Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Diary of a Dairy Wife: Ten Ways You Know It's Summer on a (our) Farm

Ten Ways You Know It's Summer on A Farm:

10. Every commitment you make is contingent on a) what you are harvesting, b) what part of harvesting you are in (i.e. mowing/cutting, fluffing, raking, bailing/chopping, hauling), and c) the weather forecast.

9. Eating meals in the middle of field, without utensils, with equipment idling is a perfectly acceptable example of quality time. And you cherish every single second of it because the moment are few and far between....until its chow time again!

8. Getting ice isn't questioned. It is law. Someone is in charge of icing all 70 ice matter which farm they may be left on. And they must be full of water, Gatorade, Mt. Dew, Dr. Pepper, and then that one ice chest for quitting time.

7. Breakdowns will happen. Runs to the parts store are inevitable. Usually lots of them. You will find old sheets and towels in the "good vehicle aka momma's ride" for a random grease covered hitch hiker. Sometimes the breakdown is on another farm, where the tractor was driven (on the highway...slow down folks!) and the Milkman needs a ride.'s the farm truck that's broke down and the tractor doesn't run to the parts store very quickly.

6. You know that commercial, the Snickers one, where "you're not you when you're hungry...." Well, it's like a bunch of Betty Whites running around here if the help doesn't have access Little Debbies and Snickers.

5. Anything that needs attention, I mean EVERYTHING including: the yard, the fix-its, the roof, the plumbing, the broken headlight, the "when dad gets in" conversation.....EVERYTHING, "can wait 'till we're done with hay/silage/crops. (pretty much the fall)" Which translates into, "You better get someone else to do it" or "It ain't happenin'."

4.  There will be grass on every surface. Wet grass, dry grass, hay, silage, all shapes, sizes, and kinds will be everywhere. What ever surface The Milkman empties his pockets on (if he does) will be covered in parts, tools, lose change, pliers (not the same as "tools"), and lots of grass. The floor will have clods of wet grass along with dry hay. Anywhere the Milkman undresses  will be littered with grass. Generally there is no time to take off the boots, so the floor will be covered. Some days it is infuriating, but you realize that it means the cows will be fed for another year!! WooHoo!!

3. Vacation? Va-what? I'm not sure I understand that word. A vacation for a farmer doesn't really happen in the summer. Our version of a "big family" vacation is a couple nights at a close enough destination to get back within a couple of hours "in case something goes wrong." And most certainly....something will go wrong!

2. The Milkman glows in the dark. In the summer....when it's dark...and he takes his shirt off....he glows. Not his arms forearms, but his stomach and upper arms shine like a baby's bottom in the dark. The farmer's tan is an indication of summer in every language.

And the number one way you know it is summer on the farm....

1. The smells. Sweet, sweet fresh cut hay, fermenting silage, fertilizer flowing, diesel burning, those magical rainy days, and sweat for miles!!! And to a all smells like money, baby!
             Okay...not really, but there are no smells like those summer smells!

Summertime brings hot, I mean HOT days, long hours, lots of time working and less time to spend in togetherness. But all those things make the rest of the year happen. Every season relies on the next and the farm relies on all of them to keep going. We all put in whatever it takes to make the farm go 'round and even if we don't spend as much time together as most other families we have so much to show for our hard work. Hard work that we did together....everyone their own part. Without our version of summer we'd have a lot of hungry people.

So when you spend your extra few hours a day hanging out with the family, doing yard work, and playing backyard ball while barbecuing don't forget those of us that made sure that side of beef, chicken, fish, (and even tofu) got from our farm to your backyard.
And when you load up the kids, shove the luggage in the car, and head to the beach be sure to have extra fun for those of us foregoing the sun, sand, and sea so that we can grow a crop or two!

We may not run a conventional household, be able to do what everyone else is doing, or even make plans to attend your family barbecue, but we wouldn't trade 100 vacations for what we got going on! We get so much in return for whatever seeming sacrifices we may make. It ain't for everybody, but it is certainly for us!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Diary of a Dairy Wife: Happy Dairy Month! Lets Learn Something!



Use some extra butter. Drink lots of milk (and dunk your cookies too!) Eat ice cream until you are miserable!

In Arkansas there are right around 70 dairies. Total. In the whole state! That is a much lower number than it was, say, 10 years ago. I could run through the numbers, but that isn't very exciting, shocking, but not exciting. But you can drive through the smaller towns in our state and see an old milk barn on most every piece of property. It's kinda sad.

It is so sad for me to see farms closing the barn door on the tractors and selling out. I realize that not everyone wants to farm and there may not be anyone to take over. Sometimes after a lifetime of hard work it's just time to turn in the keys. But farms are being put out of business because of strenuous regulations, cost of operation, and more and more because of the propaganda and fear mongering coming from so many different angles you have no idea who is attacking.

There are the obvious attackers of agriculture: PETA, HSUS, ASPCA with their false claims of "industrial farm" animal abuse and the videos that they "secretly" film. I put all of these words in quotation marks because their claims just don't ring true. Let me stop and make a point...there are bad people in the world. There are bad farmers, but those few farmers do not represent the whole...the best of us. Farmers are proud people. We are proud because what we do is important to us and to the world. We take pride in caring for our land, our plants, our equipment, our animals, and our families. We don't abuse any of those things. It just wouldn't make sense. There are practices that may look abusive, but if you understand why we do things a certain way it usually puts the "video" or the practice back into context and makes sense. The best thing to do is ask a farmer why they do what they do and why they do it a particular way. I am always open to questions...if I don't have the answer I will find it or find someone that can answer for me.

The majority of farms in the United States are family owned, operated, and loved. Lots of farms have incorporated their farm legally because it is a multi-family farm or just because it makes good business sense. Just because a farm has an "inc." name doesn't mean it is any less family owned and operated. Farms are businesses just like any other and the owners have to protect themselves and their livelihoods just like any other type of business. Making good business decisions is what keeps a farm running. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in Farmer Brown's overalls and straw hat (or in the Milkman's case...Carharts and ball caps) we forget that inside he still has to wear a suit and tie and make business decisions that can make or break his life's work. 

I would also like to touch on the farms that hold a food company name like Tyson, Cargill etc. Those farms aren't "industrial" or "factory." The families that own and operate those farms contract with those companies to produce and sell the products they grow. In order to feed the world this is a necessary way to farm.  There is no cost effective way for every farmer to build, purchase product, purchase feed, carry every piece of the production agriculture puzzle on their shoulders and produce an affordable, cost effective product. It can't happen when you need to feed the world. John F. Kennedy said, "The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways." That statement is huge. We need to feed 7 billion people and there isn't really a break in how we do it. We just gotta do it.

Then we have people that are either health activists or what I like to call "brand pushers" that like to either put fear of conventional ag into consumers or shame them into buying whatever they are selling or chose to believe in that day. is one of those. The organic market is booming. Do I buy organic? Sometimes, but only when there isn't a conventionally grown product available. There is no scientific studies showing organic products are healthier or better for you. And if you find better research the researcher. Google makes it easy to find exactly what you are looking for...they analyze your past searches and your wording and it gives you a slanted version of whatever topic you type in. So go ahead and use "the Google" but make sure you are seeing both sides of your inquiry. 

Let's touch on a few misconceptions of organic. True or false:

No pesticides (including insecticides/herbicides) are used in organic production....


There are "organic approved" pesticides used on organically grown products. They aren't necessarily safer than conventionally used pesticides and lots of cases they are less effective causing larger amounts to be applied. Part of the reason organic products are more expensive is because they are more expensive to produce. 

All locally grown produce is organic. 


Organic is a marketing label. Organic production is overseen by the USDA and must follow certain production guidelines to receive the "organic" label. Farmer's market items aren't necessarily following the USDA guidelines. And if they aren't...they shouldn't be labeled organic.  

Organic milk is healthier/fewer hormones/less antibiotics in it. 


Again....there are no studies showing organic milk being healthier than conventionally produced milk. In our area there are no organic processing facilities. That means that any organic milk produced in Northwest Arkansas is shipped much further than conventionally produced milk. The way they process organic milk is somewhat different than conventional milk and sometimes organic milk has a longer shelf life than conventionally produced milk, but the difference is in the processing, not the producing. 
There are hormones in all milk. Not added hormones, but if you break down why a cow produces is because they had a baby (just like humans.) There are hormones in any animal product and in plants also. Some farmers use a synthetic hormone to boost milk production. The hormone rBST already exists in cows and in their milk. There is no way to test for the synthetic version because it is the same as what already occurs. Because of the hype that was stirred from some false claims, a lot farmers have signed contracts saying they won't use rBST on their farms. This was something several companies did so they could advertise "rBST free" or "no added hormones." Any milk that advertises "hormone free" is stretching the truth. They are trying to say "no synthetic hormones used to increase production." But that doesn't fit on the label as easily. (For more info on rBST please take a peek at this blog:
Antibiotics. Oh the fun, fun topic. Farmers do not use antibiotics on their cows for fun, for growth, or for production. Antibiotics are expensive, for one. We don't like spending unnecessary money...that practice cuts into profits. Any momma cow that has been treated with antibiotics will be milked into a milk can. Their milk is DUMPED out. Down the drain. Testing for antibiotics in milk is very sensitive. The test can show a drop (one tiny drop) of antibiotic treated milk in an Olympic sized pool. If there is a single tiny drop of treated milk on the truck that picks up my milk the entire truck has to be dumped. DUMPED down the drain. Do you know how much I get paid for milk that goes down the drain? Nada. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Do you know how much it cost me to produce that milk? Lots. I mean way more than nada, nothing, zero, zilch. So please, explain to me...why would I taint milk going to the plant if it is going to be dumped and I not only lose income for that load, but I have to pay the other farmer's that may have been on the pickup list for that truck also? That, my friends, is how you lose money and lose a something stupid like that over and over.

So why? Why do we use antibiotics, you ask? Because we love our cows. If a cow is sick, injured, hurting, etc., we give a vet recommended dosage to her and wait for her to get better. We put her milk into a separate can and dump it out (losing money...) until all of the antibiotic is out of her system. We have testing kits on the farm that we can test the milk with. If the tests say the antibiotic is still in her system...we keep dumping. If it shows clean milk she goes back into the tank. It really isn't rocket science, but when you have groups spreading hate and discontent about antibiotics in your milk the fear kicks in and you just need someone (that knows a thing or two about farming) to break it down for you.

The vast amount of information floating around is overwhelming. The ease in which lies and deception is spread is startling. Farmers want to make a quality product and make a living. That is the point...we love what we do, but we do it to live. We feed our families what we produce so making a poor quality product is out of the question.

Here is the point...Choosing organic or conventionally grown and produced food is a personal choice. Make the choice based on truthful information. Make it based on what you can afford. Make the decision after you have done your research and after you talk to someone that knows agricultural practices and reasons behind them. I'm good with choices and organic production. I'm not good with the folks trying to sell that you should spend more than necessary on food because of a marketing sticker. 

Just do your homework.

Speaking of homework, if you like to eat, and you like to eat affordable, quality food make sure you know what you are donating your dollars to. Make sure you know what you are buying and buying into. The sad puppy commercials are a very effective tool. They make you think that whatever you give goes to the puppy mills and starved, mistreated kittens. The reality, that you can find, if you look close enough, is that your money goes to lawyers and the goal of many of these organizations is to shut down production agriculture. If that happens you can say goodbye to affordable bacon, steaks, chops, turkey legs, milk, cheese, get the point. We will go from 'Merica...BBQ and beer (yep...also an agricultural product) to...well the opposite. Scare tactics aren't my thing, but you smell what I'm cookin'. 

If you want to donate to helping prevent animal abuse and help with shelters please donate to LOCAL humane societies. The Humane Society of the United States is NOT a local humane society....

I know y'all will be doing lots of research now. But take a break and go get a bucket of ice cream, cookies to go with your milk, butter for your 'tater, and don't forget the cheese! Dairy farms are going out of business every day. Do your part and keep on buying dairy products. We don't want to see any sad puppy face dairy farmer commercials....

Celebrate Dairy Month!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Diary of a Dairy Wife: Where's Your Happy?

I know the secret to happiness.

Baby giggles. Popsicles. Lazy summer days. Sleep. Tractors. Cows. Money. Family. Puppies. Food.


Those things help, but they aren't the secret.

We have become a very unhappy people. We are mad at the world. Nothing is going right. We don't have the job we want, the car we want, the house we want, the person we want, the life we want.

We are sad and kinda pathetic. We have too many choices.

Wal-Mart is out of my favorite chips. A rock hit my windshield. Joe got the promotion I wanted. Susie is married and I am not. Frank's car is nicer than mine. Amy has a clean house and I don't. That heifer has it all together.

We have learned to compare ourselves to everyone else.

During the Depression they were happy to have the sugar, flour, coffee, shoes, and other necessities. It doesn't fit just right? That's ok! It'll work or I'll out grow it or grow into it. I'm wanted steak and a baked potato? Beans and taters will have to do for tonight. And that was ok. Because they didn't have choices. They didn't have the big decisions or the luxury of keeping up with the Jones'. They were happy to survive and be able to feed the kids. They were happy when they got a little more than they did last week. They were happy that nobody starved.

I'm not saying it was a happy time. It was called the DEPRESSION for Pete's sake. They didn't party it up, but the appreciated what they had. They were THANKFUL for anything and everything they had.

Today we see people spending time and money trying to tear down industries because they don't agree with their methods. You see activists trying to end animal agriculture, the GMO debate, shut down coal, no oil drilling. People are no longer thankful because they are no longer starved. I'm not saying we need to starve the nation.....but they are doing a pretty dang good job of getting there.

We have no idea what it is like to be hungry. The people running the country and the people making the phone calls and the people pulling the strings are full and power happy.

I can go into a whole rant on "industrial" agriculture and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and I probably will before I quit blogging, but this isn't that post. We are lucky to be fed. We are lucky that we have the choices. We are lucky to have the freedom.

Here's the thing...we have so much freedom that we are well on our way to losing it. One person gets the idea that eating meat is animal cruelty and it dominoes into some activist groups that lie about their agendas and make millions upon millions to take away someone else's eat meat. One person decides that they don't like GMO crops...they start ignoring science and throwing fear and lies around and we have marches against Monsanto. (Let me just say....there are countries in this world that are begging for GMO crops...those crops can feed so many starving can bring wealth to those who are in poverty. I won't go into it, but if you would like to know how or why please ask.) One person says that a random bat/fish/bird/animal "may" become extinct if we drill for oil (that could relieve some of our dependence) and the do so is taken away. I could literally go on and on.

I'm not saying that everyone should be able to do anything that they so desire, but we are taking freedoms and rights just because someone has the freedom and the power to take it.

There should be rules. There should be priorities. There should be COMMON SENSE.

People are not hungry. So they are finding other areas to be miserable. And to make other people miserable.

The key to happiness isn't taking someone else's happiness. The key to happiness isn't having enough power to take from someone. The key to happiness isn't getting everything you want.

The key to happiness...true to choose it. It really isn't a secret at all.

It isn't necessary to compare yourself to another person. It isn't necessary to feel better because someone else has it worse.

It IS necessary to realize that we aren't hungry. We still have freedoms (though they seem fleeting.) We have every ingredient to be happy, we just have to mix it up and choose to live it.

We are facing an ever changing world. It is fast paced and crazy. What is here today is gone tomorrow and getting it faster is always better. We have choices like no other decade before us, and for some reason we are about the most miserable bunch of people the world has ever seen. But of all the choices we have we are always screwing this one up.

Choose. To. Be. Thankful.

Choose. To. Be. Kind.

Choose. To. Be. Helpful.

Choose. To. Be. Happy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


As I look around me, sitting on the couch, I appear to have entirely too much technology. In my lap sits my Mac, beside me my iPhone, iPad mini, while I watch the Vizio TV hooked up to my AppleTV. It must be nice to be the financial beneficiaries of Apple. Who doesn't have (at least) one piece of Apple technology near them at this very moment. Look around you...probably look in your hand. You are reading this with an iSomethingorother. If you aren't there is something within reaching distance.
Unless you are of the anti-Apple crew. I respect that. I was going to be one of those, but I was weak. I gave in. And once you go to the Apple side there isn't any turning back. It all connects too easily.

I'm addicted to the apps and the little (...) thing telling me a fellow iPhone person is in the process of texting me back. It's neat. I am always looking at the thing to see what's new. It's distracting. Everybody is so distracted. We go out with our spouse, friends, kids, parents, everyone so we can spend some quality time checking Facebook and the news constantly alerts us of whatever is going on. Usually something not very newsworthy, but we gotta check it out real quick. It's ridiculous how dependent we are.

I'm not even confident enough in my own addiction to have "no technology" time at our house. Sometimes I look at us all sitting in the living room and the Milkman is on the iPad, I'm on the Mac, the oldest Milkmaid is on her iPod, and the littlest Milkmaid is using her sister's Kindle or my iPhone, because I'm a a mean enough momma to not have gotten the 2 year old her own technology. She just borrows one of our many pieces. Lets not forget the TV going in the background. But if I banned our use of technology for a period of time, what would we do?!? We would have to talk to each other! And look at each other! And acknowledge that we are all in the same house. Who wants that?!?!

Well I am putting all the dirty laundry out there, aren't I? Don't know you have it all too. Maybe you do have "technology free" time, but there is something, somewhere that distracts you. No judging. I just sound like mom of the year up here on the hill. I should really try to figure out how to implement something. I probably won't like it, the Milkmaids won't, but since I'm the mom they wouldn't have a choice, and the Milkman....he would be the most difficult one. During the day he'd like to throw his phone out the window, but if I told him he couldn't have it he'd probably have withdrawals. Wonder what the symptoms of technology withdrawal consist of?

Honestly the Milkmaids are in bed and the Milkman, for the first time in a couple of months, is out coon slaying...or whatever he wants to call it. Chasing dogs in the woods is what I see it as. That isn't my idea of fun. Don't worry though, he isn't without his phone. He may not answer it, but it's there, in his pocket.

Do you remember a time before all this in your face everything? When we got to leave work at work and school at school? When that drama that haunted you all day went away because it stayed put? You sat down at 6 and 10 because that was when you could get the day's news and the weather. If you missed it you were out of luck until the next morning.

I remember a time before cell phones. My parents had a "bag phone" in the car. We were threatened within an inch of our lives if we so much as touched it. It might as well been a grenade. Then when I turned 16 I got a notorious Nokia that was "just for emergencies." I was to keep it turned off unless there was a good reason to make a call and under no circumstance was there an emergency where I should call my friends. When text messaging became popular I had my life threatened, yet again, if I so much as texted an SOS... Those were really expensive. Before the Nokia I had a pager. I was very up on the technology back then. I even remember going from a pager that just received a number to call back to one that received messages. That was a huge deal. Really cool.

Our school banned any pager/cell phone and called it "drug paraphernalia." They would call the cops and the K-9 unit to sniff out your locker and/or car. It was quite humorous. Looking back its exceptionally ridiculous, but they were being proactive. We could still carry a firearm (well sort of) but NOBODY should have the dreaded Nokia. Nokia/pager = drug dealer.

We have come a long way in the technology world. We see abducted children found, thieves caught, and amazing YouTube videos almost daily. But it was so nice to not have the stimulation of constant news updates, whatever happened at school was left behind, mom didn't see everything in a tagged picture, and texting/driving accidents were unheard of. With the good, clearly comes the bad.

I don't know what's best for everyone. I know we are proving that so much technology may have its good points, but it causes at least as many problems as it solves. We all need some time away from the screens, but actually doing it is a whole other story. Maybe I will try it. It would probably be easier if I wasn't surrounded by all my iEverythings. I should get a basket for it. The iBasket.