If Beef is easy and free to raise, why isn’t it CHEAP?

I was scrolling through Facebook land last week when someone posted the comment about why was beef so expensive… I mean it’s just plain highway robbery, right?! All we have to do is feed the cows grass… which is free! And maybe give the cows some vaccines, which is really just a choice if you want to?

Clearly the comments were golden.

Oh, the world we live in. Where we’re so removed from the farm and ranch that that’s what people ACTUALLY think.

Now, I know there are PLENTY of people that aren’t THAT dense. They know there’s more to it than that. But what really goes into it? I thought I’d clear up some misconceptions…

Let’s go all Sound of Music and “Start at the very beginning – a very good place to startttttt” (Gotta love a little classic musical theater reference.)

So yeah. Grass ain’t free.

It’s not even close to free. Not even a little.

In our “neck of the woods” good agricultural land may be $5,000 an acre, and it takes roughly 2 acres of land to raise one cow-calf pair in Southwest Virginia. But in all honesty, in some areas it might cost more and it might take more. So lets do the math with the numbers we’ve got: to raise a calf… You’ve got to have $10,000 to buy land to raise just 1 calf a year that might bring $900 at market.

Now, I was an Animal & Poultry Sciences major in college – but my courses in Agricultural Economics tell me that’s a terrible business plan.

Which is why there aren’t a lot of 1-cow operations out there. Most farmers and ranchers have a lot more cows – which means they have a lot more land, which means they have a lot more money tied up in the land/grass it takes to feed those cows. And they’re playing a longer game, planning that eventually they’ll pay off that mortgage and won’t have the land costs.

But some people don’t own the land. They lease it from the landowner. Maybe they pay $60/acre/year – that’s $6,000 on just 100 acres PER YEAR. Again – grass ain’t free. And they can’t even claim it’s an investment, right? Because they still don’t own it.

Wait, you mean not every farmer already owns the land? That’s right. There are plenty of us paying mortgages and leases just like YOU. The bills come callin’.

Now lets discuss the the winter months. Grass doesn’t grow real well. So then we feed hay that we harvested off the land during the summer. It may be “free” but the equipment we used to harvest it sure as heck isn’t.

And just to be clear – I’m using the term “free” VERY sarcastically. Nothing is ever free. We may not have exchanged money to pull the hay off of our own land… but it cost us a lot of money to produce it. It’s necessary. Our cows have to eat in winter. So here’s how we paid for it without ever exchanging a piece of money:

It’s called equipment. And it cost us dearly – and we’re still paying for some of it. To produce hay means we have to purchase equipment.

Tractor $72,000; Wet/Dry Baler $34,000; Mower Conditioner $27,000; Rake $2,000; Second tractor $20,000; . And I’m not even counting in the net wrap. We usually spend a $1000 in that or so every year…

Total Equipment Value: $155,000

But producing beef and charging for it is highway robbery…right?

Let me say it a little louder for those in the back: Grass ain’t free.

Look, I’m not mad, not even close – I love talking about how we raise beef. I just want people to understand what goes into it. Most people are so far removed from the farm it’s hard for it to be their fault for not knowing! But it’s our job as producers to help them learn.

I digress…

Obviously there’s value in our animals. There’s value in our genetics, value in the labor that goes into producing the animals. I think everybody can agree on that… So let’s say each of our cows is valued at $2,000, we paid over $7,000 for our last herd bull…. Look we have to spend money to produce beef.

And yes, we spend money on vaccines, which really shouldn’t be a choice in my mind but still is for some. We don’t cut costs or corners on items that keep cattle healthy and help deliver a superior product to the dinner table. Period. We’re producing what we want to eat on OUR table for YOUR table.

Our investment in cow health each year (per cow) is roughly $30, and each calf is $30. But lets say one cow gets sick and needs an antibiotic – which absolutely may happen. Because even when you do everything right… cows can get sick just like people can. One dose of an antibiotic could be $30/dose. (There’s no insurance or co-pay for Bessie!) But lets say 50 of our cows get sick, because it’s a larger operation, or 25% of the herd gets pinkeye (because we’ve alllllll been there…) Those numbers I quoted above, well they just went out the window. We try like heck to keep everybody healthy because we’re good stewards of our animals AND when we have to start treating with antibiotics – it gets expensive… quick. But sometimes it just has to be done for the health of the animal. That’s reality. And the health of the animal ALWAYS takes priority. (Also, just to be clear – there are plenty of years we get by with very little issue and almost no antibiotic use – that’s ALWAYS the goal.)

Ok, so now we’ve factored in medicines. So you combine the medicine costs of the cow and the calf (because we only have one marketable product between the two – the calf – and automatically deduct that from our sale price each year.

Ya with me so far?

Moo-ving to my next point – in EVERY. OTHER. AVENUE. OF. BUSINESS. The seller decides the price. But not us. We take our product to the buyers and the buyer decides what he/she will pay us. And we have to take it. Seriously. We’re dang sure not loading up 100 calves and putting them through the stress of hauling them back home to do it over again and potentially get a LOWER price.

Now, some producers like us have gotten savvy and started contracting out and playing the game a bit. But it’s truly a game. You settle on a price in advance – sometimes the market is higher when your cattle are ready and you’re screwed. And sometimes it’s lower and you’re doing a dang happy dance. But it’s like playing Blackjack in Vegas. Some people count cards better than others… Some years you win, some years you lose, but the goal is to beat the average and come out on the good.

So then there’s the packer side to this.

Who’s the packer? The packer is the guy who takes our beef cattle and processes it and puts it in the grocery store – of which there are really only FOUR major packers in the whole country. Suddenly it goes from $1.50/lb (what we get for our live cattle) to $5.00-20.00/lb (what the packers gets for beef after processing) – it really doesn’t seem fair. (There’s a federal investigation to understand how this is happening.)

There’s been a drastic increase in grocery store prices, but there HASN’T been an increase in beef cattle prices. Ya see the problem? If one goes up, so should the other. But it hasn’t. Why is this?

Well, I can’t answer that. I wish like heck I could. Every dang cattle producer in the country wishes we could answer that. We understand the meat price will be higher than the live cattle price, but as their price goes up… so should ours.

I’m not writing this to be dismal. I’m not writing this to tell you not to support the grocery store. Quite the opposite. BUY BEEF. If you stop buying beef in the grocery store, producers like us go belly up. I’m writing this to help you understand a little more about how we produce it. The beef in your grocery store and at restaurants started out on farms like ours. I wish I could say we captured a little more of the profits. But I’m still proud to be producing it.

My point in all of this is I wish like heck it were as simple as free grass, right? It’s not. Lordy, it’s not. There’s equipment costs, and medicines, labor that’s hard to find, and packers that capture too much of the profits and leave out the people actually producing the beef.

All I know is, I can’t fix the industry – but I can help consumers understand it a little better. And when we all understand it a little better – maybe then we can fix it together. I’m proud to produce beef. I’m proud to know many producers who got tired of seeing their profits go out the window and decided to market their’s locally. With full time jobs off the farm, we just don’t have time to raise ours out and market them – but check out our friends who do! If you think it’s a little pricey – I guarantee they’re not greedy. Often they’re cheaper than the store when you put pencil to paper! Or support them on special occasions if you can! They’ll appreciate you. WE appreciate YOU!

But as always – just eat beef. However you can:) And when you see those nincompoops on social media who think it’s as simple as free grass – think about people like us bustin’ our butts!

And shout out to our dairy brothers and sisters, and all those growing the food that graces your plate – it’s never as simple as it seems, folks.



We Use Hormone Implants in our Calves… Here’s Why:

Mommas and babies turning an inedible product (grass) into a delicious protein source (beef)!

My big thing going into 2021 is I want people to get information straight from the horse’s mouth. I’ve debated writing about this topic for quite some time, scared of the backlash, but also feeling called to tell a different side of the story – one many may not have heard.

So here it is, folks: we use implants in our calves… sometimes referred to as hormone implants.

That’s right, full-disclosure… and at the risk of people jumping all down my throat – I’m telling you we use them.

But hear me out…

There are a lot of reasons farmers and ranchers might use them. Part of it is health, part of it is environment, and part of it is money. It’s also important to consider that many of these products have been on the market and approved by FDA for many, MANY years.

I mentioned FDA because you should know that FDA regulates every medicine, every implant, every medical product we utilize on our cattle, just like they do for us.

So, when we say hormone, we usually mean “sex” hormone and hormones are actually steroids. We use a product called Ralgro, which puts these tiny little beads under the skin of the ear of a calf. The active ingredient isn’t actually a sex hormone at all! But it is a steroid that encourages the pituitary gland to produce more hormones, thus helping the calf gain wait easier, faster, and with less inputs.

Let’s talk about why that matters, and thus why we use them…

Farm land shrinks every year as it’s canabalized by urban sprawl and development. Yet our population continues to grow. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we’ve clearly got a problem… even with the population we currently have, people starve. Thus farmers are constantly tasked with growing more food for more people, with less land.

Look, science has been solving the world’s problems since the world’s problems began. And we can all appreciate the importance of science….until science and food enter the same conversation and then people start freaking out. Look, I get it. Nobody wants to think about food being grown in a Petri dish. I certainly don’t. But the reality is that science, and those dang Petri dishes, often tell us farmers what we need to be doing to solve problems. Science utilized in our food production system is what helps us feed the world. We most definitely cannot grow enough food to support the world without it. Period.

So, what if I told you that there is a way to make more beef, faster on less land and with less water. Sounds great, right? That would be both good for people AND good for the environment!

Well, it’s name is Ralgro and it’s been on the market for more than thirty years.

On average, for every 24 doses of Ralgro used:

3,684lbs of feed are saved (and can be utilized for other animals or purposes)

0.6 acres of crop land can be repurposed

22,000 gallons of water are saved

3.57 acres of pasture can be repurposed

How is that possible?! To put it simply, calves are better able to convert the feed they eat into meat we eat, saving pasture, water, and grain – all which can be used to grow other cattle or crops to feed MORE people!

Also….each calf will have an extra 20lbs or so of meat vs a calf that didn’t have the implant… that matters to us from a financial perspective too. If you figure selling price of about $1.50/lb – that’s an improvement of $30/head when we sell our calves. $30×100 calves = an extra $3000/year. So, yeah… that extra $30 per calf may mean the difference between paying the mortgage, or not…

So let’s talk about the concerns… because certainly there are concerns from consumers.

First, it’s important to remember these products have all been rigorously studied and approved by FDA. I should also mention that I feed the beef we raise to our children, and if that doesn’t tell you I believe in its safety… I don’t know what will.

Second, it’s also important to look at the length these implants work. Ralgro lasts 120 days. We usually put the implant in before weaning. It’ll last 120 days, but that calf will not be ready for harvest for potentially another year or longer.

Meaning that implant we used is LONGGGGG GONNNEEEEE.

Worrying about added hormone in your beef would be a little bit like thinking your 5 year IUD will keep you from getting pregnant 10 years after you got it.

We all know how that one’s gonna work out… Hope you didn’t get rid of all your baby stuff!!!!

Third, I think it’s important to remember that a lot of these calves are ummmm missing the “family jewels”….

That’s right, they’re castrated (often right after birth). There are a lot of really important reasons for why this happens, but as you can imagine – if the family jewels aren’t there, they’re likely to be a little low on the sex hormones too. Thus, it’s reasonable to expect that by increasing these levels (through either an implant that has these hormones, or an implant that causes the body to produce these) that the calf will grow better.

And finally, if none of what I’ve said makes sense to you (maybe you’re a visual learner like myself!)… I like to put it in perspective with a pretty little chart I’ve stolen from Beef Magazine, via bestfoodfacts.org:

Look, at the end of the day, I just want you to know we don’t take the decision to use or not use a product lightly. We’re producing not just your food, but the food we feed our family – and we care immensely and take great pride in our product. I sincerely hope this has helped you understand why beef producers like us use these products. And if you still prefer to eat beef that was raised with no-added hormone (which is absolutely your choice!!) there are some wonderful beef producers who provide that product.

Still have questions? Ask! I’ll do my best to answer.



Women in Agriculture – what men (and any parent) should know.

I was scrolling through the land of Facebook a month or so ago, when I saw a post asking how do you empower women in agriculture.

I started my response with a simple – you need only show her she can.

Women are a vital part of agriculture. So blessed to have had the opportunity to compete for this truck at American Farm Bureau. Girls rock:)

And while I still hold tight to that. I’ve come to realize a few things about women in agriculture that I wish more people talked about…

First, if you want to empower women, the most obvious place to start is with girls.

Second, stop assuming because a woman may not do every task on the farm (although the women in my family do) that she doesn’t bring value in a million other ways to agriculture and your operation.

The reality is women have ALWAYS been in agriculture. We just haven’t always been in the board room.

If we want to empower women in agriculture – start with those spit-fire farm girls that love every minute of time on the farm. Teach your girls they can do anything – because they can. Expect the same of her as you do her brother. Show her how to fix the baler and drive the tractor. If your son works on the farm, so should your daughter. Because when you teach her brother, but not her…

What are you ACTUALLY teaching her? That she’s less? That she doesn’t matter? That she can’t?

When you have different expectations of her brother, but not her – you’re setting her up to believe she doesn’t have the ability or the right to be at the same table as her brother. She does.

Find what she’s good at and encourage her.

Maybe it’s with the animals. Maybe it’s welding and fixing equipment. What’s that saying – nobody’s good at everything, but everybody’s good at something? Don’t make assumptions because she’s a girl that she can’t or won’t be an asset to agriculture.

We talk about wanting our kids to have confidence. Well it starts at home. TEACH her those tough things so she IS confident. When she accomplishes what you taught her, her confidence is built brick by brick. Tell her SHE CAN, because if you don’t, or worse… you tell her she can’t – you’ve told her a lie. And it’s a lie that will limit her potential the rest of her life.

I was raised by a strong mother, who was raised by a forward-thinking father. And thank God for him, and men like him. He taught his girls everything he knew, and had them working beside him as soon as they were old enough. He knew what his girls were capable of, and he was going to make sure they knew it too.

But the reality is that it’s not like that for so many girls.

My aunt runs my family’s operation full-time now, my mom chose to work off the farm but still helps, and now my husband and I have our own operation we’re raising our children on. Pa was proud of the women he raised.

But what if Granny – the southern lady/city slicker – had put her foot down and said it’s not lady-like for the girls to be on the farm? What if she’d kept her daughters inside instead of letting them go with their daddy? What if the extent they were allowed to help was taking food to the hayfield? What if they’d left the “tough” stuff to a farm hand? What if I’d been told I couldn’t. Would I be the person I am?

No, I most definitely would not.

Granny never much liked how dirty and active us girls were on the farm – but she also didn’t do much to discourage it. It wouldn’t have done any good. As a teenager I was already active in our agriculture community. After college I started my career working for USDA. Our veterinarians have been women that man-handle steers better than men. I’ve known women just like my mom and aunt, who were as proficient on a piece of equipment as any man. Sometimes more so.

But I was naive to think it was like that everywhere.

As a young adult I escaped feelings of sexism and exclusion in agriculture, because everyone knew me and knew my family. It protected my view. It protected me. People respected my grandfather, and that got me places.

And then I moved away from home, left my safe little cocoon of inclusion, and married my husband. All of a sudden I became my husband’s wife, not Sarah.

I love where we live. I really do. There’s nowhere else I’d want to be. I love the people. The land.

But I’m also not blind.

Women are most definitely in the agricultural minority around here. When we cut hay, I’m the only female in the field. I can back a trailer. I am not good at mechanic work, but I can doctor cattle. I can ride a horse to get up cows with extreme proficiency, I can work them with no fear, a good bit of finesse, and I even take cussings with limited tears because everybody knows not to take cussings seriously when working cattle with your spouse… I’m in the minority. The extreme minority.

A few men have legitimately asked my husband – how did you get your wife to do that? It’s easy. He married well. He married info a family who taught her she could do anything, and then showed her how. It didn’t happen over night and it certainly didn’t happen by accident.

Look, I know a lot of bad-ass, powerful women working in agriculture. Hopefully you do too! But I also can look around where we live and see that not every girl was raised to know she could do that. There’s still so much more emphasis placed on our boys, that’s not placed on our girls in agriculture.

For every one farm girl raised to know she could, was another girl that might have been taught it wasn’t her place. We’ve got more work to do to get and keep our daughters involved in agriulture. Our industry has to keep positively evolving. Our culture has to keep evolving.

I have a daughter, and I’m so excited to see what she can accomplish. Just as I am excited to see what her brother will do. I’ll raise her to know they can both do anything they put their brains and work ethic behind. But will other people raise their sons to know my daughter can? Will she constantly have to prove herself to men, as so many other women have? Will she continue to be the minority when our industry needs new people?

Sexist seems extreme. Although some would argue it absolutely is appropriate. What I can say is agriculture sometimes has a culture of “assumption exclusion”. We ASSUME women won’t want to work on the farm, won’t want positions of leaderships, won’t be willing to learn to fix the baler – but we never asked because generations (Lord knows my granny is included in that) wouldn’t have. But just because we didn’t grow up with women doing these things, doesn’t mean our daughters, wives, and sisters haven’t been, won’t or shouldn’t.

I promise you there’s a little girl who wants to. You just need to show her how.

So I challenge you this – include your daughter. Our industry needs people and we need her. Decide you’ll have the same expectations of your daughter as you do your son. Ask your wife to sit on a board you don’t have time for. Don’t say she “stays home”, if she’s beside you in the trenches farming – she’s a farmer.

For you women in the trenches, not only is it time for you to own your place of importance on your operation – it’s time to realize you can step off the farm and represent your industry on boards, committees, and with legislators. Your husband/dad/brother may even bare the brunt of the farming responsibility, but your contribution is still valued and needed. Don’t wait to be asked. Go after it.

And men? Support her, just as she does you.

Hubs helping me all the way through the process of winning the American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet – and the proudest guy in the room when his wife walked across the stage.

You’re too busy to leave the farm and fool with _____________ agriculture organization? Good, she can. Let her represent your family, your farm, and your industry. She won’t take the responsibility lightly.

And finally… for each of those farm girls that DID accomplish big things, there was likely a family and a community behind her supporting her dreams, making sure she knew she could do it.

Be that person. Be that community.

Tell our daughters they can, then give them the space to do it.



When you’re missing your grandparent

As you guys well know at this point – I grew up in a farming family. I did an interview this past year and they asked me how I got into agriculture, well to get “in” it assumes you were at some point “out” of it – and I never was. I was quite literally born into it.

My grandfather took over his family’s farm as the youngest of four boys and he never left the nest. As his brothers went off to fight in World War II, he stayed behind to farm and care for his parents. As a young adult he doubled the acreage giving it the name “Twin Farms”. He joked and said if he wasn’t married by 30, he wasn’t getting married. So he married my grandmother at 30.

A few years later came my mother, and then my aunt. No sons for my Pa. Not that that bothered him much. He didn’t really allow social norms to affect him – ever. Whether it was fighting to get his daughter into agriculture classes in high school, or refusing to eat in restaurants that didn’t allow his black friends to eat with him – Pa just did what he felt was right.

A whopping giant of 5’6″ his personality made up for what his size lacked. He was the man you went to with problems, and he was always ready to have a little fun.

As a kid, you never doubted his love. There was never a time he didn’t want us around, and he was the world’s most creative baby-sitter. Off to the barn we’d go in the morning with him, and he’d put us on either side of his tamest Holstein cow and challenge us to who could milk the cow the fastest. When I was not more than a toddler – he’d send me out into the field to “check” cows while he sat on the porch with binoculars watching every move. I learned, and he kept me busy.

My grandfather has been gone for fifteen years. After a horrible battle with Parkinson’s he passed on my first day of college, and in the aftermath the emotion wasn’t what you might expect for most of us. Yeah, we missed him like hell. But Pa hadn’t been Pa for a long time – and he HATED it. Trapped in his own body, Pa didn’t want to be here anymore, and to be honest we didn’t want that for him either.

Sometimes dying isn’t the worst thing.

After he died, there was clearly this huge missing piece in our family – but I see him in my aunt’s determination, my mom’s kindness… I see him in me. And because of that, I’ve never felt alone. He’s always with me in these little ways I just can’t describe. And that’s the thing about losing our loved ones – they make huge impressions on us and they CHANGE us. They put little pieces of themselves inside each of us, and it’s their greatest legacy.

But sometimes – in the quiet times…. you still miss them fiercely.

When I met my husband. My wedding day. When our kids were born. When we bought our farm. All those big firsts he wasn’t here to hug me for.

This past year I had the privilege of representing our state’s farmers at the American Farm Bureau Convention in Austin, Texas. That alone would have tickled Pa. But I was there competing, and as I made it through each round of the contest, slowly advancing towards the top – he would have been cheering the loudest. And when I walked across that stage, winning the event – well… he would have been crying with insane amounts of pride. Because that’s what Pa did.

I miss him.

I tell stories about him all the time – to my children and my husband. I have pictures of him in Munchkin’s room. It still feels like I’m going to go home and walk right into his house and he’ll be there. It still feels like I’m going to walk into church and see him sitting where he always sat, so I can snuggle up next to him. All these years later, it’s like he never left.

And maybe that’s the special part.

Doesn’t matter how long he’s gone – he still feels HERE.



InstantPot Cube Steak

All y’all married folks…

Did you have a hard time blending food-wise? We’re almost a decade in and we’re still on the struggle-bus.

Look. I LOVE to cook…. I have since I was a kid. In college, our apartment would constantly have people in it… all there to eat food that college kids usually only got at home.

Heck, one time my dad was pumping gas and ran into a client. His son and I were both in school at Virginia Tech at the time, and despite our dads knowing each other for YEARS we didn’t meet until college. Client says, “So I hear my kid won’t leave your daughter’s apartment… (Color in Daddy’s face drains, he is a Southern daddy after all.) Would you please have her STOP cooking for him?! (Color returns to Daddy’s face) He’ll never come home at this rate!! In fact, I’m thinking of moving in too!”

Daddy was like, WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU FEEDING HIM?! (If memory serves me correct, I think it was pork loin and peach cobbler…)

So fast forward to the point where I marry a man with a mom who is known for a lot of wonderful things – but her culinary prowess is not one of them.

You’d think he’d be bowing at my feet over having a wife who cooks. But life can never be that simple.

You see, the man never ate at a Mexican restaurant until high school. Had no idea how to cook (or eat) with seasoning. His version of “seafood” was a frozen fish filet. Tragic, right? I cry at night thinking of his under-developed taste buds.

Meanwhile, I’m over here eating sushi, cooking crab cakes, with every herb and seasoning known to man in my arsenal…

Finding balance has sometimes been tricky. He’s not a “picky” eater, but his tastes still run a bit ummmmm, well… boring. Then again, maybe calling it “traditional” makes me sound a little less judgy…

Add to our dilemma the fact that we have freezers, yes FREEZERS, full of homegrown beef. (Look, if you could sign up for a ribeye-only beef, I’d be golden. But the reality is one beef creates a lot of cuts that aren’t my favorite.)

Each year when our beef gets delivered, we’ve got freezers full of meat… but there’s a lot more hamburger, roasts, stew beef, and cube steak than there is actual steak. That’s reality. Beef doesn’t come in a “steak only” option unless you’re at the grocery store and willing to pay more money.

But for Hubs… heck, he’s in heaven. He’s excited and begging me to cook cube steak, boring pot roast, and plain hamburger patties with onions. His mouth waters…

And I’m over her going nope, nope, NOPE. I can’t do it. I just refuse.

It’s too bland. I don’t like it. And I’m certainly not going to waste time cooking something I don’t want to eat.

But like in every good marriage, we’ve learned the art of compromise over the years. I make meatloaf, but not how his MawMaw does. Instead of roast, we do a beef burgundy. I use stew beef for Mexican. (I still refuse to make hamburger patties that aren’t part of a hamburger. I’ve got to draw the line somewhere after all… and that’s definitely a meal he can cook for himself when I’m not home.)

But anyway…

This afternoon I found cube steak thawing in the sink. Immediately I thought, d***it!! Son of a biscuit has outsmarted me into fixing supper his way. But like usual, I decided I’d try and work on it in a way we could both survive.

By the time dinner was over Munchkin had two servings, Hubs literally licked his plate, and then I caught him eating gravy out of the pot. Not kidding. Like he literally stood by the pot with a spoon. For a WHILE.

So here it is, folks: a cube steak I can live with and it only took 20 minutes.

Sorry there aren’t pictures. It was gone before I could take them…


1 can Beef Consomme

1 can Cream of Potato (or mushroom)

1.5 cups water

1 packet brown gravy mix

2 tablespoons dried onion

1lb cube steak


In your instantpot… mix soups, water, gravy mix, and dried onion with a whisk. Place thawed cube steaks in the liquid, making sure to submerge. Place the lid on, cook on manual high pressure for 20 minutes. It’s that easy.

Don’t be alarmed if it warns you the food is burning. Be patient. Don’t take the lid off, the liquid will drop back into the pot and the warning will stop.

Meanwhile, with about 10 minutes left… cook up a batch of egg noodles.

After 20 minutes, do a quick release (be careful of the steam). Top your noodles with the gravy and beef, and supper is DONE!

The whole family loved it, we used my LEAST favorite cut of meat, and I actually enjoyed eating it:)

Did I mention it was done in 20 minutes?

Eat beef, folks…



What you need to know about your beef…

It’s been a WHILE since I’ve gotten to sit down and do one of these. What can I say, working, farming, chasing kids (and dogs, and ponies) keeps a girl jumping!!

This past weekend we were able to attend the wedding of a wonderful couple I work with.

There were NO boots at the wedding. Only heels and some very dapper dress shoes.

Doesn’t Hubs look super excited to be all gussied up?!

Inevitably people ask Hubs what he does for a living. I mean, they already know what I do since I work with half of the wedding guests. But the look of surprise that comes to most people’s faces is pretty classic when Hubs tells them he’s a farmer.

“Really?! You farm?! Like cows? Wait, do they make milk?”

No. You’re not being punked. Ashton is not here and we really are farmers.

Sometimes I think they’re surprised we’re young, well-dressed, and don’t have straw hanging out our mouths. Alas, this isn’t my first rodeo working in corporate America with great people who are constantly surprised we farm.

It’s also an opportunity for us.

See, we get to interact with a bunch of people who are (and were) genuinely interested to learn about what we do and why we do what we do! I mean, the average American is three generations removed from the farm at this point (i.e. great grandparents would have been the last family members that farmed in any way). Our hope is that by sharing our story, we will make each person we talk to feel better about their food choices.

I mean, you SHOULD feed good about your food! We live in the U.S. and have arguably the most affordable, highest quality, and widest variety of food choices in the world!! That’s something we should always appreciate and NEVER take for granted.

So what should you know about your beef? After all… we’re beef farmers and who better to ask than us.

Here’s what we try to share when we’ve got the opportunity:

We raise Angus beef calves on our farm. They’re born in the Spring, and they leave (aka we sell them) in the late Fall when they weigh about 700-800 pounds. While they’re with us we will vaccinate them at the direction of our veterinarian, and we’ll treat them if they get sick or injured. For instance, we’ve had several calves with pinkeye recently!

If they need an antibiotic, we’ll do so under strict guidelines and that calf will not leave this property until the medicine is completely out of their system. How would we know that? Each medicine has a “withdrawal” time clearly written on the packaging, explaining how long that medicine will be in their body. Did you know there are inspectors who are making sure us farmers are following the rules? There are.

We check cows EVERY DAY. Sometimes more than once. And my husband knows many of the cows just by their look… which is actually quite impressive because they’re all the same color with no colorful markings to distinguish a difference. My hubs knows his cows:) They do actually wear some super flashy jewelry, also known as ear tags, so we can keep up with who’s who for health records etc. It’s got a number that will indicate who their mom is if it’s a calf, who their dad might be, and our momma cows will have a number that indicates the year they were born.

We do our best to take care of our momma cows, because if we don’t… they won’t be able to do their job raising babies.

“If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” is basically the farm motto!!!

We get our mommas into the hospital (aka the barn) if they’re not feeling well or get hurt, which sometimes happens, and we doctor on them much like you would your beloved dog. Our mommas are how we make a living, so damn-straight they’re important to us.

Munchkin with his cattle stick, ready to work cows with pinkeye! Think about it like a 4ft extension of your arm. We use them to move cattle when it’s not safe to stick our arm somewhere, or when we need our arm to get a LOT longer to block cattle from going past!

As the calves get bigger, the mommas will be rebred. A mature bull can handle 40ish cows (crazy right), and as much as the men in our lives joke about polygamous marriages… trust me, when our bulls are done doing the horizontal mambo, they’re TIRED. So then they get to rest. Alone.

Come Fall, our babies will likely go out West to one of the “dreaded” feed lots you may have heard of.

Let me explain.

We live on the East coast with AMPLE grass most years. We can raise one momma cow and her baby on just TWO ACRES of land. But we don’t grow corn very well. So the diverse geography of our nation allows us to raise great calves here on the East coast, then ship them west (where the corn is) to finish them to an appropriate weight/size.

You’ve likely heard the term “corn fed”.

Well most of our “fat” cattle (ones that are ready for harvest) are “finished” on a number of grains (just like us, carbs make them gain fat) and this high quality, nutritionist-planned (like an actual animal nutritionist) diet is part of what makes that ribeye taste so spectacular, or filet… take your pick:)

What’s grass fed beef, you might ask? Isn’t it better?

News flash: Virtually every beef cow eats grass for the majority of their life. There are some exceptions, but for ease of discussion you should assume all beef cows eat grass unless otherwise noted, always. Seriously. If the animal is exclusively grass fed (not finished on grain), the beef will likely be leaner, but it won’t have the same degree of marbling that makes steak so delicious. Think “select” vs “prime” when you’re shopping at the grocery store. You can absolutely make up your own mind – but I’ll stick to my grain-finished prime ribeye. Just sayin’.

So let’s call your new steak, “Ribeye”. When Ribeye leaves our farm, he’s going with a bunch of his half siblings (BabyDaddyBull was busy!!) out West. He’ll be there to hang out in very large pens (a lot bigger than you’re probably imagining) with a bunch of his buddies. The pen size is regulated to make sure each steer has room to jump and play, but since Ribeye is a herd animal and enjoys eating more than pretty much everything… he’ll likely stand next to his buddies. That makes him happy.

If you’ve seen pictures of calves packed in tight pens, it’s probably because they’re being moved to another pen, they’re being brought in to see the veterinarians, or maybe they just like standing super close. (I like my space bubble, cattle do not.) If they’re cramped it’s by choosing, or necessity, but definitely NOT because that’s their normal pen size.

Some people (shocker) would have you believe tight spaces are the norm, and that Ribeye spent his whole life on concrete. Simply NOT TRUE.

Eventually Ribeye will be big enough to become your ribeye (and it’s going to be a delicious one.)

Ever heard of Temple Grandin?

If you haven’t, you should absolutely look her up. She’s a world renowned animal behaviorist. She’s also a woman who started working in agriculture long before it was “normal”. And did I mention she’s autistic? To say she’s an inspiration puts it VERY mildly. (FYI, Claire Danes won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of her… It’s a wonderful movie.)

But I digress…

Dr. Grandin has been an advocate for animal welfare and improving conditions in slaughter houses for longer than I’ve been alive. Her research has essentially changed how we handle almost every livestock animal in the U.S. (and elsewhere), with her most important work dealing with animals that are about to become our dinner.

Did you know you can TASTE a stressed animal? Seems a bit far fetched, but the reality is stress actually affects the meat. So Dr. Grandin (and now others) have worked to make sure Ole Ribeye has a very quiet, stress-free transition to your dinner plate.

First, it’s the right thing to do. Animals should be treated with respect because they nourish our bodies, keep us warm, and give us hundreds of other products – so we can take care of them while they’re with us. Second, it makes financial sense. High quality meat brings in more money. Plain and simple.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way… What about organic? And natural?

Well for starters… ALL beef is NATURAL. unless it’s one of those faux meats that’s not actually meat. Look, I get that if you have Alpha Gal (tick-borne disease that makes you allergic to mammal meat) you would kill for an Impossible Burger. But otherwise, the over-processed ingredient list alone is enough to turn me off. Clearly that’s my opinion, and you’re entitled to yours!

So how do you make sense of all the options?

To put it in the easiest terms possible: “USDA Certified Organic” means the farmer adheres to certain standards when it comes to the food and medicine that Ribeye consumes (among other things). If Ribeye got sick, you’d have more limited options for what you could treat him with. Then again…anything a “conventional” farmer gives Ribeye should be out of his system long before Ribeye becomes a ribeye.

“Natural” is more of a marketing term and is unregulated. Look, I’ve got friends who raise and sell “natural beef”. They do raise their cattle differently than us – and that’s ok!! Beef being marketed as natural implies a more “organic-like” form of production, but it definitely DOES NOT guarantee it. Ask the farmer you buy your natural beef from to tell you about it!! They’d probably love the opportunity! And it may be that it costs them too much money (it’s actually quite a hassle too) to go through the organic certification, so they raise their cattle with organic production methods and label themselves “natural” to set themselves apart.

Bottom line: as a consumer you have choices, and that’s cool. But try not to make assumptions without talking to us farmers. We raise our cattle conventionally, and I feed it to my family. But if you choose natural or organic, that’s cool too! If you raise natural or organic beef, my hat’s off to you for providing beef to support consumer’s demands!

If you’ve made it this farm…I hope I could share something with you that makes you more comfortable and confident about beef. After all, it’s delicious, protein-packed goodness and much like Bubba on Forrest Gump… I’ll take it in any form you want to prepare it. Except well-done.

Bacon-wrapped Smoked Meatloaf. SPECTACULAR.

Eat beef, folks.

Love, Stilettos

I see you, Farm Mom

Well, if you’ve followed along on here you know we’ve probably added another two-legged creature to our farm by now. That or I just won the record for longest pregnancy ever.

For the last seven weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out this new normal. How to be the mom of two beautiful kiddos, the wife my husband deserves, how to manage a career, and a farm, and somehow, amongst all the chaos…still be me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge the #momlife my world has turned into. I worked damn hard to get our sweet chickadee here. And we are sooooo blessed. We had a miscarriage, then buried a baby boy. I suffered through countless doctor appointments, turned my stomach into a permanent bruise with blood thinning shots, had test after test, and sat on pins and needles for nine long months. Chickadee was sooooo wanted, just like Munchkin was.

But that doesn’t change the central theme of this post.

Being a farm mom is hard.

It’s harder than we sometimes want to admit to ourselves, and certainly harder than we want people to realize. We want people to think we’ve got our shit together, right? I mean we’re adults. We’re women. We’re supposed to be able to conquer the world, do anything…right? We post all the smiley pictures of Facebook and Instagram. We volunteer to do just as much at school as the next mom. Hell, sometimes we volunteer more because they know we’ll always bring a calf to school, or show up with a horse for “cowboy day”. Or heaven help you, if they think because you don’t have a 9-5 job that you don’t actually “work” and can come read to the class anytime…


Being a farm mom adds a new dimension of stress.

I see you.

In our marriage we have a division of labor. Hubs handles the day-to-day farming operation. I handle the kids. (Which is convenient, especially right now – since he doesn’t lactate….)

But all jokes aside, just because I’m not out on the farm all day doesn’t mean I’m not dealing with it. Our dinner time is dictated by what time Hubs comes in. Our weekend plans are dictated by what’s going on on the farm. Hell, all our plans are dictated by the farm because the farm always comes first.

Being a farm mom is rough. Period.

I also know PLENTY of moms who ARE the primary farmer AND a momma. I praise you.

Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to hold down my career, be a mom, and handle the random farm stuff that falls into my avenue of duties.

I have a shopping list for the vet office that I’ve got to get taken care of. But I can’t do it tomorrow when I take Munchkin to preschool because they’re closed on Wednesday. I’ll have to drive back to town another day to grab it.

I see you, farm mom.

Calving season, ohhhhhh calving season. There’s nothing cuter than a newborn calf. I mean, I thought both of my babies looked like creepy little aliens at first. But a calf? Still wobbly, with that silky coat? All cuteness. Ya know what’s not cute? A frozen dead calf.

Please for the love of all things Holy, don’t call CPS – this is the crap that happens when you’re a farm mom. Last winter we had to go out during an ice storm to grab a frozen calf. Hubs couldn’t do it by himself because of a very cantankerous momma cow and the baby was going to die in that sorta weather. I was pregnant, and we had a choice to make – wake up the one sleeping child we already had to put him in a freezing cold truck, or make a run for it out to the pasture by the house. We made a run for it. It was the middle of the night, Hubs needed help, and we didn’t have anyone we could call in that sort of emergency. The calf lived, we named her Elsa, and Munchkin never knew we’d left – until he heard mooing in the basement the next morning…

I see you, farm mom.

Oh great! Now we’ve got a sick cow in the barn. Can I delay leaving for work to meet the vet and then wrangle the kids while I help the vet get her up to look at her? I mean, no not really – but you’re a farm mom…so yeah – you’ve got this.

How many times has Hubs taken Munchkin to school? Once maybe? How many times has he picked him up? None. Hell, last year the preschool teacher didn’t even recognize him at the school functions he did attend.

Believe me, I see you.

(Interestingly, the pediatrician just met him for the first time when he drove me to Chicadee’s first appointment!)

During hay season this year, who was out raking? Pregnant farm mom. After I’d worked a full day. And still had to cook supper.

Munchkin worked cattle for the first time strapped in a carrier on me when he was just a few weeks old.

I see you out there trying to hold everything together, farm mom.

And then there’s the normal stuff, the daycare/preschool pick ups and drop offs, breakfast, dinner, grocery shopping. Putting baby in a bouncy seat in the bathroom just so you can get a shower because Hubs is still out farming.

I’m rambling. But, like seriously – my life is nothing but a ramble at this point, and chances are your’s might be too, farm mom. It’s controlled (sometimes) chaos, and that’s ok.

To be clear, this is not a “my hubs is the worst hubs” post. Or an “oh poor pitiful farm moms” post. We’re lucky and blessed in so many ways to be farm moms. Hubs is the hardest working man I know. I hope our children have his work ethic, his devotion to the land, his grit. But it’s not easy being a farm mom.

This is about not feeling like you’re the only mom out there dealing with this shit. You’re not.

Because if you’re a farm mom – and your husband is anything like mine, you know this is just part of what you signed on for when you said your vows, and when you had that first baby. You knew your sashay into motherhood wouldn’t be like your non-farm friends with equal kid duties split between you. With schedules where you negotiate who does what with little Petey.

Nope that’s not what you signed on for at all.

You signed on for something entirely different. You decided to give your children a different upbringing than their peers. You signed on for teaching them to love the land. You signed on for teaching them the value of hard work. You signed on for playing outside, making forts out of bedsheets and hay bales. You signed on for late nights and early mornings, and probably not much appreciation. But it’s worth it.

It might not always feel like it. But it’ll always be worth it.

In order for our farm to work, I’ve got to be a full-time mom. I’m the lead parent 95% of the time. And the truth is, I eat it up with a fork. I LOVE being a mom. I love the conversations in the car on the way to school. I love the snuggles before bed. I love the trips we take by ourselves… even though I wish like hell Hubs could be with us.

But it’s hard.

And it’s really, really easy to forget yourself.

For the last five days, I’ve said I was going to re-paint my nails. It hasn’t happened. To be honest, I don’t even know why I care. Like seriously, I’m not a manicure sorta girl – but I have this significant desire to paint my nails. It probably won’t happen tomorrow either.

Instead I’ll snuggle Chickadee. And when I’m not snuggling her, she’s probably eating. She eats like a horse, which means she’s attached to me like ALL THE TIME. Do you know how easy it is to lose yourself when there’s a tiny human demanding to eat from your body 24/7? Easy. Real freaking easy.

For me, getting back to “normal” is all about not forgetting myself. Because if we can do normal things, then I’m doing things that make me happy. Is it hard? Sure!

I mean, for goodness sake… Last weekend I drove 4.5 hours to take Munchkin to the State Fair to mutton bust with a 7 week old. Was that easy? Not particularly. Packing the car is like preparing for war at this point. But I saw my parents, hung out with Nanny, was able to go to the funeral of the man who married us, and saw friends too.

That made me feel normal. I did it as much for myself as I did Munchkin.

Several weekends ago, Hubs went with us to a horse show. Should I have gone? Probably not. Should I have ridden? Definite negative. But it made me feel more normal. Like one of these days, I won’t need his help to feel like myself.

(Side note: Hubs hates horse shows. They bore him to tears. But he went without complaint because he knew it would make me happy.)

I fix my hair in the morning and put on mascara. Why? Because it makes me look like me when I look in the mirror – and that makes me feel normal. Like Stiletto is still in there… even when she’s got wet milk marks on both boobs.

See, my theory is that at the end of the day if we stop being US because we’re so tied up in being farm moms…we’re not giving our loved ones the person they deserve. If we stop doing the things that make us happy, how can we be the person they need. If we lose ourself in the day-to-day chaos of the farm and being a mom, how will our kids ever learn balance?

So farm moms, I see you.

It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s sure as heck ok to admit it.

Go ride your horse. Go get your nails done. Put the baby in the bouncy seat and take a shower. Put on all your makeup, or don’t. Do whatever the heck it is you need to do to feel more normal, Farm Mom.

Just don’t lose you. Don’t lose the woman your husband fell in love with. It’ll be the woman your kids fall in love with too.



Surviving the transition to Horse Show Mom

I was five the first time I stepped foot in the show ring – on my aunt’s horse, Daisy, who had three legs in the grave and one on a banana peel. All jokes aside, my job was to get behind my aunt in the ring and Daisy took care of the rest. I survived, and was happy as all get out!

But I can still remember my “mildly” competitive dad working with five-year-old me behind the trailer to lope poor Daisy who was quite over any bursts of speed at that point in her life. Dad was frustrated because I wasn’t “ready”, and I was too excited to care;) I was five and in a HORSE SHOW!!! I was practically old enough to drive the truck!

To dad’s point: why put a kid in the ring that isn’t ready to compete?

To my aunt’s point: because she’ll have fun and learn.

And now I’m trying to fall in the middle as parent to our munchkin.

So off we go to our first “real” horse show with a saint of a pony named, Clyde! Munchkin’s not “ready”, but he is ready to learn, and he is ready to have fun. I worked with him on leading his pony. We put out buckets in the barn aisle, like a pony-leading obstacle course haha, but he’s not been comfortable enough to trot his pony in-hand.

But who the hell cares? He just turned four and he’s happy and having a ball!

So we get to the show. The pony is bathed. Twice because he’s white and rolled in poop. He’s braided. And him and the kid look cute as hell. (Munchkin picked out his own neck tie to match his navy coat!)

And what do you know….

Munchkin is in the first halter class, and he’s the first called into the ring. No ability to watch others and he’s got a show mom in the background giving him directions but trying to let him figure it out.

Did he walk straight to the judge? No. It was a little more drunken sailor-ish.

Did he set his pony up correctly? No. He doesn’t even know what that is. He STOPPED his pony, which was a win;)

He let the judge inspect, and when the pony moved he didn’t freak out, he just rolled with it.

Did he trot away from the judge? Not a chance. He hasn’t been confident enough to try it. And I’m ok with that. What I was more ok with was the big grin on his face and the look of accomplishment!

He lined his pony up for further inspection and because it was a small local show, I could be with him to help. But I tried my best to let him have his moment, to let him learn, and to figure things out on his own. I didn’t set his pony up. We didn’t even talk about how to do it. We’ll get there….

When he came out with a second place ribbon, he was stoked…. I mean, red is his favorite color!!! How cool was that?! He has no clue that blue is what he should’ve wanted, but he’s four so again…who the hell cares?!

His daddy was waiting on him on the outside… ready to intercept the pony and high-five the kid.

His daddy has never horse showed. But he suggested Munchkin go stand at the rail and watch the next few classes to learn. But again, he’s four…. I legit wasn’t worried about him watching other classes. I was just happy it was a good experience and he got his favorite color ribbon!

But dang if he didn’t listen to that daddy of his and learn.

He watched, just as his daddy asked, not for too long. But he watched. Neither of us said much to him. We asked if he was having fun. He was. He wanted his cousin to come hang out by the in-gate with us. So I went to grab her.

And oh geez, it’s time to go back in the ring for his 12 and Under Best Turned Out class. Before I can hand over my two year old niece to Hubs, Munchkin has grabbed the pony and is heading into the ring at a trot!


1. He’s NEVER trotted his pony in hand

2. He left me in the dust

3. It was not necessary to trot the pony and I was definitely not telling him otherwise!

He had watched the other “big kids” and adults trot their horses and decided he could do it too. Well, ok little man! Go on with your big, bad self!

So he wins his class, which is slightly LESS exciting because it came with a blue ribbon. Duh, red is his favorite color…. Meanwhile, Grandaddy is happy because to directly quote him: “If you don’t win best turned out, you’re just plain trifling!”

Kudos for honesty from the munchkin too…

Judge: Young man, did you braid your pony?

Munchkin: No, my momma did!

In his defense, he did help me wash his pony;) BOTH times! And he picked up all the hair when I pulled Clyde’s mane. And he watched intently as I clipped his pony. Soaking it in…

Next came the stick horse class. He romped around the ring and his “horse” somehow managed to maul his cousin’s head…

And then lead line. Riding proud as peacock:) and without me actually leading him, because clearly he’s too big for that…

And then it’s over. An hour later. After all that work…

We take some pictures. Untack the pony. Mimi helps undress the munchkin. We load up. Drive home. Unload. Unbraid. Put Clyde back in his stall.

I’m exhausted. And also 7 months pregnant.

But my heart was happy.

Munchkin had a great experience. He learned. He had fun. He got all sorts of cool ribbons. He wants to know when he can go to another show:) The local show made it fun and enjoyable, while allowing me to help and stay with my kiddo so everyone was safe and happy!

Thank goodness…. Grandaddy was quite pleased with Munchkin’s blue ribbon in the one class, but clearly thinks he should’ve won every class;) In fact all the men in his life do.

But we did win. We won in every category as far as I’m concerned. And as a momma, I couldn’t have been prouder.

My hubs doesn’t get the enjoyment out of horse showing. But watching Hub’s face light up at seeing his son do something he so clearly enjoyed….well that helps me know that even if Hubs doesn’t understand all of it, he trusts me when I have these crazy ideas. He was so damn proud of his son. Proud of the independence Munchkin showed, proud that he listened and learned, proud that at four he’s already picking up some of the traits we hope he carries with him all his life.

At the end of the day…. that folks, is why we horse showed this weekend.

And while I missed not being on a horse in the ring yesterday, I can tell you nothing compares to watching your little one love something you do too…



And here we go again…

Well folks, I’ve been very open with our baby struggles for the last year. I’ve appreciated each and every person who reached out during that time. And some of you have made me cry (which is impressive because I HATE crying) with your own stories.

Most of you know at this point that Hubs and I have one perfect, beautiful, wild little boy. A year ago last month we had a miscarriage. I immediately got pregnant again.

And nine months ago we sent a son to Heaven. I hope it will be the most painful thing we go through in our marriage, but the reality is – it might not be…and that’s ok. We’ll figure out whatever gets thrown our way, just like we have everything else.

They told me afterwards, just give it time. They said your body will know when it’s right. But for the girl who evidently gets pregnant just looking at her husband – having to wait months, and facing disappointment was new. I trusted it would be fine, I had no issues conceiving in the past, and I very easily recognized that despite the fact my body theoretically SHOULD be ok….it wasn’t. I’d already been pregnant twice in less than a year, and what I went through in August was traumatic on mind, body, and soul. Christmas was coming, and I got to this point that I told my sister-in-law that this was it – if I wasn’t pregnant I had come to this place of peace and decided I was done. Done with the migraines. Done with the feeling bad. Done pushing for something that just maybe wasn’t supposed to be.

Then I got really pissed at Hubs. I mean really pissed.

I NEVER get pissed like that. What was I mad at? I was home steaming shrimp for a fried oyster party because I don’t like oysters, and he neglected to inform me of the following:

A) he wasn’t coming home prior to the party – aka he was already there having fun.

B) There were copious amounts of crab legs too (which I love…as I’m slaving over the shrimp to take to the party that I didn’t need to take.)

C) He never told me a time to be there and now he’s wondering why I’m late….

Admittedly, some of you can easily see why I would be upset. But for me…the girl who never gets mad, that always rolls with the punches – I WAS PISSED. Like, really, really, PISSED.

And it was then that my friend Britt knew I was pregnant again.

I drank several glasses of wine (WHOOPS!!), refused to speak to my husband, and eventually calmed down:)

The next morning I took a pregnancy test (wayyyy too early) and went, “OHHHH shit.”

Do you know what it’s like to host a Christmas party with fifty people crowded all over your house, you can’t drink, and you’re not willing to tell anyone you peed on a stick that morning?? No? Well, it sucks.

So here we go again…

When I was pregnant with Munchkin, I KNEW he was a boy. Immediately. Instinctively.

When I got pregnant the next time – Same.

When I got pregnant again – Same.

When I got pregnant this time, I told Hubs to watch out. This one’s a girl.

And so it is. In August, Hubs, Munchkin, and I will welcome a baby girl to the family.

These last few months have given me time to reflect. While getting pregnant has never been my problem, getting a baby here on earth has. And it’s left me feeling grateful for a lot of things.

Munchkin is a freaking miracle.

All babies are special. I know that. But knowing what I know now…how we got Munchkin here without issue, I’ll never know or understand.

I have a genetic blood clotting disorder. Without the miscarriages, without losing our son, I would never have known until something catastrophic happened.

And unfortunately, my family knows all too well what catastrophic means. My grandfather died at 31 from a massive aneurysm. He was “healthy as a horse”, or so everyone thought until my grandmother found him dead in their bed three days after Christmas. My dad was 5. My aunt was 3. Nanny was 6 weeks pregnant with my uncle. Talk about being up poop creek…. what Nanny went through I just can’t imagine.

My dad has only one memory of his father, playing with his Christmas train set he’d just gotten on the living room floor. His siblings have no memories.

What I have is genetically dominant, and I’m heterozygous for it – meaning I received a copy of the gene from one of my parents. Likely my dad, given the family history. My dad has never had an issue, but he’s on medicine to hopefully prevent it from happening to him, as am I.

What if I hadn’t found out? What if I had a massive aneurysm in my early thirties, just like my grandfather? What if I’d left my husband with a toddler and a baby, but no momma to raise these precious humans.

We can spend our lives “what if-ing” and it won’t do us much good. But what I can do is be thankful.

Be thankful for an OB that wasn’t satisfied with not having an explanation for what happened to our son. That went to the ends of the testing world to figure out what happened, and then put together a game plan for how to handle it.

I can be thankful for all the support we got from friends, family, and strangers. For the random acts of kindness, the check-ins, visits, and phone calls.

I can be thankful that in August we’ll have a wild little girl to keep us on our toes, and an angel boy in heaven to watch over us.

So for those that have followed along on our journey, loved us up close, and loved us from afar. For those dealing with their own battles that just don’t feel like they can talk about it. For the lucky ones that didn’t have to go through Hell to get a baby, but want to understand what it’s like for their loved ones….

This is where we are.

I recently read and saw Dylan Dreyer’s (a Today Show anchor) openness regarding her own battle with trying to add to their family, and she said this: joy is joy, pain is pain. She shared joy at learning another person was having a baby, and pain over her own family’s struggle. All at the same time.

So, while we know pain, we very clearly know joy. And right now we’re basking in it. At 22w, I feel good finally! Pistol is cooking as expected, we’ve had an uneventful pregnancy thus far (much like Munchkin’s, and nothing like the last two)! She’s kicking, and growing, and stomping on my bladder for shits and giggles – which I’m perfectly ok with:) So, thanks for keeping up with us, the positive vibes, prayers, and everything else. Y’all rock.

And finally, may we all be good humans, like Dylan Dreyer, and able to share joy even in times of pain.

– Stilettos

Being an AGvocate

Yesterday I posted a funny poem about our unfortunate “date night” – since that’s about how steamy we’ve been here lately – spent in the bathroom warming up a very cold newborn calf. It got some giggles, some shares, and some likes. It’s been making its way across the country through Facebook, which is admittedly kind of cool – that one sleep-deprived poem would make its way into the eyes of cattlemen from across the country.

It got quite a few comments, one from Hubs friend who said he no-longer thought of Hubs as a KMart Cowboy hahaha…I guess he’s the real deal now! One person thought I should turn it into a children’s book – which probably means I should take the “pissed” and “hell” out…

And it got one comment from a person in Montana.

This individual read my silly poem and agreed we must be good, hard-working people – but then she made two crucial assumptions that just weren’t true. And that’s why I hope, as my “ag” friends, you’ll share this post.

She assumed we chose to calve in the Winter.

She assumed we live in Montana (because the person who shared it does).

Sayings of the South #1 – “Assume” = if you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME. I’ve always found that to be true.

She went on to criticize cattle producers who want accolades on social media for pulling a calf out of a snow bank, but that technically made the choice to calve in the winter. She believes that calving seasons should be moved to a more ideal time. She clearly made some assumptions in regards to us.

Sayings of the South #2 – “Opinions are like a-holes – everybody’s got one.” True story.

Admittedly, this is how I perceived her comments. But see, that’s the bad thing about written language. One sentence, one comment, one blog post can be perceived by individuals in more than one way. And this is what I think she’s missing out on.

We calve mid-March through mid-May, most coming in April. We have a tight window of calving. We live in Virginia. It will be 70 degrees this weekend. And while we’ve had some cold weather this week, and we might get a squall of snow between now and April – it’s definitely not winter. So her assumptions were false.

I commented back explaining our situation, the assumptions she had made (politely), and that I was commenting because I didn’t want people to only read her comment without knowing the truth.

She responded, acknowledging her faulty assumptions, but stood by her claim that people in her area shouldn’t be calving during winter months, unless there’s a very valid circumstance. Her rationale seems reasonable. But here’s the problem. There were other comments regarding why calving happens during winter months that also seem quite reasonable. And that’s the thing about agriculture…

Sayings of the South #3: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat!” PLEASE nobody get offended and think I think we should be eating domesticated animals. It’s just a saying!!! But it’s true – there’s more than one good way to do something in farming and ranching. And that’s ok.

So here’s why I’m posting this – and I’m hoping you will too.

One individual posted one negative comment about us rescuing a cold calf. She’s a person from the agriculture industry, someone who should “get it”.

ANYBODY could read her statement – and I do mean ANYBODY. Left alone, it leaves my husband and I looking like attention seeking, irresponsible cattlemen. With context, and an explanation, it leaves her looking like a person who complains, and makes negative comments without doing her homework. And at the end of the day, someone in the agriculture industry still looks bad. Which nobody wants.

Sayings of the South #4: “Don’t air your dirty laundry outside.” Nobody wants to see the skid marks in your undies. Promise. Meaning? If you don’t have something positive to say, Facebook might not be the place to air it.

So here’s my ask, farming/ranching folks:

Can we please make social media a place of positivity when it comes to agriculture. Where we showcase what we’re proud of. Where we show the hard work that we put in. Where we stay in our own lane, and agree not to tear down someone who does it differently than us. So that together, we combat the people who have NO clue what they’re talking about, have never stepped foot on a farm, but have buttholes (See Sayings of the South #2).

I may not personally feed my kid organic, GMO-free food. But I’ll support the farmer producing it. I may not eat “natural” beef. But I’ll support the farmer producing it. I may not personally agree with a lot of things, but here recently I’ve been trying to do a better job supporting ALL of agriculture. Hence forth, can we not agree that by slamming others in the agricultural industry for ideas or production methods we don’t agree with – we’re hurting the industry we all love.

My husband and I agreed before our kid was born – no disagreeing in front of Munchkin. No “airing our dirty laundry”. Why? Because it creates a divisive nature which is helpful to nobody, and in the end it would be all of us that lose. Especially our kid – or in the case of agriculture…the consumer. Because if the people within agriculture can’t publicly agree how to handle something – how in the heck do we expect a consumer to figure it out?

So as an industry this is what I want your take-away to be:

Social media is a powerful tool. It allows us to tell our story, to show off our farms, and to combat those that know very little, but have big opinions about how farming and ranching should be done.

It’s ok to disagree amongst ourselves.

Save it for a producer meeting. A Farm Bureau meeting. A one-on-one with local veterinarians and extension staff. Save it for the person you disagree with. Don’t air your dirty laundry because in the end – we all lose. Somebody looks bad, and that means we all look bad. We look divided – not united. And last I checked, we’ve gotten a whole lot more done as an industry, than a single person ever has.

Love ya’ll long time,

– Stilettos

PS – for those of you interested, I would encourage you to reach out to your state and local farm bureau organizations to see what media training resources might be available to help you navigate social media and AGvocacy.