Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fuel up!

I went to a really fun, well-organized, educational, AND entertaining event today!  I helped out at the 5th annual Rally for School Health at Ford Field in Detroit. 

The Fuel Up to Play 60 program encourages students to educate about and promote healthy eating (including dairy) and exercise in their schools.  This event is big!  Thirty schools - each with six students and three advisors - came to take part in the program.  It was put on by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan.   

After a fantastic breakfast where we got to know the students, former Detroit Lion Herman Moore fired up the students.  Then Jill Jayne, billed humorously-on-purpose as 'the only rock star nutritionist' entertained and engaged the students with a message about healthy living. 

The Detroit Lions coaches and Former Detroit Lion Jason Hanson talked to the audience.  At one point, Jason said, "Do you know what professional football players do when they're done with a hard workout?  They drink chocolate milk." 

I'm not kidding, I broke into applause.  The healthy message of chocolate milk is everywhere!

Then, it was time for all of us to run through the tunnel and onto the field!  I don't care if you're a football fan or not ... it was loud, the music was pumping ... it was exciting!

The coaches ran us through many drills.  We ran in those little ladders.  We passed footballs.  We sprinted.  We even tackled those big dummies. 

(For a girl who's never going to be on a football team, it was very exciting.  When would I ever have the chance to do this?)

They yelled at us, they blew on their whistle, they told us when we weren't doing things right.  Students were learning from real coaches and real professionals.  We all had a good time.


After we sweated through that - I'm not kidding, I really did sweat - we had lunch.  There was a taste and vote for the kids.  It was entertaining to me, because I realize that not all kids have the same eating experiences.  The kids at my table weren't even able to identify sweet potatoes or chickpeas.  Not only had they never had them, but they couldn't even recognize them on sight.  I told my children this later and they laughed out loud.  But all the kids were drinking milk, at least! 

We had speaker Jean Blaydes talk about how nutrition, exercise, water, and sleep make you smarter.  She was having us stand up and do different activities every few minutes.  A lot of our meetings could incorporate some of that!

We went back to the field and Jason Hanson answered the students' questions.  (Right before this I asked him if I could get my picture taken with him.  I led with, "I'm a dairy farmer.  Can we get our picture with you?"  That sentence really opens doors.)

He was good.  Someone asked what the funniest moment in his years of playing was - and he said once he had a flight scheduled to go and see his wife have their baby.  She was in a different state on bed rest.  The only way he wouldn't make his flight was if the game ran late.  The game ran late and ... it was up to him to kick the field goal.  If he made it, they'd win, and he'd get to see his son being born.  If he missed it, everyone would hate him, and he'd miss his son's birth.  He made it, ran out of the stadium, and got to be there for the birth.  He said it was funny now ... not then.

Jill Jayne taught all the kids (and some of us adults) a dance on the field 'The Bone Rap', all about how great milk is for your body.  I wondered why I never pursued a dance career.

We all got footballs and played around on the field as we waiting for our professional photo with the players and Roary, the Detroit Lions mascot.

My friend Annie Link was one of the other dairy farmers there.  There were only a few of us - and it's always nice to go to events like this to represent our industry!

Congrats to United Dairy Industry of Michigan for a successful event!  I'm glad it generates such excitement for the students and in the schools. 

When I got home, some turf fell out of my shoes.  Yep.  I'm practically a real football player now.  I'm on the same number of NFL teams as this guy.

Honestly, the overall message of the importance of exercise and good food choices was heard loud and clear.  It was a great event and I'd get turf in my shoes for it any day.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Last Crop: the film

Chuck Schultz of  BluePrint Productions contacted me and asked me help promote his film, The Last Crop

He wrote, "The Last Crop is an intimate exploration into who grows what we eat and what it takes to be a farmer in today's America.  At the heart of our story is one family’s determination to address three critical issues facing farmers and our nation’s food system today: the affordability of farmland, the fragile balance of farm succession, and ultimately, the preservation of small family run farms."

He said the film is 75% finished and he's using the Indiegogo site to help him raise the rest of the money.  Since September 16 when this kicked off, he's raised $6,800.

It's a gross understatement to say I'm not much of a movie person.  I watch one or two a year.  But since Chuck reached out to me, is telling a true story about real farmers, and is discussing issues that matter not only to farmers but to all the people who eat ... I wanted to mention it to you.

You can learn more at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-last-crop


If we were filming a movie here today, it'd be a big plot point!  We're the proud owners of even more cattle!  Today we received our delivery of 28 heifers.  Welcome to our farm!  These are actually from Wisconsin, so I hope they like Michigan as much as we do.

When Kris wasn't guiding cattle into their new digs, he was chopping corn.  Last night a hydraulic line broke during the last load.  (As Kris said, "Better the last load than the first!")  They fixed it and were ready to chop again today.  The boys went and chopped with Kris for a long time.  They LOVE being in the chopper when he chops corn.  It's amazing how powerful that machine is - it just takes down entire corn stalks and chops them into little bits like nothing.  It's super sharp.  Kris cut himself on some part of it the other day, even.  Easy to do!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ode to harvest

The leaves are falling!  The air is crisp!  The furnace is on!

It's corn chopping time.

The tractor broke down!  The chopper needs fixing!  An employee is sick!

It must be corn chopping time.

We started chopping last week and it continues into this week.  Kris - even though summer is a busy time - has been especially busy this part of the year due to our increased size of herd and decreased number of employees.  Our summer help is back to school (both students and teachers) and of course all the high schoolers are busy at night and on weekends with sports and activities. 

So, Kris leaves the house at 6:00 a.m. and returns home at 10:00 p.m. and is also available to help me with things I need here ... like yesterday we closed the pool in the rain.  Today he sprinted from his vehicle to mine so we could take a car into the mechanic.  And he always makes time for the boys, even if it's them riding with him in the chopper.  They love it, he loves seeing them, and the only bad part about it is that I can't fit in there too. 

And, with all the excitement of the harvest ... we're getting more cattle this week!  We've purchased more heifers and they'll be delivered to our farm soon. 

After this week, when all the corn is chopped, piled up, and covered, we can be happy knowing all winter long they'll have a good crop to eat. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Soft little newborns

Everyone likes little tiny human newborn fingers and toes.  So tiny! 

Today when I was looking at the newborn calf we brought from the pasture to the barn, I was looking at its hooves.

Now, picture what a hoof looks like.  Got it?  Did it look like this?

They're not smooth on the bottom when they're born! 

Also, they're not hard.  They're soft, since they've been in liquid for the last nine months. 

In fact, after this calf walked around a little bit, it left part of its hoof on the floor.  (This shedding is normal, according to Kris and the internet.)  I prodded it with my toe and it was positively mushy.  Not even a little bit hard.  The boys were all gently petting its hooves after I told them this. 

So, little newborn calves have soft, malleable hooves.  Even though I've been on this farm awhile now, I'm continually learning. 

And I have some little malleable minds learning along with me.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chop chop

Kris and the guys are doing the fourth cutting of alfalfa.  But, we don't have as many people working as normal, so everything is going a little bit differently.  In fact, one of our employees is driving a silage wagon for the first time!  It's tricky, (or looks tricky to me), because you have to drive alongside the chopper while it shoots alfalfa out of it into your wagon.  So you have to drive right next to the chopper ... and not run into it.  He had no problem.

I don't like driving that close to anything

We shifted the milking and the feeding an hour earlier today, because the builders needed to get a lot done in one day.  With an extra hour in between milkings, they could get finished!  In one day - and this is impressive - the builders tore out all the free stalls in the holding pen and poured a new cement floor.  Tomorrow they're pouring the walls.  I really like these builders.  They work like farmers.