Wedding Dress Shopping

It’s supposed to be a super fun experience. All the shows on TV depict women in various states of rapture after they find “the one.”

I’m lucky I first went to I Do Two to search for my wedding dress. It lived up to all my expectations. Kelly, the owner, is fantastic. She was super patient and genuinely excited to hunt through her (enormous) stacks of dresses to find the perfect one for me. It’s not easy to help someone into wedding dresses! They’re heavy, unwieldy, and involve a lot of lacing, tightening, and peculiar petticoats, each specific to the style of dress.20160107_120209

I must have tried on 14 dresses at her store. I narrowed it down to two, and then came back every day all week to try on the finalists (my mom, sister, youngest niece, and I went there on a Monday). I purchased my dress that Friday. I love it!

It’s a way nicer dress than I’d ever have been able to afford at a regular store. I Do Two is a consignment shop. If, like me, you think that means you will be buying a used dress, you are mistaken! I think only two of the dresses I tried on had previously been worn. I didn’t know this was a “thing,” but apparently lots of ladies buy two dresses and then wait til right before the wedding to decide which one to wear. Those ladies must have a lot of extra money! At any rate, it works to your advantage. I bought a dress that had an original price of $800 for 400 bucks. It was quite a bit too big for me, so I’m having it altered, but I would have had to have any other dress altered as well.

Here are some of the dresses I tried on at Kelly’s shop. (Did I mention she’s wonderful?)

Looking at these today, I guess I should have put on some makeup and made an effort with my hair before going shopping. Ha!

Like I said before, I had a difficult time deciding between two dresses. Here’s the one I didn’t get. 0104161248

 

I really liked the scalloped edge at the bottom. It was hard to choose, but I’m super happy with the one I bought! (Thank you to my sister and mom for taking these pics and patiently watching me try on dresses all afternoon!)

I did go to David’s Bridal after I Do Two. I felt like I should, for some reason. A rite of passage? However, by the end of my session – or whatever it’s called – I was mad. The lady put me in dresses that were 6 sizes too big, despite having dresses on the racks in my size. I don’t know what she was thinking. She said, “Oh, I guess someone put this dress in the wrong spot on the rack.” I could see that happening once, but multiple times? It’s like she thought I was lying about the size I wear. She seemed truly surprised when I was swimming in all the dresses she first pulled.

Additionally, she was unkind to my 5 year-old niece, who was beyond excited to be there, scolding her for touching plastic-wrapped dresses and accidentally stepping on the train of one I was trying on. (I got to return the dirty look when she herself stepped on said train 3 minutes later.) This niece was busily kindergartening it up when we were in Kelly’s store; between stores, my dad picked her up from school and swapped her out for her 3 year-old sister, who was beyond bored by dress shopping by then.

The saleslady at DB was also condescending about the amount of money we wanted to spend, sweeping past a dress I saw on a mannequin and admired, “Oh… that’s a Vera.” Didn’t say anything else. I was left behind to figure out that meant it was much too expensive. She then refused to show me any similar dresses at lower price points. I have a hard time believing an A-line dress with lace doesn’t exist by someone less expensive than Vera Wang. But what do I know. We left before I had even finished trying on her second round of dresses.

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My 5 year-old niece with me in one of the few dresses that fit at David’s Bridal

On the way home, I told my mom, “I’m so glad we went to that consignment store first. That lady was so nice. If we had come here first -” and here my mom finished the sentence, “You would have been in tears.” Yup. Hit the nail on the head!

In all, if you’re shopping in Minnesota for a wedding gown, I highly recommend Kelly at I Do Two in Otsego. Her collection is enormous; I had a fantastic experience with her, and I can’t wait to wear my beautiful dress! I’ve never seen one like it before! Y’all can see it. On May 28. 🙂

So you want to be a farmer… Part 2

I hope the anticipation has built appropriately for the remainder of my farming adventures.

Let’s start with a chat about Gary’s tractor. This is Gary’s tractor:IMG_5058

Looks cute, right? Gary (the daytime defoliator) loved Gary’s tractor. To clarify: my uncle is the owner of Gary’s tractor – I think it was the first tractor he ever purchased. He’s pretty proud of it. Despite this, I intensely disliked Gary’s tractor. Why? Well, one of the main reasons was that the lights in the back didn’t work very well, and I never felt like I could see what I was doing.

View from the back of the tractor at night:

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I also had to run Gary’s tractor really slowly, because its tiny little front wheels didn’t handle the deep sprinkler ruts very well (my other farmemy). Of course, the struggle against these mini crevasses had absolutely nothing to do with the operator of the tractor. Sprinkler ruts are from – what else – sprinklers that water the fields. If you haven’t seen them before, they’re basically really long arms that stick horizontally out of (and rotate around) a central fixed point. The arms have sprinklers hanging down every few yards, and they are supported by perpendicular rods that have wheels at the bottom. The sprinklers drive around in circles, like the hands on a clock. As they drive, their wheels cut grooves into the earth. The sprinklers save a lot of time irrigating the crops, but they can cause super deep ruts in the fields that make harvest more challenging.

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Ruts that run horizontally across the rows are okayish to drive across. I usually just slowed down and bumped my way over and through them. It was when the ruts run parallel or almost parallel to the rows that I had the most trouble. Then you’re trying to stay on row, so the defoliator cuts the tops off properly, but you’re trying not to let any of your wheels fall into the rut, dragging all of your machinery out of place. Sometimes falling into the rut is inevitable, and then you just pray as you tip that you’re not going to break the PTO shaft for the third time.

Gary’s tractor has littler tires than mine, and I thought it was way harder to maneuver through the ruts. Here’s a picture of “my” tractor:

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Photo by Brandon

You’ll notice that my tractor is missing a tire in this picture. Yes, I did that… One night, I was driving my tractor and I kept getting error messages on my computer screen. So, I radioed Jerry, who was on the digger from 4pm-4am (my shift was 7pm-7am). The digger is the boss of the field, basically. Jerry said he’d come look at my tractor when I got in line with him across the field. So I drove for a little longer, through a bunch of rough ruts. Then Jerry came and looked at my tractor. We couldn’t find anything wrong with it, even after we turned it on and off, revved it up, and walked all the way around the whole machine.

Shortly before this, one of the truck drivers had hit Jerry’s digger, causing one of its side panels to fall off. This was a brand new digger, and they’re not cheap, so we picked up the panel and threw it on top of my defoliator. I was going to drive it over to the light post (a gas powered light that marked the approach into the field for the truck drivers) so nobody would accidentally run over it in the dark. Jerry, Denys, and I got the panel, which was very big and heavy, situated on top of my defoliator.

I started driving it over to the lamp post (about 75 meters away), and noticed I was having some trouble driving a straight line. Whatever. I thought the field was muddy or something. I had to steer really hard to the right, but I managed to get reasonably close to the lamp post. So then Denys (who had been driving the truck that hit the panel) met me and helped me lift it off the defoliator and carry it to the light.

As we turned back to the vehicles, I could tell he was feeling really bad about hitting the new digger, so I patted his shoulder and said, “It’s okay, Denys, everyone… what the [extra bad word], I don’t have a tire!” And I didn’t. I was missing my left rear tire (one of the big ones). No wonder my tractor was hard to steer. Needless to say, Denys instantly felt better.

I was super confused. So I radioed, “Jerry, I don’t have a tire.” There was a long silence. Again, “Jerry, I don’t have a tire on my tractor.” Finally, the response: “What?”

“I don’t have my left rear tire on my tractor. It’s gone.”

“That’s not possible.”

“Well, I’m looking right at it and there’s definitely no tire there.”

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know. Not anywhere around here.”

Long pause. “Is the rim there?”

“Yeah, I think so… that’s the metal part the tire sits on, right?”

I think he was still incredulous, but he told me to get his pickup truck and drive around the field til I found the tire. Ha! I still laugh when I think about the ridiculousness of that night. I drove around like a drunk for a while, purposely zigzaging to sweep the headlights across as much of the field as possible. I did find the tire, basically in the same spot as where I had been parked when Jerry and I were trying to figure out the error message.

I then called Jerry on my cell to tell him I found the tire. He wanted to know if the rim was inside of it. I said no. He didn’t believe me, so I jumped up and down on the tire and told him I did so… the tire bent in and out, which in my mind, it wouldn’t have done if there had been a rim in there. He still didn’t believe me so I stuck my hand in the tire. There was nothing there. Still disbelief so I had Denys get on the phone and confirm the lack of rim. Then he wanted to know if it was shredded. It wasn’t. I think he thought I was crazy at this point.

But he came over and the three of us lifted/shoved the tire onto the back of his truck. Then I drove it up to my tractor and plodded off to Gary’s tractor, sighing all the way, resigning myself to a long dark night with a heater that was either all on, blowing directly into my eyeballs, or all off. Gary’s tractor had a cab door I wasn’t strong enough to pull shut all the way, so I was constantly turning the heat on and off to try to balance the draft against hot dry eyes. My legs always felt like Jello when I was done with a shift on Gary’s tractor because the clutch was super hard to push. This night was no different. To top it off, the field had some of the deepest, muddiest ruts of any field I defoliated, and I managed to get Gary’s tractor stuck in one of them as the sun rose. I radioed for help and then just sat there, dejected and somewhat humiliated. Brandon came to the rescue. What a guy! Never made fun of me for somehow losing a tire on one tractor and then getting another one stuck.

Here’s the interior of Gary’s tractor (sorry, I somehow neglected to take pics of the interior of mine, it was Cadillacish in comparision, imagine computer controls and the like!):

Gary's tractor cab

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At any rate, I generally had a pretty good time pretending to be a farmer. And I was told that the tire was not my fault. I’m going to choose to believe that even though I seriously doubt I didn’t play a part. Ha! Apparently what happened was I hit a bad rut, lost the bead on the tire, and then when I started driving again, I hit another rut perfectly and basically just drove out of the tire. Jerry had a pretty good time taking pictures that night! I guess he’d never heard of such a thing, and he grew up on a sugar beet farm. My uncle didn’t seem to think it was that unusual.

I’m grateful I got the chance to work on the farm. It certainly changed how I think about all the food I see in the grocery store. That food doesn’t get there without a whole lot of hard work by a bunch of dedicated individuals and families. Next time you meet a farmer, thank them!

Because I was on the night shift, I got to see some pretty neat stuff. I’ll post some more pictures below, but I saw coyotes (they are not afraid of tractors in the slightest), deer, a porcupine, numerous beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and a lunar eclipse!

lunar eclipse

Lunar eclipse

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View from front of my tractor. You can see a set of 6 rows of defoliated but not yet dug beets on the right.

View from front of my tractor. You can see a set of 6 rows of defoliated but not yet dug beets on the right.

Sugar beet fields

Sugar beet fields

Digger

Digger. Photo by Brandon

Load 'em up!

Load ’em up! Photo by Brandon

Loaded sugar beet truck, off to the dump

Loaded sugar beet truck, off to the dump. This was shot inside my tractor – you can see the orange computer control board here.

Another view of my tractor :)

Another view of my tractor 🙂

Big fat fishies

Merry Christmas!! I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season.

I’m enjoying spending some time with my family. Today my dad treated my sister, brother-in-law, and me to an off-shore fishing trip. (We’re currently in Florida, which is a heckuva lot warmer than Iowa right now!) It was super fun! There were somewhere around 16ish people on the boat. I didn’t count. But that’s my best guess. At any rate, I have to brag a little bit about what awesome fisherpeople we are, because out of everyone on the boat, my family caught the three largest fish…

…sort of. My sister double-hooked a 24″ grouper with a little old guy in a green jacket, my dad double-hooked a 25″ one with the girl standing to his right, and he and I double-hooked one that was 25.5″. The captain, Chad, said it was the first time he’s ever seen three fish be double-hooked in one outing. I guess the groupers were greedy today. They must not have had lefse with their Christmas feast yesterday.

I don’t know if “double-hooked” is the correct term, which probably shows you precisely how awesome a fisherperson I truly am, but it was neat to catch so many big fish. Even with my dad working his reel, doing half the work, it was still really hard to drag that thing to the surface! Once it was near the surface, the boat workers scooped it out with a big net. They also cleaned everyone’s fish when we got back to the dock.

As the fish were being filleted, Little Green Jacket Man tried to con the Captain into giving him my sister’s share of their grouper in addition to his own. We squashed him down faster than a gasoline-soaked cat running through a campfire. We were already annoyed with LGJM because he butted his way smack dab into the middle of our family when we started catching fish. “There’s no fish on my side of the boat, mind if I squeeze in here?” His hook was in the water before he finished the sentence. Um, sure? We didn’t really care too much about that, but we draw the line at stealing our fillets.

On the way back, we saw a water tornado (cool!), a bald eagle, and we had a pair of dolphins following us, jumping the wake.

Here are some pictures. Click on them to open a nice photo viewer.