Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Spring Planting (and panting) Has Begun!

Here's the first step in filling our pantry, our cows pantry, that is! 
(Planting day April 16, 2016)
Since we grow all the food that is fed to our animals, Spring planting is a busy time. In our nearly 33 years of marriage I have never helped with planting. It has always been a task my father-in-law, Grandpa Roy, eagerly accepted. Since he was "forced" due to health reasons, to retire from his planting duties, it is now my turn.

There are a few things that need to be done before I head to the field to plant oats. Farmer John helps out by washing the windows on my tractor. Here's proof that men do windows...as long as the windows are on farm equipment!

The next task is to fill the grain drill (planter) with seed. John takes care of this. I know...he spoils me!
Alfalfa seed is also planted along with the oats. Since alfalfa (hay) seeds are so tiny and fragile, the oats are planted as a "cover crop". Cover crops protect the soil and may be used to reduce soil erosion, suppress weeds, and increase soil organic matter. 
 Then it's off to the field. 

I think fieldwork is really fun. Weird, huh?  I like that I can be outdoors, surrounded by beautiful scenery. I like that I'm helping to start a new crop that will eventually be fed to our cows, which will produce milk, that goes to your grocery aisles, and then appears on your dinner table! And just think, I helped get the whole process started by planting these little seeds!

After a quick morning of planting, it was time to refill the grain drill with seeds, and have lunch. While Farmer John refilled the seeds, I changed clothes in the clothes washer and made a gourmet lunch. Multitasking...

 Okay. Maybe it wasn't gourmet but all the food groups were represented, including milk, of course! Then it was back to planting. Twenty-eight acres were soon complete, and then I moved on to planting a peas and barley mix. 
While John added the peas and barley seeds, I ran to the house and did a bit more laundry. A woman's work is never done (tee-hee). Twelve acres of peas and barley are safely planted in the ground, and now it is time for Michael to take over.

Michael used a drag pulled behind his tractor to go over the fields that I just planted. This is done to smooth the fields. And now we wait. They will be popping their heads through the soil before we know it. We have been having several rainy days since planting, so it won't take long. When early July hits, we will reap the benefits of our planting. You can learn about that process in Pass the Peas, Please.
Today was a really productive day...oats planted, peas and barley planted, laundry done, and family fed. Whew! Now do you know why it's planting and panting? Life is good!
Next project- planting corn. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 8, 2016

You're the Cow Lady!

"You're the cow lady!" 
This was how I was greeted by a kindergartener at William Byrne Elementary when I recently paid a visit to their in-school breakfast. But this wasn't the only greeting I received that morning. 

I was also greeted by farm pictures the kids had colored welcoming me to their school. The cafeteria walls were coated in these colorful works of art which hung along side posters sharing the importance and freshness of milk. But that's not all...

Students also created their own smoothie flavors! There were many great flavor combinations, but I think this one was my favorite. Perhaps it was the name that won me over.

I was invited to William Byrne to visit with the students at their in-school breakfast.  William Byrne participates in the Fuel Up To Play 60 program. Fuel Up To Play 60 is a program funded by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League in collaboration with USDA, that empowers students to take charge in making small, everyday changes at school. Students are encouraged to change the way they look at food and nutrition, and change their attitudes about physical education.

As a dairy farmer, and a mom, it made me smile to see the healthy dairy filled breakfast the kids received. Milk, cheese sticks, yogurt, and fruit smoothies all gave these students a super start to their daily  Dairy 3 For Me. 

Thank you to the students of William Byrne for the invitation to visit your breakfast. Thanks also to Miss Tracy and the staff for getting your kiddos so enthused about  meeting a farmer and learning where their food comes from. Lastly, I would like to thank the kitchen staff for the great job they do of incorporating healthy dairy foods in all the meals served.

If you are a farmer, I encourage you to visit schools in your area. You will be amazed at the excitement you generate! Kids want to know you, and the story behind the dairy foods we produce.

If you are not a farmer, I encourage you to contact a farmer- invite a farmer to your school or event and ask questions. We LOVE to share our story!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Hay, It's A Date

Hay, It's a date!
Okay, before you go all "spelling police" on me, I know I spelled hay wrong. I know it should be hey, but there is a reason for my spelling error.

I love Farmer John, and I love spending time with him. We spend a lot of time together each day on the farm, but time together away from the farm is a lot less frequent. So when John invited me to ride along to pick up our seed order, I considered it a date and hopped in the pick-up!

Our first stop was the Stein Haus, a local bar/restaurant with delicious food and friendly servers. Our fish dinners were yummy. It's a perfect lunch spot for a farmer and his wife  who are dressed in their clean, but patched, barn clothes. 

Then it was off to Werner Farm Seed where we stood among rows and rows and stacks and stacks of  all kinds of seeds. There were two buildings full of seed bags packed nearly to the ceiling. We were literally standing in a gold mine, with thousands of dollars of seeds surrounding us.

We first loaded the peas and barley mix. We purchased 20, 50 pound  bags. The barley and peas are a fast growing crop and will be ready to feed to our cows in early June.  You can learn more by reading Pass The Peas Please.

 We next moved on to the alfalfa shed. Alfalfa (hay) can typically be harvested for 3-5 years, but each year we plant a few new fields so we constantly have new crops just beginning. Every animal on Bremer Farms gets hay every single day, so we use a lot!

So what does all this seed cost? 

Now we patiently wait for the weather to warm so we can begin preparing the soil for planting. I will be helping with much of the planting this year, so soon I'll be inviting you to go on a "ride-along." Perhaps in the mean time, Farmer John and I will fit in a few more dates...John?...Dear?

 This may not have been the kind of date you were expecting, but if you are the wife of a farmer, I'll bet your dates are similar. Am I right ladies?

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Wake Up Call

4:26AM- Farmer John wakes up. Something doesn't seem right. 

4:29 AM- Sheriff's Department receives a call. "I am the newspaper delivery person and something seems suspicious here. I think there is a theft in progress."

Soon after- Sheriff appears at my in-laws house (next door to us) asking if someone could come with him to check out our field irrigator. There is a wheel in the road and others are missing he says.

Shortly after- Farmer John gets a call from my mother-in-law. John is out the door in less than 30 seconds.

 Three of the tires were removed from our irrigator. Each tire and wheel weighing between 250-300 pounds. The first tire was found in the ditch along the road. Another was on the road, and a third was found across the road on the golf course. All this activity within a half mile of our front door.

Since the tires were all found, the investigation has turned from theft to vandalism. It is unlikely that the "culprits" will be found, but we are extremely grateful to the newspaper delivery person who had the foresight to report something that looked unusual. Had the call not been made, the tires would have surely been gone.

The irrigation company arrived mid-day to reattach the tires, tighten bolts that were loosened on the next tire the thieves attempted to remove, and gave a thorough look-see at everything else on the irrigator. We were told that each tire and wheel would have been about $800 to replace if they were not found. ($800 x 3 = a lot!)

We all agree that "It could have been worse," but it is frustrating to have to put time and money into something that should not have happened. 

But there is a bright side to our story...there are still good, honest people in the world. The newspaper delivery person proved that!

 Sadly, this is not the first "attack" on this irrigator. 


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Milk And Middler-Schoolers

Most of my school visits to talk about being a dairy farmer happen at elementary schools. Recently I was invited to speak at Maplewood Middle School. For you non-Minnesotan's, Maplewood is considered a suburb of St. Paul, with a population of nearly 40,000 so farmin' country it is not. 

I began with my Powerpoint presentation, sharing about my family, our farm, and what we do each day. I talked about feeding our animals, the milking process, and what happens when animals get sick. We moved on to a discussion of dairy foods and how they get to the grocery store. 

Even though the teacher suggested the students hold their questions until the end of my presentation, I kept getting interrupted with questions... and I loved it! I witnessed enthusiasm and great questions from these middle-schoolers along with a strong desire to learn more about dairy farming and where their food comes from. Here are some of my favorite questions-

Q.- When you buy 1% milk, what is the other 99%?
A.- All types of milk are 100% milk. The percentages included in the names of the milk indicate how much fat is in the milk by weight. All of these milks contain the nine essential nutrients found in whole milk but less fat.

Q.- I've heard that we are supposed to drink chocolate milk after sports. Why?
A.- Chocolate milk contains a combination of carbohydrates and protein to help replenish exhausted muscles after exercise, and provides potassium and sodium that help your body re-hydrate. And, there's an added bonus- chocolate milk is natural, and less expensive than sports drinks!

And now it was time for me to ask the students some questions...

Me- "Why do you think I go to schools to talk about dairy farming?"
Them- "So we can find out what you do and why it's important for us to drink milk?"
Me- "That's right. As you probably know, not everything you read or see on social media or TV or the internet is always true.
Me- " If you have a concern about your dog or cat, who do you talk to?" 
Them- "The vet."
Me- "If you have a question about your car, who do you talk to?"
Them- "A mechanic."
Me- "So if you have a question about your food, why wouldn't you talk to a farmer?"
(Them- heads nodding yes.)

Mission accomplished!

Maplewood Middle School knows the importance of milk and  
participates in the Fuel Up To Play 60 program.

Thanks to  Michele, Miss Martha, and the students of Maplewood Middle school for a moovelous time!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Accelerate- Learn, Live, Lead

"You never stop learning, you should never stop learning,
 learning is not just a gift, it's a privilege." -

Farmer John and I took a couple days away from the farm and recently had the privilege of learning at a Leadership Conference hosted by Minnesota Farm Bureau. The theme of the conference was to learn about new possibilities for leadership, see how others live to accomplish their goals, and discover new ways to lead.

Here are a few of the highlights.

Much of our first day was spent on tours. Our first stop was Twin Cities Hide.
35,000 cattle hides are processed here each week.
60% of the hides will be made into shoes.

These hides are ready for shipment. The blue color is a preservative.

Our next stop was the National Weather Service. There isn't a farmer on earth that isn't interested in the weather, since it affects everything we do. We were all invited to become weather watchers/reporters in our hometown areas too.

We had an interesting conversation with the weather service employees about the weather balloon John found in our field. It turns out, it was sent from the location we were visiting, and only about 20% of them are returned by those who find them.

Finally, we visited  University of Minnesota Meat Lab and Dairy Lab.
The meat lab is a modern research and teaching facility.

The Dairy Lab is well respected for its dairy foods research. The technique for making Blue Cheese in the United States was developed here, as well as many ice cream flavors which are created and tested. Anyone for Apple Pie Cinnamon?

 The next day was spent attending sessions on leadership, advocacy, policy and business. I chose to attend sessions on sharing my farming story via classroom visits, and also using technology for these visits.

I also listened to three of my favorite bloggers who shared their successful blogging tips. And lastly, I learned about a wonderful resource, Ag In The Classroom which introduced me to some great resources to use in my classroom visits.

 John attended sessions on giving us the right tools to develop business and marketing plans, as well as a session on banker relationships. We were surrounded by some amazing speakers and resources.

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young" -Henry Ford
Thank you  to Minnesota Farm Bureau for keeping us young!

Some of the 250 attendees
And thanks to Dakota County Farm Bureau for the opportunity to attend.

Dakota County Attendees

 And a special thanks to our kids Sara and Michael for arranging their away-from-the-farm work schedules so we could both attend. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Aprons Optional- Starts With Bread

I don't know why it's taken me so long to share this with you... 

 Our daughter Sara has a cooking show on our local TV station. It's called Aprons Optional, and it's filmed right here in our kitchen on our farm.

 Like Sara always says, "Remember, the apron is optional, but the flavor isn't."

 This is last months episode where she makes 
3B Mac and Cheese 
and also 
Bread Pudding.

 I hope you enjoy watching. I know you will enjoy eating if you try the recipes!

Sara from Aprons Optional

We are proud to say we produce the healthy dairy foods that go into these recipes.