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What a weekend!

Wow, I think I'm almost fully recovered from that weekend.  If you don't know, we started out the weekend with a sick puppy.  Well, things only got better on Friday night.  I woke up to the sound of him vomiting again at 4:30 in the morning.  I didn't have my contacts in so I couldn't spot the vomit right away. I kept looking around and then it hit me....I was standing in the vomit...that's why I couldn't see it.  After hobbling my way to the sink to wash off my foot and swearing under my breath, I vowed that this dog was going to the vet on Monday. 

He did go to the vet today and with his history the vet thinks it's one of two things: Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency or food allergies.  I'm praying that it's just food allergies instead of EPI, because the treatment would include expensive pancreatic enzymes each month.  So, we are going to do a little blood draw tomorrow and then start on a food trial.

But the most exciting part is our cattle!  All 21 cattle are currently accounted for on the farm.  Notice I say currently...because at one point some of them were NOT located on the farm.  Everything was going great with unloading the cattle.  The cows and bulls were out and had turned the corner to the paddock.  Our first mistake was letting the cows get too far ahead of the calves.  Cattle naturally want to follow each other.  Instead when we let the calves out, they shot straight ahead right through the electric poly wire.  Jon took off running after them trying to turn them.  He said he ran until he nearly vomited and headed them off on an old barb wire fence.  He almost had them with the rest of the group but the barb wire fence ran out before he got them to the paddock and they took off.  The next hour was spent chasing them through the field in an old '95 Ford Bronco in the dark. 

Jon finally got five of them rounded up and they calmly walked through the gate to join the other cows.  At this point, it's about 8-9 at night and dark.  We tried counting the cows, but we kept coming up with only 16 instead of 21.  At that point, we had to call it a night, because we were completely unprepared to find cows at night.  We had no 4-wheelers, no spotlights or flashlights, no rope, and nothing to feed them to get them to follow us.  We thanked our neighbors for coming out to help us and Jon and I were driving down the road, when we spotted two rogue calves.  We flipped around to try and lead them to the rest of the cows.

Here is where I needed to make a split decision and failed.  The calves were headed right towards the side of the farm that did not have good fence up and leads into a neighbor's cornfield.  I needed to head them off and turn them to the left.  Well, they were bunched up beside the electric fence and I couldn't get to the right of them before they shot out of the gate.  What I needed to do was suck it up, take the shock and jump over the electric fence to head them off.  Notice I said take the shock...I would have had to put my hand right on the wire and throw my body over the side of the fence. 

The cows shot through the gate and were making their way straight towards that cornfield.  We tried herding them in the Bronco again, but there was one of the calves was just weaned and was very skittish.  Ultimately they got into the neighbors corn field and we lost sight of them.  At this point we called our neighbor back out to help us, which he very thankfully did.  The highlight of the night was around 10:00 pm when I was stalking rogue calves on foot with an arm full of alfalfa and a cellphone for a flashlight.

Let me just repeat that one...tracking rogue calves through a snowy cornfield with an arm full of alfalfa and only a cellphone for a flashlight.  I definitely wondered at one time how I got to this point in my life...  Luckily my neighbor and Jon found the calves at a neighboring farm.  Then I needed to make my way out of this cornfield, which was not easy at night since I had gotten turned around.  No need to worry though, the almighty cellphone came to my rescue!  At some point I had jokingly downloaded the Super Compass as a way to argue which way was North with my husband.  It was very humbling to walk out of this cornfield with the help of the compass on my cellphone. 

Eventually we got the two calves penned up for the night and headed back to get some sleep before we loaded them up the next morning and corralled them.  Neither one of us got any sleep though, on top of the two nights that the dog had us up at all hours.  Like I said, it was an exhausting weekend.

Lessons learned from this weekend:
1.  Be prepared when working with cattle.
2.  Be prepared when working with cattle.
3.  Be prepared when working with cattle.

Catch my drift?

Luckily Jon was able to buy a 4-wheeler he next day and you better believe we stocked up on flashlights, rope and anything else we could think of.

We are headed back out to the farm tonight to build more fence and check on cows.  I didn't get pictures this weekend, but here is one that looks exactly like the rogue calf that caused us so much trouble.


My dog is high maintenance

I don't think I've ever told the story of how we ended up in the pet ER and the vet twice the week that we got Max.  I don't have time today, but last night seemed pretty familiar in the Yoachim household. 

Max had not been feeling well yesterday, sometimes having diarrhea every 2 hours.  He woke us up last night at 11:30, 1:00, and 3:00 to go outside to go the bathroom.  I really regret not installing that doggy door.  Anyways, we all finally settled in to sleep until 4:30 when it happened.  Max vomited on himself in his kennel.  He normally sleeps by the side of the bed, so I just thank God that he was in his kennel because most of it went on his blanket. 

A dog that has just vomited is the saddest thing in the world.  When we first got Max and he was vomiting regularly 2-3 times a night, he would try to crawl in to the smallest ball that he could fit.  He would act that we were going to hit him.  Makes me sad to think what he went through at his old home.

Today he seems better so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for no vomiting or diarrhea from him today.  Because we have a little thing like 20 cattle coming tomorrow and we don't have time to take care of a dog that won't stop vomiting.  Oh and this lovely development also makes unloading new cattle tricky...


Some interesting facts about heritage turkey...

I was reading Selecting Your Best Turkeys for Breeding last night from the the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and came across some interesting facts.

1.  I've talked about this before, but modern commercial turkeys can't reproduce.  They have to be artificially inseminated for the line to carry on.  Crazy, huh?  It makes me sad for those turkeys because isn't that what life is about?  Foraging, play fighting and a little reproducing on the side...

Anyways, back in the 1950s-60s was when life started to change for turkeys.  Turkeys were being selected only on their ability to convert feed to breast meat.  This was great for consumers who weren't fans of dark meat as they got more of the white meat.  On the down side, when you select for only one trait, other traits start to fall to the way side.  Turkeys simply lost the ability to mate naturally.  Having a broad breasted or double breast turkey made it difficult for males to mount females for reproduction.  To compensate for the decrease in fertility rates, the turkey industry began artificially inseminate.

Now, I know people artificially inseminate cattle, sheep and people, but doesn't it seem wrong that we are reproducing a species that without our help would go extinct?  The whole thing seems silly, but what it's really about is money.  People don't want turkeys with small breasts, they want that big Butterball turkey that they see on TV.  It seems to me that we have a lot of education to do in order for people to see the value in Heritage Turkeys. 

2.  I'm off my soap box now and on the subject of wattles!  What's a wattle you may ask?  It's that lovely little piece of skin underneath the beak that droops down...like this...

From Dogbreedinfo.com
The piece of skin that goes over the beak is called the snood.  And below the wattle is the caruncle.  Now here's where it gets interesting.  Caruncles can change color and size depending on the mood of the turkey.  The snood over the beak will also change size and length according to turkey's mood.  Isn't that crazy?  Wouldn't all the men in the world love this?  It's kinda like a mood ring for a turkey.  Now imagine a body part on a woman changing colors with their mood, like color changing fingers or ears...might make life easier for certain dense men. 

3.  It's also interesting to note that blue eyes in a turkey is not a wanted trait.  They are homozygous for blindness, which is never good.  So, if I was a turkey I would probably be culled on the account of my blue eyes...

Next up on the reading list is How To Raise Heritage Turkeys on Pasture.  Fascinating...I know!

My poor buddy was trying to take a nap today and I couldn't stop snapping pictures of him...he's just so cute!

And if you don't already know, Girl Scout Cookies are in!  Yummy...peanut butter patties...



Man I am awake way too early!  My eyes just snapped open at 5:51 this morning...and there was no use going back to sleep.  My eyes felt like those creepy baby dolls eyes that snap open when you pick her up.

Anyways, I got my chicken and turkey order in finally!  I wish I would have done it sooner, but it's just one of those things that I kept putting off.  So, here's what I ordered:

15 Silver Laced Wyandottes

These are considered dual purposes birds.  So, they are heavy birds for meat and produce eggs.

15 Rhode Island Reds

These are also dual purpose birds.  They are excellent layers and make good meat birds.

10 Ameraucanas
I'm interested to get these in.  They are called "Easter Egg birds" for the blue green eggs that they lay.

5 Royal Palm Turkeys

I couldn't decide which way I wanted to go for a Heritage turkey flock.  Heritage turkeys are defined as a turkey that can reproduce naturally and is a good forager.  I've written before about how most commercial turkeys are unable to reproduce by themselves.

10 Bourbon Red Turkeys

All pics from Cackle Hatchery
I really wanted to try some Narragansett's this year, but they wouldn't be available until July and I really wanted at least a couple turkeys for Thanksgiving.  These birds will be here last part of April!



This is something I'm lacking right now...  My house is a mess, I need to order chickens and my dog needs brushed.  How do people find the motivation to keep their house clean and organized?  I've always struggled with organization at home and thankfully my husband is an excellent organizer.  I love it when he organizes my spices because he just makes thinks make sense.  I, on the other hand will shove things anywhere just to get them out of the way or better yet, not put them away at all.

And starting a farm while working full time is not conducive to low motivation and organization.  I've got to find a way to keep myself on track.  I was talking to a friend at work who suggested taking time before bed to pick things up.  I think that's a start.  My husband also suggests lists.  I can make lists, but sometimes I forget to do everything on the list. 

I can't even imagine how busy we are going to be once April/May hits.  Thankfully I have the option to go down to four days a week at work and still have my full time benefits.  I just wish I could do a better job now at home now  I don't feel like I'm a very good wife since our house is always a mess.  I honestly don't know how a family that has two full time working parents and kids and dogs can keep it together...it's like we need a stay at home wife for every family.

In some ways, I'm glad that we are moving so I can start going through our stuff.  We have accumulated so much stuff over the years compared to when we were in college.  Half the stuff in the basement I haven't seen in three years...I think that's a sign that I should get rid of that stuff.  I think we have entirely too many belongings and I don't want to move anything that we don't use regularly.  That gives me 2.5 weeks to go through this entire house....sigh...it's probably a good thing I've given up on watching TV...

I've never explained the picture that is my header above.  So, I thought I would!  That is our drive up to the farmhouse.  You can't hardly see the farmhouse up there, but it's there.  As you can see the grass and weeds are threatening to take over.  This pic is completely untouched too.  My husband took it, which impresses me.  I love it because it looks like the grass is glowing compared to the cloudy sky.


2011 Healthy Farms and Rural Advantage Conference

And we're back!  This weekend has been jam packed with activities.  I took a day off work, so Jon and I could take in all of the 2011 Health Farms and Rural Advantage Conference.  This was such a great conference!  It was amazing when we walked in and looked around at all of the people that we have met.  Networking when you are a small or beginning farm is so key.  The wisdom and guidance of those who have started before you is priceless.

Abe Collins was one of the keynote speaker.  He is founder of New Soil Matrix, Inc and New Soil Quantum, Inc.  He was talking about carbon farming, which was a little bit over my head.  Jon really enjoyed his talk.  Chuck Hassebrook was another keynote speaker.  He is the Executive director of Center for Rural Affairs.  He gave a great speech about what three things need to happen in order to advance local and sustainable food systems.  I wish I would have taken better notes on what both of these guys were saying. 

We then split up to take in as many sessions as we could.  One of the highlights for me was a talk by Merlin and Rita Friesan of Sunny Slope Farm.  They were speaking about working on sustainability on their farm.  We have had the chance to tour their farm and it was a great experience.  They are completely off the grid, with wind and solar power for energy.  They also have a windmill that pumps their water for them and are going to be installing a solar heating water system.  It's great to talk to people who have already had a couple years experience with wind energy under their belts.  If you ever get a chance to tour their farm take it!

Another interesting session was by Amy Jeanroy.  She is an herbal gardener located her in Nebraska who also writes for about.com and has written "Canning and Preserving for Dummies".  She was talking about the top 10 herbs that she used in farming.  She used the herbs mostly for her animals, especially for her goats, but also for herself and family.  I've never studied herbs before so the different tinctures and salves was a little over my head, but very fascinating.  I've never thought of dandelion and plantain as something useful.  Her blog is also linked to her about.com profile.  Check it out!

I also can't forget to mention R.P. Smith.  He was the entertainment during Friday nights dinner.  He is a cowboy poet and fourth generation Nebraska rancher.  Oh my goodness, he was funny!  I was a little skeptical at first about a cowboy poet but his stories were so great.

Truth be told this was an exhausting weekend for me.  I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit my pillow on Friday night, glasses still on and everything.  My brain hurt from all the great information that I was trying to jam in at one time.  And my butt hurt too....I am not used to sitting still for that long!

And while we were away, a little something decided to show themselves...

Onions seedlings are up!  And I just got some more of my seed orders, so I have another tray of onions I need to start.


And we're off!

Today and tomorrow, Jon and I will be cramming out heads full of as much knowledge as possible at the 2011 Healthy Farms and Rural Advantage Conference in Columbus, NE.  Can't wait!

This guy will be at the kennel...sniff..sniff...I'll miss my buddy...


I really need to start reading...

I'm getting very far behind my reading list...and there are more books than this...


My poor puppy

Max decided that last night was the night to try some lovely week old dead rabbit...and proceed to harbor that smell all the way home.  Needless to say, he got a bath.

Notice how he's fogging up the glass...

He does such a good job of just standing there.  He really is a great dog.

And who doesn't like Max the Nun...

He also got a new toy the other day.  Not sure what it's called, but it's one of those ball launcher thingies.

My favorite spot to grab on either side of his face when I talk to him...so soft.

Ready for action

Mi mama.

Such a handsome boy.

Favorite action shot!  He looks like superman or that he's balancing on one leg.

First in a series...

Overshot the ball!

Going back for the kill...

Got it!


And so it begins...

The seed starting has begun!  This is my favorite time of the year, planting little seeds and watching them grow.  My least favorite time of the year when it's August and my garden is officially out of control.  First on my list to start is onions and leeks.  My onions last year totally fell flat.  I think I got a few green onions out of the deal.  I started out a complete novice with seed starting and I'm slowly learning through trial and error.

Last year I had a difficult time finding an good seed starter.  I'm not entirely convinced this is organic, but that's okay it's a better alternative than what I had last year.  I also bought a couple more plug trays that came with the little covers to help lock in moisture.
My pile of seeds just waiting to be planted.  This is only about half of them, the other half is still coming in the mail.
And the three that are up for planting: Prizetaker Leeks, Yellow of Parma onion and Red Wethersfield onion. 
Dump a whole lot of seed starting material in the tray and smooth it out.
I don't think that there are very many people who know what onions seeds look like.  I know I was surprised to see such little tiny black seeds, but there they are!  Leeks are also very similar seeds.
Try to get about 3-4 seeds per plug to make sure you have at least one growing per plug.  Although last year I think all of my onions sprouted.  Cover them up with about 1/4 inch of the starting material.  Marking which plugs contain which veggie is very important.  You may think that you will remember, but I guarantee in two months you won't!
And the most important step...water!  Without water, those little seeds would not activate and start growing.  On a side note, this is one of the best little watering cans that I've bought.  It has a rose tip on it, which helps slowly trickle water out of the end so you don't flush all those little black seeds you just planted. 
This is how I roll.  A fluorescent light hung between two chairs.  It's the perfect distance for the light and very affordable.  Of course I dream of a nice bookcase or table to start seeds on, but I have to be realistic.  One thing I've learned from reading is that they recommend two different types of bulbs.  I can't remember the names exactly, but one is warm and the other is blue.  Something about the different light colors...

And there you have it!  I will definitely be posting lots of pictures when these babies start to pop up.  One important thing to remember is to leave the clear top on the plug tray until you start to see seedlings.  This helps to trap moisture and heat.  I leave my lights on for about 14-16 hours per day, depending on when I remember to turn them on and off.  Last year I had a plug in timer that was great, I just need to find it!

*Bonus points to who can name the movie that the blog title is from...hint...there are a couple hobbits in it...


I've been sucked in...

I don't know if you've heard of a little book called...

I've been completely and utterly sucked in.  I downloaded it last night on Kindle on my phone, which I swore I would never use.  I'm a big reader and I really like having a book in my hand.  But this Kindle app is very handy, especially when the Hunger Games is so hard to find.

And it's a good thing that I've decided to be on a TV diet this week, lots of reading time!


Hand quilting

One of my favorite things to do during the winter is to sit down with my latest project and watch a movie.  That includes knitting projects, quilting and embroidery...basically anything to keep my hands busy.  I've always loved quilting, it was my first foray into sewing.  For as long as I can remember I've always wanted to learn to hand quilt.

My great grandmother was a very good hand quilter.  I remember as a little girl going to her house and sifting through her baskets of embroidery and quilting projects.  There was just something about fabric and thread that excited me.  She was a prolific quilter for the church and for her family.  I have one of her quilts that she made and its one of my treasures.  I never did get to take quilting lessons from her before she passed away.  That is one of my biggest regrets.  I know she would have enjoyed showing me how to work with the needle and thread.  (Miss you great grandma Clara!)

I've tried at various times to teach myself how to hand quilt and I think I've finally got it.  The Internet is such a great resource for trying to learn something on your own.  That's how I learned to start knitting was with a great pattern from my local yarn shop and the Internet.

I think hand quilting is something of a dying art.  I know lots of older women quilt at churches, but I never see young people.  I've always wanted to learn to hand quilt from these women, but they meet during the day when I have to work.  So, I just keep working on my little lap quilt that I started and finessing my stitches.  Taking the time to do something slowly and with intention is so rewarding.  Can't wait for this quilt to be done!
All printed fabric from Sew Mama Sew


The story of Max

When we first found out we would be moving to the farm, I was excited because that meant I got to have a dog!  I've been begging for a dog since we've been married and Jon has been very firm on not wanting one.  In hindsight, he was right and I'm glad we didn't have a dog until recently. 

One Sunday, Jon and I were talking seriously about getting a dog and we decided to look in to some training books.  We went home from Target and were about to go to the library, when he called me into the office.  He just happened to look on the Nebraska Humane Society and found the one...an 11 month old German Shepherd puppy named Maximus.

Jon had decided we were either going to have a dog named Maximus or name our first born child Maximus.  Needless to say I'm very glad that we have a DOG named Maximus, which we shortened to Max.  We had also both agreed that we would probably have two dogs, one from the shelter and one German Shepherd.  We didn't think that we would be able to find any German Shepherds at the shelter.  I realized later that there are lots of big dogs at shelters because people don't have the time to properly train them.

We couldn't call ahead to reserve Max, so we had to drive an hour to Omaha and hope that he was still there.  He was still there when we got there, but the Nebraska Humane Society wants you to fill out paperwork so they can match you to a potential animal.  I was scribbling as fast as possible, so no one would take our puppy.  (I had already claimed him after one viewing.)  When I went to hand in my paper, a family jumped ahead of me.  They talked about all the little dogs that they wanted to see and at the end the dad said, "Oh and we want to see Maximus first." 

My heart just dropped.  I couldn't believe that we were one person away from getting our dog.  We went to meet with the adoption counselor, who tried to get us interested in other dogs.  But we weren't interested in other dogs, we just wanted Max.  At the Humane Society, they have meet and greet rooms where you can get to know the animals a little better.  We were literally in the next room over from the family who wanted to adopted Max.  And I could hear how excited the little girl was...

They decided to take Max outside and see how he did on the leash.  Jon and I were about to go look at another dog, when we saw him.  He was back!  Apparently, he was too much to handle on the leash for the little girl and the family decided against adopting him.  When he came in to meet us, all he wanted to do was show us his ball.  And that continues on to this day...if you every meet Max in person the first thing he runs for is a toy to show you.

So, in the end we got to take our puppy home.  And it's been an adventure since then...

Some day, I will have to talk about how we ended up in the emergency vet and the vet three times the first week we had him...and what it feels like to hold a bag under a vomiting dog...


Yummy pancakes

My favorite pancake recipe by far is from one of my favorite cookbooks Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook.  I happened to get this cookbook through one our recycling program, which offers rewards for how many pounds you recycle.  It's hands down one of my favorite cookbooks and I just recently got her second one. 

There are many many bookmarks in this one!  (I apologize for the poor quality of pictures, I really need to use my tripod when it's 6:30 in the morning, but I get lazy...)

My favorite eggs from Common Good Farm, the egg yolks are unbelievable!

This recipe is called Basic Whole Wheat Pancake Mix.  I was going to post the recipe, but I'm just not sure how that works with copyright laws.  Trust me, they are delicious!  They just have a really great nutty flavor that goes so well with real maple syrup.  Please, if you are going to make this recipe use real maple syrup, it's so much better than that corn syrupy maple syrup that's so cheap.

My tip would be to add 2 cups of milk.  It calls for 1-1.5 cups of milk and I always end up using more to get the consistency that I like.  I've never tried them with the apples and nuts which she recommends, but I can only imagine how good that would taste.

Pancakes aren't a normal everyday occurrence around her during the middle of the week.  I was up at five this morning, since I was falling asleep reading last night at nine.  So, I had lots of time before work!  And no cooking is complete with out my favorite apron:

Thanks Andrea!  And yes I wear bright obnoxious scrubs to work...what can I say, I'm a pediatric nurse!


The price of convenience and why I hate grocery stores

I was having a conversation with a friend at work a couple weeks ago and she complimented me on how hard I try to buy organic and/or local food.  Which was kind of interesting, considering I still buy these kinds of food.

They are my weakness....

You've got some Velveeta shells and cheese that go great with some fish sticks...that's comfort food for me.  There's some yummy pudding and jello.  Have you ever heard of someone who craves jello?  When I worked in the hospital I was always hungry for jello, since I could always smell it.

I could have taken a picture of some oreos....but I already ate them.

Missing from this picture would be a bag of McDonalds, some Amigos and maybe a little Sonic cheeseburger.

You see, as hard as I try to buy local/organic food, sometimes I fall completely off the wagon.  And when I fall, I fall hard.  Most of the time I do a really good job of making a meal plan and sticking with the list.  And then there are times when I'm busier that I just buy willy nilly and end up with a bunch of the above pictured food.  And it doesn't make me happy....  How am I supposed to put my money where my mouth is and support local/organic food when I keep buying this crap?  That's something I struggle with every time I grocery shop. 

Why do I hate grocery stores?  Because they're fake!  All that illusion of choice when the food comes from 4-5 major companies.  Maybe I'm just too used to shopping at Open Harvest but I think the lights in a grocery store are also blinding.  And the advertising...don't even get me started on all the false advertising.  And since when does America need a whole aisle dedicated just for cookies, cakes and chips?  Last time I checked America is only getting fatter.

Sometime else I struggle with is when I'm craving McDonalds.  Talk about disgusting food...CAFO hamburger with its GM sides of french fries and a small Coke...blech.  And yet I still continue to crave it!  I should give myself  a little credit, because there are some very smart researchers who make this food as addicting as possible.  I don't know anyone else who plays mind games with themselves while eating fast food.  Take yesterday for instance, the whole time I was eating a free meal of Chipotle I was thinking about confinement hogs and why they are serving pico de gallo in the winter.  Sometimes I wish I was completely ignorant to anything food related and did what everyone else does...and just freaking ate the Chipotle burrito already!

If there's one thing I've learned over the years is that I am NOT perfect.  As much as I would like there not to be crappy food choices, there always will be.  And sometimes I'm going to fall for them.  I just have to keep myself focused on my goal of producing local/organic food so that everyone else can have better food choices.  And food rant officially over...


Don't ever download this game....

From: Mobile Crunch

It's highly addicting and before you know it 45 minute has passed when you should have been reading this...

And definitely should be reading this....

And before you know it, you've been trying so hard to pass level 15 that there isn't time to write an actual blog post...


Farm Beginnings program

Jon and I are very lucky that we have the opportunity to participate in the Farm Beginnings class.  This is a 10 week program geared towards educating new farmers.  One of the best features of this class is the networking.  Every week we get to talk to local growers and producers in the area.  It's been such a great help to both of us.  It's so encouraging to hear from people who are doing their part to make Nebraska a more sustainable farming culture.  If you are ever interested in learning more about sustainable agriculture in Nebraska, we both would highly recommend this class.

Here are a few links:

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Development

Nebraska Food Coop

And my personal favorite:

Open Harvest

And if you're around the Iowa area March 5th, Ethan an Iowa area farmer and blogger will be speaking at the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture conference.  I would be very interested to hear him speak!

And because I can't leave without posting at least one picture here ya go:

Max's favorite spot to lay during the day.


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