Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why I Want My Children to be Losers

Country Fair Blog Part

In these parts, we’re currently experiencing the regional holiday known as: fair time.  It really might be better than Christmas because we see all of the people we care about and eat great food that we don’t have to cook.

Loving on her cousins' show cattle... just like her big cousin did with mine when she was little. :)
This week is the lull between our district fair and the county fair to our north.  I could write pages about all of aspects I’ve looooooved about these fairs over the years: cool fall mornings, steam rolling off of a heifer’s back at the wash rack, hanging out with your “family” all week.  Although, I’m not sure if I could put into words the joy of watching my sweet daughters begin to fall in love the same traditions.  Which is good because that’s not what this post is about…

My farmer and I both enjoyed several years as livestock exhibitors.  We love chatting about sharing this tradition with our daughters when they are old enough.  As much as I want them to win with their prized animal after a year of hard work, I can’t help but reflect on how I also look forward to walking them through losing.

Why do I want them to lose?

At a recent leadership conference I attended, from several speakers emerged a common idea: failure is important.  Some employers in the Silicon Valley refuse to hire workers who haven’t had a major failure and story for how they recovered.  Why?  Failure is inevitable.  It’s not whether you lose or fail that makes you distinct, it’s how you bounce back.  Here are the lessons I want my daughters to learn from losing in the showring.

1.       How to explain their lot in life without shame.

Is there nothing worse than having your great-aunt so-and-so excitedly ask how the show went, only to have to explain, head hanging low, how you placed last in your class?  If they’ve worked hard, I want my daughters to always look loss in the face, explaining that they didn’t do as well as they’d hoped, but can still be proud, positive, and looking forward.

2.       How to be open to critique.

It’s crazy how many bad judges I hear about out there.  Or… maybe how many folks don’t want to hear a good judge’s opinion.  When we’ve lost or failed, that’s the hardest time to hear truth.  No matter their placing, my girls better walk out of the ring zoned in on the judge’s gift of an experienced critique, contemplating how they can use his words to improve, rather than fuming.

3.       How to value their own assessment of themselves over others’.

At the same time, judges do get it “wrong” (it’s still all very subjective).  Other times, two animals are both excellent, but the judge prefers a certain type or trait.  If my girls have sincerely listened to the judges’ rational, but still disagree, I hope they value their influence on their project.  I hope they maintain their confidence in their judgement over the animal they picked or bred and the skill they exhibited in preparing the animal for show. 

4.       How to NOT be entitled.

Hi.  I’m a Millennial, and everyone tells me I’m entitled.  I think in rural life the trend might be a little different, but we know entitlement is an epidemic in our society.  I want my girls to lose because I want to leave them determined to win next year, not expecting to win next year.

5.       How to be graceful in winning.

I want them to lose so that they when they do win, they have empathy for their fellow showmen.  Enjoying the reward of hard work is warranted, but no gloating.  It’s lonely at the top; especially, when you’re a jerk.

6.       How to be confidently humble.

No tail-tucking as they quickly disappear into the barn in tears.  (Thank you big brother for teaching me there’s no crying in showing... or baseball, coincidentally...)  My girls will learn to shake the judges’ hand with genuine appreciation even when they feel slighted.  My girls will then shake the hands of their friends when they win and learn that they can feel disappointment for themselves and sincere happiness for their friends simultaneously.  Maybe even more difficult, my girls will do the same for the gloating girl they dislike, even when she wins.
Where the journey starts.

7.       How to look beyond the win.

Success is in the journey.  That was the motto for one of my FFA officer teams.  Part of the point is just to have an enjoyable time working hard and loving on animals alongside family and friends.  I want my daughters to understand all they are gaining from the livestock showing experience.  Learning how to calm yourself in order to calm that crazy heifer is one valuable, transferrable skill in life, among so many others.

8.       How to measure opportunity cost and risk versus reward.

I am certain that there will be exhibitors who spend more on their show stock than we will.  Investing money in livestock is a risk that may or may not be rewarded.  Helping my girls understand what else we could do with that money paves the way for the opportunity cost lesson.  Investing time, resources, and personal safety justifies consideration of opportunity cost and risk.  I want my girls to be able to evaluate these trade-offs in all situations.  Risk isn’t bad, I just want my girls to own and analyze it wisely.

9.       How to persevere.

My dad likes to tell the story of my brother’s first year showing.  He hadn’t risked much for my fourth-grade brother.  The plain steer had been rolled to near the bottom of his class on a rainy week, leaving my tiny brother in mud up to his ankles and a foot the steer had bloodied when he stomped it with his heavy hoof.  My dad thought for sure he knew the answer when he asked, “do you want to do this again next year?”  To his surprise, my brother had just caught the show cattle bug.  Cattle were his passion and focus throughout high school.  That’s the kind of showman I hope my girls will be.  Not defeated; determined to do better next year because they love what they’re doing.

10.   How some days just aren’t your day.

Life is unfair.  A calf can get sick.  Your little sister can loan out your show halter right before showmanship (guilty).  A cold front can kick a little crazy into a calf you worked tirelessly.  A judge can overlook you in a big class.  It’s important that my girls understand and accept that we get some hard knocks.  We keep moving.

My dad couldn’t tolerate a poor sport, so while it was harder to learn some of these lessons than others, you can be sure I learned them all or we wouldn’t have been allowed back the next year.


…even as I write all about how I want my girls to have the opportunity to lose, I don’t want them to be okay with losing.  There are definitely lessons to be learned from losing, but that’s not an excuse to lose.  I think sometimes in an effort to be a good sport, I became nonchalant about why I was there.  My girls need a desire to win, or they won’t try their best.  It’s okay to fail, but not to set out being okay with failing.  But, then again, I guess "winning" is achieving the goal you started with… so maybe I’d be a wise parent to not dictate the goal.  My girls may not want to show livestock, at all.  They may find activities more important to them, but no matter what they choose, I hope the lesson in the loss is not lost on them.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Field Food: Farmer's Favorite BBQ Beef Hoagie

It happened.  Harvest began.  I dreaded it… and, at the same time, I’m more excited than ever as I get to watch it through my daughter’s eyes, this year. 

Apparently, Monday was National Eat a Hoagie Day.  According to the radio station I was listening to on my way home (completely credible source, I’m sure), there were industrial workers on Hog Island in Italy. They worked long days and packed huge sandwiches for lunch, aka: the hoggie… or over time: the hoagie.  How appropriate for the BBQ hoagie-style lunch I made my hoggie hubby on Monday.  (I packed him the equivalent of half a roast and a loaf of French bread.  No surprise for those of you that know him.)

Really, this is his favorite.  I love it, too, because it’s easy, makes the house smell delicious, and tastes great.  Plus, I’m always looking for a way to use up my roasts other than with carrots and potatoes, again.

I know it looks like a lot of ingredients, but really, it goes quick, like all crockpot meals. 
Aren’t they pretty all in a bowl before mixing?  Sorry, I'll get on with it.

I like to use a whisk to mix everything well.

Daddy's farm raised beef.

I can also usually fit two roasts in my crockpot, so I double the recipe. 

Pour your sauce over the roasts.  Cook on low for approximately 8 hours. 

The first time I made this, I cooked it on high for 4 hours.  The flavor is still very good, but you get more of a sliced beef instead of shredded.  The low heat is definitely better if you have the time, but high is acceptable in a pinch.

About halfway through, I try to CAREFULLY use tongs to rotate the meat top and bottom.  (I feel like this keeps all of the meat more moist, but I really don’t know if this even matters.)  I say carefully because, the sloppy cook I am, ev-ery-time I splash boiling BBQ sauce all over myself.  Not fun.  Apron advised.

Pull out roasts and shred. 

I like to fix this for my guys by making a refrigerator French bread loaf.  It comes out hot and crisp – hence the hoagie part.  I slice it half way so the bottom stays together and is easier for them to eat as they drive.

Load up with meat and cover with bbq sauce from the crockpot. 

I prefer to use provolone cheese, but Colby is what I had on Monday.  If you split one piece of cheese in half, it fits perfectly.  Then, I microwave it just until the cheese melts, but not too long or you risk soggy bread and cheese that will stick to your foil.  I’m sure fancier folks might stick it back in the oven to melt.  UPDATE: My farmer says the cheese does indeed stick to the foil, so he suggests sticking the cheese on the bottom or middle.

Wrap that dude in some aluminum foil and you have a MEAL to fill big stomachs. 

That's my farmer enjoying his fav sandwich.  Smart enough to exert intense enthusiasm for my cooking and annoying blog photography: he's a keeper.  (P.S. Wasn't kidding about the plastic bag lunchbox.  Good thing it's fair week so I can stock up on ok-for-the-field drinking cups, too.)
Seriously, I took my farmer two hoagies on Monday because I wasn’t sure with the toddler and newborn if I’d make it back out to the field that night.  Fortunately for him, he is indeed related to the camel and can fill his stomach once a day in this manner for survival in harsh harvest field conditions.

If you need a couple or twenty minutes to pour ice tea and gather your whining children, they’ll stay hot in microwave while you load up (the sandwiches, not the children...and microwave turned OFF).

When I don’t have the French bread on hand, I toast bread, and make it the same way.  This summer when we worked sweet corn, toasting that many sandwiches in the toaster wasn’t going to work, so we tried making them grilled cheese style.

Butter bread.  Grill both pieces and low to medium heat.  Put meat and sauce on one slice, and cheese on the other.  Put together when cheese is melted and bread toasted.  This method works okay if you go light on the sauce, and much better if eaten right away, of course. 

I think it’s the best fresh, but definitely freezable.  Shred your meat and place in a labeled freezer bag.  I like to put the sauce in a container in the fridge overnight so that I can dip the fat off the next day before freezing.  Or if you're a rock star like my mom, you can trim all of the fat before putting it in the crockpot, but rock star I am not.  When I didn’t dip the fat off before freezing, I thought the fat made the sauce a little twangy, but the hubs thought it was fine (naturally).  If you don’t want to save the sauce, of course you can always use any generic BBQ sauce when you thaw.
Enjoying our BBQ Beef with family and friends when we put up sweet corn this summer.
You can find the original recipe at Taste of Home.

Here are the ingredients I use, in their entirety:

- 1 beef roast
- 1.5 c. ketchup
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray's)
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp vinegar (I like rice vinegar)
- 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional, I omit)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Crockpot for 8 hours on low.
- French bread or toast
- Slice of Cheese

Happy eating!

Friday, September 4, 2015

10 Signs Harvest is Around the Corner

Harvest is fast approaching here.  With a newborn, I’m surprised how calm I am about it.  I think I’ve lost a grasp on how crazy it’s going to be soon.  Not like those of you who are farm wives weren’t aware… but here’s how we know harvest is around the corner…

1)      You washed all of the laundry in one day… because you could. 

The laundry room is the calm before the storm, enjoying order before all of the dusty laundry with grain-filled-pockets starts flooding the floor.  Unless you have a newborn, like me: then, it’s more like the storm before the storm.

2)      “It just depends on the weather…”

…has become the farm wife’s routine RSVP, again. 

3)      We’re digging through all of the children’s clothes.

Someday soon, cool weather will pop up unexpectedly.  She needs the right gear for the farm in a size that fits… because she’s going.  Mama needs a little relief where she can find it.

4)      I cooked with pumpkin already.

These pumpkin and chocolate chip baked oatmeal muffins were delicious… freezable… semi-healthy… and portable.  All of the requirements for on-the-go harvest food in one easy recipe.  Or, you can add a splash of milk, smash in the muffin it with your spoon, and microwave for a bowl of hot oatmeal.  Did I mention they have chocolate?

5)      You’re stocking up on plastic grocery sacks, aka: the farmer’s lunchbox.

Because you know it’s not making it back home.  Just make sure you grabbed one without a hole in the bottom.

6)      You might’ve actually styled your hair today...

…because once harvest starts, who knows when we’ll have the chance for that, again.  I’m actually just going to put the Gojo directly in the shower in lieu of shampoo because once I get around to washing my hair, again, who knows how many rounds of shampoo it will take to return my smooth locks.  (That new mom thing might be playing a role here, too.)

7)      Our pantries are stuffed...

…with all of the ingredients for those harvest freezer meals we have planned.  Get settled, you can of sauce.  In reality, you’ll probably be sitting there until about 6:00 pm on the night I need you.

8)      We’re stoked for some fall income...

…except we already know where it’s all going.  Geez, growing a business is overrated.  How many times have you said this: “But the farm is an inveeeeestment”?  Well, take that income tax. *Insert round house kick.* That makes me feel slightly better.  Some people have hobbies, some people take vacations, some people have investment portfolios, some people have farm assets… and it’s fine that we’re the last category.

9)      Our farmers are home more…

…and we’re not entirely sure what to do with that.  I anticipate missing him before I miss him, which actually makes me miss him now.  Oh, you Harvest Mistress, just end the anxiety and take him away already!  (I don’t mean that.) 

10)   As much as we complain...

…we really are excited for family combine rides, watching the yield monitor results,

…annnnd, of course, the post-harvest dinner date.  *We’re gonna make it.*