Thursday, December 28, 2017

End of 2017

Ah, I started this blog seven years ago this month, and I've gone from writing here every day to ... writing for work!

Our farm, our family, and our lives have changed so much in the last seven years, too.  It's changed even in the last year!  So, here's to a wonderful 2018 as we look back.

The biggest project this year was changing from sawdust to sand bedding.  Just saying that doesn't sound so hard, right?

Last summer we had a bad problem with mastitis.  We tried everything, and the next solution was to change to sand bedding.

However, this wasn't easy.  This would require modifying our only five-year-old barn!  We wanted to pay our builders to do it, but they wouldn't be able to schedule such a huge project until after the summer ... when the heat can exacerbate the problem.

So, nearly everyone on the farm, plus the boys and me, helped.  It required taking down the free stall dividers, breaking up the cement, pouring new curbs.  We needed to painstakingly remove the mattresses and reuse them as a base for the sand.  All of this took weeks of manual labor as well as using cement contractors.  As well as all the hard work by our team, Kris and the boys spent their free time doing it.  Finally, it was done, and even better - it really solved the problem!  Saying all of that in one little paragraph doesn't really capture the amount of work that this took, involving new drills that broke bits, buying a sand shooter, bringing truck after truck of cement, moving the cows around to accommodate the work, trying to get done before the cement people came ... ah.  I'm glad it's done!

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Cow Walk
Another big project we completed was a cow walk for our cattle.  We built it for them to enter the milking parlor, so we could have even more free stall space in the barn.

This project also had great results, as it gives us more barn space!  The cows liked it too, except one that did not want to walk in the new way.  She eventually accepted that this was what was happening, and moved with the rest of the herd!

We are very thankful for the team we have working here.  It's not always easy to find people who want to work on a farm, and we're very grateful to these great people!  I know I say this a lot, but it affects our lives each and every day, and we're so appreciative of our wonderful team.  Also new this year is that Kris is on the Michigan Milk Producers Association Board, which means he goes to more meetings, which in turn requires replacements here!  So thank you, this year and every year, to our farm team.  A special thanks to my mom and dad, who are the best volunteer workers this world has ever known!  My mom fed calves for months and my dad does any driving or running or hands-on-things we even mention, and words can't express our thanks enough.

As for me, I have the farm, three or four other jobs, and these kids I like to see.  I love sharing about the farm and appreciate you taking the time to read all these years.  Here's to a wonderful next year, full of milk drinking, cheese eating, and ice cream parties.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ag Business and Katie Eisenberger!

In January of 2011, Kris, our 3-month-old Max, and I went to Atlanta for the American Farm Bureau meeting.  

While we were there, Atlanta experienced quite an ice storm.  Great footage here.  There were no flights, no restaurants or museums were open, and the hotel workers even had to stay in the hotel because no one could go home.  (In fact, on the day we were trying to take a train to the airport a car nearly slid into Max and me in the street.  SO MUCH ICE!)

As a result, we spent a lot of time with the other Farm Bureau members there and got to know them very well!  One of them was Katie Eisenberger, and we've been friends every since.  She's also the daughter of a dairy farmer, and after careers at MSU extension and as in insurance, she's now an agriscience teacher at Breckenridge High School!

Katie is one of those teachers that you absolutely just loved.  We all had them.  It was obvious from the way the students acted.  She's easy to love!

Katie asked me to talk in her Ag Business class today about how to communicate with people, how to share your story, and about blogging.  The students were great (hello all), and it was incredibly enjoyable to talk with them!

Out of the class only three of them were from a farm, and one girl whose family runs a greenhouse talked with me about how ... she knew there was a lot that went into a greenhouse, but until you're DOING IT, you have no idea.  

We discussed how each farm is different - we haven't been to a chicken farm ... she hadn't been to a dairy farm ... it's all just what's around and what kind of farmer you know.  Farmers don't know the details of other kinds of farms, let alone the general public knowing about every kind of farm.  

Just like the ice storm, when we were joking about why Atlanta had no equipment or salt - why would they?!  It almost never happens, so why have that expense for a once-in-50-years event?  You don't know everything that goes into it until you're the person responsible.

I went to the gas station by the school afterward, and the cashier said, "Are you a teacher?" 

I said, "No, I'm a dairy farmer."  

"Oh!  Well, thanks for feeding all of us!" he said cheerfully.  

And thanks to people like Katie Eisenberger, who are teaching all about it!  

Happy Thanksgiving, all!  

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanks, Mom! It's November ...

The cows used to have all of the calves in the summer, which made for some long and hard days ... like when 18 calves would be born in a day.

Kris thought that this year we would space them out a little bit more, so as a result ... we're still feeding little calves after our summer help went back to college!

My mom, the best volunteer in the land, offered to do the morning calf chores, and she's been great!  Kris and I don't know what we would do - or the calves would do - without her.

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While that's been happening, we've had a lot of promotion, too.  One day the United Dairy Industry of Michigan hosted their program advisor training at the Huntington Club at Michigan State.  This is my friend Karly who was a part of it - (she looks just like a college student even though she is married and has a baby!)

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I went to the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance annual meeting in Kansas City to continue our mission to positively promote agriculture ...

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And as a member of Team Chocolate Milk, ran a 5K in my hometown with my kids and friends.  Cole won his age group - first time! (Yes, he has been heavily influenced by watching Olympic winners bite their medals.)

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The five of us hit the national dairy meeting in California that Kris went to because he's a board member at our co-op ...

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and today was our Michigan Milk Producers Association Leaders' Conference.

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So you can see why my mom - and our employees that we actually pay - are such a huge part of all of this!  Thank you to all of them for taking care of things while we're not here.

Though it looks like we've been gone in November, we're actually here more than we're gone.  I just hit the highlights with these pictures.  The normal schedule for Kris is farm, farm, farm, farm, farm, farm, Michigan State football game ... but we just had the last home game!

The meeting was optimistic today, but I hope that the rest of 2017 and 2018 ... and beyond is only positive for farming!  Happy Thanksgiving - we all have a lot to be thankful for. At the very least, I'm already really looking forward to stuffing myself at dinner ... and my mom is, of course, making most of it.  Calves, kids, grandchildren ... she feeds all of us!

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Milk Means More!

Maranda is the WOTV 4 women, kids, and family expert. She hosts a weekday program called “Where You Live”.  She was at Fuel Up to Play 60, and yesterday they showed a nice little story on it on her program!

And something fun and different - she interviewed the boys! 

The feature is here: Fuel Up to Play 60 with Milk Means More & the Detroit Lions.  The video is the third one, called 'Maranda introduces us to Future Farmers of America.' 

Meanwhile back on the farm ... it rained for two entire days, and then it got cold!  It's always an adjustment when the weather changes, and it's been 70 and sunny for months.  We're still having calves, my mom is still doing calf chores, we're still milking cows three times a day ... now it's just all happening in different temperatures!  Thanks to our great team members who are all bundled up and ready.  The cows ... their ideal is around 50, so they're more comfortable than any of us.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What's the difference between organic milk and regular milk?

What’s the difference between organic milk and regular milk?

Nothing.  The products are the same.  If you have a glass of organic milk and a glass of regular milk, there’s no test that says – yes, this is one, and this is the other.  They have the same nutrients, neither of them have antibiotics, and neither of them have added hormones.  They are both GREAT.

It’s not just me saying it. There have been many studies – like by the USDA and the American Dietetic Association – that show organic and regular milk are equally nutritious and safe.

(Please see articles about how there are no antibiotics and no added hormones in your milk.  There are none in organic milk or regular milk.)

The difference is in the process, not the product.

Organic farms produce organic milk.  This means:

-The cows must eat organic feed, except minerals and vitamins.
-The cows must not be treated with antibiotics or added hormones or during their lifetimes.
-The cows must be allowed outdoor access for at least 120 days a year.

(You can read the regulations from the USDA here.)

Conventional farms produce conventional milk.  This means:

-The cows eat feed that benefited from technology, including fertilizer and weed and pest control.
We grow corn and alfalfa and sudax, plus we have our cattle on pasture, and we take pride in our crops!  It takes a lot of work to grow food for hundreds of cows.

-The cows are treated with antibiotics in the rare occasion one is sick. 
The milk from a cow treated with antibiotics never goes into the tank, and there are many, many safeguards to prevent this from happening.  NO ONE wants antibiotics in the milk.  Read about it here.

-The cows can be indoors or outdoors. 
We personally have our cows on pasture as well as indoors, but lots of farms have their cattle indoors in well ventilated barns, using all the latest technology on how to keep your cattle comfortable.  (Sand bedding, misters, fans, waterbeds.)  Conventional farms also adhere to strict government regulations and frequent inspections.  There's a small sampling here.

So the result is … milk!  

Some organic and some regular milk have longer expiration dates, and the reason why is because they are ultra pasteurized.  This isn’t because it’s organic, but instead because heating it up hotter for longer makes milk shelf stable for a longer period of time.  You can read all about that here.  Some is more expensive, but don't feel like you have to pay more.

Again, the milk that comes from farms, both organic and regular, is the same.  It still has nine essential nutrients.  It has the SAME amount of vitamins, minerals, and proteins.  It still has no antibiotics and no added hormones.  And most important to me … it tastes great.

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like milk, please enjoy cheese, ice cream, or yogurt!  Or just pick some up for me.  We buy skim, 2%, and whole and right now we’re out of ALL THREE.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fuel Up to Play 60 - with the whole family!

Yesterday was Fuel Up to Play 60 at Ford Field, and guess who came?  Eureka Elementary in St Johns AND my husband and kids!

The entire day was really well organized and fun.  Kris was a referee, and I was happy to once again be the emcee! 

First, former Detroit Lion Herman Moore spoke to the kids about exercise and eating a healthy diet that includes dairy.  Next. Rodney Lamar Page gave a motivational speech where he played violin, played an electric violin, rapped, and did beat boxing.  (He is a former St Johns music teacher, too!) 

Detroit Lion Tahir Whitehead played a nutrition trivia game with the kids.  Then the kids went down to the tunnel, got announced, and ran onto the field!  They did an hour of football drills with Detroit Lions players and coaches, including Eric Ebron and Miles Killebrew.  It was great fun watching them.

We ate a dairy-filled lunch, the student ambassadors talked, we had a super energetic speaker Kim Campbell (very good) and then we all headed back down to the field to have a press conference with player Ameer Abdullah, dance, take pictures, and play more football!

The pro-dairy, pro-health, pro-exercise messaging was great, the people were fun, and I was so glad to be a part of it again.  Thanks to Mr. Matulis, Ms. Foreback, and Mrs. Potter from Eureka for bringing the kids, and to United Dairy Industry of Michigan for putting it on!

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Mr. Matulis took some nice shots of the kids on the field.  Here are a few:

Monday, October 9, 2017

Chicago Marathon and Chocolate Milk

Well, THAT was an exciting race!

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I ran the Chicago Marathon yesterday, representing Team Chocolate Milk!  It was a great race, I got a PR, and I never got tired of people yelling, "I LOVE CHOCOLATE MILK!  GO TEAM CHOCOLATE MILK!"

Since it says it on the back, too, runners said to me, "There's never a bad time for chocolate milk!" and "I love your shirt!" 

Not only did I refuel afterward ... but at mile 20, my kids shared a couple of quick bites of their ice cream with me.  Creamy vanilla and Oreos.  It was much appreciated!

Thanks to all the volunteers, our relatives Tom, Melissa, and Amanda for hosting us, my family for cheering me on in person and on the phone, and Chicago an all-around great race.  That city is great fun.  We even took our kids to where we went on our first date - the top of the John Hancock building.  And look where all of this has led!

We're back on the farm today, and heading out for another dairy event tomorrow.  Enjoy whatever is refueling you today!  I ate a GIANT bowl of ice cream.  Two bites is good, twenty is even better.

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.