Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Barn Chicks who Blog- Interview with Lana of Walking the Off Beaten Path


  When I came to blogging, last summer, I wanted to write and photograph things around me. After a short time I realized that I also wanted to connect with others who I had things in common with. For a long time I have wanted to connect with other women who lived in the country, particularly on farms and ranches. I tried to find others with a pen pal project, but blogs were a new ground for me.

     The area we live in has very few farms. It used to be a big farm county, but farms were sold and large, expensive houses that all look the same grew up quickly where crops had once been. C.S. Farmer has often commented that there used to be tractor supply stores in the area and you had to make a long drive to get to the grocery store. Now there are grocery stores all over the place, as well as chain stores and box stores. It's sad. Once that land is gone, it is gone. I've seen so many areas where people flock to the country to "get away from it all", but soon have to invite "all" to the country with them. I truly believe the changing face of the countryside may be one of the most obvious downfalls in our country. To be strong, a country must be able to take care of itself. One of the most basic components of that is the ability to feed itself. I hope this is "food for thought" to some that might not have considered that.

     One of the first farm blogs I found was Walking the Off Beaten Path, which is written by Lana. I read her blog and was fascinated by the large expanses of land. I was struck by the enormous equipment that you don't typically see on a Colonial Farm of the East Coast. Lana was learning to use some of the fancy controls that go with this equipment. I had to comment! She answered. I e-mailed. She answered. I had found my first online farm wife contact. Lana is really sweet and can be quite funny. I still read her today.

Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

Here is the interview:

1. Please tell me a little about your farm?
We farm 1800 acres in northwestern Indiana.  It’s about 50/50 with corn and soybeans, but we do plant some wheat for straw for the cows.  We get our hay from the grass waterways in our fields.  These are areas we do not plant because of their natural tendency to carry water when we have big rains.  The crops would constantly flood out.
Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

2. What animals do you have there? Any special ones we should know about?
Steve has about 100-150 feeder cows (depends on the season).  Feeder cows are actually calves when we buy them, around 500-600 pound heifers (girls who have not had calves) and steers (used to be functional boys), and we feed them a mixture of silage and grain until they reach around 1200 lbs. for market.  That whole process takes about one year.

Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

3. Did you have any prior farm experience before marrying a farmer?
My grandparents farmed, and we always lived on a farm even though my dad was a teacher.  On the weekends we were usually up helping Grandpa Bill and Grandma Phyllis do whatever needed done.  I loved riding on the tractors and playing in the wagons (not a very safe thing these days, but… it was fun!)

4. How did you come up with your blog name?
I have always loved to walk.  Now that we have windmills, I have the option of walking the windmill paths as well as the country roads.  I also can be a bit off-beat in my thoughts, and so at a blog class we brainstormed and POOF:  Walking the off-beaten path!

5. The first time I read  your blog, you were learning to work the monitor in the combine. I'm impressed! What can you drive, operate, or program of the farm machinery there?
Well, last year was my rookie year driving farm machinery.  A lot of farmwives grew up driving tractors, but the closest I ever came was the lawn mower.  With our youngest in Kindergarten this year, I am a bit more footloose, so…. I can now drive a combine to pick corn and cut beans, and I can drive a tractor and pull things with it down the road and in the field.  I tried to drive a semi just in our barn lot, but I wasn’t too good at that (Didn’t really want to be!)  I think I could drive them to the field if I keep at it, but I have no desire to drive one down to Lafayette hauling grain.  I have enough traffic issues just driving the van down there! 
I also can feed the cows if I know who gets what.  Right now we have cows ready to go to market and newbies, so they are fed different rations of grain and silage. 
Tall Guy and I are also learning a whole new Apex crop mapping system that we use with our John Deere equipment during planting, spraying, and harvest.  It’s so interesting because in the spring you can lay GPS tracks so that you do not have to steer the equipment up and down the fields the rest of the year.  You DO have to help with the turning.  I cut beans (cut is what you say instead of pick when talking about beans.  Not sure why though?) with the auto-steer, and it was hard to keep my hands off the steering wheel; however, I was able to keep a better eye on the evil rocks we did NOT want to run through the combine.  I did steer when picking corn.  Back to the system, at the end of the year, you can map your fields to know exactly what ground produced the best and which areas might need tiling, ground work, or more fertilization to up the next year’s grain production. 
Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

6. I notice windmills in some photos? Are they yours? Is that something popular in your area?
Some are and some are not ;-)  Like Miss Barbara once sang, “On a clear day you can see forever”….Benton County was the first in Indiana to put up windmills.  We are the Midwest poster child for wind energy.  We farm around 13 right now with more in the plans.  We are surrounded by over 100!  I love them!  They take up very little of our crop ground and provide green energy.  I think we are being very forward thinking in the most rural county in Indiana!
Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

7. I know your farm has the big hay bales. I know you drive the truck with them. Once again, I'm impressed! Can you also pick them up with the tractor? (I might be too impressed. I can't do this, but my oldest daughter can.)
Well Dang!  I hate to disappoint, but I have not learned how to pick them up….yet.  There is talk me taking a more active roll in this fun process next year.  Stay tuned.
 ("You're not the only one who can't do that."-Patrice)

Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

8. Do you like to cook, garden, or can?
You know how they say a carpenter’s home is never finished?  It seems I can never quite get the garden to make it through the season.  I tried just tomatoes last year, but I put them out late, and the bunnies and weeds did quite a number on them.  It’s kind of a sore spot with me because growing up we had a HUGE garden and canned and froze everything.  We do put up sweet corn, peaches, blueberries and applesauce, and I am going to try a manageable garden again this year!  I do like to cook, but it’s been a trick to find those magical meals that everyone likes and keeps the pounds off of me!  I’m going to keep searching and trying. 

9. How do you think being raised on a farm has impacted the lives of your daughters?
Being farm girls teaches Tink and Bear quite a few life lessons.  First, they see their dad’s work ethic, and it is phenomenal.  They learn to value the land and animals and that it is our responsibility to take care of both to the best of our ability.  They love being free to roam and play.  Each year they get to go out a bit farther.  I’m sure they will start climbing up ladders and exploring the lofts.  I absolutely love living in the country.  Our neighbors are at least a ¼ mile away, but we all look out for one another, and I was blessed in a friend for life just down the road.  She was Heaven-sent after I had the girls because Miss Wanda runs a daycare in town, and I was a 40 yr. old new mother, then a 42 yr. old mother of two trying to figure out what to do with my babies!  I taught high school for 18 years.  The girls were a complete mystery to me.  Now Wannie is my walking buddy, and I don’t know what I would do without her.  Oops I think I went a bit off topic.  See I skipped a beat!
Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

10. When you were in high school, what do you think you'd have responded if someone asked if you would like to one day marry a farmer?
Whaaa Hooo!  I didn’t date much in high school, but all but one of the guys I went out with were farmers.  I have always loved the life and the way these guys are grounded with the same values I grew up believing.
Photo property of Walking the Off Beaten Path

11. What's the funniest thing that has happened to you as a farm wife?
This past fall, I volunteered to be “bar wench” when my husband and FIL went out to vaccinate calves.  I didn’t realize that meant putting a HEAVY iron bar behind the calves’ legs once they are in the shoot so they won’t hurt whoever is back “there” taking temps.  My husband thought I was doing a great job and gave me a high-five.  Uhm….. He was the guy “back there” taking the temps, and I came away with a lot of organic matter on my high-five hand!  He thought it was funny, and I did too after I wiped it off on his jeans!  I actually didn’t do myself any favors since I had to wash that out later in the day.  Oh well!

12. What's in the future for your farm or family? New coveralls that fit, perhaps?
YES!  I actually found an old snow suit that might work as long as I don’t get it torn on “things” that like to grab your clothes out in the lot.  There are a lot of those, just stuff, that sticks out and likes to grab hold of you!
We are very lucky to own ground and farm ground that is family owned.  We also farm the ground my grandparents farmed, and I love that!  For now, we will keep things as they are.  The cows come up for discussion every once in a while because our operation includes 50 year-old silos and machinery.  To fix/replace it all would be a good chunk of money.  Tall Guy, that’s how I refer to my husband in the blog, loves cows, so I am sure we will always have a few around.  With the girls getting close to 4-H age, we may have some pigs oinking around here too in our future.

Thank you for allowing me the pleasure of interviewing you, Lana. Thank you, also, for welcoming me into the world of Barn Chicks who Blog when I first got started.

If you're a woman who farms, is married to a farmer, lives on a farm/ranch/ or farmette , you might be a great interview for Barn Chicks who Blog! Just send me an e-mail at:


  1. Fabulous! I love reading these interviews. Lana, I know just what you mean when you say you wanted a man with 'farmer values'. There is definitely something about country folk that is so much deeper and more meaningful and.... well, just 'better'...

    Thanks Patrice for posting. Loved it. And it definitely makes me want to be *more* countrified than even we are ;) x

  2. Hay!(hey) Gals, the trick the guys won't tell you on moving hay bales: you watch the left side and just listen for the right. GREAT READ THANK YOU

  3. What a great post! I love reading about other farm wives, their challenges as well as their accomplishments. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. I always enjoy your blogs about farm wives. They are always good. Thanks!

  5. What a wonderful woman, mother, wife, farmer, would-be gardener. :) And what a gorgeous family! God bless them for all that they do to feed us!

    I love the wind energy - even though it has to be placed where it won't impede on migrating bird flocks. I'm hopeful that becomes more standard.

    Thanks for another wonderful interview, Patrice! I'll go visit Lana's spot next!

  6. Great interview! I always like reading these and finding out about other bloggers. Nice post!

  7. Awesome interview. This gal is a real barn chick for sure. I would love to run heavy farm equipment but for now I only have the small farm tractor. Great post and interesting farm. Going to check out her blog now :)

  8. I love Lana!! If you think she is fun to read you should meet her in person! She is a hoot!! Love the interview!!

  9. For some reason, I'm just now finding your great interviews. I really enjoyed this one and am going to visit Lana's blog now.
    BTW, I farm the smallest farm in our valley; it's a tad fewer than 30 acres, nestled amongst four other farms that date back to pre-Revolutionary War days and are now thousands of acres. I believe the next smallest farm is 3,000 acres and the largest is north of 5,000 acres, waaaay north. Since the Yankee carpet baggers came here in 1870's, Dave and I are the third owners of our farm. Prior to that the other "new folks" bought land here in the 1960's. Things change slowly around here, just the way we like -LOL-.


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