My Purposeful Mission – Part 2

In April 2013, I heard about a businesswomen’s conference in Eau Claire. The topics interested me, but what pulled me to find a way to be there was the appearance of the owner of a women’s community magazine. I had seen copies of her magazine and liked the format of them. I just had to see her, talk to her. I had questions to ask her. My main mission was to talk to this magazine owner, which I did.

In May 2013, I graduated. I took another look at job opportunities and ended up with the same result–nothing that I could realistically apply for.

A week after graduation I decided to pursue my “purposeful mission,” specifically creating and publishing a community magazine for women in agriculture. I thought I would start out right by connecting with a mentor through a local SCORE chapter. I was fortunate to be matched with a magazine publisher who published magazines that have gone national out of Iola. Like me, he began working for someone else full time by day and part time other hours in the basement of his home on a magazine. He too had a bachelor’s degree majoring in communication. It was after that I began planning the magazine based on his advice, ideas I got from the owner of the magazine I mentioned above and other information I got doing some research online and offline. I had a mock-up of the first issue by June 2013. Months later, I fine tuned that mock-up purchasing better software. I took a month taking an online class to learn how to use it and to create a new template in January 2014.

I began layout of the spring 2014 issue in February 2014 and finished it mid March 2014. It took weeks of tweaking that layout to make it the best it could be. I am a perfectionist in that regard.

Even though I am not getting paid to do this, I am driven to put everything I have into it–my time, my talent, my ambition, my gut intuition. My instinct.

Yes, instinct. God-given instinct. It had to come from somewhere. I certainly didn’t learn it in college, although a lot of the benefits derived there did help. But, there is only so much learning from a book can do for you. To get a mission with a purpose carried out, a lot of what it takes comes from within. Instinct.

Believe me, instinct doesn’t happen overnight either. It took me years of searching for my purposeful mission. While some people are content with dabbling in one activity, I had to try many out to find the right one. The one that would be meaningful, purposeful and would bring joy not only to me but others. But, you have to have instinct to know when you have found the right one. I didn’t realize, until this magazine that I created, Country Diva, came to be, that I had instinct. What else could it be? I never laid out a magazine in InDesign before or even looked at InDesign before laying out that first issue. I never designed ads until that first issue. I never sold ads until that first issue. I never thought like a magazine owner until that first issue.

My SCORE mentor assured me I was on the right track. Aside from a few suggestions he didn’t have to specifically tell me what to do every step of the way. It was God-given instinct behind my motivation.

Certainly one would have to be crazy to pursue a “purposeful mission” of such magnitude. But, I don’t see it as a mission that is impossible. I suppose some of this instinct comes from being a farmer’s daughter and now a farmer’s wife. Anything meaningful has its challenges, and farming by no means is not without its challenges. Growing up with challenges on a dairy farm I think strengthened the instinct I have today.

My Purposeful Mission – Part 1

Recently I started reading a book by T. D. Jakes called Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive. At the beginning of the book the author talks about instinct being “the treasure map for our soul’s satisfaction.” He also mentions that by following one’s instinct, a person can better figure out what a person is good at and good for in fulfilling our “purposeful potential.” What hit home for me was his saying, “When you’re truly engaged with your life’s calling, …, you rely on something that cannot be taught.” When I read that, I thought right away about my instinct that I have been using with my recent “project.” I don’t know if you can call it a “project,” but maybe it should be called my “purposeful mission.” That being said, I will elaborate.

My “purposeful mission” began back in January 2013 when I was thinking to myself, “Why isn’t there a community magazine out there for women like me?” Women like me are those women who live out in the country on a farm. I saw plenty of community magazines for women, but I could not really relate to them personally. They just were not the real deal for me. They had photos of women enjoying spa experiences and being spotted at various social events. I couldn’t relate to any of those.

I placed the thought on the backburner for a while. I was working a full-time job as I am now but also was finishing up a bachelor’s degree in communication as a major and business psychology as a minor through the UW – Superior Distance Learning Program.

Still, I didn’t forget about the magazine idea that spring of 2013.

After I began some investigating as to what I would do with that college degree after graduation, I came to realize that there was nothing in my community in terms of a job that I could apply for related to my degree major. I was rather upset because of the time and money I spent for, well, nothing. The jobs I could find were further away near or in metropolitan areas. Realistically, I could not move. I could not move the farm either. I could not leave the farm.

Another barrier I discovered was experience. Good jobs locally required experience. I didn’t obviously have that, and I was not at the point where I could afford financially to be an intern anywhere either. I had to have a full-time job to bring in money for my family in addition to health insurance. It is hard to find affordable insurance when you farm.

One day I figured out that it didn’t pay to be frustrated over something out of my control. Frustration and just wallowing in it is not what I call being very proactive. To me, proactive is thinking about a situation from another angle.

I began thinking proactive by taking a good look at my environment. I noted that my environment was not metropolitan but rural with many farms. In fact, Clark County (where I live) has the most herds of milk cows in the state. Businesses are not restricted to towns on a main street in standard brick and mortar style. They are spread apart, acres and miles apart, in the form of many buildings. They are in the form of barns and milkhouses and home-based businesses in someone’s shop or house.

Knowing all of this as a fact, I then realized the majority of the people in my county are entrepreneurs of agriculture-based businesses. I realized too then the women involved with those businesses needed a community magazine just for them.

One Small Victory

Since my last post Mike Holmes has not come through with the farm house renovation. Neither has the “contractor.” He has appeared maybe 5 times I think but hours at a time. Big C and Sunny at least have windows in their half completed rooms now. They no longer feel like cavemen existing in a dark cave.

While there may be new windows on the second story now, the house remains without siding. From time to time I visit the room to be my new office, wishing it was done so I could move on and enjoy the new space I designed.  

Meanwhile, though, on the positive side some things did get accomplished these past months on the farm.

If you recall from my earlier posts, the tractor that Chief had used and blew up after he passed away finally got fixed. Since his passing, the tractor was out in the shop in pieces. Shaggy began work on it, and Rambler did some tinkering with it. Still, it was a project that never got done. When Rambler left the farm, Shaggy became the “project manager” of figuring out what parts needed to be replaced and whatever else had to be done to get the tractor going again.

His project management didn’t last long. Death took Shaggy before he even had a chance to bring that tractor back to life.

I think after Shaggy’s death and the stress of coping with that and the house renovation, we each had our methods of coping. Big C and a buddy who had a gift of making things work took it upon themselves to finish that tractor as did Sunny and Lucky. There were many days they would be out in the pole shed working on that tractor for hours on end with Lucky making multiple trips for parts. Big C’s buddy was so focused one night that he worked on through the night, not realizing what time it was until he noticed the sun was coming up.

None of them ever put a tractor motor back together. All they had to go on was the tractor’s manual and parts book and most of all, common sense. Eventually, Chief’s tractor got put together. I could not believe my ears when I heard that tractor come back to life. And did it ever. There was such a roar that the walls of the pole shed literally vibrated. I didn’t have to be there to hear it. I could hear it in the house and knew right away what had happened.  At least, this was one small victory.

After that, things seemed to look up a bit on the farm.  It wasn’t all roses and sunshine.  The challenge remained of getting the planting in without Shaggy and then the rest of the field work that followed.  It was like starting all over again after Chief passed away.  Things Chief used to do in the field Shaggy did and then some.  But, the field work did get done.  Another small victory.

Mike Holmes, Where Are You?

Back in 2012, a renovation expert by the name of Mike Holmes started a new television series called Holmes Makes It Right. The past couple weeks I have been wondering if Holmes could make it right here on the farm.

While the guys finally got it right this past week finally finding someone to fill the hole Shaggy left after he passed away, I was hoping a lot would have progressed on the house renovation as well. I saw their good fortune at finding someone who took to the work like a duck takes to water as a sign that just perhaps things here would straighten out. With the polar vortex and a lot of other misfortunes behind us, I thought with the positive change that occurred this past week outside that the same would happen inside.

Not so.

For a good part of last fall, the house renovation was moving along with a few hiccups along the way like weather and funerals as you may recall. December and January presented seasonal illnesses that cost us a week each month of our contractor not being well enough to work on the project. Other weeks during those months, he was pretty much here on a weekly basis, five days of the week working. Big C enjoyed the diversion of working inside in between chores without having to deal with the elements outside. Lucky participated as well.

The only bad thing is that our contractor never did get to wrapping the house exterior up or get the siding on. There were no windows installed either, even if he had ordered them (so he said) back last fall. Rather, he focused working on the inside once the roof got shingled. Needless to say, without siding it was rather chilly during the polar vortex. Big C and Sunny, though they were camping out in the backyard in The Shack, often had a warmer environment inside with two oil heaters running than Lucky and I did in the house. Many nights I had to wear layers of clothes in bed to stay warm even though I had an oil heater plus the furnace running. Many days when I worked in the home office, I had bundled up in a blanket in the early morning hours sitting close to an oil heater in there as well.

Come February the pace on the renovation slowed down. A pattern emerged where the first week of the month the contractor didn’t show up to work. The second and third weeks, he didn’t show up on Mondays and Tuesdays. The fourth week, he didn’t show on Monday. The following week he came every day.

In March, the same thing happened except toward the end of the month, the contractor started showing up with only one task in mind to complete and stayed no more than an hour at times. He did make it possible for Big C and Sunny to move back into the house in their new rooms, but their rooms are not completely finished. The same is true for the other rooms including the bathroom upstairs. Big C and Sunny do have access to a sink with running water, a toilet and a tub/shower, but the doors and the drawers for the vanity have not been installed. Closets are not completely finished with some that have doors and rods while others do not.

Now in April again the contractor didn’t come the first week (normal), but the second week he showed up on Monday and Tuesday with only one task for an hour each day. The rest of that week he didn’t come. This past week he came Monday to install a set of bi-fold doors in the office only. He said he was returning with more for the office the next day, but he came briefly (a whole 5 minutes) to get a nail gun and took off without saying a word. He didn’t come back the rest of the week.

With planting just around the corner it looks like moving forward upstairs isn’t going to happen any time soon. The contractor knows that he will be on his own once planting starts (the crew he claimed to have had before work started never materialized). We reminded him of that again when we tracked him down the other evening. He claimed he had a funeral to attend which he took off for a whole week for someone not really related to him. Then he said he had been working on the vanity for the bathroom (recall I said the vanity already is in the bathroom). He had difficulty acquiring some things to begin work on the siding, but he never took the time to call us.

I knew renovation would take a while, but in my experience with renovations, when you hire people, they usually show up and get things done. In this case it is not getting done. What makes it difficult besides the absence of communication is being able to communicate to this contractor. He ignores voice mail on his cell phone and doesn’t pick up either to answer it. The worst part is he is a so-called friend. Often I have been told contractor friends are the worst contractors to hire, and now I believe it.

So, until Mike Holmes shows up to make it right, I will have to move on with Plan B, that being selling some things to make room and make life more tolerable in my very cramped living space including my current office. I don’t like this plan, but what choice do I have.

Dependable Farm Labor Hard To Find

Since Shaggy’s passing the guys have been shopping for farm help or farm workers to fill in the gaps. It is not so much that they are getting burned out from the “new normal” but of what is coming in the very near future. Even though there is plenty of snow, we all know that once it is gone for the season, field work will soon be looming on our horizon. That means that there will be one tractor with a person missing to drive it to plow and plant. Last year there was one tractor too with a person missing to drive it. Fortunately, we were able to find some volunteers or casual help to fill that seat. It was not easy though to find that casual help for just one tractor. This year with Shaggy gone that means there will be two tractors missing a person each to drive them.

We placed ads in local community shopper guides, talked to people who may know other people looking for work and posted ads online. The only response we got so far were from people eager to work but with very questionable backgrounds. Perhaps it is wrong to discriminate against people with criminal records when considering them for employment, but right now with all of the losses and challenges we have encountered since the fall of 2013 and a harsh winter due to a polar vortex, we just cannot risk any more than we have to. Farming is risky enough without knowingly adding risk.

That is how we all felt after an interview we had with a candidate recently. He was young and eager and not afraid of hard work. He wanted to work on a farm, but he had a buddy he wanted to drag into the deal who had some criminal records that made us afraid. As it is, we can only afford to hire one person right now. Were we to choose the young man without the record and provide him housing as a benefit, we could possibly encounter another problem. His buddy could come to visit and do some things in retaliation for not hiring him. Some of those things to retaliate could include activities that took place in that buddy’s past that got him into trouble in the first place.

I do know that some people do when given a second chance turn their lives around, but right now with what this farm has gone through in recent months it is too risky to give a second chance that could make matters worse. Perhaps we are not in a position to be so picky, but we are dealing with a lot of lives here. Not just our lives, but the animals that we are dependent on for our livelihood.

Then on the other side of the coin, we find people who want to work and promise you the sun and more if you would hire them. Months after the so-called honeymoon period, you find that those people are not who they said they are. It’s almost like being catfished. You get to know them, and they appear to be the person you have been looking for. Then, after time has passed so that you trust them, all of a sudden you find you invested time and money into someone who really doesn’t have what it takes.

We learned a lot about that situation recently too. We found a candidate who had “experience” working at distinguished farms and businesses working in various roles that would have been applicable to our business. He appeared to be “the one” until we began talking to employers we knew that the candidate listed. We found out that the reason why this person had so much “experience” and worked at so many places was because he would work out great at the start but then slacked off. We discovered too that the amount of time he was employed at certain places was not accurate either. It turns out the months listed after each job entry were more like days.

Having said all of this, we are back to where we started. We knew at the start dependable farm labor is hard to find. And, we are not the only ones to have this kind of experience. We hear this from other farmers too. Like us, they don’t have applicants lining up wanting the work offered either. It is hard work with long hours, and a lot of people don’t want that. Even people who are unemployed. We found that out when we offered a job to someone we knew who could use the work.

Meanwhile, we will be grateful for the dependable farm labor we do have and just pray and hope someone dependable turns up sooner or later while we continue our search.

December Without Shaggy

December came. The new normal was becoming a routine sprinkled with more delays on the house project. The contractor got sick for a week from the flu. Since Lucky and Big C were the crew, they could not move forward without the contractor to lead the project. They were kept busy with other issues that sprung up on the farm though. The cold winter weather brought up a host of new problems to be dealt with, and Sunny learned the hard way that a manure spreader’s paddles need to be warmed up before using the spreader in the cold. Things that cold froze up and when turned on busted.

By the time Christmas arrived, no one felt like being in a holiday mood. I didn’t even decorate the house. There was no room to put up a Christmas tree because of the renovation. Instead I put out a Scentsy tree warmer. That was the only decoration I put out besides putting camouflage Santa hats on the dead heads in the living room.

I did some holiday baking, but I found it difficult with the lack of space. Regardless, I felt I had to bake something even though Big C despite his sweet tooth said he didn’t care if we had nothing. With Shaggy gone, the house torn apart and the guys being tired out from the extra work, they didn’t feel like celebrating anything let alone Christmas.

Still, after finding some gift certificates that Shaggy had tucked away somewhere for a local restaurant, Lucky thought we should use them toward a holiday buffet on Christmas Day. Big C wasn’t too keen on going but went with Lucky, Sunny and me after Lucky convinced him we had to do something as a family.

It was a long ride that Christmas Day to the restaurant, not in the sense of distance but the ride, itself. One could have heard a pin drop in the Jeep, this after I decided to not engage in conversation with the guys. I would have had better luck with Budster or Cook to get some reaction out of the guys for 10 miles. I chose to keep my thoughts to myself and decided to enjoy the scenery because it was a treat for me to get away from the farm.

When we arrived at the restaurant, the mood changed. Lucky and Sunny interacted like they normally do around a buffet of food while Big C, still not happy being there, became a critic about where we were seated and the food offered. As for me, when the waitress asked what we wanted to drink, I followed Big C’s lead of having a Captain root beer. I needed something to help me get through that meal after the ride which seemed like an eternity.

After the meal, the rest of the day was tolerable. It seems like a full stomach does wonders for a guy. The guys were more animated on the ride back home, finding places that had tractors sitting out in a lot for sale and other things guys take an interest in.

Later that day I quietly enjoyed a gift cousins from Colorado surprised me with that came by USPS. Our hired man and his wife who help with the milking surprised us later that night with food from their native country of Mexico. They were having a family party and wanted us to be part of it in some way. I felt thankful for them. They were real good about not taking Sundays off any more since Shaggy’s death as it was. Mexican food at the end of a day that started out rather sad was like icing on a cake.

A New Normal

It’s been a long haul since Shaggy’s demise. We have what we call a new normal here on the farm. Looking back, I wonder how we did it. Though we were in shock, there was not time for us to really grasp what had happened. There were cows that had to be fed, heifers and steers to be fed, calves to be fed, cows to be milked and other tasks common on a dairy farm. Although Shaggy was dead and there was nothing we could do more for him, there were others we had to keep alive besides ourselves. Our animals.

Already as soon as Shaggy was off the farm, Lucky, Sunny and Big C got their heads together as to how to get the things done that Shaggy did. Between them, it was decided that Sunny would feed the mothers of his calves besides the heifers at the barn where Shaggy lived. Lucky would assist him by making sure feed like protein and corn got dumped into the TMR with the use of a skidsteer. Big C would fill in the gaps making sure a steady flow of cows were making their way to the barn to get milked, scraping pens with a skidsteer as each group got milked and then heading down to the heifer barn to make sure things were right there. It didn’t take long to realize that Shaggy did a lot.

In between work on the house continued. That process has been slow. Multiple delays took place. After time off from Shaggy’s funeral and dealing with a new normal for getting farm work done, another week slid by during the annual deer hunt. Even though none of the guys felt like hunting, I urged them to do it still, especially Lucky. He had to do something to take a break.

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