Why do I call Matt, My Forever?

My favorite hashtag is #worktogetherstaytogether. I'm so blessed to be able to work with My Forever every day. So many Americans only see their spouses for a few hours in the evening and on the weekends. I get to be with mine everyday. Of course, we aren't together every second, but I get to see him multiple times a day and normally eat lunch with him. I love that we get to do this. I love that we're blessed enough to be able to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a farmer. I love that we get to see and be together so much more than we would if we both had "regular" jobs. Can you see where this is going? While I am so blessed and so happy to be able to have this time with him and be able to work together to achieve his dreams, not everyday is sunshine and roses. This week has been a rougher week. Maybe it's the impending harvest that has us stressed, maybe it's the start of the fall calving season, maybe it's everything that needs done outside of harvest, maybe it's having cows to take care of, maybe it's the fact that we haven't had very much moisture, maybe it's none of those things. I don't know.

What I do know is that this week I have had to look at the wedding band Matt placed on my finger almost four years ago that hasn't come off since then, only to clean every 6 months and the one time I got it stuck on a wire fence and bent it really bad and My Forever had to use his pliers to get it off my finger so we could make it round again and restore circulation to my finger, and remind myself of the vows that we wrote to each other. I am not one of those people that believe that there is only one person for everybody and we all have our soul mate. I believe that we make a choice when we get married. I made a choice almost four years ago to love My Forever for the rest of my forever. Hence why I refer to him as My Forever. I knew there would be hard days. Maybe in my naive brain, I probably didn't think there would be as many hard days as there has been, even in the short time we've been married. I leave my wedding band on ALL the time because it reminds me that even though he pisses me off SO easily and he hurts my feelings with certain comments and he doesn't do things that I think he should, WE chose-both him and I-to spend forever together. The rings we place on our spouses fingers the day we vow to spend forever together don't have a beginning or an end, they represent eternity. My ring already has blemishes to it. It has the memories that I immediately think of when I look at it-My Forever placing it on my finger on our wedding day-a day that far surpassed my biggest dreams of a wedding, the honeymoon (right in the middle of harvest that he left the farm and went on with me because I wanted an October wedding-yes a week right in the middle of soybean harvest and he chose me), having to use it to hold a cable to a battery to fill the drill, getting it stuck on a gate and almost ripping my finger off and him having to use his pliers to straighten it and get circulation in my finger, but most of all it reminds me that I was chosen for eternity. He CHOSE me. Matt chose ME to spend the rest of his days with. It reminds me that we have eternity to be together and while I'm most definitely not perfect, that does guide my reactions to so many things. I know I over-react about a lot. I'm an incredibly emotional person!! We are both stubborn enough people to make this work. We won't quit. And because divorce is a word that is off the table in our household, I know that even though this has been a crappy week for us as a couple, neither of us are going anywhere. I know we will work it out. I struggle to remind myself that if it's not important in five years, just let it go and don't fight about it. It's SO hard. Everything seems SO huge at the time. Anyway...I have fall cows to go check before it gets dark. Life on the farm is what I'm trying to share with you in these thought bites every week. This week life on the farm has been rough! Reality is reality. This next week will hopefully be better. It will be crazy busy and stressful, but so will the rest of my life. I always said I wasn't going to marry a farmer, but then I fell in love. I love My Forever so much more than he will ever know and he loves the land and farming and I knew that when I married him. I'm sure someday I will look at this post and think how naive I was. How much life has changed and how I won't remember why I was mad at My Forever this week. What I do know is that I will be with My Forever building our future together....Forever. 

Have an awesome week and take care! 

Quick Sunday Post Before Birthday Party

Good morning! This morning I was up before the break of dawn. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It is the day that My Forever is so much more relaxed. Today is a special day because we finally get to celebrate my sisters kids and husband's birthday! My niece's birthday is July 27th, my nephew is August 5th and my brother in law is July 31st. Since my sister had her third baby on July 17th it made it a little more interesting to have their birthday party with a brand new baby. So today is finally the day! We're looking forward to seeing and spending time with them today. 

We are fall calving so the cows always come first. I was up early to check them before leaving. My Forever has some other odd jobs that he wants to get done before leaving. In the farming world, there is always something that needs done. When we were first married, and even now a lot, I would nag Matt and get really upset when he wouldn't follow my schedule and he just HAD to do this one last job. I'm starting to learn, don't ask him I'm sure he would disagree, but if I just give him a little time and don't nag so much, he is in a much better mood when we are ready to leave and he's normally ready sooner than if I was nagging and he was dragging his feet. 

Anyway, it's been a busy week of getting into the routine of checking the fall cows first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Along with all the other farming activities. Soon it will be the start of harvest! Yesterday my mother in law went with me to the farmers market. I'm so blessed in the mother in law category! She is the best!! I always joke with My Forever that we can't ever get divorced because I had the wedding that exceeded my dreams and I have the absolute best mother in law. 

Got to run now to get ready for the party and have an awesome day with my family! Hope you have an awesome day and remember what's important. So much of our country is getting hit with bad weather and storms and fires so keep them all in your thoughts and prayers. Stay safe and have fun! 

Better Water for Our Cows!

This week we have been super busy putting in better water for our cows. In the last three weeks or so we put in two Cobett waterers. These are automatic waterers that stay full. They provide a safe alternative to having to go in the pond for water. These waterers were placed behind a reservoir and use gravity to stay full. There is no electricity or solar power to power them. I find it so neat that we don't need anything, but gravity to make these work. They are put into the ground about 5 feet or so. The actual water storage is a 25-30 gallon trash can. In the middle of that there is a ball that acts as the float so the water doesn't run over the top and make a mud puddle around the waterer. The floating ball also acts as a freeze deterrent in the winer. The idea is that the ball floating back and forth in the wind keeps the water moving and water that is moving is less likely to freeze. I'm so excited about these waterers because it will make the water SO much better and the cows won't have the chance of getting stuck in ditches. Matt and I did most of the work to put these 2 waterers in.

The other more extensive project we did was put in two spring developments. Springs are naturally occurring. We knew there were springs there because there was water on top of the ground, even in severe droughts. We worked closely with our local NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) to get them designed correctly. The engineer worked with us for about a solid week getting these springs developed. We first had to get below the spring. We have an trackhoe that was instrumental in this job. After we got down below the water we put in perforated pipe until we were past the spring. Perforated means there are holes in the pipe that allow the water to enter it. We put rock all around that perforated pipe and it will act as the filter to keep dirt out and the water streaming in. Again, the engineer is instrumental in making sure we are at the right depth and falling the right amount of depth. Then it's simply digging and laying pipe until we get to the spring box. The spring box is a pipe that is set in cement. Then we put the four inch pipe that came from the perforated pipe through one side and then a foot below that on the other side we place two inch pipe. Somehow that helps equalize the water and pressure and something else. Again, that is how why we work with the engineer so that he knows what's going on and I don't have to. Then we take two inch pipe clear to the tank. We used a recycled earth mover tire for the tank. The two inch pipe comes in the bottom of the tire. There is an outflow pipe that goes back out and we dig an outflow line. We cut the outflow pipe off just below the top of the tire so the water goes out the outflow and not over the top of the tank. Again we don't want the water flowing over the top so the cattle would create a mud puddle. Then we cement the inside of the tank to seal it so water won't leak out of the bottom of the tank. Last we put rock around the tank so it will create a solid foundation for the cattle. 

It took a lot of work! It took a lot of time! It took a lot of money! However, I'm also super excited about these because they are the cleanest water you can get and they will allow the cows to have some awesome water without us having to worry or haul water. 

Hopefully that made sense. Hope you had an amazing holiday weekend! I have lots to do yet tonight, and know I'm a day late on only the second week back to blogging, but better late than never is the philosophy I'm going with. Have an amazing rest of the evening and good luck on the start back to your work week!!

I'm Back...!!!

Where does the time go? It is August already...almost September even. Summer is gone-where did it go?! What has happened since May? Haying, cattle, chickens, vacation, waterer installations, and a million and half other things. Summer time means long hours for us. The days are lighter for so much longer making it easier to stay out and work longer. The hot days makes it ideal to check the cows early in the morning or late at night when they aren't in the shade. During the hotter parts of the day we were busy putting up hay for the winter for the cattle. The summer is just an insanely busy time of year on the farm, but let's be real...every season is busy, it's just a different kind of busy.

After we got the hay put up, My Forever and I slipped away for a vacation. Planning vacations and nailing him down on a specific location and definitely a specific time is nearly impossible (amen farmers wives out there?). So booking hotels is always a little tricky. He finally agreed to Galveston, Texas, and I booked an ocean front, or technically I guess it's bay front hotel two days before we left. We left after our Farm Bureau tractor pull, about 9:45p.m. I drove to Oklahoma City or until about 2 am. Matt drove from 2-6 and then I drove the rest of the way. We love traveling at night, especially since we were going through some of the big Texas towns. There is NO traffic in the middle of the night and the nightmares of traffic jams are nonexistent. We hit a bit of traffic in Houston, but it was okay. We were eating breakfast right down the street from our hotel before 9:30 the next morning. It was a gorgeous time away from home, being present with each other and not having the distractions of being home. The water was gorgeous. It was a nice escape from reality for a bit. It sounds like it is not a good place to be right now. Our thoughts are definitely with the people and animals of Texas. 

But it is back to reality now. We've got several things going on. This week we are busy putting in spring development systems so the cattle will have clean and fresh water without having to worry about the ponds and potentially getting stuck. I'm very excited about getting these put in and able to utilize them in our fall herd better. 

Speaking of the fall herd, we will start calving soon. It's still a bit early, but it's on the horizon. Along with calving fall harvest will be here before we know it. There is always something on the farm to do!

Hopefully you have heard by now, or maybe you've come to us because of this, but we're very happy and proud to be able to sell our farm fresh beef and free range eggs directly to consumers now. We have been going to the Topeka Farmers Market. We are excited about this opportunity and being able to connect with consumers and share our delicious meat and eggs that we get to enjoy! 

That's all for today. Like I said, we're doing a lot of work on spring developments which means some extra mouths to feed with some extra help, so doing some meal prepping today to be ready for the week. Be sure to follow us on Facebook (@SustainableBitesLLC) for daily, or almost, live videos featuring what we're doing on our farm. We want to be open and honest with our consumers about what it is like on a family farm. Thank you for sharing a bit of your day with us and inviting us into your lives for just a bit. My goal, I know I know I've said this before, but my goal is to get a new thought bite out every Sunday so stay tuned! I'd love to hear back from you. Tell me what questions you have about our operation or what confuses you when you go to the grocery store or any questions you have for a farmer. I'd love to answer them and deliver the content you want to read! Have an amazing day! 

A tribute to the Grandpa I never had...

When my sisters and I were growing up, we didn’t have a grandpa in our lives. Both of our grandpas had passed away before any of us were born. Our grandma was our one and only grandparent in our lives. Matt grew up a lot different. He had all four grandparents. When Matt and I started dating, his dad’s mom and mom’s dad were still living. Margaret (Matt’s mom) always has Saturday lunches with the grandparents. Willy was a lifelong member of the same community. He was well known. I knew who he was, but hadn’t spent a lot of time around him. So when we were dating and after we were married, one of the very first things I noticed about Willy was how quiet and soft spoken he was. The time that I was around him, he didn’t get worked up about much of anything. He worked hard, loved his family and loved his farm. Willy was an innovator. They said he was one of the first in the region to switch to notill farming. Him and his son that farmed with him, continue to be innovators and not doing the average, but trying the new ways to improve their farm. Willy loved pie. I’m not a baker. However, he would never complain or critique my ugly pies that were uneven and the crust was definitely far from picture perfect. Willy will be missed by many. Today as we lay him to rest in his final resting place, beside his wife that he has missed for ten long years, I will remember him as a farmer and stockman willing to take risks and do what no one else was doing. I will remember him as a family man, raising four children, all of which have been married for 25 plus years-a novelty in this age. I will remember him as a puzzle man. Every time we went to visit him he would try to get us to work on his puzzle with us. Matt is really good at them, me not so much. He ALWAYS had a puzzle out and working on it. I will remember him as a pie lover. It didn’t really matter the kind. I will remember him as a soft spoken man that when he talked you listened. I will remember him as someone who thought it important to be involved in your local community and volunteer on boards and organizations. Willy, you will be missed by so many. As there are tears being shed down here, you are rejoicing with your wife and farming those fertile fields of heaven (and I hope for your sake there are no thistles or trees!) You will be missed! 

Grain fed, Grass fed, Natural & Organic: Take a look at what they all mean

Very big blog to read! Don't miss this one! Couple things to start off...May is Beef Month! Awesome month to celebrate what we do for a living. Second, I've been meaning to do a blog like this, but I'm being prompted by Matt's sister, Melissa. It fits in great with this month being Beef Month. This blog is going to be devoted to beef and how it gets from our farm to your plate and a few of the differences between natural, organic, grass fed, etc.

Cattle are ruminant animals. They have four stomach compartments. There are only a few ruminant animals. They include cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer, elk, giraffes and camels. We are able to utilize a lot of our Earth because of ruminant animals. We, as monogastrics, are unable to utilize a lot of the Earth's vegetation. Ruminant animals, such as cattle, are able to convert this unusable land into high quality protein and milk products.

Moe (Melissa is called this because Matt couldn't say her name when he was little, so he started calling her Moe and it stuck) asked me to address cattle's natural diets. When told that most cattle are finished on a ration including corn, people balk saying corn isn't something cattle would naturally eat. I think the following picture does a fairly good job of dispelling that fact. Those cows in the background you can see came over as soon as they saw this cow was getting a treat. It's like candy to them. Cattle can eat too much of it and get sick just like humans do when they eat too much stuff.

Producers spend a lot of time and money figuring out the best ration for their cattle. As I've explained before, producers have to figure out an economical solution (so they can stay in business), but since it is their life they figure out a solution that is healthy for their cattle. Our source of income is from these cattle. Sick cattle don't pay. That's why we spend so much time and money ensuring that the cattle are healthy, being fed a balanced diet and have proper shelter and water. It's getting close to summer in northeast Kansas. We've had a few days over 90 degrees. It's important for our livestock to have shade to stand under and an adequate water supply.

Now to discuss natural, grass-fed and organic beef. Okay to be very honest with you I know very little about the guidelines for the different types. So to the internet I went.

http://www.explorebeef.org/beefchoices.aspx

This is the website I primarily used. It had a lot of good information on it and would encourage you to visit it.It's structured the same way I'm going to structure my explanation. I'm just going to give a summary of what they explained in detail on their website.

GRAIN FED BEEF:
The most common type of beef raised and harvested. These cattle finished on a grain based ration. They spend approximately 4-6 months in a feedyard being fed (normally twice a day) a ration including either corn, soybeans, milo, distillers, wheat. This is usually mixed with some hay or silage. Many people prefer their meat is fed a grain based diet shortly before harvest. When this is done, the meat is much more tender and juicy giving the consumer greater satisfaction.

NATURAL BEEF:
There's a couple different pieces to this. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service will allow beef to be labeled natural if the meat doesn't have any

  • artificial flavor or flavoring
  • coloring ingredient
  • chemical preservative
  • any other artificial or synthetic ingredient or 
  • the product and its ingredients aren't more than minimally processed.

What you have to keep in mind is that these guidelines are ONLY for AFTER harvest. It has nothing to do with the way the animal was raised which means the producer has no control over this labeling of natural. It's simply how the meat is processed. Most meats are considered natural by government standards.

The other piece to this is a newer piece. It's the piece that the producer has control over. The naturally raised portion. USDA published a voluntary standard for naturally raised livestock in January of 2009. This allows for third-party verification. So what does naturally raised mean? Well, by the definition that USDA Agricultural Marketing Service certifies it means that the cattle have never received 

  • growth promotants 
  • supplemental hormones
  • have never been administered antibiotics and 
  • were not fed animal by-products. 

A lot fewer animals can meet this certification. If cattle get sick, they are normally given antibiotics. If they aren't given these they normally die. A lot of producers use growth promotants and hormones.

GRASS FED BEEF:
This refers to how the cattle were raised. As is pretty obvious in the title, these cattle are fed grass only. Most cattle spend a large majority of their lives in pastures eating grass.The difference is in the finishing stage. To be certified grass fed beef the animal remains on the grass and forage diet their entire lives rather than being moved into a feedlot operation. USDA published certain standards and guidelines that must be followed to have their cattle considered to be grass fed beef. They must be fed a grass and forage diet for the animal's entire life. This is in exception of the milk consumed prior to the calf's weaning. It is very, very, very difficult to produce a lot quantity of grass fed beef. This is due to the seasonality of grasses. Grass-finished beef is normally more expensive and some of the grass-fed beef sold in the U.S. may be imported from countries with more temperate climates. Remember, whenever you push for more regulation or want more of this type of beef, it may have to be imported. When products are imported, consumers have little to no say about how that animal is raised. Some countries have different standards for their certification program we have. That could be better in some cases, but a lot worse in others.

ORGANIC BEEF:
The meat that is labeled certified organic must be from cattle that meet USDA National Organic Program livestock requirements. Any of the previously explained types of meat can qualify for the organic program. The standards for organic beef include...

  • cattle must be fed certified organic feed, but may be given certain vitamins and minerals
  • Cattle may not be given growth promotants or receive any antibiotics. Any animal that is treated with antibiotics to ensure its health is removed from the National Organic Program.
  • Organically raised cattle must have access to pasture. They may be temporarily confined for specific reasons. (Most cattle in the US meet this requirement. Most of the cattle raised in this country are in pastures for a majority of their lives.)

So that gives you a little about each type of beef. I had to do research because I was unsure of the different guidelines and criteria to be considered for the different types. The following website has some more information about beef and a lot more statistics if you would like more information.

http://www.explorebeef.org/CMDocs/ExploreBeef/Choices%20of%20Beef_Final.pdf

I was reading on one website (don't remember which one), but it was saying that there is room for all the different types and ways of raising and processing beef. The meat raised in the US is safe and healthy for us to consume. However, I encourage you to research thoroughly with several different websites, books and actual live human beings before believing anything you read about any of the different methods. If you want to eat just grass-fed, that's your choice. BUT, make sure you understand what you are supporting, know why you are supporting it, and don't believe, just because you read it on one website that cows don't naturally eat corn. If you want to see that that is a plain lie, come visit us any time! We'll show you just how crazy those cows go for something that's like candy to them. Research what you're supporting and if you still want to only eat grass-fed beef, great! Just know the facts not just one website's version so they can push whatever it is they are selling.