Tag Archives: Harvest

Joy and Fear: Waiting for our Second Child

14 Sep

It’s like I told my coworkers last week, “Now it’s time to freak out.”

I’m only partially kidding.

Why? Last week I started the third trimester of this lightning-speed pregnancy. And I can’t quite wrap my head around that.

For so, so long we waited, we prayed for this child. Our hearts were broken again and again. But then? She was. Growing safely inside me. Our prayers were answered in the most beautiful, soul-shattering way possible.

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I felt so blessed. So unworthy. I was almost afraid to truly bask in our happiness because it was just too good.

The tingly feelings of deep gratitude are still here, but they are sometimes pushed down by the realities of life. Of laundry and packing lunches and making dinner. Of work and travel and corn harvest.

The summer was so busy. And we’re so busy right now. The calendar over the next two months makes me want to cry. Between my work and farm insanity, there hasn’t been a lot of time to float around in a magical pregnancy bubble.

When I was pregnant with Anders, I lived in that bubble. I loved the wistful look that would come over someone’s face when I said “Yes, it’s our first.” I had nothing better to do than to take weekly photos in front of an elaborately-drawn chalkboard boasting “Baby F is the size of a kumquat!”

This time, understandably, has been very different.

Now I have a busy and egocentric toddler underfoot. Even when I was feeling my sickest (the first 16 weeks, ugh), sweet little Anders still demanded crazy things. Like dinner. Or diaper changes. Toddlers are not very accommodating to the woes of pregnancy, people. In the midst of pulling him off tables, chasing him around to put on his socks, and assuring him that asparagus is JUST DELICIOUS, I barely had time to notice I was pregnant.

I didn’t have a lot of time to sit. To think. To really imagine what our life will be like when the baby comes.

But third trimester. It’s here. I can’t ignore the fact that a baby is waiting for me at the end of this pregnancy.

Cue the freakout. I can’t believe we’re starting over.

In spite of the craziness that comes with a two-year-old, I love our life right now. Anders is hilarious. He talks constantly. He sleeps predictably. He loves so hard. He’s obsessed with farming. He has the coolest hair. He’s becoming more independent. I’m still floored by his transition from baby to little boy.

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Sometimes I sneak into his room for one last peek before I go to bed. (Am I checking if he’s still breathing? Maybe. Don’t judge. I hope my psychotic tendencies will lessen for the second kid.)

In those quiet moments, when his busy toddler body is stilled, his breath comes out sweet and slow, and his face is slack with innocence, my heart aches. My chest tightens and I can’t breathe from the sheer weight of my love for this little human. How I would die to protect him. How the thought of him growing up in this broken world renders me undone.

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It seems crazy that Dairy Man and I have willingly decided to divide our hearts again. To allow another piece of our soul to walk around in the world. A world we cannot control.

There’s so much to worry about. Especially for a professional worrier like myself.

But if pregnancy and being a parent has taught me anything, it’s that life is not about control. It can’t be. As much as I try to have the perfectly organized house and the perfectly run family, it’s not up to me. I can’t control toddler tantrums or farm emergencies or milk prices. I can’t control the sickness or tragedy that strikes those I love. I can’t control my pregnancy or be sure of a healthy baby.

Every shred of this imperfect life is in God’s hands. Not my own. That’s where sanity and comfort can be found.

Realistically, my freakout is still real and looming. Dairy Man knows nothing in the house is safe from my insane need to organize and nest. A part of me can’t believe we’re going back to blowouts, breastfeeding, and sleep deprivation.

I worry how Anders will adjust, how my heart will split to accommodate two.

The beautiful thing? It’s not up to me. My only choice is to trust that I’ll find our way. That I can bear the joy and fear of this life. That I can live in gratitude and faith. That I can rescue a toddler with his hand stuck in the vacuum while simultaneously rocking a newborn. That my heart can be broken and reassembled dozens of times a day. That our tribe will carry us when we can’t carry ourselves.

I have no idea how to have two kids, but I know we’ll figure it out somehow.

I am terrified and I am calm.

(And freakout + farm widowhood during harvest is the perfect excuse for ice cream.)

Bring on the third tri.

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10 Things I Learned in October

30 Oct

As you may have surmised from the radio silence over here in dairy land since the big announcement, October has been a busy month! In addition to the frenzy created by Baby F, Dairy Man and I have been traveling, harvesting, and home renovating. October went by like a flash. I feel like we only recently emerged from the annual corn-coma and now we’re already talking about turkey.

I’m in no rush. I’m really trying to savor this time, to fully experience each day. If being pregnant has changed anything, it’s changed the way DM and I look towards the future. We can’t wait to be parents, but we’re also trying to enjoy this season, because we know we’ll never be here again. We’ll never have these same moments. This is the time to be fully present in the journey. After the craziness of the past few months, winter is the perfect time to slow down, be more contemplative, to reconnect with each other and ourselves. I can’t wait.

But enough of my philosophizing. Let’s get down to the important stuff–what I learned this month.

10 Things I Learned in October

1. If you mix herbs, sweet potato, apple, onion, and turkey sausage, you get amazingness.
One of my favorite things about fall is the shift from light, fresh summer meals to warm, hearty fall dishes. This recipe for an “Oven-roasted autumn medley” helped me use up some of the apples around our house and was ridiculously delicious to boot.

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2. Even if you are just barely pregnant enough to bump out, some people will STILL try to touch your belly.
I’m talking to you, strange lady at church. I know you meant well, but don’t make me go all Pennsylvania on you.

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3. Cats can be jerks. Especially when they steal dogs’ beds.
Let’s just say that after seeing this video, Jersey is happy to be without a feline sibling.

4. I was reminded that community is one of the sweetest gifts we can build into our lives.
Despite the volume and estrogen that are bound to accompany a weekend in northern Michigan with 12 of your closest friends, nothing is more beautiful. Twelve of my girlfriends and I rented a house in Glen Arbor for an entire weekend this October. For 2.5 glorious days, we did nothing but relax, talk, eat unhealthy snacks, drink wine (or apple cider in some of our cases), play games, cook meals together, wear sweatpants, and enjoy a break from reality. It was loud, messy, and unspeakably cleansing. Our weekend away soothed my soul. I am so blessed by the friends I’ve found in our small town.

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5. My mom will go freaking b-a-n-a-n-a-s if you tell her she’s going to be a grandma.

Yes, you should be singing the Gwen Stefani song in your head right about now. B-a-n-a-n-a-s. As most of you know, Dairy Man and I made a big announcement a few weeks ago. But before we could tell you guys, we had to tell our parents. We told my family by wrapping up a framed copy of the ultrasound photo for my grandma (the birthday girl) to open. As you can see from this video, chaos ensued. I’m just starting to get hearing back in my right ear. Thanks, Mom.

6. The end of corn harvest is basically a holiday.
Ding! Dong! The corn is up! This is the time of year for singing. And the return of date nights. Last weekend, Dairy Man and I had our first night on the town since corn harvest began. The evening was celebratory, a chance to reconnect and recharge. Despite challenging weather this fall (thanks to waaaay too much rain), we harvested all 1,100 acres of our corn in record time. I’m an old vet after three years of marriage and–dare I say it?–harvest seemed to fly by this year. Let’s break out the champagne.

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7. Sunrises are pretty great.
As a Michigan native who grew up on the shores of a west-facing lake, I’ve always been partial to sunsets. A good sunset can instantly transport me back to my grandparents’ cottage on Lake Michigan, nestled into the crook of my grandpa’s arm, smelling fish and his soap, watching another day slip below the horizon. I’ve ushered many a day into darkness; I rarely greet the sun. But since the days have been getting shorter, I’ve had the chance to witness the sun’s entrance as I drive to work. And it is glorious.

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8. It’s possible to fashion a small piano out of nothing but chocolate.
This month I went to a work conference in Grand Rapids and this was the dessert at our evening meal. Seriously. SHUT UP. Who even knew this was possible? Thanks to hundreds of people taking photos of their delectable delight, #chocolatepiano even briefly trended on Instagram.

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9. Lunch dates can spiral out of control.
Only in farm life can a nice little lunch date with your husband turn into one traumatized farm wife trying not to overhear a long phone conversation about a cow’s uterus. I couldn’t even finish my sandwich. A little sensitivity, man!

10. Whether it’s a boy or a girl, I think our baby needs this pacifier.
It’s so distinguished.

How about you? Did you learn anything earth-shattering or hilarious this month? And it’s ok to be jealous of my chocolate piano.

Check out my other monthly recaps here, here, and here.

When I Don’t Accept Farm Life With Grace

26 Sep

This may just be my old age talking, but I feel like this year is moving at warp speed

I often feel like I’m trying to hold time in my hands. But time is like water, a liquid substance. It spills over and between my fingers, despite my best attempts to store it, to savor it.

I know I’m not alone. If I did an informal survey of everyone I know in the world, I’m sure we all have a deep yearning for “more time.” We’re always rushing, always checking our Facebook newsfeed, always multitasking, always packing our weekends with fun activities. It’s a normal thing, to be busy.

But it’s also a farming thing. Times ten.

This summer alone we planted corn, harvested multiple cuttings of hay, built a barn, dug a five-million gallon manure pit, irrigated our corn (thanks to a lack of rain), and tried to plan out the future of this dairy. All of these things have taken place alongside weddings, birthdays, weekends away, illness, dog grooming appointments, extensive home renovations, parties, personal crises, and a million loads of laundry.

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Dairy Man finds it nearly impossible to sit still and to quiet his mind. I struggle with the same. Frankly, in farming, you don’t often have the luxury of calm. It often feels like we bounce from one “crisis” to another. Just when you get the bulk tank fixed, a cow goes into labor. Just when you finalize the milking schedule, someone gets a tractor stuck in the mud. DM is on-call 24 hours a day, and that makes it nearly impossible to ever truly relax, unplug, or find calm.

And when farming never slows down, how is a boy to find time for things like dinner at the dining room table, home repairs, or nights out with friends?

I feel guilty piling anything on. If I’m honest, this can be isolating. Being married to a farmer means (trying) to put everything else in life on hold from April to October in an attempt to keep your husband sane. I struggle with this every single day. I envy friends who have husbands home by six, who are able to take vacations, who tackle house projects as a team.

I struggle not to feel alone, disenfranchised. The farm trumps most things, but it’s not always easy to swallow. I work full-time and try to see friends and family, make nutritious meals, and keep a clean home. Yet I constantly feel behind. Deep within the dark and shameful places of my heart, I resent having to do everything (non-farm-related) by myself. I’m not proud of those feelings. They creep up on me as smoky tendrils, slowly squeezing out joy and positivity.

Honestly, there are times I’m exhausted, I’ve had a terrible day at work, the house is a mess, the dog needs a walk, everything feels chaotic, and I just can’t handle another farming crisis with understanding and grace.

Sometimes I’m not really listening. Sometimes I’m making a grocery list in my head or wishing we could talk about literally any other topic in the world but the dairy. Sometimes I can’t tear my attention away from the dishes he forgot to put in the dishwasher. Sometimes I resent the irrevocable monopoly the farm has on my husband’s brain and respond with frustration or anger.

Those are the moments I regret. When I’m not gracious. When I don’t control my feelings. When I’m not calm. When I choose to be selfish.

But marriage can’t be selfish, especially marriage to a dairy farmer. I chose that man and thus, I chose this life. We will spend our entire lives trying to balance, trying to carve out time for anything other than the dairy. You can’t compartmentalize farming. It’s not a job; it’s not a hobby. It’s a life.

Generally I’ve come to accept this. The Dairy Man pulls himself away during the “slower” times of the year and I try to accept the periods of insanity with understanding.

Because even when he tracks manure into the kitchen or never responds to my “When will you be home?” texts, I love that man. I admire the passion he feels for this dairy. I know he wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. And even when I’m feeling neglected, I know for a fact that he would do anything for me.

Love and marriage aren’t about perfect equality. There are times where we must carry each other. As my mom reminded me in my first year of marriage, “you can’t be so concerned about things being perfectly 50/50. You both have to give 100 percent–all of the time. Things aren’t always going to be equal. You might have to take turns carrying the other. But you should both always try to give 100 percent. That’s what love is.

This quote still convicts me. While it’s so tempting to succumb to unhappiness or frustration this time of year, the Dairy Man needs me now more than ever. It is my turn to carry. Whether through delivered dinners, a kind and patient temperament, or a listening ear.

There’s nothing fair about it. But there’s nothing fair about life or love. Happiness comes in the realization that we’re here to carry each other. If you find someone willing to carry you–even an occasionally distracted Dairy Man–you are richly blessed.

So I will enjoy my fall nights of solitude. I’ll read, take walks, watch girly TV shows, bite my tongue, and make sure that DM is fed and loved. Jersey the dog accepts this time of year with far less grace than I (since he’s stuck in the house for a few weeks), but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a heaping dollop of peanut butter.

For me, I find catharsis in an evening walk through the rustling corn. A good book and a steaming glass of apple cider. A few quiet moments spent sitting in the grass with Jersey before the sun sets.

Evening light

All seasons are beautiful and messy. All seasons bring frustration and joy. All seasons make up a life.

And I am grateful.

The Calm Before the (Corn) Storm

12 Sep

The tall, swaying stalks out my bedroom window make it impossible to ignore: fall is here. More specifically, as the Dairy Man keeps reminding me, corn harvest is almost here.

DM is charged with nervous energy and dancing around the house humming “It’s the mooooost wonderful tiiiiiime of the yeeeeeear.”

I, on the other hand, start hearing the music from Jaws: “Daaaaa dum, daaaaa dum, daaaaaa dum da dum daaaa dum.” This week truly is the calm before the storm. Before the sharknado of farming activities, if you will.

People, a corn storm is brewing.

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It’s time to prepare, to brace myself. Call it mental calisthenics. As I stand on the precipice of a few weeks alone, it’s important to stretch my farm wife coping mechanisms (and stock up on dry cereal and wine).

This is my third corn harvest out in the boondocks (read about year one and two here). I’m not a rookie. But it will still be a shock to my system when DM slips into the delirium that can only be caused by corn harvest.

Over the next few weeks, we will harvest approximately 1,100 acres of corn babies. (Well, I suppose they’re corn adults at this point. *Sniff* They grow up so fast.) This will involve DM spending countless hours in the tractor building monstrous piles of corn covered with tires and plastic and seeing a whole lot of this:

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Unlike some farm wives, I don’t get very involved in the process. I work an 8-5 job wearing pencil skirts and stilettos and haven’t the foggiest idea how to operate farm machinery (for good reason). I’m currently planning EIGHT work events for this fall and stress-eating peanut M&Ms like it’s my job. My role on the dairy is to support, ensure DM is eating something every day, and keep myself entertained. Because, really. Can you see me driving a tractor?

MFW+tractor

I do not have the farming wardrobe figured out.

For all of the craziness these next few weeks will bring, I don’t want to miss the excitement, the progress, or the beauty of this time of year.

Corn harvest may signify dinners alone, an inconceivably exhausted DM, and a depressed Jersey the pup, but it’s also the culmination of so much hard work.

Despite a weird, wet spring, our corn was planted with intention and care. Dairy Man spent half his life checking pivots and making sure the babies were getting enough water. The leafy green stuff has survived dry weeks, wet weeks, and gale-force winds.

It feels good to be this close to the finish line. Corn harvest represents time well spent. It promises that our bovine ladies will have plenty of food over the next year. It also gives me large hills to scurry around on like a mountain goat.

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It’s the little things when you’re a country bumpkin.

My biggest compliant is that I will lose the blossoming privacy screens surrounding our house. Things always feel a little forlorn when the corn comes down.

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But for now, I will savor these final days of summer. I’ll soak in quality time with DM. I’ll take quiet moments to sit in the grass and let the rustling whisper of the stalks speak to my soul.

Just a few more days, my pretties.

farmers in corn

11 (Thousand) Sliced Tires

21 Dec

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Dairy Man gave to me
Eleven (thousand) sliced tires

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Ten mooing neighbors
Nine essential nutrients
Eight loads of sand
Seven bales of hay
Six stripping shanks
Fiiiiive commodity baaaays
Four milking shells
Three shifts of milking
Two orange tractors
And a twinkly-light-laden faux tree

When we chop corn each year for cow food, DM has two options for storage: ag-bags or silage packs. Ag-bags are easier to seal and maintain; packs are more space efficient. We utilize both methods of storage, but I’m partial to the pack. Maybe it’s because Dairy Man won’t let me climb on the ag-bags. I’m all about storage methods that allow me to scurry around on them like a mountain goat.

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After we’re done building the pack, we cover it with huge sheets of plastic and thousands of sliced tires. Though I enjoy talking about “sliced tires” and imagining them on a pastrami sandwich on rye, DM would prefer I use their proper name: tire sidewalls.

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Tire sidewalls are sliced tires used to hold the plastic down on our silage pack, thus preventing oxygen from seeping into the valuable cow food. The slices come from the sides of old semi truck tires. Semi tires suit our purposes better than car tires (or rubber inner tubes, which, I admit, is what I first thought the black circles were when I first saw a silage pack) because they are heavier and cover more surface area per tire. We don’t use full tires because they hold water and are clumsier to handle.

The tires are ultimately tied together with bale twine to keep them from sliding down the pack. It also makes a perfect stairway for MFW mountain goats.

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In addition to creating a delightful farm jungle gym, sidewalls are an effective and cheap way to keep our cow food fresh and tasty throughout the year.

Corn Harvest In 6 Steps

11 Oct

Well, it finally happened. I dug my fluffy winter coat out of storage yesterday. Alas and alack; it’s cold in Michiganland. I know this weather is nothing compared to what I can look forward to in December, but I’m waving the white flag on sandals, short sleeves, and coatless workdays.

The cool fall air signifies the end of a lot of things: corn harvest, watering the grass, suntans, dinner on the deck, shaving my legs. It also signifies that I absolutely must fill you in on the corn-ish happenings around the farm in the last month or so.

Thus, before I launch into a late-fall tirade of apple cider, football games, and pasty white Dutch skin, let’s take a look in the rear-view mirror to corn harvest. I give you:

Corn Harvest in 6 Steps
Step 1: Accept sleep deprivation and bad wife-ery
Step 2: Bring in the harvester and chop! that! corn!
Step 3: Build the pack (and fill the bags)
Step 4: Cover the pack
Step 5: Harvest shelled (high moisture) corn
Step 6: Take a nap

Step 1: Accept sleep deprivation and bad wife-ery
My Dairy Man gets in around midnight each night during corn harvest. Between you and me, I don’t even notice anymore. During my first corn harvest, I would abruptly spring into consciousness as soon as the DM got home. This year—my third corn harvest—I found it startlingly easy to go (and stay) asleep without the husband next to me. Some call it bad wife-ery, I call it a coping mechanism. After over two years of marriage in the shadow of farming, I’ve gotten pretty good at sleeping through late nights, 3 a.m. phone calls, and power outages. As for the Dairy Man? He entered a zombie-like state somewhere in the second week of harvest and didn’t snap out of it until late September.

Step 2: Bring in the harvester and chop! that! corn!
Imagine that last part being as exciting as “move! that! bus!” It’s Extreme Home Makeover: Cornfield Edition. Each year we hire an outside company to chop our corn. Max the friendly chopper and his intrepid crew drive a machine called a harvester through the fields. Trucks follow along to collect the chopped corn.

A forage harvester (a.k.a. silage harvester, forager, or chopper) chops the entire corn plant into silage. Corn silage is just a fancy way to say “chopped up corn.” And I realized this year that a lot of farmers put silAGE into a siLO. Whoa. Do you think that’s where the word “silo” came from? I think yes. Silage in the silo. Don’t underestimate the gravity of this realization. When I finally figured it out, you would think I had invented butter. It was like the day I realized cows give milk because they’d just had a calf. Earth-shattering stuff.

Anyway. The chopper mows down the corn and blows the silage into trucks. The trucks drive from the field to the dairy and dump the silage on the PACK.

Step 3: Build the pack (and fill the bags)
After the trucks dump their loads of silage, tractors are waiting to push the piles up the pack (how’s that for alliteration?).

We squirrel away corn silage in two ways: giant packs and tubular ag bags. Ag bags are easier to seal and maintain; packs are more space efficient. This year we put up two large packs AND filled a bunch of ag bags. We like to keep things interesting.

Last year I explained the process of packing corn silage. Each pack this year contains almost 7,000 tons of silage and took approximately a week to build, compress, and cover.

Can’t get your head around 7,000 tons? For reference, the average adult blue whale weighs around 150 tons. Just imagine 46 blue whales flopping around behind our dairy. Now there’s a mental image not often associated with dairy farming. I’ve included this artistic and highly-scientific diagram to help you make the jump:

Between packs and bags, we put up approximately 16,000 tons of corn silage this year, or 106 whales. (No whales were harmed in the making of this example; we released them into Lake Michigan.)

Corn silage from harvest 2012 will feed our bovine ladies for the next year. And parents complain about the cost of feeding their kids. Geeze. You can’t buy Canned Cow Corn at Costco.

Step 4: Cover the pack
After a pack is built and compacted, we cover the entire monstrosity with huge pieces of thick plastic and thousands of sliced tires.

The tires hold the plastic down and ensure that no moisture or oxygen gets into the pile. They also serve as stepping stones if certain modern farm wives decide to climb to the top of the pack. King of the mountain, anyone? Just don’t fall into the manure pit.

We will uncover the pack bit by bit over the next year to feed our ladies.

Step 5: Harvest shelled (high moisture) corn
This step is currently in process on our dairy. A few fields have purposefully remained unscathed during Corn Chop 2012.

The corn stalks in these fields are left to completely dry out and the Dairy Man goes through a few weeks later to harvest shelled corn. While corn silage is comprised of the entire corn plant, shelled corn is just the kernels. Both silage and shells are used in our feed rations. And both types get tracked into my house on DM’s boots. I promise to drop some thrilling shelled-corn-knowledge on you in my next post. BAM.

Step 6: Take a nap
When the corn is harvested, the cover crops are planted, and all of the cows are starting to grow their furry winter coats, reacquaint yourself with family, friends, and puppies. At long last, my Dairy Man will slip into hibernation. Winter is almost here.

Wallowing, Vegging, and Dogging

25 Sep

All right, friends. I’ve failed you.

I’m sure you’ve noticed. All of the people who read this blog faithfully (there are at least two – thanks, Mom and Dad) have undoubtedly noticed the lack of cow, corn, and canine tales. I’ve still been posting plenty of pictures of Jersey the dog to my five lucky followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but I have neglected the written word.

“Not cool, MFW,” you might say. “Man cannot live on ‘Omg! Lol! What a cute puppy!’ alone. He needs cows. Machinery. Detailed farming explanations.”

That’s not going to happen today. I blame corn harvest and self pity. Plus, I’ve already donned my sweatpants. Nothing productive can happen while wearing sweatpants.

I shouldn’t complain too much. At least I’m not the one out there farming from 6 a.m. to midnight. My Dairy Man amazes and exhausts me. I would be a terrible (and excruciatingly whiny) farmer.

During corn harvest the Dairy Man leaves at sunup and doesn’t crawl into bed until I’m long asleep. I’m a lone wolf for a few weeks and this phenom plummets me into bachelor-like behaviors. I eat cereal and hummus for dinner, walk around the house in my skivvies, and watch an embarrassing number of Say Yes to the Dress episodes (Netflix streaming will be the death of me). There is no one to judge me or the socks I haven’t picked up yet. A few husband-free weeks would make some gals hyper-productive, but I tend to go the other way. Rather than write about corn, I grab a giant container of Greek yogurt and a large glass of wine, plop in front of the tube, and feel sorry for myself.

I also blame my writer’s fatigue. I write (and write and write) at my snazzy new job all.day.long. Press releases, articles, web copy, marketing copy, tweets. I love it. It’s challenging, frustrating, exhausting, and invigorating. But when I get home at night, the thought of hunkering down at my computer to do more writing makes me twitch. It also makes me eat a lot of salsa. Or maybe that’s the guilt.

Speaking of guilt, I’ve got a depressed puppy on my hands. Jersey the dog has been spending a lot of time in the house these past few weeks. He usually goes to work with the Dairy Man, but not during corn harvest. Jersey gets carsick in the tractor and DM doesn’t like to have him around all of the heavy machinery. When I should be blogging, I’m giving the furry child my undivided attention. We walk, we play fetch, we learn new tricks, we take naps on the couch, we guffaw over dog-shaming.com, we eat a lot of peanut butter, we ogle at the neighbor’s heifers.

Between wallowing, vegging, and dogging, when’s a girl to do anything productive?

Next week I will drop some thrilling corn knowledge on you. I promise. For tonight, there is a furry fellow and a glass of red calling my name.

Thank goodness harvest is almost over.