Dust In My Coffee

Dust In My Coffee

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Feed the Hungry

There was a time in my life when feeding the hungry referred to making meals for our five children, my husband and I.  Now that the kids are out and about I still seem to prepare meals for more than just two of us.   I like having left overs but eating chili soup four times in a row is a little much. 

When our son, Jeff, was young he would gradually disappear
under the table when we were eating and then his legs would
appear at the top of his chair.  I am not sure what brought this
on but he would just sit that way and eat his lunch and dinner.

Having plenty of food to eat is not something I take for granted.  Recently a group of us from Dodge and Howells joined hundreds of other volunteers to package meals for the people in the Philippines trying to survive after a natural disaster.  The soup meals we packaged with chicken flavoring, protein from soybean meal, dehydrated vegetables and rice will be welcomed food for those who have nothing to eat.  Mercy Meals in Norfolk, NE welcomes donations of time and money to continue their service of feeding the hungry around the world.

When we package meals an assembly line is in place.  There
were five assembly lines with one hour shifts on a twelve hour
day to get a large shipment of food to people in the Philippines
suffering in ways most of us can't come close to imagining.

Knowing there are people in the world that will eat soup three times a day for weeks at a time humbles me.  Here I am complaining about eating chili for several meals in a row and there are people suffering from no food or inadequate nutrition.  

I know I can’t bring food to every child but I can keep the conversation going.  Thanks to people like Norman Borlaug and Peter Beyer we can make an impact on feeding the hungry when we are open to technology.

Mr. Borlaug worked with wheat strains to impact food shortages in Mexico, Pakistan and India.  His genetic research was done in the field and even though he won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1970 his work was also heavily criticized.  

Norman Borlaug once said "Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things."   

Mr. Borlaug was a leader in developing wheat so
countries could feed themselves.   One bushel
of wheat can make 79 loaves of bread!

Mr. Beyer is one of the co-inventors of Golden Rice.  Golden rice is a genetically modified product.  Beta Carotene is inserted into the rice.  This new rice has the potential to save millions of children from blindness and death in places like the Philippines due to vitamin A deficiencies.  The project began as a humanitarian project and has been held up by those opposed to GMO’s.  You can read a recent article from the New York Times about Golden Rice here.

While caution is important when we genetically
modify foods it should also be noted that it takes
up to 10 years to meet regulatory standards
before meeting government agencies approval.

Feeding the hungry is more than growing, packaging, cooking and serving food.  Technology is one tool that can change the world of the hungry from surviving to thriving.  The hungry need us to take a scientific versus an emotional approach to genetically modified crops.  Fortunately, people like former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas are doing just that! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Move 'em on, head 'em up

     Once in awhile when we are getting a pen out to be shipped I think back to one of my favorite programs as a child, “Rawhide”.  I remember the theme song with all the whistling and hollering the cowboys did to get the cattle to move out.  
     On a recent morning we had a full moon to help light the way for one pen of cattle that was ready to go.  Our steers walk a short distance to get to the load out area compared to the hundreds of miles cattle traveled in the Rawhide days to get from Texas to Chicago.

These cattle are waiting their turn to be shipped.  The full
moon was still in the western horizon that morning.
     When we move cattle we use a method referred to as low stress cattle handling.  Thanks to people like Temple Grandin and Bud Williams we can be a sort of horse whisperer around our cattle.  Loud, harsh hollering is not allowed but softer, lower tones are used to reduce stress and anxiety.   
Steve is counting cattle as they are put in upper and
lower compartments to keep them from crowding.  He walks
parallel and away from the direction he wants them to go.

 When cattle are loaded out there are around 40 head that fit comfortably on one semi trailer.  The cattle walk up a chute and onto the truck using design methods from Temple Grandin.  We have a manufacturing business in Dodge that builds these systems.

This is a design by Temple Grandin. 
     Our cattle go for about a 30 minute ride to the packing plant.  Once there they  go through the process of becoming food and numerous other by-products.  In fact 99% of the animal is used.  A 1,200-pound steer produces about 490 pounds of boneless, trimmed meat to be used for a variety of cooking choices.

     One hide from a steer can make 144 baseballs or 12 basketballs or 20 footballs.   Other items derived from beef by-products include gelatin for jello, gummy bears and chewing gum; bristles for paint brushes; fatty acids for deodorants, soap, ink, crayons and toilet paper.

Some of the pharmaceuticals include trypsin for cleansing wounds,
corticotrophin for treating allergies, iron for anemia, thrombin for
blood coagulation and insulin for diabetes.

     I truly am grateful for opportunity to give our cattle the best life possible utilizing the natural resources around us providing a nutrient dense food and much more for people around the world.  I am also grateful for the numerous men and women involved in bringing those products from cattle to all of us.
     Cattle feeders today may not be whistling "Rawhide" as they work, but they are the cowboys of the modern world using better techniques to bring beef to your table!

Steve is our grill master!  He is known by family and
friends for this beef sandwich!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Go Slow

There are certain times of the year when I am delegated jobs that come under the “miscellaneous” category of what I do on our farm.   Some of those jobs include mowing, watering trees, cleaning water tanks and fixing fence.  Today I was given a job of going to West Point to get rye seed.  

We plant rye to control soil erosion after removing a corn crop as corn silage.  I thought this trip would be great because I could do a few other errands in West Point.  My hubby told me I would have to use our older pickup and pull a trailer because of the weight.  I would need to make the trip because the guys were still busy with corn silage.  

Steve will keep packing as more loads of corn silage are dumped
until the height of this pile reaches around 46 feet.
 As I prepared to leave for West Point my husband commented over the radio “You will probably have to go slow on the way back because I am not sure how good the breaks are.”   Steve was referring to the trailer brakes, not the pickup breaks.

I said “OK, is that going to be a problem?”  The reply was “It shouldn’t be.”

Now before I go any further I would like to share with you why I get concerned when someone tells me to do something with a hint of a warning.  I did not grow up on a farm and had not driven anything larger than a pickup before we got married.  After we were married I was given many jobs pulling equipment to allow others to stay on their task at hand.  

I don't have a picture of the wagon but it was similar
to this one only it had tires on the wheels.
 The first time I ever pulled anything it was a pickup and a four-wheeled wagon.  We had only been married about six months.  I was going to pull a trailer full of oats from my in-law’s farm to our farm, about eleven miles.  To add to the adventure my youngest sister, Sandy, was spending a few days with us and came along. 

As we were driving back to our farm with a full wagon of oats my sister looked out the back window and told me that the wagon was not right behind us anymore.  As I looked out the rear view mirror I noticed that the hitch pin must have popped out and the wagon tongue was now on the road.  My instinctive response was to slow the pickup down and try to let the wagon catch up to us.   

As I was working with the wagon my sister noticed people going by and pointing and laughing.  Did I mention we were driving along a state highway?   The wagon did slow down as it hit our bumper then it turned off of the road, went down into a ditch and broke through a barbed wire fence.  The good news is that no one was hurt and the wagon did not flip over!

We didn’t have cell phones back in '82 so I had to drive home and tell Steve what happened.  He was upset but it was more at the fact that someone forgot to put a clip in the little hole at the bottom of the hitch pin then that I had nearly caused an accident.

As I left West Point with my full load of seed I noticed some warning lights turn on in the pickup.  Should I be concerned?  

I will have to check the oil when I get home!
Fortunately my journey home was pretty uneventful as I followed orders and drove slow.  Forty miles an hour isn’t fast enough for cattle trucks and I was passed by four of them.  Two of them passed through intersections, one nearly rear-ended me and one passed in a no passing zone up a hill.  I guess I put my Guardian Angel to work today!   Now it’s time to get back to some of those other miscellaneous jobs!

All is well that ends well!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


     One of the advantages of living on a farm is the abundance of beauty in nature.  I have found that living in Nebraska we also have the beauty of the four seasons. About the time I start getting tired of hot weather and mowing the cool mornings begin. Leaves start to change colors and the green of summer turns into the fall colors of brown, orange, red and yellow. 
When I mow I wear ear protection.  This John Deere
mower and I have spent many hours together!
     I recently took some pictures of a beautiful sunrise that was one of those you couldn't take your eyes off of.   Our house is on higher ground than the feedlot, so every sunrise peeks over the feedlot before the rays hit the house.  As a Facebook user, I have noticed many of my friends also posting pictures of the sunrise and the sunset, which seems to indicate how many of us find beauty in something as natural as the sun rising and setting.
We also appreciate beautiful fields.  When we drive down the road we will comment on the beauty of a bean field or how nice the corn looks.  Sometimes we will notice how tough a field is looking due to lack of rain.  This year we have been incredibly blessed with timely rains that will possibly give us the best corn yields we've ever had. 

 I know many farmers who like to sit out and watch a good thunderstorm.  A recent little shower left us with a beautiful double rainbow to enjoy.

     While it is very easy to see the beauty in nature it can be more difficult to see the beauty in the people around us.   Beauty can be found in our relationships with others.  Times of trial as well as times of triumph allow relationships to grow.   As a married person I value the virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation in my relationship with Steve.
     Pope Francis recently asked for all believers around the world to pray and fast for peace in Syria.  I think that request gives us the opportunity to look closer to home and do the same.  I can find beauty in the peace, joy and tears of reconciliation.
     There is a quote I have been re-reading lately that I discovered while searching for beauty products.  It seems we spend quite a bit of money trying to make ourselves beautiful when perhaps the solution can be found without spending a dime. 
      “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone”  Audrey Hepburn