Daniel and Lesa Schilling are just nice people. They're raising three little kids, in what some might call God's Country. Especially some who were also raised there.
In fact, I grew up around Daniel and Lesa (Duncan), in and around Edwards County. I always knew Daniel to be a hard-working hog farm boy - though that could describe a lot of the young guys in the county back then, before the hog crisis of '98 led a lot of local hog farmers out of the business. After they married, Daniel and Lesa began attending Lesa's home church – they same where my husband and I were married and which was also my Grandma's church. Gram passed away in 2005 so we don't get to that church as often, and therefore don't get to catch up with them as often as we'd like. But YAY for Facebook.
Today, Daniel and Lesa are parents to Nate, 7, Katie, 6, and Caleb, 4. They raise corn and soybeans with Daniel's parents, Jerry and Susan. And they also finish 11,000 hogs annually for The Maschoffs.
Lest you think that's a factory farm, Daniel has a thing or two to say. "We are putting very special care and thought into what eventually comes to you, the consumer, and we are paying close attention to animal husbandry, regardless of public perception that we are heartless animal factories."
So there. Daniel also points out what may be obvious to farm folks but is clearly less so to the non-farm population: "We’re just ordinary people, ordinary families just like them. We're trying to make a living and trying to raise a family. But as a farming family, it’s a family way of life and we have a huge responsibility to make sure we are good stewards of the ground and our livestock, both for our future families and the next generations of our ever-growing population. "
Daniel and Lesa remind me very much of the farm families I saw growing up: husband and wife working alongside each other, in every job, all day long. In their operation, Lesa handles the daily pig care, helps with vaccinations, loading and more, does the farm books, operates as chief gopher and chef during fieldwork and helps with big building projects. Like roofing. It's very much the way I grew up; Dad saw no problem with his daughter painting the barn roof or baling hay. Having grown up that way, I guess I figure that's just the way it should be.
And what has this Illinois farm family learned? I share this list from Lesa, who so perfectly captures what life on the farm has taught them:
1. I have learned how to prepare a meal at the drop of a hat and preserve it for hours on end until the "help" can finally get here. And you never know who might be the extra persons at the table.
2. If you drive really fast on a parts run, you can almost be in two places at once.
3. There IS an art to pressure washing hog buildings, holding your mouth just right all day long so you don't eat, well, you know.
4. If the combine is rolling smoke, my car really can handle flying across a field of corn stalks.
5. Some people like their sandwiches hot, some like them cold, and some don't care as long as it's edible.
6. If you're scared of heights, don't marry a farmer who likes to build really, really tall sheds.
7. Daniel's name on my caller ID could mean ANYTHING.
8. It really is possible to not only have your in-laws visit once in awhile, but to actually work with them on a regular basis and still like each other. (Well, I think they still like me.)
9. Even after much reminding, my husband still seems to forget that not everyone (meaning me, the female) can leave the job site and be ready to roll into town looking presentable in 10 minutes.
10. Waking up each day not knowing for sure what will happen is possible for the girl who likes to schedule EVERY MOMENT.
11. The words from my Katie, “I wanna be a pig farmer when I grow up, just like you,” smell wonderfully sweet to me despite how much they might “stink” to everyone else.
12. Retirement does not scare me because it will actually look a lot like every other day, only I won’t be quite so tired from all the work alongside my husband, just all the play.
13. There’s nothing to warm my heart more than watching my family be a real family: living together, eating meals together and working together daily for a common passion.
14. There are days that the only reason I made it through was because I have a big God who loves me, helping me hang on to Hope.