The Nutrition of Backyard Farming

I recently found myself making small talk with the guy mixing my paint color at Lowe’s.  We talked about the weather, which led to talking about our farm, which led to him asking if we grow our own food.

Well, we feed the world, but no, we don’t grow everything our family eats.  He seemed surprised to learn that we had chickens and a garden but get our food from the grocery store.  Then he said he wanted to live on a farm and grow his own food someday.  He’d heard it was healthier.

Healthier?  Than what?

Happy, healthy chickens eating GMO feed {}

So I told him about my experience butchering chickens.  I cleaned my “all-natural” chickens on a not-so-steril table covering I purchased in a cardboard box from Sam’s Club after loosening their feathers in the largest canning pot I own.  (I’ll need that same pot to make applesauce again this fall, because I don’t have a designated chicken-harvesting pot.)  There were flies in my back yard and the plastic gloves I wore did all the work from plucking to freezing.

I’ve been in a meat processing plant and let me tell you, it was so much cleaner.  The process was organized by messier to cleaner so the meat wasn’t near the dirt.  There were no flies.  There were no plastic table clothes.

My chicken tastes great, and no one in my family has gotten food poisoning yet, but again I’ll ask; raising your own food is healthier than what?

What is the Big Deal with Sustainability? How do we leave our farms to the next generation? {}

My chickens ate local farm-store brand food and whatever scraps we fed them.  It’s very photogenic, buy why would the food my children refused be more nutritious than the food created by a veterinarian and a team of scientists like I saw at the animal nutrition company in St. Louis, Missouri?

Why would a grasshopper diet resulting in orange yolks be better than perfectly balanced pellets that make yellow yolks?  Orange is more nutritious than yellow?

Is the soil in my garden full of more vitamins than the carefully tended, even tested, soil in my husband’s field three feet away?

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited! {}

Why would his background in construction help him grow healthier food than my family who have dedicated themselves to understanding plant science?

What I’m really saying is the “good old days” are a combination of romanticized feelings and a misunderstanding of health and nutrition.  We have grocery stores today because our grandparents understood there were better options than killing your own Sunday dinner.

Spring planting on the farm.

Sure, there are bad farmers with poor farming practices out there.

But that’s not really what you’re getting at the grocery store.  You’re usually getting the labors of a farm family because 97 percent of America’s farms are family owned.   And those families, just like mine, are buying their food from the grocery store.  You’re getting the crops grown by people who love their work enough to dedicate their lives to what they do.  You’re getting food grown with the highest level of technology so your food is nutritious and your grandchildren’s food is plentiful.

So smile and wave at me next time you see me at the grocery store.

Categories: Food | 12 Comments

You Have No Idea What This Photo Represents

Maybe you’ve seen this picture floating around social media recently. It annoys me greatly.

calf hutch

Usually I’d let my friends in the livestock world handle this issue, since we don’t raise animals commercially, but you wouldn’t believe how cruel people who argue for humane treatment of animals are being to actual people, so I’m throwing my hat in the ring.

These pens are typically for dairy calves. And what the camera cleverly obscures in this picture are the cattle panels that allow the calves into a yard space.

calf hutches 2

You can see the panels vaguely in the first row of hutches if you know what you’re looking for.

calf hutches 3

The hutches are often used to make sure each of the young calves gets the proper amount of nutrition each day.  It’s very easy to see if someone skipped lunch or hasn’t touched her water if everyone has their own.

The reality is we know almost nothing about this farm.

Studies show dairy cows do well on sand, so its possible there is sand in each pen.  It might seem odd to us, but feels like a beach vacation to the animals.

There might be an employee assigned to every row of hutches; someone who feeds and waters the calves every day and can check on them, even get to know them.

It is highly likely a dairy didn’t grow to be this large without a lot of careful planning and consideration; for the employees, for the set-up and equipment, and for the biggest investment of all- the animals.  To make the most profit a dairy farmer needs the most milk.  Milk is best produced when the cow is comfortable and satisfied.

Not so "little" animals on the farm! {}

I was thinking about this because yesterday I noticed Fanny (goat on the left) kneeling down in the pasture on her front legs, back legs still straight because that is what goats do, trying to find green grass under all the dead stuff.  I almost took a picture so you could see what a pathetic creature looks like trying desperately to get a bit of nutrition but I thought it might go viral on Facebook.  In my make-believe photo shoot I would have then panned my camera back to reveal the giant round bale of hay, her water trough and grain pan.  Not starving.  Not malnourished.  Only a little pathetic. 😉

She, like the rest of us, is looking forward to spring and the green that will come with it.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a farm needs to be explained with millions.

Categories: Animals, Farming | 4 Comments

Not Quite Stranded in Washington D.C.

When I say I got out of Washington DC just in time this weekend, it’s not an exaggeration. We left out hotel at 3:15 AM to stand in line at Reagan National for much too long of a time with no caffeine, only to sit on the runway in Nashville when our connecting flight left AFTER they shut the airport down.

Conference 2

They’re calling for snow later today, but currently, it feels pretty good to be back in Missouri!

Regardless of the weather, the Common Ground conference I attended was awesome! Apparently it doesn’t take much to impress this farm girl because I’m pretty sure I told someone how much I liked the light pendants every time we entered the lobby of our hotel.

Conference 1

And despite being my third trip to the Nation’s capital, this is my first White House selfie.

Conference 5

Another first was attending a conference at the Smithsonian National History Museum!  That was pretty amazing, except that we were so busy all day I didn’t get to look around anywhere near as much as I would have liked.  (We made a three day event fit into two so everyone could catch flights out before Jonas arrived!)

Conference 3

I’m most excited about all the great information I got from this conference.  I have SO MANY ideas to share with you here on the blog, plus more information about areas of farming I’m not directly involved in, like dairy and pig farming.

Conference 6

Ask me your toughest food questions– I’m ready to share the answers!


Categories: Agvocacy | 1 Comment

Adding Authentic Farmhouse to Your Decor

I see these great pictures of farmhouse decor mudrooms on Pinterest and I’m always just so amazed.  Where is the MUD?!  Our little place doesn’t have much space for a mudroom, or even lockers, so our back hallway is always crowded with coats, jackets, mittens, coveralls, insulated chore boots, thawing water buckets, egg baskets and anything the little guy wants to add to the pile.

farmhouse 2

I mean really, why bother cleaning at all?  At minimum we’ll go in and out of this backdoor, through the snow, slush, or ice, at least four times a day, usually more.  So what would be the point?

No point whatsoever.

In fact, I’m embracing it.

Because you’re probably aware that “farmhouse chic” is all the rage in home decor right now.  Some people like the vintage look, or add industrial touches.

farmhouse 1

I’m calling mine “authentic farmhouse.”

And it is so on trend.

farmhouse 5

To DIY this in your home you’ll need an indoor space for drying coveralls.  Try to find unmatched leather gloves for this area as well.

Farmhouse 4

A vignette is a great way to bring a little of the country to your home.  Start with a basic place for all the bills (very farmhouse authentic) and add extras like farm tools and the many electronic devices your farmer uses each day.  Don’t forget their cords.  Add to your look with a pile of farm magazines.  Toss yearly to make room for the 18 inch stack you’ll be receiving.  For every conference/expo/event attended you’ll also need another file folder to hold all the promotional materials that must be retained for future reference.  For additional texture, keep several hats with farm brand logos prominently featured.  The display gains depth if your hats were given for “free” after spending thousands of dollars with a company.

farmhouse 3

Although not specifically part of a mudroom, an open door to the bathroom can provide a glimpse of other farmhouse must-haves.  A boot dryer is fought over not only by people wanting warm, dry boots, but home decorators across the country.  A gallon sized container of industrial-strength hand cleaner can be found at your local farm store.

farmhouse 6

Also available at farm stores is the authentic chicken waterer.  This works best in the space if it is covered in ice and can drip water continuously throughout the day.

farmhouse 7

Bonus points go to any entryway containing a bag of trash if the trash truck was unable to navigate your driveway the last three trash days because of ice or snow.

So add some farmhouse to your home.  It’s easier than you might think!

Categories: Family | 15 Comments

The Best Farm Animals

I heard the crash first thing this morning.

Birds 1

It was Anna, trying to remove the blanket from her birds’ cage which she received as a birthday present last month.  The whole cage tipped over.  Water.  Seeds.  Droppings.

But I’ll take it.

Because running the vacuum cleaner over the basement rug and refilling a tiny container of water is the easiest thing I’ll do for animals today!

Last night the temperatures were in the single digits, the high today is right at freezing.  So we’ll water the animals, probably twice, by stomping through the ice and filling their buckets with hot water we’ll get out of the kitchen sink.  We’ll haul the steaming buckets outside to melt more of that ice for the livestock and bring the chicken’s waterer in the house and switch it out for the one that’s been melting all over the tile.  Then I’ll need to disinfect the sink, make sure the lid is on the various food containers, and wipe up the mud we tracked through the back porch while doing all of this.

Birds 2

So despite the crash this morning, I’m taking the opinion that parakeets are the best animal we have on the farm.  Cleaning out their cage means removing a double layer of paper towel, rather than six wheelbarrows full of straw and yuck.

Birds 3

Getting water for them on a cold day doesn’t involve Carhartt, chore boots, or even opening an exterior door.

Birds 5

You buy their bags of feed in ounces, not pounds.

Bird 4

The people at the pet store were a little worried I was buying parakeets for a newly turned six-year-old.  But really it’s all about perspective.

We’ve got this!

Categories: Animals | Leave a comment

#MOFBImagine Cuties

Christmas traditions are important, and one of ours is the annual Missouri Farm Bureau meeting the first weekend in December.  It’s held at a resort on the Lake of the Ozarks, with the conference held in the main lodge.  The first several years we tried to get rooms in the main hotel or in one of the buildings with a walkway so we’d be close to everything, but now we love getting a room in the “estates” where our favorite place has a huge deck overlooking the water and a fireplace the hotel staff cleans! Brian goes to vote on changes to our policy, I go for the quiet room, and both of us have more friends than we can catch up with at the conference.

This year’s conference was more “adorable” than usual.  The theme “Imagine” inspired the state staff to put together a video of what our kids imagine the future will be like when they are grown up and farming on their own. You may find a familiar face or two!

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving


Categories: Family, Food | Leave a comment

So Much To Be Thankful For

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my family this weekend when my sister could come from Iowa.  We had it all.

Thanks 1


Thankful 3


Thankful 5

And food.

Thanks 2

Which my Dad reminded us, isn’t always the case.

Thankful 4

(Toddlers get their own table!)

A few years ago my parents invited some church members from Africa to stay at their home while they did a circuit of the area congregations.  One day my Dad took a gentleman named Sam with him to feed the cows and while they worked and the two talked about the fact that Sam’s family might be getting electricity in their home.  With Sam remarking about the very special cows my Dad commented that the thing he would miss most about not having electricity would be the refrigerator.

“Brother Gene,” Sam said.  “We do not need a refrigerator.  When we are done with a meal, there is nothing left to store.”

He indicated the grain being fed to the cows and noted, “That would feed a family in Africa for a day.”

Special cows indeed.

Thankful 6

When our meal was over I could hardly fit the leftovers into my triple door refrigerator and I took some of them to the basement fridge.

Thankful 8

When I came back upstairs I remembered to be thankful.

Thankful 7

So very, very thankful.

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

Not Your Grandpa’s Combine

There is so much more to farming than you’d ever think.  I’ve been here for eleven years and I’m still amazed.  Last week I had a great time visiting a neighbor’s farm to see how they calibrate their combine monitor for accurate harvest data– and believe me, this is not your Grandpa’s combine!

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

A combine’s monitor senses the grain coming in and records how much is being harvested.  This lets you know right then how well the field did.  On Bray Farms, Brad used this field to test two different brands of seed, filling half his planter with each type.  Now as he harvests he can see exactly how well each brand did.

That is, he can see exactly if his monitor is working correctly.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

To calibrate the combine’s monitor Brad first harvests a small sample of corn.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

He gets a reading from the monitor,

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

and then unloads the corn into a weigh wagon equiped with scales.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This wagon belongs to Cory Robinson of CR Seeds & Services.  He’ll be busy this fall taking it to many farm fields to calibrate monitors and checking to see if the seed he sold is working well for his customers.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Now the wagon weighs the corn as well.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

And Cory will check the grain for a few other things while he’s at it.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This tests the percentage of moisture in the corn.  Usually the places you sell corn to want “dry” corn, about 15%.  Brad’s was measuring closer to 19%, which means he’ll need to dry it before it can be sold.  As fall progresses the corn will dry out in the field and less air drying will be necessary.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Cory also uses this little thingamajig (technical term) to find the test weight of the corn– also important when you sell the grain.  Once the tests are done Cory unloads his weigh wagon back onto Brad’s semis, which take the grain back to the dryer.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Then Cory gives Brad the numbers to put into the combine’s monitor.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Look at the last line.  The second column tells what the combine believes the total weight of the load to be. A simple click to the third column allows Brad to input the weigh wagon’s results.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

And the monitor will calibrate itself in just a moment to give you the most correct results.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This was Brad’s third test (bottom three rows– top two are from 2014) and the total was 3 pounds off– 0.0%.  The monitor will retroactively change the data from whatever has already been harvested and Brad will have accurate maps he can use to submit to his insurance agent (insurance is based on a five year average for a field), use to plan how much grain to sell, and compare to his planting or fertilizer maps to see what seed is working well and what nutrients the crop may need.

This modern world of agriculture is pretty cool.

Categories: Farming | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why Didn’t I Think of that Sooner Homeschool Ideas

We start slowly into our homeschool year in August, but we’ve been in full swing for about a month now.  This is our fourth “official” year and for any of you struggling out there I just wanted to say, it’s finally coming together.  And since I’m banging my head wondering why I didn’t think of these ideas sooner, I thought I’d share what’s working for us in homeschooling.

Why Didn't I Think of That Sooner Homeschool Ideas

For clarification, I’ve got a 3rd grader, a K/1st grader, and a two year old with special needs.  I’ve recently started working from home, plus this blog, and a husband who works long, hard days.  We’ve got farm animals and community responsibilities and a house that doesn’t clean itself.  I know what busy looks like.  Actually, I’m quite familiar with crazy.

Previously our days were a hodgepodge of schoolwork and housework and disagreements and bribery with a fair amount of getting lost on Facebook and sneaking candy my kids didn’t know about.  We learned.  But it wasn’t what I wanted.

This year it’s finally going better.

This year when school starts I quit being mom, housewife, blogger and become teacher.  I’m focused, the way I want them to be.  Sure, sometimes I run a load of dishes.  But mostly I don’t.  No computer, no iPad, less phone.  I want them to know this is important to me.  That mind-set is making a difference.

Why Didn't I Think of That Sooner Homeschool Ideas

A couple of books I read this summer also helped me rearrange my living space.  I really thought about the square footage in our home compared to the use we get out of it.  For us that meant converting the home-business office into the school room and a massive overhaul of how we handle paperwork.  To help with the toddler/homeschool situation I had a garage sale and used the money to put bar-height tables where the office used to be.  I now love this whole paragraph.

I also took a look at the subjects we must cover (Missouri requires 600 hours in math, language arts, science and social studies) versus important extras (religion, PE, art, etc.).  I’m working to combine them in practical ways.  My favorite example is journals.  We were writing typical prompts– “what I did yesterday”, “what I like about fall”, etc..  Now we’re journaling everyday in response to our devotion.  Same time frame.  Same skills.  Whole new meaning, and it’s a core subject.

Why Didn't I Think of That Sooner Homeschool Ideas

One thing I thought was a concession has turned out to be a blessing.  I had never used a computer-based teaching programs because, well, I guess I thought homeschooling meant I should be doing the teaching.  But homeschooling is so much more than subjects.  By using Teaching Textbooks for math I have more energy to devote to phonics or to make a social studies project happen or to help them create their own cookbook just because they want to.

So it’s taken three years to reach a clicking point.  Naturally it’s still not perfect.  But it is good.  I mean, I’ve been a parent for eight and a half years and I’m still waiting to feel confident in that. 🙂

What made homeschool click for you?

Categories: Homeschool | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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