Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Family, football and He-Man pie

Our Thanksgiving celebration spanned two weekends this year — one weekend up north with my family and two gatherings on Thanksgiving weekend with Glen's extended family. In addition to giving thanks for our abundant blessings and spending some quality time with family, we made some fun memories:

Dan wanted to know whether the turkey was a mean turkey or a nice turkey.

I forgot Monika's dress at home for one of the gatherings, so she had to run around in her onesie and tights.

I took Dan to the Metrodome on Friday to watch my high school football team win the state championship. The young man who helped us on the farm up north is a senior on the team, so it was my chance to finally see him play (and to reminisce about my days as a football cheerleader for former state champion teams).

It was Dan's first football game ever, so you can about imagine how many questions he asked. My favorite query was, "Why is everybody yelling so loud?"

But my most favorite memory from this Thanksgiving came after Glen baked his pecan pies for the men's pie baking contest. Dan called them He-Man pies. And since He-Man is currently his favorite cartoon, he was actually excited to try the pie. (I've since been getting lots of leverage out of reminding Dan that He-Man eats his vegetables, too.)

I hope you made lots of great Thanksgiving memories, too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Late nights

It's never good when the long-day lights in the barn turn off before the vacuum pump.

But I knew it was coming.

All through chores, I had the Black Eyed Peas' hit song "I Gotta Feeling" playing over and over again in my head, except the lyrics were changed to "Tonight's gonna be a late night, Tonight's gonna be a late, late night".

I guess this is our version of "living it up".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What I'll Remember from Reno

Most of the 900+ dairy farmers and industry folks who attended the 2010 Joint Annual Meeting of the NMPF, NDB and UDIA during the last week of October in Reno, NV are likely no longer thinking about what they heard during the presentations and meetings, but a couple of the speakers' comments have been resonating in my head since we returned. Here's what I'll remember from Reno:

"The more you touch the poo', the more it stinks." ~ Barbara Martin, dairy farmer and blogger, about responding to negative comments on her blog, during the Young Cooperators social media session.

"Tell me something good." ~ Matt Booth, motivational speaker, during his presentation on goal setting and the power of a positive attitude. Instead of greeting people with "How are you?" and then listening to their often-negative answers, Booth asks people to tell him about something in their life that's good.

"Be consistent in your mood and temperament. If you're going to be a grouch, be a grouch every day." ~ Dr. Bernie Erven, professor emeritus of agricultural economics at Ohio State University, during his presentation on farm family communication.

"Establish a home for yourself. If your mom still washes your underwear, you're not ready to form a partnership with your dad." ~ Dr. Bernie Erven

"Have you been invited [to return to the farm] or have you announced your arrival." ~ Dr. Bernie Erven

"Catch people doing things right and say, "Thank you." ~ Dr. Bernie Erven

"In the next 35 years, we will need to double food production." ~ Mike Jerred, Global Dairy Leader for Cargill Animal Nutrition, during his presentation on feeding the world.

"In the United States, less than 10 percent of consumers' income is spent on food. There are parts of the world where families spend 95% of their income on food." ~ Mike Jerred  

(Can you imagine spending 95% of your income on food? Most Americans have no idea how lucky we are to live in a country where food is abundant, affordable and fresh.)

"In Russia, 20-30% of food spoils in storage due to lack of transportation infrastructure." ~ Mike Jerred

"From 1975 to 2009, we doubled per-cow milk production. Can we double it again?" ~ Mike Jerred

"From 1975 to 2009, grain yields doubled, mostly due to better plant nutrition. To double again, we'll need genetics and technology, not inputs, to grow yield." ~ Mike Jerred

"If drinking milk is wrong, then I don't want to be right." ~ Howie Long, former football player and FOX Sports Analyst, in response to animal agriculture's detractors. Long was the guest speaker at the opening luncheon.

"Farmers, ranchers, miners, manufacturers... These are the people that make the world go." ~ Jason Jennings, researcher and author, during his "Stewardship, Instead of Leadership" presentation.

(Sometimes it takes flying half-way across the country to be reminded that farming is one of the most important professions in the world.)

Last, but not least...

No, that's not real money we're gambling with. The resort set up a mock casino for the YCs. Basically, they were training us, so that we'd go to the real casino and make a donation. We didn't. But we sure had fun learning how to play Blackjack.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The second truth about trips

The second truth about trips is one of my Murphy's Laws of Dairy Farming and Parenting: Plan a trip and somebody (human or animal) will get sick.

This law has proven true time and time again. And, with the cattle, at least, the diagnoses have been bizarre.

During our trip up north for my sister's wedding in August, Monika ended up being sick during the ceremony. We have wedding pictures with her wearing two different dresses because she threw up all over the first one (and Glen).

Just before a trip last year for my grandfather's interment, we had one cow prolapse her uterus and another come down with nervous ketosis — both conditions we very rarely see.

Our trip to Reno proved no different. Except this time it was calves that fell ill. We left our relief help with two recovering calves and came home to find several more ill, including a set of tiny twin heifer calves. Apparently it was one of those bugs that pass from calf to calf like runny noses in a kindergarten classroom.

I think we're through the worst of it now, but I haven't uncrossed my fingers yet. I wish the people who make their livings denigrating animal agriculture could have been here last week to see just how much time, effort, worry and love were expended helping those sick calves recuperate. The twins required around-the-clock care. It was like running a neonatal intensive care unit with one person.

Even with the sick calves, though, our trip to Reno was well worth the time we invested in preparing for and re-normalizing from the time away. I'll have some highlights from the trip in my next post. (And, if everyone cooperates, that might even be sometime soon!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The truth about trips

Glen and I spent the last week of October in Reno, NV for the National Milk Producers Association's Young Cooperator Leadership Development Program (yeah, that's a mouthful).

The trip was much like our trip to Texas last year for the 2009 program, but this year was much more relaxed because we knew what to expect and we knew some of the other couples attending.

Returning home, however, has confirmed, without a doubt, my new truth about trips:

For every day you plan to be gone, it takes two days to get ready. And for every day you're actually gone, it takes three days after you get back for life to return to normal. (If there is such a thing as normal.)

That means, for a five day trip, 10 days are spent planning, packing and making other preparations and 15 days are spent readjusting children to routines and catching up with the farm work that didn't stop while you were gone. So, a five day trip ends up consuming nearly an entire month (30 days, if you haven't already done the math).

I might have to extend that, though, because I haven't finished unpacking yet. The suitcase is still sitting right behind me here in the office.

But that fact that I actually sat down at the computer long enough to write this post means we've just about returned to normal. That must mean it's about time to start preparing for our trip up north to celebrate Thanksgiving. And then Christmas will come. Maybe sometime in February I'll finish unpacking all the bags and get around to all of the other unfinished household business that has been tabled until life returns to normal.