Tuesday, December 29, 2015

End of the year

Thanks for another great year (that makes five!) of reading about our farm.  Let's look back on some of the events of the year ...

I had a great time speaking to people about farming as a Face of Farming and Ranching, and I also really enjoyed the radio and writing opportunities.  Happily, US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance has asked us to do it again!  I'm so excited to have the opportunity to spend another year representing agriculture.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder &  Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski

We bought more cows.  Welcome to our herd!

Milk prices got super low.  The very basic explanation is - milk prices go up, so farmers buy more cows.  As a result, there is more milk available in the market.  Then milk prices go down, so farmers sell cows.  There is less milk, so milk prices go up.  This is an endless cycle as far as I can tell.  You just have to ride the waves. (Of milk.)

For the first time since we've lived here, we started milking three times a day.  This was a big change for everyone, but it seems to be going well so far.

Thank you for caring, thank you for reading, and thank you for all of your support!  Happy new year, and here's to a fantastic 2016 ... with even more fantastic milk prices!

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Monday, December 28, 2015


We're having an ice storm right now, and Kris just left to check on our latest ... and LAST calves! The last calf was born the day after Christmas.  As he left for the barn, Kris said he was so glad we're not having any more, especially in weather like this.

My uncle, aunt, and cousins have a dairy in New Mexico and they've been having a terrible blizzard. The highways are closed, so the milk truck can't come, so they had to dump their milk.  The people milking can't drive there - and the ones already there can't leave - so they're sleeping in their house. But there isn't enough room, so people are sleeping on the floor.

We drove 30 miles home in the ice storm tonight, and we were talking about how ice and cold makes everything harder on the farm.  We didn't have a white Christmas this year, which was great, but let's hope the weather gets better for all of the farmers.

We liked Novembers like this ... this was our Christmas card picture.  Thank you for reading all year round, from our family to yours!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas on the farm

It's almost Christmas!

- When a teacher was reading a book about Jesus lying in hay, my son yelled 'STRAW!'  Why straw?  Because you bed down cattle with straw.  It's wheat ... it's soft, yellow, and common bedding material. 

Hay is another word for alfalfa or grass, which cattle eat.  I told my son that technically Jesus was lying in a manger, which is a feeder where the cattle eat, so it very well could have been hay.  He said, "No, in the picture it was YELLOW." 

- Kris - and everyone else here - of course work on the holidays.  The cows stop for no one!  I well remember waiting until my dad got home from the barn to open presents on Christmas morning.  We do the same thing now ... Kris gets up at 3:00 a.m. to get an early start ... but so far every year, so have the boys!  

- Milk prices are so bad this year, and they're projected to go even lower at the beginning of the year.  There's not one day that goes by that we don't think about this.  Dairy farming is a cyclical business, but we're getting half of what we were getting for milk last year.  So what to do?  Everyone, double your milk, butter, and cheese consumption!  Think eggnog at every party. 

- I had no book to read so I searched my shelves and found an old one.  I opened it up and was delighted to see ... my great grandpa Floyd Anderson had signed his name in it in 1896!  Age 14.  He was the third generation to farm here and lived in my house.  The book is a 'Brief History of the United States.'  I was so excited and told my whole family.  We're not sure why I have it or where it came from ... but then I decided the next day I should check all of my books. 

Lo and behold, I opened up another unfamiliar one and ... it was signed by my grandma's brother! Arnold Lamb!  He didn't date it but the book was published in 1911.  I don't know where it came from, I don't know how I ended up with it - it was a lovely Christmas surprise.  I'm going to check more books today.

- Everything on the farm is headed into the holidays.  We have special schedules, everyone's working different times, and mostly, everyone is working together to make sure that it all runs smoothly - but people don't miss out on anything important.  We're a family farm, for sure.

- Tomorrow we're moving the heifers to the barn closest to our house.  Everyone's coming home for the holidays!

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

The best Christmas cookies in the world

Every year since I've moved home the neighborhood women have had a Christmas cookie party.  I always try to make it because 1) I love parties, 2) I love making pretty food, and 3) I love seeing what other people make!  

Everyone brings cookies and we set them all out for an impressive display worth oohs and ahhs.



I made these:

The hostess, Phyllis, had a beautifully decorated house and showed us some of her projects - like the christening gown she just made from a wedding dress for the new baby in her family.

When Phyllis showed this to us, she said, "I HATE cleaning!  But I could do this all day."  We all heartily agreed.  Our neighbor said, "Sometimes I think I spend too much time putting up our Christmas decorations, but then I think - what else would I rather be doing?"  My mom said, "I think that too - I could be doing what I want to do, or I could be scrubbing floors."

Many of the women there I've known my entire life, and some I've just met when I moved back to the neighborhood.  There were even a few mother/daughter sets!

Phyllis sent us all home from the party with our own homemade favor - the cutest little dishtowel.

This was the first year I've been to the party without kids.  My boys are all in school now ... luckily people are still bringing kids and babies.

So ... the best Christmas cookies in the world?  Ones that your neighbors made for you, you eat beside them, and you all agree there's nothing else you'd rather be doing.

So!  I'm participating in a #DairyChristmas community blog post.  Since the party was all about friendship and cookies, I'd like to share this very dairy, Christmas-y dessert.  It can be eaten cold, warm, for dessert or for breakfast (if you're me).

Butterscotch Bread Pudding


1 loaf French bread, torn into pieces
4 cups milk
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3 eggs beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup butterscotch chips


Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Heat oven to 350°F.

In bowl, combine bread, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and butterscotch chips. Mix well until bread is wet. Pour into prepared dish.

Bake 50 minutes, until nearly set. It should have a pudding wiggle to it. Serve warm or cold. Best enjoyed with friends.

Looking for more?  Sadie Frericks organized the #DairyChristmas community and we're all participating today!  Here are posts and recipes from dairy farmers around the country!

If you want to know more about the farm, like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or get posts sent to you by email.  Sign up - the form is on the right side of the page. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Where FB stands for Farm Bureau and not Facebook

This week Kris and I were at the 96th (that's right, NINETY-SIXTH) annual Michigan Farm Bureau meeting.

I've written before about it, because I love, love going.  The people who go are fun, engaged, entertaining, and great to talk to about farming and everything else under the sun.

This year was a little different because for the first time Kris was on the policy development committee.  This meant that before the meeting he and the rest of the people go through all of the policy changes and additions sent in by local Farm Bureaus, make proposed changes, and present them to the delegate body.  (You can listen to him doing a radio interview about some of the issues here.)

The policy development committee members are divided into certain committees, and then they stand in front of the 400ish delegates and read the policy.  Through lots of parliamentary procedure, people approve or do not approve of the changes, make more changes, alter wording, and vote ... and by the end of the meeting every year we have fresh policy to guide our organization.

In between we have speakers (like Governor Snyder who also named today 'Spartan Green Day' - GO STATE!), Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski, award winners, hold discussion meets, have social events, elect leaders, have charitable events, and have entertainment.  What's not to like?  I even jumped up to talk to Gov. Snyder and Pres. Bednarski at lunch when they were coming around to talk to people.  I'm introverted like that.

Then, it was back to the farm.  We're hauling manure, we're getting our new cows used to our place, we're modifying the feed rations, we're checking on our heifers at our heifer raiser's place, and we're thankful that we have such a large, well-run, well-meaning organization at our back.  (It doesn't hurt that they throw a great party, too.)

Here's to 96 more!

My view as a delegate
I love Grand Rapids

A couple of the super-fun farmers - Keegan and Annie

If you want to know more about the farm, like the page on Facebook, follow me on Twitter@carlashelley, or get posts sent to you by email.  Sign up - the form is on the right side of the page.