Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer... Relaxing or Stressful

When you think of summer what do you think of?  Laying out in the sun, going for a dip in the pool, enjoying a nice frozen drink...  Or does reality sink in and you find yourself nearing the end of July like me and you aren't really sure what you can show for your summer except a lot of this and that.  I've been thinking about this a lot after I heard about a recent survey that said a third of Americans find themselves more stressed during the summer months than any other season of the year.  You hear about people getting the winter-blues, but could the new thing be the summer-rundown?

Now don't get me wrong, my family and I have been having a great and fun summer checking things off our bucket list, playing outside and simply enjoying each other.  But at the same time, with just a 3 year old and a 13 month old I will admit that I have possibly started over-scheduling ourselves.  Each Monday and Wednesday the kids have activities that we travel to, and it seem like I have some sort of meeting at least once a week, plus then trying to get stuff done on the farm and at home, all while trying to stay up on laundry and dishes and whoosh - my week is over and I've marked maybe one or two things off my to-do list it seems.  So does this mean that I am maybe in that one-third of stressed Americans?  Ummm, maybe, but I don't think quiet yet.  But to be on the safe side I'm going to start or reinstate some habits to help me combat the summer stress:

  • Wake up at the same time, every day, all week long AND go to sleep at a decent time to ensure I'm getting plenty of rest.
  • Keep up on my laundry and house cleaning routines.
  • Drink plenty of water all day long.
  • Get up and move!  Go on a walk or have some type of physical exercise daily.
  • Enjoy the little things with my family.

It seems with longer days I just want to fit as much as possible into them, but I need to remind my self to enjoy and relax.  Has the summer heat gotten to you this year or have you been enjoying your summer?  What are some tips you can share on how to beat summer stress?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Latimer, Iowa Little Free Library

If you are ever around Latimer, Iowa be sure to check out our Little Free Library in Downtown.  We have a large selection of books for babies to adults - check out some of the titles circulating through the Library on my blog's new Little Free Library tab.

What is your favorite book of all-time?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Knee High by the 4th of July

I do have to admit, I was a little worried that our annual "Knee High by the 4th of July" photo this year was going to show corn that wasn't knee-high, but half-way surprisingly, it was higher than I expected.  In a "normal" year, we'd like to see our corn shoulder or head high (see previous year's photos for examples - 2013 & 2012), but this year, due to the extreme wet conditions, our corn is only waist high.  We are actually planning on getting into the field today to do some work which would be the first time in several weeks because it has been too wet to get into the field.

Knee High by the 4th of  July
And if you are curious what an ear of corn looks right now, below is a photo.  After our family photo we did some crop scouting and peeled a corn stalk all the way down to the ear of corn.  Pretty neat right?  It is amazing that that will cob of corn will grow 8"+ in length in just a couple of months.

Ear of corn on the 4th of July
I hope you all had a great Independence Day!  Do you have any 4th of July traditions?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Comments for a Cause - Little Free Library

It is the first of the month and time to give an update on my Comments for a Cause program.  In the month of June I couldn't get over the local support for La Luz Hispana.  During the month 258 comments were made, equaling a donation of $129 to this remarkable program that is helping and so many families and individuals in Franklin County.  I am very proud that my community provides these resources and support to our community members.

In the month of July I'm looking forward to donating $0.50 for every comment to the international Little Free Library program.  As some of you may know, I worked throughout this year to bring a Little Free Library to Latimer, Iowa and I'm happy to say that we installed the Little Free Library at the beginning of June.

"Take A Book, Leave A Book" today at the Latimer Little Free Library
You can even take a seat and enjoy a book while visiting our location
Latimer, Iowa's Little Free Library
So, what is a Little Free Library?  The Little Free Library movement began in Wisconsin five years ago and now has nearly 12,000 locations world-wide, over 100 of which are in Iowa.  I first read about Little Free Libraries through the "Parade" insert in our newspaper a few years ago and in the last couple of years I have started seeing them in the communities of a couple of my family members.  The traditional Little Free Library is a free-standing structure that kind of looks like an over-sized bird house that is then filled with a collection of books for members of the community or neighborhood to access.  The Little Free Library works by the "take a book, leave a book" philosophy.  When someone goes to the Library and picks out a book, they are asked to replace it with another book.

My love for my community and passion for childhood literacy is what drove me to set up a Little Free Library in the community of Latimer.  Reading is really important to me and raising my kids.  My kids and I read every day and always have books around.  The town of Latimer doesn't have a library and I know there are many kids in town that don't have an opportunity to go to a library, especially in the summer.  So I thought bringing a Little Free Library to Latimer would be great for all the youth of the community, and for the adults who love to read too.

And through this month's Comment for a Cause program I hope to help other small communities that don't have libraries of their own bring a Little Free Library to their town through the Little Free Library Small Town Initiative.  I was very fortunate to receive support from Post Alpha-Bits cereal and the Latimer City Council when setting up my Little Free Library, but I know every small community might not have access to those resources.  So that is why I'm supporting the Small Town Initiative this month.

If you are ever in the Latimer, Iowa, stop by and visit our community's Little Free Library.  It is located in Downtown Latimer on the west-side of Akir Street.  Do you have a Little Free Library in your community?  Be sure to Comment for a Cause all month long to help out this world-wide cause!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Iowa Ice Cream Trip Second Stop at Hudson's Hansen Dairy

I'm so excited to update you on my family's "Iowa Ice Cream Trip" during the month of June to celebrate National Dairy Month today, by sharing about our trip to Hansen's Farm Fresh Dairy outside of Hudson last week.  It is fun to set out on a new ice cream adventure each week and we thought one of our ice cream destinations had to be Hansen's Dairy, so we could have a first-hand look at the process and story behind our ice cream.

Hansen's Farm has been located outside of Hudson, Iowa for around 150 years and currently the 6th generation owns and operates the farm, with the 7th generation growing up and living on the farm.  Twelve years ago when 5th generation owners and operators, Jay and Jeanne Hansen, saw that four of their children wanted to come back to the farm they knew they needed a way to add value to their family dairy farm, so the 6th generation that wanted to come back to the farm could, and that is how the on-farm creamery began.  In November of 2002 construction began on the creamery and in February of 2004 the creamery produced its first gallon of milk.

Blake and MP became good friends during our time at the farm
Here he is telling us about the dry cows
(a phase in the lactation cycle where the cows don't produce milk)
It was a lot of fun to go on a tour of Hansen's Dairy by 6th generation farmer, Blake Hansen.  Blake primarily works with the dairy production side of the farm.  His three brothers specialize in the creamery (milk processing and delivery) and crop production.  The farm currently has around 350 heifers and cows.  Most of their herd are Black and White Holsteins, with some Red and White Holsteins.  The cows are milked every day at 4am and 4pm.

One of the kids' favorite stops on the tour was at the calf huts, where calves live from the first day of their life to a few months old.  Calf huts are used to help reduce disease, stress and injury.  LP really enjoyed petting the calves.  One neat thing about Hansen's Dairy is that they give every calf a name that is associated with their family line.  In the photo, Skittles (whose Mom is Snickers) is licking LP's hand.

The kangaroos loved giving MP kisses
Another favorite stop was seeing the farm's Kangaroos and Wallabies.  Hansen's Dairy logo is a cartoon Wallaby (a miniature kangaroo) with a Dairy Calf in its pouch.  When Blake was in college he went on an international study abroad trip to Australia and he loved the wallabies and kangaroos, so when the creamery began, they incorporated the wallaby into the logo and Blake decided to purchase three wallabies as pets.  Today, one of the original wallabies is still at the farm, along with three kangaroos.

Our other favorite stop was the tour center, where they had a lot of fun kid and educational activities, as well as products for sell.  We had some ice cream at the center and brought home some milk, cheese curds and ice cream!  It was hard to choose what ice cream to eat after the tour, as well as what to bring home, since they have over 30 flavors!  What we love about their ice cream is that it is very rich and thick.  They also sell butter and ground beef.

You can buy Hansen's Dairy products (including their delicious ice cream) at many locations across the Northeast quadrant of Iowa, or if you are ever in the Waterloo area I recommend you going to their Moo Roo ice cream store or their Dairy Outlet store, or head out to the Dairy Farm outside of Hudson.  They have products available at their tour center.

Have you ever been to a Dairy Farm?  Check out all of their ice cream flavors - what would you like to try?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Be sure to check out our First Iowa Ice Cream Trip Stop and what other fun things we have planned on our Summer Bucket List.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Farm Friday

As you might have been able to tell, I haven't been blogging as much as I typically like too here lately.  We finished planting our corn and soybean crops the last week in May.  Since then we've been busy with field work such as spraying and side-dressing our corn.  I thought on this beautiful, and hopefully not scary, Friday the 13th, I would give an update on everything we raise on our farm:

Like I mentioned, we have been busy spraying our corn and also side-dressing it.  Side-dressing is a special machine that spoon-feeds nutrients to the corn crop during this key vegetative growth stage of its life.  As you can see our corn is growing quite nicely.

Farm Friday Update - Corn Early-June

Farm Friday Update - Corn Early-June

Farm Friday Update - Spraying Corn
Spraying our corn
(I'm afraid all of my side-dressing photos didn't turn out too well)
Almost all of our soybeans were planted the last week of May and have also grown very nicely so far.  On our farm we rotate our corn and soybeans so we have about 2/3 of our acres in corn and 1/3 of our acres in soybeans.  Rotating our crops helps with disease and insect control, as well as spreading out our work load in the spring and fall.  Plus rotating crops can help with higher yields.

Farm Friday Update - Soybeans Early-June

Farm Friday Update - Soybeans Early-June

On our farm we usually have a couple different age groups of pigs at all times that way we can spread out the work load throughout the year.  We recently just got in a group feeder pigs, who all weigh about 40 pounds, and we will finish them to about 270 pounds, hence our pig farm is called a feeder to finish hog farm.  We received around 1,200 feeder hogs a week ago today.

Farm Friday Update - Feeder Pigs

and Kids;
Just like our corn, soybeans and pigs, our kids are busy growing too and keeping us busy!  LP is Mr. Independent and loves being outside.  If I would let him, he'd stay outside all day long.  MP is busy working on walking.  She hasn't let go yet or tried walking alone, but I imagine she'll be taking her first steps soon.  Here are a couple photos of the kids from this past week's Iowa Ice Cream Trip to Hansen's Dairy Farm outside of Hudson.  I'll be posting about our trip soon so stay tuned!

Hansen's Dairy Farm, Hudson, Iowa - Baby Calf
LP petting a baby calf at Hansen's Dairy Farm
Hansen's Dairy Farm, Hudson, Iowa - Kangaroo
MP getting kissed by a kangaroo at Hansen's Dairy Farm
I hope you enjoyed today's Farm Friday update!  Do you have any questions about our farm where we raise Corn, 'Beans, Pigs and Kids?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iowa Ice Cream Trip First Stop at Decorah to "The Whippy Dip"

One of our family's Summer Bucket List items is to go on an "Iowa Ice Cream Trip" during the month of June to celebrate National Dairy Month by visiting an "ice cream destination" weekly.  We figured our first stop had to be at one of our all-time favorite summer ice cream stands, The Whippy Dip in Decorah.  We made our annual pilgrimage last week and I'm excited to share about this nostalgic landmark today on my blog and on Travel Iowa's blog as part of a collaborative "Favorite Summer Flavors" post.

MP and LP sitting outside of
The Whippy Dip deciding what to order
"The Whippy Dip" is a seasonal walk-up stand that serves creamy and rich soft serve ice cream, along with a lunch and snack menu.  A neat side note is that "The Whippy Dip" sources its milk form a local dairy.  You wouldn't expect anything different in Iowa's dairy country!

Cookie Dough Tornado
"The Whippy Dip" keeps its ice cream simple by offering only vanilla and chocolate flavors and then letting you make your dish unique by providing many mix-ins.  I personally always go for a Cookie Dough Tornado with chocolate ice cream (think Dairy Queen's Blizzard - but better!).  They double layer the delicious chocolate soft serve with real cookie dough (not the cookie dough balls found at other ice cream places.  I'm talking about a scoopful of real cookie dough so you can have some in every bite) and mix it up.  Then they add a little extra cookie dough on top!

If you're passing through Decorah this summer, or if you're within an hour's drive... be sure to make a stop at The Whippy Dip!  They are open daily from 10am to 10pm and are located at 131 College Drive.

LP enjoying a chocolate cone at The Whippy Dip
Have you ever been to "The Whippy Dip"?  What is your favorite ice cream flavor?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Check out our Week 2 stop at Hansen's Farm Fresh Dairy outside of Hudson, Iowa.