Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My green thumb!

You probably remember that a few months ago JM and I planted the seeds to start the plants for our garden.  I am simply amazed at what those little seeds have done!  Our garden has turned out wonderfully, and we are harvesting the produce now.

Our garden!
The tomato plants were as tall as I am (until the latest storm moved through.)  We have been canning tomato juice from the garden.  We have  canned 33 quarts so far, and there are plenty of tomatoes left to ripen yet.  Our pickle plants have been producing quite well also.  I made a batch of sweet pickles for the first time, and have also canned some dill pickles.  I picked a bunch of cucumbers again today and decided to make a few more jars of dill pickles so they did not go to waste.

I started by soaking the pickles in ice water for a couple of hours.  This makes them really crisp.

Then I gathered my ingredients for the brine and scalded my jars.  I cut up the pickles to the size I wanted them and positioned them in the jars with garlic and dill.  I also added a little sugar to each jar to give them a little sweetness.  My grandmother used to do this, and her pickles were always wonderful. 

After I brought the brine to a boil, I added it to the jars and sealed them.  Then I soaked the jars in boiling water to make sure they sealed up.  I don't do this with everything that I can, but it works well for dill pickles.

And here is my finished product.  They will be ready to enjoy in about 6-8 weeks.

We have enjoyed a lot of wonderful produce from the garden this summer.  My next "trial" will be to can pizza sauce.  I am learning as I go this year.  I never expected our garden to produce so much!  We have a bunch of great things to enjoy this winter!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let the construction begin

We are putting up a new shop on the farm this summer.  It will be nice to have a warm place to work on equipment this winter.  Also, this way all of the tools will be in one spot instead of in two different machine sheds.  Monday, they started to trench in where the footings needed to be.  Tuesday and yesterday, they poured the footings and stub walls.

We took down the two bins that were next to the shop last weekend.  The cement from the bin floors got hauled away today as well, and the area was leveled out.  We are excited to see the new building take shape.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Beginnings

Well, we stopped for a moment of silence on our farm this morning as we marked the end of summer, and the beginning of a new school year.  The school year is starting off with a bang too.  We had a pretty nasty storm roll through our area last night.  So...instead of getting a good night's sleep before school starts, JM was up for a while in the night to wait out the storm.  Getting up this morning when it was time to get ready was a bit of a challenge.  We made it in plenty of time to get some pictures before he had to get on the bus.

I was kind of sad to see my little farmer get on the bus this morning.  It just meant that the house was going to be pretty quiet, and I would not have my helper anymore.  He is really looking forward to his 4th grade year.  I'm sure that he is having much more fun with his friends at school than hanging out with boring 'ol mom.

And off he goes!  :(
 I did manage to keep myself busy today since there is always a long list of things to get done on the farm.  Fall is right around the corner, and we will be getting started making sure the equipment is ready to go to the field.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Loading Cattle

Last night we had a load of fat cattle going out.  We had some family bonding time sorting cattle to be put on the truck.  JM stood in the bunk with his sorting stick keeping the biggest heifers on one end of the lane, and Roger and I did the picking.  After we had our chosen group out of the pen, we just sat back and waited for the truck to arrive.

Waiting to load.
Backed in and ready to load.
JM and I just stayed out of the way, and let Roger and the truck driver do the loading.  The cattle stay calmer if there aren't so many people in the loading area.  It didn't take long and all of the heifers were on the truck and ready to go.

Ready to go!

JM waves goodbye to the heifers.  We only have a few loads of cattle left to get loaded out.  Then we will get the building and yards all spruced up for the new groups to come in this fall.  It's always exciting to see the cattle that you worked so hard to care for all year go to market.  It means the beginning of our harvest time.  Which means chopping silage is right around the corner. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Change is something that occurs everyday, and our farm is no exception to that rule.  We are in the process of "changing" some things on the farm that I grew up on.  The old chicken house which had been converted to a farrowing house years ago was taken down early this summer.  This is to make way for the new shop to be put up yet this summer.  A large tree came down last week to allow us to reposition fuel barrels and make some more room to work on the yard.  And last night, we had one grain bin moved and one taken down to give us more room by the shop and to make a spot for a another building to be moved there.  In this case, change means progress.  All this change is to make our farming operation more efficient.
Grain Bin in its new home.

The new shop area.

Change happens quickly!  This was all done within an hour last night.  Monday they will start pouring footings for the new shop.  In a way, it is hard to see the old buildings go away, but I know that the changes we are making are good for our operation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Iowa State Fair

Friday was Iowa Corn Day at the Iowa State Fair, and I had the opportunity to participate!  My schedule for the day was to help out at the Iowa Corn booth, participate in a CommonGround presentation and introduce the Thank a Farmer Magic Show.  I arrived a little early in order to check out some of the "new" fair food that was available and, of course, check out the Butter Cow!

 My cousin and her daughter were with me to help out with the sampling.  First, we tried the Red Velvet Funnel Cake.  Yum!  But, honestly, how could it not be good????  Deep fried and covered in powdered sugar and cream cheese frosting!

Then, we moved on to the Deep Fried Butter on a stick.  This was interesting and very hard to eat.  It tasted like a cinnamon roll covered in butter.  Needless to say, it was so rich that the three of us were unable to finish it.  At that point I was on sugar and deep fried overload and gave up on the food trials.  Besides, we had to find the Butter Cow before I needed to start my other duties.

We managed to locate the Butter Cow.  The Butter Sculptures always amaze me at the Iowa State Fair.  It has been several years since we have made it to the Iowa State Fair, and it was nice to be able to attend the fair this year.  I even managed to come home with an Iowa State Cyclones shirt for JM with the Butter Cow on it!

I helped out at the Iowa Corn booth for a couple of hours which was a lot of fun.  I helped people sign up to win Iowa vs Iowa State Football Tickets and made "corn babies" with the kids.  It was fun to show the kids how to grow their own corn.  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, visited the booth while I was working as well.  I was also able to check out the new Cy-Hawk trophy up close.  Iowa can be proud that our corn and soybean farmers so strongly support both schools and their athletic teams!  The new trophy pays tribute to that pride whether you are a Hawkeye fan or a Cyclone fan.

At our CommonGround presentation, we got the crowd involved by playing an Ag Fact Game.  It was fun to see how much the crowd really knew about agriculture in the United States and in Iowa.  Iowa Corn Association and Iowa Soybean Association sponsored the prizes for the game.  After we finished our game, we were happily surprised by one of our fellow CommonGround volunteers from Nebraska who was at the Iowa State Fair showing cattle with her family.

My last event of the day was to introduce the Thank a Farmer Magic Show in the Ag Learning Center.  If you ever have the opportunity to see this show, make sure that you take the time to watch.  Rhonda does a fantastic job of doing magic as well as teaching us just how many products we use every day are made from things that we grow right here on our own farms.

I had a great day at the Iowa State Fair!  I can't wait to come back next year and bring the rest of my family!

Iowa State Fair celebrating 100 years of the Butter Cow!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

You Don't See That Everyday!

Today was an unusual day on our farm.  It started out like almost every other day on the farm.....we fed the cattle, walked through them to make sure everyone was comfortable and happy, and looked around to see what project was going to be first on the list for the day.  Then.....around 9:00 a.m. this morning, a camera crew from CommonGround arrived to shoot a video on our farm!

Our Camera Crew!!
It was very exciting for our little family.  We are so proud of what we do on our farm, and that we have the resources available to produce food to feed our family and yours.  I can't wait to see how the photos turn out as well.  JM was happy to get his show steers out to groom and lead them for his spectators.  The traffic on our gravel road seemed to be at an all time high this morning.  All the neighbors passing by did a double take when they saw the camera crew on our yard.  I'm sure they were thinking..."you don't see that everyday!"

Gina from CommonGround had the opportunity to spend some time with Rudy (the show steer) and take a little walk in the corn field.  We are always happy to have visitors on our farm and show off the lifestyle that we love!!

Gina, Roger, JM and Rudy!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cattle Show

Yesterday we entered 2 of our market steers in a local open cattle show to give JM some experience showing calves.  He spent every day washing, grooming and walking the steers.  They have become very close to him.  He couldn't wait to take them to the show and parade them around in the show ring.  This is only the 2nd time that JM has had the opportunity to show calves, and he enjoys every minute of it!

Ralphie and JM in the ring!
Ralphie was the first of the two to enter the ring.  He is more of a fat steer than a show steer, but JM wanted him to go to the show since he showed him last year as a feeder steer at the same show.  I think saying goodbye to Ralphie is not going to be easy for JM or the rest of us!

JM was very nervous going into the ring with Ralphie.  He wasn't sure he remembered what to do.  But....he did great!  Ralphie followed him and did just as he was supposed to.  What we didn't realize was how much Ralphie and Rudy had become attached to each other.  Separating them for showing made them the "noisy steers in the ring until, of course, they were happily back together at the trailer.

Rudy and JM in the ring.
Rudy also did quite well in the ring for JM.  It was a very warm afternoon, and the animals were all on their best behavior.  JM did not walk away with a trophy, but he did have a great time showing and thought it was all a great experience no matter what the outcome.  He is very proud of the work that he did with his calves, and we commend him for putting in the effort to make this his project.  He can't wait to show in the 4-H shows next year!  And we can't wait to be there to help him every step of the way.  This has become a great family project!!

Our little family and Rudy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011


The calf show that JM is going to participate in is fast approaching, and the boys are making progress (at least it appears that way.)  They love to get washed and brushed daily.  The routine is pretty set.

Rudy walks from the barn right into the grooming chute.  He loves have the water run on him especially when it is as hot as it was today.  They will get clipped in the next couple of days to get them "pretty" for the show on Saturday.  It is supposed to be a little cooler by then so the boys might be a little more fiesty.

Rudy and JM go for a walk tonight after washing and brushing him.  He did pretty well tonight on his walk.  Ralphie had a little more energy tonight.  If he keeps that up, he will have to stay home on Saturday since he is too big for JM to handle alone.

As they headed back towards the barn, JM had a little "talk" with Rudy to keep him moving!  Saturday is going to be so much fun!  This is truly a family project that we all enjoy!!