Wednesday, April 27, 2016

One of my favorite sights

Ah ... for the first time this year, the cows are out in the pasture.  There are the 'dry' cows - meaning the cows that we aren't milking because they're two months or closer to having calves.

We planted alfalfa last Tuesday - and thanks to some lovely rain, it's already up!  (One week and one day, which seems amazing.)  My sister Tracy was telling me how excited she was that her grass she planted in her lawn poked up; this is the same excitement farmers feel EVERY YEAR when their crops emerge from the ground.

Can you see them?

We hauled a lot of manure.  We have a lagoon of manure and we need to use it to fertilize our fields. We also take manure samples and send it to a lab where they analyze the nutrients.  Then we can tell how much supplemental fertilizer we need to put on our fields.

This looks like a job for Captain America

Gloves seem like a good idea

Every day is take your kid to work day

I also did an event with CommonGround, the volunteer organization that communicates with people about farming.  (Check out their site if you have any questions - it's great.)  Tera Havard, Barbara Siemen and I talked to Michigan dietitians and nutritionists about farming and food.  People asked about GMOs, local issues, raw milk - but mostly how they get the real information to their patients and clients.  We also had a lot of tour requests from schools, so that was great!


Kris is headed to our co-op's advisory board meeting tomorrow, we have a community action group meeting for Farm Bureau ... and then we'll start planting corn next week.  The calving will begin, and we'll start the busy season all over again.

And the whole time we'll enjoy the beautiful view of our cows on pasture.  The boys are a nice addition, too.

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Back in the day ...

I love this picture of my grandma and grandpa. (Caroline & Dale Anderson.) They were the fourth generation to farm here and raised five children. My grandma also was a teacher. I was lucky enough to live down the road from them and see them every day. I don't know where they're going in this picture, but I know it's not the barn!

Smithsonian & romantic life on the farm

I was talking to my friend Beth recently and she said, "I used to think about farming as a really sort of romantic thing - you lived on a farm, you worked outside ... but then I met you and you really ruined it!  You talked about all the work and the things that go wrong!"

We all laughed, but it's true - like any other job, once you know more about it, you realize it has its ups and downs.  It IS sort of romantic at times ... and other times it's just real life!  Cattle get sick, things break, stuff doesn't work out, milk prices are low ... etc.  But like everyone else, you just deal with it and move on because it's your job, your life, and your livelihood.

So when I was asked questions by people at the Smithsonian American farmer exhibit, they asked really good questions, like ...

Does farming affect how you make decisions at the grocery store?
Where does your milk go?
Do you have favorite cows?
Who works on the farm?
Do you want your kids to farm?
What is your manure management program?
What are you breeding your cows to now?
Do your cows go out on the pasture at night?
How does the government pricing affect your milk?
Is it made into things other than milk?
What is your opinion on drinking raw milk?
How many acres do you farm?
How many cows do you milk?
What do you do with the male calves?

In the course of answering those questions, I also talked about cow comfort, how there are no antibiotics in any milk (conventional or organic), how there aren't added hormones in milk, about natural bull breeding, and manure as fertilizer.  The people laughed, it was a good discussion, and I think it's a great program!  What a nice way to connect people from all over to a farm.

Meanwhile, back on the farm in real life ... everything is happening.  It's the time of year where Kris is working and organizing and on the phone and super busy.  First of all, we're getting the fields ready to plant.  This means preparing them with fertilizer (manure) and lime, working them up, and planting them.  We contract with a guy to do a lot of the field work so we don't have to own all the equipment, but you're still the one organizing it with him.  Today Kris was also figuring out how we can rock pick the field before it gets planted.  He wanted to get the cattle out on the pasture soon, but said that someone had to check the fences.  I offered to do it, and he said that would be great, but someone would also have to go out there with a chainsaw to cut the dead trees off the fence that had fallen during the winter.

Turns out there were a lot!  I fixed all I could, but some were just too giant to move without a chainsaw

Also, the hoof trimmer was here yesterday, we had to finish up our tax stuff with our accountant, we're getting the machinery ready, we're continuing to dry up cows - and on top of that we needed to take in a car to get fixed and I needed Kris to watch the kids ... basically, Kris and the team are working really hard right now.

That's why historically farmers are not continually communicating about what they do.  They're too busy working.  Due to our partnership, we are able to do both.

It's sometimes romantic, it's sometimes the opposite of romantic, but what it is above all is what we've chosen!  We make our own decisions, our own mistakes ... the crops will grow, the calves will be born, Kris won't get enough sleep, and we'll take some serious satisfaction in a job well done.

And if I still get emotional at times like this?  I can't help it.  I'm a romantic at heart.

Want to know more about the farm?  Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Smithsonian video chat on April 15!

I'm so excited!

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is showcasing an Ask a Farmer program to encourage conversations between museum visitors and farmers about agriculture.  

Ask A Farmer "connects museum visitors to farmers nationwide for real-time conversations" via video chat.  I'm the farmer for this Friday, April 15!  

Basically, I'll be at home answering questions from the museum patrons.  They'll project my video call up at the museum's exhibition on American Enterprise.

I was lucky enough to visit this exhibition when I was in Washington DC this winter:
Like many farms, the exhibit had old equipment ...

It showcased barbed wire, which made me especially happy, because we used to live in DeKalb, IL, home to the patent owner Joseph Glidden.  We even lived on Annie Glidden Road.

They had a tractor simulator ...

A favorite quote about farming ...

And some real truisms:

We also communicate about farming!  My hope for this video chat is that there are great conversations, interested people, and please, please ... let my incredibly-rural internet connection work the entire time.  

For more information, you can go to the Smithsonian Ask A Farmer.