Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mike Rowe and the War on Work

If I've never mentioned it, I love the show Dirty Jobs. I love watching people with no agriculture experience try their hand at what most people in the industry and on the farm consider everyday work. I've actually played this prank on a few folks and made them bottle feed calves.

Of course, everyone LOVES to bottle feed calves--they are cute, fuzzy and like to snuggle when it's cold.

What people don't like is the less than cute stuff--like wiping up a calf that has the scours (diarrhea). Or castration. Or holding a cow's head while the vet cuts her eye out, because there's no way to save it (and no that was not me holding that cows head--that was my fiance).

My point is, it doesn't take too long to figure out what folks want to do. Most of the time it has nothing to do with manual labor or getting dirty. This had long been a point I pondered as I was trying to decide what to do with my life--people say to follow your passions, but what if you can't follow your passions? What if they aren't sustainable? What if your passions don't meet the white collar standard of others? What will you do then?


I had an science teacher in high school that was easy to get off topic--we tried to do it regularly. Because of that I don't remember much from that class, but I do remember one thing she told us: You don't have to go to college.

As a middle class American white kid, I was very offended by this statement and took it up with her after class. How dare she discourage someone from continuing their education? Isn't college a right?

Her answer opened my eyes and continues to rear it's snarky head every once in a while. She said, "Jillian, if everyone goes to college--whose gonna fix your car when it breaks down? Who are you going to call when you need a plumber? Not everyone's cut out for college and it certainly isn't everyone's dream."

I was reminded of our conversation as I was watching this video by Mike Rowe. He's shpill on the work profile of America was enlightening. He gave me a glimpse of how different our country would be without those who do the grunt work, those who aren't afraid to get dirty. His speech was inspirational and made me thankful for the people I take for granted--farmers, plumbers, miners, exterminators... It made me re-examine statements I had always assumed were correct (i.e.--follow your passions) and helped me realize that sometimes you have to do, what you have to do.

I hope you take a moment and check out this video and as a result, I hope you are more grateful for the men and women who keep this country running.

Now if you will excuse me, I'm going to hug a plumber. (Well maybe just shake his hand and say, "Thanks!")

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Blog Outlet!

Hey gang! Just wanted to share something amazing with y'all-- it's called AGazine.

 AGazine is the blog outlet for Auburn University College of Ag. It features several Ag Comm students who talk about everything--from AGventures to internships and foreign countries.

So when you get time--check it out. It's definitely worth the read!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Over Simplified and Over Illustrated Synopsis of Peanut Harvest

Most people have no idea what this is.  

And if I had never seen this freaky little
plant that blooms above ground...



and fruits below, I'd probably be clueless too.



It's a peanut plant! 

This is what it looks like "inverted" 
or pulled out of the ground and flipped over...
 
...and this is what it looks like while it's still growing.


Farmers use a plow with chains to pull up the 
peanut plants and flip them over. This lets 
them dry in the sun til they are ready to be picked. 
Sometimes these plows are called "inverters" or "shakers."

After the peanuts dry, it's time for the "pickers"



Some folks use pull-behind pickers,
others use self-propelled combines,
both work pretty much the same.


The peanuts are taken up the header....



...and are cleaned by threshers inside the body. 
The peanuts fall down on a shaker pan where 
they travel to a auger and eventually to a fan 
duct where they are blown into the basket.
The vines and trash work their way out the back.

If you haven't noticed by now, 
peanut pickin' is dusty business.

Picking is also a very
s  l  o  w
process.

After the baskets are full, the boys
dump the peanuts into wagons that are 
picked up by the local mill.


When I was in high school 
my job was to level wagons. 
I didn't really HAVE to do it, 
but I like to, so I'd climb up in 
a wagon and shovel peanuts. 


Until I met Waldo.
I no longer shovel peanuts.


Snakes are a common sight during 
peanut harvest as are breakdowns...


which often leave the boys scratching their heads...


...like this one. 


Despite the snakes and breakdowns, 
peanut harvest is very rewarding.


It brings out the best in neighbors who always 
make sure farmboys have PLENTY to eat...


...and it helps us prepare for winter. 
We bale the vines for cattle feed.

 At the end of the day, the peanuts will 
get "green" again, meaning the moisture
content increases in the vines making 
picking more difficult. So we quit for the day.


And that my friends, is the super simplified 
and over illustrated synopsis of peanut harvest.

If you have any questions let me know! 
If I don't know the answer, I know one
slightly smelly and very dusty farmer that does.


Keep it between the ditches y'all,
Jillian

Monday, September 20, 2010

Football gets in the way of blogging...

Hey Gang!

So it feels like forty-forevers since my last post. My deepest apologies for the lack of updates. Instead of writing a long drawn out post about life back on the Plains (which is SEC speak for Auburn University) I figured I'd share a few pictures.



Enjoying the game SEC style--in sundresses!


Auburn University Marching Band--Arkansas State Game

BYOTP: Bring Your Own Toilet Paper---Toomer's Corner
So far this has been an amazing semester, but between football, work and school, it has been nearly impossible to get a blog post up exclusively for this site. But don't give up on me--you will continue to see posts here as well as in a new outlet.

AU College of Ag is launching a new blog site--which I will be contributing to. I hope you'll check out the new AU site to catch my posts and blogs from other ag students.When I find out the "official" link I'll pass it along.

Until then--

WAR EAGLE!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The More Things Change...


I realized this week that I have moved four times in 13 weeks.
I moved from Alabama to Florida.
From Florida to Missouri.
From Missouri back to Florida.
And from Florida back to Alabama.
You would think by now I would have this packing thing down but I don’t. I still have to sit on my luggage to be able to zip it.
But the important thing is—it zips.

Aside from my constant state of unpacking and repacking—I’ve had an amazing summer. I never dreamed I would have the chance to move to “the big city” (as Ma calls it) and work for such an awesome company. I never dreamed I’d meet so many AMAZING people in the short time I lived in the Midwest. This summer was full of new experiences and taught me a lot about myself.
Two questions have kept popping up recently, and I’d like to address both of them here:
Question 1 from Missouri: Do you miss home?
Yes. While I was in STL, especially those first six weeks I missed home terribly. I had just moved 800 miles from the nearest person I knew and I was homesick. Generally when I’m not happy I play the piano or walk around the farm. Since I had no piano or farm—I spent a lot of time walking at the conservation park in Chesterfield…until the grass got so tall I wasn’t sure if big foot was creeping around the walking path or if it was just a mammoth rabbit.
But the short answer was yes—I was incredibly homesick.

Question 2 from Florida/Alabama: Do you miss Missouri?
Yes, I miss Missouri. (To answer your next question: No—I don’t plan to move back.)
This summer was an amazing experience—and after I realized that I wasn’t going to die from the homesickness I experienced those first few weeks, I really began to enjoy myself. Heck—I kinda hated to leave. I made some AMAZING friends (from all over the place—not just STL) and made some great memories.
No one likes change, me especially, but the changes I underwent this summer have shaped who I am and have pushed me toward the person I want to be. They are helping me achieve my dreams. They reassure me. They grow me. And in the change memories are formed—invisible attachments to my heart. So it was with both joy and sadness that I left home—both homes—to tackle the new changes coming my way. I miss both the Midwest and the South.
I’m not sure of the author but I believe this quote says it best: “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.”
Life is about change—and my melancholy/homesickness this summer reflects that. But change is a must—without it we don’t grow.
And if we aren’t growing are we really living?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Secret of Friendship (Bluebell not required...but it helps!)

I have the best friends in the ENTIRE world. No, make that in the entire HISTORY of the world.


Who else has friends that would drive 4.5 hours just to bring Bluebell Ice Cream to one that hasn’t tasted the goodness of that silky dairy substance because she’s been stranded in a city where people believe ice cream should have egg in it*



Yeah, I can only think of one person with friends like that—ME!





A motley crew: Gator, Tiger, Seminole


On a more serious note, I absolutely love my friends. I have four very close friends and only one of those that I usually see on a regular basis; that all changed this summer when I took off on my Midwest Adventure. I was in a new place and had to make new friends; which was awesome—because the friends I made are amazing individuals. I’m just so blessed.


But last night, after 756 miles and 12.5 hours of driving on minimal sleep—I was not expecting what busted through my door---Carly and Shelley.


Carly, Me, Emily and Shelley after a long night of driving

My best friend (and cousin) Emily, along with my fiancĂ© and parents had been hiding the fact that my best friends from high school were making a flying trip from the Swamp to surprise me with four flavors of ice cream. And not just any ice cream—Bluebell Ice Cream—which flows from the banquet table of Heaven and is packaged somewhere in Texas. What ensued were epic conversations about armadillos, love and how to jump off a side mount battery. (Trust me—it’s best if you don’t know!)


Amidst the giggles, random dancing and laughter we discovered something that folks have been searching for all of their lives; people have died trying to understand this—hearts have been broken because of this… and we figured it out over four flavors of ice cream.


We discovered the Secret to Friendship.


Now I’m not just talking about fair-weather friendship. I’m talking about long lasting “I’m still your friend even if you are being a butt-head” kind of friendship; the kind of friendship that gets people through the hard times… through doubts, cold-feet, break-ups, busted windshields and fear. This friendship isn’t for pansies. This stuff has grit. And that grit is what makes us into better people—it polishes out the rough spots.



My friend Shelley is what I like to call a word-smith. If there isn’t a word or phrase that fits what she’s describing she’ll create one. It doesn’t matter that it’s not “technically” in the dictionary—she created it and used it in a proper sentence therefore it is now part of the English language.


One such phrase is “friend-jealous.” One of Shelley’s more practical words—it is used to describe old friends who are jealous of new friends that a mutual friend is making. For example, I moved to St. Louis. I made new friends. One of my old friends is jealous that I have new friends. Therefore this old friend is “friend-jealous.”


Fortunately, I don’t have that problem with any of my close friends; from our ice cream laden discussion tonight we determined this is just a small part of the secret to our friendship.


You see my closest friends and I come from similar backgrounds but hold very different views, standards and make decisions in ways that often times the others don’t understand.


I mean can you honestly expect two aggies, a pageant girl, a drum major and a slightly punk-rock chick that wears cowboy boots to agree on ANYTHING?



The truth is we don’t always agree but we are always open to what the other person says. And if the other person makes a bad decision we don’t judge them. Not saying we don’t tell them what they did was stupid—we just don’t base our friendship on the bad decisions they happen to make.



This openness makes it easy to come to each other without fear. It doesn’t matter if I’ve made a stupid decision, am worried about something or have just acted like an undesirable equestrian animal, I can still come to my friends. We don’t have a friendship of fluff. We have a friendship of grit. We can call each other out on mistakes and we can offer them a hand to help them get back on their feet. We polish each other. We are better people because of our friendship.



Because of this gritty and open friendship the miles that are between us don’t matter. Other friends we’ve made don’t significantly impact our relationship. Our friendship has no fences—we can roam and grow however we need and after our roaming we can always come back to each other. We have a friendship of freedom.


Freedom to be who we are without apology.


Freedom to make decisions and not scorned because of them.


Freedom to live and fail.


Freedom to love and lose.


Freedom to grow.


It is in this freedom that we discover our differences and similarities. Through these differences we are refined. Like stones being polished by grit and water and emerge shinning with glimmering colors that reflect who we are and who we are becoming.


The gang minus Codie--our resident drum major



“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Friday, August 13, 2010

Life is bittersweet


Life is a bittersweet journey.
Mine is no exception.
There are days when I am so restless that I can’t WAIT for a change of scenery.
Then there are other days when I just stand still…because my heart aches for the past and each step toward the future is one step away from what I miss and who I was.
But, life is a journey and we must keep walking. Turning around has never been an option and watching life go by gets rather boring.
So take the next step. It is scary—but keep walking and know we never walk alone.
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. Prov. 19:21

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life, Love and the Pursuit of...

**Warning**  I ramble a lot in this post. If you are looking for a blog post on agriculture, peanuts or Bluebell Ice Cream check back in a few weeks.

My grandparents influenced my life a lot. My best childhood memories can be traced to their back porch. We spent many afternoons in the Florida heat listening to stories Ma wrote for us grandkids. Ma has always had a flair for storytelling and she always seems to know what to say at the right time—no matter the situation.


Lately, people have been asking me a lot of questions. Questions like “What are you going to do after college?” “Where do you want to work?” “What is your dream job?”

Because of this, I have become a skillful liar. I’m GREAT at BS. I can give a vague, yet satisfying answer. But the truth is—I have no idea.

Ma always told me, “If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. If you want to be a ditch digger—Jillian, go to it. ‘Cause there ain’t nothing worse than dreading having to wake up in the morning.”

And that’s all I want—is a job that doesn’t take years off of my life and that I enjoy.

However that’s not always the push I get from society… or friends or teachers. The emphasis seems be on going out (away from where ever you are now) and changing the world. (Que deep motivational voice: "Go forth and conquer!")

While I do want to be successful and all that jazz—sometimes I stop and wonder how happy I would be if I gave up my Southern (and sometimes redneck) roots and moved to the city. If I found a happening job, made lots of money and had 2.5 kids that were ballerinas and peewee football players--would I be happy? Would that satisfy me?

Talking with a friend yesterday, also dealing with the same issue, it occurred to me that “success," contentment and happiness aren’t always equal. She told me, “Jillian, if I could be happy in a hut in Africa helping others, gosh dern it I could be happy back home helping people…I’m learning you don’t have to leave to be a world changer—you just gotta be one where ever you’re at.”

This struck a chord with me and I have figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

I want to be happy.

Now, that definitely doesn’t answer the billions of questions I’ve received about my future occupation, but it clears something up for me. It reminds me that my happiness doesn’t lie in what money can buy or how successful I am or if my life satisfies other’s expectations of me. My happiness lies in doing what God created me to do—and though I still don’t have a job title for that (heck—it may not HAVE a job title) I know that it’ll include what I love.

Like Ma said, ain’t nothing worse than dreading waking up in the morning.

Therefore, if you’re looking for an employee that loves talking to folks, driving tractors, taking pictures, social media, cooking, working cows, planning banquets, working with old people, working with teenagers, serving others, moving feed, selling merchandise and occasionally flirting with customers—give me a call. I’m the girl for the job.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reality Check: Women Farmers?

There have been very few moments in my life when my mouth fell open in disbelief. I’ve never been a person of few words---much less speechlessness. Last week though I met an occasion for both.

Sitting in a restaurant with friends, sucking down the closest thing to sweet tea I’ve had since I moved to Missouri, a friend asked me what I planned to do after college. More specifically, “Jillian, are you going to be a farmer?”

Cue the jaw dropping moment.

As I scrambled for words and tried to halt the runaway train that was my mind, I managed to stutter out something like, “Heck no! I couldn’t do that everyday!”

I received several puzzled looks. I mean I talk about the farm A LOT and now I’m vehemently denying my affection for the ground that holds my family’s blood, sweat and tears?

Let’s just say I had a slight communication problem. Or better yet—the thoughts I was thinking weren’t translating well into words.

Behind my bumbling reply, my new friends did not realize how deep a question they had asked me. It’s a question I have asked myself many times through out the years: Do I want to be a farmer?

I grew up on a farm—but my parents aren’t farmers. We lived across the road from my grandparents, on their farm. So I spent my summer days riding in the tractor with Pa, shelling peas with Ma and swinging under our oak tree. It was the best way to grow up.


Pa and Ma-- they still don't know what to do with their
two granddaughters who wear jeans and cowboy boots to church

As I got older and more involved with FFA, I decided that I wanted to contribute to the farm like my older boy cousin and brother did. After all, my brother had been driving the tractor since he was tall enough to reach the clutch—I should be able to as well.

My desire to learn to drive the tractor was met with resistance. And resistance went by the name “Pa.” While I don’t ever remember him telling me he didn’t want me helping—I kinda got the sense that I might have been out of place. Statements about my biscuit making abilities really put a burr under my saddle (because every southern girl “should know how to make biscuits from scratch.”) I was mad and I was bullheaded—which isn’t a good combination.

I resolved that if someone wouldn’t teach me—I would figure it out by myself. I spent the summer after that- one step behind Pa and always looking over his shoulder. I have never learned more than I did then.

Though I don’t know when it happened Pa finally warmed to the idea of letting me help out some on the farm. Granted my role was still small, but the knowledge I gained that summer when I stubbornly followed him around, helped me a few years down the road when I was looking for a job. It is still helping me today—I may not remember where every grease fitting on that old peanut picker was—but I can sure explain how it works and more importantly where my food comes from.

So, as I came back to reality—sitting in a little Missouri restaurant drinking unsweet “sweet tea,” I realized how far society had come. Generations ago people assumed that women should help on the farm but not run it. Today, my friends had sincerely asked if I was going to farm on my own. Though I have decided not to be the main operator of a farm (it’s just not my dream) I was proud to hear the tide was changing and that agriculture had truly opened up to women.

And for that—I’ve never been happier.

For more information on women’s roles in agriculture visit:

2007 Census of Ag

Women in Agriculture

American National CattleWomen, Inc.

Farm Mom of the Year

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"It Keeps Me Turning Home..."

It is amazing how smells can take you back to another place… Today, I was walking out of the office and a diesel truck drove past. Its smutty exhaust attacked my olfactory sense and I was transported back to the farm. It brought me back to one particular day when I was doing my “girl’s work” of leveling out peanut wagons.


Our old tractors were creeping by pulling peanut pickers, my brother Wesley was “setting” wagons and I was sweating like a mule, thigh deep in peanuts with a shovel. Trying to convince myself that there were no snakes in the trailer with me.

Not a very glamorous memory—but a good memory none the less.


I love farm life--and farm memories!

You see, to call our farm a peanut “operation” might be a stretch. Yes we farm. We have peanuts. We “operate” tractors. But in my mind—operation sounds HUGE—and at the time we were still using two-row peanut pickers.

But the great thing about memories is size doesn’t matter. I can still see, clear as day, those tractors and Lilliston pickers creeping their way down the row from the top of that peanut wagon. It’s a good memory—it’s helped me through many hard times. Remembering my family and our way of life has kept me grounded throughout all my adventures. Remembering the long hours my grandpa and uncle put in on the farm makes me appreciate the life I live as well as the food I eat.

But enough reminiscing.

I had another moment of transportation last week—this time I actually went somewhere: home!

I spent the holiday weekend with my family: cooking out, eating, going to movies, eating, singing around the piano, eating, playing with the baby… and did I mention eating?


It's not a family get together with out Bluebell Ice Cream!


Holidays around my house ALWAYS include massive amounts of food. What can I say—EVERYONE in my family knows how to cook! (Well—my skills are questionable) So we spent the weekend enjoying good meals and lots of friends and family at the house.


My uber-cool niece

I also spent my weekend checking out the crops. I was impressed to see how great my fiancĂ©’s dry land cotton looked as well as the peanuts. However the corn—was not what I expected. I guess I forgot that North Florida/Lower Alabama aren’t exactly part of the Corn Belt—and it showed. The lack of rain on our sandy soil had really taken its toll. Overall though, I was thrilled to see the progress of ours and our neighbor’s peanut and cotton crops. (The beans I saw didn’t look half bad either!)


Deltapine Cotton--Florida

FL07 Peantus--Alabama

I’ve only got a few weeks of my internship here in the Midwest left—and though I enjoyed being home, I missed my STL friends… and corn—really tall, lush green corn.

I never thought I’d say that.

Until next time—keep it between the ditches

PS--If you haven't heard the new song by David Nail, "Turning Home" you should check it out!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Someone Pass Me a Mood Ring

So this weekend has been an emotional roller coaster ride--from being so happy that I'm practically dancing while driving down I-270 to crying as I was driving around looking at farms and looking for antique shops. I'm such a sap-- a very homesick sap. (Someone pass me a mood ring.) While I cannot always control my emotions (I can be SUCH a girl sometimes) I don't have to let them control me.

Sometimes it's just nice to feel--anything-- after staring at a computer screen all week, worrying about other peoples problems and making it moment to moment--it is nice to feel emotional, like I've finally turned off autopilot or hit the brakes to turn off the cruise control. I can think and feel again. Emotions--happy, sad, elated, devastated-- remind me I am alive.

However, while all this "emotional being alive" crap sounds wonderful-- if you don't control where your emotions take you just like you practice self control in other areas of you life, you are going to be one miserable chicka blubbering on some winding back road looking at corn.

Yes, I was pretty pathetic Saturday.

The day had gone beautifully--I didn't get lost, found some awesome stores and had Rocky Road Chocolate Candy-(perfection!) but all of the sudden my crack-head, bi-polar emotional system went into overdrive and I remembered how MUCH I missed people back home--you know the kind of folks that you just sit around and shoot the breeze with--not even folks close to me. Well, the next thing you know I'm a blubbering mess, 800 miles away from home and my life sucks and wah, wah, wah, sob, sob, sob.

After, I got home, had some homemade chicken 'n rice and time to reflect--I realized that my overly dramatic sorrowful woe-is-me afternoon was self induced. I couldn't help what I was feeling--but I didn't have to let my feeling lead me around like I was a cow with a twitch in my nose. I thought back to what someone told me earlier this week-- "Attitudes are like flat tires--you won't get anywhere unless you change it."

So, I started thinking about everything going on in my life--since my move:
I have awesome co-workers and a job that I love.
I have hilarious friends from church that are more fun than Snipe hunting with a Yankee.
I am getting to do something I've wanted to do my ENTIRE life-- live "out West"-- and while this sure ain't Montana--it's been an amazing experience!
And God has provided a way to pay for all of this, given me a supportive family and fiance and answered my prayer SO MANY of my prayers this week--that it has given me hope--it's good to know he hasn't given up on me.


What right did I have to be sad?

That's right none.

Now, that that's all out there--here are some picture from my lovely adventures:


Corn--Jerseyville area--already has ear development and tasseling!

The river flooder the road ahead and was knocking on these folk's front door!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Down Where I Was Born Was Heaven On Earth

So the weekend has officially begun (it is 12:01 after all!) I'm planning on getting lost again this weekend and hopefully seeing some more beautiful Midwest country side. (By the way, last weekend's adventure--which will be posted soon--ended with me and my fiance completely lost in Southern Illinois. We did find the best barbecue known to man--and trust me I KNOW BBQ!)

Anyways-I was reflecting on the AG community and how lucky I was to grow up on a farm... and happened across this lovely note I wrote right after I moved to college. Figured I'd share--it's timeless =)

Happy Trails!
Jillian
________________________________________________________________________________

Down Where I was Born Was Heaven On Earth: Reflections from Home

Moving to Auburn has really made me think about how blessed I was to come from a little community in Jackson County, known to the locals as Dudley, and how much I miss the little things…


--Like the smell of the earth at night—right after it has been plowed.

--and ironically, the hot, humid air

--the feel of broke dirt under my bare feet

--and running between rows of peanuts.

--I miss driving like at bat out of torment—down sandy dirt roads

--and moving hay, even if the muffler had a hole in it.

--I miss the farm and Ma and Pa. I never thought I’d say it but I miss shelling peas too. =)

--I miss pickin’ blackberries and dewberries in the cool of the evening… and their wild, tangy taste.

--I miss coming home to Ma’s for dinner after working with the boys. How she could stand the stink of all of us—I will never know!

--I miss cows

--and whippoorwills and fox squirrels.

--I miss wearing flowers in my hair and dancing shamelessly in the wind

--I miss the sound of the wind in the trees late at night.

--I miss the smell of rain, slowly creeping up on the farm…the sound of it beating down on the tin roof…the way it looks peppering the earth…and watching lightning dance across the sky…

-- and driving ol’ blue.

--I miss being able to stand outside and know that all the land I see, from horizon to horizon, belongs to my family.

--Riding the four-wheeler under the irrigation and swimming in the creek.

--I miss the burst of moisture that hits you when you drive between two corn fields…

--I miss picking peanuts too.

--I miss being able to see the stars at night, without the interference of street lights.

--and being able to walk in our woods.

--I miss walking down the road with no fear

--and knowing everyone and their story… I have learned that inspirational people are everywhere… you have to open your eyes to see.

--And darn it, I miss having people wave when they drive by. I don’t know what it is about these Alabama folks that don’t wave!!!

--I miss rescuing gopher turtles… then writing my name on their shells!

--I miss chasing windmills with mama and night hunters with Wes (to AC/DC theme music lol…)

--Fresh GREEN peaches… and figs… and raw turnips.


--I miss my store family… and my community which was and still is committed to seeing their youngin’s achieve their dreams. It truly takes a village.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Homesick? Not really...

It never ceases to amaze me how I can miss home SO MUCH one moment and fall in love with another place the next.




There are TONS of things I miss about home: peanuts, walking barefoot down dirt roads, the Chattahoochee River, the sound of the wind singing in the pine trees... there are a lifetime of memories living in the land, the land I was raised on. Some days I miss it so much I physically hurt.



This past weekend though, I had the chance to visit my roommate’s Illinois farm. It was there, standing on her back porch that I fell in love... again.



The land stretched out before me farther than any I had ever seen before--it was as if the sky was twice the size of the sky at home. The corn rows were never ending. Barely visible, in the distance, were wind turbines.



Yep, I was sold.



I spent the rest of the weekend dodging rain showers, hanging out with her family and enjoying Midwest delicacies (AKA Pork Burgers--why hasn't the South figured this one out yet?!) I realized that it wasn't so much that Florida dirt that I missed but the community and care of agriculture life; the knowledge that things are not as bad as they seem, especially when there's cake at home and family to laugh with. I missed knowing that people pay attention to what others do (yes, I suppose I miss small town gossip a bit) and truly care about their well being.



Let me just tell you folks, that can be hard to come by in the city... unless maybe you were raised there.



There's just something about farm life that makes living and growing up a reckless-safe adventure. An oxymoron, I know... reckless in the fact that you have the freedom to be innovative, to build a better mouse trap, to find a way to get just as much work done using a simpler method. Reckless-- because there is a whole wild world to explore and it starts at your back porch. Reckless--because life dependent on nature has to be, it's anything but reliable.



Farm life is also safe. I remember coming home so cotton-pickin' mad that all I wanted to do was go fast... and most of the time my grandparents (Ma and Pa--no one really has "grandparents" in the South) kept me grounded. I was hard headed and stubborn, but their love cultivated me into the person I am today. (Along with the rest of the "village") They didn't always understand my restlessness or my love for FFA or accept the fact that I enjoy driving tractors and showing cows... but they were always there. They always knew what to say (not always when to stop but that's a different story... =)



It was this weekend I realized why I was homesick. I missed the reckless/safe life I had been privileged to live at home. It has made me more determined than ever to return to it, and offer it as a gift to my kids one day.



So, to answer the 4,329 questions from Facebook: No, I have no big city notions. I like the farm just fine--and I hope to be back there for good in about a year =)



Love y'all all

J

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Rambling Brat

I figured it was high time that I introduced y'all to a few of my “rambling brats” (and if you didn’t get that literary allusion… well let’s just say I feel sorry for ya! You’re missing out!)


My Old Hairbrush


Faded and worn, my old hairbrush lies

Bristles broken,

At odd angles pokin’,

My scalp as it flies…

My hair is my glory,

(I’ll not lie—I’m vain)

These dark tresses mark who I am

And give meaning to my name.

Once long and silky, with hints of red;

Yes it charmed many a lad,

(Surprised most is still on my head!)

But time has passed,

(As time always has)

And my hair, I’ve noticed, it changing fast!

Grey flecks have taken over, where red use to be

It’s coarser now, it no longer defines me

As that sassy young girl, with boys all in tow,

But as a stoic old woman—Now eating her crow!

____________________________________________________________

The Violent Hour



There is a mystery that blooms in the violent hour

When my hands are tangled in your long, sweet hair

And the air grows thin, til your gasping for air



There a sparsely covered tree grows, with long dark limbs

And on it booms a mystery scent from heaven

Scents that are rich like cedar and fresh rain drops

that taste like ash bark,

With a beauty like smoke on the wind

Here a flower blooms, for a short while

And is crushed in the fall

_____________________________________________________

if i had a piano



if i had a piano

i’d play my troubles away

i’d play and play my piano

right through the break of day

and when the sun set low

behind pink and orange clouds

i’d play something slow, slow

On a personal note, I'm adventuring to Central Illinois this weekend! Pictures to come--farm pictures!!!




Thursday, June 10, 2010

Notes from the Road: Illinois State FFA Convention

Greetings from Illinois!

I've had the AWESOME opportunity this week to work the Monsanto booth at the Illinois State FFA Convention... and let me tell you that when I say AWESOME I mean AWESOME!

FFA has always been a huge part of my life, in fact for several years in high school FFA was my life; and though I've been out of the program for quite a while now, I was reminded this week that it doesn't matter what state or chapter you're from the FFA knows how to build leaders.


So long for now! I've got a crowd of kids in the blue and gold waiting on Monsanto hats!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Midwest Adventure...

Looking over my previous posts, you would think I sit in my room and write all the time… totally not true ;)


Here are a few pictures from the begining of my Midwest Adventure:







Many more to come!

The Brokenhearted and Lonely

Over the past year, I have had the privilege to talk with several friends who were facing tough times; one was sorting out a rocky relationship, another was trying to understand why one of the girls she went to high school with was so sick and yet another was dealing with the loss of a child.


Why in the world they came to me I’ll never know. I couldn’t tell them that I knew what they were going through because I didn’t, I felt horrible telling them everything would be alright because I didn’t know if it would… I found myself in a familiar place again, the “dark place”, where you don’t know what the next step should be or what you should say.

It was from those experiences and the struggle to leave a mark on the world that I wrote the poem Change:

shallow words,

cast upon the deep sea of life,

make no ripples.

So it’s not the best writing the world has seen, but it helped me realize that empty words do not comfort the broken hearted. In painful situations it’s hard to know what to say, but I’ve discovered that most folks just need someone to listen, someone to reach out and hold their hand and someone to tell them they are not alone.

I have also realized in my moves to Auburn and STL, how important it is to reach out to others that are new to the church and to the community. You never know how much a simple smile and “What was your name again?” means to people. At least I didn’t realize it until I moved to AU where I didn’t know anyone.

So take a moment this week and smile at someone, not one of those casual grins either, a REAL smile—it could mean the world to someone.

And if you know someone that is hurting reach out to them, you don’t have to have the perfect words; just let them know you care.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 NIV

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Restless Heart...

When I was in high school my mama told me I was a rebel.


And I just looked at her. Dumbfounded.

“Well you are,” she said “your stubborn, don’t listen to anybody and do things your own way. Well, I take that back, you listen but then you do what you want. You just have a mind of your own.”

This five minute conversation, long lost with the advent of my brother’s marriage and my graduation, has never been one I thought about a lot… until today.

Restless, that’s what I was as I meandered through the bookstore. What I really wanted to do was move, or dance, or ride or drive insanely fast—ANYTHING but walk around a bookstore.

I… was restless.

Or was I? Restlessness, I thought, produced renegades or cowboys or other such folks that stayed in trouble or chased the wind… I couldn’t really be restless.

As I walked around the store with thousands of titles staring back at me I realized that restless was the opposite of complacent, the antithesis of satisfied and most of the time the reverse of obedient.

I realized restless was what I wanted to be.

You see, restless people are never satisfied and they don’t conform easily… The Restless strive to experience things differently, to promote change, to do things that have never been done. Or at least things they would never dream of doing.

The Restless aren’t necessarily those riding bulls or jumping off the top of barns, but those who devote their lives to change.

Like the quiet writer who, even after his death, inspires readers to take the path less traveled

Or the passionate singers that took a country by storm and made people imagine a more peaceful tomorrow

Or the compassionate nun that in the pursuit of God and the blessing of service, left her home, family and the essentials of life to reach out to the destitute of Calcutta.

You see everyone is restless. We all have this aching in our soul to do something—to right wrongs, to charge valiantly into the fray, to defend our home and country… However most of us (including me) have been coddled and have lost our edge. We are like knives that, void of their sharpness, merely attack boxes and are disappointed when their contents fail to satisfy.

I discovered tonight that restlessness isn’t reckless. Restlessness is something that should spur us to action. It’s the joy of never having to quit, the pleasure of knowing that more can always be done if we are willing to move and the opportunity to achieve more and make a better tomorrow because we can.

Restlessness is miserable if you are afraid to make a move. I’ve been there and the lack of motivation will leave you wondering what you could have been and what you could have achieved. But a missed moment is not a prescription for failure; it’s an opportunity to get back up.

I chose this “blog title” as a play on words when compared to what I’m calling my collection of poems; words that I use to believe went hand-in-hand: restless and reckless. My poems, most unpublished thus far, truly describe who I am and how I see the world. They started out as a reckless attempt and turned into an expression of my restlessness; to share what I really am, to be who I really am in a world that may not care, to affect change through my words and to touch other searching for words to describe their pain and joy.

With this blog I hope not only to share my voyage into the literary world but also my life experiences and my love for agriculture.

I leave you with this, from Thoreau:

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

Happy Trails,