The good Lord is watching

The pens are now empty. There’s no more bawling calves or cows looking after their babies. The leftover bales of hay sit in the farm yard. The round top shed is a little emptier. Our souls are a little emptier too.

If you would have told me five and a half years ago this is how it’d end up I wouldn’t have believed you. But this is what it’s came down to. The cowherd is at the livestock auction as I type this. Some probably have already been sold.

There’s been an agreement reached and now we have to move on. We have to depend on ourselves more than we ever have. I took some photos on Sunday because the light was so very beautiful and I wanted one last reminder of the day. I posted them on social media and had more than a few people reach out with encouragement. One comment from a dear friend read, “This may not be the day you want, but the good Lord is watching.” She is so right. We have to pick ourselves up and do the right thing. We have to do what is right for us.

Nearly 3 months ago the ugly wildfires on the day I buried my Dad was the worst thing I’d been through in my 38 years on earth. Sunday when we hauled those cows, calves, bulls and heifers to town is squarely situated in second place for worst experiences of my life. I’ve hauled cattle to town before because of the drought, not knowing if Dad’s pasture would ever have momma cows and scampering babies in it. It did.

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago covering it for my day job. The speaker helped attendees gather the tools they needed to make hard decisions and remain profitable in ranching. One thing he said was, “those cows will be dead in 15 years, but that land will be there forever.” How true and it really struck a chord with me. It’s hard to look at life that way when the cattle who have been the center of my husband’s universe since 2012 are being loaded into a truck to be sold.

As we prepare to move on and become the people we want to be, I look toward the future. I can’t help but wonder how things will eventually turn out. Another good friend told me yesterday if this door you’re seeking doesn’t open, then maybe there’s something better coming. I sure hope so. I’ve had enough of the bad.

Dozens of name badges

In the nearly 12 years I have been at my current job, I’ve hardly thrown out a name badge from various meetings, conventions and functions I have attended representing my place of employment. Partly because they have my name on them, but mostly because they show where I’ve been.

On nearly every one of those badges is a ribbon with MEDIA on it. I take pride in my job, but at times it can get pretty repetitive telling someone what I do and who I work for if they are outside the agriculture industry. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful we have all the news and information we cram in each issue for our readers; and that I can travel then consequently write about all I learned. What I get tired of is the misconception of what media in agriculture means.

I have a bachelors degree in agricultural communications from Oklahoma State. What does that mean? Well, I took journalism classes to teach me how to interview, write and take photographs. I also took classes ranging from agronomy to animal science. I even took an agricultural law class. The aim was to have knowledge of both sides – journalism and agriculture. When I graduated and left college, I felt as though I had a great mix of both subjects and in my first job as a general assignment reporter at a daily newspaper I was equally prepared enough to write about the school board as I was an agricultural meeting I was sent to cover.

In the last month I have questioned my chosen career path because of frustrations stemming from the most basic part of my job. Calling a farmer or rancher. I fear my luck has run out because of a couple of guys who just won’t call me back. It’s hard to say if they don’t like the subject, my publication or even what I’m writing about.

There’s a saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Well, I’m not a teacher or downgrading the importance of what teachers do. But I often feel as though it would be nice to be working on the farm or ranch every day, but I don’t think I have the skills and my husband doesn’t have the time or patience to teach me (he might though), so I write about it and photograph the beautiful things all around me.

I don’t expect everyone to understand the media, or what agricultural journalism is all about. What I do expect is for someone to take me at face value. Let my actions and not assumptions define who I am as a writer.

phonto

Happy anniversary to my blog!

Apparently today is the second anniversary for my blog. I have been feeling bad for not being a very good blogger. My last post was in November 2013, and when I went today to make a short post and found a neat little reminder that it’s my anniversary with the blog. How coincidental!

I started this blog when I was still working from home and needed an outlet while staying home two days a week with my then 8-month-old son. I blogged quite often, and got a lot of feedback. Seems as though the days are busier now, and may get even busier with the arrival of our second son in early February. I’m hoping with one in daycare and the second one at home with me for 6 to 8 weeks, I can get back to blogging more, but don’t count on it. I’m positive I will need a creative outlet while at home.

I’ve come to dread January, mainly because of the weather and cold, but also because of a certain date. Jan. 21. It’s been two years since my father-in-law died on that day. On Jan. 14, 2012 we spent most of the day with my FIL and his mom at a family function and then they came and spent some time at our house with us. On this Jan. 14, I was at work and happened to glance back at some photos of my son and noticed the date. They were taken the day Steve died, but in the morning. If we had only known how our lives would change so much that Saturday, I would have done a lot of things differently. Not much we can change now, but it’s a thought I have often. I sure miss the guy.

I do think Steve would be proud of all the work Spence has put in at the farm. He’s made a lot of improvements to the facilities, particularly the pens and working chutes. He’s built the cowherd up and has continued to keep all the leases on the crop land his dad once had. I’m pretty proud of him for doing what he has with what little he has had to work with and doing most of it himself. I’m sure he’d have all the help he could ask for if he’d just ask, but that’s just not him. He puts his head down and gets the job done, no matter how long it takes. There are some nights where he doesn’t make it home until well past dark, but (even though it doesn’t seem like it now) it’s worth it. It’s worth it to keep the farm in the family.

I also think Steve would get a kick out of his grandson. For being only two and a half, the little stinker surprises me every day. Whether it’s something he has said or asks about, I’m continually amazed. I think he’s gained his grandpa’s love for that farm, and I hope it continues to be a place where he can have fun and grow up.

Shaun's favorite place in the whole world - the Scott family farm on the tractor.

Shaun’s favorite place in the whole world – the Scott family farm on the tractor.

My choice of footwear

Yesterday when I got dressed for work I knew they were forecasting triple digit heat and 40 mph winds. Capris and my bling flip-flops seemed rather appropriate since I would be spending my day in the office. Or so I thought.

Later in the day my office phone rang. It was my mother and from the sound of her voice I knew something was wrong. There was a grass fire by their house, and she was headed home to check it out. I packed my computer up and headed her way since she had my son. On my way, I called my sister who lived just north (between 1/4 and 1/2 mile) of the fire. She was frantically loading horses and trying to get things lined out at her place. I checked on Shaun and went to my sister’s. We loaded her mare and her 4 month old filly (she’d already had 6 other horses loaded) and pulled the pickup and trailer into the drive so a quick escape could be made if needed. After setting out some sprinklers around the house we got a game plan “just in case” we needed to get the other three horses off the place.

For a couple of hours we switched from cooling off in the house to standing on her front porch watching the firemen work. There was one particular spot they couldn’t get to and douse the flames, and had to just let it burn. That was pretty unsettling sitting in her dining room and looking out the window to the south and seeing smoke and blackened earth.

I’m nearly positive everyone who lived around this grass fire is truly grateful for the Ford County Fire Department and several rural fire departments that responded. I about took them some water, but would have had to run to town to get some to do so. The Red Cross beat me too it, and from some of the looks of the firemen out there, they needed some shade, water and rest. The 100 degree temps and 40 mph winds sucked the life out of them.

After a couple of hours the firemen slowly started to head back to town and all the excitement was gone. My sister was still on alert, afraid the flames might come back since the wind was still howling. She unloaded the mare and filly and tied the rest to the trailer just in case she would have to load them again in a couple of hours. I texted her at nearly 10 p.m., and she couldn’t see any flames.

The wind today has been much better, but yesterday’s excitement will not soon be forgotten. I am contemplating putting an old pair of shoes and a pair of jeans in my pickup just in case I choose poorly when I get dressed in the mornings. It couldn’t hurt. How much help can one be in flip-flops in case of an emergency like this?

Standing next to my sisters house looking south at the grass fire. My dang iPhone just couldn't do it justice.

Standing next to my sister’s house looking south at the grass fire. My dang iPhone just couldn’t do it justice.

061113fires

This was the view from my parent’s front door.

So God made a farmer

Facebook and Twitter blew up last night after the Ram Trucks commercial aired during the Super Bowl. I would have done the same to my own news feeds, but my battery was dead on my iPhone. This morning I watched the 2 minute clip again and again, and again. See it here. Every view/share it gets Ram will donate up to $1 million to  FFA.

I was at my sister’s house watching the game and socializing. There was about a half-dozen kids around and the house was loud. When the commercial started her and I both stopped and she turned the TV up pretty loud. We hushed kids and watched intently. I was impressed. Paul Harvey’s voice and the impressive photography sucked me in.

Now, I may be partial to the whole Dodge trucks and farmer concept. For as long as I can remember, my folks had Dodge and Chrysler products. It’s very hard for me to even consider driving another brand. I own a Dodge truck now and I am very proud of it. My dad farmed for a number of years when I was growing up, worked at the local John Deere dealership and now has his own cattle herd. My grandparents farmed on both sides. My great-grandparents did too. Some of my relatives even homesteaded in the county I live in. My husband is now trying to carry on the small farm dream with our own little family.

The third time I watched the video of the commercial I noticed of the 577,000 views it had at the time, 900 people gave it a thumbs down and didn’t like it. I was a little disgruntled by that fact. I guess I need to take off my rose-colored glasses and see how the rest of the world thinks, not just my agriculture-industry peers feel. I don’t have many friends or family for that matter that aren’t involved in agriculture in some way or another.

Scrolling down through the comments you see anything from how Monsanto rules the world, or big corporations are killing the small farmers and ranchers to GMOs, to how the government provides farmers welfare and some blatant inaccuracies. I was not impressed. I had to stop reading these idiots’ comments. Where is the respect anymore? Hide behind your computer screen and complain about things. I’m not complaining. My face is out there and I’m not hiding.

Others have blasted that the ad wasn’t selling anything or it was hard to tell what was being advertised. For real? Does a commercial always have to shove “buy this” down our throats? Why can’t a million dollar commercial remind us where our roots lie?

It’s not about the kind of truck you drive or the kind of combine you use or what you think about Paul Harvey. Farming is a way of life and a pretty darn important one. Food, feed, fiber and fuel. I’d like to see how long people can live without farmers, ranchers and agriculture.

Proud Dodge Ram owner and farmer's daughter.

Proud Dodge Ram owner and farmer’s daughter.

All about choices

This morning I watched a live webcast of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogue meeting in New York City. I listened in on the second section focusing on the use of antibiotics in livestock and intend to write about it for the Journal.

But the section got me thinking. Life is all about choices. From the moment you wake up until the time you shut your eyes at bedtime, choices are made. You choose what to eat for breakfast/lunch/supper. You choose whether or not to cut that car off on the road or roll through that stop sign. You choose what clothes to wear. Whatever the choice, what you do has a ramification.

One of the panelists relied on “studies” to prove her points on how there has been a super bug building up because farmers and ranchers use so many antibiotics to raise livestock. I’m not even sure that she has set foot on a working farm or ranch. With her perceptions and education as it stands I doubt she would get anything out of it. While this woman had a few valid points, my brain wondered how she would survive if she didn’t have any food or clothes on her back. But I reined my thinking in and tried to listen to her objectively. And that was very hard..

A pediatric nutritionist on the panel made some very valid points regarding the use of human antibiotics and their over use. He saw no relationship to the use of antibiotics in livestock to human health issues. He believes that the misuse/overuse of antibiotics by humans are causing many health problems. I completely agree with him. I am the kind of person who will let a cold run its course. Antibiotics won’t help a virus anyway. I won’t go to the doctor or hospital unless there’s a broken bone or bleeding. I am the same way with my son. He plays in the dirt, he gets messy and sure he has been sick, but that is all part of building his immune system. Same with the horses. Prevention is key. Keep them in a clean environment, practice good animal husbandry and a lot of health issues can be avoided.

Not everyone thinks the way I do as far as health issues go. I have a family member who runs to the doctor every single time she has the sniffles or sneezes. I’m not joking. Either she’s that big of a chronic or her doctors see her coming so she can be the one to pay the light bill. We are night and day in our thinking and some of her complaints could probably be fixed by changing her eating habits, lifestyle and thinking.

What you choose to feed your family is your choice. As a consumer you need to make the best choice for you. But, please make an informed choice. Livestock are not fed antibiotics haphazardly. They are fed small amounts of antibiotics in short duration to prevent sickness. Good management practices help the animals grow and thrive. It costs producers much more when they have to treat a sick animal. An animal with a depressed immune system will grow slower, produce less and not thrive.

Let’s face it. Food animals (beef, sheep, swine and poultry) have one purpose. To be someone’s source of protein. Farmers and ranchers work very hard to produce food that is safe for consumers. I am not afraid of farm-raised beef. I never buy organic food in the grocery store (I avoid it). I trust that farmers and ranchers and food vendors have consumers in mind when they provide their products in the stores.

I am slowly stepping down off my soap box, but bear with me. For the last few years my husband and I have been getting beef from his dad. Beef steers that he fed and raised himself.  I never once questioned the safety of the meat I was cooking and eating. Not one single time. This year my husband fed out the steers his dad had saved back. I watched those animals every single day they were at my house and I know how they were handled. I trust other farmers and ranchers have the same values and ethic as my husband and I do when it comes to livestock and their care.

Judging steers in the dark

When I was barely a teenager, I joined 4-H and one of my favorite things that I became involved with was livestock judging. For those that don’t know what judging is, it’s a contest where competitors evaluate classes of four animals (beef, sheep, swine) and then give several sets of reasons (basically a speech on why you placed the animals the way you did). Classes are worth 50 points, and deductions are decided upon by the officials. Reasons are worth 50 points as well, and judges score them accordingly.

When I was in high school we had a very dedicated county Extension agent, and he somehow managed to wrangle a dozen kids or more and take us to compete at local contests. From about January until before the county fair, and then in August and September, we spent time on Saturdays at contests and weeknights at judging practice.

Our team became one of the best in the area. In 1994 we placed well enough to represent Kansas at the American Royal at the 4-H judging contest, where we didn’t disappoint. In 1995, the Ford County 4-H livestock judging team won the state contest. This allowed us to compete at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky.

Judging not only taught me livestock evaluation skills and speaking skills it helped me get a college scholarship to compete on the judging team at Hutchinson Community College. We worked even harder at placing classes of livestock and giving reasons. I still to this day can “work-up” a set of reasons on several classes of livestock. It is that ingrained into my brain.

Last night my husband needed help loading some steers he has been feeding to butcher. It was dark, and I had to step up and pick one since he had two already picked out to go. With four steers in the pen, and me in my Carhartt coat, I was immediately taken back 15 years. I bravely stepped up to get one to move off so I could see how wide he was from behind, and got a better look at how finished he was. I crawled up on the fence to get a better view of their toplines. I hesitated to pick one, remembering all the times where I screwed a class up and lost a lot of points, but eventually I found the one I wanted and we both agreed on it. I was amazed that after all these years I could still place a class of steers.

The 1995 Kansas State Champion Livestock Judging Team. Pictured from left to right, Rylene (Orebaugh) Hessman, Nathan Martin, Candi (Orebaugh) Bailey, Tanner Dowling, Kylene (Orebaugh) Scott and Coach Jerry Dreher.