.  

But even from the beginning when my breath would catch just trying to talk to him, friendship with a healthy dash of humor has always been our heartbeat.  To this day, there is still no other human on this planet that I’d rather spend my time with than that car-loving, mr.-fix-it, critter-wrangling man.

Which brings me to what has often been one of our greatest differences.  He could easily be a hermit.  He’s a loner.  He’s perfectly happy working away on a project, minding his business.  While he can be sweeter than southern iced tea, the man simply doesn’t like to socialize much.  Those who know him best, know that he has, what we all affectionately call, a people limit.  In general, the fewer the better.

Me, on the other hand, well I love people, sharing stories, and connecting.  I mean seriously, my first grade teacher didn’t call me the mouth-of-the-South for nothing.  So I’m often itching to go galavanting somewhere, to see or do or taste something new, to meet up with friends, or to just take a break from the farm.

Not Cowboy. Nope. Not one little bit.  What he does have is a deep down in his bones kind of contentment and satisfaction.  He knows who he is and what he wants.  And over time, I will be darned if that man is not rubbing off on me.  I swear, at least once a week I break out in laughter as I look at him and say, “You are successfully turning me into you.”

And as you can probably guess, he just smiles.   

My Farmtastic Lie - Cowboy and Ranger
One of my all-time favorite pics of Cowboy. That man continues to capture my heart each day, and boy can he make me laugh.

This winter, I have found that I can go weeks and weeks, barely leaving our beloved farm.  I am perfectly content to putter around, drink up the sunshine, and just be. Cowboy is so proud.  

Cowboy and his contentment have taught me so much.    The realization that you can define for yourself exactly who you want to be.  That you can love so deeply and be so connected to a place, a person, a passion that the noise from the outside really doesn’t matter.  It’s not about loading up your days with busy.

It’s been in this season of freezing temperatures and shorter days that I have truly settled in.  Had a chance to reflect on this major milestone we are approaching, of who we were and who we are.  And I am grateful.  

Once a social butterfly, I now consider myself more like a faithful old hound dog. Learning that it is not about the quantity of activities but about the quality of them. Knowing that when it comes to the heart of the matter, it’s about friendship and kindness, and well, just simply being who you were always meant to be.  May we all be so lucky to have someone rub off on us, someone who can show us the way.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Resolution Revolution

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the past 365 days – the glorious moments, the critter-filled challenges and antics, the experiences lived and the moments missed.  It’s also that time of year when we look hopefully and optimistically into the next 365 days with dreams that we will make it count, challenge ourselves to be and do better, and, if you are like me, that tiny little nagging voice in your head that says, “Will you really live up to your own expectations?”

Oh yes, those little internal voices. Gremlins.  Mine have had a lifetime of criticizing, chastising, and  just downright tormenting me.  That is until 2017 when the tide began to turn.  It was a year of change, the time when I finally learned the meaning of enjoying the journey, and the beginning of being a-okay with my serious lack of perfection.

As one dear friend once said to me, “You suffer from the dreaded triple-P syndrome.  You are a people pleasing perfectionist.  You see, I recognize this, because I too am in recovery.”  I laughed.  I had an aha moment. Someone had named it for me.  That was years ago.  And so I kept that little jewel tucked away, hanging onto it and truly not knowing what to do with it.

I’d occasionally trot it out with friends to chat about my ailment.  I’d make minor strides to try to keep myself in check, but truly on the inside me and triple-P were besties.  We knew each other far too well.  And because we knew each other so well, we had no intention of parting ways anytime soon.

Then 2017 came along and things began to shift for me.  For some reason, I decided to heck with resolutions, because who am I kidding, I never kept them anyway.  Instead, I made a vision board filled with words and images and thoughts that inspired me, that laid out the life I wanted to live. It was fun – I cut, pasted, and scrapped until my heart was content. I framed it and hung it on my wall.  It’s still there.  It still speaks to me.

Something started with that vision board.  I started thinking about the person I wanted to be, the things I wanted to try, the possibilities.  But not the possibilities that were like my typical New Year’s eve rush of resolution panic, but true possibilities. I started listening, listening to my insides.  My not so perfect but oh so me insides.

Then came springtime, and things lined up just right; I had my soul listening ears on, and I hired a life coach.  I did it on a whim.  I saw her website, and thought “Why not?”  And before I could talk myself out of why I didn’t need to spend the money or convince myself that I’d be the same me at the end of it, just with less cash in my pocket, I signed up for an exploratory session, and IT. CHANGED. MY. LIFE.

I met with my coach every other week for 6 months.  I discovered who I wanted to be, who I didn’t want to be, and how to harness the little voices in my head and turn them from tormentors into cheerleaders. Now let’s be serious, it was not all roses, rainbows, and unicorns.  There were tough moments.  Moments of doubt and frustration.  But my world slowly went from black and white, to shades of grey, to full on technicolor magic.

When I look back on 2017 I see where I went head to head with some of my most ingrained thoughts on what it means to be spiritual, what it means to live my best life, what it means to follow my creativity, what it means to plan but still hope and dare and most of all find deep down, soul loving joy.

For maybe the first time in my life, I started to believe in me.  In the possibilities all around.  Oh and trust me, I have oodles more work to do.  I mean when you spend a lifetime letting your gremlins drive the car, sometimes you still have to take a stick and whack them into the backseat.

My Farmtastic Life - Find the good in 2017 and work for the joy in 2018!
Find the good in 2017 and work for the joy in 2018!

So on this New Year’s Eve, as you sit and ponder if 2018 will be different, I encourage you   to listen to the messages that are swirling around you, the good people in your life who are encouraging you, and take a chance on something that just might make all of the difference for you. Sure, your gremlin voices might party like it’s 1999 tonight, but tomorrow they will totally be passed out in the back seat.

P.S.  When looking for a life coach, you need to find someone who clicks with you, as you are building a relationship.  Trust is critical.  You’ll also want someone who has their certification and is a professional.  Because I think she’s absolutely the best, I can’t recommend Kelsey Joy highly enough, and I look forward to continuing to work with her in 2018.

P.P.S. I’ve learned tons throughout my journey 2017, and I’ll work to create some short vignettes to share those lessons with y’all.  I can’t wait to continue to get my learn on in 2018.

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Happy Christmas, Merry New Year

Trees are going up.  Lights are twinkling.  Menus are being planned.  Parties are in full swing. Giving is on our minds. Across this great big world, no matter what you celebrate, it’s the holiday season –  from big cities to suburbs to small towns to rural communities.

In our family, it’s Christmas. Growing up, our tree glowed with colored lights and candy canes.  Christmas pageants and plays afforded some slightly off-key singing. And Santa’s milk and cookies were always snickerdoodles. (Interestingly enough,  those were also Dad’s favorite.) It’s a time filled with memories, from the emotional to the hilarious, like the year our new puppies pulled the tree over by leaping for the aforementioned candy canes.

Now well into adulthood (ahem … dare I say entering middle age), we continue to count on those traditions and build new ones.  When Cowboy and I were newly married, Christmas was one of those times when when our families filled our home with the things we needed most like silverware, mixers, critter essentials, jeans, and boots.  

We are grateful for all of those gifts that helped to make our house a home.  We still treasure them.  I mean how many parents don’t blink an eye when you ask for four mineral block holders for your horses for Christmas?  Or horse steps so you can get your vertically challenged self closer to the saddle? (This last one is totally my issue by the way, not Cowboy’s.)

As we build on new traditions, we’ve begun to focus on experiences, like taking family to see a Christmas musical or hunting out the best Christmas lights, which also requires that the perfect mug of hot chocolate be brought along for the ride.

We’ve also become very aware of those that could use a little extra compassion, a helping hand. We’ve got amazing friends and family, and over time we have been shifting our gift giving to those organizations that need help to make this world we all share a better place.  It’s fun to see which causes friends and family care most about and donate in their honor.  Even our just-barely-a-teenager niece has gotten in on the act, finding an organization she thinks honors those she cares about.  Those moments are priceless.

Which brings me back to this world we all call home.  Let’s be honest, it’s been a tough year, especially if you spend any amount of time watching the news.  From natural disasters to man-made ones, to politics that have divided more than united, 2017 has made us all a little weary.  Our collective spirit could use a dose of holiday joy.

So when someone wishes you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, or just plain old Happy Holidays, let’s remember to take it with the grace and love it was intended.  We could all stand to give each other a break, and realize that when someone is wishing you a merry or happy anything, they are simply sharing their best wishes for you.  They are not entering into a religious or philosophical debate or argument.   They are purely wishing you peace, joy, memories, and giving – all of the beauty that comes with this holiday season.

When you look around the world, we could all use a little more love, humor, and kindness.  Share your memories, share your well wishes.  And above all, share the love. Happy Christmas and Merry New Year from our farm to yours.

My Farmtastic Life - Christmas cat and dog
This is how we roll with Christmas at the farm – nothing a little stare down won’t fix. Seriously though, love all around.

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Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

What’s in a Word?

As we welcome November and the promise of cooler weather, turkey leftovers, and family gatherings, we also enter the official spokes-month for gratitude.  A time when we take a personal inventory of all that we are grateful for – from people to things, jobs to homes, children to critters.  All of us have something to be thankful for, even in our darkest moments, and for many of us we can swell up with a feeling of being blessed.

But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this word blessed.  No doubt it’s trending right now – you can find it on everything from dish towels to picture frames.  And it’s a perfectly good word.  But it’s also a word that I think we sometimes get mixed up with grateful.

You see, blessed is a passive word, whereas grateful is an active word.  Someone gives you a blessing, but you have to take an action to be grateful.  Being grateful is a decision.  We are fond of saying that God has blessed us.  And trust me, I wholeheartedly believe He has, but maybe just not in the way we think.

Now if you feel like I’m on the edge of blasphemy here, please stick with me. I promise this will turn out okay.  

Let’s say you have a beautiful home and a good job.  It’s easy to say, “I’m so blessed.”  But here’s the flip side.  Is the person who lost their job not blessed?  The person who is working two jobs just to make ends meet less blessed?  

Or think about how often you’ve heard the phrase, “I’m blessed with good health.”  Great, but does that mean the person who has cancer is not blessed?  That they somehow incurred wrath from somewhere?

I can hear you thinking, “No way.  That’s not what I meant at all.”  

And I’m with you.  What we really mean is that we are grateful for our homes, our jobs, our health.  And we would never want our gratitude to be confused for the belief that we have somehow received divine preference over our neighbors.

Blessings are something that we, the collective humanity, share.  Nature and life itself are blessings.  Things we can all enjoy.  I, personally, don’t believe they are doled out to a few, and I don’t believe they always look like we would expect them to.

And while this may seem like a game of semantics, words really do matter. (Yes, I was an English major, so humor me with this one for moment.)  Think about someone whose world is falling apart.  If you are busy talking about your blessings, things that are received, where does that leave them?  It leaves them feeling like they are walking around under a dark cloud, out of sorts, out of favor.

Rather, share your gratitude.  Your zest to acknowledge all that is beautiful, from the smallest to the greatest moments.  Trust me, I am a recovering blessing user myself.  I used to liberally smatter blessings here, there, and everywhere.  But after reading an article about the importance of our words, I realized I was truly filled with gratitude.  I wanted to wish people a beautiful day, a day with at least one moment of happy, and leave blessings to the big guy.

So as you start to make your plans for family dinners, school activities, and get togethers with friends, I encourage you to think about those words that are most meaningful for you and those you love.  How will they impact others?  How can you share your gratitude?  

P.S. A version of this post was published in the Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Smashing Pumpkins (not the band)

Okay, I’m going to admit it. We have not one itty bitty bit of pumpkin decor out at the farm.  No farmhouse steps lined with white pumpkins and mums.  No pumpkin spice latte in the percolator.  Somewhere in the garden shed is my pumpkin welcome sign, which I may or may not bother to dig out.  We’ll see.

As I scroll through Instagram, I see tons of tablescapes, porchscapes, and all kinds of farm-y scapes filled with pumpkins and leaves and just the right amount of bling.  And did you know if you are decorating with pumpkins, the traditional rich orange is not your only choice?  They come in all shades of sage green and cream so you can artfully blend them with the carefully crafted farmhouse look.

What’s the farmhouse look?  As best as I can tell, it’s furniture slip covered in white, a little bit of distressed wood, a little bit of metal, a few antique-y things, and grey, beige, and white everywhere else.

It seems the concept of farmhouse is all the rage these days.  I get it. It’s lovely and dreamy, and the Fixer Upper people have turned it into a lucrative business (seriously, that’s great for them).  But for most of us living in the country,  these pics are not even close to reality.

So for a little fall fun, I thought I’d debunk a few of the fall farmhouse decor myths, at least around this farmgirl’s humble barndominium.

White sofas – Who are we kidding with this one?  Yes, it’s lovely.  And yes you can bleach it, but heaven help me I’d be bleaching daily.  It would remain white for all of two seconds before Maybelle bounded onto it with wet paws or a black cat decided to make it his scratching post.

My Farmtastic Life - Rhino the cat and Max the dog
This right here is why we do not have white sofas. If it’s not washable and can take a little dirt, it’s not happening at the farm.

Pumpkins by the dozens – Yes, pumpkins are great.  But thanks to Starbucks and their PSL (pumpkin spice latte in case you’ve been hiding under a rock), pumpkin flavors and pumpkin decor are E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E.  And while folks used to get one pumpkin and carve it with the kiddos, the photo worthy farmhouses filling up my Instagram feed look as if they’ve had an 18-wheeler of pumpkins delivered. Seriously, the last time I had a pumpkin, it was lovely, right up until I left it outside, sitting too long on the porch bench, and well let’s just say it was not pleasant when I picked it up.  And on a side note, I seriously do not remember all of this pumpkin crazy when we were kids. Our moms handed us the plastic pumpkin to go trick-or-treating, we watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and called it good.

Accessories, lord honey, accessories – Look, we all love to decorate our houses. They are expressions of us.  For Cowboy and I, it’s a mix of things we’ve collected over the years.  Lately, though we’ve been on a real pairing down spree.  Why?  Because country living is dusty and messy.  That’s right, when you live in the country with gravel driveways and large fields, well dust is just a fact of life. And while I truly adore all of those perfectly accessorized rooms, it’s just not practical.  Not to mention, with dog tails wagging and cats climbing, things will get knocked over, broken, and worst of all, eaten. (And on that last one, if eaten stays down and doesn’t come back up or out to haunt you in another way, well then that’s a good critter day.)

Perfect porches – Now this one speaks to my heart of hearts.  The porch is my home. I am out on my porch daily.  It’s my happy place.  But it does not constantly look like I am ready to host tea.  I don’t have rugs and fabrics swathed all around.  Why, you ask?  Well, first of all, the aforementioned critters.  Heck, I’m lucky if I can keep Maybelle from digging up my potted plants, or, worse, eating horse apple snacks.  That means it’s slim to none, I’m going to keep fabrics pristine outside.  Pillows?  Let’s just say they’d be gone with the wind.  After two summers of chasing chair cushions around the pasture, I finally wised up and bought ones that tie to the chairs. Brilliant!  There is nothing like riding the tractor around the farm, weaving between horses, looking for chair cushions. Oh and what decor is on my porch right now? A snake grabber and a shovel. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Now I say a lot of this with fun and jest.  We love fall and all the joy that comes with it. And I’m sure pumpkin something or other will appear at the farm before this season ends. (Seriously, all of this pumpkin madness has to be a real boom for pumpkin farmers. Two points for that.)

And to those farm style bloggers who can whip up some amazing decor and inspire us all, more power to you.  You are some amazing folks. However, if you are reading this and are a bit more like this farmgirl, i.e. likely to be wandering around doing chores in an old t-shirt, jeans, and muck boots, your house slightly disheveled, the only white decor that stands a chance is your washable wood trim, and critters rule the roost, it’s perfectly okay.

Don’t feel guilty.  Don’t think you have to run out and fill your grocery cart with pumpkins and somehow stack them with  hay bales and mums in a way that is oh so extra.  Don’t spend hundreds on craft supplies to make the perfect tablescape that is destined to be chewed on by the cat.  Instead, enjoy your farm (or cottage, or house, or apartment), and whatever fall means to you.  Drink a PSL if you like, or go rogue and drink a Dr. Pepper from a glass bottle while sitting barefoot on the porch reading a good book. (Personally, I pick cozy mysteries every time. )

And for all you ladies who make it looks so easy, God bless you. I do love the inspiration.  But when I look at my own farm pics on Instagram, I have to remind myself that pumpkins and white sofas are just one of the many ways farmgirls can decorate our humble abodes.  For the rest of us, washable denim and a can of Libby’s pumpkin will have to do.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 6.21.54 PM
Okay we have one pumpkin on the farm. But seriously – how can you not love this crazy girl? #maybellethemagnificent

P.S. I totally recognize the irony of writing this on the eve of visiting the Magnolia Silos. Maybe I just had to assure my wacky farmgirl self, who while not the quintessntial decorator, is still quite okay.  At least in the eyes of Cowboy and the critters, and that’s all that matters.