One Year of Life as a Farmer’s Wife

 

The first year of married life has come and gone, and now, hopeful for the many more to come! This week, Scott and I celebrated our one year anniversary. Folks aren’t joking when they say, “Time FLIES”! One year of life as a farmer’s wife, and one year of lessons learned. Let me share a few with you 🙂

  1. Over the years, I’ve binge-watched plenty of HGTV and have grown fond of the ever-popular farmhouse style. White and neutral tones flood our home. A year later, the term “farmhouse” to describe this style of interior decorating has me stumped. With the constant traffic of work boots and filthy hands from handling cattle, it’s become obvious that white is not at all cut out for the actual farmhouse style. Lesson learned.
  2. Scott once asked me if we ought to plant alfalfa for hay bales this year. Bring it on, why not? The seed was planted last fall and sprouted in the spring. Over time, the crop was ready for harvest. Then comes the moment you realize that bales are rolled at night… as in begin working at 10 p.m. and finished at 3 a.m. Another lesson learned.
  3.  A home-grown vegetable garden has always been a dream of mine. Fresh squash, cucumbers and cantaloupe. A dietitian’s dream. Scott was on board with my plans and even built raised beds, a real fancy garden! He spread soil and, of course, a little fertilizer. I understand now that a “little” is an BIG understatement. The dozens of dried clumps of cow manure (that would typically cover over half an acre of pasture) may have been a little overkill for the two 4’x4′ garden beds we have in the yard. That puts a little damper on the term “fresh vegetables”, especially when they begin growing in shapes and colors I’ve never seen that vegetable in before.  Another lesson learned.
  4. On the note of gardens and our yard and such, a farmer’s most prized accessory– the rain gauge. Our yard happens to be home to two, one for the front and one for the back (because cloud coverage and rainfall may differ over 100 ft? I’m not sure). Either way, dumping the gauge before Scott’s read it as a good ol’ fashioned morning prank is not as funny as you’d think. For those of you having a mild panic attack at that thought, yes, I made a mental note of the reading for him. Still doesn’t change how NOT funny it was. Another lesson learned.
  5. My love language happens to be quality time. Quality time was redefined over this last year to include, but is not limited to, plenty of tractor time (which I love). The pieces of farm equipment that were foreign to me only a few short years ago now have my permanent indention on the passenger seat. Another lesson learned.
  6. With a bit of a Type A personality, I tend to love plans. Not only is my monthly calendar organized, but also, my daily–complete with a to-do list (it’s okay to cringe a little). Flexibility has never been my strong suite, so imagine my surprise when I have supper hot and ready for 6:30 p.m. and Scott’s chair at the kitchen table is empty. Unfortunately, the farm isn’t always able to stick to my plans. Another lesson learned.
  7. The radio, a previous companion of mine during long hours on the road, has certain stations it WILL play at certain times. This includes Farm Talk Radio, Kansas City Royal’s baseball games, the Market Report and all pre- or post-game talks for Kansas State University. This is non-negotiable. Another lesson learned.
  8. Tater Tot Casserole. If you are like me, this would mean nothing. If you are like Scott, you’d have a pile of drool hanging from the corner of your mouth by now. Luckily, this was a recipe I could learn quickly to keep a happy husband. Ground beef–French onion seasoning–cream of mushroom soup–frozen tots–shredded cheese. Nailed it. Another lesson learned.
  9. Yes, the tractor does have brakes; however, the farmer is only willing to use those brakes a limited number of times. We only have so much daylight! Plan your tractor rides and meals accordingly. Another lesson learned.
  10. I was raised to be a strong, independent woman. This may have something to do with being the youngest of three girls, and my dad never having a son to teach the handy-man way of life to. A year later though, I now understand the importance of being vulnerable enough to ask for help. Faith, family and friends are essential in the life of a farmer’s wife. Extra thankful for all three! Another lesson learned.

Not a lesson learned, but something I’ve known for awhile now. I am married to an incredible man. Between the long hours at the farm, he still walks into our home every day with the biggest grin and brightest eyes. His perseverance through the tough times astounds me, driven by hope and a trusting faith. Not a man of all too many words, he still gives a listening ear and has a willingness to learn. First a son, next a farmer, then a husband, and now, A DAD.

Lots of adventures ahead! Baby Stroberg is expected in September 2018. Follow along with our growing farm family for year two!

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The Beginning of a Chilly Winter

As I imagine most did, I snuck away from my office for a few days to spend time with friends and family during the holidays. I use the term “friends and family” a little loosely here, for it goes without saying that the cattle are one and the same.

 

Stroberg Cattle

 

It was risky, stealing Abby-dog’s seat riding shotgun with my Farmer for one of these chilly mornings, but I did. Bundled from head to toe, we took on the Kansas cold before the sun was even up. Over the last few years, I’ve found a dear place in my heart for the chunky winter farm-gear that would’ve been considered foreign to me not too long ago 🙂

Cows, on the other hand, are able to withstand great temperature drops and spikes. Still, we like to make sure they are well-cared for and at ease all winter long.

Stroberg cattle are spread out on different fields and pastures close to the farm. Sorted appropriately based on age, weight, gender, etc. and fed accordingly. They graze on crop residue but will need a little something extra when the temperature begins to drop. Same goes with me I think, needing a little something extra when the temperature drops 😉

Although I’ve been told cattle can consume most anything, we actually don’t feed them cookies (sent those with Santa & Co. earlier last week). That would be an example of low-quality forage. These cattle need high-quality forage to keep up with the extra energy needed to maintain body temperature in this sub-zero weather (and, of course, to optimize gut health).

The supplemental hay and alfalfa, mineral and protein is delivered in the morning to give the girls and boys just enough of an energy boost to get them up and grazing by day, rather than retreating behind a wind block (always there for protection though).

Even in the frigid cold, we all need to drink. Cattle tanks are refilled after the ice is broken to keep them well hydrated. There may have been a part of me that was thankful there was only one mallet in the truck, or I’d have had to be a bit more helpful!

 

How much extra energy do they need then, eh?

Research suggests energy needs increase by almost 30%. (There’s a more specific calculation to it, but either way) that’s pounds upon pounds of extra food, and also, more hours spent feeding.

 

So, how did I spend some of the final hours of my first year married?

Outside battling Mother Nature to keep our cattle warm and comfortable this winter.

 

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2018 will come with many more hours spent in the flatbed rolling out bales, but I look forward to that time. I’ve grown to love our truck and tractor dates, year-round 🙂 Other times, I will continue to enjoy whipping up a family meal. Proud to have a farm-wife life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

As it goes, “Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” –Alan Wolfelt.

 

Reference: Mullinex, K., Ph.D. (2015, January). Conserving Energy for a Cold Winter– Cattle and Calories. Alabama Cattleman.


Beef Nutrition: Some Facts on Fat

Here at the farm, we have officially finished harvest. The soybeans are cut, corn picked and milo in the grain bin. For some, this may allow for time to sit back and catch a breath. For others, we will be spending our extra hours giving a little TLC to the cattle.

 

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Stroberg Land and Cattle raises Black Angus cattle.

Calving usually begins in February, and by May, calves (baby cows) are sent to pasture with the respective momma cows. All cattle begin on grass, which is a common misunderstanding. The difference then becomes grass vs grain-finished, not grass vs grain-fed. Lots more on this below!

About this time of the year, cow-calf pairs are brought back to the farm and mommas are separated from the calf. To help soothe the calves during this transition, a bright light and music is on 24-hours a day (surprise, country is their favorite!). Two goats make for pretty great company as well 🙂 These calves will be hand-fed twice per day for the first month to help them build trust and become more comfortable with us.

 

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Momma cows are sent to a pasture of wheat or corn stalks or milo that is close to the farm. They enjoy lounging and grazing on most days. Only a couple more months before calving begins again, another baby is on the way!

Back at the farm, our calves are becoming more and more relaxed. Twice per day, they are fed, and after one month, we begin introducing the feed wagon. Using the feed wagon not only saves us time, but also, better meets the nutrition needs of both calves and cattle through weighing and mixing. The feed wagon is full of the favorites—distillers, cracked corn and hay!

 

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Both male and female caves will continue to be fed a mixture of grains until next May. Males are fed to weight and typically sold, while females will be artificially inseminated (AI’ed) and either sent to pasture for the summer or sold as a pregnant heifer. Just a little background into the day-to-day happenings at Stroberg Land & Cattle!

Now, for a few facts on grass vs grain-finished beef.

Studies show grass-finished beef is lower in total fat than grain-finished. Understandably so, since grass-finished beef have access to a larger area of land, contributing to more exercise and greater muscle tone. Things become a bit more complicated, however, when we consider that about 2/3 of the cuts available from EITHER grass or grain-finished cattle are considered “lean” beef (1).

We must then study the types of fat, as we know that not all fats are equal. Grain-finished beef is higher in monounsaturated fat, while grass-finished is higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Both being considered heart healthy fats.

Big picture now—ought we really be relying on beef as a significant source of our heart healthy fats? Probably not. Better sources of monounsaturated fats include nuts and seeds, avocados, olives, olive and canola oil. Better sources of omega 3 fatty acids are fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseed. Here are a few comparisons by the National Institute of Health:

 

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There are plenty of essential vitamins and minerals that are more unique to beef, but the focus is not so much on monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. That’ll have to be for another post though!

For now, grass vs grain-finished beef is really a personal preference. Both are nutritious and can be included as part of a healthy eating pattern. My only recommendation: choose a lean cut and heart-healthy cooking method (on most days!) for meat or poultry or fish, consume a variety and ENJOY!

 

1. Lean Beef. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/nutrition/lean-beef

 


Welcome

I am SO happy you stumbled upon Pastures and Plates! For this first post, I would like to share with you an inkling of what you can expect from this site.

I am passionate about food and feeding my family well. In doing so, I like to use a variety of foods, some fresh and other more convenient options as well. Always fruits and vegetables. On this site, you will find a gallery of (mostly!) balanced plates. I am posting these plates to demonstrate that you can, indeed, feed your family well…even with some country-cookin’!

Off and on, I would like to share these recipes with you. We don’t just eat to survive (at least my family doesn’t!). We eat because food tastes fantastic, and we truly value one another’s company around the supper table. Amen? On this site, you will find a few tried-and-true, classic recipes passed down through the generations.

Finally, the blog. Eating has gotten complicated. One of the reasons I believe this to have become somewhat of a tangled mess is a misunderstanding of where our food comes from. As a registered dietitian and a farmer’s wife, I have a unique opportunity to share with you the “other side of the table”. The final piece you will find on this site involves negating common agriculture and nutrition-related myths.

Again, my goal in writing is to help you feel more confident that you are feeding your family well. Savor the posts and share your thoughts. I would like very much to hear from you!