Tag Archives: Mother Nature

Respecting the Land…

Since closing the feed yard, I have a new habit of exercising during the dawn hour. As part of my training for the half marathon that I will run in the end of October, on a daily basis I trade off swimming and running. I do this for two reasons:

  1. I love dawn and have a 20 year habit of being outside to watch the birth of the new day.
  2. I love to exercise and am using it to “fill the gap” now that I am not reading bunks every morning at the feed yard.

Sunday morning, I ran round trip from my driveway to the old feed yard facility — high 5’ing the stop sign at the half way point — and meeting a training goal of a 9 mile run. As I saddled up my horse early the next morning to go down to the pasture to move cattle, I questioned my intelligence as my stiff legs caused me to look trepidatiously at my favorite black quarter horse who stands over 16 hands tall.

I am glad to report that my legs cooperated as I consciously filled my head with youthful thoughts while gaining the saddle. We had a beautiful morning to move the cattle as the animals began their return journey to the main corral to ultimately ship to Roberts Cattle Co. in a couple of weeks. Maximizing our grass resources while ensuring good animal care provides the steadfast goal for our family.

As we drove home after moving the cattle, Megan, Karyn and I had a good conversation about always respecting the land. I have a Wendall Berry quote hanging in the hallway of my house that reads:

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children!

As farmers, Matt and I respect the land by using the resources that Mother Nature bestows upon us while also carefully making sure that we tend to it. We recognize that increasing the quality of the land enables it to sustain into the future. There is pride to be found in being a good caretaker and we want to make sure that we pass along that lesson to our girls 🙂

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Filed under Farming, General, Video Fun on the Farm

The World Seems Different at -20 Degrees…

cold1We shipped cattle early this morning.  The thermometer read -20 degrees as I drove to the feed yard about 5:30am. My mind held an awareness of the cold because I knew it was there.  I bundled up with layers of clothing and carefully covered my face with a mask.

But really, the phenomenon of temperatures like that provides an experience much bigger than layers of clothing.

The world seems different at -20 degrees.

Silent, unrelentingly harsh and yet beautiful at the same time.

Perhaps you have experienced this before?

  • The air takes the description of raw and crisp to a new level.
  • Sounds of the gates, the cattle moving, and the normal night noises are more distinct.
  • The hardness of the ground pounds at your feet as you herd the animals to the corral.

I, at least, seem to have a higher level of acute awareness at -20 degrees.

  • My cowboy laughed at me when I pointed out the small frost formations hanging from our steel pipe corral fence.  They took me back to science class as they were similar in shape to the molecular models in my high school text books.
  • I had to stop myself from reacting nervously each time the Union Pacific trains passed by on the tracks about ½ mile south of our corrals.  Normally, I am desensitized to the sound of the trains; but they sound unnervingly strange at -20 degrees.
  • Each step on the hard and unforgiving ground felt different and I noticed a clarity of movement in my own muscles that I often overlook.

Today I found a new level of perception.  A bitter cold morning with blessedly no wind opened up a new prairie experience for me.

selfiecold

With 8 pens still to ship, I am left wondering what I will notice next?

 

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

Blizzard Warning…

I was first introduced to a “blizzard warning” during the winter of 1996 when my favorite farmer and I traveled back to Nebraska for a visit. I remember standing by the window at Matt’s parents’ house fascinated with how the snow flakes whipped across the prairie in a frantic horizontal pattern.  As a three year resident of New Hampshire, I expected to see the nice gentle New England vertically falling snow that covered the country like a gentle white blanket.

When I became a Nebraskan a year later, I quickly learned that is not the kind of snow that typically visits Nebraska…

Before the storm...

Before the storm…

Almost twenty years later, I hear the term “blizzard warning” and my stomach automatically clenches.

Mother Nature brings along a blizzard every couple of years with varying intensities and snow fall amounts.  However, there is always one constant: a howling wind. It amazes me how much havoc can be wrought with a little bit of snow and a 30-70 mph wind. White out conditions desecrate visibility and create snow drifts as tall as my house, while brutally cold temperatures make it virtually impossible to stay warm while outside doing chores.

Ten years ago, on Thanksgiving weekend, we received 6-8” of snow with 70-80 mph winds. The storm lasted over 36 hours and it took us weeks to repair the damage. To put it in perspective (or at least in Florida lingo), a category 5 hurricane carries winds in excess of 70 mph. These blizzard storms result in power-line and tree damage similar to a hurricane, but then you exchange rain for snow and add on bitterly cold temperatures.

Tonight, winter storm Kayla will lash out at Central Nebraska and Northern Kansas. The snow began to fall earlier in the day while we were working cattle about 11:00am this morning, but the bulk of the accumulation will occur over night. It is likely that we will receive up to a foot of snow. While 12” of snow provides some work with both a scoop shovel and a tractor, it is not the snow itself that will disrupt life on the farm.

beattiecalfsnow.jpg

The wind will be the debilitating factor.

At this point, we are expected to receive 35-45 mph winds beginning tonight and continuing for about 24 hours. Today, we did our best to prepare for the storm, in addition to performing our normal feed yard chores. Three years ago, prior to Winter Storm Q, I blogged about how we prepare for a storm. You can read that by clicking here.

So tonight, I sit by the window and worry. As I watch the snow come down, I pray that the wind will leave.

  • I think about all of the animals that live outdoors.
  • I think about all of the people who will travel out into the storm to care for them.

The worry will abate shortly before dawn when the work begins. The powerless feeling that comes during the dark hours of the night is replaced by the determination to act during the early morning hours.

We will offer care – doing the best that we can – dealing with whatever Mother Nature gives us. When you sign on to be a farmer, you make a commitment to always care.

They will have on many more layers of clothes but hopefully they will keep their smiles :)

They will have on many more layers of clothes tomorrow morning but hopefully they will keep these same smiles 🙂

My daughters are celebrating the fact that school is canceled tomorrow but, by the time that the day is done, they will likely be dreaming of that nice warm classroom housed inside a building that blessedly blocks out the blizzard…

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General

They Can’t Take It Off…

As part of my NPDES permit issued through the Environmental Protection Agency, I keep daily weather records at the feed yard. I record precipitation, daily high and low temperatures, wind speed and wind direction. In addition to fulfilling my government regulation responsibilities, my favorite farmer uses the weather data during the crop growing season to help him manage irrigation on the farm.

As I reviewed the weather data entered for the last three weeks, I gave thanks that cattle are very resilient creatures. The highest temperature during the 21 day period was 70 degrees and the lowest 4 below zero (-4). In fact, our farm saw seven days from January 23-February 13 marked by more than a 40 degree temperature swing. The record for the period was a low of -4 followed by a high of 61 degrees the next day. We also had two significant winter storms during those three weeks.

While humans view the respite from winter on a beautiful sunny February afternoon a blessing, my cattle suffer from it. Quite simply, we all take our coats off when the weather warms – Cattle don’t have that luxury.

schneiderfeb2014.jpg

They can’t take it off…

“Shirt sleeve” weather for a bovine is 55 degrees. In Nebraska during the winter, cattle put on heavy coats to protect them from the cold. Instead of shirt sleeves, they spend the winter in a down jacket. As seasons change, cattle acclimate to the resulting changing weather at the rate of approximately 1 degree per day. Using that model, it would take approximately 65 days to acclimate from -4 to 61 degrees. February 5th, Mother Nature asked my animals to do that in 12 hours.

They can handle the cold — They can handle the heat — But the extremes in temperature swings bring significant challenges for them.

denkefeb2014.jpg

When cattle struggle with weather stress, they are more fragile. We place them on a special ration (bovine food casserole) that is easier to digest, make sure that an ample supply of fresh (not frozen!) drinking water is available, and work extra hard to make home pen conditions comfortable for them.

Good care requires an attention to detail, and times of weather challenge make me especially proud of my crew as we work diligently always placing the cattle’s welfare as our top priority.

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Simple Beauty…

I think that perhaps anytime one loses a loved one that the ensuing process of grief involves a period of personal introspection.  I know that this has been the case for me.

Dad and I, taking a moment together while fly fishing in Crandall Creek...

Dad and I, taking a moment together while fly fishing in Crandall Creek…

It was a shock to learn in late August that my dad was terminally ill.  His time on earth was very limited and his ensuing quality of life for those few short months was poor.  I struggled amidst the stress of having to accept that his illness was something that I could not fix.

One afternoon this fall, as I sat in the Dallas airport waiting for a connecting flight to Florida, a bit of personal introspection reminded me that my dad had always looked for the simple beauty in nature.  Although our professional lives took very different paths, we shared this unique love of the outdoors.

Likely, this is the most precious gift that he ever gave to me and I know that it gave us a special bond.2013_09_27_mr_Will Feed for Drovers-67

There have been many times over the past 17 years when I have felt that my life on a cattle farm in Nebraska fulfilled a lifelong dream of my dad’s.  Although he was an acclaimed attorney, I think that there was always a part of his heart that yearned to be more closely tied to the land.  He fulfilled this need by spending all of his free time outdoors hunting and fly fishing.  I know that the fact that I chose a life working in agriculture was a source of tremendous joy and pride for him.

My dad not only loved to be outdoors, but he also loved to physically challenge himself while interacting with nature.  To him, there was a simple beauty in pushing himself amidst the wilds of Mother Nature.

I have vivid memories of him goading me into taking a run with him in the Florida heat…annedadrunning

Canoeing among the vast alligator population in Fish Eating Creek…familycanoe

10+ mile horseback rides in the mountains of Wyoming (in search of the ideal trout stream)…annedadhorse

Leading a forced march across the prairie looking for grouse, pheasants, and prairie chickens…dadgrouse

Last week I had a moment of oneness with my dad as I checked cattle health at the feed yard.  It was a cold January day in Nebraska — cold enough that cattle chores were just a bit challenging — and I looked up to see three bald eagles soaring and hunting in the corn field just north and west of my cattle pens.

Too bad my I phone does not have a good zoom--the eagles are just dots on the horizon...

Too bad my I phone does not have a good zoom–the eagles are just dots on the horizon in this picture…

Watching the eagles was a truly awesome sight — one that my dad would have appreciated for a myriad of reasons.  I spent a moment knowing that a piece of him was living on through me.

I’d like to think that perhaps it was the best piece of him—the one that held his true passion for the simple beauty of living in direct congruence with the land.

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, Family, General

Meanwhile Back In Nebraska…

Fall is in the air and the trees are turning colors. 

This is my favorite time of year, and I treasure the breathtaking views that surround me.  The following pictures were taken by Kristian Rennert of Elm Creek, Nebraska.  He has a tremendous gift for photography, and has gracefully allowed me to share the beauty.

The beautiful Platte River...

The Platte River dressed in its fall glory…

An irrigation pivot just north of the river...

An irrigation pivot just north of the river…

Kristian's dog, Tater, posing for a picture during their hike along the river...

Kristian’s dog, Tater, posing for a picture during their river hike…

This one is my favorite.  God's paintbrush leaves me in awe...

This one is my favorite. God’s paintbrush leaves me in awe…

The river brings life to our farm and the Nebraska prairie with the gift of water...

The river brings life to our farm and the Nebraska prairie with the gift of water…

As the green shifts to yellow and orange we are thankful for the passing of the seasons, and take a moment to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us...

As the green shifts to yellow and orange I am thankful for the passing of the seasons, and try to take a moment to enjoy the surrounding beauty…

What brings peace to your life?

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General

Finding Faith Amidst Challenges…

The Feed Yard Foodie farm was lucky to not be in the path of last week’s winter storm.  We received high winds and cold temperatures, but were blessedly missed by the blizzard.  My heart hurts for all of those folks who lost livestock in the storm.  The devastation is horrific, and this type of event always leaves me asking “Why”.

Today I am thankful for all of the animals that have been entrusted to me, as well as all of the wonderful people who help me to care for them...

Today I am thankful for all of the animals that have been entrusted to me, as well as all of the wonderful people who help me to care for them…

All of us face challenges in our lives.  That is something that we share regardless of our address or occupation.  I believe that the way that we deal with those challenges shows both our personal character and what role faith plays in our hearts.

The prayer below found me on Facebook last night.  I was struck at the beauty of the words, the tenacity of the writer, and the tremendous faith that the prayer demonstrates.  Every where that we look, there are people in need.  I encourage you today to share a bit of kindness—a bit of yourself—with someone who could use a helping hand.

Many thanks to Bobette Schofield for sharing these beautiful words.  They touched my heart and reminded me of the true strength that is found in faith.

The Rancher’s Prayer

The rancher looked toward heaven
And said, “God where have you been?
Do you know we had a blizzard,
With rain and snow and wind?

You know I built this herd of mine____
With blood and sweat and tears.
You know the work and worry,
As I struggled through the years.

Now as I stand and look around,
I see that it is gone.
I don’t know if I have the strength
To rebuild or go on.”

God looked down from heaven____
Saw the pain there in his eyes.
He heard the sadness in his voice.
He knew the sacrifice.

He said, “My son, you’re not alone.
I’m walking there with you____
I’ll give you all the strength you need
For what you have to do.

I’ll give you courage to go on,
Through all this loss and pain.
I’ll give you hope to start once more,
And build your herd again.

I know that this is who you are____
And not just what you do.
And as you’re making your fresh start,
I’ll be right there with you.

Do not think this is a failure,
Or that you’ve done something wrong.
You’re an example of the spirit
That makes South Dakota strong.

So stand up straight and tall my son,
For I have faith in you.
Put yesterday behind you now,
For we’ve got work to do!”

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Spring Weather in Nebraska…

The only constant factor with spring weather in Nebraska is its ever-changing nature!  Monday we began the week with 60 degrees and sun—by Tuesday we had received high winds and a nice 2+ inch rain—Wednesday we were covered in a layer of ice—Thursday there was snow on top of the ice—finally today we saw the sun again and temperatures rose above freezing!

I took some pictures throughout the week in order to share the ever changing roller coaster ride that Mother Nature takes us on…

Enjoying the sun on Monday afternoon...

Enjoying the sun on Monday afternoon…

The rain water Tuesday draining out of my cattle pens...

The rain water Tuesday draining out of my cattle pens…

And into my line Livestock Waste Control Facility where we will store it for later use as irrigation water on our farm ground...

And into my lined Livestock Waste Control Facility where we will store it for later use as irrigation water on our farm ground…

By Wednesday we had ice and snow...

By Wednesday we had snow…

and ice...

and ice…

With the hard work of my crew and some carefully placed sand...

With the hard work of my crew and some carefully placed sand…

We were still able to ship cattle to harvest despite the icy conditions...

We were still able to ship cattle to harvest despite the wintery conditions…

We are thankful for the moisture, and looking with hope toward melting ice and a green spring!

We are thankful for the moisture, and looking with hope toward melting ice and a green spring!

It is beautiful, but I am ready for winter to end...

It is beautiful, but I am ready for winter to end…

My favorite 8 year old is hoping for sun and warmth for tomorrow's AYSO soccer game---it is looking promising!

My favorite 8 year old is hoping for sun and warmth for tomorrow’s AYSO soccer game—keep your fingers crossed!

As the week draws to an end, I am thankful for the moisture and hope that it will bring a Sustainable Green Spring!  Was your week a weather roller coaster ride as well?

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Filed under General, Sustainable Spring