Winter Wednesday

Thought I’d just share a few pics from the ice storm we had last week. It meant that we were without power for a few days, but grateful to have a generator that we hooked up less than 24 hours into the outage. Those lineman for our co-op are AMAZING!

What’s your favorite part of winter?

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For the Love of Bacon

* Correction made – it was brought to my attention that although permitted for 9,000 this pig farm will actually be home to up to 5,400 sows. They will farrow (have piglets) throughout the year. 

There are certain things that happen in my state, a state that I love dearly, that just makes me shake my head in awe and wonder. And recent events definitely qualify for shaking my head.

A family farm from Minnesota is moving forward with plans on starting a pig farm in North Dakota. They’ve located a site that follows all the state rules, guidelines, setbacks, etc. They’ve worked hard on dotting i’s and crossing t’s, and are in the final stages of getting set up. Oh, and did I mention that they run their farm like a business…like all of us that farm do, or at least should.

Except now we have people standing up in opposition, insisting that somehow this farm will destroy the dreams that they’ve had for peaceful living in a rural area. It’s truly a case of “not in my backyard.” Apparently many people forget that agriculture is still the backbone of our state. So let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we?

This pig farm will house up to 5,400 sows – with the average potential to almost double the number of pigs that our state raises to feed people. Remember that? Pigs are raised for food. Like bacon.

Local food is all the rage now. Many of the opponents to the pig farm are big proponents for local food. Right now the state of North Dakota has about 150,000 pigs that are used for food each year. The average pig brings 150 pounds of meat to the table…literally. According to statistics, the average person eats about 46 pounds of pork per year. This means that a pig generally provides a year’s worth of food for three people.

There are 739,000 people in the state of North Dakota. That means we would roughly need 34 million pounds of pork. We only produce 22 million pounds right now. So who doesn’t get bacon? Or pork chops? Or pork roast?

Oh, that’s right – local food is only important when it can be raised by “mom and pop” farms. “Family farms” quit being family farms once you consider it a business. And let me remind you, that this farm is a family farm. That term does not change regardless of size. And size does not determine the “friendliness” of a farm to its neighbors. They are good neighbors. Big does not mean bad.

Opponents claim that this is a direct result of changes made to our state’s anti-corporate farming law that relaxed restrictions in hog and dairy operations. But guess what? Rolling Family Farms ends with LLP, not LLC. That’s right, it’s a partnership, not a corporation. The changes to our law make no difference whatsoever.

But why should it matter? What happened to the ability to go into business when you’re following every rule and regulation already in place? What happened to the freedom of being able to develop a successful business model and moving forward? Apparently you can do so – but not with food.

Fair time, county fair, 4-H

A boy and his pigs. But not sustainable large-scale.

My farm raises pigs. This year we’re increasing our farm size to eight. I have four boys in 4-H and they will show pigs at the fair. But I can tell you that our business model for the pig-side of things is not sustainable.

I love bacon. I love agriculture. I love this state I call home. But we need to wake up and read the writing on the wall. We cannot continue to think that the old-fashioned way of doing things will sustain us long-term. We use new technologies in medicine, how can we not embrace the same changes for our dinner plate?

I support agriculture. I support food. I support choices. I don’t understand those that stand in the way.

Trust me, I have more to say…stay tuned.

 

Why being a farm mom rocks

I have four boys…four rambunctious, crazy, wild boys. I thank God every day that we live on a farm, because I’m not sure town could handle them. Or maybe it’s that I’m not sure I could handle them in town. Without frequent visits from officers. And maybe child protective services. And calls from neighbors. And…well, I digress.

So how does being a farm mom rock? Let me count the ways:

  1. I get to deep-clean often. Like when someone brings in a bucket of toads. And drops them. In the kitchen. Near the stove. And fridge. And I’m too slow.

    The Toad Catcher

    These are what we found right away…a few had escaped.

  2. I get new utensils and dishes often. Mostly because all of mine disappear throughout the winter and don’t reappear until it thaws outside and they’re found it what used to be a snow fort.
  3. I don’t have to talk to them about the birds and the bees. They learn about it every spring, usually with commentary from their uncle.
  4. I know when spring is upon us. Because it’s warm enough to pee outside. With pants ALL the way down.

    Warmer weather

    But the best sign of spring? Outdoor bathroom is open for business.

  5. My kids will be expert drivers by the time the state says it’s OK for them to drive…just don’t ask me how they got to know so much.
  6. They understand the weather, and what it means to the farm. Rain doesn’t mean an event is ruined…it means the whole family gets to join in!
  7. Math is no longer some mysterious language that will never be used. They understand the importance of measurements (such as acres), area (field size), volume (bin capacity), etc. Math and science are definitely living and breathing on the farm!
  8. We learn creative problem solving – like how to get the wild barn cat out of the house without breaking everything.
  9. They also learn about teamwork – so Mom doesn’t find out about #8.
  10. They also learn about trust – and that a 3-year-old isn’t so good at it. See #9.

    laughter, children

    That little one on bottom left? Yeah, he’s not so good at secrets.

No matter what, these boys are my world. And I’m glad I can raise them in the best environment possible – our farm. They learn so much, but even more so, they learn how to become better people. They respect the land, understand hard work, and know where their blessings come from – I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m sure I could add hundreds more, but I’d rather hear about your reasons why you love being a farm mom…or maybe why you’re glad you’re not!

Are laws good or bad?

Yesterday I received a letter in the mail that I’ve been dreading for years. I was notified that our insurance will be discontinued on June 30. But I’m not supposed to worry, because they have a plan that’s “comparable,” that can start July 1.

Our insurance is being discontinued, like so many others...but don't simply blame a law and call it quits. Work for solutions. It's why we live where we live.

Our insurance is being discontinued, like so many others…but don’t simply blame a law and call it quits. Work for solutions. It’s why we live where we live.

Except I don’t trust that it is.

It’s not that I’m always this distrustful. But George doesn’t rely on me taking someone else’s word for it. We live in North Dakota. His pediatrician is in South Dakota. His specialists are in Minnesota. Right now, I don’t have to worry about things like “networks” and “preferred providers” and whatever other words they throw in the way of the search for medicine.

George, summer 2010, before we had a diagnosis more than "failure to thrive." This is the picture that I look at when I wonder if I'm pushing too hard...and then I push harder.

George, summer 2010, (about 16-months old, wearing 6-9 month clothing) before we had a diagnosis more than “failure to thrive.” This is the picture that I look at when I wonder if I’m pushing too hard…and then I push harder.

But I digress.

So, I posted last night that I received the dreaded letter, and the response was pretty much what I figured it would be – people blamed the law.

Is it the law’s fault? Did the law write itself? Did it pass on its own? Has it not had a chance to be corrected? The flaws less flawed? The problems less problematic? The promises more promissory?

And yet, we’re so quick to blame the legislation. Blame the party. Blame whatever inanimate object, thing or idea that cannot possibly take the blame. So where does the blame lie? (Here’s where I probably lose a little popularity…) It lies with legislators, lawmakers, elected officials…and us.

That’s right. I take partial responsibility. Do you? I voted. And have, in every election since I turned 18. Which means I’m partially to blame. Not because I didn’t vote “right,” but because I haven’t done enough to make sure that my lawmakers understand who I am, where I’m coming from and what it is that I need from the laws they are passing.

I cannot blame the law, when I haven’t done as much as I could do to ensure that the changes I need are being made. And that doesn’t begin and end with complaining – it includes constructive criticism, yes, but also solutions – real ones.

Let me be clear, I know of several families (real ones), that have been helped by the Affordable Care Act. I do not deny that we truly need access for all to health care, and health insurance, as well.

I guess it’s time I get to working on my suggestions for solutions, because I definitely have a problem.

The life of George…an update

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated on George’s story. And for those that have been following along, you’ll be happy to know that kindergarten has been going great! We’ve only missed 9 days so far, which in George’s world is pretty remarkable. And only once was it a pretty serious illness…but no hospital stays.

We had a check up at Mayo in October. The pediatric neurologist is amazed with our progress. She cannot believe how far he has come. We had a repeat MRI and the gaps in his brain that they have been concerned about have not grown any. Some serious miracles here, folks. Science and God…together.

Every day at Mayo, George would stop and say the Pledge of Allegiance to this flag. He's one amazing little kid.

Every day at Mayo, George would stop and say the Pledge of Allegiance to this flag. He’s one amazing little kid.

The last two weeks have been a bit more difficult. George has had some tummy issues that we can’t quite figure out. We’ve had an ER trip, a few docs visits…and it seems to be getting worse, not better. But we were able to get in to see a doctor this afternoon and we have a plan – and for some reason I always feel a little better when we have a plan. And if things aren’t looking better by Friday, well, then we are looking at another plan.

On day 2 at Mayo, George wore his Ninja Turtle sweatshirt. One doctor came up to him and shook his hand, and told him it was a pleasure to meet a real super hero. George is definitely MY super hero!

On day 2 at Mayo, George wore his Ninja Turtle sweatshirt. One doctor came up to him and shook his hand, and told him it was a pleasure to meet a real super hero. George is definitely MY super hero!

But with everything that has been going on, I’ve become a bit difficult. A little sensitive. Sleeping less. Needing more. Just not myself. I’ve lost a bit of my focus.

And then tonight, it all came sharply back into focus.

George was sitting behind me in the suburban on the way home. Today I had woke up late, managed to get the kids ready, worked, had rearranged schedules so I could squeeze in a doctor’s appointment for George, drove 45 minutes to the appointment, then back for two parent-teacher’s conferences, listen to my 10-year-old explain how a schoolmate had told him that he’s growing too fast that he’s going to die, talk to him about bullying and coping techniques, went to a book fair, gave my son some meds…and we were finally on the way home.

In the two minutes of silence that we were blessed with, George asked, “Is heaven fun?”

I didn’t know how…or if…I should respond. Why was he asking? Was he having dreams? Had he been hearing me talking to his doctors at Mayo? Had someone else been talking near him?

So I carefully said, “Yes, I am sure it is. But why do you ask?”

He said, “I just want to be sure I can play there when I die.”

Silence.

I couldn’t say a word.

My 5-year-old made me speechless.

I sometimes get so wrapped up in the minutia of life…and I forget the big picture. And then George will say something and it will be like God tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me that in the grand scheme of things, the destination is much more important than the scenery along the way.

I do not know how many more tomorrows George has ahead of him…nobody knows how many tomorrows they may have. Yet I know that George faces a few more obstacles than the average person. But he faces those obstacles with more bravery and courage than I could ever muster.

 

Why I put myself out there…

It was brought to my attention recently that perhaps I don’t spend nearly enough time explaining to people why it is that I’m involved so passionately about advocating for agriculture. It does seem to take a lot of time away from other things that I should be doing.

Yet, without someone willing to stand up and speak out about those issues that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart, where would we be? Could someone else do it? Sure. In fact, I know that there are people all over the area that could be doing what I’m doing. And I would love to see them become more active.

My question is: Will they? Will you?

And if not, then I need to keep moving forward, until those of us that are willing to show our operations, willing to answer those questions, willing to explain why we do what we do are much higher in numbers and much louder in volume.

It’s a simple case of mathematics. Those actively involved in agriculture are way lower in numbers than those that are not. Which means that laws that are passed, advertising that is created and articles that are written are disconnected from the one place that everyone should be connected to…our food.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there, to “open your barn doors,” so to speak. It’s not easy to let people in and open yourself to questions and observations. Yet it’s necessary. We are no longer in a society that is alright with the answer, “I know what I am doing.” They want to see, they want to understand, they want to know that what they are putting on the table is okay.

Let's celebrate food...and food choices. For the first step is being able to provide.

Let’s celebrate food…and food choices. For the first step is being able to provide.

 

And it is. No matter how you raise your crops, what type of operation you have. The United States has one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world. Yet those that are responsible for providing that staple are the ones quietest about what they are doing and how they are doing it.

We can’t sit back and watch as the world is shaped around us. We have to be actively involved. And it’s not for our benefit.

I have four young boys. And I have hopes and dreams that perhaps one day, if I am lucky, and if our world is lucky, one of them will want to be involved in agriculture. It’s up to me to make sure that their future is secure.

And I cannot do that by sitting quietly by while other people are out there trying to explain how I’m not doing my job right.

Farms are ever-changing operations. They are not the farms from yesterday, and we’re not yet a farm of tomorrow. But we’re doing the best that we can and we’re doing it, not for ourselves, but for the future.

I put myself out there for them.

The future of our farm...the future of your food...lies here.

The future of our farm…the future of your food…lies here.

 

But I’m here to answer questions from you.

Burning the midnight oil

Literally…it is 11:30 and I am processing beets to freeze.

I need my head examined. Seriously.

But for those of you that know me, you’re not too surprise now, are you?

I figured since many of my friends are amazed at the amount of food that I freeze/can/prepare for winter, I would give you a quick rundown on how to freeze beets. It’s easy. Really easy. Not sure if it’s lets-start-this-at-10:30-at-night easy, but we’re going with it.

1) Wash beets. Leave 2 inches on the top and the tap root. Trust me. You want to cut them off, I know, but don’t. Or you’ll have enough purple dye to make royal robes.

A big 'ol bucket of beets. The last of our garden fare. Ready to hit the freezer.

A big ‘ol bucket of beets. The last of our garden fare. Ready to hit the freezer.

2) Boil beets until you can stick a fork in them easily. I could pretend to give you a time, but it all depends on the size of the beet. Some of these bad boys took an hour. You do the math.

3) Put cooked beets in cold water, peel off outer layer. Dice, chop, slice, leave whole, however you want to freeze them. Place in freezer bag (easiest), vacuum seal, however you wish to freeze them.

4) Freeze them. (Usually in a freezer of some sort…but it’s October…and North Dakota, so that’ll become optional soon.)

Hey, what do you know, I become a bit sarcastic and snarky at midnight. Lesson learned.

😉

Don’t worry, I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow. I promise!