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They watch everything we do…

Our children watch everything we do, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I know this, we all know this, but as we are in the thick of county fair season I have been reminded of it once again.

Red Ribbons

I am not proud of the next few sentences I am going to type, but I am an open book and always share because I know my storms and trials may help others.  Our family started off last week with static judging at the county fair.  Both girls had projects, Ellie for Clover Kids, and Grace for 4-H.  They had both worked really hard, just like all of the kids do to prepare for the county fair.  Grace confidently marched to get in line to get judged on her quilt that she had made. As she walked away from me I couldn’t help but think about the pep she had in her step as she walked away.  I watched as she talked with the judge, shared about her project, and pointed to her goal page and pictures that she had compiled. 

I must have been looking away as it ended because when I looked up Grace was walking towards me WITHOUT that pep in her step.  As any mom would do I said, “What’s the matter?”  Her response, “I got red and she said I could have done better.”  My horrible response that I wish I could take back (imagine my tone), “You, got a red?!?!” Then when I saw the tears welling up in her eyes I just threw her next project at her and told her to get in line with her scotcheroos and cookies.

Being the worrywart that I am I have replayed my reaction a million times in my head.  Do I wish I would have responded differently? Absolutely!  Did she/I learn something from it? Absolutely! I was truly just shocked, not mad.  I knew how hard she had worked on that quilt, but in the end, how hard a parent thinks their child worked on a project doesn’t impact the color of ribbon that is given by the JUDGE.  They are the judge for a reason.  Once I was able to gather my thoughts I was able to respond totally different when she walked back towards me with 2 blues and consideration to the state fair and we talked about what she might have done to improve her quilt to make it a blue ribbon quilt. Had I not done that and took a different approach to the red ribbon the entire day could have gone a different direction.  When we laid our heads down that night I told her to never let the red ribbon take away from the 4 blue ribbons and consideration for the state fair that she had received, but use it to encourage her to try again next year.

So why am I telling all of you this story?  Over the next few weeks of county fair season your children, grandchildren, neighbor children, or club members are going to be watching YOU.  They are watching how you react, interact with others, volunteer, and how you handle THEIR wins and losses. 

These children are the future volunteers at our county fairs and in our communities and they are making memories that will last a lifetime.  They will follow in our footsteps and lead another generation of 4-H and FFA members.  I encourage all of us to truly think about the comments that we make about that hog that wins that we think was too fat, that red ribbon that we think should have been a purple, or giving of your time to clean a neighbors pen or sweep all of the aisles (just because) even if it isn’t your kids' aisle.

Remember they watch everything we do…

What are some of your favorite county fair memories or experiences?

From the gravel road,



By now you if you have been scrolling your social media feeds you have seen numerous pictures of flooded fields, buried cattle, and floating hogs scattered across farms in the Midwest. You have listened to the reports of heroism and rescues that have occurred during this disastrous time in our country. Human lives have been lost and the livelihoods of many individuals have been ripped away as quickly as a band aid is ripped off of a skinned knee, the problem is the loss of livelihood that has occurred won’t recover like a skinned knee.

What I see when I look at the devastation in the pictures are farmers and ranchers ranging from 18 to 85 years old that have given their blood, sweat, and tears for generations to build a legacy for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and it is now floating away from them and there is nothing they can do to stop it. I am listening to news interviews and hearing them saying things like, “We have found 14 live hogs out of 700” or “We have lost our entire calf crop, but have found a few of our heifers.”  For many that didn’t sell their crop that was harvested this fall it is now laying in a swamp of pooled, dirty water with nowhere to go. This legacy I speak of is near and dear to my heart. I see my own father in many of these news reports, I see stats that say the number of calls for mental health assistance to the Farm Aid Crisis Hotline rose 109 percent in 2018, and I can’t quit thinking about the hours of blood, sweat, and tears my own father has poured into his livelihood and legacy. 

And here is the thing that the general population doesn’t understand and the discussion I had today with someone that prompted this post. My dad does it because he LOVES it.  It is HIS livelihood. We do it because we love it! It is part of our livelihood.  I challenge you to find any farmer or rancher that tells you different. Sure, there are hard times and the current markets reflect the worst of times. Back to what the person said to me, “If it is so horrible why don’t they just quit?” Quit what they love? Quit the only thing that brings them joy? Quit on that newborn calf that’s first time momma hid him in the long green grass to protect him from a predator? Quit on the people in this world that need to be fed? Quit on your favorite sow that always produces milk like a champ and raises a great litter of piglets? Quit on a livelihood that has raised 3 children to know a family that works together and loves each other. I call bull

I asked the person that was questioning me what they would do if tomorrow when they arrived to their place of employment it had burned to the ground and their livelihood was gone.  They chuckled and said, “Awesome, no more work.”  I was grasping at straws at this point and the only thing I could say was that I remembered the date of Feb. 4, 1989 like it was yesterday.  I was in 2nd grade and our local high school was burning.  Now, what kid doesn’t flippantly make a comment at one point or another like, “I wish the school would burn so we didn’t have to go anymore?”  I guarantee you no school age kid living in Rudd, Rockford, or Marble Rock at that time would say something like that after Feb. 4, 1989.

  It was devastating to me as a 2nd grader and I tried to explain that while we might grumble and grunt about not wanting to work or not wanting to go to school when that is your livelihood and you are left with a bunch of melted coins from a pop machine or a pile of dead hogs as your souvenir there is nothing you want back more than your previous life. I call bull on that person that would be excited about no more work because their livelihood was destroyed.  And I wholeheartedly call bull on that fact that any farmer or rancher would be happy that their livelihood and legacy floated away in a muddy mess of water.

So tonight as you stand in a cattle yard filled with manure and melting ice or as you scroll through your social media feed from your warm house and comfortable recliner, please remember to be grateful that you have those cattle to feed or that comfy chair to sit in, remember the farmers and ranchers that are dealing with the loss of their livelihood and the fact that they may not recover and put yourself in their mud boots for a while.

First, if you know someone or are someone that could use someone to talk to about your current mental health status I beg you to reach out for help at 1-800-273-TALK

Second, if you feel called to donate to relief this article has a few different organizations.

Third, I would love your comments and thoughts!

From the gravel road-


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