Saturday, January 30, 2016

Baby Calf Names of 2015

I had a lot of fun putting together our Baby Calf Names of 2014, so I decided to do it again this year. We returned to tradition this year and gave all of the baby girls names that start with the same letter as their mothers' names.

Some of the names were decided on pretty easily; Monika named several after her classmates. Other names took a little research and some polling.


Glen wanted Georgia's calf to have a southern name, so we did a little Googling and found Glynn, which is the name of a county in Georgia.

Galangal was a name suggested by a reader after I asked for suggestions for Garam Masala's calf. Garam's mother was Garlic and her grandmother was Galena. We named Galena after Penzeys Galena Street Chicken & Rib Rub; she was born at the same time as a whole group of spice girls: Vanilla, Basil, and Ginger. Galangal is the name of a spice in the ginger family. One of the other suggested names – Ghee – was given to Garlic's calf. I jotted the rest of the suggestions down for future use.

Here are all of the names we picked for our baby calves in 2015, followed by the calf's mother's name.



Gemma – Gem



Gambler – Gypsie
Windy – Whisper
Maggie – Marble
Madison – Mahina
Gina – Ginn



Stephanie – Star
Macadamia – Mango
Popcorn – Pumilum
Mary – Midori
Lanky – Lana
Mac – Morgan
Melody – Mellow
Cheeky – Char
Thorn – Thistle
Gaga – Geisha


Ice Cream
Ice Cream

Donut – Donah
Whorl – Wink
Galangal – Garam
IceCream – Icicle
Jelly – Java


Ghee with Garlic
Ghee with Garlic

Dolphin – Dove
Stella – Stormy
Junie – Julep
Ghee – Garlic
Sissy – Shine


Ulyana – Ursa
Glossy – Goose
Iris – Ivy
Ghost – Golly
Noah – Noelle



Beatrice – Beauty
Glynn – Georgia
Astrid – Aloha!


Delta with Dawn
Delta with Dawn

Minne – Marge
Mistelle – Moscato
Delta – Dawn
Lauren – Lass



Wisp – Wilma
Whistle – Wilma
Dynasty – Divine
Janet – Judy



Cherry – Cherub
LaVida – Luna
Louisiana – Liberty



December – Duchess

We also house a handful of Jerseys for a friend of ours. He had three heifer calves born here this year. Sometimes he names them, sometimes our kids help name them.

Legacy with Glen

Lydia - Loopy
Hannah - Holli
Legacy - Lily

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Strawberry Ice Cream Day Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

When I resorted to sending e-letters two years ago, instead of tangible Christmas cards, I called this post The Christmas Letter. Last year, I was a tad bit later with my letter, so I named it The New Year Letter. Well, I'm really late this year. By the time I sat down to start this letter, it was National Strawberry Ice Cream Day. So, since it's too late to call this a New Year letter and it's too early to call it a Groundhog Day letter (barely!), this will be The Strawberry Ice Cream Day Letter. Seems fitting to me!

all of us

2015 was a fabulous year for our family. We had lots of fun and made lots of memories. A couple highlights include a wedding in the family and our first year of 4-H. We set a goal of making more time for fun and we did pretty well. We did more swimming and fishing, we camped and we waterparked, we did more snow tubing and sledding, and we learned that fun can be last-minute and uncomplicated.

Dan at piano recital

Dan is rocking third grade this year. And when we celebrated his birthday last month, I realized through tears that he's half-way to being an adult. He still loves engineering things outside – this year he hand-carved a sword out of a cedar branch and imagined the rows of bales behind the barn into castles and pirate ships and forts. His indoor activities still include reading and LEGOS. Dan also started piano lessons this year, which inspired me to start playing again; it is a delight to hear piano music in the house again.

Monika fishing

Even though first grade has meant a lot more homework for Monika, she has taken it all in stride. She became a full-time dancer this year and is now talking more seriously about gymnastics. She still loves to help milk cows and name the new calves. Her list of calves to take to the fair next year would fill two trailers. I've found her playing LEGOS more and she's been teaching herself piano with Dan's music.

Daphne in mud puddle

This was a big year for Daphne. She really found her voice and has been exerting her independence. However, she'll still tell you that she's "Dad's girl" and "Mom's girl". She'll also tell you that she's a dragon, which is sometimes a good simile for her behavior. She thrives on spending time in the barn and in the tractor. She loves LEGOS as much as her brother and sister; it's incredible to watch her little fingers build.

Glen continues to be steady as a rock, stabilizing us all as life tosses us in a million different directions. He puts in long hours outside and his hard work is evident in the well-being of our cows and the quality of our crops. His ability to analyze situations and think outside the box keep our farm business moving in a positive direction. In his spare time, Glen took up tinkering on old tractors this year and looking for old anvils at auctions.

Me with Glory

I'm still splitting my time between farm chores, keeping up with the kids, writing, and agricultural advocacy. I'm also finishing up a year-long dairy leadership program. My off-farm adventures brought me to some really cool places this year. I am incredibly thankful for all of the people who pitch in at home so I can be away.

This year is shaping up to be just as full as any other year. My goal for this year is More Together. That doesn't mean "get it more together", although there are days when I feel that way. The goal is to work more together and play more together. Dan and Monika are becoming capable of helping with more chores outside, not just their chores in the house. I believe it's critical for them to continue learning that work is important and so is play. And both are more fun when done together.

the kiddos

If you want to keep up with our work and play, and what's happening on the farm, you can follow along here on my blog (you can sign up to have blog posts delivered to your email inbox), on Instagram, and on Facebook.

I hope the remaining 48 weeks of 2016 are full of joy and togetherness for you and your loved ones.

Glen, Sadie, Dan, Monika, and Daphne

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The oysters and the starfish

Every Christmas since the beginning of time*, my dad’s family gathering has included oyster soup. (*Nobody is sure when this tradition actually started, but we believe it can be traced back to our English heritage.)

The central dish at what is now referred to as Smith Oyster Christmas features fresh oysters cooked in melted butter and whole milk.

This year our fresh Pacific oysters came from an oyster farm in Washington. Did you know that it takes two to three years for each oyster to grow to a harvestable size? Oyster farmers “plant” baby oysters in the shallow waters of ocean tidelands and then wait for them to grow. The tide brings in phytoplankton and microalgae, which the oysters consume by filtering them from the water. A single oyster can filter 25 gallons of water a day, which makes them very beneficial to coastal environments.

After my grandmother passed away, my aunt Konnie took over making the oyster soup. For 34 years now, she’s taken care of special ordering the shucked oysters, individually rinsing them by hand, and then carefully turning them into our family’s Christmas tradition. Carefully, because if the soup heats too fast, the milk will scorch.

Last year, though, my sister made the oyster soup, because Konnie couldn’t.

Konnie was living at a nursing home, recovering from the septicemia that nearly claimed her life the October before. The inflammation resulting from the infection damaged her kidneys and left her needing dialysis. The months-long hospitalization left her wheel-chair bound and in need of physical therapy. Even at the nursing home, she was in and out of the hospital with complications.

During one of her hospitalizations, one of Konnie’s more pessimistic doctors gave her just months to live.

But that doctor was wrong. Konnie’s kidneys started working again, she regained strength, and she was cleared to return home. She’s still mostly wheel-chair bound, but she manages just fine in her house. My dad and uncle and sister help her get to her doctors appointments and the other places she needs to be.

And this year for Christmas, Konnie once again made the oyster soup. She ordered the oysters. She made sure my uncle had butter and milk, so that when she arrived at his house two hours before our gathering, she could make the soup. But first, she rinsed the oysters at her house. The way she always has.

And while Konnie was rinsing the oysters, she found something unexpected, something special. A starfish. A teeny little starfish, about the size of a silver dollar. But a starfish, nonetheless.

Konnie brought the starfish along to Christmas to show the kids and said, “All the years I’ve been rinsing oysters, I’ve never found a starfish.”

We all oohed and aahhed in disbelief over the starfish. We didn’t realize at first that starfish eat oysters, so it made sense that the starfish could have got scooped up when the oysters were harvested.

There were lots of jokes about what would have happened if Konnie hadn’t rinsed the oysters and the starfish had ended up in the soup.

There was lots of talk about how the starfish that ended up in the container of oysters as a good omen. A special reminder of how Konnie beat the odds that were stacked against her, returned home, and and was able to celebrate another Christmas with her family.

But then I got to thinking about it last week. And I did a little research. Oysters are harvested with boats that skim across the shallow water of the tidelands and mechanically collect the oysters. Then the oysters are shucked by hand before being packaged for sale. An oyster shucker can shuck up to 5,000 oysters per shift. That means our little starfish would have had to sneak by one of the shuckers.

I called a west coast seafood association and the oyster company that grew, harvested, and packed the oysters we ate in our soup. I wanted to know what the odds were that this little starfish joined us for Christmas.

Both people I talked to laughed in disbelief when I told them we got a starfish with our oysters. Neither one had ever heard of such a thing. They said the odds were far greater than one in a million.

So I guess we were right when we said it was some kind of sign.

While we were ogling over the starfish at Christmas, Konnie told a story about collecting starfish. On her last trip to the ocean, several years ago, she really wanted to bring one of the dead starfish they found home and dry it. But before they got home, the starfish turned to mush and turned their RV trip into a fishy, smelly ride.

I did a quick search about preserving starfish, found some instructions, and offered to try drying the little starfish for Konnie.

The directions worked. The starfish, which had been an oyster-y gray color when Konnie found it, returned to its peachy color and dried down into a perfectly collectible starfish.

The next time we go up north, I’ll bring the starfish along and Konnie will get her one-in-a-million starfish.

This story first appeared as a column in the January 16, 2016 issue of the Dairy Star.