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Thunderstorms 1 - Open Sky Farm 0

In the very first thunderstorm of the year, within the first hour, lightning took out our wind turbine! I knew that's what happened as soon as I heard it hit but hoped that the turbine was still operational. I got distracted and forgot to confirm that it was still working. Fast forward to 2am this morning, when I realized the power was out. The wind was howling so I knew that the turbine was broke. I turned on the generator and investigated things in the battery shed, where all the electrical equipment and controls are. Everything was fine on the wind power center, which meant the problem was in the nacelle of the turbine and the turbine would have to come down. I've watched John Dixon, of Dixon Power Systems, take the tower down once but I'm not yet comfortable trying to do so on my own. Even if I was, it's still a two person job. It's too windy to tilt the tower down today so we'll have to wait until John is available and the weather is right. Until then, we will curse the wind and praise the sun.

It should be noted that we were out of gas so I headed into town a little after 3 this morning to fill the gas cans. I went to start pumping, only to realize that I left my wallet at home. If this sounds familiar, that's because it is (See "A case of the Mondays"). In fact, after it happened the first time, I told Jamie I was going to put a credit card in the truck. Guess what! I didn't... Guess what I did when I got back to the house and got my wallet! I put a credit card in the truck!

The good news is that things like this don't bother me like they used to. I didn't stress out, I didn't get angry, I just did what needed to be done. In fact, on my way back from the gas station (the second time) I saw a shooting star or meteorite or Starship or something, as I was about to pull back into our driveway. It was the brightest I had ever seen. I haven't decided what it means, if anything. I just know that it was worth it. Just like this farm.


Pizza and beer

Now doesn't that sound like an excellent meal?  I am a pizza fanatic, specifically the thin crust of a New York style pizza.  My absolute favorite pizza is from Zios in Omaha.  I may have been eating there once a week the last few months of my pregnancy...:)  I've tried duplicating my favorite pizza at home and have gotten close a couple times.  I've made a few pizzas on the grill last year.  Close, but no cigar.  I always struggled with is the sauce.  I didn't want a thick pasty sauce.  I wanted something more of a fresh tomato sauce, but not too fresh because I had problems getting the crust done when it was too watery.

Enter Annie's Eats Thin Crust Pizza.  I think I died and went to heaven after I made this.  (Please check out the rest of her website, because she has excellent recipes.)  I found it!  The perfect combination of thin chewy crust and a nice tomato sauce.  I would have taken pictures of it, but Jon and I ate both pizzas I made too fast.  Please please try this recipe.  The sauce is hands down my favorite homemade pizza sauce and it made a lot of sauce, so I have some frozen.

And doesn't a great pizza need a great beer?  Enter Schilling Bridge.  Schilling Bridge Winery is located in Pawnee City, Nebraska.  I haven't tried the wine yet, but Jon bought some of the 70 Schilling Bridge ale and it is my new favorite beer.  I could probably have one a night if I wasn't breastfeeding.  As it is now, I can hardly even drink half of it, but mmmmmmmmm is it good!


Oh my pretties...

Aren't they gorgeous?  I think so...and I know other cloth diaper mommas do too.  These are the Fuzzibunz One Size Elite diapers.  When I first started cloth diapering, my main system was prefolds and Thirsties diaper covers.  I also really liked the Rumparooz newborn covers that I had.  I had a few pockets and AIOs and of course, my FAVORITE kind, the Bummis Tot Bots easy fit.  I would definitely recommend starting off with prefolds and covers as the main system and trialing a few pockets and AIOS.  That way you don't have to invest so heavily until you figure out what works for your baby.  Every diaper is so different and fits babies differently, so it's really trial and error.

I found myself reaching for my pink Fuzzibunz elite more and more and when Clara outgrew her prefolds, I decided to invest in some pockets.  I did buy two more of the Bummis as well.  I love the Bummis, but I'm just worried about the velcro going out on them, so I wanted some snaps to round out my cloth diaper stash.  I was so excited to get home with my new Fuzzibunz bought from my favorite cloth diaper store.  And then it happened...she leaked in her pink Fuzzibunz!  In the past I've put her in the Fuzzibunz all night and never had leaks.  So, now I'm nervous to wash them, just in case they've stopped working for her.  I'm washing one new Fuzzibunz and the old Fuzzibunz to trial today.  Wish me luck, because I do not want to return these pretties!  The great thing about the Elite Fuzzibunz is that they have elastic on the inside of the legs and waistband to really adjust the fit right.  I also put in the newborn insert instead of the regular one, so I'm wondering if that's what happened as well.  I think everything will be fine, because not two hours later she leaked out of her Thirsties duo diaper, which has never happened and she also leaked out of her Pampers disposable later.  Maybe it was just a fluke?  I hope so, because I want to wash all of these pretties..

ETA:  Success!  No leaks from either her old or new Fuzzibunz.  I'm off to wash me some pretties!  I think what was happening was I was putting Aquaphor on her to protect her skin from her disposables.  She has pretty sensitive skin and gets red very easily.  I was washing the cloth wipes that wiped off Aquaphor with her diapers, which is a no no.  Only cloth diaper safe cream should be used against their skin, such as CJ's Butter rash cream.  Anything else will cause repelling and leaking.  Good to know!


Clara is two months old!

Wow!  Time goes so fast and I'm even two weeks late with this post.  Clara and I like to play photo shoot a lot, so please forgive all of the photos!  It's just too hard to choose sometimes...

And I just can not decide which background to shoot her monthly onesies.  So, all three again!

And a very special photo shoot with Clara in her baptism gown that was made by her grandma.  As you can see, it's hand crocheted and just gorgeous in person.  It's such a special treasure and I hope someday that Clara can pass it down to her daughter.

I couldn't resist this one, because this is pretty much what she does now...gnaw on her arm like it was a turkey leg.


The Love Ducks

I never told you about the Love Ducks, did I?  Since it was Valentine's Day this week, they popped into my head.

The Love Ducks were a pair of ducks that decided that the only thing in the world they needed was each other.  One was an Indian Runner duck and the other was one of my pet ducks.  The Indian Runner ducks had taken to roaming through the pastures to both of our ponds.  Sometimes they would come back at night and sometimes they would stay down by the ponds.  One day, we noticed that they stuck by the house more and that two of them were swimming in the pond by themselves.  After investigating for a little bit, I noticed that the Indian Runner duck was limping.  I tried getting closer but both ducks quickly slipped into the water before I could catch them.  Something was wrong the Indian Runner ducks leg and it wasn't able to swim very well.

I really wanted to bring both ducks back up to the house, but they were having none of that.  I gave up and let them be.  And darned if my pet duck stuck by the Indian Runner duck until he/she was healed.  Every day that I left for work and on my way home, I would check and make sure they were still there.  And they still were...just swimming around by themselves.  It just made me think about what made my pet duck stick around with the lame Indian Runner.  They were very vulnerable down by the pond, especially at night since we have LOTS of coyotes.  I decided that they must be in love, hence the name The Love Ducks.

Both Jon and I knew it was a matter of time before the coyotes got to the ducks.  And this story doesn't have a happy ending.  I wish I would have been able to capture them both and take them back up, but they were just too skittish.  One day the Indian Runner duck was gone....and it was just my pet all by his/herself.  And then one day that duck was gone too.  The Love Ducks were no more.  Makes me sad just thinking about it. My little pet duck was so devoted to that Indian Runner, always sticking by his/her side.  The animals in our world aren't so far off from us...

Since I neglected to take a picture of the Love Ducks, I will just share with you my own little love duck...


things to think about - Crop Insurance Subsidies

 Just a few snippets I wanted to share. You can click on the titles to go to the full articles.

Pressure Builds to End Crop Insurance Subsidies

by Matthew Glans
Heartland Institute Vice President Eli Lehrer argues America’s crop insurance program is “a $6.5 billion annual waste of taxpayers’ money” and “one of the most egregious examples of welfare for business in the nation’s vastly overweight federal budget.
“Eliminating the crop insurance program should be an easy decision. The program is much more than a waste of money — it is also bad for the agricultural economy it is supposed to support and dreadful for the environment.”

The Trouble with Subsidized Crop Insurance

 Tanner Ehmke 

On one side of the road sits a field of corn baking in the heat with the leaves shriveling into a semblance of yellow crepe paper. On the other side of the road is a fantastic field of milo that looks like it just got a 5-inch rain. The stand is impeccable and couldn't look greener or healthier – even with a heat index as high as 113 degrees.

 So why plant a crop that struggles in the heat when another crop does perfectly well? The answer probably isn't much of a surprise: subsidized crop insurance.
Thanks to the government's generous crop insurance subsidies – crop insurance companies received $3.8 billion last year from the government while posting a profit of 26.4% – farmers are defying Mother Nature and planting crops that otherwise wouldn't pay.  
On the surface, the concept of government support sounds great: They help keep the business of crop insurance profitable so we farmers can easily reduce our risk. After all, in such a high-risk business as ours, how many of us could farm without insurance?
But here's where it gets turned on its head. Subsidizing a risk management tool only results in one thing: taking on more risk. If the penalty for failure is reduced or eliminated, what's the point of making conservative or smart decisions?

Misguided Farm Bill Shortchanges Rural America

Here is the bottom line. If one corporation farmed your entire state, the federal government would pay 60 percent of its crop insurance premiums on every acre in every year – the better the year, the bigger the subsidy.





And then, after a crappy few days, you go to the NSAS Healthy Farms Conference and are re-inspired and reminded of why you do what you do! Friday and Saturday Jamie, Clara and I attended our second Healthy Farms Conference (Jamie and Clara could only stay for Friday though). And it was so rejuvenating. Last year, Jamie and I split up and covered 2/3 thirds of the concurrent sessions and learned a lot. This year, we spent more time in the hallways and in the banquet hall chatting with new and old acquaintances. It's such a small, welcoming group that it's like going to a family gathering (in a good way). It was such a great time and we still learned a lot. And if the subject matter and the people weren't enough, the conference was held at the beautiful Lied Lodge in Nebraska City. We left the conference ready to take on the world again. With new ideas and more ammunition to tell others (and sometimes ourselves) why it is we do what we do and why it matters to them.

I even had the opportunity to speak with an organic row crop farmer from my home town. He's the only one in the county (probably in a multi-county area) but it's great to know that he's doing it. Now I'm trying to introduce my younger brother into the wonderful world of organic/sustainable farming. He's conventional ag through and through so it'll take some time but I'd like to think that he might come to recognize it as a better way.

Of course, I can't finish this post without sharing the "cherry on top" of the conference. Jamie and I were awarded the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society's Beginning Farmers of the Year Award.


A case of the Mondays

(Disclosure:  To point out the crappy week we are having, this post was written on Tuesday and is just now being posted...enjoy!)

Yesterday was one of those days that really tests a farm family's fiber. Makes you question what the hell you are doing out here.

I struggle, sometimes, with how much to discuss our problems on the blog. On the one hand, I want to accurately reflect just how hard it is to farm (or at least to farm the way we're farming, in the situation we're in) and the real-life struggles that go with it. On the other hand, doing so just makes us sound like we complain a lot. And it's probably not a lot of fun to read about, all the time. So, please don't think we are complaining all the time (although some it is definitely us complaining) and we will do our best to share the more entertaining and educational "life lessons" learned on the farm.

So. Back to yesterday. Actually let's go back to Friday, to my blog post when I said "I'm even glad to hear snow is on it's way". And I am glad, overall, but boy did it make our lives more difficult in the short term. The problem, in my opinion, wasn't the fact that we had about a foot of snow fall in 24 hours. It was the fact that it started out as rain and then turned to wet, heavy snow and then got lighter and drier as the weekend progressed. That meant the wet, heavy snow stuck and froze to everything and weighed it down. Where this was most evident was the polywire. Because it's temporary fencing, it's not designed to support such weight and it was laying on the ground by Saturday.

On Saturday, I put in three bales of alfalfa hay for the cattle in an effort to keep them "contained" well that worked for a little while but not long. The rest of the bales are just on the other side of the polywire so I would constantly have a few rogue cows and/or heifers helping themselves. Because the polywire was on the ground and because the evergreens were laying on sections of my fencing, there was no charge in the fencing at all. You can see in this picture that all the branches on the evergreens are drooping. And because many of them are close to the fence, when their branches droop they rest on my fencing. I will say that it's my own fault for not taking care of that over the weekend. But in my defense, I spent half the weekend pushing snow and/or trying to get around in the snow to take care of other chores and put cattle back in.

Let's skip ahead to Monday morning. The chores went fine, slow but fine. The cattle were mostly in, after I had resurrected some of the polywire. But I knew they would get out again if I didn't put a bale in. However, the tractor was almost out of gas and my gas cans were empty. It was almost time for me to work so I "quickly" headed for the gas station. Of course, there was dense fog and I pulled out of the driveway right behind a road grader, and once I got around the road grader I got behind another slow moving vehicle. OK though, I'm at the gas station and I'll get back just in time to run up to the office and I can move a bale a little later. Wait a minute... Where's my wallet? Oh $#!+, I forgot my wallet. So back home a go with no fuel. At that point, it was about 8 so I didn't have time to go back again. Work has been REALLY busy lately so I didn't have time to go back with a credit card until lunch time. Of course, with that last trip I was almost out of diesel in the truck. And, of course, I have to drive another town over to get diesel. So, 30 minutes later, I'm back with gas for the tractor. As I get back, I see that a handful of cattle are out again so I try to get them back in but this time they are being difficult. At this point, I'm fed up so I start moving them all back across the driveway to a paddock with permanent fencing on all sides. No winter water set up but I'll worry about that later. I knew that moving them from where they were to where I needed them was going to be a challenge but I tried it anyway. Long story short, it went worse then expected and took over an hour to move them 50 yards to the area next to where I wanted them. To keep them happy, I was going to put a bale in with them. So I filled up the tractor and cranked her up. Tried to move forward and it died. Tried to crank it up again and the battery went dead... So I had to run and find the battery charger/jumper... Tried to jump start it but didn't go... Had to turn on the generator and try again. Success! Now I have to take the blade off from pushing snow to get the bale spear put on. Time consuming but seamless enough. So, I finally moved a couple bales into the area that I wanted them.

After that things went a little better. Clara calmed down and I got some work done.  I was also able to head into town to send the package. I waited until 5 to leave so that I could make up for the time spent chasing cattle over lunch. Later that night I went out to pull all the evergreen branches off the fence. I will point out that as soon as I started, I fell into a 3 foot hole that had drifted over and re-injured my knee (another farm injury that I have yet to share on the blog). Aside from that, it took a while and was exhausting but I got it done.

Life lessons learned:
#1 Move cattle to an area with permanent fencing in place when a snow storm is coming
     1a I do not have enough permanent fencing or winter water solutions. Definitely need to work on            
         permanent fencing in the spring and putting in more water lines.
#2 When you realize that the fence is shorting out, fix it. Now. (Since all the polywire was down, I knew it
      wouldn't do much good. But I should have done it anyway)
#3 Either open a charge account at the gas station or hide an extra credit card in the truck.
#4 Babies are fussy. No matter how cute and cuddly they are most of the time, when they are screaming their heads off for hours on end they are very hard on parents' nerves and emotions.
#5 If you know that moving the cattle is going to be difficult and you don't have the time, either do it later when you do have the time or set it up so it's not difficult.


A little redesign

I was feeling like the blog needed a change.  It's been over a year since I started the blog and it was due for a change.  I may be tweaking with it a little bit, but I'm pretty happy with the new header.  And I'm even happier that little Miss Clara slept for THREE hours while I figured out step by step how to create a header....thank goodness for naps!


rain is a good thing (I'm even glad to hear snow is on it's way)

It may not look like much to some but it's beautiful to us. This is the garden area this morning. We cleared off the nasty, hard, fibrous weed stalks from last year's neglect (lesson learned) and ran a field cultivator through it. Just in time for the rain!

We're still working through details of how we want to prep the ground, this year and in the future but the field cultivator worked for now.

Now that we have a tractor I could do it myself instead of asking the neighbors. They were happy to let me borrow it.


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