Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Working in a winter wonderland

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  We did!  Everything went smoothly.  We didn't even have any snow to bother us on our drive to visit our family.

Today, on the other hand ... it's snowing hard, it's cold and windy, and there's a snow storm in the forecast. 

Didn't matter to the lagoon builders though!  They were here early, working away.

It still seems like a holiday - I'm not exactly sure what day of the week it is - but everyone's back to work.

If your 'work' is blogging about it, the snow doesn't matter anyway.

Speaking of, a guy called today to ask me to be a part of a social media panel at the Michigan Potato grower annual meeting.  It sounds like fun - not only do I know the other panel members, but I also would love to read a potato grower blog!  I know you would too.  I'm sure we can think of some creative, punny names for their blogs.  I say potato, you say potato ... I've got my eye on you ... an ap'peel'ing story ... I could go on and on, but I better save something for the panel.

I'm off to watch the snow fall!  And my kids shoveling my walk!  Gee, winter sure is tough.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hello winter

Yesterday morning, after Kris ate breakfast, the power went out.

I couldn't believe how fast he got out the door.  The power going out causes all sorts of problems, mainly that we have to run a generator to be able to milk the cows.  The well stops working.  The fences stop working.  Blah.

Kris tossed us a flashlight on his way out, since it was still dark.  (We only have one flashlight that we keep away from the kids, since they've had a million and are all lost and/or broken.  They immediately wanted to play with this one but I explained it was the only thing between us and 'just waiting for the sun to rise.')

Minutes after Kris left, the power went back on.  I was relieved for him, since I knew everything would be simpler now.

He told me later that when the power went out the fencer reset, and wasn't on, so the heifers ran into some wrong pastures.  They got them back in fine, though.
It was super windy out, with a little snow - totally fitting for the first day of winter.  Two of my boys fell while walking down some icy steps, and when I drove them to school I slipped on the road.  But I knew I was heading home to a warm house and a working farm.  Bring it, winter! 

(That is not in any way a challenge to the weather.  I fully believe I will lose that every time.  What I really mean is:  Come on, super mild winter!) 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December calf

I checked at the barn and the little calf was born!  Kris wasn't sure what to do with her, because due to Christmas there's no auction this week, so she'd be here for two weeks while we're really busy with the holidays ... so he made a little gift of her to Josh.  (Josh didn't ask for a calf on his Christmas list, so it's possible that this was Josh's gift to Kris.)

Calves are going for cheap right now.  Our neighbor told me he took some calves to auction, but the prices were too low.  So he returned home with the calves, plus two pigs!

So if you're around our neighborhood, it's not always plates of Christmas cookies - sometimes it's animals.  If you come to my house, I'd happily give you this dropped-off, super-friendly cat that tries to get in my car every time I open the door.  PLEASE TAKE IT.  Josh can't feed every animal around here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry cheesy

One night, we had a package outside.  We recognized the box, because we've given and received them before - a cheese gift box from the MSU Dairy Store!

Kris loves cheese.  It was the perfect thank you gift from some people (and friends) with whom we do business.  Kris suggested we take it to a Christmas party.

The next day, I looked outside and recognized the box ... ANOTHER gift box from the MSU Dairy Store!  The same one!  It was from our milk co-op, thanking us for participating in the OYDC program.  Kris said we should take this one to a second Christmas party.

The third day in a row - you guessed it.  A third MSU Dairy Store gift box on our porch, this one from a MSU professor thanking us for hosting a tour.  Kris said we should eat this one all ourselves.

Go cheese!  Go State!  Go gift boxes and a clever logo! 

Note: Some readers have told me that my blog now looks different on the iPad.  It's nothing I did, but if you scroll to the bottom and click 'web version' it'll look like it did before.  Thanks!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

On the site

There's a lot of activity at the site - it's hard to show, but it's about two acres of dug up dirt.  The boys and I go and check it out a lot, because it's interesting and they like the excavators and dump trucks.  (Well, I do too.)
The lagoon will be lined with a 2-foot layer of compacted clay.  So walking around in there can get pretty messy.  The falling down doesn't help, but they do that on normal ground anyway.
In other farm news, we have a cow that is going to have a calf.  She wasn't pregnant at the end of the season, and then she was too newly pregnant to detect when the vet checked her.  But!  She's going to calve, so we have her in the barn, bedded down by herself.  I went over to check on her today to see if she'd calved yet.  No calf yet ... unless it's the weirdest calf I've ever seen. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Is that snow leftover in the field?  It sort of looks like piled up snow.

But no!  Look closer ... it's lime.

We're spreading lime on all our fields that need it, based on soil tests.  When you add lime to the soil, it raises its pH.  (There are lots of sites that explain why this is good chemically, but the basic point is that it helps maintain peak fertility.)

Kris bought the lime from a company, then he had another company truck it here, then he had another company spread it on our fields.  It took a little figuring but - here it is!

Excavators at sunset

Is that a man inside that giant hole with excavators poised above him?

Yes.  No need to look closer on this one.  They're digging the lagoon!  The man was holding a rod, which is a big measurement stick.  The lagoon is going to be 14 feet deep, 150 x 265.

Tonight my brother was on the phone and asked a lot of questions about the lagoon.  In case any of you out there have the same questions - We'll use skid steers to push the manure in it from the barns.  There will be high berms on the sides.  It'll have a clay bottom.  And after it's built, it'll never have a guy standing in the middle of it again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And so it begins

We're breaking ground!  Today they're starting to construct the manure storage facility, also known as a lagoon.   

Equipment on the horizon
They brought in the excavator and bulldozer and other heavy machinery today.  Kris is excited to get the building started.  He's glad we get to begin it this year ... it'll go all winter long, weather-permitting. 

It is exciting.  Something new - literally - on the horizon!  We'll build the manure lagoon, the new free stall barn, and milk more cows. 

This article yesterday - America's Milk Business In a 'Crisis' - gives various reasons why milk consumption has gone down.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, "Per-capita U.S. milk consumption, which peaked around World War II, has fallen almost 30% since 1975, even as sales of yogurt, cheese and other dairy products have risen."

Yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products ... all still take milk, thankfully!  Which means more cows and bigger barns.  Which means more manure storage.  Which means dirt being pushed around.  Here we go!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Farmer Style

The videos really seem to keep coming this week. Remember the Peterson Brothers of 'I'm Farming and I Grow It' fame? They now have another hit spoof - a parody of PSY's Gangnam Style.

PSY's video just was recognized as the most-watched video EVER on YouTube, which is pretty amazing. It's here, if you want to compare videos:

The Peterson brothers' 'Farmer Style' video is here:

Farming is a lot like that video.  At least around here.  Lots of dancing ... not in the back of a pickup truck, though!  Well, not when anyone can see us.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Last week Kris and I went to the Michigan Farm Bureau annual meeting in Grand Rapids.  Kris was a delegate and I was able to make it for the Young Farmer Award Banquet. 

It was great!  It's my favorite night of the program.  (This year was even not-stressful because Kris wasn't competing in anything for a change.)  At it, Farm Bureau gives four awards, and four people are up for each one.  So we get to see a total of 16 two-minute videos about each person.  It's like a whirlwind farm tour.

The videos - done by Steve Paradiso - are great.  They're informative ... but they're also usually really touching.  There's something about pictures set to music that really gets to you! 

This year Rob West won the Outstanding Young Farm Employee Award.  He, his wife Erin, and their four kids (including twin boys!) live in St. Johns.  So congrats to the West family!

His video is here:

Also, there's also a really cute video just posted - Michigan Dairy Farm Families: The 12 Days of Christmas.  Lots of our friends are in this one, and it's fun to watch!

Last, WLNS channel 6 came out to our farm tonight to interview Kris (local farmer) about the latest news on farm subsidies.  It was interesting to see the whole process work - with the writing, the interviewing, the filming Kris, the filming the reporter, the kids getting really cold and losing all interest as well as the feeling in their toes ...

Here's Kris, being filmed for the interview:

And here's what's just outside the shot.

All these videos take a lot of work!  But they're worth it in the end. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012


There was a point in my life that I realized my dad knew how to fix everything.  I asked him how, and he answered, "I don't know how to fix everything.  But I know how to fix lots of things because ... I fixed them.  I learned by doing." 

Then I married someone who also seemed confident he could fix things - or at least try.

Kris told me that this morning while dad was helping him, something on the mixer wagon broke and my dad fixed it so Kris could continue feeding.

I asked Kris if he would've known how to fix it, and he said yes - it was just something small.  Dad did it to help out and save time.  If Kris had been alone, he'd have had to fix that AND feed and probably been late to church.

I sort of laughed, because we've been here six years now and Kris gets lots of opportunities to fix things around the farm!  Like all farmers - and business owners - you have to figure out what you can and can't fix and when you need to call in someone else to do it.

So there's on-the-job-learning every day.  Hopefully, not so much when we have places to be.