Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Country Christmas Connection Reveal

I love shopping, and meeting new people, and Christmas, so when I heard of a "Secret Santa" gift exchange among fellow agriculture bloggers, I knew I just had to sign up. That was three years ago and I'm still participating.

Here's an explanation of how it works-
After getting paired up with my new blogger friend, I scour her blog learning about her, her interests, where she lives- you know, anything that helps me find that perfect gift. My "Secret Santa" is doing the same- checking out my blog. I then send a gift to my new blogger friend, and likewise, another blogger sends to me. Our mission is to explore new blogs, and this is such a fun way to do it.

My "Secret Santa" is Jenny from Illinois. You can find her blog at The Magic Farmhouse.
Jenny really did her research, as every gift (individually wrapped, I might add) is tied into something she read or saw on my blog. Jenny, your detective skills would make even Sherlock Holmes jealous!
Gift #1 was a gingerbread house kit since our family loves sharing Christmas with others, and this year daughter Sara made large gingerbread cut-outs to decorate our yard. 

Gift #2 was a bag of pecans for the next time I make Grandma Schaar's Pecan Ice Cream topping. #3 was an Illinois Corn can cozi which lead Jenny to share about her farm. Surprise #4 shared the fact that Jenny and are NOT coffee drinkers. Yum-hot chocolate packets for our cold winters! Gift #5 was the book Youtility by Jay Baer, and #6 was a sweet bookmark, and #7 was a John Grisham book which By-the-way I have not read even though John Grisham is one of my favorite authors! 

#8 was the sweetest gift- a sugar cookie recipe because Jenny discovered I love to bake, especially Christmas Cookies. But the sweetest part is the recipe is one her son found on the internet but tweaked to perfection! Lastly, #9 was a "Favorite Farmer" travel mug complete with instructions to enter a video contest highlighting our love of agriculture. In Jenny's final note she even included some family history photos from their farm. I love family history! 

Thanks Jenny for all the thoughtful gifts. You made my Christmas even merrier!

Special thanks to Darleen from Guernsey Dairy Mama
and also
Jenny from The Magic Farmhouse
for organizing the Country Christmas Connection.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2016, Gone But Not Forgotten

2016 Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts
My Barnyard View
If you haven't read them, click on the post title and you'll be there.

10. P Is For Planting I planted corn for the first time in our nearly 33 years of marriage. Here is how planting is done, from a rookies point of view.

9. G Is For Greek Yogurt What's the difference between Greek yogurt and traditional yogurt? Also find out why I almost named this blog, "G is for Good Gosh, Why Do We Farm?"

8. T Is For Teeth and Trivia Do cows bite? I get this question a lot. I also share other cow trivia in this blog post.

7. F Is For Farmer John There is a familiar saying, "If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life." I believe this is Farmer John's motto.

6. X, Y, Z, All Done After blogging every day during June Dairy Month, and as June Dairy Month draws to a close, I hope you have come to realize how passionate my family and I are about the farming lifestyle we live. I also included the top ten reasons I love dairy.

5. L Is For Local Did you know that milk travels from my farm to a grocery store within 48 hours? Also, I share how you can find out where the milk you buy comes from.

4. D Is For Dairy3ForMe A letter to Fair Oaks Elementary where I shared my story of life on a dairy farm to 437 students and their teachers. What is Dairy3ForMe and what did the students pledge to do?

3. I Is For Ice Cream (With Topping and History) I share a bit of family history about Farmer John's grandparents who farmed, and also Grandma Schaar's Butter Pecan Sauce recipe. Yummy!

2. Miss America, The Farm Girl I was invited to attend a gathering to meet Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell as she visited a local dairy farm. She's a farm girl too who shared her passion of "Healthy Children, Strong America."

1. Saying Goodbye To Mom I still cry each time I read this post. This was a tough year, as my Mom passed away just one week before I spent the next 14 days at the Minnesota State Fair fulfilling my duties as the State Dairy Princess Coordinator. Through the love and care from all of you, I  moved forward just as Mom would have wanted, as she also shared my dairy passion as a fellow farmer. It makes my heart smile to know that so many of you read my tribute to her, therefore putting this post as the most read of 2016. I am thankful to each of you!

Thank you for continuing to follow me and my family on our journey as we go through life as passionate and proud dairy farmers. 

PS- Have you checked out my other social media sites?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Santa On Bremer Farms

Kate, our littlest visitor to see Santa at Bremer Farms.
The weather was not very cooperative so we had to reschedule, but Santa on the Farm was a huge success!

This year, for the first time, we played host to Santa and Mrs. Claus at our farm. We invited folks to visit with this popular couple, 

view our Christmas decorations, 

and bring along a donation for our local food shelf, or a cash donation for The Great American Milk Drive. We got LOTS of donations including nearly $300 for the milk drive. 

So what is The Great American Milk Drive?
Milk is one of the most-requested, yet least-donated items.
On average, clients receive the equivalent of less than 1 gallon per person per year. That’s because while Americans are generous with canned and dry goods, many don’t think to donate milk because it’s perishable. Your small donation will deliver a gallon of milk to a family in need in your local community.
 Even though Santa and Mrs. Claus have returned home to the North Pole, you can easily donate online. Click here- The Great American Milk Drive.
We were thrilled by the response to our first "Santa on the Farm" and Santa and his lovely bride, Mrs. Claus have agreed to visit again next December, so it's official, "Santa on the Farm" will be an annual event at Bremer Farms!

Here's a peek of what you missed-

Friday, December 30, 2016

Visiting Square Deal Dairy

One of a farmers favorite vacation destinations is other farms. I know, it sounds rather silly to see how others work while taking a break from your own, but that's what we farmers do. Yesterday I met up with Haley Hinrichs, Princess Kay of the Milky Way, to take a "mini" vacation. We traveled 20 minutes from  Bremer Farms to tour Square Deal Dairy, this years recipient of the Minnesota Producer of the Year Award.

Chicky was our gracious tour guide, showing Haley and I where the calves were born. We next saw where they lived in individual hutches until they grew bigger and were moved to larger pens. 

We then visited the free stall barn where the milk cows live. These barns provide fresh air, room to move freely about, and a fresh supply of water and feed at all times. These free stall barns provide soft, clean bedding made from recycled manure. Yes, you read that right! Sustainability is important on a dairy farm, so the moisture is removed from the cow manure in order to make bedding which will later be used as fertilizer on their crops. Pretty smart! 

The Otte's have a well orchestrated plan of moving their animals to appropriate facilities as the cattle's size and needs change. But every step of the way they are clean, comfortable and well cared for. 

Princess Kay 2016 Haley Hinrichs with Chicky and Blake Otte and sons.

Our last stop was the milking parlor (barn). The Otte family milks 450 cows, three times a day with the help of 12 employees. I loved how quiet and content the cows were while being milked.

Something else I loved about our "vacation" was the obvious care and concern the Otte's showed for their sons desires to farm. Many years before the boys were old enough to make career choices, Blake and Chicky made it clear to their sons that they would all be expected to get an education as well as work two years away from their family farm. "It's a big commitment to become a farmer, and we wanted to make sure they didn't regret their decision by not exploring other options," said Chicky. Obviously this was a great recommendation, as all three of their sons have returned to farm, each taking on a specific role. 

Thanks for the tour Chicky and family, and congratulations to Square Deal Dairy for being named Minnesota Producer of the Year!

I have included a video, complements of Midwest Dairy, featuring the Otte family and Square Deal Dairy. (It's almost as good as being there...on a "mini" vacation!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas As A Child

 This Christmas Eve, as I am "celebrating" at home with a terrible cold, eating my soup while bundled up under a warm blanket, I'm thinking back to all the wonderful memories of Christmas Eve when I was a child. I'm sharing this previous post with you, and wishing you a

Christmas Eve day began as usual, except for the fact that my mom was probably putting the finishing touches on the matching dresses she had sewn for my sister and I to wear that night. My dad started farm chores early on Christmas Eve afternoon. Calf feeding and milking began about an hour earlier than usual so that we could get to the annual Sunday School Christmas Eve program on time. My sister, brother, and I each got to open one gift before church. It was often a new pair of socks or something else that we needed to complete our holiday attire. Mom rushed us kids off to church, while dad stayed home to finish the milking, only to slip into the back pew just in time for the program to begin.


My dad's family is close, and I mean close. Besides getting along very well, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all lived within five miles of our farm. Each of my uncles were dairy farmers too. We all went to the same church too, so all our Christmas Eve schedules were quite similar. After church, we all invaded  Grandma and Grandpa's home. The 16 grandchildren couldn't wait to dig into the Christmas gifts, but we had to wait until after digging into the feast that the mom's had prepared. Due to our dairy farmer schedules, Christmas Eve dinner was after church. While the moms cleaned up the dishes, the kids separated the gifts into piles for each person. We each got a gift from the family member who was lucky enough to draw our name from the hat on Thanksgiving Day, when we were all together to celebrate "turkey day." Of course there was always a gift from Grandma and Grandpa too. Often times we each received a pad of rainbow colored paper, and we always patiently waited for Grandma to hand each of us an envelope with $2.00 tucked inside!

As midnight quickly approached, it was time for some of the mom's to return to church to sing in the church choir for the Midnight Carol Service. Grandpa was comfortable in his tan leather rocker, smoking his pipe, while the dad's each found a spot on the couches to take a little nap. The cousins, however, were exploring the newly received gifts and sharing their hopes for what Santa would deliver the next morning.

I'm the one in the burgundy jumper with the cool glasses.
Faith, family, and farming, it was a perfect way for our family to celebrate Christmas Eve. What childhood memories do you have?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Santa On The Farm

Bremer Farms is trying something new this Christmas. 

Daughter Sara loves decorating our farm for holidays. Colorful, blinking lights on our house, synced to music,  inflatables bouncing in the breeze, cut-outs of familiar name it, we have it!

Sara decorates our farm for most holidays, but none surpass the extravaganza she creates for Christmas. We have 50-plus inflatables inhabiting our farm. Santa, snowman, forest creatures, even dinosaurs, but she hasn't found a cow (yet) to add to her collection. I know she's still looking though!

Each summer Sara spends hours, and hours creating new cut-outs. This year she created Rudolph and all his friends from her all-time favorite Christmas story. And if you look closely you will see another new addition this year- gingerbread houses. Yes, five new gingerbread houses adorn the yard near our barn. They look good enough to nibble!

Of course our Christmas display would not be complete without the nativity, complete with the star shining above. "We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." Matthew 2:2

So this year we are trying something new. We are inviting everyone to come visit our farm and enjoy our Christmas decorations. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be here and we are collecting food shelf donations, and cash donations for The Great American Milk Drive.
Please stop by if you are in our neighborhood.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thankful For Harvest

With this being Thanksgiving week, it seems like a perfect time to review harvest. We completed corn combing a few weeks back. Farmer John said it was the best year we ever had- cooperative weather and a big yield!

Last year I did all the corn combining. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was gratifying and even relaxing. This Fall, I only drove the combine one day. Grandpa Roy's health improved since last year, and as I have said many times, "You can't keep a good man down." With help from Farmer John or Michael, and occasionally even the loader tractor bucket, Grandpa was helped into the cab of the combine, and down the field road he went with one mission in mind- combing corn. "Git 'er done!" Beside the fact that everyone feels better when busy and productive, I think Grandpa Roy was jealous that I got to drive the new combine that we purchased last Fall, and he hadn't.

 Each time the combine fills with corn, the corn is then transferred to one of three wagons that are used to transport the corn back to the storage bins. Grandma, Sara, and I kept a watchful eye on the wagons as they unloaded. No, it was not a three-person job, only one of us at a time, but this duty was taken on by whoever was not at their off-the-farm-job, or not busy doing other farm chores.

The corn leaves the wagon and goes through a screener which sifts out debris before the corn heads up the auger to the bin which dries and stores the corn. The corn is dried (using propane heat) so that it does not mold. Since we had a fairly warm, dry Fall, we did not have to run the drier as long as usual. This is good news as it saves money! We have two bins which hold 22,000 bushels of corn. Each one is filled to the brim.

We now have enough corn stored to last us until next Fall, to be used as feed for our cattle. You can learn about that here. 
After the combing is finished, John baled the corn stalks which the combine leaves behind in the field. The corn stalk bales are used for bedding.
And lastly, Farmer John and Grandpa Roy prepare the soil, by working up the ground, so it is one step closer to being ready for Spring planting, when we start all over again!