Best of 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on all the many moments that have happened. It is hard to believe all of it fits into one year. Busy is an understatement, but I am so grateful for every moment…

Along with teaching at two colleges and holding communication contracts for several companies, I’ve been able to  photograph more than ever before this year.

A spur of the moment photo shoot turned into some of my proudest pictures to date. These sheep in fog pictures went on to win three contests and are going to hang in my future office.

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It wasn’t all animal and farm pictures, though. I was able to take pictures of some very dear people. From the engagement of Brooks and Jennifer…dsc_0774

To Jennifer’s bridal portraits a few months later…

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I was so excited to photograph some amazing college seniors like Alec who graduated from UMO with a agri-business degree. He is now in the middle of an MBA at Methodist and will start a new job in the beginning of the year! Where did my little brother go?

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There were also several NCSU graduates like Cary…

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And Bradley…

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Garrett also graduated with his master’s degree after spending countless hours crunching numbers and writing a thesis. He didn’t walk the stage, but that’s alright…18156656_1861747867172347_6783422891837931030_o

I’m still just as proud and was able to go back to campus to take engagement pictures of his roommate Colin and his fiance Mallory.

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I also was able to capture some real cuties…

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And real beauties…

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As well as some amazing people…

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A new favorite subject to photograph has been bling…

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My favorite bling of all, though, is my own…

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One of the biggest moments of 2017 was when Garrett asked me to be his wife at Bear Island after a kayak trip…

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Oh what an adventure that kayaking trip turned out to be (read the full story here). Wedding planning has been in full-force and we can’t wait for our next adventure after May 19, 2018 when we are married! 2017 held more adventures then a sparkly kayaking trip.

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An adventure to Vegas and the Grand Canyon with Garrett’s family was, well, grand…

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A less desert adventure came when the Linton clan visited Virginia Beach. Views, lighthouses, and waves made for an amazing vacation…

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Of course, there was also the annual Kerr Lake trip too. It was paradise.

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An adventure to South Carolina to visit Kayla turned into a weekend of sweet surprises from my maid of honor…

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Adventures in Atlanta with friends to celebrate Kena and William’s wedding was ever so much fun…

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I went to a total of 8 weddings this year. It is that season in life, and it is so wonderful to see those I love find forever love.

It wasn’t all warm weather and blissful weddings, though. There were some bitterly cold days this winter. My caption on Instagram of this pic said “I’m not made for the cold” Little did I know, I’d be moving to Nebraska a little over a year later where the temperature is currently -17 at night. Be careful what you say.

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Feeding livestock was an everyday affair–snow, rain, or shine. It was certainly worth it to see my boys rewarded for their hard work, well and fun…

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Isaac won Reserve Champion Market Hog at the Wayne County Show and Sale…

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Another big win came at the NC State Fair when our sheep Georgette won Grand Champion Supreme Ewe, NC Born and Bred Champion, and Champion Fleece. Georgette was born and raised on our farm.

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Each of the boys won grand or reserve champion sheep showman too, and Isaac bought Astrid, his prized sheep…

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Speaking of new animals, Callie Cat was rescued and has become my joy. She may be spoiled–complete with 9 collars.

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Hellos are always much more enjoyable than good-byes. After traveling over half the country, I dropped Garrett off in Nebraska to attend PhD school at UNL. Distance hasn’t been easy, but so worth it…

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I feel as if there are a thousand and one moments I should include here. However, this post is already long, and I can’t justify 365 days worth of reports. I will leave you with two final photos that show the love that I have been surrounded with this year, and the love that will forever surround me in future years.

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Hardison Family| Waynesborough Park

Growing up with three brothers, I know that photo shoots can sometimes be a bit of a struggle. However, the Hardison boys were perfect models (and so were their parents)! While we had a bashful start, by the end, there was a constant stream of “cheese” being said, and as boys will do, they found sticks and ran around.  I’m thrilled to be sharing the Hardison Family’s photo shoot with you!

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Red, White, and Blue

Fourth of July is always one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. We all get together as a family for a cookout that includes burgers, chicken, hot dogs, pasta salad, fries, and fruit. We always conclude our day with fireworks and sparklers. This year, we conducted a flag retirement ceremony. Grandma had two flags that needed to be retired, so we all took part in the proper way to dispose of them. It was very impactful and special to do on Independence Day.

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Grand Canyon/ Vegas Trip

After looking at more than a thousand photos from our Grand Canyon and Vegas trip, I’ve narrowed it down to a handful to share with you all. It was such a wonderful trip filled with a ton of adventure. Garrett’s family was gracious enough to invite me to come along. They promised fun and adventure, and boy did we get it! I hope you enjoy this little recap.

Day 1:

This day was filled with smooth travels…minus the time Garrett got stuck behind a lady who reclined her seat in the plane. That doesn’t bode well for his large frame. Regardless, we finally arrived in Las Vegas. We met up with the rest of the group (Grandma Murphy, and Garrett’s aunts—Kristen & Melanie) who were coming from other parts of the country and set out for a late dinner. We ate at a Mexican restaurant near the strip that had the best tacos and the coolest lighting. After that, we were all pretty pooped, so we decided to call it a night.

Day 2:

We ate breakfast and hopped on the monorail to head to the strip.

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We started at one end and worked our way down. Ya’ll, the strip is really long, and we definitely did not make it down the whole thing. After exploring Hershey’s Chocolate, eating at Gordon Ramsey’s Burger joint (best pork burger ever!), and looking at a lot of the sites, we went back to the hotel to change for our show that evening.

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We went to the LINQ to see Matt Franco, a magician. If you don’t know who that is, look him up on YouTube. He was super good and funny. We even got souvenir playing cards from the show. After the show, we headed to… well the food court. We each chose various places to eat (Garrett and I chose Panda Express…unique I know). The real winner, though was in the Venetian (my favorite hotel). In the Venetian is gelato!! When I went to Italy, I fell in love with gelato, and what they sell in the stores just doesn’t cut it. This, though, was the real deal. As you can tell by my face, I was excited! It was a perfect way to end the day.

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Day 3:

We started the day with brunch at Payard Patisserie & Bistro in Caesar’s Palace. Super yummy pastries and omelets were served!

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Afterwards, we explored Vegas more. Our last stop on the strip was Circus Circus. We had a little too much fun playing ski ball, arcade games, and winning tickets for prizes. I walked away with a cup and 5 whole Tootsie Rolls. The kid came out in all of us.

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Once our prizes were claimed, we went back to the hotel to change for dinner and a show. We ate dinner at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris with the most delicious steak. We then went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and watched the Bellagio light and water show from the top. While cold at the top, the view was awesome!

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Finally, we booked it to Treasure Island to watch cirque du Soleil Mystere. Let me tell you, that was the oddest show. Good but odd. There were amazing costumes and acrobatics, but there was a weird story-line involving adult babies. I was left a touch speechless at the whole thing. That would round up our third night in Vegas.

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Day 4:

We said bye to Vegas and looked to a more natural landscape. On our 5 hour drive to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at Red Rock Canyon to travel the scenic drive and hike some. There were some gorgeous views.

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We also spotted bighorn sheep. Of course, I didn’t bring my zoom lens the one time I needed it. I still took pictures, but they aren’t too close. We hiked to a waterfall, that ended up being more of a trickle. Nonetheless, it was a really nice stop and adventure. Once we got back on the road to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at In ‘N Out Burger for lunch. I’m a proponent for them bringing those to North Carolina. Milkshakes and animal fries are where it’s at. The sun was setting when we arrived at the Grand Canyon, so we headed to our hotel rooms and got dressed for dinner at the El Tovar. The El Tovar was built in the early 1900’s . I think it was my favorite meal of the trip. I had chipotle tomato soup and prime rib with potatoes. The desserts (creme brulee, tarts, and more) were also to die for. I was a huge fan. It was a good thing that we ate a big dinner that night. I would need the sustenance the next day.

Day 5:

The morning started with a quick hike to the rim to make sure the Canyon really did exist. Once that had been established, we grabbed breakfast and made a game plan. The plan was to hike the rim trail until it was time to grab our flight over the Canyon. I think we hiked about 2 miles of the rim.

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We then went to a tour place that had flights. We hopped into an 8 passenger plane and flew over the canyon whilst listening to a guide. It was really cool to see the Canyon from that point of view. I was nervous about the takeoff and landing of a little plane, but it ended up being smoother than any of the big planes I’ve ever ridden in!

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After our flight, we went back to the Canyon to hike the Kaibab Trail. We (Me, Garrett, Michael, Emma, and Dr. See) wanted to hike the trail before it got dark. This trail goes down the side of the canyon in cutback dirt trails.

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They say that however long it takes you to get down the trail, it will take you twice as long up. It took us 30 minutes to reach Ooh Ahh point and see a view that literally will make you say oohh ahhh. Best view of the week!

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We turned around to go back up, and suddenly I was doubting my decision to hike so far down the trail. We had gone a mile down with 700 feet drop in elevation, and now we had to go back up. There were no flat spots; it was a constant uphill. There were several times I thought I was gonna die. I may or may not have stopped to “take pictures” just so I could catch my breath. Finally, we made it to the top. Once I caught my breath, I no longer regretted my decision to hike the trail. When we got to the top, two older women came up and said they had just hiked all the way down to the bottom and back in a day. They hiked 11 hours with only 45 minute break for lunch. I felt like a total wuss after listening to them. It’s ok, though, I did it.

Once we had all learned to breathe again, we went back into town and grabbed Wendy’s for dinner and headed towards the Imax theater to watch a show about the Grand Canyon. It was the perfect way to end the eventful day.

Day 6:

You’d think that after the Kaibab Trail, I’d be over the whole hiking down the canyon deal…not so. We started the day with breakfast and started a hike down Bright Angel Trail.

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This trail was very similar to Kaibab, but slightly less strenuous. We only went down 500 feet that day. It was infinitely better. It also helped that we hiked at a much more leisurely pace.

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We even spotted petroglyphs. We also checked out a museum featuring photographers from decades ago. We then grabbed lunch and drove down to Desert View Drive, where we would stop at certain places for hikes. These hikes were very flat and leisurely, but still had amazing views!

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At the end of the drive, we toured the Watchtower. The tower was built to look old and built by natives, but in reality it is just designed to look that way.

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Finally, we watched the sunset. The night ended with dinner at Bright Angel Lodge and some souvenir shopping.  We called it an early night so we could be up by sunrise the next morning.

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Day 7:

5am came early. I didn’t worry about hair or makeup, but I did worry about layers of warm clothing. I even borrowed a blanket from our hotel room. We found a good spot to watch the sunrise and got our cameras ready. Although, way early, it was quite magical to watch the day begin at the Grand Canyon.

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Now that the sun had risen, we headed back to the hotel to actually take a shower and get ready for the day. Our time at the Grand Canyon had come to an end.

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We packed up and headed to the Hoover Dam. I love the history of Hoover Dam, and it always amazes me what man can build.

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After our stop at the dam, we continued our way back to Vegas. Once back in the city, we stood in line to take pictures at the iconic Vegas sign, ate way too much food at the Golden Nugget buffet, and went to Fremont Street.

Ya’ll I have been to Fremont Street before and it was definitely PG-13. They have bumped up the rating since then. My eyes hurt a bit after some of the sights that I saw. Nonetheless, the light show, experience, and live bands made for the perfect last night in Vegas.The next morning we’d be headed home.

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Day 8:

Just kidding! We thought we were done with Vegas, but Delta had other plans. We stood in line for 5 hours that day, waiting to get new tickets because the storms had made a hot mess. The issues had still not been fixed 4 days later. We heard many a horror story of people’s luggage being sent on without them, but they had to stay behind, or sitting on a plane until midnight only to have the flight cancelled and told to get off. It was so much fun! Delta did give us vouchers for hotel, transportation, and food, though. We wouldn’t be getting out of there until the following day at 11pm. The food vouchers could only be used in the airport, though. So, we grabbed airport Wendy’s, grabbed a cab, and checked in to another hotel. We decided to grab a show last minute that was on sale. The Mentalist was really good, but I was terrified he was going to pick me to participate. Thankfully he didn’t! We ended the evening at a delicious nacho joint.

Day 9:

The decision was made to purchase 2 tickets for Michael and Emma on another airline so they could get home early as Michael had to work. After seeing them off, Garrett, his parents and I hit Vegas again. We went to the pawn shop that is on the show Pawn Stars. That was really neat. After grabbing lunch, we grabbed our luggage and went early to the airport…just in case. Today was not nearly as bad as the previous day. We checked in no problem. We used some of our food vouchers at Chilis for dinner, but we still had a bunch left. The rest of our time was spent going to all the different stores buying food with our vouchers. We went to Starbucks, a smoothie place, Hudson News, and cookie store. The vouchers were for $15 and you could only use it at one store. So, if you only bought $5 worth of stuff, you lost the other 10. Therefore, we tried to get as close to the $15 mark as possible. Just so you know, jerky and a bag of chex mix is $14.98. Boom! We ended up with a lot of snacks for the plane, but it was fun to use them all up.

It was finally time to board our flight!! We were standing in line when over the speaker, they said you have 30 minutes to get on this flight or it is cancelled. What?!! Mind you they don’t just let you on. You have to go on according to your zone. People slowly made their way on the plane. I don’t know if people didn’t hear the announcement, didn’t believe them or thought that if they made it on the plane they were safe, but they could not get a second gear. One lady asked for ice. Ice! Those of us (me included) who were taking the 30 minute deal seriously were telling folks to hurry up. I even grabbed one person’s luggage for them so they could sit faster. The guy in front of us had been on 2 planes already that day and had them cancelled. Still, people would not hurry. I was texting my mom giving her a play by play. Prayers work, though, and all of a sudden, the door closed and we were moving towards the runway. People started to say, “oh, I think they were serious about cancelling the flight.” Ummm yeah they were. The pilots were about to time out. It all worked out, though. We flew overnight (not fun) and landed in New York at 8am, hopped another plane, and finally landed in home sweet NC. We were all pretty tired, but safe and home. Our luggage made it, and we headed to the car only to find the battery dead. Oh Monday, you do show yourself up sometimes. We got that fixed and finally headed home.

I grabbed a shower, and went into work in Raleigh. I finally made it home to my neck of the woods around 8 that evening. With that, the adventure was over. Our trip went longer than expected, but we had a blast! If you’ve lasted this long through the whole dialogue, thanks for reading! If you decided to ignore the words and make this more of a picture book, that’s cool too. Happy weekend!

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Linton Family | VA Beach

On our recent spring break trip to Virginia beach, we had a photo shoot at First Landing State Park. The original plan was to take beach pictures, but alas, my vision of sunset beach pictures were thwarted by awful wind. So, we regrouped the next day and found a much less windy location. Mom always likes to get annual pictures to update her wall in the living room, and we always have a good time while taking the pictures.

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Behind the Scenes

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Virginia Beach, VA | Linton Family Spring Break

It is amazing what a four day vacation does for the body and soul. For once, all of our spring breaks aligned on the same week, so the whole family took a trip to Virginia for a getaway. We started with a stay at Great Wolf Den Lodge and then traveled to Virginia Beach.

It amazes me how different beaches can be from place to place. We had never been to Virginia Beach, and it was definitely different than NC beaches or even Myrtle Beach. We had a great trip exploring the area, climbing lighthouses, and simply enjoying family time. Of course, pictures are better than words, so here are a few photos from our trip.

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The boardwalk is filled with art and statues. This is Neptune and probably the most popular.

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One of my favorite places we went to along the boardwalk was the Old Coast Guard Station. Daddy served in the Coast Guard for several years. When the lady at the museum found out he had served, they gave us free admission to the museum. How awesome is that?! There were a lot of really cool exhibits. Dad’s favorite was the “Bear” which was the ship he served on.

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Keeping with a military theme, we went to Fort Story and climbed Cape Henry Lighthouse. Before we could climb the lighthouse, though, we had to be searched as it is an active duty base. I’m happy to report that we were allowed on base without incident. We also behaved while on base and did not get kicked off. We also got our exercise climbing the many stairs, but it was so worth it.

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Cape Henry was the first federally funded lighthouse. George Washington issued the project, and it cost $17,000 back then. After serving for more than 100 years, a new one was built beside it.

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You cannot climb the new lighthouse, but you can climb the old one. So, up we went.

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After climbing lighthouses, we ate lunch on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (best French dip sandwich ever!)

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Once we got to the other side of the bay, we went hiking and discovered an old WWII bunker.

In the bunker was a giant canon that could shoot 25 miles.

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Past the bunker was an old cemetery and a beautiful view of a marsh.

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It was a fabulous four days. We ended the trip with a photo shoot at First Landing State Park. We laughed until we cried. Family time is always amazing!

For the Love of Lakes

As I sit in the midst of a busy week, I can’t help but think back to a much less busy time–the lake. For 7 blissful days, the world is much more quiet, life is a bit more simpler, and life is considerably less hectic. Every year, our family packs the camper and boat to head to Kerr Lake for a week of family time and relaxation. Filled with hammock naps, fishing, kayaking, boat rides, reading, and campfires, the week at the lake is a treasured time that flies by all too quickly. It is something that we look forward to, but is bittersweet as it marks the end of summer. At least there are memories and photos to visit on weeks like this one where busy and hectic are the norm.

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We started with 2 tubes, and by the end of the trip, we had broken them both…oops!

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One of the days, we drove the boat up to a town for lunch. After docking the boat, we ate lunch at McDonalds, went to some shops, and got some ice cream. 
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I feel as though, it is a right of passage for all Linton boys to learn to drive the boat.

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On one day, we always head to the marina to feed the ducks and fish, and grab some ice cream.

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Islands are everywhere at the lake, and it is one of the boys’ favorite things to explore them.

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This is perhaps one of my favorite photos.

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Daddy turned another year older while at the lake. Mom made a birthday cake in the camper (talk about skills). The number on the cake may or may not be accurate. I won’t tell.

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When Did Farmers Become Villains?

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The picture of that little girl is me. I was about 9 years old and had just shown my first goat. I enjoyed playing dress-up, creating adventures with my Barbies, and watching Disney movies. In all my days as a child, I imagined many things for myself, but never did I imagine becoming a villain.

In a world of princesses, I was Belle and Cinderella, but never the Beast or the evil queen. I was the Wendy, soaring with Peter Pan, but never was I Captain Hook. As a young girl, I imagined so many scenarios and plots that took me to distant lands and allowed me to be a princess, heroine, adventurer, explorer, or president, but never did I imagine becoming a villain.

Yet, here I am at 23, and somehow, I with so many others that I hold dear, have become villains. Why? It wasn’t because of the want of power or greed. No, it was because I…we are farmers.

As a little girl, I LOVED living on a farm. For me there was no better life. I learned values like hard work, honesty, good sportsmanship, responsibility, compassion, grit, and dedication. When I looked to the other farmers I knew, I saw that in them too. So, it would come as a shock when I, along with other farmers, were grouped together and villianized.

As I grew older, I began to hear the ripples of people who condemned the farmer. And so, I decided to share with others what I knew about farming. I decided to share my passion, and my love for it. I had no idea how HARD it would be.

I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I don’t think I expected people to attack me and farming with such awful accusations. All of a sudden, I was a murderer for eating bacon. I was a rapist for allowing animals to be bred. I tortured animals, had no heart, and was even a cannibal. I was compared to Hitler, told I was participating in slavery, and destroying the environment without a care. I was a villain.

But the truth was, I was just a farmer. I was a girl who had dreamed of flying with Peter Pan, and had become a farmer. Somewhere in there, though, activist groups, individuals, and the media deemed me and so many others as the villain.

When did the farmer become a villain?

How could the farmer become a villain?

Perhaps it is because only 2% of the population are farmers, and many no longer understand agriculture. Or maybe, it is because media coverage of farming drastically diminished at the same time people were becoming farther removed from farms. So, when the media did turn their attention back to farmers, they looked much different than Old McDonald. Perhaps farmers are villains simply because social media allows people to be more bold and say horrible things.

Whatever the reason, the farmer is a villain.

But, are they truly  villains?

No.

How do I know? Because I am a farmer, and I know my heart. This is not the heart of a villain. This heart has mourned the loss of an animal, broken for the ruined crop, and toiled day in and day out, all while being told it was a murderer.

More than a farmer, though, I am a person. The other farmers–they are people too. And those names that we are called and the accusations thrown our way do not fall on deaf ears. They hurt. Because farming is not just a job or career. Farming is a way of life, and if people took the time to understand and get to know us farmers, they’d find out we are far from villains. They’d find that they have us all wrong. We are so much more.

When did farmers become villains?

They didn’t. They have always been a resilient community with large hearts and a passion for the land, food, animals, people, and their families.

So, I will hold my head high. I am not a villain or even a princess or a girl who flies with pixie dust. I will hold my head high because I am a farmer.

Ice, sword fights, and boys

Typically, I have a love/hate relationship with the weather, but right now it’s mostly hate. It is causing one heck of a mess around here. The grossness isn’t just about inconvenience, it is causing a lot more work too. The ice caused a lot of limbs to fall, and of course loads of mud. While these photos are from the first ice round, I thought it appropriate considering yesterday’s ice and today’s rain.

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During all the cleanup, there was a bit of an accident too.

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How? Well, let’s just say boys will be boys, and let the next picture do the rest of the talking…

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Yes, that is sword fighting. Everything turned out fine, though. Mom cleaned up Isaac’s wound and put some butterfly strips on it. He was good to go, and now has a cool upside down v scar.

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Needless to say, the weather is taking  bit of a toll on us. It’ll be fine, though. We’ll just keep praying for sunshine.

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Life of a Farm Boy

As I was flipping through photos, I was struck by what a great life farming provides. Sure it is hard work and dirty, but there is no better place to grow up in my opinion.

I always knew that I enjoyed the farm life, but wasn’t sure if I was an anomaly. There is a 12 and 13 year age gap between my youngest brothers and myself. This has allowed me to really take in what it is like growing up on a farm. I’m thoroughly convinced  that we are incredibly blessed to live this life.

Recently, a woman visiting the farm mentioned that this was her daughter’s dream. I mulled that over. My reality was her dream. Wow! How lucky am I? How lucky are my brothers?

Living on a farm can be inconvenient, dirty, and hard. Going on vacation means finding someone to feed the stock. After a ball game on Saturday, we return to make fence repairs, medicate animals, or clean barns out. By a young age, we kids know and have experienced the miracle of life and the woes of death. Everyday is a go outside day (sometimes it is just a matter of how fast can we feed).

BUT, living on a farm is… well, just scroll through the photos. It is the life of my brothers. It is the life of farm boys.

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isaac alec plant

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