Pasture Raised, Grain Finished, Responsibly Grown — From Our Farm to Your Table
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind at the Feed Yard Foodie Farm. Nebraska enjoys 17 hours of daylight each day during the month of June, but the days still do not seem long enough to get everything finished…
In light of the organized chaos that has permeated our routine recently, I thought that I would share some random thoughts from the farm:
1. I took two different groups of fall born calves to our grass pasture to graze for the summer months. They are belly deep in grass and are likely pretty close to being in bovine heaven.
2. The Feed Yard had a Progressive Beef internal audit conducted by the Quality Assurance Director of the Beef Marketing Group. Heather does a great job of keeping all of us on our toes. The feed yard scored very well on the audit solidly qualifying for the Excellent Category getting 230.5 out of 232.5 points.
3. My favorite teenager went south to Texas for a three week nerd camp through the Duke University TIP program. She will spend her time taking a concentrated class on Myths and Legends (Greek, Roman, and Norse Mythology as well as Native American Legends) and the role that they play in the development of culture.
4. The rest of the family has picked up her chicken chores complete with finishing the chicken run so that the quickly growing birds could move into their new home.
5. The Cozad Swim Team, which I help to coach and the family all competes for, won the first two swim meets of the season with a strong showing of physical and mental fitness!
6. Finally, my favorite farmer and I celebrated our 18 wedding anniversary on Sunday. We stole away for a few hours to water ski that afternoon. I think that I likely found the only Nebraska farm boy with an incredible talent for water skiing that has ever attended Dartmouth College :) Needless to say, skiing at the lake on a summer afternoon is one of the many things that we love to do together.
I hope to get into a more regular writing pattern over the next few weeks, but you all will have to bear with me during the swimming season as I spend 10-15 hours a week on the pool deck coaching which wrecks havoc with my blogging schedule!
In the meantime, we are wishing you and your families fun summer times!
Today our community lay to rest a beautiful woman — A woman who quietly demonstrated the splendor of living with grace — Eternally radiating joy and optimism amidst her strong and steadfast faith.
There is something magical about a person that radiates joy. Optimism serves as a magnet, and others naturally look to that special person for support and mentoring. I am not sure that I ever really knew someone whose heart and soul were so full of such unselfish joy before I met Judy.
My favorite farmer was blessed to know her his entire life — the mom of his close friend, Judy had a hand in gently guiding him down his early life path. In typical “Judy fashion” she extended this love to me when I moved to Cozad, and then to my girls when they entered the world.
I believe that there are many who are called “Mother” by a few, but there are a few very special people that are called to be a “mother” to many.
Judy was one of those special few, and she played this role with an exquisite blend of compassion and empathy. Her love for others was followed closely by a love of music. A talented piano player and organist, Judy shared her gift with many. My girls were blessed to have her as a piano teacher from the time that my favorite teenager started Kindergarten.
Those almost 10 years of piano lessons taught my girls so very much more than music literacy — Judy passed on to them the joy and harmony that comes from a life based on faith. One that is celebrated by music and dancing, and centered in a strong love of God.
Judy had a way of “softening” those around her — reminding us to focus on the priorities of love and faith. It was in this capacity that she most affected my life. There have been countless times in the last 17 years that this “hard-nosed feed yard boss lady” needed a lesson in unconditional love and acceptance of others. It seemed as though whenever I needed this most, I would look up and see Judy smiling at me with a look in her eye that spoke volumes.
As I sat in the church today, I could hear Judy telling me to look for the joy — The joy that comes from unselfishly sharing yourself with others. Through my tears, I could picture her encouraging me to live with grace—to strive to be the light that allows everyone else’s talents to shine just a little bit brighter.
I call the following mediation from Mother Teresa, “Judy’s Prayer”, because it describes my friend with a beautiful poetic clarity.
Joy shows from the eyes, it appears when one speaks and walks. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. When people find in your eyes that habitual happiness, they will understand that they are the beloved children of God.
As I drive across the Sandhills of Nebraska, I see the above image frequently. I find peace as I look at the metal replica of a cowboy tipping his hat in prayer.
Today, I make a request more than providing a thought for Thursday. I ask that each one of you take a moment to pray for a dear friend of mine who will soon take her place in heaven.
Judy helped to bring the words of Mother Teresa to me some time ago
– while there are many that I ponder –
below are the ones that I grasp for during these challenging times…
Yesterday is Gone.
Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today.
Let us begin.
My favorite farmer and I have been known to pontificate to our girls about the importance of diversity in the business context of our farm. While both of us would argue that our pontifications frequently fall upon deaf ears, the girls obviously listen enough to be able to use our words to manipulate a situation!
Normally our discussions about diversification revolve around cattle, traditional and organically grown crops, and learning how to market the fruits of our farm effectively. About a month ago, my favorite teenager announced that “in order to further diversify our farm, that our family should get layer chickens.” After all,
“Dad always says that we should be equal opportunity barnyard supporters.”
My immediate answer was “No” as I was not looking to add to my own chore load. Because she is a product of two very stubborn people, instead of abandoning the idea, my daughter proceeded to fully research layer hens via the internet and asking questions of chicken enthusiasts. She impressed me with her thorough research and plan development, and the next thing that I knew she had talked her Dad into going to the lumber yard for supplies to construct a coop.
What began as a family joke metamorphed into a terrific “father-daughter” project. The coop that Ashley Grace constructed is beautiful, functional, and should make a nice home for the 5 Rhode Island Red chicks that our family adopted Memorial Day weekend. The “run” has yet to be constructed because the little chicks will spend the next few weeks growing in an old livestock water tank that she adapted for the chicks.
I am laughing that the new screened in porch that we built last fall is now home to the chicks instead of the patio furniture that I intended to fill it with, and I am chalking this experience up to “the things that we agree to do for our children”. I hope that this will be a fruitful learning experience for all three of the girls, as they will be the primary caregivers for these new “food animals” at our house.
You might wonder what my favorite teenager has decided to name her new chicks…
In keeping with her “intellectual personality”, Ashley Grace named the chicks after Shakespeare characters and a Norse Mythology God:
My favorite farmer is having nightmares about what she may name our future grandchildren…
The University of Texas’s school slogan is:
The above is a picture of the 41 young athletes that attended our kickoff season swim team retreat over Memorial Day.
When I look at them, I see the future.
When I coach them, I teach them to work hard and to believe in excellence.
With each swim practice they become stronger: physically and mentally;
and I smile knowing that
While 80 degrees is “short sleeve” weather for my favorite blonde cowgirl, 55 degrees is “short sleeve” weather for my cattle. Cattle (at least those of northern origin) are much more cold tolerant than heat tolerant. The weather in Nebraska is often one of extremes, and spring and summer are marked by temperature fluxes of upward of forty degrees in any given day.
While Megan and I can take off our favorite hooded sweatshirts as the temperature swings, cattle are left with the same hair coat on any given day. Beginning in early April, my animals begin to shed their heavy winter coats but it is a gradual process for them. Cattle can acclimate to warmer temperatures approximately one degree per day and, once acclimated to summer, have an upper critical temperature threshold in the low to mid 80′s.
When temperatures soar above the critical threshold, my job as cattle caregiver becomes even more important. In particular, providing a constant source of fresh cool water is vital as higher temperatures result in a double in a bovine’s water requirement (from 10% of body weight to 20% of body weight). Next to water, air flow / wind is a bovine’s best friend. Wind will decrease the heat index temperatures equal to the MPH strength of the air flow, and also tends to decrease humidity which makes temperatures more comfortable.
We have a list of heat management protocols that we follow at the feed yard to aid our animals in the heat of the summer months:
This year, I am adding an extra tool for heat stress management in an effort to increase the comfort of my animals. I purchased several “cattle shades” to place in pens where larger (closer to market) animals reside. I am excited to see if this increases cattle comfort as we enter into the months of summer.
At this point, we are still patiently waiting for some warmer temperatures, but I can report that my animals appear to enjoy both rubbing/scratching on the bases of the shades as well as napping in the shade underneath them. This pen of steers pictured was incredibly fascinated by my favorite blonde as she posed for a photo shoot on one of the cattle shades. They gathered up behind her curiously until she decided to jump up on the bars and go for a swing!
They must have sensed her desire to play because as she got down from the shade arm several of them came running back up to her. In typical Megan fashion, she laughed as she turned toward them and asked them to move out of her space.
Megan’s kind of sunshine doesn’t need any shade…