Knolltop Farm Wife

Welcome to my blog! I'm a wife, mother of four and a self-employed freelance writer. I live on a dairy farm with my family and I enjoy sharing our life with family, friends and anyone else who wants to visit the farm. There's no telling what the I will write about from day to day, but hopefully you'll be enriched when you stop by! Have a wonderfully blessed day!

Monday, December 31, 2007

Heading out on a snowy day

It's snowing here on the Knolltop and it sounds like we're going to have a good storm tonight. They are predicting anywhere from 6-12 inches...so we'll probably get 2.

Today we will have our last Christmas celebration with my family. We will get together and open presents, eat and fill ourselves til we're miserable and then eat a little more...small bites don't have any calories you know. Then we'll watch and help the kids play with their new toys. My brother and his wife and two boys will be there along with my crowd. My sister said she just can't make it from Montana to here this morning...so she will miss out. She's got cows to milk anyway...she can't be gone all day!

The bad thing is, I messed up, I didn't even think about asking what I was to bring for the gathering today until last night. So I will show up with the strange combination of fudge and cheese and crackers. I made the fudge last night while I was wrapping the last of the presents. And what a blessing...we ran out of scotch tape and had to use masking tape! We are such a mess around here!

Well, better get going to grandmas house!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Don Imus

Okay, since Linda brought up the question of how Don Imus got on RFD-TV, we'll visit that issue.

I don't know why he ever got on...their publicity was that rural America called in and wanted him. I'm not sure why. My question was, who knew Don Imus before he got into this trouble over his racial slur? I didn't but I guess those who listen to a lot of talk radio did.

After investigating him and his Don Imus Ranch for kids with cancer I was unimpressed. Why? Because his wife, Deidre, serves all vegan food. Which means there are no animal products used in their menu. She doesn't believe that animals should be used for human benefit. Okay, is anyone confused yet? Why would RFD-TV put anyone on their network that is totally against their network audience? RFD-TV is for rural America...they have farming shows, horse shows, equipment shows, tractor shows, everything to do with agriculture and yet a three hour time span is devoted every weekday morning to a man who's wife is against animal agriculture. That's a problem in my book...how about yours? Besides, like I said in Rural Route Radio, he has an ego as big as this galaxy and has a face for radio....not TV!

Because I believe in being the squeaky wheel, I wrote a letter to RFD-TV about my concerns and asked them to take him off the air. I never heard back from anyone from RFD-TV. I've only heard that people in the industry think that Imus will bring RFD-TV down. He's already done that in my book!

Okay, off to the day's events. I have to take Sarah to a friends house for the day and then do a little shopping! And JW's team lost yesterday....they just weren't themselves. So we'll look forward to next week when hopefully they can get back on the winning track!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Montanan's back in milk business!

Well, from what I hear from Pryorvu, Four Dot Dairy in Joliet, Montana is back in the milk peddling business....yeehaw!

My nephew, Tom, and his family support system have been selling fresh milk out in Montana and making a killing, I might add. Well, it's a killing compared to what we sell our milk for, I don't think my brother in law is ready to sell his custom cabinetry business and become a full time dairy farmer with two cows just yet.

Now after having both cows dry for a spell...(get it? dry spell?...HA!) they are now back in business with the new heifer delivery on Christmas Eve. How fun for them to have a new Ayrshire heifer! As Pryorvu described, I'm sure it was a beautiful sight to see this newborn on Christmas Eve, with fresh snow. How nice of you to create that word picture for us!

Now for the Knolltop update....yesterday JW's team lost to Jonesville, I think they just had too much Christmas fudge and eggnog. They just weren't playing their best. Today they will play Reading...hopefully they'll come out with a win.

I made my final guest appearance for 2007 on Rural Route Radio with Trent Loos and Kyle Bauer yesterday and of course it was a total riot. We discussed everything from the tiger attack to the mistake it was to have Don Imus on RFD-TV. I love doing radio!

Now, I've got to play catch up, a column to write and laundry to do!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hockey time

Good morning from the snowy Knolltop. The snow is coming down and it's sticking which makes for a pretty morning. But I don't think it's going to stay, we're supposed to warm up today.

JW has a basketball tournament today and tomorrow, so we are back on the bleachers at noon in Jonesville. I'm so excited because it's not at chore time. We can actually see the game from beginning to end without missing any of JW's fouls! Win or lose they will play at least one more game tomorrow, if they win they will play two games tomorrow.

Yesterday Luke and Jake spent the day on the ice. Luke got new hockey equipment for Christmas and headed out to see if there was enough ice. Remarkably there was...so he and Jake invited Brad over and they played most of the afternoon. Right before dinner the phone rang and it was Luke (he had my cell phone) asking me if I wanted to come out and play....I hated to refuse, but I had to, it was dinner time. They needed one more player to make the teams even, so when I couldn't come, they called in their friends and all of a sudden I had a three extra bellies at the table for dinner!

After dinner they were headed back out to the ice til dark, but then the neighbor needed help loading hay, so they all went down to help load up some hay and by the time they got done it was nightfall. A little darkness didn't slow them down, they headed for the hockey arena anyway and had a great time. They got back just in time for some snacks and a little game of ghost in the graveyard. While they played outside, Bobby and I sat down in our quiet livingroom with a bowl of popcorn and read the paper.

Better get breakfast on the table!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A belated Merry Christmas!

I had every intention of getting to this computer yesterday but between the downloading of songs in multiple mp3 players, this computer was occupied most of the day. So Merry Christmas a day late and several dollars short now!

Was anyone else as tired as I was yesterday? It seems like for a week I've been on a napless, sugar high. Then I stayed up late working on Bobby's gift, which was worth every lost wink. He loved his year of Holly in a frame...her winnings, her ribbons, her pictures....he really loved it. It was probably the least expensive gift under the tree besides the Texas Longhorns baseball cap that JW and Jake were fighting over!

After baking several batches of goodies for the neighbors, I was actually able to save some to give away to the neighbors. You see I would bake, kids would eat, I would bake, kids would eat...and on and on. I hid some goodies away and then I brought them out on Monday to put in pretty little gift bags and put a Martha Stewart bow on....but I didn't have any bows or bags....I hid those too, last year, when I bought them on sale and couldn't find them. So I pulled out the paper plates and zip lock bags. I packed my pack mule up with several plates of goodies and sent him out the door for delivery. Jake walked down the road with his basket of treats handing them out to the neighbors. I loaded up JW and Luke for the distant neighbors and sent them out for their deliveries, they got to drive.

After a Christmas Eve of eating too many shrimp, drinking too much eggnog and the last present wrapped, I fell into bed. On Christmas morning we got the milking done and the kids came out to help finish up the rest of the chores so we could open presents. With all the work done, we sat down to listen to Bobby read the Christmas story out of one of Bobby's grandfather's Bibles. Woodrow was a baptist preacher and this summer his widow gave Bobby one of Woodrow's old Bibles with all of his notes in it. Boy is that a treasure!

Then we opened gifts one by one and it was a great time. Then with the house in complete disarray, I put the pumpkin and pecan pies in the oven along with the ham and laid down to watch a movie with the kids. Boy that was all it took, I didn't want to move after that. But Sarah and I went to the kitchen and got to work. She set the table and got the stemware out for the sparkling grape juice and together we put dinner on the table. We had ham, creamed potatoes, corn, baked apples, sweet potatoes, pistachio salad and rolls. We topped it off with coffee and pie and then laid back down til milking time!

It was a great Christmas, I'll share pictures later, right now I've got to get the biscuits and gravy on the table!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Attitudes


You can tell by this picture who likes to get their picture taken and who doesn't. Yes, this is Bobby and me, taken this morning at church. Before each service people were taking pictures, then during the service they took the pictures down to the store, had them printed and brought them back, cropped them and put them in an ornament holder for each of us. Bobby didn't want his picture taken but I pushed him in front of the backdrop, told the lady to hurry up and snap the picture and of course in true rebellious Bobby fashion, he looked away. I keep telling him...it's a good thing I love him so much!


Our program went well this morning and I was glad to come home and take a nap. Now I'm off to the barn...it will be a nice slow relaxing time as I milk this evening...no where to go tonight. The boys will take a calf up to the local church for their live nativity...they will also dress up for the scene. Then they will down lots of hot chocolate, cookies and play floor hockey. I'm going to wrap presents!


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Two wins

Just a quick note...so many things to do today!

Luke's team remained undefeated with their last win against Pittsford. Luke was high scorer with 16 points!

JW's team racked up another win against Tekonsha. JW had 6 points and 4 fouls. Yes, you know we count his fouls.

Today we're getting chores done and then off to shop then I've got play practice at church. So it will be another busy day, but hopefully I'll get all my shopping done today!

Off to the barn....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Double game day and the Farmshine

Good Morning from the Knolltop. the sunrise is beautiful this morning and if I didn't look at the calendar I'd think it was early March. You can smell the warmer temps coming...it just feels like a typical spring day.

Well, today is the last day of school for the kids. Jake took cheese and crackers for his party, Sarah said she doesn't get a party...just work ....all the time! Luke has a party in third hour...that teacher must be a party animal and I have no idea about JW...JW doesn't have any idea about JW.....he couldn't find his backpack this morning and when he went to start his truck, it was dead...he came in and I told him to just wiggle the battery posts, the clamp thingy probably came loose... he did and it started! Yes, just give me a master mechanic certificate!

After school today, Luke and Jake will ride the bus to Pittsford for their final game of the season and JW will head to Tekonsha. We will start chores early, run to Pittsford and pick up Luke and Jake and go west to Tekonsha for the last half of JW's game. Because Luke's game is at 4 pm, we won't make it. They just didn't think about dairy farmers when they set that game up! :)

Well, I've got baking, wrapping and running to do today...better get going!

One more thing...my column finally ran in the Farmshine...Bobby read it last night, I didn't believe him until he showed it to me. I sent that column in back in July....I guess they just didn't have room until now.

So Beth from PA... now you can email them and tell them how much you enjoyed it and how you want it to run every week!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Got it all in!

It's foggy on the Knolltop this morning.

Yesterday started out just fine...but as I got to the end of chores I was trying to decide which direction I should go to do my shopping. I wanted to go to Adrian...but it was getting late, so when the van just started driving to Hillsdale...I just rode along.

I did somemore Christmas shopping and feeling very satisfied as I went over my list because I only had a couple of more things to get, I checked out and headed out to my van. The van came into my sights and so did the flat tire on the front. We've needed new tires, but I just thought I could hold out til after Christmas...NOT!

Normally I would be happy to spend more time shopping while the service center put new tires on my van...but since it was Sarah's birthday I had to get her birthday treat to her class...they were expecting it! Asking how long it would be, the young, unenthusiastic mechanic just mumbled about an hour an a half. AAAHHHHH!!!! I gently said, "Oh, well, I guess I'd better call my daughter at school and tell her that I won't be bringing in her birthday treat."

As I walked away I began to pray that somehow, some way, God would make this go quickly. A few minutes later they called me back to the service counter...they needed me to tell them where my van was parked. I thought this was strange since my van was the only one out there with a flat tire....but I did it anyway...and then when the guy saw the van said, "Oh, that tire sure is flat!" I shook my head and then said, "Did you think I was lying? Or are there relative degrees of flatness?" He didn't respond.

To drown my sorrows of not getting Sarah's treat to her, not getting my gifts wrapped and not getting Sarah's cake made, I bought a sweetroll and sat and ate it while I watched people hustle in and out of the store. That helped. No sooner did I get the roll eaten, they called me and my van was done! Praise God! I quickly drove to the school and dropped off Sarah's treat and boy were they happy!

Then I rushed home to start dinner, hide the presents and put away the groceries. I picked up the kids from school and when I got home I put everyone to work. Luke made coffee, Jake put some groceries away and Sarah started making her birthday dessert...which wasn't a cake but a torte. Oh was it good. We ate dinner, birthday cake and watched Sarah open her presents.

After chores we watched Luke's team win again and came home to collapse with a bowl of popcorn and watch MSU slaughter San Jose State! It was a good day!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Birthday Sarah!


Today, 12 years ago, I went into labor for the only granddaughter on both sides of our family, my daughter Sarah. And in true Sarah form, she was 10 minutes early....she was due on the 20th, but decided to come a little early. She was the first one I tried drugs with...NO, don't freak out! I mean drugs as in while I was in labor. I had the first two boys without drugs. With Sarah I had a shot to lighten the pain..but it was too late, it didn't work. I was too chicken for an epidural. She didn't take too long though.


So this morning she opened up a couple of presents and last night Grandma and Gramps brought down a couple of presents and she opened those before the concert. Jake was dying for her to open his present to her before school...so she did and he was as excited about the Christmas mug as Sarah was.


Luke has a game tonight and I'm hoping to do more shopping this morning....I've started and I even have some wrapped under the tree!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Krissy update

I was reminded this morning that while I was writing about Bud...I forgot to tell you about the calf. Krissy, the heifer in yesterday's story had a bull calf. Bobby went out to check on her at about 10 that night and he ended up pulling him. He's healthy and happy in his spot next to Molly...another calf.

Are you done shopping?

It's a warm 20 degrees out on the Knolltop this morning. Lot's of snow, but it's all cleared out so now I'm cleared to head to town today for some shopping.

Okay...I'll admit it, I'm a last minute shopper and I hate that about myself. If I see something in July that would make a great Christmas present, I can't wait to give it, I have to give it right away. If I don't give it away I hide it somewhere never to be found until well into the next year. So with that kind of track record, it's no wonder I haven't bought a Christmas present yet.

Today I will get started because tomorrow is Sarah's birthday. That will get me to the store and I will hopefully be inspired to buy some gifts. I also have to get her some black slacks for her Christmas concert tonight.

Last night we had a pictionary tournament. Jake and I won. We were in the last round against the two biggest competitors of the tournament...JW and Luke. We had to win...we just had to...and we did. But I have to come clean...we cheated. While they were up doing their shuck and jive thing getting psyched for the last play of the game.....being really loud and obnoxious, I quickly told Jake the answer. Yes, it was wrong...totally wrong...and I'm feeling really guilty, not only did I cheat but I taught my 10 year old how to do it! I'll have to confess at dinner today....oh the pain of conviction!

Better get to breakfast!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Horses make me wonder

I finally made my way to the computer today. With the kids off of school because of the snow, it's been a full day with not a whole lot of quiet time on the computer. The weather is clear and the snow is beautiful. I think they will have school tomorrow...but no one had it today.

Last evening, JW and I milked while Bobby plowed more snow and Luke mixed feed. While they were working, a car got stuck down the road so they were busy pulling the neighbor out of the snow drift. Before Bobby left the barn he instructed me to get the heifer in who is in heat and to get the other heifer in who was calving. I left JW with the milking while I started on my orders.

The heifer in heat was easy...for some reason she was very willing to get real friendly... :) So with her in and tied up, I went back out in the deep snow for the calving heifer. All the heifers and dry cows were up at the bunk eating. With flashlight in hand, I started checking behinds. Nope, not her, nope, not her....nope, not her....where was she? After looking through the bunch two more times, I noticed the horse wasn't up at the bunk. Now that was strange. So I headed out through the snowy pasture to the steer barn to look to see if the heifer was in some corner having a calf. I walked in and their was Krissy, laying down trying to calve with Bud standing right next to her. I laughed at him, asking him if he thought he was the "midwife."

I got the heifer out of the barn and headed her towards the barn. Bud was right next to me as if he and I were a team....as if I needed him. He walked every step right next to me and we got her up to the barnyard. When she stopped for a snack, I yelled into the barn for Sarah to open the barn door and watch the gate while I headed her in. As I stood there and waited for Sarah, I felt a nudge on my shoulder, I knew it was him...I turned slowly and Bud just looked at me as if to say, "What are we waiting for?"

I rubbed his neck and played with his soft nose and we put the heifer in all safe and sound out of the snow.

Now, I know in last week's column, I discussed the idea of putting human feelings on an animal and how I don't approve of elevating pets to human level....and I still don't. But, I also know there is a certain level of communication between animals. I think Bud knew there was something up with this heifer....and maybe he was just trying to figure it out....I don't know. I do know that I like that horse and he has made me laugh many times and made me wonder on many other occasions.

Now, I have to go milk!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's official

We are officially snowed in! We had about 8 inches last night...although it's hard to tell since it's blowing like crazy out there. The road crews have been by, but it drifts in as fast as they plow it out. Bobby is out there right now trying to clean out a place for the milk truck to back in....yes, the truck driver thinks it's no big deal...good thing for us dairy farmers!

Yesterday was absolutely crazy! The kids got up early and helped finish up chores. Then we dashed up to East Lansing for the Top Ten sale while Luke went to his scrimmage. (Luke's team is still undefeated) We had a great time at the sale and I even got to get in the auctioneer's box and do a little selling, actually fund raising for the spring jackpot show. More on that later. After we drank lots of eggnog, provided by Mooville Creamery and ate lots of free donuts and visited with lots of great cow people...we headed back home to milk the cows and head to JW's game. It was snowing pretty good on our way to Jackson Christian and we knew we would probably get the 12 inches they were predicting. After watching JW's team beat Jackson Christian and the varsity team lose to them, we ventured home through the blowing snow.

Back home in our warm house we visited about the events of the day and analyzed the games of the day and then we all burrowed under our covers on the blustery winter night. We woke up to a bunch of snow and it has continued to snow ever since. At the moment, all the kids are outside playing in the snow and having a good time. I think I'd better get on hot chocolate detail.

By the way...there wasn't a church in the area that had services today...well except a handful had services for the town folk who can walk to church.

Well I'll post a few photos for you to see what it's like outside and give you a glimpse of yesterday's sale and then I'm off to bake a few Christmas goodies and make some cocoa for the kids! I love being snowed in!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another win

Mark up another win for Dub's team. Last night they beat Waldron and JW only had 2 fouls. I have to laugh at the dads who sit up there and everytime a foul is called they'd yell..."Good Foul! That was a good foul!" Since when are fouls good? I really don't know much about basketball.

We have a night off tonight...no basketball, Christmas programs, rehearsals...nothing! We can come in from chores, relax by the fire, enjoy the Christmas tree and eat popcorn. Now that sounds good, but I'm sure Luke and Jake will be playing basketball in the livingroom while Sarah yells for them to stop and I'm in the kitchen packing a lunch for a busy day tomorrow and making sure all the uniforms are washed.

Tomorrow is the Top Ten Invitational Sale at MSU. Burton and Fellers are putting it on and Aaron Jorgenson is hosting it. This is more than just your average Holstein sale...this is an event in the Holstein world. Anyone who is anyone will be there to see and be seen and spend lots and lots and lots of money on high profile cows. This is an annual sale and is one of the more prestigious events. So of course since it's only an hour away, we will go and I will take pictures and notes and try to get a good story out of the deal. I spend most of the time asking Bobby, "Who's that, he looks familiar? Do you know him? I want to meet him, come introduce me....Oh, that's her?"...and on and on and on. I love to watch people at these kinds of events. And no, we won't be taking our checkbook!

While we are at the sale, Luke has a scrimmage with Climax...so he will go with our friends to that. Then on the way home, we will drop JW off at our Pastor's house. Our Pastor's son, Brandon, is on the Jackson Christian basketball team and we play them Saturday night. So JW will ride with Brandon to the game and we will come home, do chores and drive back up north to the game. I think I'm tired already. This game stuff on Saturdays is new...we've never had to do this but since girls basketball is going at the same time as boys this year, they've had to really work in games where they can because the gyms are being used so many time. Used to be the girls basketball was in the fall and volleyball was in the winter but not now.

Well, today I've got to get some groceries and make sure all the uniforms are clean.

Thanks so much for your Christmas memories...they will make a nice column....a long one...but a nice one.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cooperation is a good thing

It's snowy here on the Knolltop. It looks and feels like Christmas!

Last night Luke's team racked up another win against Litchfield. Luke had a great game and was the high scorer with 17 points. Their team has pretty much skunked everyone they've played so Luke hasn't had to work too hard at getting better. So last night when he was cleaning gutters before going to the game, his father told him he needed to shoot for being above average and work on getting more offensive rebounds. Well, Luke did exactly what Bobby told him to do...and it paid off. He just looked like he was trying a bit harder instead of just doing enough to win. Tonight Dub has a game against Waldron...I guess it's going to be physical...I have bets that JW will foul out before the third quarter. He loves to foul people.

On another note...cooperation was the name of the game yesterday. I went to pick up the kids from school and swap JW's truck for my van. I ran out of gas in his truck half way there. I pulled into a drive way and called JW at school. He collected the kids and picked me up and we headed for the farm. I told Sarah to put the hamburgers under the broiler and gave her the rest of the dinner preparation orders. I told Jake to set the table while JW and I got his pickup gassed back up. We went and got the gas, JW went to practice and I got back home just in time to sit down for dinner. After dinner I picked up Luke from FFA practice and got back home to put the milkers on just five minutes late. Luke cleaned the gutters, Jake cleaned his heifer pen and Bobby ran them to the game. JW got home just in time to do the rest of Luke's chores, Sarah did the rest of Jake's chores and we got done in time to clean up and head to the basketball game where we saw the last few minutes of the 7th grade game and all of Luke's game.

I told the kids how important their cooperation was and that we couldn't have gotten it all done on time without their good work and great attitude. I think when you expect good things from your kids....you get it....most of the time.

A reply to horse slaughter and pack envy all to come...if I get to it today! Gotta get to chores.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

All that bad weather is gone

Now that the bad weather is passed, we can get back to normal...whatever that is.

It's overcast and cold...well, in the twenties...so I guess it's not that cold. Last evening JW's basketball team won, but the Varsity lost. JW had two points and four fouls. He's proud of his fouls...I don't think this is a good thing....but what do I know about basketball? Luke's team continues its trek to be undefeated tonight as they take on the Litchfield Terriers...the only team in the league so far that has given them a run for their money. It should be a good game.

For those of you who commented on my column...thank you so much for your kind words. For those of you who don't get the Farmers' Advance, my column appears every week there next to Val Farmer and Baxter Black and the one and only Amanda Nolz from the Chewing the Cud fame. I've been writing that column for nine years now and it's more fun now than when I started!

Speaking of Amanda.....I was a guest on her radio program, Chewing the Cud, yesterday...if you want to hear me talk about how great dairy products are then hit her blog link on the left of this page and navigate through her blog to her radio show. She's a junior at SDSU and boy is she one ambitious chick! She is an inspiration to me.

Today I will start on my column for next week which is where you come in. This will be my Christmas column that I use all of your Christmas memories on the farm stories. Thank you to all who have written in...and if you still have one in the back of your mind that you haven't posted....hop to it! You have until 2 pm today. That is your deadline....I know, some of us thrive on deadlines and at 1:55 pm, you will be running to your computer to frantically type up your memory.....that's fine...just get it to me!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's raining ice this morning. We are now in the middle of freezing rain and the kids had school. Several around the county were closed, but not us. I almost expect them to be sent home early if this freezing rain keeps up.

Well, I promised my column so I'd better put it in today. Here it is:

Truth from the Trenches
By Melissa Hart

If farmers want to continue to farm and produce food for the world, they must change their strategies. This is according to Dr. Wes Jamison a University of Florida public relations researcher.
Last week, I began writing about a consumer who thought the American farmer needed to visit Europe to learn how to treat their livestock humanely. Remember? The lady with the green beret and matching cape? She had a lot of opinions but no research to back up the false claims that were spewing out of her mouth.
A few days later at the Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting I had the chance to listen to Dr. Wes Jamison speak on animal welfare issues and how farmers should combat the growing wave of consumers who like to eat meat but want to bring livestock into the house too.
He basically said the animal welfare voices are defending a moral cause. They want to control how farmers treat their animals. While they buy their pot bellied pigs for pets and house train them so they can sit in an easy chair with them, they also want to make sure the average pig farmer raises a consumable product but do it in a way that in consistent with their humane practices. I guess they think we need to let our pigs have the run of the house while the farmers sleep in the barn and then make sure they get slaughtered…humanely….so they can have bacon with their pancakes.
Dr. Jamison said that farmers have a lame defense. He said they state research and bring out veterinarians to explain to everyone that they produce food the best, most efficient way and in doing it this way they maintain lower prices to the consumer.
Apparently this is wrong and we need to change our strategy. In a country where $75 billion dollars is spent on companion pets and every possible drug that is prescribed for humans is now available for our pets and there is a growing organization called the Human Society of the United States whose primary goal is to abolish animal agriculture and is growing in members and power daily, farmers need to take a stand and be loud about it. Incidentally, the Humane Society of the United States is a completely different organization than your local humane society that shelters homeless pet. They are not affiliated with each other in any way, shape or from.
Because we grow the best, safest, cheapest food supply, and because of this there is no room for inhumane care of livestock we need to start getting squeaky about these facts. One of the best statements Dr. Jamison said was that humans are at the top of the food chain and we have to stop wringing our hands about the fact that we won.
You don’t have to be a God believing Christian to buy into this, evolutionists can even admit the fact that humans are at the top and we need to eat animals to live a healthy life.
So armed with the evidence that we as people are charged with being the best stewards of this earth and the creatures that crawl, swim and fly around it, we can stand up, unashamedly and say, “Yes, I am a farmer and I harvest animals in order to put human consumable product on the tables of Americans and the rest of the world to keep you and your children and your grandchildren alive!”
Let’s get squeaky!

Monday, December 10, 2007

NO SCHOOL!

Well, the kids got their wish...no school today. We had some freezing rain over night. Actually, yesterday our road was icy so we were well on our way to no school before the weather turned even worse last night.

You know, I've learned one thing as my kids have gotten older....I had a whole lot more freedom when they were little. When they were toddlers and babies, I could throw their clothes on, load them up in the van and run the country side. I could shop when I wanted to, meet a girlfriend for lunch at McDonalds when I wanted to and get our Christmas tree whenever it suited me.

I decided last week that Saturday would be the designated day for Christmas tree shopping. All the kids would be home and we would go and have a great time tromping through the trees selecting the perfect tree. On Saturday morning, JW and Luke were called to work for the neighbor, Jake informed me he had basketball practice at 12 and Sarah at 1:30 pm.

When I came home from my grocery run I promptly hopped back in the van, alone, to rush to get a tree before I had to be home to cook dinner. I got about 100 yards down the road and thought to myself, "Hey, there's no one in this van with you, this is no different than a week day, why are you busting over there to select a tree when you could do this next week?"

I made a U-turn and went back home to put my groceries away and cook dinner. I even got a cat nap in. All my planning went down the drain because of older kids working and playing basketball. Although it's nice to have them toilet trained and out of car seats....there are days when I wish I had a runny nose to wipe, a sippy cup lid to find and some children's silverware to put on the table. This getting older thing is for the birds!

Better go give out the work assignments before they make their own plans! I don't have to clean heifer pens today! Oh...have you ever heard of pack envy? I'll explain that tomorrow!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

This and that

It's a balmy 30 this morning on the Knolltop and as I write, it's still dark and I'm headed to cook up breakfast. I think we'll have pancakes and bacon and sausage. Yes, I'm big on the pig...gotta have those nitrates...which I've recently learned they aren't as bad for you as we all thought.

First of all...thanks to those of you who have already sent your Christmas memories...I'm so excited about this...like I said, I will be sharing these with 75000 readers in the midwest when they go in my column. Keep them coming...the way I teared up yesterday I know they will resonate with the farm community. There is just something special about farm folk!

Secondly, if you want to hear a good discussion about the use of technology in agriculture and the misconceptions of the consumer you need to listen to yesterday's (Dec 7) Rural Route with Trent Loos, Kyle Bauer and Duane Toews. They really hit on some things in food production that we all need to think about as agriculturalists. Go to http://ruralrouteradio.com and click on Friday.

Thirdly...that's not a word, I know...but it follows...today is a busy day. Jake and Sarah have basketball practice, Luke and JW will be working for the neighbor after they get done with chores here and I wanted to go get our Christmas tree and hit the grocery store before the ice storm hits tonight. We'll see if I get all that done!

Friday, December 7, 2007

My weekly Column--from last week

Here's last week's column, in order for you to get this week's you have to read last week's first...sorry!

Truth from the trenches
By Melissa Hart
I walked into the local meat market to pick up my fresh turkey. It was the day before Thanksgiving and the place was hopping with customers picking up their last minute necessities to prepare a special dinner.
I looked around and saw a woman who was waiting for her pork chops to be sliced and packaged. From the way she was dressed I knew she was not from around here. She had a hunter green wool cape, a matching beret with her bright red hair poking out from underneath. From the looks of her purchases she was preparing a meal for a big crowd and I just knew that if I struck up a conversation with her, it would be a good one.
“Looks like you’re cooking for quite a crowd,” I commented. She replied, “When you’re the chef in the family, everyone expects you to prepare the meal.” Inquiring about her employment, she explained to me that she was a chef at the local private country club and she was off for the winter season. I surmised that she would be a frequent Whole Foods shopper and one who wanted farm fresh eggs and all natural milk. I was correct.
Realizing this would be a great opportunity to enter into a dialog with someone who might actually know what rBST was and have an opinion, I asked her exactly that, “Do you know what rBST is?”
And the conversation ran full speed ahead. She told me that rBST was bad and that we shouldn’t give our cows that hormone and that it’s bad for people to drink milk from cows given rBST. When I inquired about her scientific research to back that up, she said, “Oh, I’ve read the research…and you know we could take some lessons on how to treat cows from the Europeans.” She continued, “Oh yes, they treat their cows with respect and really treat them nicely.”
Wanting to know what constituted respect, I pressed her for a list of respectful requirements. She listed a good diet, cleanliness and comfort. Yep, that’s right, I’m concerned about the same things. Why? Because research shows that a cow with a good diet will produce more milk and a cow that is clean will have less disease and produce more milk and a cow that is comfortable with produce more milk.
Although I tried to get her rBST research references out of her, I had no luck, because she didn’t have any. With that I shifted gears and said, “So, the cow’s happiness is important to you, right?” She agreed and said this statement, “I think cows should be treated with the same respect and care that humans have.”
Okay, that’s where she hit a nerve and I have to say my reply wasn’t the best. I said with a smidgen of sarcasm, “Oh my, my cows don’t have couches to relax on or latte’s to sip, but I think they are pretty happy.”
She bristled at my comment, but it did make her think. Just then her friend flew to her defense saying she had cows too and they were happy because they had 22 acres to roam and didn’t need couches or lattes.
This is a perfect example of what Dr. Wes Jamison of the University of Florida examined at the recent Michigan Farm Bureau annual meeting in Grand Rapids.
Dr. Jamison spoke on the topic of animal welfare and the tactics of animal activists. He told the large group of farmers if they wanted to continue farming they must change their strategies when their animal husbandry practices are attacked.
A strategy change is what we’ll look at next week….to be continued
.

New Idea

It's so much warmer here on the Knolltop this morning....I think the thermometer said 20!

I'm trying not to use the furnace for heat, so I'm allowing the corn stove to heat the house...although I keep hearing complaints about how cold it is in the bathroom, I'm not giving in...as my dad would say....put some clothes on!

Jake had his play last night and of course it was standing room only. He did a great job and it was a very nice evening full of little kids singing and dancing and cameras flashing and videos being taken of every last step. I wonder out of the thousands of pictures that were taken last night, how many are actually printed off and then used in some form or another....I bet it's low!

In other news...the last couple of weeks I've been writing about animal welfare and about a speaker that I was privileged to hear at the annual Farm Bureau meeting. Because many of you never read my column, because you live too far away to even know what the Farmers' Advance is, I decided to start posting it here for you to read once a week. For those of you who get the paper, now you will get my column five days earlier than when it's actually in print...and you can amaze your friends by saying, "Hey, I bet Melissa Hart is going to write about animal welfare this week." Won't you look clever?!

And just in time for Christmas I will be putting together a column that will include some holiday memories from the farm. Now that is where you come in...I need your special Christmas on the farm memory...anything counts! Start thinking now and either post it here or email it to me and then I will compile it and put it in my column. So start stirring up those memories about how you had to milk on Christmas morning, or how you couldn't open presents until all the chores were done...or how you always really wondered if the animals really did talk on Christmas night...or how pretty your barn windows looked with lights in each one helping people remember where Jesus was born(mom).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's cold!

Now it's cold....really cold....it was 7 degrees this morning...but no wind and what a blessing! When we went to the barn, I expected to find something frozen and much to my surprise...it was quite pleasant in there. No frozen pipes, drinking cups or hoses!

Luke's team is still undefeated, they beat Waldron last night...by a bunch. Tonight is Jake's Christmas program at school....no rest for the wicked.

Yesterday I got a call from the school needing a recess attendant. One of their aids was sick, so on the coldest, windiest day we've had this winter, they call me! Knowing I was going to be outside in the wind, I layered and layered and the final layer was my carhart overalls, I usually don't wear those, I don't need them in the barn and that's really the only place I spend any time outside. But yesterday while I watched bunches of kids play in the fresh snow I stayed nice and warm in my overalls.

I only had one problem with one little boy who wouldn't put his hat on his head. When he threw his hat on the ground the second time and walked away defiantly that was it. I picked that hat up, marched up to him and said in my motherly voice, "Look here, I've got three boys and I can take them all down, so you don't want to mess with me, if you don't put this hat on, I'm going to take you down and spit in your eye!" Of course, I said it while I was hugging and tickling him. The reaction of the other five boys around him was priceless. They looked at me with their big eyes and one of them said, "Who are you? You're not Mrs. Hardy." I took my sunglasses off and said, "No, I'm Mrs. Hart and you'd better watch out!" Then I laughed and and the bell rang for the end of recess. It was a good thing because that little boy still wouldn't put his hat on...and I didn't feel like showing off my WWF skills!

Better get out and face the cold again!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Youngests Unite!

Two inches of snow fell last night on the Knolltop....it's Christmas! I finally broke out my Christmas dishes yesterday for dinner. It was time....although that is the only sign of Christmas in my house right now...more to come..when I get time.

Last evening JW had his first basketball game. Although he contributed 4 points to the effort...they lost by 12...I think. The varsity lost too. JW only had two fouls, that is outstanding for him. There are times on the basketball court that he forgets he's not in the barn playing with his brothers and he gets a little physical. So to only have two fouls is great for him. Tonight we travel to Waldron for Luke's game.

This morning I was caught in a parental no-no. I giggled when I should've been dishing out discipline. But I just couldn't help myself. Jake was waiting for his basketball shirt to dry...he's the manager of Luke's team and he always wears his team shirt on game day...just like the big boys. So he was waiting by the dryer for it to dry and then came in with it on and was ready for school. The only problem was, the shirt was still wet. Like the good, concerned parent he is, Bobby told Jake he couldn't wear a wet shirt to school, he would catch a cold, Jake said, oh, it's not that wet, I'm okay. It was then that I began to laugh...when I should've been reinforcing Bobby's point.

I couldn't help it, as the baby of the family, I can relate to Jake. It really didn't matter if it was dirty, wet or wrinkled, we would wear the shirt no matter what and we just didn't care....it's a youngest thing. While I was laughing I looked at Bobby and he was not. So I covered my face and laughed some more, thinking to myself I really should exit the room and laugh in private. All of a sudden I heard the hair dryer going...it was Jake drying his shirt...it all broke loose then, I just couldn't hold it back...the laughter overcame me as I tried to apologize and give some sort of excuse about being able to relate and that I would've done the same thing at that age.

But it was no use....Sarah was rolling her eyes, Luke was shaking his head and Bobby was saying something about how hard it is being a single parent of five children.

At that point, I got up and dashed into the bathroom to help Jake dry his shirt while he brushed his teeth....yes we youngests can multitask with the best of 'em!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beautiful Sunrise

We're having a pretty sunrise this morning...the orange sky is casting it's hue across the corn field outside my window. I guess I'm ready for cold weather...kind of...

Last night we traveled to Camden for Luke's game and both the 7th and 8th grade won. So that keeps Luke's team undefeated. Luke only had 6 points. It's always fun going to a Camden game because I get to see all the people I used to work with at the Farmers' Advance. Although it was 17 years ago that I worked there, we still see each other throughout the year at sporting events...they are like family to me. They were and still are and awesome bunch of people!

How is it that a video auction can be so addicting? Every day at coffee time when Bobby and I sit down to drink our afternoon cup of coffee before heading out for chores, he looks to see if there is a cattle auction on RFD-TV. For the past two weeks we've found ourselves glued to watching a video of beef cattle meandering through pastures while we hear an experienced auctioneer cry the sale. It's an addiction...we could watch it all day long...our kids can't figure it out...they just shake their heads and walk through the room. I guess it's a great distraction for a few minutes...and it's cheaper than being there with a bidder number in your pocket.

Time for heifer pen cleaning!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Winter is here

Winter has set in here on the Knolltop and with the turn of the calendar, it feels like Christmas. Saturday night the boys and Bobby put up the tarps up over where it gets real drafty and pipes start to freeze. The next day it was 50 outside and it felt like a summer in there! But, it's colder now and we're glad for a warm barn.
I've been trying to post on this blog all day, but after breakfast I started doing laundry then the neighbor stopped in and we had to solve the world problems, including the premier of Don Imus on RFD-TV. Then I headed out to the barn to finally finish up my chores and by that time it was nap time. After answering a few emails and starting another load of laundry and figuring out what to fix for dinner...I finally got back to this.
We had so much fun with the three kids that stayed with us over the weekend. Jennifer, Jessie and Josiah were great to have around. For not coming from a farm, they sure didn't mind pitching in and helping out with the tail washing.
Jake and Josiah had to try out the snow to see if there was enough to snowboard....I don't there there was, but you know kids...at the first sign of snow, they break out the sleds.

I made Luke take time out from seeing if his Farmall would start in the cold weather and cleaning his pens to pose for a picture for me. Yes, he had to start my tractor first to get it out so he could get his piece of junk out....and yes, mine started right up....I think.
When it came to the cow tail washing extravaganza, Jen even had a smile on her face! I didn't make them stay out too long, they got through soaking all the tails and then I went through and washed them. When they were finished, Sarah took them in the house and made hot cocoa for all.

Jessie got to curry the manure off the cows, although she is an animal lover and she thinks she might like to be a vet...after the tail washing I think she decided she'd be a small animal vet. Heck, she's just a wiff of a thing, the first time she had to preg check a cow and put her arm up a cow's behind, if that cow moved from one side to the other, I'm afraid it would pick her up and move her too! No, she better stick to dogs and cats...in the south...this weather is way too cold for these kids who spend 12 months out of the year wearing shorts and running around barefoot.

Well, now I need to get another load of laundry started and get on dinner...we travel to Camden tonight for Luke's basketball game. Tomorrow JW has a game, Wednesday we're in Waldron for Luke's game, Thursday we have Jake's Christmas program and Friday JW has a home game....and we're off!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Early Christmas present

Well, it was a good day out in the barn this afternoon. Just like we wanted, Holly went excellent...with 90 points. We wanted 91, but he said she needed another calf through her and her best days are ahead.

The real surprise was Elvira who also went excellent. She was in one of our first heifer crops and she has just steadily gone up a point every time she's been classified. Now she is excellent and we didn't expect it at all! That is kind of an early Christmas present for us.

After the classifier got done scoring the cows, he came in and had coffee and a sweetroll with us and he and Bobby talked cows and cow people and I just sat and marveled at how they knew all the same people and all the same cows but didn't know each other. I just love listening to people talk about cows and when they start telling stories from the old days...that's even better. I'm sure the stories are much better than the actual events...but I don't care, it's still fun listening.

It's the big day

Here on the Knolltop we are busy getting ready for the classifier. For those of you who have no idea what that is...I'll give you the Readers Digest condensed version. A classifier is a person who works for the Holstein Association and goes to farms and puts a numerical score on a cow. He is "judging" her bascially. There are many different areas that he judges, breaking down the total cow into different categories like mammary system, feet and legs, dairy character etc....giving all these a score, he computes her overall score.

One hundred would be a perfect cow and so from 90-100 they are excellent, from 89-85 is Very Good, 84-80 is Good Plus and so on down the line. Anything under 80, I don't want to discuss...I don't want any cows like that...and so far we don't have any. Bobby said he was at a guys farm clipping for classification and he had a cow score 60 and was proud of it. So I guess it's all relative.

Today, the big event is when Holly will be scored...she is 88 right now and as a two year old she could only score as high as 89, so today we are looking for her to go excellent. I think she will score 93, but Bobby is skeptical and says he'll be happy at 90. Only having two calves, she can only score as high as 94.

Well, that's it...I've got to go wash dishes and then head out to wash tails! Results will be posted later!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Storm's comin'

It's a cold, breezy, kind of sunny day here on the Knolltop. They say we're in for a snow storm tomorrow...I'll believe it when I see it.

JW had a scrimmage last evening and I guess they did well. We didn't get to it simply because it was too early. He loves his new uniform...the warm ups have snaps all down the legs so he can just snap them off and toss them on the sidelines. Kind of reminds me when he was a toddler and all his pants snapped up the inside so I could change his diaper. He used to love to unsnap his pants....I haven't reminded him of that....yet.

I've still got to write my column today...yesterday I had other things I was writing. I just got a new writing contract with Farmworld, it's a weekly paper much like the Farmers' Advance that circulates in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and is now moving into Michigan....hence the demand for Michigan writers. My first story will be in next week.

The Indonesian kids will come tomorrow and spend the night. When they visited before they were begging to stay the night, so we set up this weekend....little do they know they will be washing cow's tails tomorrow. The classifier will be here at 2 pm, so they cows have to look good. I wonder how they will take to standing behind a cow and scrubbing her manure filled tail. Hey...it's all a part of visiting the farm!

Better get to writin'!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Long day away

Good morning, we are blowing off the hill here on the Knolltop. It's windy and cold...well it wouldn't be too cold if it weren't windy...but anyway...it's cold.

Yesterday I spent an interesting day away from the farm at the Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids. After getting up and doing my calf chores, which was all I had time for, I headed west and 2.5 hours later I was in big G.R. sliding in just in time to drop my coat in the media room and head to the first discussion.

It was held at the Amway Grand Hotel....probably the most impressive part of the day was that I could park in a parking structure a block away from the convention center and I didn't have to walk in the cold to get to the hotel...it was all enclosed in a skywalk. Yes, this country girl is easily impressed! I also love escalators and revolving doors, those are just so much fun!

Anyway...about the meeting...it was a fun day of visiting with people and taking pictures and listening to the discussion meet competition and the most important...eating lunch and dinner that I didn't have to cook! Easily amused...I know.

I was able to spend a few minutes listening to the delegates make policy and that was interesting in itself. I enjoyed watching the big organization discuss the policies and how it all worked.

I also enjoyed listening to young farmers compete as they discussed many hot topics. But my favorite part of the day was listening to Dr. Wes Jamison reveal some facts about animal welfare issues that we really didn't want to hear but needed to listen to.

What made the biggest impact on me was that we as farmers want to stand up to the attacks from PETA and the Humane Society of the United States(which, by the way, has nothing to do with and is completely different from your local human society or animal shelter) with the wrong argument. When animal activists attack us and our animal husbandry practices we fight back with research and economics. When in all reality, their attack has nothing to do with sound science and good economics, but everything to do with emotion and morality. They think we are immoral to raise animals for human consumption. It doesn't matter to them that we do it efficiently and safely, they don't want us doing it at all. Period. End of discussion.

Dr. Jamison made it clear that we need a different approach to our fight. He said we need to stop being ashamed at our husbandry practices and stand up and say, "Yes, we use farrowing crates so the sows don't kill their babies...and yes, I have a free stall barn so our cows are comfortable....and yes, we harvest meat from our steers so we can have protein to eat and not get DEPRESSED!"

There's so much more...I'm going to have to write a column on this topic....it's fun to write about this kind of stuff.

Bacon and pancakes are ready!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Can you hear the cheering?

Yes, that's right, we are still cheering this morning as we celebrate the boys win last night over Jackson Christian and my beloved Pastor Mike.

I know I may sound like I'm a bit overboard...that's because I am! The boys beat the Royals 31-26 in a very sloppy game. Our boys didn't look all that great but they kept chipping away and after the first quarter were never behind again.

It's very strange for me to listen to a wonderful man preach great sermons Sunday after Sunday and then have a burning desire to beat his team on a Monday night. I guess that's because I've never had a pastor who also coached a team...which is really kind of cool in my book.

After the game I took my green North Adams shirt and rubbed it all over Pastor Mike and even offered to get one for him so he could wear it next Sunday to preach in. He declined my offer and we had a great time sparring over the game...all in fun.

But the parents of his team didn't see as much humor in our victory and the fun we were having. I guess they don't realize that our families (the Lee's and us) go a long way back and they are very precious friends to us. They probably also don't realize that our friendship goes so deep that when Jake had his accident, from Kentucky the Lee's gathered people around them to pray for our son while we waited to hear if he would live or die. They also don't know how much we treasure their friendship and what a fine example of Christian servants they've been to us. I could write on and on and on what the Lee family means to us, but I don't want Pastor Mike to read this and then get too proud of himself....he has a tendency to do that...get all puffed up and proud....but this week, we have knocked the wind out of his sails and he will have to find another way to navigate his way to another mark in the win column.

It's chilly this morning on the Knolltop and the snow is still here...we had a nice batch of snow yesterday...it makes things seem more festive.

Well the coffee is perking...better get on the day!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back among the living

It's been a long weekend around here. Not only because of the holiday, but because I must have eaten too much pie or turkey or cranberry relish or something, but I haven't felt well all weekend. But I'm back among the living and ready to head into another busy week.

It's another chilly morning here on the Knolltop, actually it snowed last night and is kind of foggy now....very strange weather we're having.

Okay, now pardon me while I talk about sports for a few minutes. Tonight Luke's undefeated 8th grade basketball team will take on one of the toughest rivals in the league....Jackson Christian. They are a private school, but then again, you could tell that by the name....anyway....they have a reputation for having a great basketball program.

Last year their Varsity team was in the semi finals and beat Redford Covenant Christian...why is that team important? Because Durell Sommers was on that team and Durell is now playing for Michigan State, he promised himself to Tom Izzo when he was a sophomore, so you get the picture...he was flat out good. And Jackson Christian beat his team...so now you know they were good too.

So with that part of the picture painted, let me go further in telling you that we belong to a church in Jackson called Grace Church and the senior pastor just so happens to be the 8th grade basketball coach at Jackson Christian. So now...do you get the picture? Luke will be playing against his pastor's team.

While Pastor Mike is a great guy and a wonderful preacher, he is also very competitive. His children all played basketball and he has a son on the varsity team at J.C. Mike stood in church a couple of weeks ago and in front of 600 people started talkin' smack to Luke. He told Luke that Jackson Christian was going to take North Adams down. Now "them's fightin' words!" Really, putting this into context he was actually illustrating a point in his sermon, but "them still fightin' words"

So now, we will be headed to Jackson tonight all prayed up, yes I prayed that we would win...and don't think Pastor Mike hasn't been sittin' at the throne of Grace asking for a win too and I hope this one time God has more mercy on us than him because I want Luke's team to win.

And if we do end up beating them we will all sit in the front row of church next Sunday with our green and white North Adams shirts "talkin' smack" without saying a word.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Good Frosty Morning!

It was a chilly 20 degrees this morning when we walked over to milk. My hands stay cold the whole time I milked. That moon was so bright and beautiful this morning, it was amazing how it lit up the whole farm.

While others are out shopping this morning, I'm in my nice warm house fixing blueberry pancakes, sausage and perked coffee. After I enjoy that we will all head back out to the barn to finish up chores and wash the rest of the windows on the east side of the barn. Bobby is on a cleaning kick in the barn, last Saturday he and the boys washed the pipeline and swept down cobwebs. He also washed all the windows on the west side of the barn....I think there are 15. Then tomorrow we will curry the cows off and wash tails....we classify in a week and we want the cows to look nice. Yes they will get dirty in a week, but next week we won't have as much washing to do if we take the first few layers of manure off this week.

I don't think I'll get much shopping done this weekend, instead I think Sarah and I will make some garlands for the porches. We've got some cedar trees and lots of bushes we can cut greenery to decorate with. I also have a grape arbor I think I might trim up and use the vine for something. I also have to put up the lites around the little oil shed across the road....that is the only place I put outdoor lights. The building is small so I can put the lites up easily and I've stored them right there in the shed. I guess I really don't have time to shop even if I wanted to!

JW and Luke have to work today and tomorrow JW and Luke have basketball practice.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's snowcovered here on the Knolltop. When we went across to the barn this morning we were bucking the wind and snow. I had to move fast to keep warm, but once I got in the barn, the girls kept us warm with all their body heat.

A first happened last evening...Jake made his first batch of brownies. He wanted something chocolate and so he decided to make some all by himself. I was looking at all the shopping flyers that came in the mail and I heard SArah and her friend Sidney giving him pointers. When I went out there to check on him, he had all the ingredients dumped in the bowl and was ready to mix. Not your conventional way of making browines...but they were delicious as we enjoyed them at 9:30 pm...not the best time to be partaking in such a treat.

Time to go make the breakfast...this morning we'll have biscuits and gravy and blueberry pancakes and bacon. I hope you all have a great thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Still Rotten


It's a cool, rainy morning here on the Knolltop. A miserable day to be outside, so Bobby said he's going to put the cows back in for the day so they don't have to spend it outside getting wet.

We received our official pictures back of Holly and Hollywood and they are nice. At least I like them, Bobby and Luke say Holly doesn't have enough milk in her udder...and she doesn't....but I still like her.




I have one more comment to post from a reader of the blog...Russell Gammon who is currently on a trip to Haiti with his work for the Liberty School for Women, of which I am now a proud owner of one square foot! Here is his comment:
You really got me going with your comment regarding spoiled Americans in today's posting! Add spoiled Canucks/Canooks too and at least I know I'm in that number!
Today was our first day in Northern Haiti in Cap-Haiti en, a large city. We were once again reminded how grueling life is here and how very, very good so many of us in North America and other developed countries have it. Open sewers and all the stench that comes with them, people begging everywhere, most all regions of town being slums, naked and starving and stunted kids, dust, bad roads-more pothole than road, rickety, beat up cars, little food and few decent jobs, high illiteracy, all manner of diseases, rampant and ingrained corruption, lack of infrastructure, starvation, worship of evil spirits, lack of hope and vision, as you see I could go on and on! It is so good to be reminded of how great life is in North America no matter how tough we sometimes say it is!!! Did I mention environmental degradation and less than 5 percent of the land mass being covered with anything like forest and over 8 million people in a small country and so much top soil being eroded and an average life expectancy of only 49 years!!!??

Despite all this we have encountered so much that could be classed as very inspiring! We stayed at an excellent orphanage/school/church/medical center/feeding depot from Thursday til Sunday morning. Today we visited our PWP office for our adult literacy classes, did video work, visited two classes in progress, visited one of our other teachers, inspected some land she and her hubby have for sale-possible Liberty School for Women site, stopped into see our Haitian administrator and his extended family in their tiny and very primitive home in the slums, bought a cell phone for within Haiti use and talked of so many ways to move our work ahead!

Here again, someone who is willing to put their money and actions where their mouth is...thank you Russell for such a great contibution you are making to their world. The holiday season is on us, it's time to open our wallets and our cupboards and start giving it away!

I've got a couple of errands to run...time to get at it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Spoiled Rotten

This weather is crazy! Yesterday I milked in my long underwear...this morning just a turtleneck and I was warming up fast. It's 54 out and foggy this morning on the Knolltop. I like the fact that we can't change the weather...that's one thing we aren't in control of..although the Al Gore would like us to think we are....with all his global warming rhetoric.

Anyway... I made one mention of spoiled Americans and did I get the email. Boy...you people really want to hear about how spoiled you are!

Here it goes....after visiting with our friends the Tingleys who are home for a visit from Indonesia, we were awakened to their way of life. We had just a small taste of what it must be like down there. The first tidbit was when their ten year old daughter looked a the bowl of grapes on our table and said, "Mom....look..it's grapes!" She was honestly excited about having grapes because they don't have grapes in Indonesia.

As we began to talk, I found out they don't have beef...just water buffalo, which aren't as tasty they say, plus they don't have many dairy products. They have to drink milk that's on the shelf, not refrigerated, they don't have access to cheese, they have to make their own yogurt from a powder mix and I didn't even ask about ice cream.

When we began discussing the safety of their food supply, Marc's response was, "America has the safest food supply and they don't even realize it." He went on to say that when they go back, they will get sick because their bodies will have to readjust to the food there. They will spend a few days being sick, then they will be fine and they will also have to take worm medicine.

When Christy wants to cook a meal she has to make everything from scratch even down to going to the market and buying the live chicken. Actually she sends a native, otherwise she would be taken advantage of and have to spend more than it's actually worth. It will take her at least three hours to cook a meal because everything is so different. No opening a bag of salad and pouring into a bowl, no taking the chicken breast out of the freezer and putting it in the oven to cook. She has an oven but it's very temperamental and small. No opening a can of corn or peas or going to the freezer and taking out what she was able to freeze over the summer. No going to the pantry and getting a jar of applesauce that she made during the fall apple harvest. No ordering pizza on a busy night, no drive through meals, no picking up pot roast with all the fixin's already in the package and baking it up in a snap. And that's just the cooking. I haven't even covered the fact that their mattresses are about 2 inches thick and they are one of the lucky ones who have indoor plumbing.

I wish those who are complaining about the use or rBST, GMO corn, pesticides, fertilizers, bleached white flour and pasteurized milk would just spend a week down in Indonesia or another under developed country and maybe they'd come home more concerned about what they need to get rid of or maybe they'd think about how much money they could give to those who have given up the comforts of their own home and the conveniences of modern America to help others have a better life.

For that matter, do we really need to go south for this? No, we just need to visit our local food pantry, Salvation Army, homeless shelter and we'd realize most of us have our priorities all messed up. So I ask you...what in your life is necessary? What can you live without? How much can you give? And are you willing to forsake your own wants for the need of another?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Milking and resting

Good Monday morning from the Knolltop. It's a windy morning...I was chilly milking this morning in the barn. And I'm back to my long underwear...so it's cold, in my book.

Recently we've had three first calf heifers freshen and they've all been great to get along with. I'm always a little apprehensive about these gals since they are just learning what it's like to be a cow and the rigors of giving milk twice a day. It's tough business eating all you want and laying around as much as you like and not having to go anywhere to use the restroom. Really the toughest job they have is standing still for about five minutes while we milk them....tough life.

One of the heifers is Miranda and she has been a dream. She's giving 90 pounds and she's just two weeks fresh....which is awesome in our book. But she has one problem...she lets her milk down quickly and it doesn't take her long to milk out...BUT when she thinks she's done she just lays down.....with the milker still attached! We have to stand and monitor her cause she will lay down as quick as anything if you don't get that milker off. It's so funny. In the past we've had cows lay down while being milk but it's usually because they have a belly ache or a sore foot...but not because they think they're done!

I told Bobby that if she doesn't stop this I'm going to have to put a nail in my pocket and give her a poke when she decides she's done...a clever trick I learned from the late Holstein enthusiast and the man who never endeared himself to anyone but we loved him in spite of himself....George Robb.

If I had more time...I'd vent a little about another subject...how spoiled we Americans are! But I'll save that rant for another post.

Time to get on the day.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Great fellowship

It's rainy here on the Knolltop...and as I write, Ohio State is beating up on Michigan...this day couldn't get any better!

Last night we had some friends join us at Luke's game and then come over for some fellowship. First of all, Luke's team won, I think the score was 55 - 11 or something like that. Anyway, we all came back here afterward and had chili, hotdogs, chips and homemade salsa, donuts, carmel corn and cookies. One of the couple's was our Pastor and his wife and the other couple are some friends who used to go to church with us but now live in Indonesia, they are just home for a visit. These folks have three kids who are just a real blessing to be around. Of course one of the reasons I like them is because the oldest daughter is the who I have picked out for Luke. And as it turns out, the second oldest daughter now has her first crush on JW. When they were getting ready to leave, she asked if that "Tall Kid" could come live with them in Indonesia.

JW is ready to go...I think it would be a great awakening for all of my children to go somewhere where they have to kill their dinner, it takes three hours to cook a meal and indoor plumbing is a rarity.

We had a great time visiting and catching up....my motto still is: Sit long, talk much!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cleanest pen controversy

Good Morning from the kind of clear, but cool Knolltop.

I'm on an errand frenzy this morning which includes oil filters and groceries...I'm sure you can figure out which stores I'm headed to.

We had a very quiet night last evening..no games...no practices....just sitting at home eating popcorn. Although there was some controversy in the barn. Sarah has created a "Who has the cleanest heifer pen" contest between she and Jake. She has drawn up a chart on the white dry erase board in the barn, complete with a key for what all the symbols mean. I had to spend a day just learning the key and what I was supposed to put where.

At the end of chores I'm supposed to judge who has the best looking heifer pen. Each of the kids has a heifer pen they have to clean which includes scraping out the front of the pen where there is no bedding and then putting clean shavings on the bedding pack in the back of the pen. It doesn't take very long and when it's done each day we don't have to clean calf pens that are 4 feet deep in manure...this way they are always clean.

Well, Jake got to his pen first and because he wanted his pen to look the best, he not only put shavings on the bedding pack in the back of the pen, he put shavings in the front of the pen so he had a nice blanket of clean shavings front to back. He also used up all the shavings so the other kids didn't have any to use for their pens. While he stood around proud as a peacock over his pen, the other kids were screaming "Jake is disqualified! He used all the shavings!" Bobby and I just laughed. You have to laugh at these things....there's no taking sides...we just laugh.

They were wanting to argue about it yet this morning over the breakfast table. I put an end to it when I began reading our morning devotions...which was about servanthood....something they could improve on!

Off to town!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

State Holiday

Okay...who knows what holiday it is in Michigan today? I'll give you a hint...it involves lots of ammunition....a little shack out in the woods....and adult beverages. Yes, it's opening day of firearm deer season!

Rural kids from all over the state have excused absences from school to go deer hunting today...there are probably some school districts up north where everyone takes the day off! When I came across the road to the house this morning at about 7:00 daylight was just breaking and I heard a couple of shots. Honestly, I think some hunters just shoot so they can be the first ones to fire their gun in the morning. In a couple of hours they will all gather back at their deer camp and one at a time they will give every detail of their morning hunt...right down to how many steps they saw a doe take or the exact number of deer they saw and where everyone of them was positioned or exactly what time it was when they heard the first shot...yes, they are very detailed in their story telling.

They will drive around and see if there are any other deer hunters to swap stories with and visit the local buck pole, down copious amounts of beef jerky and oatmeal cream pies and then head back out to the deer blind to sit until nightfall hoping for that big, elusive buck.

On another note, Luke had his first basketball game last night against Burr Oak and they beat them...bad....60-5. Now that was bad...I felt sorry for the other team. Burr Oak didn't score until the last quarter.

Better get going...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Discuss among yourselves

Good Morning...yes, here on the Knolltop we can see the sun for the second day in a row!

Last evening JW, JW's FFA advisor, Mr. Everett and I traveled to Blissfield to a Discussion Meet sponsored by Farm Bureau, specifically for FFA members. JW and I had no idea what he was in for...Mr. E. signed him up and told him he'd pick us up at 5:15 pm. JW got home from basketball practice at 5:10, swapped his basketball clothes for his official FFA outfit and we hopped in the car and headed east. JW's biggest concern was if he was going to get anything to eat before the contest...fitting for a 16 year old boy.

We fed him on the way and arrived at the high school. Upon seeing the other contestants studying their notes, JW looked at me with big eyes and said, "I don't have any notes to study...what are they studying? I have no idea what I'm doing!"

With my reassuring mom look, I said, "It's okay, this is a learning experience for you this year, we'll figure this all out this year and then next year you'll know what you're doing and win it."

He replied in typical boy fashion, "Mom, if I'm not here to win, there's no point in competing."

With that I agreed and I walked up to one of the contestants who had notes and asked if she had ever been in the competition. She replied, "Oh, no, I have no idea what I'm doing, no one else does either. Do you have your introductory speech written? I had no idea what to say, but I've got it memorized now, I'm not sure if it's right, you know, talking about trade issues and agriterroism..is that even a word? Oh my word, this is so hard...you know agriculture plays a big role in trade and then there's the land issues topic, zoning, variances, land preservation, mineral rights, I don't know much about those, but at least I have an introductory sentence...I don't know though....I'm so nervous I hope I don't babble on and on...."

I looked at her with big eyes and said, "I'm sure you will do a great job...after all you have an introductory speech!"

I spun on my heels and JW and I paced the long hallway making up an introductory speech about a topic that we had no idea about. So we came up with the general speech that Oliver Douglas uses on Green Acres, you know when you hear the patriotic music in the background and he talks about how great the American farmer is? You know...working the ground...producing food for the American people....most efficient farming practices...feeding, clothing, fueling the world....etc.

By this time, JW had his confidence up and started to look the part of a winner. He walked in with his head held high, using every bit of charisma God had gifted him with. Each contestant stood up in voluntary order to give their introduction and when JW stood up he did so with confidence. All those oral reasons in dairy judging had done him a world of good as he sounded great even though he might not have had the best facts to back it up.

The discussion had begun and they had 20 minutes to discuss a topic. Discuss is the key word..they weren't supposed to debate, argue, convince anyone of their point...they were just supposed to talk about the issues and look at all sides of it, no one monopolizing the time, covering all the possibilities. Every time JW spoke he started with, "Yes, I agree with that and...OR... You are right and I think....OR....As I'm sure you are well aware....." He was driving this whole cooperative thing home.

He was a finalist in the first go around and I was so proud. Then he was put to the test in the finals competing with five other seniors who all had experience in this event. He held his own and did a great job although the competition was tougher because they all had things to say. He could hardly get a word in edgewise.

I asked Mr. E. who his top three contestants were. He picked JW and two other experienced boys. That was not my pick....I didn't think JW had enough experience and wouldn't be able to hold it with the big boys at the state competition. In the end, I was right, JW didn't make it into the top three....they picked three seniors to go to the State Farm Bureau Annual Meeting to compete against other regional winners.

The good news is that he has two more years to compete in this and when we got done we asked him if he would do it again...his answer was a resounding "YES...that was fun!" I don't supposed his enthusiasm had anything to do with the cute moderator who is also the State FFA President who he happened to be hitting on in between competitions.....:)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Two behinds are better than one!

Good Morning from the Knolltop. Hey...guess what? It's CLEAR! And we can see the sun coming up....and it's beautiful. Having a sister who lives in Montana, I'm reminded that fog and mist are a novelty to them. She has told me she enjoys the few times there is fog out there in that dry, arid country. They're so dry out there, my nephew questions why I hang laundry out on the line because he says it's too humid here for it to dry. Now that's dry country!

Does anyone remember the professional bovine photographer Frank Robinson? Yes, I'm sure you haven't forgotten last week's picturing episode...but did anyone know Frank was a comdedian? The combination of someone with a sense of humor behind a camera can be a dangerous thing as you can see here with the "twin behinds" shot of me trying to get Jake's kitten out from under Holly and Dan Carroll trying to get Holly's feet set. You're too funny Franklin!


As you can see in the next shot...Jake gave up his tail holding to get the cat from me...the cat was immediately taken away!


JW is going to compete in a discussion meet tonight for FFA...he has no idea what he's in for...neither do I, so we'll find out together. JW may be a scatter brain at times, like he forgot his basketball shoes this morning and he has practice right after school, but he is good at thinking on his feet. If nothing else he always seems to sound like he knows what he's talking about even when he doesn't have a clue!


Time to get on the day...we're burnin' daylight!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Water Displacement and pie making

Okay...little did I know my pie making abilities would be brought out to the light when I posted this pie thing. Yes, that's what happens when your college roommate reads your blog!

Julie I do remember my first solo attempt at making a pie in our Cedar Village apt. It was apple and I think Mick, Brit and Jamie were coming over that night for supper and we were going to study for a test in Farm Systems Management...a class that I needed a lot of help in and only one of these guys was from a farm...oh boy....what great study partners they were....NOT!

Anyway...as I remember Brit took a big bite of my wonderful pie and began laboring at chewing this creation...it was like he took a huge spoonful of peanut butter and couldn't get it off the roof of his mouth. It was so funny and I'm laughing as I type this.

You see, you have to measure the lard by the water displacement method....I hadn't mastered that little detail....I just filled the cup up with one cup of water and then put enough lard into the water until the lard reached the two cup line. I didn't press it below the water level the way you are supposed to. So...I had too much lard and it was really greasy and stuck to the roof of your mouth....and the guys let me know.

Thanks for the memory Jules....oh how soon I forgot that one night in Cedar Village in East Lansing, Michigan!

Pies and illnesses

Good Morning from the Knolltop! It's another rainy, overcast day...but it was warm enough that I didn't have to wear my union suit under my barn clothes...that's a good thing.

Yesterday when I mentioned my mom making that unique Shaker Lemon Pie...I left out one minor detail and that is: My mom is the best pie baker in the world! Hands down...don't even tell me about your mom or grandma...they can't compare to the wonderful pies that my mom has made for years. She passed her lard crust recipe down to us girls and we continue to practice and practice to make as good a pie as she can...but to know avail...we come up short every time. So with that said...her making a pie that tasted so bad was not easy to accept and if that same pie were put down in front of me after supper today...I would still take a bite trying to convince myself that it really isn't that bad!

I see from the comment from yesterday that Patty can make a pretty good pie...maybe you should bring one down to me Patty and we'll just see if it's really as good as you claim....:)

In all seriousness Patty...you should really share your wonderful recipe with the rest of us...I would love to try it. I love pumpkin pie!

JW is home sick on the couch today...he's been sick for two days, he was sick on Saturday when he went to chop wood...but his love for money kept him going. Now he misses his first day of basketball practice. We're headed to the doctor this morning...no not because he's sick...because I've waited this long to get a sports physical for him...yes, I'm usually under the wire...I'm a writer for heaven's sake! That's what we do...get as close to the deadline as we can without missing it. And my husband hates that!

Time for breakfast!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pie anyone?

It's raining on the Knolltop this Sunday morning. What a great day to stay inside and bake! Looking through a magazine last evening while Bobby flipped through channels, (boy is that annoying), I found some recipes using pumpkin and lemon. I think I might try the pumpkin lemon pie...I'm not sure how it will turn out, but it's worth a try. It's can't be near as bad as the shaker lemon pie my mom made one time.

It was years ago and Martha Stewart was a new phenomenon on TV. She worked through a recipe for Shaker Lemon Pie and my mom thought it looked good so it must taste just as good. She worked on that pie all afternoon, making sure to follow the recipe just right. It called for so many lemons she thought she might have been reading it wrong. But she forged ahead and when it was all done the pie was beautiful. She brought it to the table with a very accomplished look on her face. We were all looking forward to this new creation and of course we all took a piece. When we began chewing the first bite we all came up with the same bitter look on our faces. It was as if we had all took a big bite of lemon thinking we were all taking a big bite of an apple fritter. We were surprised on both accounts. It tasted like lemon rinds with a whole lot of sugar, which would stand to reason since it had lemon rinds and sugar in it.

Dad and Bobby pushed it aside and quit eating it...my mom and I kept eating it thinking it was going to taste better with the next bite. But to no avail...as good as this pie looked, it tasted awful.

So, now everytime we see or hear of Shaker Lemon Pie, a smile spreads across our faces and we all start to chuckle and begin to reason that mom must have done something wrong or there must be a better recipe out there somewhere.

Well, the coffee is done and church time is approaching!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Young employees

It's still overcast here on the Knolltop. The sun peeked out yesterday for a little while and it was a beautiful morning and afternoon before the clouds moved back in.

Today I've got to run errands. Usually I like to wait until the weekend to go to town, so the kids can go with me if they want to..it's more fun to take the kids...it's lonely grocery shopping by myself. But today, Sarah is the only eligible shopper because the boys all have to work...and not here.

Earlier in the week the neighbor called and said he wanted to reserve JW and Luke for today. They called early because they knew the boys seem to be busy working for someone every weekend and if you don't call early, they're gone. Another guy reserved them for the Friday after Thanksgiving...now that's planning ahead..but this is the same guy that has stopped by at least three different times and couldn't catch a boy at home.

Then last night, the grain farmer up the road called to reserve Jake for today....which is fine with Jake since he gets to ride on big equipment and talk on the CB. With Sarah babysitting three afternoons during the week and the boys working on the weekends I end up not having to say 'no' to everything they want to buy at the store. When they make their own money they can pay for their own silly purchases like airsoft gun BB's, toy tractors and six packs of raspberry-spearment gum!

Friday, November 9, 2007

What a week!

It's been an eventful week...and I'm ready for some slow days. The weather is the same as it's been the last three mornings here on the Knolltop...cool and cloudy. How many different ways can I say that? Several if I sat and thought about it...I guess.

We had a new arrival last night as we finished up milking. Charlene was born! I'm going to call her Charlie. Charlie is out of one of our show heifers, Knolltop Outside Carolyn and she is out of a great cow family so I'm very excited that she had a heifer.

JW is in a musical this week at school. His first performance was last night and they will put it on again tonight. The play is Once Upon a Mattress and it's funny. JW is a knight and has a couple of songs to sing in it. He's very good...yes, I know I'm his mother...but really he is good. Grandma and Gramps came down for it last night and Grandma said he was good too...yeah, I know that doesn't hold any weight either!

I forgot to mention that I was on Rural Route Radio with my buddy Kyle Bauer and adversary Trent Loos. I was on Tuesday and we talked about healthy states...the north is healthier than the south....yes we discussed all that and I gave my biased opinions without solicitation...but isn't that was talk radio is? If you want to hear it go to www.KFRM.com and click on Programming and then you'll see Rural Route Radio...just click and listen.

Today is laundry day...you should see the mess I have of clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away and the dirty laundry that is.....well....dirty. I've still got to write my column too...that is my first priority since it was due yesterday. I need coffee...and lots of it!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fun with the boys


It's the same today as it was yesterday...cool and overcast. I'm now wearing my union suit under my barn clothes in the morning...yes, it's that cold....to me.

Yesterday we had a wonderful time picturing Holly and Hollywood. Frank Robinson the photographer and Dan Carroll from Select Sires got here and Frank started scouting out the place to picture. He found his place and then noticed the front porch of the house. He said he thought some pictures there would be fun to take...I said...YES..I think so too! Bobby rolled his eyes.

I had washed the girls yesterday morning..yes that was a cold job and even colder for the cows, but beauty has it's price. So they were clipped and ready to go when it was time for the pictures. Frank and Dan had a few finishing touches to put on the ladies and they were ready for their glamour shots.

The kids got home just in time to help out. Luke got to hold the cows, Bobby and I were at each shoulder, Jake was at the tail, Dan was the noisemaker, JW was the runner and Sarah took pictures of the whole process for me so I could share them with you.

We had put the dog in the house, but one of Jake's cats kept creeping into the picture. Other, more uptight, cattle, photographers would've had a fit when the cat wondered underneath the cow...but since Frank is more laid back and at ease with his job...he just took pictures of the cat under the cow and me getting the cat out from under the cow and Jake rescuing the cat from my evil clutches. We finally put the cat away!

After the cows were put away we had a cup of coffee and enjoyed a great visit discussing cows and "cow people." Of course I hadn't really cleaned the house before they came...I was too busy washing cows....but a messy house doesn't keep Jake from taking guests in to see his farm set up which is in the messiest room in the house! From now on, I'm going to have to brief Jake on which rooms are off limits to guests!

Now the show is over... the picture taking is over and Holly can just be a cow...until we classify next month!

Need to get my coffee and get on the rest of the day.