The Best Farm Dog

I have to share this story. It’s a must. It’s an important part of who I’ve become and how it happened.

You’ve read in previous posts how the farm came about but there was a missing piece within that story. It’s the story of a rescued bloodhound, named Rosie, who was my constant companion and best farm dog.

Rosie came to me just before the whole deep depression. I got a phone call from a dog shelter not far from me. The gentleman who ran it says, “I’ve got you on a list as someone that would home a hound in need.” We talked for a few minutes and he goes on to say, “I know it’s been your dream to have a bloodhound. There’s one here but she won’t be easy. If you want to come meet her, we will have to see how it goes first.”

He went on to explain that she had been severely abused and was terrified of most people. She’d been with them for awhile and was still having issues putting on weight. He said that I should expect much the first visit.

I was so excited at the potential of having a bloodhound. I would have given anything.

I pulled in the driveway, got out of my car and out walks Paul. He again says not to expect much because she’s so scared of everything. Paul’s daughter comes out of the kennel door, attached to their house with this skinny, dropping skinned bloodhound.

As she approached, she kept eyeballing me between sniffs of the ground. She slowly keeps walking closer and closer. Once she was close enough, determined that I smelled okay, she gently walks up the front of my body and curled her head into my neck.

That’s it. I was instantly a goner. Tears built in my eyes, as they are right now and I knew this dog as meant to be with me. One small move and we bonded… hard and fast!

She was about 65 lbs at the time. I took her immediately to the vet for a once over and to get his recommendations. We put her on a massively high protein specialty food to help her gain some weight.

She was so scared of people, there were times that she would actually pee from fear. It took 3 months for her to warm up to others, including her other housemates.

She gained weight over that first year and by the next spring, she was running all over the farm and my constant companion. Now weighing 125 lbs, her hugs were now work outs too.

We took all kinds of rides all over the place. We went for runs in the field and even tried fishing together.

She blossomed over the years. Changing and becoming just as much a part of the farm as I was. 

As the years went by, she was a staple in my bed and in my heart and life.

From 2006 to 2015, she was never far from my side. We raised chickens together, including dealing with her depression when they disappeared from the house and her overwhelming enthusiasm when she found them in their new barn.

We had something very special. A bond that still hurts due to her passing today. I miss her hugs, her love of all things farm and just her as my travel companion.

In her last days, we got another bloodhound. A young pup that looks so much like her and has demonstrated what Rosie would have been like if she’d never known abuse or neglect. She’s not Rosie and doesn’t care for the farm but…

I see her pass on some of Rosie’s habits, like my special hugs and my ever close companion and bedtime buddy. She’s now settling in and will hopefully pick up some of Rosie’s love of all animals as she does.

There are a few more photos, photos of just how regal and special she was. 

The moral of this whole thing…

  • No matter how bad life may be in any given moment, new bonds will form in ways you never thought possible 
  • Just because you’re a hound doesn’t mean you can’t define what work you chose to do 
  • Love has many forms and possibilities 

If I could wish one thing for every person on earth, it’s for them to find the kind of pet bond I had with Rosie. 

ūüźĺDo not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. 

When you awake in the morning’s hush I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. 

Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die.ūüźĺ


Animal Care

So I’ve been awarded a need title, not that titles mean much but this is one that I’m proud to have.

My new title? Animal Care Goddess

How did I get it? Well, first off, I am the woman that always spends extra time learning and researching all kinds of things about animals care. Wether it be ear mites or alternative medicines to treating calves for hypothermia, I’ve always got my nose crammed in a book, watching videos or learning from others.

As a farmer, I feel this is one of my most important jobs. The job of knowing how to care for an animal that might (heaven forbid) get sick or injured. Things happen. This knowledge will be put to use at some point.

Let’s talk a little about just a short list of things I’ve learned:

  • Treatment of hypothermia in livestock
  • Holistic treatment and methods of pest (lice and mites)
  • Wound care and splinting
  • Treatment of scours
  • Treatment of dehydration
  • Pig castration
  • Nutritional requirements including mineral and vitamin needs
  • Treatment of Egg bound chickens
  • Floating of cattle teeth
  • Edema in Cattle Udders

And this is just a short list. The list continues to grow and grow. Odd examples include:

  • Diagnosis of Liver Fluke
  • Necropsy diagnosis of lung tissue damage which resulted in positive vet testing for lung worm
  • Eye damage on a cat

I’ve become so proficient in animal care, including rehabilitation of animals after abusive situations, that all of my neighbors get in touch with me BEFORE they do the local vet.

For basic care, I’ll gladly assist but anything I think might risk the animals live is ALWAYS referred to the local vet or vet college. Within the past week it’s been two calls and visits.

The first was to help care for hypothermic calves due to extremely high winds, cold temperatures and wet bedding. After chewing someone apart, giving treatment recommendations and devoting some time myself, 5 of the 6 survived. The last was not given due diligence and it ended up passing.

The second was an elliptic cat that jumped from a counter and compound fractured its leg and paw. That’s not something I can handle in any way. Afterward the cat was taken to the local vet, we then discussed treatment assistance for ear mites.

This isn’t uncommon with me at all. I’ve assisted with calf births, wound care, and a bunch of different things. 

I’ve helped others so much that I’ve been dubbed the “Animal Care Goddess”.

There are times I want to go to college, just to become a Vet. Maybe in the next life.

Snow days

It’s so hard to explain how difficult snow storms are for farmers.

It’s constant work created. Leave a door open and look at the result.

A good 15″ of snow drifting into the open pig barn door

The wind kicks up and drift starts….

A snow drift as tall as the barn! Rough 9′ to 10′ tall

The feeder pigs are having a difficult time getting into their feed room

To the top of your boots deep, then your knees and then your thighs trudging thru the snow.

Pushing snow above the knees

Yearling Holstein in chest deep snow drifts

Beat paths, digging out water tubs and fences that look extremely low

The final total was close to 36″ of snow. But guess what… as a farmer, my work is FAR from over. Now driveways need dig outs. Animals need hay. Water hoses need finding and roofs start losing snow.

Doorways blocked by snow

Everyone, including the animals get cabin fever. 

The guinea hen searching for green grass

Follow the leader to break trails in the snow

Cattle all snug and dry out of the wind and snow

Pigs checking out all the snow off the barn roof

And to top it all off, knocked out of the way during feeding the little pigs and escape artists going for a little run for exercise.

All in all, we all survived. Everyone is doing well. I handled it all alone, like a trooper. Digging deep and pushing hard to make sure the animals were all well cared for to the best of my abilities.

Contrary to a few comments bad, I don’t need to permission. I just do it. When there is a task that needs doing, I buckle down and get it done. I’m dedicated and determined to do what’s right for the animals. Just as others would do the same for their pets, I do for my livestock.

I took care of all this during the storm single handed other than a gate opening twice with the help from the 15 year old girl next door. No cozy blankets and no naps during the day.

I hope this inspires others to know that it can be done alone, that it can be handled… even by a woman with MS. 

As I sign off for tonight, I’ll leave you with my thoughts….

If you want something, dig deep and fight for what you want to do. Give it 110%. Ignore the hurtful words of others. Focus on the job at hand. Show what you do! That documentation shows your progress to you. Who cares what anyone else says or thinks. Be 100% authentic to yourself anyway.

Attitudes and Support

Since this blog is for you to get to know me and the life I have as a farmer, I need to talk some about the negatives and positives of being in this industry.

Within the industry as a whole, I’m seen as an oddball. Odd because I don’t believe a lot of the hype for and against agriculture. I believe in the power of verifiable, educated proof. No matter what topic you research, there are pro’s and con’s to all. I see both sides and the values to most. Many times, I can hold an intelligent conversation with all different kinds of producers about choices they make.

Where the negative comes in is when you point out something against the popular belief and suddenly you become the “hobby farmer” or the “too small to get what I’m dealing with” explanation. Sometimes they are right and other times, I’m left scratching my head trying to determine how suddenly my input is invalid. Let me give you an example…

Raw milk or drinking milk off your own farm. I can’t drink pasteurized milk. It literally makes me sick, so years ago I decided to do some research and talk with my health care professional about the issue. I was told to try different pasteurization processes, which at the time I didn’t even realize there were like 4 different levels. Low temp, High temp, Ultra are the types I want to discuss. It’s important to understand how that process alters and effects our dairy products. To learn more about the process, check out the International Dairy Foods Association guidelines.

Ultra pasteurized is a process of super high heat to extend self life, effective killing any and all potential bacteria (good and bad). The IDFA says, “Another method, aseptic processing, which is also known as Ultra High Temperature (UHT), involves heating the milk using commercially sterile equipment and filling it under aseptic conditions into hermetically sealed packaging. The product is termed “shelf stable” and does not need refrigeration until opened.”

Another little known fact about UHT milk is that the casein within the milk that would allow for milk to be made into cheese are destroyed in this process. As my doctor said, anything that is UHT pasteurized is adulterated past the point of being able to scientifically being able to be called milk. Many will react with food-like allergy reactions to this product because of that altered state. She expressed that I should do my own homework, so off I went in search of answers.

What I discovered nearly rocked me to the core. I found this article with micro photography on the actual alterations for each of the process. The article, supplied by The Weston A Price Foundation, can be found here. All of this made me realize that my issues were derived from the process. Upon going back to the doctor, we started discussing my options. She couldn’t and wouldn’t recommend Raw milk due to the CDC warnings but we discussed my health back when I spent a great deal of my time on my grandparents dairy, drinking the milk and the cheese my gran made… all from raw milk.

I spent more time researching and learning the differences in nutrition between standard raised beef and grass fed beef. Being a newly fledged farmer, I decided to attempt raising one, contrary to the farm partners ¬†zealous efforts to discourage me. What I discovered after transitioning our diets on meats alone was overwhelming. Our cholesterol dropped, we weren’t visiting the doctor as much for illnesses and both of our BMI’s were better. Nothing else in our diets had changed and we were still working the same jobs, performing the same duties.

Why do I bring this information up? I bring it up because I’ve gotten a lot of flack for discussing my own personal experiences and discussing what I’ve learned via my own production, research and more. Being the marketing person I am with 20 years of history in the industry built on data, I started learning more on human health and nutrition issues even going to the extent of completely an online college credit course in social psychology.

I’ve taken flack from my own partner over confining animals in barns, setting up pastures and finding funds to build fencing to increase pastures. I’ve taken shit from my neighbors who told me it couldn’t be done. Relatives that put me down and told me I was crazy if I thought I could charge the prices I needed too. ¬†I’ve dealt with shitty contractors who felt the need to seek my husbands approval (as an FYI I’m NOT married and won’t be). I’ve been disrespected and put down over and over again.

This isn’t the industry for pats on the back and batting eyelashes. You need to be as tough as nails, highly educated on what works best for you and be very firm in fighting for what you believe in. You will fight with other producers, be called all kinds of names, deal with people so stupid you get stunned into silence and still someone will push your patience to the limits. If you are a woman, you will learn that some men will never see your value. Some women won’t either. You’ll need to be tough, learn how to get a thick skin and learn how to vocalize for yourself and demand respect.

If you become a farmer, know that I am here, always to listen to a vent or a rant. I’ll always be here to tell you that you are AMAZING, that you are a damn super woman that accomplishes more in one day that others do in a week. I’ll be here to express to you that you are a physically fit bad ass in work clothes. I’ll tell you all the things I need others to say to me as a reminder of all that I actually am. I AM A FARM GIRL. Born of grit and fire, passionate about farming and knowledgeable about what I do. That I am physically strong and quick witted when I’m not strong enough to get the job done.

I commend every single women out there working hard to fulfill the dream and lifestyle of being a farmHER. Now… could we all just get along, not call each other names, make others feel the need for validation from any man (yes, older ladies I’m specifically talking to you) because we are a powerful group. A group of powerful women that are bad asses unlike so many others. Women that devote our lives, blood, sweat and tears into the land, livestock and family around us. Have an attitude… but let it be an attitude of perseverance and support.

Agriculture – The Word that Binds

Agriculture is a funny place. To strive and survive as a farmer takes a lot of guts and sheer determination. It’s an industry filled with educated (contrary to what many think), self reliant and hard headed individuals.

Agriculture is an industry that sits at a round table, bickering back and forth about what practices are best all while doing what we think is right by the environment, the land, the livestock and the consumer. We bicker because we are individually passionate about what we do. It’s a battle within a battle to do the right thing, many times we chose what we think it best and defend it with a sword and shield of words and images, science and data.

The recent tragedies I’ve read and heard about make one thing glaringly true about agriculture… it’s a word that binds. If you call agriculture your industry, you’ve seen and witnessed it time and again.

  • A farm girl becomes ill with breast cancer – the ag community raises together to send letters, cards, handmade items to cheer her on
  • Another farmer, diagnosed with a life threatening illness, watches as local tractors and equipment pull into his farm to get the crops off the field
  • A young farm girl spends time in the hospital and the ag world follows her recovery along and many of us shed tears when she enters the show ring again
  • Farmers face droughts and hay shortages and you’ll see tractor trailers line up to haul hay wherever it needs to go
  • A dairy farmer loses his barn to a lightening strike with many animals killed, others injured and still more need a place to go to be milking and other local farms open their barns and wallets to help out.
  • Another dairy barn burns to the ground and the entire community pulls together to get bottles and other supplies desperately needed.
  • Another farm gets hit by an electric shortage and burns. The entire community pulled together to find homes or relocate animals, financially assist and even donate time and energy to repairs.

This pulling together within the agricultural community isn’t uncommon. It’s amazing how a group that battles within is so devoted to each other. The word is just that… ¬†a word with so much more meaning.

Agriculture is an industry filled with bands of brothers and sisters bonded together through tragedy, hope, determination, stubbornness and understanding. When one grieves, many grieve. When one struggles, many struggle too. It’s not often that a farmer will close the door on another farmer or rancher. It’s not uncommon to hear words of encouragement, prayers and donations during times of need.

As I walked into this life, this banding together through thick and thin is something I never thought possible in the modern era. But yet, as days go by and wild fires burn, more and more come together to hold each other up with an emotional understanding of common ground. The common ground of heartache and struggles, the common ground of knowing that even when the chips are down, this is one group that will never give up or give in.

I take pride in my involvement in agriculture. Giving back in situations when I can, praying that I don’t ever suffer these kinds of tragedies, sharing my knowledge and dedicated my time when needed. I’m proud to say that I’m a farm girl, farmHer, farm mom or whatever other title you’d like to give me… Ultimately, I am a sister, friend, mother to many, daughter, aunt and so much more to my Ag family.

In the big picture of things, I couldn’t have requested a better “family” to join. I’m so blessed to know, respect and love so many in this industry… so if you haven’t lately, could you thank a farmer or rancher for all their hard work and loyalty to this industry. Just a wave will do. A nod of the head at the store or gas station. Just a little something to let us know you understand we devote our lives to something so much greater than just having a “farm” or “ranch”.

Fired Up

Nothing fires me up more than an arm chair quarterback dishing out input, advise and sarcasm. 

Let me explain more on this. I’m a farm woman. I do my daily chores with the same precision as an OCD person counts steps from one door to another. It doesn’t vary and it drives me insane when routines change.

Morning chores are done the same time every day, variations to that time mean I have aggressive and angry animals (see more in this blog). It becomes more complicated with smashed legs and feet, tipped dishes, knocked over pails, etc.

This morning I overslept until nearly 10 am. This was my morning. Add to that a frozen water pump and tank. That equals some seriously frozen fingers from negative wind chills, whipping winds and soaked hands. That makes me extra grumpy.

Upon arrival back inside, I get notice that there is mail that needs to be post marked today. The post office closes in 15 minutes, so it’s  then rush, rush, rush to change pants and shoes. Still no coffee and getting more irritated by the second.

Get to the post office with one minute to spare, to be rushed to label the envelopes and get out so they can close. Rush to the grocery store for dog food forgotten by my son to rush home because I still hav water to work on.

And then it happens, the arm chair quarterback interjects wisdom from flat on his back while laying in a warm bed while you bust your ass to do what needs to get done. You get called names like bitch, yet you know that you’re the only one that pushes to get things done.

Friends want to text to get a little pity for their crappy situations they won’t fight themselves to get out of, driving you faster toward that edge of explosion. You can feel the anger and intolerance building. You push harder physically so you can burn off that internal burning sensation.

Your fingers are now turning blue, the water finally running to fill cattle and pig water. Dishes are knocked over again and again. Your blue fingers now sticking to gates. They ache so badly while you try feeding a few forks full of hay that it springs tears to your eyes.

It’s now 4:30. You’ve worked in this all day. You’re cold, exhausted and extremely sore…. and here it comes, just wait for it….

As two grown ass adults sit on their ass while you’ve struggled all day, they have the balls to ask what’s for dinner. Deep breath in… TICK. Deep breath out… TOCK. 

You feel it building… here it comes. Comments about the “wants” and expressions on “needs” for good start rolling. And it hits, BOOM! 

Needless to say, it’s very quiet at the moment. I don’t think anyone dares to say a word. In fact, one has gone outside. I won’t be cooking. My hands still ache and my pants are still a solid block of ice some 30 minutes after coming inside.

To those reading this with farm moms… before you open your mouth demanding something or to give advise when you’re not willing to lend a hand, just do women like me a favor and just keep your lips SHUT! Maybe offer a hand, cook her a meal, bring her a hot drink or fix her some warm food. Stop being so damn selfish and self centered.

That goes for you farm wives reading this too. Nothing builds our anger and wrath like this type of thing. Don’t like not getting pampered, find a different partner because the farm will ALWAYS come first. You have two hands, use them.

To others outside this life… don’t ever tell me that I’m not doing it right or that I have “extra” time since I stay at home… anytime you’re ready to lend a hand, I’ll gladly find some things you can do. And to those that think I don’t work my ass off daily from sun up to sundown and hours after… feel free to come spend a weekend, I promise you’ll be thankful for your 40 hour/week job with a paycheck every week. 

Don’t want to commit to this kind of life… keep your fucking opinions to your self. I don’t need you to tell me what to do or when to do it. I handle operating 150 acres, 40 head of cattle, 22 pigs, 2 alpaca and who knows how many poultry. I also run and operate two additional businesses and help countless amounts of people. I don’t need a sitter, a boss or anyone else telling me what and how to do anything.

I’ve got this, hands down… even when I’m frustrated and extremely pissed off. I sure don’t need to listen to your boohoo pity train, fix your meals or wait for your okay. I’ve done this for 3 years on my own while others have bragged and taken the credit. Well, no damn more.

Have a little respect for everything I do. Maybe even lend a hand here or there. I won’t ever ask for help but I’ll be damned if I keep giving to people who can’t help others or themselves.

Now… I’m nursing a frost bite hand and going to enjoy a cup of coffee now. Praying to be left in peace without a single demand for 10 minutes.

Rant over.

Genetic Selection

I’ve gotten several messages lately about alternative genetics when it comes to both cattle and pigs… So I’m thinking I’ll take some time to explain a few things.

When I started on this farming journey, I started with a single Jersey steer. Jersey’s are a dairy breed that are typically very affordable (and some small ones can even be free for the taking). My first several animals raised for beef were actually dairy breeds. There is nothing wrong with that either. It’s what worked best for me at the time and what was readily available as I built the farm.

Below is the running addition order for what came and when:

Buck – Jersey Steer given by a local farm (raised for freezer beef)
Norman – Jersey/Holstein cross steer purchased for $10 at the local cattle auction (sold as beef)
Belle – Jersey rescue cow that cost $300 to get to the farm, passed on the farm in 2014
Danny and Davey – Jersey steer and bull that came with Belle (sold Danny as beef, Davey was sold for service for $560)
Bubba J – Holstein steer, given by a farm an hour away because he was very small (sold as a feeder bull due to fence jumping for $715)
Arthur – Jersey bull, free. Sold in 2012 as service bull for $600
Peggy РHolstein heifer given by another farm *died from pneumonia on my  living room floor
DJ – Born on farm to Belle
Ruby and Scarlett – twin lineback/Jersey cross heifers, given by another farm
*Scarlett passed from bloat after being trapped on her back  in the middle of the night
Meanie, Minnie, Annie – Irish Dexter’s purchased for $450 each (waited for nearly 3 yrs)
Katie – Jersey/Holstein heifer, purchased for $25 (sold in 2015 for $580)
Still here: Ruby, Meanie, Minnie and Annie

Stewie – Jersey , given by local farm (used as a service bull and sold in 2014 for $1150)
Chuck – Jersey, $10 auction calf, raised for beef
Sassy – Holstein cross, Auction heifer, $27 purchase, sold as beef when she didn’t breed
Tommy – Jersey, purchased for $60 at a local dairy, sold as beef
Beefy – Irish Dexter, Born on farm to Meanie, used as a service bull, sold as beef
Charity – Jersey/Holstein cross heifer, purchased locally for $50, entanglement in a hay feeder that broke her leg
Kira – unknown breed, purchased at auction for $17, spinal injury after falling on ice
Mini-Me – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Minnie
Still here: Mini-Me

Kobe – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Meanie, sold as beef
Taurus – Lineback bull, used as a service bull, given by local farm, freezer beef
Cinnamon – Jersey/Holstein cross heifer, given by local farm, died from suspected internal injuries
Amy – Irish Dexter/Jersey cross, born on farm to Minnie
Aubrey – Irish Dexter/Jersey cross, born on farm, sold as a family milk cow for $1200
Suri – Lineback/Jersey cross, born on farm to Ruby
Rosebud – Jersey heifer, given by local dairy
Still here: Amy, Suri, and Rosebud

Mr. T – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Meanie, use as a service bull
Jester – Jersey/Holstein/Dexter cross, born to Katie, sold as beef
Ramrod – Jersey/Lineback/Dexter cross, born to Ruby, sold as beef
Buddy #94 – Holstein, auction calf, purchased for $6.40, sold as beef
Dutch – Dutch belt, given by local farm, sold as beef
Orion – Lineback, purchased for $100, sold as beef
Kailyn – Dexter sired, born on farm to Kira
Minnie Pearl – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Minnie
Ava – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Annie
Minnie Maude – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Mini-Me
Lucky – Jersey/Holstein/Dexter, born on farm to Charity
Silver – Jersey/Holstein, given by a local dairy
Still here: Mr. T, Kailyn, Pearl, Ava, Maude, Lucky and Silver

Charlie – Holstein/Jersey, born on farm to Charity, sold as beef
Royd – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Annie, sold as beef
Max – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Mini-Me, sold as beef
Tuffy – Irish Dexter/Jersey cross, born on farm to Amy, sold as beef
Alf – Irish Dexter/Jersey cross, born on farm to Aubrey, sold as a feeder for $700
Nutmeg – Jersey/Dexter cross, born on farm to Cinnamon (lost when she got flipped on her back in the pasture)
Speedie – Holstein/Jersey cross, purchased from a local dairy for $125, unknown cause of death
Frenchie – Normandy/Unknown cross, born on farm to Kira
Mae – Jersey/Lineback cross, born on farm to Suri
Pyxis – Lineback/Jersey cross, given by local dairy
Minnie Mabel – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Minnie
Beanie – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Meanie
Ceara – Lineback/Jersey, born on farm to Ruby
Still here: Mae, Pyxis, Mabel, Beanie, and Ceara

Henry – Irish Dexter/Lineback/Holstein/Jersey cross, born on farm to Lucky
Sofie – Jersey/Lineback, born on farm to Rosebud, lost to milk bloat
Hugo – Lineback/Jersey cross, purchased from a local dairy for $100
Trooper – Jersey/Holstein/Dexter cross, born on farm to Charity
Harry – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Annie
Howie – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Minnie
Harvey – Irish Dexter/Jersey cross, born to Amy
Herbie – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Meanie
Herman – Jersey/Holstein/Dexter, born on farm to Silver
Harvick – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Pearl
Harley – Jersey/Lineback/Dexter, born on farm to Mae
Hoosier – Jersey/Holstein/Dexter, born on farm to Nutmeg
Halo – Irish Dexter/Lineback, born on farm to Maude
Mini-Minnie (aka M&M) – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Mini-Me
Lady Liberty – Jersey/Lineback/Dutchbelt, born on farm to Suri
Ms. Kaye – Dexter cross, born on farm to Kailyn
Abby – Irish Dexter, born on farm to Ava
Still here: Henry, Hugo, Trooper, Harry, Howie, Harvey, Herbie, Herman, Harvick, Harley, Hoosier, Halo, M&M, Liberty, Ms. Kaye and Abby

As you read through the list of names, where they came from and also where they have gone, you will start seeing a pattern. The pattern is that many of the stock is now fathered/sired by the Irish Dexter line and that very few of the staple dairy cows are pure breeds.
Since the initial thought process of building the farm has shifted back and forth, the issues that started developing within the dairy breeds became a concern and created heavy consideration into the reasoning. After reviewing data and details, I discovered that the Holstein genetic, when relevantly shown in appearance has impacts on animal health when it comes to pasture based systems. They are more prone to illnesses (liver fluke and lung worm) and have a difficult time away from grain based diets, even when they are developed on pastures.
The dairy breeds that I’ve achieved some great success with is the lineback and normandy lines and crosses. The Lineback/Jersey cross with a heavy lean on the Lineback genetic has performed very well, with steady gains and minimum inputs. The Jersey/Lineback cross with heavier Jersey genetics (note the wording with Jersey listed first to demonstrate the differences) seems to not hold winter weight as well but performs very well for milk and butterfat content from spring calving on. Ironically, the 100% Jersey does just as well as the Lineback/Jersey cross.
By crossing the lines with the Dexter genetics, the offspring of ALL genetics seems to strengthen and develop better for the all grass based food intake. Some of this I feel is because of hybrid vigor (just like roses), some of it I believe comes from the strength of the Dexter genetics for grazing.
My 2016 calf crop, mostly sired by the Dexter bull Mr. T, is the best calf crop to date. All have developed well, minus one which shows the classic prevalence of the Holstein genetic. It’s difficult to determine if genetics are the factor or if the start of his life impacted him long term. He was discovered very early morning in a snow storm, so cold that he had ice crystals in his wet navel.

So now let’s discuss why I picked the Dexter’s above all other genetics to build a beef herd…
The Irish Dexter’s have a lineage that dates back nearly to the establishment of the US itself, being one of the first genetics to be imported. They are a smaller framed cow, with a better meat to bone ratio that other breeds. They are also well established as a triple purpose breed, used for milk, meat and oxen. Other factors discovered in my journey is the lack of health complications, the ability to thrive on grass based diets alone and feed efficiency. Additional benefits include temperament, calving ease and overall size.
The down side is finishing time according to industry standards (which I’m a rebel and refuse to follow, focusing instead on condition and age) and how low they are to the ground. To milk them, special consideration should be taken for how close their udders are to the ground. They also do not produce the mass quantities of milk like a jersey, lineback or Holstein does.
Overall, the Dexter cross genetics fulfill the needs I have for finished beef size for my customer base and they are also very easy keepers. I’m planning on experimenting a bit more with the Lineback/Dexter cross genetics for 2017 and 2018.
If anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to comment and I’ll do my best to answer them or feel free to email me at

Inspirational Women

As I’m dealing with some extremely difficult emotional times right now, I want to talk a little about the women that have inspired me along my journey in life. In honor of International Women’s Day, I give to you 4 of the most influential public women in my life. Women that I see as heroes of their prospective times, who have overcome and persevered within their own lives and have gone on to ¬†make a huge impact on the world as we know it…

In no particular order:

  1. Helen Keller who over came attitude and learned how to be both blind and deaf. She went on to get a degree with a bachelor in arts of all things. She went on to become the co-founder of the ACLU, fought for women’s suffrage and brought attention to the treatment of people with disabilities.
    During her lifetime, she received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments, including the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1936, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and election to the Women’s Hall of Fame in 1965. She also received honorary doctoral degrees from Temple University and Harvard University and from the universities of Glasgow, Scotland; Berlin, Germany; Delhi, India; and Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Additionally, she was named an Honorary Fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland.
  2. Susan B. Anthony was a single women that never married, raised in a Quaker home. Ignoring opposition and abuse, Anthony traveled, lectured, and canvassed across the nation for the vote. She also campaigned for the abolition of slavery, the right for women to own their own property and retain their earnings, and she advocated for women’s labor organizations.
    In recognition of her dedication and hard work, the U.S. Treasury Department put Anthony’s portrait on one dollar coins in 1979, making her the first woman to be so honored.
  3. Temple Grandin¬† is widely celebrated as one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism. She is also the inventor of the “hug box”, a device to calm those on the autism spectrum.
    Later in her life, she discovered and developed humane cattle handling systems which have become part of the industry norm.
    Grandin has written many articles on autism and cattle management, is well respected in both arenas and has received recognition on many levels from books, publications, tv interviews and even a movie made about her life.
    In 2010, Grandin was named in the Time 100 list of the one hundred most influential people in the world in the “Heroes” category.¬†In 2011, she received a Double Helix Medal. She has received honorary degrees from many universities including Carnegie Mellon University in the United States (2012), McGill University in Canada (1999), and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (2009), Emory University (2016).¬†In 2015, she was named an Honorary Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication. Meritorious Achievement Award OIE, World Organization, Paris France, 2015. In 2016, Grandin was inducted into American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
    In a TED talk given in 2010, Grandin stated, “The world needs all types of minds.”
  4. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, also know as the First Lady and wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her life wasn’t one of ease and simplicity. Her father was a depressed alcoholic. Her mother depressed over his alcoholism, raising her children alone. By the age of six, Eleanor felt responsible for her mother’s happiness as her mother put her down about her looks, calling her nicknames like “Granny”, “Old Fashioned”, and “Plain”. She even wrote in her book This is My Story¬†that she was a solemn child without beauty, feeling like an old woman entirely lacking in spontaneous joy and mirth of youth. Her parents died 19 months apart, leaving her orphaned by the age of 10.
    After marrying, having children and her then husband becoming a state senator, FDR was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Navy in 1913. During World War I, Eleanor realized her valuable service to projects of interest with her dedication to the Navy Relief and the Red Cross. She visited wounded warriors at St. Elizabeth’s hospital and was appalled by the quality of treatment. She pushed then Secretary of Interior Franklin Lane to intervene and when he didn’t, she pushed harder to get him to appoint a commission to investigate the institution.
    Eleanor was so much more than these few simplified words, she was known at the time of the election as plain, ordinary Eleanor that wore $10 dresses, drove her own car and worked within the press. She held many positions before she became first lady as well. She held positions with the Democratic National Committee, the Todhunter School, the League of Women Voters, the Non-partisan Legislative Committee and the Women’s Trade Union League. Once her husband was in office, she held weekly meetings with the ladies of the press, hoping to express the mechanics of national politics to the American women. She went on to write a monthly column for Woman’s Home Companion, donating the $1,000 per month payment to charity. As part of her format, it was requested that submissions of conversational topics were made and by January 1934 an impressive 300,000 letters were received.
    She was never content being the lady of the house. Instead she showed the world that the first lady was an important part of American politics. She spoke out for human rights, children’s causes and women’s issues, working on behalf of the League of Women Voters. She also focused on helping the country’s poor, stood against racial discrimination and, during World War II, traveled abroad to visit U.S. troops. After her time in the White House, she was named a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly (serving from 1945 to 1953) by President Harry Truman. She was a chair to the UN’s Human Right Commission and helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she considered her greatest accomplishment. She was reappointed to the position again by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and also to the National Advisory Committee of the Peace Corps and to a chair on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.
    This context is just the tip of the iceberg to all the things that Eleanor accomplished in her life. She overcame a horrific childhood, became passionate about many topics such as racial justice, world peace and women’s rights to just name a few. She dedicated her entire adult life to these causes, until her death in 1962. She was a legendary women, not because of fashion trends or even because she was a first lady. She was legendary because she used her life to dedicate her works to do good. In a quote from her book¬† Tomorrow is Now, she wrote, “Staying aloof is not a solution but a cowardly evasion.” She may not have ever won awards or been historically taught in public schools about her contributions to the world, but to me she is a model example of pushing to pursue what you think is right against all odds. To learn more about her and her life, please look up the Eleanor Roosevelt Project.

Hidden Gems

Sometimes in farming, there are these little hidden gems. These gems are those moments we sometimes take for granted. I’ve got a bunch of gems stored up after sharing nearly 7 years of memories with one Old Tom turkey.

Tom came to the farm in early May of 2010. He was part of a group, 32 in total, that was raised as day old poults. He came in a box with a mess of others, chirping at the post office and driving the post master crazy as they awaited my early morning arrival. I still remember the day like it was yesterday. I was so excited to finally be getting some heritage turkeys. They came all the way from Missouri.

Once I got them out of the box and into the newly constructed specialty room built JUST for these birds, I couldn’t stand being in the room for a very long time. The noises they made was hard on the ears. After sometime, they settled in and got used to me. I had a couple that I took notice of right from the very beginning because of the stripped feathers. Tom was one of those. There ended up being a male and a female, both we kept as a breeding pair and became Tom and Momma.

As they grew, they began to fly. They would fly out of their enclosed area (anyone with heritage turkeys will tell you that it’s pointless to try to fence them in). They would go wandering around to the neighbors and keep disappearing. From settling on the house roof next door, to visit the front porch of the next house and even travelling almost a mile away from home to visit another friends house. We would get call constantly about “the turkeys visiting”. Some of those visits we didn’t find out about until years later over a shared laugh one summer night.

They were moved back to the barn so many times that the blood hound actually became a turkey herder. She would sweep around them and work like a sheep dog does to move sheep. The photo below shows her on “point” while moving them one late afternoon, to get them away from trying to attack a group of canadian geese.

That first year, Tom did what he should have but Momma became known as “The trash can” turkey. She sat all summer long in this horrid blue trash can and became a farm sensation because she would hiss at anyone that came near. She actually stayed so long that her tail curled side ways until molting.

The next year, it was a different story. Momma decided to build her nest in the corner near where a jersey cow (Belle) was being milked daily. She sat on that nest and it was just assumed that because of where it was, against a cold wall, that the eggs wouldn’t hatch. There wasn’t any point in moving her because she would still proceed with her hissing noises. Tom, the duty mate, stood near her all day long and would talk to her until it was time for chores and he would leave his post to grab a bite to eat.

One fateful day, Tom turkey stood at the end of the driveway. To those that don’t know, the driveway is across a rather busy road that people drive way too fast on. I threw on my slippers and promptly marched him back inside the barn. After coming back inside, 5 minutes later, there’s gobbling coming from half way up the drive way. Again, he got herded back into the barn. This continued until he was right on my front porch, gobbling his little lunges out! I realized that something was up, so instead of just immediately shutting the door behind him when he got into the barn, I watched him…

Low and behold, he scooted around the corner to where Momma had her nest and he fluffed his feathers way up and started strutting. He wasn’t gobbling anymore, just quiet. Suddenly, you could hear the peeps of newly hatched poults. He had been trying to share his excitement over becoming a dad. Thinking back on it now actually yanks tears from my eyes, it’s one memory that will stick with me for a very long time.

Tom was such a good poppa too. He was never very far away from those littles and he would let them crawl up to roost on his back or sit on his tail when the ground was wet. I’ve never seen a tom turkey do that before and haven’t another one since.

The memories don’t stop there either. Good Old Tom was my best marketing manager. I don’t know why he would do it, but he did. During breeding season, he would always make sure to do some breeding about 10′ off the edge of the road. Every season, without fail, visitors would stop just because of this turkey getting a “piggy back ride”. I can’t tell you how many visitors have died laughing over his actions, usually next to their vehicles, like he was proudly displaying what a stud he was. There are 1,000’s of photos of Tom riding on Momma. He was good at his job and obviously proud of it too.

It wasn’t always easy with Tom around. He had his dumb moments too. Like the day he tried flying over a van hood and got winged. As feathers flew every where, I figured he was a goner. The following day, when I could finally get near him, I check him all out and not one broken bone anywhere. He stayed back away from the road for a long time but needless to say, turkeys are very forgetful…

Three years ago, Tom got hit by a truck. I knew it was bad because there was skin and feathers attacked to the pavement. He just laid there in the grass about 15′ off the edge of the road. I scoped him up in my arms, carried him into the barn and started to check him from head to tip of his tail. He was missing a bunch of feathers and his one foot looked really bad, bleeding all over. I bandaged him up, treated him to stop the bleeding and kept checking him all over. I couldn’t find much else wrong other than his foot, so I decided to keep him locked up in a small room so he wouldn’t get beat up by any of the others. For weeks, I kept dishes filled with feed and water. I changed his bedding and his bandages. He ended up losing his middle toe and his ankle portion of his foot looked more like a club.

He survived. How I will never know but he did. He also went on breeding too. Not anticipating much and still wondering if he would be able to hold on, he somehow did. Him and Momma gave us about 30 poults all together. Some we lost to fox, others to a cat. Some we sold and others just disappeared. Momma was with us until two years ago. She raised a pretty little girl that acted just like her and taught her how to be a great nesting bird within the first couple of months of her life. Little momma was with us until last fall when we lost her and 9 of her poults to another fox.

Tom has been around for nearly 7 years. He’s been at the feed dish every feeding, expecting his little treat of feed to be fed in a special spot. He shares gobbles for whistles. He’s seen the farm grow and change. He’s been here through all the hard times, sat on picnic tables with me as I cried over the loss of a calf. He’s watched over poults and chicks alike. He’s hung out with the cows and slept at night with the alpacas recently.

He’s been a real treasure. A gem in reality. I’ll never be able to replace good Old Tom. My personal farm mascot and business/marketing partner. He’s been here since close to the very beginning. He’s been a staple around here. To others, he might have been just a bird… to me, he’s been a companion, a pain in the ass and dependable.

He came up missing yesterday. I fear the worst has fallen upon my Old Tom. With his age, it’s actually long over due. The livestock heritage conservancy says the life expectancy is 3-5 years for breeding toms and he’s well past that. I’m thankful for the time I have had with him… blessed actually. I wish every person out there could share the experiences I’ve had with him, the good and the bad.

I know I shouldn’t be upset. He had a long life, much longer than most. It’s just hard when you lose anything that has been around that long… Dog, cow, cat, turkey, chicken, etc. They become part of what you do and become more than that. They stay so long that one day you look at them and think, “I will spoil that one a little and he can live out the remainder of his days here.” Good Old Tom was that, he’s been around so long he’s part of the fabric of the landscape.

If he doesn’t show up, I know he came to a swift end. Tom never did anything half way. I have a feeling his old heart probably gave it’s final beat and I’ll find him long gone somewhere. And don’t think I haven’t looked in every nook and cranny I could find, even my son helped me try to find him.

All of this said, I know I gave Old Tom a good life and he shared some amazing memories with me… like the day he became a poppa that first time. His determination to get my attention won’t be forgotten. If he is found deceased, he will be buried in the special location for all those that have gone before him as the beloved ones. At the quiet spot, my favorite on the farm, overlooking the pond. A spot in the shade, under the pines where my Whiskey girl (a Shepard rottie mix dog that was 14 when she died from cancer) and my Belle girl (a rescued Jersey cow that I loved with my whole heart) are buried.  They were and always will be a sacred part of this farm.

Always. Always hidden gems below the surface of this farm.

UPDATE: 3/6 at 10 am he’s been located! Found in a back storage room with strings around his feet, red ones that aren’t found any where on the farm. Not exactly sure where he’s been but he’s here, safe and sound!!

Cold Days

As I woke up this morning, it became very apparent that it was cold outside. As I watched the wind blow the falling snow sideways out the bedroom window, I realized that I needed to bundle up really well to do my morning chores.

When winds whip like it was this morning, there isn’t much that you can do when the wind will find any gap there is in your clothing. You get odd spots of cold that enter up the back of your jacket or find that thin spot in your pants.

It always amazes me the resilience of animals on days like today. The cattle, with their leather coats and thick fur will still be standing at bales and eating with their faces away from the wind. The pigs will dig up bedding and bury themselves deep down in the pack. The alpaca will just find a spot out of the wind and chew away on the stack of hay.

The dog goes out and buries her nose in the snow and creates a snow beard all over her muzzle and nose.

The temperature was 3 degrees. The winds sustaining at 15-20 mph. It was brutal cold on me. Doesn’t mean I can sit back and not do chores. They still must be done. Frozen body parts, cold fingers that stick to gate chains and all. It must be done. They still need hay and the pigs still need grain. Everyone still needs water, more just because of the wind.

This is the busy time of year for me. The days when animals require more food stuff and more water, nearly twice the regular amount. It’s hard work, carrying and moving 50 lb bags at a time about 100′ to put into feeder three bags morning and two bags at night.

It’s carrying bucket after bucket of water to another pig to keep her in water as she’s nursing piglets. It’s carrying buckets of feed and arms full of hay and bedding. It’s freezing on the tractor to feed bales with no cab.

Days like today test your fortitude as a farmer. Frozen hoses WILL test your patience to the limits. Days like today make me feel blessed for the technology that has created super warm carhardtt thermal long johns, super warm socks and fleece lined coats. It also makes me thankful that I know how to craft crochet and knit hats, scarves and gloves. It makes me thankful for a warm house, warm blankets and a warm stove… even more thankful for a waiting hot pot of coffee.

It’s so hard to believe that just a few short days ago, it was in the seventies and a few short days from now it’s calling for 50’s and rain…. two cold days, just need to make it through these couple of days.

I wish you could all understand the drain on the energy it takes to not just stay warm but to do all this extra work too. It’s not just physical but emotional too. It weighs heavy in your heart and your head, it tests you mentally and physically. It really makes me want to crawl back in bed and take a midday nap… unfortunately, there is too much work to be done.

For now, I’m enjoying my solitude and the time spent making sure that everyone stays warm… there still is no feeling in the world like sitting with the piglets and having them share some love as they nibble on your boots and pants. Cold or not, that’s still a miracle moment that feels like a slice of heaven on earth.

If you wonder where I’ve disappeared to for the next couple of days… Might want to send someone to make sure I’m not frozen in the pasture LOL