Friday, February 20, 2015

Popular Pork & Poultry


The kind people organizing the Pork & Poultry Symposium asked me to speak.  They said they've been trading off pork producers and poultry producers and - wild card!  Throw in a dairy farmer every once in awhile.

Like most farmer get togethers, it was a great time.  No matter the specific industry, we all have a lot in common.  

They told me that the chefs at the Lansing Center really go above and beyond incorporating pork and poultry into every bite.  I bet it's a fun kind of challenge - different than the regular meeting!  

I think this is what they meant by above and beyond ... you don't see this on every menu:




And every salad bar doesn't offer meat from two different sources, prepared at least three ways.


During the presentation, I showed one of my favorite pictures of our visit to our friend Brian's pig farm.  Could he look more skeptical?


Meanwhile, back on our farm ... super cold.  -15 this morning.  The kids were off of school for two days.  (I'm not really sure why.  I haven't talked to anyone who is sure why.  There is one thing we all agree on - we never got off for it being cold when we were in school.  Then we all take a moment to reflect on how incredibly old and crotchety this makes us sound.)

The cold is hard on the guys, the machinery, and the cows don't love it either.  It's another reason pork farmers and poultry farmers moved their animals into temperature controlled barns, a farmer mentioned to me.  

But ... spring is around the corner!  And it doesn't matter what kind of farmer you are - everyone's looking forward to that.  Well, everyone except the kids going to school.


If you want to know more about the farm, you can like my farm page on Facebook, follow @carlashelley or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday

1983
This is apparently completely appropriate chore attire when you're six years old and only have three calves to feed.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crazy ancestors

Last night Kris got home at 10:30 p.m. because the milk pump wasn't working correctly.  He was able to mess around with it and get it started again.  He got a text from the guys at 4:15 a.m. this morning - same thing.

It was -11 this morning.  Yes, -11!  What were my ancestors thinking?  I asked my brother, and he said their brains must have frozen.

So, the milk pump didn't work right.  The foamers (which we use to clean the cows' udders) froze. Kris fiddled with the air adjustment, and the guys milking had to shut the doors in between the cows coming in and out so they wouldn't freeze again.

The waterers for the cows were frozen, which is never supposed to happen, so Kris had to go around breaking all of them.

The vacuum lines - which make the milking units have suction - were freezing from the outside.  Kris had to pour hot water on them.

A cow slipped on the ice and hurt herself.  She's recovering ... a guy at church had done the same and torn his rotator cuff.  (Ice! So tricky.)

The skid steer won't start.

But other than that, everything is fine!  It's windy, it's cold, and we're all buckling down and trying not to go outside until this all blows over.  I mean, my ancestors weren't so crazy to settle here ... it's not like they picked Boston.



If you want to know more about the farm, you can like my farm page on Facebook, follow @carlashelley or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How long can you drink milk past the sell-by date?

On Feb 10th, I got a great text from my friend Trisha -

"Here's my milk question.  How long can you drink milk beyond the sell by date?  I'm drinking milk dated Feb 4 and my family is throwing a fit.  I secretly gave it to the kids last night for dinner and of course they thought they would be puking all night long once I told them!  (They didn't.)  I told them I'd ask the milk expert ... you!"

I replied, "Ha!  Here's a ref for them - stilltasty.com - the answer is: about a week after sell by date.  I personally do the smell test.  But honestly, this is not an issue in our house.  We finish every gallon in a couple of days!"

She said, "We usually do too, but we bought a new milk which got out in the fridge in front of the old gallon, so two days ago we found milk dated the 4th.  I certainly couldn't throw it out.  I've been sniffing it too - still good for breakfast this morning!"

All milk starts out a little bit different - slightly different components from different cows.  Then, there's the handling.  You expect it to be well cooled before you take it out of the fridge at the store, but did the kids leave it on the counter for an hour after breakfast?

The Dairy Council of California has a nice reference on this:

- Sell by is not an expiration date.
- Keep your milk refrigerated and sealed.
- Milk is pasteurized to kill bacteria, but it's still a fresh product that will go sour eventually.

But what it all comes down to, for all of us, is the smell test.  Like they write, "If milk has been handled well since your purchase and it passes a quick sniff test, you can confidently drink it past its sell-by date."

Growing up, we drank raw milk.  It was good for about one day - not really for two.  (Because it was not pasteurized.)  I always smelled the milk before I poured it on my cereal, and my nose was never wrong.  And if it was sour?  (Or slightly sour?  Sometimes I'd use it anyway ...) it won't make you sick.  It'll just taste a little sour.

Humans have a sensitized nose that allows us to judge food in this way.  Ever in doubt?  Give it a sniff.

Once we were in an airport and Cole had a carton of milk.  He immediately spit it out, and said, "That tastes like cat milk."  (Meaning the milk we put out for the cats to drink at the barn.)  Sure enough, I smelled it, and it had spoiled.

How did Cole know what cat milk tasted like?  Had he lapped out of their bowl with them?  I had to ask.  He said, "No, you can just smell it and know what cat milk tastes like."  

So!  If your milk smells like cat milk, toss it.  But you don't need me to tell you that.  But if you're eating at Trisha's house ... check the date, too!  Her kids sure will. : )

If you want to know more about the farm, you can like my farm page on Facebook, follow @carlashelley or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ice cream trend

I went to Puerto Rico with my super-fun traveling friends this weekend.  I enjoy checking out farming subjects in different places (like in Mexico, Oregon, and Costa Rica), and we even happened to have a taxi driver from a dairy farm.

Then, there was the tattoo.

We went on a boat tour to the islands off of Puerto Rico.  One of the girls on the tour had this cute ice cream cone inked on her leg:



I said, "I noticed your ice cream cone.  How did you choose that?" She said, "I had a friend who got one, so I decided I would too.  Because ... ice cream is awesome."  She said she was also going to add another scoop to her ankle to make it look like it fell off.

After telling her I was a dairy farmer and thought it was great marketing, I asked to take the picture.  I already couldn't wait to tell Kris about it.  We're part of the food process that inspires PERMANENT INK TRIBUTES.  

On the way home, I connected in the Baltimore airport.  While standing in line, I noticed that the woman in front of me had ... an ice cream cone tattooed behind her ear!

Since the leg ice cream cone was the first tattoo I've ever seen of a delicious frozen dairy product, I was so surprised to be spotting one again.

I told her I noticed it and it was the second time I'd seen that weekend.  I asked why she happened to get that particular image.

She said, "Well, I used to bake and ... I LOVE ice cream."

"Do you mind if I take a picture of it?" I asked.

"Not at all," she said, "but ... I have an even nicer one on my shoulder."  And she revealed:



This is a powerful food.  Do you, out there, have an ice cream tattoo?  Or a different food tattoo? Send me your pictures!  I'm curious what other ones are out there.  

And say goodbye to the island - 



And hello to rare frozen whiskers.  Of course she's a little frosty - where else would we get the ICE cream?




If you want to know more about the farm, you can like my farm page on Facebook, follow @carlashelley or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Big snowstorm!

From morning ... until night ... 

Sunrise

Moonrise
We cleaned up from the snowstorm.  We got a lot of snow - 11 inches recorded in Lansing, and a TON of wind and drifting.  Kris got up extra early to push snow so he could feed the cattle.

Here's an example of a drift he had to scoop away:


So he could do this, which is putting the feed from the pile into the mixer to take to the cows in the barn.


Did you know that cows, like a lot of animals, grow a thicker coat in the winter?  Look how shaggy our heifers look!  On their backs ... 



And on top of their heads.  I love this look.


When there aren't serious problems, everything on the farm is beautiful in the snow.  From perfect drifts, icicles and blue sky ... 


to curious cattle and pink cheeks.



Or no faces showing at all.




Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hoof trimmer - or, confetti party

I really wanted to show our hoof trimmer Sheldon at work before he left.  He's recently announced that he's selling his business to become ... a dairy farmer!  (Everybody's doing it.)

Why trim hooves?  It's like clipping toenails.  Big toenails.  If there are any problems, the hoof trimmer can also take care of them before they become a big problem. 

It starts by guiding the cow into the chute.  



After she's in, Sheldon shuts the gate behind her.  You can see she has two supports underneath her. They cradle her and lift her slightly so that he can work with her hooves.  



One by one, Sheldon takes a hoof, secures it, and trims it.  


First, he uses a grinder, which takes off the very outer layer of the hoof.  


This creates a FESTIVAL OF CLIPPINGS.  Every time he did this, there was a sudden snowstorm of nails.  My son yelled, "Confetti!"  They really shot high and far.  Even after I became accustomed to it, I got hit in the face. 


Just like some guys' bathroom floors I saw at college parties:  


Then he shapes the hoof.

 

If she has a problem area that's healing (like she used to have a wart) then he treats it.



We watched a long time until he came upon one with a wart.  (Glad they're rare!  We don't want warts, obviously.)  


He treated it with copper sulfate ...


Wrapped it up ...



And sent her on her merry way.  Eventually after it's healed, the milkers take off her bandage.


This is an 'after' picture of a trimmed hoof.  The discolored areas aren't problem areas, he told me. The hooves just wear away at different rates.


After we watched him do several cows, he said, "I don't know how technical you want to get, but I can show you what I'm doing over on this side."

On his side, he had a touchscreen computer that recorded which cow he was trimming, if it had any problems, and where the problem was.  That way, every time he came to trim, he'd have a record of any past areas to give special attention.


He pressed the hoof and area (10 in the picture) where she had the wart.  Since he serves many farms, he has a file for each of us.


Sheldon joked with my kids that he could trim their nails when he was done. The whole time was good - it's great for the cows and was super interesting.

And we even got a take home gift - a little hoof clipping that landed on Max's hat.  A nice fashion choice for today's dairy farm. Everybody's doing it.




***

If you want to know more about the farm, you can like my farm page on Facebook, follow @carlashelley or get the posts in your email by filling out the form on the right.