Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top ten memorable moments of farming in 2013

I love end of the year lists.  So in summary ...

10. Taking down the haymow

I fear change.  But in order to make the barn useable, we needed to take out the floor of the haymow.  My great grandpa built the barn.  It looks so different.  But we saved the wood and we'll be using it in our garage someday!   

9. Representing farmers in DC

When you go to speak to our representatives, you might be the only dairy farmer they talk to that month.  True, nothing got done this year, but that's true most years.   

8. Covering the pile/bonfire/going away party with the guys

Really nice, fun people work here.  It's fun to hang out!

7. Watching my kids and niece play in the irrigation

They were screaming with joy.  The whole scene was just perfect.

6. Seeing my first calf of the season being born. 

Memorable doesn't always mean good.  I had the perfect spot ... and the time ... to watch a cow have a calf.  She pushed for just a little while, and then the calf was stillborn.  It was an awful ending.

5. Seeing the new herd come.

We bought a friend's herd.  It was so exciting to see them arrive!  Everyone was excited ... they had quite the welcoming committee!

4. Finishing the lagoon

The huge hole is done!  Watching people put down cement on a steep slope is impressive.

3.  Finishing the barn

Some people talk about builders and say they don't show up, or they do just a few hours of work, or they come late ... these builders were here 6:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. every day they worked here.  Even on weekends some people came.  It took a long time, but it was just because it was a lot of work.  Kudos to them! 

As a gift, the builders gave us a ham for Christmas.  This is the most expensive ham ever.  Ha!

2. Finding out our herd didn't have tuberculosis

Wow - what an incredible relief!  Six weeks of talking about 'WHAT IF', ending with, 'GIANT SIGH.' 

1. Getting a history book

For Christmas, my mom gave us a book called 'Homestead' that she compiled.  It's the history of our house and farm.  It has original documents, pictures, the history of everyone who farmed here, what changes they made to the farm and house, and even letters from my dad, my dad's siblings, and cousins.  I was so moved and so happy.  The next day, Kris' mom gave him a book she made about his genealogy with pictures, stories, and family history! 

Before this, I always said that if there were a fire I wouldn't need to rescue anything material.  Now I do!  Kris thinks we need a fire safe.

So, we're on year 6 of farming, year 12 of being married, year 4 of blogging, and year 1 of talking about tuberculosis for a month straight.  Let's add to all of those but one in 2014.  Happy new year!



I've never seen ice like this before.  Usually it ices a little and then melts away ... but there has been no melting since it happened on Sunday! We got an ice storm, then a snow storm.  Then more snow.  The ice is so heavy that we watched tree branches break off and shatter on the ground.  After I watched it happen three times I told my children to walk directly into the house - not under any trees. They started in and a branch broke directly above us and just missed my son. It was a branch, not a limb, but it would've done some damage!  When you drive around, you see limb after limb on the ground.  80,000 people lost power.

Of course, when it's this cold there are bound to be problems on the farm. 

On Sunday, Kris came home later than usual.  His sister and brother-in-law were visiting from Texas.  We sat down and asked Kris how his morning went.  He said, "Oh ... I had a few issues."

But he didn't say it in his normal voice, because he could hardly talk.  He said his throat hurt.  (I can't even remember the last time Kris was sick, so this was odd.)  So while we ate lunch, he ate out of an ice cream container.  After he'd cooled his throat off, he listed what happened that morning due to the cold:

The tractor door was so frozen.  He had to scrape it and the windshield for 10 minutes.  Eventually, he pried it open with a crowbar. 

The garage door to the barn wouldn't open.  He could do it manually if he could push and pull these cords at the same time, but in order to do that he had to balance on top of the metal poles that are placed there so no one runs into the barn.  Super safe anytime, especially when icy!

He noticed the cows were gathered around the water tanks ... and saw that they had no water.  When the power had gone off and back on, the water pump had stopped pumping.  He was able to restart it.

There were issues with the milking.

As he was telling us this ... our power went out.  Kris said he'd better go start the generator, because the milk truck wouldn't be able to pump out the morning milking without electricity.   (Apparently it's not like flipping a switch.  You have to hook it up to a tractor.)  But he made no move to leave. 

That's when I knew he was really sick.

The power was out for about an hour, and when it flashed on for a moment and I said, "Quick!  Make a cup of coffee!" Hoping that would heal him. 

It stayed on (thankfully!) and he didn't have to start the generator.

He went to see the doctor as soon as they opened on Monday.  He had strep throat.  She told him it was the worst she'd seen in awhile.

But!  I couldn't post any of that because our internet provider in town didn't have power.  We got it back last night.  So as of today, everything is still frozen, it's still super cold (24), people still don't have power ... but we were lucky enough not to lose it for any length of time.  Kris' antibiotics made him feel like a new person within 24 hours, and we had a fantastic Christmas with our friends and families.

So, merry day-after-Christmas from the frozen farm!  I hope your holiday was merry, bright, and free of falling branches!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


We woke up Saturday morning to a really snowy day.  I divided our last drops of 2% milk between the three boys so that their cereal was almost wet.

"Can I have some more milk, please?" Cole asked.

I told him we didn't have any.  We were out.

"Can I just have some girl milk, then?"  he asked.  (That's what they call skim milk.  I'm the only girl and I'm the only one that drinks it.  I haven't corrected them.)

I told him we didn't have any of that, either.  We were totally out of milk.

"When are we going to the store, then?" he asked.  I figured we'd go later, when they scraped the roads.

We went sledding and came home for lunch.  The roads were still not scraped.  My youngest son didn't feel good.  Kris was out of the state for the weekend.  We weren't going to the store.

"Can I have a cup of milk, please?" Ty asked at lunch.  I told him there wasn't any. 

"Any at all?" he pressed.

(Like I'm hiding milk.  Of course, I hide some food from them, but this is milk.)

"I know!" I said.  "What kind of farmers are we?!" 

They joked around about getting milk right from the parlor.  I reminded them that's how we got milk when I was growing up.  They thought that wouldn't be great because it would be warm. 

The rest of the day I realized how much they ask for milk, because I had to say no so many times.

This morning, the boys got up to eat breakfast and Cole poured himself some cereal.  I said, "That cereal's really messy to eat dry.  Do you want some yogurt on it?" 

He laughed and said, "No, I want milk."

"We don't have any milk, remember?" I said.

Three sets of eyes fixed on me with total disbelief.  I tried not to laugh.

I didn't think it was that big of a deal, but ... yes, they eat cereal with milk on it every morning.  This had actually never happened before.  We'd never run out of milk and not had it for two days.  But they didn't think it was just an inconvenience - they were actually alarmed.

Cole stopped pouring.  "When are we going to the store?  Right now?  Can we go now?" 

They still hadn't scraped the roads, but we just went slow.  We bought a cartful of groceries and three gallons of milk. 

They must have felt like they were at a deficit, because the three of them finished a gallon of one of the 'boy' milks today. 

When Ty asked for another cup of milk I said, "Yes - because we went to the store!"

He said, "Yay!  Now we're real farmers again!"

Oh, so it wasn't just that we didn't have milk to drink.  To him, we'd lost all credibility. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The shadowy organization you’ve never heard of

Last week Kris and I stole away with hundreds of other agricultural people for our annual meeting.

There - as part of an exclusive group - we debated and discussed and voted on book-length policy.   We covered everything from tagging cattle to the definition of a full-time farmer.  Over three days, every single word of every single change in our written doctrine was voted on.

And this was just in Michigan ... the same meeting was happening all over the country. 

There isn’t an organization for agriculture (dare I say) that has more governmental influence.  Elected officials come to address us.  People want our support.  Governmental people want to be associated with us.   

What is this shadowy organization?  It's Farm Bureau.

Ever heard of it?  No, it's not just an insurance company.  (We do have a partnership with Farm Bureau Insurance.  It's different.)  For 94 straight years, people in Farm Bureau have been getting together to make sure that the government hears the voice of people in agriculture. 

When Kris and I moved to the farm we got involved with Farm Bureau because we wanted to meet other farmers.  Kris is on the local board, so through that we met fun local people.  By attending the state annual meeting and a couple national ones, we became great friends with farmers from around the state and country. 

These meetings have everyone from new moms with babies to super old farmers who have been going to these meetings since ... they were the babies being brought along.  Sugar beet farmers mix with sheep farmers and apple farmers hang out with dairy farmers.  We're all in it together, working for the good of our industry.  More voices, louder voices - hopefully better results! 

Each year, we've gotten to know more and more people.  It's so fun walking around and talking to everyone - some people that you see only once a year - and hanging out together in vibrant Grand Rapids.  Michigan State always plays UNC in basketball one night when we're there, we always go out, and every single year has ended in dancing.

So yes, this age-old organization is responsible for working with government officials to implement member-driven policy.  It's also a fantastic way to get to know other driven, involved, and outgoing farmers. 

And, probably, the closest I'm going to get to joining a secret society.