Thursday, December 8, 2016

Headed into winter

What a month!  We had the annual Michigan Farm Bureau meeting, where Kris was on the policy development board.  We traveled to see my siblings in Kansas and Oklahoma, where we did another Team Chocolate Milk race and visited a farm with goats and chickens!  (I fed a goat and held a chicken.  Two firsts.)  On the farm, we're making changes all the time, as we head into winter.

One of the biggest - the heifers are all set up with the feed pad:



But this week when we got our first snow, they got SUPER excited and got out.  When it was just Kris and me getting them in, it seemed really hard, but our neighbors, team members, and my parents all came out, and they were safe back home in no time.



As we head into the Christmas season, I'd like to express how thankful I am for all of my readers, near and far.  Thanks for reading! (And for those of you who came to chase cows, thanks, too!)

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Spider webs blanketing the fields

See how many incredibly rural components there are to this next sentence ...

When we were driving home from our first 4-H meeting in Kris' truck, we noticed that the pasture was blanketed with spider webs.  The sun shining on it made it look golden.  When we got to the farm, we saw that every tree and every weed - as far as you could see - was covered in spider webs.

(Rural, right?)

How many billions of spiders made these?  Does it have something to do with the warm weather and no frost?  Is it because of the fog this morning?  How can it be that I had NEVER seen this before?

I tried to take pictures, but I had to take them into the sun to make the webs show up, and it didn't work very well.

All the gold is spider webs, covering the ground
                                                           
After awhile I gave up and just enjoyed it.  We all went for a run/bike/stroller ride and I stressed to the boys I'd never seen this before and they might never see this again.

I looked it up and saw tons of pictures of this happening across the world.  This picture is off the internet from here, but it looked kind of like this, only with the sun on it:
                                         

I googled things like 'why is the ground covered in spiderwebs?' and found this article:

***

"What’s causing the blanket of silk web covering parts of a field in a residential neighborhood is a migration event called “ballooning.” What happens during ballooning is that spiders disperse by shooting out threads of silk. These threads catch wind currents that transport these members of the Linyphiidae family forward several feet at a time.

...“This would explain the fact that thousands to hundreds of thousands may take off at the same time,” explained  Susan Riechart, a professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and former president of the American Arachnological Society, to The Washington Post.

“Caught by the air currents, the spiderlings have no control over where they will land, but it is not surprising that they may fall in the same area," said Dr. Riechart.

Such ballooning events are not unique to Memphis. They can happen all over the Northern Hemisphere – and have been spotted in Britain and Australia – but scientists don’t really know why and when.

Ballooning is simply, “a spectacular natural history occurrence," explained Robb Bennett, a spider expert at Canada’s Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, to National Geographic.

In 2012, for example, record rains and flooding in News South Wales, Australia, caused millions of wolf spiders to shoot their silky way to safety up trees and bushes, covering the city of Wagga Wagga in white."

(Of course 'Charlotte's Web' came to mind.  But most importantly ... )

"Though events like this are understandably unnerving to people, they’re an indication of a healthy ecosystem. Memphis residents might feel consoled to know that these spiders feed on many agricultural pests, which is beneficial for farmers.

“I would not want to live in a world where such things were no longer possible,” Reichling from the Memphis Zoo said. “The presence of these spiders tells us that all is well with nature at that location."

***

So this article basically is telling me that this occurrence happened as a benefit to us and that all is right with the world?  I don't know when I've liked an article as much.  I'll take it!


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Monday, October 24, 2016

October glory

A lot has gone on this month ...

NUMBER ONE -

I would be remiss in not making this number one, since my dad AND mom have been working really hard on it.  We're building a concrete feeding pad for our heifers to eat off of over the winter.  It required concrete pouring, welding, bolting, digging ... and we really appreciate all of the work!

             

Funniest thing about this:  My mom texted me and asked if I could go help dad bolt boards, because she had dropped one on her foot the day before and it hurt.  I said I wasn't home, but could go later. She said, 'Don't worry about it.  I'll go.  It doesn't hurt that much."  (Are my parents tough or what?!)

NUMBER TWO

Everyone on a farm has a role, and part of mine is public relations.  This month I've gone to the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, TX with U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, hosted a tour of MSU students, and visited St Joseph Elementary and Oakview Elementary to do dairy lessons.



Funniest thing: We spent at lot of time listening to people who have never produced anything talk about how farmers are ruining the world.  And yet, every single one of them ate food produced by these same farmers ... Later, I was reading a preschool class a book about where food comes from.  It outlines each food in a lunch box from where it's grown, to how it's processed, and how it's shipped.

After each food, I'd say, 'So where did it come from?' and this adorable little boy would answer, 'From the store!' (He would have fit right in at the conference!)



Also, I ran my first race as a member of Team Chocolate Milk!  Since I love chocolate milk and do love refueling with it after races (and ... just drinking it because I love the way it tastes), this is really exciting!  More of these to come!



Funniest thing: There were cider and donuts after the race, (it was at Andy T's, so perfect for that!) but no chocolate milk.  I had to go purchase my own to make this truly chocolate milky.

NUMBER THREE

Another part of farming for us is being a part of policy work.  Kris is on the Michigan Farm Bureau's state Policy Development Committee.  This is one of eight ag boards Kris is currently serving on.   That was three days this past week, and then he spent another day at a United Dairy Industry of Michigan meeting.



(This is a picture from the Michigan Farm Bureau site. I don't follow him to his meetings and take his picture.  I swear.)

Funniest thing: Kris came down in his suit and Max said, "Where are you going?" Kris said, "I'm going to the barn, of course."  Max looked so shocked.  (These kids are still easy to fool.)

NUMBER FOUR



It is a gorgeous fall.  You can see our cattle here, across the road from our house.  It's been warm, it's been sunny, and the leaves are glorious.  It's the prettiest fall ever.

Funniest thing: I say this EVERY FALL.


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Monday, October 3, 2016

Doctors - pay attention. Humans aren't affected by bovine hormones & mammals drink milk.

After very wet Agri-Fit Challenge race!

I got an email from my friend -

"I took my son to the dermatologist yesterday. It was his first time ... trying to help his skin out. The doctor said that he needs to drink skim milk at the very least - and he would prefer organic milk due to the hormone content.  We drink skim from Moo-ville (which tastes more like 1/2% to me) or 1% from Meijer.  I thought I remembered you saying in a blog that it wasn't true that organic was better, but I wasn't sure if that was due to hormones or antibiotics.  Can you clarify this?"

Rest assured!

First of all, in Michigan, farmers don't give their cows hormones to help them produce more milk.  (We never have on this farm, either.)  When farmers did it in the past, there was no way to tell the synthetic hormone from the natural hormone, because cows already produced it.  (So there was no test for it.)  But when consumers didn't want it, farmers stopped using it.  In Michigan, that happened in 2008.

All milk - organic and conventional - has hormones in it, because it is coming from a lactating mammal.  Organic and conventional have the same.  BUT!  And here's the important part that the dermatologist didn't know ...

Humans do not have receptors for bovine hormones.

It's not me saying it - it's scientists.

Dr. Terry Etherton: “There are zillions of protein hormones in both plant and animal foods. They are digested in the stomach, which kills their ability to have any biological activity." Best Food Facts

Another way to put it, from Science Blogs: Aetiology by Tara C. Smith, is:

“Studies have shown that human and bovine milk normally contain small amounts of growth hormone. After ingestion, growth hormone as any other protein in milk: it is digested into its constituent amino acids and di- and tripeptides. There is no data to suggest that BST present in milk can survive digestion or produce unique peptide fragments that might have biological effects.

Even if BST is absorbed intact, the growth hormone receptors in the human do not recognize cow BST and, therefore, BST cannot produce effects in humans. … Overall studies show recombinant growth hormone cannot be absorbed intact through intestine and even if small amounts get absorbed, there is no receptor for bovine growth hormones in humans.”

Or from the American Cancer Society:

"Neither natural nor synthetic BGH has been found to affect human growth hormone receptors."

Let me also add that these are naturally-occurring hormones, which all milk has, because it comes from lactating animals.  Hormones aren't just present in milk - they're present in all types of food. For instance, look at this chart about estrogen from Allen Young, Utah State University Extension dairy specialist and associate professor:

                                                  

So, my answer to my friend was that skim and whole have almost exactly the same amount of hormones, but it didn't really matter anyway, because humans aren't affected, since they're digested. This obviously is not a hot topic in dermatology classes.

*****

Second!  A pregnant (and ag) friend texted me, "Just had OB tell me I don't need to drink milk ... ever.  That it had as many calories as ice cream and we're the only mammals to drink it after weaning ... it was all I could do to smile and nod."

(She is obviously much more agreeable than I am, since I would have to switch doctors after that.)

First, milk does not have as many calories as ice cream unless you're eating super crappy ice cream. Get the full fat ice cream.  It tastes a lot better. (Scan in my house - Calories: cup of skim milk 83, cup of whole 148, cup of ice cream 286.)

Second, the whole 'humans are the only mammals to drink milk' makes me laugh every time I hear it.  Anyone who says this has never seen cats waiting in the milk house for the waste milk.  I've seen cats drink milk my entire life.  If you look online, you read things about the "red billed oxpecker, a bird that can perch on the udders of an Impala and drink its milk.  Elsewhere, in Isla de Guadalupe, feral cats, seagulls, and sheathbills have been observed stealing the milk directly from the teats of elephant seals."

But what I find humorous even more is ... we're doing things lots of mammals don't do.  Like farming fields.  Should we all only forage for food?  Shopping in grocery stores.  I NEVER see a tiger at the checkout.  Making pies out of fruit and vegetables like rhubarb that are only tolerable when sugar is added that a human grew in a field of sugar beets, packaged it, and sold it in a store in a bag. Using the internet, writing books, driving cars ... I NEVER see mammals doing these things.

Why aren't other mammals doing these things?  Because they would find it very difficult to hook up the milker.  These opposable thumbs are amazing.

*****

Of course, we all know and love and need doctors, but it doesn't mean that they are all experts on everything all of the time.  It's always nice to do your own research.  I wrote this while eating ice cream AND drinking milk.  My skin is clear, my stomach feels great, and I am one happy mammal.

Previous blog posts on these topics:
Does milk make girls develop faster?  No.

What's the difference between organic and conventional milk?  Process, not product.

Why does organic milk have a longer expiration date?  It's heated up hotter.

Sources:
American Cancer Society
Best Food Facts
Dairy Council of Utah & Nevada
Science Blogs


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Natural Food Products Expo East


I went to Baltimore's Natural Food Products Expo East as a rep for U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance.  Staff member Allison Garriga and fellow rep Jay Hill went, too.

First, there were the sessions we attended, like 'Vitamins and Supplements: Going Non-GMO', 'The Organic Center Presents: Combating Antibiotic Resistance', and 'The Plant-Based Foods Revolution: Sowing Seeds for Climate Friendly Eating.'  In one, a panelist described conventional farms as 'concentration camps.'  During the question and answer session, I said that I was a dairy farmer, and I knew a lot of farmers, and I didn't think it was fair to call farms concentration camps - because we're all trying to do our best for our animals and our farms.  I then asked if they gave any advice to farmers who weren't organic farmers.  He apologized for using the term, and said that in this conference he figured he was 'preaching to the choir'.

Next, there was the supplement trade show.



To be completely fair, I feel good mostly all of the time.  (If I didn't, I'm sure I'd feel differently and would do and take anything in order to make myself feel good.)  So that's what the supplement part of the trade show promised.  Magic pills to cure every ill.  One booth was even set up like an old drug store.  You'll be healthier!  Stronger!  Better hair, skin, life!  I left the area and told my friend, "We're all going to die! Where's the ice cream?"

I found it in the last section, the food trade show part.

Here, there were many kinds of wonderful ice cream (I had to sample them all to be fair), beef jerky, fermented drinks, vegetable noodles, dates, some things that didn't look super appetizing ...


But the product that most got my attention was the bacterial spray.

I know what you're thinking.  Everyone knows about anti-bacterial spray!  No.  This is BACTERIAL spray, as in, you spray bacteria on you.  It's Mother Dirt, and their site says it is for "replacing essential bacteria lost by modern hygiene and lifestyles."

The farming lifestyle gives you tons of opportunities to pick up lots of bacteria!  I feel like we're all set with manure and dirt.  I'd say we have enough to go around.

Just in case, though, I brought my products home.  There's shampoo!  Lotion!  Cleanser!  If ever I feel too clean, I'll spray some on.  In the meantime though, the bacteria at the barn is calling me.


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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Thank you to our neighbors, the best around!




I posted this on Facebook, but I also wanted to share it on here ...

Once again, our neighbors went above and beyond! Brett Feldpausch saw we had a flat on our wagon and were having a tough time with it - on an angle, soft ground, full of corn - so he and Glen came with their giant loader and spent an hour helping us fix it!  Fergusons produced traffic cones and traffic barrels to make it safer for everyone!  My dad took this picture while they were waiting for the loader. Thanks so much to the Feldpauschs and everyone for all of your help!  So, so kind of you.

The day before, Rex Ferguson also stopped - on his way to haul loads for us - to help mom and me with a fence and a heifer that had accidentally gotten into the wrong field.  

We are just so grateful for all of our neighbors and friends that are looking out for us and always ready to lend a helping hand.  Milk toast to everyone!


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Agri-Fit Challenge - year three



The Agri-Fit Challenge is my favorite race.  I look forward to it all year.  It's also the hardest race I've ever done - harder than my marathon or triathlons - and this year was the hardest of all!

It's a 5K interspersed with farming-based challenges.  The obstacles change every year.  Though I don't have many pictures due to rain and distance, this year we had to:

- Climb over round bales
I learned from the first year that I have to wedge my foot in between the bales.

- Run through a mucky pond
I actually fell and so I crawled through part of it.

- Mud run and crawl under ropes
I hit an electric fence with my spine last week.  Good practice.

- Carry a 50-lb bag of soybean seed around cones.
I started on my shoulder and moved it to my hip - like carrying a big kid!

- Pull a tire over and back a painted line
This made me laugh, because last night the boys and I were trying to move a big tire and couldn't ... but if it had a rope attached to it like here?  Better.

- Run up a steep muddy hill
- Climb up and down a wall with boards nailed to it
- Run through drain pipes
- Run over small square bales
- Scale some black, wet crates
- Climb up, through, and down a grain truck filled with sugar beets
I slipped and a volunteer yelled 'DON'T FALL OUT!' I think I scared him.  Also, I would have probably fallen on him.

- Jump over a fire
You could go around, but ... seemed more fun to jump over it.

- Slip on the slip and slide right before the finish!

The run through the narrow path in the woods is actually what makes it the hardest.  This year it was super slippery, and it's so incredibly twisty that I am always afraid that I've gone off the path and will just be running for miles.  You're usually alone, and that intensifies the feeling!

And what made this year even more fun was ... they had a kids race!  My boys have loved watching me in this race in past years and were so excited to do it.  They had a shorter run, but did a lot of the same obstacles - climbing round bales, tires, drain pipes, steep muddy hill, grain truck, fire, slip and slide ... it was SO fun watching them and they loved it!  Since they do live on a farm, there were also a lot of activities that are very familiar to them.

Like Ty yesterday on the farm ...


and Ty today:


And a normal day:


And at the race:



We all had chocolate milk afterward.  (Big surprise.  It's my favorite post-race drink and I'm sad when any race doesn't have it, so I just go home and drink my own.  This race was stocked!  Thanks, Cathy McCune!)



My parents came to cheer us on in the rain - and thanks to them for the pictures.  Kris had planned long ago to go to the MSU vs. Notre Dame game - so he was having a blast, too!



Thank you so much to Gratiot Area Chamber of Commerce and all of the volunteers and organizers for the most fun, hardest, and farmer-friendly race around!  See you next year!  We'll be in daily training ...


Home game
Away game

   




  


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