What Does the New Year Mean?

cows-2015Of course I meant to write this right at the turn of the new year.  When you live on a farm, many things get in the way of the “to do” list.  I had the goal to put down in print a few goals I have for 2017 but horrible below freezing temperatures, snow, and a round of the flu managed to completely derail my plan.

Now that the ice and snow have thawed and the house has been disinfected top to bottom I can get back to my thoughts and wishes for 2017.

1 ~ Appreciate and treasure the time I have with my family.  For too long I could not wait for my kids to be out of diapers, sleeping through the night, attending school all day……  The list goes on and it was all so I could have a few more minutes for me.  Well now as I look at the calendar, I realize I have very little time left with my kids before they head off to the next chapter in their life.  How did it go so fast?  Just yesterday I had a preschooler, infant, and a third on the way.  It just went by so fast and now all I want to do is slow it down.

2.  Appreciate and enjoy the life I have everyday.  I know this sounds easy and simple.  All it takes is a review of the newspaper or quick 30 minute newscast to showcase that there is so much sadness and suffering not so far from home.  I am so blessed to live on a beautiful farm and count cows and calves as my neighbors.  I have the pleasure of walking to work twice a day and I never have to worry about traffic.  It really is an ideal situation and I must remember to love and appreciate it every day.

3.  Encourage my kids to take chances.  I love routine.  I thrive on routine.  Maybe that is why dairy farming is the best job for me.  I want my kids to take chances.  I want them to be ok if something does not go like they want.  I never thought I would be married to a dairy farmer and living in rural Washington.  I took a chance and I never looked back.

Here’s to a great 2017.

Is Farm Life Reality??

I love raising my kids on a farm.  My kids are learning to work hard, work together, as well a developing a good work ethic.  So many families do not have the opportunity to provide this for their kids.  With that said, the horrific massacre that occurred in Orlando drove home the disadvantages of farm life.  I spent quite a bit of time explaining to my kids not just what happened but why it happened.  Now don’t get me wrong, my kids do not live in a version of Disneyland.  Our farm definitely IS NOT the happiest place on earth.  My kids are very aware of the current political sideshow in Washington DC, the traffic nightmares in the Puget Sound, and the issue of unemployment in our local community.  They understand bad things happen to good people.

What happened Saturday night in Orlando was truly a tragedy.  Hundreds of families were affected and lives were forever changed.  Explaining the reason(s) of why this happened to a couple of farm kids was very difficult.  What makes it even more difficult is when I don’t understand why.  I can answer why the sky is blue, why my stomach hurts after eating a gallon of ice cream, or maybe even why some girl broke my son’s heart.  But this horrible display of hate and anger leaves no explanation.  Looking out my back window at a group of beautiful cows grazing in the sunshine does provide a little solace.  I pray for those in Orlando.  While I may not be able to explain to my children why this happened to you and your loved ones, I can explain and share the love and strength you are sharing with the world even during one of the most difficult times in your life.

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My “Normal” Day

This past week, our family experienced one of those days I never want to repeat.  We run an organic dairy  – this means we feed cows, feed calves, milk cows…… the typical dairy farm activities.  But, we also lead a “normal” life too.  We have end of the year school activities (FFA Banquet, Art Fair, Science Fair), sports signups (New Select Soccer Team), ADAPT kid class (think after school PE), and it goes on and on…….  But we also have all regular things every family deals with every day.  A washer that decides to quit.  A toilet that will not quit running.  A hot water tank that decides today is the day it will quit (right before mom takes a shower).

This past week we had one of those awful things every family hates to experience……. the passing of a family pet.  We had an amazing little puppy “Arlo”.  We had the pleasure of loving and caring for him for the past 5 months.  Something very unexpected happened.  Needless to say, many tears were shed but the farm must go on.  As we dealt with deep emotional pain, we also had to run the dairy.

With these events, we also have the luxury of healing.  Yesterday, my husband, daughter, and son made the drive to Eastern Washington and found an amazing little yorkie.  My oldest stayed home and completed his “to do” list.  Many of his “to do” items were those things my husband would have done on any given Saturday.  We were lucky to spend the day as a family and bring home a new addition to our home.

Meet AJ – or “Junior” for short.  We look forward to many days with this newest member of our family.

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“Life Is Not Fair”

I’ll be honest.  I have 3 amazing kids – one of the most common life lessons I have tried to teach my kids is “I do not care if life is not fair”.  Please do not come to me with the “It’s not Fair” excuse.  With that said, I must confess I had one of those “Life is not Fair” moments today.  Many a dairy farmer has watched a favorite cow give birth to a bull calf.  Normally this is just part of a normal day, the 50% chance of getting either a heifer or a bull.  For some reason a show cow takes on a different perspective.  Once she has been confirmed pregnant, you spend lots of time wondering and hoping if she will bless  the farm with a wonderful female offspring.  You try not to get your hopes up too much- but I will admit it is hard to not plan and think about all the great things that can happen when your daughter’s favorite brown swiss has a daughter.

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Meet “Stephen Curry”. A cute adorable Brown Swiss bull calf.

Let me introduce “Stephen Curry”.  He is an adorable little 100% Brown Swiss bull calf.  While he may cute as he can be, he can not permanently stay at our dairy farm.  Luckily we have some good friends who live nearby who adore and appreciate the brown swiss breed as much as we do.  “Stephen Curry” will move to their farm as soon as he is old enough (probably 4 months from now).  So in the mean time, every time I feed Stephen Curry I will quietly remind myself that “Life is not Fair”.  At least in this case.

Who loves Ice Cream??

I had the best time Sunday attending the 2016 Seattle Ice Cream Festival.   The Dairy Farmers of Washington made a $500 contribution to sponsor this event.   It was so amazing to see so many people interested in ICE CREAM.  The Pacific Northwest is so lucky to have so many small artisan ice cream creators.  I knew this event was going to be popular, but I was not ready for the wall to wall people. I t was like Disneyland at Christmas!!  All I can say is as a dairy farmer, it was amazing to see so many people interested in ice cream.  I hope this event happens again because this dairy farmer will definitely make time to attend.

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This is Martha Marino and she is an amazing advocate for dairy!  We are so blessed to have her representing the dairy farmers of Washington.

 

A good nap – It solves everything!!

I think the most difficult part of dealing with autism is trying to figure out what is going on in your child’s brain.  Even the most well spoken, brilliant, and smart adolescent child has trouble communicating at times their feelings and thoughts.  Imagine an autistic child.  We struggle every day with his behavior, both appropriate and inappropriate.  Every time there seems to be progress, something triggers regression and we just end up back sliding.  But for every failure, we need to focus on the success.

This picture highlights what we deal with each day.  Joey can “function” through most day to day activities.  But, when his brain has had enough, time to sleep.  He has been doing this more than usual lately.  Makes me wonder even more what is going on in his brain.  Until he can better articulate his thoughts and feelings, maybe a good nap is what his body needs.

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1st night at Swiss Kamp – Must have had a good day.

USDA Checkoff Program – What does it mean to farmers?

Everyone remembers the “Got Milk?” advertisements, right?  Well, did you know this was a result of “checkoff” dollars from dairy farmers in California? Many people don’t realize this campaign was a result of checkoff dollars, so what are “checkoff” dollars? The National Checkoff program was established in 1983 by the Dairy & Tobacco Adjustment Act. It is a program whereby funds/assessments are deducted from producer’s milk checks for the specific purpose of building sales and demand for milk and dairy products.  The USDA oversees the checkoff program and plays a role in regulating consumer communication regarding dairy and other food commodities.

Where I farm, the Washington Dairy Products Commission and the Washington Dairy Council are certified by the USDA to carry out checkoff related programs on a local level. The Commission and Dairy Council collaborate with the national organization, Dairy Management, Inc. to build demand for dairy and protect the image of our industry. Checkoff dollars are used to:

  1. Build confidence in dairy to increase sales
  2. Defend our right to farm
  3. Create partnerships to build sales.  (i.e. Dominos Pizza and McDonalds)
  4. Stregthen community ties. (i.e. WIAA, NW Farmers Fighting Hunger)

As milk prices are forecasted to decline over the next 6 months, many farmers look to different assessments that are taken out of our milk check each month. While it would be easy to rationalize stopping the checkoff deduction, I like to acknowledge to my fellow dairy farmers the value of our Commission. While the work they do is not super flashy or spotlight grabbing, I feel it is crucial for our long term success as dairy farmers in the state of Washington. I also think it’s important to note that the Commission conducts year-round advertising and public relations, marketing promotions, issues management and crisis response initiatives, industry communications and public education campaigns directly mainly toward consumers.

So the next time you see a “Got Milk?” ad, remember dairy farmers are supporting this program with checkoff dollars. Our checkoff dollars are helping build and maintain a demand for dairy while building confidence in what we do.

National Pizza Week?? AWESOME!!

I have 3 kids.  My 3 kids are all “double digits”.  This means they are ALWAYS hungry and when I get to Friday I am done.  As a dairy farmer, mom, taxi driver, volunteer at school…… I wear many hats and I am always going in at least 10 different directions. I do my best to prepare healthy nutritious meals for my family.  But I will be honest, by Friday I am dead tired and wishing the closest Fast Food place was not a 15 minute drive away.  Did I mention we live exactly 1/2 mile beyond the border of the local pizza delivery place. (You would think they would change that now that gas has dropped $2.00 per gallon).  Typically I treat Friday as a treat for my family.  This usually means pizza.  I can also manage to find Gluten Free pizza for my youngest who is on a special diet to help with his autism.  But now that I learn it is National Pizza week I will put my guilt aside and maybe do 2 nights of pizza!!  After all, it is a 3 day holiday weekend.  But for now, enjoy some pizza!!  Enjoy all that yummy cheese that was produced by some hard working dairy farmer!!

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Yummy!! Celebrate the 3 day weekend with some hot delicious pizza!!

5 “Stupid” Myths about Organic Dairy Farming!!

I want to address 5 myths about Organic Dairy Farming and why I believe you are stupid if you believe and REPEAT any of them as truths.

1.  A cow or calf gets sick – you just let her die. Are you serious??  All my cows have names and personalities and are very important to me.  I look forward to playing with the calves when I am feeding them and I am sad when they grow up and leave my barn .  I have a conscience.  I have feelings.  I have a heart.  Prevention is the best way to prevent my cows and calves from getting sick.  I do everything possible to prevent them from getting sick.  This includes vaccinations, clean bedding, and good calving environment.  BUT, if one of my babies does gets sick and it is necessary to treat her with conventional medicine, I do it.  It is a tough choice to make but I do it because it is the right thing to do.  Unfortunately I must remove her from our operation and this is the last thing I want to do.  So bottom line – I DO NOT HAVE COWS OR CALVES LAYING AROUND MY FARM DYING BECAUSE I WILL NOT TREAT THEM.

2.  Organic milk is more nutritious than Conventional milk.  While I wish this was true, there is no scientific evidence concluding organic milk is safer or healthier than conventional milk.  The only reason I wish it were true is because it would increase the demand and increase organic milk sales.  But to date there is no evidence supporting this claim.  Organic Milk is a choice.  A choice similar to Hemp bedding sheets versus Cotton Bedding sheets or Organic Cheerios versus Regular Cheerios.  Just a another consumer choice.  

3.  I am an Organic Dairy Farmer because I am a “Hippie” type gal and this is how I live my life.  WRONG!!!  The 2 reasons we transitioned to Organic Dairy Farming.  1- We have the ideal climate, topography, and farm to successfully pasture milk cows.  2 – It is easier to “ride out” the volatile conventional milk prices received at the farm.  I love Starbucks, Kate Spade purses, all things Disney, and drive a SUV.  YIKES!!  Not the “HIPPIE” lifestyle at all!!  We want to stay in Western Washington and run our 4th generation farm.  This is possible because we are organic.

4.  Our cows must be lower quality, lower producing, and overall inferior animal compared to the conventional cow.  NO WAY!!  I am happy to share my kids are super involved in several dairy shows in Washington State and I am happy to report our animals are competitive.  It is all about cow care.  My son has won multiple fairs with Grand Champion Holstein, Grand Champion Jersey, and my daughter has done very well with her 2 Brown Swiss and holstein.  We work very hard to prepare these animals and the awards prove we have animals that can compete!!

5.  We completely embrace the “Organic” life.  We live in Washington.  Pot is Legal!!  However, that does not mean that we have decided to embrace this questionable lifestyle.  I guess if we could figure out how to grow and sell Organic Pot we may think about it.  But as I read more and more stories about Pot growers in our state getting robbed because they can not deposit any of the money they earn from their business, I figure the risk is just not worth it.  For me and my family, we will stay with milking cows.  Someone else can capitalize on the organic pot market.

I hope I have cleared up a few myths about Organic Dairy Farming.  It really is not that complicated and I love what we do.  

 

Grilled Cheese for a cold miserable day like today PLEASE!!

Winter is a tough time around the farm.  Calves need to get fed, cows need to be bred, all the same chores I enjoy during the summer MUST be done during the winter too!!  BUT, it is cold, rainy, and miserable here in Western Washington.  So when I come in for lunch, soup and a grilled cheese sandwich make me feel warm and toasty.  Here is a wonderful Grilled Cheese Recipe. Add some yummy Tomato Soup and my lunch is complete!!

Mediterranean Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Ingredients

2 slices rustic white bread or sourdough bread
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 oz. Wisconsin Whole Milk Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 oz. Wisconsin Feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups fresh spinach
4 Roma tomato slices
2 Tbsp diced black olives
1 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 tsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp finely minced garlic (about 1/3 clove)
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a non-stick 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add garlic and spinach and saute until spinach begins to wilt, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, stir in basil and set aside. To assemble sandwich, spread Mozzarella and Feta cheese over one slice of bread into an even layer. Layer tomatoes in a single layer over cheese. Spread spinach mixture over tomatoes then sprinkle olives and red onions over tomatoes. Season with freshly ground black pepper and top with remaining slice of bread.
Spread 1 tsp olive oil evenly over skillet, add sandwich and heat over medium-low heat. Cook until bottom is golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes, then remove sandwich from pan. Spread remaining 1 tsp olive oil evenly along skillet, carefully rotate sandwich to opposite side and return to pan over medium-low heat. Cover skillet with lid and cook until bottom is golden brown, about 2 – 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Yummy!!