Powerwashing and Looking Back

I power washed my friend’s deck last summer. It’s not that our small town lacked entertainment so desperately that I was reduced to forceful grime removal but rather a matter of Ya Ya Diplomacy. Yes, Ya Ya, the name of my gang of girlfriends as playfully Christened by our Methodist pastor.

            Our gang consists of six friends, all teachers, and we have a list of things we have done together including surviving divorces, surviving teaching middle school, sitting through a million youth football games and welcoming the birth of children. One Thursday in June we added to the list of things we’ve faced together when we laid Natalie’s eight-week old son to rest after a terrible accident.

            My friend, Natalie, left town to be with her ailing grandfather days after her son’s funeral. We were at her house freezing the innumerable pans of lasagna and chasing “bad” out of her house. You can call it ghosts, bad ju ju, whatever. We chased it out with brooms, shovels and steam cleaners. We hauled it away in a Chevrolet and washed it clean. We were extending God’s grace to a woman so desperately needing it in any way we knew how.

            I went to Natalie’s home shortly after the ambulance took her baby, Tate, away and I rarely left for days afterward. Monday was spent in baby Tate’s room holding on to Natalie and holding on for Natalie. Witnessing the wail of a mother who feels crippling grief and guilt is something that changes your outlook on a number of things. Watching that mother being carried in to her baby’s funeral by her husband, daddy and brother affects people. This is why I needed to powerwash.

            I was methodical. I didn’t want to leave evidence of a shoddy job but rather a slate wiped clean. That deck had been our summer headquarters for a number of years and it deserved a little care. I made long, deliberate horizontal strokes and washed the deck by sections. I washed the tops and sides of the railings and nearly everything else that wouldn’t be blown away by the powerful spray of water. I washed until the wood was dripping and new-looking.

            I’ve never denied the fact that I talk to myself and that’s what I was doing as I was squeezing the trigger on the power washer that day. With every layer of age and grime that blew off the wood railing, something better was exposed and my thoughts were cleaner and clearer. I pondered what it meant to help a friend get through the worst tragedy of her life and what a gift it was for me when I went to town to purchase the clothes Tate’s father would wear to his funeral. I thought about how faith dictated the things that were said in a whisper and written on the inside of sympathy cards and how many people wrote checks to keep their hands busy.

            There’s a story about the friends of an ailing man who carried him on a mat to be healed, one friend on each of the corners of the man’s mat. I thought of this story, tightened my grip on the power washing wand, tightened my grip on Natalie’s mat and carried on like a good little Ya Ya should.



Make Plans to attend!

Come join me at the Colorado Farm Bureau office on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 for the first meeting of the FarmWife Project.
The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. and will run until 3 p.m. The day will be a workshop-style day concentrating on writing and being an agvocate. This is a great opportunity to get a jump on New Years Resolutions, make some new friends, and visit with other women in Colorado agriculture.
Guaranteed good times and guaranteed chocolate.
Please contact me if you would like more information. rachel@lincolncountyfb.com or 719-892-0210.

Farm Bureau Junkies

My husband, Jason, is a bit of a Farm Bureau junkie. He is not only the youngest member of our county board, but also the vice president and the chair of both the policy and scholarship commitees. We’re both active in Colorado YF&R and will be attending AFBF in Atlanta to compete in the Excellence in Agriculture contest.

We live and breathe Farm Bureau around our home so last night’s news was great. Jason has been appointed to the American Farm Bureau Federation Swine Advisory Committee to represent the western region of the US.

Jason’s family has been in the hog business for many years but when Jason took the reins of the fifth generation farming operation, he looked at things a bit differently.

We are heavily involved in 4-H and FFA programs and recognized the need of local kids who would like to exhibit competitive, quality show pigs at reasonable costs.  Our son, who completed his first year in 4-H, is also in that category.

Our showpig operation has grown exponentially in the past two years and our hogs have been exhibited sucessfully in multiple Colorado counties, the Colorado State Fair and the National Western Stock Show. That’s a lot of happy kids holding ribbons in their hands!

As we continue to build our showpig business and continue to also cultivate our family farm, we strive to do things right.

We’re so glad that Jason received the proverbial nod from AFBF President Bob Stallman to represent the Western Region in AFBF. He’s looking forward to the journey he’s about to take and the amazing amount of information he’s about to learn and the amazing relationships he’s about to make.

Congratulations to Jason and Merry Christmas to you!

FarmWife Project 411

When the FarmWife Project began taking shape, I had a number of hopes for it. First, I hoped a few Colorado ag women would be interested enough to follow through on writing a few blogs. Second, I hoped a sisterhood would develop and finally, I hoped we could meet face to face (and eat chocolate) and develop contacts around the state.

As it turns out, the FarmWife Project (FWP) has been a blessing to me personally and I look forward to helping it grow.

One FarmWife, Veronica Lasater, gave up her life in the city and moved to a remote, southern Colorado sheep ranch in Bayfield when her father in law fell ill.

Another, Betty Shahan, is celebrating her 74th birthday today. After her husband’s passing, she finished purchasing the family ranch and continues to run it today, 27 years later. 

Kaari Milligin is married to the largest livestock owner in the state. She helps him raise bees in the southwest corner of Colorado.

Each and every FarmWife you will meet has a story to tell. Until we meet in January, I would invite you to begin writing. Below I have included some tips on telling your story as well as guidelines for the piece itself.

My Best Advice About Telling Your Story

Sincerity is key. This is just like meeting someone new. If you are sincere in your participation in a conversation with them, they will appreciate it just as you would.

Cultivate sisterhood. We are members of Colorado’s largest sorority…farm and ranch women. We all know how cold 3 a.m. in February is. We all know the worry lines in our partner’s faces watching the farm report or the weather. We share this set of experiences together and no one can relate to us better than one of our own.

Emotion and logic have to be partners as we talk about agriculture whether it is to someone directly related to production agriculture or not.

Share what you would tell your sister or your best friend.

If you agree to begin the conversation, agree to continue the conversation. It’s pretty darn amazing that people spend their valuable time reading what I have to say and I try to be conscious of their effort and be consistent and intentional in my communication to them.

Basic Housekeeping for The FWP

Blogs should be about 500 words. Don’t obsess but they’re designed to be quick reading.

Blogs should include a photo or a link to another site that is related when possible.

Be conversational and sincere…you’ll be fine. When your blog is complete, shoot it to me in an email. I’ll edit it (not so much for content but mechanics) and I’ll publish it on my site. If you would like feedback, additional editing, or a pep talk just say the word and I’ll do what I can.

Please share the site with your contacts and help promote the FWP so we’re networking and telling our stories.

If you are interested in becoming one of the FarmWives, drop me a line at rachel@lincolncountyfb.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Rotational Grazing

We culled a number of cows the other day and hauled them to the Bred Cow Sale in Burlington, Colorado. There were a few momma cows in that batch that I didn’t mind bidding adieu. I hummed and skipped when we loaded the cows we call the Fence Crawlers.

The Fence Crawlers can tiptoe through a tight, five strand barbed wire fence without a scratch and they stand in fields (fully aware they’re not supposed to be there) and glare at me in a cow-ish, snobby way. There’s nothing worse than a self-righteous Maine Anjou cross with an attitude. It’s very similar to a middle school girl eyeroll and huff.

As if this were not bad enough, they pass their craft to younger members of the herd. I admire their mentorship program but it results in a lot of early morning phone calls. Jason says people should call him when the cows are in…that would be news.

I took the opportunity when we sorted the Fence Crawlers off the herd last Sunday to talk to the other cows without the peer pressure of the clique-y cows present. I told them that we believe in rotational grazing but crawling through a different fence every day into a new field does not constitute forage conservation!

I think they were receptive and left the corrals ready to turn over a new cow patty. As for the Fence Crawlers, I’m sure they’ll find a new home on another ranch somewhere. I hope they have good fences.


I hit a hawk in a Subaru when I was 17.

This weird little incident resulted in a broken windshield and a black eye. I worked in the cafe in my small hometown at this point so you can just imagine the attention that was cultivated.

On Tuesdays, it was the habit of the ladies from the Womens Shelter to come in for lunch. I told them that the special was a beef burrito with green chile and that we had cherry and apple pie.

One of them slid me a business card.

“Oh, no, ma’am,” I said. “I hit a hawk. In a Subaru.”

“When you need to talk, honey,” she said. “Let me know.”

I tell you that story so I can tell you this story.

Our farrowing barn is empty now for a few weeks before we start farrowing our showpigs. We discovered that Caden’s rabbit had babies the other night and I needed a heat lamp for them since it’s been so cold out here in eastern Colorado.

I made my way through the pitch black farrowing barn to a farrowing crate that I knew had a heatlamp in it. I had one foot in the crate and was leaning as far as my 5 foot frame would allow with my other foot hooked on another crate.

About the time I managed to hook my finger on the lamp cord to pull it to me, I heard barn swallows fluttering through the barn. When one flew into my forehead at full speed, I couldn’t utter a sound. I was too speechless even to curse which is the unbelievable part of this entire story.

The boys were waiting on me when I finally made it back to the bunny cages and they both looked at me and asked what took so long.

“I hit…a…bird,” I stammered. “With my forehead.”

They shrugged and took the heatlamp from me. I think this makes the score Birds 2, Rachel 0.