Chickens on a plane

I just can’t get away from it. Really. Even in a plane.

I was fortunate enough today to have some things go wrong, and then right…and I ended up sitting in the front if a plane to Atlanta. Yes, the fortunate seats up in first class.
It’s a long story, but it involves a 1 a.m. bedtime, a 2 a.m. alarm and a 3 p.m. flight. No, I didn’t make any mistakes. Just trust me on this.

The irony in it is that I’m on my way to BlogHer Food, a conference for bloggers interested in food. And if farmers aren’t interested in food, then we’re in the wrong business!

But I digress.

I’m on a plane. In first class. They serve a meal. I choose a southwestern chicken salad. In my neck of the woods, the very word “salad” means lettuce. I was expecting spicy chicken on a bed of lettuce. I got avocados, beans and corn. Hmmm…not quite what I was thinking. I have tried to convince myself that I like avocados. I mean, they’re good for you, and everyone else seems to enjoy them. But it hasn’t worked.

So I enjoyed what I could. And saved the amazing-looking cookie for last. And I was eating one of the best cookies known to man-kind…(I was starving at this point), I noticed the ingredient list.

I just shook my head. Listed, towards the bottom of the list, were the words “cage free eggs.” Really? Is that necessary?

Let me just say that I completely respect those that raise chickens. I remember our flock when I was growing up. I would never…and I mean NEVER do that again. Methods have improved. Technology has improved. My heart is warming up to it. I still don’t want my own chickens…but I’m warming.

But whether or not my packaged cookie at 30,000 feet contains one cage-free egg? Not a concern of mine.
I personally know a few people that raise chickens…and eggs. I’d rather leave it to the experts.

When it comes to food, there are choices all around us. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

And I have to say that cookie was amazing, and the egg had little to do with it.

20140517-090744.jpg

I am attending BlogHer Food thanks to a sponsorship from Monsanto. But don’t worry, all thoughts, crazy travel incidents, snark and any other catastrophes are all mine. Unfortunately.

The years go by

Time flies when you you’re having fun…right?

It’s hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago my little George turned 5. How is that even possible?
It seems like just yesterday I was spending countless hours at various physicians, trying to nail down what was going on…wondering where his road would lead.

Yet, here we are. Five.

For those that don’t know, or maybe haven’t been following along, or are new to this blog, 5 is a magic number for my George. It’s an age that science said he more than likely wouldn’t reach. It’s an age that should have brought more issues and concerns and perhaps a little more doom and gloom.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

George broke down the door of 5 and is rarin’ to go. He’s excelled at preschool and may need some advanced work when he hits kindergarten in the fall. Kindergarten. A dream I dared to dream.

It seemed like eons ago that I wrote about finally realizing I needed to give George a life. Not just health…a real life. One filled with friends and experiences and ups and downs. And since then, I started living too.

Do I still worry about tomorrow? Certainly. I don’t know of a single parent that wouldn’t. But why borrow the trouble of tomorrow against the miracle of today?

My guard is still up. I read about the measles outbreaks across the country and the hair on the back of my neck stands on end. I do what I can to protect George from the known issues that he may face. But I could never fully protect him. There are too many unknowns. Too many variables. So I must use a little common sense and balance.

Five whole years. It seriously feels like a lot longer than that. But if we truly lived by the adage that “it’s not the years, it’s the miles,” George would be older than most.

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. My greatest blessing just so happens to come in a dynamite little package that keeps thumbing his nose at what the experts say. Just goes to show that the greatest Expert of all doesn’t follow a scientific journal.

And I am grateful for that.

20140516-091240.jpg

A new tool for bugs

I was hoping to blog all about planting last week. Really, I was. But I didn’t. Because we didn’t. And this week is looking bleak. Rain and cool temps…not a farmer’s friend this spring. But it helps us make sure we’re prepared for planting, and it helps us check out new tools for the year.

Like the 20/20 Precision Planting system we’re going to be using (which I promise to write more about later)…and a cool new website that has quickly become one of my faves: http://www.insectforecast.com/

Technology is cool, but sometimes you just simply need to know what’s happening, and what’s heading your way. And this site does just that, in a way that really does amaze me.

Soybean aphids hatching risk...information that makes my inner-Geek-heart flutter.

Soybean aphids hatching risk…information that makes my inner-Geek-heart flutter.

First of all, the research part of this site appeases my inner Geek. And as much as I dislike bugs, I like to know about them. Weird…I know. The site doesn’t just assume that I know. It shows me what I want to know, and gives me the information that I so love to learn.

Cool. So cool.

So how does this possibly help my farm? Simple. It’s another tool that alerts me to what’s going on around me. Because sometimes we get so wrapped up in our day-to-day activities that we lose track of things. For instance, did you know that it’s May already? Yeah. Me neither. Where did April go?

But eventually spring will truly get here, as well as warmer temps and outbreaks of bugs. And that’s definitely something we need to stay on top of…our crops depend on it.

Another tool for the toolbox. And a hearty THANK YOU for those that made it possible.

This site was brought to my attention by someone wanting me to review it. Which I did. And I think it’s amazing. The thoughts above are definitely my own, since no one else words things quite like I do. You know what I mean. 

 

Whatever floats your boat – #DitchTheRule

“Navigable waters.” According to the internet, the accepted definition is: “deep and wide enough for boats and ships to travel on or through: capable of being navigated.”

Apparently that’s true for everyone…but EPA.

The new proposed ruling for the expanded Clean Water Act from the EPA would become the most far-reaching regulations we’ve yet seen from this regulatory agency. It’s meant to clarify what is determined as “Waters of the US.” In essence, almost any place that water could collect could be subject to regulation and the permitting process.

The CWA was started in 1972 as a way to curb pollution into what was determined navigable water from a single source – without a federal permit.

Most people would probably be amazed at what all requires permission from someone else in order to simply do something…even on your own property. There are permits to build stuff, permits to take down stuff, permits to use water, permits to take away water – I’m sure there are probably even agencies that have permits in order for another agency to allow permits. The process is essentially the same. You apply, based on whatever rules and regulations have been drawn up. You explain why you should be allowed a permit to complete whatever action or build whatever structure you have planned. You present your application with the proper fee, determined by the regulatory board or by law, and you wait to hear back.

Here’s the catch: there is no legal right to be allowed a permit. That’s right, even if you dot your I’s and cross your T’s and pay the fees and fill out each form in triplicate and you state sound reasons as to why your permit should be granted and have science on your side, you may be turned down.  Because we all know that decisions don’t always make sense.

And you may not find out if you’ve been granted a permit or if you’ve been turned down for days, or weeks, or months – we all know how speedy the federal government works, right?

Using conservation and good stewardship is nothing new to our farm. We make decisions every day based on what we feel will be best for tomorrow.

Using conservation and good stewardship is nothing new to our farm. We make decisions every day based on what we feel will be best for tomorrow.

So let me try to wrap this up in a nut shell with a completely plausible scenario: Let’s say you’re a farmer that raises cattle, and cattle poop, and you want to use the natural fertilizer that you’ve been given. Let’s say that the field you want to fertilize has a low spot that collects water when it rains. Imagine now having to fill out paperwork and a permit in order to use that fertilizer near that low spot because it may collect water at some point in time?

So why use the fertilizer? Well, it helps your crops grow to their potential, it provides better grass for our cattle and it’s cheaper to use the product that nature is already providing. And remember, we’re talking about a spot that may/may not hold water at any point in the year. Yet the amount of water held isn’t in question. When the water is held there isn’t in question. It’s simply the ability for the ground to hold water that determines whether or not the CWA is applicable.

A single drop of water...is that all it would take?

A single drop of water…is that all it would take?

The good news? It’s not too late. The proposed rule changes are open to public comment through July 21 by visiting the website at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm, or through the FBAct Insider page at: http://capwiz.com/afb/issues/alert/?alertid=63192396.

Laws and regulations that expand government reach and hurt our local economies will continue to be passed unless we’re willing to stand up and protect our rights for future generations. We need to let the EPA know that they need to #DitchTheRule.

My four boys drink from the hydrant in our yard. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to ensure that our water is safe for generations to come. Our family farm has been making improvements to our methods of farming for generations, not through regulations and laws, but through using common sense and stewardship.

The CWA was set up to protect places that could float a boat. My field is not such a place. My ditch is not such a place. My yard is not such a place. Not a single one of these places could float my boat…and neither does this rule.

The anatomy of a farmer

I was told recently, point blank, that “agriculture is a man’s world.” And I will freely admit that my first reaction was not a very pleasant one. Yes, it made me angry. Very angry.

Are there certain situations that being a man is helpful? Sure. I must admit that there are many men stronger than I am, but then again, I’m also stronger than a lot of guys I know, too. It all boils down to the situation. But I also am quite certain that politics is not one of those situations. Your gender does not…and should not…EVER make an impact on your ability to be elected to serve in office.

Yet, it became painfully obvious last weekend that we have so much work to do on this front.

So let me start by explaining to you what a farmer looks like…from head to toe:

A farmer is required to be a person capable of wearing many hats – from accountant to nurse to scientist to engineer. A farmer’s head is full of so much information, and also full of contacts, for those questions that they can’t answer. A farmer knows how to make the best out of a sticky situation, and knows when to call in reinforcements. Facial hair has never been a requirement…although, I must admit, it would come in handy come winter.

Fashion has little to do with farming...warmth, on the other hand...

Fashion has little to do with farming…warmth, on the other hand…

A farmer has a mouth that can communicate the needs of the farm, to a variety of audiences. From legislators to neighbors to school kids to friends and family – a farmer knows that in order to preserve our work for future generations, we need to start engaging people more. It does not matter if those lips are covered in lip stick, lip gloss, chapstick or whiskers…the message is the same.

A farmer has broad shoulders – more in a figurative sense than anything. A farmer is able to carry the weight of the current growing season, worrying about changes in the weather, all while enjoying the miracle of each season. Whether it be watching a new calf learn to walk, watching a new crop erupt from the ground, watching baby chicks develop their first feathers, or watching a sick animal slowly recover – a farmer takes responsibility for what happens on the farm, good and bad.

A farmer has strong hands. They are able to be involved in almost every aspect of the farm. From gently handling an injured animal, to convincing a rusty bolt to budge, to writing out checks to pay for inputs to folding them in prayer at the end of the day…a farmer’s hands hold more strength than many would guess. Whether or not your nails are polished doesn’t matter.

teamwork, farmwork

Two different sets of hands working for a common goal…does it matter which were replaced with a woman’s hand?

A farmer has a caring heart. A farmer strives to do what is best for the land…and the job…that she loves. This includes protecting the land for the generations to come. A farmer also knows that they are not in this fight alone, and that there are so many involved in the process of being successful.

A farmer has a pair of feet that can walk miles in other’s shoes, and never skip a beat. A farmer can wear a pair of work boots all day, slip on a pair of dress shoes for church, a pair of tennis shoes for playing catch and a pair of flip flops for a day of fishing. The size of the heel doesn’t matter.

These feet work hard...

These feet work hard…

...and so do these.

…and so do these.

Whatever the role of the farm may be, each person has an integral part in the success of the farm. And the only thing that determines the extent of involvement is the willingness to work hard, the flexibility to adapt to unexpected events and the passion to see something through to the end…and gender does not determine any one of those things.

Agriculture a man’s world? I certainly hope not. Our industry would be missing a whole lot of talent if that were true.

What makes a farmer? It has a whole lot more to do with who is on the inside, not the outside.

The hope in technology

Technology. I used to hear that word and think of gadgets and gizmos and the latest and greatest in whatever field you’re looking at…including agriculture.

But not too terribly long after George joined our family, I started looking at technology in a different way.

My 9-pound-13-ounce George, this picture was taken at the hospital when he was born. Little did I know what the future would hold.

My 9-pound-13-ounce George, this picture was taken at the hospital when he was born. Little did I know what the future would hold.

It’s not just about finding easier ways to complete the same jobs. Nor is it about finding ways to play God. Sometimes technology is simply about saving lives and improving the quality of life for those that are here.

And that’s a hard lesson to learn.

But I have.

Trust me, I do realize that there is a difference between a new app or a device that’s used to steer a tractor and a plant that’s bred to improve its genetic makeup – but one of these causes activists to go crazy, and I’ve never seen a protest line outside of GameStop the night before a new game is released. (But then again, I don’t normally hang out there, so let me know if I’m wrong.)

An iPad in the tractor cab, connected to the planter. Yes, technology can bring great improvements to efficiency!

An iPad in the tractor cab, connected to the planter. Yes, technology can bring great improvements to efficiency!

Here’s where I get personal: Had my son been born a mere two decades ago, I am guessing that I would probably be a mother of three. Not four. That’s a sobering thought. Technology and advancements in medicine have allowed him to not only survive, but to thrive and far exceed any of the expectations that we were given. Even by Mayo’s standards, George is amazing.

George, summer 2010, before we had a plan in place. This picture sometimes makes me cringe...wishing I could go back and cheer myself on...pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

George, summer 2010, before we had a plan in place. This picture sometimes makes me cringe…wishing I could go back and cheer myself on…pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

When there are advancements in medicine that saves lives and improves the quality of life for hundreds, or thousands, or millions, we shout from the rooftops and celebrate! As we should.

Yet, those same scientists…those same doctors…those same hands…they can follow the same methods, the same protocols, the same regulations and red tape and years of hard work and trials…but if those advancements are made in our food – well, the reaction is quite different.

Are they not achieving the same goal? Does it not improve the quality of life for others if our food is more nutritionally sound? Does it not save lives if we are able to grow crops where crops always failed before? Does it not make a difference if the diseases in plants that used to destroy thousands of acres can be eliminated?

If we were to find a way to eliminate cancer, would we not celebrate? Yet if we find a way to eliminate a plant disease…we protest?

I’m not saying there isn’t a difference. And I’m not saying that we don’t need to look at technology with a cautious eye and we need to carefully and judiciously move forward. But do not tell me that using technology is not natural.

Let me tell you what is not natural…having to carefully watch what your 4-year-old eats is not natural. Explaining to the parents of his classmates about his condition is not natural. Relying on a powder to provide your basic nutritional needs is not natural.

But burying your child is also not natural.

This is the George that we know and love...he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it's  not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

This is the George that we know and love…he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it’s not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

I realize that my exposure to technology is vastly different from most people. And for that, I am grateful. I have traveled down a road that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But right now we’re on the other side, and it’s pretty sweet.

And I thank technology and science…and God…for that.

The new me

In the last year or so, I’ve tried to make some changes in my life. I’ve been working on a healthier, better-feeling me. I’ve been working on feeling more in control of my life. I’ve been working on finishing projects that I started long ago.

Here’s exhibit A, the photo I used for my article in local papers:

This is me...two years ago. Photo credits to my 4-year-old (at the time).

This is me…two years ago. Photo credits to my 4-year-old (at the time).

Well, just this week I posted a new profile pic, as well as submitted it for publication:

This is also me. A little lighter, a lot busier, and on the way to healthier.

This is also me. A little lighter, a lot busier, and on the way to healthier.

The response was a little daunting, and a lot unnerving. But it made me realize one important fact: how I feel about myself clearly reflects in how I carry myself. (Yeah, I know, not rocket science.)

And so earlier this week I started on another challenge (this all started with a challenge a year ago). I’m working on a healthier me by Mother’s Day. Seems appropriate, since most of what I do is pretty well driven by how my choices will affect those four amazing men in my life.

But here’s a few things I’ve quickly picked up on in the few short days I’ve kicked my exercise into gear again:

  1. I’m not sure who invented jump squats and burpees, but I’m pretty certain that they would have failed psychological evaluation.
  2. Never do an intense leg workout prior to checking cows. And if you do, make sure you have a back up plan to get back to the house. Like a motorized scooter, or someone willing to carry you. I’m not saying I had to resort to crawling, but let’s just say that if I did, it was only because the other option was sleeping in the barn.
  3. Doing above leg workout and then sitting at a desk the next day for several hours is not such a great idea. It’s a good thing I was alone in the office today. I may or may not have used my rolling office chair to get from area to area.
  4. You know it was a good workout when you drop a sugar snap pea on the floor and decide to leave it. And hey, if it sprouts, that’s just more veggies for me later. Right?
  5. Tonight was arms and abs. By Friday I will be comatose and unable to move on my own accord.
  6. Why do these videos have to show a 5’9″ 130-pound fitness expert who tells you how much they’re “feeling the burn?” All while looking cute and put together. Why can’t it be someone who looks like me, who tells you the truth? Like, “I know you think you might die, and I can’t promise that you won’t, but you just burned off two slices of bacon.”
  7. The pain is worth the gain…I know that. In my head, it all makes sense. I just have to convince my body to follow through. And not fall apart. :)
  8. You know it was a good workout when using the bathroom requires a walker, the use of safety bars and a call-button, in case you’re incapable of getting back up. Seriously. I considered getting a catheter. (Just kidding. Just kidding. Kinda.)
  9. The best part of all? I’m not on any diet. Just being sensible, letting my body dictate what I need and paying attention to needs/wants. Let’s see how this goes, shall we?
  10. SOFTBALL! The 2014 season should start in about two months. My goal is to be able to get one over the fence this year. I’ve been close. Let’s see if I can do it!

    I've been playing softball for about 20 years now. Yikes. That's a long time. But no plans to quit...until I can't.

    I’ve been playing softball for about 20 years now. Yikes. That’s a long time. But no plans to quit…until I can’t.

Don’t worry, it really hasn’t been THAT bad. Although, I really am really sore. It’ll get better, I know it. And it’ll be worth it, I know it.

And when it’s all said and done, I’ll post another picture. :)