Monday, September 30, 2013

MooChews – Amazing Dog Toys Made From Upcycled Inflations

Note: Since this post was published, MooChews has changed its name to MooTugs. The name was changed to clear up confusion about the nature of the toys. MooChews/MooTugs are tug-of-war toys, not chew toys. Their new website is (April 2014)

We dairy farmers use inflations for harvesting milk.

cow being milked with milking machine

For you non-farmers, inflations are the rubber tubes that attach to cows' teats when the cow is being milked. Milk from the udder flows through the inflations, into the milking machine (pictured above) and then to the pipeline and bulk tank. Below is what an inflation looks like when it's not installed in a milking machine.

rubber inflation from milking machine

Because inflations must always be in excellent condition, both for the cows' well-being and to ensure food safety, each set of four inflations is used for only a short time before being replaced with a new set. Exactly how long each inflation is used varies with each farm, depending upon how many cows are milked, how many milking machines are used and how the milking machines are cleaned after each milking. On our farm, inflations are changed every three months.

So, what happens to all those used inflations?

Well, if you're one of our kids, you turn them into hoops...

farm girl making hoop from inflations

And necklaces...

farm girl wearing necklace made from inflations

And trains...

farm boy connecting inflations

And snakes.

farm boy making snake with inflations

But, if you're Dan and Cristen Breuer, the ingenious creators of MooChews, you upcycle those used inflations into dog toys, like the one below.

MooChews MooTug dog toy made from upcycled inflations

Even Ozzy thinks it's the most brilliant idea for a dog toy (but wouldn't smile for the camera).

Australian Shepherd farm dog with MooChews MooTug

I first learned about MooChews this spring when Cristen contacted us to ask if we'd be willing to donate our used inflations to MooChews. Of course, since I'm unconditionally obsessed with recycling, I agreed. On most dairy farms, used inflations have no purpose so they are discarded; prior to Cristen's request, ours were thrown away, too.

Now, Cristen and Dan come out to our farm every couple weeks to pick up our used inflations and the used inflations from several other farms. Our milking equipment company collects used inflations from its clients' farms and drops them off here. Dan and Cristen also get inflations from Cristen's family's dairy farm in Colorado and a couple other Minnesota dairy farms.

Before Dan and Cristen turn the inflations into their tug-of-war and fetch toys, they soak, scrub and sanitize the inflations in their home. But even after all that cleaning, the inflations still smell a little bit like dairy farms, which, according to Cristen, makes the MooChews toys irresistible to dogs.

French Bulldog with MooChews MooChucks dog toy
Photo used with permission from MooChews

You can read the whole story behind the invention of these clever dog toys – and the company's contributions to dog rescue charities – by visiting the MooChews website or checking them out on Etsy and Facebook.

And, if you'd like one of the great MooChews toys for the canine in your life, you can get free shipping by entering the code BDDAIRY1 at checkout.

Monday, September 16, 2013

To be a calmer, happier mom

Shortly after we started milking one morning a week or so ago, Glen turned and said to me: "Why do you look so tired?"

"Well," I told him, "I stayed up to finish my blog post and then the night turned into a game of musical mattresses."

After I finished my blog post, I slipped into bed with Glen, who was sleeping on the mattress in the living room because the sheets for our bed were still in the wash.

But as I laid there trying to slow my mind down, I couldn't stop thinking about how poorly bedtime with Dan and Monika had gone. Bedtime had been a disaster. Dan wouldn't do what I asked. I lost my temper and yelled. Dan and Monika cried. I left them upstairs crying while I went downstairs to cool off. They eventually fell asleep.

But I felt terrible. Guilty. Bedtime is supposed to be a peaceful transition from day to sleep. A chance for us to read a book and pray together, for me to sing to them and rub their backs. It's not supposed to be a fight.

So, I crawled out of bed and tiptoed upstairs to Dan and Monika's room. I sat down on the bed between them and watched them in the blue glow of the night light. Their beautiful faces looked so peaceful as they slept.

I smoothed Monika's hair and rested my hand on Dan's cheek. And I thought to myself:

How can these little people, who I love more than life itself, make me so frustrated, even angry, at times?

I whispered into their sleeping ears: "I love you so much and I'm so sorry."

As I sat there, unresolved guilt bubbled up in my heart. Guilt from a question Monika asked a few weeks ago.

I was sitting on the floor in the living room with Daphne. I had just finished changing her diaper and she was now standing up between my bent knees. She was grinning from ear to ear and I was smiling back at her.

Monika was sitting right next to us.

"Momma, how come you're only happy at Daphne?"

My heart stopped for a second. Time stopped. I sat there reeling as my four-year-old's innocent, honest words hit me like a fist in the gut.

Monika was right. I do smile at Daphne a lot. When Daphne beams her big smile at me and coos, it makes my whole being happy, and that shows on my face.

But am I only happy at Daphne? Do I smile that much more at Daphne than I smile at Dan and Monika? So much more that it's noticeable?

Apparently, or Monika wouldn't have asked. But, why?

The explanation I tried to give Monika only half-answered her question:

"Well, honey," I said, "maybe because Daphne doesn't whine and misbehave."

What I didn't tell Monika was that maybe if I didn't spend 86% of my time with her and Dan on refereeing and redirecting and keeping them on task, I would have more time to smile.

I also didn't tell her that I felt awful. How horrible, that my little girl would think that only her baby sister makes her momma happy.

Even though I did my best to make us all smile that morning by giving Dan and Monika airplane rides on my feet, Monika's words still hung in my head.

I kissed Dan and Monika on the cheek and tiptoed out of their room. I wrapped myself up in a quilt and tried to fall asleep in my own bed.

Just as I was starting to relax enough to fall asleep, I heard Daphne start to fuss. So, I crawled out of bed and went to lay with her.

Before I finally drifted off to sleep, with Daphne cuddled up next to me, I resolved to be a calmer, happier mom.

A few days later, this quote showed up in one of my parenting magazines*:

           "Emotions are contagious
in families, and moms are the
                               emotional centerpiece."

I cut it out and put it up on the fridge.

Seeing these words on paper every day helps me remember that if I remain calm and happy, instead of losing my cool – whether it's over bedtime or supper or homework – everyone else will stay calm(er) and happy(er), too.

I'm also trying to smile more at all of my beautiful children.

*This quote was from the 5 most stressful moments in your week by Mindy Walker, published in the September 2013 issue of Parents.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pasture perfect

Summer is over. It might not feel like it, but it is.

The kids are back to school. Dan is super excited to have his own desk this year. Monika is delighted to have several new friends in her preschool class.

Glen has been busy trying to get the silo ready for corn silage. We didn't use it last year so there was some old silage to clean out and a couple doors to replace. Chopping will start any day now.

Daphne has been enjoying the relative quiet in the house. She can pull herself up to stand at the living room gate now and likes to play by herself when she has a chance.

I've been working to return the house to some semblance of order after what seemed like a summer of mayhem. I swear, everywhere I turned, there was a pile of something – clothes, papers, toys – that needed to be sorted through and put away. My digital piles are just as bad. While organizing all of the photos I took this summer, I was reminded: I take a lot of pictures of the cows in the pasture.

Not quite as many pictures as I take of the kids, but close. And I would take a lot more, but half of the time when I stop to capture a scene, I tell myself that I already have a photo just like this one.

I don't know what it is about watching the cows out in the pasture that makes me want to snap a picture. Maybe it's the peacefulness out there and wanting to capture a little bit of that serenity to bring back with me. Maybe it's simply the beauty of the colors – black and white (and red and brown), vibrant greens, sapphire blue – all mixed together and a calling to share that beauty with the world.

Maybe my desire to preserve those moments with the cows is my way of honoring this wonderful opportunity. This opportunity for our cows to graze. This opportunity for me to share the joys of grazing cattle with my children. Or, sometimes, the opportunity to escape from everything for a couple minutes and surround myself with the sights and sounds and smells of nature.

Summer is over, but the grazing season isn't. I still have a couple more months to enjoy these pasture perfect moments.