Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Baby is Growing Up

Last Monday morning I woke up and saw this pretty view out my front window.  It was a great way to start a day.  A day I knew was coming for the last four and a half years, but a day that I couldn't believe had arrived so fast.  

It was Hudson's first day of school.  He's attending pre-school in the same school that Kevin grew up in.  It's the same school that his grandma Rhonda had just retired from teaching 5th grade.  It's the same school where his best friend was also attending. 

It was not hard to get him up that morning.  He hoped right out of bed and put on the clothes that he picked out the night before.  Of course the shirt had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it! 

He was so happy and excited that he patiently stood by the sign in our front yard and waited for me to take a bunch of pictures.  That never happens! 

We had just planted that white swamp oak the week before with the Taiwan Ag group that came and visited our farm.  I thought since it was about the same size as Hudson that it would be fun to take his picture by it every year on the first day of school to see who grows faster (it'll probably all depend on how often I remember to water the tree!). 

Right before we left that morning, we got Axten to stand still long enough to take a picture with his brother.  He definitely looks like he's up to something in this picture doesn't he?

Axten-1.5 years old and Huson-4.5 years old

After we dropped Axten of at daycare, Hudson and I arrived at his new school.  I wasn't sure what he would do when we got there.  Part of me knew how excited he was, but part of me knew that sometimes he plays the shy card around new people. 

He walked like a big kid right now the hallways to his classroom.  I think schools have certain smells when you first walk into them at the start of a new year.  It brought back so many memories from my school that I went to in Nebraska.  I was so excited for him, for all the things that he's going to learn, all the friends that he's going to meet, and all the memories that he's going to make.

Since it was the first day, I came into his classroom with him and got to see his seat and his locker. 

He seemed right at home there.  We had already had the opportunity to meet his teacher two times before school actually started, so he was ready for this.  So I said my goodbyes and headed to work...with no tears shed by anyone other than Axten.  He was NOT happy that we left his at daycare without his big brother.  He cried for about five minutes and then was fine I was told. 

So this whole school thing snuck up on me I feel like, but it makes me so happy to see how excited he is about school and making new friends!  When I picked him up at the end of the day he told me all about it!  The first thing he said was, "I had no time outs!"  Haha!  That's good!
He told me what he had for his snacks and for lunch, and that he had some new friends in his class.  The pre-school class is so big that they have three classes this year.  He didn't know anyone in his class going into that day, but he now said that Charlie and Owen are his friends during school, and that Martin and Quentin are his friends in the afternoon.  (Pre-school in only in the morning for him but he stays for the afternoon extended care program, so he's basically going to school all day long already!)  When I asked if any of his new friends were girls, he said, "I just can't figure them out!"  I told him not to worry, that most guys feel the same way!
One last thing that we did to mark the start of his first year of school was to try out a new app that I recently downloaded to my iPhone.  It's called OneDay and is currently free for iOS users. 
What you do is select a topic from the app and it walks you through questions to ask.  These questions tend to lean towards children, but you could also capture your friends and families answers too!  Once you decide on a topic, you will record the candid answers and then at the end OneDay creates a video for you.  This did not take long to do as long as your subject cooperates!  For this video, I choose the Back to School questions.  Hudson loved watching the video afterwards, so I'm sure we will be making many more to share with you!  Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: I was asked to review the OneDay app, but all opinions and comments are 100%  my own.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Taiwan Ag Group Visits Our Family Farm

About a week and a half ago we had a Taiwan Grain Production and Quality Study Team come and visit our farm in SW Iowa.  This was the first international group that we have had visit, but I know it won't be the last!  This group was in the United States for 10 days.  They visited farmers and looked at crop fields in Nebraska, Iowa, and the New Orleans area.  They were also lucky enough to get to go to the Iowa State Fair while they were here too.  

This group was traveling with the U.S. Grains Council, which is a private, non-profit partnership of producers and agribusinesses committed to building and expanding international markets for U.S. barley, corn, grain sorghum, and their products.  The Council is headquartered in Washington D.C. and has nine international offices (one of which is in Taipei, Taiwan) that oversee programs in more than 50 countries.  Their main focuses are to promote the value of trade, advance food security, be a trade policy resource, and be a reliable supplier.  

There were nine participants that came to our farm.  Mr. Clover Shueh-Yi Chang is the Director of the U.S. Grains Council Taiwan office and Kevin and I have known him for a few years now.  It was fun to have him come to our farm and see where we live.  Kevin's been to Taiwan, but I haven't yet and Clover told me that I need to come with Kevin next time!  Sounds like a plan to me!  

One of the ladies from the group was Ms. Reuy-Perng Lin and she is the Section Chief, Council of Agriculture in Taiwan, which I was told was the equivalent of the head of the USDA here in the United States.  She was really interesting to talk to.  There was also the Chairman of the Poultry Association, Managers of agriculture businesses, a Specialist in the National Farmers' Association, a farm manager, and a professor with the group.  

They had already stopped at a soybean and corn field of ours on their way to our house and also a machine shed to see some different types of equipment and meet with the Pottawattamie County Corn & Soybean Grower President, Shane Schaaf, and Steve Killpack.  

They asked a lot of questions about being a beginning farmer today, GMOs, equipment, what we feed our cattle, and how the crops were doing this year, among many others.  

When they arrived at our farm, it was a perfect day outside, so we sat on our back deck and talked for awhile and then walked around our farm.  

We showed them some of our cattle, the feed that we feed them, and our machine shed.  They also got to sample some deer jerky and loved it!

Since they were visiting in the afternoon, I wanted to make them something to eat for a snack, so with the help of my Facebook friends, I came up with Sweet Corn Ice Cream with a Blackberry Sauce.  

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Sauce Recipe

We also grilled some sweet corn for them to try too.  It was all a hit!  I was told that I needed to commercialize my sweet corn ice cream and that they would buy a ton of grain and a container of ice cream at the same time!  

Right before the group left, we planted a tree that I recently received at my Ag-Urban Initiative Leadership graduation.  Each of my classmates were given a Swamp White Oak tree (native to Iowa) from our leaders.  It was a really neat gift and really symbolic of everything that we talked about in our classes over the past six months.  We thought that it would be a neat thing to do with the Taiwan group while they were here.  

Ms. Linda Ruey-Perng Lin, Section Chief , Council of Agriculture in Taiwan.

After that, we had to say our goodbyes.  I wish we had more time together, but they had to head back to Omaha, NE for the evening.  

Hudson giving Clover a high-five before they left.

I look forward to staying in touch with this wonderful group and hopefully being able to make a trip to Taiwan in the near future to see their country and learn more from them!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Our Family Farm

This year at the Iowa State Fair, the Ross family farm was presented with the Century Farm Award.  The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has partnered with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation since 1976 to recognize families that have owned and worked a farm in Iowa for 100 years or more.

The Ross family actually put down roots in 1887, so we could have actually received this award awhile ago, but there’s a process to it and we Kevin’s brother Jim decided to apply for it this year. 

So last Tuesday, 21 of the local Rosses gathered at the state fair and were presented this honor by Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Craig Hill, President of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.  Jim and Kevin’s entire immediate family was there; both Nancy (Jim’s wife) and I along with our boys, their mom and dad, their sister and brother-in-law and their four children , and their uncle and aunt, one of their sons, and some of their grandchildren.  

There were 344 farms that were added to the growing list of Century Farms in Iowa.  This brings the list of farms that have enjoyed at least 100 years of ownership by the same family to more than 18,330 farms.  There were also 86 family farms that received the Heritage Farm award this year, which means the farm has been in their family for at least 150 years.  

Kevin and Jim own the farm together today.  They are the fifth generation to do so.  Jim lives in the farmhouse and Kevin farms the land.  They both have cattle there, but Jim’s are dairy cows that he milks every day.  

Jim and Kevin

They both work hard to keep the farm up and running.  Kevin said, “Tuesday was a day that made me proud to be a family farmer from Iowa and I appreciate all the Rosses coming out to support us at the fair. We couldn’t have done it without the love and support of our family, so it was great to see everyone that was there that day.”

Hudson, Axten (sleeping), and their four cousins at the Iowa State Fair.
Big or small, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, 87% of all farms in the United States are ran by families or individuals.  Many of these farms could also be considered “corporate” farms because they have incorporated for one reason or another, many of those reasons have to do with tax and legal purposes.  

2014 Ross family reunion on the farm.

I just wanted to share with you what our Ross family farm looks like today with the fifth generation living and working there.  Please know that these farmers work hard at preserving the land and making it even better than when they began farming and raising cattle there.   Corporate or not, it's still a family farm!

Early spring pasture on the Ross family farm.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Sauce

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A couple of days ago, we had a agriculture group from Taiwan come to our farm to learn more about U.S. agriculture and biotech (more about this in a later post.)  They planned to arrive mid-afternoon to our farm so I wanted to make them some kind of snack to eat while they were here.  After asking for some suggestions on Facebook, I decided to try making sweet corn ice cream.  Sweet corn and homemade ice cream were suggestions, so I decided to combine them!  

Our sweet corn, for the second year, is Round-Up Ready,
so it is a 
GMO (genetically modified organism) sweet corn.

This recipe is complied from some research I did about sweet corn ice cream. There are actually quite a few recipes out there and the comments sections are just as helpful as the actual recipes that I found.  

For starters I had to go pick some sweet corn.  Luckily our patch is just behind our house out in a field, so I had access to as much as I needed.  

Then I enlisted the help of my four year old to help me husk the corn.  I had picked enough to eat for supper that night too.  (Notice the purple corn below.  That was a variety that we had planted in the garden this year.  Due to the storms, we only got about 10-12 ears of it and none of it was really purple like the picture showed on the seed package.  It tasted just like normal sweet corn even though it was a different color, but Hudson through it was pretty cool!)

My helpers.

Here are the directions to make this yummy ice cream!

Ingredients for Ice Cream
  • 8 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 5 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 14 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Ingredients for Blackberry Sauce
  • 2 pints of blackberries
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Cut the kernels off of the corn cobs and place in a large pot.  Break the cobs in half and add them to the pot also.  Pour in the milk, cream, and 1 cup of sugar.  Stir well and bring to a boil.  

Turn off the heat and use an immersion mixer or blender to puree the corn kernels (not the cobs).  Let sit for about 2 hours.  You want it to stay pretty warm the whole time, so if you don't have a really low setting on your stove like me, just turn the stove on for a few minutes to keep the mixture warm and then turn it back off every once in awhile. 

(Sorry there are no other pictures of the ice cream making process.  I started this around 10pm and finished with all the dishes around 1am.  I started to forget to take pictures at some point that night!)

After the 2 hours is up, bring the mixture back to a low boil.  Remove it from the heat. Remove the corn cobs from the cream mixture.  Whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar together.  Stir in a cup of the hot cream to temper the eggs.  Then slowly pour the egg mixture into the cream mixture.  

Cook over medium-low heat until it thickens like a custard.  This should take about 10 minutes.  
Next, you need to run the ice cream mixture though a fine sieve or strainer to remove all the pieces of corn.  
Then chill the mixture for a least 4 hours or overnight.  Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the directions.

To make the blackberry sauce, in a large saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil.  Add the blackberries and cook for about 10 minutes or so or until the blackberries start breaking down.  
Add the lemon juice and then use an immersion mixer or a blender to puree the blackberry sauce and then run it through a fine sieve or cheese cloth to get rid of the seeds.  Refrigerate the sauce until you are ready to serve it.  

To serve, place the sweet corn ice cream in a bowl and top with some of the blackberry sauce.  Enjoy!

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Update: I just wanted to let you know what the Taiwan group thought of my sweet corn ice cream.  They were very interested when they heard that there was sweet corn in it.  They all took a scoop to start with and then almost every single one of our visitors came back for seconds!  They told me that I should commercialize it and that they would buy a ton of corn and a container of ice cream!  That made me feel good!  So luckily, even though it was a brand new recipe that I tried (why do I do that with new people?!?!?) it was a hit!

Monday, August 11, 2014

BlogHer 2014

A few weeks ago, I had a fantastic opportunity to attend the 2014 BlogHer Conference in San Jose, CA. Not only was I extremely excited to attend the actual conference, I was also looking forward to meeting a lot of bloggers that I already "knew" through social media and new ones too!  

Kristin from Local Farm Mom and I arrived a day early. We explored San Jose that afternoon and then attend the the PathFinder Day sessions the next day before the actual BlogHer conference began.  We both learned a lot and felt that session was very valuable to us as somewhat new bloggers. (I've been blogging almost four years, but still have so much to learn!)

There was a group of ag bloggers that we dubbed The Farm Team that were attending this year's conference and Thursday evening, Kristin and I meet up with two of them,  Colleen from Growin a Home and Katie from The Pinke Post. If you remember from a post a few weeks, the theme this year was #Selfibration. So you will be seeing quite a few "selfies" here today.    

Touring the Expo Hall!

That evening we had a chance to eat dinner with Jeff and the rest of the "Farm Team". It was an absolutely gorgeous evening to be sitting outside in San Jose.

Over dinner we had a lot of great discussions about raising crops and livestock, consumers' concerns about where their food comes from, conventional foods, organic foods, genetically modified foods, conservation practices, etc.

In the picture above is Holly, myself, Jeff, Kristin from Local Farm Mom in Ohio, Debbie from Kids, Cows, and Grass in Kansas, Colleen from Growin a Home in California, Katie from The Pinke Post in North Dakota, Leah from Beyer Beware in Indiana, Janice from Janice Person in Missouri, and Brenda from BG Garden in Ohio. (If you click on the person's name it should take you to their Twitter account and their blog name should link you to their blog if they have one!)

The next day we spent at the BlogHer conference. They had some fantastic keynote speakers and breakout sessions. The trade show was also open and we could spend some time talking to different companies about their products.

One of my favorite companies that I had the chance to meet up with was StitchFix thanks to social media! I loved learning about their company and hope to meet up with them again when I visit San Francisco next month.

Kristin and I with our StitchFix friends, Cotille and Hege.  

Kristin and I at the Skype booth in the Expo Hall.

Throughout the conference they had some really great, motivational, and inspirational speakers. Some of my favorites were Arriana Huffington from Huffington PostGuy Kawasaki, and Kerry Washington from ABC's Scandal.  

The last day of the conference we got to meet Mal from Mal the Beef Gal.  

Katie, me, Mal, Debbie, Leah, and Colleen

We decided to go some place quiet where we could talk. A lot of ideas, thoughts, dreams, and hopefully realities came out of that afternoon gab session! I'm excited to see what comes of all of that!

The closing party was sponsored by McDonald's that evening. It was a great event and a fun way to end the conference.  

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to attend this conference. I met so many wonderful people. I know I made some lifelong friendships there and I look forward to see where our brainstorming session takes us. I also had many chances to talk with other bloggers about our family farm and the way we raise our crops and livestock. They were very excited to talk to farmers and learn about modern day farming. 

A big thanks goes out to Bayer CropScience and also Monsanto. I enjoyed getting to know you all and conversing over some meals! Thank you thank you thank you! I can't wait to hear where the 2015 BlogHer Conference will be so I can put it on my calendar for next year!