Monday, January 19, 2015

The first pregnant human on our ranch

I excitedly told my husband last night that as of next week, we are halfway through my first pregnancy. He paused, then reminded me that doctors all go on a 40-week pregnancy, so technically I was wrong. Big sigh.
We deal with pregnancy non-stop around here: there hundreds of pregnant cows in the area, we farrow sows year-round, my dachshund has gone through two false pregnancies in the past year that were quite dramatic. But, we will be welcoming our first baby in June, and experiencing pregnancy for the first time personally has been eye-opening, for both myself and my husband.
Here's what we've learned so far:

1. My productivity is directly linked to coffee! Ok, maybe not, I'm sure a big part of this is the tiredness that comes with pregnancy, both from hormones, the extra work of growing a baby, and packing all that extra weight around. But, not being able to caffeinate has not been that enjoyable. During our first doctor's visit, the kindly gal explaining things to us said I could slowly back off coffee to the point of one cup (read, actual cup, not one of the biggest cups in my cupboard), or so per day. She went on to say that this really wasn't an issue for most, unless they were the sort that drank coffee all day until they were caffeinated to the max (that would be me). My husband snickered as he looked at my dazed self, who had gone from being that overly caffeinated person to a one-cup momma to be instantly when we found out we were pregnant. The effects were not that pleasant, and to this day, four months in, I miss my coffee far more than I miss alcoholic beverages.

2. Doing chores is a chore. Doctors will also tell you remain active while pregnancy. Not that difficult on our place. We adjusted a few thing to the point I have my little batch of chores to complete each morning. I enjoy it, although everyone else gets really concerned if they get near me because I am constantly gasping for breathe, even when I'm just walking around. Apparently a baby the size of an orange has the ability to shove your lungs into your esophagus. Plus, there are a lot of bathroom breaks, pauses to readjust clothing that doesn't fit right, and struggles to get my foot high enough to reach the bottom tractor step. Also, I have learned that if I do chores, there is a good chance I will do nothing else the remainder of the day. Chores wipe me out in a way I have never experienced. People with kids just nod, and say that's completely normal. As someone who filled every day to the max, this has been a humbling learning curve for me. The fact is that some stuff does not get done, when I'm tired now my brain does not function, and that sitting down "for a few minutes" often turns into a 2-hour nap.

3. Sympathy eating occurs. No, I'm not talking about my husband, but rather the cows and sows. I have had a voracious appetite from about day 3 of being pregnant. This has resulted in extreme sympathy for all the other pregnant females I'm surrounded by. I may have, on occasion, packed a few extra buckets of grain to some sows, or dolled out a little extra hay to the first calf heifers. My reasoning was that if I have doubled my food intake, we cannot possible be feeding them enough, science, known livestock feed requirements, etc... be darned. My husband, who has watched our fridge go from stocked to constantly empty, has been quite understanding for the most part, and taken back some of the feeding chores. Probably to save our feed budget for the year.

4. I explained ultra-sounding cattle during my entire first ultrasound, and even invited the tech out next fall. We compared what they look at on human baby's to determine age to what we look at in cattle. There have been multiple other incidents where our livestock pregnancy experience have carried over into interesting questions and conversations with healthcare people regarding our own pregnancy.

5. Human doctors are lackadaisical compared to ranchers. Perhaps that's a bit harsh, and I do like our doctor, but this has become a common topic around our house in the past few months. For what I consider an astronomical fee (the joys of self-employment and insurance), I have had the pleasure of stepping on scale, having my blood pressure taken, hearing the baby's heartbeat (which is amazing, but totals 5 minutes or less of the visit) then visiting about the weather, the family, pregnancy symptoms, the ranch, etc... with staff at my doctor's office the past two months. None of these conversations have included pertinent pregnancy topics that couldn't have been discussed over the phone in under 10 minutes. Plus, nine out of ten of them I have had to ask, instead of the healthcare person filling me in. Perhaps this is a first-time pregnant, not into the third trimester yet, overly concerned future mother talking, but in visiting to friends who also farm or ranch, we have agreed that human doctors take a pretty laid back approach to this whole pregnancy thing compared to the care we provide our animals. I've been told to eat healthy but not the recommended type of snaking that would help me pass my glucose test. That information came from a friend who failed hers, then had her doctor pipe up with an, "oh, well..." Another friend is who told me to make sure I schedule that appointment early, because there are eating restrictions ahead of time. As someone who leaves the doctor's office and goes home to personally feed each pregnant cow and sow a balanced, exact diet, then spend as much time as necessary looking them over, checking their water, discussing their health with other experts (the husband, neighbors, parents), and adjusting care as needed, my care seems expensive and sub-par in comparison. But, on the other hand, it also gives me a new sense of pride in the work we do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cornstalks, feedlots and fog

We headed to southeastern South Dakota/northwestern Iowa a couple weeks ago to check out a newer sprayer, and to see our good friends who just happened to buy our steer calves and my in-laws open yearling heifers. They also just welcomed their first baby into the world, and as expectant parents ourselves, it was nice to spend some time around a newborn, and new parents.
While everyone was tired of the cold, foggy weather conditions, it did make for some wonderful photos!
We found our calves, looking good.
It is so fun to see our cattle doing well for their new owner, and to see all the performance we work hard to breed into them coming to fruition.
We also went along to check and water cows, who were on corn stalks. I was amazed to learn that the vast majority of stalks in this area go ungrazed each year. Either because farmers don't want cattle in their fields or don't have cattle and don't care to lease out the stalks for grazing.

 My in-laws open heifers, which were weighing right at 1,400 pounds when we were visiting. I love looking at fat cattle, and these big girls did not disappoint!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christmas in the Country gift reveal

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful, blessed Christmas. This year my gift in the Christmas in the Country Gift Exchange came from Erin from Diaries from the Dirt Road. When her package arrived I was so excited I just grabbed my phone to snap pictures and dug in : )
Erin truly went above and beyond. She included a nice letter about herself, and another explaining each individually wrapped gift. The entire box was topped with some super fun holiday confetti.
 How amazing is this lady?

Upon opening everything, this is what I found. A beautiful mix of homemade, carefully purchased, and thoughtfully put together items. She covered my coffee and dachshund habits, sweet tooth and even my dog : )

 I'm guessing I was among the last to sign up this year because we were in the process of telling our families we are expecting our first baby! Erin nailed my newfound love of farm-themed baby items, and noted that she treasured books as a child. So did I, and starting a book collection for our little one was very kind of her.

 A pancake breakfast in a mason jar, some honey from Erin's farm, as well as her own homemade lip balm were included, as was a locally made bar of soap.

 I love coffee mugs, especially nice, big ones, and this one is awesome! With the dish towel, Erin included the most interesting message about a towel. I am tucking it away to include whenever I give gift towels in the future.

 Who does not need another spatula, particularly when it's this cool? There were also some cool Missouri (where Erin is from) tidbits scattered throughout the box, including some great cherry candies (I ate them all and cannot remember what they're called).

On the flip side, my person to shop for was Jan from The Tip Garden. I had a lot of fun finding items for her, and have also really enjoyed browsing through her blog. She has a ton of handy information on all sorts of things, recipes and some fun sounding holiday crafts. Check her out, and take a pen, you'll want to write down some things to try!
Thank you so much to Erin for not only sending me an amazing gift, but for taking time out of her schedule to be one of the hosts that make this entire exchange possible. She and the other hosts do a great job, and I loved being part of such a fun celebration of Christmas again this year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lets go shopping: the 2014 holiday gift guide

Where has November gone?! With Thanksgiving mere days away, the holiday season is upon us, which means holiday shopping has also arrive with a bang.
I love the idea of shopping locally as much as possible for holiday gifts, and the concept of Small Business Saturday. Helping hardworking people who work full or part time to support their primary occupation, which is often farming or ranching with the folks I know, makes me happy. Plus, I love the unique, high quality items I'm able to round up. I am also thrilled that the Internet now allows me to shop "locally" with small business owners from all over the country and world.
In celebration of Small Business Saturday, I've compiled some of my favorite people and places to buy gifts, or that I have recently found and plan to shop at in the near future.

1. The local Christmas Bazaar. Do you have one of these in your or a nearby community? If you do, go! My hometown has an annual Christmas Bazaar that features everything from homemade soaps and jewelry, fashion and food to local reps for companies like Pampered Chef and Norwex. I have done some serious shopping there in the past, and always try to make the now three hour drive back whenever possible.

2. Everything By Erin. This gal is from my hometown, population 1,000-1,500 people. She can sew pretty much anything, with her specialty being the cutest custom stick horses! What kid doesn't want a horse in their favorite color, or that looks just like dads? Whatever their wish, she can make it happen. Erin also makes a variety of other sewn items, many with a western touch, and can outfit your entire household with custom items.

3. Millar Soap Company, LLC. Ok, this may get confusing, but when I said hometown, with Erin I meant where I went to school. With Millar Soap, I mean the town that is closest to the ranch I was raised on. Located in Lance Creek, WY, population about 30, Millar Soap makes everything from bar soap to foaming hand soap to shaving soap, all available in a variety of great scents! She has a variety of other bath and body products to choose from as well. Even men like her soap products - my husband and brother are both fans.

4. Cowgirl Crush and The Spicy Cowgirl. While I must admit I have never made a purchase at either of these places, it is only because I am not a big online clothes shopper for fear something will arrive and not fit. But, if you have no such qualms both of these ladies carry some seriously awesome items, and both run specials from time to time that will make splurging all the easier : )

5. Children's books by ranch ladies. I don't think it gets any better - you can buy the little people in your life an agriculture themed book written by someone that actually lives in agriculture. Two of my favorites are "Levi's Lost Calf" By Amanda Radke and Michelle Weber and "Charlie the Ranch Dog" By Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman).

6. Just Plain Punchy. This is a very recent discovery of mine, but with numerous friends expecting, I am looking forward to ordering some of the super cute onsies and other baby items in the near future. Very cute baby clothes that to me (not a mom) appear to be practical items that would work great for daily wear and tear.

7. The South Dakota Cowgirl's horse themed items. From calendars to prints to Christmas cards, you can cover the horse lover on your list with ease by heading over to fellow South Dakotan Jen's website. She does an awesome job photographing horses and providing high quality gift options made from her images.

8. A newspaper or magazine subscription. Here comes my pitch for the papers I work for - many weekly agriculture newspapers run awesome holiday specials, often it's the cheapest time of year to buy or renew subscriptions. Plus, everyone from grandpa to family across the country likes to read and keep up on the latest news, market reports and bull sale results. Also, while some publications are not owned locally, the newspaper staff are likely members of your community, and subscriptions and advertising are what write their paychecks.

9. Old West Cedarmill. Touching quotes, poems and images burned on cowhides or leather, and ready to be hung in your home. One of their "Tradition" pieces hangs in my living room. My husband and I bought it before our wedding, showcased it at our reception, and still love it today. If you happen to attend the National Western Stockshow, you can also find this great company there.

10. Last Loop Rope Art and Wyo. Skies Wild Rags. This lady and her daughter are both incredibly talented at all sorts of things, but I particularly like her colored rope d├ęcor. Plus, where I'm from everyone wears wild rags in the winter, and having someone to purchase them from is a necessity.

11.The Peterson Farm Brothers merchandise. Surely you have heard of these guys and their ag parody's? Well, if you haven't, go to YouTube and search for them. If you have, I'm sure one of their t-shirts, posters or other items is on your Christmas list as it is on mine. They do a wonderful job promoting the agriculture way of life, and the items they sell would make great gifts for just about anyone.

12. Your local photographer. No matter who they are, they will appreciate the business and pictures make great gifts. Schedule a family photo session and give them to parents and grandparents framed, purchase prints, ask about having landscapes of your operation done, or inquire about other photo ideas you've been wanting to complete for years. The sky is the limit. Many also do calendars, myself included, and I would love to sell you one as much as your local photographer would like to : )

Where do you like to shop locally? Who did I miss? Comment and let me know your favorite place to shop for gifts, or what you make that people should know about while doing their holiday shopping.