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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Horsing Around

I’m in Springfield today, at Missouri State (go Bears!) with my ALOT class. I’ve posted pictures of our D.C. advocating experience, showed our Monsanto tour, and told you about ethanol. In out quest to learn about all aspects of ag I’m currently sitting on bleachers watching students demonstrate horse techniques!   

    
 
Missouri State is doing interesting work because many people, not just those in agriculture, love horses. Being around these amazing animals is a great way to bridge the gap for college students- teaching them the hard work involved in the care of any animal. 

But being here is giving me ideas. I wonder if a horse would be happy in my goat pen…

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Categories: Science | 1 Comment

My Tour of An Ethanol Plant

My tour of an ethanol plant

I’m about to leave again for my third ALOT trip of the summer and I haven’t posted anything about our second trip!  We did So Many Things on our trip across Northeast Missouri.  I’ve lived in this state my whole life and I’d never experienced anything like these tours.  We saw a dairy/addiction rehab operation, watched ham and bacon from start to finish, learned how to capture cow manure for methane gas, and even visited an Amish sawmill.  And then there was this tour.

My tour of an ethanol plant

This is an ethanol plant– a place where corn is turned into fuel for your car.

My tour of an ethanol plant

The plant manager explained all about the process and the product and then showed us around the facility.  Not sure I’d ever thought about it, but the ethanol in your gasoline is almost 200 proof alcohol.

My tour of an ethanol plant

Wouldn’t have guessed that.

My tour of an ethanol plant

Actually, an ethanol plant is pretty much a brewery.  The corn is ground up and separated into parts.  Dry flakes can be feed to cattle, the liquid is boiled, yeast is added, and the water is evaporated off.  In the pic above you can see the bubbles from the yeast.  And watch out.  This stuff gets HOT!

My tour of an ethanol plant

After it comes out of the evaporation process they add something to the alcohol to make it unfit for human consumption.  If they didn’t all this product would be under the same regulations as regular alcohol– and the same taxes!

My tour of an ethanol plant

I thought the most interesting part of the tour was seeing how they manage the plant.  The entire facility brought 40 jobs to a small town, but only five or so are needed to oversee the process of making the ethanol because everything is done from the (blessedly air conditioned) office.

My tour of an ethanol plant

Two guys watch the monitors, checking for changes and using a radio system to call for someone to look at tank four or whatever.

Next time you pull up to a gas pump, check the ethanol content in your fuel and think of farmers. American corn, processed in American plants, made by American workers is being used to move your car down the road.

I like the sound of that.

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The Japanese Art of Getting Rid of All Your Stuff

The Japanese Art of Getting Rid of All Your Stuff

If you haven’t heard about KonMari, you’re probably not on Facebook enough.  (Congratulations!)  Marie Kondo wrote The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanses Art of Decluttering and Organizing a few years ago, but the phenomenon recently hit the US.  She teaches you how to have a tidier house by getting rid of the clutter, i.e. everything.

The Japanese Art of Getting Rid of All Your Stuff

I can’t really explain the book, so you have to read the real thing if you’re interested.  But you start with clothes, hold everything you own, and instead of choosing what to get rid of you choose what to keep– only things that bring you joy.  The distinction is surprisingly more important than you’d think.

The Japanese Art of Getting Rid of All Your Stuff

When I started I thought I didn’t have a lot of clutter, since our house is an older home with little storage space.  I was wrong.  Using Marie’s criteria I’ve gotten rid of more than half of each category I’ve “KM’ed” (that’s KonMaried).

The Japanese Art of Getting Rid of All Your Stuff

But, #farmmomproblems, I don’t have good place for a yard sale.

The Japanese Art of Getting Rid of All Your Stuff

And I have So Much Stuff.  (That’s crafts, not scrapbooking.)

The Japanese Art of Getting Rid of All Your Stuff

Homeschool.  Not this year’s curriculum.

So what every country girl needs is a friend in the city.  Hopefully a super great friend with prime garage sale real estate.  And then you’ll need a couple of pick-up trucks to haul everything down and a few days to sit outside with your laptop while writing blog posts and re-pricing items that lost their stickers.

Japanese Art of Tidying

And you’re set.

KonMarie8

Now if only I could get rid of all the dishes so I wouldn’t need to wash them…

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Better Make Hay

You’ve heard the expression, “better make hay while the sun still shines?”  It falls in the same category as “shake a leg” or “get a move on.”  And while I have no idea how shaking your leg helps get any work done, “better make hay” isn’t just a saying for us.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

Baling hay tends to get put on the back burner because there aren’t many cows on our row-crop farm.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

The tractor on the left pulls the mower, which does what any mower does.  Behind that is a tractor pulling the red and yellow rake.  The rake pulls the cut grass into rows, ready for the baler.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

The tractor drives over the rows of grass and the baler sucks them up, winding the grass around and around until the bale is big enough.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

Then you open the baler and the hay rolls out.  (Funny story, round bales roll.  You have to be careful opening a baler on a hill.  There’s a surprising amount of physics in farming.)

All this, of course, depends on any number of things– most importantly the weather.

Fresh cut grass has water in it which evaporates as the grass dries to hay.  Baling dry hay is very important because wet hay will continue to “cure” after it’s baled and the steam inside a wet bale can actually cause the whole thing to smolder and smolder until your hay bale goes up in flames.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

We rely a lot on the National Weather Service when we cut hay.  We need a minimum of two sunny days in a row, one for the grass to dry and another to do the baling.  But since no one can predict the future we often see rows of hay like the photos–wet.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

This hay was cut with a 0% chance of rain, only to experience several inches and a hail storm.  At this point all you can do is hope it stops raining and the hay can dry out again.

And when you’ve got a sunny day, well, better shake a leg.

Categories: Animals, Farming | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Oh Hail

Hail damage on the farm

Just a day or so ago these were thriving, healthy bean plants.

Hail damage on the farm

Then came the hail.

Hail damage on the farm

A massive downpour and so much falling ice that it destroyed our crops in a matter of minutes.

Hail damage on the farm

And there was nothing we could do.

Hail damage on the farm

These leaves are useless to the plant now.  No more photosynthesis.  No more energy.  No more crop.

Hail damage on the farm

There is insurance.  But this is heartbreaking.  This is farming.

Categories: Farming | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

What is the Answer?

Did you know the answer?  Monday I asked what these signs on the edge of fields represented.  Several people commented, here or on the Facebook page. Ever wondered what these signs mean? The signs don’t designate field ownership, which was the misconception I was trying to correct.  Instead they are a little more like billboards.  They advertise to other famers what brand and variety of seed was used to plant this field. Ever wondered what these signs mean? So here the seed was sold by Pioneer.  If you looked at this field while driving past (and farmers do) and noticed the ground was  similar to yours and the soybeans were doing really well you might take note of the number in red as well.  Calling a seed salesman and asking for “Pioneer seed” would get you a very long list. A screen shot from DuPont Pioneer's website Here’s a screen shot from their website.  You scroll through two pages of this chart. A screen shot from DuPont Pioneer's website But if you know the number you can click through and find the information about the seed you are interested in.  The website provides information on how it grows in different soil types, how many days it will take to grow to a mature plant, how well it does against disease. Ever wondered what these signs mean? And while you might go around with a brand name on your jacket, you probably don’t go out of your way to advertise for a company. Neither do farmers. Seed representatives for the various brands check with farmers for the the fields using their products and then scout for crops that look best.  The reps put in signs to advertise their business.  For the farmer a sign is a little bit like a gold star.  Your crops look great! Brian (AKA Daddy) used to scout for sign-worthy crops during an internship he had in college.  It’s hot, sticky work! Ever wondered what these signs mean? Some of you also mentioned test plots, or research, where a company or university grows a seed to learn how it does in a specific area.  You can usually identify test plots by the rows of signs. Also important, seed companies work with farmer/landowners to do these test plots.  The seed representative (rep) sometimes gives a farmer specific seed to try for free, or the rep may come and plant the seed himself.  It’s a pain on our farm, but some growers really like the advantages of test plots.  While the companies do own ground, probably near their research facilities, it is a TINY percentage of farmland in the US. So the family farm isn’t gone.  In fact, non-family corporations actually make up only 3% of farm ownership in this country.  97% are still family farms!

Categories: Family, Farming | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Super Secret Farm Conspiracy

Ever wondered what these signs mean?

Summer sights along the highway are Queen Anne’s Lace in bunches in the median, cows standing in groups in a pond, and random signs posted by fields.  Ever wonder what these signs mean?

Ever wondered what these signs mean?

I recently spoke with a fellow blogger who’d had a conversation with a gentleman that insisted these signs meant the fields were owned by the company whose name is printed on them.  He was very concerned that all the farmland in his area was owned by major corporations instead of family farms.

It’s time to stop believing everything you read on the Internet people.

Ever wondered what these signs mean?

Despite her reassurances this wasn’t the case, this man was very insistent it was all a “Big Ag” conspiracy.  She was just a poor, deluded farmer who didn’t understand how things work.

Well, I may be poor 😉 and I may even be deluded, but I actually have a deed that shows we own our land.  So unless that’s a government conspiracy by my county courthouse, I’m telling you, these signs mean no such thing.

And since the idea of conspiracy within the farm community boggles my mind (Really?  Farmers who disagree on the color of tractors have ALL come to the conclusion that we should keep massive secrets from the general public?  Really?) I’ve decided to have a little fun with this one.

Leave me a comment and tell me what the purpose of these signs are– funny, silly, realistic, whatever.

And then come back Wednesday to find out for sure!

Categories: Agvocacy, Farming | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

On the Farm Quiet Book

Let’s face it: farm life is cuter in felt.  The cows are easier to handle, hay isn’t itchy, nothing smells bad.  Plus felt is quiet and good for keeping future farmers and ranchers busy during church.  Which is why I’m back with quiet books!

Ideas for "On the Farm" quiet book from felt.

I found a pattern for a barn with finger puppets at Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.  Ideas for "On the Farm" quiet book from felt.

It worked really well and I loved not needing to measure all the white strips.  Her pages look like they were made for a 8 x 10 inch book and mine are 9 x 9, so I changed the size to 80% before printing.

My other change was that I cut double of everything and sewed them together for strength.  The chick’s wings are a double thickness, as are the ears, etc..

Ideas for "On the Farm" quiet book from felt.

This particular gift is for my nephew.  Since my brother’s family raises Charolais cattle I made my cow all white.  Unfortunately that makes him look like a sheep to the rest of us, but Xander will get it!

My next two pages are a backdrop for the puppets, as well as a few other farm essentials.

Ideas for "On the Farm" quiet book from felt.

Because I must have crazy, I bought a sheet of thin metal at Hobby Lobby and cut it to 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 and sewed it between the pages, making these backdrops magnetic.  This was a struggle, since I don’t own the right scissors and I forgot to cut out notches for the eyelets the first time.  Also, don’t bother with the pocket on top.  The metal is too sharp for little fingers to be reaching down between the pages and the felt is already stretched too tight for storing.

Ideas for "On the Farm" quiet book from felt.

I made some double-thickness fence pieces with magnets between the layers.  You’ll need the tiny, super-strong kind.  Cheap magnet tape won’t hold through all the felt.  I like to sew everything but there wasn’t room to get my needle around the magnets, I wasn’t doing this by hand, and magnets stick to the sewing machine.  So hot glue.  I also added a pick-up truck with magnets to run the errands. 😉

Ideas for "On the Farm" quiet book from felt.

My last page is a hay field, baled and ready for eating.  The tractor is green, but I will learn to live with that.  Again, the hay bales and the tractor are magnets stuck to the background.

Ideas for "On the Farm" quiet book from felt.

The last page is a pocket for storing the fencing, truck, and tractor, as well as any other pieces that can go to future pages.  I like to make my quiet books with eyelets and rings so pages can change as the child grows.

So now you’ll have something to do if you’re bored this weekend- lol!

Ideas for "On the Farm" quiet book from felt.

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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