Last weekend, they flew down to Texas and needed someone to watch their house, so they asked us. We eagerly agreed and were excited to explore based on their description of the property: 600 acre farm, four-wheelers, pond, indoor pool, king size bed… It was like an all expense paid vacation to a country bed and breakfast! Friday night before they left, they took us to dinner with a bunch of their neighbor friends, and we had a great time.
All day Saturday, we got to lounge around the farm with nothing important to do except water the plants and feed the dog. No big deal. I woke up after sleeping in til about 9:00 to the sounds and smells of Robert cooking me breakfast. The Fosters have a large, beautiful kitchen, and we loved getting to use it for the week nd. They told us that the farm had been in the family for over one hundred years, and part of the house was built in 1852. The amount of history they have is amazing to me, and there are many other centennial farms in that area whose homes were built generations ago. How inspiring it must be to work the land your great grandfather worked and to see the fruits of their labor year after year.
After I finished my coffee on the porch, we went for a four-wheeler ride all over the property. It’s such different country than what we’re used to: crops as far as you can see, no cows or livestock around, and many different types of trees and wildflowers than back home. Unfortunately, between all the new species of plants and the pollen from the corn, my allergies started flaring up, and we had to go back. Once I blew my nose, popped some pills and washed my face, I was good to go. We went fishing in the pond, swam a little, and I got some sun while finishing up my wedding thank-you notes. We grilled burgers for lunch on the very nice grill on the back porch, and then I took a little cat nap in the shade on the reclining patio chair. Aside from the few bugs that wanted to bother me, it was a very relaxing afternoon.
Sunday we went to church with some of the neighbors we had met at dinner. The church had about 42 people in attendance, and it had a very informal atmosphere. The congregation really felt like a family. The pastor was an extremely kind and intelligent man who focused the majority of the time on teaching and discussing rather than the standard sermon. They were so friendly and welcoming to us, and seemed truly interested in our lives. These Midwesterners are making us Texans feel right at home. An older couple and their daughter-in-law took us to lunch, and we learned more about corn, the area and their family. Robert is truly fascinated with the crops and agriculture, and he is dying to learn more. He’s even offered himself up as free labor when harvest comes around. Likewise, our new friends are eager to teach him. We are lucky to have found people like this to help us settle into our new state.
That afternoon, a younger neighbor couple took us around on the Gator showing us trails they had made through the woods. That definitely was starting to remind me of home. Trees. Creeks. That’s my East Texas landscape. Then, Robert took me to the barn and showed me the massive farming equipment. Even with all that technology, it takes so much work to keep a farm running. I can’t imagine the constant work required 160 years ago when they had to do it all with horses and mules with no electricity, heat, indoor plumbing or air conditioners. No wonder you needed to have 10 children. You couldn’t work the farm without them. Yet both then and today, they still rely on the mercy of Mother Nature. After all, as far as man may come, we still are finite beings, ultimately powerless against the forces of the universe.
Another difference between Illinois and Texas are the critters. They have rodents known as "ground squirrles" here, and they burrow into the ground digging tunnels into the fields that hurt the crops. They are quite a nuisance, so they have to be killed. Shooting them is a common method of eradication, and Robert was happy to help them out. One little guy in particular had his head up out oh his hole long enough for Robert to take several shots at him. I tried once, shot over him, so Robert took back the small rifle and fired off a few more rounds. Still nothing. I asked to try again, and hit him dead on. Unfortunately, that's just an expression because the shot did not kill him instantly. Robert had to go over and shoot him for me because my shot had essentially disembowelled him, and I didn't want to see that up close. I also refused to pick it up once it was dead, so Robert held it up for a photo op. Fun times shootin' critters on the farm.
Perhaps my favorite part of the weekend was watching “The King’s Speech,” “Bridesmaids,” and “Castaway” on their huge TV. These are three movies that I have wanted to see, but just never had the chance. “The King’s Speech,” in my opinion, clearly deserved the Oscar’s it won. I thought it was a beautiful, thought-provoking and engaging film. Helena Bonham Carter is fabulous, Colin Firth is perfect and Geoffrey Rush is brilliant. “Bridesmaids,” on the other hand, was funny. Not as funny as I had expected, but ok. It was cute. Not as cute as I had expected, but ok. Robert was wishing he could have that hour and a half of his life back. “Castaway” was my favorite. We stayed up till about 2:00 am watching it, but Oh. My. Gosh. Tom Hanks is a genius. That movie was much more graphic and disturbing than I had expected. Shock, awe, tears, laughter, pain, excitement, heartbreak; he took me there. Just loved it.
So, that was our big weekend learning about crops, farm life, Midwestern folk and local color. It’s very different up here, but similar at the same time. The people are friendly, the sky is big, it gets hot and you can always hear country music. I’m looking forward to more experiences like this one learning about our new home. It’s just the beginning of a long journey; we’re just two little seeds out in a big open field, but once we take root and weather a few seasons, we’ll grow together in this new environment, stronger and taller than we ever were before.