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Val’s Veggie Ventures…Phase 1


So I’ve decided to have my own vegetable patch. This was an idea that crossed my mind purely by chance one afternoon and I found it going straight out of my mouth to my brother. And now that I’ve said it aloud, I feel I may as well follow through.

I know absolutely NOTHING about growing vegetables. I’ve heard worms are good to have. I hope I get over my stomach-crawling reaction to seeing one. I also do not have a green thumb. I had 2 hanging ivy plants my mom gave me when I moved into my first apartment. She currently has both of them in an effort to save them from imminent death (they were looking a little brown when I turned them over to her). I bought 2 orchids, because I love them, and they are looking a little drowned (and I haven’t watered them in a month!). Let’s just say that I’m hoping that I just picked the high maintenance plants, and that veggies will go a little better.

Luckily for me, there was once a vegetable garden in our front yard. My mom used to grow vegetables. I’d guess its probably 10-15 wide and 20-25 ft long. She enclosed it with nice white lattice to keep the deer out and it has a gate and latch. It grew fertile ripe vegetables to top off a sandwich or add to a salad. Sounds wonderful. I’m sure it was wonderful. But as a kid, it was the pits!! Who wants to weed or grow tomatoes to put on sandwiches?? Eww…

All of that, however, was many many moons ago. Like, close to 2,920 moons. Which, as we all know, is about 8 years. So, unluckily for me, this garden has had about a decade to grow miniature trees, minuscule weeds, and lots and lots of leaves. Also, I had to unscrew the gate latch because the wood has warped and its too far apart to open the latch. The lattice is still mostly in tact, enough to keep away the deer anyways.

So this is what we’re workin’ with:

Oh, and we have an “apple tree” in the middle that never made any apples. Not so bad right? My own little spot of hard work & reward.

Eeek. I’m gonna need some guidance.

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Happy Ag Week!!


This is Agriculture week, with National Ag Day on Thursday, March 8th. In honor of such a week, I thought I’d post about some of the reasons I appreciate agriculture. Feel free to comment below with your own reasons–there are more than you think! If you need more inspiration, you can read this amazing blog about what your life would look like sans agriculturalists.

Monday: I am thankful for cotton farmers. Without which, I would not have cozy sheets to sleep in (and dread having to get out of on Monday mornings)

Plain, but these sheets are SOOO difficult to leave on a cold Monday morning.

Tuesday: I appreciate Agriculturalists for their soft-spoken, polite demeanor. Even though I only seem to encounter them when they are making a deposit at my bank, they always seem to say “ma’am” and “please”, and it’s nice to see a section of America that hasn’t forgotten to bring their manners with them when they leave the house.

Wednesday: Today I am thankful for farmers and ranchers who work long, hard hours even when the weather is gruelling, horrific, and even dangerous. Today is 70 and sunny, but many put in 10-12 hour days even in rain, floods, snow, tornado watches, hurricane-force winds, and hail. And that’s not something to be overlooked about their daily responsibilities

 

***

Update 3.9.2012

 

Thursday: I am thankful for dairy farmers, who wake up somewhere between 3-4am for the first round of milking every day. That’s early even for farmers! But today, it allowed the wonderful whipped cream to be put on top of my free birthday Starbucks giant Java Chip Frappachino, and that was a decadent treat I would never have enjoyed without someone losing sleep on my account.

Friday: I am thankful for all people involved in agriculture, including the ones at slaughter plants. Their job may not be uplifting or glorious, but they work hard to make sure my food is killed in a peaceful manner and ends up as a safe product for me and my family to eat.

Monday 101 day!


Often when I sit down to blog, I end up blogging nothing because I have so many ideas floating around in my head! So I’ve decided to launch a Farm the Start Monday 101-day! May it be a fun farm fact or mini 101-sesh, hopefully it’ll be a fun and quick way to learn something about Agriculture. I’ve also made it a category so you can find them more easily even as time goes on!

Let me know if you are interested in any particular topic, I’m taking requests! Meanwhile, look forward to the first one this Monday: Cows 101 –a basic in cow behaviors.

Have a great weekend!

The Great Job Search…A Lesson in Preserverence


When I graduated in July 2010, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones that had a job offer waiting for me. I knew I wanted to work with beef cattle. They fascinate me. They’re peaceful. They smell nicer than some livestock (and yes, this is important).

I also knew that I eventually wanted to work in Public Relations for the beef industry. It frustrated me that over the course of the last 3 years, my expanding knowledge of Agriculture was not shared by my peers or parents. I showed up home to find a pantry of organics, yet my family had a lot of misinformation that led them to reconstruct our food supply. Friends were turning vegetarian like dropping flies. People asked me why I thought abusing animals in the name of feeding America was ok?….WHAT? People think that? I didn’t know anyone in Agriculture who abused animals, or thought it was OK under any false pretense.

So I decided on feedlots. As I described in “I’m goin in!”, I picked feedlots because of all the parts of the beef industry, that’s the one that seemed to attract the most raised eyebrows. It had the most mystery, even to me. Because the east coast doesn’t have feedlots, our total coverage on the topic at VT was probably about 50 minutes worth of lecture, if you were to add it all together. That didn’t leave me prepared to defend them to anyone, including myself.

So I tried to Google them. Most results included something on “reasons not to eat meat” or “cow hell”. No addresses to be found. Well how was I going to apply to any of them? My stepmom had given me Temple Grandin’s book “Thinking In Pictures” and we had watched the the amazing HBO movie about her journey to feedlots. So my stepmom suggested I call her. Temple Grandin. World famous author, speaker, facilities designer, professor. And what do you know, she actually called me back!! At least twice! Do you have any idea how nerveracking it is to play phone-tag with a mini-celebrity?!

Temple Grandin's Thinking In Pictures

I expressed my worries of being a woman in a man’s world. I told her why I wanted to work on a feedyard, and bashfully admitted I had no idea what positions even existed at such a place. I needed to find out. And I also needed to find out where they hide out so I could send a resume and request a specific position. She told me the book Beefspotter would be helpful. It’s like a $50 feedlot phone book. I heard Colorado was pretty cool, so I flipped to that state and found zillions of listings–big, small, and everything in between.

I called a random feedlot in California to ask the manager some questions so I could have a somewhat educated cover letter. At first he was very suspicious of my curiosity. “Who are you with?” “Well, sir, I’m not really “with” anyone, but I graduated from Virginia Tech and I’d like to ask you about how a feedlot works because I think I’d like to work at one” Then he exploded into laughter.

After looking up some stats about them (it’s easier to google info about specific ones, they don’t hide as easily when you have more info), I mailed a resume and cover letter to any feedlot that had a-come personally recommended to me by someone I knew in VA raising commercial cattle or b-met the list of top 20 employers, etc.

I sent out 18 of these personalized letters and cover letters.  I patiently waited 2 weeks for them to arrive on people’s desk before calling to follow up. Most people never answered. One man called me back to say “Well little lady, I’m not hiring, but I thought you deserved a call back. Good luck to you” He was clearly amused, but nonetheless slightly encouraging.

No real call backs. I talked to a friend who had moved to Denver and expressed my frustrations. “I think if they met me, they’d see I was serious!” So, I saved money to go to Colorado. Which was quite a task, considering I was employed as a waitress only 1 day a week. But off to Colorado I went! I sent out another, slightly smaller pool of cover letters and resumes. I had narrowed down which Big Dog I wanted to work for. I wanted one of the biggest. And I wanted it bad. I told them I’d be in the area and available for interviews. And I went. And I waited. And I prayed. And nothing. I called to express some concern I had over the uploading of my cover letter when someone FINALLY actually read it, while I was on the phone, and offered to meet me for a tour. Halleluia! I had a great (4 hour long) interview/tour, and thought things were in the bag. Wrong. I played phone tag with this guy for weeks. He put in a referral. I waited. Nothing. Got a call from the specific yard and did a phone interview. Waited. I did a follow up call again. Waited. Got offered an internship. Very nonchalantly the guy on the other end says, “Oh, yeah. I did talk to my boss and uh, yeah I mean, if you want an internship, I guess you could come out here”.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I had ultimately told the recruiter I was interested in an internship with the possibility of promotion to MT (Management Trainee). Although I technically qualified for MT from the get-go, I thought it would be most beneficial for both parties to do internship first to get a feel for what really happened on a feedlot, and gain credibility before trying to manage people who knew (obviously) much more than I did. And in one very minor, off-hand sentence, this guy changed the direction of my life.

After 5.5 months of putting my all into this job search, I was insanely relieved the great hunt was over.

My pioneer adventure to the meat counter


You would think working in the beef community would make me a pro in the grocery store. You’d be surpised…

Being a (fairly recent) college student, most of my meat supply has been the lowest end. Think large bags of chicken parts from Walmart and those 10 lb rolls of hamburger meat. The hamburger meat really seems to get my Dad, who seemed horrified that the packaging allows absolutely no visual inspection before purchase. But hey, buying in bulk, and buying blindly, is the only way I’d get it!

I’m not a great cook. Mostly I make things like hamburger helper, or bake chicken that I pour some salad dressing on 30 seconds before placing in the oven. I might make a veggie for the side. But I really enjoy nice food. Steaks. Balanced healthy meals with real substance that didn’t come out of the microwave. And in the spirit of Heart Healthy Month (And I heart Beef Month), I figured it was time to get more familiar with my food to make sure that the way I eat my red meat is actually healthy, instead of drenching it in over-processed powder-to-liquid foods that battle all the nutritious merit beef has to offer.

So I ventured to Kroger’s meat counter this week, and thought it would be fitting for me to write about it, in case there are others out there equally terrified of having to communicate their cooking intentions to a stranger in a hairnet without going full detail into a recipe.

I did, however, go in with a recipe. This one & this one, to be exact. I made a little grocery list of all the items I didn’t have, which included a tri-tip roast (never heard of it) and beef tenderloin steak.

First I just went to the meat section, hoping to avoid an ackward encounter with a person who would soon find out I had no idea what I really wanted him to do. Plus, I figured it would be cheaper to find the cuts without the guy having to slice it. I found beef tenderloin steaks for $24. Waaaaaaaay more than I have ever EVER spent on an entire shopping trip on meat alone. But I figure what the hell, it’s just me and I can easily get about 8 meals out of this package.

No tri-tip to be found. I spent an unusually long amount of time looking through all the t-bones & ground beef trying desperately to have a label jump out with TRI TIP written all over it. But somehow I feel that all the grocery stores I ever go to never word the cut of meat exactly as a recipe calls for it. Is that just me??

Next I went to the meat counter. No sign for tri-tip. But now I sort of had to say something to the guy behind the counter. I asked him. He told me to check the regular meat area. So I did again. Just as thoroughly. I went back and just picked something that had ‘tip’ in the name: Beef Round Tip Steak. Now I know, round circles and triangles are not related, so these cuts probably aren’t either. Give me a break, it was either that or filet mignon. I asked for 3 lbs, an entirely unscientifically thought out number. I got 2.8 lbs for about $8.50. I even got brave & asked him to slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices so I could go home and freeze individual amounts. I got about 9 steaks out of it. For $8.50. Now we’re talking!! I’ll be visiting the guy at the counter much more frequently. Turns out he doesn’t laugh at you for being entirely clueless, which is an added bonus to the economic factor.

The whole ordeal probably took about 25 minutes. I’m sure you could survive on more like 5, but I get unnaturally shy & slow about things that I don’t know and feel should be very self explanatory. Especially in the case that I work with meat animals, you’d think I’d know how to eat it more knowledgeably. Oddly, the cows don’t walk around with the cuts of beef written on them, so alas, I’m clueless.

Beef: It’s what’s for dinner has an incredibly helpful website (I’m only just now realizing how helpful!). I encourage you to check it out. I plan to explore it further and use it to become a little more educated so I can make grocery shopping a little less stressful & a little more time efficient.

What’s your experience in the grocery store? Do you feel clueless at the meat counter, or are you knowledgeable enough to venture out of your normal 2 cuts of meat? Feel free to share any fun stories or insights, I could use the advice to help me in the kitchen!

Food For Thought: When Words Mean Everything


What if it is really agriculture that is setting the tone for our negative press?

I have been thinking a lot lately about how Agriculture is perceived. I have joined Twitter, something I never thought I’d do, but I must admit it has really helped me re-vamp my desire to blog about my passion. Twitter has also made me very aware of how many groups are out there throwing around those buzz words “Factory Farms” “industrial food” and now even “Real food” which seems to think that conventionally raised food does not qualify. All of these phrases immediately conjure up negativity, fear, and even a bit of mystery.

It is proven that people fear the unknown. It is far more likely for people to fear a certain race of people, blacks for example, if they have few interactions with people of that race. It is common for people to fear pitbulls until they come to know one. So, reasonably, people seem to fear what farmers are really doing out there on those large stretches of land, all alone, raising something that will end up on their plate. Blacks make up 12.6% of America, according to the US Census Bureau, and an estimated 8 million Pitbulls in America. At a meek 2% of the population, we really can’t expect Americans to venture out of the metropolis and suburbia and knock on one of our doors and ask to see how we live to see if their fears are well-founded. And when we are self-proclaiming food “producers” of the beef (pork, poultry, etc) “industry”, I’m pretty sure we are further contributing to the notion that we operate as some sort of machine instead of as compassionate human beings.

Bear with me as I take you down a somewhat tedious road. I think this is a topic worth the scrutiny.

Let’s break down how “food producer” might be interpreted by someone on the outside. Dictionary.com provides us with 5 definitions for the verb “produce”

http://school.discoveryeducation.com/clipart/clip/dictnry.html

  • 1. to bring into existence. I wouldn’t really say we bring cattle into existence. Or bring meat into existence. Although if you use this definition, it would line up with some accusations that people in food production add things like “pink slime” and ammonia into meat, and THAT produce would definitely be something brought into existence by a human. Not very accurate to what we do.
  • 2. to bring into existence by creative or intellectual ability. Similar to definition 1.
  • 3. to make or manufacture. I don’t manufacture meat, and I certainly don’t want to be known as a meat manufacturer. Do you?
  • 4. to bring forth; give birth. Well, I don’t even need to explain why this definition doesn’t make me a food producer.
  • 5. to provide, furnish, or supply. Ahhh. Now this, this one fits. We definitely provide meat & other food products for Americans.

Okay, so we found a successful definition! But look how many definitions I had to look past in order to find one that maintained a positive mental image. The general public will NOT take any extra effort to prove our innocence or positive impact on the world.

Now, let’s brave the term “industry”

  • 1. the aggregate of manufacturing or technically productive enterprises in a particular field, often named after its principle product such as the automobile industry or steel industry. Not a terrible definition I suppose. It utilizes the word “produce” which leaves lots of room for negativity in itself, but it’s really the examples that make me weary. Automobile and steel industry creates a feel of cold & factory-like business. Not a great parallel for the hard work, dedication, and love we put into our herds & flocks.
  • 2. any general business activity; commercial enterprise. It is true that agriculture is a business like most everything these days. But everyone knows that businesses have one goal above all else: profit. And we know that more and more businesses in this country are putting aside ethics and morals to pick a more profitable decision. While we need to make a living from raising livestock, we do not have the option of picking profit as our sole goal. We also must incorporate ethical treatment & care.
  • 3. systematic work or labor. Again, agriculture is a business, and we need systems in place to keep things organized. But something about the phrasing still gives room for the interpretation of a factory-like, robotic, thoughtless process.

I’m thinking it’s time for the people of Agriculture to start coining their own (accurate!) buzz words, in order to hold our own & be able to dis-spell misconceptions without even having to launch into a defensive paragraph. I don’t think it will be a single solution, but I do think it is something incredibly easy to overlook, yet so very important. Every word we use to describe agriculture is carefully weighed by concerned foodies. So let’s just give it chance. I’ll start:

I am a food provider of the beef community.

http://localism.com/neighbor/sondram?page=18

Cattle Community

Provide has very similar definitions to produce (to supply, make available). But while I do not want many things to be “produced” for me, I do think it sounds quite nice to be provided for. It gives me the warm & fuzzy feeling of security. And this case, I am feeling very confident & secure that I will not go hungry because of you, the food provider.

Community. A VERY different word than industry. It is a very disarming term, and among the best of dictionary.com’s definitions is as follows:

“an … occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists”

Now that seems accurate to me. As agriculturalists, we all share a slew of common characteristics and interests. And we are definitely distinct, in our 2%, from the larger society (the nation as a whole) in which we exist.

Community also creates an image of “kumbaya”…of teamwork & encouragement. In the case of the beef community, there are MANY compartments (seedstock, cow/calf, feedlot, packer) that need to work together as a team to provide the end product of safe & nutritious meat.

I know, I know, I’m asking for a lot. It will take a significant amount of effort to change your habits of using terms we’ve used for a long time to describe ourselves. And it will take even longer for our new terms to reach the ears of skeptics and consumers. But hopefully I have convinced you that this is worth our consideration. “Say what you mean and mean what you say” is a very popular quote among our culture. And FINALLY, I feel that I really mean what I say, without having to give further description, when I tell you I provide food for you from within the beef community.

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-select-a-facebook-community-manager/

What do you think? Do you think something so simple and fundamental (two words!!) can really help us change our negative image? Are there other terms we use daily that may be interpreted inaccurately by someone who doesn’t have an understanding of what we actually mean?

An unusual recipient of thanks giving


This year, I am thankful more than years past for our agriculturalists. Our farmers, ranchers, and feedlot workers. Turkey sales absolutely explode this time of year, and while I am not a poultry expert, I am confident that this takes a ridiculously high level of preparation from all parts of the poultry community.

This year, as we were baking our 21-lb turkey (which, by the way, somehow was still raw after 7 hours…it became quite the interesting affair), I reminisced about my time on the feedyard. I spent only one major holiday at this job, but it will leave an impression on me “for always”.

It was Easter Sunday. Of all holidays, this one is not my most favorite. It’s religious significance certainly speaks to me, but the traditions around it aren’t very sentimental. I usually would go home to North Carolina for church and a nice Easter dinner. As kids, we always did Easter baskets, and my mom still gives me one every year. Despite it not being top ranked, I am, across the board, a holiday and tradition fanatic. When I was in 2nd grade, we lived on the 14th floor of an apartment building in Singapore. My mom made Easter Bunny prints from real dirt from our doorway, into the elevator, onto the “14” button, and in our apartment lobby. God bless her. And the people who wondered where the heck dirt came from in the cleanest city in the world.

Easter Bunny, via google images

Anyways, this holiday was different. For one, I actually had to work. A full day. Beginning at 5:30 AM. But being myself, I prepared for the holidays like always. I went to all the local stores trying to find those plastic easter eggs. Then I bought M&Ms and other candy and filled 1 egg for each of my +/- 36 coworkers (I made a list). I figured if we had to work a holiday, we may as well have some small sign that we knew it was going on around us. It really amazed me how well that little gesture went over, considering it wasn’t a real easter basket. Those stupid eggs stuck around our office for months. People just loved them. And I just enjoyed the chocolate 🙂

Secondly, of all jobs on the feedyard, I was on deads. On Easter Sunday. I hated deads. Everyone did, but probably me worst of all. “Being on deads” requires the 1 (maybe 2 but not in this case) people on said duty to drive around in a large telehandler all day, listening to our radio system for people to call in pen numbers where there is a dead steer or heifer. You then pick it up on your forks, bring it to the necropsy area, and then proceed to “cut deads”. Essentially this is an autopsy. No animal caretaker wants dead animals, and it is our job to find out exactly what went wrong so we can handle it as soon as possible. This is an essential job. Nonetheless, it is probably about as grotesque as you are imagining. Maybe more so. It requires all of my 110 lbs to jump in and out of this massive piece of machinery to open/close gates, herd cattle out of way, reel a chain out, tie it to a carcass leg, reel in the chain, bring the body into a fork or bucket, drive it through all sorts of bumps (praying not to have the body bounce off), drop it off, sharpen your knife, and cut the body from nose to anus. You have to break ribs to access the lungs. You have to fling the legs over. You have to examine the insides of the stomach and intestines and heart and everything else. And let me tell you, this isn’t like a science lab where they are all cleaned out with formaldehyde. It takes an incredible amount of strength to complete an autopsy and break bones of 1200lb animals with your bare hands and a 6-in knife. Since I’m not really that muscular, it requires me to basically climb in, on top of, and around, a carcass in order to assure I do it properly.

CAT

You go home smelling horrible. Covered in guts. Not really the way you want to go home to cook up a nice easter meal for 1. It was really a disheartening day at first. I am the SLOWEST person on deads because while  it takes some people under 10 minutes to determine cause of death, it could take me 40 to even reach the lungs. And it’s EASTER. I mean, you have to cut them, and meanwhile the others have to feed the healthy ones, and still others have to treat the sick ones, so there is plenty to do. But you surely don’t want to DAWDLE on a holiday. But I bucked up and decided to just get into it. Blasted my ipod and went to town. I actually did end up forgetting there was a holiday going on around us, despite my colored easter egg project. Until I was met by 2 coworkers who were frantically trying to reach me to see how many I had left to pick up. They had families to go back home to. I had, in my selfishness, become completely oblivious to the idea that perhaps some of my coworkers were not 1800 miles from their families, and they DID want to cook a nice meal and sit with family or go to church.  But instead of leaving me when they finished their daily duties, they stayed and helped me until “the deads” were finished. Even though my only foreseeable plan was to shower and collapse in exhaustion on the couch. And their family probably wouldn’t want to sit next to them at the dinner table until they took at least 3 showers.

And that day, as gross as my experience and description was, encompassed all the reasons every one of us should be thankful to our farmers and agriculturalists this Thanksgiving. Because while we wake up to entertain guests and sit around a long afternoon of eating before collapsing onto the couch after achieving next to nothing, they worked hard not only to prepare that turkey for our oven on regular working days– they were probably working while we watched the post-meal football game. They were doing their work diligently until the job was truly completed. No matter what hour that meant they got home. And their families are probably not sure WHAT time they will get to eat, because raising livestock does not (EVER) go according to any scheduled time slot. And so that worker may miss the family dinner and eat cold thanksgiving dinner. Or the family may politely sit at the table, patiently listening to their growling stomachs, until the cows are happy and full and that missing family member can join them. There are many heroes that are missed during holidays, when their career duties unfortunately must take precedence over quality family time, but let’s not forget some of the most quietly sung heroes-the ones who most directly help us make thanksgiving meal traditions possible in the first place.

seedsandfruit.com

The Great Self-Pampering Conundrum


Have you ever had a day off where you decide to be lazy beyond reckless abandon? You set out to accomplish absolutely nothing, just like that song “Today I don’t feel like doing anything“? I bet there are several of you out there now, feeling wistful about the last (probably long, long ago) day that you spent all day in your PJs, woke up and went back to sleep 5 times, ordered food in or ate all the junk food in your cupboards, watched marathons of a TV show you had never even heard of 8 hours earlier when you first tuned in. Ahhh. How great…

photo courtesy of Colours And Joy Blogspot

I often find myself stressing about all the hours I pour into work, how much housework needs to be done, how the cat/dog/other dog is just as starving as me after a 12 hour day, but because they yap and yap they always manage to get fed before me (such manipulative fluff balls…), and I  just plead with the world for a day of lazy. Of doing everything in bed. Extra sleep, eating in bed, watching TV from bed…maybe I could also walk the dogs from bed?

The weird thing about all of this is, however, that I make time for these days on occasion. At least once every two months. And I’ve made a startling discovery. I wallow around among sheets & pillows & junk food, and all of the sudden, the sun is gone. I’m sort of hungry in a spot that junk food hasn’t hit after 3 bags of chips. My hair is greasy. And then this inching dread feeling creeps in…because tomorrow the ominous stresses return. And the day of high life is already over! And the dishes are still in the sink, the fur balls are still tumbleweeding around the wood floors, I still haven’t showered…and all of this seems to negate the peaceful day of rest I was fully embarked upon.

I have actually found, much to my dismay, that days relished by speed-scrubbing down the house, a nice, well-cooked hot lunch, and easy afternoon of reading or taking the dogs to hike at the state park seem to provide much more satisfaction then the coveted Day of Rest. I accomplished something. And more that, I accomplished something more than what I do at work.

I think that this discovery is the link to one of the reasons I have loved Agriculture. I get so much more self-worth out of doing things. And the physical labor often associated with agricultural jobs is plain evidence of things done. For example…Today I moved 300 cattle, sorted them by weight, began them on new feed, ear-tagged, fixed 3 fences, walked 8 miles, and fixed a tractor. That is a satisfying day. Something to be proud of. You come home physically exhausted, mentally worn, but you feel you have honestly worked for your place on this earth.

On the other hand, my current job has that indoor environment. I spend days going to Chamber Meetings. Seminars. I spend hours speaking with people to coordinate with on event planning. It’s not that I don’t accomplish anything, I actually accomplish quite a bit. I mean, I reduced my emails today from 577 to 498 today, for heavens sake! But I go home mentally tired and physically a little larger from having sat in a chair or car all day. Mental exhaustion sometimes turns instead into a racing mind. Tossing and turning. Forgetfullness. Physical exhaustion, on the other hand, improves focus, builds body structure and function, and at a certain point, forces you to slow down long enough to charge your batteries. And there are plenty of problem-solving opportunities for your mind to engage in as well. And whether for work or leisure, I find the physically & mentally challenging days to be far more relaxing than the mind-numbing days spent staring at a computer monitor or zombied to the TV.

I guess it kind of makes sense. I mean, in all of the Kourtney & Kloe marathons I’ve watched on lazy days, I never once have seen an episode where I have watched either Kardasian stay in bed or even turn on a TV. I certainly don’t watch them facebook stalk. Because obviously that is BORING. So I wonder why I think putting myself through those activities would be instead rejuvenating? I want to watch them Take Miami! Conquer, explore! Why? Well, because silly, that gives them something to talk about. Regardless of whether its enough to deserve a TV series, it does give them much more adventure and award them many more bragging rights than anything I accomplish on lazy days. Even on days off with cattle, I’d still have to get out of bed early to feed & check fences. And by the time I get back, I usually don’t really want to go back to sleep. It’s only 10am and you have all day to enjoy! I’m already out of bed, breakfast fed, and dressed, so I may as well get to the good stuff now!

Does anyone else find this conflict: desiring a day of lazy and in reality needing a day of doing (even though the day of doing must require the “doing” to be different from your “daily doing” schedule)? How do you spend your days away from the job?

Martha and Matilda-The Feedlot Pets


After I learned that bottle calves had been an option on the yard, I also learned that we currently had two. They are now around 400 lbs a piece, and eating on their own. When they get big enough, they will join another lot and become full-fledged members of the feedyard. I actually should have been able to pick them out much sooner, because I had been in a pen with them a few days ago. While there are many heartwarming aspects to bottle feeding a calf, there are a few negatives to bottle babies. One is that they are just plain goofy looking. They have very large barrel bellies. I asked why it was that they look so very odd, and was told that many bottle calves never really learn how to graze on feed like normal cows. They grew up being feed a bottle on human scheduling. When they graduate to real feed, they still are in the habit of gobbling up large quantities of feed at once, and then not eating until their next big, hurried meal. Some grow out of it eventually, once they watch other cows around them and realize that the food isn’t going to disappear with the feedtruck. Even if they don’t, it doesn’t seem to harm them. It just distends their bellies in a cartoonishly adorable sort of way.

One of the biggest negatives for us working on a feedlot is the fact that they do not follow normal cow rules. Just as I discussed with sick animals, any cow that doesn’t follow the Cow Rules is a royal pain in the butt. Bottle babies grew up being up-close-and-personal with humans. They are not afraid of us. They have no flight zone. And therefore, if you have to move animals like Martha and Matilda, it is nearly impossible. Walking towards them will not push them forwards. It makes them come gallivanting over to you and lick you like a puppy. While this can be very cute, it is absolutely useless when trying to work cattle. Also, after dealing with so many crazed animals that come after you with evil intentions, it can be alarming to have any 400+ lbs of animal barreling towards you.

Although they aren’t great for easy management, and the success stories of bottle babies are few and far between, I have found that the best therapy for a long, hard day is to visit pen 89 and wait for the red and black faces to come over for a head scratching. And nothing quite puts a smile on your face like a goofy, super-long tongue slobbering on your arm, or a curious nose snotting on your jacket.

I found this picture on Google, but these 2 actually quite closely resemble Martha and Matilda

Review: WeightWatchers’ “Growth Hormones in Beef and Milk”


WeightWatchers has recently put out a great article named “Growth Hormones in Beef and Milk”. It defines all the buzz words used in the media about milk and beef such as “No added growth hormones”, “natural”, and “organic”. Additionally, it goes into great depth about the most up-to-date studies and statistics that theUS has concerning steroids, hormones, growth additives, and antibiotic resistance through food products.

If you have any interest or concern with the way chemicals, hormones, and steroids are used in your food, this is a very informative and unbiased article. It covers the concerns and arguments of both parties, and backs each up with scientific facts and data. So far, there is no scientific data to prove that organic or ‘natural’ food is any healthier than conventionally raised milk and beef. However, it also does not eliminate the possibility that we won’t find health issues later as more research is done.

Ultimately, making big choices such as these are individual decisions. Farmers are under a lot of pressure to provide more meat/milk on fewer resources. It is important to understand that unless research proves hormones and antibiotics to be dangerous to humans, there is no concrete reason to change our entire agricultural system. That would mean higher prices on all food, and limited availability. Our nation has strived since its beginning to provide a high standard of living for all its residents, and that includes plentiful food. Imagine what a different placeAmericawould be if you could not guarantee chocolate milk to your kids or steak for your cookout. I think right now the compromise is, “Let’s provide more options so everyone can find something they are comfortable with, and continue the majority of our production conventionally as long as science supports that it is safe”. On the flip side, as the article also discusses, many people will argue “Why take a risk? Just because you haven’t proven the Earth is round, doesn’t mean it isn’t”.

While I personally have a scientific mind and support all choices (conventional, organic, grass-finished, whatever floats your boat) & believe that all our present food sources are safe to consume (there are SO many tests done to ensure that we are not poisoning ourselves), I do think it is important to continue research on the effects of using chemicals, hormones, steroids, etc. And of course, I highly recommend reading this article thoroughly before your next grocery visit. Whatever your decision, at least be educated and confident in your choice.  🙂