Sunday, January 30, 2011


There are about 50,000 dairy farms in America. Not that many, right?

The good part: I can tell my friends how lucky they are to know me. Haha.

The bad part: There’s not a lot of competition amongst companies vying for our money.

As a result – how much do you think this costs?

This is a plastic sprayer, much like a hose nozzle. It’s used to spray teat dip on the cows. Did you guess $100? Yes!

It’s not as if there’s no competition, it’s just limited. It’s not like going into a grocery store and seeing 20 different kinds of sponges. You have a few choices, and you pay for what you get. Even though we don’t have tons of variety among companies … at least politicians try to cater to farmers!

And on another positive note, one of our employees bought the tractor! For almost the same amount … we can buy another sprayer.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


It snowed about four inches last night. We were going ice skating at a friend's pond but Kris told us to go without him - the skid steer had another hydraulic leak from a different hose. We went, he fixed it.

I hate to keep listing things that keep breaking, (do you hear me, Caterpillar? Love you, but sad about the hydraulic hoses!) but it's really just part of working with machinery. In the winter.

Here's what I saw from my window this morning - pretty snow covered trees.

Sights like this make it easy to appreciate the best parts of winter. Snow, skating, hot chocolate, and ample hydraulic fluid.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What a deal

What do you do with a dead tractor?

Right on the way to school is a place I call the tractor graveyard. It’s just rows and rows of dead tractors and combines and such. None of them work – they just sell the parts off of them.

So Kris called them and asked if they wanted our dead (well, dying) tractor. They said they got two of them last year and they’re not “parting out well.” Which means they don’t want another one, because they already have two that they’re not selling parts off of.

So he asked about scrapping it. It is possible to take the entire thing to the scrap yard. You know, after you drain all the lines, remove the tires, and do whatever else you have to do to make it only metal.

Or … does anyone want a (dying) tractor? I’ll throw in a broken treadmill for free!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I was in college when I noticed that - other than color - you can tell cars apart. I simply had never paid attention before. (To the extreme. A friend told me he bought a Mustang and I said, "Cool! What's it look like?")

So I don't claim to be any expert on cars or other vehicles.

But today, when I was walking into the house, carrying a crying child and four bags of groceries, I peered through the snow to see an unfamiliar tractor driving by.

I smiled and sort of nodded my head at the driver I couldn't see. I didn't think much about it, but after Kris came home, he told me ... yes, he bought the tractor.

"Does it have a little cover on the top?" I asked.

"A canopy? Yes," Kris said.

"I saw Mike drive by!" I said.

So even though I can't identify vehicles or people driving I've known my entire life, I do know a strange tractor when I see one. Neighborhood watch, I'm ready.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Out with the old, in with the old

Time to buy! Fun things! If you consider buying a tractor fun!

Kris went to look at an old tractor today. You can't say new tractor, because it was made in the early 1990s. And is very used.

He's replacing the tractor that's used to scrape the manure out of the barn every day. The one we were using was also an old tractor, and they stopped using it before it died. (It was doing something called 'knocking.' Maybe as in on death's door.)

Why use an old tractor? We only use it two hours a day. Our part-time employees can drive it, because it drives a lot more like a car than a skid steer. Some people use skid steers to scrape manure because they're easy to maneuver around in tight spaces (like a barn.) But a skid steer is more like heavy equipment. Plus, you can do a lot more (accidental) damage with a bucket.

But it was trapped with a bunch of equipment around it, so the seller's going to call Kris when he can take it out for a test drive.

A little different than buying a new car? Yes. But you don't have to leave your license with the seller. They know they'll be able to catch up with you. Probably at a brisk walk.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vitamins, minerals, and ... soy hulls

The nutritionist came over to talk with Kris today.

Most dairy farms have a nutritionist. Our nutritionist works for the feed company where we buy our feed, though there are also independent ones who do it as a paid service. They all went to school for it – like majored in animal science. (Did you know any nutritionists in school? I only knew the people kind.)

A nutritionist helps balance the feed ration by taking samples of the silages, analyzing them, and recommending additional supplements – like vitamins, minerals, additional sources of protein like soybean meal or fiber like soy hulls - to maximize milk production. Soy hulls! Sounds delicious.

There’s a whole science and field of study that spells out the ideal levels of digestibility, energy, and protein for optimum cattle performance. They work with the numbers on the feedstuffs, plug it into a computer program, and determine the best diet that balances cost and milk production.

They talked mainly about putting together a ration for the dry cows. (Dry cows means they’re not being milked. This means that for about a month and a half before they have a calf, we don’t milk them, so their bodies can concentrate on having a calf.)

Kris wants to make sure they’re getting the best nutrition for when they’re not being milked. If you feed them too much corn silage when they’re not giving milk, then all the extra energy and fiber goes to make them too fat. So you want to give them enough to nourish them and the growing calf, but not so much that they get too big. (Hence the insult fat cow?)

There’s a game called ‘Would You Rather’. One time we were playing and it asked would you rather have your own free personal chef, massage therapist, or chauffer. Everyone chose personal chef, and we all went on and on about how great it would be to have someone in the kitchen serving you up exactly what you wanted.

I hope the cows see it the same way. More like a professional chef, less like pregnant Weight Watchers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Evergreen Dairy

Farms have names, because they're businesses. A lot of them use the family's last name. Some of them describe the surrounding geography. Some of them mesh the guy and girl's names together - like when my grandparents combined Caroline and Dale and called it CarDale. (My dad changed it, but we still got mail for CarDale Farms all the time. We still do. When just the 'Car' is peeking out I always think it's a super exciting letter for me.)

Kris thought of the name of our farm. He wanted the word 'dairy' in it, because as he pointed out, a 'farm' could be many things. A dairy is more specific.

'Evergreen' also meant a lot of things to us ... pasture-based, as in green grass. Green as in MSU Spartans. There's a huge evergreen tree in our yard. Kris used to live on Evergreen Avenue at MSU. And green as in profit! (I may have added that one later.)

Kris designed a logo this year and had graphic designer Carol Stewart finalize it. It incorporates the grass, the water from irrigation, and of course, the all-important cow.

Yes, that's it on a gray shirt. Not green. That might have been overkill.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Freeze, freezing, frozen

The pipes froze in the calf barn. There's a space heater in there, but as Kris said, a space heater is no match for 10 degrees below zero. He thawed them out by getting a pail of hot water from the dairy barn and pouring it on them. That thawed out the sink pipes, so then he could use that faucet to thaw out the rest of them.

Kris said it was so cold that in the dairy barn there was a thick fog hovering over the cows - since they were so warm and the air was so cold. He took a picture for me -

That's right! It was actually below zero inside the barn. With all those cows producing body heat. A rarity indeed.

I went outside when I saw how cold it was to see if I could tell without the aid of my thermometer. My nose hairs froze when I breathed in, my car made a protesting noise when I started it, and I put on gloves to drive for the first time this winter. When you're running from cars into buildings, a 25 degree difference isn't that major ... unless you're water running through pipes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Morning calls

Kris got a call at 5:30am that the vacuum pump wasn’t working. Unfortunately, since he has a new phone, he couldn’t answer it immediately in his sleep and had to listen to the message. (Ha! By the time he’s able to do that it’ll be time for a phone upgrade.)

He got up and went straight to the barn. After he left, I tried to turn off his alarm clock several times. I got him a really cool one that has an alarm that goes off even when the power goes out. So it went off EVEN though I unplugged it. I hate that alarm clock.

The electrical plug for the vacuum pump was burned out. The plug was ruined, so they wired the pump directly to the control box. The entire milking system runs off the vacuum pump – it’s what sucks the milk, it’s how the automatic milkers come off the cows, and it’s how the milk system is cleaned.

It had apparently stopped working last night, so they had to run the wash and sanitation cycle before they started the morning milking. It takes about 45 minutes. Another employee joined the employee already milking (he usually milks alone) so the morning milking finished about the same time as usual.

Kris is going to buy a plug with higher capacity.

And I’m going to buy him a cheaper alarm clock.

Friday, January 21, 2011


"We bought a new teat dip to use today."

"How is it better?"

"It has more iodine and skin conditioner in it."

"Do they ever get chapped?"

"That's what this protects against. Sometimes, when it's really cold the milkers don't even put it on so that their teats won't get frostbitten."


"That's only when it's really cold. Usually it isn't a problem."

"I'm going to blog about this. But I'm not comparing it to nursing at all."

"I wouldn't either."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Heart of the matter

Lots going on!

Eye - One of our full-time employees called Kris today to tell him he needs to have eye surgery again. This summer he was cutting wire and it snapped back and hit him in the eye. He has scar tissue built up behind his eye, he found out, so he’s going to get it fixed and will be off for a few weeks to heal. Ouch! I feel so bad for him. The phrase ‘eye surgery’ makes me cringe.

Filter - Every milking, you put a paper filter in a stainless steel container that filters the milk. The handle that’s used to pull out the part you put the filter in was starting to crack. But it’s made of stainless steel, so we couldn’t weld it – they weld lots of things but didn’t have the tools for this. A new filter container would be a lot of money, so Kris just took it to the local fabrication shop. They welded it in a couple of hours and Kris got it back in place before the next milking.

Vaccinations – Yesterday the employees vaccinated the dairy cows. Once a year, they get a vaccination for a variety of diseases with long names, like infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR). When they’re pregnant they also get a vaccination to help their calves be healthier when they’re born.

Meat – Kris went to the meat processer and our freezer is full. This is how it worked – this heifer didn’t get pregnant the first year. She didn’t get pregnant the second year. This pretty much confirmed she was a freemartin. A freemartin is by definition a sterile female twin born with a male. In 90% of female/male twins, the female is sterile. It’s caused by the mixing of female and male antigens in the womb. They are technically female but have a lot of male characteristics. Including good beef.

Here’s the heart … mmm! Sure looks tasty, doesn’t it? Our next dinner guests are going to be very surprised ...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Parts of a whole

Kris just came in after spending seven hours outside. (It was about 20 degrees, not counting wind chill.) First he fed the cattle, as usual, then he and our employee fixed the skid steer. Remember the hydraulic leak? The steel hydraulic line finally came last night via UPS.

(Always an exciting delivery! The kids and I were playing outside and saw the package. I immediately called Kris to tell him the good news. He drove from the barn to get it and the kids announced to him - loudly, as they say most things - "DAD! YOUR PACKAGE IS HERE!!!!" Being a UPS delivery guy must be an enjoyable job from that standpoint. People are often so happy to see you.)

When they were taking out the steel line, it was nearly impossible to reach. It was way in the bottom of the machine, and they had to pull off two other hydraulic lines to even get to it. (Have you ever watched someone work on something that’s hard to reach? They’re always halfway in the machine, there’s a lot of banging, and there’s no way they’re having a conversation with you.)

So putting a steel line back in was going to impossible, because it had about five 90 degree bends in it, there’d be no way to tighten it ... so instead they had a hydraulic hose made in town. That way, the hose can bend wherever you want. (Also, the reason the steel line leaked in the first place is because it rusted through. The hose won’t rust.) They put it all back together and it’s working.

So, Kris has to take the part back. We could send it UPS, but then we’d have to pay shipping. And that wouldn’t make us happy to see our UPS man.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


At the American Farm Bureau meeting I learned something - FFA, which stands for Future Farmers of America, doesn't call itself that anymore. On their site they say it's because: "The official name of the organization was changed ... to "The National FFA Organization" to reflect the growing diversity of agriculture."

I understand changing a name to make something more inclusive. But it was suggested that they changed the name because of the negative connotations involved with the word 'farmer.'

Do you think there's a negative connotation? I think that when people think of the word farmer, they think of a rube. A guy wearing overalls, chewing on a piece of straw, barely scraping out a living. (I'm basing this mostly on comic strips.)

I, of course, never thought of my dad in that light. But even when Kris was going to tell his Caterpillar coworkers he was quitting to buy a farm, I suggested he tell them he was going to be a rancher. He wondered why, and I said because it sounded cooler. (He didn't take my suggestion.)

Now, four years into the operation, I love telling people we're dairy farmers. People get such a kick out of it.

For instance ... we were at a wedding. A college friend said, "Kris! Tell Teddy what you do!" He said, "I'm a dairy farmer." They acted delighted and asked tons of questions. We asked him his job and he said, "I'm an investment banker in New York City. I'm incredibly boring." (Not true, but funny.)

We were at the hospital, getting ready to have a baby. An attending physician asked what we did, and as always, there was a flurry of follow-up questions. And again, comparisons to pregnant cows.

A friend of ours likes introducing us as dairy farmers at parties. It always makes for good conversation. Lots of questions, and we always invite people over. And they often come!

So, if people use the word farmer, producer, or ... cow raisers, we're all doing the same thing. It doesn't matter what you call it, or what you're wearing while you do it.

Though Kris really does like his new coveralls.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The tax man cometh

Kris worked on taxes today. He had to change his spreadsheet for calculating employee federal tax withholdings. He used what they call the percentage method so it can be calculated - as opposed to looking at an approximately 20-page chart every two weeks to get the withholding for that period.

The government usually publishes other ‘alternative method’ tables. But they didn’t publish the one Kris was using for 2011 … at least not yet. (Oh, didn’t 2011 start 17 days ago, you may be asking yourself?) So Kris couldn’t just change the numbers, he had to change the whole formula.

Tax changes happen every year. Some things that change are good – like they changed the social security and Medicare tables. The employee rate went down, but the employer rate didn’t. So where you used to be able to take the same number and multiply it by two, now it’s different …

All this fascinating detail is why a lot of people hire this done. We do hire out end of the year taxes to be done - because of all the changes every year - it’s hard to keep up with the tax code. Kris already feels like he’s cheating by hiring the end of the year taxes done, and can handle payroll. But it’s not fun. No one loves paying taxes, few love doing taxes. But it’s part of owning any (legitimate) business.


I can’t help myself from taking pictures of the spectacular sunrises lately. I asked Kris if he saw the sunrise today while he was working, and he said, “Yeah, I appreciated it about one second before I went back to thinking about how cold I was.”

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Here's a fun fact. It hasn't gone above freezing for a solid two weeks! Kris said that when it's cold, everything just takes a little longer. You have to warm up the machinery longer before you use it. You have to take breaks to warm yourself up so you're not frozen. You have to bundle up in more layers before you even leave the house.

But ... nothing broke today. The machines still worked. Apparently, they're used to the cold, and so are we.

When we were in Atlanta the first day (the ice storm came the second day) it was in the 40s. We didn't even wear coats. I was mad that I wore boots, because my feet were sweating. In contrast, our taxi driver was wearing a winter hat and blasted the heat. The bellhops at the hotel were wearing scarves that covered half their faces. People kept admonishing me to 'COVER UP THAT BABY!' (He was already covered in a blanket, and wearing a hat. Only his little face was showing. If only they knew he was used to ... going for recreational walks in 20 degrees ...)

I guess we're going to continue being used to it. The forecast for the next two weeks is more of the same.

Regardless of the weather, we'd be doing pretty much the same things. Just a little slower, in less flattering clothes, with people telling me my kids are cold.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


My mom went to the grocery store with my sons and me. After the two grocery carts were filled, I paid, and we got back into the car, my mom said, "You know, I don't remember really buying you kids any groceries. We always had the meat from the cow we butchered, we drank the milk from the farm, and we ate vegetables from our garden ... I guess I bought you Cheerios."

"Well, that's never going to happen," I said. "I'm not that great of a gardener, and these kids never stop eating."

She nodded. She's seen them eat. And seen my weeding. (Or lack thereof.)

What we do have is meat. Tonight Kris' parents were over and we grilled steaks. For those of you who don't live in Michigan, it was snowy, windy, and 22 degrees. I think everyone probably still grills in the winter, right? It's just funny when you have to shovel snow off the grill cover.

They did a taste test tonight. They had two steaks from a steer purchased from the 4-H auction. The other two steaks were from our grass-fed steer. (I didn't eat them. My eating habits have nothing to do with anything - it just would be easier to list the foods I do like rather than the foods I don't like. Yes, that picky of an eater.)

When Kris was doling out the steak, my son said, "This is red."

"Yes, it's medium rare. That's the way I like it," Kris replied.

"Oh," he said. He and his brother then split an entire steak.

No, I won't be growing and freezing all of our food. It would be a full-time job. Luckily, I'm just raising steers and non-picky eaters.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Free time

When I was in high school a friend mentioned in a group conversation that his dad was a farmer.

"No, he's not," I said. "Your dad is a teacher."

"He grows crops sometimes," he said. "He's a hobby farmer."

That was the first time I'd heard the term 'hobby farmer.' I thought it was so strange that someone would choose to do my dad's job in his free time.

When I was an adult working in global purchasing at Caterpillar, I asked my executive boss how his weekend was.

"Great! I bought a tractor," he said.

"Oh ... why?" I said, mystified at why he'd need a tractor.

"Just for fun!" he said. "I drove it around. I might plow up some land."

Hobby! I thought.

And when I told a TechSmith coworker that Kris and I were moving to Michigan to buy my parents' farm, he said, "Nice! Did Kris already find a job in Michigan or is he still looking?"

"He's just going to have the farm," I answered. "We'll be milking about 300 cows."

"Oh! I misunderstood," he said. "I thought you meant you were just going to live on a farm ... not actually farm a farm. Yes, that'll probably take up a lot of his time!"

Today Kris found that the skid steer has a hydraulic leak. They couldn't locate where it was, so he had to call the dealer to come and look. It's not very old, so he's hoping this isn't the beginning of the end for it. He has the other skid steer to use, but again, it doesn't have a closed cab. Since it's 18 degrees today, it makes it pretty cold to use that one. But he'll do it either way - the cattle want to eat, and he wants to feed them.

Because whether it's for fun or for a career, some people just like to drive tractors.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moooove over?

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday called, 'Move Over, Cow', that highlighted the dairy alternatives available in your grocer's fridge.

I thought it was a fair article ... I mean, articles are written to sell papers, and highlighting how great regular milk is isn't that new of a concept.

However, it did mention a current movement you might not know about - the National Milk Producers Federation has asked the FDA to "halt the misuse of dairy labels on faux dairy foods." They also have a Facebook page called 'They Don't Got Milk'.

The federation is very clear in its goals. They don't want anyone to NOT sell or buy these dairy alternatives. People can make and buy whatever they want. Their main point is that the word 'milk' already has a definition. How does the standards of identity read? Milk is the "lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” (Yum! Standard definitions sound so tasty!) Soy milk, almond milk, Muscle Milk, rice milk - there's no milk in them at all. So if people think they're getting the same wonderful nutrition as cow's milk, they're not.

So whether people want to buy milk or not, the federation just thinks that only milk should be called milk.

That's not to say that the products can't work together, either ... on the Muscle Milk site, they suggest using Muscle Milk protein with water or ... "Want even more satisfaction? Mix with low-fat milk. Tastes like a real milk shake. Honest!"

Of course marketers are going to use the 'milk' label to try and sell products. ... Don't we want everything we eat to taste like a milkshake?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

American Farm Bureau conference

The American Farm Bureau meeting was interesting. There were about 5000 people there participating in educational meetings, a discussion meet competition, and general sessions. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave a speech, and Mike Rowe of 'Dirty Jobs' was the keynote speaker - and a good speaker, too. As I said, the best part of it for me was meeting other farmers and Farm Bureau people.

One of the people I met is starting a 5K to promote Farm Bureau. Another girl I met has her own dairy blog and runs her own dairy tours - at Dairy Discovery. There were ranchers and all kinds of farmers from all over the country. It was just fun being around all these people who have the same interests.

Everyone I talked to seemed to really take pride in their jobs and the lifestyle that goes with it.

And do you want to see something nice? They showed this video during the closing session. Talk about making you feel good about your job choices!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Home sweet home

Did you happen to catch all the national news about the ice storm crippling Atlanta? We just spent the last 13 hours traveling from there to here!

We first walked - and narrowly missed being hit by a car that was unable to stop at an intersection due to driving on an inch of solid ice - took the train, spent 4 hours at the airport, flew, came home to terrible snow, drove 40 mph for 3 hours in the rental car with very nice strangers to the airport where our car was parked but we couldn't fly into, got our car and drove home. With a baby!

We were there to attend the 92nd American Farm Bureau conference - our first. Good time, interesting, and met super fun people. I'll fill you in on it later. Right now, I'm going to bed to dream about next year's conference location - Hawaii. And wonder how it'll look under the ice that's bound to cover it next January.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dairy Droid

We got Droids last night. I read the statistic today that 56% percent of Americans accessed the Internet on their phones last year. So we’re joining the majority.

Kris justified it by how helpful it’ll be for him to have it on the farm, when he’s rarely sitting in front of a computer. He’s called me many times to have me look up online directions, or a place name, or the current weather. These phones do everything, it seems. He’s going to use it to look up conversions of weights and measures, take good pictures, check the weather radar, and already used a stopwatch app this morning to time the amount of feed that goes into the mixer.

I justified mine by ‘wanting one’.

He downloaded a dairy-specific app – we’re going to remain in the dark about what it did, because it was in French. C’est la vie! I’m sure they’ll only get better.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


We had our local MMPA (Michigan Milk Producers Association) meeting today. We have one once a year. It’s a time to hear about all the latest news, vote on positions, and meet with farmers in your area.

Since we’ve been farming, a main point at all of our meetings (Farm Bureau, MMPA, etc.) has been that farmers need to communicate with the public through social media. I sat, bored, through one presentation that introduced Facebook, Twitter, and blogs as if they were new ideas. Kris whispered to me that not everyone worked at a software development company (yay, TechSmith!) for seven years, and not everyone read blogs every day, and that’s who the presentation was geared toward.

When I tell people I’ve started a blog, I’m sort of sheepish (and not even in the livestock sense), because I’m approximately the 439583746 millionth blog on the internet. When I mentioned this to Kris, he pointed out that there aren’t that many dairy farming blogs. I think mostly dairy farmers are busy dairy farming, and not blogging about it. Thus, this is where I come in! Kris is doing the actual work, and I’m doing the writing!

Last year at the meeting they had an open position – dairy communicator. Dairy communicators volunteer at events to promote dairy, write to lawmakers, and generally promote dairy farming. I asked another woman who’d done it, and she said that you can do as much or as little as you have time to do. (She had four teenagers. I figured if she had time, I had time.) So I took the position.

Through this past year, they’ve invited me to events and conferences. I’ve not been able to go to even one. Since I also couldn’t attend today’s meeting, I asked Kris to mention my blog. So I’m trying to hold up my end in the dairy communicator position. Even though I can’t be physically present at the events, I can bring the sights and scenes of the farm to you through the wonder of the internet.

Not the smells, though. Poor iSmell – a device that "was supposed to emit odors as users surfed scent-enabled websites" – would probably be really helpful in bringing the farm to life.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

That's what it's all about ...

Kris said that now with the feeder working, the milk production is back up. That's really our gauge of how our cattle are dealing with changes. Every day when the milk truck comes, we see how many pounds of milk they've taken out of our tank. It also gives us all the components, meaning it tells us how much fat was in the milk, how much protein, and how much other solids. They take these readings at the lab and email them to us. The history is online, so we can compare from day to day.

The amount of milk the cows give changes based on many factors. When less of them could eat at one time, the milk production went down. When the weather changes, it takes them a little while to get adjusted, and the milk production goes down for awhile. When we make feed changes, it can go up. Sometimes it goes up or down and then we have to figure out the reason.

Our milk has higher butterfat content than whole milk. It tastes like candy. When you put it on cereal, it coats it like cream. Have you heard the term 'lace' used to describe the foam left in a glass after a beer has been drained? Our milk leaves really heavy lace. Like the kind of lace you might wear outside in the winter.

So, the more milk they give, the more money we make. The fattier it is, the more money we make. Reason being? Milk is mostly water. Dairy products - butter, ice cream, cheese - are made out of the solids. The higher the solids, the more manufactured products that can come out of the milk.

So with the feeder back on track, so are the numbers. Slather that butter, scoop that ice cream, and pile on the cheese. It's winter, it's cold, and we all need to be a little more solid to keep warm.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

News feed

Good news! Remember the belt on the feeder that was broken? The part just got in (I'm blaming the slowness on my personal theory that all productive works stops between Thanksgiving and the new year) and two men came to replace it this afternoon. Hopefully it'll all run smoothly during today's second feeding.

Here's the main feeder that still works:

Here's the back feeder, minus the broken belt:

What you can't see is that these run the entire length of the barn. What you can't see is that they move. That you can't see is that when it starts up, the cattle get super excited. What you can't see is much more interesting than what you can see. So come and visit, and I'll show you a feeder in action! ... Maybe even two working ones.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Heaven scent

Over Christmas break, I went for a walk with my sister and nephew. As soon as we stepped outside, my 7-year-old city-dwelling nephew made a face and said, "It smells like cow manure."

"It does? It does?" I said, sniffing the air. I couldn't smell anything.

"Yeah," my sister said. "Well, I can't really place whether it's feed or manure. It smells like ... a farm."

I tried and tried, but I couldn't smell anything other than 'the outside.' It's not like I'm incapable of smelling manure. I can smell it when we're spreading it on the fields, I can smell it when I'm in the barn. But on normal days I never walk outside (and we were a half mile from a barn!) and think about smelling cow manure.

In college, I spent a summer living in Colorado. When I came home, I went running around my parents' house and I couldn't get over the way everything smelled SO MUCH. Obviously, in Colorado the air is thinner. Also, I was living in the city. So when I returned to the humid, smell-drenched country, I couldn't get enough of the scent! The wonderful scent!

My nephew stopped talking about the smell as we continued on our walk - he was too busy giggling with his cousin, running, and throwing rocks. Even though I couldn't smell what he smelled, I still know what he'll think of when he smells it. The hominess of visiting the farm.

And I taught him what we taught our kids as soon as they could speak. (And what all farmers teach their kids.) What do you say when you smell manure? ... SMELLS LIKE MONEY!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hello, new year

Kris and I spent a few days in Chicago to celebrate the new year. On New Year's Eve it was 55 degrees, the next day 15 degrees, with a wind chill of 0!

Driving back, Kris commented on how this weather was really nice for farmers. All the snow melted, but it's freezing, so everything isn't sloppy and messy. Everything stays cleaner - equipment as well as cattle.

It made me think about how your attitudes about weather change. A friend told me this summer, "I was depressed it was raining, but then I thought - Carla said her crops needed rain. So then I was happy for you, anyway! I never thought about it that way before."

When we were walking to dinner one night, two girls stopped us to ask where a certain hotel was. We didn't know that one, and Kris added, "We don't live here." "Oh! Okay!" she said. You never want to look like a tourist, so we were glad we blended in. (The Carhartt label on Kris' winter hat was very small.)

So as you look out over your frozen, snowless view (check local listings), remember that it's making some farmers very happy. Even farmers in the big city.