Friday, March 18, 2011


This blog post has absolutely nothing to do with cows or pigs, but with how much I love the Illini & my Grandma!  Brent & I are both huge Illini fans, having had over 10 years of season tickets between us.  We are both enjoying the way the Illini are passing & sharing the basketball, and absolutely stomping on UNLV.

My highlight of the one of the early TV time-outs, my cell phone rings.  With a groan, I wonder what has gone wrong, only to see it is my 80-year old Grandmother....
Grandma:  "Are you watching this?  Can you believe how they are playing?  And, that behind-the-back pass was amazing!"
I just had to smile at my Grandma acting as giddy as a school girl!  Here's hoping the 2nd half is as good as the 1st.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Meetings, Meetings, Everywhere....

Yikes!  I haven't blogged much lately because I have been VERY busy with what many on the farm call "Meeting Time".  Yes, winter is when most farmers, and especially livestock farmers, have annual or year-end meetings.  Not only is it a slightly less busy time (no hay to make, or crops to plant or harvest), but it is also a time when we look back at the year past, and see  how our farm has compared to others.  At my work, we work very hard to look at the year past, benchmark ourselves to other farms, and figure out what we need in order to do better in the year ahead.  This means a lot of late nights getting ready for all of these meetings, but it is rewarding when you see some farms show improvement, and other farms set goals & be inspired for the year to come.

This means that I have not seen the cows much lately, and we continue to have lots of changes.  We are now up to 10 heifers, and 5 bull calves.  The calf barn is nearly full, and "Million Dollar Reward", Calf #101, is already ready to be weaned off milk and moved into the 1st pen of heifer group housing.

As you can see, she has grown well (thanks to Gail's TLC), and is already hard at eating her feed, which is a good sign that her gut is changing and that she is ready to stop eating milk, and start eating regular feed.  She is 2 months old today, and is ready to move to the next barn.

This is the 1st feed that our calves will start eating.  Technically it is called calf starter, but we commonly call it "crunchies". 
Mother Nature is warming things up nicely, and I hope to spend most of the weekend out cleaning & sprucing things up!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why I'm Thankful for Teachers....

I wish more people would say "I'm thankful for farmers....", but today I was reminded why I am thankful that there are people that spend their days surrounded by young children.  Today was my annual AITC (Ag in the Classroom) visit to DeKalb area schools.  I present the lesson, "From Cow to Ice Cream", that helps kids know where milk (& ice cream) come from, and that the answer is NOT the grocery store, but rather farms like ours.
I did 3 classrooms - back to back to back - and by the end my voice was giving out (anyone who knows me well, just had a good giggle at that comment!)  There is no good way to get kids to stand up & shake their bag of milk, cream, sugar & vanilla surrounded with ice to turn it into ice cream, AND get them to sit down quietly & listen to what I'm saying.  However, it is all in good fun, and I try to send them home without too much of a sugar high for their parents to deal with!

Some interesting tidbits that I brought up with the kids today:
A newborn calf weighs ~100 pounds
An adult cow can weigh up to 2000 pounds - this is equivalent to a full-size pick-up truck!
A cow gives ~70 pounds of milk each day (so, if a gallon weighs 8 pounds), that is ~9 gallons of milk
Chocolate milk does NOT come from Chocolate or Brown cows!  You laugh, but there were people in my freshmen class at the University of Illinois who asked this question, and they weren't joking.  Luckily, all the kids in the 2nd grade classes knew that you get chocolate milk by simply adding chocolate flavoring.

To get your "3 a day" of dairy - use the following recipe that Brent & I both enjoy:

Cheeseburger Mac n' Cheese (from Family Circle Magazine)
1 box (1 lb) elbow macaroni                     1 T.  butter
1 lb ground sirloin                                     1 T. flour
1/2 tsp. salt                                               1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1/4 tsp. black pepper                               3 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. ketchup                                          2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 T. yellow mustard                                  Bread crumbs, to top

Heat oven to 350.  Cook pasta.  Drain.  While pasta is cooking, cook beef.  When beef is done, add ketchup, mustard, & 1/4 tsp. of salt & pepper.  Remove beef from pan.  Add butter back to meat pan - melt.  Add flour.  Stir in flour & then add evaporated milk, slowly.  Bring to a simmer & cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat & add 1/4 tsp. salt & 2 cups of the cheese until smooth.  Stir in pasta, and pour pasta-cheese mixture into the bottom of a 2 qt. casserole pan (or 9 x 13 pan).  Spread meat mixture over the top of pasta & cheese.  Top with remaining cheese, tomatoes, and bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.