Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Search is On!

I have been telling Tall Guy that we need to try and take advantage of these last days before harvest to spend time with the girls in a fun activity or two.  Last weekend, he and the girls spent in the tool shed doing this

The girls DID have fun climbing all over the tractors and helping TG wax them to a brilliant green glow, but I was thinking so something a bit lighter on the work side and more along the lines of ....well, of an outing for lack of a better term.  And today we did it!

Our friend Mr. Kirk invited us to go look at 4-H calves after soccer last week.

Just have to stop here and mention that a certain Tink scored the winning goal for her team in the last minutes of her game!  Woot!  Miss Bear also had an awesome day and played very good defense!

Ok, back to the search.....

Tall Guy started coaching the girls as we drove to meet up with Mr. Kirk.

"Now, what do we want to look for in a 4-H calf?"

I was really proud of the girls for their answers:

"We want one that won't run away."
"We want one with a flat back, no swaybacks."
"We want one that will walk right"

What?  What is that last qualification all about?   One sign of a good show calf is its ability to walk by tracking.

Have you ever been in a cow lot or pasture?  After cows have been in a pasture for a time, you will begin to see paths worn into the ground.  Cattle are creatures of habit, and these worn paths are proof. When they walk at a leisurely pace, the back feet should go where the front feet were....

Huh?  When a calf steps forward with its right foot, the back right foot should step into the spot where the right foot was. Hmmm...... I should have video taped this part, but when you watch them walk, the back feet should look like they are kicking the front feet forward.  LIke the calf out front in the picture below.... Her right front hoof is back and just about to come up while her back right hoof is just about to step in the spot where the right front hoof was.

Anywho..... We saw some very nice calves this day at our first stop.

We stopped at one other spot, but the calves were too bunched up for me to get any good shots. There were a couple of nice steers or soon-to-be-steers in that group.

Cut to this weekend:  Tall Guy, Bear, and Mr. Kirk went to an auction, and some of these calves now have a new home, or they will once we go up and get them.  Stay tuned!  I haven't even told you about the new residents in our tool shed.  Some are just visiting, and some are permanent.  Hopefully, I can tell you the rest of the story soon.  Today, however, we finally went out to the field and picked some corn!  That made Grandpa very happy, and I have to say me too!  I have a plan to give you daily updates from the farm this harvest.  Tune in to my instagram pics @ibcfarmgirl.  They should also be popping up on my Facebook page so pop over HERE for a peek from the combine and other harvesty places!

~Have a great week, and be safe out there in the fields!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Look! Up In the Sky! Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? ......Oh! It IS a Plane!

If you have found yourself driving around in the country lately, you might think you are missing an air show.  Small planes, Bi-wing planes, and even helicopters are out and about, swooping over fields, and leaving mysterious trails behind them.

What are they doing?

Is this part of a flight school lesson?

Nope. This time of year, they are most likely planting seeds!

What?  How can a plane plant seeds?

Well, this works along the lines of any volunteer trees growing in your yards or tree lines.  Those seeds get there via birds.  It's part of their "elimination process."  We all know that plants grow best when fertilized right?

The seeds planted by aircraft trickle down through the leaves of the plants in the fields, wiggle down to the ground, and most of them start putting on roots and sprouting.

This is how many farmers plant cover crops for the winter months.  Once the field is harvested, these new plants will emerge, start growing, and, as they are intended to do, secure the field's top soil for next year.  Wheat, rye, and radishes are just a few of the plants used as cover crop.

Out here in the country, sometimes it looks like we have black snow, but it is actually snow with the top soil from our fields blown over it.  Good top soil is crucial to growing a good crop, so we use these cover crops a lot to help our ground stay put.

Another benefit from cover crops is the nutrients they bring back to the ground.  Eventually these plants will die and/or be worked back into the ground before planting.  They work as a compost to add important minerals and fertilizer back in to our fields.

Pretty cool right?  Using planes also keeps our tractors from running across the field, saving us both fuel and compaction on the ground.  Every time you run a machine through your field, you pack down the ground.  After a while the soil becomes hard and resistant to planting; the seeds just cannot work themselves down in to the ground to get a good root hold.

The sound of these planes also gets your heart rate going when you first hear them.  As you can see, the wind mills don't seem to be a problem, but they do make the plane look a bit like a toy rather than the real thing.

If you want to be real ornery and if you have kids in the vehicle with you, totally engrossed in some digital game or movie, get your timing just right so that the plane flies right over you.  The sound will make your darlings snap out of their virtual world in a nano-second! ;-)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

SHHHHHHHH! Don't Tell, but.....

I really hate to even say this outloud, but here goes.......

This family has no specific place to be until Saturday morning!


Ok, Tink and Bear do have to go to school, but for the first time in FOREVER we do not have a meeting, practice, game, or appointment on the calendar.

So happy I can say that.  We have been running crazy with both girls in soccer and Tink in the middle of volleyball season.

I don't usually do this, but I have to brag a bit on these volleyball girls.

Here they are four years ago playing "up" to help fill the 5th and 6th grade teams.  They were third graders in this picture!

And here they are today, playing other teams their very own age for the first time as true sixth graders!

So far they are undefeated, and they have played through their schedule once.  That means we start playing teams we have already played this year.

I can't begin to tell you how much fun it is to watch these young ladies play.  They rarely take themselves seriously, there are always more smiles that frowns, and they have each other's back. Geez, I'm getting teary just chatting about them.

A big part of their success is their coach, Kristin.  She is able to get the absolute best out of these girls with positive encouragement and lots of giggles.

One of the best things about our beloved little school is the community/family created.  These girls will go off to the Jr./Sr. high school next year.  They will never be a class of 12 again.  They probably will never even be in a classroom with just twelve students.  No matter which way they go in the next six years, they will always have this core group of friends to fall back to and count on.

Yikes!  I had better not get out the caps and gowns, or I will really tear up!  Nope...we have a season of volleyball to finish, and a season of basketball to enjoy before we have to think about seventh grade and all that brings with it.

Yesterday was a work of chaotic organization.  Meetings started at 2:00 and I was home by 4.  Tink stayed after school for volleyball practice, and Bear came home on the bus.  At 5 I went to pick up Tink, at 6 Tall Guy had Bear at soccer practice, and we all met up at the Farm Bureau office for our monthly county board meeting.  Somewhere in there everyone was at least presented with food for supper.  Whew!  So I will be thankful for this wonderful lull in the action around here because harvest is not too far away.  Hope you and your family are enjoying these wonderful, cool days we have been blessed with.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Switching to Gluten Free~ Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust

WIth a month loaded up with volleyball and soccer games, it's been hard to find time in the kitchen, but I have several Gluten-Free (GF) flours and products I want Bear to try, so it's time to make time!

Pizza is a HUGE food choice for most kids, and it's been the hardest for Bear to give up.  Thankfully, there are some brands of frozen pizza that she likes; Udi's is top on her list, but we like to make pizza at home, so the search was on to find a tasty pizza crust.

This crust is super simple to make.  You start with Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust mix.  It comes in a sealed bag, and included in there is a packet of yeast!  (I am bad about having yeast on hand when I want it).  It calls for 2 eggs, 1 1/2 C. Water, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and that's it!  You mix it all up until a ball forms, then let it raise for 20 minutes.

The most different aspect of this GF recipe is that you are to spread it on the pan/stone with wet hands.  I admit I was a bit skeptical on that direction, but it really worked.  The dough is not an elastic kind like wheat flour crusts are.  It's more like a ball of biscuit mix, and it spread easily without any sticky moments.

The difference I am finding with these crusts is that most ask you to bake for 5-7 minutes BEFORE adding toppings.  Tall Guy thought that might be a good idea for any crust that is kind of thick.

Tall Guy helped me out with this recipe, so he is spreading sauce and toppings for me.  I have to tell you that the sausage on our pizza came from a 4-H hog we went in on.  (That means we bought half of it).  It's the first time we have had packages of pork in our freezer, and I think I am going to like that!

After the pizzas was dressed up in all its toppings, it went back in the oven for 15 or so minutes.

The quarter part of pizza with just cheese is Bear's.

It looked good, it smelled good, so I was very hopeful it would pass Bear's sometimes picky taste buds....... and it din't disappoint!  She LIKED it!

What's even better is that we all liked it!  As we try to create GF meals for Bear, we have decided to eat the same food she does for most of the meals.  TG and I still have the occasional wheat bread sandwich for lunch, but Bear isn't here for that meal. 

So we are giving Bob's Red Mill GF pizza crust a 5/5 star rating in our home!!  I can't wait to try more of their mixes.

Here's the recipe:

1-1/2 cups Water (warm)

2 Eggs *

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

2-1/4 tsp Yeast Packet (enclosed)

1.  Preheat oven to 425°F.

2.  In a large bowl, combine water and yeast. Let stand a few minutes. Add eggs and oil to mixture and blend briefly. Add GF Pizza Crust Mix and blend about a minute on medium speed, until combined.

3.  Leave dough in bowl, split in half, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 20 minutes. 

4.  Place dough on greased pizza pans. Using wet hands, spread out dough to cover the full pizza pan. Bake without topping for 7-9 minutes. 

5.   Remove from oven, cover with favorite sauce and toppings. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Makes two 12-inch or one- 16-inch pizza crusts.

I bought this mix on my own. Bob's Red Mill did not ask me to blog about it, but I do plan to work with them in the future to try more of their mixes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dear Laptop.........

Dear Laptop,

You how much I love you right?  You are so much a part of my life that your "s" and "n" keys have the actual letters worn off of them.  Yes, I know; your "e," "c," "a," and "d" keys are also showing wear and starting to fade away.

I think I may have found a solution to slow down your aging process.  It is called a tablet~!

A big thanks to Kyle at Verizon for sending this Sony Xperia Z2 tablet to play with, allowing us to develop a close, personal relationship!

What's so great about this tablet?

Look how nice I look on the screen!

Ok, I will get a bit more serious....  Let me count the many reasons.

1.  It is so light!  I can't even begin to tell you how light it is, and yet I can go anywhere I want to without all the cords and "stuff." This little dude is much easier to carry around than a laptop.

See how thin it is?

2.  It has a USB PORT!  Maybe I lead a sheltered life, but this tablet is the first I have seen with this "hook-up-ability."  Now I can share and download pics and documents to a tablet!  Easy peasy!

What didn't show up very well in the picture above is the little flap that acts like a door to keep dust and water out of your computer. The open space is for a microSD card so you can save information and share.

3.  It truly makes my laptop the new desk-top, and that means the laptop in on the endangered species list.  I think laptops still have a place in my world.  This ASUS has THREE USB ports, and I can keep them all busy at the same time with external hard drives and my "tailless mouse."  Yeah, I'm just not a gifted user of the touch pad...This is the only time I like knowing there is a mouse in my house.

4.  I can take this tablet to a party; it fits in my bag.  I took it to the gathering at Kendell Culp's farm, and it came in handy because my phone started to die about half way through the evening. I grabbed the Sony Xperia and started taking pictures, even videos!

WAY COOL, and I was able to keep tabs on the weather with The Weather Bug app and scare the bejeezus out of everyone with the scary storm lurking in Illinois, poised to cross the state line and smack us here in Indiana. (Writer's note:  Said storm literally disintegrated at the state line, and nary a drop fell on me).  Yeah, I can say Henny Penny.....

I would like to see how this tablet would work with a wireless keyboard.... I'm going to ask to use one if another tablet comes up to review.  It would be soooo much easier to transport a tablet and keyboard than the big laptop.... I see endless possibilities.......

Now you might be thinking, "Lana, didn't Santa bring an iPad to your house a year or two ago?"  I would have to answer, "Yes, but I really haven't touched the device since he left it!"  The girls don't leave that thing alone long enough for me to get my hands on it.   I have to say, and I know this is a bit extravagant, but sometimes it would be nice if each of them had a tablet so that there would be no argument over sharing it.....but that means I still won't get my hands on it much!  Going to have to get tough with these young ladies if it ever comes to pass that we do acquire a second tablet....

So I have to give the Sony Xperia a 4.8 out of 5 rating.  -.1 because I wish it would realize when I forget to leave a space between words and add it for me.  My Samsung 4 phone can figure out what I was trying to say, so I would like to think the tablet could too. -.1 and this really isn't the fault of the tablet, but I would like a different protective case than the one it came with. It was awkward at times for me to hold it while reading and taking pictures.  I wish there was a protective case that would allow me to put my hand through a back strap, sort of like putting on a glove.

Final answer..... I'm a little lost here at home now that i just returned my tablet to the Mother Ship....I think I know what is going on my Christmas List
While Verizon provided me with the tablet to use for a few weeks, I did return it and was not compensated for this post.  My views are my own. Thanks to Verizon for letting me review their latest and greatest products.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dine and Discuss Night in Rensselaer

Yikes!  This post is coming a bit later that I hoped, but I am sitting down at my computer and will not get up until I share with you a trip I took up north to Rensselaer last Thursday. It was a treat on many levels!

Jasper County farmer Kendell Culp and his family opened up their farm/backyard to a variety of county officials, Ag media, and neighbors to talk about "Modern Farming" and how it works on their farm.  It was great to be there because even though I have known Kendell and Tammy for many years, this was the first time I visited their farm.  Here to to put their own take on the evening are two of my blogging pals, Crystal from Chasing Saturdays and Stacy from The Backroad Life.  This gathering was pretty much in their backyards!

This event started off with a "social gathering."  We were treated to sampling wine from Carpenter Creek Cellars, which I passed on 231 on my way to Rennselaer, and cheese from Fair Oaks Farms as we moved around the crowd and mingled with familiar faces and new friends.

As we broke into groups and visited the three main areas set out for us, it was just nice to see everyone enjoying themselves.  I often forget that, outside my immediate world, there are quite a number of people who have never been on a farm.  There's nothing quite like a cool afternoon listening to the locus chirp, the corn stalks rustling in the breeze, and the occasional hum of a bee.......or was it a bee????

At our Technology stop, we were able to see this UAV go to work.

As our speaker told us, this UAV (Unmanned Aviation Vehicle) is going to change how we monitor our fields. It buzzes through the air, and thanks to the Go-Pro camera mounted to it, it allows farmers to truly see out in to the middle of the fields to check for situations like wind damage, insect issues and general condition of the fields. 

This is the receiver that allows a farmer or field specialist to see what the UAV sees.  For those of us with flat crop fields, this device is a game changer as far as knowing and seeing how a crop is growing.

At the sound of a horn, we moved on to the row crop part of the Culp farm.  Here, too, technology in the form of GPS helps farmers like the Culp family learn how to make the most of each seed that goes in the ground.  Precision planting leads to optimal use of ground, fuel, and maps generated from its data.

The final aspect to the Culp farm comes in the form of livestock.  Kendell and Tammy Culp can be found every Saturday morning hanging out around Jasper County's courthouse selling freezer cuts of their hogs to all who attend the Jasper County Farmers' Market.  Kendell's brother likes to work with cattle.

In between these three areas, visitors were able to stroll through the lawn looking at farm equipment, both old and  new.  The message from these machines is two-fold:  One is the fact that farming today was NOT the way Grandpa did it 50 years ago.

This dear old horse is all pretty again, but back its day, he plugged right along the fields. LOVE this "catcher's mitt" seat, and you can see, no shade or cool air for these farmers; they were at the mercy of the clouds.

Now here is where Kendell and his family wanted to spark us to do math in our heads.

Yep, this tractor, with GPS capabilities will set you back $303,000.00 dollars!  And I hate to break it to you, but a tractor isn't too helpful by itself, so the farmer also needs to buy a planter, and often an implement to till the ground, so you know the farmer is going to have to dig a bit deeper to make this purchase practical. Kendell works with his dad and son; this is not anyone's "factory farm."  These gentlemen need to be market-savvy, mechanics, technology-friendly, meteorologists just to be ready to go to the field to plant, spray, and harvest.

This is why you will see veteran machines like this one being used and, at times pampered so they will continue to be useful for many more years.

After everyone made it through their three stop sequence, we were treated to a meal from Jasper County. 

Now any of you out there who were raised in the country or with a large family garden, knows that the day you sit down to eat food COMPLETELY produced by you or your family, well that day is a special one.  We had such a meal at the Culps.

Sorry about the fuzzy words, but I promise it all came from Jasper County farm families.  

I would like to extend my thanks to the Culp family for allowing me to join them in this presentation of their farm.  I would also like to give a shout out to the Indiana Soybean Association and Indiana Family of Farmers.  Don't forget to hop on over to Crystal's blog, Chasing Saturdays, and Stacy's blog, The Backroad Life for their takes on this night on the farm.

I was paid for this commentary on what I saw on the Culp farm by IFOF, but I would have gladly done it for free!  These observations are all mine.