Ruckus Girl

Enjoy the Little Things

Charlotte McMullen“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  — Robert Brault

“Line up girls. I have something for each of you,” he said.

Squeals of excitement he hadn’t anticipated filled the room, and my husband assured his five young daughters, “Now, now. Calm down. They’re really nothing.”

Nothing was an understatement. It was the same phrase he’d mentioned to me prior to leaving. “I’ll be gone for a little more than a week. It’s nothing.”

But somehow nothing felt like a whole heck of a lot. Our family and the farm were my responsibility for the time he’d be gone — away on a hunting trip out west. It was a well-deserved trip no doubt; the man works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. I didn’t mind the extra responsibility. I didn’t want to be alone.

Alone is an exaggeration. There are plenty of family and friends nearby, and we have five children, but somehow they’re not the same as someone you’ve shared a bed with every night for almost 15 years. Yes, it’s true we shared a bed all those years, but at times that’s almost all we shared.

There’s this thing that happens in some marriages, heck, maybe in all marriages, especially when you have children: you begin to overlook the little things. One day blends into the next. Before you realize it, you’re celebrating anniversaries by the decade, not just the year. And it’s happened to us in the blink of an eye.

In the time he was gone, he was missed more than he knew. Sometimes I wondered if he felt the same. Did he think of us often? Or was he too busy searching for a trophy mule deer? This was a question I wasn’t sure I’d ever know the answer to — until he came home.

“Line up girls. I have something for each of you,” he said. He was taken aback by his daughters’ high pitched squeals. He didn’t expect that reception, and he’d forgotten how loud five kids can be. “Now, now. Calm down. They’re really nothing.”

I stood nearby and tears welled up in my eyes. I suspected he was underestimating the significance of the situation much as I had underestimated his feelings for us.

While hiking in the mountains of Colorado, he’d kept a watchful eye. At times, he bypassed them, but glancing back, he’d spot what he wanted and retrace his steps to retrieve them; all while bearing the weight of more than 60 pounds of hunting gear. He gathered the mementos and carried them in his jacket pocket, close to his heart.

Now I watched as he and our five daughters sat together on the living room floor. The kids smiled and giggled as he rummaged through his large, moss green duffel bag. Eventually, he found what he wanted: five small rocks. He looked at each stone, announced whom it was for, and presented it with many details about its discovery. Each girl listened to every word their father said and thanked him for the gift.

Five Little Rocks

As he spoke to our daughters, he occasionally glanced in my direction. There was a shine in his eyes and smirk on his face I hadn’t seen in some time — he was flirting with me. Later that day, as we walked together on the farm, he paused, pulled me to him, and held me tight. “I appreciate you taking care of things while I was gone. You’ve done a great job,” he said. “And I missed you most of all. It’s good to be home.”

On his hunt, far away from his family, my husband’s thoughts had lingered on us. He didn’t get meat for our freezer that year, but he did return home with the little things money cannot buy: stories about the miles of terrain he’d hiked, animals he’d seen, those five little rocks he’d carefully chosen for his children, and a spirit of gratitude. The little things we sometimes neglect to notice, but make a point of finding and keeping close to our heart, are life’s greatest treasures.

Thank you for reading my story!

I invite you to visit my blog. 
Ruckus Girl Blog; on Twitter; and please “Like” my page on Facebook.

Ways Farmers Can Meet Someone They Might Like to Date

Charlotte McMullenAre you a farmer looking for love? Join the crowd! Seriously, socializing is the best way to increase the odds of meeting your perfect match.

But finding the time and energy to socialize is difficult for farmers. Luckily, they are known for being determined. Put that diligent mindset into meeting your mate and you’re sure to find love!

(How to keep love alive is a future blog, but first let’s focus on meeting someone.)

Farmers Date

Here are ways farmers can meet someone they might like to date:
 

1. Begin by thinking outside the box and get your head on straight.

If you’re serious about meeting someone, start by thinking outside the box – as in the barn or tractor cab you spend most of your time in – and be honest.

Get clear with your intentions and desires.

Farming is a demanding lifestyle, but if your ultimate goal is long-term love, you need to be willing to make the relationship a priority. Realize and accept a lasting and meaningful relationship takes time, compassion, and compromise from both partners.  

Are you hoping to meet that special someone, settle down, and maybe start a family. Or are you looking for someone to be available when you need them to help or for companionship?

If you prefer the latter option, hire a farm hand or buy a dog. You’re not ready to date for love.

On the other hand, if you’re positive you want to date, and not just sign a paycheck or adopt a pet, you’re going to need to meet people. That means leaving the farm and talking.

2. It's all about who you know. Or who your sister or Great-Aunt Betty knows.

Meeting that someone special often happens by accident, but let’s be honest. If you’re waiting for a decent, attractive, eligible person to wander onto your farm looking for directions or a glass of sweet tea, you’ve been listening to too many country love songs.

So what’s a lonely rural dweller supposed to do? It’s time to call in the big guns: your relatives.

Farmers aren’t known as the most vocal people, but you can show you’re interested in dating in subtle ways. When Great-Aunt Betty mentions that her church friend's daughter has moved back to the area, listen! Or when your sister shows you pictures of her (dating age appropriate) friends, look!

If you’re ready to bypass subtle and get really serious, ask a family member if they know anyone.

3. Join the club, but not the bar variety.

If you’re looking for love, skip the bars. Now, there’s always that couple who met in a bar and lived happily ever after. OK, fine. You may meet a nice person in a bar, but for goodness sake, once you decide he/she is someone you’d like to have a long-term relationship with, ditch the bar scene.

Instead, go to a place you enjoy and feel comfortable and safe; solves the problem of what to talk about. Any sort of organized group or activity is a good bet: school, church, a private party, a social club, the movies, or a dance.

Relax and take the time to get to know others. You may not meet the love of your life, but you’re socializing. And, going back to number two, your new friends may have a cute sibling who’s single and loves the country.

If you’ve tried all of these suggestions and still can’t find your Mr. or Ms. Right, you could try an online dating site meant for farmers, ranchers, and other country folk. Because I’m a happily married lady who wishes to remain that way, I haven’t looked into them.

Has anyone tried online dating? Please share your experience in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

I invite you to visit my blog.
Ruckus Girl Blog; on Twitter; and please “Like” my page on Facebook.

Cranberry Pineapple Jell-O Salad Recipe

Charlotte McMullenThe holidays will soon be here, and it’s never too early to start thinking about new side dishes for your gatherings. Here’s a refreshingly tangy side dish that compliments turkey well. It’s simple to prepare a day in advance and travels well.

Fresh cranberries can be found in the produce section of your local supermarket from early October through December. Luckily, they can be frozen in an airtight bag for up to one year, so be sure to stock up!

Give this Cranberry Pineapple Jell-O Salad Recipe a try this Thanksgiving!

Salad ingredients

Cranberry Pineapple Jell-O Salad Recipe

Ingredients

• 1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
• 2 cups boiling water
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 3-ounce boxes cherry or strawberry Jell-O
• 1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple (do not drain)

Optional:

• 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
• 3/4 cup fine chopped celery
• 1 large jar maraschino cherries

Instructions

1. Rinse cranberries. Discard any soft or shriveled cranberries.

2. Put water and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar.

3. Add cranberries and return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes or until most of cranberries burst. (Do not stir.)

4. Remove from heat. Stir in Jell-O and crushed pineapple.

5. Add nuts, celery, or cherries if desired.

6. Put into a dish.

7. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Thank you for reading!

Which do you prefer: whole or smooth cranberry sauce?

I invite you to visit my blog. RuckusGirl Blog; on Twitter; and please “Like” my page on Facebook.

10 Things You Learn on a Farm

Charlotte McMullenI grew up in a rural farming community. From my parents’ kitchen window, I could see the farmhouse my father was born and raised in. Living in the country was nice, but I never dreamed I’d actually live on a farm when I grew up. It’s not that I thought I was too good for farm life; I simply had dreams of a career in the city. That all changed when I met a farmer’s son.

Fifteen years of marriage and five children together on our farm have taught me a lot. Here’s my list of 10 things you learn on a farm:

 10 things you learn on a farm

10 Things You Learn on a Farm

1. Working 9 to 5 is a nice idea.

Dolly Parton’s catchy “9 to 5” may be one of my favorite tunes, but it’s certainly not how the farmer’s workday goes. A farmer’s day often resembles something more like this: Early to rise and keep going until everything’s done. Even the dark of night sometimes doesn’t stop the work — thank you, Thomas Edison and contributing inventors.

2. Sleeping in… That's A Good One!

It seems most if not all farm folks are naturally early risers; it must be genetically ingrained in their DNA. Someone who’s in bed at 7:00 a.m. or *gasp* eight o’clock in the morning, will likely be asked, “You gonna sleep all day?” And the person asking is serious.

3. Put your barn clothes on!

Moms (and possibly a few Dads) set strict rules about good clothes and chore clothes. Bless their hearts; they certainly do try. Inevitably, most apparel eventually makes it to the barn and into the everyday clothes drawer.

4. Strong brand loyalty.

I had no idea saying “I do” to a farmer meant marrying a brand. Farm folks are serious about what equipment they use. And much like their genetic disposition to get up early, this brand loyalty is often passed on; whichever color tractor your dad prefers, will likely be your favorite.

5. Clear your calendars.

Seasonal work comes before all other activities. The end. And for good measure, Amen.

6. Come and get it! The question is: When and where?

Meals times and locations are variable. During plant and harvest season, it's common to eat family meals outside — in a field. The important thing is you’re together making memories.

7. Hold your horses, Holidays!

Farm kids learn the virtue of patience early. No Christmas presents are opened, Easter eggs hunted, or Halloween candy tricked-or-treated until all of the chores are done.

8. Never, ever say these words: “I’m bored.”

Work really is never done on a farm so boredom is a rarity. But even if you are feeling the b-word, you don't dare say so. That is, unless you’re interested in more chores.

9. Shh… the weather’s on!

When the weather comes on, you’d better hush. A farmer’s schedule, income, and at times sanity are dependent on the uncontrollable – and might I add adorable – Mother Nature.

10. More about animals than you ever thought possible.

With experience you learn to recognize signs of sickness, how to roundup animals, and the difference between cows and heifers, steers and bulls. Also, this head-scratcher: horns don’t always mean the critter has testicles.

Living and working on a farm is a special lifestyle. It's not easy; it's a labor of love.

Thank you for reading!

Did I leave off the favorite thing you learned on a farm? Please share your lesson with me in the comments!

I invite you to visit my blog.
Ruckus Girl Blog; on Twitter; and please “Like” my page on Facebook.

Oops Soup for the Soul Recipe

Charlotte McMullenSoup is magical. That’s a lofty claim for any food, but for soup it’s true. Beyond filling a home with enticing aromas and hungry bellies with nourishment, this hearty comfort food creates positive emotions. Fortunately, soup is simple to make from almost anything you have on hand.

Last year, I made Oops Soup; as in “Oops, I don’t have that; I’ll have to use this in the soup instead.”

My husband was working away, and most of my kids had nasty colds. A big pot of simmering soup sounded like Heaven. The cupboards and refrigerator contained most of the ingredients for something akin to an Italian wedding soup, but some items weren’t recipe perfect. For example, instead of the little round, acini di pepe pasta, I had tiny star pasta.

pasta

Being winter with a house full of sick kids, I had no desire to travel to a store or even to be seen by my friendly neighbors. No, my creativity and the contents of my kitchen were making soup for my family – Oops Soup.

Oops Soup is more of an idea than an exact formula, so feel free to make substitutions.

This Oops Soup “recipe” may be easygoing, but do not assume it isn’t good for you. There are substantial benefits to being self-reliant; to not worrying about something being perfect; to laughing at any mistakes you may make; to learning tips to improve for the next time; and to taking care of others in need. This soup carries a spirit of generosity that feeds more than an empty belly – it nourishes your soul.

After I made Oops Soup, I learned others make this type of relaxed soup and call it Kitchen Sink Soup. Whatever you call it, it’s easy to love a no-fuss, one-dish meal that makes pleasant memories.

garlic press and small scoop

Helpful Soup Tips:

  • A garlic press smashes fresh garlic cloves up nicely.
  • A small cookie scoop (approximately 1 tbsp.) makes little meatballs.
  • Small meatballs cook right in the broth. Now that’s a time saver!
  • Stock up on soup staples when on sale. (Beans, Pasta, Broths, and Stock)
  • Use seasonal vegetables.
  • Make a double batch and freeze half.
  • Cuff a freezer bag over a bowl, ladle cooled soup in, seal, and lay flat to freeze.
  • When you aren't feeling well or need a night off from cooking, thaw your soup.
  • Host a soup swap. Everyone make a different soup and divide up evenly.
  • Make soup a meal with a side salad, loaf of bread, butter, and preserves.

Oops Soup

Oops Soup for the Soul
Use whatever you have on hand to make this comfort food.

MEATBALLS

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 garlic gloves, minced or smashed
  • Onion powder or the real deal diced small
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 pounds ground meat (sweet Italian sausage, beef, or chicken)

SOUP

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 to 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or smashed
  • 4 cartons (26 ounces each) chicken stock
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups small pasta
  • 16 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • Additional grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In large bowl, combine all ingredients for meatballs. Shape into small meatballs.
  2. For soup, in stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery and onion; cook and stir until onions are tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  3. Stir in stock, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Drop meatballs into soup; cook, uncovered, 10 minutes. Gently stir in pasta; cook 10 minutes longer, or until meatballs are cooked through.
  4. Stir in spinach. Top servings with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

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Don't Mess with the Bull or You'll Get the Electric Fence

Charlotte McMullenThere’s an old saying, “One day you’ll look back and laugh,” and there’s a newer, more comical version, “Someday we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously and quickly change the subject.”

Good stories should be told, and I have a self-deprecating story I can laugh about now.

It was 2009. We'd been married for nine years. My husband was away for the day. He called and asked if I’d check on the farm.

I was hoping for a quick look around, followed by a nice return call confirming all was fine, ending with the usual, “What would you like for supper?” Unfortunately, the animals had other plans.

Cows were running in a newly seeded field; that meant the kind of call I dreaded.

“Those cows will ruin the field. Get them out of there!” husband said.

Now, one person stands little chance against a herd of cattle, but I had to at least try. It was a weekday, and I had two children in school, two little ones with me, and one baking in my belly. Luckily, my husband's aunt was at the farm. She watched my little ones and my unproductive attempt to get the cows out of the field.

A light drizzle turned into a heavier rain. I was soaked, tired, and not making any progress with the stubborn cows. Then it happened. I looked across the field and saw an unpleasant sight.

One of the “cows” had an extra something that made it a bull and me feel like I wanted to do a No. 2 in my britches.

Husband conveniently failed to inform me of some vital information: A bull was in with the cows. I'm sure it was an intentional omission as he was well aware of my fear of the cattle – especially the bull.

Dont Mess with the Bull or You Will Get the Electric Fence  

That enormous dangling appendage and the animal it was attached to immediately sent me into panic mode. Then the bull spotted me. He trotted across the field to – in my mind – kill me.

We moved along the fence line. Pregnant me clumsily navigating muddy ruts and cow patties. Mr. One Ton following behind.

I continued along the fence line debating my options. I wanted out of the fence. I glanced over my shoulder; he was gaining on me. My mind raced with limited options: (1) over the fence, (2) through it, (3) be trampled. The last option held absolutely zero appeal. I needed to deal with the fence.

I’d seen my husband hop over a fence many times; with the agility of an acrobat he executed it in a quick combination of moves that took mere seconds. But I am not my husband. The possibility of me successfully getting over an electrified high tensile fence, in the rain, with a pregnant belly, and possibly a pile of you-know-what in my pants was not feasible.

I went between the wires. The shock I received ensured any remaining poo in my body vacated the premise, but I was safe from the bull.

Morals of this story: If you mess with the bull, you may not get the horns – because not all bulls have horns – but you may get the electric fence. And sometimes it’s OK to tell your husband everything seems fine at the farm, and then make his favorite supper and dessert.

Thank you for reading!

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A Walk Fulfills a Wish

Charlotte McMullen“Mama, you have wishes ALL over your boots,” she said. “Make a wish!”

We’d been walking in fields spotted with dewy dandelions most of the morning. My husband had asked me to collect soil samples. I agreed, because I knew he needed my help, but I wasn’t thrilled with the request. Luckily, I had company – my cheerful 5-year-old daughter.

What I saw as a chore, she viewed as an adventure. The fields were her playground; the bugs were her friends; and the dandelions were her dreams. She certainly knew how to pleasantly pass the time. When she wasn’t telling me stories or asking me endless questions, many of which I didn’t know the correct answer to, but rather encouraged her to “Ask Daddy later,” she would stop, pick a dandelion, and blow off the seed head.

The dandelions were no more than weeds to me, but to her they were special wishes. Her sincere enthusiasm and encouragement to see the weed’s magical potential was infectious. By the end of our little walk, her observation was correct; my black rubber boots were indeed covered in white seedy puffs.

muck boots covered with dandelions

After my daughter’s prompt, “Make a wish,” I stared at my wish-coated muck boots for a moment, closed my eyes, and sent up a silent prayer for the thing I want most – happiness. When I opened my eyes, her smiling face was the first thing I saw.

My young daughter understands my wish; she is the epitome of glee. Childhood is meant to be happy and magical; it’s a time of sheltered exploration and unbridled imagination. It’s more about special, simple moments with family and friends than expensive items or vacations. When I left that morning to collect soil samples on the farm, accompanied by my joyful, nature-loving child, my wish was granted.

wearing Daddy's boots