Mow! Mow! Mow!

The prolonged winter created a late start to the mowing season in northwest Illinois. When it finally did warm up (for a short spell) the grass took off and now we’ve had more than four inches of rain in the first 20 days of May. Who can keep up?!

My buddy Kolton is trying to tame the grounds around our buildings and the pasture to the west, but in his rush, he missed a stretch. What’s a girl to do?!

Get out the Woods Zero-turn and finish the job. Considering it all needed to be mowed again the next day, it feels like we should be mowing in two shifts.

Who can keep up?!


Chocolate Towns

Last week, I enjoyed the hospitality of the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and this week, I’m across the Atlantic in Brussels, Belgium. Hershey was the host site of our Dealer Council Meeting, a twice-a-year opportunity to learn about their businesses and ours. Brussels is the home of our European operations, giving me a chance to meet with my fellow Team Members, customers, and distributors. Both are home to some of the world’s finest chocolate.

My visit to Europe was timed to also spend a day in Hannover, Germany, at Agritechnica, the world’s largest — and perhaps finest — agricultural exhibition. In a day, we barely scratched the surface, but we did manage to speed-visit every hall, but one.

What caught my attention? Everything! I felt like a kid in a chocolate shop! However, here’s what I found most photo-worthy: AGCO’s blacked and gray styled combines, sporting both Massey and Fendt badges.

The show returns again in two years, and I hope to have more time to explore. In the meantime, I’m back in Brussels, exploring the sites and sampling the chocolate.


Northern made, southern grown

Sundays are for church, breakfast at Mary’s Market, and grocery shopping. My grocery of choice is locally-owned Woodman’s for their broad selection, but I found last Sunday that their selection isn’t broad enough in one particular category: dark, leafy greens and more specifically, collard greens. Next stop, Valli Produce, our Mecca of international delights and produce galore!

Not only did Valli have collard greens, but they had my new favorite brand!

Since I had picked up Pecan oil in Georgia and since my friend Hillary had shared a jar of her sweetly hot pepper jelly, I now had the critical ingredients for the Baker Farms recipe Chef Holly had prepared in the Georgia Grown booth at Sunbelt Ag Expo:

And here’s the recipe for Georgia Grown’s Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette:

Both recipes are easy, but you have to plan ahead on prepping the greens because they need a lot of chill time to tenderize. Otherwise, the steps are easy!

First, clean the collards by washing them and cutting them in half lengthwise while removing the stems. Stack up several leaf halves, roll them up, and chop them.

Using this technique (which I learned at Disney Institute’s Culinary Challenge while chopping basil for a fierce Bruschetta competition), you’ll quickly end up with a lush bowl of yummy greeness.

Next step, douse them with the oil, salt, and pepper and massage them to start the tenderizing process.

Cover the bowl and stash the greens in the fridge for a long, cold nap. I prepped these greens the night before, which allowed me to sneak out a few for my lunch and save the bulk of them for dinner.

For the final prep, simply add the onions (sweet Vidalia’s of course!), mix up the dressing…

… and serve!

Collard greens pair nicely with oven-baked, paprika and cayenne-spiced chicken wings and a bright Chardonnay.

Bon appetit!


Georgia Grown

Georgia agriculture is one of the biggest economic engines in the state and it’s fueled by a vast array of farm products. At this week’s Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia, I met cattle ranchers, sheep herdsmen, cotton farmers, peanut growers, produce farmers, and more. As a corn and soybean farmwife, I had a lot to learn and I soaked in all that Georgia Grown goodness!

My sister Mokie — who likes to enjoy my travel adventures from afar — challenged me to send selfies of me and products from the Great State of Georgia.

I started with one of the State’s most famous “food” products:

On a walk to the farm show’s field demonstrations, I stopped for some fresh churned Georgia Butter Pecan ice cream:

Out in the fields, I met a friendly Cotton and Peanut Farmer named Larry who taught me all about his crops:

The best part of Larry’s lesson, was the explanation of how peanuts are planted and harvested:

Along the way, I met two fascinating women from Baker Farms who not only taught me about their leafy greens growing and packaging operation, but took me to a cooking demonstration and shared recipes for collard greens. I hope to go back to visit their operation and taste some of the best of Georgia Grown!


I cried, “uncle”

I took on a new role at work in January and since then, I’ve had less and less time to spend in the yard. It hasn’t helped that these past few weekends of summer, I’ve traded yard work for cycling, kayaking and camping in an attempt to squeeze a bit of outdoor fun into the remaining days of warmth and sunshine.

As the days began to shorten however, I began to panic over the work undone in the yard. Unkempt flower beds, weedy fence lines, lanky shrubs, disintegrating mulch, dead flowers, fading transplants, messy sidewalk edges. All that yard work staring me down as I walked out to leave for work every morning. All that yard work shaming my Master Gardner training and standards for a perfect landscape. All that yard work weighing me down and stressing me out.

I cried, “uncle.” I released the stranglehold and called in a landscaping crew.




Watching the crew from my home office on the front porch, I could feel the grip loosening and my stress reducing. I felt a sense of achievement (and all I did was make a phone call!). I felt hope that through the mercy of professional landscapers, I’ll never cry “uncle” again.


Those annoying washouts

Our wet spring and summer meant we had to repair the lane several times. The destruction from the last gully washer in July has remained… until today.

I used our Woods HBL rear blade, turned around, to roll gravel from the grass back into the lane and then turned the rig over to Tommy for the final finessing (I know the limits of my earth-moving talents).

Next, hook up the GS72C grading scraper, fill in the ruts with more gravel, and make it look like new again.

I get to do the grading part… I’m just killing some time while I wait my turn.

Away we go!


Hooray! It’s a wheat year!

As a farm wife, one of the best benefits of crop rotation is the ever-changing landscape.

I’m working from my home office today and my desk chair gives me a perfect view of the fields to the south of our house. During this morning’s conference call on next year’s product forecast, I was temporarily distracted by the tractor sweeping across the bean stubble, planting our winter wheat.

Watching a wheat crop is joyful! It will be the first field to green up in the spring, will grow prolifically throughout early summer, then manifest the “amber waves of grain” by Independence Day.

My fun-loving, wine-drinking, city-girl friends have been itching for me to host a farm-to-fork dinner party. Looks like I’ll need to pull that together for next July, with after-dinner entertainment of wheat harvest combine rides.

Hooray! It’s a wheat year!


Harvest kicks off, gardening winds down

This week, we started cutting beans, marking the official kick-off of harvest. While it will be weeks before we can proclaim the entire season “in the hopper,” we can do so for the first field of soy beans. They are coming in dry and dusty, but initial yields are encouraging.

This week also marks the official wind-down of “gardening night” with my garden buddy Julie. We pulled out what was left of the bean bushes, some over-grown beets, and a neglected cabbage plant and hauled them down to the woods for the deer and turkey to enjoy. After all that, we still had a few more weeds to clean up and manure to spread, but nightfall comes quickly this time of year.

We retreated into the house to celebrate the end of our little harvest with garden-fresh jalapeños grilled and stuffed with Gouda and wrapped in bacon. We paired them with a bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and toasted another season of “seeding, weeding, and feeding.”

Cheers to another successful year of gardening and the start of harvest!


New life for an old sink

What better way to spend a rainy Saturday in Illinois than to clean the basement?

Unlike most 100-year-old farmhouses, ours was built with tall ceilings and several windows, making it quite usable. However, like many 100-year-old farmhouses it has water issues, so even with this project we couldn’t escape the reminder that rain was wreaking havoc in our house and in our fields (yes, we currently have “lake front” property on what should be a corn field).

In the process of tossing out junk and installing new shelving, we rediscovered an old concrete sink that was begging for a new life. We decided it would be perfect for washing garden vegetables, or just washing up after yard work, and created a spot for it next the garden shed and the pump.

A load of gravel and a couple of old limestone slabs made the perfect foundation and our loader bucket and Alitec pallet forks made the maneuvering easy. Another “easy button” — spacing calculations and precision leveling thanks to they guys’ smart phones.

2017-05-21 16.01.22-1

2017-05-20 12.20.12Our next challenge was to figure out how to get the concrete beast up the basement stairs, through the laundry room, and out to it’s new home. A few text messages to our strongest, young friends and a heavy-duty dolly solved the dilemma. (I think I held my breath the whole time they were muscling the load up the stairs.)

We replaced the rusty metal frame with stacked cinder blocks and in a couple hours, we re-purposed a forgotten treasure into a practical garden feature.

And, as soon as it quits raining, we’ll actually be able to dig in the garden so that we have some vegetables to wash this summer.