Take the Picture

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely every hundredth of a second.” ~Mark Riboud 

Rarely can you find a time on the ranch without something needing done. We’re chopping silage and starting to fill yards. My brother-in-law is combining. My parents and brother are weaning. My sister and sister-in-law are busy with off-farm careers. We’re all running kids to activities. Yet, we stopped last Sunday to take pictures, and not one of us regrets the time away from work. ♡

Neil & Brenda Duxbury Family 2018

Imperfectly perfect

These photos do not represent our normal. Our normal is messy–chaotic–fractured. These photos remind us our lives are full–blessed–complete. ♡

Photos don’t have to be professional productions. But, photos are important. Take the time. Snap the picture. Try to capture one moment each day that stirs your emotions when you reflect on it. ♡

This life is short even when the days are long. Savor the seconds, especially when the hours drag on! #WeAreRanchers #LoveTheLifeYouLive

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Blum’s Bits: Let the Choir Sing

In 1961, President-elect John F. Kennedy addressed the Massachusetts legislature and became remembered for saying, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”

I’m a fan of JFK’s ability to share elegant, intelligent prose; however, in this instance, I prefer the original source for his inspiration:

“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” ~ Luke 12:48

You can interpret the verse with your heart or brain … neither perspective is wrong. My personal interpretation tends to vary depending upon the circumstance currently requiring me to draw from my stuffed vault of quotes!

Lately, I find this verse speaking right to the heart of today’s cattleman (or woman if you prefer).

We farmers and ranchers are entrusted with land and livestock, but we also have responsibility to future generations … to the children who no longer help milk the cows but rather think butter comes from butterflies.

Go ahead, laugh; I know some of you at least chuckled. But, I’ve lost my sense of humor when it comes to the disconnect between today’s consumer and producer. Go to most any conference, and you’ll learn not to call yourself a “producer” or your business an “operation”. After all, the consumers may be reading, and you’ll sound like a disconnected bureaucrat whose only interest is making a buck.

What?!

Those of us who make a life in production agriculture know the difficulties and rewards, so I’m not going to take space preaching to the choir. However, I do believe the choir needs to start singing.

It’s state fair season across the Midwest. Whether you exhibit livestock, participate in 4-H and FFA events, or simply attend your favorite fair as a vacation day away from the ranch, you attend bearing the responsibility of being entrusted with the lifeblood of our country. Whether you’re out in Wranglers, a well-worn pair of boots, and your favorite hat or you’re most comfortable in shorts, tennis shoes, and a cap, you are the face of today’s agriculture.

And yes, I do encourage you to tell your story. Tell it through your genuine, patient words. Show it through your respectful, kind gestures.

You don’t have to shout your value from the rooftops, document your every step on social media, or debate your worth from a keyboard. I’m not suggesting you go-all-out with some grand gesture of agri-tourism. But, I do hope you know your value and appreciate your place at the global table even if no one else really understands it.

I hope you take time to listen when asked a question … to hear the yearning for reassurance under the veil of fear. I hope you don’t avoid eye contact with the family who has clearly never been in a barn but desperately wants to “pet a cow”. Don’t tolerate disrespect or look for a fight, but also don’t hide who you are and what you contribute to your community, your state, and your country.

There will be times when the best course of action is to bite your tongue, walk away, agree to disagree. After those encounters, find a friend and have a good, long undocumented discussion about today’s world.

But remember, there will also be times when the kindness you show or the time you take makes a positive impact … when the little girl proudly shares with her friends that she knows real butter comes from cows.

We “country folk” are a dying breed in a growing world of well-sanitized hands. Yet, we are entrusted with more than ever before.

Friends, I’m not all doom/gloom. I don’t consider my husband and I exempt from this little “pep talk”. For all the very real and dangerous stressors in our industry, I view agriculture as ripe with opportunity, but we must stay united.

We can’t lose sight of all we’ve been given, and we can’t lose ourselves amidst all that is—and will be –demanded of us.

We are ranchers. We are strong, capable leaders invested in the future through our land, our livestock, our families. Fight the good fight, friends. And, as the seasons change, I hope you’ll keep one of my favorite Irish blessings near:

May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine upon your window pane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near to you, and
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

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Date Night

“Work is not man’s punishment.
It is his reward, his strength, his pleasure.” ~George Sand

20180814_201141Our kiddos are off enjoying fun, memorable times in the city at cousin camp. Though I remain quite useless in manual labor, it was a beautiful night to visit with the rancher as I drove while he loaded square bales! •

With a busy, growing family and a long list of ranch work, these are among the most stressful days of our life. It’s too easy to get lost in the hustle…to forget about extending kindness to each other…to enjoy even the chaotic moments. •

Hopefully, our kids come home refreshed, maybe even invigorated, by their change of scenery. In the meantime, the rancher will continue his days of manual labor; I’ll work to meet end-of-week deadlines, and maybe–just maybe–when our little family jumps back into the daily grind, we’ll do it with a bit more thought, a touch more grace, and a dash more respect.

#datenight 

#WeAreRanchers

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Work hard, play hard

Work hard; play hard. Simple to say but harder to live! We don’t often use the river for recreation, and we don’t often vacation without cattle.But, a bright side of ranching along the river means we can occasionally enjoy an outing with family or friends and still be home twice a day for chores. Equally, a bright side to raising cattle means taking chores with us occasionally and spending priceless time with all our loved ones!! #WeAreRanchers #MamaLovesSmiles

 

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This Chapter

In only one week, our kids have traveled miles with cattle kids from South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and probably a dozen other states of which I’m not aware. Our two oldest boys may need new shoes from all the miles they tread in seven days, and I know they need a good, long nap.

The best of all this? Their new friendships, new experiences, and many miles occurred within a space of roughly two city blocks only 250 miles from home.

Our first Junior National Hereford Exposition experience is nearly in the books. As we wrap up with some final fun, I know the benefits of this trip will last longer than mountains of laundry and will impact our family greater than the credit card statement will shock me.

My “mom heart” overflows with emotion as I think about the work and the fun our kids enjoyed this past week.

Our 11-year-old began breaking out of his shell and finding his own way with mentors who became friends. Our nine-year-old talks already about staying in touch “every week for forever” with his new friends from South Dakota and Pennsylvania.

I overheard conversations about Denver in 2019, discussions regarding the merit of pocket gophers, chats about new skills, and questions about the distance to this state or that. I saw kindness, patience, compassion, and respect. I felt a sense of camaraderie, family, and old-fashion rural community. The experience really was magical in an exhausting, dirty, ranchy sort of way … which is the best kind of way in my opinion.

While our experience away from home was more than I could have anticipated, the immense privilege in it all was not lost on me.

We could not have enjoyed such an experience if not for the sacrifices of others. Like most in attendance, our ranch work wasn’t done when I left, and if it had been, it wouldn’t have stayed that way.

For half of our clan to be gone for a week, it took an army of help from friends and family. Whether it was my dad taking off a week from his life or my mother-in-law making another week of adjustments to hers, our junior national experience wasn’t made possible by us. It hinged on other people.

We had the responsibility to fully enjoy and grow from the opportunity, and I like to think we have and will continue to do that. But, so many people played a vital role in getting–and keeping–us here.

As I’ve made a long list of people to thank, I wondered … how often do we all take the sacrifices of others for granted? And, how often is a heart-felt and face-to-face “thank you” enough?

I don’t have any easy answers because I know they are different for everyone.

Yet, I know this: our hotel and fairground maintenance staff made this trip a lot more comfortable. Was my daily thank you and smile really enough appreciation for cleaning the mess we cattle folk can make?

For me, those acts weren’t enough. I don’t have the financial means to tip each staff member generously, and I’m not convinced money is the answer. But, like most of you, I was raised with the grace and presence to respect those folks while not making their job any more difficult than it may already be.

Our garbage goes in the garbage can–not near it, by it, or thoughtlessly left elsewhere. Our hotel room is tidied quickly each morning with a note of thanks. These are teeny-tiny acts that I’ve been taught matter.

What about the fitting crew sent to help prepare for our first national show? Were the thanks, drinks, and donuts adequate when the pay was refused? In afterthought, no because it dawns on me I’m the ass who showed thanks without showing enough respect to even ask their names.

I don’t share any of this thinking anyone else can relate, and I don’t share this with any sort of judgement for people who do life differently. Perhaps this all speaks to my generally hidden crazy, but in a fast-paced, overly-connected, non-filtered world, I feel huge responsibility to make sure gratitude isn’t a lost feeling within our family … especially when our memories, experiences, and opportunities often come at the sacrifices of others.

Perhaps appreciation and gratitude are the greatest lessons I can learn in this chapter of our family’s story. Maybe–just maybe–Herefords and junior national helped us all grow a lot.

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Teamwork

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” ~James Cash Penney ☆

We started our Independence Day celebrations with our oldest son’s first Junior National showmanship experience. He did a great job! He came out smiling and knowing this … if you’re not winning, you’re learning, and we’re all learning lots!

#WeAreRanchers #HerefordExpress

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Perspective

Show cattle are to the beef industry what models are to people.

Some folks view them as mythical unicorns representing an unattainable, undesirable ideal. Others see them as a diverse, important representation of the cattle (or people) in our world.

Then, there’s people like us: we value the role show cattle (and models😉) play in connecting us with consumers; we respect that responsibility, and we work hard to make sure our kids have opportunity within the industry to grow as leaders for whatever their futures hold.

On that note, the rancher and two of the kids are keeping up with ranch work at home while my dad hauls the other three of us around Grand Island, Nebraska for the National Junior Hereford Show & Conference.

We’re here for the experience! As we start on day three, I can say it’s an experience full of great people and special moments.

Most people don’t understand ranch life in general, let alone this whole show business. Believe me, I get it.

But please also trust me … this life–ranching, farming, exhibiting livestock–is a great way to raise kids who will go on to be leaders in a multitude of diverse industries. It’s an important life to appreciate no matter what walk of life you’re on.

We don’t have to understand each other’s lifestyles to respect each other’s value.

#WeAreRanchers #HerefordExpress

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