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Friday, July 1, 2016

How Do You Eat the Animals You Raise?

How do you eat the animals you raise?  This is a question I hear often, especially this time of year.  We just finished our county fair last week.  Our girls show pigs, dairy cows, and also do drawing, sewing, and woodworking.  While I love all aspects of the fair, the livestock portion is probably my favorite because it allows the general public to get an up close look at livestock from a farm.  A couple people asked me this question just last week, so I thought it would be the perfect time to write a post on the topic!

Below is a picture of our oldest, B showing one of her pigs at the fair.

The first thing our kids do when they get their 4H animals is name them.  These animals are washed regularly and also brushed daily for about a month leading up to fair.  They are also walked in preparation for the show ring.  Walking is a form of exercise for the pigs.  Our girls spend A LOT of time with their 4H animals, just like all the other 4Hers out there.

To say that they get attached to these animals is a HUGE understatement.  After the fair, when it's time to say goodbye to their pigs there are usually many tears shed, BUT our girls also know that is how the food cycle works and with watery eyes, they look forward to next year when they get new pigs.

We have always been up front with our girls about where their food comes from.  They live and breathe farm life every day and I feel it is important for them to know.  That being said, we do not "eat" our 4H animals per say.  Our girls know where they go from the fair, but they don't end up in our freezer.  Some people do this, but I just know it would be too hard on the girls.

We do have a beef processed from our farm yearly for our own personal freezer.  Our girls know that these beef cattle come from our farm, but like I said before, they know this is the circle of life.

The girls participated in the Summer Reading Program at our local library this summer.  The theme was Hoosier Quest and since Indiana is celebrating it's 200th birthday this year, it was all about the history of our state.  At the first program there was a magician that came and acted as if he was from the 1800s.  Somehow the subject was brought up about cattle and hamburgers and a little boy said something about not eating cows.  The magician said, "Well, do you like to eat hamburgers?" To which the little boy replied, "Yes."  The magician cleared that up rather quickly.  I understand that it can be difficult for some people to understand, but this is our livelihood and this is what we do.  The beef cattle on our farm are cared for daily and are fed the perfect ration of feed.  They are checked daily to make sure they aren't sick, and they always have clean water and bedding, but we try no to get too attached.

Below are some pictures of the girls (and your's truly:)) showing their dairy heifers/cows.  A heifer means they haven't had a calf yet.

B and her calf, April...

 After the fair, they will bring their dairy calves, heifers, and cows back home, unlike the pigs. The hiefers will remain on our farm until a few months before they calve, then they will go to a neighboring Amish farm who has a dairy, where he will take care of them and ensure they have the proper care.  There is a big difference in the equipment needs for dairy and beef cattle and we aren't set up to handle dairy cows, but luckily they are just down the road, so we visit them often.

B and Peyton.  Peyton is a 3 year old cow who just had her first calf in April....which is the April that B is showing in the picture above.

Mel with her calf, Judy, and B with April...
And here is a picture with me in it and it appears B is telling me what to do in the show ring:)  I am leading Mel's 3 year old heifer, Elsa.  She is expecting her first calf in December.

Some people may judge, but for us it is a way of life.  All of our animals are cared for and loved, it's just harder to say goodbye to some;)


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why Do Farmers Rush to Finish Planting?

Being a farmer's wife in the Spring and Fall can be very difficult.  Sure, it can be very difficult year round too:),but there's more of a "push" during planting and harvest.

Since we just wrapped up planting yesterday (except for a few acres of soybeans where the ground needs to have manure hauled on it first.  Yay!!) I thought it was appropriate to answer a question that I've heard before.   First off, farmers are at the mercy of the weather.  We all know how tricky this Spring has been.  Mother Nature just would not give up on the rain!  I tried not to complain too much because in July and August we may be begging for rain.  We have finally had about 4 solid days of zero precip and farmers have been working long hours to get their seed in the ground before the next big rainfall.  Forecasters are calling for rain the rest of this week.  Some farmers I know have been working around the clock.

The ground has to be just right for the seed to germinate and grow.  If the ground is too wet or cold, the seed will remain underground too long and will eventually rot which will result in replanting.  No farmer likes to replant, but we do what we have to do.  I recently did a post that talks about what factors are taken into consideration to determine the right time to start planting.  You can read more about that here.

Researchers have found that the optimum planting dates in Indiana to produce better yields is April 20th-May 10th.  This planting season has proved to been slow with only about 62% of the states corn crop planted as of May 22nd. (source).  So, while those dates are ideal, they aren't always realistic.  Estimated yield loss per day varies from .3% to 1% by the end of May.  There have been some studies that show date doesn't play a huge factor in yield loss.  While those percentages don't seem large, it all adds up.

Here is a chart that better describes the yield dates.  (source) 

Absolute vs relative planting date effect on yield
You can definitely see the window from April 20th-May 5th where the projected yield is the highest.  Of course all of this depends on the weather in the summer.  If it is hot and dry, or cold and rainy...that all effects yields also.

We know that nice days won't last forever and just as much as we welcome dry weather and sunshine, we also welcome rain when it becomes too dry.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Summertime Here We Come.

Where is the time going?  It's hard to believe it's May and today is the last day of school for the girls!!!!  I'm excited to have them home with me because we do enjoy our summers, but it's always a bit of a transition.  Once we get on a new routine and schedule things seem to get better.

It's been pretty chilly here, but it's finally warmer today.  Hopefully the warmer temps stick around!

Everyone asks me if I'm ready for the girls to be home for the summer.  I would be lying if I said no.  Of course, we are all ready for a break from homework.  It's time to focus on 4H and softball and having fun.  BUT, I will miss the days of only having Jo at home.  She gets along pretty well with her older sisters, but there is definitely some knock-down-drag-out moments.  Especially between Mel and Jo...

They definitely have a love/hate relationship.  One minute they are getting along great.  The next it's an all out war.

I like to say it's because they are so much alike.  B is usually the mediator who gets along with everyone.  She is very laid back, much like her dad.

It's funny because I thought I would have more time the older the girls get, but really it seems that I have less time and the time goes by much faster.  I was talking to an older lady at the grocery store the other day and told her how we are keeping busy running the girls back and forth to activities and she said, "Oh this is the time of your life.  Enjoy it."  

I often find myself wishing time would slow down.

Someone shared on Facebook the other day and it said something like...instead of wishing for time to slow down, enjoy the moments because when time does slow down the kids will be gone and so will the days that keep your lives lively.

So, rather than wishing for time to slow down, I will try to enjoy these moments more and more...even if I feel like I'm running in a million different directions.

Here's to sweet summertime.  May you make it the best one yet!


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Back in the Saddle Again...Plant '16

Fortunately for us, I was able to title this post "Back in the Saddle Again," but for many of our fellow farm friends they are just now getting in the saddle. Yesterday was the 18th of May.  The meteorologist on our local news station said that it has rained 15 out of those 13 days.  Some days we had a substantial amount of rain, while other days it was just a small shower....but they all add up to be one killer wet Spring.  Brad said that someone told him the other day that if it rains on May 1, there will be 23 rainy days in May.

We were able to apply Anhydrous Ammonia the last part of April.  This is only applied to fields that will have corn this season.  To learn more about Anhydrous Ammonia, you can read all about it here...because I know you're dying to know! ;)

There was a dry spell after anhydrous application when we were able to get some corn planted and for that we are extremely thankful!

It's hard to believe that 4 years ago we were already experiencing dry conditions and heat.  Boy was it hot!  I don't think the thermometer read below 90 degrees until October that year.  I was pregnant, so I may be exaggerating a bit, but it was hot and one of the driest summers on record.  That's life as a farmer though and goes along with my husbands infamous statement, "I don't need to go to a casino to gamble because I do it everyday."  The forecast for the next 7 days looks fabulous.  There is a slight risk for rain tomorrow night, but other than that not until next Thursday.

We hate to wish the rain, but it sure will be nice to be able to get more seed in the ground before the next wave.  Good luck to all the farmers out there and stay safe!


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Do You Have Cows?

When someone asks what type of farm we live on I always rattle off, "corn, soybeans, and beef cattle."  Then they usually ask, "Do you have cows?"

The answer is, no.  We have a feeder calf operation which means, so we don't have cows.  We buy our calves from another farmer (who has cows and calves) when they are about 600 pounds or about 6 months old.   We then feed them out for about another year until they reach market weight, which is about 1200 pounds.  I explain what exactly we feed our calves in this post.

Several years ago (before I was in the picture;)) my husband's family had cows and calves on pasture.  For economical reasons, that pasture has since been turned into farm land.  For several years, we didn't have any cattle, but my husband loooves taking care of cattle, so we bought some and eventually our herd tripled in size.

At one time, we can have about 200 head of cattle that we are feeding.  My friend Marybeth at Alarm Clock Wars does have cows and calves.  She and her husband John She recently wrote this post on Alarm Clock Wars that talks about how old their cows really are.

Like I said above, my husband absolutely loves to feed cattle.  His passion is farming and raising good quality cattle that produce good, quality meat, so the next time you enjoy a juicy steak or cheeseburger at your favorite steak restaurant, it very well could have come from our farm.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

When is the Right Time to Start Planting?

It's March and while the conditions are far from favorable to start planting, it's about this time every year when farmers start to get the "itch" to start planting season. In the Midwest, we can be spoiled with 70 degree weather one day and then be hit with 30 degree weather the next.  So, when is the right time to start planting?

Probably to most important factor is ground condition.  The ground needs to reach 50 degrees before it is suitable for planting.  If the ground is too cold, then it prevents the seed from germinating, which can cause it to rot in the ground.  If this happens, the field will have to be planted again and seed isn't cheap!  If the ground temperature is too cold it can also result in uneven germination.

I love flip flops....I know. I know.  What do flip flops have to do with planting.  When I was younger, I used to break out those flip flops on the first 70 degree day(you know the one that will be followed by a 30 degree day?:))  It would drive Brad nuts and he would always say, "If I can't plant corn, then you can't wear flip flops."  Well, I've gotten a little wiser in my older days;), but the girls still try to sneak on those open toed shoes on that first warm day and he tells them the same thing!  "Even though the air is warm, the ground is still cold."  So, in our house flip flop season doesn't start until that first seed goes in the ground and then we celebrate!!!

Also, the ground can't be too wet.  This too will possibly cause the seed to rot before it germinates.

Farmers are constantly watching the weather and don't you dare talk while the weather is on:).  The weather is on in 15 minute increments during the news and they will watch it every single time because it could definitely change in 15 minutes;)  While the ground can't be too wet, it's also best to not plant before a lot of rain.  This can cause the ground to become hard which will make it hard for the plant to break through the ground.  Soybeans will simply "break their necks" trying to push through the soil if it is too hard, resulting in a need for replant.  However a nice gentle rain on a newly planted field can help immensely.

There's also a window of time to plant.  Research shows that window is from April 20th to May 10th to maximize yields.  Anything planted before or after that date has a potential to produce less.  While the "books" say this is the best time to plant, it doesn't always work out this way because of weather conditions.  This is why my husband says that he doesn't need to go to a casino to gamble because he gambles every day!

So, while the ground currently looks like this....

the planter is nice and cozy in the shop waiting to make its debut and we anxiously await the start of Plant16.


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