Top 6 Ways I Balance My Non-Farm Job and Home Life

Officially, I’ve been blogging for 1 year but I’ll be the first to admit that I have not been a very consistent blogger. I could probably come up with two handfuls (or more) worth of excuses for my lack of blogging but I’m not going to. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year and one of the biggest things I have learned is that I can’t be perfect and I can’t do everything all the time.

So, I’m going to try again.

I’m pretty pumped, next week I am going on tour! I’m going on tours with my employer as part of the Women in Agriculture Women’s Seminar and will be sitting on a panel of other women bloggers. I am not a very experienced blogger compared to the others but I’m pumped that they will help rejuvenate my enthusiasm for blogging!

Top 6 ways I balance my non-farm job and home life:

1. Admit that I can’t do it all and I won’t be perfect; I hold very high standards for myself and have learned in the past year that I can’t do it all myself and its okay to make mistakes. This hasn’t been easy for me and I still have a long way to go.

2. Enlist the help of my husband.  Like I said in #1: I can’t do it all, so I won’t. When my husband and I first go married my husband and I had a conversation about house chores and I laid it out. I work full-time, he works full-time, that means we are both tired when we get home from work when there is still dinner to make, dishes and clothes to be washed, and all the household cleaning to do. We split the chores and during spring planting and fall harvest (extra hours on the farm for my husband) I pick up more of the chores around home.

3. Flexibility! I like things planned out but have come to realize that I have to be flexible. You never know what is going to happen at the farm. The only thing I can expect is that everyday at the farm will be different and isn’t a 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM job.

4. Communication is key; communication between my husband and I, between his parents and us, etc. There are a lot of things that happen everyday; some of it important some of it inessential. For us it is important that my husband call me when he leaves the farm, its a 30 minute drive and it allows me time to prepare supper and have something ready/close to ready when he gets home. One piece of advice my mother-in-law gave me before we were married: Always have the table set, even if supper isn’t ready. That way they don’t know the difference of supper being 10 minutes or 40 minutes; they at least know you are working on it.

5. Alone time. We don’t have children yet but its still important for us to have time just the two of us that we focus on us. Lately that has been Church Night/Date Night on Wednesday’s and we have really been enjoying it! Supper out together, sometimes nice and sometimes just a quick Culver’s stop, and then off to church where we can focus on God and our relationship with him in our marriage. Alone time also means some intimacy, a lot of times relationships drift apart because you don’t focus on your significant other or you get in such a routine that you fail to interact as a couple rather then housemates.

6. Be slow to anger and quick to apologize (and it never hurts to have something to apologize with, kisses or food work well!)

 

Leave a comment on what works for you!

Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

It’s officially been fall for over a week so I’m not sure why I’ve waited so long to share this amazing recipe.

Fall is my favorite. Why? Well, there are a few things that I love about it…

Corn Harvest 2013

Corn Harvest 2013

  • Beautiful weather-I could live in a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans
  • Harvest-the fields look absolutely beautiful and it smells amazing!
  • Canning and freezing-tomatoes, salsa, spaghetti sauce, apple sauce, jalapeno pepper jelly, corn, beans, and carrots (ok some of those happen in summer, but still…)
  • and APPLES!! (which I love to eat with peanut butter!)

So here is the deal, I have an incredible recipe for you, and by incredible I mean divinely scrumptious. Trust me, you are going to want to make this one and then keep the recipe close by. I made this less then 6 hours ago and there are 3 pieces left out of a 9×13 pan. Did I mention it is EASY to make.

Apple Cake

Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

  • 4 cups diced apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place diced apples in a large bowl and stir in eggs.

Add sugar, oil, cinnamon and nuts.

Apple Cake

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to apple mixture. Stir well.

Apple Cake

Bake in a 9×13 pan for 45 minutes.

Apple Cake

Caramel Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cream or half & half
  • 1 heaping Tbls flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients, except vanilla.

Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce

Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds, until thickened, stirring constantly.

Caramel Sauce

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve warm over cake. Refrigerate leftovers.

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

 

I hope you enjoy the cake, please leave a comment and tell me how it was! 

August: Fairs and 4-H

I’m not sure where August went but it is officially September. I didn’t mean to take an entire month off from blogging but it has been a crazy month; sorry for leaving you all hanging.

August is a busy month for my husband and I with many visits to county fairs and then the Great Minnesota Get Together (or Sweat Together as we like to call it).  Check out the photos below for an idea of what we’ve been up to.

Both my husband and I were 4-H members and believe the 4-H program teaches a multitude of skills and facilitates life long friendships.

Here is a partial list of the things that 4-H taught or provided us:

  • work hard/play hard
  • how to loose gracefully and win humbly
  • sportsmanship
  • how to ask for help and give help to others
  • responsibility
  • about life and death
  • camaraderie
  • social skills
  • life skills (i.e. interviewing, public speaking, record keeping)
  • develop hobbies by learning what you like and dislike
  • meet life long friends
  • ability to make quick decisions and defend your decisions
  • passion for bettering yourself, 4-H, and your community
  • pride in your self and your projects

There are so many other things that I could put on this list but it might take me a long time to finish.  If you are interested in finding out more about 4-H in your state check out the 4-H website or if you are interested in volunteering.  4-H isn’t just for farm kids either, there are a large number of projects that are not livestock related that any kid can participate in like photography, cooking, clothing, woods, and gardening.

Here are a few photos of what we have been up to this past month:

BLOG IMG_1886 BLOG IMG_1980 BLOG IMG_2025 BLOG IMG_2154 BLOG IMG_2171WEB IMG_2577

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Its zucchini season, in case you missed it, and here is another one of my favorite zucchini recipes. Not just one of my favorites, but one of my husbands too!

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Caution: this cake is addicting and requires a glass a milk.

Zucchini Chocolate Cake:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Cream butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and oil until creamy. Add dry mixture to creamy mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Add zucchini. Bake at 325° for 45-55 minutes in a 9×13 greased pan.

_MG_1789 edit

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1/3-1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add cocoa and vanilla. Beat in 2 cups powdered sugar adding 2 Tbs milk. Beat the mixture until light and fluffy.

_MG_1799 edit

_MG_1810 edit

What are some of your favorite zucchini recipes? Please share!

Zucchini Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Its zucchini season. Full blown zucchini season. In the last week and a half I’ve picked 6 of them. As my husband likes to say, “we have zucchini coming out of place zucchini shouldn’t be coming out of.”

I’m a big fan of desserts and I try hard to eat them in moderation which is why my desserts are usually made in the evening and sent with the hubby to the farm or they go to work with me for my co-workers to eat up.

With a couple of my zucchini picked last week I made Zucchini Barns with Cream Cheese Frosting. I took these to work with me and the 11×17 pan didn’t last long! These bars are extremely easy to make and always turn out! They are moist and the frosting is so creamy and scrumptious!

Image

Zucchini Bars:

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup oil (or 1/2 cup apple sauce and 1/2 cup oil)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups grated zucchini

Mix eggs, oil, and sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, baking powder and soda. Stir in zucchini. Pour into a greased 11″x17″ jelly roll pan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes; top should be brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting: 

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix all of the ingredients with a mixer until well combined.

(I usually double the frosting for this recipe, because I LOVE cream cheese frosting!)

Enjoy and leave a note on what you thought of them!

My pigs have a nutritionist

I had an appointment with my chiropractor today, I’ll call her Kate. Kate has been treating me for whiplash I received in a car accident a few months ago right before we left for vacation in Arizona.

After car accident

the car didn’t fair so well

During our visits I have gotten to know my chiropractor a little bit and when we first met we did some general chit chatting about what I do for a living and what my husband does.  Visit after visit we always end up on the subject of  farming and food; I would say Kate is very health conscious and does a lot of research to determine what foods are best for the body. During my visits and conversations I found out she actually doesn’t eat pork, except bacon, and would like to limit her dairy intake. Even through we both have different ideas on what healthy is we both have agreed that what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for the next and its great that we have so many different options in our food choices.

Today Kate asked me how my day was going and I stated today I was going out to meet with a client and that this visit was a little unique in that we were also meeting with the producers veterinarian and nutritionist. This brought on a great conversation about raising livestock that I would like to share with you.

Every day thousands of livestock farmers get up early to feed their animals, trust me on the early part my father-in-law was up before 4:00 AM today so he could get ingredients so he could make feed. There is a lot that goes into making food for the hogs (or feed as we call it), we don’t just guess what the pigs need or feed them any old thing but actually work with a nutritionist.

Yup, a nutritionist very similar to that which a person would work with but instead these individuals have a Masters degree or PhD in Swine Nutrition and each species has a different nutritionist: beef, swine, dairy, etc. A Swine Nutritionist has studied in-depth about the growth and development of pigs and what specifically their body needs to grow and develops/formulates rations for the animal. For example, lysine is a very important part of a diet for pigs and is not as important in other livestock diets, so lysine is added in the correct levels to their diets. As pigs grow they require different diets/rations to help meet their nutritional needs, most pigs will eat anywhere between 6-12 different rations!

Ground swine feed

sow (mama pig) feed is high in protein and energy so they can make milk to feed their babies

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband works on the farm for his family where they raise pigs. Our farm works with a nutritionist to formulate rations and we are also unique in that we have a research farm where we test different types of diets and have developed rations that are specific to the genetics of our pigs. Why? Well, because different types, or breeds, grow and develop differently then others.

I can’t tell you exactly what percentage of producers work with a nutritionist but I would be inclined to say 95% of producers in the U.S. work with one. I won’t say 100% because there are still a few people raising a handful of pigs in their backyard and feeding them table scraps.

What questions do you have about feeding pigs, leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer them.

You might drive a farm vehicle if…

This past week I had to drive my husband’s farm car a few days to town so it could get fixed up a bit. Driving that vehicle got me thinking about what make a farm vehicle worthy of being called a farm vehicle. So with the help from my husband and a few co-workers here is a list of 33 items that might signify you drive a farm vehicle; I think you have to meet at least 5 of these for it to be considered a farm vehicle.

You might drive a farm vehicle if:

  1. You can write your name in the dust on the outside and inside of the vehicle
  2. There are disposable plastic boots in the backseat
  3. You can’t quite determine what that smell is but it’s likely a combination of manure and something else
  4. There is an empty pop can or ten in the back end or on the floor
  5. It has a lot of rust on it
  6. There is at least one idiot light that is always on
  7. The AC and/or heat don’t work
  8. The windows don’t roll down or if they do they don’t go back up
  9. The oil gets changed 2 times a year if it needs it or not
  10. When you fill up with gas you add more oil
  11. Your vehicle has 4 different brands of tires and 2 different styles of rims
  12. Tailgate? Its either missing or so bent its not possible to close anymore
  13. Likely the vehicle was a hand-me-down
  14. Your wife can’t take the car anywhere with good clothes on unless she puts a blanket down on the seat
  15. A building collapses onto it because of the weight of snow, and “totals” it with a few large dents in the roof and box; you say it’s still a good pickup and continue to use it, but the insurance company says you just can’t insure it with full coverage anymore. (Wait, it was still insured for full coverage? WIN!!!!)
  16. When it rolls down the driveway and hits a telephone pole, all you do is laugh
  17. There is a fuel tank and tool chest in the back
  18. There are still ears of corn hanging out in the back from checkin’ the crop from the year(s) prior
  19. There is always at least one big rock in the back that you threw in because you saw it from the road
  20. You can’t drive at night because the lights haven’t worked for years
  21. Radio is set to an AM station
  22. You cannot lay a sheet of ply wood down in the back of the pick-up because the 5th wheel plate will wreck your wood
  23. You have to “pump” the gas/throttle when you turned the key to get it to start
  24. The farm dog is riding shotgun
  25. You can never find the tool you need in the shop because the farm vehicle has most of them
  26. The P-R-N-D-3-2-1 doesn’t mean anything, you have to put it into gear by feel
  27. Each vehicle has a can of ether in it to help motivate it to start
  28. There is a coat, hat, or shirt with some sort of seed logo on it
  29. There is a water jug with some sort of seed logo on it
  30. There are lots of fast food wrappers on the floor
  31. There’s a stack of insurance cards but the current one isn’t in the truck
  32. The only time it gets washed is when it rains
farm truck

Epitome of a farm truck

What would you add to the list? Leave me a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to get email updates!

Planting and Pigs

The farm has been busy for the last week. Why? Because its planting season! I wrote about planting my garden last week and about tillage work. My husband has been helping with tillage work at the farm and here is his view from the cab.

tillage

This piece of equipment we refer to as a ripper.

In addition to tillage work happening at the farm, we are busy planting!

Filling up with seed

Filling up with seed

Behind the pickup is a seed tender, its pretty much a trailer that they can put big plastic bins of seed on and an auger puts seed  into the boxes. The other option is to get your seed in 50lb bags and load each box bag-by-bag.

Just like different varieties of plants in a garden, there are different varieties of corn all with different traits and maturity dates (days until harvest).  The farm plants a handful of varieties and will use the corn raised to help feed the pigs.

Today it was 100°F at the farm and that means extra work. Kyle got up this morning at 5:00AM so he could get to the farm early for a few different reasons. One reason was so the sows would be done eating and digesting food long before it got too warm. The second reason was to make sure all of the cool cells were working, since this is the first hot day since last fall you never know if things are still going to work the way they should and its vital to keep the pigs cool.

A cool cell is like air conditioning for the barns, they utilize evaporative cooling to reduce the temperature in the barns by 8+ degrees. Unlike the expression “sweat like a pig”, pigs can’t actually sweat so they rely on their environment to help regulate their body temperature. Pigs, just like people, can have heat related problems like heat stress. Pork producers really don’t like really hot days, they worry about the pigs but certainly are glad they have the pigs in barns and not out in the sun (pigs get sunburns like people) where they have more problems with overheating.

Stay cool, I know the pigs are!