Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dollop & Scoop – No. 13

Here's a look back at our week...

Flying kites

kids flying kites in farm field

You know those activities you plan to do with your kids, but never seem to get to them? Well, flying kites used to be one of those activities for us. It seems like we talked and talked about it, but never got around to it. Until last Saturday. The sun was shining, there was an incredible south wind, and we actually had kites because Glen reminded me to pick some up last time I was at the store.

It took a couple minutes for Dan and Monika to figure out how their kites worked, but once they got the hang of it, we had a lot of fun. Good, old-fashioned, unplugged fun. Until their hands got too cold because they forgot their gloves in their excitement.

But there's more unplugged fun to come. The charger for our iPad has been "mysteriously" missing for about a week now. Dan told me at supper tonight, "I didn't watch television or play on the iPad at all today and I had a lot of fun." He took a hike out to the back pond to look for the dead fox that Monika and I found on our hike on Sunday. Then he finished reading his book while sitting in the tree in our front yard. (He also did his chores and harassed his sister.)

I'm not opposed to electronic fun, but I'd much rather see my kids enjoying the activities life on a farm has to offer. Maybe the charger will show up when the snow flies again next fall.

Tractor girl

farm girl trying to drive tractor

Daphne's favorite place to be now that it has warmed up some is in the tractor with Grandpa or in the skid loader with Dad. And she's quickly learning how to operate both machines. If you look close in the picture, you can see that she's got one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the throttle; one foot is on the brake, and the other is on the clutch. I'm sure I'll blink and she'll be driving the tractor for real.

Three little pigs

three little pigs

Our pigs arrived this week. (We actually got four pigs, but the fourth one wouldn't pose for the picture.) After not getting pigs last year, their arrival generated much excitement. Daphne climbed right into the hutch with the pigs when they first got here. It's so adorable to hear her say pig in her little toddler voice.

Dan and Monika and their cousins played in the hutch with the pigs for nearly an hour the other day. Monika thinks the pigs are "just too cute" and Dan wants to know if we can get a saddle for a pig so he ride them when they get bigger.

I'm excited to have pigs again, too. I like their antics and the entertainment they provide. It's super fun when we get gentle ones, like these pigs, that let the kids play with them.

Lots of babies to feed

dairy calves drinking

We have a lot of baby calves right now and a whole bunch of them haven't graduated to the calf feeder yet. We house our newborn heifer calves in groups and bottle feed them for 10 to 14 days before moving them into the pen with the automatic calf feeder. During those two weeks, we train them to drink independently using bottle holders. And, I tell you, these bottle holders are the best. I would have lost my sanity a long time ago without them. We use them in the group pens (tied on with twine string, so we can move them as needed) and for the bull calves in hutches (secured to the cattle panels with zip ties).

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As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Guarantee smiles with Ultra-Tender Teriyaki Chicken

I have one kid who wants to eat only pasta and potatoes, one kid who wants to eat only meat, one kid who eats everything, and a hard-working husband who just wants something to eat. Finding meals that please everyone, while still meeting my nutrition goals, can be challenging.

So when I find those meals that make everyone smile, it’s kind of like winning the lottery – and sometimes the odds really do feel like one in a million.

Ultra-Tender Teriyaki Chicken, paired with brown rice and oven-roasted teriyaki vegetables, is one of those winning meals. The first time I made it, there wasn’t a single piece of chicken left to save for tomorrow’s lunch.

I have to say, though, that when I found the recipe that inspired my Ultra-Tender Teriyaki Chicken, I was a little intimidated by the two-step cooking process. But then I thought, I can do this, it’s not that hard. And I was right. This cooking method is really pretty simple and the results are phenomenal. Ultra-Tender Teriyaki Chicken is so tender and so full of flavor; I seriously believe it’s the best chicken you’ll ever eat.

To me, that’s what Land O’Lakes’ Kitchen Conversations are all about – inspiring confidence in the kitchen. I can definitely say that participating in Kitchen Conversations has made me a more confident and adventurous cook. I am simply thrilled to be participating again this year.

I’m also extremely proud that this first conversation is centered around Land O’Lakes’ Pin A Meal. Give A Meal. campaign. As a farmer-owner of the Land O’Lakes cooperative, I believe giving back to our local communities is incredibly important. Food insecurity is a problem many of us don’t think about, but, according to Feeding America, one in six Americans faces food insecurity. Nearly 16 million of those challenged by hunger are children.

You can help Land O’Lakes reach its goal of donating 3.5 million meals to hungry families in need of nourishment. By pinning my Ultra-Tender Teriyaki Chicken, or another recipe of your choice, you will contribute 10 meals to Feeding America. And to provide even more meals, simply pin additional recipes from Land O'Lakes. Use the hashtag #pinameal on Pinterest and other social media to help spread awareness and give hungry families hope. To learn more, visit www.landolakes.com/pinameal.

Just think of all the smiles that will come from those 3.5 million meals. I hope my recipe for Ultra-Tender Teriyaki Chicken puts smiles on the faces of those you cook for, too.

Ultra-Tender Teriyaki Chicken

Serves: 4-5 people
Ready to eat in: 45 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes


3 pounds chicken thighs or drumsticks
3 cups water
½ of a large sweet yellow onion, sliced (or one small)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1-inch piece of gingerroot, peeled and sliced

¼ cup LAND O’LAKES butter (one half stick)
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger


In a large (8-quart) dutch oven or stock pot, combine chicken, water, onion, 2 tablespoons garlic and gingerroot. Bring water to a boil, cover pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, turning chicken over after 10 minutes.

While chicken is cooking, melt butter in a large (12-inch) pan over low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon garlic, vinegar, pepper and ground ginger.

When chicken has cooked for 15 minutes, scoop out ½ cup of the onion-garlic broth, add to melted butter-soy sauce mixture in pan, and stir well. Then use a tongs or slotted spoon to transfer chicken pieces and onion slices to pan.

Place pan of chicken and sauce over medium-high heat, with lid propped on pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn chicken pieces and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes more.

Serve with sauce.

Recipe inspired by the Asian-Style Braised Chicken Drumsticks from MJ and Hungryman.

*The Land O’Lakes Foundation will donate $1 to Feeding America® for every recipe pinned or repinned between March 2, 2015 and April 30, 2015. (Pin any Land O’Lakes recipe or submit any recipe pin at LandOLakes.com/pinameal). $1 helps provide 10 meals secured by Feeding America® on behalf of local member food banks. Land O’Lakes guarantees a minimum of 3.5 million meals (monetary equivalent of $350,000).

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Baby Calf Names of 2014

One of the best parts of dairy farming, at least for me, is naming all of the new babies that are born. Now, I don't name them all – it's oftentimes a joint effort between me, Glen, and the kids. The inspiration for each of the names can come from many places. I wrote a column a couple years ago about the process, so I won't go into detail here. But I will say that the one rule we normally follow is that the calf's name starts with the same letter as her mother's name; that way it's easier to remember down the road which cows belong to which cow families.

red and white roan heifer calf
Here are all of the names we picked for our baby calves in 2014, followed by the calf's mother's name. We broke tradition a couple times this year to name calves after some of the special guests who visited our farm this summer.

Zula – Zora
Harp – Heaven
Lia – Loa
Gael – Gem
Laila – Louie
Sparkle – Star
Downy – Dove
Honey – Hurricane
Wiggle – Wink
Lego – Lucy
Dana – Deryck
Umbrella – Ulla
Spring – Stormy
Nimble – Noelle

newborn black and white heifer calf in grass

Ree – Agape
Becky – Widget
Sommer – Ivy
Maria – Deluge
Brenda – Gigi
Julie – Jade
Bridget – Opal
Gloriana – Gala
Joanne – Holiday
Jessica – Lady
Jenny – Beauty
LaurĂ© – Shiver

Milking Shorthorn Holstein twin heifer calves
Darcie and Dallas

Darcie – Dixie
Dallas – Dixie
Paige – Penelope
Dotsy – Dignity
Suede – Silk
Goldie – Georgia
Zeppelin – Zoe
Willie – Wilma
Dabble – Dapple
Tipper – Tillie
Dyno – Dynamite

newborn Holstein heifer calf in pasture

Hosta – Happy
Betsy – Beth
Hailey – Heidi
Twinkle – Twilite
Wonder – Winter
Tornado – Tretta
Cheer – Cherub
Linzer – Luna
Hyacinth – Heather
Malihini – Mahalo

Jersey heifer calf

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#MilkTruth: Thoughts on Milk

glass of milk

There were a lot of conversations about milk in the media yesterday. Those conversations will continue and they will continue to run the gamut from milk is the best food in the world to milk is the worst food in the world.

I happen to be in the camp that feels milk is one of the best foods in the world. I was lucky enough to inherit lactase persistence from my ancestors; as a result, I enjoy several servings of milk and dairy foods every day. I also happen to be a dairy farmer, who comes from a long line of dairy farming families, which, by nature, makes me biased towards the goodness of milk.

However, I understand that some people cannot consume dairy foods. Food allergies and food intolerances are real. My own sister poured orange juice over her corn flakes for the first several years of her life before she outgrew a dairy allergy.

Regardless of how I feel about milk, I support the consumption of whatever foods best meet an individual's or family’s needs. Stated another way, people should be free to make their own food choices. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who believe in converting others to their way of eating using whatever means possible. Thus, information about food has been tainted with opinion, emotion, and misconstrued science. And that has led to lots and lots of questions about the food we eat.

If you have questions about drinking milk, here are five things I think you should know:

• Milk is a nutrient powerhouse – and it’s not just for kids. Eight grams of high-quality protein per glass plus calcium, potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin is one heck of a nutritional package.

• Milk contains a lot that’s good, without the “bad” that some people think (like excess calories and fat). Whole milk is less than 4% fat and contains only 150 calories per eight-ounce glass.

• Milk is simple – especially compared to non-dairy milk-like products that can have more than 10 ingredients. Regular milk has no added sugars, fillers, or flavorings.

• Milk provides high-quality protein (some non-dairy milk-like products may have just 1 gram of protein). The protein in milk is a complete protein and, gram for gram, one of the most affordable proteins.

• Milk is a real, wholesome and local product from family farms across the nation. My family and all of the dairy farm families I know take great pride in providing the best possible care for our animals, being stewards of our land and resources, and providing consumers with high-quality milk. That milk travels very few miles, relatively, from the time it leaves our farm to the time it reaches the grocery store.

If you’d like to read more, the new website – MilkTruth.com – includes links to a number of good articles about milk, authored by experts and writers from outside of the dairy industry, who aren't as biased towards milk's goodness as I am.

Holstein dairy cows

Along with believing milk is one of the best foods in the world, I take issue with plant-based beverages being marketed as dairy products.

Milk is known for it's purity, simplicity, and nutrient content. Commercially manufactured nut, seed, and grain milks are not pure or simple and they don't compare nutrient-wise to real milk. That doesn't mean I feel they shouldn't be produced; on the contrary, they are a great option for those who can't drink milk but want to enjoy a bowl of cereal or a latte. I just don't believe they belong in the dairy section of the grocery store.

The bottom line: If you think milk is one of the best foods in the world, keep on drinking. If you have questions about milk, please seek answers from a reputable source. If you happen to think milk is one of the worst foods in the world, let's respectfully agree to disagree.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dollop & Scoop – No. 3

This has been one of those weeks where I feel like I take one step forward and three steps back. I was trying to catch up after an event-filled weekend away from home. Then Monika came down with such a bad case of strep throat that she spent 24 hours vomiting. And then the kitten had to go to the vet. Maybe that's too many details, but I think you have an idea what the week's been like.

The wedding

at the wedding

The big event last weekend was Phil and Ashley's wedding. Since Glen was Phil's best man (Phil is Glen's younger brother) and Monika was one of the flower girls, we left for the wedding on Friday so that we could be there for rehearsal. The early arrival also gave the kids time to play in the hotel pool.

The wedding and reception were both beautiful. We all had a wonderful time. My only regret was not taking more time to get a nice family photo. We don't get dressed up all that often – heck, I can't even remember the last time I wore a real dress – so I was really hoping for a keepsake family portrait.

at the wedding

Unfortunately, we were in a bit of a hurry and taking photos with two cameras at the same time. So we ended up with half of us looking one way and half of us looking the other. And then there's always the challenge of getting everyone to hold still and actually smile.

We ended up with a couple of almost-keepsake portraits. And some super adorable candid photos.

Dan, Monika, and Daphne

Glen and I

Monika and Daphne dancing

Sunrise, sunset


We've had some absolutely stunning sunrises and sunsets this winter. I caught a glimpse of the sunset below while waiting in our entryway for the kids to finish getting their barn clothes on. I told the kids to come look and grabbed my phone to take a picture. Then I went and got my good camera. Neither camera (or maybe it's just the photographer) took a photo that did justice to the sunset's colors. So I tried, instead, to enjoy the beautiful sunset while it lasted.

I've reached the conclusion that breathtaking sunrises and sunsets like these, which seem to happen more when winter is at its most frigid, supply us with the rewards we need to continue our outdoor chores – or simply help us focus on something other than how blasted cold we are.


As I write this, though, we are enjoying unseasonably warm weather. (Thirty degrees in January is almost unheard of.) The kids can play outside without freezing their fingers and we've been able to clean out the heifer yard. We're even supposed to get some sunshine tomorrow! Maybe Old Man Winter feels bad about how he treated us last winter.

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Thanks for reading this edition of Dollop and Scoop. I've got my fingers crossed that next week will at least feel a little more manageable. I hope your week goes well, too.