Growing Up at the Moser Ranch

I truly believe we are a product of our environment, and I do pride myself on knowing how to work hard and power through, even when times are tough. I grew up on a cattle ranch in northeast Kansas. People have asked me in the past what’s so different about being a farm wife vs. living/working on a ranch. There are a few stark differences that I can glean from my time doing both. One of the biggest differences is that growing up, my family’s ranch didn’t have much for row crop (wheat, milo, corn, soybeans). That was something that was new for me when I moved to western Kansas.

Another aspect of farm life that I had ZERO experience with was irrigation. My family, like I said, did not farm a lot, we mostly ran cattle and put up hay. Irrigation was brand new to me. The first time Ty and I hung out, I actually asked him if irrigation pivots are put in the shed for the winter. I think he thought I was crazy (hint: they don’t take irrigation pivots down, like…ever). Ty’s family has been irrigating for well over 35 years, but more about that to come in a different post.

My jobs on our family’s ranch varied as I grew up. When I was really little, it was my job to feed the cats, play with the kittens and puppies, get muddy in mud puddles and every now and then my mom would make us pull weeds in her iris bed, and that…that I hated! As I got older, I mowed the lawn and around the barns, worked with my 4-H calves, helped work cattle when we had to vaccinate and doctor them, rode around with my dad to check cattle, and did whatever my mom needed me to.

In the last few years as a resident on the Moser Ranch, I got to stack a lot of large, round bales. My brother used to refer to my dad and me as the “little old ladies” chattering on the 2-way radio. Thinking back to that now makes me giggle.

One of the best highlights of growing up on a ranch, though, was the early morning wake up calls to go gather cattle. In the summertime in northeast Kansas, it gets very hot and very humid very quickly; so we would have to get groups of cattle gathered in the early morning to avoid getting them too hot and sweaty, plus it was easier on horses and help to do things while it was cooler. On mornings when we’d have to gather cattle, Mom would wake me up anywhere between 5:30-6:00 am to get ready for the day. Thankfully, my dad or sister normally caught my horse and had him saddled. I wasn’t and never have been a morning person, but on those summer mornings when I knew we’d be horseback and I’d get to soak in the early morning, it wasn’t so bad. Looking back now, I wish I would have embraced the mornings more. At the time, the only thing that kept me excited about getting up to gather cattle was the donuts and juice we’d get to enjoy afterward. Nothing better to enjoy than a Dillon’s glazed donut and ice cold orange juice on a hot summer morning after you’ve been on horseback for two hours.

Another highlight of those early morning wake up calls was that I got to hang out with one of my best friends, because her dad always came to help gather cattle. So naturally, Steph came along to help too. Stephanie, her little brother Tyler and I normally brought up the rear of the herd of cattle. Nine times out of 10 we were jacking around and talking really loud. Oh the memories! I think that should be a post on its own sometime soon.

There were always jobs around the ranch that none of us kids enjoyed. Sweeping out feed bunks, opening gates, chopping thistles and cleaning out the calving barn were not my favorite things; but most of the time, after a little grumbling, we got them done to our parents’ liking. We did have a lot of fun growing up in the country. When I was in grade school, one of my siblings and mine’s favorite games was jumping big round hay bales. We’d essentially play tag on the bales. We also had an awesome old “summer kitchen” that we made into a playhouse. It was a little ways away from my parent’s house; my sister and I would pretend to cook and have our own little house. When we needed “groceries” we would walk to my mom’s house and “go shopping.” I remember it was a pretty big deal to get an egg, flour, and noodles to pretend to cook with. We made all sorts of concoctions. When my brother wasn’t too busy helping my dad, he’d come by our playhouse and hang out in the loft portion. He had an old 2-way radio he’d pretend to talk on. Really kind of sounds like Mayberry as I type this. I do feel blessed to have had so many awesome experiences growing up.

One of the funniest memories I have growing up with my siblings was when it was snowy and we’d ride the sled behind the 4-wheeler. My brother was ruthless. He’d seriously drive so fast and sling that sled all over hell. There were numerous times where there could have been (bad) injuries, but the Good Lord was looking out for us. I vividly remember one time, in March, when we decided to get the 4-wheeler and the sled out. There might have been a skiff of snow on the ground, but definitely not enough to be sledding. I didn’t want to ride the sled but my older sister Kendra decided she would. So, Cameron (my big brother) was driving, I was riding behind him, and Kendra was on the sled.

We were out in a big alfalfa field. There were cow patties everywhere and it was frozen enough that when Cameron drove over them, they didn’t completely splatter, but they did kick some cow poop back. (I’m seriously laughing as type this). Anyway, Kendra ended up getting a lot of cow poop to the face. All three of us were laughing so hard, the laughter was contagious. Cameron seriously drove that 4-wheeler for probably 20 minutes and the entire time Kendra was laughing, with her mouth open. By the end of the “sledding” fun, Kendra was a mess. Cameron and I could not stop laughing. And needless to say, we still get a chuckle out of it to this day.

The biggest take away I have from my time living and working on my family’s ranch was that if you take care of the land and your animals, they’ll take care of you. Having pride in a job well-done and giving 110% in everything you do is essential.

My family’s ranch is still owned and operated by my mom and dad, and my brother Cameron and his wife. It’s in good hands. I love taking my kiddos back to visit and am so glad I had such an amazing upbringing. I know my children’s life experiences may differ, but I think in regards to all agriculture — farmers and ranchers everywhere do their absolute best to care for the gift of land and animals. The agriculture world isn’t for the faint of heart, but I don’t think my family would have it any other way.

I’m sure I’ll share more posts about my childhood in the future because I had a blast sharing these with you all, but for now I’m going to get back to laundry, harvest food prep and changing diapers!

Happy Wednesday and God Bless!

P.S. Be sure to follow along on my Instagram stories for updates regarding wheat harvest in south central Kansas – I’ll be documenting it all on there!

Wheat Harvest Time

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s almost that time of year where we will be spending the majority of our days at my in-law’s house; cooking harvest meals, being on-call to help move equipment and hanging out with family, making memories. Before I moved to western Kansas, I had NO idea how labor-intense wheat harvest was. I grew up in northeast Kansas where wheat is not generally planted or grown. There would be a few fields here and there to harvest in the summertime back home, but nothing compared to the thousands of acres of wheat that are planted and harvested in south-central and southwest Kansas.

The wheat that is harvested in June (and sometimes July) in our area is planted in September or October the previous year. Wheat has the ability to go dormant during winter months, therefore it is planted in the fall to allow the wheat to start to grow, making it more productive in the spring. You get a higher yield (amount of grain from each acre) from wheat planted in the fall, as opposed to wheat planted in the spring. The wheat is then harvested, as stated above, in June or July. We then sell the wheat to an available market, ours happens to be the local coop. It is then sold, from the coop, to a milling company where it is made into flour that is used for baked goods.

Like I’ve said before, I am incredibly proud to be married into a hard-working farm family. My husband’s family has owned and operated our farming operation for many years. Ty is the 4th generation to farm the land, which means my babies, if they choose to farm someday, will be 5th generation. In the past six years, I’ve learned more about farming and irrigation than I ever thought I would. It takes a special soul to love and care for the land as much as my husband and his family does. There is such a pride in raising a good crop, keeping the land fertile, and doing it all with grace (most of the time). Not to say there are not stressful times – our livelihood depends on the grain markets and more often than not prices aren’t as good as we would hope they’d be, but I don’t think there is another profession my husband would love as much as he loves farming. Farming isn’t for the faint of heart, and I truly feel it’s a job that you’re born to do. It’s not easy and times are stressful right now. John F. Kennedy said it best when he said, “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”

This will be my 6th harvest in the Josefiak family. My first “official” harvest was in 2015, right before Ty and I got married. I remember hoping and praying we would be done cutting wheat by July 11, 2015. We were…thank goodness. Harvest was definitely an eye-opening experience. I quickly learned we don’t mess around when it comes to feeding the harvest crew at Josefiak Farms, and I freaking love it. Normally my mother-in-law Laurie, my sister-in-laws Heather and Nikki, and I organize and take charge with the harvest meals. We make meals twice a day (lunch and supper) and take it to the field so the crew doesn’t have to take too much of a break to eat.

I’ve come to look forward to the time we get to spend with family during those 2 or 3 weeks every summer. The kids play in the back yard, watch movies, eat a lot of snacks, and spend a lot of quality time together. Every day during harvest while we are actively cutting, we load up a few tables, the food & drinks, and head out to the field for both lunch and supper. Normally someone stays home with the kids, since the passel of grandchildren has grown – it’s easier if they eat at Mema’s house and stay in the air conditioning. (Sometimes kiddos will go to the field, but in the past few years we’ve kept a lot of them at home just because that’s a LOT of little bodies to haul around!).

When I first helped at harvest, my organizational brain needed something to help me remember what everyone was cooking and when. Soon after I created a harvest meal template. At first it was laughed at, but then I caught everyone checking out what was for lunch or supper and then I laughed. People like to know what they’re going to eat, who’s cooking and when they get their “favorite meal.” There are a few traditions when it comes to cooking at harvest. Prior to last summer, Ty’s grandma has cooked fried chicken every year, and the rest of us made the sides. We also try to have special desserts like my mother-in-law’s sopapilla bars, my sister-in laws’ stromboli and Whiskey Mustard Meatballs, and you know I always make my Potato Pizza Hotdish.

When it comes to planning meals, our cooking crew uses a meal template that I made a few years back. I’ve linked a WHEAT HARVEST template HERE. I’ve linked a GENERIC HARVEST template HERE. Some people have asked why I don’t have a full week of five or seven days on the template. I did that for two reasons. The first one is because if I made the boxes any smaller, we wouldn’t have room to put the main dish, sides and dessert (also ALWAYS write in pencil, because you might have to adjust!). The second reason is because during harvest, there really are no weekends, so it doesn’t matter how many days we schedule on a page, we just roll to the next one once those four days are complete. The guys cut as long as it’s dry, the conditions are good and we’re able to! Once we start, we want to get done.

Anyone else here love to cook? I especially love to cook for huge crews, especially harvest; I’m not sure why but preparing a meal for a large crowd just gives me joy. I think in another life I was an event planner or caterer. Anyway, I’ve decided to share a few of our harvest favorites in my RECIPE BOX. Feel free to screenshot any recipes you’d like to use for your family, or harvest crew!

If you’re new to the farming world, I hope you learned a little about wheat production and harvest in Kansas. If you’re a busy farm wife preparing for harvest of your own, whatever crop it may be, I’m wishing you the best (and safest) harvest season yet! I’ll post stories and pictures on my Instagram to document our harvest this summer – be sure to check it out!

Happy Thursday and God Bless!

Pictures from Wheat Harvest 2019

New and Improved

Welcome to my NEW and IMPROVED blog! While I loved my old blog, Topknots and Toddlers, I felt in my heart that I could create a space that was more my style; more timeless, classic as well as more interactive and user friendly.

Some people have asked why I chose to “rebrand” and start a new blog with a new name. First I’ll start with the name – while I seriously LOVED the name Topknots and Toddlers, I decided to change to my name for a few reasons.

The first reason is that while I love my long hair, I didn’t want to lock myself into a name of a blog running the risk that someday I MIGHT cut my hair off and not be able to rock a topknot. Secondly, while this time is my life is busier than ever and my toddlers keep me on my toes; sadly, they will not be toddlers forever. Some days I can’t wait until they grow up but other days I want them to stay innocent, hilarious little babes forever.

So, instead of keeping the name of Topknots and Toddlers for my new blog, I decided to rebrand and name my blog/brand Kayla Josefiak, Farm Wife + Mom Life. I won’t always have topknots and toddlers, but I will always be Kayla Josefiak. (Plus my last name is a good way to start a conversation because people are always interested in the origin and pronunciation of it!).

Secondly, I’ve been working incredibly hard to authentically grow my social media following as well as find and work with product brands I love. My goal is to share my favorite brands with you, share my story of Farm Wife + Mom Life, and, as always, be open and painfully honest about my own mental health journey. I have a lot of BIG dreams, and I feel like a new website is the first step in the right direction.

Here are a few explanations of the new website set up. The homepage will still hold pictures that are incredibly important to be, BUT a new addition is the email sign up at the bottom of the home page! I would ABSOLUTELY love if you would sign up to receive email notifications when I post a new blog! (I also have an About Me page, but it’s identical to my old one).

I decided to separate the Farm Wife + Mom Life portion of my blog from my Mental Health Journey. Both topics are incredibly near and dear to my heart, but I decided to make my day-to-day posts a part of FW + ML blog, and my mental health stories a page all their own. Someday, I hope to make those mental health stories into something more than a blog. More of that to come in the future.

Some new features THAT I LOVE on my new site are my Recipe Box and My Discount Codes. I decided instead of making blog posts about my recipes, I made them (and will continue to format future recipes) into recipe cards that you can screenshot and reference on your phone or tablet, while you’re cooking! In addition to the recipe cards, I now have a whole page devoted to my discount codes that I want to share with ALL OF YOU! Each code is linked to the respective website where I have a code. Click on the code to access each website and shop to your heart’s desire. There will be even MORE codes coming soon; I just need to do some research and make sure I’m sharing products I love. (There are also story highlights on my Instagram where you can locate my favorite products and discount codes).

Two more features are my Contact page and Archives page. The contact form is multi-use. I love to hear from all of my readers! If you’re a brand interested in collaborating, please feel free to fill out the contact form – I would LOVE to hear from you as well.

As always, please follow me on social media (Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest) and if you would, subscribe to my email list! I promise it won’t be spammy. Thank you again, so much, for being here and checking out the new site! It has been an absolute labor of love and I’m so proud of how it turned out.

Happy Monday and God Bless!