Sunday, August 26, 2018


Want to get to know farmers in Michigan? Of course you do!

I'm hosting a podcast through the Michigan Ag Council and talking to interesting farmers around our state.  The first one we're featuring is Jed Welder, Army Ranger turned farmer.  You can listen to the podcast here!

Also this month ... we finished the fourth and final cutting of alfalfa this past week ... just in time to start chopping corn tomorrow!  Kris is very busy organizing all of the million things that have to go right to make this happen.  It's an exciting time of year and we're all happy and satisfied when the harvest is done.  Hopefully that will be this week, if the weather cooperates.  Every single farmer here is saying the same thing, every single year.

This month, for U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, I spoke at the Leadership At Its Best training conference in Raleigh, NC! This is a leadership development program sponsored by Syngenta for the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association. It was a great group of people.

As for the industry, there was big news that a dairy processing plant is going to be built right in our town.  Good news for all.  We went to the Ogemaw County Fair for the first time, as well as the Clinton County 4-H Fair for the perhaps 25th time. 

Our little calves that were born this year have now moved into group pens, because cattle are social.  They also enjoy watching kids ride on scooters, which is a little-known farm fact.

Aside from our farm, we've really been enjoying our neighbors' farms on Dewitt Road (Chants and Smiths).  Not only do they have sugar beets, which you don't see around here all the time .... 

Can you believe how great these end up tasting?!
but they also planted a beautiful field of sunflowers!  

I love driving by them every day.  This is the first year I've had sunflowers in my garden too (thanks to my friend Ashley, who gave them to me), and I never knew how much I liked them.  

Happy harvest to all the farmers, and happy end-of-summer to everyone!  School starts tomorrow ... but the boys are still helping with calf chores.  Calves like to eat no matter when school is happening. And that's a pretty well-known farm fact.

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

And the gang's all here

This is just a little snapshot of a few of the million things that went on this month ...

We finished our third cutting, and this time we used trucks and a bagger.


It's fun to watch.  The chopper blows the tiny pieces of chopped up alfalfa into these trucks we rented.  The trucks drive to the baggers, and they tip into the bagger as it moves forward.  Ahhh...nice, full, big bags of feed for the winter!


We had preemies. Not twins, but two tiny girls at the same time.  They were half the size of a normal calf - and so small they looked like goats!  They were healthy, though!  Our team member took them to her grandparents' house to raise them.  Before they left, she put little pink collars on them, which was a definite first for calves around here!  So cute.


One evening my neighbor Ashley called me and said, "I can see three of your cows in your corn."  Oh no!  I raced out of the house.  My neighbors and I easily got them back in.  Kris rode up on the quad and I said, "We got the cows back in."  Kris said, "Those aren't cows.  Those are heifers."  This meant that they didn't come right from where I could see them ... they had come from across the corn field!

We weren't dealing with three cows ... we were dealing with 50 heifers.  My parents, my neighbors, my kids, the three guys milking, Kris and I started searching in the 12-foot high corn for lost heifers.  We walked through, calling them, and they were so happy to find us and followed us out.  Meanwhile, we were trying to fix the fence, but we couldn't repair it until all of them were out.  It took about three hours for us to find all the heifers, and Kris was able to fix the fence before dark.  Whew!


We had a lot of visitors, including my family.  One night all of her nine grandchildren helped her with calf chores!


It's here!  I'm so happy with Sawyer in the Sky, my second book in the Sawyer in the Woods series.  So excited.  My boys loved it, and I hope your kids love it too! Available on Amazon.


Something else new ... I'm going to be hosting the Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT podcast!  I start recording in August, and I'll be sure to post the link to the podcast here.  I'll be interviewing farmers and agriculturalists from around the state about what's happening on their farms!  I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope you enjoy listening.

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, June 27, 2018

Summertime summertime sum sum summertime

What a month!

I started it off at my first ultramarathon - the Green Jewel 50k (31 miles), representing Team Chocolate Milk!  It was on a beautiful path between parks in Ohio, from Brecksville to Rocky River. Very fun!  Kris and the boys went with me, and it was a great time.  People yelled at me the whole way - "CHOCOLATE MILK!"

I then went to World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, talking about U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance's social media app. 

My friend Thomas Titus (also a former Faces of Farming & Ranching) was there counting teats on the pigs before they went in the show ring.  This is a thing!  Erin Brenneman, (also FOF&R), was there and showed me around.  It was so interesting to see all things pig instead of all things cow, but the most amazing part of it was all the free food.  Tons of it.  Everywhere.  For free.  If you've been at trade shows where the only options are expensive, terrible food, and you just eat the mints you hid in your backpack, you can really appreciate this.

The next week I went to Austin to train urban teachers about teaching agriculture.  We went on a farm tour, went over the lesson plans, and answered questions about farming.  As an added bonus, I got to see my sister-in-law Meghan and my niece Anna!

My kids got out of school and it is SUMMER!  So, so much going on farm-wise.  Milk truck issues - they didn't have enough drivers and then the milk processing plant lost power.  We have a ton of calves.  Training employees.  Alfalfa harvest.  Moving the cattle around to different pastures. 

One super fun farmy thing we did was pick rocks.  Kris mentioned that he has no idea how I grew up on a farm and have lived on a farm for 11 years without ever going rock picking.  I told him - no one's ever asked me to go before! 

This was the first time Cole and Ty have ever driven the wheel loader.  I guess learning in a giant field where you can't hit anything is a great spot, but I was worried about the other kids and made them stay far away and only approach it to toss stones in when it was stopped.  They were good at it.

It's absolutely incredible the size and amount of rocks that emerge after the soil is worked up.  Not only will crops not grow where they are, but they are also detrimental to the equipment.  We worked for a few hours and added to the piles of rocks our ancestors have been putting alongside fields for 139 years.  My mom has used them for her lovely landscaping and rock wall at both of our houses!

I've taken only about one million pictures of the cattle in my backyard as the sun sets.  I told Kris we can never move - or if we do, we have to live somewhere where I have a clear view of the sunset and my cattle.  Not at all specific, right?  We even got a morning rainbow, which is unusual - more unusual than a gorgeous summer sunset, anyway. 

July and August promise to bring more excitement and ... sunsets.  Happy summer!
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

It's a beautiful spring

My favorite scenery is cows on pasture.  They're in my front yard, my back yard, and my road!  I love it.

Everything is getting busy.  Our first three calves have been born, we're getting ready to cut alfalfa, and everything is about to EXPLODE.

It's my favorite time of year. 

Machines need fixing, schedules need making, problems need solving - but Kris and the rest of our team - plus my dad, who drove the chopper to the dealership - are doing a great job!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Six things you find at a farmer's house

Taken right off the wall for a photo opp
Now that I’ve been on the farm for eleven years … and grew up on a farm … I notice things about farmhouses that I don’t see in every house.  Which of these do you have – farmhouse or no?

Separate entrance
My house is 139 years old, and it has a lovely back entrance directly into … the basement stairs!  As a result, Kris enters the house in his barn clothes, removes them downstairs, and comes upstairs into the rest of the house.  No boots and no barn clothes ever enter our regular living area.  As an added bonus, our washing machine and dryer are down there.  (Yes, the benefits of old houses never end!  Would you like to see the creepy cistern?  The cement walls?  The water that’s designed to drain across the floor like a small river?  The fun never ends!)

The farmers I know that build new houses .., always put in a separate entrance, complete with washer and dryer in the same place!  If you’re coming home from work and you’re not covered with dirt or animal manure, then by all means use the same entrance.  But that brings us to our second one …     

Shoes-off rule
When you’re on a farm, you’re going to get your shoes dirty.  There’s no avoiding it.  Even our driveway is gravel, and our garage isn’t attached.  In farmhouses, you take off your shoes, because chances are, you were working with animals or with mud or somewhere that you don’t want anything tracked into your home.  I allow exactly one person to wear shoes in my house, and that’s Kris’ grandma, because she can do whatever she wants, whenever.  Everyone else?  Leave them at the door. 

People who are used to coming on farms – builders, salesmen, insurance people – they all know it.  Everyone leaves their shoes at the door. 

My friend – who’s a farmer and does not have this same rule – thinks it’s ridiculous that I don’t allow shoes but I go barefoot and my kids go barefoot.  Point taken.  But dirt just doesn’t stick to feet like it does to shoes, and yes, I make my children wash their feet when they come in. 

Freezer full of meat
The meat is here!  We have a stocked freezer, because we have steers.  My kids think chicken and pork are such delicacies because it’s all steak and roasts here, all the time! 

Farmers have their own meat, and they also often fill their freezers with 4-H animals, so people can have a variety.  I remember my mom calling me from work to ask me to take meat out of the freezer to thaw for dinner, and now I thaw meat for my own family.  There’s always something for dinner – even if it’s still frozen.

Barn clothes
When my oldest boys were in kindergarten, we were visiting a friend with a farm.  She called to her kids, “Get your barn coats!”  My son turned to me and asked, “What’s a barn coat?”  The fact that he didn’t know was a testament to how young he was, because of course now they all have barn coats.  And barn boots.  And barn clothes. 

Once you wear your clothes to the barn, they’re pretty much just for the barn.  Clothes never move in and out of that position.  They get relegated to barn status.

Kris will wear jeans until the holes in them are just too big.  He will wear shirts from races we’ve done a decade ago.  The boys wear the ugliest clothes they own, which are so perfect for the barn and nothing else other than the rag pile.  My friend had a ‘farmer day’ at school, and she sent me pictures, and she was wearing the exact boots I wear to the barn.  Such accuracy! 

Farm truck
Most likely, there will be a truck parked outside a farmhouse.  I don’t know how you do some things without a truck, like picking up a calf.  It’d be hard to put it in a regular car, but I’ve seen it on the internet!  The farm truck is filled with every tool that you will ever need.  Everything is in there.  If the world is ending, run for a farm truck, because it has everything you need to survive.

Random antique implements
This is standard in a farmhouse, mine included.  Bale hooks, ice tongs, saws, pulleys, you name it – you can find it on a farmhouse wall.  I even hang some of my great grandma’s wooden kitchen tools on my wall as decoration … and then pluck them off to use them when I bake pies!  (That was the most domestic sounding sentence I’ve ever written.  Thank you.)  I inherited my farm implements when my parents moved out of my house and I moved in, and we keep adding to them, like when my children find them in the haymow or granary or pasture or possibly, the farm truck.

Our houses are weird and wonderful, or as people say, they have a lot of character.  They’re full of character!  I love my house and on our farm, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  And I’d say that even if it didn’t have a pool.  Maybe. 

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, April 11, 2018


Katie Dotterer-Pyle and Jessica Peters started #DairyDanceOff, (see some examples here) which featured dairy farmers dancing away on their farms. My kids were up for the fun, so they danced to the Peterson Farm Bros' parody 'All I Do is Farm'.

So much fun!


Someone asked where they got their moves.  We have dance parties pretty frequently around here, so they've been working on these moves since they could walk.  We all have different styles of dancing.  Please note, Max is rocking one glove and miming milking and using a shovel.  At dance clubs everywhere now! 

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Smoothie bike, dairy, and Olympian Lindsay Tarpley!

When we were at the National Milk Producer Federation meeting last fall, Max entered a drawing for a smoothie bike ... and he won!

 A smoothie bike is a bike that powers a blender on the front of it.  Cole, Max, and Kris put ours together this week - a definite benefit of my kids growing up is that they are perfectly capable of doing things like this that I don't want to do - and we took it in to their school.

After Maddie talked about dairy farms, milk, and the smoothie bike, the curtain opened on Max and the cow (Levi, a 5th grader) riding away!

(Are smoothie bikes a thing around you?  I've been aware of them for about four years now when we had one at a class picnic, but when I mentioned it to some friends, they had never heard of it.  I also thought everyone picked up change and found I was wrong - more for me!)

Two-time Olympian gold medalist Lindsay Tarpley used the ingredients of the smoothie to represent different parts of what it takes to succeed - hard work, perseverance, confidence, and sacrifice.

She also had St Johns High School soccer players there and had them do cool things soccer players do, like hit it on their legs and feet and do fancy footwork.  (One of them, Brian, is Cole's drum teacher and a nice guy, so that was a nice surprise!)

She talked all about her journey in making it to the Olympics - and scoring a goal in the gold medal game!  She did a great job tying it all together and stressed that no matter what the kids wanted to do - hard work would get them there.

She also answered a lot of questions.  They were pre-selected ahead of time and read by the fifth graders, so they were good ones.  (You've seen painful on-the-spot questions by little kids, right?  This avoided that.)

She brought her gold medals from Athens and Beijing with her ... so cool.

Then in gym class, the kids got to make and drink milk/yogurt/strawberry/banana smoothies ...

And in lunch they had milk/yogurt/honey/pineapple/spinach smoothies!

They loved them.  (It was class color day in school today in case you wonder why all the 5th grade boys are dressed alike. In pink.)

Thank you to the United Dairy Industry of Michigan for Lindsay Tarpley, for the smoothie bike drawing, and for the school smoothies, full of dairy!  It was a great day.

What's next after smoothie bikes?  Bikes that churn butter?  Bikes that make ICE CREAM?  I look to you, bike manufacturers.  We'll get the milk, you do the rest.

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