Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spring in February

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We had a super-warm and lovely February.  Whenever it thaws, it gets super muddy and messy on the farm.  Kris doesn't particularly like it.  I ... love it.  We were barefoot around the farm last weekend! Then this week it got cold and we had flurries - it even hailed.  The tulips that were already pushing their way out of the ground were completely surprised!

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I hosted Fuel Up to Play 60 at Ford Field in Detroit.  It was so much fun! It is such a great event, because the kids are so excited.  We had two motivational speakers, a workout with the Detroit Lions, different dairy foods, and we did it all with fun people like these two dairy girls here - Ashley Messing Kennedy and Madeline Meyer.

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I attended the Voice of Ag in Traverse City and toured the FARM Science Lab. It is SO cool.  They take it around to different schools to bring the science about ag to them!  I can't wait until we can schedule it for ours.  People in Michigan - I'm pretty sure they're scheduling into 2018 now.  Go ahead and contact them for your school.

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Here we are making plastic from corn.  This enthusiasm is not faked.  We loved it.  Science experiment love is not limited to kids, obviously!

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Most exciting to us, we welcomed new cattle to the farm.  So far, they love it here and are giving us lots of fantastic milk.  Thanks to our friends for selling them to us!

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As February ends, it's back to winter around here.  Our hats and mittens are back on, we're back indoors, and we're ready for spring when it really comes!

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Farmer - Land O'Lakes and Amelia E. Barr

Land O'Lakes made this video internally, then when everyone loved it, they released it.

It features a poem called 'The Farmer' by Amelia E. Barr (1831-1919).

AdWeek writes about it, "Created by The Martin Agency, "The Farmer" recites Barr's poem as picturesque scenes of American agriculture, shot by a National Geographic team, flick across the screen. The result is a reclaiming of our agricultural roots, mingled with something sad and nostalgic."

The rest of the article is critical of farming.

"But farming has never really been all that romantic. Being, as Barr wrote, a partnership with sky and earth, sun and rain (not to mention economics), it's a relationship that can be characterized only by volatility."

It is a volatile relationship, it's a hard business, and it is difficult.  But not romantic?  Come on!  There is just something about farming and the relationship with the land that is like nothing else.  Watch any farmer describe how he planted a seed, watched it grow, tended to it, and harvested his crop, and you will see pure satisfaction.  Obviously, this writer has not listened to country music.  Full of romance.

She continues:
 
"When Barr wrote "The Farmer," rural life had already lost many of the charms we attribute to history. Most Americans still lived in rural areas in 1900, but urban sites were growing faster. A drought in the late 1800s drove many homesteaders into debt, forcing farmers to build alliances and even try forming a political party. (It didn't work out.)

The agricultural revolution was also in full swing, with new technology (and hybridized corn!) completely disrupting established ways of life—paving the way for farming that looks a lot more like the creepy, cyberpunkish dystopia of Chipotle's "The Scarecrow.""

Okay, the writer and I completely disagree here.  There has always been drought and debt.  As for turning farming into dystopia ... I'm convinced this writer has never been to a farm.  There aren't a lot of farmers crying to go back to the old ways before machinery and technology.  (We haven't traded pitchforks for cell phones ... we've just added another tool!)  And Chipotle?  I, personally, am anti-E.coli.

But disagree as I may with that writer, I agree with everything in this poem.  Here's the video, followed by the beautiful words.  I mean, she even gives a special mention to milk! Now that's poetry.  

 


The Farmer

The king may rule o'er land and sea,
The lord may live right royally,
The soldier ride in pomp and pride,
The sailor roam o'er ocean wide;
But this or that, whate'er befall,
The farmer he must feed them all.

The writer thinks, the poet sings,
The craftsmen fashion wondrous things,
The doctor heals, the lawyer pleads,
The miner follows the precious leads;
But this or that, whate'er befall,
The farmer he must feed them all.

The merchant he may buy and sell,
The teacher do his duty well;
But men may toil through busy days,
Or men may stroll through pleasant ways;
From king to beggar, whate'er befall,
The farmer he must feed them all.

The farmer's trade is one of worth;
He's partner with the sky and earth,
He's partner with the sun and rain,
And no man loses for his gain;
And men may rise, or men may fall,
But the farmer he must feed them all.

God bless the man who sows the wheat,
Who finds us milk and fruit and meat;
May his purse be heavy, his heart be light,
His cattle and corn and all go right;
God bless the seeds his hands let fall,
For the farmer he must feed us all.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

End of the year

It's time to say goodbye to 2016 ... and a happy goodbye it is!  While this year has been the toughest since we've been here, there were a lot of good things that happened this year.  So in order to focus on them, here's the best of the year!

- We have really great employees.  Dependable, cheerful, and help you get cattle in when you call.  Good friends and good neighbors!  They have really gone above and beyond this year.

- We also have really great families.  My parents live down the road and Kris' just an hour away.  They all have also been farmers for 30+ years, so they have lots of good advice and conversation.

- We have a great school and community.  People always want to come and tour, ask us to come and speak to them about farming, and even make agriculture part of the educational curriculum.  We love it.  We'll be out and kids will say hello to me. My kids will say, "How do you know them?" Depending on whether they call me 'Carla' (swimming lessons) or 'Mrs. Wardin' (schools), I can tell them.

- Our weather has been superb.  Wonderful summer, warm fall, and so far a super mild winter.  I love Michigan!

- Kris can leave sometimes.  It's nice to not worry about your business for a few days, and it's even nicer when no one calls because nothing goes wrong!  This is not something every business owner gets to enjoy, and it's again due to great people.

- We have support to help us in our business.  Thanks, vets, nutritionists, custom harvesters, cattle haulers, etc!

Here's hoping for a wonderful 2017 for all of us!  Thanks, as always, for reading.


Totally normal picture of us standing in the pasture dressed in regular clothing. Just kidding.  This has happened twice in our life when I insist on doing this in the five minutes we have in the summer and it results in an odd photo. It was also incredibly windy, and this is the one picture where I don't appear to be completely bald. Even the cattle are perplexed.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Headed into winter

What a month!  We had the annual Michigan Farm Bureau meeting, where Kris was on the policy development board.  We traveled to see my siblings in Kansas and Oklahoma, where we did another Team Chocolate Milk race and visited a farm with goats and chickens!  (I fed a goat and held a chicken.  Two firsts.)  On the farm, we're making changes all the time, as we head into winter.

One of the biggest - the heifers are all set up with the feed pad:



But this week when we got our first snow, they got SUPER excited and got out.  When it was just Kris and me getting them in, it seemed really hard, but our neighbors, team members, and my parents all came out, and they were safe back home in no time.



As we head into the Christmas season, I'd like to express how thankful I am for all of my readers, near and far.  Thanks for reading! (And for those of you who came to chase cows, thanks, too!)

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Spider webs blanketing the fields

See how many incredibly rural components there are to this next sentence ...

When we were driving home from our first 4-H meeting in Kris' truck, we noticed that the pasture was blanketed with spider webs.  The sun shining on it made it look golden.  When we got to the farm, we saw that every tree and every weed - as far as you could see - was covered in spider webs.

(Rural, right?)

How many billions of spiders made these?  Does it have something to do with the warm weather and no frost?  Is it because of the fog this morning?  How can it be that I had NEVER seen this before?

I tried to take pictures, but I had to take them into the sun to make the webs show up, and it didn't work very well.

All the gold is spider webs, covering the ground
                                                           
After awhile I gave up and just enjoyed it.  We all went for a run/bike/stroller ride and I stressed to the boys I'd never seen this before and they might never see this again.

I looked it up and saw tons of pictures of this happening across the world.  This picture is off the internet from here, but it looked kind of like this, only with the sun on it:
                                         

I googled things like 'why is the ground covered in spiderwebs?' and found this article:

***

"What’s causing the blanket of silk web covering parts of a field in a residential neighborhood is a migration event called “ballooning.” What happens during ballooning is that spiders disperse by shooting out threads of silk. These threads catch wind currents that transport these members of the Linyphiidae family forward several feet at a time.

...“This would explain the fact that thousands to hundreds of thousands may take off at the same time,” explained  Susan Riechart, a professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and former president of the American Arachnological Society, to The Washington Post.

“Caught by the air currents, the spiderlings have no control over where they will land, but it is not surprising that they may fall in the same area," said Dr. Riechart.

Such ballooning events are not unique to Memphis. They can happen all over the Northern Hemisphere – and have been spotted in Britain and Australia – but scientists don’t really know why and when.

Ballooning is simply, “a spectacular natural history occurrence," explained Robb Bennett, a spider expert at Canada’s Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, to National Geographic.

In 2012, for example, record rains and flooding in News South Wales, Australia, caused millions of wolf spiders to shoot their silky way to safety up trees and bushes, covering the city of Wagga Wagga in white."

(Of course 'Charlotte's Web' came to mind.  But most importantly ... )

"Though events like this are understandably unnerving to people, they’re an indication of a healthy ecosystem. Memphis residents might feel consoled to know that these spiders feed on many agricultural pests, which is beneficial for farmers.

“I would not want to live in a world where such things were no longer possible,” Reichling from the Memphis Zoo said. “The presence of these spiders tells us that all is well with nature at that location."

***

So this article basically is telling me that this occurrence happened as a benefit to us and that all is right with the world?  I don't know when I've liked an article as much.  I'll take it!


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Monday, October 24, 2016

October glory

A lot has gone on this month ...

NUMBER ONE -

I would be remiss in not making this number one, since my dad AND mom have been working really hard on it.  We're building a concrete feeding pad for our heifers to eat off of over the winter.  It required concrete pouring, welding, bolting, digging ... and we really appreciate all of the work!

             

Funniest thing about this:  My mom texted me and asked if I could go help dad bolt boards, because she had dropped one on her foot the day before and it hurt.  I said I wasn't home, but could go later. She said, 'Don't worry about it.  I'll go.  It doesn't hurt that much."  (Are my parents tough or what?!)

NUMBER TWO

Everyone on a farm has a role, and part of mine is public relations.  This month I've gone to the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, TX with U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, hosted a tour of MSU students, and visited St Joseph Elementary and Oakview Elementary to do dairy lessons.



Funniest thing: We spent at lot of time listening to people who have never produced anything talk about how farmers are ruining the world.  And yet, every single one of them ate food produced by these same farmers ... Later, I was reading a preschool class a book about where food comes from.  It outlines each food in a lunch box from where it's grown, to how it's processed, and how it's shipped.

After each food, I'd say, 'So where did it come from?' and this adorable little boy would answer, 'From the store!' (He would have fit right in at the conference!)



Also, I ran my first race as a member of Team Chocolate Milk!  Since I love chocolate milk and do love refueling with it after races (and ... just drinking it because I love the way it tastes), this is really exciting!  More of these to come!



Funniest thing: There were cider and donuts after the race, (it was at Andy T's, so perfect for that!) but no chocolate milk.  I had to go purchase my own to make this truly chocolate milky.

NUMBER THREE

Another part of farming for us is being a part of policy work.  Kris is on the Michigan Farm Bureau's state Policy Development Committee.  This is one of eight ag boards Kris is currently serving on.   That was three days this past week, and then he spent another day at a United Dairy Industry of Michigan meeting.



(This is a picture from the Michigan Farm Bureau site. I don't follow him to his meetings and take his picture.  I swear.)

Funniest thing: Kris came down in his suit and Max said, "Where are you going?" Kris said, "I'm going to the barn, of course."  Max looked so shocked.  (These kids are still easy to fool.)

NUMBER FOUR



It is a gorgeous fall.  You can see our cattle here, across the road from our house.  It's been warm, it's been sunny, and the leaves are glorious.  It's the prettiest fall ever.

Funniest thing: I say this EVERY FALL.


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Monday, October 3, 2016

Doctors - pay attention. Humans aren't affected by bovine hormones & mammals drink milk.

After very wet Agri-Fit Challenge race!

I got an email from my friend -

"I took my son to the dermatologist yesterday. It was his first time ... trying to help his skin out. The doctor said that he needs to drink skim milk at the very least - and he would prefer organic milk due to the hormone content.  We drink skim from Moo-ville (which tastes more like 1/2% to me) or 1% from Meijer.  I thought I remembered you saying in a blog that it wasn't true that organic was better, but I wasn't sure if that was due to hormones or antibiotics.  Can you clarify this?"

Rest assured!

First of all, in Michigan, farmers don't give their cows hormones to help them produce more milk.  (We never have on this farm, either.)  When farmers did it in the past, there was no way to tell the synthetic hormone from the natural hormone, because cows already produced it.  (So there was no test for it.)  But when consumers didn't want it, farmers stopped using it.  In Michigan, that happened in 2008.

All milk - organic and conventional - has hormones in it, because it is coming from a lactating mammal.  Organic and conventional have the same.  BUT!  And here's the important part that the dermatologist didn't know ...

Humans do not have receptors for bovine hormones.

It's not me saying it - it's scientists.

Dr. Terry Etherton: “There are zillions of protein hormones in both plant and animal foods. They are digested in the stomach, which kills their ability to have any biological activity." Best Food Facts

Another way to put it, from Science Blogs: Aetiology by Tara C. Smith, is:

“Studies have shown that human and bovine milk normally contain small amounts of growth hormone. After ingestion, growth hormone as any other protein in milk: it is digested into its constituent amino acids and di- and tripeptides. There is no data to suggest that BST present in milk can survive digestion or produce unique peptide fragments that might have biological effects.

Even if BST is absorbed intact, the growth hormone receptors in the human do not recognize cow BST and, therefore, BST cannot produce effects in humans. … Overall studies show recombinant growth hormone cannot be absorbed intact through intestine and even if small amounts get absorbed, there is no receptor for bovine growth hormones in humans.”

Or from the American Cancer Society:

"Neither natural nor synthetic BGH has been found to affect human growth hormone receptors."

Let me also add that these are naturally-occurring hormones, which all milk has, because it comes from lactating animals.  Hormones aren't just present in milk - they're present in all types of food. For instance, look at this chart about estrogen from Allen Young, Utah State University Extension dairy specialist and associate professor:

                                                  

So, my answer to my friend was that skim and whole have almost exactly the same amount of hormones, but it didn't really matter anyway, because humans aren't affected, since they're digested. This obviously is not a hot topic in dermatology classes.

*****

Second!  A pregnant (and ag) friend texted me, "Just had OB tell me I don't need to drink milk ... ever.  That it had as many calories as ice cream and we're the only mammals to drink it after weaning ... it was all I could do to smile and nod."

(She is obviously much more agreeable than I am, since I would have to switch doctors after that.)

First, milk does not have as many calories as ice cream unless you're eating super crappy ice cream. Get the full fat ice cream.  It tastes a lot better. (Scan in my house - Calories: cup of skim milk 83, cup of whole 148, cup of ice cream 286.)

Second, the whole 'humans are the only mammals to drink milk' makes me laugh every time I hear it.  Anyone who says this has never seen cats waiting in the milk house for the waste milk.  I've seen cats drink milk my entire life.  If you look online, you read things about the "red billed oxpecker, a bird that can perch on the udders of an Impala and drink its milk.  Elsewhere, in Isla de Guadalupe, feral cats, seagulls, and sheathbills have been observed stealing the milk directly from the teats of elephant seals."

But what I find humorous even more is ... we're doing things lots of mammals don't do.  Like farming fields.  Should we all only forage for food?  Shopping in grocery stores.  I NEVER see a tiger at the checkout.  Making pies out of fruit and vegetables like rhubarb that are only tolerable when sugar is added that a human grew in a field of sugar beets, packaged it, and sold it in a store in a bag. Using the internet, writing books, driving cars ... I NEVER see mammals doing these things.

Why aren't other mammals doing these things?  Because they would find it very difficult to hook up the milker.  These opposable thumbs are amazing.

*****

Of course, we all know and love and need doctors, but it doesn't mean that they are all experts on everything all of the time.  It's always nice to do your own research.  I wrote this while eating ice cream AND drinking milk.  My skin is clear, my stomach feels great, and I am one happy mammal.

Previous blog posts on these topics:
Does milk make girls develop faster?  No.

What's the difference between organic and conventional milk?  Process, not product.

Why does organic milk have a longer expiration date?  It's heated up hotter.

Sources:
American Cancer Society
Best Food Facts
Dairy Council of Utah & Nevada
Science Blogs


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