Category Archives: General

The Road to Excellence Is Not Always Comfortable…

I am one of the coaches for the Cozad Swim Team. Our primary season is late May through July, and I spend the noon hour during the summer on the pool deck coaching practice as well as Saturdays at swim meets.

I love the sport of swimming and spent the better part of my formative years training in the pool. My high school tenure found me practicing four hours a day and traveling across the country to compete in swimming meets. My journey as a competitive athlete taught me so very many things, but likely the most important is that the road to excellence is not always comfortable.

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While I loved my time as a competitive swimmer, being a volunteer swim coach has grown my love for the sport exponentially. It allows me to touch the lives of the youth in our community and help to shape their tenacity and character. This year our team had almost 50 members that ranged in age from five to fourteen as well as a few brave adults competing in the 30 and over age group.

I believe that one of my most important jobs as a coach is to teach my athletes to build mental strength and confidence. As the mind begins to believe, the athlete learns to push him/herself into the uncharted waters of true physical exertion. There is nothing comfortable in this journey, yet it ultimately results in the true beauty of fitness and excellence.

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Regardless of any individual athlete’s God given talent, learning the life skill of breaking outside of what is comfortable in order to attain improvement is critical. I would argue that this is a life skill that reaches far outside of competitive athletics. Mental toughness and the desire to always improve (regardless of whether that journey is comfortable) is a skill that I have used every day in my adult life.

This year, I created the Pitchfork Challenge for our swim team to add a new element to practices. Each swimmer was tasked with discovering how many laps they could complete without breathing while swimming (in both Freestyle and Butterfly strokes). Each no-breath lap was immediately followed by 15 wall push-ups with no rest in the continuous effort for multiple laps.

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Watching the young athletes figure out that they could indeed achieve success in the Pitchfork Challenge was a fulfilling experience. As they realized that I believed in their ability, my swimmers also began the personal journey of believing. Many of them pushed the limit, with my favorite blonde cowgirl going the farthest with 7 consecutive laps of freestyle no breathing with 15 wall pushups as the only “rest” in between laps. I had 38 athletes complete the challenge in freestyle, and 17 of those 38 completed it in both freestyle and butterfly. Additionally, there were another 6 athletes under the age of 8 that completed the challenge with only one breath.

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A nice “side effect” of the Pitchfork Challenge was a tremendous improvement in both work ethic and fitness amongst my athletes. This led to an undefeated season for the Cozad Swim Team and a dominating performance at both the Plains tsumani Swim Team Qualifier and Championship meets.

Forty eight of our swimmers qualified for the Plains tsunami Swim Team Championships and those athletes brought home 166 medals (31 Gold) and 7 high point winners. Cozad brought home the 1st place team victory with 1792 points (more than 400 points ahead of the 2nd place team—a total of 24 teams competed in the meet).

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Likely, the most important result of the season is the personal growth that each of my swimmers developed during the summer as they discovered that the road to excellence is not always comfortable…

I would like to take a moment to congratulate every athlete that swam on the team this summer. Each one of you played an important role in our team journey, and it brings me great pride to be your coach. I hope that in the future, when life throws a challenge at you, that you will think back to the Pitchfork Challenge and dig deep in order to persevere with excellence.

 

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Filed under General, Rural Communities

True Partners…

Thoughtful Thursday

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There is tremendous beauty in a true partnership marked by trust and devotion.  From it springs an unselfish desire to care unconditionally and love without reservation.

The Feed Yard Foodie

 

 

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Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday

Trading Drugs For Fitness…

My youngest daughter contracted a serious pneumonia infection during the fall of 2011. She spent five days in the hospital as an incredibly sick little girl. The severity of the illness led to a very slow recovery, and lingering challenges that were eventually defined as “illness induced asthma”.

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Karyn is naturally very stoic in nature which made properly diagnosing the ensuing period of diminished lung capacity a journey. Five months after the infection, it became obvious to me as I coached her on the track and in the swimming pool that her lung capacity was not normal despite her lack of complaining. It was a shock when further testing discovered that she was operating at just over 50% of normal capacity.

From April of 2012 to December of 2013, Karyn’s pediatrician steadily increased her asthma treatment medicines as I kept asking the question, “Will she ever fully heal?” Over the next year and a half, Matt and I became increasingly uncomfortable with the levels of steriods prescribed all the while Karyn continued to contract many additional respiratory illnesses and a second pneumonia infection. Ultimately, we decided to travel to Omaha to see a pulmonology specialist.

I did not know what we would find under the care of Dr. Kevin Murphy at Boys Town National Research Hospital, but my heart told me to keep looking and have faith. I read articles about using fitness training to strengthen lung capacity as a natural augmentation to regular asthma treatment. I thought that it might be a good fit for my sports-loving young athlete.

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In addition to being an esteemed pulmonologist, Dr. Murphy is the father of two competitive swimmers which enabled us to find common ground on the natural fitness component of a new treatment plan. He switched Karyn to an inhaler that more deeply penetrated the lungs in order to reach the damaged tissue while also instructing me to create a strenuous fitness program that included both swimming and running in order to naturally strengthen her respiratory system.

Eight months later, we have begun to wean Karyn off of the daily preventative QVAR inhaler with incredibly exciting results. Her overall health is excellent and her lung capacity and general immune function are strong. For the first time in almost three years, I truly believe that Karyn will fully heal. I am confident that there will be a day when daily drug treatment will no longer be necessary. I am just as confident that fitness will play a permanent role in Karyn’s life journey.

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Every day, I make decisions as both a mom and a cattle caregiver. I believe in the power of fitness — both for my children and my animals, and that governs my decision making process. There is tremendous beauty to be found in putting together the necessary pieces for well-being; and I love it when we can replace drugs with fitness in order to maintain optimal health.

 

 

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Filed under Family, General

Out Of the Mouths of Babes…

Thoughtful Thursday

My favorite farmer and I strive to raise our girls with a broad perspective of social and political knowledge.  Our family dinner conversations range from farming issues to World and American history and politics to random philosophical discussions.  The girls tend to groan when Matt or I take a comment that they make and turn it into an intellectual discussion, however, these cerebral sessions have become a family tradition :)

I think that it is important for young people to grow up with inquiring minds and a zest for learning.   Lengthy discussions and debates are a great way to foster this development, and also bring a new dimension to a family dinner.

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As part of the Duke TIP program at Trinity University that my favorite teenager participated in this summer, she was required to write four papers — all of which revolved around the general subject of Myths and Legends.  For this week’s Thoughtful Thursday post, I would like to share Ashley Grace’s Cosmology Essay for the class.

She was charged with the task of creating a story that explained the origin, evolution, and fate of her home state of Nebraska.  I think that her story draws on a full litany of topics that have highlighted our family dinner table discussions over the years, and I found it both enlightening and entertaining…

The Creation Story of Nebraska

In the beginning, before humans and animals roamed the earth, there was darkness. There were fifty gods, Flat, the god of a land known as Nebraska, was one. Flat was a good god, and had visions of a place where peace and happiness wore scarlet and cream. But, as in all places, good could not exist without evil. Flat’s nemesis, the god of Colorado, wanted the land all to himself.

Using the cover of darkness, Colorado stole the southwest corner of Nebraska, creating the panhandle. Flat and Colorado met slightly north of there and a great battle ensued. To this day, the Sandhills exist as a tribute to the fierce battle.

Flat, horrified at the destruction of his land, threw off the cover of darkness so that all the gods could see Colorado’s treachery. In shame and fury, Colorado fled, keeping his corner, back to his state. Colorado cursed one of the rivers Flat had created. The Plate River, for this reason, was split into two channels and is a shallow, muddy mess.

Now that his borders were secure, Flat turned his attention to matters closer to home. He was in love with the beautiful Dakota, and in an attempt to impress her, created the rolling hills of northeastern Nebraska. Dakota was not impressed, and showed that much by making the Badlands on the South Dakota, Nebraska border.

Flat became depressed and created a burning hot sun, and its opposite, a moon, made of the cold rock that was now his heart. Flat also made other terrors during this time. He created a howling wind, snow, famine, bugs, and all bad weather. After being sad, for so long, Flat forgot was it was like to be happy, and became an angry god.

In his rage, Flat made humans, doomed to forever fight against the unwilling ground for all necessities. The first humans, a male and female, created at the same time from more of Flat’s rock hard heart, had the five senses and not much else. All humans are descended from these beings. Flat poured all of his angry feelings into these humans, so that they were mean creatures, incapable of love.

But Flat, was in essence, a peaceful god. He soon realized what he had done to his people, and gave them great gifts. He gave them love, kindness, generosity, and most importantly, perseverance and the stubborn toughness they would need to farm the earth. He gave them animals, for his people needed meat and labor. He created flowers and rainbows and smiles to help them through the hard times.

When the first corn crop matured, Flat threw a celebration for the couple and their children. Flat took the corn kernels and set them in the sky as stars to forever remember the crop. Peace was brought to the land.

Colorado was not happy to see Flat’s state prosper, so he flew over the land at night, scattering seeds. These seeds grew into trees of all kinds, which were an inconvenience to Nebraskans, as they had to work harder to pull them out. Flat took all of the trees brought in by Colorado and placed them by the rivers to provide shelter to animals. Thus, this was not seen as a success on Colorado’s part.

Meanwhile, South Dakota had established a government and was bragging about her state to all the gods. Flat, remembering her rejection, decided to one up her. So, the thinkers of Nebraska were born. These intelligent beings created a government with a balanced budget and a unicameral to function more efficiently. They founded a college, UNL, and made the mascot the Cornhuskers, because the athletes had the same determination as the first farmers. The teams still wear scarlet and cream to symbolize the farmers’ blood and tears those first years.  Nebraska had begun.

***

Chimney Rock

Now, in Nebraska, there is a peculiar rock formation near Scottsbluff. This state landmark was created when Flat rested for the first time in his tumultuous reign. After creating his state, Flat was exhausted. He laid down on his heavenly bed and fell into a deep sleep. His snores sent burst of air down to earth, weathering away stone to create Chimney Rock.

Can you find possible topics of discussion at the Feed Yard Foodie dinner table amidst her story?  Please share them in the comment section!

Can you find possible topics of discussion at the Feed Yard Foodie dinner table amidst her story? Please share them in the comment section!

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Filed under Ashley Grace's Corner and The Chick Project..., General, Thoughtful Thursday

The EPA, WOTUS, and the Myth of Environmental Protection…

My favorite teenager arrived home last week after spending three weeks at Trinity University taking a course entitled “Myths and Legends”. As she walked out of the airport, she was quick to tell me that a myth “didn’t have to be based on the truth or science to be real, it simply had to be accepted as such by a subset of people.”

Her words have filtered through my thoughts many times over the past few days as I pondered the recent actions of the Environmental Protection Agency. On March 25th, the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers jointly proposed a regulation redefining what waters will come under Federal jurisdiction through a new definition of “Waters of the United States (WOTUS)” under the federal Clean Water Act.

The agencies have chosen to use the powers of the Executive Branch of government to redefine an already existing law, despite the fact that Congress refused to authorize a legislative change and the proposed rule goes against the definition of WOTUS upheld in the Federal Court system. A basic understanding of United States history would pull into question this action as it is a clear violation of the Checks and Balances System upon which our government was formed.

The proposed rule is a clear overreach of power by the Executive Branch of the United States government, cleverly disguised as environmental protection.

Our farm is diversified:  in addition to the cattle feed yard, we also have grass pasture land and crop ground.  This new definition would expand EPA's jurisdiction to include our pasture and farm ground...

Our farm is diversified: in addition to the cattle feed yard, we also have grass pasture land and crop ground. This new broad definition would expand EPA’s jurisdiction to include pasture and farm ground like ours (pictured above) because during times of heavy rains/flooding parts of this land are under water…

The 88 page document that likely requires legal counsel to fully understand makes many significant changes to expand the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency. Examples of them are as follows:

  • The rule effectively allows for federal jurisdiction over any and all water as the word “navigable” will be eliminated from the Clean Water Act. This means that ditches, ephemeral streams, rain water puddles or low areas of pasture or farm ground, as well as storm water conveyances in urban/municipal areas are now able to be regulated by the EPA. As such, federal permits may be required for “normal” practices both on farms and in the cities.
  • The rule usurps the jurisdiction of ground water protection from state agencies because the EPA and Army Corps fail to distinguish “shallow subsurface flow” from “groundwater” thereby opening it up for federal regulation.

    As part of my Nebraska State Operating Permit from the NE Dept. Of Environmental Quality, I test the ground water under my feed yard twice a year to ensure that there is no contamination.  Ground water protection has historically been regulated by state agencies...

    As part of my Nebraska State Operating Permit from the NE Dept. Of Environmental Quality, I test the ground water under my feed yard twice a year to ensure that there is no contamination. Ground water protection has historically been regulated by state regulatory agencies…

Additionally, an “interpretive rule” that was published alongside the proposed definition by the same federal agencies devastates the collaborative relationship that farmers and ranchers have built with the Natural Resources Conversation Services (NRCS) by turning the NRCS into an arm of the EPA and converting the NRCS scientists from professional consultants/resources into EPA regulators.

Together, these rules make the EPA the land-use planning agency for the entire country.

As a CAFO, my cattle farm is already under the jurisdiction of the EPA as the farm has held an NPDES permit through the agency for more than 20 years.

As a CAFO, my cattle feed yard has held an EPA–NPDES permit for more than 20 years.  Therefore, the feed yard part of our farm was already regulated by both the EPA and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality prior to this rule change…

I have had one direct exposure to the Environmental Protection Agency in my 17 year tenure on the farm, and it was clearly the worst single episode of my professional career. With no notice, two EPA agents arrived to perform a “routine inspection” despite the fact that my state regulatory agency normally performed this task.  They entered my office flashing badges and instructing me that I would go to jail if I did not cooperate with them.  Quite frankly, they treated me like I was guilty of a crime despite the fact that I was both innocent and fully cooperative.

As we toured the feed yard, there was a complete lack of civility in their demeanor augmented by an apparent ignorance of how my farm operated.  One of the agents stated “I’ve never been this close to a cow before” and mistook the dirt mounds of my cattle pens for manure.  They were clearly well versed in the words that appeared on my NPDES permit, but failed to have the basic knowledge of a feed yard in order to understand how those words were practically implemented to protect the environment.

Years later, as I have analyzed this experience as well as the continual political power-play in Washington DC, I have come to realize that sometimes the goal isn’t necessarily effective environmental protection, but rather a myth based power play perpetuated by a vocal minority to increase federal government control over the American people.

familypictureblkwhite.jpgI worry that it isn’t about the environment. Rather, it is about continually expanding federal government control into the grassroots areas of our country.

Preserving our Natural Resources is such an important task — Each one of us yearns to enjoy in our beautiful legacy.  Let’s work together responsibly to protect the Earth.  It is too much of a treasure to be used in political games.  The EPA and the Army Corps need to Ditch this Rule as it belittles the cornerstones of our country to egregiously expand federal government powers under the myth of environmental protection.

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, Farming, General

A Heavy Mind Filled with Heavy Issues…

While Mother Nature likely provides my biggest challenges at the feed yard, there exist a handful of other heavy issues that bring me frustration and pause as I manage my farm.  The past week or so, my mind has been filled with two of these issues as I debated the best way to write about them.

My dad always taught me to think before I spoke.  As a child, I remember him carefully choosing his words before he shared them.  As an adult, I now think of him and draw upon that example as I prepare to share with each of you.  My daughters will attest to the fact that “Mama always has an opinion”, but I am constantly assessing those opinions to further define my stance when I struggle with contentious issues.

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I had a plan to dedicate the next couple of weeks to two topics that both challenge and upset me in my journey as a farmer:

1. Combative and intrusive federal government regulation (as demonstrated recently by the Environmental Protection Agency).

2. Fear based marketing strategies (carried out by companies such as Chipotle).

I have dedicated time to researching the topics and rolled ideas around in my head periodically for days.  But today, I have to ask each of you to be patient with me as I am not yet at a place to share many written words on the topics.  Despite not being ready to publish a detailed blog on each of the above topics, I do want to share a couple initial thoughts as well as issue a promise that I will address them in further detail as soon as my brain finishes processing them…

  • America works when everyone works — preferably in a collaborative nature blending our goals and perspectives to make our country a better place.  A federal government who gains strength through bullying tactics both defies the Constitution and inhibits its’ citizens ability to prosper.
  • There is nothing more powerful to share than the truth — There is nothing more valuable than looking at the facts in order to make an educated decision.  Companies that market and increase value for their own products by creating unmerited fear and guilt in their customers take away from each American’s personal freedom of choice.

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This Friday, we celebrate Independence Day.  As we gather amongst friends and family to celebrate our past and provide hope for the future, let us all remember what makes our country strong —

Each individual American freely working with pride and integrity…

 

 

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Filed under Farming, General

1011 News and “Our Town Cozad”

1011 News out of Lincoln and Grand Island, Nebraska featured my favorite blonde cowgirl/chef and I Wednesday night on the evening news.  We participated in a series segment called “Our Town Cozad” where the news station spends a week focusing on interesting things relative to our small town to share with viewers.

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Over the years, our farm has hosted a number of different reporters, and I would like to issue a special thank you to Lance Schwartz of 1011 news for his genuine interest and kind demeanor during the interview.  It was an enjoyable morning as well as a great learning experience.

Click here to watch the 3 minute video of our farm story and my journey from the city to the cattle feed yard.

 

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Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General

Why We Write — Pass Along Questions…

My blogging friend at Seasonsgirl sent an intriguing “blogging pass along” my way this week. It delves into the mind of a blogger in an attempt to explain the question “Why We Write”. The intellectual in me loves these types of things, so here are my thoughts on the four questions asked of me…

Thoughtful Thursday!

What are you working on relative to writing?  I like to laugh that my blog is a labor of love. Writing is not something that a cattle feed yard manager does with any frequency, so blogging provides me with an outlet for my creative/writing interests. Because I have a busy family life with three daughters in addition to a farm of thousands of cattle and crop acres, at this time, my blog is my only writing project. The fifteen year plan is to write a book chronicling my journey from South Florida city girl to Nebraska cattle feed yard boss lady.

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What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?  Blogging is a personal journey for me, a sharing of my family and my farm, so it is intrinsically unique because of its personal nature. There are also not very many cattle feed yard owners/managers that participate in the world of social media which further adds to my uniqueness.

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Why do you write what you do?  My desire is to mix personal family stories and pictures with practical/real life experiences that I have on the farm.   At its’ very essence, I want to dispel the myth of the “factory farm” and place my CAFO in a truthful light. I am also in love with Rural America and my town of Cozad, and want to share the beauty of a rural lifestyle.

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How does your writing process work?  I view writing as one of my life’s vocations. I write when I have something to say or share, and I like both the format of writing in series and writing individual posts that come to me spontaneously. Writing also serves as an act of catharsis for me — a way for my brain to process experiences as well as focus on the blessings that occur in my daily life. It helps me to remain positive despite the challenges that I face. In the three years of my blogging journey, a love of photography has also developed, and sharing visual images of my family and farm has become a great passion.

Blogging has truly been a journey for me — what began as a simple desire to dispel myths relative to cattle farming and feed yards has turned into a process of personal growth. I learn so very much by sharing my farm, and truly value to feedback that I receive from my readers.

And now I tag two other writers that I want to learn more about:

 The first is Terryn at FaithFamilyBeef. I first met Terryn when she was a college student, and have watched her mature into a talented cattle woman as well as a dedicated and loving wife and mother. Terryn and her husband ranch in Western Nebraska about three hours from my farm.

The second is Robyn at RanchWifeChronicles. Robyn grew up in Nebraska but has made a life with her husband on a ranch in South Dakota.   She has been very helpful to me as I have learned the art of blogging and picture taking, and has served as a great mentor and resource.  She even came to visit our farm a couple of years ago which was really fun!

A big thanks to Seasonsgirl for inspiring me to think about why I write — Also, a big thanks to all of you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read my posts…

 

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Filed under General, Thoughtful Thursday