A new road

Just a quick update…we are in the process of getting Dad ready to come back home.

I know…I’m in shock myself. But as my dad has always done, he has managed to set his own path, beating the odds, and leaving the doctors scratching their heads.

My sister, niece and Dad…all enjoying a nap.


He has spent some time recovering in a nursing home nearby, but the time is coming soon in which he can return home. And we’re hoping that his journey to recovery continues to astound us.

While I’m typing this, I’m sitting in a room in Nashville, TN, where the events of the last 24 hours still amaze me.

I was privileged to be seated five rows back from an address by not only the US Secretary of Ag, Sonny Perdue, but also by President Donald Trump. Now, I get that not everyone agrees with his policies, but we should all admit that being able to personally witness an address by a sitting President is an honor.

And I followed that with a live interview on Fox and Friends…that’s right, national TV. Seriously.

Sometimes the events that unfold in my life just take my breath away. But I’ll chat more about that tomorrow.

For now, I hope you have all jumped into 2018 with both feet, tackling the new year with renewed vigor and hope. For we never know what tomorrow may bring.

Heck, we aren’t even certain about today.

Advertisements

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.

If Farmville had a Farm Bill

Research would tell us that most people are a few generations removed from the farm. This means that it can be more difficult for us to explain what’s happening out here, just because we’re not talking the same language.

What if that were to change?

Research would also tell us that a vast majority of our society enjoys playing online games, one of which happens to be a farming-based game called, “Farmville.” If you’re reading a blog post, or an email, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of it.

So I’m going to make an attempt to combine the two, so that I can use a little of what I know, and a little of what society can relate to, and see if we can get a basic understanding of what the Farm Bill can accomplish. (Wish me luck.)

Let’s start with the basics of how it should work…in theory (I’ll throw in some of the contingencies later):

In Farmville, you start your game and are given opportunities to earn some coins, so that you can start to play the real game, then you pay to “break ground,” and then pay some more to plant seed. The cost of the seed is in direct correlation to how much you can make, the higher the cost, the higher the return.

Then you water your crop, make sure it’s taken care of, (maybe even check on a neighbors crop), and when the time is right, you harvest, reaping the benefits of your work.

The game follows the basic principles of farming, for the most part. But the game already has a farm bill built into it.

What?

Yes, Farmville does, indeed, have a farm bill.

Look at the set up of the game. You know your costs going in, you know your benefits coming out, you still have risk (you may come to harvest too late), but the risk is minimal if you play by the rules.

Imagine the game without those safety nets? It would look more like this:

You would come back from planting, putting most of your coins into the new crop, then find out that the crop is no longer worth anything. Losing all your coins and having to start from scratch, hoping you could find a way to scrape together enough to begin again.

You may go to help a neighbor and find everything gone, in the blink of an eye…and have no recourse to recoup your losses.

Developers would factor Mother Nature into the game, randomly setting players back at the beginning, where they have a choice to start the game over, or pick a new game to play.

And imagine, just about getting the gist of what was going on, and getting to be somewhat successful in playing the game, just to find out that the rules have been changed, the game has a bug and the developers no longer want to fix it.

Does that sound like a game that would be fun to play? How many complaints would the developers get over the wildly fluctuating rules and obstacles? Would there be anyone left to play at all?

In real life, the farm bill can provide a safety net that allows farmers to keep playing the game…but in this case, the game is keeping our plates full, our backs covered and our vehicles on the road. And it shouldn’t be a game at all.

Mother Nature can wipe out a crop in the blink of an eye.

Mother Nature can wipe out a crop in the blink of an eye.

In real life, the farm bill may not guarantee that every crop is successful, but at least one crop failing wouldn’t kick you out of the game. Instead of paying 6 coins for a crop that should be worth 16 when harvested, you may be guaranteed at least 4 coins if Mother Nature got in the way. Not what you were hoping for, but better than nothing in the end.

No, the real farm bill isn’t a game. And those in Congress shouldn’t treat it as one. They have real work to do and short amount of time to get it done.

Every single one of us has a stake in getting a farm bill passed. Yes, there are places that can be cut from existing programs and ways to save money from a bulging budget…but that doesn’t change the importance of passing safeguards for the people that provide so much, for so many, yet number so few.

Great use of advertising!

Using toy tractors and farming the paper isn’t the only farming I want our children to be able to enjoy. But their future is at stake as well!

They estimate that 80 million people play Farmville. Imagine if just 10 percent would contact their elected officials about the importance of the farm bill?

Perhaps we should give them extra coins for submitting an email?

Please realize that this simplified version comes nowhere near explaining the true complexity of the bill…I realize that as well. But we need to act and we need to think, and I’m not sure our elected officials are doing either of those things very efficiently right now.

Protecting their future

I never used to be a political person…well, at least not much. I had general ideas about where I thought our country stood, and felt that there were so many better-educated, passionate folks that could speak for me better than I could.

I was wrong.

I’m learning rather quickly that if I don’t speak up for what my family needs, then no one else will. And I will do everything I can to make sure that my children’s future is not jeopardized by an organization that attacks our livelihood, without taking the time to understand it.

Right now, EJ plays in the dirt...but I hope that someday he'll be able to farm with his dad. I'm doing my part to guarantee that. Will you?

 

What am I talking about? There is a group of individuals that have started a petition drive to collect signatures in support of a constitutional amendment that will safeguard farming and ranching in North Dakota. This amendment will guarantee that groups such as PETA and HSUS will not be able to manipulate the ballot initiative system in North Dakota and pass laws that will jeopardize our economy, our way of life and the future of our state.

The amendment simply states, “The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.

It’s straight, to-the-point and flexible enough to stand the test of time.

When asked about what this amendment would do, perhaps it would be easier to tell you what it isn’t…this isn’t about size of farm, types of farming, or allowing animal abuses to take place. It won’t supersede federal laws, criminal complaints or compromise zoning-type issues. It has nothing to do with farming systems, and everything to do with farming practices.

But North Dakota is an agricultural state. We would never do anything to harm our biggest industry. Right?

Did you know that ballot initiatives are already planned for our state by HSUS? We’re not talking about a far-distant, hard-to-imagine future. We’re talking about here and now.

Do you have questions? Ask and I’ll answer them or check out this link and see if your questions have already been answered. If I can’t answer, I have a whole slug of people who can (and I’m not afraid to use them!). Do you want to know how to find a petition to sign? Email me at wagntales@gmail.com and I’ll connect you to someone near you that has a petition. (You need to have been a North Dakota resident for 30 days, at least 18 years old and have a residential address…oh, and a US citizen.)

Instead of playing catch up, it’s time to take a stand and support those that make North Dakota the great state that it is.

Thank you to North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and all other organizations in the state of North Dakota that support this effort. My boys thank you, too.

Heaven is for Real

I’m sure many of you have heard of the book, “Heaven is for Real.” I had…but I had never read it. Sometimes we avoid those things that we fear the most…and I didn’t want to think about death, or death and children specifically. But I’ve read it now. I’m pretty sure God wanted me to, so I did.

This weekend was our annual Farm Bureau meeting in Minot. George and I packed up Friday morning and headed north. I wanted to testify on one resolution specifically. It would support allowing North Dakota Children’s Special Health Services to open their doors to children with catastrophic illnesses. (Catastrophic illnesses are ones that are life-threatening. Currently, NDCSHS can only assist those children with illnesses specified by state statute…OTC is not one.)

On Saturday morning, I stood in front of the Farm Bureau delegates and tried to give a brief synopsis and explain why we needed to forward this resolution. It was, by far, one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Imagine explaining to a large body of people that your child’s life is at risk, and you would hate for other children and families to have to fight the same fights you’ve been battling. It was pretty emotional for me, and I wasn’t as strong as I would have like to have been. But I made it through, and I thank God that the resolution passed.

After that, we had our district caucus meetings. And I was sitting in the back of a room, along with my friend, Joannie. A lady came up to my table, handed me the book, “Heaven is for Real,” and told me that she thought I should have it. She gave me a hug, watched me wipe away my tears, and quietly slipped out of the room.

Sitting here, I still can’t believe it happened. It was one of those moments that (looking back on it), God was telling me not to worry about the future. No matter what happens, He’ll have George in His arms. I need to quit dwelling on the what-ifs and work on enjoying the now. I get that. And when I falter, and start to worry, I have a book to read to remind me.

I needed that.

And to the wonderful angel who delivered the message to me…thank you.

Why My Monday was Meatless

Normally on Monday, I would post a “Hunk of Meat Monday” recipe, to share with those that enjoy having protein in their diet and I would link up with Beyer Beware’s linky party…but not today.

Our household is a very unique situation. We farm. We ranch. And our son is a vegan. Actually, that doesn’t quite cover it, but it’s close. He is limited in the amount of protein that he can have. Right now his limit is 11-12 grams of protein. To put that into perspective, an 8 oz. glass of milk has about 8 grams of protein in it. So, in theory he could have a glass of milk, but then he could only have one slice of bread for the rest of the day.

What it means is that he doesn’t eat meat. And according to his dietician, he will probably never eat meat. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

George’s body can’t break down protein. When he consumes protein, it can cause a reaction in his body that can elevate his ammonia levels, cause his brain to swell, cause seizures, make him hyperactive, etc. In a nutshell, it can be life threatening.

Last week Monday, I had a package of beef jerky in the fridge. Now, normally I don’t keep those kind of snacks in the house. Many times I just leave them in the shop fridge, because my husband likes to snack on them during harvest. But for some reason, I brought some in the house.

Now, mind you, George has never really had meat before. Due to his medical issues and not knowing what was all going wrong, but knowing that he didn’t tolerate table food very well, George was on a special formula for much longer than you normally would have a child on a liquid-only diet. In fact, George had just started eating some table food just about a year ago. He was 18 months old. It was January when we learned that we would probably need to cut protein out of his diet, and finally had a plan.

Well, apparently George is curious. And he ate two sticks of beef jerky. I was working on folding clothes, and noticed that he was chewing on something. He showed me the tiny bite that was left in his mouth, promptly spit it out for me, and then I checked the fridge, realizing that not one, but two sticks were out of the package.

We’d never had this problem, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I called his neurologist, who was on vacation. Her back-up was paged…she was on vacation. So a third person was contacted, who told me that she was going to be no help. So another neurologist was paged. And while waiting for her to call back, I called our pediatrician, who was out of the office. His nurse was very supportive, and told me that when I heard back, to let them know what they needed to do.

Under normal circumstances, were George to have issues relating to his OTC, I know what to do. I take him to the ER and hand them my letters from the doctors that give step-by-step instructions on how to care for him. But that’s what I do AFTER he’s having an “episode.” I had never had to deal with a situation in which he MIGHT have an episode.

Well, I finally heard back, and the doctor gave me some wonderful words of wisdom…like, “Don’t give him any more protein today.” Thank you, Captain Obvious. I figured that one out on my own. And, “Watch for signs of distress.” Whew. So glad I called. That really put me at ease. (By the way, that’s dripping heavily with sarcasm.)

Needless to say, I quickly learned one of George’s reactions to too much protein. He becomes off-the-wall, crazy hyper. Similar to what I would imagine a 2-year-old would act like if they were given 3-4 Mountain Dews. Seriously. He had snuck the beef jerky at about 2 that afternoon. He finally went to sleep around 1…Tuesday morning. It was crazy. But he survived, and so did I.

The point of all this?

I get the need for some people to be vegetarians, vegans, not eat meat, however you want to word it. I completely understand. I know, because I’m living it.

Here’s what I don’t like:

  • Don’t tell me that not eating meat is healthier for you. I know what the body needs. I know what children need. I’ve been researching it for months. I work with dieticians at Mayo Clinic. Trust me. I know. I also know what it takes to replace the nutrients and protein that you automatically get from meat. I know how dangerous it can be to try to live without those proteins. I know what the formula that my son will be using for the rest of his life smells like, tastes like…I’d rather eat a steak. (There are more than 25 different cuts of meat that are lean and healthier options, if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for.)
  • Don’t tell me that livestock aren’t cared for properly. I know how they’re cared for, because I live it. We take care of our cattle, day-in, day-out, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Through blizzards, through hot streaks, in the spring, in the fall, you name it. If we need to be gone, we arrange for someone else to take care of them. It’s our responsibility and something we take very, very seriously.

This is our herd today.

  • Talk to me about your concerns. If you have heard something about animal care that concerns you, ask. Don’t just assume that whatever you see, hear is the truth. If you need to, come to my farm and look. (In fact, I’m connecting a video that our state Farm Bureau put together, showing you our farm, and telling others about why we do what we do…check it out. And remember, this was three years and one child ago!)
  • Don’t watch a movie and assume that what you see and hear is the truth. Movies are made to make money. Happy stories don’t sell as many copies as scary ones do…and don’t cause as much media hype. If you watch a movie, and it makes you think and have questions, then take those questions and ask a farmer. Don’t assume that the movie is going to give you the answers.

Sorry this became a little long-winded, but it’s a subject that hits close to my heart. As I said in the beginning, I completely understand the need for some people to limit their meat intake, or choose not to eat meat at all. I’m fine with that. Just please, please don’t tell me that I’m less of a person for enjoying my meat-eating lifestyle…and for being just a little sad that George can’t enjoy the same.

Cultivating the future

I love my school.

Now, to clarify, I don’t ALWAYS feel that way, but who ever does? My sons attend the school that I graduated from…in 1995. In fact, they have had some of the same teachers that I had. Talk about a strange feeling, sitting across from your first-grade teacher, talking about your son! I still can’t call any of them by their first names.

This month is reading month. The theme??? Cultivating Reading. WOOHOO!

The whole month is focused on farming, agriculture, animals, etc. What a great opportunity! And you can bet I’m going to do my best to maximize it!

My plan is to shine the spotlight on a favorite ag book of ours, at least a few times a week. Now, as a disclaimer, I haven’t received approval or monetary donations from any of the authors…in fact, they haven’t a clue that I’m even doing this. I don’t know any of them personally (at least, not to my knowledge). But these are books that my family loves, and that we read together.

I’m an avid reader. I LOVE to read. I received a Kindle for Christmas and have already put over 100 books through it. (Hmmm…I may need to seek help.) I’ve been trying to instill in my children the same love of books, and so far, so good. Let’s hope it keeps rolling that way!

Today at school was “Hats off to books!” Day…or Hat Day. Scooter wore one of Boss Man’s farm caps, Big Bro wore a Cat-In-The-Hat hat. It was a Monday, and they were excited about school. Who could ask for more?

My book of the day?

It’s a great farm safety book, and one that we’ve read TONS of times! Plus, many county Farm Bureau’s sponsor safety days or safety camps, that reiterate what is taught in the book. It covers everything from ATV’s to cows to grain bins.

Do you have a favorite that you think I should check out? Something you’d like to see a spotlight on? I’d love to get more farm-favorite story books in our ever-expanding library! Tomorrow is Flannel Shirt Day – “Every which way with books.”

April is going to be a GREAT month!