Winter catch up

Our lives in farming are a little bit cyclical. Every winter we have meetings, paperwork to catch up on and we welcome new lambs in February and March. Seems simple, right?

Our farm meetings throughout the state and nation are designed to help us continuously learn about business trends, plus connect with other farmers and agricultural professionals. One of the reasons we keep our sheep outdoors is that it’s easy to feed them enough (hay bales rolled out on the ground) for us to be gone a few days in a row.

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Then there’s paperwork. We have industry publications that sometimes get ignored when we’re working outdoors in summer and autumn, so we catch up on some reading during winter. We also make sure our records are in order for our state’s voluntary environmental protection program or government programs we may be enrolled in. And we track all receipts that piled up so that our taxes can be filed on time.

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When we expect lambs, a few tasks get more intense. We have to shear the sheep a few weeks before they’re due (this is for their health and better wool quality). Shorn pregnant sheep then get moved into the barn (we don’t want lambs being born outside in a Michigan winter!) and they¬†get fed a different diet to get them ready for supporting lambs. If each sheep gives birth to two lambs, we end up having a lot of mouths to feed. I’ll share more about that later.

And every spring we plant fields into various forage mixes for a variety of “salads” for the sheep. So I’m off to do that…

Farmgirl returns to the city

Before I write any more, I should say that this farmgirl returned to the city only temporarily

I used to work for America’s farmers and ranchers from an office in our nation’s capital. As you can imagine, you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of her soul. I came home and bought a farm. 

This week I attended a conference in New York City, a place I had never been before, and I traveled solo. Key questions included 1) what should I wear, 2) what’s the best transportation option from the airport and 3) who will I meet? Those questions probably should have been mentally reversed but I didn’t want to stand out like I don’t belong. Even though I don’t belong. Not by a long shot. 

Where I found some mental clarity, by design I’m sure, was at the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. This was the final place I needed to visit where the planes had crashed on September 11, 2001. Underground, people rushed to work using the train systems. Above ground, trees have been planted around huge voids in the footprints of two World Trade Center towers. The difference in the two settings, within mere feet of the other, was stunning.

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We, in rural America, can often feel disconnected from what happens in cities. 9/11 was something that united all of us. That’s all I have to say about that.

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What’s nice about visiting the city is that I always have several friendly faces to greet me when I return to the farm. Sheep at gate

Slow down for school zones

I will admit it. I hate driving 25 miles per hour (mph) in school zones. When I remember, I will take an alternate route. When I don’t remember, it’s usually because I’m in a hurry. And then I’m really annoyed because I don’t have time to slow down to the safe speed.

But we do it for the kids. We do it for teachers and playground aides and crossing guards and paraprofessionals. We do it because we respect the zone.

This holiday weekend I have another reason to drive 25mph. Yet again, I’d prefer to be driving 80mph oops…I mean 70mph, Mom! Instead, our family is making the most of the holiday weekend to farm.

But unlike a school zone, tractors and other equipment change “zones” (fields) as soon as crops are ready to be harvested. I would really prefer to stay out of high-traffic areas, but our best fields are typically ready at the most inopportune time for other motorists – northern tourist season.

Just like a school zone speed limit sign, farmers do their best to communicate with traffic by using a slow-moving vehicle triangle sign. They’re typically orange, but I’ve seen older signs that are gray and red. They’re not driveway markers but I commonly see them used this way, which dilutes the meaning.

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I know it’s annoying to slow up an exciting day. I totally understand. I’m about as excited to get in the fields as most people are excited about getting to the lake. But just like you respect the safety of a school zone, please respect traffic laws when you encounter my family and me on the road with farm equipment.

We’re thankful for courteous motorists and we’re especially thankful for this wonderful job of working alongside nature to provide food for your family and our own.

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