Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Proud new owners

We are the proud new owners of a ... get ready for it ... manure pump.  I know - fancy cars, dream vacations, you can have 'em.  Manure pumps are where it's at!

Isn't it beautiful?


Well, even if it's not impressive-looking, it is necessary.  When you have a giant lagoon filled with cow manure, the manure eventually settles and turns chunky.  It gets a crust on the top.  Some of it is even frozen.  (Not unlike the super-popular movie.  But with more of an odor.)

So lagoon owners use a pump to churn it up and make it liquid again.  It's like putting a giant KitchenAid mixer into it ... that effect. 

But what it really does is - it pumps the manure through the pump and shoots it back into the lagoon.  It eventually will make the entire vat move in a circular direction, like it's being stirred.  Imagine washing out a pail with a hose.  Like that.

When it's liquid enough, you switch a valve on it and pump it into the manure spreader.  Then we spread it on our fields for fertilizer.

Amazing, right?  So much goes into managing manure.  Scraping, pumping, hauling.  And the fun never stops - the lagoon holds 2.5 million gallons. That's 2.5 million reasons I'm truly excited about this pump.  Get it out of here ... they're making more!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I was born in Michigan

I just went on the treadmill and the movie Easter Parade was on.  Judy Garland started to sing a song ...

"I was born in Michigan,
And I wish and wish again,
That I was back in the town where I was born;"

(Oh, how funny!  I thought.  I've never heard this song before.)  She continued:

"There's a farm in Michigan,"

(Wait, a farm?!  Wow.  Now I really can't believe I've never heard this.)

"And I'd like to fish again,
In the river that flows beside the fields of waving corn.
A lonesome soul am I,
Here's the reason why:

I want to go back,
I want to go back,
I want to go back to the farm,
Far away from harm,
With a milk pail on my arm."

(Milk! No way.  She's singing about going back to a dairy farm in Michigan and I've NEVER HEARD THIS SONG?)

She went on about a rooster and a big city and missing a certain someone full of charm, but I was already searching on the internet about how old this song was.  Yes, Irving Berlin wrote it in 1914, it had some success, and the most famous performance of it was in the 1948 movie Easter Parade.  Meaning - this song has been in existence my entire lifetime and my mom's entire lifetime, yet I have never once heard it.

Does anyone know this song?  Or does everyone?  Are all of you secretly humming it to yourselves when you're talking to me?  I'm going to start paying closer attention.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Crack the code!

My friend Alex who works at Michigan Milk Producers Association posted about this: "Milk is local! Each container of milk is identified by a 2-digit state code followed by a 3-digit processing plant code."  If you don't live in Michigan, you can check exactly where your milk comes from by typing in the code at this site: whereismymilkfrom.

Our milk was a little harder to produce this weekend due to an 18-hour power outage.  But thanks to two generators, we were able to keep milking, provide the cows with water, and keep all the milk in the cooler cold ... so it can get stamped with a code and sent to you!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Technology and brackets

Yesterday Kris and I helped host the Michigan Milk Producer Association's Young Cooperator Conference.  For part of it, we went on a farm tour at Daybreak Dairy in Zeeland, where they use automatic calf feeders.

They're not new to the farming world, but I haven't seen them before.  So they're new to me!

All farmers have to decide how many times a day they're going to feed their calves, and then they have to decide how long they're going to drink out of bottles before they move to buckets.  

With an automatic feeder, you don't decide those things, because they eat all the time. 

The machine reads their ear tags, and can tell when they've eaten and how much, and when they meet their maximum in a certain amount of time.  If the calf hasn't eaten enough, it tells you that, so you go and chase it up and encourage it to drink.

So they're hanging out here:

And they walk up to the feeder:

This is a view from the top. You can see the top of the bottle sticking out.

And here's the machine indoors.  The door is open so we could see the inner workings.

This is the milk powder mixing with the water.  It smelled exactly like human formula.

It was fun seeing something new, and as always, talking farm talk with other young farmers.

I always enjoy this conference and the tours, but this marked the first time that I didn't fight sleep on the way back.  This time, thanks to my friend Alex, I was able to avoid the dreaded head jerk.

The conference featured reports from our co-op staff, Gordie Jones speaking about cow comfort, a panel on business planning, and a tailgate party!  We even had a cornhole (beanbag) tournament, with a bracket and everything.  Kris and I came in second place, even though my throw - I was horrified to see when I looked at my pictures - looks like this:

(Can you believe we beat many teams with this toss?  I even obviously step with the wrong foot!)

We had a great time with our planning committee, and we look forward to returning next year!  Who knows what will be new on the farm we visit, what I'll learn at the meeting, or what other terrible discoveries I'll make when I look back at my pictures.   

Sunday, March 30, 2014

'Where the Filed Things Are' - or, Accidentally Washing Your Hair with Placenta

My book is done!  Where the Filed Things Are is available on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.

It's a compilation of stories I've written down - and then stashed in various places - for the last thirteen years.  It begins when I was starting my career, to buying the farm, to finding honey dripping down my house's walls ... and remember when I accidentally washed my hair with placenta?  That one's in there.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy spring!

My mom took this picture for a friend in a warm climate ... our spring day equals mud, clouds, and broken trees.

I didn't feel winter today, though!  This morning when I walked outside, it smelled like mud, the birds were building nests, and I COMPLETELY ignored the dusting of snow on the ground.

Happy spring!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Not at all cheesy

I went to the boys' school two days last week to talk about dairy farming.  I took the Farm Bureau book barn, which is full of agricultural books the kids can check out.    

During their library time, I read books to each class about how milk gets from the cow to them, like Extra Cheese, Please: Mozzarella's Journey from Cow to Pizza.   

You can tell they go to a country school.  When I asked each class how many of them had been to a dairy farm or milked a cow, it was a strong 75%.  While there were no other kids who live on dairy farms, many of them had parents who worked on one or had cattle or worked for some aspect of farming, like driving a milk truck or working at the grain elevator.   

The kids eagerly did the United Dairy Industry of Michigan activity book, ate string cheese, wore their Got Chocolate Milk slap bracelets, unfurled their posters, and were generally super interested and engaged!  I really like my kids' school and really enjoyed my time there.  The kids told me they liked it, too.  

Favorite things kids said to me:

"My mom gets to feed the baby calves."  (Gets to.  Like her job is the best ever.) 

"We get cheese?!  You rock!"  (Yes.  Food is super cool.)

"Ty and Cole's mom?  Can we take these books home?"  (This is the only name kids in their class call me.)

"We already know all about cow stomachs!  Our teacher read us that book last week!"  (Yay!)

A second grader after I said a kid on a tour thought chocolate milk came from brown cows - "Yeah.  I used to think that when I was a kid."