Category Archives: Foodie Work!

I Saw God Today…

One of my favorite songs is George Strait’s classic I Saw God Today It speaks to me — warms my heart — and balances my perspective.

I’ve been to church
I’ve read the book
I know he’s here
But I don’t look
Near as often as I should
Yeah, I know I should
His fingerprints are everywhere
I just slowed down to stop and stare
Opened my eyes and man I swear
I saw God today

Late this fall, I struggled terribly to find balance in my life. There were so many requests — so many demands — so many responsibilities — that I became lost in a sea of chaos. I felt stripped of energy, tired of giving, and emptied out inside. When I looked about me, the world had lost it color just as I had lost my spark.

My equilibrium failed and I lost my natural tendency to:

  • Look for God
  • See the good
  • Count my blessings

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To recognize that just as I give, I must also receive — for if we fail to refuel our minds and our hearts, they run dry.

After my Turkey-Less Tetrazzini post in December, many of you reached out to me and shared similar struggles. It became quickly apparent that I was not alone in my battle to maintain balance.

I found comfort in that offer of comradery – thank you for that.

I spent the weeks following that post searching for an answer, a secret, to maintaining fitness amidst the endless tsunami of responsibilities.  I think best while exercising, so as I traversed up and down the swimming pool, and pounded the pavement walking and running; I slowly realized where I had gone amiss.

I remembered the words of George Strait’s song, and made a new resolution:

No matter how hectic the day, I will pause to look for God.

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  • I will see him on my farm which will refuel my desire to CARE: for my animals, for my crew, and for those lives that I touch with the gift of food.
  • I will see him in my home, in the eyes of my children, which will refuel my desire to SUSTAIN for the future that we will build together as a family.
  • I will see him in my community, in my neighbor, which will refuel my desire to SHARE for I know that together we are stronger.
  • I will see him in the natural beauty that creates the plains of Nebraska, which will refuel my desire to PERSEVERE – never faltering in my desire to pursue excellence amidst the awesomeness of Mother Nature.

At the end of each day, I will reflect on the times that I felt God’s presence – refueling for the next day – finding peace amongst the chaos of life.

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Did you pause to see God today?

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Filed under Family, Foodie Work!

Blogging Reflections…

WordPress sends out “blogging highlights” at the end of each calendar year.  Feed Yard Foodie saw 79,000 views in 2014 over the course of 94 new posts.  My longstanding goal is to get two blog posts up a week — I didn’t miss that by too much (average of 1.8 over the course of the year).

Perhaps the most interesting to me is to see which blog posts get the most “reads” and are earmarked as the most popular posts of the year.  Sometimes these align with my own personal favorite posts, and sometimes they do not.

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The below five posts are the most popular of the year determined by statistics…

5 Lessons that I want my children to learn before they go to college.

Why I prefer a cattle feed yard to a shopping mall.

Kindred Spirits

Setting the Stage

Chipotle isn’t any fun to write about.

On a personal note, the following posts are my favorites for 2014…

The Best Part of Me

I Am From

Out Of the Mouths of Babes

Alliances

Roots

I also have a personal affinity toward the most viewed post of the year (5 Lessons that I want my children to learn before going to college). 

This post came from a deep part of me as I struggled with a difficult situation.  Honestly, I wrote it as a way to achieve personal balance. I was pleasantly surprised that so many others identified with it.  This post ended up being as close to a viral post as Feed Yard Foodie achieved in 2014.

Do you have a favorite FYF post for 2014? 

If so, please share — I am always interested in which posts you all enjoy reading.

A special thank you to each and every one of you for taking the time to read my posts and share a part of your lives in 2014.

I am starting off 2015 speaking at Kansas State University this week, so I am headed down to Manhattan, KS to visit all of you Wildcat fans :)

 

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Americans Need To Engage…

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…

Two hundred and twenty seven years ago, our forefathers created a document designed to guide our country to greatness. I believe that these savvy men realized that our country’s journey would be riddled with challenges. As such, they recognized that a broad diversity of intelligence and talents in addition to a governance system based on a separation of powers would be necessary to create a sustainable future for our young country.americanwindmill.jpg

The heart of a democracy lies in the grassroots involvement of its citizens. These citizens engage their government leaders and consequently have an important impact on the direction of the country. There is a responsibility that goes along with the privilege of living in a democratic nation — this responsibility begins with voting but extends far beyond this influence. It is a two way obligation between elected leaders and those that they represent.

Leadership of the people, By the people, and For the people…

The framework of our government allows for three branches (Executive, Legislative, Judicial) and, provided these branches operate within their given authority, a separation of powers offers protection from individual abuses of power. On paper the system works, and it provided our country with an effective framework for many years.

My parents raised me to value many of the same things that I believe motivated our forefathers: personal responsibility, integrity and hard work. I carry these principles with me each day as I raise my children and my cattle on our farm. I look for those values in the politicians that lead our country, as well as the governmental framework that they operate within.

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While today I strive to be a proud American, I struggle to find pride in the bastardized form of democracy that is currently running our country. The unprecedented growth of our federal government and its arrogant overreach into the lives of grassroots America leaves me saddened and frustrated.

While my crystal ball is not perfectly clear, I worry that my children will live in a land:

  • Where the federal government is the largest employer in our country…
  • Where the eternal flame of entrepreneurship is extinguished by regulations and bureaucratic red tape…
  • Where activist groups and a handful of politicians who cater to them rule with little care for the wishes of the vast majority of citizens…
  • Where the democratic government laid out by the Constitution is nothing more than a façade under which the President of the United States and the Majority Senate Leader rule with total power as they defy the system carefully laid out by our forefathers…

It is time for Americans to engage — the behavior of some elected officials in Washington DC mocks the cornerstones on which our country was built.

Our system is broken and abuses of power are rampant. We all have the opportunity to engage:

  • Contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives.
  • Offer comments to President Obama and the regulatory agencies that he uses to implement his selfish platform.
  • Vote on November 4th.
  • Uphold your responsibility as a citizen of the United States of America.

    Something this beautiful is worth protecting...

    Something this beautiful is worth protecting…

It is time to once again have a government:

Of the People, By the People and For the People…

 

Political engagement letters by Feed Yard Foodie:

https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/the-best-letter-that-i-never-had-to-mail/

https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/the-epa-wotus-and-the-myth-of-environmental-protection/

https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/did-you-know/

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Foodie Work!, General, Rural Communities

Connecting the Dots…

The vast majority of cattle have more than one address during their lifetime.  This occurs because of the long life cycle of a bovine as well as the diverse resources needed to grow beef.  Most of my cattle spend the first 8-15 months on the home ranch before traveling to my feed yard, and then ultimately a few months later to the Tyson Foods packing plant in Lexington, NE.

2011 Steers from the Denke's ranch...

2011 Steers from That A Way ranch…

About a dozen years ago, my father in law told me to design my own niche business model and start purchasing cattle that would enable it to be successful.  The model that I designed is based on tracing cattle from birth to harvest — focusing on building collaborative relationships all along the calf life cycle in order to work toward continuous improvement.

I soon discovered that building relationships with ranchers was much easier if I also acted as the cattle buyer, the person that orchestrated the deal between the rancher and the feed yard.  I perform this role in more than 85% of the transitions of cattle off of the ranch of origin into my feed yard.  I love the time that I spend interacting with ranchers — getting to know their families as well as their cattle herds — working each year to share information that will improve cattle performance, beef quality, and animal welfare.

The sunrise that gave a beautiful start to my day as I traveled to the ranch...

The sunrise that gave a beautiful start to my day as I traveled to the ranch.

I left home Wednesday morning at 5:15am to head north to Donita and Larry Denke’s That A Way ranch.  I met Donita and Larry through their son, Tony, who was a member of our Cozad community for a number of years.  Our children were friends, and Matt and I helped coach Tony’s kids on the youth track team.  Larry and Donita have a beautiful Red Angus cow herd, and their steers that I purchase are phenomenal beef producing animals.

Fall on the ranch is breathtakingly beautiful...

Fall on the ranch is breathtakingly beautiful.

The Denke’s hard work and attention to detail makes them a pleasure to work with.  My favorite farmer teases me that Larry is just as particular as I am, and that we make quite a pair.  Larry is Beef Quality Assurance certified and works carefully with his vet to ensure that calf vaccinations and health are excellent.  The Denke’s are also outstanding herdsmen, practicing the same cattle handling practices that I do at the feed yard.

Donita patiently waits on horseback for Larry to share his plan...

Donita patiently waits on horseback for Larry to share his plan while sorting and preparing to ship the calves.

Tony is there to help as well...

Tony is there to help as well.

The calves are soon loaded up on the trucks to travel to their new home at the feed yard...

The calves are soon loaded up on the trucks to travel to their new home at the feed yard.

Their dogs are just as well behaved as their calves, and obediently remain out of the way during the sorting and loading process...

The Denke’s dogs are just as well behaved as their calves, and obediently remain out of the way during the sorting and loading process.

The breeding herd remains on the home ranch...

The breeding herd remains on the home ranch…

While the steer calves, destined to make beef, travel to the feed yard where they find fresh grass hay -- water -- and a dry place to sleep their first night...

while the steer calves, destined to make beef, travel to the feed yard where they find fresh grass hay — water — and a comfortable place to sleep the first night at their new home…

 Connecting the dots in the cattle life cycle and beef farming is incredibly important.  When the Denke’s and I remain committed to providing high quality care all across the calf life cycle, each of you benefits by having access to having safe and high quality beef that is humanely raised.

*The Denke’s steers will call my feed yard home until April.  Look for periodic posts between now and then following their life as they prepare to make beef.

 

 

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Filed under Beef Cattle Life Cycle: That A Way Ranch Steers, Foodie Work!, General

Loosing a Good Partner…

I purchased Studly from a cattle rancher near Dunning, Nebraska about 10 years ago.  He was a 7 year old gelding that had been used as a “stud” horse early in life, and then moonlighted as a general ranch horse.   I always purchase horses from cattlemen that I know because that helps to ensure that I will gain a good equine partner out of the exchange.

I think that I was always more excited to go to work than he was...

I think that I was always more excited to go to work than he was…

We normally have more than one horse at the feed yard, but Studly has always been my favorite.  I have never known a more solid or dependable horse.  I remember a few years ago when I dropped the chain to a pen gate onto the electric hot wire while Doing Gates.  Studly and I both got a pretty big electric jolt, but he still took care of me.

Riding pens...

Riding pens…

Early Saturday morning my cowboy greeted me with a solemn face and the simple message, “Studly is dead”.  I was so shocked that it took several moments for it to sink in.  Just the day before he was out grazing in our pasture and driving our other horse around playing his favorite game of herd boss.  It was difficult to believe that my strong and healthy horse was gone.

Doing gates...

Doing gates…

I exercised calves that morning with tears running down my face.  My horse was lying along the pasture fence line not far from our main alleyway never to get up again—As I walked the cattle past him my composure broke and the facade of the strong boss lady disappeared.

I loved that horse.  His loyalty was unwaivering and, like all good things, he will never be able to be replaced.

I console myself with the knowledge that he had a good life, and that he is now in heaven where the green grass is belly-deep and there are no annoying flies to ruin the pleasure of a beautiful day.  I try to remember that, deep down, Studly was just a tad bit lazy and he is likely happier now than he ever was working with me at the feed yard…

Horse heaven...

Horse heaven…

Today, I take my hat off to a great horse–a good partner–and a beautiful creature.  Thank you, Studly, for all of those good rides.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General

Many Hats, One Passion…

IMG_3843Megan and I traveled to Denver last week to spend five days meeting with approximately 650 other cattlemen that haled from all across the United States.  Although the group came together from many different parts of the country, wearing a variety of different types of hats, we gathered to share a passion.

  • A passion for cattle
  • A passion for beef
  • A passion for pooling our thoughts and ideas as we strive for continuous improvement

Our discussions ranged from sustainability and animal welfare, to the taste, tenderness and nutrition of beef.  No matter what the subject matter, the theme was a dedication to continuous improvement.

My favorite cowgirl/chef with Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson...

My favorite cowgirl/chef with Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson…

Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson brought us the exciting news that the National Standards Foundation granted certification to her work defining sustainability relative to beef production.  This is the very first time that a biological sustainable system has been certified, and it allows the beef community to better understand our role, as well as to measure, our improvements as we diligently strive for sustainable beef.

Megan and Dr. Thomson...

Megan and Dr. Thomson…

Dr. Dan Thomson inspired us to continue to cultivate a culture of optimal animal care on our farms and ranches.  A veterinarian and world renowned animal welfare specialist, Dr. Thomson has been a wonderful mentor for me over the years as I strive to better understand my animals and be an optimal caregiver for them.

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Megan and I finished out the week listening to specialists talk about the taste, tenderness and nutrition of beef.  Although caring for cattle is my passion, my ultimate goal is to provide all of you with great tasting and healthy beef to enjoy.  I always get smarter when I learn the intricacies of what makes my beef both delicious and nutritious!

Is it dinner time yet?

Is it dinner time yet?

As a Director to the Nebraska Beef Council and a member of the National Federation of State Beef Councils, I also play an active role in determining funding for science based research projects relative to beef.  Anne the Achiever loves being a part of this commitment for excellence.

It was a long but very productive week.  Megan and I both learned a tremendous amount as we fueled our continuing passion for cattle care and beef production.  I encourage all of you to celebrate tonight with a mouth-watering steak!

You can feel good about your choice knowing that the beef was raised responsibly

Smile and feel good about your meal choice!

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A Fun Evening Chore…

While having to get up in the middle of the night to unload new cattle is not a chore that I enjoy, unloading cattle in the evening with my two favorite blondes is one of my very favorites.

They both learned to count at the feed yard as little kids...

They both learned to count at the feed yard as little kids by verifying the number of cattle coming off of the semi-trucks…

I have vivid memories of trying to keep an accurate animal count while one or the other of the girls randomly spouted out numbers when they were too little to really figure out what they were supposed to be doing.  You might be surprised how difficult it is to count correctly amidst the number chaos of a chattering three year old…

Today, I still use my fingers to help me keep track while unloading cattle (a practice that I adopted while the girls were little).  I am proud to report that all of them are now excellent counters and have become quite a big help!

Making great memories while learning good skills...

Making great memories while learning good skills…

We try very hard to make unloading new cattle a positive experience for our animals.  It is their first impression of their new home and we want it to be a good one.  I like to see the cattle calmly walking off of the truck, and curiously looking at their surroundings.  A bovine only displays curiosity when he is comfortable and confident, and that is always my goal.

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Here this black fall calf is walking calmly off of the truck…

These animals arrived about 8:00 in the evening, with only about another hour of daylight left as we unloaded them.  I made the decision to house the cattle overnight in the corral because of the impending fall of darkness.

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The animals quickly find the prairie hay (grass) that we place in the corral for them to munch on overnight…

When cattle have spent several hours on a semi-truck, they are ready for fresh water to drink and a snack of grass before finding a comfortable place to lay down and rest.  At daylight, we move them to their home pen where more fresh water and feed await them.

Their breakfast consists of more prairie hay (grass) and a little bit of wet distillers grains and roughage...

Their breakfast consists of more prairie hay (grass) and a little bit of wet distillers grains and roughage…

I find that whenever I place cattle in their new home pen that they are likely to head for either the water tank, the feed bunk, or the mineral tub after they walk the fence lines a few times.  I like to see them settled at any one of these three places.

Here the cattle are checking out the water tank and the mineral tub...

Here the cattle are checking out the water tank and the mineral tub…

It brings a smile to my face to watch the cattle find comfort in their new pen.  I spend the next 4-7 days acclimating and exercising them daily.  This helps them to more quickly adapt to feed yard life.  IMG_3519

As a side note, I would like to apologize to all of you who follow Feed Yard Foodie via email for the advertisements that have recently appeared at the bottom of my posts.  WordPress started to do that without my permission and I just became aware of it a few days ago.  I have since changed the settings on the blog site so they should not appear again.

If you have not signed up to follow the blog via email yet, you can click on the “sign me up” button at the right of the home page and then you will receive an email every time that I post.  This is a great way to make sure that you see all of my entertaining ramblings!

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An Infrequent Night-time Chore…

I am mostly a “morning person”.  My body is trained to get up and go to work at 5:30 every morning because I feel that it is important to get breakfast delivered to our cattle shortly after dawn.

My animals are Creatures of Habit and I think that they are more efficient convertors of my natural resources if they are provided with a consistent feeding schedule that involves an early breakfast.  This is especially critical in the summer months when nightly temperatures are in the 60’s but daily temperatures top out in the 90’s.DSC05399

Because I go to work early every morning, I really do not like to work at night.  My body tends to yell at me when I run short of sleep, and it has been years since a nap has appeared on my radar screen.  Despite this, every once in a while I need to be at the feed yard to unload new cattle during the night hours.

A cattle semi-truck backing up to my unloading chute about 12:30am...

A cattle semi-truck backing up to my unloading chute about 12:30am…

This tends to happen most often during the summer months.  It is best to move cattle when it is cool outside so transportation at night (or early in the morning) is often times better for my animals during the warm months of the year.  I also like to place cattle during the summer that were born during the fall months of the prior year.  I call these animals fall calves, and they work really well for my marketing regime.

Nebraska does not have a large number of fall born calves due to Mother Nature’s shorter growing season, so I sometimes look to states south of me to find fall calves.  These animals tolerate the summer time temperatures in Nebraska really well, and they go to the packing plant before winter gets too cold.  The only down side is that they have a longer truck ride coming into the feed yard, and they tend to arrive in the small hours of the morning thereby wreaking havoc on my sleeping schedule.

The cattle coming off of my truck into the alleyway that leads to one of my corral pens...

The cattle coming off of my truck into the alleyway that leads to one of my corral pens…

When I receive cattle in the middle of the night, I unload them off of the semi-truck and place them in one of the corral pens that is adjacent to the unloading chute.  It is important after a long truck ride to provide newly received cattle with fresh long stemmed prairie hay, water and a comfortable place to lie down and rest.  Using our corral areas to do this enables the cattle to remain in a well-lit area of the feed yard so that they can easily see the fences and rest until the sun comes up.

This is long stem prairie hay that we put out for the cattle to munch on in the corral while we way for daylight...

This is long stem prairie hay that we put out for the cattle to munch on in the corral while we way for daylight…

One of the water tanks in our corrals that provides fresh water to the cattle as soon as they get off the truck.  You can see that the Nebraska moonlight kept me company as I unloaded the cattle!

One of the water tanks in our corrals that provides fresh water to the cattle as soon as they get off the truck. You can see the corral lights reflecting of off the water!

In the home pen checking out their new surroundings once the sun came up!

In the home pen checking out their new surroundings once the sun came up!

Once dawn appears, we place them in their new home pen where more fresh feed, water, and a comfortable living space awaits them.  After a short time of eating and drinking, the cattle look for a good place to lie down and take a nap.

A bite to eat and a nap is a good way to spend the day...

I watch this napping with envy as I do believe that they have an easier life than I do!

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