Monday, November 15, 2010

The Farmer's Daughters

This weekend C.W. got to spend some time "working" on the farm with her Papa. We carefully analyzed this situation and sent her on the safest of missions. She was to sit in the pick-up (securely strapped in her car seat) and color while he greased the tractor, then they went to town for parts. I'm told she measured just about every bolt in the bolt section of our local hardware store.

She looked so darned cute on the way out the door, I couldn't help but snap a picture. It's out of focus (I blame it on the wee red head squirming in my other arm), but I don't care. It was a priceless vision. One moment, she is the most elegant tiny ballerina and the next she's sporting her farming gear and a blaze orange hunting vest. Jeremy insisted on the orange vest. I agreed with him that she should wear it, but I thought to myself, if there is a hunter out there that shoots at something blue, with pink princess boots on, that hunter has got some serious problems. She was terribly embarrassed to wear the thing, but we erred on the side of caution.

So off she went with her pink Dora the Explorer bag of coloring supplies, and they had a grand afternoon.

C.W. came back at supper time and reported that she had "driven" Papa's pick-up. Uh-huh. So much for Mr. Safety :) I guess there are just certain things farmer's daughters have to experience when they're growing up. I remember driving my Dad's pickup (solo) around the farm when I was just seven.

I couldn't post about C.W.'s afternoon with her Papa without throwing in a pic of our dear wee red head. So here Jeremy... trying on the "coon skin caps" with her at a sporting goods store in Fargo.

Oh what a joy it is to be raising two little farmer's daughters.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Husband, the Provider, and the Circle of Life.

Yep, I did it. Went and posted one of those "icky" pictures of a dead deer with it's tongue hanging out. At least it isn't on our Christmas card (sorry, Jaimie, couldn't help myself...hehe :)

I'm so grateful for my husband, Jeremy, who is a wonderful provider for our family. He works so very hard managing our farm. This year, we were blessed with FANTASTIC weather during harvest, so we're done early. What a blessing compared to the challenges of the last two harvests. In 2008, we finished corn harvest in late December (and I delivered our youngest daughter two days later).

Last year, well, last year's harvest never did end until THIS year in April. So needless to say, Jeremy and our crew needed a break.

So for the first time in a few years, Jeremy got a chance to go hunting. The alarm went off long before dawn yesterday and he was out the door to meet our good friend, Casey, who doesn't know this, but I call him "The Deer Whisperer". Oh well, I guess he knows now :)

Here Casey is showing C.W. (in the puppy hat) the deer Jeremy got.

Casey is an excellent hunter and we are so glad to have a good friendship and working relationship with him. When things go right, farmers and hunters can have respectful, symbiotic relationships. The hunter benefits from enjoying a little R&R on our land and taking some venison home and we enjoy a slightly smaller deer population, which helps decrease damage to our crops and decreases the chances of me hitting one of them with my pick-up.

To tell you the truth, I really like deer. Their behavior truly intrigues me. They are ruminants, so they consume roughage and digest it through a four-compartment stomach, just like domesticated sheep, cattle and goats, but they are wild, so I often run comparisons of domesticated vs. wild ruminant behaviors through my head. When I am sitting in the doctor's office or salon (rarely...ha!), I read Field & Stream instead of People Magazine and at home I find myself gravitating toward hunting shows when I get a few minutes to watch TV.

I know, I'm an animal science geek like that.

However, what I like MOST about deer is that we farmers support and care for their habitat all year and eventually they give us a little payback, in the form of venison....YUM...

These steaks are marinating in a mixture of vinegar, vegetable oil, and a McCormick's Garlic Peppercorn seasoning packet.

I'm very thankful today.

First, to God for giving my family the priviledge of caring for His creation, our land and all the wildlife it holds.

Second, for my husband, the provider, for bringing meat home to our family.

Third, for the great hunt he had. He's a little bummed that his hunting this year is over so quickly because he was only out a few hours, but from what I heard of it, it was a nearly perfect hunt. Jeremy dropped this beautiful buck with one shot, straight through both lungs and the heart. He died instantly and simply fell over.

Fourth, I am thankful for the opportunity to explain to my daughter the "circle of life". No, not the Lion King song, but one of the real life lessons that farm kids understand from a young age.

C.W. wanted to touch the deer, so we let her. She wasn't sad, just curious to see what "his fur" felt like. Then we explained that God made all of us, even the deer, and that everything that lives eventually dies, but God has a special purpose for each of our lives. The purpose He gave that deer was to feed our family and we are to be very thankful for that.

Have a safe and bountiful hunting season everyone!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Veteran's Day Thoughts

Yes, I realize I'm a day late here, but believe me, I did not get through yesterday without thinking of so many who have served our great nation so bravely. There are so many veterans I admire and appreciate that I'd like to talk about, but today I will write of one of the most precious veterans I had the privilege of knowing.

The late Reverend Wilbur Taylor was my childhood preacher at a little country church in a grove of cedar trees. I wish I had a picture of him here in North Dakota, but they're all "back home" in Maryland. This is the best I could do...

Historic picture of Cedar Grove United Methodist Church, Monkton, MD

Reverend Taylor also happened to be the father of my Dad's best friend, Ronnie. Rev. Taylor was one of the gentlest souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Always witty and I enjoyed my many visits with he and his lovely, elegant, ever-smiling, wife, Rae, in their town home in Baltimore City. For all I knew he was a dental technician, then became a preacher later in life. In 2000, I travelled to France to study European agriculture for the summer. I returned home with a thick album of pictures to share. So on my next visit to the Taylor's after my trip, we poured over my album together.

I had no idea he was ever in the service, until he turned the page and stopped abruptly and stared at a picture of a fountain in the center of the city of Angers, France.

He began to quietly tell of his days serving under General Patton in WWII, and how he had been in Angers during the liberation. He told of a few memories of how those that had been caught spying for the Germans were being punished and their heads being shaved in that very fountain. Then he said something I will never forget. "Sarah, the rest you don't ever want to know about".

I knew what he meant. I'm sure he had seen some indescribably horrible things during the War and he wanted to protect my young mind from those images. It was visibly difficult for him to speak about his experiences, but I am so very grateful he did.
What was most shocking to me is that a man who had committed such acts of bravery was so very humble about the sacrifices he had made to protect MY freedom. Yes, MY freedom, decades before I was even born. Through history, every veteran of every war and those that serve during times of peace as well have worked to protect OUR freedom. The very freedom we take for granted so often.

There are so many veterans walking amongst us everyday, so many lying in the lines of quiet graves I have surveyed in Gettysburg, Normandy, Arlington, and so many who are remembered, but who's remains were never found.

Yesterday wasn't just a day my daughter had off of school, but truly a day of remembrance. A day to honor those who deserve so much more from us than just one day for what they have done and all they and their families have given.

God bless each and every one of our precious veterans, especially Reverend Taylor.

I will never miss an opportunity to teach my children about all that you have all done for us. I will never forget you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

When Faith & Farming Collide: Part 3b

Hello readers- I am still learning some of the details of how to work with Blogger. Somehow TODAY'S post ended up in the August 23 slot.

Please go here to read my newest post: When Faith & Farming Collide: Part 3


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hello Again Readers! Happy Belated Halloween!

Well, hello again blog readers. Believe it or not, I have missed you all. Your comments, your support, and that wonderful feeling of release I get from having vented some pent up feelings from my little office in my little house in North Dakota out into the great big world.

To say it's been a busy month or so would be an MAJOR understatement. I travelled to four countries (U.K., Germany, France, and Belgium), wrangled two kiddos halfway across the country and back by myself (God bless my family "out east" for taking care of them so I could traipse around the globe and Super Husband could harvest our crop), survived an election which I was heavily emotionally invested in, and now I'm back to reality, with a mountain of laundry (22 loads to be exact) to tackle, and too many irons in the fire to count. What I DID make time for was some serious QUALITY time with my little family once we were reunited, attending my three year old's first ballet recital, getting caught up on a gojillion projects (yes, in my book, that is a number and a very large one at that) and a presentation to some stellar dairy producers and dairy enthusiasts this past week at the ND Dairy Convention.

So what shall I use this long-awaited blog post for? Comparing and contrasting European and American agriculture? Capitalism vs. socialism? The shift in D.C. politics? Perhaps an update on harvest 2010, which is mere days away from completion ? NOPE! I'm going to give you a quick belated HAPPY HALLOWEEN wish and send you on your way with some good ole' Wilson Family Pics before it's Christmas :)
Enjoy the pics below and rest of your weekend everyone!
Sarah :)

2007- C.W.'s first Halloween. Jeremy and I were farmers and she was our calf. Okay, not too much of a stretch on the farmer's thing, but hey, it's a start. Oh, and our dear friends in this picture had the BEST Jack o' Lantern EVER!

2008- In this pic I was 7 months pregnant with the wee red head. Jeremy was a cowboy. C.W. was a cowboy too ("NO Mama, not a cow GIRL, a cow BOY!"). I was...drum roll please...Sarah Palin :) This was just a few days before the election and the "Sarah" thing had been an ongoing joke, so I played along.
We had a lot of fun that Halloween and made "Haunted Gingerbread Houses" , all the while eagerly anticipating the wee red head's arrival.

2009- We went with a Scooby Doo family theme. I was Daphne, Jeremy was Fred, and the kids were Scooby and Scrappy.

C.W. had such a big night, she just slept in her costume. Here's where I pat myself on the back for making their costumes with a base of a velour hoodie and pants...super comfy!

2010- Our first family Jack o' Lantern! C.W. says it has a smile just like hers.

We were the cast of Peter Pan. I was Wendy, the talkative, motherly character, of course. Jeremy, my husband, who is a wonderful combination of responsible parent and business manager and somehow manages to see the world with a youthful perspective, was so fittingly, Peter Pan. C.W. was Tinkerbell, who just like any good fairy, could hardly sit still for a picture. Last, but certainly not least, the wee red head was M. Darling. We didn't have a Michael Darling, but she's our little Darling, and what's easier than dressing a 1 year old up in P.J.'s and letting them carry a Teddy Bear all night!?

We went to not one, but TWO, parties as a family. We are so proud that the wee red head mastered saying "Trick or Treat" (which sounded more like "gick or geek") and "Thank You" (which sounded more like "hank ooo"). We all had a grand time and Jeremy and the wee red head even rocked out at the Alvin and the Chipmunks karaoke booth at one of the parties that was themed Toon Town! Yes, I am aware that I have one of the coolest husbands on the planet :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Von Heyl Farm, Germany

We toured a farm belonging to Dr. Ludwig von Heyl. Roman artifacts have been found on the farm that are over 2,000 years old. Today the von Heyl family operates this farm which is called "Nonnenhof". It is an obviously historical farm and is a rare find, with 400 contiguous hectares. The oldest buildings on the farm date back to the 1600's, while the newest are from the 1800's. This farm has a historic designation, so all of the improvements Dr. von Heyl makes must match the original style of the buildings. A challenge, but one he has met with innovation and creativity, including taking the roof off of one of the buildings, inserting grain bins, and replacing the roof on this building...

You can find more general information about this farm visit at Jeff Sutton's blog at:

However, I wanted to add an extra tidbit. Dr. von Heyl, who has his Ph.D. in ag. engineering, was the first to use a no-till drill in Germany. (Note: no till simply means not tilling the soil. This improves soil health and allows earth worms and microbes in soil to thrive. I'll blog more on no till later).

He has been using this drill to plant all of his grains for about 20 years.

I sincerely enjoyed visiting with Dr. von Heyl (above) and was excited to find that he has been using similar no-till and cover crop techniques to those which we employ on the Wilson Farm (in certain circles, my husband is even known as "Mr. No Till" :)

I am grateful to our hosts with the German Farmer's Association whom arranged visits with such innovative producers- I am learning A LOT!

Immersed in German Agriculture

If you're interested in learning more about the adventures of the 2010 McCloy Fellow's in Agriculture, be sure to follow my "fellow fellow", Jeff Sutton, and his blog called Immersed in German Agriculture:


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Farmer's Market in Speyer, Germany

In Germany, due to limited space for growing crops, farmers are finding many niches to maximize profits, including selling their products directly to consumers through farmer's markets. I have many fond memories of helping my family at our stand at farmer's markets in Maryland as a child, so visiting this market brought back many wonderful memories of the energy of the people, the sights of the various goods, and the glorious smells of the variety of foods that can be found at farmer's markets.

A few antique tractors were on display, including this Massey Ferguson. Victor, the son of our tour leader, thoroughly enjoyed the market.

What a crowd! The main street of the city was packed with booths, including homemade plum butter, being cooked on the spot, a sheep shearing demonstration, ovens filled with fresh bread, and beautiful displays of fall vegetables.

Here I am by this fun family of bales.

We found a waffle bakery at the foot of the cathedral in Speyer. The cathedral has a beautiful dome and many kings and other royal family members are buried beneath the cathedral.

That waffle looked and tasted SO good!

Mmmm....Victor thinks that is one good waffle!
First attempt at posting a video on my blog...hope this works...

Schmiedhof Dairy and Tobacco Farm in Germany

Mr. Roland Bellaire, owner of Schmiedhof Farm explaining how a large section of his farmland will be taken by the government for flood control for the Rhine river. A difficult situation indeed.

Govt. issue eartags on a Fleckvieh calf at Schmiedhof Farm. Required by law as soon as the calf is born. There is a hefty fee for lost tags. Inspectors can drop by the farm anytime to check eartags, without notice.

The main freestall barn where the herd of 70 Fleckvieh cows are kept.

Dominik and his daughter who would rather have him play with her than lead a farm tour. She kept saying "Papa...Papa....". I miss hearing my girls saying Papa. Oh but these three weeks are flying by.

Okay, back to business....

We toured the Schmiedhof Farm in Neupotz, Germany. The farm is owned by Mr. Roland Bellaire and his son, Dominik. They have 412 acres of tillable land, including 62 acres of hay, 55 acres of tobacco, 13.75 acres of parsley, and also some mustard.

Here our host, Dirk Gerling, right, discusses the stats of the Wilson Farm and a small photo book I brought along with Dominik Bellaire. The size of our family's farm, at over 3,000 acres, although just an average farm in North Dakota, seems to be a pretty hot topic here, where farms tend to be much smaller due to the large population base and many more forested areas.

The Bellaire's milk 70 head of Fleckvieh cows. 140 total head of cattle with young stock included.

Average milk production per lactation (each time a cow has a calf she lactates) is 8,500 Liters. Average lactation lasts 370 days. Milkfat percentage is 4.3. Protein percentage in milk is 3.8%

They currently milk in a double four tandem parlor where the cows are lined up head to tail in individual stalls, but they hope to upgrade to a robotic milker in the future.

Roland is currently the chairperson of the county farmer's association.

A gadget is installed on their tractor to change the tire pressure from inside the cab when they go from driving in the field to on the road and vice versa.
Every tractor here is required to have a license plate.
Certainly many differences between how we farm in the U.S. and how they do things here in Germany, but we have a lot of common ground as well. Very grateful to the Bellaire family for taking time out of their busy schedules to show us around their well-run operation.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

First day in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse: Learning About Biotechnology

View from my hotel.

We arrived at Neustadt an der Weinstrasse (aka New Town) two nights ago. Since then we have been led around this region by Dirk Gerling, a 2009 McCloy fellow whom I had the honor of meeting last year when he visited North Dakota. Dirk is the District Manager for the
Bauern & Winzer Verband (the Farmer's and Winery's Association). This organization covers four counties and has about 5,300 members.

Dirk has done a tremendous job lining up farm visits and cultural experiences so that in just a few days we can sample all the best this area has to offer. He is also very patient with our constant barrage of questions, even while cruising on the highway at 160 km, trying to keep us on schedule. Not a problem, as there is no speed limit on the highway here :)

I am constantly impressed at how well respected he is by the farmers in this area, so it is no surprise to me that he has done well positioning his organization as THE source of ag information for the members and providing an array of services for members, including farm financial management assistance, a stellar website, and a listening ear to those facing the many challenges of farming and wine making in a densely populated area.

To start the day, we visited AlPlanta, an institute for plant research that includes a state of the art laboratory, greenhouse and training school for plant breeding and biotechnology. AlPlanta has three main research priorities: fruit diseases and phytoplasmas, RNA-mediated gene regulation, and grapevine biotechnology.

Dr. Wassenegger demonstrating how to analyze DNA while one of my fellow fellow's, Eric, watches.

Dr. Wassenegger in a cooler with thousands of samples of plant tissue. These samples will be used to study plant genetics and plant diseases.

Dr. Michael Wassenegger presented information on genetically modified organisms (GMO's) and the EU and the vast array opportunities and challenges that exist. To feed the growing world population, we in agriculture need a yield increase of 70% by 2050. WOW!

The benefits to utilizing genetically modified plants (such as RoundUp Ready soybeans) include: 1) providing affordable food production; 2) conserving biodiversity (wilderness, wetlands, etc) by savicng additional land from being developed; 3) decreasing agriculture's environmental footprint; 4) decreasing the use of pesticides; 5) providing cost effective production of biofuels; and 6) sustainable economic benefits by increasing genetically modified crop farmers' income.

There have been a number of lawsuits in the EU by farmers wanting to use genetically modified crops, but for now farmers' hands in the EU are tied and they have very limited access to this technology. This certainly presents a challenge as farmers are faced with feeding an increasingly hungry world.

Dr. Wassenegger also presented some of the absolute hypocrises with the current laws for organic farming and livestock production in the E.U. and it is clear that at this point the "bio" (organic) label is basically just a marketing ploy.

The U.S. ranks number one in the world for production of genetically modified crops. I did not realize until today how very fortunate I am as a farmer to have access to biotechnology and the opportunity to grow genetically modified crops.

As he bid us farewell with a wide smile and a good, firm German handshake, Dr. W. said something that really summed up the feelings of so many people in agriculture here: "In the U.S. you are in a happy situation with GMO's. I am jealous."
Here I am outside AlPlanta with the lovely landscape of the Palatinate region in the background.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wine Tasting Near Bonn, Germany

One of my fellow fellow's, Herr (Mr.) Maryland, and I get ready to do some tough tasting :)

Last evening Mr. Klaus Lotz and his lovely wife, Barb, accompanied our group to a wine cooperative near Bonn, Germany called "Mayschofs-Altenahr". 400 grape growers belong to this cooperative which produces many award winning wines.

A gentlemen named Ley, who is also a grape-grower, presented four wines to us and walked us through the wine tasting process. A wonderful lesson in value-added agriculture, and the "culture" of agriculture.

The region has steep inclines where grape harvesting machines cannot be used. Each hectare (2.2 acres) requires 2000 hours of labor to care for and harvest the grapes. Each bunch of grapes is hand "read" and imperfect grapes are separated before the bunches of grapes are sent to the wine making process.

90% of the wine in the area is Burgundy red wine.

This cooperative sells 1 million liters of 80 different kinds of wine each year. One of the best is this one...

It is a 2008 Burgundy with a complex taste, was fermented in German oak barrels and has a 400 year old picture on the label. It costs 14 Euros per bottle.

I sincerely enjoyed sampling the fruits of the cooperative's labor. Some of the best wine I have ever had, and spending an evening learning about the business of wine making amongst good company and very gracious hosts was a joy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Farm Museum Tour, Wine Tasting, and Feeling Human Again

Oh, what a wonderful feeling to wake after a full night´s sleep and take a nice long shower (breaking the German rule of water conservation).

I am amazed by the contrast of (in my mind what would be) efficiencies and luxuries here....small cars, houses and hotel rooms fully utilizing every square inch, being sure to clean your plate and `eat with the season´, then enjoying the highest quality of wine (cheaper because it was consumed at the winery), visiting a high-end grocery store, and the rich, delicate chocolates. I realize I may not be truly sampling typical life, as I am a guest here, but there are just certain special things one only gets to experience in Europe.

We visited a farmer´s market.

It was named `Hof´ or farm, and then the farmer´s name (really long S word).

Wonderful selection of berries... getting hungry...

Then we visited a greenhouse- sign says`Plants and Flowers Kolvenbach` (the family who owns it).

Beautiful fall display! The flowers and plants were REALLY inexpensive!

Artichoke blooms...who knew they were so pretty? Mmm...artichokes...sounds good...getting hungrier...

Ohhh!!! Tractor sighting! This guy was crusing along at 60 km per hour, probably hauling silage...That´s one speedy farmer!

Challenges with urbanization...this beautiful farm was turned into a golf course. Golf and horse back riding are reserved for only the rich here due to the cost.

Then we visited an open air museum, similar to Colonial Williamsburg, where they have preserved historic farm buildings and a small village. WONDERFUL opportunity to relax and renew my spirits after a looooooooong day in the city of Frankfurt!!! Aaaaaaahhhhh......
Just a few pics...see more here...

Beautiful barn built in the 1700´s with a straw roof.

Inside one of the historic buildings was the shop of Alfons Grombien, a maker of bushel baskets. The bushel was used in Germany as a unit of measure until 1949, when grain began being measured in metric units.

Apparently when this house was built in 1711, people were very short. FYI- I´m about 5 feet 8 inches tall.

Windmill...stunning...but boy am I hungry...

At last, lunch, in a lovely open air courtyard beside the woods. Frau Connecticut and I split a meal of sausage with mustard sauce and potatoes...

...and we also each had apple juice mixed with sparkling mineral refreshing...

We were joined by a special guest waiting to pick up our bread crumbs.

And that´s what I did through lunch...more on the rest of the day later...
Thanks for stopping by my blog!