There are no rules in farm ball

So tonight I switched up my workout a bit. The elliptical wasn’t going to cut it. It’s been one heck of a Monday, filled with unneeded drama, day-to-day stress and this issue I’m having with a recurring dream.

Have I mentioned taking a few college courses, the fact that rain has delayed harvest and that I missed my 11-year-old’s first ball game tonight?

The whole point? Not much, really. Just letting off steam, and since this is my blog, I certainly can do that. 😉 Who am I kidding, this blog has long since left the realm of a private rant! (Not complaining, not one bit.)

So instead of sitting on a machine in the warmth of my house, I braved the rain, ran out to the shop and played a little farm ball. Now that harvest is stalled because of the weather, and mostly because what farm shop isn’t stacked with machinery and what-not, playing ball in the shop isn’t like regular basketball.

Nope, you have to make up your own rules, call your own shots and award points and rewards accordingly…and you need to know when to call the game.

So, here’s my lesson for the night…let’s see if you can find the deeper meaning:

Sometimes you have to take an outside shot...sometimes from behind the Gehl cutter. Double points if you don't break out the glass in the tractor.

Sometimes you have to take an outside shot…sometimes from behind the Gehl cutter. Double points if you don’t break out the glass in the tractor.

Hitting a three is always a challenge in basketball. Now hit one from behind an air seeder. It's not just the distance you shoot from, but the obstacles in your way and whether or not you make the shot, no matter what you're facing.

Hitting a three is always a challenge in basketball. Now hit one from behind an air seeder. It’s not just the distance you shoot from, but the obstacles in your way and whether or not you make the shot, no matter what you’re facing.

The only triple in this shot was the tractor I was standing behind. Follow-through is a must in the game...basketball or otherwise.

The only triple in this shot was the tractor I was standing behind. Follow-through is a must in the game…basketball or otherwise.

Your obstacles don't have to be something new, and your answers don't have to reinvent the wheel...use what's in front of you. You won't be the first tackling that particular problem, and you most certainly are not the last. Even if your problem is the size of an old Massey Ferguson combine. Get the job done.

Your obstacles don’t have to be something new, and your answers don’t have to reinvent the wheel…use what’s in front of you. You won’t be the first tackling that particular problem, and you most certainly are not the last. Even if your problem is the size of an old Massey Ferguson combine. Get the job done. (Oh, and doesn’t everyone have an old fridge in their hay shed?)

Most importantly, know when to say when...and tonight it was losing the ball under the combine, and not wanting to go after it. Sometimes it's not worth getting dirty over...

Most importantly, know when to say when…and tonight it was losing the ball under the combine, and not wanting to go after it. Sometimes it’s not worth getting dirty over…

 

 

 

 

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Val’s Farm-ous Lasagna

When I think about my hours spent in the kitchen on the farm, my first instinct is to grab my lasagna pan. Whenever we work cattle, have a crew out to help or need to work together on a project, I know that I can never go wrong with the cheesy, meaty greatness that is my “Farm-ous Lasagna.”

So here it is…AND I have a crew to feed it to today!

This is what we’re doing:

This is corn that has been chopped and will be used this winter to feed our cattle. We have a crew of 7 here today to help us get our feed ready!

This is corn that has been chopped and will be used this winter to feed our cattle. We have a crew of 7 here today to help us get our feed ready!

And I’ll be sure to explain it more later.

But for now, here’s the recipe:

Val’s Farm-ous Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • ground beef, browned (I use 1 1/2 pounds of meat, but not everyone likes their lasagna THAT meaty, use your discretion.)
  • 1 can pasta sauce
  • 4 cups shredded cheese of your choosing (I prefer the pizza mix, because it melts so yummy!)
  • 1 22 oz. container cottage cheese (I use low-fat…which is almost laughable because of the amount of cheese in my lasagna, but I didn’t ask your opinion, now did I? 🙂 )
  • lasagna noodles, about 12, depending on your pan size, cooked al dente’ and drained/rinsed

1) Add pasta sauce and browned hamburger together in a skillet. I make sure it’s all warmed together before layering my lasagna.

This is how I start my lasagna, with a layer of sauce.

This is how I start my lasagna, with a layer of sauce.

2) Layer your lasagna: I always start with a base of sauce/burger mixture at the bottom, then a layer of noodles, then a layer of sauce again, cottage cheese and shredded cheese. Continue layering, ending with shredded cheese that covers the whole pan. (I use one package of cheese in the layering, and one package just for the topping…I like cheese.) Like this:

3) Bake at 350* for about 30 minutes, or until you notice the sauce in the lasagna starts boiling.

Can we say, "YUM!"

Can we say, “YUM!”

4) Enjoy! And perhaps consider hitting the gym for a little extra time tonight. The beauty of this recipe? If possible, it tastes even better as leftovers. Unfortunately, it’s been a year or two since my boys left us any leftovers!

* I am participating in Indiana’s Family of Farmers Table Talk Series and received a gift in exchange for my participation.

Table Talk Contributor

Just a glimpse

After a post that I wrote two years ago went viral, I’ve had a slug of comments from people across the globe. Most are encouraging and supportive, some are people with genuine interest in learning more, and a few are down right hilarious!

But then there’s the detractors.

You know what I mean, right? They point out inadequacies and make you feel guilty for not including everything. So here goes nothing…

A few have chastised me for complaining about my farm life, and have encouraged me to spend more time outdoors, standing next to my hubby than at the keyboard, lamenting about my spot in life. To those people, I must apologize.

I didn’t mean for it to sound as if I’m ungrateful or bitter or pining away at my kitchen table, dreaming of a moment stolen with my spouse (although, that does sound a tad bit more romantic than real life). My post was merely a moments entertainment, that somehow struck a chord with a few hundred thousand people, give or take.

And my moments spent with Boss Man? Well, I don’t usually publicize them. You see, those are my special memories, that I keep close to my heart and they keep me going when our worlds seem so crazy. But just to give you proof, here’s a little glimpse:

I'm on the cutting edge of blizzard fashion, I know.

I check cows…usually at night, mostly in the winter. He must love me, when I go out looking like this, right???

My husband's comment when I asked him to take a picture of us working? "If I take the picture of you, won't they wonder why I'm not working too?"

My husband’s comment when I asked him to take a picture of us working? “If I take the picture of you, won’t they wonder why I’m not working too?”

Cleaned up and off the farm...hardly recognize us!

Cleaned up and off the farm…hardly recognize us!

Pitching fresh hay in calf shelters. It’s more fun when you work together!

teamwork, farmwork

Working together…these moments mean the most.

 

Animal care – it’s what we do…an update

Last spring I wrote about a little calf on our farm that we found had a broken jaw. In some cases, it may have been considered a lost cause, but our vets are pretty special, and most farmers that I know would do anything to alleviate pain and suffering in an animal.

This is what “Darrel” looked like when he was in the process of being fixed (read the original story here):

broken jaw fixed on calf

The calf is still sedated, but the jaw is now aligned and secured to heal. Notice the feeding tube, so that proper nutrition can be maintained.

And I’m happy to say that this is “Darrel” now:

And this is the calf a few months later!

And this is the calf a few months later!

Injured calf on the mend

Even with a broken jaw, this calf was able to continue to get the nutrition it needed.

So why share such a story? Well, it seems so many times we hear the evils of farms and ranches that raise animals for food…and most of the times those stories are exaggerated, fabricated or taken out of complete context. But it doesn’t change the fact that our farm and farms just like ours do the best that we can, for each and every animal that we raise.

Including a small calf with a broken jaw.

Sometimes it doesn’t turn out like the fairytale we wish, sometimes the cause is lost before you even begin the fight, but as we weigh the benefits and the risks, the pros and the cons, we all have one thing in common: we want to eliminate needless suffering.

Sometimes that takes a round or two of antibiotics, sometimes it takes a call to the veterinarian and a surgery…and sometimes it means letting go and making sure that the animal is put to rest as quickly as possible.

But I will admit, I like the happy endings a lot better.

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.

How does our farm decide what to plant?

I’m tackling a few farming basics on my blog these next few weeks, for a variety of reasons: 1) spring still hasn’t showed up, delaying my ability to be outside and getting some of these very same things done, 2) search terms leading people to my blog are letting me know that there are a lot of these types of questions out there, and 3) I just so happen to have recorded some radio spots that answered these questions.

I decided to tackle our planting decisions as the first in this series. Why? Because with the late spring, our decisions may be changing rapidly. But in order for you to understand the process, I’ll start at the beginning and walk you through it all.

The next year’s season begins as we’re taking the crop off. (Actually, the plans are in the works for years before, but harvest kicks off the next planting cycle.) Boss Man has a general idea of what he would like to plant, where he plans on planting it, and what the soil conditions will need to be like in order to be successful.

combine, harvest

EJ, watching his Dad and Grandfather harvest a crop a few years ago. We have since upgraded from the Massey combines to green machines!

Shortly after the crop is off the field, our crop consultant performs soil tests to see where our soil stands, as far as nutrient needs and potential for the next spring. That’s how we find out what amenities we may need to apply, for example nitrogen, phosphorous, etc. It’s pretty scientific, but we can rely on the expertise of those around us. Kind of like taking kids to the doctor to see what’s wrong, but instead of our kids, it’s our soil we test.

Many times seed companies have discounts or incentives that make it worthwhile to purchase your seed early. That way they know what types of seed may be in demand the next year, etc., and they can better prepare for the coming spring as well.

Now, let me be clear with one thing. Although different companies may offer incentives, the decision lies solely with our farm.

I know that some believe that seed companies bully farmers or push them into making different decisions, but I have yet to encounter anything of the sort. In fact, most of the seed representatives in our area are local farmers themselves.

farm freebies

Freebies, such as the hat on Boss Man’s head, may seem like great perks…but they don’t play a role in the decisions we make.

On our farm, we diversify. We buy a variety of seed from a variety of places, and make decisions for the next year based on how the crop performed and the availability at the time that we order.

But that’s also all done in pencil…meaning it may change.

Take, for example, this spring. Here it is, the end of April. And we still have snow on the ground. The weather isn’t much above freezing. It doesn’t appear as if field work will happen any time soon. Before too long, some of the crop decisions that were made last fall, may end up being changed.

late spring in ND

A recent storm dumped an extra 20 inches of snow on us. It’ll be a few days before we can even think about planting anything!

Why is that?

Different crops are planted at different times, ensuring that they have a long enough growing season to fully mature before harvest. It’s similar to planning a garden. You know you can plant peas throughout the season. They grow fast and mature quickly. Yet, tomatoes are more finicky about their care and need more time to produce fruit.

corn plant

We do what we can to make sure our crops have the best change to produce a great crop!

The same is true for crops. Corn and wheat are planted earlier in the year. They need more time to mature. Soybeans can be planted later in the season. They grow more quickly and can perform very well with a later plant date. The same is true for all of the crops that farms grow. Each one is different, and the current conditions may change a farmer’s whole plan for the year.

So the next time you hear that one company or another controls a farmer’s decision on what they plant, you can let people know that you know that’s not true. The ultimate decision lies with the farm.

Well, actually, it’s a much higher power than that, but the farmer is the one whose name is on the dotted line.

What does Earth Day mean on the farm?

Today is April 22, 2013…Earth Day. A lot of people talk about how important today is, but I believe that it’s important to consider the earth and its resources every day.

So how does our farm celebrate Earth Day? Well, to tell you the truth, we don’t. No, today is not a special day. We continue to use our resources as wisely as we can, making decisions based on what our land needs, what we have available and what is best for the future…just as we do every day.

But what does that entail? Let me show you.

seeding wheat, residue

We try to limit the number of passes we make on a field with equipment. Notice the residue on the field? That’s the crop left over from last year. It breaks down and gives nutrients back to the soil. With our late spring, we won’t be in the field any time soon.

crop consultant, analysis, soil samples

We spend a lot of time going over information that’s been collected through soil samples, analysis and watching forecasts. We work closely with our crop consultant to make decisions that are best for our farm and its future.

new calf, straw

All safe and warm inside, no matter what’s going on outside, thanks in part to the wheat straw used for bedding! It’s a farm version of recycling!

Our heating system on our farm is also a great way that we save resources and limit our impact on the environment. The water from our well heats our house, our shop and also waters our cattle! Read more about it here.

Right now spring has yet to show up here in North Dakota, so we’re working on getting our equipment ready for planting. By making sure our equipment is ready, we’re able to use less fuel, make fewer stops, leave our tractors running less often and are able to use our time the most efficiently. But sometimes you have to call in some outside help:

light saber, farming

EJ thought that the planter needed a little extra guidance last year.

force, light saber

Yes, the force was with us.

I guess it’s never too early for the next generation to start adding in their ideas for modifications! 🙂

These are just a few of the steps we take to make sure that we’re doing our part to conserve resources. We know that we need to take care of our land, so that the future of our farm is secure. Happy Earth Day, everyone!