Tag Archives: life lessons

Finish What You Start…

AnneGirlsApril2016.jpgWhen I think of all of the important lessons that my parents taught me growing up, likely the greatest is to finish what you start.  My own girls have grown up indoctrinated with that mentality as I follow in my parents’ footsteps in order to prepare them to be responsible and contributing adults.

Many people ask why my cattle feeding exit plan spans more than six months.  The short answer to that questions is I always finish what I start.  When I made the decision to close down my feed yard, I knew that I needed to do it the responsible way.

  • The way that offers the best care to the animals on my farm.
  • The way that provides the best benefit for my employees.
  • The way that allows our farm to continue to thrive in the environment of change.

That requires me to remain in the business for an elongated period of time.  Honestly, it is emotionally more difficult for me to slowly phase out the feed yard than it would be to just sell the animals on my farm and shut the gate.  However, I am cowgirling up because that’s what you do when you are the boss lady🙂

I remember my dad telling me as a child, “Anne, there is no excuse for quitting.  It is never acceptable.”  Time and time again, my parents showed me both with their actions and their words that honoring your responsibilities came ahead of personal comfort.  There are hundreds of young athletes in our community that would tell you that “Coach Anne says to always Finish Strong!”  I don’t just say it, I live it.  While I have many imperfections, quitting is not one of them.

One of the things that I grappled with when making the decision to shut down the feed yard was whether closing the gate meant I had personally failed.  The rational part of my brain understood that there were many outside forces at play pushing me in the direction of change, but the bottom line showed that I was the one who was throwing in the towel.  It was under my leadership tenure that part of our farm would cease to exist.

annemattbale2.jpgDespite the fact that I am the psychologist and Matt is the engineer, my favorite farmer was ultimately the one that allowed me to see that I was continuing to remain loyal to my responsibilities.  That making the hard decision to transition the farm did not constitute a failure, but rather a carefully weighed decision that could ultimately benefit both our family and our farm.

While there is a part of my heart that still feels a sense of loss, I am passed feeling a sense of failure.  I’ve decided to cut myself a little bit of slack, celebrate the long list of accomplishments over the past two decades, and look to the future with a strong sense of hope.  My favorite blonde cowgirl reminded me a couple of months ago that, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”. C.S. Lewis

I just needed to figure out that I could finish what I started 20 years ago and still look for that new dream.

It’s a good thing that God has filled my life with really smart people🙂









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

Listen To Your Gut…

My favorite farmer and I share a love of water skiing.  There is a lake about 10 miles south of Cozad, and our chosen summertime Sunday afternoon activity is to go out on the boat.  We have a variety of “water apparatuses” to ride including a double slalom ski that Matt built a few years ago.

mattski.jpgAs the end of September approaches, our night temperatures dip down in the 40’s making skiing in the lake a bit chilly.  With our girls in the midst of their fall sports seasons, skiing time bumps down on the priority scale, and we grudgingly take the boat out of the water marking the end of the summer. Cold Nebraska temperatures necessitate “winterizing” the boat, and we take it about 50 miles down the road to Buzz’s Marine every fall.

My Florida raised competitive swimmer skin necessitates a bi-annual trip to the dermatologist.  Her office is located near the boat dealer, so yesterday I drew the “short straw” to drive the boat trailer to Kearney.  The driver’s side tire on the trailer had been bugging me since I pulled the boat out of the water Sunday.  I couldn’t pin point what is was, but my gut told me we had a problem brewing.

My favorite farmer did not share my worry, so I bit my tonguepicked my battles — and packed my faith.

I pulled onto Interstate 80 and made it about 10 miles before the above mentioned trailer tire blew out.  Fortunately, I have experience pulling trailers and was watching the tire closely as my gut refused to give up the warning.  Consequently, I was able to calmly put on my hazards, pull slowly to the shoulder of the road, and assess the damage.

My favorite farmer was in the midst of a Certified Organic Inspection on the farm, so he *wisely* screened my post damage assessment call.   As Megan pointed out a few weeks ago, my feed yard foreman is awesome and was quick to answer the phone when I called him for advice.

Doug and I had a chuckle that I should have ignored my husband and listened to my gut…and then decided that it would be best to creep slowly on the shoulder until I could exit the interstate.  Once off the interstate, I found a nice quiet spot on the gravel to take the tire off.  Doug met me and ran the bad tire back to town, and had a new one put on the rim. I continued (minus the boat and trailer) to my doctor’s appointment and got there with a couple of minutes to spare…

annematt2.jpgI pride myself on being a capable person.  Although I was raised a “city kid”, I have forced myself to learn the hands on problem solving/crisis prevention lessons that are ingrained in every farmer.  It is important to me that my girls learn these same skills and we often talk about them at the family dinner table.  There are a number of lessons to be learned with this story, and I am quite certain that this experience will lead to an incredibly interesting dinner hour conversation…

  • Listen to your gut
  • Pack your faith
  • Keep your head in the midst of a challenge
  • Accept the help of others
  • Sometimes your gut is smarter than your husband😉


Filed under Family, Farming, General

Pick Your Battles…

Last week while I was moving cattle, I had a calf try to crawl through the feed bunk into a neighboring pen.  I adjusted my angle to the calf and encouraged him back to the rest of his herd mates.  Part way through the interaction, my cowboy became aware of the situation and starting barking orders at me and “loving Pete”.  I chose to ignore him as I had the situation completely under control.

AnneMeg.jpgMy favorite blonde cowgirl happened to be along that day and later asked me why I just quietly continued to move the calf instead of responding to my cowboy’s criticism.  I summed it up in three words, “Pick your battles”.

She looked pretty perplexed with my response so I decided that it was a good time to share a well learned life lesson.  I asked her, “Megan, did the calf respond appropriately and do what I asked him to do?”  As she nodded her head affirmatively, I pointed out that the goal was accomplished so there was no point in creating drama with my crew.

There are many kinds of leadership – passive, active, verbal, and non-verbal.  In regards to cattle handling, I choose to lead by example.  Cattle move best in situations where the handler maintains mental composure.  As the lead handler in this situation, it was in the calf’s best interest for me to continue to interact calmly.  I know my cowboy well (we have worked closely together for 20 years), so I also recognized that ignoring him while completing the task correctly was the best choice.

Sometimes it isn’t about who is right –

It is about completing the job well and doing the best thing for the animal.    

Over the last two decades, the words pick your battles have circled through my head tens of thousands of times.  Whether it is interacting with my own crew or sitting in a meeting with other folks involved in raising beef, I think that one of the most important lessons is learning when to speak up and when to bite my tongue.    I discovered a long time ago that life isn’t about pride and personal affirmation; it’s about doing the right thing to create positive improvement.

  • I am anal about cattle care.
  • I am passionate about always trying to be better tomorrow than I am today.
  • I stubbornly stick to my values even when the right thing isn’t the easy thing.

But, I have come to understand that meaningful change occurs when my idea becomes someone else’s idea.  Sometimes the best way to make that happen is to let my actions speak and keep my words where they belong – inside of my mouth…

Megan got awfully quiet at the end of our conversation, and I could tell that she was looking at the situation with my cowboy from a different perspective.  Perhaps the next time someone “yanks her chain” and she starts to fight back, she will stop and remember the art of picking your battles🙂


Filed under Animal Welfare, Family, General

The Rainbow Ends At the Pot Of Gold…

megfeedyardcollageAfter 14 years living, working, and growing up under the magnificent Nebraska sky I learned a lot from the people who were kind enough to share it with me. Now I want to share it with you. My experiences in our little town are not ones that many people get to have. There are lessons hidden in each memory and each story — lessons that most people in our country may miss or look over. These are my 15 favorite lessons that I have learned growing up on a farm — Megan🙂

  1. Home is where the heart is… When I first went to kindergarten I cried every day because I did not understand why I had to sit in a classroom and count whatever was on my piece of paper instead of counting cattle at the feedyard. I did not want to leave my comfort zone where I loved to be.
  2. Two wrongs don’t make a right… I first learned this when perched on the arm of the chair in the inner cubical of the office, staring blankly at the computer screen full of numbers – never leave a mistake without correcting it. Always fix what went wrong even if it means admitting that you are human and you made a mistake. If you do not correct a mistake, the problem just grows.
  3. For the love of Pete… Whenever our cowboy is agitated but not quite angry enough to start cussing, he starts loving Pete. Usually he says this under his breath, but after a while you can understand the mumbling language. We have never figured out who Pete is but wherever he is, he is much loved.
  4. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life… People come to stay with us every once and a while and right before they leave Doug, our beloved foreman, always tells them that he has never worked a day in his life. They get very confused because they have just watched him working hard. He explains to them that he loves the job that he has; consequently, he has never worked a day in his life.
  5. Work smarter, not harder… My mom always says that you should work smarter so therefore your work is easier. Do not get me wrong, hard work is essential to any job, especially those on a farm, but if you work hard and smart then you will be more efficient and do a better job.
  6. Sarcasm… It is not just the words that come out of your mouth; it is a lifestyle. Sarcasm can lighten any day if put in the correct context. Doug is especially good at adding a little to our day, and I have learned from the best. He always told me when I was little that he never called the bunk a C when the cattle did not clean up all of their feed. The bunk was always a D because he skipped C. He told me that was because he could actually spell the words that started with D – I think perhaps it is because his name starts with a “D” but I humor him🙂
  7. Count in your head… When the cattle come off the truck and into the feedyard we always count them to make sure we have the correct number. When my sisters and I were little, this was one of our first jobs. We would climb up so that we were tall enough to see into the unloading chute and then “count” the cattle that came off the truck. My mom had to start counting using her hands because we would say the wrong numbers aloud. To this day she still counts cattle with her fingers. Doug used to try to teach us to count ears instead of tails. Or sometimes he tried to have us count feet…
  8. Leave it how you found it… When cooperating with members of a “team” you should always: leave things how you found them, replace tools to their proper “home”, and, when in doubt, shut the gate. When working with farmers, mechanics, or welders always put their tools back where they belong. They get very angry very quickly if they cannot find the tool they are looking for. Always shut the gate behind you. A feedyard manager’s worst nightmare is leaving a gate open. My mom has nightmares about accidentally letting loose a pen of cattle on the county road.
  9. Think like a calf… It is important for any cattle handler to step into the calf’s hooves. Looking through a calf’s eyes can be tricky. In order to do that you have to have empathy and think like a prey animal. I learned this when I was little so it comes like second nature to me but some people struggle changing their perspective.
  10. Give it to God… Some things you cannot control. Mother Nature likes to throw everything she can at us farmers. We cannot hope to control it; we can only try to manage what comes our way. Rain is a good thing for dad but not for mom. When it rains no one in our house sleeps very well. Snow is even worse. Before I was actually put to work, I thought snow was the best part of winter. I was wrong, snow means work.
  11. Gnats are extra protein… In the summers there are a lot of bugs. There are an especially large number of them this year because we had a wet spring. When you walk through the feedyard you cannot help but get a gnat somewhere you really probably did not want a gnat to be. That is not at a total loss because gnats are extra protein (not that a beef farmer needs that)…
  12. Cowgirls don’t cry… When you are working with animals, they depend on you. They need fed on Easter and Christmas and Sundays. This does not give you time to sit down and feel sorry for yourself. If you fall, you get back up again because there is always more work to be done. When your finger gets caught in a gate you do not have time to watch it turn purple and swell, there are still cattle that need tending to.
  13. Help will always come to those who ask for it… No one can give you a helping hand if they do not know you need it. It is not a bad thing to request help. Needing help does not make you weak or incompetent.
  14. Build character… There are many ways on a farm to build character. Scooping bunks is one of the most common ways. Another good one is throwing small square hay bales. I can also tell you that touching the hot electric fence does not build as much character as you would think…
  15. A little dirt never hurt anyone… Sometimes it is okay to get a little dirt on your hands. The work that results in that dirt is worth something to someone.ResizedImage951374766405614

The pot of gold in Nebraska that sits under all the morning rainbows is the hay carefully stacked by loving hands that feeds the animals which give us food.


Filed under CAFO, Family, Foodie Work!, General

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance…

The Haymaker Swim Team took 46 athletes in 170 individual events and 23 relays to the Plains Tsunami North Qualifying meet last Saturday.  All 46 of those athletes earned the opportunity to compete next weekend at the Championship Meet.

swim picture 20161.jpg

The kids would likely report that the fun of competition and the excitement of getting to the next level provided the highlight of their day.  Mine was the fact that although I only get to coach and mentor these kids for 8 weeks each summer, our team completed the meet with no disqualifications and a large number of excellent athletic performances.

Each swim season we create a mantra which appears on the back of our team shirts.  This year our shirts carry the statement Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance.  As the coach of a recreation league summer sport, I try to focus on fitness and the development of strength and work ethic.  I know that learning to do it right at practice sets the kids up not just for success in the pool but also in life.

While the glory of competitive victory glows brightly, a true winner shines just as radiantly during the hours of practice.  It is during those hours of preparation that true character is revealed.  Convincing my swimmers of the necessity of passionate effort creates one of my greatest challenges.  Settling clearly provides the enemy of greatness, and is spurred by unfocused practice.  Each year I create Pitchfork Challenges to help the kids find focused goals to strive for during practice sessions.

For the 2016 season, Pitchfork Challenges included long Individual Medley swims requiring correct stroke technique, sprint freestyle swims with no breathing, and a blend of core “on land” strength challenges.  I always enjoy watching the kids accomplish far more than they envisioned possible, and I know that these challenges play an important role in creating a successful season.

This week provides the culmination of the 2016 season.  The kids look forward to competing at Championships with a blend of nerves and excitement, and dreams of coming home with medals.  I spend the week trying to prepare them knowing that perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Go Haymakers!

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Filed under Family, General, Rural Communities

Raising Food Builds Character…

I remember as a child when my parents would tell me that certain tasks “build character”.  It generally applied to things that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do, and I recall mentally rolling my eyes every time that I heard the expression as a teenager.  As often occurs, the cycle continues over generations and I find myself telling my own girls the same thing.  There are many things that happen on a farm that build character, and one of the best parts of being a mom/farmer is using those tasks to help my girls learn both good work ethic and a humble empathy.

My favorite blonde cowgirl announced after the blizzard last February, “I have enough character, I don’t need to scoop any more bunks!”  I replied, “Yes, you do because the cattle need for you to clean the snow off their plates so that they can have fresh breakfast.”  We scooped bunks for two days during the storm, and I may have to admit that Megan’s Mama also thought at some point on the second day that her “character cup” was full.  However, we persevered through the task because it was important to the livelihood of our animals.

Earlier this week, I talked about information that cattlemen need to know to properly care for cattle during the heat of the summer.  If you recall, one of the major mitigators of heat stress is a constant supply of cool and clean water.  In Nebraska, we are blessed to live above the deepest part of the Ogallala Aquifer and it provides us with fresh 58 degree water despite hot air temperatures.  My cowboy has the responsibility of cleaning all home pen water tanks weekly, and the water tanks in our hospital pens 2X per week.  When he goes on vacation, someone else must do the job.megwatertank5a

I decided that Megan was the perfect girl for the task!

There are life lessons to be learned everywhere that we look.  In fact, Megan’s weekly quote on the crew board in the office this week reads “Everyone can teach you something.”  Physically washing the water tanks at the feed yard reinforces the critical animal care lesson of always providing the basics of life.  Our cattle deserve fresh feed and clean water each and every day, and there is no better way to understand that then to be a part of the process.  Washing water tanks is one of the most menial and yet the most important tasks that happen every day at the feed yard.  The person who cleans tanks is undeniably the unsung hero.

Growing food is a naturally dirty job.  You never truly realize that until you go to work as a farmer.  Megan may choose a life path outside of agriculture, but she will never fail to appreciate the food on her plate or the hard work of the person who put forth the effort to grow it.  She will never forget because she lived it.  The character that she steadily builds with the scoop shovel and the tank cleaning brush permanently changes the way that she looks at the world.  She intrinsically knows that each effort that she puts forth each day creates sustainability — no matter how menial the task may be.

There are two words that provide one of my favorite mantras:  Life Matters.  Learning to respect life, to positively contribute to its sustainability, and to give of yourself to help those in need are all consequences of building character.  It isn’t usually romantic, often it involves dirt and sweat, and it is rarely easy; however, having the humility to recognize what it takes and the work ethic to take on the challenge creates a successful contributor.

MegCattleMarch16.jpgNo matter what I accomplish in my professional life, my true report card is the character of my children.  It is awesome when instilling those values in my girls fits seamlessly with the work of growing food.



Filed under Animal Welfare, Family, General

Dear Beautiful Woman…

Megan is my sunshine — a stubborn pragmatist steeped with compassionate empathy…

My favorite blonde cowgirl celebrates her 14th  birthday today.  In honor of her special day, I would like to share a letter that she wrote to a friend in need last fall.  All of us who are parents can recognize how important it is to teach a balance of confidence and compassion to our kids. This letter demonstrates the struggles of teenage girls while also highlighting the importance of loyal friends who share love and compassion to support each other on the journey.

 Dear Beautiful Woman,

You can be anything you want to be. Aspire to be your greatest form. Take the tools that you are given and make something of yourself. You are so amazing at being you. If the people who are around you actually care, they will stick around no matter how stupid you make yourself look.

Study hard and work for what you want. If I could give you any piece of advice it would be to work your hardest. Nothing has meaning unless it is earned. Good grades are earned through studying hard and learning. If you want that spot on the varsity team, work your butt off to get better. Go to every open gym or practice you can. That’s how you get better. Push yourself to be better than the “you” you were yesterday.

And to that jerk who dumped you last week; that’s his loss. If he doesn’t have the intelligence to see what a great person you are, then let him go. It’s okay to cry but don’t let him leaving change who you are. You are you; boyfriend or not! Your true friends will be there for you (sometimes a little more than you want!). Let them help. Help them. They know how it feels. But most of all: move on!

Stand up for yourself. Tell that brat at the lunch table off. Make your voice heard. Your opinions matter. So let others know that you think for yourself. Words are sometimes more effective than a punch. And tell that boy that starts strange rumors about you that you are not afraid of him. People will respect you for that. Just let your conscience lead you, and don’t go too far.

I believe in you. Believe in yourself. Have confidence in who you are. And please, please, please, do not EVER look to any one else for approval. If you are comfortable in your own skin, roll with it. Be you! Be intelligent, be strong, be humble, be kind.  Relative to the people who are “on your hate list” — What a stupid waste of time. Don’t focus on the negative in people, focus on the positive. You have negatives too. We are all human; we are ALL imperfect.

Put all of these things together and what do you get? A leader. Be one. These things make you an intelligent, compassionate, beautiful person. Encourage others to be one too.

Think about these things. They will make you a better you.




Filed under General

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😉




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