My Life in Letters

As it’s been a while since I blogged regularly, I thought I would do a few reintroduction posts. Last week I wrote about our farm logo and it’s meaning. This week I thought I would share some of the bits and pieces we experience in living on a farm and what makes us, Stammeyer Farmstead- Home of Harvesting Roots, in an A-Z guide.

A- Angus. A major part of our farming production has come from raising Red and Black Angus heifers and steers. For my city dwellers, a heifer is a girl who hasn’t had a baby yet, a steer is a boy that cannot be a daddy. We chose to greatly reduce our herd a year ago but have a handful of cows and a bull left. We have chose to raise Angus due to the higher market price.

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B- Barn. It wouldn’t be a farm without a barn right?! However, I’ve come to learn, most farms don’t just have one barn. There are several buildings on our property used for several different purposes. The building we used for our logo is our horse barn that houses three stalls, tack and square bales in the loft. The stalls our used for our goat and horses and whatever other occasional animal comes to visit such as puppies when we’ve had them. We have a large barn that stores most of our round bales and the tractors with a large run where we put new momma cows and their babies until we know they are ready to be in the field, or where we put the cows as we prepare them for shots and vaccines. It also has a brace for holding a cow that might need some extra attention or care. There is a building for the skidloader and four-wheeler. And there are two large machine sheds for all the equipment needed for crops.

 

C- Charlotte. My middle child, my only daughter. I absolutely love spoiling her with all things girly, pink and fluffy. She is so bright and intuitive. She knows what’s up! (good and bad!) Charlotte’s favorite thing about living on a farm is having animals and riding horses and her best birthday present ever, her goat Rocco.

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D- Debt. Y’all, farmin’ ain’t cheap. I can’t speak for everyone, in fact, I can only speak for us. But we have found it extremely difficult to farm and not accrue significant debt. My husband would LOVE to farm full time. But with 86 acres, we simply cannot produce enough of anything while maintaining financial balance. Equipment needs to be fixed or replaced. Animals need vet care, feed and land. There is always a project, always something to work on, always a new expense. They saying that “farmers live poor and die rich” is very true. We have wealth, but it is in land and equipment which doesn’t leave much for liquid income.

E- Eli. My third child and definitely the one to give me gray hair. We’ve only been to the ER twice this spring because of him. He is so independent and adventurous but also has the biggest heart. He still crawls up in my lap for snuggles throughout the day. He has so many expressions and is just plain goofy. And the spitting image of his Daddy, which makes me very proud. Eli’s favorite things about living on a farm are having baby calves and riding on the tractor with daddy and riding the four wheeler.

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F- Fields. We have about 40 acres of crop land and the same in pasture. We have fields. Large plots of land that need care to maintain their value and use. Erosion and nutrient depletion are always a concern. Farmers cannot continually take from the land without putting back into it. Crops need to be rotated. Farmers need to know what they are putting into the soil to ensure they get the yield they need. The ground is our most important assent.

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G- Goat. For Charlotte’s birthday, she received the gift of a goat, something she had been asking for for nearly a year. We became goat people. Our little guy is Rocco. I don’t know anything about his breed. But we love him. He enjoys going for walks in the field, chasing the kids around the yard and eating my raspberry bushes. He does not like being chased by dogs.

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H- Hay. Along with Angus, our other source of income from the farm currently is hay. Our cash crop. We do use a portion of the hay for our own animals but then also sell a large amount. We typically cut hay three times a year and it takes about a week each time. First the hay must be cut, just like cutting grass. We just purchased a new-to-us disc-bine to do this. Then the hay needs to dry for a couple days. The hay is then raked into big rows and finally baled into small squares or large round bales. Other farmers also make large square bales. Once the hay is baled it needs to be stored. When we made round bales, the tractor and skidloader are needed to move and place them in the barn. When small squares are made, they are loaded into a large wagon with the baler. The wagon is then brought to the barn where someone loads them onto an elevator which carries them up to the hay loft where another person stacks them. It is a dirty, hot, itchy, time consuming job. It is very hard for one person to do. We have a few friends and family members that help us and we are very very thankful to have them!

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I- Investment. Along with the debt created in farming there is also a large investment. Yes, this investment in monetary. But it’s also more then that. The investment my husband and I put into our farm and land is the legacy we will leave for our children. It is the gift we are establishing to provide for their futures as well. I hope that our children will continue to build and grow what we create and if not, that they will be able to use what we establish to create and fulfill their own dreams.

J- Josiah. Our oldest, the one who first made me understand what unconditional love truly meant. His creativity is unmatched, he has grand ideas and always thinking outside the box. He’s happiest on his farm, on his tractor or with his animals. He’s so strong and loves to run and move. He’s growing so fast. Josiah’s favorite parts about living on a farm are having kittens, working with his dad, and caring for his animals.

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K- Kittens. Farms are filled with all kinds of animals. Cows, horses, goats, dogs and of course cats. We have a very protective dog that only likes HIS cats. He has three, a tom cat and two gray mommas. This summer both mom-cats that three kittens a piece. We were able to re-home a few, and kept a couple. The kids have LOVED them and the kittens haven’t left yet, so they must not completely hate us. It is a great learning experience for our kids to watch the life cycle of animals and learn to care for the soul of something other then themselves. The compassion and empathy my children have learned through caring for their animals is an immeasurable lesson.

 

L- Land. Our land. Our bread and butter. Our life and lifeline. A gift received and a gift to pass on. The power to give and provide for our family and others. The beauty and majesty of God’s creation.

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M- Mowing. Because of the expense of farming, we have found other ways to supplement our income. Ross mows grass and plows snow for his “regular” job to help us generate the money needed to continue farming in the ways we want to. Life gets busy and crazy, but we keep going.

N- Networking. I am continually looking to network. You never know where that missing piece is going to fit in. We want to utilize our land better, generating more income with less man hours. I enjoy other passions like graphic design and writing. By expanding our network, who we know, what we know, I hope that one day we will find our perfect niche to provide and live our passions.

O- Orchard. Several years ago my dad planted several apple trees in my back yard. I have dreams of expanding these trees to create my own little orchard someday. But for now this small cluster of trees makes me very very happy.

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P- Pork. Our main source of income. Not on our farm though! My husband drives semi for a hog company, driving pigs of all shapes and sizes around the tri-state area. We are thankful for his job that puts food on our table, provides us with insurance and allows us time to be a family. While he can have some very long hours, Ross is home every night and for that I am extremely grateful. We love bacon in this house for many reasons.

Q- Quack! says the duck. We have had chickens on our farm for nearly 8 years and have had ducks on and off. Our current duck resident has been laying 1-2 eggs every two days. Did you know duck eggs have more protein and omega-3 fatty acids then a chicken egg? They are also about 1.5 times bigger then a chicken egg. And I personally don’t think they taste any different (Turkey eggs however, do taste different). We have enjoyed having them as a part of our breakfast routine. We also like to let the ducks swim in our water tanks as they like to eat the algae and help keep them clean!

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R- Ross. The love of my life. My most favorite person in the whole wide world. My rock and my confidant. He drives me completely crazy but I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He works harder then anyone I know, maintaining his farm, caring for his kids, managing his crew at work and putting up with all my craziness. I’m beyond lucky that he walked into my life and never left.

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S- Steak. We are not a vegetarian family. While I completely understand the many reasons people choose to go meat-free, it isn’t for us. Between pork and beef, we find our livelihood. We raise a steer to have butchered each year. And it is the BEST meat I’ve ever had. We are able to feed our animals high quality feed, but they also have grass and vegetables from our garden and fresh air and room to roam. Raising steers to butcher weight (the point where they are ready to go to the butcher) is something we are considering getting into. Would you consider buying a farm fresh Stammeyer Farmstead Steer??

T- Tractor. Not much farming happens without this valuable piece of equipment. We have several. I’m still trying to figure out why we need so many and what the purpose of each of them is… but my husband assures me we need them! Just like cars, most farmers have a particular make of tractor they prefer. Green are John Deere, red are International Harvesters, but around here, we are orange people- Allis Chambers.

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U- Uncertainty. There is a great amount of uncertainty that comes along with farming. And so many uncontrollable variables. We have had crops die because of too much rain and too little rain. We had lighting strike a tree, that fell and landed on a cow which eventually killed the cow. We had animals die from twisted stomachs, birth defects and drowning. I had to pull a newborn calf from a snowbank and bring it into my garage to save it’s life. I have held the tail of a cow as my husband used twine string to pull out it’s unborn baby. I have watched my husband trek up the hillside in search of tools to go fix the tractor that stopped in the middle of the field for no good reason. And I’ve watched market prices fall to an all time low, only to be lower the next year. If you like to gamble and take risks, become a farmer. You never know what will happen. We are constantly looking at all options, all outcomes, and praying for the best. Praying hard.

 

V- Vegetables. It’s hard to find a farm without a garden. I’m not a great gardener, it just isn’t my passion. But we have found that growing a garden is a great way to make cheap food for the various animals we have. Everyone likes a pumpkin! Horses, cows and chickens all enjoy zucchini, carrots and squash. And radishes are a family favorite of my children. They can’t get enough of them!

W- Writing. If you haven’t noticed already, I do have a passion for writing. It’s my therapy. Taking my ideas and thoughts and putting them into words. I hope that I can continue to write about our farm and country living, using my words to inspire others to live not just for their purpose but also live their joy.

X- X-rays. As a mother and farmer’s wife, I can tell you the cost of a stitch, an x-ray, an emergency room visit. We are no strangers to the hospital entrance, and they know us by name. And some of that comes with the nature of farming, but should also explain the physical dangers of farming. There is a lot of machinery, animals, tools, building projects, and more that pose a threat to our skin, immune systems, limbs and lives. Farmer give everything for what they do.

Y- Yoga. Having an outlet for my personal peace is crucial to farm life, family life, my life. I use exercise including yoga along with writing, reading and spending time with people I care about (and the occasional glass of wine) to help cope with all the stress that comes with maintaining this life.

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Z- Zillion. The number of hardships living on a farm has. But also the number of rewards. Thank you for continuing to walk this journey with us.

Happy Harvesting,

Leah

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