Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Stop blaming me

Stop blaming me for people not knowing where food comes from

You see it flare it up on social media from time to time – the rhetoric within the ag advocacy groups that if producers had and would do a better job telling their story, sharing with the consumer their every move, explaining their practices, decisions, goals and dreams. If they would only write eloquent statements detailing every twinge of arthritic discomfort and the cause of that limp, there wouldn’t be the current disconnect between consumers and the land and people who raise and grow the food that fuels them.

And, as one of those people on the growing, raising and getting-my-hands-dirty-every-day end of food production, and also one of the many who try to share my agriculture story with the masses through a variety of opportunities, such a mindset bothers me. It bothers me because my experience from a very young age has been that agriculture – its people, practices, farms and ranches, have all stood with an open door to whomever had the genuine interest to learn about them. I don’t know that I’ve ever witnessed a farmer or rancher tell someone to fly a kite when they asked a sincere question. In actuality, I have seen the people within agriculture embrace every opportunity to share their lifestyle, to hire and willingly pay someone as they teach them their craft, to step outside their comfort zone to speak with groups of strangers, or to invite those strangers into their field, corral or home.

Long before social media, laser fast technology and a worldwide readership could be obtained from any living room, these people were working not only at their lifelong occupation of raising food, but on sharing their knowledge. The issue is not a lack of information provided by the farmer and rancher, the issue is a lack of interest by the general public.

Yes, there is a huge and important brouhaha over everything from GMO’s and pesticide use to mom bloggers being our new bosses and organic versus conventional practices. Everyone has an opinion on these and countless other food related topics, which ultimately impact those who raise food. It’s critically important stuff. But, everyone forms their opinions with their stomachs full, thanks to American farmers and ranchers. Hunger hasn’t been an issue in our nation on a large scale since my grandmother’s generation. And, before reminding me of the many hungry people in our country – when government agents came through the west and killed all the cattle in an effort to improve the beef market, my great grandmother convinced them to leave one of her cows alive. She and her children then butchered it, harvested their home raised garden, and made canned stew that they then lived almost exclusively on for a year or more. Many others were less fortunate. That is facing hunger to a degree I, and I daresay most people in this day and age, struggle to even imagine in America.

Until that happens, bickering over a myriad of shallow food related topics is likely to continue. If and when true hunger faces our nation again, I’ll bet my last cow people will eat whatever they can to survive, without concern or griping. They will thank their lucky stars for GMO’s and drought tolerant seeds, and for the knowledge and skills found in the few who still farm and ranch.

In the meantime, the perception of food has been altered to the point it no longer mirrors the reality those in production agriculture know to be true. Add in the twisted few on the opposite end of the spectrum, who have a delusional view of agriculture as a house of monstrosities, who rain misinformation in a slew of sophisticated, attention grabbing outlets, and it gets messy fast.

Wasting your breathe discrediting the valid efforts of producers you then attempt to back and tout as being all that we really are does nothing for your, or our, creditability. No one blames Apple when they don’t immediately know how to navigate the latest Iphone. Rather, people generally expect to wade through some research followed by a period of trial and error, and perhaps call customer service or visit a store and talk with a human. They take the initiative to educate themselves in order to effectively use their device. Food should not be the exception to this mindset.

Rather than point a finger in the producer’s direction for not doing enough to educate the public, consider to what extent the public wants to be educated. Most want to be able to do the equivalent of the basic phone functions, a few want to know a few extra things, and minute handful want to know how their phone was built in addition to how to access and effectively utilize every function of it. Those people are taking the time to find those of us on the building side of food production; all we have to do is continue sharing our legacy of feeding them the best food anywhere on earth any way we can, just as we have been doing for generations.

So, share on in whatever way or ways you can. If you’re not farming or ranching yourself, or even if you are, give one of the people who made you love agriculture a call or stop by and see them. When you’re done visiting, take a moment to relish in the rejuvenated inspiration you feel, and share it. The feeling that person just instilled you, that is the purest and most effective form of advocating and sharing of a story and lifestyle you’ll ever find. No blame or Internet connection required.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Branding Day Photos, 2016

On April 24 we raced the rain clock and branded, only to have the impending showers hold off a day. Then the clouds cut loose and blessed us with over an inch of moisture. In between cutting calves, I managed to snap a few pictures, mostly of gathering and sorting. Hope you are able to kick up your muddy feet and enjoy them.

Gathering the heifer pairs.

Is it a branding without a calf getting while gathering or sorting?

Out the gate she goes.

Some of these girls are suddenly showing more interest in their calf than they have over the course of its entire life.

 Away we go on the first bunch. Always fun to watch the ropers.

 On to the old cows, and more sorting.

 They are much more familiar with the drill.

 Just in case another calf should escape with the cows, these two are ready.

 My dad was one of the branders.

 My husband and his topnotch supervisor.

Nothing like branding with friends and family, then watching it rain for a week!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Christmas in the Country 2015 Reveal

I must confess I almost passed on participating in Christmas in the Country 2015. One frustrating aspect of motherhood for me has been an inability to get anything done before the very last minute (I'm trying to work on this), and I could see participating resulting in one more thing I would struggle to complete during the holiday season. While, yes, here I am writing this post on the last possible day, I am beyond grateful I did decide to participate for a third time! This was the best year yet in my opinion, and I have always found this gift exchange to be among my favorite aspects of the holidays.
Why was this year so great? I think it was largely due to who I was paired with, both on the receiving and giving end. Since this is a reveal, lets start with who sent me a gift. Her name is Terryn, and she blogs at Faith Family and Beef. She takes beautiful photos, is mom to three cute little kids that are always rocking adorable Stormy Kromers, and this lady has a way with words!  Above is a photo of most of what she sent me, and I am happily enjoying my third, ok fourth, cup of coffee in that super cute mug right now, doing my best to take its advice and sip versus chug :)  She also included a "poor girls latte" recipe that I put in a safe place, so safe I couldn't find it when I was ready to snap a picture. More coffee and hopefully my memory will return regarding its whereabouts!
The book has already been a big hit as my little boy loves anything that involves making noises, especially animal noises! I'm a big book nut, and am always thrilled to add a volume to my collection.
What you can't read here is her sweet note, which included a handful of her favorite Bible versus and what makes them stand out to her or how she has applied them in her own life. These really hit home with me! As a new mom there are incredible joys and some struggles. I gained so much peace reading her versus and accompanying tidbits on why they were so meaningful to her. I've kept these two sheets of paper near the surface, and they have found their way into my hands several, much needed times.
The last part of my gift was a gift certificate to the Faith Family and Beef Etsy page, where I am leaning strongly toward this photo/quote combination. Be sure to check it out, as she has some beautiful images of her Nebraska Sandhills home!
I already followed Faith Family and Beef on Instagram, but since receiving Terryn's gift I've started following her blog as well. Hearing her faith-based, ranch mom perspective has been such a blessing to me. I have definitely been needing hear much of what she has been writing about. Thank you so much for both the awesome gift and your blog, Terryn. Both have already served me well!
I also had the opportunity to send a gift to a wonderful Idaho ranch woman, blogger and photographer, Maggie Malson. How we didn't already know each other is beyond me, as Idaho and Wyoming (where I grew up) aren't that far apart in the ag journalism world. We have emailed a couple times already, and I am very excited to get to know Maggie better. Her photos are phenomenal, as is her writing! Plus, I can already tell she is a very genuine, kind gal.
In closing, I would like to thank all the wonderful ladies who came together to make Christmas in the Country 2015 such a success - Jamie from This Uncharted Rhoade, Laurie from Country Linked, Lara from My Other More Exciting Self, and Kirby from 15009 Farmhouse. You make this such a fun, enjoyable gift exchange. Plus, I am very grateful you put me in touch with two genuine, kind ranch moms that I can learn so much from! Thank you all again.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Parenting lessons from the first month

Our first little is one month old. To say we've learned a few things over the last 30 days is an understatement. While I by no means have it figured out, there have been some fun, funny and truly insightful lessons and experiences.

1. Delivery room terminology is both oddly similar and vastly different between livestock and humans. It's called Picotin instead of oxytocin, placenta instead of after birth, and the list goes on. Some nurses will track what you're saying, some will look at you as if you're insane when you ask certain questions or respond with ranch terminology versus human.

2. "No baby has ever slept itself to starvation." This tidbit of advice is perhaps the most useful I've received since giving birth. Due to starting out a little slow on latching, our doctor said we needed to wake our little one every two hours round the clock to feed him. I tried this for about two days, and two hours turned into one, then turned into 45 minutes between eating, and an increasingly fussy, tired, dissatisfied baby. I finally stopped and the let the poor kid and myself sleep. He ended up gaining double the newborn average in his first week of life, so I'm assuming it worked. A couple weeks later a neighbor voiced the above statement, and I couldn't agree more.

3. Resuming work/activity. Doctors tell you take it easy and rest after having a baby. Family members tend to say the same thing. People will offer their assistance with almost anything in the house out of both kindness and the belief you should take it easy. But, if a tractor needs moved, pigs need watered, the cows get out, etc . . .  Everyone is just fine with the new mom participating in those activities. I have found a lot of amusement in the thought process that vacuuming or reaching for something on a top shelf in an air conditioned house may do me in, but driving machinery or packing feed is just fine, even if I have to lug the baby along with me and it's 90 degrees outside.

4. The livestock comparisons that occur throughout pregnancy don't stop at birth. Nursing, diapers and a plethora of other things open the door for a whole new wave of similarities that folks, especially dads it seems, will use to better understand their newborn. For example, if you nurse, "scoury" colored and consistency diapers are alright.

5. I struggled with not helping with the outdoor farm and ranch work in the latter months of my pregnancy. But, those months were only a precursor to the first month with a baby, during which I have been almost exclusively stuck in the house. I know I have been blessed with the best job in the world, but it is still extremely difficult to be unable to assist with activities I'm used to being right in the middle of. I sometimes feel as thought I am not contributing to our livelihood, and it is hard to see my husband come in every evening exhausted (even if I'm just as exhausted from being up with the baby all night), and hearing him talk about tasks I historically helped him with and thoroughly enjoyed. It's more than worth it, but the adjustment period combined with exhaustion is more challenging at times than I was prepared for.

6. If you nurse, you may the urge to share your lanolin cream, ice packs, etc . . . with any lactating female of any species on the place. At least I did a few days into the feeding regime. I also have a whole new level of respect for sows, who not only nurse over a dozen young most of the time, but little ones with TEETH. I cannot imagine.

7. Speaking of nursing, another thing that will become quite clear is why certain cows kick off their calves. No, this won't become an accepted behavior in our herd by any means, but understanding will dawn, bright as the rising sun when your little bundle of joy gum bites a part of your anatomy that has previously spent its life at least two layers below the surface of daily activities. You will also be able to relate to those cows who run over the human who tags their calf, the one who comes off a trailer with milk shooting from her bag, and the list goes on.

8. Feeding insights. My husband has expressed great curiosity on what our conversion rate is, and even mentioned creating a spread sheet of my weight loss to our son's weight gain. Fortunately he has been too busy enough with actual work to follow through with this idea, but wive's of feeders beware - that desire to calculate rate of gain, pounds consumed, and so on, runs deep.

9. Parental imprinting. Most parent's get their licks on where their kid will go to college, the type of care he or she will drive, or a brand of clothes they will never wear. Our "imprinting" has been much more focused on acceptable tractor colors (green) and breed of cattle (I say Angus, husband say's Simmental). Although I have made sure to mention to our little guy more than once that while South Dakota is great, Wyoming is better, and being a UW Cowboy trumps being a SDSU Jackrabbit ; )

10. 90's country lullabies. Maybe everyone does this, I don't know, but it has been a while since I've had cause to memorize a lullaby. With the exception of Twinkle Twinkle Litter Star, I cannot remember more than a line a here and there. Enter a healthy dose of 90's Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire, with the occasional Aaron Watson or Chancey Williams tune mixed in, and I have successfully navigated lulling my baby to sleep via music and mediocre singing more than once.

What experiences have you had in parenting that should be added to my list?