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July 27, 2015

A Bizarre To Do List

This week is an interesting one!  I don't normally make a 'to do' list per say because at the end of the day it's just depressing to look over it and see nothing crossed off.  I seem to spend all my time putting out other peoples fires while mine burn out of control.

But this week it seemed like a fun idea, only because I knew exactly what I had to accomplish and how bizarre it would look written down!



The beginning of the week had me still dragging from our county fair with the desire to not move fast and sit down often but the list looming in my head kept me trudging forward.

I hate school shopping, of course I hate shopping!  Chris has been asking me for weeks to fly some corn fields with the UAV so I knew I needed to get that done!  And vaccinations on hogs are timely, this was a priority!

It's not often, or really ever, I get to write 'pack for China' on a to-do list!  When I was a kid I never dug a deep hole because I once heard someone say 'you could dig a hole to China if it was deep enough' - no thanks, I was happy right where I was!

Going to China and Vietnam were no where near my bucket list but when a once in lifetime opportunity presents itself especially to learn more about agriculture, well China here I come!

I'm not gonna lie, I'm not the checkoff's biggest fan!  Every 5 years when the referendum comes up for vote, you will probably find me at the beginning of the line.  So an opportunity to see how those funds are being utilized seemed like a learning experience I couldn't pass up!

In all honestly I also don't know much about how checkoff funds work other than it is funds taken out of our checks.  I know that with soybean half go to National and half stay in the state, I know that it seems like a small share: half of one percent of the price received per bushel of soybeans.

I know what you are thinking "half of a percent? Come on Jent" but add it up, on any farm its a fair amount of money!  Especially when the program isn't fully understood by those paying in - but then I figure maybe that's my fault and this is an excellent opportunity to learn more!

So half way around the world I will go - scared and excited all at the same time!  Well as soon as I finish my 'to do' list!

July 10, 2015

The Color Of The Ribbon

I wrote this original article last year for Indiana Prairie Farmer but as our county fair approaches the thoughts of blue ribbons and purple banners came racing back - so I am going to leave this right here to remind myself and anyone else who needs it what is truly important!

County fair time brings about numerous Facebook status about Purple ribbons and banners.  But for every kid out there that earns that coveted purple item there is a handful of kids who took just as much pride and put in just as many hours of work-where are the proud parent status updates for those kids?

I speak from the perspective of a blue…….but mostly red, white, yellow and green ribbon family!  The first thing I told each kid before they started 4-H was we aren't in this for the purple banners or ribbons, if that is the only thing you are doing this for than you aren’t in this for the right reason.  Don’t get me wrong, I encourage my kids to do their very best but just because it doesn’t earn the purple doesn’t mean it was a waste of time.

I sat in the cattle barn after the Wednesday evening steer show watching what felt like every other family in the barn hang their purple banners…..we earned none.  I was tired, feeling defeated and hungry.  Chris and Cole took me to Chili’s, it was off the fairgrounds and I ate a salad and drank two huge glasses of milk and adjusted my attitude.

I returned to the cattle barn with a different perspective.

The two steers my son showed he watched be born.  For a week every morning and every day the second he got off the bus he would run out to the barn to check and see if they were born.  He put the halter on them for the first time, he broke them to lead.


The steer our middle child took we wanted to leave at home.  We weren't sure she had worked with it enough and he wasn’t all that pretty.  We took him anyway!  He was one of our best behaved animals and the smile on her face when they got 2nd in his class in the market steer show was more than worth it.  She had seen him born, from a cow we have had for 8 years, she had put the halter on him for the first time and broke him herself.

The heifer our oldest showed spent two days living in our kitchen when she was less than a week old.  At two days old she was getting weaker and weaker only to realize she was blind from a vitamin deficiency and wasn't able to find her Momma’s udder to nurse. Our daughter saw the heifer be born, helped nurse her back to health, put the halter on her for the first time and broke her herself.

We had worked hard before and during the fair and I was going to be proud of every single ribbon my kids earned.  We left the Johnson County fair with blue, red, yellow, white and green ribbons and my kids earned every single one.



                                           



So if you follow me on any number of social media channels my updates In the next couple of weeks will more than likely include my kids having fun and working hard, hopefully grinning from ear to ear but the color purple most likely won't show up!


July 3, 2015

4-H Paperwork - Keeping It Real

There is so much I love about the 4-H program…….project paperwork is not one of them!  The concept itself sounds great - answer questions about what you learned, keep track of money spent, and turn it in to be responsible.

But we are an ‘oh shit’ don’t forget the paperwork family!  Just ask our 4-H leaders - I stalk them down every year at work or home to sign our paperwork on the way to turn it in.  Normally that is also the day we fill it out!

But a few weeks ago I walked past the office door and witness my son sitting at the computer when he pipes up and says “Filling out 4-H paperwork Mom and don’t worry I’m really kissing butt in here”!  My kids are brutally honest.

Ask me to produce an up-to-date check book register and I will fail - but ask me about 4-H paperwork and I can immediately produce all 10 years worth - we are strong believers in ‘reference’ material.  I was looking for a crops record sheet for corn and got caught up reading the answers from old records my kids have turned in.


A few of my favorites

……these are actual quotes pulled off of their turned in paperwork
Casey:
2nd year-Livestock: “I learned that it makes Mom really mad when you don’t keep the water trough full.”
8th year-Genealogy: “The only problem I encountered was my Mom has lost my birth certificate.”
10th year-Livestock: “Over 10 years I have learned the banner is not the best part of showing cattle.  Showing cattle should be about wanting to spend time in the barn, talking to cows when real people get annoying and having unconditional love for your cow but still know the reason we raise livestock.”

Emi Lou:
2nd year-Photography: “I helped my Mom learn that she doesn’t need to constantly be standing over my shoulder telling how to take pictures.”
5th year-Photography: “I learned that when taking pictures for this project it is a good idea to start earlier than the day before the project is due and doing paperwork as Mom is yelling she is leaving to turn the project in is dangerous.” 


Cole: 
1st year-Livestock “Three things I learned this year are 1. if you work hard it pays off 2.have fun in the show ring 3. cows are fun”
2nd year-Livestock “It is not always fun to feed but it has to be done.”


A few observations:


Crops is an adult project.  Oh my kids still take it, they love it-it's easy for them!

I think that a child knowing how much their project cost is important and for some the only way is on the record sheet.  My kids each opened a checking account their first year of 4-H for just this reason.  They may not pay every single expense out of their own checkbook but crunching those numbers on paper makes it real.

The boy may have filled the paperwork out early, he may of made 2 copies for security but he put them in the same manilla envelope and put them in a safe place-that safe place is yet to be located again!





4-H is an amazing program and while paperwork is obviously not our favorite part or our forte we are more than willing to do it for the number of pros in this organization far outweigh any of the cons!

June 27, 2015

Questions and Quotes

I had the opportunity earlier this week to spend 2 days in Raleigh North Carolina at Bayer Crop Sciences Research Triangle Park.  Why you ask.....well I haven't figured that out yet.  It's a question I am wrestling with when I am offered these amazing opportunities and at little to no expense to me, except my time!

Why me?  I have had some amazing opportunities since I started blogging and I am grateful for every one of them, but why me?  I'm pretty blunt, I have opinions and I'm not afraid to share them.  I also believe whole heartedly in choice: for both farmers and consumers. And in that I don't believe one company is right for everyone, that one way of farming is right for every farmer or that consumers shouldn't have choices.  Farming is personal, emotional and a business - a tough combination to juggle for the farmer and tough to fully grasp for the consumer.

I have spent the past few days marinating, contemplating and reviewing my tweets and the tweets from those that shared this experience with me.  So what I am going to share are just a few of the quotes that truly stuck with me while there and then a few questions I am still contemplating.



 "Noise, such as the number of Facebook likes shouldn't have any weigh-in on wether science works or not."
 James Blome, President & CEO for Bayer CropScience LP and the Head of Crop Protection for the North American region. 


"We need another green revolution to move agriculture ahead." 
Catherine Feuillet, Head of Trait Research, Bayer CropScience 




This quote.....given on June 4, 1963 in his opening remarks to The World Food Congress is still true to this day.

"1 in 12 people work in agriculture, 12 in 12 people need agriculture."
Liam Condon, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bayer CropScience and Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer CropScience AG 


Why is science encouraged, accepted and applauded in all areas of life except when it comes to the one area that is the sheer sustenance of life itself?

We can talk about the 'moveable middle' but until we focus on them and ignore the squeaky wheel I feel like we are wasting our time.  I think you can explain modern agriculture all day but unless the people we talk to have an open mind it won't work!




So then my final question was to myself:   Does taking these trips make me a shill?

I honestly had to look up what the word really meant!

And then I answered myself - Maybe I am......I am a shill for modern production agriculture.

Is that such a bad thing?  I am more than willing to accept these learning experiences from any company and share them honestly with anyone who is interested in listening to me go on and on about the importance of choice and the sheer need for all types of agriculture including modern technology in farming to grow food!  But I don't hide it so maybe I'm not a shill.....I guess I really don't care!


And last but not least they left the giant scissors outside after the ribbon cutting ceremony on the new facilities........using giant scissors is an item that is actually on my metaphorical 'bucket list':


Bucket List Item: Use Giant Scissors - CHECK

June 19, 2015

But my BonBon's might melt!

I was at the grocery store the other day unloading a cart full of groceries onto the conveyer belt while my oldest (19 years old) was literally having a crisis over what candy to choose instead of helping me!

They didn’t have any Sour Skittles - for the love of all that is good in America how could they not offer up Sour Skittles in the checkout aisle, she was beyond distraught because and I quote:
 “I don’t have a backup plan,
I was positive they would
have Sour Skittles”

She then proceeds to ask if we could go to 3 other stores in town to hunt down this candy that is so required.  The conversation went exactly like this:

Oldest: “We need to find Sour Skittles can you take me to Walgreens, CVS and Kroger to look for them.  You really don’t have anything else to do today!”

Me: “But my Bon Bon’s might melt”  in my most sarcastic tone

Oldest: “You bought Bon Bon’s?  I want some!”  in her most serious as all get out tone

It reminded me how much I hate the question “So you don’t work, what do you do all day?”

I kind of quit making ‘to do’ lists a long time ago because I never got anything crossed off, I was too busy putting out other people’s fires to worry about my own!

I do a whole lot of this and a little of that some days while other day a whole lot of that and just a little of this!

A week after the Sour Skittles Debacle was a day I actually had a plan, a list if you will!

At 5:10pm Chris walks in the door hollers he has time to work through the cows let’s go get this done!  Our 'herd' has names not numbers so it's not an all day job-just not a job I had dressed for this particular day as it wasn't on my list-meetings and computer work were on the agenda, the reason for the non-manure clothing choice of that day.  Ummmmmm my plan was going quite nicely and this was not part of it but I changed clothes and we went!

Hour and half, lots of swearing, yelling, broken syringe, trip to the barns, and more yelling later I drove like a bat out of hell home and ran in the house!

I striped, laid under the ceiling fan for 30 seconds, knocked the most noticeable chunks of organic matter off my face and out of my hair, spritzed with Febreeze, threw my clean clothes back on and was out the door!  My truck needed gas and I needed a beer polar pop!

I sincerely apologize to anyone who had to sit down wind of me at either meeting!

These are all reasons I quit making lists at the beginning of the day!  It’s more fun to make a list of everything you accomplished in a day than to stare at a list of things that didn’t get marked off because you were too busy helping others mark things off their list!

I may not be the busiest person around but it feels like I do a lot wether it be in the house, barns, on the farm or in my truck running kids, parts or livestock- if it needs done and someone to do it that person is me!


And let’s be honest those Cookie Jam lives aren’t going to use themselves up!

June 11, 2015

The Lesser of Two Evils

They say pigs are one of the most intelligent animals there is.  Chris says if that's true then they don’t apply themselves!  I couldn’t agree more! Ever tried moving hogs, of any size, even when they are out of feed and you are moving them to where there is feed!

Hogs like to do 2 things: eat, and eat some more.  And when there is nothing to eat they tear things up out of boredom.

We use two different rations in our nurseries, a starter pellet out of bags and then a ration that we grind.  They stay in a nursery room for approximately seven weeks at which time we like to have the feeders empty.  We wash the room, wash the feeders and then fill with the starter pellets for the next group, waste not want not.  No feeding the pit monster if we can help it!

Just so happens last Sunday morning 4 pens of nursery pigs in one of the rooms had empty feeders, that means moving pigs into the finisher!  That job fell to the middle kid and me!

They say patience is a virtue, it’s just not one of mine.....and yes I have some virtues!  Moving hogs requires some patience, I don’t have the muscle power to push hogs, I need them to use some of this supposed intelligence they have.

I carry an ‘impatient stick’, I honestly don’t give it a charge often, I mostly just use it to poke with-which annoys Chris because he claims I break them that way, but it’s at the ready when I need it!

Emi Lou however tells me that singing to them makes them move easier - I’ve heard her sing…..I think they are running out of earshot from her!  She has a wide array of music she shares for any kind of music loving pig.  Just in the 2 hours we worked Sunday I heard opera, rap, a little “Ring of Fire”, along with some Jason Aldean not that she left out southern rock - her rendition of  “Fire On The Mountain” could move any pig forward faster, and she easily transition’s into a little Quiet Riot with “Come on Feel The Noise”!

I don’t know which is the lesser of two evils - the lady with the impatient stick or the singing pig moving girl - maybe hogs are intelligent and indecisive so they just don't move!


But all in all her singing is a small price to pay for the hard work my favorite hog farming kid does - she is my go-to for hog work!  She knows how to work livestock with skill and not just her singling skills!




June 5, 2015

Cattle, Tattoos and Midlife Crisis'

I bush hogged our cattle pasture yesterday.  Eight acres, the batwing bush hog, the 4440 in A3.  Even at full bunny that gives you lots of time to think- 3 hours of thinking to be exact!

Of all the things I could of contemplated, all the world problems I could've attempted to solve, all the productive things I could of accomplished……… my mind settled on cattle, tattoos and what my midlife crisis should be.

I have often wondered if I would have a midlife crisis.  Does it just hit you, how do you know it’s a midlife crisis, are you supposed to admit it’s a midlife crisis, how do you even know when you are midlife?

I’m 45, if I am lucky enough to live to 90 I am currently at my midlife, so I am prime midlife crisis point.  If I don’t make it to 90 I need to be in midlife crisis crunch mode and need to be getting it underway!

I’m sure there are cliche midlife crisis scenarios.  But I’m not much of a sports car convertible person, never wanted to go sky-diving, don’t want to dress younger than my age, no desire to party to much-I’m pretty comfortable in my pick-up truck, keeping my boots on the ground, jeans and bedtime most nights before 10pm.

But then it hit me - cattle and tattoos! And not a cow tattoo or a tattoo that looks like the ones you give cows but actually buying more cows and getting a tattoo.  Maybe I am in the midst of my midlife crisis and didn’t even know it!  Does that mean I am actually right on schedule?

I love cows.  I want more, Chris has to stop me more often than not from just stock piling cattle.  I would fence every inch of grass we have for cows if Chris would let me!

And a tattoo!  I want one-I have for a while!  But in the early years of marriage I was threatened with divorce if I got one.  But I figure now we are probably stuck with each other for a while and maybe I could get away with it!

Chris always says “Do you know where that tattoo will end up over time?”  Well Chris I want it on my foot……so if I live to be 90 the only place it could possibly end up is the bottom of my foot!!!

I’ve been told I’m not buying any more cattle in the near future and maybe the tattoo is a cliche midlife crisis……but maybe I am actually ok with cliche.

Or maybe, just maybe the more I bring up getting a tattoo the more cattle he will let me buy for not getting one?????