Tag Archives: animals

Precious Moments…

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a black lab, a kitten and a horse. While I grew up in a house full of hunting dogs, my “bucket list” animals had an address independent of mine…

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My favorite farmer and I met my freshman year of college. Our “first baby” was a black lab that we named Taylor. Taylor went everywhere with Matt and graduated from Thayer Engineering school with a masters in Engineering and Business. She was more than happy to move to the farm in June of 1997 when our address changed to Nebraska, and we quickly got her a black and white kitten to keep her company while we went to work.

My dream of having a horse came true the summer of 2005. My beloved feed yard horse developed navicular problems and could no longer work, so I brought him home to my back yard for his retirement years. Because “horses are like potato chips, and you can’t just have one” — That same summer, I bought a young quarter horse from a friend who ranches in the Sandhills.  A third eventually took up residence when old age claimed the first.

At the time that I brought my first horse home, I was beginning my seven year long battle with Graves Disease. Matt could not fathom why I wanted to add to my list of chores, however, my horses brought me a sense of peace in a time of mental chaos. When my body refused to work and my mind struggled to focus, I could walk out my back door and bury my face in the softness of my horse’s neck. When I got too weak to lift my saddle, I could climb up bare back and Dandy would take me for a walk — somehow he seemed to know that I needed that precious moment of peace to find the strength to face the next day.

megpismile1-jpgLearning to find harmony in that unique human/animal partnership is one of life’s greatest blessings. My girls understand this, and sharing those moments with them puts a sparkle in my eye and a warm glow in my heart.

My favorite blonde cowgirl and I have a regular Sunday date with our beloved equines. It is a time of laughter, and a time of sharing. It refuels my soul and creates many precious moments that we take with us on our life journey. Over the past few years, I have let responsibilities at the feed yard stand in the way of some of our weekly dates. It always left me feeling bereft and ill-prepared to face the challenges of the coming week. I know that Megan felt the void of our missing rides as well.

megpismile2-jpgThis fall, I made a renewed commitment to our weekly dates — allowing myself the time to just be — to enjoy, to renew, and to share those rides once again with Megan. There are times that we let our lives, our responsibilities, and our commitments block out the needed periods of self-renewel. We work ourselves into the ground refusing to admit that we are human and might need a moment to reflect and heal.

This is a recurring challenge for me.

Looking into the future, my crystal ball is still hazy but I know that I am going to take more time to enjoy life’s precious moments. There is balance to be found between sharing your talents and preserving your sanity. There even exists a harmonious place where adequate renewal time actually allows for a greater sharing of talents due to an increase in personal strength.

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I’m looking forward to finding that almost as much as I cherish the related precious moments…

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

The Story of India…

My favorite blonde cowgirl and I found a surprise at the feed yard early Sunday morning.

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It is no secret that our family and our farm crew are known for being animal lovers. The need to care and nourish runs strong, and that provides for success on the farm.

When Megan and I discovered “India” Sunday morning, I did not realize the story that this little kitten could tell. As the day unfolded, my emotions ran from joy to sadness to anger and then back to joy.

Saturday afternoon someone threw India out the car window while traveling down one of Cozad’s main roads. Luckily she landed in a grass patch by the local softball fields and frantically climbed a tree. Even luckier, one of my favorite farmer’s crew witnessed the incident while driving past in a tractor and was able to turn around and rescue the scared kitten.

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He brought the kitten to the feed yard to find it a home.

Whether she remains at the feed yard to be spoiled in the office, or takes the short trip down the road to the Feed Yard Foodie house, India will be part of a family that cares.

There is nothing like a baby animal to bring an instant smile and a moment of joy. The needy little face and the innocent desire to be loved pull at my heart always inspiring me to care. Our house is full of animals – most of whom have been rescued. I believe that providing for God’s creatures is the right thing to do.

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It brings me tremendous sadness that not everyone shares my love of animals. It brings me great anger that there are some who also do not share my feeling of responsibility toward them.

It is shameful to neglect and abuse animals – they rely on us for survival and it is our responsibility to care. India’s story has a happy ending because people took the time to care – to right a terrible wrong—and provide a needed home.

Please take the time to care and be a responsible pet owner.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

The Gift…

Animals play important roles in most of our lives. I have never lived in a house without a pet; and we currently have a dog and three cats enjoying the comfort of our home. When I moved to the farm in 1997, I learned about a new type of animal: a food animal. This animal exists for the sole purpose of providing food and other resources for all of us. It serves a very different purpose than a pet.

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As much as my pets enrich my life, at the end of the day, I believe that the gift that my bovine food animals give to me is more precious. When my cattle leave the feed yard, they travel to a packing plant in order to give the gift of nutrition. Their gift nourishes my family as well as yours.

  • I believe that my cattle play a critical role in providing needed nourishment.
  • I believe that it is ethical to kill animals for the benefit of humans.
  • I believe that it is possible to end a food animal’s life humanely.

Dr. Temple Grandin has revolutionized cattle handling and humane care at the level of the packing plant over the past twenty years. From changes in equipment – to employee training – to auditing – to camera placement to further verify compliance, Dr. Grandin’s work plays a critical role in bovine care at the time of slaughter.

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The quality of my bovines’ end of life experience is important to me. As a result, I make it a priority to take periodic trips to the packing plant. I have witnessed every aspect of the slaughter process, and I believe that my packing plant partner does an excellent job of remaining committed to a painless and humane death experience for my cattle.

I cannot imagine my life without cattle and the resources that they provide. I consider myself blessed that I can spend my days caring for animals that give the gift of nutrition. 

AGXC.jpgBeef’s Big Ten pack a powerful health punch:

  • Zinc: helps maintain a healthy immune system
  • Iron: helps the body use oxygen
  • Protein: preserves and builds muscles
  • Vitamins B6 and B 12: help maintain brain function
  • Phosphorus: helps builds bones and teeth
  • Niacin: supports energy production and metabolism
  • Riboflavin: helps convert food into fuel
  • Choline: supports nervous system development
  • Selenium: helps protect cells from damage

Each time that I load my cattle on the truck to ship to the packing plant, I am thankful for their gift. I respect that gift as I appreciate the beef meals that I feed to my family as well as the other beef products that come from cattle.

I recognize the sacrifice that my animals make to improve the quality of my own life, and I honor them by offering quality care while they are on my farm.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

The Basic Premise Behind Quality and Appropriate Cattle Welfare…

He views the world from a different perspective.

Thinking on a different cognitive level.

His needs are basic and may sometimes seem rudimentary to human eyes.

While those needs may appear simplistic, they are innately tied to his vitality.

His good health is intrinsically tied to the safety of our food.

He is a food animal—he feeds our families.

He is a bovine and his job is to produce high quality and safe beef.

I am his caregiver, and it is my job to offer appropriate care that meets his needs and allows him to reach his God-given potential.

When he reaches this potential, the cycle is complete and I have successfully raised a safe and healthy beef product that comes from animals that are humanely cared for.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Becoming a Believer…

I have a quote down at the very bottom of the home page from football player Drew Brees’ book, Coming Back StrongerWhen I read Drew’s book a couple of years ago, it just plain spoke to me.  In fact, I have many pages of notes where I copied down quotes that I loved from the book.  The one below is my favorite…

“Believing—there are several layers to it. There’s the surface-level type of believing, where you acknowledge that something is true. Then there is a deeper kind of belief–the type that gets inside of you and actually changes you. It’s the kind of belief that changes your behavior, your attitude, and your outlook on life, and the people around you can’t help but notice.”

I am a person of very strong beliefs and faith.  I have always been strong-willed, but the confidence that I have attained as an adult stems from the development of personal beliefs and faith.  My life is centered around love, empathy and hard work because I believe that is what allows me to use my talents to achieve greatness.

I work tenaciously as a parent to teach my girls to be believers

Although there are many different people that have served as mentors for me over the years, learning to be a caregiver for animals has inspired in me a deep level of believing that transcends everything else.  Figuring out what an animal needs and then working tenaciously to provide those needs brings me an inner confidence and a sense of peace.

Both of these animals are actively engaged with me and asking me for guidance…

As I watch my cattle thrive and grow, and then trace their performance all of the way to my own dinner plate I become even more of a believer. I am left with a sense of purpose, and inspired to work harder with each day that passes.  My love for animals is diversified and runs deep. I am happiest when I am surrounded by them.

On top of my trusty equine partner and surrounded by cattle…

My daughter, Megan, and I spent a couple of days recently in the Sandhills of Nebraska.  My husband laughs that even when I go on vacation, I take some of my animals with me.  Megan and I joined some friends at “horse camp” riding and learning how to be better communicators with our equine partners.

Megan (right) practicing her “Miss America” wave while sitting side-saddle on her horse.  She is joined by her two friends and their favorite equines…

My favorite part of the trip was watching my daughter in her own journey to becoming a believer.  Our animals not only teach her a sense of personal responsibility as she learns to provide for them and understand them, but living her dream with them also brings a sense of innate self-confidence.

The above picture makes my heart swell.  The absolute joy and personal pride in her expression is priceless to me as a parent.  At the very moment that I took the picture, Megan became a believer.  She realized what it meant to be a partner to her horse and they achieved a unique harmony that only a lucky few will ever feel.

She caught a glimpse of how wonderful it feels to use empathy and feel to successfully and unselfishly communicate.  Going forward, she will view the world differently—with a sense of confidence and understanding that enables her to successfully use the gifts with which she is blessed.

Is there a pivotal moment in your own life that caused you to become a believer?

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Filed under Family, General, Natural Horsemanship

The Complexities of Nature…

I have fond memories of riding on the top of my Dad’s hunting rig keeping a watch out for his bird dogs as they looked for quail.  I was always content to just be outside looking for animals and enjoying the landscape.  It was peaceful, quiet, and soothing to my soul—a sharp contrast to the city where we spent most of our time.

My brother and I next to the hunting rig with one of my dad's dogs and the quail she found...

It has been decades since I did that with any frequency… By the time that I was in Junior High School, swimming workouts and competitions dominated my life and kept me from weekends out at the hunting camp; but those early years with my family hunting on cattle ranches in South Florida gave me a glimpse of what I wanted my life to be like.  The quiet solitude that I found in the rural Lake Okeechobee area opened my eyes to the complexities of nature and gently steered me to the life that I live today.

My children take for granted the quiet solitude of rural life, and have learned early to respect the awesomeness of nature.  They watch the challenges that their daddy and I face everyday farming and caring for livestock amidst the irreconcilable force of Mother Nature.  Our life revolves around animals which both fascinates and frustrates them (depending on the day!).

The landscape of "The Mara" in Kenya---really not that different than the grasslands in Nebraska...

When Matt’s parents suggested a family trip abroad, the idea of a safari appealed to us because of our fascination with animals. However, it was not until I stood up for the first time in the safari jeep that I felt the sense of déjà vu taking me back to my childhood memories of riding on the top of the hunting rig.  I remembered trying so hard to spot animals and keep track of the dogs…I remembered the rush of pleasure when my dad would tell me what a great “look out” I was…I remembered the quiet beauty of the grass lands and the marshy swamps…

Megan, on the "look out" for animals...

As we spent our days riding around in the jeeps on safari, I smiled watching my middle daughter, Megan, look for animals with the same tenacity and fascination that I had as a child.  Her expression of awe and pleasure as she took in both the animals and the landscape warmed my heart and reminded me so much of both myself and my dad.  As the saying goes, the apple does not fall very far from the tree.

They come from different worlds...

My oldest daughter, Ashley Grace, brought home memories full of facts on the animals and the culture of Kenya.  She is a twelve year old walking encyclopedia with a keen ability to remember facts and details, and soaked it all up like a sponge.  I am fully expecting for her to periodically surprise us with random facts from Kenya for many years to come!  I am also trying to get her to write some poetry about the trip, and hope that she will accommodate us and put some up on Ashley Grace’s Corner soon.

It looks quite a bit different than our house...No electricity, no running water, a dirt floor, and it houses eight people in a room smaller than my kitchen...

My youngest daughter, Karyn (age 7), had perhaps the biggest epiphanies on the trip.  The afternoon after we visited a tribal “homestead”, she looked at me and said: “Mama, I learned something today.  Not everyone here has everything that they need.”  As a parent, I cannot think of a better lesson.

She got a little bit braver after the initial shock wore off and she was no longer sitting in the seat directly below the cheetah...

About two days after this, a cheetah jumped up on the roll bar on the jeep that she and Megan were riding in.  Karyn and Megan were riding in the back seat (right below where the cheetah jumped up), and Karyn amazed everyone with her ability to move with ROCKET SPEED to the front of the jeep!  Megan had just remarked early that morning that she really wanted to see a cheetah—After the cheetah jumped on their jeep, Karyn told Megan that getting THAT close to a cheetah “really was not necessary”.

Up close and personal...

Although Karyn remembered with clarity, sometimes it was challenging for the rest of us to recollect that the animals were wild and untamed.  The guide told us that the first thing that the animals learn when they are young is who their mom is.  The second thing is what a jeep looks like.  They view the jeep as a “cage”, and as long as we stayed inside the jeep it was just a natural part of their environment.

Am I going to make it?

The same cheetah that jumped up on Karyn and Megan’s jeep also jumped up onto the jeep that Matt and Ashley Grace and I were riding in.  As awesome as it was to see it that close up, it was incredibly disconcerting every time that the big cat looked down into the jeep at us.  I have to admit that it even made me a little bit nervous.  Interestingly, as you can see from this picture, Ashley Grace (my cat lover) was without fear and completely enamored by it.

Aglow with wonder...with an unrestrained wild cheetah close enough to reach out and touch...

Although all three of my daughters created their own independent experiences and memories in Kenya, they all brought home a new perspective.  They gained a new appreciation for both nature and for the blessings of living in a country where food, opportunity, and modern technology are aplenty.

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Filed under Family, Foodie Fun!, General

Family time…

In between doing chores and taking care of our cattle, we found some quality family time this weekend…

The girls played with their kittens…

Misty and Tigger (the kittens) "found" our family a couple of weeks ago. Apparently they heard that the FeedYard Foodie household was a good place to live...

Ashley Grace is our resident "cat expert"...

 We rode our horses down at the cattle pasture…

Karyn and Magnum...I love the way that Magnum "blinks" when you take his picture! Karyn's pretty cute too...

Enjoying some fun in the September sun!

And we spent Sunday evening at the lake…

While I am a competent water skier, my hubby is beautiful and graceful gliding over the water...

From our family to yours…wishing you a blessed and fun Labor Day!

By the way, be sure that you check out the “regular” Tuesday Feed Yard Foodie post that came up (quite by accident) on Sunday morning…Happy reading!

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Filed under Family, General