By Julie Hurst

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light…”

“Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more”

Merry Christmas Letter to all of you! Our 2016 report is blessedly full of gathering together, of celebration and exploration, and that means taking our show on the road. What better introduction than these lyrics from ‘Gypsy’?
Wherever we go, whatever we do
We’re gonna go through it together
We may not go far but sure as a star
Wherever we are it’s together

The first of the year found us unloading the Hurst Greenery semi in Ben, Kenzie and Levi’s new home just south of I 435 and a soybean field. The cousins helped put away Levi’s toys while the rest of the crew settled furniture and stacked boxes. That was just a warmup to the main act: an Orlando extravaganza orchestrated by the travel team of Schlueter/Harms and enlivened by the addition of Alissa and Bella. Blake and I: just along for the rides…at Disney World, Disney Hollywood Studios, and an emergency run from Celebration to rescue Alissa’s wallet! Fourteen of us in a vacation home, kids in the heated pool, watching alligators at Wild Florida! and eating oysters at Cocoa Beach: our Missouri posse found laughter aplenty on our winter getaway….
You gotta have heart
All you really need is heart
When the odds are sayin’
You’ll never win
That’s when a grin
Should start.
From Damn Yankees

February and March are months that require both teamwork…and heart. The greenhouse we began to build in January got finished in March; we moved the first plants in as the last bit of wiring was tested. Aaron took another trip to D.C. with us, destroyed his first lobster dinner and visited Thomas Jefferson’s library in the Library of Congress. We used Lee’s birthday as an excuse for a girls’ night out to see ‘Newsies’ at the Orpheum.
It’s a fine life
Carrying the banner through it all
A mighty fine life
Carrying the banner tough and tall
See the headline
Newsies on a mission
Kill the competition
Sell the next edition
What a fine life

Blake’s the kind of guy who’s always carrying the banner…for all of us in agriculture. His roadshow takes him in front of the Family Farm Alliance in Las Vegas, on a panel for the NPR show ‘Going There: How We Eat’ in Kansas City, and digging in for the groundbreaking at the new Science Center exhibit “Grow” in St. Louis. He might have set a record for turnaround time between suitcoat and overalls the last week in April when he drove to the greenhouse from St. Louis, changed clothes, and took off that afternoon in the truck and trailer for Davenport, Iowa.
Through thick and through thin
All out or all in
And whether it’s win, place or show
With you for me and me for you
We’ll muddle through whatever we do
Together, wherever we go
Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim

In April and May, it’s all about teamwork…and muddling through whatever we do. ‘Nuff said!
June ushers in our favorite season of the year: baseball season! Whether its a weekend tournament in Burlington Junction, or pitching practice during a backyard barbeque, baseball is a welcome break from the other family activity: planting mums.
Days may not be fair always,
That’s when I’ll be there always.
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.
Irving Berlin

We celebrated Millie and Charlie’s 60th anniversary with a blowout party at the Community Building, with friends, lots of family, food, dancing, cake, fireworks (by special dispensation), and photographic foolishness. A slide show brings back so many happy memories…but even a hundred photos merely scratches the surface of the full, lively, loving, and busy, “always” of this special couple.
More baseball…in St. Louis. More family..wearing Farm Bureau shirts of Cardinal Red. More fireworks….at Redbarn in California. Ping pong in the barn loft, horseshoes in the orchard (team Mark always wins!), home-made ice cream, the Grand Old Flag, and fireworks debris raining down on the venerable red barn make for an evening to remember for young and old.
Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks
I don’t care if I never get back
Let me root, root, root
For the Cardinals…..

And we’re off…again! This time for the second annual baseball road trip…in Milwaukee for a matchup between the Brewers and the Cards at Miller Park. From points south, west and east, we converge to eat barbeque (of course), walk along Lake Michigan, and toast a Cards victory with a brew or two, of course!
Don´t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather…
Harlen Arlen and Ted Koehler

Don’t get me wrong…we credit the stormy weather in July for the bountiful harvests of October. But the constant rains and the hot weather in between were not ideal for our field grown mum crop. The Lord giveth, but the weather taketh away…..
No rain for the Northwest Tractor Cruise, a gathering where little boys in rubber boots who love green machines can find happiness. No rain, just dripping sweat, for the Atchison county fair where kids with red faces and sodden tees nudged their pigs around the sandy ring and smiled for the buyers at the auction.
No better reward for all that effort than a trip to the beach. Good sports that Aaron, Lizzie, Gabe, Abbie and Josh are, they endured the 16 hour road trip from Tarkio to Destin with liberal application of movies and a system for trading seats every two hours or so. Trampolines and sandcastles, oysters for Grandpa Blake and cheeseburgers for Joshie,and the steady rotation between pool and beach made for very quiet mornings at the Sandestin Hilton.
Sure, there was an election this year. But before that…and after that, there were birthdays to celebrate with trips to the zoo and t-ball, big sombreros and tacos. There was yet another family move…yeah, we don’t do that for a hobby, but we’ve had a lot of practice….when Ann, Matt and crew picked up fifteen years of life and stuffed it into a smaller house and garage while they wait to build their new home out on the farm. There was a brand new school year with a seventh grader in the family and a new cycle of fall sporting events.
“I don’t feel very different
She said I know it’s strange
I guess I’ve gotten used to
These little aches and pains“
Matraca Berg

And it’s fall with those late mums blooming, and combines bringing in record yields around the wet spots, and trips to pumpkin patches and football games and fundraisers and a birthday with a zero and a beautiful new quilt to grace the old old bed in the “little kids” room.
Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
Martin and Blane

We offered our Thanksgiving for all God’s blessings this year and pray for His presence in our homes and hearts during this Advent season. Being together is one of the greatest gifts granted and we are blessed every Christmas we celebrate with our loved ones, even as we accept the imperfections and “muddling” that accompanies our daily life.
Last weekend we walked through big fat flakes of falling snow to the blazing lights of the Private Bank Theater and the star power of ‘Hamilton’. This weekend we crunched through the sub zero snow to bask in the glow of the familiar surroundings of the Liberty Theater and sing along with the cast of “White Christmas”. With that show in mind, here’s our parting Christmas wish for you….
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white