Mattoon Journal-Gazette and (Charleston) Times-Courier ASHMORE, Ill. - When people ask Sharon Sweeney where she lives, her response is usually something along the lines of "out by Bin City." "Well that's the only thing I can see," she said from her kitchen looking out at the grain bins on the family property. She checked her phone, stirred the noodles on the stove and gazed out the window again. "Well, it's ready, now I wait," she explained.

After 52 years of being a farmer's wife and stay-at-home mother, she has the harvest lunch routine down to a science. Thursday Oct. 10's menu included beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, peas, freshly sliced garden tomatoes and pumpkin pie. This kind of meal is nothing new for Mrs. Sweeney, who raised four children, spoiled 13 grandchildren and now brags about her family's fourth generation, started with her first great-grandchild and a second on the way. On Thursday she cooked for five, but usually she has seven to feed, a daily event in the Sweeney household, but she stays organized by making a menu she posts on the refrigerator. Wednesday's menu featured enchiladas with carrots, lettuce, fruit and blonde brownies. She shares the responsibility of feeding the men in the field with her daughters-in-law - she and another take turns with lunch and the other two share dinner roles. "It's either send them a sandwich every day or take it to them when they are further out," she explained. "I've never worked away home so I like to cook." Mrs. Sweeney keeps her home cozy, quiet and filled with family photos. "I moved in here when we got married and we haven't moved since," she explained, though they have added on to their Harrison Road Street house as their family grew. She began feeding her farmers when her three sons moved back to Coles County and joined their father Jack Sweeney in the field. "As they started coming back home we got more ground and moved further and further out," she said. "We go to 20 miles east of here (21672 Harrison Street Road) and there's one of two farms in between. We go to Lerna, the (Coles County Memorial) Airport is the furthest west and here is the furthest north. We really go halfway to Casey." Harvest is typically a family operation - Mr. Sweeney; his grown sons Jerry, Mike and Don; a cousin, Bill Snider; grandsons and occasionally a brother-in-law helps, too. And the Sweeney women feed them lunch and dinner every day - except Sunday, that is. The Sweeneys never head out to the field on Sunday, she explained; and that means Mrs. Sweeney has her day off as well. "That's when we go to town to eat," she said. "There's a group of seven to 10 of us that meet in town and catch up and eat together. That's about the only time I see people to visit." By 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Mrs. Sweeney had lunch ready to serve when the phone rang from the field. "I usually have it ready around now and sit and wait to figure out where I'm going," she said. "It's isolated but we're used to it, and I like being by myself - I do what I want to do when I want to do it." Mrs. Sweeney was raised in town, but even as a child she wanted to marry a farmer. "Of course you don't know when you're little," she explained. "I just liked the country, and I had two aunts - one on my mom's side and one on my dad's side - who each lived on a farm. When I would go visit I loved it." The start of Mrs. Sweeney's day depends on the menu. Thursday's meal took most of her morning because of the pies. "It's just one thing after another, but sometimes I don't start until 9 or 9:30; it just depends on what I'm doing that day." The men came to the house for lunch Thursday; however, when she needs to go to them, Mrs. Sweeney folds down the back seats of her Toyota Sienna, lays out the food and brings lunch to them picnic-style. They started the picnic-in-the-field tradition when the Sweeneys' grandchildren were young. "We started that because the kids wouldn't see their dad the entire day - the dads would leave before the kids woke up and wouldn't be home before they were in bed," Mr. Sweeney said. "We'd shut down for lunch, set up a picnic and the kids would come eat with us and see daddy. They'd jump in the combine and go on short rides." When her family came in for Thursday lunch, they sat down on the sun porch to a set table as Mrs. Sweeney brought the bowls of food from the kitchen. The quiet house quickly filled with talk of the family, others' locations and clanking flatware on glass plates "Now not everyone is this lucky," said Jerry Sweeney, her oldest son. "Some have to pack their lunches and take them to the field." Others head to town for drive-thru sandwiches or gas-station-made pizza, he explained. The Sweeneys started this year's harvest about two weeks ago, and they agreed they have about a month to go before they're finished. "It's been going well," Jerry Sweeney said. "We've had nice weather." The men gave each other a hard time about their eating habits; however, Mrs. Sweeney has memorized their palates. "Don won't eat tomatoes; Bill does," she said, passing the plate topped with sliced tomatoes. However, her family's tastes aren't the only thing she's picked up on after years of being a farmer's wife - she's familiar with some of the details of agriculture. "Jack tells me I don't know anything," she joked. "I only know what I hear, and I ask questions if I don't know. When it's dry out the beans are popping good. In corn, they'll go late, until they get everything full, because they have to wait for it to dry or they hit a good stopping place. But beans are kind of finicky." When the beans start to get wet at the end of the day, they might have to turn in by 7 p.m. "They'll come home and maybe put some stuff away, get a good night's rest and start again in the morning," she said.