Thursday, April 24, 2014

Our Calf Crew

The other day I sat out in our cattle corral and reflected upon many things. As I was doing so, I was surrounded by 3 calves. They were nudging me, licking me and mooing!It was then that I realized how much enjoyment raising a few calves can bring. This is our second year taking on a few bottle calves and we LOVE it!
They are just the right size for all my kids to interact with, learn about their characteristics, and to care for. They are also just right for me! I love having them run to the gate when they hear the back door open and close. Seeing them jump around play is a wonderful sight. They play tag with the kids and our goats and give lots of kisses. I especially love that the kids take on the responsibility of feeding, watering and changing their bedding. Taking in and raising a few calves is not a necessity, but a nicety. It teaches us all about compassion, responsibility, priorities and planning. It helps us understand the needs of other living things and get a feel for what ranchers and livestock owners go through each and everyday. Our calves our loved, cared for and played with. My kids give them names according to their personalities. This year we have Rosey- an average size gal, good natured and strong, Daisy- petite, calm, and personable, and Rocky- a large bull calf, playful, and gentle. The kids give the calves a lot of attention, love and treats, but they know that they are different than the pets we have. They are ultimately being raised for food. My kids are ok with that. They know that that is the lifecycle of cattle and other animals that we have. How do I know? Well, because they say it. They tell others. They look forward to selling their animals each fall and taking in new ones in the spring. Raising a few animals is an experience that I cherish because it naturally teaches many things that are essential at all stages of life!
Here's to Moo-ving forward and raising healthy calves, well-rounded happy kids and experiences of a lifetime!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

3 Cheers for H2O and a Greener Planet, right?

Today, April 22nd, marks a day that millions of people focus on making choices that are good for the environment. It is Earth Day!
Sometimes we pledge to recycle more, waste less, reuse things when possible. Other times we take the time to plant a tree, pick up garbage, turn off the lights or even walk and carpool places. But it is necessary for us to focus a whole day or only 1 day on practices such as these? I go back and forth on an answer to that. Part of me says we shouldn't need to "celebrate" the Earth for an entire day as we should be making wise decisions everyday. I struggle because I know that many do not think about the decisions we make each day and what impact that will have on future generations. So, perhaps, we do need a whole day to help us remember to be more eco-friendly!

I am a teacher by trade and have always asked my students, 4-Hers, and religious class students to participate in an activity that would be good for our environment. The down side was that I never took the time to research or find out how Earth Day came to be and why we celebrate it. This year I took a few minutes and started to read. The first Earth Day was in 1970. It fell in the midst of the protests against the Vietnam War, a milestone in music with the death of Jimi Hendrix and the last Beatles album release, and a large oil spill in California. Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, wanted to get people excited about the air and water with the intention of inspiring people to stand up and request that they be protected. He was successful! The era of happiness and save all living things was an ideal time for him to rally support from college and university students, as well, as other groups that were trying to stop deforestation and oil. As a result of the 1st Earth Day the in United States, US representatives came together and supported the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Soon after the creation of the EPA, the "Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Act" followed.
This all sounds great right? Well, parts of it is. From where I sit, I see it two ways..... 1) it raised awareness that wasn't there before and engaged millions of people in a dialog that wasn't present previously and 2) it has given the EPA and other environmental interest groups a voice, money, and a desire to control and regulate aspects of our landscapes, lives and livelihood that they have no right or need to control.

As a farmer in central North Dakota I am concerned about the air I breathe, the soil I depend on to provide an income for my family, and the water that falls from the sky, sits in my sloughs and flows in the lakes, rivers and streams around me. I want to make sure that I leave the environments that I come in contact with each day no worse, if not better than what it was when I encountered them. I know, cliche' right? Well, it may sound that way, but I truly mean it! Over the years our farm has invested time, energy, and money into making the best decisions for the land we use. We know that soil can not be regenerated at the rate that it was blowing and washing away, we know that the minerals and elements found in the soil are a precious commodity, we know that every drop of water that we are blessed with is vital for life, and we know that the air we breathe is essential and strive to keep all these things as pure as possible. Because my family has invested so much time into doing what is right, not just on Earth Day, but every day, I feel that I need to extend a hand and let people know that the EPA and other environmental groups along with the Corps of Engineers are fighting to control one of the most valuable resources... WATER! These groups want to be able to regulate the water that flows from slough to slough, from pond to pond, and from spring stream to stream. In short they want to have a say in what happens to every drop of precipitation that comes from the sky.

On my farm and the land in which we live, many areas are used for hay production. These ditches, grass waterways, and edges of larger or year round water will be regulated and taken out of use. The new proposal also has serious implications for our farm and what we do each day. In the spring we have several potholes, places where snow melts and early season rains collect. These areas eventually dry and can be planted. Sometimes they need to be cultivated to hasten the drying process, but nonetheless they are not a flowing body of water, definitely not navigable, and not permanent. As a result of the revised and updated "Clean Water Act", we would not be able to farm these lands. For me, living in what is called the "Prairie Pot Hole Region", the EPA and Corps Clean Water regulations could literally make farming a large portion of our land impossible. Most years we have more than 75% of our field that is covered with Spring water and of that about 20% lasts a few weeks into planting season and is planted with later season crops. As the Clean Water Act is written, my family wouldn't be able to plant these acres and we would be pushed out of farming! The EPA and Corps regulations also impact my ability to minimize the effect of insects. This means that I potentially couldn't spray for certain kinds of bugs that do harm to crops. I also could not spray for insects such as mosquitoes. Moist areas also breed insects and mold, two things that can cause crop damage, but also health issues if not dealt with. In addition, these regulations would not allow my farm to implement the conservation techniques that we have invested in. My concern is that these federal agencies are making rules that make no sense.

Water is a natural resource! It is natural and is mighty. It chooses where it wants to flow. It has carved out landscapes that make us stop in our tracks and admire it. Water is important, it is vital, and it is a gift from our creator. Let us respect it!

On Earth Day, I still encourage you to think about ways that you can extend a hand and do something positive for the environment that you aren't already doing. I ask that you celebrate the day and raise awareness of the value of the Earth and all it has to offer. I also ask that you take a moment to explore the practices in place that are working to ensure a future for our environment and question the need to be over regulated. Just because something started as a way to raise awareness, doesn't mean that it needs to continue to expand its authority.