30 Days of Thoughts

I’m going to do some thinking…sounds scary, eh?

It’s November, and I have lots to be thankful for, I have lots to share and I have lots to talk about…and I’m going to try to do it all – 30 days straight.

Some posts will be short, some will be longer, some may be a photo, some may be video. What I can guarantee is that it will be all me. Well, not ALL me, but you know what I mean.

Day One:

Today’s thought:

Image via Vital Awareness page via Ag Proud page. :)

Image via Vital Awareness page via Ag Proud page. :)

This image has brought a ton of thoughts to my head. But before you go off, telling me that there are serious allergies, and serious health issues, and some people really, truly cannot eat certain foods, please, rest assured that I realize that. Completely.

My thoughts on this image are not so much to do with the different needs that we have, it’s how we handle them.

We are quick to judge and determine that the food choices we make are superior to the choices that others make. And when I say “we,” I mean society in general.

Instead of focusing so much on what we choose, perhaps we should just focus on why we choose. If you make your decisions based on fads and peer pressure, and feel a sense of guilt of never doing “enough,” that’s not how your plate should make you feel. Food is not the enemy. If you make your decisions based on research and what you determine to be best for your family, then know that you are doing the best that you can.

My decisions are not the same as the family next door. And that’s OK.

For example, I spent the last six days (off and on) in the hospital with George. Trying to work with the dietary staff on what he could/could not have was a logistical nightmare. We finally got to the point where is dietary restrictions were just listed as, “Let Mom handle it.” No one knows better than a parent, especially a parent of a child with diet restrictions.

George, summer 2012 - all sass and attitude! Make the food choices you need to, no guilt required.

George, summer 2012 – all sass and attitude! Make the food choices you need to, no guilt required.

At the end of the day, we all have a common goal: providing for our family. How you get there is a personal journey, and one that I will not condemn. But I ask for the same respect in return.

And the world would be a better place. Right?

I’m joining a group of amazing people with our “30 Days” themed posts. I’ll include a link to each day on this post, as well as a link to all my blogging friends joining in. Here’s a start:

And here’s links to each of my 30 Days posts:

The price tag of healthy eating

Last night was a very busy night for me…I was trying to get caught up on all things in the home front (have I mentioned that I’m now employed as a paralegal?), getting ready for a meeting today AND trying to catch a Twitter chat on #GMODairy.

My candle was truly burning at both ends, and it kind of felt like I may have lit it in the middle as well.

I was mostly reading in on the Twitter chat, because I was trying to make supper and get a few other things done. But one statement stopped me dead in my tracks. A lady commented that, “More and more Americans are going organic because they have become savvy shoppers. Health has no price tag.”

Wait a minute…

Come again?

I beg to differ.

Health certainly DOES have a price tag. If it didn’t, why would so many people be up in arms over health insurance? Why would “Obamacare” be treated like the apocalypse? Why would premiums be skyrocketing, insurance companies folding and people going bankrupt, all because of medical bills?

Yes, health has a price tag. And the beauty of the country we live in, is that we get to decide what it is…Each. One. Of. Us.

Yes, even with “Obamacare.” You don’t want insurance? Don’t buy it. Pay the fine. A choice you may not like, but a choice all the same. (And no, this isn’t about arguing the faults/promises of that law…just a point to make.)

So here’s my problem with the #GMODairy Twitter chat. It was a session in bullying. Yes, I said bullying. Not school-yard bullying, but adult, if-you-value-your-family-you’ll-spend-the-money type of bullying.

And here’s what it boils down to: if you want to buy organic, go ahead and do it. If you want to buy conventional, go ahead and do it. If you want to buy GMO, go ahead and do it. Just don’t feel guilty about the decisions you make, and don’t make me feel guilty about the decisions I make. Those are the only “rules” I want you to follow.

My grocery budget is pretty large. I have a large family, and my four boys can put away a LOT of food in a week’s time. I grow a large garden, but I admit that it’s mostly for therapy, not just food production. I enjoy giving away the food that I raise, and we eat as much as we can. In the store, my decisions revolve around my youngest son’s diet, what’s on sale, what I feel like making and what the produce in the store looks like…and not necessarily in that order.

When I get home, I rest easily at night, knowing that I’ve done my job to the best of my ability. I know that my children are well fed and that we have gone one more day without being hungry. And I am thankful for that.

The price tag of healthy eating? It’s up to you to decide.

And that’s all that should matter.

Afraid of answers – the truth behind bio-terrorists

It’s headlines like these that make me shudder and breaks my heart:

“Golden Rice” trial vandalized

I don’t understand it…and I don’t think I ever will.

I’ve been working on a post that delves a little deeper into my thoughts, but let me just say that this is the highest act of cowardice I have seen in quite some time.

Why would someone destroy research that was in the process of going through a safety check? My only conclusion is that they are afraid of the answers…or more importantly, afraid that the answer isn’t what they want to hear.

Here’s what else I’ve concluded about the terrorists cowards…I’m guessing they’ve never experienced hunger…true hunger. Not “I-don’t-feel-like-going-to-the-kitchen” hunger, but the “I-haven’t-ate-in-days-and-don’t-know-where-I-will-get-food” hunger. Once you’ve reached that point, you generally don’t go around destroying food sources. Period.

And for those that will throw around the idea that it’s OK to destroy research, because genetically modified food isn’t the way it was meant to be…well, that’s kind of where the post I’ve been working on is heading. But until I get it worded right, and until I feel a little better about putting my thoughts out there, all I have to say is this: I’m pretty certain that in the Good Book there isn’t a chapter in Genesis about how Adam and Eve gave Abel powdered formula from a can when nothing else would keep him alive, but somehow we’ve moved from the apple in Eden to where we are today. Because of that, I have a little boy that is defying the odds and showing science a thing or two about statistics.

And that, my friends, is neither about strictly God or strictly science, it’s an interwoven tale of how the two can exist…and why I believe completely in both.

No, we cannot blindly follow science and not tread lightly when it comes to advances and technology. But destroying research before the answers can be recorded? Yes, it truly makes my heart break.

Imagine, if you will, the public outrage if someone were to destroy a cancer research lab? Hunger and malnourishment are just as real and just as deadly as cancer…and the answers are there, we just need to be willing to look for them.

And we can’t be afraid of what we will find.

I fully expect that there will be people the vehemently disagree with me and my points of view…that’s your right, and I respect that, but I also expect all comments to be polite, clean and non-derogatory. If you are unable to follow those guidelines, please refrain from commenting. I reserve the right to edit/delete as needed. Thank you!

Is our farm “green”?

Recently I’ve had an influx of new followers on Twitter. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, and my smart phone, I was able to be notified right away.

At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed that one had added me to a list. The list was titled “green bloggers.”

Come again?

My first response was, “Boy, are they going to be disappointed.” But then, with encouragement from some social media friends, I realized it was an amazing opportunity. How could I pass it up?

You see, “green” is another one of those terms that has been hijacked. It is defined so differently by so many, and yet, those that it means the most to (farmers), use it the least.

In fact, I was first offended to be called “green.” To me, it meant that I was more concerned about how my food got to my plate, instead of just being grateful that I could put anything there to begin with.

To me, it meant that I thought more about how creation began, and less about how it would continue to exist.

To me, it meant that I was willing to believe that God could use science to create cures for diseases and ailments, but He couldn’t possibly use science to prevent starvation and hunger for so many of His people.

But none of that is true.

Being green is an awareness, not an action. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. Being green is making decisions knowing that you’re doing what’s best for the next generation, based on what you know and your experiences. Being green is as personal as religion. Yet, being green is NOT a religion.

A lot of times farmers shout from the rooftops, that they are the original environmentalists. And although that is true, it doesn’t do us much good to keep reminding people…instead, let’s show them.

Actions speak louder than words. So let our actions speak for us.

Is our equipment larger than decades ago? Yes, but that means fewer trips down the field, less fuel and greater time savings. Do our fields have company signs on them? Sure, but it’s more for our information than anything else. That way, farmers know which brand, which variety worked best for the conditions that year. Kind of like labeling your garden rows.

ultrasound technology in calving

Technology can be very useful in farming, including ultrasounding for calving!

The biggest question? Is technology worth it? My simple answer is yes. Unequivocally. Technology allows us the opportunity to use state-of-the-art tools and equipment to use less fuel, less chemicals and be more aware of our impact on future generations.

But the best part of it all? The ability to choose. You can choose what does/does not work for your farm, your family, your table, your health. And that’s the most important advancement of all.

I no longer will fear the label of being “green.” Instead, I will embrace it. And perhaps, before long, my grass will be, too.

Proposed school snack guidelines – make your voice heard

As many of you are aware, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has been met with resistance, by not only parents and students, but by elected officials as well.

Recently, Congressional delegates from many states (including North Dakota and South Dakota) have introduced legislation that would eliminate the caps on grains and lean-meat protein sources that are currently limited in the new guidelines.

Although these are great steps in making the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act a better tool to tackle issues with school lunch, I personally feel that focusing on just those two limitations is not enough to make a change in the program. Calorie caps cannot be mandated on a national level. There are too many variables that can be better addressed locally.

These boys come in all shapes and sizes, and there appetites and nutritional requirements do, too!

These boys come in all shapes and sizes, and there appetites and nutritional requirements do, too!

And isn’t that what we strive for? Local control over local issues?

So, if the federal mandates on school lunch are not satisfactory, what do they tackle next? School snacks. That’s right, we now have proposed guidelines that address items that are sold in school, including fundraisers and items sold during the school day (including seconds, or ala carte items).

Here are some of the changes that are proposed:

-  Limiting the amount and use of accompaniments used with food, such as cream cheese, salad dressing and butter. They also propose that accompaniments be pre-portioned and included in the “nutrient profile” when served. For example, if a bagel were served they would possibly include a pre-determined amount of cream cheese, and those calories would be included in the calorie limit, whether or not the student would want to use cream cheese.

- Limiting the calories allowed for snacks. The proposed limits are 200 calories for snack items, 350 calories for entrée items. Remember when the solution to hungry athletes was to allow them to purchase seconds if they needed more food to get through the day? Well, now those seconds will be limited as well.

- School fundraisers would be encouraged to not involve food items. Those items that do not fall into the proposed guidelines would be limited. Although, there is some confusion in this section of the proposal, since the guidelines would not apply to non-school hours.

- All schools could sell plain water, plain low-fat milk, plain or flavored fat-free milk and milk alternatives and 100% fruit or vegetable juice, but elementary school could only sell up to 8-ounce portions, while middle schools and high schools could sell up to 12 ounce portions. Ironically, you could not sell a regular cola, but a diet cola would be OK.

The list continues on, and gets even more complicated. But the beauty of it all, is that this is just a proposal. It is open for public comment until April 9, so let’s be sure that our voices are heard, loud and clear, before the final recommendations are set.

Our kids are depending on us to make the right decisions, and we cannot rely on anyone else to make them for us.

Need more information? There will be a public webinar on Thursday, March 28 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. EST.

What size of brush are you painting with?

I was watching George paint the other day. It was entertaining, to say the least. He would take his paint brush, and dip it into all the colors, then get mad when the picture didn’t turn out like he had imagined.

And he expected me to fix it.

This little artist gets frustrated when his "masterpieces" don't turn out as he had planned. Sometimes instead of being a beautiful piece of work, it's just a mess.

This little artist gets frustrated when his “masterpieces” don’t turn out as he had planned. Sometimes instead of being a beautiful piece of work, it’s just a mess.

He couldn’t understand that the problem had nothing to do with the paper, or the colors, or me, but with the brush he was using and how he was using it. And it reminded me of a conversation that occurred online just a few days ago.

Someone had asked for anyone that calves this time of year to explain why they were doing it, or what benefit they perceived that they received from calving during winter months. I simply replied that with our operation and our location, calving now was what made sense for us. It’s easier for us to deal with snow and ice, rather than mud and muck.

It's not always fun making sure the cattle stay protected in the winter, but the snow and ice are easier to deal with than...

It’s not always fun making sure the cattle stay protected in the winter, but the snow and ice are easier to deal with than…

...the mud and muck of spring.

…the mud and muck of spring.

The responses that were received from people who also raise cattle was surprising, to say the least. One claimed that “winter calvers” are not profitable. Another claimed that some people were too willing to work too hard to make less money.

At first I was somewhat offended. And then I found a little humor in the situation. But it wasn’t until watching my son getting frustrated with his paintbrush, that I realized the lesson that could be learned from it all.

The humor? Well, if winter calving operations aren’t profitable…then there’s a check or two that I’d like to cancel. Mainly to the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, Boss Man will be relieved to hear that our days of paying taxes are over, now that we’re a non-profit livestock operation. Whew! What a relief that is! (Yes, my dear reader, that is sarcasm. At its finest.)

The lesson? When you’re working to make a better picture, using a broad brush will get you nowhere. Neither will dipping your brush in all the colors, expecting for everything to work out.

The same is true in agriculture…or any industry, actually. What makes our way of life great is the reds, the blues, the greens and yellows. All the different colors, all the different sizes, shapes and methods of operating. Together, agriculture makes a wonderful picture. But if you try to shoehorn us all into what you perceive to be the “only way” to farm or ranch? Well, you end up with a big old ugly mess.

We all have the same end result in mind. A great, abundant, affordable food supply for anyone looking for it. And the beauty is, in the great country we live in, the choices are there for you to make. You can decide the types of food you want, the way you want it raised and the price you want to pay for it…there’s always a decision, even if it’s take it or leave it.

Making sure that our calves are healthy and happy...that's our main objective, same as most anyone raising livestock.

Making sure that our calves are healthy and happy…that’s our main objective, same as most anyone raising livestock.

And we have choices, too. We decide our methods and what works for our operation – whether it’s calving now or in the fall, using no-till or conventional methods, growing organic crops or using biotechnology. It’s one of the main principles our country is built on.

I was upset by the insinuation that our operation was sub-par because of the decisions we made, but after the lesson my son taught me, I’ve taken something valuable away from what could have been a disappointing situation.

And that was my choice, too.

Eating meat – a personal choice

Today a little blurb came across my Facebook feed that struck a nerve and made me respond. It was a notification from a major company that there was an active recall for certain ground beef. What had me replying was the insinuation of some that such recalls could be avoided if we don’t eat meat, or if we only eat locally raised meat, or if we eliminate “factory farmed” meat.

None of these are true.

Let me first explain that not everyone in my family eats meat. In fact, our youngest son is limited to 19 grams of protein per day…total, including proteins received from breads, pasta, cheese, milk, etc. Essentially, he is unable to eat meat, drink milk, etc. (You can read more about it on the OTC tab above.)

George, summer 2010, before we started his low-protein diet. With his skinny little chicken arms, tiny legs and minus any fat. This picture makes me cringe sometimes, but it also makes me thank God for miracles.

George, summer 2010, before we started his low-protein diet. With his skinny little chicken arms, tiny legs and minus any fat. This picture makes me cringe sometimes, but it also makes me thank God for miracles.

When we were struggling to find out what was wrong with him, I was trying to cut out different items from my diet, we tried different formulas, nothing seemed to work. He was labeled with Failure to Thrive, and then we kept looking for answers from there.

I never imagined that it would be something we would deal with long-term, but here we are, three years later, looking at a lifetime of diet changes.

George, summer 2012 - all sass and attitude! Full of life, love and a true blessing through and through!

George, summer 2012 – all sass and attitude! Full of life, love and a true blessing through and through!

So why don’t the rest of us go with a vegan-like diet? Wouldn’t it be easier?

You would think so, and at the start, I thought that would be the way to go…but after a long discussion with our dietician, I quickly realized that wouldn’t be the easy answer I was looking for. Did you know that it takes two plant-based proteins to make up the same benefit as an animal protein?

To me, just to ensure that everyone received the needed nutrients and vitamins that they needed, it’s much easier to make George a special, separate meal, as opposed to making a low-protein meal for the whole family.

So I get creative. George has the same meal that we have (usually), it’s just adapted. For example, instead of a regular hamburger, George will have a low-protein bun filled with pickles and ketchup, just minus the meat and cheese. Instead of a dish of ice cream for a treat, George has a dish of sherbet.

I see all the “extra’s” that George has to have in order to make up for those missing proteins: daily “medical food,” extra iron, vitamins, etc. And that’s definitely not a regimen that I want to put our whole family on.

This is George's formula...it stinks to high heaven and I have to hide it in different foods and stuff, but it's what he needs. And that's all that matters.

This is George’s formula…it stinks to high heaven and I have to hide it in different foods and stuff, but it’s what he needs. And that’s all that matters.

That’s the beauty of living in the country that we live in. We have a freedom of choice, and I just so happen to choose to feed my family meat….or at least those that can.

I support anyone making those choices for their own families, whether it’s to enjoy a healthy meal involving a simple animal protein or not. The only time my ire is raised is when I’m attacked for not making the same choice.

And then I become a mama bear…and bears are omnivores.