Saturday, February 9, 2013

Silent Saturday (hoping to have a Sewing Sunday!)

Sam winning at Kirksville 2-2-13

Updating show string pen in barn

The oldest loading alfalfa to sell

The Farmer is still the best stacker

Pay it forward gift for a friend

Would really like to blog or sew or read or goof off, but its another busy Saturday,
From Tulip~

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday at the Farm--The Circle of Life

At the farm, the circle of life is shown in example after example DAILY. New calves are born, sometimes we lose a few, most do fine. That time of year is upon us now. There's a population explosion occuring right now. Baby calves are sprinkled throughout our pastures, and in many stalls of our barns. Soon there will be a new crop of barn kittens with their blue eyes looking down at us from the hay lofts where their mommas have stashed them for safe keeping as we come in to do our daily chores and feeding. When we had hogs, there were ALWAYS babies, maybe not daily, but every few weeks there were.
Babies, regardless of the species, remind us that life goes on. There's always hope to be found in tomorrow. This end of the cycle or circle of life is mostly pleasant. Watching animals grow, change and mature is a satisfying thing that we are always thankful to witness.
Most of the time, we don't see the end of the cycle with the livestock we produce. As the producers, we simply grow the animal, we aren't the processors, that's a whole other cycle (and whole other blog story) Our job as producers is to feed and care properly for the animals to ensure the consistent high quality product that you, the consumer, has come to expect.
As our kids grew and joined 4H, we began teaching them this circle. It began with their first heifer. They each showed a heifer in their first year of 4H. It was the beginning of their own herd and the beginning of the cycle. When the cow was the proper age, we let the kids research and pick a donor bull and we then AI-ed (artificially insemenated) the heifer. When she delivered her calf, based on its sex, we decide what role it will play, a male could be raised as a bull, or a steer, and if its a steer of the right age, could be next years' show steer. A female, if her structure is something that we find suitable, she will likely be retained as a brood cow, and may or may not be shown.
At our farm, we breed about 40% to AI and 60% natural service. My sister and brother in law are dealers for ABS, so the farm is their 'research' area where they try new semen available and we can have better field tests for what works best for us. We generally sync the cows that will be AI-ed, so that they all come into heat at the same time. Some of the semen we use, is from bulls known to throw good 'club calves' that way the kids have several options for next years show string and we sometimes have a few extras to sell to other 4hers. Our bulls for the natural service cows are all registered Angus.
When the kids' cows start producing more calves than what the kids show in a year, this is when they start doing a couple of things, first 'paying' the farm for the feed that their cattle eat, by allowing the farm to retain a percentage of the profits from their yearly calf crop. They also get to put some money in their college funds.
As kids growing up on the farm, our kids have seen calves born, in fact it seems as toddlers and little children they are fascinated by it, so they have never be 'grossed out' by, it's something that they have always been around. They've seen both AI and natural service happen. As they've grown their ever evolving and maturing questions have made the official 'birds and bees' talk kind of barely necessary, (at least the basics!) When we have sold cattle, either at the sale barn, or as butcher beef to the locker, we've explained thoroughly what the next steps in the process are. They've seen most of those steps happen. They know where their food comes from and are proud to be a part of feeding the world.  Now, do we ourselves eat their show steers? No, not usually and the kids would prefer not to. But they know that if the love and pampering those steers get has anything to do with the final product, they are proud to say, that they likely taste wonderful!
Having a fairly vast knowledge of the circle of life with animals is a great tool when we have to share parts of it with them as far as the two legged world is concerned. It doesn't make accepting it, especially the end of the cycle any easier. Moments like losing a friend or family member is just as hard for us as well. But I am kind of thankful to have the farming analogies to teach them that the cycle continues.
I think that raising kids on the farm is almost like having a cheat sheet to parenting. They learn a lot about life, assume responsibility in the care of their animals, and develop work ethic. Being a visual learner myself and living in the Show Me state, its reassuring to be able to teach the Circle of Life (and many other lessons) with LIVE PROPS at any given time.
Waiting for the farmer to return from the Sale Barn, after completing our part in the circle,
From Tulip~

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thankfulness Thursday--Aunt Ethel

Probably some of my most popular posts of the past have been the tribute posts to those I love. Not opening with that line to pat myself on the back, but to warn you now, this one made me cry typing it, so you might want to get a kleenex before continuing to read it. In observation, I think we are all more creative about the things that we are pasionate about, love unconditionally and the people we deeply and truly love.
Today is one of those kind of posts. Let me introduce you to my Aunt Ethel. She's my dad's youngest sister. She's the mother to the cousin I am probably closest to, certainly in age, but in so many other aspects of our lives. As a child growing up, most of my dad's immediate family lived about 2 hours away from us. That didn't mean we weren't close. I have many memories of weekends spent in Granite City. Weeks spent there in the summer, trips to the St Louis zoo and Grant's Farm, playing with my cousins, being at my grandparents and Aunt Ethel's back yard on Briarcliff. I thought always that their closeness was due in part to such similar lifestyles and interests. My dad and uncle were truck drivers, they liked to hunt and fish. Now raising my own children to an age, where they are just starting to come into their own, I realize that 4 kids in 10 years, is similar to the 5 in 10 yrs that they were and its easy to be best friends with your siblings when there are many of you, fairly close in age.
I am the only Granddaughter on my dad's side of the family, did that make me spoiled rotten? Quite likely. But as I grew up, I was quite jealous of my aunts, who seemed to do everything together. Of course 3 sisters, living in the same town, raising 5 boys in 6 years among them, they likely worked together to maintain civil order.
As a little girl I spent a week here and there in Granite City with time divided among my grandparents and my aunts. After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother lived with my Aunt Ethel. We were pretty close to her anyway, as my dad and my Uncle Jim were as close as if they had been siblings. They enjoyed many an outdoor adventure together. They fished all summer and hunted all winter. I can't imagine the number of bluegill and rabbits that met their demise on those trips. So when we visited GC, we stayed at Aunt Ethel's. They visited us regularly as well, living in a small rural town, there was ample hunting and fishing opportunities, close at hand.
Along with Aunt Ethel, comes Kenneth Earl Swann, 3 months and 4 days older than me. This fact really griped me as a kid and but entertains the heck out of me as an adult. Being so close in age has made us good friends our entire lives. I am sure that no one else gets us and I sure we neither one care. I recently had a facebook friend comment, why did that guy say, whatever it was he said that particular day, they were wanting me to be as concerned as they were, I had to ask a second time what? Then I just smiled and said cousins, unless you've got the great ones I have, you wouldn't understand. We live several miles away from each other and don't get to talk often, but within seconds of answering the phone its always like we talked yesterday. A three word text tells the other one exactly that we know what's up, we understand and we love ya.
Every person has their 'thing'. You know the thing that everyone says you are great at! My Aunt Ethel would be the first one to say that hers wasn't cooking or sewing and we'd all laugh and be able to share a hilarious example of the truth in those statements. But my Aunt has a more special gift than something as basic as that. Her gift is people and making them feel loved.
Aunt  Ethel has never known a stranger. She never forgets a face. Having grown up in multiple towns, she has a wealth of friends in all. She's the one who keeps in touch with all of the family. She loves keeping up with everyones lives because of her sincere love of people. Because of that love, she makes a point to truly get to know you. She will move heaven and earth to help anyone with anything. She'd fight like a momma protecting her cubs to defend anyone she loves who has been done wrong.
Aunt Ethel is the perfect hostess. She always goes that extra mile to make time spent at her home enjoyable. She does that many ways. She's got a knack for decorating her home to be warm and inviting, casual and comfortable. She takes special care in adding touches to celebrate the holidays. Holidays is just another place that she shines. I have a collection of ornaments that span 30 years that my Aunt Ethel gave me, as do my cousins, her kids and several other people that she loves. We received special ones the year we got married and when new babies were born. She went to great pains seeking out just the right ornament to share with family and friends. Aunt Ethel knows that it is always more blessed to give than receive.
As I became an adult and got married, I was lucky enough that Aunt Ethel moved closeby. I enjoyed her help and influence as I sat up my own home. She always had the best advice and made suggestions that turned into some of my family's best and most treasured items. She was close to me my whole life, but those years when she was physically closeby were during an important transition time in my life, coming of age, getting married and starting a family. I think of the things we did, talks we had and how they have influenced who I am today. I know that my Aunt Ethel has been a blessing not only in my life but in the lives of so many.
I had kids before Kenny and when I was expecting Cody, I think she was almost as excited as my parents and David's. She was at the hospital when he was born. (She kept my dad distracted when labor was getting intense, I will never forget her sharing that story of her ushering him outside 'for a smoke' when I apparently got VOCAL in my attempts to bring forth my first born!!!!) She moved away to be closer to her own child before the rest of my kids were born, but all of my children know the love of their Aunt Ethel, even if it's been from afar.
In recent years she's been fighting a debilatating disease, Parkinson's. It's taken so much from her physically. Most devastating to those of us who love her is that it's taken her uncanny natural God given ability to show and tell others just how much she loves them. But all of us know how much she loves, as she's shown us all over and over for so many years. One look in her eyes and we still know. Her love is her legacy and it will live on.
Struggling with the slow goodbye,
From Tulip~