Monday, December 3, 2012

A Saturday in December - and second chances

Off to the big city again today, and I braved the crowds at the mall for a very short while.

I prefer the mall on quieter days.  I don't like to stand in line for a half hour, I am always thinking about other things I could be doing, like social media or eating at the food court or blogging or anything but standing in line.

Today, though, I got a pleasant surprise.  Several clerks working the floor in a department store actually looked at me and said hello, and asked if they could help me find anything!

The clerks at this one set of registers in the store were just great to be around.  They also said hello, recognized there were people in line and thanked them for waiting, and they actually talked to the customers instead of only each other.  They found nice things to say about everyone in line.  Everyone was smiling, while holiday shopping.  Can you hear the angelic music now?  Yes, it was what seemed to be a miracle.

Wow, what a novel concept!!  Actually enjoying Christmas shopping!  And employees that seemed happy to be employed!  It made the customers happy to shop there!  My socks were, as the saying goes, blown off!

This is a store that quite honestly I had written off of my list of places to stop.  My last few prior experiences there had soured me.  Service, prior to my experience today, was apathetic, disinterested, and they were doing me a favor by being there.  I had not spent a dime at that store in over three years.  Yes, three years.

I happened to be going through the store on my way elsewhere, my original plan was to use it as a pathway to my destination, and I wound up staying, and shopping, enjoying the store because of the attitude and climate set by the people that were working there.

It goes to show, every once in a while, we should stop in and check the climate with people or places where our prior experience was less than pleasant.  People and places can and do change for the better sometimes.        Just like we don't want to be known for staying stuck in the same old place, others don't either, and they may have done something about it.  I would want a second chance, and, I would like to believe, others would like a second chance, too, to show they have changed.

Is it in your power to give the opportunity at a second chance on purpose?  My experience today happened on accident, but it did give me a real life lesson.

Well, Cowman is cooking tonight, so I am off to put my feet up and eat what he cooked!  Yes, Cowman's Wife got the night off!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hi Hoe, Hi Hoe, Its Off to Work in Town I Go

One thing about farming is the fact that if you are not working directly on the farm, you are working somewhere.

Lazy does not cut it in the farming life.

So, today I am off to the big city to one of my part time jobs.  I work a several small jobs for several reasons:

1) I have this really weird need to help people sell their stuff.

2)  If things get out of control busy, I have flexibility to roll with the flow.

3)  If things get out of control slow I can pick up short term projects

4)  A lot of what I do can be done after the sun goes down, and Cowman is watching endless Westerns or other people's cows on TV, or watchng people cook beef, butter some bread or eat ice cream.  He is a man of  limited interests.

Working in the big city has given me a whole new appreciation for promoting and telling others about what  happens on the farm. It is really easy for an urban dwelling person to spout misinformation about farming from partial news reports they have absorbed through the media, or organizations with an agenda that is anti farming.  But when they are actually confronted with a farm person stating facts about themselves and their farm that contradict their current understanding, I have learned that most people start to shift their ideas almost immediately.

Urban dwellers and other food consumers want to learn and understand where their food comes from, and they want facts from someone who farms about how food  is grown.  They do want to have faith in the farmer, the job he is doing, and the purpose the farmer has in being in business.  Food is a big part of our lives.

Being fearful because of what you hear in the news is not a realistic view for the farmer to take in today's information age.  We can either give personal stories about how much time and energy we spend tending to the resources under our care, or someone else will give a sensationalized or lopsided story to the consumer.

So, when I am working in town, I try to take the view that I am an ambassador for the farmer.  I have stepped from my world into the world of the consumer that may not have ever even mowed their own lawn.  I share about newborn calves, fresh hay, how cows are the masters at recycling things we can't eat ourselves, and really dark nights without street lights.  I talk about worry over the cow that is not feeling well, the sadness over the calf that didn't make it, and feeding the orphan goat kid at 1 am.  I share about the reality of predators - those with two and four legs - as a part of everyday life.  I talk about deep quiet, and nothing to block the wind.  I talk about Christmas morning not starting until Cowman is back from chores at the dairy, because he and the people that work with him are making sure there is milk in the store tomorrow.

So, from Cowman's Wife, go tell your stories fellow farmers.  People really do want to get to know you, what you are about, what your life is like, and why you do what you do.  To my urban friends, take time to listen to the farmers you meet.  Maybe, try to get together to do lunch, because the bottom line for the discussion is every human's common ground - food.  Another common ground might be shoes, especially if your are a woman.   But that is something we will have to wait to elaborate on another day.

Time to go cook.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Feeling Nostalgic

As the air gets cooler, even here in Sunny Central California, my thoughts start to shift to the holiday season. Memories of family that have passed on, Thanksgiving tables loaded with the best cooking you can find just about anywhere, Christmas madhouse get-togethers that included literally 60 or more family members, including way to many kids, all start to flood back into the recall areas of my mind.

I especially start to remember those that have passed away.

I am getting a little bummed that I am starting to reach the point of being the "old folks" of the family.

Over the years, as families have grown and changed, it is easy to lose touch with cousins, and even brothers and sisters.  The ebb and flow of life have taken us all on our own paths and journeys that extend across the nation.  Our family has married and mingled with other families that pull us away from each other at holidays.

Life has, as it should, been rolling on.

The stand out memory that we all have is the food.  Smell and taste are powerful reminders of the safety and security of home and a large rambling family.

Memories of  Grandma's potato salad, Aunt Marla's macaroni salad, my mother's strawberry jello (thank God, or we would still be eating the green stuff),  Aunt Joanne's spicy relish trays, Great Grandma's butter rolls, Grandma's chocolate cream pie, Uncle Don's BBQ, all come back in an instant with a faint smell, or a picture in a magazine.

Let's not forget the mashed potatoes.  It did not matter who made them in my family, they were always loaded with real butter, sour cream, and real cream, and cheese.  Did I happen to mention that I am married to a dairy farmer?  I did not start out in a dairy farming family, but I got to one as soon as I could.  But that is another story for another day.

As each of the women that made these wonderful dishes passes on, our family has put together cook books to share these greatly loved dishes with everyone.  Many of the recipes were passed down to them from their mothers and grandmothers.  Strong farm women that made stout food for hard working family and fellow farm working people.  Our heritage is moving on, standing the test of time.

Woven through the recipes are shadows of our history.  Flavors of the Deep South, the Tennessee hills, the Oklahoma land rush, the Republic of Texas, the labor camps of the Dust Bowl, the spicy mix of the addition of the flavors of Mexico.  We have been taught ability to use whatever was free, available, and in season.  Most importantly, we were taught the way to use what could be grown at home.

Most of us have taken the recipes, and since we are from a long line of women that cook, we give them our own twist, providing a heritage for our daughters and daughter-in-laws to use for their families, and pass on to their daughters.  A shared food heritage  provides ways to share the stories of the family and relish memories that make up our history.

Today, I honor those wonderful women that shaped my family.  The ranch wives, the farm wives, the field workers, the gardeners and the food they made - thank you ladies!

It's time to go pull out that 75 year old cast iron skillet, a hand me down from one that has gone before - and cook.