Cows, Sows, and Plows

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“The FFA is about more than just cows, sows, and plows.” If I have heard that saying once, I’ve heard it a 1000 times. I’ve even said it a few times myself. While it is most certainly a true statement, as I reflect back over how I got my start in the FFA, these three things – cows, plows, and sows – were central to that beginning.

I loved the FFA and the things it had to offer even before I was old enough to join it. I owe it partially to the cows, sows, and plows that were rooted so deeply into my childhood. Cows, sows, and plows were quite literally how my father provided for our family for 17 or so years, only 5 of which I was around to participate in. It was during his tenure as a local farmer that our county extension agent convinced my father to allow my brother to show lambs in first grade, and from there for me to show lambs in first grade, and hogs and steers at age 9. And oh how I couldn’t wait to join the FFA when I entered the 6th grade.

Join it I did. Love it I did. Change my life it did.

It started with livestock showing and livestock judging and from there turned into creed speaking, public speaking, and parliamentary procedure. It formed me, shaped me, taught me, molded me. It felt as if I was born to be in the FFA. Unlike most, who spent their childhoods playing sports, I spent mine at livestock shows and FFA competitions, and my summers at FFA camp and leadership conferences. I never felt like I fit in with the others at my high school, but I knew I belonged whenever I was at an FFA event or livestock show.

At that time, I could tell you every important event that happened in FFA history, every important person that shaped the organization, every symbol in the emblem and what it stood for. I loved the rich history. I loved that the organization was literally designed for rural students to have the same opportunities as those in town. That it was created to facilitate and fight for those who had no one to fight for them.

My ag teachers were my second fathers, the contests challenged and developed me, and the friends I met along the way are still my friends today. Without a doubt, I learned how to speak, act, think critically, and build relationships through those years in the FFA. I made lifelong friends; I learned lifelong lessons. I made a thousand mistakes and twice that many good decisions.

Today, I reflect back on the treasure that the FFA was to me and will continue to be for those who come long after me. I still see it today in the lives of my father’s students as they get their first taste of success – of finally feeling like they belong. The FFA has morphed and changed over time, but it has not lost its mission:

The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

Cows, sows, and plows are certainly not a requirement for FFA members and it is oh so much more than just those three things, but I can’t help but be grateful for the cows, sows, and plows that got me involved in the FFA even before I was old enough to join. I look back now grateful to a Sovereign Lord who used this wonderful organization to teach me, mold me, and shape me and to plant a passion deep in my heart for those who still need someone to fight for them. I am so thankful that he used this tool in my life and am forever thankful for those he continues to use through this organization to shape the lives of others.

I Got Skillz

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Me as a child. Who am I kidding? This is me forever. I will always and forever love bacon. But, forgive me if I don’t make out with a pig because of it.

That picture. I.can’t.stop.laughing.

So, after meeting with one of my mentors the other day, I was encouraged to go home and write down my areas of natural ability, acquired skills, and passions in an effort to find where those three things, along with my spiritual gifts and my personality converged. The idea being that if I know what I am skilled at and passionate about, then I can better put those things into practice. *sigh* Same thing I’ve been telling myself for the past 5 years. Y’all. I stared at that sheet for what seemed like an hour. And this is what I came up with.

My natural abilities:

  1. Being organized/scheduled
  2. Being bossy
  3. Being sassy
  4. Rolling my eyes
  5. Eating and sleeping

I got in a lot of trouble for those top four “abilities”, specifically the middle three (especially #4), while growing up. Even the top one got me in trouble because I like a plan and a schedule and one of my parents does not. I’ll let you guess which one. And who wasn’t born with the natural ability to sleep and eat, but I did feel the need to include it just to beef up my resume.

My acquired skills

  1. Showing Cattle
  2. Cooking
  3. Cleaning
  4. Fitness
  5. Running my mouth (in person or on paper)

Do you know what this qualifies me for??? Being a housewife…on a cattle farm…with a gym. Which ironically, I can’t do cause I’m not married. Or, I could be a mommy blogger…on a cattle farm…with a gym. Again, not really an option at the moment. I mean, really. Can we even call these things skills? The only thing they qualify me for is the ability to breathe air and eat and then workout so I can eat some more. Oh, and did I mention that I have the ability to show cattle? And eat.

My passions:

  1. Being alone. I do love to be alone.
  2. Being productive while I’m being left alone.
  3. Eating. I love to eat.
  4. Sleeping.
  5. Cows.

PEOPLE, THESE AREN’T PASSIONS. Can you even be passionate about being alone? Or being productive? Or SLEEPING? But I kid you not, there is no better moment in the day than the one at the end of the day when I get to get in my bed! Except for maybe that moment in the day when I am eating bacon. Or chocolate. Forget my passion for cows, I should probably just become one. Cows get to be left alone, they get to eat all day, sleep when they want, and if you want to call chewing cud being productive, then they are productive as well.

Working on this threw me back to the day when I asked my friend Lendy, aka my boo, for help with my resume. This is a piece of what she sent me back:

OBJECTIVE STATEMENT Lalala my name is Katie Murray… No seriously… To obtain a position in the agricultural industry educating individuals about livestock. Particular interest in working with youth. 

SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS Katie Murray is single handedly (notice how I’m typing this in 3rd person) the. most. awesome. time manager. ever. She cooks amazing black bean burgers (read vegan traitor), chicken & dumplings, biscuits, banana pudding, collards, and guacamole. She is most passionate about Jesus, cows, coffee, and the FFA. She also likes the color blue, chocolate chip cookies, and averages a 7-8 minute per mile pace while running and was seeded #1 swimmer in a Sprint triathlon. She’s recently had lots of experience cleaning up other people’s messes (literally and figuratively).

Lendy being entertained by my status as #1.

Lendy being entertained by my status as #1.

SKILLZ Reciting scripture. Sledding. Best Aunt of the Year award (allegedly on Twitter). Blogging. Cooking. Clean-ting. Public Speaking. Showing livestock. Eating McDonalds but still being fit. Taking pictures on Instagram. Hanging out at the library. Damage control with angry customers. Shopping at the Grocery Store. Best boo eveerrrrr…..

Oh my goodness, I laughed out loud when I read this. And she almost verbatim listed every skill, qualification, and ability I had on my list (and I definitely created my list before I remembered to look at hers). Some of these comments were inside jokes between us, but still they paint a picture of my skills and abilities…or lack thereof. *ahem*

One Man’s Junk is Another (Wo)man’s Pinterest Project

I’ve decided that the whole distressed wood look that has become popular lately was created for the Murray family. I think all these years this trend has just been sitting around waiting on our family to discover it. Lord knows we’ve been storing up in preparation for it, or maybe just storing up because that’s what we do. Either way, we are set for Pinterest projects this year and in the years to come.

As I started to work on a distressed wood project recently in an attempt to furnish my room, I googled how to distress wood – wanting to know how to distress the paint itself. What I came across instead was a guide on how to take a piece of wood, hammer dents into it, screw some screws into it, put some water stains on it, and in general make it look worn out and used. Then and only then do you have distressed wood. I laughed as I thought about people going out of their way to make their wood projects look distressed. All I saw was a really good excuse for me to take a piece of half-rotted wood, do nothing to it, and call it art, vintage, distressed, farmhouse…or any other trendy little term that fits the description. No need for me to create distressed wood – my life (and yard) is full of it.

An old picnic tabletop lying outside rotting. Oh, look, a piece of distressed wood.

A rickety falling apart table with paint chipping – distressed wood.

A torn up old pallet sitting in the barn. What are the odds? Another piece of distressed wood.

People, if you want some distressed wood for your Pinterest projects, the Murray family can supply you! We have barns, and pastures, and yards full of it! Some people call it junk, but you can call it distressed wood if you would like.

The other thing I love about distressed wood projects is that it is a perfect excuse for me to do a halfway job and act like I meant to do it that way. For the lazier people among us (that would be me), this is what I’ve been waiting my whole life for. I used to have to wash and fill nail holes and sand and prime and paint and all that stuff that ain’t nobody got time for. Now, I take a rotten old board throw some paint on it and we’re done. Oh look distressed wood! That is what I’m talking about people.

Distressed wood project #1 – the Rickety bedside table (you can’t tell it, but trust me it’s rickety)

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Three things I love about this photo: 1. The pistol and a study of the Word side by side. The only thing that could have made it more Southern is if that book had been the Bible. (I don’t always keep a pistol on my bedside table, but when I do, Michael is out of town.) 2. The craptastic brush strokes on the back left corner. Apparently I think that the distressed look means I don’t have to try AT ALL. 3. You may not be able to see this, but I know it’s there – there is chipped paint all up the leg of that table and I just painted right on over it, because – DISTRESSED.

Distressed wood project #2 – our old family picnic table that was lying in the yard rotting. It sounds sentimental and all, but I’m pretty sure we never actually had a picnic on it growing up. It is now my headboard.

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It may or may not have had mold growing on it when I found it, but a little steel wool took care of that. It may or may not weigh about 50 lbs and I couldn’t screw it into the wall, so I built a frame for it to sit on. And when I say built a frame, I mean I screwed a couple of two by fours to the bottom of it to prop it up and the whole thing shakes and squeaks every time I get in and out of the bed. Keeps life interesting.

Distressed wood project #3 – a piece of shelf that was recovered from the dumpster at a local school when they cleaned house one year. It epitomizes the word “distressed” by combining “Murray” and this piece of scrap wood into one unassuming piece of wall decor.

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Alright, well, our house is all distressed out now. And all from just plundering the junk pile in our barn. If you want to take a piece of perfectly good wood and distress it, be my guest. Or just stop by our house and help us get rid of some of our crap.

***Disclaimer: Our barn is not actually available for plundering. While it may be full of potential Pinterest projects, the authorities above me have said that these items are not actually up for grabs. One day you will see us featured on the show Hoarders. On that show, you might hear me saying “I told you so.”

The Year of the 30 – Round 2

The Year of the 30. That was my blog post title right at a year ago, 6 months before I was to turn 30. And judging by the fact that I haven’t blogged in the past 6 months, or essentially since the day I turned 30, perhaps it crossed your mind that my 30th birthday did in fact kill me (as I so dramatically feared it would). Nope, still here.

I just haven’t blogged, well, because I just haven’t blogged. Combine turning 30 plus a real 40 hour work week – don’t forget, it’s been a few years since I’ve had a traditional work schedule – and all I’ve got to say is its killing a girl. [My hard working, 70+ hours-per-week father just hung his head in shame at that statement. Aaaand all of my ag teacher friends across the great state of Georgia just realized why I no longer teach ag.) Girl got to sleep 8 hours a night. Let’s be serious.

It appears that a real job hasn’t killed me…yet. What it has killed is my desire to come home and stare at a computer and write. Or think. Or be any kind of productive. Just ask Michael. He claims daily that I never cook – and yet, if you take a good look at him, you’ll notice he hasn’t missed any meals lately. *Ahem* Somebody’s been getting some groceries somewhere.

I digress. Back to the year of the 30. I spent my 30th birthday in the good ole town of Moultrie, surrounded by sweet friends and family. It was good, uneventful, and I survived it. Anti-climactic if you want to know the truth.

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A rare picture of me and the siblings over the summer.

Beyond that…. See, what had happened was, I originally moved back to Moultrie temporarily. First it was just for a couple of weeks till I found something else. Then it was for the summer so I could pay the bills. Then I decided I had nowhere I needed to go and less than zero desire to leave. Trust me, Michael tried his hardest to get me to relocate. Wait, never mind. At that point I was still cooking meals for the child so he was a little more willing to let me stay.

Somewhere along the way, I got the opportunity to work for a local farm family doing admin work and PR and seeing as how I had no other options, I just couldn’t pass it up! So, here I am almost 6 months into the job and learning lots and still absolutely thrilled to be in the deep South where faith, family, football, and farming are ultimate. Speaking of football, our Colquitt County Packers were 6A State Champs this year! Did I bother attending a single full game (I did suffer through one very cold half) or listening to them on the radio? No. No, I did not. But, they’re still my hometown team and they continue to make me proud to be from here.

So, it’s the year of the 30 and a 40 hour work week wears me out, I don’t cook real meals anymore, I’ve put on 15 pounds, and I mooch off my little brother’s generosity by living in his home for free (but don’t worry, I did decorate his house for Christmas this year which if you know him, you know was very important to him). In spite of all that, I’m so very happy to be home. And yes, I guess I’m happy to be 30 as well!

Putting up with Southern Women

Boy oh boy the things I am learning at the canning plant. Since my last post, I have become an employee of the local canning plant – where country folk (and some city folk) come to put up their produce in jars or cans for the winter. In regards to manual labor, it is similar to my produce packing job back in Raleigh (i.e. lots of manual labor and being on your feet). In regards to pay, I make half of what I made there. So, yes, I am taking positive steps with my life.

For the most part, I like working there. I like meeting with the locals and learning how each different person puts up their produce. I like mixing and mingling with the farming community and I like that staying busy makes the day go by quickly. What I do not like is the amount of tomatoes I have steamed, peeled, cored, and cut in the last month. Tomatoes have rotted on my clothing (along with soured peas and corn), tomatoes have seeped into my skin, tomatoes have been the cause of many cuts on my hands because apparently I don’t know how to use a knife. Tomatoes. They just might be the death of me this summer. 

I have decided that no real woman needs a spa. All she really needs is a visit to her local canning plant. It is the perfect place to receive a facial. Between the constant steam being emitted from the pressure cookers which provides a sauna-like experience and the abundance of natural skin care products (corn, peas, tomatoes) splashing on my face, I think I have found the fountain of youth. If you look at it that way, I am basically getting paid to receive an all-natural facial. I just can’t understand why everyone wouldn’t want to work at the canning plant.

It is not a good place, however, to receive a manicure. In addition to my chopped up hands cause I can’t wield a knife, I have found that I am also developing muscles in my fingers and forearms that no person should ever have. Gripping a corn cob so I can cream it and holding a tomato firmly so I can core it have resulted in some very sore finger and forearm muscles. Man hands here I come.

We get all types of women, and some men, in the canning plant. My favorite though are the hoity toity ones. The ones that come in with their hair all done, their make up layered on, khaki pants, a sweater, and ballet flats. Really people? Really? Today, a lady came in and I kid you not, she had on nude panty hose under her capri pants with her open toed sandals. In a place where moisture, humidity, and stains are just a part of every day life and she walks in wearing panty hose?! That’s just not right. I won’t even discuss the fact that she was wearing panty hose with open toed sandals, cause let’s be serious if anyone has seen me at the canning plant this summer they know I have no right to be calling the fashion police on anyone.

You’ve also got the farmer’s wives with their cute little Southern drawls and their fresh off the farm produce. Then you’ve got those who share all the latest news and updates of a small rural town. That’s when I keep my mouth shut and just do my work. Like I said in the beginning…the things I learn at the canning plant!

Panty-hose-wearing-women and gossip aside, I really have enjoyed my job at the canning plant and the things I have learned while working there. If you need me though, I’ll be at the local nail salon getting a manicure. These man hands aren’t going to fix themselves! 

Stuff Southern Women Say

Have y’all seen that video about the “stuff” Southern women say? If not, you can check it out here…but only if you don’t mind a little profanity and a real strong dose of Southern drawl.

I lived a real life version of that video yesterday while working in the Colquitt County canning plant – the place where people come both from in town and out in the sticks to put up vegetables for the winter. I got summoned to the canning plant by my father to help put up two bushels of green beans and I walked out of there 7 hours and 7 bushels of green beans later with quite the education on Southern women. As we sat cutting the ends off of green beans and then cutting them in bite size pieces, I got to learn all about the lives of true Southern women.  It was Real Housewives of Moultrie, Southern Style.

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And we’re not talking about rough ole nasty country girls. I’m talking pretty, classy women with their hair and makeup did, deep golden tans, and pretty southern drawls. That being said, these made up country girls made me feel like a dadgum yuppie. I know, I know, some of you people think I am as country as it gets, but, noooo. Compared to these women I am a farm girl wanna be. Heck, my mama doesn’t even fry chicken or make sweet tea so that automatically eliminates me from the true Southerner category.

I learned about son-in-laws, raising babies, raising daughters, raising husbands, raising bulls, shot guns, cleaning house, planning a wedding, being married, eating peas, canning food….everything a good Southern woman needs to know.  All the while, we were just a hacking away at some green beans. These women talked non-stop for 7 hours and most of that time I just sat and giggled at them because they were nothing less than entertaining. The real kicker came when they started talking about snatching oak snakes out of the garden by their tail and hacking their heads off. I can do a lot of things, but I don’t do snakes. If I see a snake, you can bet your rear end I’m gonna be running in the opposite direction probably screaming profanities.

About hour number 6 when I was wishing we had finished three hours ago, I look over and one lady is cutting one green bean at a time while pausing to use hand gestures as she told her story. I was about ready to agree with that old misogynistic concept of women being seen and not heard. A little less talking and a little more cutting please ladies. This girl needs to go home.

I have a feeling I won’t be eating green beans for a while. They’ve lost a whole lot of their appeal but I gained a whole lot of culture after a day like yesterday.

Back at Mama’s

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Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.

It’s a new song by Tim McGraw. And on my 9 hour ride back to mama’s this week, I heard it no less than 10 times. Every time I heard it, my soul resonated more and more with it. Me and ole Tim must be on the same page on this one. As highly unlikely as it is that Tim McGraw and I think alike on much of anything, on one thing it seems we do agree…mama’s is a good place to be.

Meanwhile back at Mama’s
The porch lights on, come on in if you wanna
Supper’s on the stove, and beer’s in the fridge
Red sun sinking out low on the ridge
Game’s on the tube and daddy smoked cigarettes
Whiskey keeps his whistle wet
Funny the things you thought you’d never miss
In a world gone crazy as this

If you eliminate the beer, whiskey, and cigarettes, you’ve pretty much got a picture of life at mama’s.  The thing I most resonate with in this song and being back at mama’s is supper being on the stove.  Now, that’s what I’m talking about woman!

The semester at seminary finally wound to a close and I considered myself D-U-N – done with the whole seminary school thing.  My roommates moved back home, my apartment lease was up, my job ended and I was full of intentions to move to North Georgia and get a “real” job.  As usual, my plans didn’t exactly turn out the way I expected and in that last week in Raleigh a couple of difficult decisions were made and instead of everything panning out the way I had kind of been thinking all semester, I found myself two days from leaving North Carolina and having zero clue as to where I was moving or what I would be doing. Then mama came to the rescue – literally and figuratively.

She really did come to North Carolina and helped me move out. She scrubbed and cleaned like the good mama she is and helped sort through more crap than I can even begin to describe. Props to both my parents that when I told them I had no clue what I was going to do in a couple of days, they both without hesitation opened their home and their hearts for me to return. Initially, I thought it would be for a couple of weeks until I found something a little more permanent, but as I thought more about it, I decided to just stay for the summer and regroup. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to spend their summer in South Georgia…I hear it’s beautiful this time of year. If you love gnats swarming your face and the feeling of walking through a swamp in the midst of ridiculous heat and humidity, then it’s just a dream. Yep, South Georgia for the summer. Probably my best idea yet.

Daddy in all his goodness to me decided to wean the calves the day before I came home. That means nothing to most of you, but what it means to me is that about 100 feet from my bedroom window, 25 little baby calves were separated from their mamas and neither group was too happy about their circumstances. In their unhappiness with their situation, they weren’t too concerned with whether or not I slept. The honest truth is that I didn’t mind, not even a little bit, falling asleep or waking up to the sound of mama and baby calling to each other.

Give me incessant mooing. Give me gnats. Give me South Georgia heat and humidity. I’ll take it any day over apartment complexes, traffic, and shopping malls. I can’t breathe there. As Tim put it,

 

I miss a little dirt on the road
I miss corn growing in a row
I miss being somebody everybody knows there
Everybody knows everybody
I miss those small town roots
Walking around in muddy boots
The sound of rain on an old tin roof

Yes. All of the above. It’s good to be back at mama’s. The sad reality is that ultimately I am really back at Michael’s, not mama’s. In a circumstance of divine providence, my little brother just happens to live by himself in a 3 bedroom house on some land in the country and he begged me to come live with him [Read: he reluctantly agreed when I begged him to let me come live with him]. There is definitely never any supper on the stove, but there is beer in the fridge out here.

Meanwhile back at Michael’s, I have completely moved in while he was at work. Hope he likes the way I rearranged the house. I can’t help but think of that scene in Sweet Home Alabama when the guy comes home and Reese Witherspoon has redecorated the entire house and replaced the beer in the fridge with light beer. I can hear Michael now opening up the refrigerator, taking a look at the Greek yogurt and hummus, and asking, “What is this? Chick food?” Seeing as how there was no food in the fridge when I got here, I’d say anything is an improvement.

I’m baaaaack….who missed me?

After my time in town today, I’m thinking there could be more to blog about regarding culture shock here than there was during my time in Africa. It’s a whole different world down here folks. Between Africa, Raleigh, and now Moultrie, who knows if I’ll ever get situated properly in any one culture.

So, if you need me, I can be found in Moultrie fanning away the gnats and just fanning myself in general. It’s good to be back.