Category Archives: Ashley Grace’s Corner and The Chick Project…

Finding Her Voice…

My favorite brunette entered the world in the year AF3 (year 3 of working at the feed yard).  She arrived three weeks early after a complicated pregnancy that wreaked havoc on our normal fall cattle processing chores. She came out screaming, and her birth (albeit a loud one) created one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

christmastreeagdonkey1-jpgI have spent the last 17 years watching her find her voice. From the first melodious baby sounds, to words, to sentences, and finally the mature and engaging insight (laced with a tad of sarcasm) that she routinely shares today. Last week, my favorite speech loving Haymaker spent three days in Cheyenne, WY at the National Forensics League Regional Qualifier competition.

She emerged a victor earning herself the right to compete this summer in Birmingham, AL at the National Finals in the International Extemporaneous speaking event. This event involves drawing a topic, spending the next 60 minutes writing a speech addressing it, and then delivering a 7 minute oratory to judges. The really talented kids give a poised, on topic speech complete with quoted sources to back up their argument — all without a note card…

It’s nothing short of awesome!

One day it occurred to me that perhaps Ashley Grace and I found our voices together.  As she grasped the English language and developed a knack for writing an engaging and organized speech, I opened my life outside of our family and our farm to help agriculture find its voice.  The art of public speaking and sharing the story of bovine feed yard life does not normally appear together in a feed yard manager’s skill set…But I found my niche as I found my voice.

In 2017, the need for eloquent and honest farmer voices grows exponentially as social media tops the list of “sources” for the discussion of healthy and responsibly raised food. We need our farm kids to learn the art of finding their voices just as we need them to learn the science that will allow agriculture to prosper on into the future. This unique combination of skills could well determine the stability and sustainability of our country’s food supply in addition to opening or closing the gate on many farmers’ individual agricultural journeys.

Monday I will make my way to Lincoln to be a guest lecturer at the University of Nebraska.  The goal of my lecture is to engage and inspire the next generation of farmers to effectively find their voices while they responsibly grow food. I am the first non-PhD to lead this particular yearly guest lecture on UNL’s agricultural campus — A sign of the growing importance of mentoring outside of the classroom in order to offer a more complex and multifaceted approach to education.

Just as I believe in the power of the next generation, I also believe that it will require the joining of the boots on the ground with the more traditional science background to prepare our future agricultural leaders. I am very proud to be able to play a role in that.

Unlike my favorite brunette, I will head to Lincoln with a pre-organized plan and a power point presentation.  However, I share her love of extemporaneous speaking which provides me with an incredibly useful tool when leading an intellectual discussion with a lecture hall full of gifted students.

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My mom always taught me the importance of becoming adept at expressing my thoughts and ideas — I guess the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree 😉

 

 

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42 Reasons We Love You…

Tuesday, I put 42 years on the books.  My daughters, led by my favorite brunette, gave me a really awesome birthday gift.  It warmed my  heart and was so perfect that I decided that I needed to share it with each of you.

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Image credit: Katie Arndt Photography

I woke up to find a written list entitled: 42 Reasons We Love You…

  1. You push us to be our best selves.
  2. You always support us in following our dreams — even when they inconvenience you.
  3. What you see is what you get.
  4. You do everything with your whole heart.
  5. You don’t hide the way that you feel.
  6. You’re confident in your own skin.
  7. You can still beat most of the high school boys in a push-up contest.
  8. You donate so much of your time to your community and those you love.
  9. You make us sing the wrong words to songs.
  10. You always have a goal,
  11. And you work hard to achieve it.
  12. You always see things through to the end.
  13. You’re a glass half-full kind of gal.
  14. Your not afraid to own the room,
  15. And you command it so well.
  16. You’re not ostentatious,
  17. You quietly find a way to show your talents.
  18. You uphold your values and beliefs in everything that you do.
  19. You taught us that “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll always fall for anything.”
  20. You’re a planner,
  21. But when you don’t have one, you fake it well.
  22. You treat everyone with respect, no matter their age, gender, beliefs, or intelligence.
  23. You taught us that God made everyone different, and that’s a good thing.
  24. You’ve encouraged us to leave home and see the world,
  25. Plus you’re paying for us to do it!
  26. You’ve shown that holding a grudge will only wear you down,
  27. And that forgiveness lightens the heart.
  28. Because of you, we know that good is the enemy of great.
  29. We’ve seen your incredible work ethic throughout the years and been inspired by it.
  30. You are an example of how to live and love life to the fullest.
  31. You embrace PDA and let us know that true love only grows.
  32. You’re not afraid to be a little goofy,
  33. And you put up with Dad being more than a little goofy.
  34. You tell us to Pack Our FAITH,
  35. And constantly encourage us to look for God in our lives.
  36. You appreciate the natural beauty of the world.
  37. On that note, you allow our house to be in its natural state of lived-in messy.
  38. You take our fashion advice with little complaint (and sometimes even ask for it!)
  39. You don’t know what swag, lit, or OG mean, but you still manage to be the coolest person in the world.
  40. You are an impartial judge of character.
  41. And a great listener.
  42. But most of all, you’re our Mom!

My girls are my greatest blessing and I am so proud to be their mom…

 

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A Lesson In Perspective…

Grandma made the trip from Florida to Nebraska to watch :)

Grandma made the trip from Florida to Nebraska to watch 🙂

My favorite 16 year old brunette traded her basketball shoes for high heels this winter when she became a member of the 2016 Haymaker Speech Team. Her long-time dream of attending an Ivy League college combined with the intellectual nature that she inherited from her mildly nerdy parents led her to the path of public speaking. She began the season as a novice participator and ended it as a varsity competitor at the Nebraska Class B State Meet on Wednesday.

Ashley Grace qualified for state in the Extemporaneous Speaking category. An incredibly unique event, Extemporaneous Speaking involves drawing a topic from a large pool of both global and domestic current events to create a 5-7 minute speech citing specific news resources to support the oratory content. Each competitor has 1 hour to write and prepare the speech before presenting it to a judge/judges. Every meet involves the entrants competing in 2-3 rounds (2 preliminary, 1 final) drawing different topics for each round.

I have to admit that I nudged my favorite brunette toward this topic because I recognized the invaluable life skills that it would help her to develop. Learning to intelligently convey your thoughts in an effective, organized, and interesting manner ranks at the top of Anne’s list of life skills. Being able to do it publically in front of a judge, under the pressure of time constraints, is nothing short of awesome. I watched my daughter evolve from a nervous and unconfident competitor to a poised, thought provoking, and eloquent speaker over the span of four months.

While the season far surpassed any expectation that I had as a parent, it ended in a sea of frustration for my daughter. After winning the first round at the state meet, she delivered what I believed to be the best speech of her career in the 2nd round. Her seven minute oratory on necessary changes within the Republican Party leadership in order to rein in fringe candidates was clever, organized, and beautifully presented. Unfortunately, the judge did not agree with her interpretation of the topic question and, as a result, scored her so harshly that she fell short of qualifying for finals.

The experience provided an interesting lesson in perspective…

One could argue that a differing personal interpretation of an open ended question should not result in such a punitive score reduction. This action ultimately denied her an opportunity to compete in the finals, but I think that perhaps the lesson is much larger than placing at the Nebraska State Speech meet. The lesson did not appear in the lost medal; rather, it originated in the season long acquisition of a valuable public speaking skill and culminated in the realization that the same words on a paper can mean different things to different people.

It is hard for many of us to recognize that perspective colors interpretation; but that is a reality. Neither the judge nor my daughter were wrong on Wednesday, they simply interpreted words differently as a result of having unique perspectives. I cannot begin to count the times in my ag-vocating journey where this has occurred. Perhaps one of my most valuable acquired life skills came from the realization that the blending of eclectic perspectives leads to learning and personal growth. The first step in this process is accepting that words and views can be meaningfully interpreted from multiple angles.

I am incredibly proud of Ashley Grace – the poise that she displayed this week as well as the hard work that went into her public speaking transformation warms my heart. While it may take a few days for her to let go of the disappointment of the lost medal, I am confident that she will ultimately realize that that the true prize exists in a broadened perspective and the maturity that comes from being able to look at the world from a variety of angles.

My favorite farmer fervently wishes that the leaders of our National Republican Party could have listened to the words of her speech – perhaps then our country would be able to climb out of its current political quagmire 😉

 

 

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Measuring Care By Productivity…

Thoughtful Thursday

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Every proud mama is entitled to brag every now and then…

This Thoughtful Thursday I give a special “shout out” to my daughters for their outstanding care to our laying hens, and to my favorite farmer for the nutrient filled alfalfa dehy that we mix with the chickens’ regular feed.  Rhode Island Reds give an average of 220 to 280 eggs per year — that equals approximately 0.6-0.8 eggs per hen per day — with the winter months being the least productive due to cold temperatures and short days.

Ashley Grace’s chickens produced at a rate of 1.08 eggs per hen per day during the month of November and the first week of December.

Good nutrition and quality care = Productive Food Animals

Well Done–You make me proud!

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A Tribute To Our Veterans…

Last week we celebrated Veteran’s Day.  My oldest two daughters each wrote winning essays honoring those who have served our country.  I share them both with you all today as I believe that the writings show clearly the personalities of my girls…

My favorite 7th grade cowgirl...

My favorite 7th grade cowgirl’s Patriot’s Pen Essay: Why I appreciate America’s Veterans…

I appreciate America’s veterans because without them we would not be the country we are today. All of the men and women that serve our country must have a tremendous amount of faith, courage, determination, and love for their country. To leave your family behind and go out on the battle field, whether it is on the seas, in the air, or on the ground, is amazingly brave.

Our veterans do so much to help make our lives better. Without them, we might still be under the control of Great Britain; or still be enslaving blacks in the southern United States; or be controlled by the Nazi Party! Most of the luxuries that we take for granted are because of those who are or were fighting to defend our rights.

The men and women who wear our colors are special to me because my great-grandma had to share my great-grandpa with our country and have faith that he would come home. My great- grandpa served as a Navy officer on the submarine Peter Greenling during World War II. It was hit twice by underwater missiles from Japanese Bombers. Both times when the ship was hit they had to return to harbor for repairs.

While serving, my great-grandfather faced challenges that he turned into opportunities. Bird- watching, astrology, and walking were three later in life hobbies that came from these challenges. He first developed a love for bird watching as the night watch on the Peter Greenling, when he had to be able to tell wether the objects above were seagulls or Japanese Bombers. He also used the stars to guide the submarine, because he was THE navigational officer on board, and number two in command. My great-grandpa developed a love for walking and running, because he was in such cramped quarters on the submarine.

Changing challenges into opportunities is something that makes veterans special. Seeing the troubles of the world can change the way you look at things. Instead of looking at things as bad experiences, looking at them with a positive attitude can make you a better person. I wish I had more time to get to know my great-grandpa because he was a wonderful, joyous, and exciting person. Having a positive outlook on the world and people living here; even though we have our flaws; makes our country stronger as a whole.

My favorite 9th grade brunette intellectual's Voice of Democracy winning essay...

My favorite 9th grade intellectual’s Voice of Democracy: Why veterans are important to our past and future…

 

Close your eyes. Imagine a world where a group of people live in fear of persecution. Picture a land that doesn’t believe in freedom of mind. Think of a place that exercises oppression, and complete control by government. Now open them. We are lucky enough not to live like this because of the bravery of the veterans who have defended our country throughout the years. Veterans are important to our nation because of the lessons and values they taught and defended in the past, the role they play in our present, and the insight they can provide for our future.

History is often dismissed by students as “unimportant” because it has already happened.   But what if it hadn’t happened? What if the past did not play out the way it did? What if we all still had afternoon tea and used the loo? If visiting California entailed leaving the country? These examples are from a time early in our history, but if we fast forward through the ages, we come to a more important question: What if our WWII soldiers did not persevere? Let’s take a look at a critical point in our history, where the role of veterans cannot be discounted.

Imagine 2015. Germany, who now in conjunction with Italy, rules the continent of Europe, has spread across the Atlantic Ocean, and claimed the eastern half of what once was America. Gone are the pre-war values of the United States. A Nazi flag flies over a school in the American Republic of Germany. Students recite the oath of allegiance in German, which is the primary language. The percentage of German Americans, which in 1940 was about 32%, is now 80%. The students now sit, and listen to the latest propaganda being broadcasted by the Leader and Chancellor. In the capital, New Berlin, lines of green clad soldiers with swastikas on their lapels practice military drills under the watchful eye of the Commander in Chief of the Nazi army, a man hand picked by Adolph Hitler.  

About a thousand miles away, in what used to be the west coast of the Unites States of America, the Greater Japanese Empire now exists. Japanese is now spoken throughout the country and the primary religions are Shinto and Buddhism. Temples dot the country side, which is mainly used to provide resources for the ever-growing empire. Schools teach triumphantly of the defeat of the US forces in that fall of 1945.

In between the coasts sits the land that so often is forgotten about. The states that once occupied the middle of America, the Bread Basket of the World, are desolate, bare plains. In the aftermath of the war, the various leaders of the Axis force quickly claimed land in the Central United States, for the abundant natural resources that were located there. When it came time to divvy up the conquered territories, an agreement could not be found. Air raids and stealth attacks followed. Finally, a compromise was found, but not before the land was basically useless. The wasteland now sits as a divider between the two nations. The loss of WWII cost this region its dignity.

Fortunately, this whole scenario didn’t happen. The WWII veterans that we honor still today came through for us, saving the world from a future no one wants to imagine. Because of their bravery and sacrifice, we now enjoy many freedoms as Americans. We have made it our mission to share these freedoms with the world.

Freedom of speech, freedom of press, and the right to bear arms. All of these rights that we have as Americans are insured by our military might. Here in the US, we are able to express our feelings, defend ourselves, and vote to change the way our country is run. The checks and balances system we have ensures that we will never have power hungry officials take over. We have freedom of religion and relative equality of the sexes, attributes that make America attractive to immigrants all over the world. Our veterans have made it possible for us to live lives not tarnished by worry over war in our own home. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for all countries.

The USA has military interests in many countries, especially in the Middle East. As a country, America has taken it upon itself to defend the rights of people who are unable to defend themselves. Recent veterans, ones who have served tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, have helped establish basic rights for minorities and oppressed people. Our veterans have truly made a difference in the lives of people all over the world.

The effect that our soldiers have on the world is substantial. Even though peace is the goal, our presence right now is considered necessary by leaders. As we withdraw from foreign conflicts, our veterans have a lot they can teach us, such as teamwork skills and unshakeable integrity.

It is said that we must study history in order to learn from our mistakes in the past. In the future, our veterans can advise world leaders on whether to engage in combat or not. Veterans can also pass down lessons learned during their time in the military to make the US a better place. According America’s Job Exchange, former military personnel have great integrity as well as a better understanding of teamwork and communication skills, which are both vital to success. If the older generations can provide a good example for their descendants, the world will slowly change for the better.

Our country has been shaped over the years by countless acts of selflessness and bravery performed by our veterans. In the past, they fought to keep our borders safe, now they fight in foreign countries to defend our freedoms- and to try to establish them for others-, and in the future, they will continue to provide us with defense and wisdom which we can use to keep America the Home of the Free.

Think back to that future I had you imagine. Pretty awful, right? Now think of the world we live in now. Which one would do you prefer?

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Haymaker Victory!

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My favorite 9th grader and her Cozad Haymaker teammates brought home the team trophy last night at the first Cross Country meet of the season.  Ashley Grace earned the 6th place individual medal in the varsity girls race with a time of 21:22.6.

I figure that gives me bragging rights as a 6:53 minute mile average for her first 5K race is pretty awesome 🙂

She’s fueled by beef and tenacity —Have you had your steak tonight?

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Ashley Grace’s Heroic Journey…

Thoughtful Thursday

Heroic journeys, myths that tell the story of heroes, played an important role in early culture by inspiring and unifying the people.  My favorite teenager was tasked with writing her own heroic journey story this summer as part of the Duke TIP program at Trinity University.

On this Thoughtful Thursday, I challenge each of you to think of your life as a heroic journey and find inspiration in your own perseverance…

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The Story of Me

            December 9, 1999.  It is a cold, snowy day, or so I am told.  In Cozad, Nebraska, Anne and Matt Burkholder are waiting for the birth of their first child. The baby, who has already tried to enter the world a few months earlier, has the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck, and the doctors order a C-section. Three weeks early, I am born at about 5:30 P.M.

My life had begun.

            I was a bossy child. Being the oldest, I spent my first 2 ½ years in a household where I was the queen. My world was rocked when my parents brought home my sister; again the world shook 3 years later. Shortly after my youngest sister was born, my mom was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that caused her thyroid to produce its hormones too fast. Six year old Ashley was suddenly thrust into a world of responsibility; a world where I was the one cleaning and taking care of the kids while my dad worked. All I remember from this period was the house always being dark so that my mom could rest.

            Once she recovered, my mom threw herself into making up for the lost time. I did every sports activity offered in town. I participated in Destination Imagination, a program where teams are given problems to solve and they make a skit to display the solutions. I did speech and essay competitions galore. We went to Kenya for Christmas one year, where I learned not to take my life for granted.

            In seventh grade, I was allowed to do school sports. I soon fell in love with Cross Country, and have learned so many life lessons pounding the pavement of Cozad. I participated in HAL mod, where we took the ACT, and did Quiz bowl and History Day. Last summer, I went to the UK with my grandma, which prepared me for spending long amounts of time away from home.

            In January, I got an envelope from Duke TIP inviting me to come to a summer camp. That was really my herald, bringing the possibility of an adventure. I was all for it, but my grandma and guidance counselor/cross country coach had to convince my mom first. She finally said yes, and six months later I walked through the doors of Prassel Castle, not knowing what to expect.

            My plane had been delayed, so I arrived late. Consequently, everyone was at Orientation and I sat alone in the back. Afterwards, I didn’t know anyone, so I went back to Prassel inconspicuously following a group of girls, but not quite walking with them. I felt so alone. Once I was introduced to my RC group, however, I rebounded quickly. My roommate, Leah, and my entire group have become good friends and allies.

            The first day of class, I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to be as smart as everyone else. I had been having nightmares that I would get sent home because of my inadequacy. Of course, I soon learned better, and began to really enjoy class. Miss Wiley has become a sort of mentor, because she made me realize how powerful I am and that I can change the world.

            Running consistently has been another struggle I have faced here. The morning runs didn’t start until four days after camp began, and I stressed about whether I would be able to achieve 200 miles this summer. I have also had trouble setting my alarm, so I have not been able to go to every run. This experience has certainly taught me to be more responsible!

            So far I have tried so many things I never thought I would get the chance to, including, but not limited to, authentic Mexican food, Ultimate Frisbee, yoga, and brick painting. I also have an awesome tutu to show for this summer, and I can’t wait for the TIP-Sync competition and Tiger Fest.

            I think that my shadows on this trip have been my own demons. It has been my own insecurity or self-doubt that have plagued me during this adventure. The threshold guardians have in some way, been my family. My youngest sister would not let go of me as I climbed into the car, and my mom’s teary eyes almost made me give up.

            In the future, I hope these trials will have made it possible for me to graduate high school, (valedictorian, please!) and go to a good college (possibly Stanford, or an Ivy). I want to work with underprivileged children as a teacher and friend, in this country or others. Hopefully, I will get married and have children, and be as good of a mother as mine was for me.

My story has just begun.

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Equal Opportunity Barnyard Supporters…

Since we missed "Thoughtful Thursday", instead you get Friday update on the chickens from my favorite teenager...

Since we missed “Thoughtful Thursday”, instead you get a Friday update on the chickens from my favorite teenager…

As you all know, the Burkholder Family gained five new members at the start of the summer. Ten weeks later, they are no longer tiny, fluffy balls that fit in the palm of my hand: the “ChickiDees” are formidable feathered friends.

"Sliding" down the ramp...

“Sliding” down the ramp…

Although they were reluctant at first, the Burkholder chickens spend the great majority of their day in the the fenced in run, aka “The Forest”. Their hobbies include playing Hide and Seek in the tall weeds, squawking over the food dish, and pecking the hand that feeds them.

Juliet has also expressed an interest in becoming dog food. (A few weeks ago she was almost eaten when Shellie grabbed her from the coop and ran around a bit. Apart from being completely traumatized for a few days, she was perfectly unharmed.)

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“Shellie”

Their favorite color is alfalfa dust green, as they have been known to eat the dust off the top of the food. They also enjoy cherries, and, to my disbelief, squash and other vegetables from the garden.

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Our four barn cats showed quite a bit of interest in the coop during its building phase, and you will be pleased to know that the interest has not waned. The yellow cats especially, Simba and Little Bit, take great pleasure in spending their leisure sitting outside of the run. Simba also likes to climb on top of the run and peer down at his imagined entree. The chickens have eventually become desensitized to this behavior, and it is now a game to mock the cats.

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All in all, I believe the chickens have transitioned into their place at Casa de Loca, and like all of our animals, have truly found The Good Life. They are rapidly growing on my own special diet of alafalfa dust, vegetable scraps, 5 Seconds of Summer music, and The Fault in Our Stars quotes.  The last ones definitely have the greatest effect……

Author Extraordinaire: Ashley Grace

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