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Jenny Schlecht, right, signs her marriage certificate, with husband, Brandon, sitting next to her on July 26, 2008. Jennifer Kahm/Lasting Memories Photography

Saying yes to the farmer and the unplanned farm life

A marriage of journalism and agriculture makes for some interesting days. Valentine's Day in 2008 stands out to me, for a number of reasons.

At that time, I was living in Bismarck, reporting on police and courts. While I don't remember what stories I wrote that day, I do remember I spent much of my day trying to follow up on a story from the previous week about 75 Chihuahuas living in a basement. It was a strange story that I would follow up on for almost a year — and it's the reason I now can spell Chihuahua without looking.

Anyway, I was used to my days being weird. Late-night phone calls about possible crimes to cover, or calls from copy editors to double check something in stories. Days spent sitting in courtrooms, learning about parts of the world my naive little brain previously had never realized existed, and making phone calls to strangers who would rather not have talked to me.

That night, my then-boyfriend was coming to town for Valentine's Day. We were going to go out to supper. I think we planned for 6 or 7 p.m., but I knew well enough that 6 or 7 easily turns into 8 or 9 or never.

I had to double check if my memory of a rather cold day was correct, and it was. The National Weather Service shows a high of 4 and a low of -12. And I can't remember exactly what happened, but something broke down. A tractor gelled up or wouldn't start or something stopped working. It took all day to get the cows fed, and by the time he made it to my duplex, it was pushing 9 p.m.

We went out to supper then, to a nearly-empty restaurant. That's the good thing about keeping odd hours — you rarely have to wait for a table. We ate and went back to my home, where Brandon proposed to me. He apologized for not having anything more planned. He had wanted to get to town early and at least buy me flowers or do something, anything, other than get to town hours late and worn out.

But I understood. That Valentine's Day wasn't the first time our plans had gone awry, and it was far from the last. Since I grew up on a farm and ranch, I knew the drill. Cows get out. A cow needs to go to the vet. The tractor breaks down in the field. The feed wagon quits spinning.

I said yes, of course, and in July we'll celebrate our tenth anniversary.

I don't know how we'll celebrate it. You see, we don't plan much of anything until the last minute. Something always happens to screw up the plans. But we always find a way to enjoy whatever we do.

In 10 years, there have been plenty of unexpected things, both good and bad. We've moved twice, had two kids and kept farming and ranching. I've switched jobs a couple times until I found a position that fits best with farm life — reporting on farm life.

I don't plan meals, and most of our vacations are spur-of-the-moment. We don't RSVP until the last minute. And we don't get too disappointed when things don't happen just the way we planned, because things always seem to have a way of working out.

Through it all, we still love each other and the life we've made together. Just don't expect us to show up on time or to plan more than a few hours out. We know better.

Schlecht lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.

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