Thursday, September 18, 2014

Giant food processor

I'm not a big machine girl.  The other day I really laughed on the phone with my friend, because about 15 minutes into the conversation, she said, "Did I tell you I got a new car?"  I said, "No - and so funny that you didn't mention it until now."  She said, "I actually got it last week."

So that gives you a little insight into my level of machine interest.

However ... you know what's interesting to me?  Really powerful machines.

I rode with Kris in the chopper today.  It's fun, because the chopper takes these big, giant, strong stalks of corn, and chops it into tiny little bits!  So tiny, they're then blown into a wagon!

I find it all amazing.  Just watch this:

Fun, right?  Powerful!  The entire plant is shredded in seconds!  (I suddenly sound like an infomercial for a food processor.)

It's small, digestible, and the cattle love eating it. We put it in a pile, let it ferment, and feed it to them until the next harvest.

But all of it - the readying of the soil, the planting, the fertilizing, the worrying about too little or too much rain - the harvest is the payoff!  What you can't see in this video is that the corn is as high as the chopper cab.  We had a great growing season for corn, and it's going to give us a lot of feed.  All good news.

Plus, this machine is cool.  I'll bring this up in any phone conversation tomorrow by at LEAST minute 14.

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, September 16, 2014

Jump with Jill - brought to you by Michigan dairy farmers!

Today I went to Oakview Elementary School in St. Johns for Jump with Jill - the "world's only rock & roll nutrition show!"

They start with a salute to Michigan dairy farmers, processors, and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan.  The show is all about eating healthy and exercising.  They sing, dance, and have tons of audience participation.  The kids loved it!

It's fun to go a show and know the people on the banner ... see yourselves, McCunes and Gaspers?  (Fellow Michigan dairy farmers and friends!)

They had kids and teachers come up and dance ...

The PE teacher, Joe Matulis, won a free show for the school.  Here he is with the cast!

The kids danced, and since this was an elementary school, ALL the teachers danced, too.  It was great!

Do you see how cool this milk is?  Sunglasses?  Cannot get any cooler.

They treat dairy farmers like rock stars, too.

Great promotion, great show, and great fun!

The videos are here if you want your own little nutritional dance party right now.

Meanwhile, back on the farm ... Kris chopped corn the entire day.  This will continue for the next two weeks.  After chopping, the boys and I helped him with calf chores.  Inexplicably, the boys wore their nicest school shoes, but assured me they would "dry overnight."  After the boys went to bed, Kris went back to finish calf chores ... he offered that I could do them and he could go to bed, but I told him I'd let him do them.  I had a blog to write!

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, September 15, 2014

MSU tour

On Friday, we hosted another MSU tour!  For a few years, Dr. Miriam Weber Nielsen has brought her animal science classes for a tour.

This tour is always fun, because the students have a ton of detailed questions.  Many of them are from farms, and many of them were wearing shirts from farms where they currently work.  

In this group, not only did they have great questions, but about ten of them stayed after to talk with Kris to get even more specific answers.   

Once I looked up while I was talking and saw one of the students had a cat on his head.  The cats were all getting lots of attention.  Who knew cats would be even more popular than calves?  ...Other than YouTube.

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, September 12, 2014

Faces of Farming & Ranching

Today the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance announced the eight finalists for their Faces of Farming and Ranching ... and I'm one of them!

They wrote, "To help put a real face on agriculture, USFRA has selected these standout farmers and ranchers who are proud of what they do, eager to share their stories of continuous improvement and who are actively involved in sharing those stories in public and on social media." The article is here.

This is the second year that they've held the nationwide competition, and the four winners last year spent the year representing agriculture at various events around the country.

This year, there was an extensive application process, a video requirement, references, and even letters of recommendation from agricultural organizations of which I'm a member - it was like college all over again!  They're coming in a few weeks to film me on our farm.  They'll then take that video ... and this is where my dear readers come in.

Yes, there's an online vote!  A quarter of the judging counts on how many votes our videos garner.  So on Oct 24-Nov 2, you'll be able to help me win the chance to represent agriculture at a national level.  I'll post the details then!

Thank you, as always, for reading about our farm.  I'm so happy to be able to share what we do on this little farm with the neighbors, the township, the country, and the world.  That's fun stuff for a farmer's daughter, farmer's wife, and dairy farmer like me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Night in pictures

Four times a year, we chop alfalfa and cover the pile with plastic and tires to store it.  (Then we do it for corn!) We finished last night, which was great because it rained today.  The chopper worked great.  

To give you an idea of how big the chopper is, I have a quiz question:

Kris filled up the chopper with diesel fuel.  How many gallons can the chopper tank hold?

If you guessed 290, you're ... a farmer with the same chopper!  Congrats!  

My boys rushed down to the barn to help put tires on the pile.  

I laughed out loud when I watched Mike lift this tire.  Like nothing!  Some people do this as a workout!  We should invite them to the pile covering.

The boys are still working up to that level.  Sometimes it's two kids per tire.

After I took this Max said, "That was my farmer face."  

Part of the reason the boys love putting tires on the pile is that we all hang out and have pizza afterward. I love seeing everyone, too. 

Afterward, the five of us went to do calf chores.  (That's how we say 'feed the calves.'  This is the way my family has said it as long as I remember.  Does everyone say it like that?)

Since I had my camera from the pile covering, I let Cole and Ty use it.  They took some good pictures like of us feeding:

And 84 of Max playing with the cats.

Kris took us home and the boys all said goodnight to him before he went back to finish chores.

Another alfalfa harvest done.  The cows must have known ... we had five calves born today!  We also bought 18 bulls and put them in with the herd ... let the cycle continue!  I'll keep taking pictures.

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, September 3, 2014

Big smiles, big chopper

Our last chopper lasted longer than we thought it would, but it was time to get another one.  After weeks of shopping around, phone calls, negotiating, and trading ... it came today!

A chopper is a machine that harvests crops.  It takes giant cornstalks and chops them into tiny little pieces to feed the cattle.  So powerful!  We also chop alfalfa and other grasses with it (also to feed the cattle).  You put different heads on it depending on the crop you're harvesting.

Kris said to me that last year, harvesting corn wasn't as much fun as it's supposed to be.  He said, "You're chopping through the fields of corn, you're putting up tons of feed - it's usually really fun!"  But last year, they kept having to stop early to work on the corn head, and there was the constant worry hanging over his head of more last-minute repairs being needed - besides the repairs we'd made earlier.

So this season, with a more reliable chopper, hopefully it'll be more fun for all the guys.  It's different, for sure, and a bigger size, so there will be lots to learn.

But at least one boy felt comfortable with it right away.

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.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chocolate milk, please

Our co-op - Michigan Milk Producers Association - donated chocolate milk to give out at the end of the Farm to Fork 5k today.

The race put on by Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers, which is a St Johns-based company - it started near our house, and now has an international presence.  The Bancroft family donates a lot to the community, and the money from this race went to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

The race went through corn fields, peanut fields, and even a field of sunflowers.  They had a great turnout! Tons of our neighbors were there and ... lots of them were farmers!  Farm family after farm family, lots of farmer age group winners, a dairy farmer team running ... people we rent land from to farm because their parents farmed ... it was a good showing by farmers today.

The boys and I handed out chocolate milk at the end, along with another dairy farm family neighbor.  I love seeing people drinking down nature's recovery drink!  (I drank mine in 2.5 seconds.)

Thanks to Liquid, Alex from MMPA, and all the volunteers!  Nothing like a run through the fields - and chocolate milk - to start off a morning.

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.