3rd Annual Farm Clean-up Day!

Hello friends! It has been crazy over here! Between wedding plans and summer festivities it has been hard to keep up with my personal blog but tonight I want to spend a little time sharing the story of our 3rd annual farm clean-up day with you. 

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Above is a photo we took this past weekend in Amana. We surprised Grandma Carol with t-shirts that say CJ’s (Carol Jean’s) Crew. Please keep her and our family in your prayers!

Okay back to the clean-up day! My oh, My! We accomplished a lot. Our farm dates back to 1913. We celebrated our Farm’s 100th birthday, the year I graduated from high school. Needless to say, there is some clean-up to do.

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Megan and I began farm clean up days informally 5 years ago or so. We would come home for the summer and spend a few days cleaning the farm before our summer positions started. These short clean-up days made a difference but we wanted to do more.

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And with the dream of doing more, the annual farm clean-up day was born! We dedicate a whole day to one or two major projects. Our first year, was also the first summer Tyler and I began to hangout. I didn’t scare him away…he must be a keeper ;)!

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Most of you know we have cattle but did you know Grandpa Richard and Dad once had hogs? We have 1 large pig barn left standing but I can’t say the same for the one to the North. It went down in a storm a while ago and this year we picked this barn as our major project. It is so neat to learn about the history of the Ball farm!

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For me, it is always emotional to take down one of the barns but I know it will keep our farm more productive.We worked out a pretty slick deal! We rented a large container for all of the metal and they dropped it off and picked it up. A huge shout out to Dad, Megan, Tyler, Jake and Grandma Pat for helping with our 3rd annual farm clean up day.

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A couple weeks later we surprised Grandma Pat, with a new rock bed!

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Welcome to the Ball Family Farm!

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I want to wish Michael good luck at state this weekend! Can’t wait to cheer you on! ❤

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Braving the Cold for Calving Season

By now I imagined I would be singing April showers bring May flowers but instead I am shouting April snow storms go away! But as much as I would like to curl up next to our fireplace…time doesn’t stand still and we have spring babies arriving!

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It is important that farmers take good care of their livestock rain or shine! I feel very blessed to live only a few miles away from our farm. We try to help out as much as we can and it has been very busy keeping watch over our herd.

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We have 18 bred cows and 7 have calved so we are patiently waiting for the other babies to arrive. During the cold and windy nights we give the cows and calves a cornstalk bale to lay on. We also have a wonderful old hay barn that we open up for the cows to use as shelter.

Once the calves are born we tag and band. Read a previous post about preconditioning to learn about the care we provide the calf when they are born.

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Each cow is unique and we need to be cautious when handling their babies. The cows can be protective. It took a few of us to precondition the calf in the photo below due to the ma’ma’s concern, but we took care of tagging and banding him and he was soon reunited with the cow.

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Do you have questions regarding calving season? Comment below!

What is Bio-security?

Hello Picking Wild Flowers. Has is really been 3 months since my last post? Where has the time gone? Hey, at least I am writing you on the 2nd day of spring. We are inching closer and closer to warm summer days! Humm… what have I been up to? Well my wedding dress is in! I went to Missouri last week. We are preparing for calving season! Megan and I joined a bible study, and Tyler and I booked our honeymoon… so as you can see … just hanging out haha.

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Now on the work front. We have so many cool activities planned! Our hatching unit begins on April 1. Wish me luck as I hatch my first batch of chickens. We are also meeting today to discuss Ag in the Park! Eeek! I am so excited to experience my first Ag in the Park event! I have my monthly classroom visits in which I can begin discussing planting season! Speaking of… stay tune for a garden blog update. I have been neglecting my duties to inform you about my second year planting cut flowers! Now back to the topic on hand.

Pork farmchat promotion

Last week we conducted a Pork and Manure Management FarmChat® with Matt Ditch, a farmer from Center Point. He mentioned the word bio-security and I want to take a minute to dive a little deeper into what bio-security is and why it is important. Here is the link to our FarmChat® if you missed it.

Bio-security- procedures intended to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful biological agents.

Bio-security polices are a set of rules that one needs to follow when interacting with the livestock at a particular farm. For example, Matt mentioned he had a shower in- shower out policy. To see the pigs, we would have had to take a complete shower and put on new clothes and boots. This is for the safety of the pigs as well as for food safety. Pigs at that age or any age are susceptible to diseases. Our goal is to keep them healthy and happy. A healthy pig = safe food.

Washing off potential diseases and harmful agents is particularly important for those that have been at a different site. This could be a vet, truck diver, etc. Those who visit many pig farms in a month need to be extra careful. If a group of pigs does get a disease, bio-security allows us to contain it so we can treat it.

Matt receives his pigs between 20 and 22 days old. Piglets thrive in warm temperatures. Today’s modern day pigs barns regulate the temperature to meet the piglets needs. The barn is roughly 83 degrees Fahrenheit at that stage.  Not only does the barn keep the pigs comfortable but it can also keep them away from birds and wild fowl that may be carrying diseases.

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Here are additional ways farmers implement bio-security. https://www.pork.org/public-health/biosecurity-in-the-barn/

Every farm looks a little different. Some farms have different bio-security rules than others and it all depends on how many people visit your farm, how updated the barn is, and location.

If you have any questions about bio-security please don’t hesitate to ask.

GMO Decisions

Side Note: WOW! I can not believe Monday is Christmas. Where has this year gone? I Have many things to thank God for. We have had a few health concerns on both sides of the family but with those scares we have hope. The lord is watching over us. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas.

Good afternoon Picking Wild Flowers! A couple months ago I wrote a blog post about “Lets Talk Organic.” My love for agriculture has made me passionate about the issues that surround us all. FOOD!! We all eat. We all need food. We all have an opinion. I tried to stay pretty neutral last time but I received a note from a reader indicating that I just made things more confusing. I honestly believe in all types of agriculture. Diversity drives our world. Diversity of businesses drive the economy, diversity of schools/colleges drive education, diversity of people drive society, and diversity of farming methods drive agriculture. But because I want to be clear and concise, I will write this post with personal thoughts and opinions.

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Monday I presented a lesson called GMO Decisions to a class of Linn-Mar high school students. The purpose was to expose students to modern agriculture issues, scientific solutions, and the outcomes of those decisions, while discussing the sciences of biology and biotechnology.

I approached the students with the question- If you could solve any food problem what would it be? So I will ask you the same question. If you could solve any food issue what would it be?

Okay let’s start with the basics. What is a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism. GMO is not a thing but rather is process. There are only 9 GMO crops currently on our grocery shelves. Arctic Apples (non-browning) have been approved but they are not commercially available yet.

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I view GMOs as the modern form of plant/animal breeding. Think back to the very beginning of domestication. Dog breeds are a product of selective breeding. Growing up we had Missy and Duke. Missy was an Australian Shepherd+ Blue Healer. Duke is a Yellow Lab+ Husky mix. Both of our dogs are a product of crossbreeding.

Lets step forward in time. We now have advanced breeding. Identifying traits on the gene level that are desired. For example, artificially inseminating cattle. We pick out a bull based on the pedigree. Will the bull be easy calving? Will the calf have horns? etc.

Is seedless watermelon a GMO? No, seedless watermelon is produced through crossbreeding + Colchicine. Colchicine is a naturally occurring flower chemical that intervenes with normal cell division. When added to seeds the female eggs produce twice as many sets of chromosomes. When we pollinate the new flower with an original flower we get a watermelon with three sets of chromosomes resulting in a seedless watermelon. Seedless grapes and bananas are the result of cloning and that may sound scary too but cloning plants is pretty easy. Many plants can be propagated by taking a cutting or by growing an offshoot.

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Grafting is another form of selectively growing food. Grafting is the process of transplanting a scion (desired fruit) to a stock plant (desired trunk/size). One student stayed after to ask me a few questions about grafting. Why do we graft? I answered with, “It takes years to grow a tree and trees grow to be very tall. By grafting we can decrease the height, thicken the trunk, or grow certain trees in climates they might not be native to (palm trees in Utah).” She also asked why people seem to fear GMOs but they don’t fear grafting. Grafting is similar to selective breeding. Joining two physical things. We fear things we can’t see and we can’t see GMOs but we can see a graft on a tree trunk.

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There are many benefits to genetically modifying-

  1. Disease resistance
  2. Increase in production
  3. Less food waste
  4. Environment tolerant
  5. No nutritional difference
  6. Insect tolerance (resulting in less pesticides)

Three ways to genetically modify-

  1. Silence a gene (turning off the light)
  2. Moving a gene (transporting a gene to a different spot on the chromosome)
  3. Adding a new trait to the gene sequence

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Now lets debate- LABELS

I am in favor of labels. I believe we have the right to choice but I only believe in labels if they are going to create clarification. Labels that are misleading make me so mad!! For example, diet pop! Diet pop is not healthy!

I have added a photo of Himalania Fine Pink Salt to this post. Why do you think I might be a little mad about this NON-GMO label? Salt does not have DNA meaning it can not be genetically modified. Every fine pink salt product you pick up is GMO free so why add the label? We are creating a fearful society!

This might be my longest post yet but stay with me! I have one more label to share with you. Take a look at this photo. It also has a NON-GMO label. Why might I be frustrated with this label? And it is not just because we raise cattle 😛

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Here is my frustration… How do we breed? Lets talk about the birds and bees. Meiosis is the process of cell division that creates eggs and sperm. We need both sets of chromosomes to create an offspring. Now tell me, how do we digest food? The DNA in our food is digested into 4 nucleotides and the protein breaks down into 21 amino-acids. Does our set of personal traits change when we eat a salad? No! Genes are passed down from our parents. GM food will be digested the same way Non-GM food is digested. Same goes for livestock. Just because a cow eats GM corn or soybeans does not mean it now becomes a GMO. Animals digest and breakdown food similar to us. Genetic makeups do not change by digesting food. Do you see livestock listed above as a GMO product? I don’t… so I don’t think meat/animal products should be labeled unless it contains a direct GMO food ingredient.

I am a christian. I believe whole heartily that God is leading my path and he has chosen me to teach agriculture. Want to know my honest opinion? GMOs are so cool! Science is cool! It is amazing the things we can do! God has provided us with the tools, motivation, and curiosity to explore his master piece. It is with his help that we even grow food! It is with Gods help that we have advancements in medicine! It is with Gods guidance that we trust in him with all that we do. I have experienced Gods love greatly this year.

Thank you for reading! Opinions are my own and do not represent the opinions of Linn County Farm Bureau.

Merry Christmas!

 

Meal Prep Fun!

You guys!! Do you want to make life easier? Do you like wine? and Do you want to have a festive girls night? Swap meals!

I am set for winter!! I literally have some of the most creative friends. What a fun way to meal prep! I am now stocked with country casserole, enchilada bake, manicotti, and shepherds pie. Food to fuel my body and soul through cold and snowy days!

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Kendra posed this idea to us and to be honest I jumped out of my seat with excitement! I am always trying to get on the meal prep wagon but life gets in the way! Am I right!?!? So this was a super fun and easy way to get meals on the table all winter long!

Food is such a precious thing but it can be confusing. Picking Wild Flowers has been my outlet for sharing my personal story about food and agriculture.

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Yesterday I attended a Women in Agriculture Leadership Conference and I left with inspiration beyond words! I am so blessed to work in an industry that is so passionate about where our food comes from. We are all eaters and we care about how our food is grown and farmers do too. How awesome is it that we live in a country where we have freedom to do so?

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Everyone has different values but those values are what make us who we are. Some of us have the opportunity to choose foods and others have certain diets due to allergies, diseases, food intolerance, and values.

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Conversations have become one way! We often listen to respond and not to ask questions. We need to listen, ask, listen, ask, listen, ask, share.

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So what are your feelings about food?

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I Found my Man but I still Need my Girls!

This Friday the countdown begins! 365 days until our #HappilyEverHibbs wedding. Our wedding binder might be full with arrangements and my Pinterest board is overflowing but I could never have planned a better group of people to stand next to me as I say I do.

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Our bonfire was canceled at the last minute but the girls and I did not let that keep us from having fun. We had plans to decorate the bonfire pit with beautiful mums and pumpkins but despite the rain we still decorated the house and enjoyed games and conversations over pumpkin coffee and apple cider. Thank you to my wonderful family for decorating and hosting my party.

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Each and everyone of these ladies hold a special place in my heart! Megan, where do I even begin? You are and will always be my other half! We can finish each other’s sentences and I know what you are thinking before you even say it. As my best friend and twin sister we have been through every step of life together. Megan you are beautiful inside and out and I am so thrilled to have you as my maid of honor. I love you sis!

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Morgan and I have been best friends since elementary school. She is one of my biggest supporters and I can’t thank her enough! I am so excited to have you standing next to me as my second maid of honor. Ever since middle school acne filled faces, homecoming dances, high school graduation, and adult life we have stood the test of friendships and I know you are my besty for life.

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Kendra… oh Kendra! Girly you are such an inspiration and I look up to you every day. You are so driven and motivated! Thank you for always being there to listen and grant me advice! I am so excited to have you and Elizabeth part of our big day!

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Lydia! We might not talk every day but we always pick up exactly where we left off. We have so much in common and I love sharing a spiritual bond with you! Watching your walk with the Lord is very encouraging. I am so blessed to have you as a friend. Your kindness and smile is very contagious!

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Adriane 🙂 Chica our love for show cattle brought us together and carried us to the same college. I am so blessed to have you in my college memories and I can’t wait to make more memories in official adult life. Thank you for constantly making me laugh and for sharing wine/queso nights with me. I am so excited to have you as a bridesmaid!

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Kassie! We became friends in high school but have grown closer in the last few years. You spontaneous attitude keeps me on my toes but your loyalty has always meant a lot! We have so much fun together and I can’t wait to have you stand by my side.

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Laura… my beautiful cousin and friend! Growing up we were always together. Being so close in age meant we had a lot in common. You have such a kind heart and I have so much fun when we get together! Thank you for being my personal attendant! I feel so blessed to have your help.

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Katherine… Kate Walker! Remember our Cheetos, Mountain Dew and Buffy the Vampire Slayer days? You have always been someone I can have fun and relax with! We have a lot of fun high school memories. I love your spunky attitude and I can’t wait to have you as a personal attendant!

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The party could not have happened with out my Grandma Carol, Papa, Mom, Tami and Kerrie. Thank you for all that you did to decorate and host!

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Two more photos!

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Wondering how Tyler asked his groomsmen!? Ill just leave this picture here for you to glance at… 😉 hehe! #WANTED! Zach, Michael, Jake, Seth, Cherokee, and Lee!

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#HappilyEverHibbs

Let’s Talk Organic

Well hello beautiful Picking Wild Flower readers! It has been a while but I am back and I have a interesting and fun topic for the blog tonight. Let’s talk organic! Who eats organic food? Who eats conventional? What is the difference between the two? Tell me do you eat foods with GMOs? What does GMO stand for? How about foods labeled as natural or contains no antibiotics? Food can be confusing and let me tell you… I am no expert. I just recently finished up a eight week fitness course at Next Level Extreme Fitness in North Liberty (which I highly recommend by the way) and I was encouraged to examine food labels. I soon realized that I consume a lot of salt and sugar. Two ingredients that were hiding in my daily foods. I am not sure how I will go lower two such prevalent ingredients but tonight I substituted rice for cauliflower rice- it is a start 🙂

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I decided to write this post after mom and I had a very interesting conversation when I met her for lunch today. We passed the new organic co-op in Iowa City and both mom and I wanted to stop in and check it out but we decided that we didn’t have time and we would another day. I am a person who believes in all types of farming. I think we need diversity to create a sustainable environment that will produce enough food to feed 9 billion people by 2050. I also believe in supporting local. Local farmers help the community thrive. It also allows young and small farmers to have an avenue. But if you are going to shop at a food co-op or if you want to buy organic from your local grocery store, make sure you have thought about all of your reasons for doing so. Be sure to understand that the nutritional value of organic lettuce is the same as lettuce grown conventionally. Understand that GMOs are only in 10 food items: corn, soybeans, alfalfa, cotton, sugar beats, canola, squash, papaya, potato, and apple. If you buy green peppers that say non-GMO, it is a marketing scheme and they want you to pay more because green peppers don’t ever contain GMOs (currently… science is always adapting and it is possible in the future).

Buying meat that says never been treated with antibiotics just makes me plain angry. If a cow or calf is sick wouldn’t you do anything to make it feel better. Tyler and I took our proposal picture 2 weeks before our herd had an outbreak of pink eye. That same cow in the picture was treated with the two medicines shown and if we were to sell her for meat she would need to go through a withdrawal period. We are not selling her but even-so it has been already been a month since she was on medicine and just like humans it passes through the body.

What about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism)? There are many benefits but to name a few: 1) the use of resources, some GMO corn crops can protect harvests in water-limited conditions better than conventionally produced crops. Other GMOs can also promote the use of no-till farming, which keeps more moisture in the soil. No-till also enables farmers to make fewer passes through the field using machinery, which means less fuel used and greenhouse gases emitted. 2) Fighting Pests and Disease,
Scientists are developing crops that look and taste the same as their non-GMO counterparts, but are resistant to insects and plant-specific diseases that can impact a farmer’s harvest. Plants with traits that protect roots from insect damage have an additional benefit of using water more efficiently. 3) Conserving Natural Habitats
GMO seeds can help farmers around the world meet the increasing demand for food by helping them make the most of their existing arable land, thus enabling them to preserve nearby habitats. (https://monsanto.com/innovations/biotech-gmos/).

Now lets dive into the label “Natural” for just a second and I mean a brief second… There is no standard definition for natural so what does it even mean?? I DON’T KNOW but it is supposed to be better for us… Humm…

I love discussing food so please ask me questions. I could talk about it all day!

Just remember that food is food and it is all about moderation. Don’t food shame!! It is not nice. ;P We need all types of farmers and I don’t have a problem with organic or conventional but I think we need to hear both sides and I believe we need both in our industry to make the agriculture world go round. Just be sure to read good quality articles and ask a farmer before you jump to believe every label you read.

Goodnight! Sleep Tight 🙂

 

Cattle get Pinkeye Too

Cattle get pinkeye too! Most years this is not a problem but just like when people travel… we occasionally catch an illness. That is exactly what happened to our 25 head of cattle. This year was the first time we rented the pasture up on the hill from my grandma. The cows were beyond excited to travel to their exotic new land! They went nuts! But with new territory brings new illnesses the cows aren’t immune to.

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We noticed a few cows had drippy eyes and while those few were in the pen being examined, the rest of the herd was catching it.

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Pinkeye is also known as infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis (IBK) and is one of the most common diseases of beef cattle. It is a highly contagious disease, causing inflammation of the cornea (the clear outer layer) and conjunctiva (the pink membrane lining the eyelids) of the eye. Being that it is very contagious the whole herd was at risk.

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Signs of pinkeye include wet, red, and irritated eyes. Often times the animal blinks or squints a lot and a small white spot will appear.
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Image result for pinkeye in cattle

How does it spread? Pinkeye begins with irritated eyes. Tall grasses and weeds, dust, sunlight and wind can irritate the cow. Once the cow is infected, the disease spreads through face flies. The bacteria can live in the fly for four days.

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How do you treat pinkeye? There are a couple options to treating pinkeye. The first is to spray pinkeye spray into the cow’s eye twice a day. This is not very efficient if the cows need to be on pasture to eat. Spraying the cow’s eye requires getting them into the chute. The second option is to give the cow a shot of Liquamycin at the first sign of pinkeye.

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The antibiotic instructions are below. We gave each cow a shot of LA-200 according to the correct dosage/weight. Most of our cows weigh 1000-1500 pounds so you can see below we gave between 45 and 54 cc. The label also says to discontinue treatment at least 28 days prior to slaughter. If and when we decide to sell a cow, we are required to wait 28 days before doing so. The meat packing plant will check for antibacterial residue when they are slaughtered.

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The third option is to give the cows a shot of penicillin in their eyelid. This might seem painful but it targets the bacteria at the site of infection. Occasionally pinkeye can get so severe that it can cause blindness or can even be fatal. The fourth option it to spray the eye and cover it up with an eye-patch. Light can cause irritation and by covering it up it excludes the UV and eliminates flies from bothering.

We did the first and fourth option when we treated the cows two weeks ago but we were noticing the spread of pinkeye to other cows so this past weekend so we treated the diseased cows with treatments one-three. Pinkeye can be tricky to cure but hopefully we are finally ahead of it. Our main priority is the comfort and well-being of our livestock.

Dad said this was the time of year grandma and grandpa would go on vacation… not this year… our cows want to keep us on our toes.

Other resources:

http://www.beefmagazine.com/health/vets-opinion/busting-pinkeye-in-cattle-0401

http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/400/400-750/400-750.html

Our Proposal!

Our love story started a year and a half ago. I had moved back from Ames for the summer and was motivated to start running. Tyler’s parents live near Mom and Steve. I would often see Tyler hanging out outside. Everyday I continued to run past his house and again he would be working on his truck, hanging with friends, or just sitting on the patio. I have always been a big fan of his white truck and I asked about it to get his attention. It worked! Tyler would say our first date was to Kent Park but I wasn’t sure how committed I was at that point. But after our first official date to Phat Daddies… I had a good feeling about him. 😉

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And a good feeling it was! Here is the story of our beautiful, perfect, and completely appropriate proposal.

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Tyler asked me on Sunday if Zach and Rachel could join us for chores one night. I didn’t think anything of it because they had joined us earlier in the summer. On Monday night Tyler headed out to the farm to talk to Dad while I was at our Farm Bureau Annual Meeting. Tuesday was just a normal chore day or so I thought…as I was completely oblivious spraying the cows for flies.

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Tyler motioned over to Josie and suggested we spray her. I kind of blew it off and said I will in a minute. A second later he suggested it again so I was like fine lets head down there haha. To my surprise, Josie had something wrapped around her neck. I sped up to get a better look. I noticed the shape of the cow bell and assumed Dad was playing a prank on me. Josie is kind of an inside joke on our farm. She isn’t the most productive cow but she is the last cow from Grandpa’s herd and she holds a special place in our hearts. You can also tell from the photo that she is super wild!

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We got a little closer and I noticed writing on the front. I knelt down and read the words “Morgan Lee will you marry me?” I instantly got emotional! Tyler was on one knee by the time I turned around. I apparently was too shocked to stand back up after I read the cow bell because I am still on my knees in all of these photos haha.

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The whole moment was absolutely beautiful!! He put incredible thought into the proposal and having the cows involved meant so much to me. He knows me well!!

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A huge thanks to Zach and Rachel for capturing the moment. I am so happy to have photos to look back at. We couldn’t wait to tell all of our close family and friends but first we were treated to some ice cream!!

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We feel blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives. Thank you to everyone who congratulated us on our proposal day! We are excited to announce that our wedding will be October, 2018.

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Bring on the love, happiness, excitement, and anticipation as we plan our fall wedding! I can’t wait to marry my best friend.

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#HappilyEverHibbs 

Fresh From the Garden

So this happened… we sold the calf that won Grand Champion Breeding Heifer at the Van Buren County Fair! Show Down here we come!

The Show Down is a compile of all grand champion livestock exhibits from five surrounding counties. Each year the top of the top compete for first place from those counties. We feel honored to have a calf representing the Ball Family Farm. A huge congrats to Madison! She worked very hard to get the heifer ready. Often times people don’t know just how much work goes into showing cattle. When Megan and I showed, we woke up at 6, rinsed, dried, and brushed the calves. At night we would walk and repeat rinse. Come show day, the calf is washed, dried, and groomed to perfection. Good Luck next week Madison!

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The steer we sold to Madison received 1st out of 10 in his class. 🙂

While we are on a path of good news… lets keep going

Checkout my flowers!!

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Zinnias, Zinnias, Zinnias everywhere- red, pink, white, orange and yellow.

Wait for it… we finally have something other than Zinnias. The Snapdragons are taking off like wild fire!

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I am so excited to make arrangements with two different flowers! I love my zinnias but  two is better than one!

There is nothing better than flowers fresh from the garden. Okay Okay… vegetables are pretty fantastic from the garden too haha.

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And for just for a laugh since that seems to be my mood.

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Yep she is yawning… or chewing her cud. Our cows are pretty wild let me tell you.

My teaching moment of the day. What is cud?

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post on ruminant animals called Got Guts . Cows chew their cud (regurgitated food) on an hourly basis. By bringing the hay back up they can re-chew it to then digest it again. Ruminants are able to take grass and utilize the nutrients from it to create energy.

Talk to you again soon 🙂