Sunday, October 30, 2011

Almost back

I'm just about to leave Costa Rica, where I spent the last week with my friends, thoroughly enjoying the volcano hikes, ziplines, rappelling, horseback riding, hanging bridges, kayaking, hot springs, beach, monkey viewing ... etc.

This morning I was walking to breakfast and saw a statue right by the pool.  What is it?  Surprise!  A cow!  The famous cow parade is right here in San Jose.  Even though I'm several countries away, in the middle of a big city, it looks just like home. 

The views here have been magnificent.  (I'll share pictures when I can.)  My friends and I talked about how you become used to them after awhile.  The first day you take a lot of pictures, the third day it's just what you expect to see.  Oh, gorgeous scenery again?

But now that I've been gone, I'm more excited than ever to see my own beautiful, bucolic views at home.  The cow statue by the pool is great, but not near as good as the real thing.  Pura vida!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Today we dealt with a lot of bales. 

Straw - We bought big rectangular straw bales (they look huge to me - not like the small square bales of old you could lift) in a nearby town and stored them.

Hay - We put round bales in the pasture with heifers as a supplement.  (I also couldn't lift these, but I only ever see them one size.) 

Speaking of bailing (haha), I'm going on a trip with some friends.  Kris will be farming as usual.  See you soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It's rainy, super windy, and cold.  This means the salesmen are making calls, because they figure people aren't in the fields. 

Before noon, Kris told me he'd talked to the New Holland dealership, crop insurance, concrete guy, cattle salesman, nutritionist, and the fertilizer salesman. 

When I was growing up, my dad often had meetings in our dining room with various sales guys.  He'd always be eating during them, because it was the only time he was home, and therefore the only time he had to eat.   

While Kris waits to eat, there's no chance my kids can.  My boys love when Kris is meeting with a salesman because it means they get to eat in the kitchen instead of the dining room.  They actually ask about it and look forward to it. 

I think that the term 'salesman' sometimes comes with a negative connotation.  I don't think of it that way.  Some of my favorite people are salesmen!  And here, running our business, we have some really good ones.  They call on the phone, they make house calls, and they don't mind my kids' screams of joy coming from the kitchen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Irrigate no more

Every year the irrigation has to be put away. We take the caps off the ends and run water through them to blow out all the mud and debris. This cleans out the main pipes.

We pull the suction tube out of the creek and clean that out. We tape buckets on the ends of the suctions pipe to make sure nothing crawls in over the winter.

We disconnect everything and cover what goes into the ground so it doesn't freeze.

And last, we turn off the electricity and cover the electric motor.

That's it, until next year. Show's over. Instead of looking at fields of lush, green grass, soon we'll be looking at fields of snow. That snow doesn't cost us anything, either!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


When Kris isn't watching MSU win a big game, he's spending a lot of time monitoring how much the cattle are eating. 

It's always hard to feed cattle on pasture this time of year.  Why?  Because it's such a variable season!  Each day, each weather change, and each paddock is different.  So he's always trying to guess how much grass they're getting.

Heifers - He wants to make sure the heifers are getting enough grass, because that's what they're eating.  He checks their condition and their pastures a lot. 

Cows - He feeds the cows supplemental feed.  After he feeds them he checks the bunks.  If you feed them too much, there's food left in the bunk.  You don't want to pile feed on top of it - you want them to eat what was put there originally.  But you don't want their eating schedule to be off.  He also checks the milk production numbers.        

So, grass quality, feed quantity, and a nice break from it all for a few hours on a perfect football Saturday. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Kris finished the corn harvest. We managed to squeeze the rest of the corn into the bags. Hooray! We're ready for winter.

On the History Channel tonight, there's a show called 'Harvest'. They just spent several minutes and various camera angles showing them putting a combine on a trailer. Kris said, "The guy from the dealer does this in two minutes. Every day!"

The tone of the narrative is funny too - everything is so serious. A storm is coming, making them combine faster. We noted they were probably already going as fast as possible. It's not like when it's nice weather they just drive slowly, enjoying the day.

We had a situation outside our house that was similar today. A neighboring farm is tiling their field. The tiling company was driving by our house and the tile was dragging on the ground. They stopped, jumped out, pulled the tile back on the truck, and drove on. But if it were a reality show?! Interviews, potential damage numbers, possibly some tears ...

But, like anything, they're shows. They're made for entertainment. At our house - where there are boring work days and not-fake-exciting work days - they're definitely entertaining. We're laughing, anyway!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Part of what I find exciting about traveling to other countries is seeing their ruins.

In England, Scotland, and Germany, I toured the oldest structures I could find.

Not that the U.S. doesn't have ruins. They're just a lot younger. In Connecticut we used to live next to America's first state prison, which was built in 1773. Old, for here!

We stopped using our silos to store feed. If they break - which they do - they're hard to fix. You have to get up inside them, usually when it's bitter cold, and it's physically tough. It's much easier to store feed on the ground in piles, if you have the room. The reason people built silos in the first place is because the feed is protected, the pressure ferments it well, and it was out of the way. However, the ease of piles outweighs the benefits of the silos on many farms.

You can see evidence of this across the countryside. Taking down a silo isn't simple. (See the video of us taking one of ours down here. It involved a sledgehammer, a cable, and a tractor.) If it's not being used on a working or non-working farm, people often leave it alone.

Many times, it begins to look like a ruin. The weeds creep up the sides and take over.

Once I started noticing old silos, I see them everywhere. They look different depending on when and how they were built - like of stone, cement, or blocks. Often they're flanked by a barn, but sometimes they stand alone where a farm used to be. There's even one right next to our mall.

I think they're beautiful. Obviously it's part of my upbringing, because I've always lived near one. But like I enjoy looking at tall buildings, I like seeing the perfect cylinders dot the skyline.

They mark where farms used to be, where farms are, and where farms try new things, and move on from them to something that's (hopefully) better.

Kris thinks it's better. He's never missed climbing up in a silo to fix it.

But someday, long from now, people might tour our country's silo ruins. That is, if the weeds don't get them first.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Kris spent all day snapping corn again.

Using the bagger isn't as fast as building a pile. They have to move the bagger to place the bags in different spots. (The bags have to be in a place where you can get the feed to the cattle easily, and once they're created, they're not moving anywhere. Too big!)

With that and tying the bags, it forces a lot of breaks in the action. So the entire snapping process is slowed.

On the plus side, it's really good corn and there's a lot of it. Also, since it's in sealed bags, we can preserve it longer. So the tedium and slowness are worth it!

My mom Cherie Anderson took this picture from my yard this weekend. We were at a wedding up north, enjoying the 80 degree weather. So no, Kris isn't harvesting every minute. Some breaks are more welcome than others.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Farm Bureau

I'm now a contributing author on the American Farm Bureau site. My first post for them is here: Terms.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bag it

We had so much silage that we didn't have room on the concrete pad for a corn pile. We decided it'd be a good year to try out a bagger.

It works like this - Kris snaps the corn with a modified combine head on the chopper. It takes the cobs of corn and grinds them up, so that the cattle can easily digest it. (It's really soft and warm. We played in it a little bit.) After it's ground up it's called snaplage. It was called this long before Snapple.

The dump wagon unloads the snaplage on the ground. We use the skid steer to deposit it onto the conveyor, which moves the snaplage into the bagger.

It moves through an auger that pushes the snaplage into the bag. As the bag fills, the entire bagger machine moves slowly forward on its little wheels.

The bag looks like a giant slug, slowing growing in our barn yard. Full of yummy corn that the cattle will eat all winter long.

As I was watching this, Mike told me I should climb on the platform and look down into the machine. I did ... and saw why he wanted me to.

He said, "Doesn't it look like something from a James Bond movie?"

Yes. Feed storage that could double as a movie star.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


You're familiar with a pitchfork. They symbolize farms. There's the famous painting of the pitchfork-holding farmer and his stern wife.

In the old calf barn, when you wanted to completely clean out the bedded pack (straw) of the calf pens, you had to use a pitchfork. Shovels don't work for picking up straw, and the skid steer didn't fit in all the spaces.

Three times a week we add to the bedding, but today we wanted to completely clean it out. (We do this on a schedule too.) In the new barn today, we were able to move the calves to one side and swing the gates closed. Then we were able to take the skid steer into the barn and use that to scoop and scrape the barn clean.

It may not be what paintings are made of, but it sure makes it easier to clean a barn.

Monday, October 3, 2011


It seems to me like it's slowing down because there aren't calves being born all day, but it's just as busy as ever. To give you a snapshot, besides the regular chores that go on, today:

- Kris met with a seed salesman/custom field work guy about buying corn seed for next year and working a field down with a tool we don't have

- He chopped half a load of corn to feed the cows

- The milk pump wasn't working right, so the dealership had to come and fix it

- The skid steer wasn't working correctly either, so we changed the fuel filter and it seems better

- We hauled a bunch of pen manure out onto field that has been chopped

- Kris bought some calf feed

I hadn't seen a bag of calf feed before, and I don't know why I was surprised that it looks just like cat or dog food.

The marketing side of me loves everything about this - the images, the simple packaging, and of course, the name: Future Cow.

Wouldn't that be a great baby food name? Forget Gerber. Future Adult!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

You can tell it's autumn

The sky is bright blue, the corn is getting ready, and the air is crisp. There was a light frost on the ground this morning. It was 35 degrees when I got up, but it warmed up to almost 60 this afternoon. All in all, a perfect fall day.

What goes with fall? Closing the curtains. This is what the barn looks like with them closed, to keep in the calves' body heat.

I'd say the curtains are going to stay closed for the season, but it's supposed to be in the 70s later this week. Good thing they're easy to move!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


We can't keep all of our calves. This year we kept 123 heifers, but the cows birthed about 150. So what do we do with our extra calves? We sell them. There are always people who want to raise calves, especially from a healthy herd.

This year we've sold them to a few different people. Who buys our calves?

- People who like to raise them as a hobby, in hopes of making money.

Some people we sell to raise just a few, and sell them when they're larger and they can get more money for them.

- People who want to add to their herd.

Other dairy farms can increase their herd number by adding heifers from us.

- People who have the land to do it.

One of our employees just bought quite a few from us because he had available land to pasture them on. He can then sell them later.

Who says goodbye to them?

Kids who have seen lots and lots of calves, yet never get tired of going to see them. Here are the boys seeing off the latest newborn bull/heifer twins.

The twins looking at the twins