Living the Country Life

Betsy's Backyard Blog

Betsy Freese is an Executive Editor for Meredith Agrimedia, including Living the Country Life and Successful Farming. She grew up on a fruit farm in Maryland (see and has an agricultural journalism degree from Iowa State University. She and her husband, Bob, a veterinarian, live on a farm in Iowa where they raise sheep, hay, corn, and soybeans.


Twitter: betsyfreese

February 13, 2014

The Long Winter

My cousin Jen Arter posted this photo on Twitter this morning from northeastern Maryland. My parent's farm is in the background. Jen says there was 10+ inches of snow by 8 a.m.

Who is ready for spring? I'm flying back to Maryland in March, so I'm hoping winter is done by then. Fat chance this year.

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February 10, 2014

Fancy farm truck

Dad is finally home from the hospital after falling in the farm shop in January and suffering a brain injury. Mom is taking care of him and other family members are helping with day trips to rehab. It's a big job and the future is uncertain. We hope and pray.

Here is a toy truck Bob and Caroline fixed up for Dad. Dad found the shell of the antique truck last fall in a box of auction stuff. He loves to go to auctions and buy boxes of "junk" for $20. Sometimes there is a gem in the box. This time he didn't see much value in the old toy, so Bob took it to Iowa. He built the back part of the truck and Caroline painted it. We shipped it back to Dad as a surprise.

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February 7, 2014

Machines at work, different seasons

It was 8 below zero when I took the first photo yesterday. Bob has had enough of morning snow plowing.

The second photo is from last May. I posted it on Facebook and several readers asked if that was Forrest Gump on the mower. Yes, I think it is!

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February 5, 2014

Who is ready for spring?

More than 288,000 people desperately want this winter to be over.

How do I know? I posted this old photo of lilacs from my backyard with the comment "Who is ready for spring?" to the Living the Country Life Facebook page and 3.478 million people saw the post, according to Facebook. More than 288,000 people liked the photo, 31,700 commented on it (mainly saying "me"), and 13,900 shared it, thus the photo went viral.

We had 6 inches of blowing snow on our Iowa farm yesterday, and my sister has no power on her acreage in Pennsylvania right now thanks to ice.

Are you ready for lilacs?

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February 3, 2014


Mom's birthday was yesterday and I want to mention it on my blog because this has been a tough few weeks since my dad fell in his shop. He is recovering from a brain injury and may come home from the rehab hospital on Friday, when Mom will become his primary caregiver. That is a tough job and one that can take a toll. My siblings and many other friends and family members will help, but Mom is the main contact. Dad will go to outpatient rehab three times a week.

To all the caregivers out there, God bless you and take care of yourself.

This is Mom with her new rescue cat, Maisie.


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January 30, 2014

Shed is done

Bob put the finishing touches on our new sheep shed made totally out of scraps and recycled material. You can see pieces of the red tin from our big barn. There are also pieces of the old hog confinement barns we tore down three years ago. It is Bob's design and he says he spent less than $300 total.

January 27, 2014

Propane heat

Mom has a gas fireplace that creates the perfect cozy spot to read on a cold evening. I enjoyed the warmth on my visit there last week. The open flame gives that fireplace feel without messing with firewood.

The only problem with this fireplace is the propane -- sky high and in limited supply this winter. Bob turned the propane off in our farm shop and is using an electric heater. We don't want to have to fill that tank.

The propane situation is serious for farmers. Supply shortages, spiking prices, and extreme winter weather are combining to threaten livestock in the hardest-hit areas. See a story about the situation here:

In Iowa last night the wind was blowing 50 mph and the temperature dropped 40 degrees in 5 hours to below zero. That's hard on livestock.

Stay warm!

Mom's cozy living room.

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January 23, 2014

A long journey

I've returned from an unexpected trip to my parent's farm in Maryland. Dad fell in his shop last week, bashing his face on the concrete floor and causing a brain bleed. He spent three days in intensive care and three days in the trauma ward before being moved to a neurological rehabilitation hospital where he will spend the next few weeks.

Multiple tests could not pinpoint the cause of his fall. It wasn't a stroke, seizure, or aneurysm. He had been digging around under his workbench sorting metal before the fall, so it's possible he was lightheaded when he stood up and then blacked out. We will never know.

Also unknown is his long-term prognosis. He is thinking straight about many things, but is mixed up and confused about others. Brain injuries are unpredictable. We are trying to stay in the moment, day by day and not worry about what will happen in a month or a year. Positive thoughts!

I took this photo of Dad last year in his shop.

Dad's shop is on the left. Winter storm Janus dumped almost a foot of snow on the farm Tuesday.


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January 14, 2014

Heavens to Betsy Quilt

Mom gave me this quilt as a combined Christmas/30th wedding anniversary gift. It was made by her friend Linda Brammer of Elkton, Maryland, and is called Heavens to Betsy. The photo doesn't do it justice (Bob was holding up the quilt last night in low light). I know very little about quilting, but even I can tell the workmanship is exquisite.

Do you quilt? I would love to share some of your work here. Send photos of your quilts to:

January 8, 2014

Vanity pig plates

Caroline's boyfriend, John, gave her vanity plates for Christmas. They go on the old, rusty, white minivan we make her drive, which needed a little boost of decoration. The plates mean "I Like Pigs" not "I Lick Pigs," as some have suggested. Either way, LOL.

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