Tuesday, January 31, 2012


It was 50 degrees today!

As a result, everything on the farm is a huge, sloppy mess. This is a picture of our dairy barn's driveway. All the guys and the milk truck driver have love to drive through this mud!

Tomorrow is February and it seems like it hasn't really been winter yet. Kris said that the cattle don't like the wildly fluctuating temperatures. I asked if there were any benefits to this weather, and he said, "Other than playing outside with the kids, no."

Before the snow completely melted today, he and the boys threw snowballs and made two snowman. All barehanded.

True, it's not a farming benefit, but it's not a bad one overall. Tomorrow, maybe mud baths.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


There's a love of cheese.  Then there's taking things too far.  Today I read an article called, You Eat That?, by Rachel Herz.  In it, she discusses every culture's favorite fermented dish.  In the West it's cheese, in Korea kimchee, chorizo in Spain, etc.  Then she continues: 

"My favorite fermented challenge, because I'm a cheese lover but am mortally repulsed by worms, is casu marzu. Casu marzu is a sheep cheese popular on the Italian island of Sardinia. The name means "rotten cheese" or, as it is known colloquially, "maggot cheese," since it is literally riddled with live insect larvae.

To make maggot cheese you start with a slab of local sheep cheese, pecorino sardo, but then let it go beyond normal fermentation to a stage most would consider infested decomposition (because, well, it is).

The larvae of the cheese fly (Piophila casei) are added to the cheese, and the acid from their digestive systems breaks down the cheese's fats, making the final product soft and liquidy. By the time it is ready for consumption, a typical casu marzu contains thousands of larvae.

Locals consider it unsafe to eat casu marzu once the larvae have died, so it is served while the translucent white worms, about one-third of an inch long, are still squiggling. Some people clear the maggots from the cheese before consuming it; others do not. Those who leave the maggots may have to cover the cheese with their hands—when disturbed, the maggots can jump up to six inches.

It is no accident that you likely feel revolted by many of these descriptions. The most elemental purpose of the emotion of disgust is to make us avoid rotted and toxic food."

Revolted?  Disgusted?  Yes.  Eating maggot-filled cheese or recently-filled-with-maggot cheese is gross any way I look at it.

Also disgusting?  It's made from sheep cheese.  If people are buying, let's get it made out of cow milk, at LEAST.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is it 2012?

Yesterday Kris was working on tax documents. Since we've been here, we've asked my mom to type up the W-2s we need to give our employees. (Why my mom? Because she has a typewriter. Do you know how hard those are to find?)

Kris decided this year he'd do it all online instead. No typewriter needed! So he spent a lot of time doing it that way, and then the government told him they couldn't verify his business address and it would take four business days to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, W-2s are due to the employees in two business days. He wanted to scan and email them the documents to prove we live where we live, but they only allow faxes. So he's going to town to use a fax machine.

So our taxes are still dependent on an obsolete machine.

Maybe we'll be able to do it all online next year, just with the magic of this newfangled computer!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A gift

My Aunt Pat - my dad's sister - sent a wonderful surprise! She kept all the letters my mom and dad wrote to her. Many of them are from when they first moved to the farm.

Let me give you a taste of the winter mom and dad went through in 1978. Ready?! My mom wrote:

"The latest blizzard was unbelievable. The wind gusted up to 60 mph and we got 24 inches of snow. It was so deep it took Jack an hour to walk home from the barn the first morning. He was completely exhausted - I was afraid for him when I saw him. He went right out to feed the calves and after about 10 minutes I couldn't see or hear him and I got worried. So I went out to see if he was okay and I could hardly get out to our barn. It was so frightening! I had to crawl over the drifts and my face was freezing. The thought went through my mind that nobody knew I was out there and the kids were all in here alone and what if Jack had collapsed? Anyway, he was okay, but after my short miserable experience outside I couldn't see how he could have walked all the way from the dairy barn. He walked back for the pm milking, intending to walk home again at night. I couldn't imagine him trying it in the dark but I couldn't change his mind. But after walking back to the barn he decided it'd be crazy ... it was just terrific work trudging through the snow. So he stayed at Al's for the next two days until they plowed the road. I was afraid that first night I was alone that the power would go off with the strong winds. So I went out and carried in all the wood that was chopped. Then that night I broke both bows off my glasses. Gage and Carla had bad colds and kept waking up and I was afraid they'd get really sick. But nothing bad happened."

I remember my mom and dad talking about that winter when dad had to walk to the barn because the roads weren't plowed and he couldn't get over to feed and milk the cows. So he walked through the drifts - a mile. And I have real proof here in my hands! It's not just a pretend story about going uphill both ways! (Unless this is one elaborate ruse ...)

We live much closer to the barns in this house - the house my dad stayed at when he couldn't make it back home. Kris walks to work sometimes for fun. He could've done it today, because it was pretty warm and nice ... but my parents farmed for 30 years. How many of these Little House on the Prairie winters do we have ahead of us?

Who knows? I like my mom's attitude in the letter - "Nothing bad happened." True. The cattle were still taken care of; everyone was fine.

Kris changed a bearing in the mixer yesterday. He said that the old bearing came out easily, and the new one went in easily. When things go well, it's so nice to be surprised!

I won't be surprised by harsh winters. I know they're coming someday. But little things - like an easy bearing, a mild January, and an unexpected gift in the mail - are always welcome.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Things that have broken since Friday:

- The furnace in the parlor
- The fuel pump on our skid steer (Yes, the one with a cab!)
- The pipes in both calf barns - they froze
- The tube cooler line - also froze

Friday it was one degree. Today it was 50 degrees. Last night we had a thunder storm. It's crazy, windy, and kooky out there! When it was super cold, the mixer wagon tractor wouldn't start easily, wouldn't keep running - all the ways machinery acts up when it's cold.

Kris doesn't like when the ground freezes and thaws. It makes it harder to get into the fields and super messy. But this winter, it's been the norm!

Right in the middle of all of this, Kris had to leave the farm for two nights to stay with me in the hospital. (This was scheduled - I had surgery.) Thankfully, we have a great team, plus my dad here to hold down the fort. Or hold down the farm, really.

It's not that bad ... if I were to make a list of things that DIDN'T break, it'd be too long to write.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Several readers sent me this article: 

More Young People See Opportunity in Farming

We're just the latest trendy thing! 

A friend of mine who worked for TechSmith (even longer than I did) just decided to leave to run his wife's parents' winery.  My witty former boss told him he was "this year's Carla."  Farming - it's all the rage.

The Latest DIY Craze?  Say Cheese (and Other Dairy Products)

This article from today's Wall Street Journal was entertaining as well.  Though Kris has made cheese before, I haven't, but I encourage all do-it-yourself-ers to give it a shot! 

Kris said that these cheeses they mention in the article are the easy ones to make - but they still look like a lot of steps to me.  I said I much prefer baking, especially desserts like ... pie.  Thus, the phrase 'easy as pie.'  No one says, 'Easy as a temperature-controlled with lots of steps cheese.'

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The calves are in the barn near our house! They were really excited to be outside and see everything new. Their feeder is different, so they have to figure out how to eat out of it. It's new for them to be in single free stalls, so they have to learn how to go in and out of them.

When I went down there two of them had their heads stretched waaaaay out and were eating dead - due to winter - weeds. A new food! Even though dead, still apparently exciting.

Exciting days for the calves, exciting for us as well. They look so big and healthy after a lifetime of fresh milk and a well-ventilated barn. I may just be seeing what I want to see, but hey - optimism never hurt anyone! Just ask the calf eating the dead weeds.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Clear, cold, and cozy

The creek looks even more beautiful in the winter.  I love seeing it in the summer, too, but often there's an irrigation pump in it, and it's not as calendar-picture pretty.  Much more useful, but it doesn't make me run for my camera!

The scene of the new barn is different too.  The curtains are all the way up, and they're all the way down.  The garage doors are shut. 

You can see the silhouette of a warm calf through the curtains:

Since today started at 15 degrees and warmed all the way up to 22 degrees, it's nice to have a modifiable barn.

But more changes are afoot. Tomorrow we're moving some of the older calves to the barn closer to our house. It's still protected and warm, but they also get a taste of what it's like to be outside.

And tomorrow it's supposed to be 40 degrees! After today, that'll seem almost like spring.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


It snowed a few inches, and it's cold. It's winter - no big deal. It makes everything take a little longer, but we're equipped for it!

But back in Hawaii ...

I was walking on the beach one morning and saw this tractor:

Lots of farmers prefer a certain brand of tractor and are very brand-loyal. We've had many brands and have done well with them all. BUT! Since moving to the farm I know what color each brand is. Kubotas are usually orange.

The very friendly hotel guy operating it told me the tractor cost $24,000 and that the sand raker cost $39,000. He said it was sent from Connecticut - and that the price didn't include shipping. He asked if I was from the farmer group at the hotel. (What gave it away? That I was asking about a tractor on a beach? And snapping a picture? I could've been just a really invested tourist.)

I asked why it was teal, and he said they painted it to match the rest of the hotel equipment. He showed me where you could see the old orange line of paint in the cracks.

He told me he'd been using it for a year, and he said, "I've got no grumbles."

I loved hearing that unusual phrase, and I liked the nice, clean tractor rows as far as the eye could see. No grumbles here, either.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pineapple farm

I love a tour. Factory tours, farm tours - how anything is made. So when Kris and I passed the Dole Plantation in Hawaii, of course we stopped!

The road to the plantation was already lined with pineapple fields:

And then we took a narrated train ride out to see them up close.

Jim Dole, a new Harvard grad, bought 61 acres in Hawaii in 1900. He did well ... so well, in fact, that in 1922, he bought the ENTIRE ISLAND of Lana`i. As they said, "He transformed it into the largest pineapple plantation in the world, with 20,000 farmed acres and a planned plantation village to house more than a thousand workers and their families. For nearly 70 years, Lana`i supplied more than 75% of the world’s pineapple, becoming widely known as the “Pineapple Island.”

Back at the garden, we saw the more mature pineapple up close.

What a beautiful fruit!

We also learned about the planting, growing cycle, and harvesting. Planting and harvesting are done by hand. I was really surprised. Seems like someone would have invented some planter and harvester in the last 100 years.

I even took a picture of the FAQ, since it was good.

I, honestly, didn't know how pineapple grew. Seeing it up close was so interesting.

The fresh pineapple at the end was a great advertisement for a finished product. We actually ate pineapple every day we were in Hawaii. I love farm tours, I love eating ... what a great tour. It wasn't just a farmer thing. The place was packed.

We're back home on the dairy - producing milk! Thank goodness we're not still hand-harvesting it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

American Farm Bureau meeting -Hawaii

This is our last day in Hawaii, where we attended the AFBF national meeting.  It's been a fantastic week seeing our Michigan farming friends, meeting farmers from around the country, enjoying Hawaii to its fullest, and yes - even visiting the Dole Plantation, where we toured pineapple fields.  I'll post pictures when we return ... provided we actually bring ourselves to get on the plane ... actually, it's been in the 50s in Michigan while we've been gone.  Just a 30 degree difference in winter doesn't seem that bad.    I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eating and drinking

In the Lansing State Journal, they had an article called 'Cut the fat in 2012.'  Two examples:

Drink Chocolate Milk
McMaster University researchers compared the effects of downing low-fat chocolate milk, fat-free soy protein drink, and a traditional carbohydrate recovery drink after exercise.  Not only did the milk drinkers gain more muscle than those who drank the soy and carbohydrate beverages, but they also lost twice as much fat.

Say Yes to Yogurt
A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating yogurt as part of a low-calorie diet may help burn more fat.  People who tucked in three 1-cup servings a day lost 22 percent more weight and 61 percent more fat than those who dieted without including yogurt.  Even better, most of the fat was lost from the belly.

Yes, there are studies to support all sorts of eating ... but isn't it nice when they're in favor of things you already like?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Local meeting

We had our milk co-op local meeting today.  It was definitely the most exciting meeting I've been to in the three years since I moved here!

- There was a lot of discussion about voting, delegate numbers, and board decisions.  At the very basic level, people just want to make sure that their voices are being heard. 

- The president, Ken Nobis, was talking about some new programs.  One of the things he said was, "We have to do what the consumer wants."  It's true.  A farm is a business, and you need customers who want what you're peddling.

- Kris and I are applying to be part of the Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperative conference.  It's been held annually for the past 61 years. 

- According to MMPA, Kris and I are considered 'young' for EIGHT more years.  That was even more exciting than the meeting.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


And the year starts off with a bang!

Kris said that this morning when he got up he saw there was a light on in the calf barn. He thought it was strange and went to go see why.

There were two calves out in the barn. They'd somehow gotten up on the curb, gotten a leg through, and opened the gate. Only two of them left the pen - the rest stayed put.

He said they'd obviously been running around sniffing things out, and by the light switch a pitchfork had been knocked down. Based on all the evidence, he deduced ... the calves turned on the light themselves!

So, welcome to a new year. Excitement and surprises abound! We have trick calves.