Gobble, Gobble: What’s up with Avian Influenza?

Avian influenza is in the news this spring, particularly if you live in the Midwest. I count many friends in the turkey community, and it’s honestly devastating to hear about flock after flock being infected.

These birds aren’t just more numbers or another dot on a map. They represent the hard work, care, and livelihood of families. This quickly extends to workers, small businesses, and the core of many rural communities.

First, let me say you can and should keep buying poultry and turkey with confidence. This outbreak is well monitored, and it does NOT pose a food safety risk.

If you want more info on the disease itself, here’s some quick background.

Normally avian influenza just makes birds slightly sick, and it is a low pathogen strain. The H5 N2 strain plaguing Minnesota represents the first highly pathogenic strain to enter the state. High pathogen avian influenza, in any form, has only been detected in the United States since earlier this year when a case was found in Washington state. The problem is highly pathogenic avian influenza is much more deadly, and if it’s found in a barn any surviving birds must be euthanized to prevent its spread.

It’s thought that migrating wild birds are the main source of the virus, and right now we’re in peak migration season. Wild birds can harbor and spread the virus with few or no symptoms, but domestic turkeys especially face deadly effects from it.

Farmers are doing everything they can with sanitation, barn specific clothing and footwear, and farm traffic to make sure the virus doesn’t get onto their farm, but it’s harder than you might think. Just this morning I saw numerous wild ducks flapping across our road and was reminded of the risk.

Can you imagine if every day you woke up wondering if today might be the day your entire turkey flock would be wiped out? It would be emotionally exhausting, but right now it is reality.

In case you’re wondering, we don’t have any birds at our place right now. We butchered our last birds this winter, and we plan to wait awhile before getting more.

Backyard Flocks

If you do have a backyard flock or even a few egg layers, it’s important for you to protect your birds and help curb disease spread too. I came across a blog post addressing this very topic by On the Banks of Squaw Creek. This is a great, quick read if you have backyard birds.

As the number one turkey producing state Minnesota is especially concerned and effected. A great collection of info and news is available here from MN Turkey Growers if you want to learn more.

I know I’m a dairy farmer, but agriculture in Minnesota is a close-knit community. I care about this outbreak, and I also want consumers to have a place to go with concerns. If you have any questions the resources I’ve shared can’t address, please let me know. I will find you the answer or direct you to someone who can.

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Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Cooking and Foods, Poultry Project | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Easter Thoughts

I hope you all had a blessed weekend. Whether you celebrated Passover, Easter, Palm Sunday, or just the arrival of April, I hope you feel as renewed and joyful as I did.

After putting down some speedy miles on Saturday, caring for new calves throughout the weekend, connecting with so much of my family, and hearing the brass on Sunday morning proudly proclaim “Christ The Lord is risen today !” I think I’m ready to tackle whatever comes my way. The delicious pie and lamb should be mentioned too.

Also, if you’re a baseball fan, Happy Opening Day. Let’s go Twins!

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Posted in Family Fun | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Making Moments

Don’t we all feel the squeeze of time?

Whether it’s hurrying from task to task or just wishing for an hour of solitude, it’s easy to get too “busy.” I say that in quotes because ultimately we bring busyness on ourselves. Right?

I know there are lots of things we need to do to keep life going on a normal, healthy path. Work probably tops this list, whether it’s your job, your own business, or the endless role of being a stay-at-home-parent. Making meals, washing clothes and dishes, paying bills, and dealing with leaves, snow, or unruly lawn (depending on the season) also come to mind. Because my husband and I farm, I understand the urgency certain times or seasons can bring. For us that usually means field work. When we are making hay, we MUST MAKE HAY. It’s ready, and rain is (probably) in the forecast. For planting season or fall harvest the same holds true.

With that background in mind, let me tell you this is not a post to encourage you to shirk responsibility, let your home and family fall apart, or let your job come to ruin.

This is, however, a post to encourage you to make and carve out and fight for the moments you value.

We all have twenty four hours in a day. (If you have more, please see my contact info above and let me in on the details.) We use those hours, and we choose how we feel in those hours. I know I’ve mentioned before I think finding joy is a choice. It doesn’t mean you are always happy, and it certainly doesn’t mean things always go your way. It does mean you look for the good. It means you know you can’t control everything, but you are always in control of how you respond. Carving out moments in each day to find joy and to do what you enjoy also helps you respond better in everything else you do.

I encourage you all to think about what you love to do. Make a list, and ponder over it for a few days. Maybe even a few weeks. How many of these things do you regularly do? Which are most important to you? Do you enjoying playing an instrument or a sport, but it’s been so long since you’ve done it that you almost forgot?

After I got married I have to admit I felt lost for awhile. I loved my husband, but I found myself in a small town with few connections and no friends close by. It was a stark reality after years at a large university where I lived with many friends and had endless opportunity for interaction.

For me, getting connected to a church was important. Not just attending but getting involved. I love God, and giving back through a children’s ministry was just what He had in mind for me. It just took a few years for me to listen to His call on that.

I have played piano since forever, and a few years ago my parents brought my grandma’s old spinet to grace my downstairs. I originally thought I didn’t need it, but I get joy out of those black and white keys even if I don’t play all the time.

Connecting with my family and close friends also gives me joy. Most work can wait if my parents or one of my four sisters needs to talk. I don’t make it to every event, but I rearrange things when at all possible because it’s worth it.

Working seven days a week has its draw backs, but I focus on the mid-day flexibility I usually have, the beautiful sunsets I take in, and the new babies I see every day.

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If you are a regular reader, I know you’re waiting for me to mention this next one. I run. I run to see progress and achieve goals. I run because I can. I run because nothing feels better than crunching over gravel on a crisp morning and knowing you are getting stronger with every step. I run even when it feels hard and dreary because bad days are part of reality.

When I started training for 5K’s, then half marathons, then marathons, I didn’t magically have extra hours in my day that needed filling. I knew I needed to find more joy, and I worked around the schedule I had to make that happen. It didn’t even mean cutting out anything major. It involved a little planning and sometimes lost sleep, but it was and still is mostly about being intentional.

At times when we can, JR and I love sitting around with hot cups of coffee just hanging out with our dogs, talking, and soaking up the morning sun through our huge south window. Usually there are 100 other things we “should” be doing, but often they can wait.
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I have plenty of other things I want to do, volunteer for, and see, and I hope I can keep incorporating them when the time is right. I don’t have the perfect mix, but I stubbornly insist on finding joy where I’m at anyway.

Remember that list I wanted you to make? Look at the things you wrote, and ask yourself if you’re doing any of them. I hope you can say “yes,” but if you can’t, then ask yourself why. Talk to your spouse, your kids, or your friends, and see if there is a way to make more joy happen.

What helps you find joy? Share it with me in the comments; I’d love to hear!

Posted in Boo the bulldog, Calvin, Christian Reflections, Running, This and That | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A Cooking Spot: Stuffed Mushrooms

What do farming and running have in common?

What about any form of work and any form exercise? What do they have in common?

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My answer to both is “food!” You need food to fuel everything you do. I usually have great intentions in the kitchen, and I’m also lucky to have a giant deep freeze full of meat, plus assorted frozen and canned veggies, fruits, and sauces. (Most of the produce is thanks to the hard work of my parents and my sister Linda because my garden was almost non-existent this past summer.) Our spice cabinet is always fully stocked, and JR and I rack up what I think is a ridiculous grocery bill for just two people. We love to eat.

Even being blessed with plenty of food, it’s easy to get stuck in a food rut. Combinations are endless, but sometimes I still go into panic mode because “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO MAKE!”

This anxiety is compounded if we’ve had a late night at the farm. Wondering what to make at 9:00 p.m. when you’re completely ravenous is way worse than 6:45.

We do share cooking duties some, just depending on who gets home first and who’s feeling inspired to make something. I try not to take my husband’s cooking skills for granted, even though they rarely extend to clean-up. :-)

If we plan ahead it’s usually me, and I’m also the one who mostly uses our beloved slow cooker.

The point to all this is I suspect I’m not alone when I stew about what to make! When I do have a good idea or just cook a tasty staple, I’ll try to share it here on the blog. Maybe it will be a dish you want to try, or maybe it will just give you ideas on seasonings or flavors to incorporate in your own meals.

I’m not promising there will be a “Cooking Spot” on a super consistent schedule, but watch for it at least once a month.

With that, I give you a mushroom creation JR and I collaborated on earlier this year. We made a big batch that almost doubled as a meal. You could easily halve this to serve with a regular meal or double it for a larger gathering appetizer. We used venison summer sausage because it was in our fridge, but bacon would also be excellent. Measurements on seasonings are approximate. Use your own taste as your guide!

Stuffed Mushrooms

16 oz. whole mushrooms
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 tube of crackers, crushed
1 cup cubed salami/summer sausage OR cooked and crumbled bacon
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Lots of fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash mushrooms thoroughly. Break stems out of mushrooms, leaving just the caps. Set aside the caps. Chop up stems and put them into a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. If you like you can also add 1 tsp red pepper flakes for some more zip.

Set mushroom caps on a baking sheet greased or lined with aluminum foil. Fill each mushroom cap to heaping with the prepared mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until mushrooms are soft and golden brown. You can turn on broiler for the last few minutes of baking if desired.

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Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Cooking and Foods | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Winners!

Happy spring! I hope the vernal equinox brings you whatever weather you like best.

It’s mellow, cloudy, and brown here today, which suits me just fine. It is perfect cow weather and running weather. I can remember many springs that started with lots of snow!

Thanks to all who entered my Team Chocolate Milk giveaway. I have an old t-shirt that says “Winners drink milk,” and I think you are all winners no matter what. :-)

Only a few people can get the goodies though, and I usually use random.org to help me pick.

The first winner is Ellen, and the second winner is Lisa. Congratulations ladies! The first winner will get the shirt with her prize, and I’ll let the second winner choose which color hat she prefers. You can both watch your email for a message from me soon.

Spring has sprung, and I hope you can all get outside and enjoy your favorite activities.

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