Tag Archives: Weather

Our Daily Bread…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Lord’s Prayer which can be found in the KJV of Matthew 6: 9-13

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”


Winter has blasted the central plains states since Phil the groundhog came to visit. It’s cold in Nebraska. Sunday night (after a week of having lows below zero), we topped out at -29 degrees. Many of our ranchers are calving, and our feed yard crews continue to care for cattle outside in the cold weather. I remember those days well.

Despite having a heater, my horse water tank froze early Monday morning and that’s not unique with these types of temperatures. I think it’s hard whenever it gets this cold. But, this time is particularly difficult because we have already had a couple of months of winter and almost a year of the pandemic to wear us down. It is also unusual for us to have roughly 10 days in a row where our low temperatures are below zero.

Karyn laughed as she showed me this meme last weekend…

The weather is a heavy influencer on my attitude. I don’t know if it stems from growing up without winter on the sunny Florida beaches, or if I struggle with a mild form of seasonal depression; but I have to be very intentional about looking for the rainbow as the cold, snowy days prevail. There are a variety of things that help me to find joy amidst the arctic 😉 It struck me the other day that these things are all provided to me by my heavenly Father as my daily bread. 


Sometime this summer I began ending my daily morning prayers by reciting the Our Father. I grew up in both the Episcopal and Catholic churches, so reciting the prayer has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But, studying it as I study the Bible is relatively new to me. When I recently thought of the phrase “give us this day our daily bread”, it occurred to me that asking for the gift does not ensure the receipt of it. God may give it, but I still have the intentional choice of whether or not to open my heart to receive it.

Getting *stuck* in a downward spiral, whether it is fueled by sadness, self-pity, anger, frustration or some other usurping emotion is very real. When I find myself in this place, it often is easier to cling to that negative emotion rather than to work to change it. In those moments, God provides me with daily bread but I don’t accept the gift. I’m not sure that it is even always a conscience decision to refuse the gift. It is more like a poor habit that I move through without thinking. Over the past several years, I’ve committed to intentionally work to ground myself in the One that allows me to rise up and accept the bread. I’m slowly developing a new habit.

I still have days that I struggle. But, I can feel Jesus filling me with light and it makes a difference in my heart. It doesn’t make the cold go away, but it does help me to better rejoice and be glad in the day 🙂

 

 

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Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

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.

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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

Going to Grass, An Aggie in Nebraska, Summer weather on the prairie, Swim Team!

About ten years ago, our farm purchased about 600 acres of grass pasture south and west of the feed yard.  We use this grass pasture to graze lighter weight animals in the summer months as well as to harvest prairie hay to feed during the winter months.  After a cold and wet spring, the grass has finally grown enough to start grazing so we spent last Thursday going to grass with 134 fall calves.

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While I truly enjoying caring for cattle in a feed yard, I also love to utilize the unique resources on our pasture ground to grow calves on grass.  These animals will spend the summer season grazing and then will head back to the feed yard when Mother Nature begins to shut down for the year.  The animals typically weigh 600# when they go to grass and hopefully will weigh about 750# when they come home in August.

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In addition to going to grass, the Feed Yard Foodie family welcomed Emily, a graduate student at Texas A & M University, this week on the farm.  Emily hosted Megan and I when we traveled down to Aggieland last fall, and will spend three weeks in Nebraska with us this summer.  She arrived on the 16th and we spent the week learning to read bunks, shipping cattle, processing calves, and then taking these fall calves to grassEmily took most of the pictures included in this post as I am trying to inspire her to take up blogging during her remaining two years in the ruminant nutrition department at Texas A & M.

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Emily thinks that her sweatshirt is her best friend in Nebraska, and we are all hoping that she brought some of the Texas warmth with her 🙂  While the prolific moisture received in April and May helped to turn the grass green, the cold temperatures that accompanied it made the start of our growing season tardy according to the calendar.  My favorite farmer is antsy for a few heat units and drying days so that seeds will germinate and his alfalfa will grow.

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I am hoping to get Emily to write a “guest blog post” or two over the next couple of weeks — giving a glimpse into the Feed Yard Foodie farm from a different perspective.  We are laughing that she is very brave to join the general mayhem at our house which is likely to be more challenging than working at the feed yard…

On the home front over the past week, the girls finished up the spring track and soccer seasons.  Ashley Grace’s 4 X 800 relay team competed in the Nebraska State High School Championships, Megan garnered 3rd place finishes in Pole Vault and the 4 X 100 relay at the Nebraska State Junior High Championships, and Karyn earned gold medals in the 400 and 800 at a couple of local track meets as well as finishing up her spring soccer season.

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After 12 years, I hung up my soccer coaching hat last weekend.  Today, I put on my swim team coaching hat to kick off the start of the swim team season. Emily seems to be game to do anything as long as I don’t ask her to jump in the pool when it is 50 degrees outside…

The entire Haymaker Swim Team is hopeful that each of you will send warm weather out to the prairie as they have a really mean coach who makes them swim regardless of the temperature!

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Filed under Family, General, Rural Communities

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.

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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.

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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

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

Living In Reality—Controlling Dust…

I am a die-hard realist.  I have always trended that way, but the last 15 years of raising cattle and managing a feed yard in Nebraska has cemented that tendency.  It is not that I do not have lofty aspirations and goals; it is simply that I live in a world of practical implementation.

When everything that you do is tied in with Mother Nature, you learn to take what you get and then try to mold it into what you want.  I manage my cattle feed yard with the promise of offering optimal care for my animals and producing the highest quality of beef.  I also strive to ensure that my farm remains environmentally sustainable.

My promise…

The weather can be both my greatest ally and my biggest foe.  My animals live outdoors in dirt based pens.  One of our top priorities is to keep their living conditions comfortable.  We frequently clean the pens to prevent manure build up—the manure is then spread on our crop ground to ensure good soil health.

Matt’s manure truck spreading manure produced by my cattle onto farm ground that needs added nutrients to stay healthy…

Despite our hard work, there are times when pen conditions are not what I want them to be.  Sometimes during wet periods we struggle to dry the pens out to eliminate mud and sometimes during dry periods we search for ways to control dust.

This year is dusty.  In fact, it has not been this dusty for almost a decade.  I dislike dust because it can create health issues for my cattle.  Dust pneumonia is an added challenge during drought years.  While the dust in a feed yard is usually worse than the dust on pasture ground, this year it is so dry that the dust blows off of the pasture and farm ground with just as much abundance as the gravel roads and my cattle pens.

This pen in the background is full of newly arrived cattle. You can see the dust that blows when they run around and play…

As a cattle caregiver, it is my job to figure out how to control the dust at my feed yard so that my cattle can maintain optimal health.  An effective way to do this is to cross fence the pens.  This decreases the living space for the cattle by half and allows the animals to pack down the dirt and eliminate the worst of the dust.

If you look closely you can see the white temporary fence that keeps the cattle up in the front half of the pen to try and control the dust.

Cross fencing my cattle pens is a far from perfect answer to the problem.  While the obvious positive outcome of cross fencing is managing the dust in the pens, there are drawbacks to doing this.  The first drawback is that the cattle have less room to play and interact.  The second drawback is that it is more difficult to keep the pens clean of manure, and good pen cleaning is a more laborious process.

When I make the decision whether or not to cross fence, I have to weigh the pros and cons.  I know that there is not a perfect answer, so I must go with the best one given the circumstances.  My top priority is to keep my cattle healthy because I know that healthy cattle make healthy beef.  That priority drives my decision.

I think of my girls when I make decisions—they are eating the beef that I grow. I also try to teach them critical thinking skills so that one day they might come up with a better way to control the dust that plagues us in Nebraska during those dry years!

I am hopeful that we will receive some rain soon, and I will be able to take the cross fences out of my pens.  As we move later into the fall, the days become shorter and there are fewer “drying hours” which should also help.  In the meantime, I continue to take what I get from Mother Nature and do my best to mold it into something that both  I and my cattle can live with…

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The Drought—Part 2…

The Scarcity Of Animal Feed…

The plan of moving cattle off of pastures and into the feed yard is a good way to conserve grass and maintain the breeding herd for as long as possible.  All animals that are not going to be used to “make babies” are moved to the next step of the beef cycle which is into the feed yard.

Here, Studly (the horse) and I are trailing a group of cattle to their “home pen” at the feed yard…

This allows for the conservation of temporarily limited natural resources on the ranch where the breeding animals for the United States cattle herds reside.  As I mentioned in my last post, I try to help my ranchers when they run out of grass by taking their non-breeding animals early when grass is limited due to drought conditions.

Moving non-breeding animals off of grass pastures allows for more grass to graze with mama cows like these…

Normally enough feed is available on my farm (and in the surrounding farming community) to sustain and grow those animals in preparation for harvest.  This year is anything but normal…

Today I find myself in a challenging place.  My feed yard has many more animals than normal for the first week of August, and I am struggling to find some of the feedstuffs needed to nourish and grow them.  My phone rings several times a day from my ranchers (who are running out of grass) asking me when they can bring me more animals, and it is hard to find a good answer  because the general scarcity of feed is affecting the feed yard as well.

It is my responsibility to ALWAYS offer good care to my animals which includes a balanced and nutritious diet…


The primary ingredient in the blend of feed that I give to my animals is wet distillers grains which is the co-product that is produced through the ethanol extraction process (it is what is left of the corn after the ethanol has been removed).  The wide spread drought that has plagued the Midwest region of the country this summer has threatened the growing corn crop in addition to limiting grass and other forages.  The uncertainty of this year’s crop is worrisome to both me and my ranchers.

Corn is currently trading in the $8.00 per bushel range which is as high as I have ever seen it.  The relative price of ethanol to corn is not economically favorable, so several ethanol plants in Nebraska are temporarily closed down.  When my ethanol plant does not run, wet distillers grains becomes very difficult to procure.

This is what wet distillers grains looks like…

This is catastrophic for me because wet distillers grains is what I blend with my home grown forages (grass, alfalfa, corn stalks and wheat stubble) to make a high quality cattle feed—-I am not able to simply shut down my feed yard because feed is scarce and expensive just like some ethanol plants have done.  I have real live animals under my care—Animals that are depending on me to feed them every day.

You can see the yellow wet distillers here blended with forages to make a balanced feed for the animals.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about What Keeps Me Up At Night and talked about the volatility of the commodity markets and how that makes my job of growing beef very, very difficult.  Since I wrote that post, I have a new item to add to the list of What Keeps Me Up At Night…

Where can I find the necessary feed to provide my animals with the nourishment that they need to thrive and produce high quality beef?

Quite honestly, this is the single largest challenge that I have faced in the last 15 years.  I know what it is like to lose money raising beef because of uncontrollable market swings—I have been there before.  However, I have never been faced with the added challenge of logistically finding the feed that I need for my animals.

Our farm is our livelihood and it has taught me to be both creative and tenacious…

I have recently changed the blend of feed in my rations in an effort to conserve the resources that I have available to me, and pray that the availability of feed will increase over the next couple of weeks.  With each day that passes, I am reminded of the importance of my faith as I struggle to correctly put together the increasingly difficult puzzle of caring for cattle and raising nutritious beef during  a time of feed scarcity…

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Filed under Foodie Work!, General