Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I wrote about my own (very) little farming project on the Farm Fresh Food site. You can read it here, under 'Garden Results Are In'.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Everything went well with the chopping until about the last half load. Kris said the chopper started losing functionality - first, the spout wouldn't move. He thought it was something electronic and kept going. Then suddenly he couldn't control the speed. No fault codes went off on the display, so Kris got out to look for something obvious.

He said he could immediately smell hydraulic fluid. He went under the chopper and hydraulic fluid was spraying everywhere. He turned off the chopper and they started looking for where it was leaking from. Luckily, they found a hose that had a big hole - big enough to stick his finger into. He said it was about as obvious as you could get. It was low on the machine, it was a short hose, and it wasn't really big, which is good, because no one carries hose that big locally.

Tomorrow they'll go into town to get a new hose. If they don't have one, they'll drive to the dealer. Kris said that it was actually better than if it happened tomorrow morning - at least they have a plan to get it fixed, rather than have it happen right away and scramble around with people waiting.

And an injury today - not on our farm, but one of our employees! Dave was at home working with a post hole driver and badly injured his hand. He said when he told the doctor what he did for a living, he told him to not milk cows for 10 days, since it's hard to milk when you have to keep your wound clean and dry.

So, two open holes making the day a little bit more difficult.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fourth time around

Today we started cutting the alfalfa for the fourth time this year.

Due to the weather, we didn't do a fourth cutting last year. It was just too dry to make it worth it.

But with the weather this year, the fourth cutting looks like it's going to be good. To remind you, alfalfa grows back after you cut it, like grass. (But it's a legume, Kris just told me. Did not know that. Seems like that fun fact would've come up at some point. Now hope to get that right in a trivia game somewhere down the road.)

It certainly seems like fall now. It's cold in the morning, the leaves are starting to fall, and the birds are flocking. We're still doing all the same summer activities - swimming, climbing trees, playing softball - but you can't ignore that it feels different.

Cutting alfalfa the fourth time should be a lot like cutting it the first time. When we cover the pile this time, it'll be the FINAL final covering. And for the guys, that will definitely feel different.

(Kris just told me it won't feel different during the covering. Just afterward. Really doubt this will have any trivia use later.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Old barn

No calves are in the old barn now. It's mostly filled with big round bales. The haymow is even empty, and Kris is thinking of taking out the floor of it to make room for more round bales.

But the calf that was bloating is still continuing to bloat, so we moved her to a pen in the old barn. That way, they can stop feeding her grain and only feed her hay in an attempt to solve her digestive problems.

My mom was at my house watching my kids and said she heard crowing from the direction of the barn. She took the kids over there to find the source. She said they found a great big rooster and three chickens strutting around on the top of the round bales like they owned the place. She said they weren't at all concerned about being watched. She said, "They just moved in when the cattle moved out!"

They're our neighbors' chickens - they have free range and have been in our yard before. They're certainly not hurting anything, but I do worry about them crossing the road and am required to make jokes about the subject.

Kris said that even though we emptied the barn of animals, the old barn just won't let go. We moved a calf back, we've got chickens - I really hope tomorrow a goat just appears. It might be a children's book come to life!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What do you do?

Sometimes a cow dies. It's rare and unfortunate, but it happens. We had a cow go down this week, meaning she was lying down and couldn't get up. Kris treated her for three days, but she couldn't get up. (We had another cow go down, but she got up and was fine after treatment. It just depends.)

It's illegal to sell a cow that can't walk to the slaughterhouse. So how do you dispose of a cow carcass?

Some people compost their dead animals. We call a removal company. They're called RIP Farms. For a fee, they come and take the animal away the same day.

When a friend visited recently, she said she had never given one thought to how milk got to her table. I bet even fewer have thought about what you do when a cow's milking days are over. Unless everyone else grew up knowing about RIP Farms-type places and I was just in the dark?!

It's always a sad sight to see the RIP Farms truck. I hope we don't need them to visit again for a long time.

Rainbow on the irrigation

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Repeat bloat

Kris got home at 7:00pm from the barn. He showered, got ready to eat, and got a call from our employee Megan - the same calf had bloated again. Kris quickly ate his dinner, got dressed in his barn clothes again, and went to deflate her.

He took a picture of her. The otherworldly colors came from a setting on Kris' phone, not some neon plants in our pasture:

Like any business owner, you do what needs to be done when it needs it. Kind of a different bubble bursting than you hear about in the news!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sick day

Our employee Kody called today - he was sick. Poor guy. Being sick in the summer is the worst.

He was going to mow the pastures and milk this afternoon. Kris asked another employee to do it - they started the mower and something was wrong with the tractor. Kris said that the pasture mowing wasn't as important as the other things he had to do, so he just parked it. He went on to moving the heifers to another field and moving the calves into group pens. Mike was grinding bales, scraping manure, and spraying for flies.

So, Kody AND the tractor called in sick. Must be going around. Hopefully everyone will be healthy tomorrow! Though realistically, Kody will rebound a lot faster than the tractor.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


While we were gone camping, a calf bloated.

Calves sometimes bloat. That is, their stomachs puff up really, really big. If you don't deflate them, they can die. The distended rumen presses up against the diaphragm and suffocates them.

There are tons of reasons why a calf might bloat. Basically, the rate of gas production exceeds the calf's ability to expel it. Some possible reasons are: illness, weather change, diet change, excess stomach acid, or irregular feed intake. (Interested? There's much more about bloating here.) After reading that, you wonder why they don't bloat every day! Luckily, it's pretty rare - it happens only a few times a year.

Kris explained to me what he does - and what my dad did yesterday. First, you get the calf to where you can hold her, like in a headlock. Second, you take an IV needle and stick it into her side. Then you have to squeeze the calf and work out all of the gas, as it escapes from the exit you've made with the needle.

I'm sorry I don't have pictures of it, too. If you google bloated calf, you can see some images what it looks like, alongside a lot of people stretching their calf muscles, as well as people holding their very full stomachs. Just like they just got back from vacation, too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Farm fresh food blog

I contributed to the Farm Fresh Food Blog today. You can check out my thoughts on Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Farmer Boy', eating, and the bottomless pits that are my children.

Click here to read Farmers or no, boys love to eat.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lawn, lane, and laundry

After Kris being so busy with the calves and the hay, it really seems like everything's slowing down. Case in point? I came home tonight and he was mowing the lawn! Before we farmed, Kris actually enjoyed mowing the lawn. It was a nice change from his indoor job. But after you own actual tractors and spend all your time outside anyway ... Thankfully, my mom still enjoys mowing and frequently does ours.

But there's always more to do. Today Kris met with an excavation company to talk about grading and adding gravel to the lanes. The lanes are what you call the areas where the cattle walk to and from the barn and other pastures. (Sort of like driveways or hallways, but when it's in a field and it's a pasture, they're called lanes.)

They need grading so they drain. Obviously, anytime the cattle walk on these areas when it's muddy, it makes a mess. This makes it harder to clean them for milking, too. When the lanes are graded, it makes for drier land and cleaner cattle. They're going to start on it soon.

Not only did Kris have time to mow our lawn, but he also bought and installed a new washing machine. You can't last very long on a farm with a broken washing machine. There just aren't enough work clothes to go around. When it broke, my dad suggested taking a load down to the creek and beating them with rocks like the olden days. That was pretty much my only other option. No matter how much my mom likes mowing the lawn, I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to do my laundry.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today the guys built a fence around the new calf barn. They used a post hole digger to set wooden posts in concrete. After the concrete sets they'll string the two-wire fence.

Why can't the cattle just walk right up to the barn, you may ask? Because cattle are really damaging. They love to rub up on things like trees and buildings. I've seen them rub so hard on a barn that it wore away the foundation. I've seen them kill trees by rubbing on them and licking them and eating them until they're dead.

As a result, we don't want them to hurt our new barn because it looks so shiny and new! And like most new things, we want to keep it looking that way as long as possible.

Sure, it has manure in it, but that doesn't mean it can't look nice from the outside.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

We went with some friends to Chicago this past weekend. While we were gone, thanks to reliable employees and my dad, everything went fine. As an added bonus, one of our neighbors we buy straw from came and delivered and unloaded bales. Hooray!

Tomorrow it's back to normal. Back with the kids, back with the cows, back to eating a normal amount of food.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


We had a lot of farm visitors today - five people from North Carolina, four from Kalamazoo, three from Dewitt, one from Bay City, and one from Germany!

Sandra was my friend Julie's exchange student in high school. She comes back to visit occasionally, and this time she came to tour her very first dairy farm.

After we'd shown her everything there is to see here, she told me her conversation last night. She said to Julie's dad, "Well, you hunt deer, I know. And Julie told me tomorrow she's taking me to a deer farm."

"A what?" he asked, just to hear her say it again.

"A deer farm?" she asked.

"No, a DAIRY farm!" he said.

Sandra's English is perfect, which makes the misunderstanding even funnier. She said they teased her all the way here, pointing out cows and saying, "Look! There's an American deer!"

Visitor dressed specifically for the dairy farm tour. Can you see the ice cream cone on her shirt?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Make hay while ... it rains every night

It rained again last night - almost another inch! As a result, the hay that was down is too wet after being rained on multiple times. It was never dry enough to bale or wet enough to chop (it has to be a little wet in order for the chopper to chop well.) So we're going to chop it back onto the field so the alfalfa can grow for the next cutting.

It's frustrating, but that's the way the weather works. Sometimes the rain and dry are perfect for a cutting, sometimes it's not. Ah well, if everything went perfectly, we'd have nothing to strive for, right? RIGHT?!


Amanda Sumerix interviewed me for the August Young Farmer Newsletter. Kris just told me the cut off to be a young farmer is age 35. Good thing I got in - only one year left! Click here (and scroll down) to read her kind article, Agvocate and Author.

Monday, August 8, 2011


O beautiful for spacious skies / For amber waves of grain ...

Traditionally, people have found wheat fields pleasant to see. I also think round bales in a field are picturesque.

We don't grow wheat, so we buy our bales from other farmers. We store them and use them all winter long. We also buy small, square ones.

A friend visited this weekend. She'd never been on a dairy farm before. She was most interested in the haymow (which we use for straw.) Since we moved all the calves to the new barn, it's empty and seems huge. She suggested that instead of getting rid of it so the barn can hold more round bales, we instead turn it into a restaurant. She said, "Of course, it'd only be good for people like me who are never on farms. The people who live around here wouldn't be that interested, I'm guessing."

I've never eaten in a haymow, but I do like what I see. How about this view - beautiful round bales being delivered to your house, via semi? Also picture-worthy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hoofing It For Ag 5K

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Hoofing It For Ag 5K today! The money will go toward grants for agricultural education. We appreciate everyone's participation.

Kris did chores early so he could push our baby in his first race. It was also Kris' first race pushing one boy instead of two boys. He said it was a noticeable difference!

I was up early too, helping set up. Our two older boys ran the Udder Fun Run. At the end they got cow bells, cow hats, and chocolate milk. (Well, really, 12 chocolate milks.)

After the race we had a birthday party, a niece-organized dance recital, and a party to attend called Bacon Armageddon. (I made bacon apple crisp.) It was a rainy, humid, action-packed day.

Mid-day, all of us took a nap. Napping It For Ag.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


As I was driving down our road today, I left a voicemail message that went like this:

"Hi, this is Carla - WOW! A crop duster just flew right in front of me! I was just ... okay, I think I might have to brake. It's coming back over. WOW! That seems close. Okay, call me back."

People were standing along the road, looking at it. It was a little yellow and blue plane. When it first crossed the road, it really surprised me. When it came back, it was going to go right over my car. I wasn't sure whether I should slow down or not - was the pilot thinking I was going to slow down? Obviously it was higher than my car, but it didn't seem like it ... I braked just to make sure I wouldn't be making headlines. DRIVER FAILED TO BRAKE FOR PLANE CROSSING THE ROAD.

When I grew up, a crop dusting company used a field alongside our house as a landing strip. On my eleventh birthday, as a surprise, my parents let my sister, brother and me take a ride with them. I got to sit in the front seat and move us up and down. It was my first time in a plane, and it was great! I'm glad I went when I was fearless. My dad and brother are pilots and I haven't flown with either of them.

I'm not sure what it was spraying for - could be for insects or fungus. It's also possible to spray for weeds, but that usually happens earlier in the summer. Later in the season, it's even possible to use a plane to drop wheat seeds in a soybean field.

Kris also finished chopping the alfalfa. Alfalfa grows back on its own. Reliable, but I'm glad there's some variety in the neighborhood so I can continue to leave such scintillating voice mails.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rain and run

It's raining. All of the crops are happy! But it was too wet to chop today.

That means - they cut the alfalfa yesterday. If this would have been like the last two cuttings, it would have been ready to chop this afternoon. However, there was no sun, no wind, and super high humidity. So it didn't dry.

Alfalfa has to be the right conditions to chop, or you're just going to get bad feed. So we'll wait until it dries and just be grateful for the rain on everything else.


Also ... do you live in mid-Michigan? Do you want to support agriculture? Do you want to run or walk a 5K on Saturday? Then do I have the race for you!

Several county Farm Bureaus have organized the Hoofing It For Ag 5K run/walk at the Gratiot County Fairgrounds on Aug 6. The Udder Fun Run for kids is at 9:15 and the 5K starts at 9:40. To find out more click here.

Monday, August 1, 2011


And just like that, it's August! And time to start the third cutting of alfalfa!

The chopper was delivered (from the fix-it shop) first thing this morning so the chopping could begin. Rain is forecasted for tomorrow, which isn't great, because you don't want rain on your newly chopped hay. But the forecast might change before then.

Today also starts the 4-H Fair in Clinton County. Kris and I were in 4-H when we were young, and I always look forward to taking the kids.

We started off in the horse barn, and a girl said, "Do you want to pet my horse?" She led her out of her stall and was very patient as the boys worked up the courage to pet her.

We went to the goat barn and petted the goat kids, which were so tiny. They were fainting goats - goats that get stiff and fall over when they're scared - and they had informational posters about them that the kids had made.

In the pig barn, a woman asked if they wanted to feed the pigs watermelon. Of course! In the small animals tent, a boy got out his hen so they could pet it, and a girl got out her rabbit for the same reason.

Everyone was so friendly and eager to share their animals with us.

A friend there said, "It's like a zoo!" It was! Even though I live on a dairy farm, I don't see goats and sheep and pigs. It's a great learning experience.

And did I mention free? Way more free than a zoo!