Not a laughing matter

A few days ago, a close friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook, directing me to a conversation that was taking place on a specialized sheep page. The message was shocking, and laughed in the face of all we’ve been doing to educate and show consumers where their food comes from…but it was far from funny:

You are a Joke! a Fraud! you can not sell meat! What you are selling is wrong! Meat comes from the grocery store meat departments where they grow it for us to eat. You are one sick individual who says you will sell lamb meat from those cute fuzzy animals! you are gross! Milk comes in a powder that the grocery stores mix with water! Why are you lying to people! you are a sick person who claims to sell meat, milk and cheese that comes from poor helpless lambs!

And no, I can’t make stuff like that up.

So why does it matter? It’s just one loon out there, shouting lies and slinging mud at whomever will listen, right?

Wrong.

One of the reasons that agriculture is being slayed in the media the way it is, is that for too long we figured that people would “get it.” That they would understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and just leave us alone to get the job done.

That’s not the case any more, and I don’t think it ever will be…and shouldn’t. We want people to have a connection to their plate, we want people to understand the power of their input at the grocery store. But they also need to understand that farms are businesses, we provide a product, we need to make a profit and we prepare for the future as well.

There must be a middle ground, a place where we don’t raise our voices, don’t shake our fists and don’t make it personal…I just don’t think we’re there yet. I read a comment recently that stated that farmers need to remember that they are more than just a farm, they are people, too.

Our barn is dated from when it was built. That's a history we can't forget.

But I have to say, from a farmer’s perspective, that’s pretty hard to do. It’s not just a building and some animals, this is our heritage and our family name. It’s the work of previous generations, resting on our shoulders to see it through to the next generation. And it’s up to us to be the communicators to protect not only the future, but the history of our farms as well.

The way I see it, the fact that we’re getting responses such as the loon above, and the other slew of media backlash, must mean we’re heading the right direction.

And if we’re willing to be talking, we better be willing to listen as well.

A case for genetic markers

Not so long ago, I wrote a post about how George seems to enjoy coloring himself from head to toe in markers. And I don’t mean just a little bit.

For Halloween, we'll be going as Smurfs.

After turning bath water several different shades of blue, green, black and orange the last few weeks, I was beginning to think that he had some strange sort of addiction to coloring on himself. (You know, like on that show where people say they HAVE to drink nail polish, eat chalk, etc.)

Well, I may have stumbled upon the answer…it’s genetic.

It appears as though 30-some years ago, this little blonde-haired beauty decided that she rather enjoyed coloring herself as well. Although, I like to think that I pulled off the look a little better.

Yep, he came by the habit honestly. Who would have thought this scene would be replayed 30 years later? Well, and on a little grander scale.

But that’s how it works, isn’t it? The next generation tries to find a way to do it bigger and better?

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.

The way to a boy’s heart…

Is apparently through his…feet?

Just a few minutes ago, the mailman brought a package to the door that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox. I had an idea about what it was, so I asked EJ if he wanted to open it…

and I have the happiest boy on this side of the county.

EJ opened new boots in today's mail! And they're "tractor boots." How cool is that?

 

Yes, I splurged a little, but not too much. They were on sale through Zulilly (I l-o-v-e that site, by the way) and they are John Deere boots. I knew he would love them, but I didn’t know that they come with a little surprise…

Box for boots, and a BARN!

 

The box that the boots come in turns into a barn! How cool is that! I had to fold some pieces together, but it’s all one piece, and I have one little boy in heaven.

Checking to make sure there's enough room for his tractors.

 

Now, normally I would buy his boots from a thrift store, or off Craigslist, or something like that. It’s not that we can’t afford to buy brand new boots, but really, let’s be sensible. If their main purpose is going to be walking through mud, riding in tractors and traipsing through a barn full of….manure…would it make sense to buy them new?

I’m pretty sure the cows don’t care. And Iknow that EJ doesn’t. But these were a special surprise, and worth every dime, just to hear the squeals of joy.

The box is even printed on the inside. "Just like ours, Mom!"

 

In a world where demands and “I deserve”s are heard more than thank-you’s, hearing my not-so-little boy exclaim with appreciation and tell me that he’s so thankful for his new boots…well, that’s worth it’s weight in cowboy boots.

And, no…they won’t be allowed in the barn yet, but I imagine they’ll make their way there soon. 😉

Thankful Thursday – Children on the Farm

Normally I don’t discuss a lot of political stuff and government-type news. We get enough of that every day, I feel. But this latest proposal hits close to home…in fact, it hits our family directly, and possibly yours, too.

The US Department of Labor has submitted proposed new “rules” regarding children under the age of 18 working agricultural and non-agricultural jobs. Some of them make sense, and seem almost silly that we need to have a law for it. (Who truly believes that a 16-year-old should be allowed to work with dynamite?) Yet others would severely affect our farm…and many farms across the country.

The proposed laws would eliminate children from the farm-labor work force, or at least not without proper training and certification. Sounds great, right? I’m all for more safety on the farm. But upon closer inspection, these rules do very little to ensure safety and do a lot to infringe upon farm families.

For instance, a child would no longer be able to pick up sticks and branches around the yard while Mom or Dad is using a chainsaw, or some other mechanical method to bring down trees and shrubs. (Actually, the child couldn’t be using ANY power tool…that would include battery-operated drills, screwdrivers, etc.) The only exemption would be if Mom and Dad own the farm wholly on their own (not in cooperation with someone else, including family). I know that not everyone is aware of this, but many farms incorporate and set up business structures, so that success can be shared throughout the family equally, same as expenses.

Is this the closest he'll get?

Another portion of the proposed rules states that a child under the age of 16 could not work “on a farm in a yard, pen or stall occupied by a bull, boar, stud horse maintained for breeding purposes, sow with suckling pigs, or cow with newborn calf (with umbilical cord present).”

Trust me, as a mother of four young children, our house already has laws and rules in place regarding what our kids can and cannot do, including not being anywhere near the bulls, staying out of the yard when the cows are calving, etc. But now would we be open to fines if our children were to go into the barn to feed the cats while cows were in the barn with their calves? (And just to clarify, there are pens that keep each cow/calf separate and out of the main part of the barn.)

EJ, keeping me company while waiting for the silage cutter to be fixed.

And yet one more silly section would make it against the rules for anyone under the age of 18 to even ride IN a tractor with someone who is working, or in the process of working.

How in the world are we supposed to educate and involve the next generation? What about those that don’t have farm backgrounds, but are interested in becoming involved in agriculture? How do we tell the next generation that we don’t want their help, until they’re adults? One thing I have learned quickly, raising four boys, is that the more involved I get them earlier on, the more they enjoy and want to learn about the farm. If you leave them out, where will farming be in 40-50 years?

Waiting his turn...his dad is in the tractor, his grandpa is in the combine. Is his future in jeopardy?

And what about 4-H?

The answer is not clear. Would children be able to show their animals if their parents weren’t direct owners of their operations? Would they be able to sell their livestock and receive the money for college funds, as so many kids in 4-H do?

My oldest two have found excitement and education in 4-H. Is that in jeopardy as well?

I understand the need to update regulations…the present set hasn’t been updated since 1970. Yet, can common sense come into play, please? They rattle off statistics of children that are injured or killed in farm accidents, but if you look closely, some of those statistics are misleading.

One such example they give is a 17-year-old who was illegally employed and was a fatality in an accident. The way I look at it, if the child was already illegally employed, then changing the laws would do nothing to ensure that child’s safety. Laws only protect those that follow them.

Yes, I’m all for protecting our children, especially those that live on or near farms, but we cannot protect our children while making their home off-limits and telling them that they’re not wanted, or needed, on the farm. That’s a disservice to all.

Comments on the proposed changes are being accepted through TODAY, please make your voice heard. Visit www.regulations.gov, it’s RIN 1245-AA06.

Today is Thankful Thursday. Today I am thankful that my children can be raised on our farm, in a safe and loving home. I’m thankful that I, as a parent, can teach and instill in my children the love and respect for the farm that it deserves. But it’s MY job to be a parent…not my government’s.

Wordless Wednesday – Corn Chopping (AKA Silage Cutting)

I was going through some of my older photos…and I realized that I hadn’t shared the shots that my 4-year-old took while we were driving truck for silage cutting.  Some of them are so funny, that I have to share.

EJ definitely has an eye for photography!

Today's post, brought to you by 4-year-old EJ.

 

 

Chopper at work...well, actually at rest, but getting ready to work.

 

 

Self-portrait. We'll call this, "EJ - Through the Looking Glass"

 

 

Chopper, at work again.

 

 

Up close shot of silage flying around.

 

 

Well, where would we be without our hands?

 

 

Had to get a shot in of his favorite person/mentor...Mr. Shorty.

 

 

Thankful Thursday – North Dakota

What? I’m thankful for the state I live in? Really? You betcha!

Yesterday North Dakota (and to be fair, South Dakota) celebrated their “birthdays,” or the day that they were signed into the union. And although I complain about the 40 below temps, 100 inches plus of snow and other wonderful issues that come with winter, I truly love my state.

First of all, we have a budget surplus. For those that don’t understand what that means, it means that we take in more money than we spend. Shocking. I know.

Second, we have more jobs than we have people to work. No, this doesn’t mean we have NO unemployed people, but there are definitely employment opportunities that are open, for many, many people. The key would be work ethic, responsibility and eagerness to actually work. It’s part of the reason that while much of the country is slipping backwards, we’re actually looking to the future and planning ahead. Another shocker. I know.

Third, I feel safe where I live. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t dangerous areas in ND, but right now, we’ve got it pretty good. And if you come in my yard, let me warn you that my two black labs will lick you to death if you’re friendly, but harass us, and they’re on their guard. And I hunt…if you get what I mean.

Our new puppy, Maggie, and our old foster-dog, Junior.

 

 

Fourth, I know my neighbors. Sometimes that’s not such a good thing, but for the most part, I feel blessed to know that if my kids are doing something they shouldn’t be, someone will tell me. It used to drive me nuts as a child, now I dig it.

Speaking of digging. Did I mention snow?

Now THAT's a snow bank!

 

 

Once upon a time, I tried to escape ND. I thought it was a mind-suck and a place that people came to die. I despised it, and everything it stood for. Thanks be to God that those times came and went quickly! I love my rural life, I love my prairie-dwelling companions and I wouldn’t trade it for the world…well, except for maybe a week or two.

Love sundogs and sunsets on the prairie!