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Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Preschool

My dad asked if preschool was in full session in response to a photo I sent him of our three-year old arming his first cow. The more I think about it, the more I believe that yes, it sure is.

Both our kids have learned several things relevant to AI’ing cattle the last couple weeks: Liquid nitrogen is cold, when finished loading an AI gun, you tuck it in your shirt, arming sleeves make awesome balloons, reading freeze brands or ear tags correctly is important, and you always write down how you bred each cow/heifer.

But, it goes well beyond that. We stopped in a wet area to admire and catch tadpoles while moving the cows post-AI. They fought over would get to drive the side-by-side through each gate. Our boy can hold quite a conversation on the current farming situation on our place. When a fat steer got out in the wheat field, our two-year old girl immediately yelled we needed a horsey, and that he was, “over there!”

I get asked fairly regular about enrolling my kids in literal preschool, or daycare, or something. I have been told by multiple sources that my three-year old sure isn’t speaking at a kindergarten level. That school has changed, and kids need to be prepared. It’s not like it was back when we were kids, when you might be able to get by without some form of pre-kindergarten formal education. Like I did.

You can even have a government funded person come into your home and provide educational lessons to your children, as well as observations on your family. Because nothing says, “Big Brother,” like having someone with the government begin the educational process with your child asap after birth, and provide insight on how your family should function within your own home.

I am not anti-preschool or anti-daycare. I am anti-one-size-fits-all-education, which does extend to having a lot of doubts with the current public-school system. I am even more anti-you-are-messing-up-your-kids-by-not-pushing-education-on-them-as-toddlers.

There is nothing wrong with letting kids be little kids for the short time it will last. With learning numbers via freeze brands on black cattle, or letters via reading seed bags to dad while filling a drill. More kids should know to go find basic tools when something is broken, and what those tools are, instead of having to call someone. Kids should experience growing food, and learn how to work with technology not found on an entertainment app or video game.

They should have the opportunity to work with animals, fix fence, change oil, learn noxious weeds, and count hay bales.

There is more to be learned running a pencil and calculator for dad as he does break evens while driving down the road than some college courses will eventually offer their minds. The ability to speak with people, look them in the eye, shake their hand, and actually listen to a conversation is an irreplaceable skillset. Being around adults more than other kids isn’t all bad.

I don’t care that my three-year old doesn’t speak at a five-year old level. I’m not inviting a complete stranger into my home to tell me that a family that works together, prays together and learns together needs to do things differently based on a booklet they were told to follow.

We are far from perfect. But, we are also far from doing a disserve to our children in the area of early education. It is preschool year-round here, and we all love the lessons it teaches us.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton Maude: The Synchronized Dachshund

I am quite a fan of Dachshunds. Unfortunately, they believe themselves to be bullet-proof, which causes a lot of excitement at times, and a much higher turnover rate than I like.

One morning in the midst of AI’ing cows in 2014, Maggie, the mini Dachshund, didn’t come out of her kennel. It was unusual, so I checked on her, to find her acting almost paralyzed. Unable to control her legs, or move much at all beyond shaking. She was a mess.

Being new to the western South Dakota area, I called Dr. George in Wyoming. He has a long history with the one-in-a-million ailments that my livestock and pets are prone to, and I needed professional help.

I explained that Maggie had done an above-average job of destroying a used CIDR, as in the type you synchronize cattle with, the day before. She had drug it out of the burn barrel by the string. Dr. George thanked me for clarifying the type of CIDR/cedar, and with his dry sense of humor noted that had she consumed a cedar tree, the issue would be obvious.

He then explained that progesterone, which is use in CIDR’s, causes temporary paralysis if given in too high a dose. Considering my nine-pound dog chewed on and/or consumed the better part of dose intended for a 1,200 cow, used or not, he was fairly confident that was her problem. But, said I should probably take her in to be checked out.

Off to the emergency room at an area vet clinic we went. Larger towns have emergency walk-in areas for pets. I found that odd, but, since this inaugural trip, we’ve helped keep their lights on.

We waited our turn, and I explained Maggie’s issue to the vet on call. He asked if she was pregnant, to which I replied no, she was just experiencing a false pregnancy; not her first. Dachshund’s have issues.

He was far from convinced, and asked question after question, like how far it was to the closest intact male dog?

Three to five miles, cross country, give or take.

He didn’t buy it.

On and on it went, until I stated that unless a raccoon had cornered her in the shed, she was definitely experiencing a false pregnancy. I even had the stuffed animals she mothered the time before all ready to go back home.

He didn’t even crack a smile, and with a decent amount of attitude said they had to do an ultrasound in order to know how to proceed.

So off they whisked Maggie, then brought her back.

Then, the doctor returned, and in a much more humble tone, informed me that my dog was in fact not pregnant. Though he still found it hard to believe.

I was shocked at the news, of course…

He asked a few questions about this quirky phenomenon, which does happen, but apparently most dogs don’t actually produce milk, believe to give birth, and then proudly mother stuffed animals.

As I said, one-in-a-million ailments.

We finally got around to the CIDR progesterone overdose issue. Maggie and I gave a brief lecture on cattle synchronization and breeding protocols. The doctor left to, come to find out upon his return, Google progesterone overdoses in dogs.

He had found nothing. Apparently, there had never been another issue of a nine-pound dog eating a CIDR, or overconsuming progesterone in any way. Or, none that had been published. So, he was somewhat stumped, but did some research on human overdose, and eventually used that to create a treatment plan.

We finally left with a bill for a pregnancy ultrasound and an under confident assurance that the progesterone should be out of her system within roughly 24 hours. He wasn’t too far off. A couple days later she was back to trying to get CIDRs out of the burn barrel.

The moral of the story, as Dr. George noted for free and without missing a beat, is to keep your CIDRs picked up if you don’t want to synchronize your falsely pregnant Dachshund.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Holly Mae

My sister Holly celebrates her 24th birthday on May 18. She was born three months premature, with Down syndrome, and we still take her birthday’s seriously. Her request, each year, is a party with her family, cake, and presents (no specific list, just presents).

In light of her birthday, it seems fitting to share some stories she stars in.

We will begin with the day she and my brother, Kyle, were waiting in line at a store. They were behind a guy Kyle said looked as though he lived in a gym, and only left for the occasional protein shake and to lift one-ton trucks for fun. As they stood there, Holly pipes up, asking, “What’s up with that guy?”

Kyle tried to shush her, and I believe said a quick prayer the man was either deaf, or had a sense of humor. Holly, meanwhile, continued, “Doesn’t he know, earrings are for GIRLS!”

Kyle didn’t know what to do, and was kind of looking for a hole to climb into, when the guy just grinned and carried on. Disaster averted.

On another occasion, Kyle got pulled over. He asked Holly to make sure her seatbelt was on right, which was something she could do just fine. However, by the time the cop made it to their window, Holly had managed to nearly hang herself in her seatbelt, in a highly conspicuous manner, and was dramatically asking Kyle for help.

While preg-checking one fall, Holly was running the sliding gate at the end of my Aunt and Uncle’s alley. A heifer on up the alley spun out, and slung a loose pile of cow manure. A big clump landed perfectly, nearly covering Holly’s face. She started to blubber up, when I told her if she cried it would get in her mouth. She immediately stopped and pursed her lips together, only to start tearing up and wobbling her lip again. We repeated the process a handful of times before getting the manure off, and as I struggled not to laugh at her predicament. Today, this is one of her favorite stories to tell.

Our family toured some country with a very long-winded man once, and all three of us kids were well past bored. Holly was sitting between my dad and the talkative guide, when she piped up and asked, “Can we take him home now?” I don’t think the man understood her, however, my dad replied with, “Are you being nice?” in the tone that meant knock it off. She sweetly replied that she was, of course. Kyle and I were struggling not to laugh out loud in the back seat, as she had perfectly voiced what we were all wondering.

If you aren’t around her much, Holly is difficult to understand when she speaks. She often hauled hay with my dad, and one day they gave a man a ride from the field to his vehicle. He had a speech impediment, and halfway across the field, Holly seriously asked my dad, “What’s wrong with that guy?” The irony and humor weren’t lost on my dad.

In conclusion, we will provide a bit of Holly wisdom. Following the Range Beef Cow Symposium in Rapid City several years ago, we were all sitting around dinner discussing what we had heard, and whether we thought it was accurate/applicable/feasible/etc… In her usual manner, Holly waved her hands and got our attention so we could hear her thoughts. She then said, “Cows. Cost. Money,” with a big grin. And, in a single sentence, summed up an entire, expensive and in-depth two-day event.

Happy birthday to Holly. May everyone get to experience the stories that result from knowing a special needs person.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: April 6, 1996

A few nights back my dad and I were discussing the forecast, specifically April blizzards like the one we’re in the middle of as I write this, when he said, “April 6, 1996.”

That was a doozy of a spring blizzard for the part of eastern Wyo. I grew up in. Lots of heavy, wet snow, and the wind shifted partway through. In a rare turn of events, our deep draws went from excellent sources of protection to traps.

We were in the thick of calving, and lost 40-plus calves, milked at least that many cows for days, and fed dozens of calves whose mothers had sunburned their bags. Several cows lost teats or function in quarters of their bags. Some of those would stand there, with cracked and/or bleeding teats, and let their calves suck. Others would not.

Our old squeeze chute reeked of rotten milk from the gallons we stripped out of cows in an attempt to save their bags until they had recovered enough to let their calves suck again. I recall my dad milking cows and applying bag balm almost nonstop for a few days. Empty green tins littered the ground surrounding the chute.

Our equally old wooden barn was a solid mass of calves. They would run to greet us morning and night when we arrive with breakfast and supper.

My brother and I sunburned our eyes, my brother especially bad, after riding all day following the storm. Grandma Maelene had us sit with slices of raw potato over our eyes that night. The next day we were out riding again, with lots of sunscreen rubbed on our exposed skin, and sunglasses. At one point my trusty mount Brownie and I miscalculated exactly where we were, and walked off the trail and sunk into wet, heavy snow that went up to the middle of his rather tall chest.

My fear and his ability to get us out are what I recall most about that storm. That, and riding all those rough draws, and finding cow after cow standing next to a bank of snow that presumably held her newborn calf. I can see one old, red baldy cow who hadn’t cleaned yet plain as day. Standing in the bottom of a draw that was half snowbank, half lush, green grass. Looking from me to the snowbank, and back again. Refusing to leave.

As my dad also said, a lot of us would be hard-pressed to find a cow today with the degree of mothering ability several exhibited in that storm. In spite of that big positive, that was also the spring we went away from Hereford cows. You always have to weigh the pros and cons in cattle, and there are some things nobody wants to experience twice. April 6, 1996 was one of those things, especially for my parents.

There are going to be some that recall April 11, 2019 as my family thinks of the spring of 1996. Spring blizzards are “doozies,” particularly after the year of weather we’ve already faced.

Some of the best medicine I’ve found to help address my mental state following a blizzard is to go find an old ranch person. It doesn’t take many of their stories about blizzards before long range forecasts, four-wheel drive tractors, round bales and numerous other modern conveniences that I start to feel better. Those tough, older folks also have a way of making anyone around them pull up their proverbial bootstraps and get over any feelings of self-pity. After all, there’s work to do, and sure to be hay with this kind of moisture.

Another thing we can all do is pray. Particularly if you find yourself at an indoor job, reading this. Pray for those souls out there fighting tooth and nail for every inch this year. There is nothing more important that you can do for them than to pray.

Lastly is what will also be remembered in this and other bad storms, and the reason my dad has said more than once that America does not need a welfare program; neighborly assistance. We’ve seen it in a big way already this spring as folks do everything they can help Nebraska and its neighbors that were impacted by the bomb cyclone. It’s also what you’ll hear those elderly folks mention in their blizzard stories, and what my parents comment on, too. So and so showed up with their brand new four wheel drive tractor. This neighbor opened a gate to let cattle into protection, or maybe fed them. Someone brought a casserole. It’s a rare blizzard story that doesn’t mention something someone did that saved the day in one way or another.

That degree of care for one’s neighbor is largely being lost in our great country, arguably in part because of welfare, but it is a biblical order that is still alive and well in agriculture.

Regardless of how hard it is, and how few understand what these storms do, those that do understand work tirelessly to ensure their neighbor’s, near and far, make it through. What a heartwarming blessing that is, even on the coldest of days.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton Maude: Nurse Cows

We were given a Holstein heifer as a wedding present. It was a truly generous gift, and I am grateful for her. She has also proven very useful, especially when we have sets of twins. However, this particular Holstein and I do not see eye to eye, and I have dubbed her, “The Stupid Holstein.”

This year she passed her genius to her calf – a Brown Swiss bull calf that was obtained through AI’ing her with sexed heifer semen last spring. The semen company boasts a 98 percent chance of a heifer calf when using their sexed dairy semen. Not that it mattered much. On his first day outside, the little guy found the only mud puddle in the pen, laid in it overnight, chilled down, and died.

So began the process of finding a home for the five gallons of milk the Holstein was creating each day. My husband was heading this effort, due to the cow’s and my inability to get along. But, last week he and the neighbor headed east on an overnight trip to pick up a corn planter, which is how I ended up with a 5 a.m. date with the Holstein and two calves.

I let her in the appropriate pen, put corn in her pan, got calf A going, and proceeded to calf B. Calf B had arrived the night before from the neighbor’s, and he wasn’t that perky of a fellow. By the time we started making headway, the Holstein had vacuumed up all her corn, and being agreeable slipped further off her radar.

She started her slow-motion spinning, half-hearted cow kicking, and excruciatingly careful “slamming” off the panels of her pen. On it went, regardless of slapping her side, kicking her belly, yelling, and anything else I could think of as I tried to hold calf B near her udder.

She wasn’t having it. This same cow caused numerous problems her first two years on our place due to letting any and everything nurse her, which I was recalling as my temper flared.

Eventually, I had to leave to make a butcher hog delivery. I left her in an 8×8 pen for the day to think about her life choices, with zero sympathy over her still-tight bag. I spent the next couple hours of drive time pondering just what went into developing the Hostein breed. My thoughts developed as follows:

Over time, they have clearly bred all the nerves out of a Holstein’s side and stomach, making a “get her attention” kick or slap useless.

They’ve slowed them down to the point they do everything in slow motion, which is hard on human nerves.

There is one exception – Holsteins can obtain lightening speed when they see an open gate to somewhere they aren’t suppose to be, or a cracked door to a building housing feed. I believe they use their tongue, and, in our cow’s case, her single horn, to pry open sliding doors and gain access to sheds and barns.

They have the mothering ability of a gnat, and their desire to find their calf, or any calf for that matter, is directly tied to how tight their bag is.

They’re also bi-polar, and may love a calf one day, and kick his head off the next. Last year, we put a couple calves on the Holstein, and one had to nurse from behind every single time, because the cow took a dislike to that calf.

They eat like a grizzly bear just out of hibernation, so you about have to get multiple calves on them to help cover the feed bill.

They’re gigantic in stature, making it nearly impossible to utilize standard cattle equipment when they do something like not letting a calf suck.

They can sense when a bucket/bottle/container is almost full of milk, and will wait until that point to kick it over.

Whoever developed them must have been motivated by starting and ending each day angry.

By that evening, this thought process had been rolling around in brain for several hours, along with a plan to combat and best her in her own game. It took some slow and steady doing, but before long I had lured her into the heifer calf pulling pen with a corn bucket, and secured her in place.

Then, both calves got supper.

The Holstein was far from impressed, the calves were soon full, and I was happy. It is possible that whoever developed Holsteins didn’t actually want every day to begin and end with anger. But, I’m still skeptical.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Simmental cattle

Politics and religion aren’t always for casual conversation, but should be addressed before entering into marriage. If you’re a ranching couple, that’s only the tip of the iceburg of “major” things you need to know about where the other stands. Preference on cattle breed(s), pickup brands, dog bloodlines, desirable equine traits, table versus rope and drag, steel or aluminum trailers, to name a select few, are among the topics that can cause the honeymoon phase of a relationship to end with a crash.

In my case, I was fine driving Dodge pickups, had no issue with English Shepherd cow dogs and got along well with my husband’s good horse. But, when it came to cattle, I gave a great deal of thought to the breed his family had raised “forever.” Simmentals.

My hesitation stemmed from personal experience. Around 2010, my dad bought some weaned steer and heifer calves to winter. They were out of Simmental cows and a low birthweight Angus bull. Nice calves. Nice enough that we decided to keep four of the heifers as replacements and breed them.

One came up open the following fall, resulting in three of them showing up the calving pen the next spring. That particular spring my dad and brother were gone the vast majority of the time hauling hay. I was heading up the daily ranch chores with help from my mom when she wasn’t gone with her paper shredding job.

The first Simmental heifer calved, and lost her calf because I was gone feeding and she didn’t lick him off and he chilled down. Okay, some individuals are just not meant to be mothers.

Then, I was short a cow in the calving lot one morning. There wasn’t a wire out of place or a clue of any sort as to where she went. I had everything written down, and hadn’t had children yet, so my mind was still sharp enough to keep track of an exact head count.

Where I grew up, you cannot just find a cow if she decides she wants to disappear. It’s rough country with lots of deep draws and areas to hide. But, I still did a circle, with no leads.

I had to get on with the day’s feeding and water checking, but kept a close eye out for who I had determined was one of the Simmental heifers.

Then, while heading to check water at a well about a mile from the house, I saw a black bovine in a draw. I buzzed down, and here was my missing heifer, with a dead calf hanging out of her.

Oh, great.

The calf had also apparently pinched a nerve or something, as she was struggling with her back end. Maybe he was hip-locked. I sat there for a few minutes, pondering the situation. Obviously, she was not going to make it the three-quarters of a mile back to the house, across two pretty good draws. I was home alone that day, with no one expected until evening.

Eventually I formulated a plan. Home I went to gather up calf pullers, Rompin, a syringe, everything needed to sew up a prolapse (assuming that was likely next in her life story), and a couple ropes.

Back up I went. While far from impressed with her in general at that exact moment, I was grateful she possessed the docility of an aging Collie dog. I finagled her closer to a nearby fence, and was able to give her a shot of Rompin thanks to her wobbly back legs.

Then I backed off and waited, listening to the Jeopardy game show song play in my head repeatedly.

Finally, she started to drool, then laid down. A few more minutes passed as I waited for the Rompin to take full effect; one didn’t just do this sort of thing with the cows, or heifers, I was raised around. At least, not without a horse under you. Then, I took the rope, looped it over both back feet, and tied it off to a gnarly cedar fence post. The post’s cousin, located down line a quarter mile, broke a chain when we tried to pull it the summer before. Consequently, I was confident it would hold her.

I was able to get the calf pullers in place, and said a silent prayer this would not be the day I pulled a calf out of a cow in pieces. I had never experienced that, and really wanted to keep it that way. Logic said that wouldn’t happen in a single night, but, it nonetheless seemed prayer worthy at the time.

Fortunately, the calf was still fresh, not that large, and the pull was pretty easy. I was taught to be extremely careful whenever pulling a calf, and I didn’t have to rotate him or do anything special. My conclusion was her docility gene was directly tied to her push gene.

She was kind enough not to prolapse, so I untied her and left her alone to allow the Rompin to wear off. She was in the pasture we kicked our heifer pairs into, so odds were she would get hooked up with them when she was back up and about.

Shortly thereafter, the third Simmental heifer calved, got up, walked away and never looked back. My dad and I took that as a life lesson on the breed, deciding we never wanted anything else to do with them. Myself especially.

Then, in a fun twist of irony, God led me to where I am now, five years into a marriage that includes calving Simmental and Simmental/Angus cross heifers every spring.

I now work to find the good in a breed I swore to never own again. It’s actually been a really good life lesson. We, myself included, tend to have very strong opinions in agriculture, and that is alright. They’re usually based on experience. But, it’s also alright to learn to find the value in opinions and experiences different than our own.

I still occasionally shake my head at them during calving season, but I truly appreciate the job those Simmental cows do raising great big, top end steer calves each fall.

Regardless of breed, may everyone have a blessed and uneventful calving season this year!

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: A ranch wife cooking show?

Some of the ladies at Tri-State teasingly suggested I should have a cooking show last week when my kids took lasagna noodles, added apple cider, and made “choo choo noodle soup.” I, of course, had to salvage the noodles. So, I rinsed them thoroughly, cooked them, and we had apple cider infused skillet lasagna that night.

The experience made me think of all the reasons why there aren’t many, possibly any, true, blue, help-with-the-outdoor-work ranch wives with a cooking show on a syndicated television station…

1. Child nudity. Cooking shows tend to be very PG, and a naked toddler streaking through the kitchen yelling they have to poop is hard to seamlessly tie into a shot where herbs and spices are being carefully added to a dish.

2. Germs. It’s also going to be a tough sell when the same, naked kid comes back from the bathroom, grabs a spoon, and begins to help while answering that no, they did not wash their hands. Not to mention the trail of, err, livestock poop they may have left on their way by. Only ranch kids can trail in manure without wearing a stitch of clothing.

3. After these messages… I am betting most film crews don’t understand what it means when the man of the house pokes his head in the door and asks his wife for, “just a couple minutes,” of help.

4. Limiting infrastructure. What happens when all the cows hit the tank at once, and there is no water for three hours in the middle of filming. Every day. Or, someone calls in with a question or for an interview, but a cow steps on the exposed phone line and cuts them out indefinitely. Or, it rains two inches before the film crew arrives, and the ranch is located down 30 miles of ungraveled road. Then what?

5. Out of the box plot twists. Cooking shows are pretty straight forward. But, on a ranch circumstances often result in meal plan A being replaced with plan B, or C. Not a lot of cooking shows switch up recipes halfway through, or showcase out-of-the-box brownies. But, the ranch wife is also likely grabbing a bag of chips and warming up a can of corn for a side dish as she explains the only reason there is dessert of any kind on a day like this is because she’s on the air. She certainly isn’t going to cook one thing for the show and another for her family, which could cause issues on high-stress days.

6. Unleavened bread. This is the only option, because the combination of film day and rising bread dough results in a 100 percent chance of a train wreck outside. It’s never pretty when rising bread dough is left on the back of the wood stove for half a day.

7. Pasture-to plate. This lady is going to know exactly where everything she is using came from. Referring to every cut of beef as Bandit the Bucket Calf ribeyes, burger, etc…, and inserting tidbits about his life and good for nothing mother is simply too much for most modern folks taking in a half hour cooking show.

8. Non-GMO. Forget scare tactics, current food trends or hot button words; this gal will tell the truth. Bluntly. If you want to know what your pig ate and how it was raised, pasture pork is the furthest thing from that, not the closest. That pig may have come upon a mangy coyote eating a dead deer, killed the coyote, and finished both off. And, did you know pork tastes like what it ate? Sounds tasty…

9. Sense of humor. She isn’t going to realize the general public won’t find stories like the one above humorous. Just like they may not appreciate her kids asking if they are having, “dead moo,” or “dead pig,” for supper.

10. Scheduling. I assume when they film a season of a cooking show, they like to knock it out in a short period of time. Setting aside an entire week, or two, dedicated solely to cooking is laughable, no matter how many desserts are included to appease the woman’s husband and kids. They’re already two weeks behind waiting for the road to dry out enough to get in.

The more I think about it, the more it sounds like a fantastic idea to feature real ranch wives and their favorite recipes. Wild kids, chilled calves or lambs in the background by the stove and ruggedly handsome husbands roping a yearling out the front window. Cooking while they expound on the realities of bringing food to people’s tables, dispelling myths, backing themselves with both science and personal experience, and….Oh wait, my husband just stuck his head in the door and asked if I could help him for a couple minutes.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: 2019

Lord, as 2018 draws to an end,

I thank you for the good days, and for the bad.

For the times endured, enjoyed and embraced

For the love and the joy, as well as the tests and the failures faced

And, looking ahead, I thank you for the opportunities still to come

That will begin to unfold in days not yet done

For those very days themselves I am preeminently grateful

I know they are numbered, and strive to live them in a way not wasteful

I’m grateful for this life of revolving optimism

Where we plant seeds with both faith and pinpoint precision

Then care for that crop until its fruit we can glean

A wonderful lesson in believing in what is yet unseen

I truly love these acres where my children roam

And the roof and four walls that they call home

May they go down the road to what lies beyond

But know they can always return and still feel as though they belong

And Lord, I pray the calves this spring come small and full of vigor

That their mothers are good and certainly not kickers

May the crops we’ve planted and those awaiting the ground

Bless us with their bounty when their day comes round.

May our machinery run when we depend on it most

May we find issues while small and before they’ve had time to grow

When we expand or make a purchase please guide our minds

Let the decisions we make find favor with Thine

I pray for our leaders who know Your name

Asking you to impart on them wisdom as they play the game

That they may do the work necessary for us to live

In this land we call home, and take pride in again

We fervently pray America remains for our children

Where they can worship Your name without fear of persecution

As well as this industry that feeds the nations

Let it remain an honorable vocation

Ultimately I pray your will be done

And that I see your hand in every outcome

For within each breath are lessons to be learned

May I grasp them and not leave your blessings unturned

I look forward to experiencing all You have planned

For myself, my beloved family, and this piece of land

Within this new year all shiny and clean

Thank you for making 2019!

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: A Christmas storm?

At the recent South Dakota Farm Bureau State Convention, we had the opportunity to hear American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall speak. Most take a pretty positive tone in speeches given just before the holidays. But, Zippy chose to spend much of his time covering what he referred to as the, “Perfect storm,” currently bearing down on American agriculture.

The combination of reduced commodity prices, practically across the board, has ag income at 50 percent compared to a couple years back. International trade issues are taking long enough to resolve there is serious concern that Brazil may begin to fill market shares. Once that happens, it’s practically impossible to ever regain them. A Farm Bill, while expected, has yet to be passed as the Lame Duck session winds down. Regional weather-related disasters and mismanaged lands resulting in catastrophic fires have repeatedly hit the agriculture sector hard.

In short, he noted that it hasn’t been an easy year for anyone in farming or ranching. Dairy operations are closing their doors, permanently. Government aid has been issued to assist producers in certain segments of livestock and crop production. However, harvest must be completed prior to filing for aid, and in many parts of the country farmers cannot complete harvest due to mud and/or ice, meaning they are not yet able to apply for those dollars, should they wish to.

Folks are starting to compare the current trend in agriculture to the 1980s. However, Mr. Duvall is not among them, stating he does not believe we will see that decade repeated.

In fact, despite the numerous large and looming challenges, Zippy rounded out his speech with the glimmers of hope he currently sees.

A big component of hope is in our President. Mr. Duvall noted that, historically, multiple ag organizations in D.C. would work for months in advance of a Presidential speech to simply get the word, “Agriculture,” spoken out loud, only to inevitably have it removed by a staff writer. Our current president, in stark contrast, mentions agriculture, farming and ranching on nearly a daily, and certainly a weekly, basis. Agriculture has not seen such acknowledgement and press coverage for decades.

Along with that is referred to as, “The Dream Team,” at USDA. The number of high-ranking individuals in that organization with real-world experience in farming and ranching is at a possible all-time high. Other federal organizations affiliated with agriculture are also seeing more relevant and practical staffing and decisions being implemented.

Washington chatter states a Farm Bill is eminent, which news outlets seem to support in recent days. Perhaps between my typing this and you reading it, a Farm Bill will have passed. We also just saw President Trump and Chinese leaders speak of lifting tariffs and increasing trade post-haste. While time will tell, there is hope found in hearing our issues discussed, and it does support the fact that our President is aware of the negative impact ongoing trade issues are having on agriculture.

What can we do? Zippy mentioned that now is the time to ramp up our support of our fellow man in ag. Love Thy Neighbor. When there is a peanut issue, do a little research on peanuts and voice support for those producers. Agriculture is being heard in ways it hasn’t for at least a generation, and because of that, the opportunity to make additional positive change is unprecedented. When speaking to government officials, think ahead and instead of simply complaining about an issue, also offer a solution, or a piece to the solution.

Another certain form of hope is found in the season. We have a Lord in heaven willing to send his son to earth to be born in a manger, and to later die for our sins. With that thought in our hearts and minds, worrying about the current storm facing agriculture, perfect or otherwise, is quickly put into perspective.

May you all enjoy a wondrous holiday season, and may we all remember the true meaning of Christmas, and what that means for all our earthly trials and tribulations.

Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Potty training drama

Lyle, my three-year-old, started getting lazy and wetting his pants with increasing frequency a few weeks back as the weather cooled and he went from running around naked to wearing actual clothes.

After pondering this over countless loads of urine-soaked jeans and various forms of imposed discipline that all failed, I developed a plan. I ordered him some cotton underwear featuring trains, his favorite thing, and simultaneously ordered him the girl version of Pull-Ups, since the boy version featured, you guessed it, trains.

We have a while before we eliminate Pull-Ups at nap or bed time. But, I thought the girl version would be less cool, and in combination with the new underwear, we might take a step back in the right direction on the potty training front as a whole. I was certain I had thought of the perfect solution.

A few days later, the new Pull-Ups arrived. My son grabbed his scissors and opened the cardboard box to see what it contained. Discovering Pull-Ups, he opened that box as well. I waited with sweet anticipation for him to discover that not a single pair featured Percy the train.

The flaps folded back, Lyle dug out his new Pull-Ups and studied them. Then, his face lit up, and he practically screamed in excitement, “Look mom, KITTIES!” He proceeded to pack them around with pride for several minutes as he periodically mentioned some had one kitty and others had two kitties. He even had me take a picture of him holding them.

My chin was on the ground, my pride even lower. What a humbling moment as a mother. Utter failure, much to my innocent child’s delight.

A few days after the Pull-Ups, the new underwear arrived. Lyle was even more ecstatic over them, and after trying all five pair on, determined he needed to wear them all. At once.

Thankfully, that idea wore off after a couple days, and, he has only had one accident while wearing his train underwear. I have also learned which pair he thinks should be worn backward to better feature the trains, and those tend to stay tucked in the dirty clothes basket longer than the others. Overall, the new train underwear are a roaring success.

But, with every nap and bed time we pull out a pair of pink Pull-Ups featuring kitties. I now have to chuckle, or flat laugh at how my plans played out as we choose between a pair featuring one, or two, kitties.

As my mom said, those Pull-up people know their target audience and are excellent designers. And my child is a lover of both trains and kitties, as I knew ahead of formulating one of my best laid plans in parenting.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.