Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The 12 (Years) of Christmas

I was looking back at our Christmas cards for the last 12 years we've lived on the farm - which is also the same amount of time we've had children.  So for the 12 days of Christmas ... here we are!  

In 2007 we quit our jobs, moved from Connecticut to Michigan, bought the farm, and had twins!  Kind of a big year.

Then came 2008! I said in our Christmas letter that we put in an irrigation system, knocked down a silo, and had a great year for crops, which is what's showing in the picture - a towering cliff of corn!
Kris is very critical of this past-pile because we do it all differently now.  : )

Those santas got bigger! They were two. The fact that they were both looking even near the camera was a win.
This was our second full year on the farm. We gave a lot of tours to our friends, because we all had kids this age!

And then we were five. Max was born in 2010. This is also when I started Truth or Dairy!

On the fifth day of Christmas...
In 2011 we built our new calf barn. Not that raising calves in a 100-year-old barn wasn't fun, but it wasn't as convenient as you might think. : )
I also wrote my first book, Every Other Twin Book is Wrong, because I was afraid I would forget all the things about babies as my kids got older. I totally did.

This picture was not taken in December!

Kris spent a lot of 2012 planning for our herd expansion, which included building a free stall barn and manure lagoon.  I still love the word lagoon - so exotic!

On the seventh day of Christmas...we added 200 cows to our herd, built a barn and modified another 
one, and went to milk meetings around the country.

Our friend Andrew Jenkins (Canfield Jenkins House of Photography) took this picture in our yard. I was the only person in this picture who wanted this taken. The other four had questions like 'Why are we doing this when we have a million pictures?' Because I just want a nice one. 'Why can't I wear this sweater that looks just like yours?' Because you would hate me for it later.

In 2014, I won the Anderson Olympics. A lot of other seemingly important things went on, like installing a manure pump and becoming a Face of Farming & Ranching, but that was the first and probably last time!

Obviously I just picked a picture from the summer...at a spot where we spend a lot of time, and where everyone was wearing exactly what they wanted.

We all tried to represent what we liked doing best - farming, climbing trees, Legos, games, and running.

I love that we were able to feature the classic glove in our Christmas celebration.

I listed all of our likes and dislikes. Max's dislikes were: "Wearing clothes, going to bed."

Three years later - Max is still never cold.

We indoctrinated our children, and it even shows in our 2017 Christmas card. They were all super excited for this one.

We went back to Andrew Jenkins, and this time it was wonderful.  Everyone was game.  We actually have real smiles too, because my brother Gage was standing behind Andrew making us laugh!

And ta da ... 2019! 

This year, we had the weirdest, wettest year ever on the farm. Not only was it the worst weather for crop farming in 12 years, it was the wettest ever.  We all knew it, and the National Climate Report confirmed it.   (We're standing in one of our corn fields.)

Luckily, it all turned out okay, and it's been lovely and warm this week. You can never depend on the weather on the farm, but I can depend on our wonderful team members, family, and Kris.

Merry Christmas from Truth or Dairy, and thanks for following along. Santa will love his milk and cookies tonight...and here's to a drier 2020!

Thank you, as always, for reading.  I so appreciate you coming along in our farm journey.  Next year my resolution is to do more videos.  To subscribe to our YouTube channel, go to: youtube.com/timelytv

Friday, November 29, 2019

School, Uganda, New Orleans, Snow, and Thanksgiving

Nearing the end of another year! This one, by far, was the wettest year we have ever had. When we were at Thanksgiving dinner last night, my mom commented on how much corn was left in the fields. I made a joke about "Hashtag Things Farmers Say," but it is sad and true. Let's hope for some solid ground soon.

I had the delightful opportunity to go to Mrs. Damon and Mrs. Austin's classes at St Joseph Catholic School, like usual!  That same week I hosted visitors from Uganda.  Courtney Ross from GreenStone Farm Credit Services brought two members of the MSU Professional Fellows Program - Piloya Innocent and Kevin Atimango.  Both women are working on promoting and improving agricultural production and marketing, including direct sales, in Uganda. As a result, their questions were different than most visitors - much more on the business side, and incredibly interesting. They came for a farm tour on one of the coldest, windiest days.

Kris attended the National Milk Producers Federation joint meeting in New Orleans, and I tagged along. The meeting always has a dairy bar, and I took full advantage of trying all the different pizzas and milk flavors!

We got snow early, but now it's gone. It makes everything at the farm take longer...but it's so pretty.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. We ran the Turkey  Man Trot in Lansing and had dinner with my parents. It was all fantastic. We are especially thankful for our hardworking team.

Here's a story...three nights ago Kris got a call that there were some cattle in the road. We were just about to eat dinner, but I hopped in the truck with him to go help. We found them where cattle normally are...four of them in a group, by the feed, trying to get back in. They went in easily as soon as we opened the fence. (Easy for two people - hard with just one!)

I told Kris there are no animals I know as well as cows. They are pretty predictable. Just like people in a kitchen...everyone likes to hang out right next to the food!

Tomorrow is December. Here's to a wonderful holiday season with lots of butter, cheese, whipped cream, more butter...and standing right next to it.

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.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sweet as sugar...beets

I went on an awesome tour of the Michigan Sugar beet processing plant in Bay City, Michigan!

I interviewed Elizabeth Taylor, Ag Relations & Communications Manager at Michigan Sugar for the Michigan Grown, Michigan Great podcast I host for the Michigan Ag Council.  (Just how many times can I say Michigan in a sentence?!)  If you'd like to hear it, plus the other 80 + interviews, they are here:  https://michigangrown.org/podcast/

Elizabeth mentioned they had tours, so my friend Julie (Bay City native and willing travel partner) and I immediately booked one.

It was fascinating.  I absolutely love seeing how everything works, and this tour was so interesting!  Like a lot of factories, pictures weren't always allowed, but I did take them where I could.

First, we drove up and saw all the trucks unloading sugar beets. 

They float on water - so debris and rocks and such fall to the bottom - into the plant, where they are washed, cut into hash brown size, and the evaporation and crystallization steps happen.  (For all the details, go here: https://www.michigansugar.com/growing-production/from-seed-to-shelf/)

My favorite part then happened, and we loved it so much, we watched it twice.

The crystallized sugar is spun around in a centrifuge, which spins out all the brown molasses that didn't crystalize.  It was like magic ... it was like brown, in a spinner, then suddenly it was all white, perfect sugar. 

The bagging part of it was also cool, because it was the same exact sugar going into different bags.  Kroger, Meijer, Great Value, Pioneer - we watched them all bagged!  (Jessica, our lovely tour guide, said that people often ask her why the sugar brands have different prices.  She said that for instance Wal Mart buys so much Great Value sugar in bulk, that they get a lower price than another seller who isn't purchasing as much does.)

We got to taste test sugar right off the line, both brown sugar and white.  Funny thing, though I love sugar in food, I don't really love tasting it straight.

I loved the control room where you could see all the amazing technology behind the process, also.  The people working were all friendly and answered our questions, too.

We went to Cream & Sugar, a new ice cream place supplied by Michigan Sugar and Michigan Milk Producers Association.  Julie and I got ice cream flights and it was some fantastic tasting ice cream.

I love a farm tour!  If it ends in eating the product, all the 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. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Fall, falling, fallen


It's a - ready for it - rainy fall!  The living in a rain forest life has continued.  It affected our alfalfa harvest, too.  Even though there was no rain in the forecast, it rained plenty on our hay after we cut it.  However, it dried and we managed to get a good fourth cutting.

We're looking to start the corn harvest, but it ... keeps raining!  What an unusual year.  I should stop being surprised, but it's so different from the other years I've lived here.  I watered my flowers twice this year - twice!  Many years I watered them daily.  Now let's imagine that at a farm level.  

When I'm not talking about the rain ... I do a lot of podcasting with different farmers: https://michigangrown.org/podcast/

including with a teff farmer, the owner of a cider mill, a state rep, and a winery owner!  It's really fun talking with everyone and learning about different farms and interesting people.

We're looking forward to corn harvest, the cows are doing well, and we're working and going to the boys' fun activities all the time, as well as hitting Michigan State football games.  It hasn't rained DURING a game yet, so we're happy about that!  And of course, with the weather you do get spectacular skies.  I've seen more rainbows this year than any in my life.


Saturday, August 31, 2019


Two great guys, Burt and Dale, asked me to do social media for AgroExpo, the awesome farm show right in our backyard!  It was and is wonderful working with them.  Here's my press release following the show:

AgroExpo 2019 Promotes Technology, Education, and Networking

ST JOHNS – On August 13 & 14, over 2700 attendees gathered at the fourth annual AgroExpo, the largest agriculture trade show in Michigan. Held at the North Central Research Station in St Johns, the two-day event provided agricultural demonstrations, speakers, and exhibits.

The show focused on providing resources for production farmers. The demonstrations on sprayers, remote soil testing operations, and drones exhibited the latest technology in agriculture. The speakers offered education on current issues like risk management, increasing yields, nutrition, insurance, and estate planning, and listeners were also able to receive CCA and RUP credits. The 130 vendors met with the attendees to highlight their products and services, as well as answer questions.

New this year was the addition of the FFA student competitions. The FFA Crop Management Challenge gave FFA students the chance to plant a plot, plan its growth, present it to the judges, and answer questions. The FFA Tractor Operators Contest featured students demonstrating their knowledge about zero-turn lawnmowers, standard lawnmowers, and a tractor with a trailer, and then maneuvering the machine through a narrow course.

Congratulations to winners Caleb Hackett (Centreville - 1), Micah Sprague (Durand - 2), Dakota Sutter (Chesaning - 3), Colton Schwartz (Centreville – 4), and Garrett Cook (Perry – 5) for the garden tractor competition, Tracy Slieff (Durand - 1), Travis Swift (Cedar Springs - 2), Garret Andrejack (Corunna - 3), Colby Shettler (Byron – 4), and Colin Munsell (Fowlerville – 5) for utility tractor, and Brian Frye (Byron - 1), Daniel Sprague (Durand - 2), and Jonathan Sayles (Bay-Arenac CC - 3), Marc Hendzel (Perry - 4), and Travis Swift (Cedar Springs - 5) for zero-turn. Crop Management Challenge results will be announced at the Great Lakes Crop Summit in January 2020.

“I really enjoyed having the FFA students here this year,” said Dale Ruff, AgroExpo Event Coordinator. “It was a great addition to the show to have first their crop competition, and also their driving competition. The attendees enjoyed watching them, too. Driving that equipment isn’t always as easy as it looks.”

Organizations like the IQhub and the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture provided educational opportunities for children attending the show. The booths featured hands-on activities for kids that were both farm and entertainment-focused.

The crowd of food trucks, the Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram truck test drive opportunities, the flyovers, and the general attitude of the attendees gave the entire show a jovial atmosphere.

“We’re already planning for next year,” said Burt Henry, AgroExpo Industry Relations and Promotions Manager. “We talked to the vendors and the attendees, and we’re always looking at how we can make it more valuable for everyone. We’re really thankful to everyone, including the sponsors, for making it great. With everyone’s input, next year it’s going to be even better.”

The 2020 AgroExpo is scheduled for August 11 & 12.




As for the farm, it's busy as always.  Rain, harvest, things breaking, things getting fixed, heifers getting out, heifers being put back in and spoken to seriously for not listening about getting out, kids in school, construction projects, and action all the time!  

It was one of the best summers of my life.  I'm sad to see it go - but the excitement of fall is here, and all the fun to go along with that!  Soon there will be more rain, harvest, things breaking, things getting fixed ... you get the point.  

I share more pictures and news on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, if you're inclined to use any of those.  

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Hot, dry, amazing July

Wow, what a different type of spring we had.  It rained and rained and rained and ... you get the point.  Since you can't plant a field when it's muddy, we could only plant our corn two days.  One the last week of May and the next - June 19.  We planted a field just this week to sudax, which we'll let the cattle out in to eat after it grows. 

We are very lucky that we have light ground, and not a lot of it, so that we were able to plant.  The devastation of the rain is far-reaching.  The government has declared an emergency, farmers simply haven't been able to plant, and the consequences of this will be felt for a long time.  For instance, crop farmers can't plant, which means they can use the insurance they bought, but they won't be able to make a profit.  Dairy farmers can't plant, but they need to feed their animals, so they need to buy it SOMEWHERE.  Prices will be high, high, high, because demand will be more than supply.

Amazingly, it's already dry.  The creek is low and the corn looks like it could use a shot of rain.  Weather!  What can you do? 

We've been able to do two cuttings of alfalfa, and that went really well.  So, sometimes it cooperates.

It's been doing super well in the sunset category.  Every night we're home we watch it, and it's impossible for me to not take a picture of it. 

Enjoy your hot, dry, and pretty July!


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. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Michigan Good Food Fund

Have you read your Michigan Dairy Cattle News Summer Issue?  (What?  No?)  Now's the time!  I have an article in here about the Michigan Good Food Fund, which provides financing to food enterprises.  So if you're thinking of starting, expanding, or enhancing a business...here's a good place to start. You can read the issue here