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Thursday, May 5, 2016

All about that BEEF!

This month it's all about the beef, 'bout that beef, no turkey! (anybody else singing with me now?)

That's right, I know you're used to hearing about turkey on this blog, but May is Beef Month!

Since I started working for the Iowa Cattlemen's Association last fall, I've learned a LOT about cattle and beef production. And when I say a lot, I mean, a lot. Don't tell my boss, but when I interviewed for the job, I had a hard time remembering the difference between a steer and a cow. Now, I'm able to actively participate in conversations about best weaning practices and cattle handling and feed efficiency and pasture management. I'm not an expert, by any means, but like I said, I've learned a lot.

Here are 5 of the most surprising things I've learned over the past few months here.

1. Almost all cattle are grass-fed for the first 6 months of their lives. Mama cows are grass-fed their entire lives, as are most bulls.

2. Meatless Mondays would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by  0.6%, according to Livestock's Contribution to Climate Change. (Energy star lightbulbs, on the other hand, would reduce emissions 1.2%.)

3. Cattle farms that are combined with row-crop farms can improve conservation efforts. For example, many row-crop farmers use cover crops, but don't make any profit from the practice. Farmers with cattle can bale their cover crops or graze their cows on cover crops, making them a valuable feed source, not JUST a conservation practice.

4. There's SO MUCH SCIENCE that goes into cattle production. I sort of already knew that because there's SO MUCH SCIENCE that we use on our turkey farm. But still, I'm astounded by the amount of research that has led to modern farming practices.

5. This one is from two of my co-workers, who didn't have a background in the cattle industry before working here. They are both amazed by the dedication and passion that cattlemen show each and everyday. And they are impressed by the fact that cattlemen truly care about the environment, their animals and the quality of the end product. A farmer's passion is hard to describe if you haven't witnessed it first-hand, but it is truly amazing.

My Family's Beef Farm: Nonfiction Children's Book

Want to know more about the cattle industry? I have some exciting news... earlier this spring, I completed my 2nd non-fiction children's book: My Family's Beef Farm.

Click to read the book online!

I worked with the Iowa Beef Industry Council, the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation, and photographer/designer Jenn Hindman to put together this children's book.

The book features Cecelia, whose family raises cattle in here Iowa. In the book, which is written at a 3rd grade reading level, Cecelia explains all the aspects of her family's beef farm, from beginning to end. There is also supplemental text on each page for older kids, teachers or parents.

This book follows the same format as my first, My Family's Farm, which was about our turkey farm. I love that both of these books provide kids a look at modern livestock farms and provide teachers with a non-fiction book they can use in their classroom.

The Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation has also put together GREAT resources for teachers to go along with the book. In addition to science and math lessons (tied to Common Core standards, of course) there are also tips for using the book in a language arts or reading lesson here. Although I'm not a teacher anymore, I would have LOVED to use these resources in my classroom.

I hope this post helps you have a happy May Beef Month! (and for my turkey friends, don't worry, it'll be all about that bird for Turkey Lover's Month in June!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It's more than money...

My mind is on the farmers in New Mexico this morning, dealing with the aftermath of Winter Storm Goliath.

One article I read estimated that 5% of the dairy cows in New Mexico were killed by the storm. Five percent doesn’t sound like a lot. But there were around 150 farms affected.
Many of those farms were forced to dump their milk when trucks were unable to reach them. Dairy farms do not have long-term milk storage – they depend on a regular schedule to transport their milk from the farm. Two days of milk, literally down the drain.

The media coverage in events like this usually focuses on the financial fall-out. How much were the cows worth? How much production was lost because of the storm? How much was the dumped milk worth?

The Stauffer Family, dairy farmers in Washington.
But for the farmers, the impact is so, so much more than financial. That fact became very apparent to us when we were living in daily fear of bird flu last spring. The financial aspect is scary – no doubt about that. Farming is a risky business and there’s a huge capital investment that makes today’s farms run. With tight profit margins, one disaster can be enough to ruin a farm that’s been in the family for generations.

Generations… more than 90% of the farms in the US are family farms. Even the big farms are family farms. And most of those have been in the family for generations. It is more than a business, more than profit and loss. It’s a family heritage, and the work of our ancestors has given our generation of farmers an opportunity to continue the way of life we hold so dear.

For many of us, our ultimate goal is that the next generation can come back to the farm if they want. We are merely temporary guardians, responsible for the farm for a relatively short time in its history. And we feel that it is our duty to honor the generations before us and prepare for the generations to come.

Krista, The Farmer's Wifee, and a calf.
It is a great responsibility. And it weighs on our shoulders. Add to that the connection farmers feel to their livestock, and the stress multiplies. Livestock like dairy cows are not pets. But they are living creatures, and farmers work hard to care for them. When those animals suffer, it hurts. I cannot imagine digging out cattle buried alive in the snow, like the dairy farmers in New Mexico are right now. The task itself is daunting, but the emotional toll is immense.

I ran this blog post by a dairy farming friend of mine, Krista, and her response just drove home the point. “I can honestly say that losing our cows is the hardest thing we deal with on the farm. The cows are our life, we are with them 365 days of the year. The other night in the milking parlor (as a family) we were having a blast as the cows would walk in as sisters, mother daughter, grandma/granddaughter, etc. Many of our cows have been with us since we started the farm; that is every day for 6+ years with these animals. My heart just breaks for these farmers.”

When disaster strikes, even something that’s completely out of our hands like a freak winter storm or massive disease outbreak, the impact reaches far more than our checkbooks. It is just as psychologically devastating as financially, but you won’t hear farmers talk about that very often. The farmers will pick up where they left off, do what they have to do, and continue on with their farms the way they always have.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How a Turkey Farmer Roasts a Turkey

roast a turkey from frozen

I know – the title makes it sound like I’m an expert. I should be, since I am a turkey farmer (or at least I’m married to one.)

Interested in learning more about our turkey farm? Click here.

The truth is, I cook a lot of turkey. But I don’t roast one very often. In fact, I’ve roasted a turkey exactly once in my life.

But here’s the deal. It’s so easy, I promise I’ll be doing it again.

That’s right – it’s actually easy to roast an amazing turkey.

And you don’t even have to thaw it. Which makes the whole process a lot better.

Without further ado, let’s cook this bird!

Step 1: Buy a frozen, pre-brined turkey with a pop out thermometer.IMG_0427

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Step 3: Place the turkey in a shallow pan, on a rack. IMG_0429

Step 4: Season with some salt, pepper, and your favorite poultry seasoning.


Step 4: Roast for 50% longer than you would roast a thawed or fresh bird. Thawed turkeys should be roasted approximately 1 hour for every 4 pounds. Frozen turkeys should be roasted 1.5 hours for every 4 pounds.

(Take out the bag holding the giblets after a couple of hours, when the bird is thawed.)


Step 5: Use a meat thermometer to check for done-ness (turkey should reach 165 degrees F throughout) and let the bird rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.


And there you have it…



A gorgeous, delicious turkey, with little fuss.


Have questions? I encourage you to check out the Iowa Turkey Federation’s free guide to Thanksgiving turkey.

And feel free to share my FREE non-fiction children’s book about our turkey farm. This month is the perfect time to read it!

turkey farm book

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Choose a job you love…

Most stay at home moms I know can’t imagine returning to work full time.

How will I possibly keep up on housework? I can’t keep up now!

You mean I have to drag myself and my kids out of the house by 7:30 every morning?

What is it like to shower everyday?

But I have good news for you.

Working full time, even after a 5 year hiatus, isn’t that bad, as long as

A) you love your job.


B) you know what’s important to you.

Working moms get to interact with adults and run errands on their lunch break, without kids in tow. They get to do something they’re good at, without anyone yelling at them or throwing temper tantrums. And if they’re lucky, they get to spend their days making a difference in a field that’s important to them, too. (That part is the key.)

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not always sunshine and roses. I’ve been back to work full time for about 3 months, now, and for the most part, the transition has gone more smoothly than I ever imagined. But there have been days at work that have been more stressful than others, leaving me drained. Sometimes, I just don’t have a lot of energy to tackle job #2, the housework and parenting. Other days, work invigorates me. I come home and keep the momentum going, making supper and completing the homework and bedroom routine like I’m June Cleaver.

Yesterday, I had to work from 5:30 to 3:00 (for a special project- this is not my regular work schedule) so this weekend is a prime example of the work/life issues that we all face.  Except, my work and life are closely intertwined, and most days, yesterday included, don’t feel like work at all.

Although I try to spend Saturday mornings catching up on housework nowadays, I’m trying hard to ignore the fact that this place is a pigsty right now. Because you know what? My work and my life matter way more than the dishes in the sink.

So here’s my advice for you mommas that are considering going back to work, or who are working and miserable…

Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. ~Confucious


Ignore that your house is dirty because it really doesn’t matter.

~ Katie Olthoff

Working on a Saturday isn't so bad when you have good company. #iacattle #iowaag

A photo posted by Katie @ Squaw Creek (@katieolthoff) on

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Back to School Realities

Back to school time is so exciting! After a summer of lazy, routine-less days, extra dishes and extra messes from the little bodies at home all day, it’s time for a fresh start!

You’ve all heard the back-to school tips…Start bedtime 10 minutes earlier every night for 2 weeks to ease your kids into the new schedule! Try cute little bento boxes to pack their lunch – pack them all up on Sunday night so they’re ready for the week! Create an adorable little homework station because that will magically make your kids WANT to do more schoolwork when they get home!

I was going to write a post like that. But here’s the deal: no matter what you do to prepare, back-to-school will probably offer you a few minor challenges…


First of all, you can try to ease into the new sleep schedule for weeks, but your precious children will still be exhausted and grumpy for at least 2 weeks. Expect plenty of random sleep-deprivation fueled tantrums until the zombie-monsters get so tired that they forget that the sun stays up two hours past bedtime and finally crash and burn.

Second, you know that handy bus schedule you get? It’s wrong. The bus will not be there at 7:13. One day it will arrive at 7:09 and then next it will come at 7:17. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And that gigantic list of school supplies? With “Ticonderoga” pencils? (Because of course, no other #2 pencils will do. MUST BE TICONDEROGA.) Good luck getting everything on the list in one trip. And good luck keeping track of your preschooler while you try. (Someone should invent a school supply delivery service: type in your school & grade level and they magically send you a box with everything you need. And wine. Wine would also be included. Seems much more relaxing this way.)

Finally, let’s talk about back-to-school clothes. No matter what you buy, your children will either a) grow out of them before they get a chance to wear them more than twice or b) suddenly refuse to wear what they picked out three weeks prior. And either way, you’re screwed.

With that, I wish you all a happy September! Let’s all hope we’ll get a few weeks of sanity in October, before the candy and parties that accompany monthly holidays start up. Heaven help us.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How to Strip Painted Wood

how to strip painted wood


In my last post, I confessed that I am a Jane Austen fan girl.

Well, today, I’m confessing that I’m also a Miss Mustard Seed fangirl.

Specifically, I love her signature two toned furniture look – painted base with a stained top. It makes my heart sing.

The stained wood adds some masculinity to antique pieces that may otherwise look quite feminine when painted. And since I live in a house of men, well…






I painted the base and refinished the top of this two-toned table for my antique booth, and it was so beautiful in real life.

stained and painted table

And the infamous bookshelf dresser also had a stained top and painted base.

Ikea spice racks on dresser


But if the top is already painted, stripping it can be a pain in the patootie. So I generally try to avoid it.

I have, over time, however, tried stripping a few painted pieces. And through trial and error, I’ve learned a few lessons that make the process go a bit more smoothly. So when I decided to take this old nightstand…

2015-04-18 13_08_24 and redo it with a stained top and painted base on this old nightstand…

2015-06-20 11_47_39

I took a few pictures of the process.

Tips for Stripping Painted Wood

Use the right supplies. I like to have the following on hand when stripping wood:

2015-06-20 11_58_40

When all of your materials are ready, apply a thick layer of the stripping gel to the surface you want to strip. Do NOT use a foam brush. It WILL disintegrate because of the stripping gel.

2015_06_20_10_24_51(rev 0)

Cover the surface with plastic wrap. The stripping gel only works while it’s wet. The plastic wrap keeps it wet longer, allowing it to break up multiple layers of paint. Doing it this way will seriously cut down on the amount of stripping gel and time needed to get the paint off.

2015_06_20_10_28_33(rev 0)

After a few minutes, you can wad up the plastic wrap and use it as a rag to wipe off the paint!

2015_06_20_10_40_46(rev 0)

At this point, break out the scraper. Wrapping the end with the old sock, scrape the remaining paint, moving in the same direction as the grain.

Repeat the process if needed, using the toothbrush to get into smaller areas. Try using the water bottle to spray stubborn spots and scrub the paint.

When all the paint is gone, wash the stripping gel residue off the piece, and stain to finish!

2015-06-20 11_30_17


Here’s the full before and after (feel free to pin it so you can find this tutorial again when you need it!)

two-toned nightstands

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Confession: I’m a Jane Austen Fan Girl


I love the classics. Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, and of course, Little House on the Prairie were my favorites as a child. Then in high school, it was Gone with the Wind. Strong female leads and a historical setting…I just couldn’t get enough.

So it’s really quite surprising that I didn’t read Jane Austen until last summer. That’s right – it wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I read Pride and Prejudice.

I have to admit, it took me a while to get into the book. The language was so different…I was out of practice and found it hard to understand. I found that watching the old BBC miniseries as I read helped immensely, and when I finished the book, I borrowed my sister-in-law’s copy of the Colin Firth version, and finally saw Mr. Darcy dripping wet, the scene I kept hearing about over and over.

And I was hooked. I haven’t read any other Jane Austen books yet, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a few related pieces.

lizzie bennet diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: This is not a book, but a YouTube series. And it’s pretty spectacular. It’s a modern version of Pride and Prejudice, told through short YouTube videos. So genius. (And, when I clicked over the website, I found out they have written a book - The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet: A Novel - and that they’re doing an adaptation of Little Women, too!)




Longbourn :

This was billed as “Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey” and it did not disappoint. It’s the story of one of the Bennet family’s servants, Sarah, and could definitely stand on its own. Although the fact that Pride and Prejudice is going on in the background adds another element of interest, and truly affects Sarah’s story, as well. I bought this for my sister-in-law for Christmas and then demanded that she let me borrow it. And I’m glad I did.



First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen

This was the Blogger Book Club book for July, and it was such a great choice. Most of the book was set in modern England, and has everything I love in a novel – a little love, a little mystery, and yes, a strong female lead. The novel also included flashbacks to Jane’s day, and really, Jane’s life. The modern day plot really could have stood alone, but again, adding the “Jane Austen” element made the story even better. Two thumbs waaayyy up for this one. (Check out the reviews from Kirby, Cassie and Jessica, too!)


Any other suggestions for an Austen fangirl like me?