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 🙂

 

 

The Hardships of Farming

The hardships… stories farmers don’t like to talk about. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this post but I think the world needs to know that farmers are people too and we make mistakes. Farmers are not perfect and I am not perfect. A couple of weeks ago my heart broke for one of our mama cows and her baby calf.

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We noticed that one of our new babies had scours. Scours is diarrhea that prevents the absorption of fluids from the intestines. Scours is common among new calves especially if the weather is nasty cold or scorching hot. We treat for scours whenever we see signs. Dad catches the calf and we give it a scour pill (Bolus antibiotic) which helps cure the diarrhea. Before dad left for vacation we gave this new calf a scour pill and put both the cow and calf in a pen close to the house.

Megan and I continued to check on the calf over the course of 24 hours. The calf seemed to be getting weaker and weaker. When the weather is really hot and calves are sick they tend to not nurse which results in dehydration. I gave the calf another pill by hand. Sometimes we use a wand called a pill pusher but the calf was pretty weak and putting the pill in his mouth wasn’t a problem.

Later on we went back to the house. I was looking over the bottle of scour pills and I noticed that they were expired. Usually one scour pill does the trick and I began to wonder if that was why the calf hadn’t seen any improvements. Tyler and I went to Theisen’s and bought new pills, a pill pusher and fly spray.

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Megan called to tell me that the calf wouldn’t walk very far. It was growing weaker by the day. She thought it was time to call the vet.

That morning I dialed the vet and told them what was going on. He advised that I try the new pills I had picked up and to give the calf some electrolytes. Electrolyte powder is like Gatorade. It should help keep the calf’s body hydrated. I thought I had all of my boxes crossed off. I picked up new pills, called the vet, fed the calf some electrolytes and called Tyler to see if he could come help give it a pill.

This time around I decided to try the pill pusher. Little did I know that there are two pushers. One for cows and one for calves. I had bought the one for cows… I had also bought the pill brand that Dad buys but instead of calf I bought cow. I might know what I am doing in theory but it is a whole different ball game when it comes time to purchase and act.

We got the pill stuck in the calves throat. At this point in the day I was hot, sweaty, and tired, but now I had a calf on my hands that was choking. I panicked. I started screaming, crying, and hyperventilating. I had know idea what to do. Tyler was rubbing the calves neck trying to encourage the pill back up but it was lodged to far down. I called the vet again and he said to bring him in right away. We backed Dads truck up to the field and loaded the 130 lb calf into the backseat. I hopped in and sat with him. Tyler drove us 40 minutes to the vets office. It was the longest 40 minutes…

The calf still had scours and was making a mess in the back of the truck but I didn’t care. I would clean it out later. All I cared about was the calf’s safety and health. All I kept thinking was this is my fault. In all my years of showing cattle, raising livestock, and studying agriculture; it has never been my fault. When we loss a calf it was due to natural occurrences. This was all my fault. Why did I not think to check for calf or cow pills? Why did I possibly think that pill pusher was for a calf? I thought I had all of the T’s crossed. But knowing what to do isn’t the same as actually doing it.

We got to the vets office and Dr. B looked down the calf’s throat. He couldn’t see the pill. He looked at me and asked if I would be okay with him doing a tracheotomy. The surgery only lasted 20 minutes and soon Dr. B was wrapping the calf in bandages. We went home with a two week old calf with a tube sticking out of his neck to help him breath. We put the baby back with his mom, but she began to lick his tube and we had to remove her from the pen. All seemed to be going okay and the chances in him surviving increased. We gave him a bottle and let him rest for the night. The next morning he was standing and walking around. I have never been so happy to see a calf walk!

But that night he seemed weak again. He was laying down with his head between his two front legs. He wouldn’t raise his head to eat. I felt so crushed. He was up walking around not long before. Megan and Tyler stayed to feed him the bottle and Dad and I went to check on the rest of the cows.

When we got back Megan and Tyler were outside of the barn. Their faces weren’t happy. The calf died drinking his bottle. Megan said he went peacefully. His breathing slowed and he stopped sucking. I was devastated. I have never felt so heart broken over the loss of a calf.

We put the cow back out into the pasture and buried the calf.

I was really hesitant to publish this post but I wanted all of you to know how much these cows mean to me. I would do anything to keep them happy and healthy. I have a lot of learning to do and after this instance I realize that fact even more clearly.

And on the 8th day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker! So, God made a farmer!

 

 

Got Guts?

What is a ruminant animal? How many stomachs does a cow have? Can people digest grass? Linn County fair goers sought out the answers to these questions during Youth Day Thursday, June 29, 2017. This activity was designed based on the National Ag in the Classroom Matrix lesson “Got Guts.”

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A ruminant is a animal with a multi-chambered stomach. Cows have 4 main chambers- rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum.

To demonstrate the process kids digested their own hay with water, hot water and lemon juice.

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With each step came a new chamber.

  1. Cud, partially digested food from a ruminant animal which is regurgitated to the mouth for further chewing- “Chew” the hay and place in cup
  2. Rumen, good bacteria helps break down food- Add water and stir 
  3. Reticulum, sorts the particles and brings the large pieces back to be regurgitated in the form of cud- Pick out large particles
  4. Omasum, small chamber that helps with flow to abomasum- Add hot water and stir
  5. Abomasum, contains strong acids and enzymes- Add lemon juice and stir

ruminant hay

Starting with the dry hay and moving counter clockwise we can see the hay being digested through the 4 chambers.

Question: How many stomachs does a cow have?

Answer: One with multiple chambers! 😉

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Last summer I did a similar activity during 4-H vet camp and kids really enjoyed the hands-on portion of the lesson. This could easily be incorporated into a classroom. Make it a multi-unit lesson or complement another lesson by conducting this activity.

Would you like to see agriculture in your Linn County school? Contact mball@ifbf.org to schedule a classroom visit.

Month One

It is hard to believe that one month is already almost here and gone. I am learning and experiencing so much! Linn County has welcomed me with such kindness. What better way to kick off my summer than to attend the National Ag in the Classroom Conference?

As the Linn County Farm Bureau Education Outreach Coordinator, my goal is to increase youth awareness on the importance of agriculture, agriculture careers and the benefits provided by agriculture throughout and individual’s life by providing classroom visits, agriculture days, fair activities and Iowa Core aligned lesson plans.

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“Show Me Agriculture,” took place in Kansas City, Missouri. We made a detour on the way down to stop at Shatto Milk Company. I fell in love with the flavored milk and old-school glass jars. I of course had to try the coffee flavored milk ;). I bought two for the road! Our home has a country chic feel and the bottles add a nice touch.

First thing Wednesday morning we hopped on a bus to tour a few important spots near Kansas City. I always heard about the American Royal but we never had a chance to exhibit in the livestock show so this tour was particularly cool to see. It was neat visiting the museum and livestock arena. The education director showed us the livestock scale. The scale compares and converts human pounds to the equivalent weight in steers, hogs, and chickens.

Who knew there were so many ways to teach agriculture? I attended a few amazing breakout sessions. People from all over the US are just as excited about our future generations as I am :).

The session: Love of Cows and other Joys in Agriculture, encouraged participants to think outside of the box. Brainstorm with art and crafts- how might they be used to inspire and teach youth about where their food comes from? Kathleen shared with us her secrets to drawing the difference between a dairy and beef cow. Can you tell which one this is? Comment below if you have a guess. 🙂

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I had a first hand experience with making flour! It is such a awesome and simple idea! All you need is wheat seeds, 1 jar, and a pepper grinder. By placing the seeds into the grinder and making flour, many conversations are sparked. What foods can be made from flour? Who grows wheat? and What jobs are created from the production of wheat?

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Many other examples were captured in my journal but I don’t want to give away all of my new ideas! 😉 You will have to keep following to stay up to date!

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As everyone’s spirits were high and motivation was stirring, we were greeted and encouraged by Greg Peterson.

In 2012, Greg founded the “Peterson Farm Brothers” with his siblings. Together they agvocate for agriculture through parody videos, presentations, and blog writing. Checkout all of their awesome videos!!

Knee High by 4th of July

19030674_10212079687661172_4144279585153507858_nThe once true saying may be true for my delegate yet beautiful plants. Moving back home in May and getting a late start on the garden put us a little behind schedule but as the corn towers over us during fireworks, our little seedlings will hopefully be knee high.

The summer sun has me glistening literally and joyously. Tyler and I have spent the last few weeks attending weddings (Congrats Autumn and Casey <3), painting and moving into our home (a big thanks to our family and friends), helping Megan and Kyle paint, attending Michael’s trap meet, and beginning my career as the Education Outreach Coordinator for Linn County.

I am jumping in feet first and I can’t wait to share many awesome agriculture lessons, activities, and training events with you. Be on the lookout for future career updates! 🙂 19029692_10212079688021181_6382507246201358553_nKnee high by 4th of July seems a little outdated but once upon a time it was used as a benchmark for farmers to detect how well their crop was doing compared to years in the past. Today’s technology provides farmers with the access to different strains, genetically modified crops, and precisely accurate fertilizer amounts. 19029417_10212079684941104_8499711684481282613_n

Plant research: Improving each individual plant.

GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms or biotechnology helps reduce disease and crop loss.

Nitrogen use: The goal is to improve yields without increasing applications.

18892949_10212079685301113_8825794125476886628_nYesterday our indoor starter plants were finally ready to be transported to the garden. If you remember, I started Asters, Snapdragons, and Eucalyptus from seeds indoors. The Asters and Eucalyptus didn’t perform very well but the snapdragons took off like crazy. 18951324_10212079684421091_1696855253357929774_nHere is a photo of the Zinnias 🙂

Not only did we plant the indoor seedlings, but we checked out the rest of the garden. Our drip tape is holding up great! The irrigation system gets right to the roots of the plant without there being water loss from evaporation.   18767480_10212079684181085_3285410691797692294_nAnd look at those Sugar Snap Peas!!

I will be eating GOOD this summer… well by the end of July… haha.

 

Tilling It Up

Between graduation, moving, starting a new job, and planting our garden; I am wasting little time as my new chapter begins. A huge shout out to Mom, Dad, family, and friends for supporting me along the way!

Tyler and I spent two warm and buggy evenings prepping and tilling the ground. We were able to get the seeds planted right before the rain came Wednesday. I sound like a typical farmer 😉 Everything is dependent on the rain.

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First we mapped and marked four rows 3.5 X 16 feet. We borrowed a garden lawn mower from Bruce and Linda (Thank you by the way!! You saved us lots of time and energy) to till up the soil. The machine shed was a perfect place for the flowers; the land is flat, close to a water hydrant, and in direct sunlight.

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Can you guess what is in the photo above? I can give you a clue… it is not soil. That is right it is manure!! Perks of owning cattle- access to free fertilizer.

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Here is a picture of me tilling the manure into the top soil. We are lucky to live in Iowa with such dark and rich soil but after doing some reading on flowers I used manure and Peat Moss to loosen and enhance the soil. Peat Moss is made up of 380 species of mosses decomposed in bogs. Peat Moss holds onto nutrients that otherwise leak out of the soil. It also fluffs up the soil and allows air to flow through.

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Tyler wasn’t a fan of my camera, but I had to document our first huge project together! Next is the house 😉 We had a lot of fun being “entrepreneurs,” as dad called us.

The “entrepreneur in me wanted to go big or go home. So we bought drip tape irrigation. Flowers are sensitive to water and too much exposure to their leaves can cause a fungus buildup. Drip tape is more financially and resource efficient, the water is directly accessible to the roots of the plant.

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Here is the final project!! Before planting, weed fabric was placed on each row and holes were cut where the seed was sown. This week we planted Baby’s Breath, Zinnias, Sunflowers, and Rudbecia (black-eyed Susan). A few vegetable seeds were also planted where space allowed ;).

Stay tuned for more garden updates!

We have Calves!

Good evening all! Currently… I am sitting in my apartment sipping on a homemade mocha and munching on frozen banana peanut butter bites- which I highly recommend! I am teasing my mind, warming myself with warm coffee while allowing myself to pretend it’s hot with frozen treats haha.

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I am so over this cold front already and it just arrived! Just imagine relaxing in the sun with a good novel! Ahhh I am so ready for hot summer nights! I bet our babies are also ready for warmer temperatures. The 2017 calving season will be wrapping up at the Ball Farm here in a few weeks. It has been a busy couple of months for dad. I applaud him and his hard work! I am looking forward to helping with the 2018 calving season :).

Ball Calving Season

Even though I am not physically at the farm, I feel like I was right in the midst of the action. Dad has been very diligent in sending photos of the cows and their calves. I am getting updates in real time and its very exciting to see our herd expand.

A lot of hard work and time is dedicated to the herd during calving season. Typically our season starts towards the end of March and continues into May. This year we had a calf almost every day during the month of April! Very very busy! But the first step actually starts with the cow. It is very important for the new calf to consume their first milking. The first meal for a calf includes colostrum. Just like humans, calves need colostrum to build their immune systems. The colostrum contains antibodies to protect the calf from diseases.

Ball Calving Season (1)

The second step happens a few days later. Farmers use a variety of methods to identify their calves when they are born. Most cattle producers tag their calves and some may also use more permanent methods like branding. We currently use the tagging method. To help with identifying the pairs, calves get the same number as the cow. We are in the process of developing a new numbering system that will allow us to maintain more information.

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The third step happens when we tag the calf. Unless a bull, fertile male, is going to be used as a breeding animal, farmers castrate them. Bulls are castrated for a couple of reasons, 1) it reduces aggressiveness and sexual activity and 2) creates a higher quality grade and a more tender beef cut. Banding is an alternative method to traditional castration. It offers less stress and faster healing.

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The fourth step takes a bit more time.  We keep in-depth records for each individual calving season. By managing strong records we can refer back to it throughout the year.  Below is an example of our records. We also record when we get the calves preconditioned by the vet.

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And finally we watch the calves grow! Calving season is a lot a work but it is so worth it. Not only do we have baby calves, we have baby seedlings!! Here is you official flower garden update: We have germination! Checkout the snapdragon seedlings :).

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Have a great night!!

Anticipating Beauty

Anyone else anticipating beautiful garden veggies? I know I sure am! Can I get a woot woot!? I am very anxious to map out my flower garden! Not only do I expect to eat deliciously healthy this summer but I am hoping to surround myself with many bright and colorful arrangements. Last weekend, Ty and I started our seeds! It is official…the season has begun. We are in business and a successful (crossing my fingers) summer begins!

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Do you want to start your own flower garden? Are you interested in planting a flower bed? Or are you curious about this new profound passion of mine? Well if any of those pertain to you, keep reading. 🙂

Follow six easy steps to germinate seeds indoors. What is germination? To germinate means to grow and produce shoots after a period of dormancy.

1. Purchase the necessary supplies. 

Items and Estimated Cost 

  • Grow light: $50.00
  • Trays: $5.00 each
  • Seeds: varies
  • Seed starting mix: $10.00
  • Labels: $1.50

2. Decide which seeds need to be started indoors. 

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Depending on the flower, some seeds do best when directly sowed. The seeds that need to be started indoors usually have a longer germination period and are sensitive to the cold. I started Eucalyptus, Aster, and Snapdragon.

3. Add water to the seed starting mix.

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The soil needs to be moist, but don’t let the water pool. The soil need to be wet at all times in order for the seeds to germinate.

4. Add soil to the seed cells.  

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I bought seed trays that have a hole in the bottom to help with drainage. Fill the tray cells full and don’t be afraid to overfill. The soil will compact when we continue to add water.

5. Create a seed bed. 

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Make a small bed for the seeds to lay. You don’t need a special tool for this, just use your hands to make a bed in each cell. By making a place to drop 3-5 seeds we avoid losing seeds when watering. It is also easier to cover the seeds with soil when they are secure in the cell.

6. Place trays under grow light. 

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We have had pretty warm days but the seeds tend to be sensitive to cold temperatures. They will still germinate but it might take longer. Ty moved our seeds indoors last night to avoid the chilly spring nights.

Six easy steps right? Starting the seeds indoors is not hard but seeing successful germination is a whole different ballgame! I am so excited to see the seeds germinate. I am crossing my fingers for a successful first trial!

To wrap up this Wednesday post I would like to congratulate Michael and the CCA Trap Team!! Good job Clippers! 🙂

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New Everlasting Happiness

Good Morning Picking Wild Flowers and Happy Monday! I thought I would kick off your week with a little food for thought. I was scrolling through Google trying to find inspiration for this week and I came across this short but perfect quote. “New Beginnings and New Everlasting Happiness.”

New Beginnings and new everlasting happiness

I practice Lent, a religious holiday that begins on Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter Sunday, and yearly I like to give up something that challenges me to rely on God’s help. For those of you who know me well, I have a bad habit of picking my lip when I am bored, nervous, or stressed. For the past three years I have tried to give this up and as soon as Lent is over I go about my normal ways. Well not this year friends! This year I want to focus on the true reason we practice lent, to lean on God for help in all things! Did you give up something for Lent this year? If so, comment below :).

THINGS to take

New Beginnings,” what does this mean? The more I sat and thought the more joy I felt. This quote represents Easter as a time to rejoice the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus died for our sins and with that we are forgiven. The second half, “New Everlasting Happiness,” puts a smile on my face. Each year is a new opportunity to see the beauty before us. I love this quote too, “The story of Easter is the story of God’s wonderful window of divine surprise,” (Knudsen).

The beauty before us… I bring you an Easter arrangement. I hope my class design puts a smile on your face this week.

Today’s arrangement is inspired by topiary design. “Topiary is the horticultural practice of training live perennial plants by clipping the foliage and twigs of trees, shrubs and subshrubs to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes.”

Recipe: Alstroemeria, white and yellow Daisy, and Aster.

I had a lot of fun with the topiary. It is a unique design that helps to celebrate Easter. The bright colors and odd shape highlight the symbolic relationship between the colors and elements of Easter.

Here is a FUNNY…

THINGS to take (1)

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boys and their Toys

This week we explore a whole new topic related to farming! Boys and their toys! Two weeks ago Dad, Tyler, Kyle, and Michael hunkered under Dad’s Dodge pickup truck to install a new exhaust. We all pitched in and bought it for his birthday and I just know he has been antsy to hear how it sounds!

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Now don’t let these boys fool you… They might look clean but let me tell you… there was no sitting inside without a towel! The morning started off drizzly and I needed coffee, but they did not seem to mind.

I don’t quite understand the excitement that accompanies mechanics, although I do enjoy watching everyone work together! My the end of the afternoon Dad had added a new exhaust and convinced the boys to help with break pads! All of their hard work paid off and everyone felt accomplished!

The opinion of a truck is important to the men in my life. Their trucks are used to haul livestock, machinery, hay, feed, and/or equipment. The TRUCK is part of their everyday routine. My first vehicle was a truck but the dynamic is different.

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I felt sad when I sold my truck, however it didn’t serve the same purpose for me as it does for those who use it everyday. For many outdoor professionals it serves as an essential part to their daily activities.

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And for that reason I will never stand between boys and their toys.

Now, I did not forget to add flowers to this weeks post! I want to make sure I add a bit of sunshine to your lovely Tuesday evening.

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The arrangement is a Easter basket design and can be used as a centerpiece. Meaning, that the flowers and Leather Leaf are symmetrical all the way around the basket.

Easter is a time for celebrating! We will come back to this topic next week but I will leave you with this quote.

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