Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Laundry List

I'm not sure what it's like for families who don't live on farms, but it seems like keeping up with the laundry around here could be a full-time job for someone.

Part of the problem is that we each have three sets of clothes — good clothes, everyday clothes, and barn clothes. Because it's at the bottom of the clothes-chain, the barn clothes category is the largest. Poop runs downhill, and so do clothes. When good clothes come down with a few too many spots and don't respond to treatment, they become everyday clothes. Likewise, when everyday clothes fall victim to the stain-monster, they get turned into barn clothes. (Where do barn clothes go when their number is called? To the shop. As rags. But barn clothes have to be pretty bad before they're cut up.)

The other part of the laundry situation is that we go through a lot of clothes. Glen and Dan, especially. I've reached the conclusion that there must be some sort of atomic attraction between Y chromosomes and dirt. I swear, it seems like all Dan has to do is step outside and he's covered in something. I mentioned this to Glen once and all he said was, "Yeah, Mom did a lot of laundry when we were little." (He has two brothers and a sister; I can't imagine trying to keep up with three boys' worth of dirty clothes!)

So, with the laundry situation as it is, I'm always on the lookout for ways to make the chore easier. (And, for me, it is a chore. I'd rather pitch manure than sort, wash, dry, fold and put away clothes. The battle with laundry is never-ending; at least with pitching manure you eventually reach a point at which you can say, "There, it's done.")

Here's the list of my favorite laundry life-savers:

1. Black, brown, navy blue and camouflage. For obvious reasons, shirts, pants and shorts in these colors are my favorites. They tend to remain in their original categories longer because they don't come down with stains as easily. Good clothes and everyday clothes in these colors can also survive an accidental trip to the barn.

2. Tide Stain Release. For those clothes that do need stain treatment, this new product is like a miracle elixir. A scoop of this (or one of the little packets) in each load of stain-prone clothes will prevent just about any stain from setting. I do still spray some of the really bad spots with Spray N' Wash, but that's because I'm probably a bit too fanatical about keeping as many clothes in their original categories as possible.

3. Two washing machines. We recently inherited a washing machine from Glen's sister and her husband. It has a slight leak and they have a main floor laundry room, so it had to go. We do our laundry in the basement, right next to the sump hole, so a slight leak isn't a problem for us. We now have one washer for good and everyday clothes and one for barn clothes. My days of load planning are over. With only one washer, I had to manage loads so that good clothes, sheets and towels never followed barn clothes. Plus, now I can wash two loads at once, which is great because we have...

4. A clothesline. Since we go through twice as many clothes in the summer (in the winter clothes are protected by snowsuits, dirt is frozen and the kids just stay cleaner), the clothesline is the only chance I have of keeping up with the piles. And there's nothing like fresh air to make clothes smell really clean. Even barn clothes smell better coming off the clothesline. 

What's the laundry situation like for your family? What are your laundry life-savers?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Keeping a dairy policy open mind

After sitting in on the National Milk Producers Association board's approval of the Foundation for the Future program last month, it's been interesting to read the different reactions to the plan from throughout the industry.

One of the most thought-provoking (to me at least) write-ups was penned by Jim Dickrell, editor of Dairy Today, and published on his AgWeb blog. At first, the title of his post — National Milk's Plan a Bit Schizophrenic — irked me. My initial responses to negative reviews of the Foundation plan have been negative themselves, and a bit cynical: "Do you have a better idea? What we have now certainly isn't working."

Then, when I finally got around to reading Jim's piece and digesting it for awhile, I had to agree with him on at least one point, that being supply management.

If you recall, supply management wasn't part of the original Foundation for the Future plan. We were told last November at the NMPF annual meeting, when the Foundation plan was first unveiled, that price volatility was here to stay — it was an unavoidable part of operating in a world market — and that we just needed to learn how to manage around volatility, thus the reason for the Dairy Producer Margin Protection Program, and change the way we price milk so that supply and demand signals work better (which is what the Federal Milk Marketing Order reform is trying to do).

The Dairy Market Stabilization Program was added later. I'm inclined to believe now that some revisions need to be made if this component of the program is to be included in the final plan.

Jim made one very good point about the market stabilization program:

"The problem comes in when the Dairy Price Stabilization part of the program tries to solve [milk price-feed cost margin] problems by cutting supply. In two out of three cases, it could actually make the problem worse. Why? If you cut supply, you raise milk prices. But if the problem is not over-supply but feed prices, you simply raise milk and cheese and butter prices and reduce demand, which in turn reduces prices which means you have to cut supply even further. The same thing happens when demand is the problem. By cutting supply, you raise prices and kill even more demand."

Maybe National Milk needs to design a different trigger for initiating market stabilization, so that we're only cutting production when over-supply is truly the problem. Or maybe it needs to scrap the market stabilization program altogether. 

For me, only one thing is certain about Foundation for the Future: it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I do hope that the margin protection and marketing order reform parts of the plan become a reality, but I'm not sure yet about the market stabilization program. I will keep an open mind, though, when reading future reactions to the plan.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The past three pictures

I could write several thousand words worth of posts about the events of the past three weeks, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll just let the pictures do the storytelling so I have some time to catch up on laundry... and sleep.

We started picking raspberries (and we're still trying to pick).

We tested milk. (Which proves my theory that the tester always comes during the busiest week of the month.)

We baled second crop. (No, we didn't put all of it up in small squares.)

Our new bulk tank arrived...

...and was installed.

And we trimmed hooves.

Now that the dust is finally settling (literally), life is returning to its normal pace — busy, but manageable.