Monday, February 12, 2018

Do I choose the Chevy or the Cadillac?

A few short months ago our family suffered the consequences of an F3 tornado that hit our home.  Everyone is safe but the fact of the matter of the resulting damage is that we now have to rebuild our home.  

Building, especially rebuilding, was never in the plan.  But building is now knocking at our door and with that comes a variety of decisions that we hoped we would avoid in our lifetime of living in our home of 14 years.

We recently met with our contractor on the big decisions of our home.  You know, the windows, the doors on the inside and outside, cabinets, counter tops, light fixtures (I know the list is long)...The bonus is that we get a budget!  After looking through the contractor's budget we realized our decisions need to be based largely on our needs (and a little bit on our immediate "wants" - the lesser priority "wants" can be addressed later).  Decisions come down to do we want a Chevy or do we want a Cadillac?  In most cases a Chevy will suit us just fine, but a few decisions will upgrade to the Cadillac - investing in windows will pay us back in heating bills, good entry doors will also do the same and likely provide better safety for our family.

So when it comes to farming and our seed choices, do we choose the Chevy or do we choose the Cadillac?

Well, the answer is, "it depends".

When it comes to our seed decisions, a lot depends on:
- our environmental stresses 
- weather patterns 
- naturally occurring soil impediments
- noxious weeds and other pests that are just part of our environment but can wreck havoc on crop production

We sit down at the table each year (usually late Fall, early winter) to discuss what seed hybrids worked well for us during the growing season.  Was the seed able to adapt to the weather conditions throughout the growing season?  Did we have significant weed control issues that weren't controlled by the weed management practices we have in place?  Did we have pest problems that we weren't prepared for before planting happened in the spring?  Did we recognize the warning signs from previous years (regarding pest control) and take every step possible to make good seed management decisions that reduced the amount of synthetic materials that were needed?

For us, all of these questions help us choose between a Genetically Modified (GMO) seed hybrid or a standard, conventional/traditional seed.  All the seed that we use in agriculture today is typically hybridized (cross pollinating with other hybrids/varieties has made our seed stronger and more robust).  Genetically Modified seed has given us the seed strength to make better decisions that help us use less pesticides (as a whole) in our farming applications and has afforded us the opportunity to do better for our environment.

We use GM seed in cases where we know that we are in a cycle of increased risk for bugs/insects.  And, in some cases, we use this type of seed to reduce the risk of not being able to control weed pressure that ultimately impacts resulting yields.  

We use standard, conventional seed as a means to reduce input costs in areas where weed pressure and pest pressure is null or minimal. 

Just as we want to build a strong, beautiful home to last us the rest of our lifetime (sans any future natural disasters), we want to make decisions on our farm that will also allow our family farm to last a lifetime, plus many generations to come.  We don't always need to have the Cadillac of inputs, we can do with a Chevy when the conditions provide.  We evaluate what is best for our family (safety and security), our property (the home and environment), and our business (how can we be better stewards in accordance with a successful business plan?).

It's not all about the bottom line and what makes us more profitable at the end of the day (while that is very important to our business plan, obviously), our decisions on what types of seed we purchase become an insurance policy of sorts.  Some of the farm ground we grow crops don't have "special needs", like weed issues or bug issues so we tend to purchase conventional/traditional seed for these areas - it doesn't mean that we won't ever apply any synthetic materials to it, it just means that our risk of pest and crop damage is less in these areas - we can save money up front and assess the needs in these locations throughout the growing season.  Other farm locations are known to be at risk for insects or complicated weeds and having the GM technology opens up doors that will require a larger financial investment up front, but won't require synthetic materials to be used later to prevent crop damage from pests.

In the end, it's about stewardship and doing what's right for our family, our friends, our community and the environment.  It's about making the right decisions for everyone that will positively impact everyone in the long run.  So, do we go Cadillac or do we go Chevy - both will get us where we need to go, one may offer us a better "policy" than the other.

For more information and a super easy way to better understand GMO's, please check out this link my friend Marybeth Feutz

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Jalapeno Pepper Pico Recipe

Jalapenos and many other spicy foods have been acclaimed for their capsaicin properties that get the body moving and the metabolism spiked to work more efficiently.  I believe there is some truth to this, although I do not know the exact science behind it.

Of more interest to me, after visiting my friends not too far down the road on their pepper farm (Cox Farms) is the importance of each and every single pepper that grows on their plants.  Not one goes to waste due to imperfection.  In a society where so much is tossed away because "it isn't good enough", it was refreshing to see, that for my friends, every pepper counts!

Jena showed me lots and lots of plants.  Plants that were raised specifically for mild salsas (even though they were Jalapenos, they were bred without the heat component so they could be used to be labeled as "mild"), plants that were raised as the full on heat of a Jalapeno, and then the Habaneros (wow...I was a bit afraid to even TOUCH these, but they sure were pretty).

Jena tells me the peppers had a particularly good growing season this year; not too hot or cold and just the right amount of rain to help the plants to be especially productive.  With that being said, I noticed several peppers that were streaked.  I asked her about this and whether the streaked nature of the pepper would cause them to be discarded.  She said that the streaking on the pepper was an indication that the pepper grew super fast due to the prime weather conditions...kinda like people when we grow fast, we sometimes experience growth spurts, stretch marks, and things of the like.

The peppers won't be thrown away, they will be put to good use.  Jena embraces the production as she knows these solid, dense peppers will be great in the salsa they are being picked for.  There is no discrimination, virtually nothing will go to waste.  

Much like ourselves, we always need to embrace our imperfections and push past the false expectations of society.  Nothing is ever actually perfect anyway.  We all have special flavor to bring to the table, whether it's a bit of spicy or something a bit more on the mild side!


8-10 Roma Tomatoes (seeded and diced)

1/2 - 1 medium sized onion (I like to use either a red or white onion, finely diced)

1-2 diced jalapenos (I mixed a regular jalapeno, removed the seeds and a mild jalapeno - it was still hot*****)

1/2 bunch Cilantro (washed and finely chopped)

Juice from 2 limes

1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt

***** The seeds of the Jalapenos do contribute to some of the heat content, so if you don't like the heat, then discard the seeds.  Also be sure to WASH your hands before touching your skin after you have seeded and diced your jalapeno (SECRET HAND WASHING RECIPE THAT WORKS FOR ME:  1 - 2  TEASPOONS VEGETABLE OIL SPREAD AND "WASHED" OVER MY HANDS AND FINGERS, THEN ADD HAND SOAP AND WASH THOROUGHLY)

1.  Chop all ingredients into small, bite sized pieces (the onion and cilantro can be finely chopped).
2.  Add each ingredient into a mixing bowl, adding the salt last.
3.  Stir together, add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt at a time and then add additional to taste preference.
4.  Best enjoyed right away, but can be chilled and consumed within 2 days for best flavor and texture.
5.  Savor with tortilla chips, over tacos, or over chicken

Pickled jalapenos are fun and easy too, great addition to any sandwich that needs a little extra kick!

Grilled Cheese sandwich on sprouted grain bread with pickled jalapeno slices

Monday, September 11, 2017

Surprise Protein Packed Chili

Summer is turning into Fall rather quickly around here!

A particularly unseasonably cool Summer Sunday gives me the desire to make a beautiful, steamy pot full of chili - one that is loaded with a mix of proteins to fill up my crew!

I can't wait to make this again to take to the field and add some buttermilk cornbread on the side.

As a note, there is a surprising ingredient in this recipe that brings a new, special elevation of flavor to the way I have previously made this recipe.


2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Onion (I used frozen diced onions, eyeball it)
4 garlic cloves, minced 
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders (or breast meat), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound lean ground beef (add to the pot in bite-sized chunks)
1 - 12 ounce Hard Root Beer, divided (***see note 1 below)
3 small green peppers, diced (OR 1 large green pepper)
1 - 14 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced (***see note 2 below)
1 - 14 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (***see note 3 below)
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt, more to taste
Heaping 1/4 cup masa harina (corn flour)
Juice of 1 lime
Favorites toppings:  sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onion, chopped cilantro, etc)

Put it Together:
1.  Heat Olive Oil in large stock pot.
2.  Place diced onions and minced garlic in hot oil to cook down.
3.  Dice chicken and chunk the lean ground beef into bit sized pieces. Then place into stock pot with onions and garlic.  Cook down until no pink remains in the meats.
4.  Dice green peppers and chipotle chili, add to stock pot
5.  Add diced tomatoes, rinsed black beans, chili powder, ground cumin, and salt.
6.  Add HALF the Hard Root Beer, reserve the remaining HALF for later in the recipe.
7.  Bring chili to a boil over med-high heat.  Turn down to low and cover pot to cook on low/simmer for 30 minutes.  
8.  Add the remaining HALF of the Hard Root Beer to the heaping 1/4 cup of corn flour, and the lime juice and mix together.  Then pour into the chili mixture and cook another 30 minutes to thicken the soup.
9.  When it's done, dip out into bowls, add favorite toppings and enjoy!

1.  I used Hard Root Beer because I had it on hand and didn't like the way it tasted for drinking.  If you have a spicy chili (ie:  you add more chipotle to the mix), this is a great way to tone down the heat, but to give extra body to the liquid base of the chili.  You can also use regular beer as it gives the chili a really rich flavor, too.  Additionally, if you prefer regular, non-alcoholic root beer, it will work, it will just be sweeter than the other two options.
2.  Feel free to add more chipotle peppers to your chili if you really like the extra spice - jalapenos are also a great addition if you prefer.  My family doesn't like the "over the top" spicy heat of the jalapenos or extra chipotles.
3.  You can add up to 3 more cans of drained and rinsed beans of your choice if you like them and prefer your chili to be extra thick and chunky.  I stick to one can because my family isn't a huge fan of beans.  The chili is still quite thick even without the extra beans and still packed with nice, lean proteins.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Raising A Responsible Child

Last night was a little weepy in our 4-H animal barn.  We showed our barrows (you know, the boy pigs) for the last time this past weekend at our State Fair.

It's always so exciting going to pick out the animals at the beginning of Spring.  We never quite know exactly how an animal is going to look by late July (and be "show worthy") when we make our first visits in late February.  The pigs are usually so small, many of them maybe around 40-50 pounds in size.  Our goal to have them in the 250-280 pound range by show time.

We are only into year 2 of our 4-H Tenure but it doesn't make it any easier when parting with the animals at the end of the show season.  The animals are going to market today, ranging in weight of 260 - 315 pounds...they will make great pork chops and roasts for friends and family in and around our community.  That's one reason why we raise give back.  Additionally, it's a means to help my son and my nephew and niece to learn better responsibility, first hand.  

The kids work together learning good nutritional plans for the pigs so the animals can develop appropriately.  They make sure that fresh bedding is laid down for each animal, no less than once per day (sometimes twice), we work out an exercise program for the animals and a plan for training them to not be "wild creatures" on days when they are in the middle of a show arena being judged on their ability to produce a high quality meat product.  Think of the pig's life similarly to how we all strive to be better humans and educators of our children.

Then the time comes when the pigs have reached maximum weight.  We can't just keep them hanging around in the barn.  As much fun as that may sound, a "hanging around" kind of lifestyle is not healthy for a non-breeding animal.  We have to say our final goodbyes and move them on to market.

The great thing is, even though we raise our 4-H animals for only a few short months, much is learned and gained and at the end of the project we have a resource that goes to provide for many people.

It's hard, but it's an opportunity to build memories and learning experiences to last for a lifetime.

So, the time has come.  We say our final "goodbyes" and look forward to what new animal/human bonds we will create next season and we all need a little bit of comfort.  It's never easy seeing our livestock go.

The Little Farmer looked for a comfort food recipe that he wanted to try and just so happened to find a recipe from a blogger friend of mine that I wanted to share with all of you.  It is fabulous and certainly brightened the face of my young one!   Not only did he locate the recipe (thank you Marybeth Feutz and My Fearless Kitchen for this yummy dish), he MADE the recipe...what a great way to get the kiddo involved and to take his mind off today!

An Awesome Burger Recipe

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Happens When Plans Derail?

Have you ever found yourself making a New Year's Resolution on every January 1st to get healthy, healthier, or to start working out?  You make the pact in your head (maybe even say it out loud), "This is the year that things are going to go right and I am going to do better for myself".  Then 3 weeks, 3 months, 6 months in you find your plans to get healthier and start working out get thrown off track and all your resolutions are derailed. It's always easy to quit or keep putting off a new start date to get oneself back on track.  Sometimes we do nothing.  Sometimes we have no choice other than to move forward, recommit and start fresh.

That's how this year's planting season has been for us.  We've had some really weird seasonal things happening the last couple years.  In 2015, we had so much rain that we weren't able to plant all of our farm acres (like 500 acres - that's a big deal when the farm is your paycheck for the following year).  This year is starting to look very similar.  We've had a really rainy, cold spring.  We've planted 25% of our acres...once.  After a few weeks hiatus from the rain, we got a chance to plant another 25% AND replant some of the FIRST 25% that was planted a few weeks earlier because the soil was too wet and too cold for the seeds to grow.

From the time the seeds are planted to the time they start to grow is typically not very much time (if conditions are right, maybe in about 4 days we would see plants popping through the ground).  This isn't happening this year; the conditions just haven't been right.  However, the seeds ARE spending lots of time and energy to try to grow.  So much so they've been in the ground so long and have stayed under the top layer of soil for so long they don't have the energy to push through the soil and reach for the sun.  What's this mean? We need to start the journey of new seeds over.  Re-till the ground, if necessary to get rid of the existing plants so we don't have a harvesting mess in the fall.  Then re-plant new seeds to give a fresh start to the process.

It's no different than rebooting our bodies after we've fallen off track from a health, nutrition, and fitness plan that was really important at one time. Like the seed, we can always wait around for another 2 or 3 weeks to see what happens.  The longer we wait, the more difficult it is to start new and give ourselves a fresh chance at a great journey.  We are running out of time to get much of our crop in the ground and still be able to optimize yield potential.  With continued rocky weather forecasts, it is most certainly discouraging.

Our plans often can go astray in life.  Many obstacles throw those plans for a loop.  Mother Nature sure has a funny way of expressing her abilities to keep us on our toes!  Instead of turning our backs on the opportunities that we may have, we all have to make the choice to keep moving forward.  It may take us a while to get everything planted.  Just as it may take a while to find a groove in a personal health and fitness plan. If either of us quit, we essentially have NOTHING.  On the other hand, if we just TRY - maybe it takes us a couple of tries to get it better, or get it right, then we at least have a chance to try to succeed with our goals.

Some of the best things come from some of our biggest challenges.  If we're on a health and fitness journey, we've got to get ourselves back on track and keep trying.  Just as we are going to do when the fields dry out again.  We will get the planter and tractor operating again and moving forward and let the outcome be what it will be, knowing that we at least tried our very best.

30 seconds jumping jacks (this is your cardio)
30 seconds squats (this is your butt workout)
30 seconds wall sit (this is to strengthen not only your body, but your mind)
30 seconds plank (if this is new to you, start on your knees and build into holding on your toes)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

5 Things We Do On Our Farm To Be More Sustainable

I was raised in a farming family and now being in a farm family with my husband as well as being a consumer, my thoughts about how we contribute to our environment have matured a bit since I was a young girl.

I have to think about things a lot differently than I did when I was young.  I am making decisions for my family each and every time I go to the grocery store and every time I decide how I am going to get from Point A to Point B.  My husband, The Farmer, makes decisions daily for our farm that will impact what happens for us (and our community) over the course of the year, and years to come (keep in mind that many things are beyond our control in the business of farming).

I always remember my mom pondering over which cereal to purchase while the four of us kids picked away at each muttering words like, "we don't even get this much money for a bushel of corn sold as what they are charging for me to purchase it" (side note, corn and soybean market prices were really really bad in the '80's).  The '80's were a time when many farming families didn't survive the financial downturn.

So while, there are more things than 5 that we do on our farm to be more sustainable and prepare for those downturn times, I want to share these for now...

1.  We purchase Soy-Biodiesel for our tractors and semi's.  Soy-Biodiesel burns more cleanly in our tractors, therefore, effecting the overall condition of our environment.  The added bonus is that Soy-Biodiesel also helps use to have a means in which the soybeans we grow on our farm are put to use.

2.  We practice no-till and minimal till practices on our farm.  What this means is that we believe in soil conservation on our farm.  It's kind of two-fold, we don't disturb our soils as significantly as if we tilled (ie: disked, plowed, cultivated) every acre that we own and these practices also mean that we use less fuel, man-power, and equipment labor.

In 2016, this field was planted with corn.  In 2017 this field will grow soybeans.  The corn stalk residue left behind will in turn revert to organic matter, richening the soil.

 3.  We utilize GPS and Precision Planting technologies.  What these types of applications provide to us to be more sustainable is that we are able to monitor seed usage and any chemical usage very closely.  We only use what needs to be used in each specific area of the field.  We don't "double pass" across the field which wastes resources, use more than we need, and can be much more efficient on lesser acres that are available to us now vs 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.  We can be smarter with our resources and much more effective at the same time.

4.  We commit to conservation practices.  We make choices on our own accord to place waterways (ways in which water can flow freely and cleaning through low areas of the field that would normally erode without preservation) and we also work with our local Farm Service Agency to implement waterways that allow us to better protect our soils.  We make decisions for specific conservation practices based on the needs of each field.

This is a large waterway that we worked with our local Farm Service Agency - Soil Conservation program to build.  The waterway helps with water movement from the field, reduces soil erosion and also provides a natural habitat for wildlife

5.  Crop Rotation is another way in which our farm creates sustainability. Even though we don't raise livestock, crop rotation is extremely important for us because it allows us to provide organic material back into the soil from one year to the next (especially with our no-till practices in place), allows for "natural" fertilizer to be put back into the soil (as is the case when we plant soybeans after a year of corn), and also provides us with better optimization of our soils from one year to the next.

We usually plant a few acres of Soft Red Winter Wheat in the fall after crops have been harvested.  The wheat creates a cover crop in the Spring and once harvested allows us to fix issues that we may have in the field (ie: fixing drainage tile, etc)

I like to think as one that is responsible for the "chuck wagon" many days and evenings during our busy spring and fall time, that I provide sustainability to my family working in the fields.  I like to provide meals that are quick, tasty, as healthy as possible for a group that largely consists of men (yes, that includes the younger farmers), and robust enough to hold them over for the long hours that are spent during these busy times. 

Below is a favorite recipe of my family that originated from a blogger friend of mine, Cris Goode (Recipes That Crock!).  This is a hearty meal that can be served over rice, in a taco shell, lettuce wrap, with potatoes - you name it, it would go with about anything.  And the good thing, if you have leftovers, you can change up the way you serve it to try different options.  I use my Instant Pot to cook mine, so cooking times will vary from that of the crockpot version that Cris shares on Recipes That Crock!

Photo provided with permission by Cris Goode "Recipes that Crock!"



3-5 pound chuck roast

1 packet dry ranch seasoning (like Hidden Valley or store brand)
2 T Worchestershire Sauce (or 1 packet brown gravy dry mix)
1 cup beef broth
1 jar sliced pepperocini's (I dump the entire jar 12 oz)
1/4 cup butter (I prefer unsalted butter)

* I do not recommend adding any additional salt during cook time or when eating.  The ingredients above are all salty in nature.

Brown, thawed chuck roast on both sides in a large saute pan with 1 T oil of choice.  Place roast in Instant Pot.  Mix dry seasonings  (or Worchestershire sauce) with beef broth.  Pour mixture over roast.  Place butter, in slices, over beef.  Then add jar of pepperocini's.  Cover Instant Pot tightly with lid.  Select "manual" and set timer for 90 minutes.  Let Pot do it's thing and release naturally after 15 minutes.  Serve up the roast over rice, in a taco, over a baked potato.  Let your creative juices go!

Cris' Original Recipe Here

*  Please note that my recipe is altered from that of "Recipes that Crock!".  Please check out the link above for the original recipe and cooking guidelines.

Monday, April 10, 2017

LENTils on a Bright Spring Day

Last week was a success in having a bit of meal prep done for my week. I am very fortunate that we have nearly every evening meal together this time of year.  However, it often leads to LOTS of leftovers and my people don't always do so good doing their share of helping me eat them.  So last week I decided that I needed to be more frugal with the amounts I fix for evening meals (enough to assure at least one leftover meal for someone the next day) and I would prepare a health option dish that would last me the entire week for lunch.  *Side note:  One thing I have learned is that I don't need bunches of items to eat on all week.  One dish for me for lunches and something different in the evenings for the family with a little bit of leftovers works well and doesn't leave a lot of leftover "waste" or stuff that is just going to sit in the fridge until someone decides to move it out.

My goal in this is to not only cut down on waste, but to also keep my fridge a little tidier and to push myself to use all the things that I purchase each week at the grocery store (hopefully saving the wallet some pain, too).

Well today, as I flipped through Pinterest trying to glean some inspiration, I searched "Lentils".  You see, I have had this bag of Tri-colored lentils sitting at the very front of one of the shelves in the pantry for several months.  When I purchased them, my thoughts were to get them and make them right away for a healthy dish.  Well, I never got around to that dish, right away anyway.  So the lentils sat.  And sat.  And sat.

Today was their lucky day!  I found two recipes that I thought I could make work.  As I serve up this dish throughout the week, I plan to add in an extra serving of lean protein (ie:  grilled chicken, salmon, or even cod) and also some fresh chopped veggies to make it a rounded/balanced meal.

Here's my concoction (I'm proud to say it used up a few things - or a least made a dent in some items that I had on hand), the tri-colored lentils and the fresh mint that I purchased.  I love fresh mint and I also purchase it with, you guessed it, good intentions.  

As I chopped my fresh mint, I recalled, as a corn and soybean farmer how diverse Indiana really is.  Indiana is a top producer of mint!  MINT! One may venture to doubt this claim, but it is true!  My friends in the Northwestern part of the state rank 3rd in the nation for spearmint production and 4th in the nation for peppermint production (statistics from 2014).  

To my friends, a week of healthy meals, and a cleaner fridge!

Herbed Lentil Salad (4-6 servings)

1 cup dried Lentils (I used a tri-colored mix), rinsed and drained
4 cups water (for cooking lentils)
1/2 teaspoon salt, (plus 1/2 teaspoon for later)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
6 teaspoons garlic (I used dried, minced garlic)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup fresh, minced mint
1/2 cup dried parsley
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

RINSE 1 cup dried lentils in colander, with water until the water rinse is clear.  Place rinsed lentils in pot with 4 cups water.  Bring pot of lentils and water to BOIL.  Once boiling, reduce heat to SIMMER. SIMMER for 15 minutes, stirring lentils occasionally.  After simmering is complete, drain lentils in a colander.

DURING lentil cooking time prepare garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, and allspice in a shaker or canning jar.  Mix these ingredients vigorously until BLENDED.  Set aside until lentils are cooked and drained.

WHILE lentils are cooking chop/mince mint and parsley (if using fresh, chop 1 cup of parsley).

AFTER lentils have cooked and drained, place them in a mixing bowl.  ADD garlic dressing mixture, fresh (and dried) herbs, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  MIX well. 

It is encouraged to serve this dish room temperature.  Additional vegetables and proteins can be added at your discretion.