Sunday, July 31, 2016

Jersey show girls [Dairy Star Column]

Five years ago, Glen and I stood with Dan and Monika outside our baby calf pen. Dan and Monika were picking calves to show at the fair. We tried to guide their decision by explaining which calves the judges might like best. Monika, who was three years old at the time, didn't care what the judges might think. She wanted to show the little brown calves – our first two grade-up Jerseys.

Glen grew up on a farm with both Holsteins and Jerseys. So when we ended up with a couple of Ho-Jos in our herd, Glen decided to keep breeding them to Jersey. Glen has been breeding our herd for higher component milk since we started farming; Jerseys contribute nicely to his goal for more butterfat and protein.

At first, I tolerated the Jerseys in exchange for Glen tolerating my Milking Shorthorns. But then I began to see how beneficial it is to have petite calves for the kids to show and petite cows for them to practice milking in the barn.

We now have a number of Jersey (or mostly-Jersey) cows and heifers in our herd, but two little brown calves named Star and Sandy were the ones who started it all. And that day, picking out calves for the fair, Monika started something none of us could have guessed.

Monika took Sandy to the youth show in June and then showed Star at our county fair in July. It turned out that the judge liked Star as much as Monika did, so our little girl went home her first purple ribbons.

Two years later, there was another little brown heifer calf in the newborn pen. Monika named Star's first calf Sparkle. Sparkle followed in her mother's footsteps – on the show halter, walking next to Monika.

Last year, Star gave birth to her second heifer calf. Monika named this calf Stephanie. Stephanie went to the fair, too, as Monika's Cloverbud 4-H project calf.

And this year, Monika will parade another little brown calf around the ring in the Open Show.

[Read the rest of this column at]

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Four reasons why show whites need to go

Hard to find. Hard to clean. Creates a poor image of dairy. White is outdated.

As the mom of kids who show dairy cattle, I love helping my kids develop into young showmen. So many important life lessons can be learned in the show ring.

But as the mom who does her family’s laundry, there’s one thing I hate about showing dairy cattle . . . Show Whites.

I’d like to go back in time and have a stern talk with whoever decided that dairy exhibitors should wear white pants and white shirts.

Unfortunately, nobody seems to know who started the show whites craze. And nobody seems to know why we continue this craziness – other than, “It’s tradition. This is the way it’s always been done.”

Well, I say to heck with tradition. Here are four reasons why show whites need to go.

Hard to find.
White shirts are easy enough to come by, but finding white pants that actually fit your kid is like winning the lottery. Especially when it comes to finding white jeans for boys — almost all white boys jeans are either slim or skinny cut.

[You can read the rest of the post in the Hoard's Dairyman Notebook.]

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sadie's Homemade Ice Cream

Nothing tops this homemade vanilla ice cream. Delectable flavor. Perfectly scoop-able consistency. Super-easy to make.
Homemade Ice Cream for #IceCreamMonth

For as long as I can remember, ice cream has been part of my life. From ice cream fights with my sisters to scooping cones as a dairy princess, I could tell you lots of stories about ice cream. We all have ice cream stories, right?

Together with some of my fellow dairy farmer bloggers, I'm celebrating National Ice Cream Month by sharing one of my favorite ice cream stories (and one of my favorite ice cream recipes). You can find links to the other bloggers' stories at the end of this post.

Sadie's Homemade Ice Cream stand at the Minnesota State Fair

This ice cream story is the story of my homemade ice cream. (I think this picture of me when I was a dairy princess – 15 years ago, now – standing in front of Sadie’s Homemade Ice Cream stand at the Minnesota State Fair was foreshadowing at its best.)

A couple years ago, I was talking with a group of friends about the travesty that is reduced-fat ice cream. The conversation turned to making homemade ice cream. It made sense. Why wouldn’t a dairy farmer make her own ice cream? Somewhere in a closet at my dad’s house, I had an ice cream maker tucked away. After our conversation, I decided it was time to find it.

ice cream maker

But before my next trip up to my dad’s, a box showed up on my doorstep. Now, I use online shopping quite a bit, because it’s easier than driving to the city, but I knew I hadn’t ordered anything. To my surprise and delight, inside the box I found an ice cream maker, a homemade ice cream cookbook, and a note from my friends telling me to enjoy my homemade ice cream adventures. I’m pretty sure I have some of the best friends ever.

The kids and I started making homemade ice cream right away. The ice cream maker made the churning super easy. It took us awhile, though, to find a recipe for perfect homemade ice cream. We tried simple ice cream recipes, but the frozen ice cream was hard as a rock. Who has time to let ice cream sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before scooping?

We tried custard-style ice cream recipes with lots of egg yolks and fewer egg yolks. We tried different methods of cooking the custard. I even tried making whole egg custard so I wouldn't have to separate yolks. (FYI... I had ZERO luck with whole egg custard.) The custard-style ice creams were tasty, but still un-scoop-able. Plus, the extra steps of cooking the custard, cooling it for 24 hours, and then churning the ice cream made the process seem like a chore. (Don’t worry, every test batch of ice cream was eventually consumed, except for the custard I curdled.)

Then, one day I was struck with an idea. I pulled out my ice cream maker and gave it a try. The resulting ice cream made me whoop and jump for joy. Finally! I had homemade ice cream that was both delectable and perfectly scoop-able. Even better, I didn’t have to cook anything or chill the mix.

ingredients and equipment for Sadie's Homemade Ice Cream

The secret? Four whole, raw eggs. (See note below about raw eggs.)

I blended milk, sugar, and whole eggs together in my rocket blender until the mixture turned light yellow. Then I whisked the egg mixture and cream together in a chilled bowl. I poured it into the ice cream maker, churned it for 20 minutes, and popped it into the freezer for a couple hours. Perfection!

All homemade ice cream tastes great when you’re scooping spoonfuls out of the ice cream maker. The real test comes after the ice cream freezes. When hardened, the consistency of this ice cream falls in the middle between store-bought ice cream and other homemade ice cream.

churning homemade ice cream

Blending the whole eggs with the milk and sugar incorporates air into the mix before the churning even starts and the eggs help the ice cream incorporate even more air during churning. So the finished ice cream isn’t as dense as other homemade ice creams.

The blender also helps dissolve the sugar much better than whisking or mixing with an electric mixer.

perfectly scoop-able homemade ice cream

It took a couple batches to find the right ingredient amounts – both in terms of making ice cream with the best consistency and how much mix will fit in my ice cream maker. This recipe will make about 1½ quarts of ice cream, which is also the amount my ice cream tubs will hold. Coincidentally, 1½ quarts of ice cream is also the amount that will fit in the tummies of a family of five in one day. We love our ice cream!

My ice cream maker is now one of my most-used appliances and homemade ice cream is now a part of nearly all my ice cream stories.

Sadie's Homemade Ice Cream

Sadie's Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Churn Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 1½ quarts


½ cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
4 whole eggs (see note)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 cups cream


Place in a small (2-cup) blender cup: the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Blend for 20 to 30 seconds until color changes to light yellow.

Pour blended ingredients into chilled 3-quart bowl. Add heavy cream. Whisk together until combined.

Following the directions for your ice cream maker, churn ice cream mix for 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, the ice cream should have increased considerably in volume and have a soft-serve consistency.

Transfer churned ice cream to a freezer-safe container with a tight fitting lid. Place in freezer for several hours to harden.

Note: Consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have a medical condition. Pasteurized eggs are a great option for those concerned about foodborne illness.

Helpful Hints

• If you don't have a small blender cup, a regular blender will work, too.
• If you're using an automatic ice cream maker, be sure to freeze canister for 24 hours before churning ice cream.
• If you're using an ice-and-salt ice cream maker, chill the canister in the freezer before filling with ice cream mix.
• Chill the blender cup and sugar for 5 minutes in freezer.
• Chill everything that will touch the ice cream mix and churned ice cream: mixing bowl, whisk, ice cream container, spoon, etc.
• Homemade ice cream freezes best in long, thin containers. (I use old Blue Bunny ice cream containers and these tubs from Tovolo.)
• Be careful not to over-churn the ice cream, which results in ice cream with a weird, buttery mouthfeel.

Ice Cream Month

More Dairy Bloggers celebrating National Ice Cream Month:

Sadie's Homemade Ice Cream


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Another health insurance headache

I'm starting to really dread finding letters in the mailbox from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, our health insurance company.

Last winter, we got a letter explaining the 50 percent increase in health insurance premiums. After finding a plan with a higher deductible and a somewhat more affordable premium, I thought my health insurance headaches were over.

It turns out they were only just beginning.

Last week's letter from Blue Cross announced that, starting in 2017, the company will be discontinuing all individual and family health insurance plans. The letter included a several-hundred word explanation of the main point: our company is losing too much money on individual plans, so you need to find a new health insurance company.

I read the letter and fumed.

Blue Cross will continue selling health insurance through employer-based plans; they're only dropping the individual plan portion of their business. So, basically, those of us who are self-employed, like farmers and other small business owners, are getting thrown out into the street to find a new home. We're supposed to be the backbone of our nation's economy but it feels like we're being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to health insurance.

Then I cried.

Blue Cross has been our insurance provider since we started farming. We stayed with this company even through the premium increases because I wanted access to the best medical care in the state in the event that something happened to one of us.

Now, I have no idea what kind of access to medical care I'll be able to find.

[Read the rest of this column in the Dairy Star.]

Friday, July 8, 2016

More monarchs + Butterfly Bars

Celebrate the increase in the monarch butterfly population with these citrus-flavored Butterfly Bars.

Butterfly Bars

My family and I find great joy in watching monarch butterflies flit around our farm.

monarch butterfly in pasture

Since the day we found our first monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant in our pasture, these amazing pollinators have captivated us all with their beauty, grace, and spectacular transformations.

5th instar monarch caterpillar

The great love I have for these beautiful creatures also comes with a great fear: that monarchs won’t be around for my grandchildren and their grandchildren to enjoy.

It’s no secret that the monarch population has been declining. But this spring there was finally good news in the monarch world: Thanks to conservation efforts and favorable growing conditions for both milkweed and monarchs, the monarch population increased dramatically after three years of record low numbers.

monarchs clustering

Unfortunately, there was bad news as well: A severe late-winter storm ravaged the oyamel fir forest in Mexico where monarchs spend the winter. Estimated death loss from the storm’s freezing temperatures is as high as 50% of the monarch population. Scientists won’t know the full impact until the butterflies can be counted again next winter.

In the meantime, while the monarchs are here in Minnesota, we’re doing everything we can to help them have another successful summer. To be successful, monarchs need both milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants. Monarchs need milkweed because the leaves are the only food the caterpillars can eat. Pollinator-friendly plants supply the butterflies themselves with essential nectar.

Swamp Milkweed

On our farm, our monarch and milkweed conservation efforts include:

• Protecting established milkweed plants and other native wildflowers, which mostly grow along pasture fence lines. This involves hand-weeding thistles and other noxious weeds from the fence lines, instead of spraying them.

milkweed in bloom

• Establishing new milkweed populations in protected areas. Milkweed seedlings often sprout in the pasture in high-traffic cow paths; I’ve been transplanting those seedlings to our yard and a protected area near one of our ponds.

• Relocating monarch caterpillars when necessary. Cows won’t eat milkweed plants, but they will trample them. If I find a monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant at risk of being trampled by the cows, I’ll move the caterpillar to a vacant milkweed plant out of harm’s way.

These conservation efforts aren’t dramatically increasing pollinator habitat, but every small increase has an accumulative effect. Each additional milkweed plant this year will go to seed this fall and could end up being five or more new milkweed plants next year.

milkweed seeds

When it comes to monarch and milkweed conservation, if every farm and every backyard increases pollinator habitat just a little, we can make a big difference.

Every milkweed plant we keep alive is another place for a monarch to lay her eggs. Every flowering native plant we grow is one more butterfly cafeteria. Every time we talk about monarchs and milkweed, we raise awareness.

That’s why I’m super excited about the launch of the PolliNation™ project, a new initiative at Land O’Lakes, Inc. to plant pollinator habitat across the country. In addition to raising awareness throughout the cooperative, the PolliNation™ project is bringing the conversation to social media with #PolliNation.

You can make monarchs and other pollinators the talk of your next picnic or neighborhood gathering with these Butterfly Bars.

decorated Butterfly Bars

Orange and lemon – two fruits that require pollinators for pollination – combine to give these simple bars a sweet, tangy flavor. Even better, Land O Lakes® Butter gives these bars a dense, moist texture. (Real butter is a must for Butterfly Bars.)

making Butterfly Bars

These bars get their vibrant, orange color from a secret ingredient: puréed raw carrots. Believe me, the carrots really are a secret – nobody will ever guess that these bars have veggies hidden inside.

Butterfly Bars are a joy to taste and just as enjoyable to make. Start by zesting two oranges. (I find it impossible to keep from smiling while zesting oranges.) Next, purée the carrots. Then, whisk everything together, pour the batter into the pan, and slide them into the oven. It’s as easy as that.

Give Butterfly Bars a try for your next summer gathering and then save the recipe for this winter when oranges come back in season. I'm hoping that we'll be able to celebrate another increase in the monarch population at that time, too.

Butterfly Bar

Butterfly Bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes
Makes: One 10 x 15 (or 9 x 13) pan of bars


Zest from 2 medium oranges
2 cups baby carrots (or peeled carrot pieces)
Juice and pulp from 2 medium oranges (½ cup)
¼ cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup Land O Lakes® Butter, melted and cooled*
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

*To keep melted butter from overheating, microwave butter until most of the butter is melted, but there are still some solid pieces. Then whisk with a fork until solid pieces melt.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10 x 15 bar pan (or 9 x 13 cake pan) with cooking spray.

Zest oranges into medium bowl and set bowl aside. Juice oranges with a citrus juicer or reamer and measure out ½ cup of juice. Don’t worry about straining out the pulp.

Combine carrots, orange juice/pulp, and lemon juice in blender and purée until smooth. This works really well with the smoothie cup of a high-powered blender.

Transfer carrot purée to bowl with zest. Whisking well after each addition, add sugar, salt, eggs, and melted butter. Add flour and whisk just until flour is completely blended in.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth with spatula.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes. (If using a 9 x 13 pan, increase baking time to about 28 minutes.) Bars are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Avoid overbaking. Cool completely.

To decorate, if desired: Before decorating, chill bars in refrigerator for an hour or more. Set a butterfly cookie cutter on top of bars and trace around cutter with a black food coloring marker. Add antennae and lines for the butterfly’s body with the marker.

To serve: Cut bars into squares and serve as they are, chilled or at room temperature. (I like them chilled.) Or top with a spoonful of berry jam and a dollop of real whipped cream for an extra special treat.

Butterfly Bar with berry jam and whipped cream

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative farmer-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own. Land O Lakes and the Indian Maiden brandmark are registered trademarks of Land O’Lakes, Inc. 


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Inexpensive summer fun for dairy kids [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

Silage bag slip-n-slide, backyard camping, calf bedding sand piles, and nature exploring all lead to summer farm fun.

farm kid slip-n-slide

Dairy farm kids find lots of ways to make their own summer fun. Once their chores are done, I allow our kids to free range as much as possible. Free ranging develops their creativity, confidence, and independence.

But I think every parent has heard, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”

We try our best to make time for summer activities like going to the public library or spending the afternoon swimming or fishing. There are times, though, when taking care of cows and crops keeps us on the farm. That’s when options for at-home fun come in handy.

Here are four inexpensive ways for dairy farm kids to have more fun on the farm this summer:

1. Silage bag slip-n-slide

We made a giant slip-n-slide out of a leftover piece of a silage bag plastic, a couple garden hoses, and a sprinkler. We send the kids to the slip-n-slide during evening milking and run water from the plate cooler. The kids get warm water to play in and we cool the milk faster. Plus, it’s a way for our kids to have water fun without the need for constant adult supervision.

2. Backyard camping

backyard camping

We usually go on one camping trip each summer with my family, but this year our schedules didn’t line up. So we decided to go camping in our backyard.

We set up the tent, blew up the air mattress, and hauled the sleeping bags outside. We started a campfire in our fire pit (which is made from an old tractor tire rim) and roasted marshmallows for s’mores.

Backyard camping is actually way less stress than real camping and our kids were just as excited about it.

[Read the rest of this post in the HD Notebook at Hoard's Dairyman.]

Monday, July 4, 2016

American independence starts with farmers

On Independence Day, don't forget to honor the American farmers who also contribute to our country's freedom.
Dear Fellow American,

Today is Independence Day. The day we celebrate our freedom as a country and all things American. We honor the forefathers who guided our country to independence and the soldiers who have fought – and continue to fight – to defend it.

As you lounge by the lake, grill burgers, enjoy ice cream cones, and watch the fireworks, please don’t forget to honor the American farmers who also contribute to our country’s independence.

“We’re a blessed nation because
we can grow our own food.

A nation that can feed its people
is a nation more secure.”

– President George W. Bush

Just like the soldiers whose dedication to their work means you’re relaxing today instead of fighting in a war, I’m the reason you’re at the lake today and not milking your cows, picking the eggs, harvesting your crops, or weeding your garden. My work – and the work of all American farmers – makes your lifestyle possible.

“Agriculture is now, as it’s always been,
the basis of civilization.

The farms of the United States…
form the basis of all other
achievements of the American people.”

– President Theodore Roosevelt

All other achievements... our military, our higher education, our medical care, our arts. The list goes on.

I might take my kids to the lake today, but only after the cows are milked, the rest of the chores are done, and the hay is baled. Like many farmers, caring for my cows and crops often takes precedence over leisure pursuits.

I’m not writing this to ask for your sympathy or pity. I wasn’t drafted into farming; I chose this line of work.

I’m writing to ask for your respect. Please don’t disparage farmers. Farming is one our country’s most important professions.

“It will not be doubted that with reference
either to individual or national welfare,
agriculture is of primary importance.”
– President George Washington

Farming is also one our country’s most dangerous professions. American farmers are injured and killed every day on farms and in fields while feeding our country.

I’m writing to ask you to respect your food. Please don’t waste your food or take it for granted. 40% of the food in our country goes uneaten, yet nearly 1 in 6 Americans faces food insecurity. I don’t work 18-hour days to see the fruits of my labor thrown away.

I’m writing to ask you to respect all farmers, regardless of how they farm. The freedom of choice you enjoy at the grocery store is possible because farmers have freedom of choice on their farms. Just as there is no one perfect way of eating for every body, there is no one perfect way of farming for every farm.

I’m writing to ask for your trust. Every choice I make on my farm is thoroughly considered and no choice is forced upon me. I think about how my choices will affect my family, the animals in my care, the soil I’m leasing from our planet, the water we all drink, and the air we all breathe.

I often make choices that allow me to do more with less. Doing more with less has always been the hallmark of the American way. Ingenuity and adoption of new technologies allow me to feed more people with fewer natural resources and less labor. Just like technology makes your life easier, technology makes life better for me and for my animals.

Please, as you celebrate, remember the American farmers who contribute to your freedom and your lifestyle by putting food on your plate. After all, American independence starts with farmers.


Your American Farmer