Who you calling chicken??

This month we decided to diversify our place a bit….into chickens.

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Kelly and I thought the kids could use a project that teaches them responsibility and possibly makes a wee bit of side money. So we are now in the business of laying hens.

We bought a 10 × 10 ft shed, insulated it and got our feeders etc. We built nesting boxes and a roost from scrap lumber around the yard. Our neighbour sold us 15 laying hens and off we are to the races.

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The ladies have settled in nicely and are laying 8 or so eggs a day. We gave our first dozen of eggs to grandma this week and we are enjoying eggs for breakfast!

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So far the kids love excitement of picking eggs everyday and all are hens are still here, so I’d say our venture is a success so far! We have 30 chicks that will be arriving in a month and that will be a whole new adventure raising them up to lay on the fall!

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A Reflection of 2015

Howe Family with Charolais.jpg

A photo of my family from a  photo shoot we agreed to do for Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan whilst I was 38 weeks pregnant.

I have been pretty quiet this year. A trying pregnancy, work, farm, etc. all took priority over the blog. In my time away, I have learned, reflected and analyzed many things. Without further ado, here is my list of things I learned in 2015:

  1. I am a farmer. Not a farm wife. A farmer. My role currently is more in the background supporting the farm with website work, social media, a bit of admin work, behind the scenes organization and a lot food. My superpower seems to be cooking for a crew with ease. That’s okay; I am still a valuable part of the farm. It’s taken me a lot of time to get this space. I’d prefer to be outside working the cattle, but I have realized I need to value my role as it is now, not what I want it to be in the future.
  2. I know what I don’t know – this a big one for fitness/nutrition and agriculture. I have a few fitness and nutrition “designations” but I realize there is a LOT in the world about safe training and sound nutrition that I don’t know and am not qualified to comment on.  I wish there were more people that realized what speaking in scope meant.  As such I have kept my fitness and nutrition posts to a minimum.  I keep the same principal for agriculture. I’m a cattle farmer. My professional training is cattle nutrition & microbiology, so I won’t be spouting off any agronomy advice anytime soon.
  3. Advocating is tricky. I started the year off quite active on twitter and the #farm365 hashtag. Things got ugly on the hashtag quickly as vegan fanatics flooded the feed with animal rights propaganda. They’re still there. I took a pretty big break from social media advocacy.
  4. If can’t keep your cool, keep your hands off the keyboard. In addition to #3. I saw a lot of poor advocating out there. Farmers bashing farmers. Farmers cursing out vegans. There’s no place for that in my world. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face, in front of your grandma.The internet never forgets and you never know who is watching -from  the mushy middle looking to learn about agriculture and infighting, to potential clients or employers checking you out on social media.
  5. One win in a week/month/year may make your work worthwhile. My best win this year was having an honest and constructive set of conversations with a lady that happened to be vegan over Twitter that was looking for a farmer’s real perspective of Earthlings the movie. I watched it, yelled at the screen many times and took copious notes, referenced current science and industry codes. It felt great realizing you can have a respective dialogue.
  6. On a personal note, I learned I am the queen of drafting posts and not hitting publish. So I haven’t published since April, but I have a few posts in my drafts waiting to pop up. 2016 Goal – Write, review, and go for it –  hit publish!!!
  7. Advocacy is simple: Speak your truth with conviction and relatability. Tell people what happens on your farm operation. Our farm has had inquiries from all walks of life asking about how we farm, what we do and why. From contacts over social media to consumers stopping at our stall at Agribition it’s all been great. I encourage all farmers to take more time to talk about the industry with our customers. Farm and Food Care SK has a great Real Dirt on Farming training program to get you more comfortable.

I’m looking forward to learning and growing in 2016.

Weekends – How we balance farm & family time

We just had Family Day Weekend in Saskatchewan. I thought I would share how we balance farm and family time. We work during the week, so weekends are our big farm time and a chance to get some quality time with the kids. Here’s the run down.

When it comes to morning chores, we all get up as a family and do them together. Usually, we split the kids between ourselves to better manage their safety and our efficiency. This weekend, I had my daughter with me doing feed and cleaning chores while my husband had my son in the tractor feeding and bedding the cattle. We have a two seater tractors, which are are a God-send for us.  Elise and I fed mineral to the cows, were gate gophers and then the kids hung out in the truck outside the pens while the adults sorted cattle. The kids love to come and be part of the team.

My enthusiastic helper

My enthusiastic helper

Then Elise and I boogied home to make lunch for the crew. Most weekends my mother in-law and I split lunch duties for the crew, which is a treat. This weekend, the in-laws were away for short and very well deserved break and I covered lunch duty both days. I try to keep lunches moderately healthy while meeting the calories needs to the men that are working outside all day. Saturday’s lunch was simple half way home made tomato soup (I added in extra veggies, pasta and diced tomatoes), home made bunwiches and veggies. Sunday was pancakes & bacon (turkey and regular) as a pre-Shrove Tuesday celebration.

Afternoons are quiet time for the kids on Saturday, I get some house work done and try to sneak in a bit of time for myself to read or relax as well. My husband and in-laws are out working for the afternoon and usually do the PM chores solo. Saturday nights we try to have a movie or craft night and a wee bit later bed time for the kids. Many time the extended family comes for supper and we hang out together.

Sundays we do some chores together in the morning, but we have an early lunch, a short quiet time for the kids and then family time after that. This winter we had speed skating in the afternoons. Now that skating is over, we’ll be heading the pool for a swim. Physical activity and family time together is a big thing for us. In the summer, it’s biking lessons, playing on the swings or soccer practice in the front yard for us.

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Sunday nights we try to keep for solo family time. I generally make up a big supper so we have left overs for during the week and prep for the rest of the week.

It’s a bit of a delicate dance to manage kids, work, farming and the house. My house is messier than I’d like, but my kids are happy and our farm business is developing, so I say 2 out 3 is a win.

Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health Day.

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health Day.icon_1

Did you know that 20% of farmers have talked to health care professionals about stress and mental heath? Farming can be a volatile, stressful business where self care can easily be neglected. We put in long hours with much of financial uncertainty. Mix in the emotional investment we have in our land & livestock and things can get out of hand. Mental health challenges are very real and I believe everyone needs to be more open and pro-active in caring for ALL aspects of our health.

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I have experience with depression and mental health challenges and I can say this: Mental health is a big deal. Take care of yourself, reach out to others. I have experienced loved ones that have been very resistant to reaching out for help. My philosophy is that if you broke your arm, you would go to the doctor and get a cast. If you are experience mental health issues, you need to reach out for professional help and take the appropriate actions for self care. Keep silent and suffering hurts the individual, their family and very likely the farm business.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has great information and resources about many mental health issues.

Cow therapy can do a lot for a farmer, but be real with yourself and others, please reach out for help.

Money can't buy happiness...

I’m back! Here’s what the farm has been up to.

I’ve taken a long hiatus from blogging over the fall/winter. Why? New job, lots of farm work, too many excuses, but I’m looking forward to writing more this year.  So my fall in pictures to bring you up to speed 🙂

New Job! 

I got a sweet new job as an Awareness Specialist, so I spend a LOT of time working with Agvocate. Pretty sweet!

I got a sweet new job as an Awareness Specialist, so I spend a LOT of time working with Agvocate. Pretty sweet!

Harvest

This fall’s harvest was especially trying. We had 12 inches of rain in September alone! That’s more than we usually get in one summer. So it really tough to get the crops dry enough to harvest and a lot of our crops (and most other farmers) have higher levels of disease than normal. Thankfully we are farmers, so we are looking forward to a better year next year. Optimism in non-negotiable 🙂

 

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And we're off! #harvest14

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Fall Cattle Shows

My family spent a lot of time on the road showing and promoting our cattle in preparation a very big sale we had this year. And the Saskatchewanderer came back for another visit.

 

 

Our First Ever Female Sale

We took a leap and decided to sell half of our bred heifers for the first time. It was a lot of work and a wee bit risky to market 40+ animal in one sale, but we did it! It was a great experience and we fortunate to have a fantastic sale that exceeded our expectations.

Donation heifers

The ladies for sale.

 

We had a full house on Sale Day!

We had a full house on Sale Day!

 

We set up a scholarship in memory of my Sister In Law

My sister in law passed away after a brief battle with breast cancer in August 2013. To honor her memory, my family has set up a scholarship for Youth with a farm background pursuing science. We auctioned off one of the heifers at the sale and were blown away by the support of the cattle industry. Farmers are truly compassionate and caring people. We will be awarding the scholarship this spring/summer.

In memory of an amazing individual: Tanya.

In memory of an amazing individual: Tanya.

 

Babies& Bull Sale Prep, the Best Time of the Year!

That brings us to January – we are busy business planning, prepping for our annual bull sale and the cows are having babies. So much excitement and anticipation!

Oh the cuteness of the fuzzy baby bull calf!

Oh the cuteness of the fuzzy baby bull calf!

Yearling bull

One of our feature bulls all prettied up and ready for his photo shoot.

 

 

 

Family Work Weekend – Corrals

Finished section of new drillstem fence

Finished section of new corral fence and a you can see a few section of the wood corrals that need some TLC.

This past long weekend, we spent our time as a family working on replacing our corrals for our winter housing and feeding area for our mama cows. Our original fences are over 30 years old and the time for them to be replaced has come. 

Corrals are a key part of our farm. Our cows calve out in February until April, so we need to have the facilities to house and feed the ladies close to home during this time. We have a number of pens and we group the cows according to when the calve and some special needs: older cows and first time calvers. Once the cows have calved, they spend some time close to the barns until the babies are older and robust enough to be in our winter feeding grounds where we have bedding and wind breaks, but it is less sheltered. 

We break down our farm projects into parts that are family friendly and parts that are not safe for kids. For this project, the kids helped out cleaning up the pulled down lumber and respective wire, metal that came with it. Having them feel like they have an important job is key. They feel like they are an important part of the team and learn responsibility. In the end, they got a fun job too- picking grasses and weeds for a bouquet and we identified them as the picked. So we tossed in a biology lesson as well! When comes to heavy machinery and such, we keep the kids away. Usually, by the time lunch needs to made and naps are coming up right after, so the kids and I are back at the house. 

What are your thoughts on having kids help on the farm? 

My one year anniversary back at the farm.

Ag more than ever a job you love

It’s been just over a year now that I have been back at the farm. It’s been a great ride. The year has been filled with our share ups and downs, but thankfully we had more ups than downs. 

I’ve learned to break down my goals into teeny tiny pieces. There are so many jobs to be done on the farm that it is easy to be overwhelmed. My mantra is that if I can make the farm a small bit better every week, that it is a win. I’m happy to report that most weeks, I accomplish this task. 

I’ve learned that I have so very much to learn. I have a lifetime to learn and my goodness, I will need it. Despite being an agriculture professional and a farm kid, there is a world of information to learn: pedigrees, machinery, cropping strategies and oh the paperwork…the list is endless.

I couldn’t be happier where I am. Farming is an amazingly complex and rewarding business AND it is a wonderful lifestyle/culture for my family. I feel connected to the land, the seasons, the cattle. I love the challenge of analyzing our business and making calculated decisions to work toward improving our operation. Whether it is bull buying decisions or analyzing machinery purchases, the immense pride gained from owning a business is hard to describe.

My family is where we need to be. My husband is happy, I’m happy, the kids are happy. Happy, happy, happy. My kids are learning great life lessons and are surrounded by our extended family. They are learning so many life lessons about teamwork, responsibility, biology, science, the list is endless. In my soul in know this was my calling. 

So, I look forward the next year of seasons, challenges and lessons to be learned. I have a long way to go, but I am rejoicing in a year well done. 

On the farm, is where I am meant to be.

On the farm, is where I am meant to be.