Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Expand or Perfect?

 After taking over the farm I have been asked multiple times if I plan to expand. No, I don’t foresee myself milking more cows; I am focused on perfecting what we have. I am getting it there too! We are running underground water lines, moving calves outside, and fixing barns.

If I were to do something really different on this farm, besides selling cow shares and putting the cows on pasture, it would be selling a product. I think I would be interested in making yogurt, or bottling milk. No, I did not say pasteurizing it.

For now we are very busy getting the farm the way we want it: cows on pasture and everything running smoothly. Record keeping has been a big upgrade here and I am getting it there. I can finally say when a cow’s birthing date is and I am always within a couple days, knowing that will improve the health of the cow and her calf.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

some updates

I was just looking back at older posts and thought I would give some completion to some of the stories.

Back in July we were begging for rain and our corn was all curled up hiding from the sun. We did get rain, lots of rain, almost too much rain. The end result was a great harvest.

Another story I told then was about the old stray beagle, Hank, who came to join us. His story is not quite as happy. Hank was the best beagle I ever met. He was never on a chain or in a cage and he always stayed in our yard. Anyone who has ever known a beagle will tell you that that is unheard of.  Hank would come to me, most of the time, when I called; I admit I did this by always having a treat in my hand. This is still unusual for a beagle.  

I treated Hank for his heart worm, and he came down with a terrible fever that he had to see the doctors for. After an entire summer of endearing himself to us, Hank passed away. It turns out that he had a huge tumor in his abdomen. One morning he did not stand at the edge of the yard baying so I knew something was amiss. I returned from the farm to have the kids report something was wrong. I took him back to the vet where he passed quickly and peacefully. We gave him a loving home for his final days and he freely chose to spend his last days with us, and for that we are very honored.

More improvements for the farm

I am so happy to see this farm improving each week. Our latest endeavor is the free stall barn which was beautiful and new in the early 60's. Our girls will spend the winter in this barn so I want it in good repair.

A free stall barn is pretty much what it sounds like; a barn full of stalls that the cows are free to go in and out of. A dairy cow spends most of her life laying down resting between milking and eating. I know my bed was a serious consideration for me, so it should be as important for these girls who are paying my bills, or so goes my opinion. As you can see in this picture, the stalls were a mess and dangerous for the girls. Cows can get tangled up in this sort of mess. Now they are safe with stalls that are all in working order.
Another consideration for this renovation is financially driven. I will have cleaner cows; this should improve the quality of my milk giving me more money. New sand that stays in its place reduces the waste of sand and the amount that I have to buy.
We have also hung new gates where they are needed. Instead of just replacing them on the side of the barn, we placed new hinging posts. This creates an opening we can walk threw but the cow cannot. This opening is going to save us time and probably prolong the life of the gates because nobody will be tempted to climb over them.
As you can see in this picture, we also needed to repair the outside walls of this barn. Now our old barn should last another 50 years.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oh the Cream!!!

Just look at the cream in this jar! I am so pleased with my new cows. The one above is my Milking Shorthorn. As you can see, she is a sweetheart. I am going to have to bake a pie just so I can make some whipped cream to put on it. And if you look, you can see that Jeana had already poured some into her biscuit bowl.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

First baby

The vet was out and says we have our first A.I. baby on the way!!! How exciting to know that this one is of our own making. I am so glad to know we can have some success at this hand breeding stuff.

New Cows

I just swiped this picture of a jersey off the internet.
I said I would post pictures, but I haven't had time. I did go buy 10 new cows for the herd.  We now have 6 beautiful little Jersey girls, 2 Brown Swiss, 1 Milking Shorthorn, and 1Ayrshire.  They are all very nice girls and add so much to the herd.  They add more than extra milk, they add lots of cream on top, and color in the pasture! Our butter fat is up to over 4%.  That is really good for 10 protein cows mixed in with 116 production cows.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Cows

I am so excited to let you all know that I am about to add new breeds to the herd. I did some shopping at the neighbors for Jerseys, Brown Swiss, and Ayrshire's. Glenn fell in love with the little Jersey girls. I am a fan of Brown Swiss. I can hardly wait to see them out on my pastures! I will post pictures of them as soon as I get them home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

American Made Boots!!

I love the Internet for finding just what you want.  I needed to buy my kids new winter boots, they keep outgrowing them.  I am one picky shopper when it comes to boots.  Most kids boots are a joke to me, we go out and play for hours in the freezing cold so we need a real winter boot.  Most boots are just thin on the bottom or the liner is sewn in so you can't get it dry between play times.

I found boots that every kid should have.  They are MADE IN AMERICA and they are good for -40 degrees.  That means you can play for hours and not get cold feet.  The boot company is actually Canadian owned, and family owned.  Check them out for yourself  at Kamik boots.  And they have some cute boots for all seasons.

Please help me put Americans to work.  I am happy the Chinese people are being pulled out of poverty, but I think the scale has tipped to a point that we are trading them economies by over purchasing their goods.  I am really reading labels before I buy.  You should do the same.

Friday, November 11, 2011

So NOT ready!!!!

I am just not ready for the snow.  Oh, I love the snow, it gives the landscape such a fresh clean look and makes me feel like baking yummy stuff, but I am not ready.  I have moved our calves out of little confinements stalls and their water is delivered by garden hose.   That is not a good mix with freezing temperatures.  I have got to get a move on, quick.

I did however get my older heifers set up with nice new shelters and a long stretch of feed space. I had a pad poured so they don't have to stand in the mud to eat. I added a fence line feeder that will allow all the girls to eat at the same time without over crowding. Nobody wants to be the one shoved from their dinner plate.

I have put together a nice design for a covered holding pen for my lovely milking girls.  I love the planning, it's so much cheaper than the doing.  I hope it can get done next summer.  It would provide the girls with shelter from the hot sun, rain, and this wet snow.  And as an added bonus, it would provide the same for me and my employees.

The kinda down side to my plan is that it involves an old barn that I want to restore into a nice cow share building.  That means I have to do them both at once, increasing that always inhibiting cost!  But I have a really cute idea for my cow share milk house.  Again, the planning is fun and cheap.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Better milk law fails!

Europe is pushing for higher standards for our milk.  That ever so safe pasteurized crud you get at the store couldn't pass the test so the new law was shot down!!  How does that make you, the consumer feel?

Here's an explanation.  When they pick up my milk they take a small sample to the lab and test it for P.I.C., Bacteria, and somatic cell count.  Somatic cell count is related to environment cleanliness, cows stress level, and her health.

Right now every farm must remain below 600,000 parts somatic cell per million in the milk.  Europe changed theirs to 400,000 and says they want us, as an exporter to set the same standard.  It appears that that new standard would put so many farmers out of business (of all sizes) that the law did not pass.

First, trust me, I have been meeting that challenge for as long as the cows have been mine.  For one thing, I have good employees who benefit financially to take good care of my milk and cows.  I drink it straight from the tank myself.

Next, ask yourself if you would rather drink healthy, clean raw milk, or nasty manure filled milk that has been cooked to make it safe?  It's just like meat, why not handle it properly in the first place instead of cooking the flavor and bacteria out of it later?

One last question, why didn't you, the consumer get a say in this?  Oh, that's right, our government knows better than you what you should want to consume.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One little slip of a needle!

Back in April we had a cow that had taken a turn for the worse.  We dried her up and put her out to pasture until her calf was due.  When the time came for her delivery, the calf was dead and she was weak.  I was really strugling to gty the calf out so I gave her a labor boost shot.  When I tried to replace the needle cover, I pricked my left index finger.  It hurt a bit, but I was busy trying to save the cow.

Two days later the cow had also died and my finger was huge!  I went to the emergency room and was given antibiotics.   When the pills were gone the swelling was almost gone, then came back a bit.  I waited a week or so and went back to my doctor.  She ordered an x-ray, said the knuckle itself was fine and to give it some time to heal.

Another month went by and it was still swollen.  I was showing the vet my funcky finger to see if she had ever experienced anything like it as a vet.  She was not at all amused with my finger and begged me to go right to a med. station.  I did as she asked, they gave me steroids and told me to see a hand specialist.  The steroids were like the antibiotic, they worked pretty good, but when they were gone the swelling came back.  The specialist was busy so I had to wait a couple months to get in.

Once the specialist saw my hand and heard the story it seemed to become quite urgent.  That very day he tried to draw fluid out for testing (no he did not numb it..ouch) and sent me straight to an infectious disease doctor.  That doctor set me up with an MRI the next day and surgery 2 days after that.  It has turned out to be a crazy couple days for me.

At this point they have cut open the finger, flusher out the infection and cut out a chunk of bone that was infected!  They also said my knuckle joint has started to close up.   I never dreamed that so much was going on in there!  Now I am waiting to find out what the lab says was in my finger.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Planting Wheat

It might not seem like a big deal to some, but the fact that I have planted our wheat is a really big deal to me.  My father in law has done all the planting for years.  I think Duane has got to plant a few times, here and there.  The fact that those two trust me with this job is an absolute honor to me! 

I have 46 acres of wheat in the ground.  One more field of about 30 acres will be planted as soon as the soybeans are harvested.  I hope it looks good in the spring!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grass Fed Beef

The kids and I joined some friends for a lovely wagon ride in Kalmazoo.  I wish I would have charged my camera battery before we left, it was so pretty out with all the fall colors.  Along the ride we stopped to grill burgers and eat chips.  I brought my own ground beef for the burgers and some homemade salsa (Cherie's recipe).

 Everyone went crazy about the ground beef!  I guess it is what I always eat, so I didn't know others would rave about it.  George asked what the cow had eaten.  Because she was a heifer, she has been out on a big pasture with dry hay and some silage put out for her.  How ironic, my husband is always worried that if we raise grass fed beef it will taste funny.  We are eating grass fed beef now and never really thought about it.  His parents would eat the old dairy cows, I never do.  Not only did they always taste like the soybeans that they were fed back then, but they were old, run down cows (sick and used up).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Go Glenn! & Thank You Share Holders

Today I took our son to the hay field and taught him to run the self propelled haybine.  It is so cool to see your son become a hard working young man.  I have always tried to really instill a good work ethic, not just hard work, but high quality work.  He is such a runt for his age, which makes it even more remarkable to see him out there working like a man.  As always, I am just busting with pride!  Glenn takes every job so serious.  He knows that if he has any trouble, he is to stop and just call for help-his safety is the number one priority.

Today was also made special by the fact that my father-in-law is willing to let me bail all the hay we can.  Oh, he would have had it mowed sooner, but it would also have been chopped into wet haylage.  This is going to be bailed for dry hay for my new "grass fed" operation.  They have even decided to run the Harvestore (big blue silo) empty, moving away from feeding grain.  That is a huge victory for me and my share holders.  Having share holders has been the deal breaker for me.  Thank you for being a part of our farm!  I am so appreciative of the folks who are willing to go that extra mile (in some cases several) to get great quality food over convenient and cheap.  I am also grateful that so many people are willing to work with me as I strive to make a good farm great.   It is a long slow process, but with your support I will get us there.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another big step in the right direction!

I spent yesterday in the classroom learning how to do A.I. (artificial insemination-breeding) on my cows.  This is so exciting for me.  It means the bull can go, which is safer for me and my employees.  It also means that I will get to cross Jersey, Swedish Reds,and other breeds into my herd, giving us a much higher butter fat milk for making butter, whip cream, and other yummy stuff. 

You know it will be a proud day when I can post a picture of my first cross heifer that is a result of my handy work.  For now we have the long wait, it will be another year before that calf ever arrives.  Then we wait for her to mature into a milk cow.  This farming seems to have a lot of waiting involved.

Monday, August 29, 2011

End of August already!

I can hardly believe August is about over.  So many things have gone on this month.

For the farm, we got about 15% of our pasture put in.  We will need 200 acres to leave cows out all day, everyday.  I took over one field this past fall and finally got it planted into something nutritious for the cows.  They enjoyed going out even when the field was wheat stubble mixed with some barnyard grass.  I feel bad that they are already back in just the old small turn out, but it's part of making a major change to the farm.  Time and patients, then more time and patients.

One reason I have not had much time for my blog is my mother in law.  I have been dealing with helping her and moving her.  Poor thing has had slight dementia for quite some time, but you had to be around her often to see it.  As with most families, the members that aren't around were hard to convince.  That just slows the process of helping her and gives the disease a bigger head start.  Sadly, she was totally delusional, being killed by "the man in the floppy hat" (a man only she saw and spoke with) before real help arrived.  She called the hospital herself because she thought she was being killed.   It is sad, but the best thing she could do for herself.   Now those distant relation have no choice but face the reality we were living with, Janet has real mental problems.  I hope she will make enough recovery to have some sort of decent life in a care home.  Her husband has had her moved to one of the best in the area.  Another sad reality, he would do anything for her, but she thinks he is trying to destroy her because she no longer is able to be logical.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Nice ride Uncle Jack!

How would you like to get to take this fine ride out for an afternoon cruise?  I know I would.  I don't think I am brave enough to need that fancy bar on the back to keep the front end down, but I would have fun riding around in it.  Duane's uncle Jack has owned this car for many decades now.  Duane says it looks the same as the day he brought it home.  I don't recall the year, but it's old enough that collectors like it.
As you can see, it doesn't take much to draw a crowd on our farm.  We all stopped what we were doing to check out the old corvette.   I guess more than collectors like Jack's car.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

You are welcome, Teagen!

What an awesome day!  Several years ago a friend's daughter asked if she could finish out high school at my house.  Poor thing, she was used to the city, but she took off working her little heart out on our farm.  Looking back I always feel bad for being so hard on her.

The first time I paid for her college classes I remember asking a fiend if she thought I was crazy, it was a couple thousand dollars out of our pockets.  She wisely advised me to go for it, "You will never look back when Teagen is successful and be sorry you helped."

Today I got flowers dropped off at the house for me.  The card reads "I got my first real paycheck!  I couldn't have done it without you.  I love you so much!"  Cathlene was right, I sure don't have any regrets for helping out such a hard working young lady.

Teagen, I am so honored to have you in my life, and what a great job you are doing with the opportunity you were given.

I love this life!

Today was my first morning back home from a sesquicentennial celebration in Gladwin.  I will post pictures and talk all about that when I have some  more time.   Right now I want to share my early morning event.

At 4 every morning it is my job to push the cows out of the pasture, back into the barnyard so they can eat before morning milking.  Everyday I go check on our dry cows, never anything to see but fat sleepy cows....until today.

As usual, when I checked on the dry cows- they are called that because they are dried up from the milking line so that the new calf they are about to have will get sufficient colostrum-they are all huge, pregnant, and lazy.  I was talking to them like I always do, explaining what a waste of time this ritual of mine seems to be.  I shined my high powered light over all the girls, they all just lay there and watch me to make sure I don't really want them to move.  Nothing, as usual so I turn to leave, but someone lets out a small groan.  I freeze, turn back and ask "who said that?".  And one old cow at the back looks right at me and groans again!  I walk over and circle behind her, sure enough, she has trouble!  There is the head and just one leg of a calf sticking out, with that other leg bunched up at the gate, she cant push it out.  I called home for help, hello, it's 4 am, they are all sleeping, so I try to pull the other leg out.  Usually you have to push the head back in to make enough room to maneuver the other leg around, but this old cow has had a few calves, and a few adrenalin driven tugs and out it popped.  She pushed and I pulled, before you know it, we have the newest addition to the herd.

She will get a number, not a name, but she will be loved just the same.  Maybe I will changed that on the farm next, maybe I will give them official names.   We have always had a few cows with names, just not all of them.  Any ideas for a girl born at four in the morning, with one arm behind her from an old cow number 44R?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Can someone please explain this to me?

I really don't understand what our own country is doing to itself.  The senate just voted out any subsidies for ethanol.  Now I can't say that I disagree with that.  I personally think all that government help is just another opportunity for snakes to figure out the loopholes. 

Are we still giving big oil companies tax breaks and government money?

I know we support Brazil making fuel out of cane sugar.  Most knuckle headed Americans eat more sugar than they do corn!  Won't we starve our own fat children if we use up sugar on fuel?  Oh, or maybe it's because they prefer the much worse high-fructose corn syrup for their morbidly obese darlings.

So we can support foreign oil coming in, but not our own renewable fuel?  It does not make sense, please explain it to me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Exciting New Site

Bio Ag of Michigan is a new favorite place of mine!  They are a group dedicated to helping farmers like myself learn the old fashioned way of farming using modern technology.  I will be joining them on a field trip in August.  I will get to go to several farms that are using farming practices I would like to use.  Check out their website to get an idea where I am trying to take this old conventional farm of ours, or maybe you have animals of your own and they could help you.

The corn is begging for mercy!

Have you ever seen corn beg for mercy? 

 See how the leaves have rolled up to hide from the sun?  That is corn begging not to see the sun for awhile.  We sure do need the rain they keep telling us is coming.  Our weatherman has told us to expect thundershowers for a few days now, and still no rain.  Rain is predicted for the next few days as well, I just hope we get some.  This weather is quite hard on our crops. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Poor Hank, the Beagle

I took Hank the stray Beagle to the vet today.  I can tell he hasn't seen much care and affection, though he is learning to love it.  I also noted that his hair doesn't feel good when you pet him.  Not sure how to describe it, just feels like a chalk board, yucky to the touch.  Of course it is a sign that he has heart worms and needs a small bank account of his own.  He will get neutered another day, right now we have to get the parasites out of him.  I had to fix the poor old boy, he found me for a reason.  Besides, I just got him his own new cammo collar and matching leash!  Tomorrow I will pick up his new I.D. tags.  I'd hate to lose him after all this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ready for the Wheat!

We have our second cutting of hay done and are ready to start harvesting wheat.  We have some wheat that is our own old harvested seed.  We also have some newer seed.  I am anxious to see which seed produces the best yield.   I bet ours will win.

For about a month now I have been putting our cows out on their make shift pasture at night.  I go out at 4 every morning and drive them back up to the feed bunk.  At first I was thinking about how early 4 am really is.  Now I just really enjoy the early start on the day along with this chance to talk to my girls as I gently push them back up to the barn.  They are such creatures of habit, as soon as they hear my truck leave my drive a few start drifting to the gate.  Most just lay there and look at me as I head to the back of the pasture.  As I work my way back to the barn, there is hardly a cow in front of me, they all know the drill and are gone to the barn.

Hank update:  Hank has decided to share our home.  I turned him free a couple weeks ago and he has never left.  Even a beagle can spot a good life when he sees one.  Hank now knows that he is welcome in the house, but no marking his territory, it's all mine in here.  He also knows that I feed critters at 6 am.  So Hank has earned his appointment to have his heart checked and all his shots updated.  He will also come home shy a couple parts.  Good luck Hanky Panky!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Where do you shop?

I just had an interesting revelation.  I was running through my local grocery store with young adults in tow, when it all hit me.  Everything we buy is at the perimeter of the store.  We buy fresh fruits and vegetables, not from a can.  We buy some dairy products, and we are done.  All the stuff in the isles are prepared foods, boxed stuff, instant stuff, cans of stuff.  I might dart into an isle for some odd ball thing like mustard.  I do buy most of my spelt flour, granulated fruit sugar, and non-hydrogenated shortening from my co-op.  I don't think of myself as a radical, but I sure don't like processed foods.  Maybe that's why I think everyone should have access to raw milk.

Honored visit

Today I had the honor of meeting Ted and Peggy Beals.  They are first, just a very nice couple, but they are working very hard for farmers like us and customers who would like great milk to drink.  Tedd works on the Weston A Price council, and he and Peggy work with Michigan fresh whole milk group, and she wrote a book Safe Handling- Consumers' Guide

They seemed pleased with the small amount of progress I have made, and gave me a ton of research to do.  Most of my progress, but not all, is just my plan for the future.  Getting big things done on a farm are done with tiny, slow baby steps.  But with one foot in front of the other, I will soon be looking back thinking how quickly things changed.

I would also like to publicly thank Don, a share holder, for taking the time to set the meeting up for me.  That was very generous, and much appreciated.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


So I found this beagle wandering around on our main road.  Of course I was afraid he might get hit by a car.  I brought him home, locked him in a horse stall with food and water, then went checking with all the neighbors.  So far it is not looking good for me.  Everyone says he was at my intersection all day looking lost.  I think that makes him a drop off.

The next day, because I hate dogs being locked up, I turned him loose and begged him not to bolt.  He seems to be older and calm, and very grateful to have food and nice kids to run around with.  All my other dogs seem to like him, too.

We are calling him Hank and calling the vet tomorrow to have some "stuff" removed.  I hope his old owners won't mind, if they ever come looking for him.

I have to wonder...What is wrong with me?  For years I had a rule about only owning one dog, Hank will give us 4!  Age seems to brings a soft heart, or is it a soft mind?  Which ever it is, Hank seems happy with it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cupcakes and Rainbows?

Jeana has a saying, "Life isn' always cupcakes and rainbows".  I think that might apply to my day yesterday.  At 6am one of the employees called to say the refrigerator in the barn quit.  No, that's not where the milk is, just their snacks and a couple dozen eggs.  Inconvenient, but not the end of the world.  So I take off for town and go about 100 yards when the rear gearbox in my beloved excursion comes to a grinding halt!  All that before 8 in the morning!  I was almost scared to do much more, but as the day went on, I was blessed with pleasantness.  But I think Jeana is right, life is not always cupcakes and rainbow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More kids

As some of you know, I have this knack for finding kids that want a place to stay.  Or, I should say they have a knack for finding me.  This weeks additions are Jeana's 3 year old daughter that she just regained custody of.  Yay for Jeana!!  And then there is her 18 year old cousin, Alayna that wanted to stay for the summer and do some odd jobs around the farm before she starts college in August.

I am so proud of Jeana for getting her life in order and getting her daughter back.  She has had a tough family, ready to pounce on her for failing.  Just some good old "you can do this" pep talks and a stable home is all it took to make this girl step up to responsability. Of course I think her famiy would like me to point out that "she has to prove herself to them", or "she has le them down so many times in the past", but I ask this, "which came first, the chicke or the egg".

Her daughter, Hollie is a handful of 3 year old, but it keeps the house alive and pumping!  We have already taught her that water really is better than BugJuice.  Who feeds that crap to a kid?  So should I wonder why she weighs as much as my 12 year old?

Alayna is one of the few who are here for nothing more than good intentions.  She has been a great student, never got in trouble, isn't really running from her home life, just wanting to spread her wings a bit (and maybe earn a few bucks) before she starts college.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More flowers

Today was just another busy day.  I did start out by playing with my horse, Sean at 7:30 this morning.  We jumped a couple jumps.

As soon as I got home I was called because we had a new calf in the heifer lot.  We have about 20 heifers due in the next couple week.  A cow had twins, and then 2 more heifers calved after dinner.

After dinner I took my partners in crime to the local green house for some flowers.  Donna, the owner, helped design them.  My favorite part is the Indian pop corn plant in the back, perfect for a farm arrangement.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Newer than new

There is nothing more fun on the farm than witnessing a birth. No matter how many you have seen in the past, each one is awsome. And when it's a hiefer with her first, it's even more exciting.

Welcome to the world little man!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Farm Chores

Brian helping Mike feed our newest girl on the farm.  She will stay here a couple days before she moves to the neighbors.  Phil custom raises our calves for the first 90 days.  It just gives the calves a place to be center of attention.  With this many cows and acres to take care of, delegation seemed like the best plan for these tender girls.

Here the ladies are headed out to the new pasture.  I think they look as happy as a California cow!  It was so hot this afternoon they opted to stay in the free stall barn enjoying the shade and fans.  I don't blame them.

Here are those darn girls again, working away.  We went out and picked up 220 square bales on the hottest day of the year so far. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Small Farmer

If you look really close you can see Glenn.  He is very proud to be the driver of the old Dodge.  He is quite the fence worker.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fence, fence, and more fence.

Fencing off a big field is no small task!  Then add in dividing it for rotation and that's a lot of fence.  We have got 2 miles of wire strung and it's not enough.  The fun part is that the cows keep walking over to the gate and checking out our progress.  You know they are just as anxious for us to get it done as we are.  We are hoping to get them on the new pasture today.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I would like to introduce my partners in crime

Cherie is my sister out law.  She is the widow Milligan, married to my husbands middle brother, Steve who we lost a few years back.  However we did decide to keep his wife.  Hey, she works like a borrowed mule.  We usually try to be nice and feed her on the weekends between jobs like shoveling sand and mulch.

Jeana, with her sun scorched face, is a friend's daughter, but I claim her as my niece.  She is staying here and helping me run the place.  She is my friend, my kids nanny, and kitchen girl, but her hands seem to fit a shovel handle just fine, too.

Seriously, these two girls work hard to make me look good.  I get a ton done, but all because they are here helping me out all the time.  Thank you Cherie and Jeana!

Monday, May 30, 2011


I thought I would get a picture of one of our flower beds while the sun is actually shining!!

We just got a new fancy camera, so I tried doing a couple of those close up flowers shots.  I think this one is my favorite.  Here are a couple more, just because flowers and sunshine are so beautiful.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Now I Know!!!!

I got Sadie her lovely Old English Sheep Dog just before the dog, Sarah turned one.  I had this great idea that I would turn her into an assist dog for Sadie.  For some reason I just kept pushing that plan on the back burner.  Last week I decided I needed to get it going.  I showed up at the trainers and looking at Sarah's papers realized that she is turning 4 in a couple days!  Way to put things off a bit, Cindy.

Then we started our one on one class.  We had an out of control dog and an out of control kid both running and pulling on each other with absolutely no intent to listen to me or the trainer.  Now I know why I was dragging my feet!

What a great trainer, by the end of our 30 minute class she had us all on track.  I have got my work cut out for me, but now that I started, I am sticking with it to the end.  I will keep you all posted as to how we do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Great Milk

Wow, I am just pumped about the farm.  We just got our latest milk quality test in the mail and it looks great!Our Somatic Cell Count is down at 130,000, our bacteria is only 2,000, and our P.I. is only 3,000.  When you consider the limits on those are 400,000, 50,000, and 50,000 you can see that we are well below that. 

My role in this is that I am willing to pay for the sand to keep those stalls clean, and pay for high quality minerals to keep the girls healthy. 

The biggest thing I do to get these test numbers is pay my employees the bonus I get for great milk.  It really makes some of them put forth a lot of effort.  I do say "some".  Some employees still think showing up is all it takes to be valuable.  At one time, that did mean a lot on this farm, but we have such a good crew now, it takes more than showing up to shine like a star here.  I think it might be time to also hand out some pay raises to those I see really trying hard.

Monday, May 16, 2011

While time was flying by....

I have been crazy busy the past few weeks, and I am so glad to see that end!  What have I been doing?

  Well, my in-laws are a big part of our life and last year I was really busy with Janet, my mother in law, and this year it has been Lauren, my father in law.  I have had many doctor appointments getting him prepped to be on dialysis.  I set up in home health care to make everyones life easier.  Those girls keep the house clean, cook meals, make sure meds are taken, and do some of the running.  I am really an advocate for long term health care insurance right now.  It took 2 months for my inlaws to completely recoup all 15 years of premiums they had paid in.  I am so glad they paid that insurance.  Taking care of your elderly is very time consuming and expensive.

I also took in two 20 year olds.  They arte fairly high maintenance creatures ( I am refering to the age in general).  They are both great kids. 

Daniel is an Amish kid I have known for 10 years or so.  I am very close to his parents and brothers, that makes letting him live here tricky.  They want him back, and I don't want any part of keeping him away, but it seems he is going to stay English (thier term for all us non-Amish) for awhile at least.  Like all religious groups, his church is experiencing bumpy roads right now.  I have helped him get a job and get his drivers lisence.  I would like to say that you should all teach young people about driving before they are adults!  He is doing good, but wow is that scarey stuff.

Then their is Jeana, another kid I have known forever.  I have brought her here after some bad choices were made and she needed to get herself back on track.  Words of encouragement can be the best thing you ever do for a young person.  Telling a kid what they are not good at, or what they might fail at is just so damaging to them.  Bear in mind, I am known to be tough on kids, but it can be done without draging them through the mud.  You set rules, let it be known that you don't flex, and tell them you know they can do it, and most the time they will.

Along with these 2 success stories, I should mention, for those who don't know me, that this is not my first rodeo.  I have always had some extra kid living with us.  Some have really prospered and done great things, some have stumbled away with tucked tails, but all of them still call me and know that no matter where they land in life, I will always have love for them.  I know for some of them, just having an adult to call for encouragement is what they need.

As soon as I had Lauren and the kids lifes' on track, my husband put me to work in the fields!  We got over 240 acres of corn planted in 8 days.  That is really kicking it out with our little 6 row planter.  And just in the nick of time, the rain showed up for the next 4 days.

So now I am home getting my house back in order and hoping for warm weather.  It would be great to see a few days of sunshine!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Is it really Spring?

So we have been waiting for spring.  Suddenly, I am in a panic.  Spring means we have lots to get done in short order!  There is a tractor to be prepared with the new GPS system, there is fence to build, more clean-up to do, and don't forget the garden! 

Spring is always one of those hurry up and wait kind of seasons.  Actually, it's more like wait and then hurry up.  But it is so nice to walk out the door without a 10 minute bundle session.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gas Prices

I am no politician, but I have been doing some thinking.  I don't really like paying so much for my fuel, and don't forget, my living is dependant on a lot of tractor hours.  I also would like nice clothes that don't cost much.  I would love my income to be high and my expenses to be nearly non existent!!!  But life just doesn't seem to work that way.

Should we use ethanol?  I know that when farmers make money on a crop, the next year they flood the market with it.  Look at how many farmers are installing irigation systems after last years high prices. I sure don't think we will starve because of it.  Plus, we only used half the fertilizer last year (to save costs) because crop prices have been so low, we won't this year.

Should we drill?  I don't, but I don't plan on going Amish right away, and I don't love getting it from people who hate my country.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Glenn turns 12

Glenn had his 12th birthday on Fat Tuesday.  Our meals included
 homemade Paczki, pizza, and birthday
 cake with ice cream.  Nothing like the diet of a 12 year old.

Yes he did find this cake pan!  I guess it didn't go too bad.  I was afraid it would stick in all the cracks and crevices in that pan, but no problem with that.  And frosting it wasn't all that bad either, not that it turned out perfect, I'm not a cake decorator, no fancy tools here.

We kept it small this year, but he did have a couple buddies over to enjoy his new Star Wars stuff with.  They ended the evening by watching a Star Wars movie.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I realize that corn prices are up.
Have you seen the price of fuel?

  My question is this, would you rather pay a lot for foreign oil, or more for local, renewable corn?  Keep in mind 2 things.  This country spends 10% of their income on food, while other civilized countries pay as much as 60%. Plus we export 20% of the crops we grow.  If crops can cover the cost of planting, American farmers will grow more.  We are not going to spend money putting fertilizer on a field for non-profit corn(nor would you).

You may not know that even though the cost of food is being blamed on ethanol or farm prices, the guy in the middle is currently bragging about the profits they are making.  Ask how much Dean is paying their CEO for profit margins.   Do you understand that their profit margin is equated by what we are paid, what it cost to get it to you, and what you pay.  Sorry you are also being squeezed by processors, but it isn't our fault, or under our control.  You might want to fire off some letters to your senator or  Monsanto, Dow, etc.

I don't claim to be a real political know it all, but I do know that we have American oil and American food.  I'd rather pay more for American than import from people who proclaim to hate us. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quite the "Watch Dog"

I just wanted to share something funny.  In our house there is plenty to share, but this was cute.  Sadie has her own dog, Sarah the sheep dog.  Being Sadie's dog is not always an easy task, so the rest of us are very grateful to Sarah.

Sarah is always getting dressed up and it doesn't really matter if the clothes are too big or too small.   She is also force to listen to the song B-I-N-G-O at full volume in Sadie's room over and over and  over and over and over and over.  Sadie has the CD player set on repeat and it can go on for hours.

Lucky for Sarah today she was just the watch dog.  The funny thing is, she had an appointment with the vet today and wore her watch to town.  As you can see, it was an exhausting day.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Just horsing around

This weekend we went to a schooling show.  That means it was a small show run fairly casual, kind of a practice run for what is yet to come this summer.  A year ago I brought Glenn to Fieldstone Farm to learn a bit more about riding.  I have always enjoyed horses in my back yard, trail riding and buggying with my kids is a great pass time.  We have even taken our horse and buggy all the way across our state twice.  That is a history lesson like no other.

I know that it seems like a waste of time, and too expensive.  "I can afford it and still pay my bills" has always been my defense to my hobby.  Now I have discovered an entirely new defense.

Last year Glenn was afraid to trot on a horse.  Last summer he learned to canter over jumps 18 inches high.  He did so well (better than me) that he won his way out of my division.  This year he is jumping 2 foot jumps.  Glenn is a bit of a runt, and because of his fused back he really can't run correctly.  We have found a sport that takes patients, a steady mind, and dedication to win, not speed, strength, or height.  A sport he can compete at without a disadvantage.

Then there is Sadie who struggles with pretty severe autism.  She was bad tempered, easily frustrated, and struggled to communicate.  A year of consistent riding, every week, not just when I have time and the weather is good, and she has blossomed.  Sadie can still have her tempered moments, but they are so much milder and growing farther apart all the time.  But more than anything, she can speak in full sentences, she can actually carry on a conversation!  Unless you know someone who can't communicate, you can not imagine how frustrating it is for that person as well as the people around them.

I am so grateful to God for leading us in yet another most unlikely direction.  And, yes it was most unlikely, because I had the mind set that people who show horses mistreat them.  I thought that for good reason, I know some who do.  So here we are, in a show barn with a great riding coach, Laura Steenrod of Fieldstone Farm. My kids are learning great life skills: patients, responsibility, and good sportsmanship, just to name a couple.  Obviously there are many other benefits as Sadie is demonstrating.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quality Milk Award

Yesterday was the anual award meeting for our milk co-op, NFO.  Lots of talk about the crazy grain prices, the hopes for milk prices, and what the government might do to put quotas on dairy farms.  That's the way they do it in Europe and Canada.

But the end of the meeting was for handing out awards.  I was quick to point out that we were not due for one.  I ride the guys pretty hard about all the improvements that I'd like to see.  Then, to my suprise and delight, we heard our name called for an award.  We recieved a plack in honor of our high quality milk.

Our average somatic cell count for the year 2010 was less than 220,000.  That really makes me happy, considering we only had the farm for 7 months.  Our employees have been a great help in reaching new levels of quality on the farm. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shopping verses working

We are working on our free stall barn...a long overdue project.

 First things first, we have some post holes to dig.  Duane was going to do what he does best, spend days reworking his uncles old post hole digger.  I argued that we just need to buy our own, besides I am planning on putting up a lot of fence in the spring.  Then he tells me that the digger I want costs more because of the skid steer we have.

I think we need to ditch the skid steer with the funky attachment requirements.   It was another money saving fixer upper of his.  Nobody likes to drive it because the steering is worn out and it jerks all over.

So yesterday we went traveling with the kids across Michigan looking at skid steers, used of course. I like to shop, but I am also cheap.  Not quite as cheap as my husband, but cheap and scared of going belly up in this crazy economy.

I do believe that we are having a new (used) skid steer and new post hole digger delivered next week.  Duane just has to relax and not second guess himself too much.

I know, it looks kind of rough, but it is actually only 3 years old with low hours.  Manure has a way of making paint disappear, and this skid steer came from another dairy farm.  As long as the working parts work, I'm okay with the paint job.  We'll splatter our own manure on it and no one will be the wiser.

So my bottom line is that he spent some money and the day with his family in exchange for spending several days working alone in his shop on someone elses junk to save money.  I call it a fair trade off.  Besides, this is our first real farm purchase together sense taking over the operation.  I am very excited about that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Homeopathy for the animals

 We have a very competent young lady taking care of our calves, Emily.  I offered her the job because I have known her for years and have great respect for the way she cares for animals. 

Both my husband and father in law were sure I was making a big mistake.  Truth be told, they just hate change of any sort.  Once the calves had been there awhile and we had our end of the system figured out, both men decided that it was a good choice.  The calves were all doing great under her care.

Then it all went south.  The calves began getting the shooting diarrhea.  Gross, and unhealthy.  We did some research, spent lots of money.  Poor Emily cleaned like no other.  She again proved to be the best in her field, bleaching and cleaning, keeping each calf bucket for an individual, avoiding any cross contamination.  Lots of work for her, and nothing changed, still the shooting pooh.  Yuck!

I agreed to take the next sick calf into the college to be checked.  Then I got the call at 9 pm on a Saturday that she had one ready to go- I didn't think of that when I agreed!  So I called a friend to find out what the procedure was to get a vet there at night on a weekend.  She gave me the information I had requested, but then added advice.  She thought I should try a homeopathic vet she uses from Louisiana.  Hey, it meant I did not have to go hook up the trailer in the freezing cold, haul a calf 40 miles and spend a fortune on yet another vet bill.

I ended up talking to Glen Dupree.  He sent me after a little pill and some heath food store remedy.  Less than $200 later and we have a very happy calf raise (Emily was tired of being poohed on) and healthy calves again.  Thank you to Laura for the advice and Glen Dupree for the inexpensive fix that really does work.

If you are at all interested in the homeopathic remedies, here is a link to Glen Dupree.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dairy Farming

I just started following another dairy farmers blog.  Reading it made me really stop and think about my own blessings.  There are a lot of people out there suffering with these milk prices. 

We barely made it in 2009, but we had a head start. First we are running a family farm that has been around for over a century, lots of stuff is paid for.  Then we sold lots of old scrap steel at great prices, that helped kick start the year for us, plus clean up the place.  In 2009 milking cows lost us money, but we had other means to keep our farm going. 

This past year milk prices were better, but not great.  We were able to make do, then sell crops at great prices.   Again, we are blessed to have other commodities to sell.  We always sell soybeans and wheat, but we even had a good enough harvest to sell some extra corn.

Our story is a good one, but there are lots of young farms out there that don't have tons of old steel laying around from decades of farming.  Or they just grow enough crops to feed their cows, no great crop price will help you there. Even worse, there are farmers who have to buy feed for their cows. These great prices for corn can work the other way for many farms.  They might not be able to buy the feed they need to keep their cows fed.

I hope when you say your dinner prayers, you will include those farmers who are struggling to afford to work all day every day to feed your family.