Friday, December 30, 2011

Top ten of 2011

It's the end of the year, and that means it's time for a list!

This is our fourth year of farming, but that doesn't mean that everything is same old, same old. Like what, you ask? Here are the top ten NEW farming events of 2011.

10.  We used a Kubota for the first time.  It doesn't have the following of John Deere, but we'd never turn down a year's use of a tractor!  It worked great.

9. We used big square bales instead of small ones.  Kris likes them - you use machinery to handle them instead of lifting them, plus they stack nicely.

8. We got our first red and white Holstein bull.  Can't wait to see the colorful calves next year!

7. We rented a chopper because ours broke during a critical harvest point.  Until then, I never even knew you could rent one.  (Or honestly, thought about it at all.)

6. I didn't see a calf being born. I live in a house surrounded by pastures where 300 cows gave birth. Despite my best efforts, I didn't see EVEN ONE of them take place. I did, however, see tons of calves seconds after they were born.  Just think - the first sounds they heard were my dramatic sighs of frustration!  Ah well, there's always next year ...

5. We used a snaplage bagger. That's one of my most-read posts. It may be the price of corn or it might be the new fashion for 2012.

4. We modified a golf cart and turned it into a calf cart, which Kris uses to feed fresh milk to the calves. It's useful ... and fun to ride!

3.  Instead of feeding milk replacer to the calves, which is like baby formula, we exclusively fed them our cows' fresh milk.  This meant changes in schedules, changing milking procedure, modifying the building, and using a calf cart - but it seems worth it.

2. I drove a tractor for the first time.  It was a short ride, I performed no useful task, and Kris was sitting beside me giving much-needed instructions ... but my kids still talk about it.

1. We built a barn. Our first barn, but probably not our last.

Happy 2012!  Here's to another exciting year of farming!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


It's been a whirlwind of parties and family! Kris and the guys get the necessary work done, then Kris returns to whatever holiday activity we're doing next. You know how it goes - party at his parents' house, my parents' house, visitors staying with you, lunches, dinners, basketball games, and eating. Lots of eating.

All five of us also got the flu - Kris was sick on Christmas Eve. He was too sick to go to church with us, but he had to go feed the cows. (There they go again, wanting to eat EVEN on holidays and when he has the flu!) Luckily, no one had it for very long and we were quickly able to resume our excessive eating schedule.

We were with some friends yesterday and my friend Molly said, "I gave up wine for Lent and didn't miss it. But I could never give up milk. I have dreams that I'm in line at the store and people keep cutting in front of me and I can't get to the milk."

We laughed, but I loved that. That's dedication to a product! I support dairy promotion, and when you have fans like that, it's an easy sell.

Also, today is our 10 year wedding anniversary. Ten years ago, we got married in the church we now go to, never imagining that we'd one day own a dairy farm. Here's a toast to many more years ... wine or milk in your glass - it works either way!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve eve

- Starting yesterday, it seems like Christmas around here! Just getting done what needs doing - mainly feeding and milking. Everyone's taking vacation, figuring out their own schedules, and going to parties and family events. Hooray!

- Kris is treating the calves. He said they're better, but he doesn't want to take any chances. He said nothing makes you feel better about a sick calf than trying to catch it and treat it. They're big, they're fast, and even though they might look ill, they're super hard to catch!

- I've been writing this blog for a year now. It's a blog anniversary! My son said today, "Mom, come look! The silos are lit up like Christmas trees!" Due to the clouds, the early morning sun was shining only on them and everything else was dark. After a little while, all the tops of the trees started glowing, too. It was rare and beautiful.

- Before the blog, during, and someday after, I'm sure I'll still be running outside in the morning to take pictures. But it's not always that my son will be yelling from the doorway, "Put that on your blog!"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Up on the barntop, roofers pause ...

It's nice enough weather to sing roof repair carols!

Even though we're not using the barn to raise calves anymore, we do want to use it for storage. The shingles were coming off and there was a hole. So, we're having the roofers put steel sheets on it.

They were here early in the morning working on it - even before it got light. With the cooperative weather and the quick work, I'm sure they'll be done before Christmas. A nice present for us!


I posted an article about a neighborhood breakfast and cookie exchange on the Farm Fresh Food blog.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Walking in a warm wonderland

It's so non-wintery here. Today I was running without gloves on - crazy! It's currently 44 and ... not bad outside.

The heifers were very excited to see me passing by, as usual. They all came over to greet me and ran alongside me until the fence ended.

The pasture is muddy, but the fall weather is welcome for all of us. Whether you're running, eating grass, or for Kris and the guys ... working outside.

There's always a downside. It's muddy. It's hard for the calves and cows to switch between weather patterns. Sometimes it makes them cough. But really? Hard to complain when it's December 19!

On the other hand, my sister-in-law in Texas said it just doesn't feel like Christmas when it's 74 degrees. I'm sure that won't happen here.
The snow will come again soon enough. As for now, this is the winter farm scene we're enjoying. Muddy ground and warm cattle. The fact that I could take this picture without gloves on? Even better.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Training cattle

Last night, the heifers walked to the woods and spent the night there.

This morning, half of the heifers walked back to the barn to eat from the feeder.  The other, not-as-good-at-directions-group didn't come back.  They were standing at the fence.  They could see the other ones, but they couldn't figure out where the fence ended so that they could get to where they wanted to go.  So they stood there and mooed their displeasure. 

Kris walked into the pasture to lead them to the barn.  It doesn't take a lot - he just walks out there, they see him, and they follow him.  He'll continue doing this until they all learn their way around the field.

This is similar to how I've seen him train the calves.  When the calves move into the barn, they lie down in freestalls.  When Kris would feed them, some of the calves wouldn't come out of the freestalls to eat.  Why?  Because they didn't know how to walk backward out of them.  So every day, Kris would go and chase out the ones that were, essentially, stuck in there.  They understood it eventually - but for some it took weeks.

It's no circus performance.  But for cattle, these are pretty good tricks. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Calf health

Today our vet (Russ) and a manufacturing rep for Safe-Guard (Julie) came over to talk with Kris and take samples of the cow and calf manure.

We do everything you're supposed to do for calves, but they still get coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease that results from infection by a single-celled protozoa called coccidia. Kris treats them, and they grow out of it, but in the meantime they have liquid manure, and it's not fun for anyone.

They also get giardia, which can come from drinking out of puddles. (People can get this too.) It's an infection of the small intestine.

Kris has had many, many people working on this problem and they're mostly perplexed why the preventive measures and treatments don't stop it from reoccurring.

Russ used a weigh tape on the calves today - to see if the intestinal difficulty was affecting growth.

Just like kids, there's an average to measure them against. And happily, our calves were in the 90th percentile for weight and 98th percentile for height!

Russ and Julie took samples and now we're waiting for lab results and hopefully some more ideas. But until then, we're certainly happy we have giant calves!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Kris and I looked through a new 2012 calendar last night. (It was from Spalding Fly Predators. I'm sure yours is on its way!) Each month was a comic about cows. Three of the months had to do with making a joke about a cow jumping over the moon.

This morning Kris told me that on different days this past week, TWO of the older calves (about 7 months) jumped over a gate to get in with another group of calves. Those gates are incredibly high!

I told him I couldn't believe he didn't mention that when we were talking about the cow-over-the-moon comics. That story must have some truth to it.

Friday, December 9, 2011


I was waiting for Kris to get home last night so I could go out with some friends.  When he got home, he said he was later than he wanted to be because the scraper tractor had a flat tire.

As I was driving on the highway my car started riding funny.  I slowed way down and as I pulled into the next exit, I knew ...

Kris loaded up the kids and came to change my tire.  (Am I capable of changing my own tire, you may ask?  I'm sure I COULD, but it was below freezing, I had no gloves, and I was wearing a dress.  But I COULD.  In THEORY.  If I were more than 12 miles away from home.  Enough disclaimers?)

Kris said, "This is just funny.  Two flat tires in one hour." 

I told him to speak quietly and be careful on his drive home.  Our other car might want to join in the fun.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Kris was part of a producer panel for a MSU extension program today. Also on the panel were our neighbors who graze exclusively, a professor from MSU, and a professor from Iowa State.

Since my dad started pasturing our cattle in 1990, grazing to us doesn't seem that new. But it is still considered different - and a way for new farmers to start an operation.

The professors explained how a beginning farmer can graze cows with very little capital investment. The MSU extension agent, Faith Cullens, told me that there were a lot of young people that attended.

When we were at the Farm Bureau meeting, a speaker said that a woman told him, "I didn't know there were even young farmers anymore!"

It's nice that there are, that there are programs like this to assist young people, and that Kris got to brush off his old Power Point skills for today's meeting.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

And done

They finished the granary roof today!

It's so bright white it's hard to tell where the roof ends and the sky begins.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Granary roof

Buildings always need some upkeep.  Old barns and granaries are no exception ... especially when your great grandpa built them.

My great grandpa Floyd Anderson built a barn and granary over 100 years ago.  They're sturdy buildings - we're still using them today.  Of course, they need roof work every so often. 

Today our builder was working on the granary roof.  Instead of shingles, which need replacing more often, we had him put on steel. 

I went over to look at it when they were tearing off the shingles.  It was interesting to see the old boards underneath the shingles - rough sawn boards, super old looking.

I remembered this article we had about the house and barn that was in Michigan Farmer.

This is from 1928, when it was designated as a 'Michigan Farm Home'. (The granary is on the right.)

The article also had a picture of our house.  I was surprised - there was a large tree in the yard that isn't there now.  But this fall we planted one in that exact same spot!

Roof work, tree planting, farming.  Some things never change.  Well, the roof is white instead of gray.  BIG difference.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Discussion meet

I had a great time at the Michigan Farm Bureau State Annual meeting.  The most exciting part was - Kris won the Young Farmer Discussion Meet!

It was so interesting listening to the discussions.  This year, the questions were:
  1. How can we convince the public that the animal agriculture industry balances production efficiencies with the public’s expectations of animal care?
  2. What role, if any, should agriculture play in addressing health and obesity issues?
  3. Are the current and proposed renewable energy policies beneficial to all segments of American agriculture? Why or why not?
  4. How do we capitalize on the growing world demand for agricultural products?
(Here's more on how it works.)

I love the young farmer events.  Seeing profiles of what other farmers are doing, talking to all different kinds of farmers from around the state, and of course, creating policy - all so interesting!

Kris is going to compete at the national level in Hawaii.  They let me tag along, too. 

For more, here's a nice article.  Aloha!