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.

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!

A game of “I Spy”

Let’s see if you can spy what I am thankful for today:

Come Halloween, I'll be happy that these guys grew!

Come Halloween, I’ll be happy that these guys grew!

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A little treat for late-summer dessert.

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These guys are just hanging around, waiting to be supper!

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Sometimes life needs a little spice.

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A perfect snack, any time!

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Just starting to turn red.

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Coming soon to a pickle jar near me!

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A new addition to our garden…and a scrumptious one as well!

Embracing the science behind cropping technology

As I mentioned previously, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to St. Louis last week to meet a few people that I admire greatly. Today, I’m going to tell you about Mark Lynas, a former anti-GMO activist, and the information that he shared at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. (Check out the whole presentation here!)

I was lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Mark Lynas give a presentation in St. Louis last week. The opportunity was an amazing one indeed!

I was lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Mark Lynas give a presentation in St. Louis last week. The opportunity was an amazing one indeed!

Mr. Lynas started out with a humble statement that it was hard for him to believe that an apology could make someone skyrocket to fame. Yet, he sincerely was sorry for the destruction and set-backs he may have caused by standing in the way of authentic scientific research by destroying biotech-research sites.

He wasn’t proud of what he had done…but what troubled him the most was the fact that he was so willing to buy into what the other activist groups were selling. It was concerning to realize that he would ignore the science behind biotechnology.

Science. The facts are there, but how long will it take until we believe them?

Science. The facts are there, but how long will it take until we believe them?

Lynas grew up determined to see a more equal world. Poverty is a terrible thing to witness, an even more terrible thing to stare in the face. Trust me, once you’ve lived with hunger…true hunger…you’ll never forget that feeling. Ever. And I do have to agree with him that we have seen great progress in our time in the reduction of poverty across the globe. Yet, I do believe we can all agree that we have a lot more work to do.

As Lynas said during his presentation, “I knew how everyone else should live their lives.”

Isn’t that the truth? Isn’t it so much easier to determine what everyone else should be doing? And how difficult is it to admit that our preconceived notions may be incorrect? That what we’ve determined to be our “truth,” may be anything but?

Lynas now works mainly behind the scenes, to help in the battle for food security. He knows that scientists need to start standing up and speaking for themselves. We cannot continue to dismiss science or destroy tests before the research is completed.

Does that mean that we should jump into biotechnology and genetically modified crops without hesitation or questions? Definitely not. Caution is always prudent, and surely mistakes will be made along the way, but we cannot keep looking back, we need to move forward to provide for our growing population.

Using technology can help ease hunger around the world.

Using technology can help ease hunger around the world.

“Being anti-science is being anti-humanitarianism.”

 

So where does this leave us? Do people have the right to know what’s in their food?

Of course. Questions will always be present, and people who make purchases have the right to determine what they want to buy. But as Lynas remarked, “On the other hand, we can’t stamp a skull and crossbones on every label.” And those at the market shelves should be well-aware that places such as Whole Foods are making a great living by thriving on the fear surrounding GMO foods. In fact, it’s one of the most successful marketing ploys today.

Overall, the few hours that I was able to meet Mark Lynas and take in his presentation will go down as one of the most memorable mornings of my life (right after the birth’s of my four boys!).

How do I sum up my whole experience? Well, I believe that I can quote Lynas directly on this one:

“You don’t stop learning when you leave school.”

Amen.

I know that not all of my readers agree with me on the biotechnology issue, and that’s quite all right by me. But please, if you choose to leave a comment, keep it positive and offer solutions, not just blame the establishment for your lot in life and threaten my farm or family. In the near future, I will tackle the religious side to the biotechnology argument. And it may or may not surprise you! Thanks for reading, and come back soon!

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!

 

Mandible mayhem

WARNING: This post may be graphically upsetting to some! (Consider yourself warned)

Really.

No, it may not be a pretty sight.

Well, actually, it’s not that bad, just makes you feel a little bad for the poor thing.

Here’s the scoop: on Easter Sunday Boss Man’s amazing sister and her husband were out helping Mark with a few of our sick calves. Sick calves happen sometimes, but we wanted to have an expert’s opinion (or opinions in this case) and wanted to make sure that the treatment protocol was correct. (Did I mention that my wonderful sister-in-law and her husband are BOTH veterinarians? We are so very, very blessed!)

While out in the lot, looking at the calves that weren’t feeling so hot, they came across one that seemed to be a bit more out of sorts than the others. And quickly realized that this calf was in need of help.

broken jaw, veterinarian, healing a calf

The calf is sedated (which is why it looks so loopy) and the x-ray showed what the vets knew to be true, the jaw is broken.

So, our vets took over and loaded the calf and the cow up in our trailer and hauled it the 2 1/2 hours to their office. And there they did an amazing job fixing it up, so that within a few weeks this calf will be completely healed.

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.

The feeding tube was placed so that we can make sure that the calf is getting all the nutrition that it needs. It’s free to suck from the cow if/when the calf is up to it, but all healing needs proper nutrition. Every day, Boss Man milks the cow by hand, and feeds the rest of the milk to the calf through this tube.

You may be wondering what happened to cause the break, and although we didn’t see it happen, we can about guess. It appears as if the calf was kicked by one of the cows. Now, it could have been its own mother, not liking something that was happening when the calf was sucking, or perhaps the calf was trying to suck off another cow and ended up kicked? We’ll never know for sure, but all we needed to know was that the calf needed help.

So, is the calf sickly and moping? Does it spend its days in the barn? Not at all. Its outside, enjoying the spring air on the farm, coming in at night to be fed and rest in the barn. It is in a more secluded pen, but there are other calves and cows with it.

calf with broken jaw

This calf is now ready to come back to the farm, all fixed up! We’ll be keeping an eye on it, making sure healing progresses, and recheck in a few weeks!

As you can see, the calf is perky and was ready to make the trek back home. Isn’t it amazing what can be done?

I want to really thank our wonderful vets for taking such amazing care of our herd, even from so many miles away. I know just how lucky we are to have such a great team.

And don’t worry, I’ll keep you up-to-date on the progress of this calf. It already looks a ton better, just from the swelling going down!

As you can see, we go the extra mile to make sure our cattle (and calves) are cared for…but we’re open to answer any questions you may have, so ask away!

Where our water goes – farm efficiency

March 22 is World Water Day, and I thought it would be fitting to explain how the water on our farm works…it took me a long time to understand just how amazing our system is, and I am excited to try to explain it to all of you.

First of all, let me start with a disclaimer: I don’t really know the proper terms for what I’m trying to explain, so although my wording may be off, just hang with me. I’m not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m simply a farmer, a farm wife, a mom, trying to share a really cool piece of information. If you have questions, I certainly can attempt to answer, or better yet, find someone who can answer them!

Digging out the pipe to fix a leak...it's not really that far down.

Digging out the pipe to fix a leak…it’s not really that far down.

That being said, let me tell you about the water that provides for our family, heats our home, heats our shop AND waters our cattle…all at the same time.

We are fortunate to have a third-flow artesian well. That means that our water comes from deep within the ground. It is very hard water, but it’s an amazing source. We have done all that we can to ensure that our resource is not wasted, so we use it for many, many things.

This is our home...all supplied with an amazing source of water.

This is our home…all supplied with an amazing source of water.

When the well brings up the water, the first thing that many people comment on is that the water is warm. It comes out of the ground at about 72* F. No, I’m not kidding. When my kids have water fights in the summer, it’s almost like having a water fight with bath water. The biggest problem? You will never get a cold glass of water out of the tap. Ever.

Our well water actually heats our home. If you understand the wonders of heating systems, we have a heat pump (if you’re really interested in learning more, you can read about it from Wikipedia here). Basically, the heat from the water is transferred and forced through our house in the heating system. It’s a wonderful source of heat, and we never have to worry about propane, fuel oil, etc. The only downfall is that occasionally the system can be overtaxed, and can’t keep up (imagine when it’s -30* outside and 40 mph winds). We do have an emergency electrical backup heating system, but rarely need to use it.

The water not only is used to quench our thirst and heat our home, but then it makes it way to our shop floor, running through the coils in the cement, heating the shop to a balmy 42* in the dead of winter. It may not seem like much, but it’s an amazing improvement from the cold temps outside. Boss Man did put in a small furnace, to help keep the place warm when the big doors need to be opened several times a day.

So where does it go once it’s heated the shop? Well, we’re not done quite yet. The water then is piped down to our barn area, where it fills our water tanks and keeps our cattle satisfied. And remember the temperature that the water comes out of the ground at? Guess whose water tanks rarely ever freeze up? The continual flow of water keeps things running smoothly…well, most of the time.

And at the end? The water goes to a series of tanks, and eventually returns back to the earth…in the same condition it began.

An amazing cycle, indeed. And every day I am so very grateful for such an amazing gift!