Sunday, February 24, 2013

Names have been changed

So I was at a party on Saturday night in a different not-to-be-named-state at a guy's house we'll call ... Mack. 

Mack was excited to talk to me about the milk he's buying.  On Sunday afternoons, he and a handful of other people meet a farmer in a parking lot to buy raw milk.  He said they gather around while he sells it to them out of pickle or mason jars.  They bring back their clean ones each week.  Mack heard about this just word-of-mouth, and he really loves the raw milk.

He asked if I drank raw milk and what I thought about it.  I told him that I drank raw milk from our farm from age 0-18, but then stopped when I moved to college.  We don't drink raw milk regularly at our house - me because I drink skim.  I consume a lot of milk, and I like to drink mine minus the fat.  The kids and Kris drink 2% or whole. 

Though my kids have raw milk from time to time at their grandparents' house, we don't have it here, mostly because I like the pasteurization process.

Conventional farmers and the organizations I belong to have policies against the sale of raw milk for milk safety in general.  People don't get sick from pasteurized milk.  But if people get sick or die from raw milk, we'll all take a hit.  It's like when tomatoes and cantaloupes were sickening people - everyone just stops buying them!  Some people stop forever ... and dairy farmers don't want that to happen.

The bacteria that cause concern are E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella.  Since the entire milking process is so sterile, it seems unlikely, but the bacteria could possibly come from the cow's skin, the environment, or an insect.  Pasteurization kills bacteria by heating up the milk to 161 degrees for 15 seconds. 

If people want raw milk, they're going to get raw milk.  I'm happy they're drinking milk, period. 

I mean, it's not often at a celebratory, karaoke-centered, stylish party that the drink people are raving about is ... milk.  You know, unless it's all dairy farmers.

Thursday, February 21, 2013



Before Kris got the jackhammer I watched the guys taking turns manually smashing the cement.  Kris rented the jackhammer for one day and it went very quickly!  Some of the foundation was rock, and that part crumbled easier than the solid cement. 
You can see they used beams to build supports for the opening.  It looks big, it looks solid, it looks like you can drive through it ... should work great for storing bales.  As we were driving into our (old) garage the other day, I was remarking on how you get an inch clearance on either side and you have to be careful - but I've never hit it!  Hopefully we'll be as lucky as with this door!
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rafters and jackhammers

We all went for a walk around the farm yesterday to look at all the New! Exciting! Developments! 
That's how we feel about them anyway.  All exclamation points and excessive capitalization.
For instance, the builders delivered the rafters for the new barn.  I tried to show in this picture how GIANT they are.  They really make this barn seem big and ... real.  It's really going to happen!
Kris told me he asked our vet to check if two heifers were pregnant.  Kris said as soon as he rounded them up he was sure that they were free martins, which are heifers with non-functioning ovaries.   I jokingly asked, "Why?  Were they acting like bulls?"  He said, "Yes!  Well, they were acting like calves - certainly not like pregnant cows.  They were running around and one of them jumped OVER a fence."  Which is not normal pregnant cow behavior, as you can imagine. 
This is normal pregnant behavior ... eating.   

We walked over to the old barn to see the changes there.  This is how it looked last August:

And now:

We're putting a hole in the side of the barn so that we can easily fill it with bales.  There's a convenient door on the other side, and by putting one on this side, we can double our bale storage capacity.

This also requires renting a jackhammer to get rid of some of the cement - also like on the other side.  We'll also have to bring in some gravel to make a higher driveway.

A jackhammer!  A JACKHAMMER!  That's just a word asking for all caps.  I'm pretty sure the whole neighborhood will be excited when that project is done.
Speaking of neighborhoods, yesterday my son asked me what 'community' meant.  I said that it was a group of people that cared about each other.  Later, my mom was watching as our neighbor (and friend) was cutting down a tree for firewood and had a limb fall on his head.  She called the ambulance and a bunch of neighbors went over to help - get his wife's purse, let out their dog - we had a neighbor stop to ask if we needed help, since it was near my parents' house.  The good news is, he's going to be fine!  (We all wish you a quick recovery!)  Glad we live somewhere where everyone knows everyone - especially when there's an accident!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Today I was on a panel talking about social media at the Michigan Potato Conference.  Fellow dairy farmer Annie Link and crop farmer Jeff VanderWerff were the other members of the panel. 
Have you ever been to a potato conference?  Met a potato farmer?  Me neither!  (I'm assuming your answers here.)   
There were some interesting things to see, like tables of different types of potatoes.  They explained to me how they take potatoes and slice out the middle and test them.  They said that if you see a potato chip with a brown spot in it, it's a spot that the balance of the carbohydrate and the sugar wasn't quite right ... but there are some companies that want brown chips, so they go for that balance on purpose.
And super cool technology, like this drone.  It flies over fields, taking a video to give farmers information about their crops.   

Fun potato facts?  Yes.  A potato has more potassium than a banana, spinach, or broccoli.  There are 85 potato farms in Michigan and they farm 47,000 acres.  Plus, 70% of Michigan potatoes become potato chips.

We gave our talks and answered a lot of good questions.  Whether we're dairy - or whatever crops we grow - we have a lot in common.
And!  I saw a special treat on my way out.  Like every industry ... potatoes have their very own magazine. 

 Spudman.  Sounds like a superhero ... saving you from boring vegetables.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Naughty cow?

United Dairy Industry of Michigan has been sponsoring a lot of the half time shows and giveaways at the Michigan State University basketball games.  (Every time they announce, "Sponsored by UDIM" Kris and I enthusiastically cheer!  We're hoping it catches on.  Mostly it makes the people around us look at the court to see if they're missing something exciting.)

The half time shows have been great - definitely the most audience participation and more interest than we've seen in awhile.  And they also have a t-shirt toss of 'Rethink Your Drink' shirts promoting the health benefits of chocolate milk. 

The t-shirt toss, if you haven't been, isn't really a toss at all.  They wheel out these huge guns, they stuff rolled up shirts in the chambers, and they fire multiple rounds into the crowd. 

The shirts don't usually reach our row, but this week they apparently amped up the gun and the shirts made it to us!

Everyone was politely trying to grab it, but the man on the right ended up with it.  He gave it to the nice girl sitting in front of us - I think it was more her size.

With UDIM's great chocolate milk promotions, hopefully people are adding it to their grocery lists.  At the very least, they're adding it to their wardrobes. 

Then ... Kris and I visited his family in Houston this past weekend.  We went to a giant market, and saw this on the shelf:

Naughty Cow, Adult Strawberry Milk, Adult Chocolate Milk - take your pick!

The Naughty Cow tagline on the label is: "Chocolate Milk for Grownups."  They promote drink recipes on their site - most with ice cream or whipped cream. 

So, it looks like there are lots of options for getting your dairy ... Naughty Cow all around!  (Of course, proper ID is required.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Covered in ice

When we woke up this morning, it was 1 degree.  By noon, it was 27 degrees.
It's so funny when it goes from really cold to not really cold around here.  I had to go pick up some parts at the lumber mill for Kris - and not one guy coming in or out was wearing a coat!  Same with the grocery store and gas station ... once it goes above 20 degrees, it doesn't seem that bad.
And it looks so inviting ... 

As for the farm, repairs and modifications are going on as usual.  A gate broke in the parlor, and that's now fixed.  We took sliding metal sheets (sort of like sliding doors) from one barn and are moving them to modify the old calf barn. 
When we wanted more ventilation in the old barn for the calves, we took opened it up as much as we could.  Now that we want it closed up for hay storage, we're putting the sliders back on. 
Not surprisingly, it never works as easily as that sounds.  It takes a lot of time and labor in the cold - of course, coats are optional.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl super tribute

I bet you can guess my favorite Super Bowl commercial! 

What a nice surprise!  You're watching the game and suddenly, there's a commercial that's a lovely tribute to your job and lifestyle.  People immediately texted me, and my twitter and Facebook feeds were full of comments on it. 

I've read this before, but with Paul Harvey's voice and the accompanying pictures, it really made me ... want to buy a Dodge.  So it worked!