Knolltop Farm Wife (Melissa Hart)

Welcome to my blog! I'm a wife, mother of four and a self-employed freelance writer. In addition to writing, I am involved in producing several dairy magazines and am the editor of Dairy Agenda Today where I have a blog there as well! This is a place where I can get what's in my head, down on paper (the internet). I hope you find encouragement and maybe a giggle or two!
Follow me on instagram @farmwriter

Friday, December 17, 2021

To Stay or Go on Christmas?

 Moving away from family when you start your own family can be liberating and solidifying for your marriage. But when the holidays come, it means making a choice between staying home or hitting the road. When you do you go? When do you stay home? When is the time when you finally decide that Christmas will be at your home on the 25th?

There are so many expectations that we put on ourselves and others when it comes to family gatherings.  But I believe it can be less dramatic and more meaningful when you plan ahead with all of your family.

Young couples with no children, this is your time to be flexible.  While you may want to start your own traditions, keep in mind that you have the easiest time traveling and scheduling.  It’s important to make your extended family a priority, but don’t feel as though you have to accommodate 10 different family gatherings. You may need to alternate between Thanksgiving and Christmas for the various celebrations.

Empty nesters, you also can  be flexible and accommodating.  You not only have the time, you likely have more resources than younger family and can give generously in more ways than one to make family celebrations meaningful.  Offer your home for a gathering.  Offer your resources for a central location to gather. This could be a great way to give to the entire family. 

For those parents right in the middle, I believe you have limited time for those kids under your roof and if you prefer to stay home on Christmas day, then do it.  Allowing your children time to enjoy their gifts and time with their parents is so important in a world that wants to pull your attention in all directions. Our little ones need time with unoccupied parents. Our teenagers also need your undivided attention.  One special day at home with limited screen time for everyone is not too much to ask.  Maybe you want to leave because a day at home with your family doesn’t sound that fun.  Just try it once and see what happens.  You’ll be amazed at how much your kids love your involvement!

Maybe you host extended family in your home on the 25th, or maybe you simply celebrate on another day, but if you want to be home, then by all means, stay home with your children. And do this without guilt, shame, or misgivings. 

Planning ahead will eliminate confusion, frustration and will help keep expectations in perspective. Make sure everyone knows what you’re going as soon as you know so those planners can plan!

Whether you eat on paper plates or matching Christmas dishes, enjoy the closeness of your kids.  When we leave this earth, the only thing that will matter is the impact we had on others for the glory of Jesus Christ.  Our influence on our kids is greater than we believe.  Don’t take that for granted! Be their number one influencer!


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Be a Champion, Extend Grace

On a recent shopping trip with my daughter to one of our favorite home decorating stores I found myself in the baseball d├ęcor section snapping photos of all the inspirational thoughts eloquently painted on cheap pressed board. I’m drawn to these kinds of pick-me-up quotes that seem so transformative when I read them but exit my memory when I’m struggling in the pit.

One of the signs said, “No Excuses. Play Like a Champion.”

I immediately wanted this one on my wall.  I really dislike it when people offer excuses instead of completing a task.  We can all come up with excuses on why we are late, can’t make an appointment, didn’t make it to an event or didn’t get the job finished on time. I think I know every excuse because I’ve heard them come out of my mouth at one time or another. This is probably why I have little patience for others who offer their excuses to me.

Two months ago, I was driving down the highway in Ohio, chatting with my passenger and noticed those pretty red and blue lights in my rear-view mirror.  When the no-fluff state trooper came up to my window he simply said he stopped me for speeding, asked me for my documents and a few minutes later delivered my citation and told me where to pay it.  He didn’t ask if I knew why he stopped me.  He didn’t ask why I was speeding.  He didn’t offer to reduce the clocked speed.  I didn’t even have a chance to come up with an excuse or work up some tears, he just gave me the ticket and drove on.

I was guilty.  There was no need for an excuse.  I paid my debt and learned my lesson.

While we may not always come out with the championship trophy, if we play like a champion, we won’t need any excuses. When you’ve given the endeavor your best shot, that feeling of regret doesn’t haunt you near as much as if you knew you could have worked harder.  There’s nothing quite like those painful pangs of emptiness when you came up short because you didn’t play like a champion.

Right across the aisle was an equally appealing sign that said, “Live by grace, not perfection.” This was the sign that ended up on my wall. Mostly because in my quest to accomplish my day to day work, I need to remember to extend grace to others instead of expecting perfection.  While I don’t like excuses, there is this reality called life and free will and sometimes it happens without our input or control.

Maybe I need to make my own sign, “Be a Champion- Extend Grace.”

Thursday, November 21, 2019

I love these boots!

I often receive offers to review books and I always get marketing reps who want me to write a review about their product.  But it’s those companies who are willing to send me their product, let me try it out and then allow me to offer my unbiased opinion who I have the most respect for.

There are products out there that I may or may not like for one reason or another. And recently I was sent a pair of women’s muck boots.  The Women’s Tall Chore boot to be exact.

After about a month of tromping round the fall weather, I can honestly say, I like these boots. When my four kids were little, each of them had a pair of tall chore boots that they would wear in the barn.  They were fantastic at keeping their feet warm and dry and because they fit so snuggly, I knew they would not kick them off or lose them in a mud hole. They were great, but I have to admit they were a bear when it came time to pull them off. I did not look forward to that after a long day and three hours of milking cows and doing chores.

So, when Muck Boots asked if I would try their chore boot, I was skeptical.  But after trying them, I love them.  They are easy to slip on and take off.  And when I head out the door, I invariably have my hands full, so being able to just slip my foot into them without having to fight them on or off, is a bonus.  They are durable, warm and they have a thick sole that will not wear out anytime soon, (which is something I’ve had problems with other boots in the past).

If you’re looking for a good solid, flexible boot that is durable, my vote is for Muck Boots.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


I was walking behind a young man in a sports complex and on the back of his shirt were the big letters: ASK.  So of course I did.

I asked him what ASK stood for or was I just supposed to ask him a question and he would answer?  He smiled and then kindly explained that it stood for Audacity, Service and Kaizen.

You see, he was a basketball coach at a college, and I knew that whatever those letters were, it would be some sort of motivation tool or leadership tip and I would not regret asking him for an explanation.  I also knew that whatever those letters stood for, it would let me capture a glimpse into his leadership style.


Do I have the audacity to continue to improve?  Do I have the desire to be the best? To conquer fear? To take the next logical step in my career path, even though it means a commitment to more work, but a really great reward?

Audacity is a challenging word that inspires me daily.  When I think about audacity it makes me think of daring to be better.  Daring to put in the extra work. Daring to write about a subject that may not be well received.  Audacity also means to take that step of faith, even if I can’t be sure of the outcome. Trusting that God will take my effort and courage to move forward, and work all things together for good.  

Service was the next word. For anyone to succeed in life, they need to learn how to serve.  For some of us, this is as natural as pushing open the screen door on your way out of the house. But for others, they have to be reminded to push instead of pull or they have to be told when to push and when to pull.  But if you’re not willing to serve anyone or at anything, don’t be surprised when you find yourself isolated and devoid of influence.  Those who are not willing to serve will look behind them and see few willing to follow. 

And that last word is one I had to look up, Kaizen.  It sounds like some middle eastern religious doctrine or maybe even a yoga pose.  But really, it’s the definition of slow, incremental improvement.  It seems this is something I need to be reminded of lately.  My all or nothing mentality takes over when I only have twenty minutes for a workout instead of an hour. If I can’t get my whole workout in then I might as well sit down and have another cup of coffee…..and maybe another muffin.  But if I took the Kaizen approach, I would seize the moment and take a twenty minute walk and while it would be a small step forward, it would still be incremental improvement.  Strength doesn’t come from exercising once a month, but a consistent practice of training and it may be slow, but it’s much more beneficial than a sporadic regime.

What do you need the audacity to do?  Are you facing an attractive challenge, but you just can’t muster up the audacity to take a step of faith?  Or maybe you need to exercise your service muscle?  Or like me, you need to get out of the all or nothing mindset?  Now you have one word to remind yourself of what you need to do.  Just ASK.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

If you only knew…..

If you only knew…..

Let’s take a moment and fill in that blank. 
If you only knew…. what I’ve been through in the last week.
If you only knew… where I started out.
If you only knew… what I witnessed when I was a child.
These are all statements that we either say in our head or out loud when confronted with someone who questions us, doubts our ability or even offers up some constructive criticism.
Recently I saw on a social media site that many women find it difficult to receive an honest compliment. While they may say thank you to the person, deep down inside they are thinking, ‘NO! I’m not THAT! I’m not the person you think I am, I don’t deserve that kind word! Please stop saying that!’
But why? Why do some folks find it difficult to receive a kind word from someone?
Other than the fact that it’s easy to listen to the negative self talk that plays like an unending loop our heads, I think there is one underlying factor:
We are the only ones who know everything that we’ve done, everything we are thinking, our selfish intentions, our manipulative mind and our self-seeking motives.  No one (except God) knows what’s going on in our head.  And honestly, sometimes we don’t know either, but that’s a different blog for a different day.
So, when someone comes along and pays us a compliment, all we can think is, ‘Are you kidding? You have no idea that I was just critiquing your entire outfit thirty seconds before you walked up here.’ 
Can I get a witness? Am I alone here?
Add into that a critical parent or an abusive boss or a manipulative spouse and you have a woman (or man) who has a hard time believing anything nice about themselves.  It’s easy to believe the bad and oh so difficult to believe the good stuff about us.
But remember, others don’t see all that ugliness that you see and feel inside.  People like offering you a genuine word of encouragement. Take it. Soak it up.  Use it to propel you forward into your next project or getting through your next difficult circumstance.
And when you receive the compliment, kindly thank the person for offering you encouragement. They want to bless you, let them. When you refuse or sidestep a compliment, It’s like someone offering you a cold beverage on a really hot day and throwing it back in their face. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Flowers and Queens

District dairy shows used to be a big deal in a lot of states.  In most areas of the Midwest, a district show will consist of maybe 50-75 head and it provides a great place for younger exhibitors to get their feet wet. As in several areas of life, what used to be formal is now more casual and the formality and the pomp and circumstance of the show has gone by the wayside….in some places.

Last week I covered the Ohio District 12 Holstein Show at the Auglaize County Fair in Wapakoneta, Ohio. We had arrived early and were sitting ringside visiting with friends. I sat and watched the ring steward, Gregg Topp, get things in order.  He gathered up the wheelbarrow and shovel to keep the ring clean, he made sure the announcer was making the correct announcements and that the judge had arrived and knew how the show would flow that evening.

Samantha, the Auglaize County Dairy Princess arrived for her duties to hand out ribbons and like any good princess will do, she introduced herself to those administrating the show and familiarized herself with the awards that she would be handing out.

Lou Brown, a local dairy farmer and the man in charge of the district show, walked up and handed Samantha a beautiful wrist corsage to wear and thanked her for attending the show. Now this was not a big state fair where the queen is treated like royalty being brought in on a six-horse hitch or paraded around in a cool corvette.  There was not a lot of glitz and glamor at this particular show. But that night, this busy dairy farmer thought enough of the fair princess and the Ohio Holstein Queen to call a flower shop and order flowers just for these young ladies to wear, at a district show that would have maybe 50 head and take 2 hours to complete.

As I watched this whole thing unfold, I witnessed a sweet exchange between a dairy producer and a very appreciative dairy princess.  You would have thought someone gave her a million dollars.  Samantha’s face lit up and she couldn’t thank Lou enough for his thoughtfulness. 

Throughout the show I would catch her looking at her corsage and then she would say to the Ohio Holstein Queen, Kinley Topp, “That was so kind, that just made may day. I can’t believe they bought flowers for us.” And Kinley agreed it was a very generous gesture.

That sweet gesture was a great reminder to me that every day is an opportunity to make an impact.  Saying a kind word, waving at an acquaintance, being present at an event, they are all small things that seemingly make no difference. But don’t be fooled, in this crazy world, filled with the need for immediate acceptance and validation, those small things can be the difference between life and death.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Who Can Stop 87?

Who can stop an 87-year-old farmer? Not me and I’m not even going to try.
I think it’s in a farmer’s DNA to just figure it out.  When something breaks down, they figure it out. When they run up against an obstacle, they just figure it out. When planting season is delayed by six weeks, they aren’t happy, but they figure it out and keep going.
I’m always amazed at the confidence it takes to look at a problem and take a step out of bounds on the way to solving the problem.  If you were to drive down the road and visit farm after farm after farm, they might all look the same on the outside, but on the inside, they all have signs of a man who decided to ‘fix’ a problem or ‘customize’ a piece of equipment.
While to the everyday farmer, that is just part of their job. But to those on the outside looking in, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to step up to the plate and take swing at a 90-mph fastball with a ‘customized’ bat. You not only have to know how to solve the problem, you have to believe you can do it.  I think the belief is where many of us fall short.
Earlier this spring my 87-year-old father was told his kidneys were not working and if he wanted to continue to live, he would have to be on dialysis.  While he processed the thought of having to drive to a facility, be hooked up to a machine three times per week for four hours a day, he realized he didn’t like that option. So, like any normal farmer, he started thinking of ways he could ‘customize’ his treatment. He began looking on the eBay for a dialysis machine that he could buy and put in his home.  And when he found one, he started a search for a dialysis technician who could come hook him up to the dialysis machine and supervise his treatment.
When he told me this, my mouth dropped open and I couldn’t process the thought of an 87-year-old man who would take on such a project. But then I realized, this is the farmer in him. He sees a problem and figures out a way to solve it.  He had no qualms about buying the machine or the fact that it takes a very learned person to operate it. He just knew he would have to take that first step and believed that it was possible.
I want that kind of belief.  I want it now and I still want it when I’m 87 years old, I want to believe that I can get over an obstacle. I want to believe there is a solution and I want to have the confidence to get up every morning and take a run at it.
Yes, I know the One who can solve all problems and can fix anything. But the hope and belief required to know there is a solution needs to come from us.
My dad did not buy that dialysis machine, but he did find a solution and will be having home dialysis so that he can continue to keep his life moving forward. Afterall, his wife of 62 years depends on him to drive her to the school for her volunteering obligations, monitor the farming activity, and do the taxes. #NeverWasteAMoment

Monday, April 15, 2019

Creativity and Passion

Entitlement is the archenemy of creativity, passion and joy.  When I read this recently, it was in the context of a woman whose parents moved her from an exclusive private prep school with every amenity imaginable, to a public school with little to nothing to offer this advanced student who was used to being academically challenged.
This author described the numerous extracurricular activities that she was involved with at the prep school.  Sports of all kinds, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, social clubs, student government and a rigorous academic program that would prepare her fully for college. 
The public school that her parents transferred her to, because of convenience was, as she described it, had lackluster academic standards, rampant drug use, racial tension, campus violence and a total lack of civility.  But there she was, dropped in the middle of this public school as a sophomore in high school. My heart sank as I thought about this young woman having to not only move schools, but to move to a school that sounded so atrocious, not unlike many of the public schools in our society today.
Walk into some of our smaller schools and you can cut the apathy with a knife. In fact, that lack of pride, and expectation of the worst, is fed to the students on a daily basis by a staff who feels as unappreciated as the struggling administration trying to keep the doors open.
I read this author’s story further and found that instead of lowering into the standards of the school, she was able to rise above it and pull others up as well.  She decided to stop with the entitlement mentality that nurtured her expectation that she deserved more because of her privilege, and instead she began to build programs that enriched the lives around her.  This was a place where she established a community of students who set goals and accomplished them. While she could have thrown herself a pity party, she hosted a leadership gala instead, where her peers could learn how to make a difference in their own communities.
The mindset of this young teenager is inspiring.  To decide to make a difference in her little corner of the world instead of wallowing in her lonely, narcissistic state of being, is something for all of us to emulate.
When we decide to get to work on making things better around us, what we can accomplish is nothing short of amazing. The creativity and passion that we are born with, are just waiting to be tapped into and can provide the horse power to achieve great things. But it will never happen if we decide we are owed a successful life. You were created to work, earn, and enjoy, not sit and soak.

Monday, December 17, 2018

It's More than a Perfect Tree and Great Vacation

By Melissa Hart
It’s Monday and you have exactly one week to get all of your Christmas shopping done.  Aren’t you glad I reminded you?  Some of you are in a panic, and others are thinking you have all the time in the world to get it all done.  Either way –one week, y’all!

Over the weekend, we went to my parents and put up their Christmas tree.  At 85, my mom still insists on a real Christmas tree, and I can’t blame her.  There’s nothing quite like the stories that are re-told about the failed Christmas tree hunts that we seem to go on every year.  I was just reminiscing with our second oldest son, Luke about that the other day.

Luke is nothing if he’s not practical. He’s a no-nonsense kind of kid but Luke also has a very soft, sentimental side. This is the kid at twelve years old wanted to bring his friends to the fair with him because their parents couldn’t afford the price of admission.  This is the young man who comes to the rescue of any family member when their car breaks down, no matter if it’s day or night. He is the boy who helped me put down a new kitchen floor, fixed by KitchenAid mixer and when he was an adolescent I enjoyed taking him to run errands because he never asked for anything and we enjoyed great conversations. 

This is the tree JW went and cut down and on the way home, it fell out of JW's truck and broke in half.  Luke and JW tried to make it presentable before they brought it into me. It was hopeless, but we used it and it made for a great story.  

Luke and his high school sweet heart, Jessie. 

While he doesn’t remember those early years when we pulled the kids on the sled through the snow in search of the perfect tree, he does remember the year just he and I went and cut one down. We talked about the practicality of an artificial tree and that maybe we should all get one and stop this silly tradition of cutting one down. And then he said something I didn’t expect out of this practical young man, “It’s the whole experience of going and getting one that makes it fun.”

That served as a reminder that maybe there were some great moments that came out of their childhood. You see, there are days when I feast on mom-guilt.  I can spend a lot of time mulling over all of the wrong things I did as a mom. So when Luke said this, a little moment of relief swept over me.  Maybe our busy days as parents and dairy farmers weren’t all spent on work and no play.  And just maybe all the time we spent working side by side served as an opportunity to deepen the bonds of family. 

If you find yourself wondering if you’re doing the right thing by having your kids work on the farm with you this Christmas holiday instead of providing a week-long trip to Disney, rest assured that time spent together is time well spent.  Use your errand running as a time to talk with your kids about their dreams sprinkled with a little encouragement about their strong points.  Instead of loathing the thought of sitting in the bleachers for another game where they will go 2 for 10, know that your mere presence gives them confidence.  And if you’re eating pizza on paper plates instead of that Pinterest worthy meal, remember it’s better to sit down to a meal of vegetables where there is love than a a fattened calf with hatred. (Prov. 15:17)

When you settle down and remember that less is more, it will always pay off in the long run.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Turkeys and Two More Followers!

Such a beautiful day out there today.  As I look through my window at this noon hour, the sun is beaming through and melting the snow! This afternoon, I will have to move my work station to a different location, the sun will come through my unshaded window and I won't be able to see my laptop.  But, that's okay with me.  I love the sun!

Tom Turkey is being harvested today.  We bought a homegrown turkey from Ezra Yoder and Bobby will go pick it up today.  My mom always loved fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving, so I had the chance to follow in her footsteps and went right to the source.  Hopefully it will be as good as last year.  Everyone enjoyed it, but honestly, I can't remember what I did to make it so great.  Did I brine it?  Or not?  Did I put it in the oven? Or in the roaster?  What seasonings did I use?  I have no idea. So, I will pull up Pioneer Woman and find out what she does and then I'll copy it.

My nephew, his wife and new baby will venture to Michigan from Iowa for the holiday! We rarely get to see them, so I'm excited especially since I haven't seen this new little great neice! The house will be overflowing with family and I can't wait!  And of course I had to count my Fiestaware to make sure I had enough plates and...I DO!

It's time to get back to the real work that is waiting for me.  The Ohio Holstein News is going out in a week and then the Michigan Dairy Cattle News.  And in between those, we are working on the Brown Swiss Bulletin and The Angle. This is making my head spin, I better quit now.

Oh...and I'm almost celebrating an Instagram milestone of having 998 followers.  Just two more and I'm up to 1K!  Yeah, I know, that's not very many compared to all of those influencers out there....but hey, it's a round number, we might as well celebrate....when it actually happens.

Have a great Tuesday!