Be still my heart

Wednesday was the last official day of summer. I love summer time. The extra long days and warm weather. Tan lines and swimming pools. I even love the heat. I’m not as used to it as I once was, but I still like a good, dry heat with a little breeze.

The boys and I had arrived home later than normal on Wednesday because they wanted to stop and see their cousin. My husband was abnormally early that day and rode out to check the heifers and get a good count. He was closing the pasture gate when we got home and the boys begged from the backseat to go ride. Dad obliged and saddled all three horses. I started supper and went out to check on them only to be promptly left afoot since there was nothing left to ride. I went back in the house to get something and looked out the patio door to see the most beautiful light and my three boys riding across the CRP grass east of our house. I immediately grabbed my camera and shoes and headed out. As they got back to the house, the heifers had lined up against the horse pasture fence and I walked out to get some photos of them.

I couldn’t wait to get to the office the next day to see what I captured. The images I recorded made my heart swell. Of course I shared them on my social media and I’ve had way more praises than I ever wished for. I enjoy photography and enjoy my loyal subjects. I’ve also been teaching myself Lightroom, so I edited my favorites as well.

Here’s a few photos from that evening.

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Harvest

The very word harvest conjures up many childhood memories. As far back as my memory recollects, wheat harvest was a time like no other. Sure, there was stress, arguments, breakdowns and a rush to get the grain to the elevator, but there was also pride, hope and dreams fulfilled.

My dad quit farming shortly after I graduated from college in 2002. I really can’t remember my “last” harvest on the acres he worked, but I do have memories spanning most of my childhood. From my flip-flop that got lost in the bed of the truck and was later retrieved at the elevator, to the grape pop in glass bottles and the fights that ensued over the window seat in the truck, harvest time was special. Dad worked his butt off from the beginning of the work day until there wasn’t a speck of sunlight in the sky. He was dirty, tired and frazzled, but once the crop was in the bin he was happy.

Mom always said, “after harvest” we could get new shoes or get something special that we’d been wanting. They also got to pay bills, allowing them to farm another year. Most times, harvest was during the middle of June or sometimes later and since the Fourth of July was always so close, Dad would splurge (totally break the bank) on fireworks. He would come home with gigantic boxes – one for each of us 3 girls – and we would light stuff on fire well into the night. He’d also buy rodeo tickets to the local prorodeo. Most times for every night, getting the same row and seats if he could. Or we got a new belt, pair of boots or some jeans.

Since my husband has taken over his family’s 100-year-old farm in Clark County, the wheat crop has been less than stellar. His first crop was a failure because of drought conditions, as were the following crops. This year however, he managed to get the wheat in the ground when he needed to and received some necessary rains at the right times. It was nice to see the bin on the combine get full fast and not take quite a few acres to fill. I could see the pride in his eyes when he was crunching numbers in the truck and telling me what it made. It sure made my heart happy to see him relieved and proud all at once.

It was also the first time both boys had gotten the opportunity to ride in the combine while wheat was being cut. Shaun’s no stranger to the tractor and anytime he gets a chance to ride in the big machinery he will have to be peeled out of it, kicking and screaming. Chance was just taking it all in. Seeing them enjoy it made me pretty darn proud.

As always, I had the camera with me and found the right shot to take. Enjoy! Happy harvest!

A broken down combine gets checked out while another dumps, June 24 in Clark County, Kansas.

A broken down combine gets checked out while another dumps, June 24 in Clark County, Kansas.

Dozens of name badges

In the nearly 12 years I have been at my current job, I’ve hardly thrown out a name badge from various meetings, conventions and functions I have attended representing my place of employment. Partly because they have my name on them, but mostly because they show where I’ve been.

On nearly every one of those badges is a ribbon with MEDIA on it. I take pride in my job, but at times it can get pretty repetitive telling someone what I do and who I work for if they are outside the agriculture industry. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful we have all the news and information we cram in each issue for our readers; and that I can travel then consequently write about all I learned. What I get tired of is the misconception of what media in agriculture means.

I have a bachelors degree in agricultural communications from Oklahoma State. What does that mean? Well, I took journalism classes to teach me how to interview, write and take photographs. I also took classes ranging from agronomy to animal science. I even took an agricultural law class. The aim was to have knowledge of both sides – journalism and agriculture. When I graduated and left college, I felt as though I had a great mix of both subjects and in my first job as a general assignment reporter at a daily newspaper I was equally prepared enough to write about the school board as I was an agricultural meeting I was sent to cover.

In the last month I have questioned my chosen career path because of frustrations stemming from the most basic part of my job. Calling a farmer or rancher. I fear my luck has run out because of a couple of guys who just won’t call me back. It’s hard to say if they don’t like the subject, my publication or even what I’m writing about.

There’s a saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Well, I’m not a teacher or downgrading the importance of what teachers do. But I often feel as though it would be nice to be working on the farm or ranch every day, but I don’t think I have the skills and my husband doesn’t have the time or patience to teach me (he might though), so I write about it and photograph the beautiful things all around me.

I don’t expect everyone to understand the media, or what agricultural journalism is all about. What I do expect is for someone to take me at face value. Let my actions and not assumptions define who I am as a writer.

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A lot of firsts

A couple of months ago after returning from maternity leave, I was planning my travel schedule, and found that I would have to cover a cattlemen’s meeting in Colorado Springs during mid-June. Last year the same meeting was in Breckenridge, and I tried to get my husband to come with me. To no avail, he had to work. So this year, I worked a little harder on him (practically begged) to get him to take a “vacation” with me. Although I would have to work most of the time we were there, we still had some time to do a couple of fun things, and take Shaun on his first trip.

Our 3-year-old son had never been on vacation, but I didn’t tell him we were going anywhere until the day before we were going to leave. He’s the type of kid that if you tell him something we are going to do fun, he will obsess over it for days. I saved myself some of the agony and only let him wonder for a day. Once we were packed and in the car, only did we explain where we were going. We again saved the fun part – a cog train ride – until we stopped for lunch in Pueblo. That was our ticket for him to get quiet and take a nap. And it worked.

Another first was the hotel. Shaun was kind of confused why we left our suitcases in the room every time we left. He wanted to take his with us each time we left the room. I think it was because it had wheels on it. But eventually the suitcase turned into a mower and the closet became his trailer. (His dad has hauled the mower from the farm to our house a few times, and the kid is obsessed about pickups, tractors, mowers and trailers.) This kept him occupied for a while during the time I was at meetings I believe.

Shaun and his Dad also swam in the indoor pool. He’d had swimming lessons when he was about a year old, but Mom missed the deadline for his 2-year-old year so he didn’t get lessons last year. When I managed to go swim with them, Shaun was clingy and crying and not having much fun. I blame it on him being so tired. Guess we will have to work on that this summer.

Here’s a couple of photos from our trip.

Shaun's excitement could hardly be contained before the train ride.

Shaun’s excitement could hardly be contained before the train ride.

Shaun and his Dad at the Summit.

Shaun and his Dad at the Summit.

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Something about the clouds

I’ve worked at home for the last two days, and with young kids that’s quite the fete. My oldest had been asking to go to Grandma’s and when she called yesterday and wanted to pick him up, I gladly sent him on his way. The youngest slept basically all afternoon in his swing, and I actually got to sit down and write a story for work. Midday, I decided to go take some photos to accompany the story I was working on. Since it was muddy when I woke up Thursday, my first stop outside was the rain gauge. I was shocked to find an inch of rain in the gauge, and then thanked the Lord for the moisture. It was glorious even though I didn’t even get to hear it come down during the night.IMG_7633

My second stop for photos was out in the horse pasture. The mares were out eating all the green sprigs coming up, and since I hoped to get them eating off a round bale I tricked them by putting some grain on the bale. Shhh.. Don’t tell our readers! While I was waiting on them to come up, I gazed at the sky and admired all the beautiful clouds against the blue sky. I turned around and saw the sky and clouds making a pretty photo behind the windmill. It turned out pretty darn nice!

There’s just something about clouds, sunsets and sunrises that make my heart sing. I scroll through my photos, and if it isn’t a horse or kid, it’s of the sky. Not sure why I take so many pics of the heavens, but I don’t see it stopping anytime soon..

 

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Massive storm cloud southeast of my house April 23.

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Blue sky, clouds and windmills. What else do you need for a photo?

Work

I ran across a tweet on Twitter this morning, that said, “I don’t want a job, I just want money.” Oh how perfect life would be if one didn’t have to work for their money. At least that’s what I am feeling this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job, but it would be nice to be able to do every single thing my mind wanders to and wishes for. It would be nice to have a workshop and I could sand, paint, stain and create to my heart’s content. It would be nice to have a fully stocked office with a super fast computer and a bag full of awesome lenses that way I could edit the many magnificent photos I know I can find and take. It would be nice to have a way to make money at creating things and capturing images. I know many people do the things I am wishing for each day and are very successful at them. What is holding me back? Heck, I don’t know. Maybe its fear of failure. Maybe its lack of desire. Maybe it’s lack of time.

My very first job out of college started a week after graduation. In that week, I moved into my apartment, tucked away all of my things, and sent the rest of my stuff back home with my dad. One of my most prized possessions would have to remain there too, my horse. But it wasn’t long before I found a place for her to live and she joined me back in Oklahoma. At my job as a general assignment reporter I covered anything that was thrown at me – education issues, agriculture issues, news stories, and even features. It was a fun time, and one that I won’t forget and one that taught me so much, but I wanted to be directly involved in writing about agriculture.

Nearly 10 years ago I started at my current job. My title at the time was copy editor. My days were filled with editing stories and sending them to the right edition. I occasionally got to write stories and take photos. Then web editor was added to my resume. I did a lot of the same things, but with more of a web-influenced track. Then in 2012 I was promoted to associate editor. With more of a focus on stories, covering events, photos and other duties my job sure has evolved from what it did when I started in 2003. But I do like to write, really enjoy taking photos and traveling.

So, why then does the thought of changing my path creep into my brain? Am I getting a seven-year itch three years too late? Who knows. But what I do know is I need a steady job to pay the bills to survive. We have a house to maintain, horses to feed and Shaun to feed and clothe. Those things aren’t cheap, not to mention the bills that seem to always make their way to our mailbox.

When telling my husband about my thoughts on the subject of work last night, he asked, “what would you do if you didn’t work there?” Honestly, I said, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I will keep on keeping on. I’m not a quitter and will get the job done, no matter how unpleasant or unhappy I am. Then, as I was trolling Twitter again, thinking of how to finish up this post, I ran across this – Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely. -Unknown